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Friday, December 11, 2015

10 Perfect Gift Ideas for the Mama Bear: 2015 Edition

The last time I did a round-up like this was in 2012 so I thought it was high time for another. Check out this list of suggestions for the mama bear in your life and let me know in the comments what you are wishing for this year!

1. Hand-crafted wooden cooking utensils. A good cook needs great tools. I am DYING over these gorgeous hand carved wooden spoons and sauté utensils from this one-man operation. Why not make something she does everyday a little more enjoyable with a beautiful tool like this?

2. This candle. I am obsessed with this scent in particular and this size is perfectly affordable as a stocking stuffer or a little something for your best friend, carpool partner or gym buddy.

3. Slippers. Is there anything better than slipping your feet into a pillow of cushy comfort early in the morning or late at night? No. There's not. I loved having these by my bedside to keep me cozy during middle of the night feeding sessions (which for the record don't happen anymore. Praise be to God.) 

4. Chatbooks gift subscription. If you're anything like me everyone, you have a million pictures on your phone and computer and about 40 printed out in your home. Chatbooks makes your Instagram feed into little books you can look at in a non-digital fashion (gasp!). The subscription factor means you never have to think about printing them out, they just come to your mailbox like a gorgeous happy little surprise each month. Love. (P.S. I don't actually have a subscription. Mega hint hint)

5. These mugs. Have one custom made with her favorite quote or a phrase the kids came up with that captures this stage of life perfectly.

6. If you're financially limited, go with the gift of your time. It is precious!! Offer up 4 hours of babysitting. 2 hours is hardly long enough for her to get somewhere and settle in. 4 hours is completely and utterly luxurious and she will love you forever and ever. Amen.

7. A Lenny & Eva cuff. I am obsessed. I wrote a whole post about this bracelet of mine and really think every girl should have one. There is almost no end to the way you can combine bracelet styles and the various "sentiments" your cuff expresses.

8. Gorgeous and cozy throw for the couch, the nursing chair, etc. I'm drooling over this faux fur and this cable knit option.

9. A beautiful and/or super practical journal.  I personally love a Moleskin - which is both. Whether it's for reflecting on the deep stuff in life or just a place to keep grocery lists and meal plans in one place, there's always a use for this bad boy.
10. BeautyCounter's Scarlet Lip Sheer. My friend Ryan is a BeautyCounter rep and she has been posting a ton about her love of this bold red lip color all season long. I finally caved and ordered this lipstick because I wanted to see what the fuss is all about. Now I am not a lipstick person. At all. But I'll be darned if every time I've worn it out of the house I haven't been told I look put together and/or received a compliment on my clothes, my children or my shoes. No lie. There's something about a bold lip that convinces people you have it together. What mama doesn't want that?! 

Alright, your turn to play. What is on your wish list this year? 

Also, ten points to you for casually sharing this (aka leaving it open somewhere they'll see it) with your husband/boyfriend/parents. Twenty points for re-posting on your own wall so there's no doubt they'll get the hint. ;)

P.S. Some links above are affiliate links, meaning Crazy Joy earns about 5 cents if you buy something via a link on this page. Thanks for helping support the blog in this way! 

P.P.S. Thanks so much y'all for all of the love on the video I posted last week. It was awesome to hear that it encouraged many of you. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart and so Amen for Jesus who meets us in the midst of our weakness and gives us His strength. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Finding a New Identity in Motherhood

Motherhood has not come naturally to me. This gig is HARD and truthfully I'm not really the "mothering-type". You longtime readers know this by now. I've posted about it here and here and oh yeah, here too. This thing is just out of my wheel house and I am learning every single day how to lean in to this calling instead of running away.

One of the best things I've done to help myself since becoming a mom was joining a Birds on a Wire group. If you're not familiar with Karen Stubbs, I encourage you to check out her web site and her group studies, they are an amazing resource whether you're a new mom or a seasoned mother.

I had the privilege to speak and share a bit about my struggle with motherhood at a Birds on a Wire dinner a few months ago and I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch this video. (Please enjoy my crazy eyes in the still frame even if you can't watch...)

BOAW_Katie_Final from Birds On A Wire Moms on Vimeo.

If you're looking for a ministry to support and/or need a place to donate prior to the end of the year, Birds on a Wire is changing lives and having a truly generational impact - just ask my kids.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Beginning of Us

B Daddy swears he met me my freshman year at the University of Georgia. I don't remember meeting him at all that year, but I certainly knew who he was that year from all the stories his girlfriend told me. B Daddy was high school senior in the year 2001 and his older, high school sweetheart and I were fast friends who had met through Bible study at the Wesley Foundation on campus. The entire year we gathered together on Tuesday nights for cell group and she would tell me their stories. About the Hawaiian shirt he insisted on wearing to their senior prom, about the time he made the hours-long round trip drive to campus to take her to dinner in the completely illogical manner of smitten 18 year olds worldwide.

B Daddy followed her to UGA the next year, which is when I remember meeting him for the first time. They came over to my apartment one afternoon to hang out and as she walked out the front steps I pulled her back to me for a squeeze and a grin that said, "Oh my gosh he really is super cute AND nice!" 

Later that year when I started dating a fellow Wesley-goer, we all got along easily. We went to the same parties and on occasion we double-dated. When their break-up happened my boyfriend grew closer to B Daddy while his ex-girlfriend and I drifted into different circles. It was ugly and hard, in the manner of most break-ups when formerly smitten 18 year olds are involved. I was sad for them. They had been the perfect couple to my outsider's eyes.

