Thursday, May 31, 2012

Um, Does This Baby Make My Belly Look Big???

Where Is The Focus???

While mindlessly watching something on TV, this commercial for Jenny Craig came on.  Like most advertising, media, manipulative marketing ploys – it goes in one ear and out the other with me. . . . but this one really annoyed me, even to the point of slight anger.  Here it is:

This, to me, is one of the HUGE problems with advertising and the negative messages it sends to viewers.  Think about what this commercial is saying.  Where is the focus???  She's questioning what's wrong with her and feeling broken over having a baby and not having her pre-pregnancy body back.  Oh, and don't forget that she can totally relate to you because she feels bad for the women (slackers maybe??) who don't get up to make a phone call like she did.  Apparently the goal of having children in this day and age is to look like we DIDN'T have children!?

To be fair, and not 100% cynical, I must say that I’ve had my own on again/off again struggles with weight in general, let alone the anxiety of weight gain during some of my pregnancies.  It’s no surprise given the stigma that is put on women – let alone pregnant women – where the focus always resorts to how sexy/skinny one is while having a baby . . . yet not look like we just had a baby.  Heck, even the model pics on the Motherhood Maternity site for shorts displays a majority of the models wearing high heels or chunky healed sandals . . . very few flats. Why?  Well, because we all know the right type of heel can elongate and make the leg appear more slender/sexy – duh!? . . . . **fashion advise courtesy of What Not To Wear - sarcasm incl. as a bonus**

We have created a self-absorbed culture that focuses more on body image, restricted weight gain, how 'good' mom looks during/after pregnancy versus one that celebrates the idea of bringing a new life into the world!   Celebrity Mom's who appear 'too big' are ridiculed in the magazines.  While celebrity moms who lose the weight a mere couple months, or even weeks later are exalted as being awesome, sexy and something for us 'other slacker women' to try and achieve.  Where is the Focus???

Anything outside of the 'recommended' 25-30 lb. weight gain is up for judgement.  No wonder mom's are racked with anxiety & guilt after baby comes to rush and exercise, restrict calories, etc. in an effort to attain the goal of fitting into those pre-pregnancy jeans again.  No wonder pediatricians showcase that losing weight is a great benefit of breastfeeding.  The blessing and joy of baby gets lost in the mixed emotions and shuffle of this false reality we embrace.  Where is the focus???

Please don't misunderstand my point - I am not abdicating a mother's responsibility to be healthy.  I'm honestly just ready for a reality check.  I'm tired of delusional skinny/sexy/unattainable body images being the 'norm' that we are to compare ourselves to.  Then on top of it, we're urged to feel bad, less than. . . or BROKEN because we don't look a certain way during or after pregnancy.  Whatever happened to being overjoyed to just be pregnant? There are many women who struggle with infertility and would lavish the opportunity to be in that position. Whatever happened to embracing our curves and relishing the softness of our body as we prepare to snuggle, cushion, protect, and nurture our baby?   God created us to be warm and inviting to our newborns. . . . not hard and crusty like a piece of beef jerky!

Again, where is our focus???

Monday, May 21, 2012

Being 'IN' the World and Not 'OF' It - Family


So the hot gossip that has ensued after the publishing of Time's eye catching article on attachment parenting has really cropped up many debates.  In my opinion, the article has done nothing more than fuel the 'mommy wars' and has further solidified sides of those who choose to raise their kids one way vs. those moms who choose another.  As always it got me thinking about the changes and choices our family has made over the last several years.  So here's a bit of history into the inner workings of our Brood! . . .

I can hear the question like it was yesterday after having C-Funk (2nd child) . . . "Are you going to have any more?"
My response . . . . "NOPE - I'm done!  I've got one girl, one boy and I'm all set!"

My Bigs. . . . and blessings! - Spillz & C-Funk

Then baby #3 came along approx. 5-ish years later.  Again, I hear the question. . . "Are you going to have any more?"
My response. . . . "NOPE, three's a good uneven number.  Besides, this one is a handful so I'm all set!"

