This year, this crazy year has given us so many new challenges. Holidays are upon us and we have had to find new ways to visit Santa, pick up gifts, we’ve missed out on parties and family visits. I know we have felt the strain between keeping traditions alive and the health and safety of our loved ones. Finances have changed for many, making us evaluate what Christmas morning looks like. Many families this year are missing someone special around the table, and our hearts and prayers surround them as they mourn. As we walk with our tribe through this extraordinary holiday season, we are presented with an opportunity to focus on what truly matters. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s taught us to value what is most important.
If I threw all the traditions, festive treats, black Friday deals, religious services, and family activities into a pot and boiled it down to the most important during the holidays, what would come to the surface would be these three: family, faith, and giving. All the extras are fun, but without these three as the main dish, the holiday season would not really have much significance. In a year where we have had to evaluate all our priorities and creatively pivot on a dime with plans and celebrations, keeping the main thing the main thing is vital. Let’s not make this too “pie in the sky;” because the kids are out of school and real life is still moving forward, we need it to be practical, attainable, and simple. A Simply Extraordinary Christmas. What does choosing family, faith, and giving as priorities this Christmas season really look like for us?
This one hits close to home. I’ve watched over the last 9 months many people lose their lives in this pandemic. Absolutely heart wrenching at times. It causes me to hug my kiddos a little tighter for sure. It has changed my perspective for the better though, a deep desire to stay well connected to those most important to me. With the littles in our household... how do we engage them this holiday season?
If you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or straight up Santa and reindeer, what you believe about the holidays is the center of your celebration. There is meaning found in our traditions, and for some reason they have more significance now than in years past. For my family, celebrating the birth of Jesus is more than having a tree and presents; it’s about promises fulfilled and compelling love. Our world and our kids’ world has been turned upside down this year. When there is uncertainty in us about the future, they, no doubt, have felt it. Now is a great time to return and rekindle the faith we hold so dear. Our family needs the stability of Truth in a world of chaos. The 2020 dumpster fire is still burning. Our homes can and should be an oasis of peace for our family.
Often when we talk about giving, we immediately think financial giving. That is not what I mean when I say giving is a priority during the holidays. Giving can be of our time, our energy, a phone call, a handmade gift, a help running errands, anything that you can do to the benefit of others counts! We have talked before about how giving truly blesses you as much as the receiver, and during the holidays it’s a perfect time to do so. Without generosity during the holidays, many people would go without. What I know about the FWMoMs is that giving is part of your nature! I’ve not known a more compassionate and giving group of people in my life. So, let’s make giving practical and creative for 2020.
As we embark on Christmas and the holidays, I implore you, friends, to focus on what matters most. Just because Christmas may look and feel different, when the key elements are there it will be a Christmas to never forget. Family, Faith and Giving. Merry Christmas, tribe!
“Then the angel said to them, do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” -Luke 2:10-11
Tonya Flowers is a mother to Lucas, and twins Wyatt and Timothy. She is a wife, nurse, minister and currently serves FWMOM as our Chaplain.
My littles are NOT fans of animatronic dinosaurs, but I knew my dinosaur obsessed two year olds would love the dinosaur exhibit at the Heard Museum if they would just give it a chance! Feeling bold one morning, I decided that I would load us up and give it a go. I was optimistic!
Upon our arrival, their excitement quickly turned to apprehension even though we had discussed where we were going in the car. For them, it was real now. As soon as we started down the dinosaur path my little Lincoln started to back away and immediately wanted to be carried. I asked him how he was feeling, and he so confidently told me “I’m feeling apprehensive, because the dinosaurs.” I was floored. My little guy just told me exactly how he was feeling and there wasn’t a meltdown in sight! Mind: blown and it was only 9 am! I remember giving my husband the biggest smile in the world! I was so proud of Lincoln.
We continued our walk, while I explained that the animatronics were not real, they cannot walk, and that dinosaurs are extinct! I repeated these facts for every single dinosaur and with each passing dinosaur Lincoln relaxed. By the end, both boys were ready to go again! They asked to walk through three more times. Each time they were a little more confident, and by the end we had to pull them away! On the ride home we discussed how they felt fearful in the beginning, but after we walked through the exhibit they felt calm and soooo excited! The day was even more successful than I had hoped. The boys had tackled their fear, and what could have been BIG emotions for toddlers turned out to be quite the opposite! #winning
I promise I didn’t share this picture perfect moment to make you think I don’t deal with BIG emotions, but I wanted to share a moment where I saw light at the end of the tunnel. Where I noticed all of my hard work was finally paying off. I was reaping my reward, just like you will if you, too, have been on the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with toddlers.
There's a book for that!
I knew big emotions were something every parent had to survive, and I wanted to be prepared. For me personally, I’ve always found my answers come from a book. Whether it is a book to teach me how to parent better, or a children’s book that leads little minds to understand and cope, books give me a starting point for conversations, language to use when BIG emotions happen, and a window into other perspectives and future situations.
I started using books that talk about emotions as soon as my babies were able to focus their little eyes. We started with simple books that showed those first emotions we teach like happy and sad. As they got older we have moved past the simple emotions and on to discussing things like selfish, confident, and apprehensive. The more specific, the better! Books have given my littles the language to use when they are feeling those BIG emotions. I used to read Llama Llama Bully Goat to my kids before they were able to talk. We read it repeatedly because they loved it so much. This book would give my kids their first words to describe when the other twin was being mean:”bully goat!” I would hear this phrase on what seemed like repeat. While we have clarified over time how to communicate what’s happening instead of shouting “bully goat”, that phrase gave my kids language to use when they were upset. I knew exactly what they were feeling even though they had a limited vocabulary at the time.