Another year went by and in the summer of '03 my Boyfriend invited me to a wedding in Chattanooga. Without warning me, he decided to turn the obligation into a more masculine endeavor by inviting a Third Wheel (you know him as B Daddy) along for some man-style adventures once the nuptials ended. Before dawn on a midsummer Saturday we drove up - my Boyfriend and I in one vehicle, the Third Wheel behind us towing several bikes, a few kayaks and a motley assortment of camping gear. 

We pulled up to a little stone church mid-morning and the weekend's events unfolded much like the paper map we used to find our way to Chattanooga. Once inside the church, my Boyfriend left us to go congratulate the groom, so the Third Wheel and I made awkward small talk in the last row of stiff wooden pews. Post-ceremony I positioned myself well and came up with the bride's bouquet after a minor tussle with a few bridesmaids.

When the cake and punch ran out the three of us went in search of some real sustenance. We stopped at the first Subway we came to and sometime between unfolding the crisp paper wrapping that held my sandwich and backing out of the parking lot, my Boyfriend and I decided we would be better off as friends. It really was that simple. I couldn't tell you exactly how it went down, but I remember looking past my unopened Baked Lays on the dashboard to the pasture beyond the cracked pavement thinking, well that was cordial

My new ex, B Daddy (still driving separately), and I left Subway and ended up at the Chattanooga Aquarium for the afternoon. Not quite knowing how to bring up the fact that we were now just friends and therefore the Third Wheel wasn't so much of a third wheel anymore, the three of us spent the afternoon wandering through exhibits without our usual comfortable banter.

Driving east along the rural route of US-64 later that day, we ended up searching in the dark for a place to eat near the Ocoee River. With B Daddy still none the wiser as to the recent change in our relationship status, we stopped in desperation at a country gas station and foraged for anything resembling a balanced meal.  Loaded down with Combos and Cool Ranch Doritos (with the promise of Honey Buns for breakfast) we arrived at the river and found a makeshift spot to pitch our tent late in the evening. While the ex and I struggled to thread the unwieldy aluminum tent poles through their nylon sheaths, I noticed B Daddy grab my hard-won bouquet from the truck and nestle it firmly between two rocks at the edge of the river.  He saw me watching and shrugged his shoulders as if embarrassed to be caught in the act, "you don't want them to die, right?"

Our little spot didn't allow campfires, so after laying out three sleeping bags and ribbing one another for a few minutes about our lack of planning skills, we were bored. It was too early to go to bed and too late to do much of anything else, but around ten o'clock we found ourselves driving to a rapid known as Hell Hole to watch B Daddy run it in his kayak. This was possible (though frowned upon) thanks to the presence of 24hr emergency lighting at a power station next to that section of river. According to American Whitewater, Hell Hole is, "perhaps the Ocoee's most famous rapid, as it was the site of the 1993 World Rodeo Championships." In hindsight, this was not the wisest choice of twilight entertainment, but being 21 does strange things to your judgment.

We returned to camp after half an hour, played out from the adrenaline brought on by illegal kayaking in the dark. I hunkered down in the tent, trading my wedding guest attire for sweatpants and an old t-shirt. As B Daddy crawled through the semi-circular tent opening, my Ex snaked his hand in, grabbed his sleeping bag and announced he was going to sleep under the stars. A bewildered B Daddy and I huddled down in our sleeping bags, as far away from one another as the small tent would allow. It was the first time we'd ever been alone together. 

The next morning we rose at first light and headed for the water. B Daddy was meeting his cousin to run the length of the river and my Ex and I traipsed along the first few sections visible from the road until boredom got the best of us. We decided to head into town to grab lunch while we waited for B Daddy to reemerge downstream.

We ended up at only vegan restaurant in a hundred mile radius, possibly in an attempt to cleanse the Combos and Honey Buns from our system. It was the kind of bumbling meal you'd imagine two kids who've just broken up would have. But I'll never forget the moment when my Ex turned to me and asked, "would you ever date B Daddy?"

"Gosh no!" was my instant (and clearly the only appropriate) response. Internally a different monologue played:  "Date that cute kayaking guy? The one who sat through the friend of a friend's wedding with me? The thoughtful one who found a spot in the stream to keep my flowers fresh? That would be totally weird and completely awkward. Date that guy who didn't break up with me in a parking lot and then make me share a tent with someone I barely knew out in the cold dark woods? Well huh. I've never really thought about that before."

We finished up lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon kayak-watching at the river and biking on old forest service roads. Towards early-evening it was time to head home. My Ex lived a good ways north of the river, and Atlanta was pretty much due south. Without prior discussion, he piped up, "Well I guess it makes the most sense if B Daddy drives you home." My slack-jawed face said it best: Seriously!? You already abandoned me to sleep in a tent alone with this guy and now you're forcing us together in the car for 3 hours?! Yes he's very attractive. But seriously! I hardly know him! What's wrong with you?

All I could manage to get out audibly was, "uh, okay,"

I pulled myself up into the cab of B Daddy's truck and braced for three hours of boredom and floundering conversation on the ride home. This guy may have been sweet, but I knew him well enough to know he wasn't much of a talker.

As the signs along I-75S started directing us toward Atlanta's city limits I realized we hadn't stopped talking or even hit an awkward pause yet.

This cute kayak guy was starting to look like a very interesting prospect...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How I'm Planning to Work Myself Out of a Job (aka How to Get your Kids to Help Out Around the House)

I read the following online last week: Sometimes we are moms who do too much because we have kids who do too little. Make it your goal to work yourself out of a job. 

To whoever had that brilliant thought and posted it on the grand inter web might I say to you....#challengeaccepted.

