Educational Christmas Gift Guide for Boys (and girls too!)

Educational Christmas Gift Guide for kids

If you’re like me, then your boys probably have plenty of “toys.” I created this gift guide because I would love to share with you some of our favorite educational toys around here.
My kids either have, or have played with, all of these and I would definitely give them all 5 Star ratings for being educational, entertaining, and plenty of fun!
I will say- my husband and I decided last year that we would gift a vacation instead of presents to our boys, leaving our sweet families take over our boys wish lists.

Snap circuits

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You Might Be a Student Mom If…

 I started college a week after my 18th birthday. I had dreams of a getting a degree followed by beginning an awesome career.

Little did I know that I would become a non-trad student my Sophomore year. When I was 19, I became a mom.

I still wanted to pursue a degree. But it was hard. And it felt like in the snap of a finger, my identity changed. I was no longer a typical student. I was a mom student. And for me personally, going on to finish has instilled a sense of pride in myself. No joke, after that degree, I just knew I could conquer the world. (Spoiler- I can’t conquer the world, but I conquered Calculus and O Chem. and that feels pretty awesome.)

If you’re in the same boat, then this is for you!

You might be a student mom if…

“Missing out” used to mean that you had to miss a friend’s big birthday party. “Missing out” now means that you have to miss your kid’s soccer game every Tuesday night because you’re in night class.

Before, you would socialize in between classes. Now you pump in between classes.

You are no longer exhausted and aching from dancing and hanging out all night. Now you’re exhausted because the toddler sleeping down the hall had growing pains at 2am and the baby inside of you had a dance party all night.

You used to worry about how cute you looked in your new shirt. Now you are worried about leaking breastmilk through your old t-shirt.

Heartbreak and frustration were usually how you would describe a breakup, or made a bad grade after pulling an all nighter to study. But now heartbreak and frustration to you means leaving your 1 year old, who has pneumonia and strep throat, with a babysitter because you absolutely can not miss your Chemistry lab, History project, and Statistics test…. again…

You used to get excited to see that cute boy walking on campus. Now you’re older and you get excited to see your full grown son, who is in college too, walking on campus.

Instead of just having doodles on the top of your Spanish notes, you have a tally section for kick counts.

“Making plans” previously meant deciding who to eat with, if it’s going to be date night or friend night, and then whose house will everyone will end up at. “Making plans” now is deciding if you will have a chance at study time by turning on Finding Nemo before or after you cook supper for your family. And then deciding if you even have time to cook because you have a big Calculus 3 test at 8am.

Before you were a mom, you had a job so that you could pay your gas for road trips, buy concert tickets and new clothes, and eat out with friends. After you became a mom, you need a job so that you can pay for well checks, buy your kid food that is healthier than Cheetos and goldfish, and pay the diaper bill.

Instead of folding/hanging your clothes, you might just wear them directly from the dryer.

You have said these words to your professor “Can I please bring my 2 year old to class with me today? I’ll make sure she’s not a distraction. I won’t be able to come otherwise.”

Multitasking used to simply be texting a boy, while listening to an online lecture, while working out. Now multitasking means breastfeeding while eating a sandwich, putting on makeup, and studying your Organic Chemistry flash cards.

In all seriousness. Being a mom and going to school is not for the faint at heart. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

But momma, you CAN do it! Sometimes it may be ugly. Sometimes you may have to drop classes or take a semester off. And that’s OKAY! You are still strong. You are still incredible, and self-less, and beautiful, and smart.

One day you will have your diploma. And you will look your child in the eyes and think to yourself “Look what mommy did for you.”

And there is no feeling of accomplishment like getting that piece of paper, knowing all the challenges, obstacles, self-control, and responsibility it took.

Mommas in school, in case no one has told you lately, I AM PROUD OF YOU. Hang in there. You got this!

I have included a few pictures of some friends of mine who are student mommas. If you are or have been a student mom, I would LOVE to see your pictures, hear your accomplishments, and know what you would add to this list either in the comments below or on www.facebook.com/myhousefullboys.

*This is in no way intended to discount or discredit the incredible accomplishments of traditional college students.
It is written to encourage moms in school so that we know that we are not alone in the challenge to push through.