My Fiesty Little Angel - Wookeese

Then one year after Wookeese was born (3rd child), I graduated from college and went back to work in a job that was related to my area of study. . . and for the record - a job that I really liked!  Life was good.  I had a 'good' size family, a 'good' job, was a college graduate, 'good' house, had 'good' friends (still do *wink*), etc.  So life seemed pretty 'good' according to the norms I saw around me.  But I felt anxious, wondering why I was still feeling empty or like I was missing something? 

My heart was slowly being transformed by God and I was beginning to see things differently.  Suddenly being successful at work didn't seem so important.  Having a decent size house?  I could take or leave it.  My children?  I was beginning to feel more convicted on the parent I currently was and what type of parent I should actually be to my children.  I missed them terribly, wanted to be more involved with them, pining to be home when they got off the bus, no longer feeling comfortable sending my youngest to daycare.  I wanted to be/give more to them than I was currently doing.  So I put in my notice at work. . . .

Psalm 127:3
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.

Then several months later we were expecting baby #4.  AGAIN, I hear. . . . . "Are you done now?", almost in a condescending way by some (not by all since some people actually DO like children, lol).  My own mother's tone was anything other than joyful at the announcement - more worried on how I would handle everything.  Reality set in that not everyone will agree with the choices we were beginning to make for our family.

But we stood firm on our convictions regarding family.  My revised response when asked if we were done having more kids. . . . "I don't know.  I kept saying I was done after all the others but my heart changed and here we are." 

Sleepy Nattie Bear

My husband and I had honestly taken a hard look at our family during those months after I left my job and after having Miss Nattie Bear.  The family values we wanted to instill, the emotional/spiritual climate we wanted to embrace were now more pressing topics of concern . . . . . but most importantly we were searching the question: What was God's plan for our family??  Then we both decided to just pray, give it up to God and whatever happened would happen.  We were ready for this, right!?  Well, four months after giving birth to Nattie Bear (4th child), S-Money$ and I found out we were expecting baby #5!   I never expected God to answer our prayers so quickly!
 **LESSON - when you earnestly pray, be open and prepared for when God DOES answer it!**

Upon hearing the news, our oldest child was not so enthused.  Worries about our family being 'too big'. . . . 'what about the age gap?' (13 yrs between her and #5) and 'what would people think?' began to plague her heart.  I would be lying if I said those thoughts never crossed my mind at first too.  Were we ready for this?  Of course we were, otherwise God would not have blessed us like this.

I have seen other blog posts from large families, heard of other questions/comments some families get such as these:
  • "Wow, 5 kids!  You're crazy!"
  • "So you've gotta be done NOW, right?!?!"
  • "I don't know how you do it.  I can't handle/stand/deal with the X-amount of kids I have!" (usually said person has less than 5 kids)
  • "So, when is your husband getting fixed?" OR "So, do you plan on getting your tubes tied after this?"
  • Some type of reference comparing the mom-to-be as 'Octo-Mom' or making a derogatory comment about the Duggars and making comparisons.
  • "Are you done YET??"

Though I must add that I have not been privy to much 'large family judgements/backlash'.   But for any momma out there who has had to deal with rude comments about their choice in family size, here are some witty comebacks you might be interested in!  ;)
And to be honest, I'm sure not all of the above statements are malevolent and said to purposely criticize.  Many people are just curious when you are out with several kids in toe.  But regardless,  these types of comments do reveal a stark reality on how many people in our society view children and the stereotype of how a family is 'supposed' to look.  It also reveals why my daughter had the doubts/worries that she did. . . and myself. 

For example, if you have more than 1-2 kids, if all your kids are the same gender, if you have adopted and your kids aren't the same nationality as you, if you have any kids with disabilities or differences, kids with behavioral issues, if you breastfeed your kids past a certain age, if you co-sleep with your children, if your kids don't like/play sports, dress a certain way, eat a certain way, blah blah blah, etc. - then what? 

