Friday, August 28, 2015

Guest Post for The Gender Experts Blog!

I know, I already published a post today, but I wanted to share this as well...

Recently I was contacted by The Gender Experts, asking if I might write a guest post for their blog. Although many of their blog posts deal with gender prediction and pregnancy, they graciously allowed me to write about motherhood in general... and specifically, how I feel like four kids has been easier for me than one was!

Yes, I've written about this before, but I chose this topic to revisit, because I love encouraging young moms! And though I'm still very new at mommy-ing myself, hopefully I can pass along what I've learned so far along the way. :)

Here's what I shared over at The Gender Experts Blog:

Looking back, I don't remember anything "easy" about being a first-time mom. Everything seemed to overwhelm me--the overfull diapers, the puddles of spit-up, and especially my daily chores, which never seemed to get done.

Then when Rachel was only 3.5 months old, I conceived our second daughter. Our son came fairly soon after that, followed by another daughter. And before we knew it, we had four kids, four and under.

The transitions between kids weren't easy at first. I'd guess my hardest adjustment was probably going from 1 to 2 kids (especially because they were so close together!), and I remember crying a lot the first month after Matthias (#3) was born.

So understandably, you can see why I was a little nervous about adding a fourth baby to our already busy family! My days as a stay-at-home mom were full, just caring with three small children. How could I add a fourth child, without surrendering our house to complete chaos?

But much to my surprise (and relief), we welcomed our fourth baby with [relative] peace and calm! The tears were few, and within the first couple months, I was feeling better and more on top of my "life" than I ever had before as a mom. I felt completely comfortable taking care of four children, and I even had the time to start "officially" homeschooling my two oldest.

Happy as I was, I was also a bit shocked to realize that four kids was somehow easier for me than one had been. This of course led me to wonder: why? Shouldn't I be four-times more stressed-out and overwhelmed?

Now Caroline (our youngest) is nearing a year old, and although we have plenty of bad days, and moments where I feel like I'm drowning, I'm still convinced that this time around, life has been easier for me than it ever was before.

I'm sure you're as curious to hear the why, as I was to try to figure it out for myself! We are still growing and learning (always the goal, right?), but here's what I've come up with so far...

1. I have five years of experience in the mommy-hood world now! I don't need to be nervous about changing diapers, considering how many hundreds (thousands?) I've changed. I've tried out many different ideas (I can't tell you how many laundry methods I've tried), and found which ones work best for our family. I've made many mistakes, and hopefully learned from them!

Also, the more I've learned, the more relaxed I am about certain areas of motherhood. Breaking up fights and nap-times and changing diapers and feeding multiple kids has become less of a "big deal" and more of a every-day-all-day-long occurrence.
2. We teach our kids obedience, and strive to be consistent with this. I just mentioned above about being "relaxed" when it comes to motherhood. Having the kids obey me, though, is something I've definitely become more insistent on. Whether the kids are standing in a parking lot, or riding their bikes in our driveway (which is next to the street), they know that they need to listen to my voice and obey the first time I ask them to do something. The best way I've taught them this is with an obedience "game" where the kids are in a different part of the house, I call their names, and they yell, "Yes, Mom!!" and come running to me. If your kids know that you expect them to listen and obey, it will make your life as a mom THAT much easier.

3. The older kids are learning to help around the house! They sort and put away their own laundry, make their bed, they can load and unload the dishwasher (we use plastic dishes!), and (possibly the kids' favorite) they can operate a hand vacuum! Obviously, the floor isn't going to look as crumb-free as if I had vacuumed, and their quilt is almost always crooked on their bed, but I'm still thrilled with their efforts! And it gives them a sense of accomplishment, too. "Look what I was able to do!"

4. I don't worry about the kids needing me to entertain them: they entertain each other. Almost everything my kids do, they do together. They build blanket tents, and block castles, and they chop papers to shreds. Now that Caroline can crawl and play, too, there will often be moments that all four of them are playing together, and I'm able to work on whatever's most pressing at the time.

