Thursday, November 27, 2014

The mom standard

"Sometimes the best way to serve others is to know our season"

Why would the woman in that picture above ... yes, that's me with my two little boys under 9 months apart ... why would she be trying to do more than just being a mom?

And yet, that's exactly what I did. 

After years of childlessness, I suddenly found myself, seemingly overnight, in a totally different phase of life.

And I had no idea what to do in that phase of life.

No longer was I working woman. I was, instead, a stay-at-home mom of two little boys with a husband in medical residency. And I found myself attempting, and quickly impossibly so, to attain a certain standard.

A stay-at-home mom standard.

And who, you may ask, sets the standard for these moms?

Why that's a very good question.

The answer is: other moms.

Yes, you heard correctly. We moms do this to ourselves by making other moms feel inferior.

So, like many women, I observed women around me. I observed women I knew. But even more dangerously, I observed women that I didn't know in real life.

And what I saw was woman staying home with their children while making things like rosebud magnet party favors made with craft foam:

While pictures can be intimidating, what the women who share these pictures say about them speaks even louder: "I made these magnets last week very late one night because the birthday prize and treat we had planned to give each of my daughter's 2nd grade classmates suddenly looked very small."



But ... it's only an iceberg tip.

I stumbled upon a blog from one woman who threw a first birthday for her daughter. This picture below was sort of the "muse" for her party.

She writes of her daughter's first birthday: "I knew I wanted my daughter's milestone first birthday to be extra special and packed with personal details and style. My best friend and event stylist ... is a party genius so I enlisted her help and couldn't have been happier with the results."

She went on to write ... "we had access to an outdoor kitchen, plenty of lounge room for our 80 guests, and a refreshing swimming pool. It couldn't have been more perfect for our special day."

I'm not sure what concerns me more in that statement above. The fact that she called a first birthday a milestone ... the eighty guests in attendance ... or the fact that she hired an event stylist.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

I could go on and on with examples from online of women doing things I could only dream about.

Scratch that.

They are doing things I wouldn't even bother to dream about.

These women are on their school's PTO and they are class mother and they are maintaining part-time jobs and having birthday parties with petting zoos. They have nurseries that look like this:

And if they don't, they are pinning these on their Pinterest page or creating do-it-yourself blog guides for how you too can create this picture-perfect environment for your little cherub.

All right so you get it. A standard. Someone, somewhere, is setting these standards for moms that I truly believe is not possible to live up to.

And so without further ado, I present my standard. 

My philosophy is this:

Something has to give. Say no. Stay home. And spend REAL time with your kids.

There is no way that you can have time for a picture perfect nursery and reading to your kids every day and brushing their teeth three times a day and taking them to mommy-and-me yoga and preparing healthy meals and keeping your house neat and tidy and documenting their every move in the scrapbook of their dreams.

It's impossible.

But what happens is that these moms keep posting pictures and pinteresting and blogging and pretending that their entire world is as neat and orderly as their playroom photos appear to be:

Sorry folks, but I don't buy it.

And not only do I not buy it, but I refuse to pretend it exists.

And not only do I refuse to pretend it exists, but I refuse to even attempt to meet the standard.

Not me.

Not this mom.

I'm not doing it. 

And I'm going to be encouraging other moms to join me in this crusade for non-perfection. Let's be imperfect together, shall we?

I've decided that this is a season of my life. My children will only be young one time, and I am determined to spend that young time with them -- not creating cute things that they can have around them.  I'm not going to fool myself into believing that running around with them in the van from activity to activity is in their best interest. I'm not counting that as quality time.

I am a better mom when I am at home with my children.

I am a better, more patient, more kind, more hands-on, more sweet ... when we are not running around from place to place doing every single activity offered to children in the 3 to 5 age group.

I can honestly say that my kids are getting more of me when we are just in the living room hanging out with us.

There is no doubt that if I was taking the time to create a closet that looks like this:

that something else has had to suffer in order to achieve that level of perfection.