In relation to family, when you live 'IN' the world and are not so focused being a part 'OF' it because you are focused on God's design/plan for your family, your brood may not take on the 'normal' societal shape.  There shouldn't be a need to judge others if you are focused on your own family and what shape you want your brood to take.  ;)

But fear of man & what others think, fear of the unknown, fear of failing, fear of losing the 'luxuries' you enjoy, fear of being able to 'handle it all', fear of having enough $$ will ALWAYS cause one to second guess the blessing of adding more children.  Would I reject any other type of blessing God gave me?  No!  I don't want to be afraid and reject/turn away from what He has to offer me and our family anymore.  This pregnancy with baby #5 has truly been a journey of acceptance. . . . a journey of submitting to God. . . . . and a journey of living outside of the box with our family.  And for me. . . . I can honestly say that I'M TOTALLY OK WITH THAT!  :)

Psalm 127: 3-5
Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him. 

Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.

Christmas 2011

***Linked to:  Raising Arrows  and The Better Mom

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Weeds In Your Garden

With many days this past March seeming more Summer-ish than the outer endings of Winter/start of crisp Spring, it has caused some vegetation confusion in my flower beds.  During a time I should not even have to worry about weeds cropping up, I have seen the inner working of their mayhem begin!  Now that weather has again settled back into its usual equilibrium and the cool crispness has once again returned, I must admit that I am not too motivated to pick weeds in the cold.  So they sat.  Allowed to flourish just a little longer.  Now it's May and my flower beds look borderline atrocious!  *sigh*

Thinking of the work that needs to get done to make my garden a bit more presentable, I was struck by the irony of this whole scenario.  Is not my life a walking testament to this?  Like my front flower bed, I too have allowed 'weeds' to grow and fester in my life.  These 'weeds' have been people who have used their influence to grow and choke out bits of me.  See, weeds don't care how beautiful the flower is next to them.  Weeds will suck the life & nutrients out of the ground whether you are a rose, a lily, or even another weed.  Without reason or apology, they quickly overtake a whole garden area and choke out whatever is around them.  Destined to put their need of life before all other surrounding vegetation.  Survival of the fittest. 

Could I have been mistaken?  Could I have been oversensitive as to the intention of those who appear as 'weeds' to me now?  Yes, this has been me.  I was lazy.  I was afraid.  I was confused on how to de-weed my life.  So I let the weeds multiply, grow and further suffocate my Spirit.  But I no longer feel compelled to keep 'weeds' around me.   As 1 Corinthians 15:33 mentions, ". . . bad company corrupts good character". 

Jesus' parables of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30 can serve as a reminder . . . .

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’  
‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
 ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

DO NOT be mistaken.  In our life, there will be weeds and they will be planted by the enemy!  We are not to be naive and think that everyone has our best interest at heart, that everyone loves us and that everyone is there to help us.  Yes, we are to love others.  Yes, we are to have mercy.  And Yes, we are to emulate the same grace that God has given to us.  However, I also believe the Bible when it speaks of evil around us.

Matthew 10:16Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.

We are to live among the weeds; not become them or be choked out by them.  We must be discerning of those around us.  There are many who are 'weeds'. . . who are malevolent, do not seek repentance or change and only seek to harm.  We are not to entangle ourself in that, enable their sin or be a part of it. 

Yes, sometimes that means you will have to pray, lightly weed your garden, pray some more and then leave the final weeding up to the Lord.  Ultimately, it will be God who will cast the final judgement on those who have spent their life being 'weeds'.  The parable tells us this when Jesus returns and harvests His followers. . . . forever separating us from the weeds. 

Romans 2:5-6
"But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  He will judge everyone according to what they have done."

Is it time to weed your garden??