The combination of four little kids + homeschooling means that our home is ground zero for chaos and destruction every. single. day.

This little guy is the chief culprit. I could spend an entire day just following him around cleaning up the debris he leaves in his wake. One thing I am constantly preaching to anyone who will listen is that having lots of kids is a huge blessing because it finally overwhelms you into admitting you cannot do everything (though you never could) and that you need some help (though you always did)

Around here help looks like house cleaners that come 2x a month and these little munchkins taking some accountability for the wear and tear they inflict upon the household. For about a year now some form of a chore chart has been on the fridge and our current chart looks like this. 

Gosh Katie who did you get to illustrate this thing? I know it's pretty awesome. I am in fact for hire, just give me a call.  But hey, simple works. 3 chores, 3 kids. They rotate daily, so I just move their magnet up and down the line.

Feeding the dog - seriously, I have enough mouths to feed around here.

Sweeping the floor - the amount of crumbs that cover the floor after one meal is mind-boogling. I thought having to sweep might incentivize the kids to minimize their crumb-making, but so far no luck. Whatever kids, it's your life.

Emptying the dishwasher - I am great at filling it up and pushing the green button that makes it go. Emptying it out? Not so much. Kids to the rescue! Even Ben at age 3 is completely capable of stacking plates, bowls and cups on the counter below the cabinet they belong in. Anything in a lower cabinet they all know how to put away flawlessly. Even though this is the job that takes the longest, I can see in their eyes a real sense of pride when they finish. This isn't some fluff chore, this is REAL work. 

There is nothing sacred about these chores in particular, they were just ones I was finding myself annoyed by. I also chose activities that all take place in the kitchen and are somewhat related to meal-times, thinking they would be easy for me to enforce and supervise. We are all together at breakfast and dinner and that is the time when the dog needs to be fed, the floor needs to be swept and (typically) there are clean dishes awaiting a nice home in the cabinets.

We do pay the kids for these chores. Each kid gets 25 cents on Saturday if they did their chores throughout the week. 75 cents a week for never having to feed the dog, empty the dishwasher or sweep the floor seems fair enough to me. The kids are also required to do other things simply for the privilege of living here. These include brushing their teeth, making their beds, putting away their laundry and cleaning up the playroom and their bedroom (yes singular as in, the three big kids all share one bedroom) at the end of the day. 

So tell me, how do you handle the chore thing? What did your parents make you do as a kid? Are you interested in working  yourself out of a job?

P.S. Check out the new pictures on the FAMILY page at the top of the blog!!  If you're reading this in your email, click on over to the blog for some eye candy. So fun :)

Friday, November 6, 2015

My Favorite Blogs Right Now

You guys, I'm heading to Nashville today!! As you read this, I am traveling with 4 other girls and ZERO children in a car (ok a minivan) that is bound for Nashville and the (I hope) fabulousness of the Q Women conference. While we're off getting inspired I thought I'd share my current favorite blogs for your weekend reading pleasure and hope you'll share some of yours with me.

For Fashion: The Mom Edit
I love Shauna's off-beat style and the way she makes fashion completely un-intimdating. This blog has taken the mystery out of getting dressed for me and helps me wade through all the trends out there to find things that feel like me. Love her recent take on the new "it" jean - black high rise flares

For Books: Modern Mrs. Darcy
I got hooked on Anne's blog after finding her Summer Reading Guide a few years ago. This girl reads A TON. Each year she puts out a well-organized summer reading guide broken into genres, with reviews/summaries for each book she recommends. It's basically a year-long reading guide for me. She also has a great little page called Daily Kindle Deals which is updated daily (duh) with Kindle books she likes/recommends that are generally on sale for a few dollars. I actually need nothing more from the internet than that right there. 

For Mom Advice: Monica Swanson
Do not go read this blog/check out this lady's life unless you are very secure in who you are and the life you're living. She lives in Hawaii, she's married to a doctor, she has four cute sons that are surfers and she homeschools. Just a few days ago she was on Jamie Ivey's Happy Hour podcast, so you know she's good.  Recently she wrote a series on Parenting Teen and Pre-Teen Boys that is pure GOLD.  

For the Home: Nesting Place
Myquillyn started her blog out of a desire to show other renters that they could love the home they lived in and not be wishing for a different one. Her projects were laid-back DIYs that I loved. A few years ago she finally bought a house (an old farmhouse of course) and now her projects range from small and doable, to total kitchen gut-jobs. This one on painting the floor of her laundry room is a great example of what I love about her approach to her home.  I get to see her speak at Q Women and I cannot wait! 

For Food: Smitten Kitchen
Check it out for the pictures alone. I started following Deb's blog for some new cake recipes and have stuck around because this girl just LOVES food. She will test and tweak a dozen recipes in order to get granola bars just right. Last week she created a Twinkie bundt cake. Also, she's a Jewish New Yorker, and I love how outside of my norm her daily life is. 

For a Laugh: Jen Hatmaker 
If you don't read Jen's blog or know who this lady is, you're missing out. Get to it my friend. She cares about orphans and social justice and race-relations but also talks about Spanx and Gilmore Girls on the reg. Which makes me feel like we're actually friends and causes me to refer to her simply as "Jen" in actual conversations with actual people whom I actually know. #stalker

Play along in the comments - what are you currently reading in the blogosphere that I need to know about? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My Last Best Friend

Adult friendship is a hard thing. For me anyway. When we were kids it was different. You had a class together or your parents were friends or maybe they were the only other kid in your school who didn't go skiing over Christmas break. It was simple to make friends then. No children to compete with, no spouse whose opinion also needs to be taken into account. Maybe that's why I made my last Best Friend more than 15 years ago.