Now don't get me wrong. Things have to be done. If I don't stay up on the dishes and vacuum the living room regularly and make food for my children and keep their rooms organized, it will effect our living.

And that isn't good either.

But, and here is where I get to my point ... we, as moms, are doing WAY TOO MUCH.

I've been reading Crystal Paine's (from book: Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. 

In her book, she encourages you to write down your personal priorities/goals from each of the following five categories (you can edit these categories if they don't fit you personally.)
  1. Personal (personal growth and physical health)
  2. Spiritual and Emotional (relationship with God)
  3. Family (husband, children, and extended family)
  4. Career/Ministry (finances, business projects, volunteer opportunities)
  5. Friendships 
For me, I added a number:

     6. Homeschooling

Every single time you are asked to do something, decide which category it fits in and whether it meets your priorities and goals from that category. If it doesn't SAY NO!

I think it is utterly ridiculous how many things we as mom agree to do that we don't have any desire to really do. If it is not one of your goals for the appropriate category, you should NOT BE DOING IT!

I made a decision when we moved back to America that I was not going to do agree to a single thing that required a weekly commitment from me. It has now been around six months since we returned. How am I doing with that? Fantastic! 

Here's a few examples to illustrate how I have done this.
  • (Category 3) I want to celebrate my childrens' birthdays. But this year, when it came time for Hannah's first birthday, a big party became obviously too much. So instead, I opted for picking up a big cupcake at the local grocery store, buying one gift, hanging a few streamers that I already had in a bag, and being okay with that. It was not easy. The mom in me wanted to have a big party. But I knew this was the best thing for our family, and I was a better mom at a small party than I would have been at a big party.
  • (Category 6) I really wanted my children to get some sort of musical education. However, it is not something I can teach (for obvious reasons). I found a wonderful weekly music class that allows us to pay as we go. It is very inexpensive ($10 a class for all three kids) and I do not have to attend every week. If it is a tough week or if something else comes up, we skip it, without any guilt involved! I found a few other activities just like this including daily story times at the library and a Lego club for the kids. All are things we can do but none require us to be committed. 
  • (Category 2) I believe that volunteering in the church nursery is important if you have kids utilizing the services. But with JB working many weekends, I could not commit to being able to be in a certain service on any given week. I decided to be a sub for our church. Whenever one of their regulars can't make it, they text me, and I can decide whether I can help that week or not. 
  • (Category 4) I enjoy the public speaking opportunities that avail themselves but know that I really can't take very many of them. I therefore only accepted a very small number -- about 1 every other month -- in order to make sure this was not detracting from my family time.
  • (Category 1) Working out is very important to me, but with four small children, and a husband who works odd hours, committing to a program just wouldn't work for me. I found a gym down the road that is a 24-7 workout facility. I can go whenever I want and there is never a shortage of a machine I would like to use. This allows me, whenever JB is home, to run over there and back within one hour to meet my physical needs without sacrificing too much family time. I have also set my goals on a triathalon for the spring that is shorter than what I would like to do but a very "doable" goal.
The only thing I was not able to avoid committing too was Isaac's weekly speech appointments. He needs to do this and it is not something I can avoid committing too. However, I have enlisted my father-in-law for help in driving him now and then, and I have also given myself permission to cancel a session ahead of time if it is going to cause us too much headache to attend.