Books have been a key in helping my kids identify their emotions as well as how to handle situations that are upsetting. Below are just a few that have helped my boys. Whenever I hear a parent struggling with a situation, I'm always thinking, “There's a book for that!”
Amazing Feelings by: Anna Bardaus
Peekaboo Feelings by: Wynnie Thom
How Does Baby Feel? by: Karen Katz
Duck & Goose How are You Feeling? by: Tad Hills
The Color Monster by: Anna Llenas
Roaring Mad Riley by: Allison Szczecinski
Llama Llama Time to Share by: Anna Dewdney
I Will Try by: Laurie Wright
No-Drama Discipline by: Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
The Whole-Brain Child by: Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
I don’t know about you, but I can easily get overwhelmed by all of the strategies a book has to offer when handling emotional situations. My plan is always to focus on a few strategies that I can realistically make a habit. I usually look to see how I can pull a few together and create a routine conversation when issues arise. It really helps me internalize the strategies I want to use. I figure using a few is better than being overwhelmed by all of the great ideas but using none in real life. This is the dialogue I use based on strategies from The Whole-Brain Child.
3. Problem Solve
**For moments I get to quickly I put my hand on my little’s chest and say “Take a breath and say what you’re feeling.” This has worked wonders and prevented big emotions from taking over.
Proactive is better than reactive!
Another strategy I use to help keep the peace is to look for situations that consistently cause big emotions. Is there a routine that needs to be in place or adjusted to help prevent this behavior? What can I do to help?
For me, it’s the dreaded S-word...sharing! I noticed most of my boys’ emotional outbursts happened around playtime when there are toys the other twin might also want to use. I was feeling a bit defeated. I had tried talking it out as well as using a timer, but it worked for about a week. I didn’t know what to do. I felt awful asking one twin to give up their toy, so the other would calm down. What was that teaching?
Then a few weeks ago, I discovered a podcast titled Shelf Help. I have never listened to a podcast, but I thought I would give it a shot. Well turns out I found my perfect podcast! I listened to Shelf Help Ep. 33 - Why We Don't Make Our Children Share, and it was everything! If you don’t have an hour to listen to it, all you need is the line “It’s not available right now.” That’s it- the magical sentence to get your kids to understand when they can’t have a toy they want at that moment. That sentence took minutes to become a hit.
Now my kids walk away without a fuss or give back something they picked up that wasn’t available. I also added “Can you let me know when it’s available?” when I notice the other child really wants to play with a toy. Sometimes with this line the twin with the toy will give it up on his own and “show kindness” (another book lesson)! It’s incredible to watch the boys play and use this language with one another. Those big emotions have cut down immensely. I also feel like they have a better understanding of sharing, and choose to share on their own. They are learning to respect the other child and respect boundaries during playtime.
Hopefully there is something here that will help you and your sweet toddlers find a way to ease those BIG emotional moments. If all else fails, let it go and try again tomorrow!
Our lives are busy these days; trying to wrestle our kids out the door, pick up the house and wash the dishes, balance work and home life, drive the carpool - sometimes even just getting in the shower seems like a feat.
So the thought of adding another task onto our plate might not sound very appealing at the moment; however, today I want to talk about the importance of writing a thank you note.
Many of us remember our mothers sitting us down after an event and strongly encouraging (if not bribing and potentially threatening) us to write out thank you notes to each of the friends and family members who gave us a gift for our birthdays or graduation. This tedious task was miserable when you were the one doing the writing, but our mothers knew of the necessity.
Thank you notes are such an important correspondence in life, whether to say thank you for a gift from a dear friend, gratitude for an interview opportunity, to thank someone for a business referral, or to give a teacher our appreciation for shaping the minds of our children. A written thank you note is a timeless gesture many times overlooked these days.
In your personal life...
A good thank you note can be as simple or as complicated as you like, but the most important thing is to make it personal and sincere. A thank you note needs to include an opening followed by the name of the recipient - a simple Dear Sally or Dear Mrs. Taylor (if you are addressing a teacher or woman older than yourself) will do. Next you need to mention the name of the gift or good deed that the recipient has given, followed by a little something more specific about the gift such as how you look forward to using it or displaying it in your home. The final step is to simply close the note and sign your name. Easy as that!
Thank you notes should always be written when:
1. You receive a gift
2. A friend or family throws you a party or gathering
3. A person does something special for you (ie. finds your lost dog, brings you a meal when you are under the weather)
In the business world...
Thank you notes in business are just as important as they are in our personal life. With the advancement of technology, the written word is becoming extinct it seems, so when a neat and nicely written note shows up on your supervisor’s desk, they will most assuredly take notice.
It is always good practice to write a thank you note following an interview. This gesture might make you the stand-out if your resume looks similar to all of the other candidates. It is certainly not a guarantee to land you the job, but it might put you in good standing for the next opening or even lead to a referral from the interviewer for a different job.
You may also want to send a thank you note following a business dinner, cocktail party, and most certainly when you are invited to a business function in someone’s home.
Let's not forget about our children...
"The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any." - Fred Astaire
If we are going to work on writing thank you notes more regularly in our personal life we must talk about getting our kids started on it as early as possible.
You might be reading this and saying to yourself - "my kids are too young for thank you notes, they can't even write their name." Trust me they are never too young to send a thank you note. If your children fall in the younger category mentioned above, how about tearing a page from one of their coloring books and having them color it? Mom can add the words thank you at the top and their name at the bottom and viola you have a thank you note!