If you met us now you'd likely say we couldn't possibly live more different lives. She's a big shot doctor, she spent the last two years living abroad and vacationing in far-flung places like Fiji. She hasn't had any kids yet, let alone 4.

But a few weeks back, she finally got married. And when your last Best Friend ties the knot, you show up regardless of how far away it is and no matter the backbends you have to do to find childcare. B Daddy and I walked into the wedding and immediately saw faces I haven't seen since my freshman year of college. Suddenly it was August of the year 2000. W. was running for president, Napster was the new thing and it was move-in day for Mell Hall on the campus of the University of Georgia.

I remember the moment I turned into my small dorm room, the last one on the right, and saw a petite blond trying to cram a year's worth of clothing into an 18 inch wide closet cubby. She and I would share this little 10x12 domicile for the next 10 months. We spent that afternoon lofting our beds and trying to neatly arrange our CD collections on the flimsy wire shelves we'd put together from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

On and off throughout the afternoon we heard shuffling and mild arguing from a room across the hall. Upon inspection, there was a family: a mom, a dad and two sisters, struggling to assemble the fanciest computer desk I'd ever seen.  Atop the massive desk sat a sleek black flat screen monitor. It was the type of desk I imagined day traders and air traffic controllers had. Whoever this girl was, her dorm room was outfitted way nicer than my bedroom at home.

The owner of the sleek black monitor turned out to be Elizabeth. She had her own cell phone too, the kind that flipped open and had a tiny antennae you'd pull up at the start of a call. No one I knew had a cell phone like that in the year 2000. She was larger than life. With a swagger that radiated from her North Face jacket all the way down to her Birkenstocks, she'd crash down the hall at 1am singing Dave Matthews and intruding upon those of us careless enough to leave our doors unlocked.

She was a big fish from the kind of Southern city where everybody knows everybody, a Catholic who drank religiously. I was an unknown from Chicago, an evangelical who preferred Bible study to the bar scene.

Within a week, Elizabeth and I were inseparable.

She was a pre-med major hell-bent on becoming a plastic surgeon. She was outspoken about politics, a fiery Conservative who wrote a scathing indictment on the immorality of the estate tax for her freshman PoliSci class. I was a business major with little idea what I wanted from life other than to travel after graduation- and I had never heard of the estate tax.

We were both ambitious, smart and confident. We were both athletic, determined and outgoing. There was a spark to our friendship that I haven't experienced since. Together we auditioned for a reality TV show, argued against speeding tickets in traffic court, snuck into the Georgia Theatre and ran the length of Sanford Stadium at midnight. She encouraged me to go for it when my pragmatic side wanted to hang back and I like to think I helped ensure we never got arrested. She was fierce, opinionated and never (to her knowledge) wrong. I was much the same way, and our fights became the fodder of hall gossip all year long.

She joined my Bible study and challenged me to integrate my life and my faith. I joined her at the bars and taught her it was possible to dance sober. We weathered multiple college boyfriends together, always finding our way to each other again after the latest relationship ended.

After graduation I came to Atlanta and saved up to travel. To visit a boy who became The Boy. She headed off to medical school to pursue her dream of wielding a scalpel and making big bucks. And things changed. We changed. There were births and deaths and new relationships and a distance came between us. I watched her life unfold on Facebook like we all do now, but we never really talked save for a few phone calls scattered across a few years.

Then I saw she got engaged. And a few months later she reached out to ask for my address. Without a second thought we made plans to attend, but I wasn't entirely sure we'd be able to hold a conversation anymore.

But when I saw her for the first time in years, YEARS-wearing a veil and a strapless white dress- it took all my self-control not to shout her name and wave grinning like a fool as she walked down the aisle. Hey!!! It's Me. ME! Best Friend! Over here! HI! The instant it was socially acceptable I ran like a little girl in my grown-up dress to give her a huge hug. And we hugged and laughed and later we danced like the past 15 years hadn't pulled us apart.

C.S. Lewis writes that friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. ...It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. 

And I have to agree. I've survived just fine without Elizabeth all these years. But being together again reminded me that her presence sheds light into a corner of my soul that grows dim otherwise. And it was wonderful to be all lit up for the night.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Week in Review: List Style

Woohoo! Friday is here at long last. We had another crazy, frustrating, hilarious, non-stop week with the four munchkins. Thought I'd share some highlights of the past week list-style. How would you fill in these blanks for your own week?

Laughing: over our family picture session yesterday. Jude lost a one shoe ten minutes in and was consequently a barefooted bumpkin in the rest of the shots. Also, I fell into a stream. Literally. Fell into a stream. Wearing nice boots and cute jeans. Reminded me strongly of this post about our family pictures from years ago. What is it about our family that suggests wading into streams?

Anticipating: Traveling to Savannah to see my partner in crime from college tomorrow. She's getting hitched and I cannot wait to see her beautiful self! Also - I bought a "big girl" dress for this occasion. I'm tired of never having the right thing to wear when nice occasions come around. I'm hoping this dress is a somewhat universal solution.

Sorely missing: the YMCA. I cannot seem to figure out how to make working out fit with our schedule currently and I am missing the classes I usually attend so much.

Pondering: this NY Times article on what's happened to face-to-face conversation in the age of smartphones. Your thoughts?

Devouring: Dove Dark Chocolates with Almonds. Every. Single. Night. It's like a reward for getting the kids and myself through yet another day alive.

Giving thanks: for margin. Financially, relationally and time-wise. I feel like we have established some good boundaries over the past few years and are currently enjoying the fruit of those decisions.