***Linked to:   The Better Mom

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Being 'IN' the World and Not 'OF' It

I came across this quote in someones response on Sarah Mae's blog Stretching Into Blue

"There is one thing worse than failing before men and that is being successful in things that don't matter to God"

The above quote stuck out to me. How many times I have added too many things to the plate in an effort to 'please man' without consulting my heavenly Father?  Far too many to count.  It's not out of malevolence that I've acquired too much on my to-do list.  I really do feel led to try and serve, learn, teach, etc. all in the name of God.  But do I consult God first? . . . . Um, not as often as I should.  The second I seek to accomplish what I think it His will without actually bringing Him along for the ride is basically a recipe for true failure.  I've replace God with my own pride.  Seeking accomplishment of the world and acceptance of others.  Seeking to be a part of the 'group'.  Being OF this world and not simply living IN it. 

Matthew 16:26
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

1 Corinthians 7:31
Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.

Lord forgive me, because if I struggle with this so much - how am I ever going to be the role model to teach this to my children?  So much of the pleasures/desires of this world call to them. . . . materials, status, money, belonging to the crowd, outward appearance, latest fashion/music/trend, etc.  How can I teach them to quiet that inner voice calling them to move ahead without taking God with them?  How can I better discern and weed out the negative influences that aim to steal their heart and taint their spirit? 

Matthew 18:7
What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.

John 12:25
Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.

It is a delicate balance.  Understand that I don't want to take everything away in an overly legalistic way.  How would they ever be able to cope, persevere, stand firm if they're never tested by the sins of this world?  How can they reflect on their own sin if I put them in a bubble, overly protecting them from what's truly out there?  They cannot learn love and mercy if they are never tested with the grave reality of sin - theirs and of others. 

1 Corinthians 5:10
But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that.

Then on the other end of the scale, I don't want to overindulge - allowing them to be supersaturated in what 'everyone else' is doing.  Akin to leaving my children to the 'wolves'. . . . fend for themselves and pray that God helps them work it out.  No, my job as their parent is to strike that balance in between.  It's that balance that I'm also trying to learn for myself. . . . . .

Matthew 10:16
Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.

. . . . . thoughts to be continued. . . .

***Linked to:  Women Living Well

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Birthday - What Another Year Has Taught Me

Wow, it's been a whole year past since I've been here before.  Another 365 days, or would you say 366 since Feb. 2012 had a Leap Year day???  Either way, it's been awhile.  A lot can happen in a week around our house, let alone a whole year.  With baby #5 due in June, basement finishing project currently underway, and a whole myriad of misc. to keep us busy - it's no wonder a lot can change.

So what has a whole year done for this birthday girl? Hmm, time for some inner reflection . . . .

Over the last year, I've learned that some things in this world really aren't that important. . . . or at least not as important as I used to make them.  And some things are not negotiable; up for debate.   In a nutshell, I've learned more about what to let go of and what I should grasp onto harder.  For instance. . . .

  • Some people really are mean-spirited, won't change and are not content until you are discontent
  • Other people are a blessing and I am forever thankful they've been a part of my life.  Don't know what I'd do w/out their encouragement
  • Being home to raise my kids is most important in this season of life vs. a career
  • Baseboards/ceiling fan/ledges being dirty are not the end of the world.  Who looks at those things anyways?!
  • The 5-second rule reigns supreme in this house. . . . unless what was dropped was wet/gooey.
  • Underwear/burp rags really don't have to be folded
  • Kids being crazy actually helps calm the chaos. . . they have to run out of energy sooner or later! *wink*
  • Pets are a great addition to a family, but some family dynamics no longer fit the ability to have/care for a pet as needed
  • Fighting the laundry 'monster' in a house with 6 people is a futile effort.  As long as they have 1 clean outfit & 1 clean pair of undergarments - we're all good!
  • Having less $ has caused us to focus more on what we DO have, what we can afford to GIVE away and how to better UTILIZE what is currently in our possession.
  • Coordinated nap times with both Wookeese & Nattie Bear is a blessing
  • The human body can actually function on less sleep than what I think is ideal
  • Patience!  Wish I had more but I do see its benefit when I'm of the right mind to use it. 
  • No longer do I harbor an aversion to minivans.  I really like our orange 'party' machine.  :)

But most importantly, over the last year I've learned that even in my moments of doubt, fear, resentment and lack of faith - God STILL continues to stand by and show me that He hasn't given up on me!  When we've run short on supplies, he provides.  When I become frazzled, he is there to calm. 