As they grow a little older you can consider a fill-in-the-blank thank you postcard. These are a great way to teach our kids to get into the good habit of sending a thank you note when they receive a gift.
Once they learn how to actually write an entire letter you will have cemented in their minds the importance of the thank you. Plus, you will be sending out your own notes and they will take notice.
Showing our gratitude is important and there is just nothing more special than getting a sincere, handwritten note from a family member or friend.
I encourage you to continue your good work with writing thank you notes or to start a new habit today.
Take the time and send a note.
Janae Huffman is a mother of twin girls, she has served FWMoM's as VP of Special Events and she is a Certified etiquette consultant.
Typically, November is the month we think about gratitude the most each year. But this year, 2020, has not been the most typical year. The thing about gratitude though, is that even when we cannot see anything to be grateful for, we can decide to look for it. Then it will show itself, and usually in abundance. We have the opportunity to take literally anything that looks hopeless and use gratitude to flip our attitude about it.
When our attitude changes, everything around us changes as well. In addition, our own mood, especially as mothers, affects everything in our household. Everyone has heard the saying that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and it is so true that we, as mothers, set the tone for the home. Keeping our positivity level high is of utmost importance.
Honestly, I do not have time to do all the self-care needed each day to keep that positive energy cup filled. But what I do have is a very valuable tool that helps keep my attitude positive by focusing on gratitude; it’s also a great tool if you’re not trying to maintain a positive attitude, but to find one (I know I lose mine on occasion). Gratitude can help turn us from a quick bad attitude or from a deeper depressive one.
A very simple tool I know is a Gratitude Journal. For this, you write down five things that you’re grateful for. This accomplishes a few things. First, it slows us down and focuses our thoughts. Second, it brings us into the present, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Last, it really makes us feel grateful, which, in turn, makes us actually become grateful.
Gratitude gives us the most bang for our buck, so to speak. It fills us up so that we can do:
1. What we need to do, such as in Isaiah 66:13, which says “As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you…;”
2. What we want to do like the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:16, “she considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard,” and
3. What we are called by God to do like in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
In our society today we are dominated by social media and that can cause all types of problems if we let it consume us. The most common problem is comparison. What is the opposite of comparison? Gratitude! If we are focused on what we are grateful for, then we aren’t worried about what everyone else is doing. And it just frees us from this lie that what we are doing is not good enough. Because if you are doing what you are called to be doing, it is enough. Period.
One of my favorite authors and motivational speakers was Zig Ziglar and he said that, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” This is especially true at this time of year, when we have a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks. When President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, he called it “a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” In all his wisdom, he knew that a time when our country was the most divided was when we needed to celebrate giving thanks to God. An attitude of gratitude is always needed and what we are always called to have. Even when things seem darkest, we should give thanks because it says in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “All this is for your benefit, so that grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow the glory of God.” It all starts with us, as individuals and as mothers. We wield so much power and influence, we sometimes don’t even realize it. If we are grateful, our children see it and they are grateful…it causes a ripple effect and we just have to start one day with five little things in a Gratitude Journal, that’s it; so simple! So I would encourage you to start today, get a cute notebook or legal pad or an old electric bill envelope you find under your car seat (ask me how I know). My point is just to start and see the impact it has. I hope and pray everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week and you enjoy this season with the ones that mean the most to you.
Being a mother was something I had always dreamed about; I loved children and could not wait to start a family of my own. Unfortunately, it didn’t come as easily for us as it does for some. After much loss and years of heartache, on our fifth round of IVF we conceived our twins! This is also where my love for serving mothers started to really bloom. Here’s my story!
I have always had extremely irregular cycles. However, my doctor was very optimistic this would not have any impact on getting pregnant on my own. After a year of trying without success, we sought out the help of a fertility specialist. Funny enough, he was also just as optimistic. Unfortunately after months of testing and multiple failed medicated/IUI cycles, he suggested we try IVF.
Our first IVF cycle was pretty uneventful. We decided to transfer two embryos, and were ecstatic when we found out it worked! Our first ultrasound was at 6 weeks gestation, and we were shocked to find three little heartbeats. I couldn’t believe it really, it took a little while to set in! Our next ultrasound showed only a very faint heartbeat in the fraternal triplet and we were cautioned that the baby was measuring on the “smaller” side. Sure enough, at our next appointment it was confirmed that there were only two heartbeats & the fraternal triplet was vanishing. I had prepared myself for this loss ahead of time but was still very thankful for two healthy babies. What I wasn’t at all prepared for was what happened at our next appointment. I was completely blindsided. We had spent years trying to get pregnant, and now that we were I was certain these were the babies we had been praying for all along.
Our next ultrasound appointment would be our last appointment at our fertility clinic, or so we thought. I was almost 12 weeks along by this point. My husband worked out of town and was so excited to hear the heartbeats for the first time. It was the day or so before Thanksgiving, so we were planning to announce our pregnancy to the family that Thursday. Our doctor came in and started the ultrasound. Having so many ultrasounds up to this point, I know immediately something was wrong when she kept going back and forth, sac to sac. No noise. Nothing. She kept looking, and even apologized it was taking so long. We had built such a great relationship with our doctors at the fertility clinic, but I still to this day cannot believe how she took the news. She looked up, and apologized once again. “I am terribly sorry, I wish I was better prepared for this. I was not expecting this at all, but I am not finding either heartbeat.” She gave me a hug, with tears in her eyes, told me how sorry she was, and stepped out of the room. I’ll never forget the compassion she showed me that day.