Ready: for autumn weather to stay.  Just switched out my summer clothes for the rich tones and beautiful plaids of fall!

Reading: The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. Could really use a group to discuss it with...but I'll settle for regurgitating my every thought about it to B Daddy.

Missing: my small group of high school college girls. Really excited some of them will be home for fall break soon.

Baking: these indulgent Apple Streusel Cheesecake bars. A cookie mix and a can of apple pie filling makes them quick and easy.

What's your week been like and what are your weekend plans!? 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

5 Ways to Turn Your Bad Day Around

You oversleep, miss your workout and reach into the pantry to discover you're out of coffee.

The kids won't stop bickering, it's the 4th rainy day in a row, no one can find two shoes that fit and you should have left the house 10 minutes ago.

We have a lot of days like this around here.

I typically don't recognize what's happening quickly enough, but when I do, a little principle learned in physics class long ago comes to mind.

'An object in motion will not change its velocity unless an external force acts upon it.'

This principle works itself out quite clearly on bad days. The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day gains steam as it heads rapidly down the hill towards ruining everyone and everything around you - a significant external force is desperately needed to turn things around. And external forces can be hard to come by if you're alone at home with 4 small humans.

So I made a list: 5 things I can do to change the velocity of my day. When our day is careening out of control, one of these is usually enough to change our trajectory. Or at least stall the impending doom until Daddy gets home. The point is to force a change of direction. Physically, mentally or emotionally.

1. Take a shower - Get dressed - Put on make-up. 
Not all three. That would be some crazy talk. Choose one and get to it. On a day when it feels like I can do nothing right, if I happen to pass a mirror and look like a total failure, my reflection taunts, "Look at you! No wonder the kids aren't listening." If, however, I catch my reflection and look like the pulled together human I am trying to be - a smile consoles me, "Look at you! Must be them."  

2. Turn on some music.
Any music will do. Siblings bickering and driving you batty? Go with soothing/classical tunes. The walls of the home are closing in on you because you haven't been beyond them all day? Dance party. Often the kids are stunned into better behavior when they find me twirling in the middle of the living room.

3. Lock myself in the bathroom and pray/meditate.
Nothing fancy - just small words from the gut. Help me Jesus. Thank you for these kids even though I am utterly overwhelmed by them. I am not enough, be enough for me Lord.
And my favorite Scriptures for the dark moments:
Psalm 46:1 - God is our refuge and strength. An ever present help in times of trouble. 
Exodus 15:2 - The Lord is my strength and my song. 
Psalm 78:70,71 - I won't quote it cuz you'd be all, huh?. But it gives me great peace in my role as a SAHM. One day I'll write about it. 

4. Go outside.
There is magic in fresh air. Even when it's too cold. Even when it's too hot. Even when it's raining. (Perhaps especially if it's raining?) If the boys in particular are WAY too energetic/trying to kill one another, I make them run laps around our house. Yup, laps. I stand in the driveway and count them off as they pass. It's pretty entertaining.

5. Do something completely out-of-the-norm.
I am not a crafty mom. Finger paint makes me nervous. Messes increase my anxiety. I like giving the kids baths at 11am for an out-of-the-box experience that fits squarely within my comfort zone. Bake something. Give the kids a Clorox wipe and tell them it's time to play Cinderella. Have everyone pile on your bed for a middle of the afternoon read-aloud.

The next time a bad day threatens to consume your spirit, try inserting an external force on the day and see how it works for you.

What do you do when you are in the middle of a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day? I would love to add a few new things to my list.

Friday, October 2, 2015

My Favorite Flat Apple Pie

For those of you who have a counter full of apples from your recent trip to the orchard or who love the idea of apple pie but not the process it usually is the easiest apple pie recipe you will ever come across. (Besides the one that goes, take Mrs. Smith's out of the freezer, put in oven for 90 minutes.) I served this when we hosted small group at our house this week and it was so perfectly fall I swooned.

Flat Apple Pie - Makes 2 pies
Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

5 peeled and sliced Granny Smith Apples 
(Granny's are great in a pie since they don't turn to mush with the baking and the sugar, but don't let having the wrong variety of apple on your counter keep you from making this right now)
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 pie crusts (I've used Pillsbury and I've used homemade...they taste approximately identical) 
6 Tbsp butter

1. Pre-heat oven to 375. In a large bowl, stir together the first 5 ingredients. 

2. Roll out two pie crusts into large circles, place on large (rimmed!) baking sheets
3. Place half the apple mixture on one crust and half on the other crust. (Rocket science)
4. Fold over the edge of each crust so that it covers 2 to 3 inches of the apple mixture. Don't fuss over this part, rustic is better!

5. Brush the crust with an egg white wash or do what I do and spray it with some Pam and sprinkle with raw sugar for some sparkle and crunch. 
6. Dot the tops of the pies with chunks of butter.
7. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the filling is golden and bubbly. If the crust browns too quickly, cover the edges with foil until done. 
8. Drizzle with jarred caramel topping, slice into wedges with pizza cutter and serve with vanilla ice cream. 

It's absolutely heavenly right now and not too heavy. Enjoy!

My Favorite Flat Apple Pie originally posted 10/20/2011

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nothing Is Worth More Than This Day

I wear this bracelet pretty much every day. It was a Mother's Day gift years ago from a very perceptive husband who has learned the art of trolling his wife's Pinterest account. (Husbands: take note.) But like the overflowing piles of laundry in our closets, I see it so often I sometimes fail to take any notice of it at all.

