4.5.15

mélange

Lets start off with some general blog recommendations, mk? Here are a few of my favourites, go visit them and enjoy!

  • Chin-ups and Buttercups - my friend Lydia manages to walk the tightrope of discussing body image, fitness, motivation, and the gospel flawlessly. She takes you on her journey to 130 (effort to get in shape) and exposes the idols of the heart that are so tightly linked to image and fitness. Love this blog and this girl.
  • From the Natos - this qualifies as a mega-blog in my opinion (I think most of you already read it). But it's worth mentioning because it's so fun to read and she's brutally honest. She writes often of her husband's affair, her child's disabilities, and the mess that is real life. 
  • Mockabee 7 - Jodi Mockabee doesn't blog often (she has five kids, no wonder!) but I'm always glad to see her show up in my feedly. She parents her kids with really beautiful intentionality, a theme I'm noting I gravitate towards. I'm really drawn to their simple lifestyle and her home and style are super inspiring!
Ok, now for a quick tour of the interwebs.
  • Have you seen this Amy Schumer parody about rape? When I first heard about it I assumed that they were poking light at rape and was disgusted, but after I saw it posted again elsewhere and read about this viral skit, I realized they're shedding light on a culture that allows for rape. Smart.


  • 10 Montreal coffee shops you need to visit right now. They're missing a ton but if you're in town for a weekend you should definitely check out Café Myriade. Café Parvis has been on my list for a while and is actually pretty close to me. No excuses once the weather warms up!
  • We have spent a good deal of time in Louisville, Kentucky over the years since Brad is doing his MDiv through a seminary there. It was fun to see Apartment Therapy feature Louisville in their design lovers series.
  • This kitchen. Thank you very much.

  • I'd love to see the documentary series Twice Born
  • A lot of interesting conversations came from my blog post on Why I Make My Kids Say "Sorry" (even when they aren't). I'm always interested in hearing how this works itself out in other families.
  • Summer is coming and it's about to get a whole lot harder to be stylish and modest. This online shop has really beautiful clothes at a great price point! 

1.5.15

a case for traveling without your kids

This post is a followup from a post I wrote earlier this month on traveling with your kids. As always, there are two sides to every coin and I think both options are pretty great (for different reasons).

Some people are surprised that we put a high value on time away from our kids. Brad and I aim to get some time away once a year. Whether it be for a weekend, a week, or two weeks, we find time away from our kids is beneficial for our marriage and worth leaving the kids.

Prioritizing Marriage

Parenting little ones is a lot of work for any family. When they're as close in age as ours, there's no real break. As soon as the older one hit a stride that felt manageable, I was doubled over sick with my next pregnancy. And repeat. And now that I'm approaching two years with no pregnancies, we're just finishing potty training one and preparing to potty train another soon. These years are beautiful, but they're also a blur. And it's easy for your marriage to become bottom priority.

I've heard it said that the best gift a parent can give their children is a loving marriage, and I completely agree. Growing up, I was blessed to have parents who genuinely liked each other as much as they loved each other. We never worried about mom and dad and always felt secure in their commitment to each other. I believe taking time away to be together, just the two of you, sets the example for your children that mom and dad love each other and have a secure marriage.

Paris, France 2013 (our third babymoon)
What about the kids?

One concern many people have with couples traveling without their kids is that the children will feel unloved or insecure without mom and dad. I've heard it called selfish that parents would dare take a vacation without including their children.

It all comes down to priorities. If your children are your number one priority, above all other relationships and all other things, then yes, you might say it is wrong to do something without them. For us, our marriage comes first. We're not afraid to show our kids that they're not the most important relationship we have, we think it's healthy for them! There's a reason that so many people divorce as soon as their kids are out of the house. For all those years the kids were the overwhelming priority at the expense of the marriage, and once the kids are gone, what's left of the marriage?


Many couples cultivate strong marriage bonds without traveling alone, and I completely respect that. Other couples can't leave their children for any length of time because reliable childcare isn't available. We've had some years where we're able to leave our kids and others where we're not, but if at all possible, it's a high priority.

This may not be for every family, or for every season. I have a friend who highly values time alone with her husband, like us, but because she's still breastfeeding it's not possible to get away. None of our parents are retired and the majority aren't local, so it's hard arranging childcare for over nights. Thankfully we have other friends in a similar boat here in Montreal, so we've decided to swap taking each others kids so each couple can get a weekend away from time to time. This May, Brad is doing a marriage in Quebec City so we're making a weekend out of it and our dear friends are watching our three kids on top of their own three! We are eager to return the favour, and excited for them to get a special time away, too.

Babymoons

Babymoons - or vacations before a baby comes into your family - are a relatively new thing, I think. Kind of like the concept of push presents and gender reveal parties, they're another way to celebrate pregnancy and new life. I should note I've never received a push present nor had a gender reveal party, but I'm not against either concept within reason. But babymoons, which have the added benefit of leaving a couple more rested and prepared for a new baby, I'm 100% for.