Being nearly 12 weeks along, I opted to have a D&C which couldn’t be scheduled until the week after Thanksgiving. That weekend was brutal. Thanksgiving was brutal. I knew the three babies I had longed for were no longer alive, and yet I had to wait for almost an entire week to have surgery to remove their tiny bodies from mine.
I had always heard of friends miscarrying, but I figured an “I’m so sorry” would suffice. I never really could imagine what that would feel like. I thought the same things most people do, I suppose. “Well maybe you could just try again. You’re young. You already have the perfect family, a boy and a girl, what more could you want?” It never really occurred to me that it could be ‘that’ painful.
After I recovered from my D&C we were back in the doctor’s office hoping he could answer my “WHY”. Why did this happen to me? What could we do to prevent this from happening again? All of the questions, we really didn’t get any answers to. I was hopeful that since it worked the first time, maybe we’d just try one more time and it would stick.
Our second cycle was uneventful. I was really optimistic it would work, and my only worry was staying pregnant. Unfortunately, when it came time to take my pregnancy test, it was negative. This really threw me for a loop. I wasn’t worried about it working; I was worried about staying pregnant.
Between cycles 2 and 3, we did a lot of preventative testing. We even went as far as seeing an immunologist out of Chicago doing a study on natural killer cells, and how having high levels, your body can attack the normal/healthy fetus. I did IV infusions at home, several procedures in-office to check the lining for optimal implantation period, you name it…we did it. Looking back now, I was only doing what I thought at the time would increase my chances of it working.
Cycle 3 and cycle 4 did not work. I started to have a lot of self doubt, thinking my body was not capable of carrying a child that I had desperately longed for. What if I wasn’t ever going to be a mother? What if this never worked? We even started the process to have a surrogate carry our last two embryos, but yet again, came to another road block with her & my husband’s blood types not being compatible.
We decided it would be best to take a break. This journey can get so overwhelming, we had become somewhat obsessive, and it had just taken over our lives. Over the next year we just decided to not think about anything fertility related & just take this much needed break.
A year later, we decided to get a different opinion from another doctor in our area. He too didn’t see anything out of the ordinary that we could do differently, but assured us he would be upfront and honest the entire process. These were our last two embryos.
This last and final cycle, our fifth, worked! I delivered McKenzie and Jaxon at 30 weeks, 5 days due to some complications, but after a 6 week NICU stay, we had our babies home and in our arms! Our family was complete (or so I thought)!
I had always heard of others naturally getting pregnant after suffering infertility and loss, but always thought that would never happen to me. Surprisingly, and shockingly, when the twins were 11 months old, we found out we were expecting AGAIN! I couldn’t believe it, really. After all of those years, and here we were, about to have three babies under 18 months old. Scared was an understatement. After hiring Sleep Wise Consulting with the twins, I knew having a predictable schedule would be a lifeline for me. Once Madelyn was born, I hired them for a second time to help me set a great foundation from the very beginning. It was life changing for me to have this predictability, so when the opportunity to join the team at Sleep Wise came up, I couldn’t say no! It’s been such a blessing to me to help other mamas through the depths of exhaustion, and came at just the right time because shortly after I joined the team, I received even more shocking news. Although I was on birth control, and tracking my cycles to avoid becoming pregnant, I found out in March of 2020 (maybe it’s a 2020 thing) that I was expecting our fourth and FINAL baby. I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant with our second baby boy, and cannot wait to watch our little ones become big siblings again!
Melina Moses is a member of FWMOM and a certified pediatric sleep consultant with Sleep Wise Consulting. She is married & has 3 children, twins McKenzie & Jaxon (4), Madelyn (2). They are also expecting their second little boy in the next coming weeks.
How many apples are in one apple? Sounds like a weird question, but it’s not a trick. You see, one apple has approximately eight seeds. Each seed can be planted to grow another apple tree, and that tree can produce anywhere from 80-1200 apples in one season, depending on its maturity. In each of those hundreds of apples, there are 8 more seeds... Producing more trees and more apples! So, the number of apples in one apple is literally innumerable! We are accustomed to multiplying things though; in our houses, toys, shoes, and children just keep multiplying!
Sometimes though, finances do not multiply at the same speed. Time does not. Energy does not. This has never been truer than it is in 2020. This year has taxed us in so many ways as families. The 2020 EXTRA demand on the resources of our households, our club, our community can hardly be measured. The human cost has been great. Businesses we love have paid the price. Families have faced hardship in ways that we cannot even begin to understand.
So, what’s the answer to depleting resources? Generosity.
Let me elaborate. As counterintuitive as it sounds on the surface, hear me out on this. When times are tight, giving is the first thing we should think to do! Living generously does two things (besides blessing the socks off the receiver, that’s a given!). Whether we are giving our time, money, or energy, it does something on the inside of us. It’s like liquid sunlight to the soul. Giving brightens our hearts in a way nothing else really does. Secondly, it also opens the door for our lack of resources to be met. Like planting an apple seed, provision for our need is built into the results!
Let’s talk first about what generosity does inside our hearts. It’s hard to be generous and continue thinking about our own needs. Generosity is anti-selfishness. Giving puts our need in perspective, and allows us to see beyond our lack. There is ALWAYS someone who is worse off, so to speak, than we are. Taking our eye off our own struggle is the best thing we can do in moments when we don’t have what we need to meet our lack. It is a mental reset button. The act of giving, whatever it is, causes this inner shift in our perspective.