The inscription is a quote from the German writer Goethe, "Nothing is worth more than this day." 

That quote says so much so simply. And it has become a part of my daily uniform because I am in desperate need of the reminder. I've always been one to run ahead of myself and think about the next thing. In high school I couldn't wait to get to college. During college I was so ready to get out in the big bad world and start my own life. Now that I'm the mom to 4 tiny people, I am constantly battling my desire for them to grow up already.

Often I catch myself hurrying through the day - rushing through breakfast so we can start school. Anxious thinking about the laundry that needs to be folded while reading a story or the dinner that should be prepped while giving the kids baths. From 4pm-6pm I'll be longing in my heart for B Daddy's arrival - and once he's home, eagerly waiting for the kids' to go to bed at last so that we can catch up. When we finally crash into each other on the couch...instead of connecting with this man I am so smitten by, I'll catch myself phone in hand, addictively scrolling. Scrolling for what?? For something more? Something I'm missing?

Often I find myself wondering what life will look like in 5 years when the kids are a little older. Or what my world will be like in 10 years when we have high schoolers. What will we be doing when the kids head off to college? Will I write more? Maybe teach something? Will we take that trip to London together? Hike the AT? Will I finally lose the last 5 pounds? Maybe we'll build our dream home?

Thinking about these things gets me excited. My heart beats faster. I think about how much fun "future me" will have. I picture how put-together she will be and the great dinner parties she'll host. I start to idolize future me over current me. Future me has more options, more money, more freedom. And then I have to stop and remind myself, future me is a FANTASY Katie. 

It's incredibly tempting to throw cold water on the life I'm currently living.  To eagerly wish away this season of Cheerios and applesauce, laundry and grocery lists.

I can go an entire day and miss this. This present life. 

I'm not a student anymore, anxious about the future. Worrying about my career, my future, my family. I am 33 years old. I know myself well and I like who I am. After 10 years of married life, my relationship with B Daddy is as open and honest as it has ever been and we are in a fun, healthy place. Somehow I made a choice at 22 that proves smarter and smarter each year. My four kids are funny and (mostly) sweet and right now perfectly healthy. They LOVE being with me. Yes, too much at times, but still. They have yet to turn down an offer of reading a book or playing a game with Mom. They aren't old enough that I worry over the choices they are making. I don't stay up late at night wondering where they are. I may have 5 pounds to lose, but I can fit into skinny-enough jeans and I'm comfortable forsaking the fashion trends that don't flatter my postpartum body. I don't throw lavish dinner parties, but I love to grab Panera with my tribe of mama friends. And I am working to make new, non-mama friends. I have family who live near us and who we like to be around.  

I may never get to a different season. I don't say that to be morbid, but just to remember that the future may not be the greener grass I imagine it to be. It's a daydream, a happy hope, a possibility and nothing more. 

This beautiful rainy morning is all I have. And it is enough. Nothing is worth more than this day.

Are you in a season of wishing away your current situation? What are the things you take for granted now that you'll probably miss desperately in 5 or 10 years? 

Friday, September 25, 2015

What We Learned Our First Month Homeschooling

You guys. It's finally FALL here in Georgia.

I can wear shorts with a sweatshirt or jeans with a t-shirt and can go a full 24 hours without sweating if I choose to do so. It's my most favorite time of the year. All of my favorite holidays are right around the corner - Halloween and Thanksgiving. (Any adult who still ranks Christmas as their favorite either doesn't have little kids or has learned the art of low expectations.) In other words, not me.

September also ushered in the season of homeschooling and I'm proud to say I survived a full month of teaching my own progeny and (for the most part) enjoyed it.

What has my first grader learned in school this month? 

Math: addition and subtraction facts up to number 10. So far I haven't actually introduced new concepts, but we are re-learning things the Singapore Math way and I feel like Elijah actually understands why 7-2 = 5 and can also explain why this means that 7-5 = 2. So maybe we've gone deep rather than wide here.

Reading/Phonics/Language Arts: reading, reading reading. It's exciting to see this kid finally reading snippets of text with ease. He still balks at picking up a book and reading, but it seems like soon he'll have enough of a base that it's not so painful each time. He's written a few letters, but I'd like to make that more of a priority this coming month.

Science: the animal kingdom. We began by classifying vertebrates vs. invertebrates and studied insects and their life-cycle (Britain could tell you in a heartbeat the invertebrate you are seeing in the picture above is an insect because he has 6 legs) and we just started talking about birds. Next week I'm planning a field trip to a local nature center so we can see birds of prey up close. Also, so I can see people other than the ones I birthed while the sun is up.

History: the very first people and early civilization. Highlights included creating making clay tablets and imprinting them with cuneiform symbols and making a model of the Nile River.

What have I learned during homeschool this month? 

School happens most effectively from 9am to 12pm. (Because everyone is fed and happy and the baby is sleeping for a good bit of that time.) Every now and then I'll work one-on-one with Elijah during the kids' afternoon quiet time, but I really like having that time free to prep dinner/do chores/rest.

Britain (4.5) and Ben (3) really want to "do school" too. I imagined they would be more content to wander around playing on their own. They really want paper and pencil type activities to do when Elijah starts doing the book-work stuff. I'm thinking it might be wise to buy a few pre-school activity books from Target to throw their way when E and I need to do desk work.

Between homeschool mornings and afternoon naps, I am at home ALL THE TIME. While I would love company, I really can't do playdates/see friends if we're going to have an effective day.  I wouldn't exactly say I'm lonely...but I do feel isolated. I keep reminding myself that this is a season and once Jude drops his morning nap, our schedule could change and we'll have more freedom. In the meantime, getting texts reminds me that I do have adult friends out there somewhere, so text away!