5. Lastly, I think motherhood has gotten easier for me, the more I embrace that this is my life. I've gotten used to the idea that it's "normal" to type and hold a baby at the same time, or breast-feed while reading to the other kids piled around me. I think once a mother realizes that there's no other task more important in her life, or more worth her time, than investing in these little people... then I think motherhood somehow becomes easier.
Of course, not everything is easier with four than with one. Such as, grocery shopping--or buckling and unbuckling car seats! But while I feel like with multiple children, there is more noise, more crying, more arguments... there is also more laughter and snuggles and fun times.

I can say without a doubt that I enjoy being a mom more than I ever have before. But what would I say to the new mom, perhaps who is feeling the way I did when my first was a baby?

I wish I could give you a hug, and say that everything will be okay! Don't be afraid to make mistakes or to ask for help! If you feel like there's so much you need to learn, or you're feeling inadequate, just know... this is normal. I am sure every mom has gone through this. You have many wonderful years ahead of you as a mother! And I certainly hope for you, the same that has been true for me... that the road of motherhood will gradually get easier.

I hope you enjoyed this post! And while you're sitting at the computer (or reading on your phone :)), go check out The Gender Experts, especially if you're expecting a baby... and you're curious as to the gender! Using an ultrasound scan, they're able to predict your baby's gender as early as 6 weeks old!

Well, that's all from me for today. Have a great weekend!

Downstairs Half-bathroom Remodel

When we moved into this house, our downstairs half-bathroom was in the top-five worst-looking spots in the house.

It was covered in outdated, pink wallpaper, the floor was ripped, and the faucet + sink just. looked. bad. "Neglected" is actually a great word for this room. It didn't look like it had had any care for quite some time.

Last year, a week before Caroline was born, my mom and youngest sister stayed up very late at our house, peeling down the wallpaper and repainting the room white. The absence of the wallpaper obviously made a huge difference for the better, but the room still needed some attention.

Matt started by ripping everything OUT (toilet, vanity, medicine cabinet, and flooring). The most time-consuming part of this job was definitely removing the glue from underneath the linoleum floor. We scraped, we sanded, we poured boiling water in an attempt to loosen the glue, we did more scraping... Finally the floor was flat enough to start laying the new flooring.

Once the floor was laid, the fun began. Shopping for and buying the vanity, faucet, white hand towel, mirror, decor... that's all the "best part" for me. It's SO exciting to watch a room go from outdated and ripped-apart to new and clean and fresh!

One by one, we are crossing off areas of our house that need updated! Downstairs half-bath complete, we are off to the next project!

Source List

Paint: Valspar Ultra White
Vanity and faucet: Lowe's
Mirror: Walmart
Soap dispenser and hand towel: TJ Maxx
Decor: Hobby Lobby

Monday, August 24, 2015

I'm Furthering My Education

Back in the days when I'd recently graduated highschool, when I would tell people that I was not attending college, I think most of them assumed that my education was over. Sometimes I'd go on to explain that I was still learning... just not in an actual school building.

As a matter of fact, I hurried through my final highschool courses because my post-graduation goal (at the time) was to read and write for hours a day. Feminism in the United States intrigued me, and I remember standing in front of the "feminism" section of our local library, staring at the hundreds of books with that subject, and thinking, "I want to read every. single. one."

And I gave it my best attempt, too.

So no, even though I wasn't enrolled anywhere, I kept researching and writing and learning

Because I don't think, no matter what my age or what I'm doing in life, there's ever going to be a time when I'll want my education to be over.

Sure, when Rachel and Jemima were super little, and I was pregnant with Matthias, I was probably doing more "surviving" than "learning" every single day, but there are stages for everything, and I'm definitely entering a stage where I feel like I'm "furthering my education" more than I have for years.

There are two main reasons why this is so. The first one is probably obvious, and that is... I'm homeschooling two-going-on-three kids.

I discovered that once you start teaching your children, you realize how much you've forgotten or... how much you never knew! As soon as I started reading to the kids about figures in history, I found myself continually going, "That happened THEN? Before THAT war? She did WHAT?!"

And THEN, we discovered the documentaries on Netflix and Youtube. Often in the afternoons (when most of our "work" is done for the day), we'll sit and watch shows (or short videos) about a National Park, or animals, volcanoes, the Holocaust, ships and why they sink, the "Men Who Built America" (Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc.), the US Presidents, the Easter Island statues, and so on.  