COVID has made work crazy this summer. On top of that, our nanny quit. I had no earthly idea how childcare and distance learning would take place with my work schedule. Around the same time, my dear friend Lisa passed away suddenly. On July 24th, I’ll never forget that day, she left behind her three daughters and husband. Lisa and I had planned for our kids (my oldest and her youngest) to go to the same school come fall. She and I were excited to share the pick-ups, school lunches, and events as families. We just had the type of friendship that I deeply cherish. When she passed away, her husband, now a single working father, was left with a dilemma... getting Little Jubilee to school and back. I was in need, yet I knew I wanted to make the commitment to help with their transportation needs. I didn’t know how it was going to work out, I only knew it was a gift I could give. You know what, it all worked out. By the time schools opened, we had a plan. It is a JOY to give to this family my time. Liquid sunshine every time Jubilee gets in my car.
Secondly and just as important, is that generosity opens the door for our needs to be met. I’ve shared in our group before about our family’s journey with pregnancies and loss. Between Lucas, our oldest, and the twins, we suffered four miscarriages. A tough three years is an understatement! In the midst of these times, we were also working through some financial struggles. This had a compounding effect on our stress and really caused us focus in on ourselves. Also, doesn’t it always seem like everyone else around you are getting what you want when you lack it?! Everyone seemed to be having babies, getting promotions, building homes. We made an intentional choice in that season. Every baby shower, every family we could, we gave generously. We gave our best. We would budget and skip out on other things if it meant being able to bless someone else. Sometimes all we had to give felt so insignificant, like a single apple. I heard a saying though once: “If what is in your hand does not meet your need, then it’s seed.”
Fast forward to our twins. I cannot even put into words how blessed we are to have our twins! And with the twins’ birth came every provision we needed. So many people blessed us generously, we didn’t buy diapers the entire first year! Looking back, we had been given baby wipes that lasted for over 6 months. This was a huge financial miracle in our books, but that was just the start. We were given almost every high-priced baby item we needed! I had chosen one of the most expensive strollers out there, and wasn’t going to buy one until we saved for it. It was given to us, and the car seats, the feeding pillow... all the things! Not used either, all new!
Living generously opened the door for us to blessed in return! This has been true in so many areas of our life, I just bring out this one financial example because 2020 has been a hit to so many families’ bottom line. The same principle is true for our time and energy as well. A favorite Proverb of mine says, “Generosity brings prosperity, but withholding from charity brings poverty. Those who live to bless others will have blessings heaped upon them, and the one who pours out his life to pour out blessings will be saturated with favor.” (Proverbs 11:24-25)
Thinking back about the apple tree and 2020. Although there seemingly is lack all around, by living generously we can significantly impact others and ourselves. What would this year look like if we had a blooming apple orchard to give generously to everyone around us? What would it look like if we gave that one apple? What would it do on the inside of our hearts?
"This generous God who supplies abundant seed for the farmer, which becomes bread for our meals, is even more extravagant toward you. First, he supplies every need, plus more. Then he multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow. You will be abundantly enriched in every way as you give generously on every occasion, for when we take your gifts to those in need, it causes many to give thanks to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:10-12
As we enter into the holiday season, perhaps it will look much different than we planned. Remember the apple. When the opportunity arises, give. As much as 2020’s dark cloud has tried to penetrate our lives, let’s give it some of our own sunshine! Generosity is the key, friends!
Most of us spend a fair amount of time in our home. It’s a place we work hard for, want to be proud of, and find serenity in. Of course, this idea can be a fantasy if you have lively children, a partner, and pets. Before I had kids, I swore up and down that my house would always look catalog perfect. I was in for a surprise when kids finally came into the picture. I maintained the appearance of a well-kept home with one child, but after a set of rambunctious little boys and adopted furkids, it felt like a second full-time job. Although my house is not “perfect,” I have picked up some tips along the way as a REALTOR, designer, and somewhat OCD mother that I would love to share with you.
When people hire me to list their house, I remind clients they hired me for my professional opinion, and not everything I suggest will be what they want to hear. You can take all my suggestions or leave them all at the door, but if you want to net the most money, then you will want to consider the following;
1. Maintenance and Cleanliness
It doesn’t matter how great you staged your home if the HVAC is out or your gutters are hanging on with duct-tape. General maintenance goes a long way and reassures buyers that the house has been taken care of during your ownership. You can hire a handyman for the “honey-do” items that have been on your list for a while. Trust me, you will feel better once that leaky faucet isn’t a constant reminder of something else to do.
If you plan to list, hire a professional to deep clean your house before starting showings. They are professionals and have trade secrets like how to get shower doors free of water spots. They will wipe down baseboards and leave your floors shiny. If you have carpet or tile, you may need to hire a company to steam clean the carpets and grout.
Hide anything that reminds people of cleaning. No one wants to see your impressive collection of cleaning products. It will remind them of the maintenance required to upkeep a home. Be sure to empty trash bins, clean the dishes, wipe surfaces, and replace stained towels. Clean, white towels look great in bathrooms. Hide personal hygiene products such as toothbrushes and products in the shower. I use a shower caddy like back in my college days. I can tuck them out of sight in a cabinet or closet if I need to.
Declutter by organizing. Bins and labels go a long way. My containers are labeled. In my garage (holidays, electronics, home improvement, auto, etc. ), closet (handbags, scarves, etc.), bathroom (first aid, nail polish, hair accessories, makeup, etc.), office (pens and pencils, markers, post its, cards, sewing, adhesives, batteries, etc.), and in the pantry (crackers, candy, pouches, protein bars, fruit snacks, etc.). An additional tip: whenever I leave a room, I grab something that doesn’t belong and bring it with me to put away. It could be socks that were left downstairs or mail that needs to get to my office. This practice helps keep things tidier, but if you were up all night with the kids and tired, forget everything I just said and take a nap.