This is ALL-CONSUMING. Homeschool is not something we can do on the side or in-between our usual routine. I've started doing the grocery shopping on Saturday instead of mid-week which has actually been quite lovely as no children accompany me. Our house cleaners are a GOD-SEND. They come 2x a month and are the sole reason we sleep on semi-clean sheets and use semi-clean bathrooms. (To clarify...the house is spotlessly clean for entire minutes after the cleaners leave...but things descend into chaos VERY quickly.) My typical schedule at the gym has been side-barred and I really miss those classes. They were life-giving!  I am struggling to figure out when to pay the bills, when to call friends back, when to blog...when to do anything really that isn't essential to the day-to-day function of our house or my kids' education.

Teaching my kids is the coolest thing. All parents are naturally teachers. We teach our kids countless lessons without ever intending to...but having this opportunity of intentional hours, set aside for the sole purpose of's a precious gift and right now I'm enjoying it so very much.

Friday, September 4, 2015

All Things are Difficult Before They Become Easy

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.” ~ Saadi

We just wrapped up our first week of homeschooling full-time. Like everything in life, there were highs (Monday!), lows (taking 4 kids to the dentist and discovering one child has FOUR cavities #momoftheyear) but mostly in-betweens. But one thing did not surprise me, how difficult it is to be present all day, everyday with my kids. How incredibly hard it is for me to be patient with them.

It was unsurprising because for the past 6 years I have been with all of my kids for close to all of the day, every day.

When Elijah was a little guy and Britain was huge in my belly, a sharp hike in our health insurance premium meant that the mother's morning out program I had my eye on was financially no longer an option. At the time, I was devastated. (If that seems dramatic, it's because it was. Motherhood has been a very difficult adjustment for me.) I saw those precious hours of freedom slip away and wondered how I would survive without "me" time in my weekly schedule.

As my journey of mothering continued, I realized that if indeed I planned to homeschool when the kids reached elementary age, I was going to need to be okay being with them for an entire day.

The profound thought occurred to me that perhaps being with them all day long was the best training for, wait for it...being with them all day long.

I've considered the past several years training ground for the season we are only just now moving into. I practiced taking all of the kids to the grocery store, practiced staying at home all day long because of the baby's sleep schedule. Adjusted my pace by waiting on little ones to put away the toys, to finish lunch, to find their shoes.

I discovered anger issues I never suspected I had. I realized how incredibly selfish I am innately. I have gone through season after season where I spring out of bed before dawn and race to the sanctity of this kitchen to plead for renewal from my Source before the littles come wandering out of their beds. Not out of piety. Out of necessity.

It continues to stretch me, this being with my people all. day. long. I have not arrived, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think I am growing more patient through practice. I am coming to understand that maybe, just maybe, I had a lot more growing to do than most people. 4 kids in 5 years, God knew just how much training I needed.

The other day I read that the ability to be present and patient are not gifts a select few people possess, but are instead muscles that we all have. With regular exertion, the muscles of patience and presence become stronger. Using them feels more natural and they are more readily available when called upon. But the opposite is also true, without an intentional strain against their limits, your presence and patience muscles will atrophy.

Whenever someone learns about our family's lifestyle choices I tend to hear something along the lines of, "you must have the patience of a saint!" to which I can emphatically say, nothing could be farther from the truth.  But I hope, if they could see where I started from, they'd say instead, "girl your patience muscles are looking goooood!" 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

And So It Begins...

Yesterday we officially homeschooled at home, on our own, for the first time ever. This is a journey that has been more than 7 years in the making.

Yesterday was the first time I was curriculum designer and teacher, mom and principal all rolled into one.
We started our study of the animal kingdom by learning the difference between Vertebrates and Invertebrates and classifying some examples. And yes, I spelled InvertEbrate and VertEbrate wrong on the whiteboard. Maybe we could use a little oversight in this place. 

We moved on to math, which is review for everyone this week. By this time I was feeling like a rockstar. No tears, no arguments. The babe was napping. Life was good.

This is an Octopod. Even when you homeschool, there's time to doodle if you finish your work before the others.

A "before" shot of the archaeology dig we set up. Yes, in my first week of homeschooling my kids we are having an archaeology dig - it's my school and we get to do it my way. If you're unaware of my love for archaeology, you can catch up here.

We finished our morning with plenty of read-aloud time squished on the couch together. It was a dream come true. And it's not often that one can say that about a Monday.

If y'all want to keep up with the homeschool thing this year, let me know and I'll keep sharing the hows and whys of what we're up to. And if not, let me know that too, my feelings will only be hurt for a minute.

More on homeschooling:
Why we've chosen to homeschool: Back to School
The resources we're using this year: How (I'm Planning) to Homeschool a First Grader

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why You Need Friends Without Kids

If you are in a similar stage of life as my hubs and I right now, making plans on the weekend is an extremely complicated process involving the intersection of energy at the end of a long day with toddlers, extra money that is not earmarked for college and a high schooler's Saturday night availability. It requires a Herculean effort and by the time the big hour arrives, you'd rather just put on comfy pants and watch Netflix. Can I get an Amen?

Six long years ago, B Daddy and I were among the first of our set of friends to have kids. As such, we could fill our social calendar by inviting our kidless friends over for dinner after we put our kids in bed. We'd get to hang out and socialize without the trouble and cost of hiring a babysitter and we didn't even have to leave the house.