When I was pregnant with our first, we happened to be in North Africa on a missions trip for two months. Not the best experience while 25-31 weeks pregnant, but go with it. En route home from North Africa our plane had a stop over in France. Bonjour, all the pastries for my growing bébé! We did what we often do to procure a free vacation and delayed our return flight. Our initial flight (including Paris-Montreal homeward) was already paid for, so we got a bonus week in France.

Let me tell you after the six weeks in North Africa it was a dream. I was also six weeks more pregnant than when we started our voyage, so a babymoon was more appreciated than ever. The trip served the dual purposes of relaxation and taking advantage of our final weeks as a young couple without children. Eating out, late night walks, looking back it was complete freedom! It was also a time, set apart from work or normal life, to dream of, talk about, pray for, and mentally prepare for our upcoming arrival. In all, I highly recommend it!

But what about after your first bébé? Should a couple continue with this practice, if possible, when they have other children at home? Absolutely! Freedom and finances were much more restricting when we were preparing for our second arrival, just one year later, so we opted for a three day trip to Chicago for The Gospel Coalition Conference. It didn't matter as much where or for how long, but that we were getting away to reconnect as a couple, before a big change ahead. 

Having a baby is an enormous strain on a couple. The joys far outweigh the challenges, but it's naïve to go at it unprepared. Babymoons have helped us head into a difficult season rested and prepared and as a united front. 

Traveling alone

This year we aren't able to travel without the kids for a couple reasons, so we've planned a family trip. Because both Brad and I are in the home (him working from home and me staying home) with our kids constantly, the time away to recharge is still needed. We've decided that in years where we can't figure out childcare for the kids, each of us will take a little time away. We have lined this time up with conferences, so we're not just resting but also being fed spiritually during this time. 

A few weeks ago, I was in Orlando alllllllllll by myself for four days. Two days were spent at the Gospel Coalition Conference, and the other two were spent reading by the pool. I don't feel badly saying I didn't miss the kids once! I came home completely recharged and ready to parent intentionally and faithfully. Last week Brad was at the Acts 29 Europe church planting conference in England and also tacked on some days at the end for personal travel. Each of us is so glad to send the other off. We know that time is important and it's worth it seeing your partner come home so refreshed and ready to dive in to our high capacity lifestyle.


Have you ever traveled without your kids?
Or even without your partner? 


29.4.15


Romans 8:30 ///
I'm a visual learner + rememberer, so it's good for me to make reminders like this. Happy Wednesday!

27.4.15

ambitious at home

For the first two thirds of my life my thoughts towards stay-at-home moms were quite derogatory. I wrongfully assumed that women who stayed home with their children were lazy and unambitious, and in the rare case that those descriptions didn't apply, I assumed any family that intentionally lived on one income was wealthy. As you can imagine, I've since changed my tune. 

I've always been an ambitious person. I'm competitive, I make goals, I dream about the future, and I have high standards for myself. This doesn't make me a good or bad person, it's just a quality I have that can lead down either avenue. Overly ambitious people can be greedy and selfish and lack care for others. The Bible has hard words for that type of person. People lacking ambition might be idle, irresponsible, and selfish in a different way. The Bible also has hard words for that type of person. And so, from the outset I want to be clear that ambition can be good and bad, and manifest itself in any person in many ways.

My error in judging stay-at-home moms (before I became one!) was that I separated mothers into two camps. Those with ambition and those without it. Ambitious mothers had children and careers. Unambitious mothers had children and didn't work outside the home. 

Jen Hatmaker, whose blog I do not regularly read, but I stumbled upon her words and oh man did they resonate with my old thinking, says this: 

"I remember crying a river when my mom went back to college when we were in elementary, middle, and high school because she was less available to cater to our every whim, but it very soon became a source of great pride for me, because I watched my mom do meaningful, hard work that mattered. She went for it, right in the middle of living life. As it turned out, I needed a mom who mothered, dreamed, worked, and achieved. We all did."

Her words are EXACTLY what was wrong with my simplistic thinking back then. She watched her mother work in the home for years and years, but only when she went back to school was she doing "meaningful, hard work that mattered". Those words and assumptions break my heart and make me sad and furious at the same time. In the end, her conclusion was mine: women who choose to stay home and have a larger role in the lives of their children and their home aren't doing meaningful work. They're unambitious and if they wanted to do significant work, they should get a career.

But here's the truth. One can have a successful career and children and a jam-packed schedule and still be unambitious. One can stay at home raising their children and keeping their home and be highly ambitious. And the inverse is also true for both. 

For me, choosing to focus my energies at home stems from high ambition. I want to be the main influence in the lives of my children. I didn't study early childhood development, nor am I a "kid person" (whatever that means), but these are my children. I want to raise them. I want our family life to be central and foundational. I want our children to be best friends and around one another as much as possible. I'm convinced that most siblings that don't get along well never really had to. Separate rooms, separate hobbies, separate schools, separate lives. I want our home to be a place of peace, of shalom. To that end, we also intentionally limit our already-busy lives (more on that another day). And above all, I want the Christian faith to undergird everything we do - something markedly easier when I'm with my children the majority of the time. 