2. Curb Appeal
First impressions go a long way. Even though you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, buyers often judge a house by its curb appeal. The first picture online better grab their attention, or they aren’t going to swipe right. Let’s start with landscaping. Cut and edge the yard, trim bushes, any plants and add fresh mulch on flower beds. Pick a mulch color that compliments the exterior of your home. If you have red brick, do not use red mulch. Next, look at your entryway. A new accent color like blue, red, or black on the front door can draw attention. Get a welcoming doormat, add some planters with flowers, or a wreath if it’s the holidays. Pinterest has great ideas. Try searching phrases like “front door décor.”
Believe it or not, but the lighting makes all the difference. Just ask a Kardashian. All jokes aside, there are different ways you can use lighting to make your home look extra awesome. On the exterior, uplights and a porch light make the house look great a night. Replace any missing bulbs and make sure they match. One of my favorite bulbs is Reveal by GE. I thought it was ridiculous when an interior designer told me to switch out the bulbs in my bathroom.However, I did it and wow, it felt like a new space!If you have curtains in your home, open them up and make sure they hang the correct way. If you have blinds, adjust them so the bottoms line up and angle them the same way. I leave mine turned slightly upwards while allowing plenty of light to pass through. Clean screens and windows if needed. Turn on all lights for showings, including lamps and accent lights.
4. Set the Mood
When selling a home, you want to attract the most buyers. You want your potential new homeowners to picture your house as their own. Remove personal photos and quirky memorabilia. Also, keep in mind listing photos will be syndicated to thousands of sites across the world. Fido might be an extension of your family, but not everyone will appreciate a furball as much as you do. Hide pet items and remove pet odor. Fluffy’s litter box shouldn’t be the focal point of any room. I’ve had clients walk right in and out of houses because of a bad smell. Don’t use too many artificial fragrances such as plug-ins because buyers will think you’re trying to cover up an odor and some may have a sensitivity to the scent. Popular scents that appeal to most are vanilla or a fresh, clean scent.
I understand that not everyone has the time, resources, or even desire to make changes to their home, so here are some additional quick and easy tips. Set the scene by draping a comfy throw blanket over a chair, stage the bed, fill empty bowls with fresh fruit, bring in potted plants, fluff pillows, turn on lamps, and play some soothing music. One last tip for any Texan that needs to hear this, please don’t leave your shotgun by the backdoor before a showing.
I hope you have enjoyed this briefing on staging your home. I provide all my clients with a minimum of a one-hour staging consultation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I love helping people make their homes look their best. Just promise me you still want to list after I make your house look amazing!
Stephanie Norman is a member of FWMOM and a Gold sponsor with her and her husband's company The Norman Team, JP & Associates Realtors. She has three children, Annabelle (4) and twin boys, Logan and Alexander (1). For more information on buying or selling your home please reach out to 817-504-6644 or Stephanie@tnttx.com.
Self-Care cannot wait until you have more time. Self-care is such a buzzy word these days. It sounds both blissfully indulgent, and painfully unattainable when you are in the thick of caring for your children and your family responsibilities. If you read my blog post for Twin Love Concierge on self-care for parents of infant multiples, you might remember the story I told about how self-care can sound like handing a baby (or two or three) to a drowning person who was hoping you were throwing them a life ring. To someone like myself, who has very high standards for herself for doing it all and doing it all very well, self-care sounded both selfish and like something I could do only once I completed everything else on my ever growing To Do list. I have since learned that I was looking at self-care all wrong. Self-care is not a reward for getting everything else done. It is what you do for yourself to create a healthier You which, in turn, allows you to do the other things in your life. Then the question becomes, “What can I do to care for myself when I have extraordinarily little free time?” Here are some priorities I would like for you to consider.
Reduce your social media consumption.
Did I really say that? Yes. I know that is so hard when you already feel so very isolated as the mother of small children in the middle of a pandemic. One of the greatest sources of anxiety in women is social media related. That sounds crazy, but there are studies that suggest the amount of time we spend trying to connect with others online is actually more isolating and leads to lower self-esteem even in adults. So much on social media is designed to make you feel as if something in your life is lacking.
If you prioritize using social media solely to connect with the people who fill you up, support you and love you, you will be happier and you won’t waste time scrolling. Remove people from your social media feed who give you anxiety or make you feel like you are not living up to some curated ideal. Recently, I went through and unfollowed all business accounts that weren’t local small businesses that I want to support, all celebrity accounts, and any people who make me nuts when I read their posts. For Instagram, I only follow actual friends so I can see photos of them and their children and of course their pets and I follow National Parks and travel sites so my feed is full of beautiful places. It’s relaxing and soul filling and not angst inducing.
Another technique to help is to remove Facebook’s app from your phone and only use it from your computer or move the apps for social media to random pages in your phone and not on the home screen so they don’t tempt you to open them every time you pick up your phone. How many of us start our day by grabbing for our phone and checking our social media feed first thing? Instead, start your day by reading a devotional, another daily inspirational reading, the newspaper, or journaling. I start mine reading Jesus Calling on my iPad and then a book in one of the Gospels. This is a new practice that I started this year, and it’s been a much better start to my day. I have fallen into the old habit several weeks in a row, a few times now (I am a slow learner) and my mornings are never quite as good. Try it and see how your perspective changes.