And when I hurt, he has brought others in my life to show me love.  There really is no greater lesson & gift than that. ♥

**Linked to:  A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Women Living Well

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter the 'American' Way

I remember many Easter mornings coming into the living room and seeing the large basket filled to the brim with candy, toys and other misc. goodies.  My heart and taste buds leaped for joy as I ravaged forward toward my morning reward.  The more candy the better and I'm sure my parents paid dearly many holidays. 

One article I found online from The Fiscal Times listed expected Easter spending for 2012 to increase (from 2011 stats) by 11% to the budget crippling tune of $16.75 Billion. . . . . YES, I said BILLION!  
The article also lists the avg. spending of Americans age 18 or older at approximately $145.28.  As you can imagine, these figures are materialized in everything from new Easter outfits, candy, baskets, decorations, cards, and we can't forget Easter Dinner!  I'm sure there's something I'm missing to make up the $16.75 BILLION. . . . . sorry, but I can't resist bolding and highlighting that figure in red.  It's so astronomical that I can't bypass it's significance relating to how we view holidays in our society.

Gift baskets from Meijers
Anything your Easter-filled heart desires from Target
Do I even need to mention good ol' price cutting Wal-Mart?  Really?  Are the inflatable bunnies on the lawn really necessary???

*SIGH*  I must admit that I've bought into the Easter myth for many years, mindlessly buying more stuff, more candy. . . . MORE JUNK.  Apparently, not much has changed with the 'meaning' of Easter from when I was younger.   This is clearly evident when you look around at the merchandising machine of the 'American' way.   No holiday is safe from the marketing ploy to buy more stuff for others or in a shallow attempt to make yourself feel good. :(

In my opinion. . . I think the devil created peeps, lol!  ;)

But S-Money$ and I  don't want to keep doing things this way simply because it's how we've done it in the past.  In the past we missed the main point of this holiday. . . . and that was JESUS.  I wonder, like us, how many others call themselves Christians yet leave out the key component of this holiday - the key to our salvation, the answer to our sin???  But not anymore!  We can't keep going on the wrong path.  S-Money$ and I are determined to make this change - not just for us but for our children's sake.  I don't want them to get older and celebrate Easter thinking it is only about candy, baskets, people dressed up in awful bunny costumes coaxing the kids to 'smile for the camera', etc.   It makes a total mockery of all JESUS has done for us by conquering sin, death and Satan yet not even acknowledging Him during this time.  Rising from the dead to show that the evil one and death cannot hold Him.  AMEN!  THAT is what I want our children to remember.  That is the essence of this day.  And THAT is the TRUTH! 

We made sure this year to cut our spending to $15 per child with gifts, very minimal candy and even a small egg hunt that the kids knew were from Mom & Dad; not the Easter Bunny. We also did an activity making resurrection rolls to signify Christ's death, burial and resurrection (hence the name of the rolls) along with the story of why this is so important to us and our eternity.  See, we can be in the world but not of it.  We can take some aspects - like the joy of gift giving - and redeem it in a more positive way.  We don't have to live blindly when Christ has so graciously given us a chance to see.

Have a Happy Easter remembering first and foremost that He Is Risen!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Coolest Mom Ever!

No matter how hectic the day or how much margin I'm in desperate need for. .. . sometimes God gives me a nudge that just letting go can do everyone a great world of good!  The three oldest kiddies decided to take advantage of my 'more lenient than normal' mood and commenced into a full out indoor water fight. . . .

Besides, being dubbed the 'Coolest Mom Ever' by my oldest helps make it all worth it!  ;)

p.s. Don't worry S-Money$ . . . . they cleaned up their mess w/no fuss. ♥