I also cut A LOT of corners. Some examples:
  • My house is clean and organized but not picture-perfect. The kids have rules regarding toy usage but on any given moment, they are strewn about the house. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I enlist the three older children to help me pick up all toys for a monetary reward.
  • I have kids help me with anything I think they are capable of helping with.
  • I put laundry away in the right places but I avoid folding many things. An example is the boys socks and underwear drawer. I put the underwear and socks in the drawer with no rhyme or reason and let them find a match when it is time to get dressed.
  • I have recently enlisted the help of to help me with meals since I have never really cooked, and my husband's schedule doesn't let him cook as regularly as he once did.
  • I buy a lot of "quick healthy foods" and keep them at the kid's reach so that they can get something to eat when things are too crazy. (Cheese sticks, applesauces, raisins and granola bars are my favorite.) 
  • I buy ahead on many of our staples and things like diapers and wipes. We have a huge "second kitchen" in the garage with a big shelf and an extra freezer. When I find things on sale, I buy them and store them so that I can avoid running out of things all the time.
  • I do NOT stress about what my kids are wearing. If we are dressed for the elements, we are good to go. If the shoes don't match the outfit exactly or the lines on the shirt go opposite of the stripe on the sweatpants, I don't worry about it. As long as we are clean, we are good.
  • I don't do things like baths every night. They don't need to be done every day (especially during the winter when the kids aren't outside as much) and cutting down on them means one less thing for me to do in the evening.
  • I put devotional books in each bathroom so when I get five minutes I can sit and read something positive without devoting a lot of time to it in one sitting.
These are just a few examples to give you an idea of ways I have attempted to make life easier and less stressful. 

But beyond a doubt the biggest thing I attempt to do with my kids is STAY HOME!

I try to make it a goal that we only leave the house half of the week. The other half we stay at home and don't go anywhere for the day. I instead try to come up with exercise opportunities in our backyard or in the driveway. And if we do go out, I attempt to keep down the number of stops. Two stops is plenty for one afternoon!

My Blog is going to be transitioning as we move to the farm, and I really see my ministry shifting. This idea of helping moms stop feeling guilty and instead just being is a big one for me.

In summary:

1. Prioritize your goals.
2. Stay at home more (say no!)
3. Find corners you are okay with cutting.
4. Use all that extra time to be present with your kids.

Do it!


Walgreens: Free 8 x 10 Enlargement

Walgreens is offering a Free 8×10 Photo Enlargement when you use the coupon code BIGPICFREE at checkout. This code is valid for a standard 8×10 photo enlargement, one per household. Enlargements must be ordered by November 29, 2014 to get the discount.

10th Happy Thanksgiving

This will be my 10th Thanksgiving since starting my Blog in 2005! Here is a look back at a decade of past Thanksgiving celebrations:

2013: Porto Martins, Azores, Portugal: For the fourth year in a row, our friends Shane and Linda joined us for Thanksgiving! We are also joined by JB's family and friends from our Bible Study. Four kiddos in our family this year!
2012: Porto Martins, Azores, Portugal: Our friends Shane and Linda flew over from Germany to spend our third Thanksgiving in a row together. Our good friends and neighbors, Nick and Kristy were also there. Three kiddos in our family for this one too.
2011: Incirlik Air Base, Turkey: Large gathering of people for an outside Thanksgiving meal. Three kids present for this celebration.
2010: Incirlik Air Base, Turkey: Small group of friends over to our house where my just-learned of pregnancy with Abigail was the order of the day.
2009: Eglin Air Force Base: Almost all of JB's family drove up and we celebrated the holiday together on the Base with our two boys.
2008: Eglin Air Force Base: A small group of friends joined us for our first Thanksgiving as parents.
2007: Eglin Air Force Base: My side of the family made the ten hour drive north to celebrate the holiday with us.
2006: Rochester, Minnesota: We went over to our great friends house: Ron and Ebby Ray for a low-key holiday after another failed IVF.
2005: Rochester, Minnesota: While living in Rochester, we make the drive six hours east to spend Thanksgiving with my extended Huisman family.

We have celebrated in Minnesota, Florida, Turkey, and Portugal. And this year will start the celebrations in Tennessee! JB's parents have driven to North Carolina to celebrate with JB's oldest sibling, Elizabeth, and her family. My parents are here to be with us. In addition, JB's brother Ray and his family who live 30 minutes from here will also join us in celebrating.

A slight deviation is that JB has to work today -- Thursday -- sooo we will be doing Thanksgiving tomorrow (Friday). 

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What we be up to

What a wonderful time having my parents here with us. While JB had to work three 12-hour day shifts in a row, we've been having a blast holding the fort down at home. Here is some of what we have been doing:

On Sunday, we hung out at the house. My cousin Josh (my father's nephew) and his wife and kids came to have dinner with us -- and the older three kids watched Sleeping Beauty together with Papa Coach on the couch. 