If moral development in a child is set by age ten*, I want their best hours and the majority of their time to be with us in the early years. That's not to say that I'm against early childhood education outside the home! I'm not a homeschooler and our older two kids attend a Reggio Emilia preschool two and three days a week, respectively. I adore our kid's preschool, but they aren't learning obedience and moral development there, they're learning those things at home. I also love our church's budding children's ministry, but I'm under no illusions that Christian education is solely the responsibility of the church. 

In every family this will work itself out differently, of course. For us, Brad works extremely long hours, six days a week. But he works from home, meaning there are many opportunities throughout the day for meaningful interaction. With the level of commitment his job requires, our family would be in chaos if I were to pursue a career as well. Further, we are strongly committed to secular public school. We want as much Christian influence as possible, knowing that for five hours a day our kids will be in a secular humanist institution with strong influence. If I can be there to send them off, to welcome them home for lunch each day, and to pick them up, all the better.  

What Jen Hatmaker, 20-year-old me, and the majority of society is missing is this: if we place value (in this case, ambition) on a person based on one dimension of their life, (in this case, career), we're bound to miss the point. This isn't a post to perpetuate mommy wars, or proudly sport my SAHM badge. My hope in writing this is to squash the misconceptions of stay at home moms - ones I held for two decades. 

I'm embarrassed and saddened at the disrespect I held for stay at home moms, some years ago. I'm annoyed by the assumption that families on one income must be extremely wealthy. We certainly aren't, and were much less financially stable when we originally went down to one income! I'm also frustrated by the notion (often in Christendom) that women who don't stay at home are wronging their families. In the end, it's a choice some families will make and some won't - and the reasons behind the choice are complex and numerous. 

Me staying home allows for our goals to best be achieved, and so, we do it. It's not possible for every family, or even necessary. Each family is completely unique and I don't know what will work best for yours. But I know for us, it looks like this. I would never have imagined staying home, being ambitious at home, and thriving at home. But here I am.

*There is a lot of information available on line about this theory, here are a couple links from a quick google search, but you're bound to find more informative ones with more rigorous searching



23.4.15

three to a room - update (and bunks!)

We've had our three kids sharing a room for over a year now, and things are still great! Our kids continue to love sharing a room and can't imagine things any other way. There's more noise at bedtime than if they all slept in separate rooms, but a) we will never have a five bedroom house and b) their relationships are thriving so they're having fun - there are worse things. A few months ago Chloe went through a horrible bout of gastro and was vomiting in the night. When we went in to take her out of the crib the older two were distraught. They were begging us to keep Chloe with them and thought we were punishing them by taking her away! They fight like the best of them, but they really and truly love each other.

We're also enjoying how their close ages have recently downsized a lot of their toy collection. They all play with the same things now, more or less. The big kids get to play with kinetic sand and playdoh and Chloe doesn't, but everything else is shared. Fewer toys = more space, which any city parent or small-living parent knows is the double rainbow.

The most noticeable change in the kid's room these days? We got bunk beds!!


The kids are head over heals. We bought the Ikea MYDAL bunk bed which was on sale for $135 (it's regular $159) and we sold our old twin bed for $100, making it a fairly inexpensive swap. I love the MYDAL bunk for the price and simplicity of style, but the natural pine was on the yellow side. I stained the whole bunk bed (assembled) with water-based white wash wood stain, which was $15. I really like how the wood has a lighter look but you can still see the knots. The whole staining project took close to two hours and was dry within four. Brad said assembling it was a beast though - consider yourselves warned!

We're finding the kids are really comfortable in their room, even though there are three of them in there. Chloe's crib doesn't take up too much space, but soon she'll be out of it and on the trundle beneath the bunk bed. Our older kids were both evicted from the crib before two years of age, since a new sibling was soon to need it, but that's not the case with Clover (insert all the feelings). When that day does come, we're planning to buy the super low SVARTA trundle bed from IKEA. Our other trundle was too high to fit under this particular bunk bed, and we'll have to get a thinner mattress so everything fits. I'm not in a hurry to have her out of the crib because I know what a handful she'll be at bedtime unconfined, but whenever that day comes we'll be swimming in space! Or at least it will feel that way :)


We recently got Beddy's for the bunk beds (not pictured). Lily's top bunk (which she refers to as the bird's nest) has the white ruffle beddy and Oli's bottom bunk (the bat cave, obviously), has modern grey. The grey bedding on the bottom does darken the room a bit, so I'm thinking of switching the kid's bunks if they'll let me!

As far as bunk bed safety, this has taken some training. We have a couple rules like only one person on the top bunk at a time and had to have a hour-long ladder climbing session one afternoon, but the bunks haven't proved dangerous. They're quite low as far as bunk beds go and I have no hesitations about my long-legged 4.5 year old on the top.

Other links to posts on three kid's sharing a room:
Three to a room (the beds)
3 to a room adventures continue...
Three to a room (sleeping)
The *NEW* kids room