The exciting part is that we are learning together--Mom and Kids

Ok, and the second reason why I've been researching and "educating myself" is... I'm a homemaker who happens to be making decisions all day long. If I want our house to run smoothly and efficiently, I'm going to need to do some research! Three easy examples here would be food, clothing, and our house. 

Planning meals, shopping for groceries, and preparing healthy and yummy foods, three times a day, for 6 people, 7 days a week, is a fairly big responsibility all by itself.

And honestly, I don't love cooking. I'm constantly searching for inspiration and trying new ideas and methods (whether it be freezer cooking, gluten-free every now and then, or whatever).  

Onto clothing. We had a couple chilly mornings and evenings last week, and I realized that I was responsible for the fall and winter wardrobes for four children. When I'm looking for clothing for the kids, I'm considering how warm it will be, if it's good quality, how stylish it is, and... how I can achieve all of that for the best prices. 

I'm not done yet, but I've already spent hours researching the best brands and looking into capsule wardrobes for the kids. I want simple, inexpensive, and yet stylish for the kids, and this takes time!  

And lastly, our house. So we bought a fixer-upper, which means that almost every room has needed some sort of renovation project. Matt's the one who does most of the heavy work, but he also has a full-time day job, which means... it's often up to me to figure out what we'll do with each room. I read tutorials and reviews and stare at before-and-after pictures and watch the Property Brothers. Since it's in the back of our mind that one day we'll sell this house (once we're done renovating it), I got very excited about home staging (for whenever the time comes), and I've watched as many videos on Youtube as I could find on how to stage your home before selling it.

I love this sort of education, because it's very pertinent to what I'm doing now in my life. I'm teaching my children science and history... and learning alongside them. I'm discovering ways to bless my household (and all who live in it), based on our needs now and what my interests are. 

What I described here is obviously going to look different for every mom out there, but I'd encourage you--even you moms of little ones!--keep reading and discovering and learning. Your education is a life-long event!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Seven Ways to Style a Striped Dress [Toddler Girl Edition]

You've all heard of the capsule wardrobe concept, right? Basically you have 10 (or however many) basic pieces that can be mixed and matched to create many awesome, creative outfits! It's such a fun idea, and--more importantly, it would help with the frustration that comes from picking out a fantastic skirt or pair of jeans, and then not knowing what top would match it!

Summer is hard on kids' clothes (with all the playing outside in the dirt!), and I knew I'd gotten rid of a few of the girls' tops as the summer went along. But, I had no idea how bad this situation had gotten until we were leaving for the afternoon, and one of the girls announced that she didn't have any tops to wear. I opened her drawer, and she must've had 10 (or more!) skirts and shorts, and not a single presentable shirt. 

With the cooler weather coming, I decided it was high time I re-did the girls' wardrobes. And because I had to buy clothes anyway, I decided to give the "capsule wardrobe" idea a try. 

I didn't go completely hard-core, but I did find around six tops, and four or five skirts or shorts that could be easily interchanged to create some cute outfits! 

I also had the idea to find one item that could be could be styled in a variety of ways, to make it appropriate for summer and fall! That's when I found this striped dress. It was exactly what I was looking for!

It's cute all by itself with sandals, or with a fun bubble necklace!

No one would guess it's the same dress, if it's tucked into a bright skirt!

Here's some fun belt action, along with mint-colored leggings...

I especially love how this dress is a perfect transitional piece between summer and fall. Layer a long-sleeved shirt and sleeveless jacket or a cardigan, and you're still looking fresh and bright but with the right amount of warmth for the cooler weather. 

I love how many fun printed leggings there are to choose from. Pair the dress with some cute leggings and BOOTS and you're definitely ready for fall!

And finally, the classic jean jacket, some gray tights, and matching accessories. This ensemble looks completely different from the first summer-y outfit, and yet at the heart of all these outfits is the same basic, striped dress! 

I hope you enjoyed these seven ways to style a striped dress! Even if you don't have a toddler girl to dress, I'm sure you could use these principles to style your own clothing. 

Happy Friday, folks!