But once our friends started having children of their own, it felt weird to ask them to get a sitter just to come over to our house for dinner. (So that we wouldn't have to get a sitter...) I'm not going to knock my food (my kids do enough of that thankyouverymuch) but if I'm already going to the trouble of finding a sitter, I want food prepared by a professional and a waiter who is trying really hard to earn my tip.

Uncertain of how best to proceed with our old friends, and after spending too many Saturday nights watching Netflix marathons of Mad Men, we made a hard choice. We traded our old standbys in for some new friends. The kind without little kids. Of course we still love to hang out with our little kid-parent friends, but now it happens at the pool or in the hallways after church lets out.

Sidebar: How is it anyway that we end up socializing primarily with people in the EXACT same stage of life as we are? Could it be that our current educational system has set us up with this false societal expectation?! I love my people, but the vast majority of them are in the same boat as I am. Harried, hurried, women with lots of kids and little free time. Meanwhile I see women ten years my junior and ten years my senior with whom I LONG to hang out. They seem to have more independent children and/or more options with their time. Why couldn't they come over to play? We need to be friends!!  But that's another post, for another day... 

Our new friends tend to be young married couples or 20somethings who have more money than cooking knowledge and are as of yet unaware that bottle of wine they brought as a thank you is worth more than the entire meal I am serving them. We also have a few older couples we occasionally hang out with (who are well aware that the wine they bring costs more than the meal they are being served...) In either case, these no-kid friends have more energy, more disposable income (for that bottle of wine) and no need to consult a high schooler's schedule in order to come hang out with us.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, having friends who don't have young kids is SUPER AWESOME. We get to have social lives without booking a sitter and our guests never bring up potty training during dinner. These friends usually think children are a delightful novelty. They read to them, indulge their appetite for pre-dinner wrestling matches and have even offered to babysit on occasion. And if that isn't reason enough for you to invest in some similar relationships, I've got nothing for you.

So - friends without kids - do you have them? Do you need to find a few? Are you just now realizing you ARE them? (If so, know this post is dedicated to all of you, not just the bearded man pictured above. Thanks for enhancing our social life one home-cooked meal at a time.)

I highly recommend you go find a few today. Also, we are currently accepting friendship applications from non-little kid-parents and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Here's To You Sis

This post originally published on Crazy Joy 08.20.2009

My beautiful big sister turned another year older today. I won't tell you how old she is, because we're both getting to the point where it's just not that interesting. She's older than me, which is the point here. 

Anna is the quintessential big sister. She's tested every road I've ever walked down, both paved and unpaved. I started playing volleyball in middle school because she did. I took Spanish in high school because she did. I chose to attend a big college down south because...well you get the point. 

She invited me to play in a soccer scrimmage with her high school team when I was just an eighth grader so I wouldn't be intimidated when I got there. She continually let me hang out with her back when 2 years really was a big age difference, which in hindsight was probably due to the fact that we moved around so much. If she wanted to have a friend before school started in the next town, I was a pretty attractive candidate.

But for all the times she could have, Anna never told me I was too little, rarely left me out and never left me behind.

Somehow I earned the reputation as the adventurous one, the child who was more outgoing, the risk-taker.  But Anna broke virgin ground for me most of the way, all I had to do was take a few small steps past her.

We went to the same college, married within a year of each other and left less than a year between each of our eight babies.  I'm sure there's material for psychoanalysis in that sentence, apparently I'm still scared of being left behind.

We've had our share of fights - over the light in the hallway, over whose shoes were the ones with the scuff marks - and we occasionally still tee the other off, but there's no one I'd rather have by my side through this stage of life. 

Happy Birthday Sister! I love you more than a Hallmark card can say. I owe more than I care to admit to consider this an admittance. 

Other posts featuring my one and only sister Anna:
Muddy Buddy Champs
Why I'm Not a Nurse
Bringing Christmas Cheer

Monday, August 17, 2015

The 5 Most Annoying Things People Say to Moms at the Grocery Store

Last Friday I went to Publix (where shopping is usually a pleasure) with my 4 kids in tow as per the norm these days. I innocently walked up to the seafood counter to request a center-cut salmon fillet and was treated to an exceptionally awkward interrogation from Mr. Seafood.

It doesn't even take a huge family to elicit stares and unwanted commentary at the grocery store these days. Twins will do it. Babies less than 2 years apart will do it. Three kids or more? Well you'd best be prepared to be stopped at least half a dozen times on any occasion you leave the house.

Here's a round up of my personal favorites - along with accompanying responses you can tuck into your back pocket. Determine the type of day you're having and choose a sweet or spicy response accordingly.

1. Well! You sure have your hands full, don't you!

Sweet: You should see my heart!
Spicy: Would you like to take one, or two?

2. I don't how you do it! 

Sweet: Oh with lots of prayer...
Spicy: You know, making small talk with strangers really seems to help...

3. Did you plan to have them all so close together/so far apart?

Sweet: (blush at un-solicited reference to your sex life) Oh no, just a happy accident.  
Spicy: Yup. It's been a life-long dream of mine to change diapers continuously for a decade/ Oh yes! Once one was in Kindergarten we realized how much we missed changing diapers.

4. Are they all yours?

Sweet: Every blessed one.
Spicy: Oh no! I just rented a few to run errands with.

5. You do know how that happens, don't you?

Sweet: (demure giggle)
Spicy: We do! We're surprised there aren't more of them...

For any of you who don't go to the grocery store with multiple children hanging off your cart, if you see a mom with kids at the grocery store and you cannot help but speak to her, here are two phrases that are universally well-received:

"What a lovely family you have." or  "You're doing a great job."

What do you think moms? Did I miss any of your personal favorites?

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