On Monday, my Mom and I decided to be adventerous. We packed the girls up in the car and made the 4 hour drive one way (8 hours round trip) back and forth to the farm so that my Mom could see the property. (We won't be living there officially until next summer.) Oh what fun it was to show her our forever home! The girls were fantastic, and the boys had a blast hanging out at the house with Grampa. Actually, when I knocked on the door around 4pm after our trip was done, Sidge answered and said, "What are you doing? It hasn't been a whole day yet. I sort a didn't have too much fun because you weren't gone long enough." They played Monopoly, did legos, and watched The Lego Movie with their Papa Coach all to themselves.

JB was off on Tuesday! In the morning, he went grocery shopping with Abigail while I went to the gym for a jog on the treadmill. (I've joined a gym right next to Kroger! It's super close and I'm really enjoying my hour there ... when I can sneak away.) Then, he cooked us a delicious lunch while the grandparents and kiddos went out for some adventure: fun toys at the dollar store and making our own yogurt! And now, we are getting ready to head to Nashville to view some Christmas lights at the Opryland Hotel! Great fun!

Monday, November 24, 2014

First snow

Our boys have seen snow. When we lived in Turkey, though it was very warm, you could drive just four hours and be up the mountain in snow!

The three oldest also saw snow when Abigail was a baby and we got stuck overnight in D.C. one time. We also experienced a winter storm on the islands (but that didn't include snow.)

But Abigail doesn't remember, and last week was the very first time that all four of my kiddos were able to see snow at the same time. It was a cold week in Tennessee (apparently about 30 degrees colder than usual for November.)

Actually, let's be real. You can't really call what we saw snow. In principle, it was snow. But it didn't accumulate, didn't even really stick anywhere. The little girl behind us managed to scoop up enough to make a miniature snowman on the banister. But generally speaking, the word snow was a stretch.

But it was still fun to gather in front of the glass and watch it accumulate.

Of course, JB and I spent four years in Minnesota. Snow means very little to us. And cold is not what people here have been saying it is. Until you see a foot of snow and experience forty below, you are doing just fine!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

They are here!

My Dad and mom made the 12 hour drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Tennessee in 14 hours yesterday -- thanks to Atlanta traffic. 

But they are here! 

The boys received an awesome lego set that they just finished putting together today. And Abigail has been in heaven coloring her new Tinkerbell coloring book with Papa Coach. (I do find it funny that my Dad is hiding his picture out of everyone else's reach when he isn't working on it to assure it doesn't get messed up.)

Fifteen months is way too long to go without your parents. So glad to be back in America where we can visit much more often. 

Abigail coloring with Papa Coach

Abigail reading with Grama Di

And here is a picture of my Mom with Isaac. This was the last time that we had Thanksgiving together -- back in 2008 -- when I just had one child and was two months from having Sidge. You can see the post by clicking here. 

Perfect Comeback

I really don't mind people making comments about my rather large and little brood. But I would like to explain myself, and I often do, when they say something about me having so many very little children. "God has very different plans than we do," I will often say. I feel so incredibly blessed to get to be the mom of these four extraordinary children. And while my hands are incredibly full -- my heart feels like it might burst. For those of you waiting for your miracle, don't forget that they do happen. I am proof.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Still Can't Believe It

Once a month, I take the boys to "Lego Homeschool Club." They absolutely love it. It is once a month for two hours. They free-play and then they make something related to a theme, and then they have a show and tell with those creations.

(I can only go when I have someone to watch Hannah because her presence at lego club would mean 2 hours of preventing her from knocking over other kid's creations and eating said creations and even I am not that crazy.)

I have only brought Abigail about half the time. She likes it, but she has never spoken in front of the group. Nor did I ever think she would. Like. Ever. (I've written previously about how incredibly shy and clingy she has been since birth.) During a past meeting she did walk up to the front with Sidge since they were a "team." But speak in front of a group?