Declutter and Simplify
An important, yet difficult thing you can do to take care of yourself is to simplify your life. Remember the old saying, “less is more,” in terms of mental health, less stuff in your space leads to more calm and more mental headspace. There is a direct correlation between the amount of clutter and a person’s anxiety level so if you find you have trouble relaxing in your home, downsize the number of things in your spaces. It’s especially difficult for me, but I have been going through the house and cleaning out. I am loving having less.
I recently have been ruthless about donating or throwing out clothing that I do not really need, does not fit now, or does not make me feel strong and confident. It does not matter how much I paid for it, or if it’s relatively new or if I might, maybe, perhaps one day need it again. If it’s not a perfect fit, and amazing on me, out it goes. I have also gotten rid of almost all my high heeled shoes. If you know me well, you will know that at one time, I had a bit of an addiction. I do not have a reason to wear them much anymore so out they go. I have kept the ones that are the best quality, and that go with a variety of outfits and a couple of extraordinary pairs, but the rest went away. I have a long way to go in my closet, but the progress I am making is like a huge weight being lifted.
Move your body every day.
Moving your body every day is good self-care. It is not punishment. It is not so that you can fit into smaller jeans or so your booty looks like it did before your pelvic bones decided to spread out to accommodate extra bodies and forgot to go back where they came from. It is because moving your body releases endorphins that act on your brain better than any drug outlawed by the war on drugs. It is because once you make it a habit, your brain and body will crave it, and there will be amazing side benefits ….maybe you will fit into smaller jeans or have a high and tight booty.
I am not suggesting you must go crazy and do CrossFit or train for a marathon, but just move. Go for a walk, do a short exercise video. Pinterest, YouTube and the Peloton app have a ton of 5-30 minute free workouts. Squeeze in three short exercise sessions of 10 minutes each if you cannot find a half hour chunk in your day. You need to do something that raises your heart rate as well as some resistance training to prevent bone loss as you age. If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be running half marathons, I would have told you to start seeing someone for your hallucinations. I will never win a race. My training group is the slowest, and I am happy to stay in that group. It’s about moving and being outside and I feel so good both physically and mentally.
Even if you are not an artist, doing something creative or crafty is wonderful for your wellbeing; plus it is so much fun! In 2018's Great British Creativity Test from University College London, which examined how creative activities can help us manage our mood and make us feel happier, the research concluded that even a small amount of creative activity can improve your wellbeing in three main ways. It is a distraction and being creative reduces stress. When being creative, an amount of contemplation takes place and you get some perspective on your life. You have a measure of self-development allowing you to build up self-esteem and confidence.
Crafts are also a great way to practice mindfulness, especially those crafts that include a measure of repetition such as knitting, crochet, needlework or woodworking. Mindfulness helps to calm your mind, relax and unwind. Research into knitting showed it lowers blood pressure, reduces depression and anxiety, is as relaxing as yoga, distracts from chronic pain, increases one’s sense of wellbeing, reduces loneliness and isolation, and increases one’s sense of usefulness and inclusion in society. These benefits can be found in almost all crafts, especially when you find a way to learn or practice in a social setting such as FWMoM’s crocheting group.
I like to plan parties and decorate our home for holidays. My crafting is often creating decorations for the outrageous parties I host for our church youth group or the small ones for my daughter’s friends and for our random holiday celebrations. We celebrate everything, and I decorate for everything – inside and outside.
I also enjoy crafting with food. I love to bake cookies and we make sugar cookie cut outs for just about every holiday. We do not do the fancy decorations because we are not artists, but we have a lot of fun. My husband and son have turned just about everything into a vampire, LOL. Sometimes, I just like to look at the apps on my iPad from the museums we have visited and read about the beautiful works of art we saw and then research the artists. Your creating and crafting can include your kids or be with friends or all by yourself but find something that adds a bit of art to your life.
Ask for Help/Find your Tribe
I may sound like a broken record on this one, but for me, the most important way to care for yourself is to surround yourself with people who care deeply for you and you feel the same for them – a mutual admiration society. You are not designed to go through life alone, and definitely not to parent your children without a village or tribe of others who love you and your children fiercely. When you find your community of people who make life better and easier, hold on to them. Do not ever be afraid to ask for help when you need it or give help when you can. Sometimes it may feel like you are always the needy one, and it may just be the season you are in right now. Your tribe will love you through it. Someday, you will be in the position to be the one to tell your friend, “It’s okay, this too shall pass, and I will be here through it all.”
Now that you are a MoM, your To Do List is never going to get any shorter. The laundry will never be done – people keep wearing clothes. They will always need to eat – like every single day. There will always be another thing to do to the house or the yard. You cannot wait until all of that is done to take care of you. You must start TODAY to take care of yourself as well as you do everyone else. I promise that if you do, you will have more mental, emotional, and physical energy to be the MoM, partner, and friend that you want to be to those you love, and you’ll actually enjoy it as well.
Linda Kennedy M.S. – TLC’s Dallas Fort Worth area Associate, is the mother of 16 year old twins, Shane and Savannah, and wife of 25 years to Shane, a physician. A former high school and college level science teacher with a masters in Biology, Linda is a busy stay at home mom and community volunteer. After nearly ten years of marriage, Linda and Shane welcomed their twins following IVF and a high risk pregnancy that ended on bedrest and an early delivery at 31 weeks and long NICU stay. A long time member of FWMoM, Linda has served in many capacities including as Programs director and President, where she developed a program and curriculum for expectant moms of multiples and parenting infants and toddlers. This came out of her own experience, and what she learned from the other moms in the FWMoM community. Her favorite thing to tell expectant parents is find your multiples parents group, to help you figure out how to care for multiple babies at once because you are going to be too tired at first to figure it all out. She continues to be an active supporter of moms of multiples finding their own parenting style, becoming confident making choices for their children that bring joy and wellbeing to themselves and their family. You can reach Linda at email@example.com for more information about our Dallas Fort Worth services.