**I Just want to add that a good support system will play a huge role in your success!  So many people made sacrifices so that I could continue school. Thank you Ryan, Mom, Cheri, and Tim for babysitting for me!!! Love yall!

Stay at Home Mama- It’s OK to Say That It’s Hard

Sometimes the hardest part about being a stay at home mom isn’t the dirty diapers. It isn’t the fat fingers always clinging to you. It isn’t the constant exhausting “play with me momma” phrase. It isn’t even the mess that feels unending.

Sometimes it’s the loneliness. It’s feeling invisible.

It’s the eagerness and need to spend time with another adult human, only to realize it’s your babies naptime.

It’s the depression that you may not even be aware of yet.

The feeling that no matter what you do, it won’t be enough, and you will never finish.

Sometimes the hardest part of being a stay at home mom isn’t the crying, the no lunch break and no clocking out. Sometimes it’s not spending 30min making a mess helping your 3 year old make homemade playdoh, only to find its been eaten by the dog a short 10 minutes later. It’s not cleaning the kitchen while your child destroys their bedroom.

Sometimes it’s the lack of affirmation.

It’s knowing that the end of the day, there will be no pat on the back by your boss.

There will be no hard earned paycheck.

There will be no Christmas social work parties or Christmas gifts or bonuses. There will be no employee luncheons.

There will be no reason to put on make up and real clothes, which in turn can leave you feeling physically less.

It’s a hard job. It’s a selfless job. Sometimes it feels as though you literally give yourself away.

Sometimes you wonder if it’s worth it.
And sometimes it feels as though it’s not.

Sweet mamas, if this is you right now, I want you to look your precious child in the face. Look at their fingers, toes, and belly button.

Remember the sweet moments. The ones you couldn’t wait to tell your husband about. The proud pictures you sent to grandparents when your baby learned to sit up, crawl, walk, talk. When they said their first prayer. When they were so fun and funny that you couldn’t help but just sit and watch their imaginations.

Remember how brave you’ve been.

Embrace how strong you can be. Your strength is more than you know.

I want to encourage you to find a friend. Or two or three. Invite them into your messy house, because chances are their house is just as messy.

I want to encourage you seasoned mama’s to be a friend. Find a mom who needs a friend and invite her into your home. Tell her she is doing a great job. Give her cookies.

Husband’s, be that kind word of affirmation. Show her compassion. Tell her thank you. See her. Teach your kids to acknowledge her too.

And mama’s, always know that there is a mighty, powerful, all-knowing God who made you momma. For that specific baby. At this specific time. And you are doing a great job.

Mom 101: 15 Mom Truths We Can All Relate To

  1. If you are taking the kids to a party where food will be free and abundant, plan on them not eating. The minute you get home they will be hungry.
  2. Silence is NOT golden. It’s suspicious. Investigate immediately!
  3. Always assume they can open it, climb it, and find it.
  4. Always check the toilet seat before sitting down.
  5. Always bring a set of clothes for baby AND you.
  6. For every minute of travel away from home you’re going, give yourself 3 minutes of prep. That 10 minute drive to school? It takes half an hour now. And you’ll be late.
  7. Husbands only hear 1/4 of the crying you hear. Embrace it and move on.
  8. If it’s a new shirt, it will get a stain. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to.
  9. Kids will, without fail, get sick or hurt at the worst possible times.
  10. You can expect them to poop 5 minutes after getting a clean diaper.
  11. Always plan on your plans going wrong.
  12. You can pretty much guarantee that after you’ve buckled your kids in and made it 5min down the road, someone will need to use the bathroom.
  13. If you ever need your child to wake up for any reason, simply prepare yourself a nice lunch or pour a hot fresh cup of coffee…or just sit down. They will instantly wake up. They innately want to turn your “me time” into “we time.
  14. If your kids sleep in Monday thru Friday, count it as a guarantee that they’ll be up at 5 on Saturday.
  15. Before those grimy fingers, chubby smiles, dirty diapers, and silly giggles, you had no idea how much love your heart could hold.