In the past few months and especially the last few weeks, I have watched Abigail emerge from the shy shell that has kept her from talking to nearly anyone outside of our immediate family. She has started to ask me if she can talk to people. When she waves at someone, she will turn to me and say, "I waived at he."

And yesterday? Well ... first she told me she wanted to take a number for a turn to share her creation. I let her take one, but was pretty positive then when the teacher called her number, she would change her mind. I never push her. Didn't push her this time. But her number was called and suddenly, she was speaking in front of a group of 50 people.

I have no idea what she said. I didn't care. I was just so thrilled to see my little girl making such a big decision all on her own!

Because of Isaac: Help our "Lull"

I wanted to take some time to do a little pleading on behalf of Because of Isaac.  There are times when I feel fundraising is going GREAT. 

There are other times where I feel we are in a bit of a lull. 

Right now? 


And I am asking for your help.

If you read my blog regularly, and enjoy it, you know that I write and don't ask for anything in return. You can read as much and as often as you like. I write. You read. That's it.

But now I am asking for something in return. I estimate I have around 300-500 unique readers of my Blog everday. As many of you know, I am going to be changing the layout of my Blog in a few months. I will be keeping a public blog, but only allowing people who have contacted me to retain "exclusive" reading rights. I have had over 200 people email me requesting to stay on the "exclusive" list. That means that there are at least 200 people that really care to stay connected to our adventures.

If each of those 200 people could donate just $10 to that would be $2,000 raised. 

If each of those 200 people could donate $50 that would be $10,000 raised.

Now don't get me wrong. I know that not everyone has the capability to donate that much money or even any money. Remember, while my husband is a physician, we were both raised in homes where every dollar was counted and often didn't exist. We know what it means to not have money to give. I am definitely not saying that if you don't donate, you can't read. But what I am asking is for you to prayerfully consider if you might be able to make the dreams of parenthood come true for one deserving couple?

Maybe you could make a monthly committment. Maybe you could make a yearly commitment. As a quick reminder, we currently have two couples working HARD to make this dream come true.
Our first couple is Joel and Criss (pictured at right). Joel is actually the nephew of Joan and Roy. Joan and Roy are my son Isaac's birth grandparents. This is a strong Christian couple who are surrounded by friends and family who are building their family. And they want the same thing. They want to be parents. We have raised almost $7,000 for them so far -- nearly exactly the amount they need to start their homestudy and get the ball rolling. But they need to raise another $17,000 to see this dream all the way through.  If you would like to read more about Joel and Criss and find out how to donate, please click here. 

Our second couple is Kevin & Tessa (pictured at left). You can read more of their story and find out how to donate to them by clicking here.  Kevin and Tessa met later in life and are therefore in a time crunch of sorts. Many adoptions have limits on how old a couple can be to adopt. And just because they are older, doesn't mean their desire for children is any different. Kevin and Tessa are another amazing Christian couple that need our help to make the dream of parenthood come true.

You can choose to make your donation to either of these two couples. Or you can make a donation to both! We will also be launching a third couple very soon so stay tuned!

In addition to making a monetary donation, there are other ways to support these adoptions as well. Scroll below to see other ways that you can help make a difference.

Kevin and Tessa are selling shirts. Approximately 50% of the cost of each shirt will go toward their adoption. Click here to check out the adults shirts available. Click here for children's shirts. This fundraiser will only be going on for FIVE more days!

An online friend is selling these signs (pictured above). If you want them in time for Christmas, you have to order by Wednesday! The signs are $75 and $20 of every purchase will go toward the adoption of Joel & Criss. Please click here for more information on purchasing one of these signs. 

Criss has starred selling for Thirty-one to help raise money for her adoption. 25% of every item purchased will go directly toward their adoption costs if you use Criss as your consultant. Thirty-One is a faith based company with lots of bags, accessories and organizational products. 
Just click this link and click on 'Christina Van Wyck' as your consultant!

Kevin and Tessa are selling Turkish pashminas as well. They still have quite a few left, and every single dollar of every single purchase goes directly to their adoption. Please click here to check out what colors and styles are still available.