Autumn is my favorite season. The oppressive summer heat and humidity subside, leaving me feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world and be the best version of myself! Forget spring cleaning and New Year’s resolutions; autumn is where it’s at for me. I’d love to share with you my favorite fall activities and traditions.
Travel: We usually prefer to travel in the fall to avoid the summer crowds while still returning home in time to prepare for the coming holiday season. Earlier this month we went down to the Hill Country for a long weekend with my husband’s family just to relax together and escape “real life” for a bit. In late September 2019 we took our oldest to Disney World for her 5th birthday. The year before that my husband and I went to Hawaii in October to celebrate our 10th anniversary. In fall of 2017 we took our first family vacation with our triplets (they were about 9 months old at the time) to the Texas Gulf. So far this has really worked well for us since we haven’t been too tied to school schedules.
Clean, organize, and decorate: Organizing and purging are especially helpful at this time of year, as we prepare to receive Christmas gifts. Cleaning out our spaces and getting rid of things we don’t use as much anymore feels liberating and teaches my kids valuable lessons. I also love to decorate our home for holidays and seasons. I have a plastic tub for every holiday, full of children’s books for the season and decorations; some store-bought and some homemade. I especially love to display cross stitch patterns I have completed and things I’ve made with the kids. I know these will continue to be precious treasures as the years pass.
Make Halloween costumes: So far in my career as a mom, I have really enjoyed making my kids’ Halloween costumes instead of buying them, though I am sure my kids could not care less! The last few years we have chosen family themes and I have spent October purchasing basic wardrobe pieces and embellishing them by painting, dyeing, sewing, and otherwise crafting them into my own vision. Most years I finish at about 3am Halloween morning!
Prepare for Christmas: As much as possible, I try to prepare early to keep the stress out of (and the magic IN) December. Almost all of our extended family on both sides lives in the DFW Metroplex. We love being so close but it makes for busy holidays! Including Christmas morning with just our family of 6, we have a total of SEVEN family Christmas celebrations. That doesn’t include Christmas dance recitals, school plays and parties, gatherings with friends, etc. So in order to keep the magic alive and keep me from scrambling between events, I try to prepare as much in advance as possible. I start shopping early, listing gifts I need to buy or make and checking them off as I go. As early as possible, I begin filling our calendar with traditions and events like going to Prairie Lights with my mom, baking and decorating Christmas cookies with my sister and her kids, and visiting Santa. This year especially, I feel pressure to make the season extra special. With a six year old and three nearly-four year olds, will there ever be a Christmas more full of magic and excitement?!
Create: Baking, sewing, cooking, crafting…I want to do it all at this time of year! I love getting in the kitchen with my kiddos and baking pumpkin bread or cooking up a pot of soup. They enjoy helping me and of course I want to encourage that! Here are the links to a couple of our favorite recipes:
Family events: One of my favorite family activities from the last few years has been participating in the FWMoM fall family event. I love that the kids get to play together, I get to see my friends and watch their kids grow over the years, and the opportunity for the spouses to fellowship and chat is fun. This event always gets me all up in my feels about our amazing organization because it highlights so many of the best parts of our group (and at my favorite time of year, at that!). I hope you will make plans to join us at our annual FWMoM Fall Family Fun event. Click here to register so we know you’re coming!
Enjoy your autumn, friends! Make the most of it!
In this year of unprecedented EXTRA, we are matched with the opportunity to rise to new levels of creativity, compassion, and courage. As MoMs, we have had to pull out all the stops and creatively keep our kids on track during a pandemic. When parks, malls, and playdates all shut down, we got busy churning out new ideas to keep those babes engaged! We saw uncertainty and economic hardship affect those closest to us, and we became conduits of compassion and generosity. The greater the 2020 EXTRA, the more extraordinary we became. That took courage. That is the word that came to mind when I witnessed families, mothers, and fathers facing the challenges of distance learning, home offices, childcare limits, and the loss of life as we once knew it.
So, let’s talk about courage. As MoMs there's a built-in tenacity to handle the unexpected and all the extra babies at our feet... but I would venture to guess you wouldn’t automatically label what you do on the daily as courageous. In our minds we relegate courage to a quality possessed by firefighters when they rush into a burning building, or an officer charging towards an active shooter situation. Yes, those moments take courage... so does raising a family, maintaining a marriage, relationships, and making tough decisions. Our type of courage doesn’t always make the news cycle, yet it is a key to not only surviving, but thriving in this EXTRA world.
How do we get EXTRA amounts of courage necessary for life? I AM so glad you asked!
Encourage: to put courage in someone. It’s simple. Encouragement is a powerful tool, like a super food for our soul. That superfood of encouragement is only helpful to the busy MOM if we eat it! Let’s consume some encouragement! I have for you three ways to receive EXTRA courage for our EXTRA:
You know we all face situations that are tough, even more so this year. Our situations, however, do not have to determine our level of courage. It is in those EXTRA times that we need to especially focus on fueling our courage levels. My lasting wish is that you find this blog encouraging and it inspires you to be dispensers of courage. First for yourself, then for your sweet loves surrounding you, then for the world! Go get it MoMs!
“Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t be discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take!” -Joshua 1:9
Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples
P.O. Box 123874
Fort Worth, Texas 76121
Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.