I can’t take credit for all of these. Most of these came from the lovely ladies of a Facebook mom group I’m in. Continue reading

7 Things I Didn’t Know About Depression Until I Struggled With it Myself

I felt alone. With a new baby. 4 kids under 6. New town, new church, and I had quit my job.

I thought I could fight it myself. Thought I could overcome it on my own. But I couldn’t.

And so I fought, endlessly, with tears, being defeated time and time again. For 18 months.

I had no clue what depression was. What it could do to me. How it could change my view of myself. But it did.

I remember in college having a friend tell me she suffered from depression and me being completely ignorant.

I used to think she just wanted sympathy attention. I used to think her life wasn’t stressful and she had no reason to be sad.

But depression is much more than sadness.

And until I struggled with it myself, I ashamedly was unsympathetic, and completely ignorant.

You can’t just “pray it away” or read happy Bible verses and expect it to get better. I used to think that when some people became depressed it was because they had grown away from God. That they just needed to spend more time in the Word. That they needed to pray more, or go to church more. That if they would just count their blessings, then they could see that there was no reason for them feeling depressed. But depression doesn’t work that way. Just like a diabetic person won’t just “get better” by praying and reading their Bible, me reading happy scriptures isn’t going to just make me happy.

It is a true illness. It took me 18 months to realize that what I was fighting was an actual sickness. Something that I couldn’t just “get over” on my own. It’s no different than meningitis or strep throat. If you are diagnosed with one of those, then you can bet you will probably go to the doctor, or try to find treatment so your body can heal and recover. Depression is the same. It needs treatment. Treatment can be different for each person fighting it.

Loneliness is real. I was surrounded by people. I lived in a house with 5 others. There were people around me, but I wasn’t present. I didnt tell people. Didn’t talk about it. Kept it bottled inside. I put on a happy face and dealt with my depression inwardly. Alone.

Unworthy became how I looked at myself. Unworthy of my husband, unworthy of my kids, unworthy of my friends, unworthy to have any kind of happiness. A failure. It seemed that everything I tried to do was impossible. Even the little things like reading to my kids or cooking mac n cheese.

You just can’t. No matter how hard you try. You might want to get out of bed before 11am. But you can’t. Might want to cook a good meal. But you can’t. You might want to excerise, to play with your kids, to make friends. But you can’t. But it’s much deeper than a lack of motivation.

It can result from a tragedy and accompany grief, but it doesn’t have to. My depression didn’t come after my miscarriage. It didn’t come after our family lost a loved one. It didn’t come after I gave birth to a sick baby. My depression came during a time of my life that wasn’t stressful or traumatic or empty. But I still felt empty. That may have been one of the hardest things for me. Is deep down knowing that I should feel thankful, but no matter how hard I tried, I only felt empty.

Sometimes your body hurts. This may have just been me. They were probably phantom pains. But they prevented me from living life. They gave me an excuse to stay in bed longer. An excuse to stay home and not meet people.

And there is so much more. The triggers, guilt, shame, and denial. Depression is much bigger than anything I could write.

I overcame. Here I am now 2 years later. I have sat down to write this post countless times over the past 2 years but I just couldn’t.

I’m not sure why now. Why I have the courage now. But I pray deep down that if any of you who have read this and are dealing with depression, that maybe just maybe this post can help you feel less alone.

Maybe it can help you find your own courage to fight back. To find treatment. To talk to a friend.
I pray that any of you who have not experienced this will show grace and love to any friends you know who are fighting this illness. That you will pray for them. Listen to them. And maybe take them a meal or ask if you can help in some way.

Because sometimes those small things are a glimmer of light for someone who is living in darkness.

How my Son’s Scars Taught Me to Love my Stretch Marks

He was standing in line for the diving board with a friend and also a group of boys he just met. They were having a good time doing tricks and having cannonball contests.

I watched as the boy in front of him turned around and said “what’s wrong with your stomach?”

My little boy, Brock, covered his belly and mumbled “I had surgery.”

They did their tricks and got back in line.
“Why did you have surgery?”

Brock’s friend answered this time. “He was born with his intestines outside of his body so he had to have surgery to put them all back in. That’s why he doesn’t have a belly button. But he’s fine now.”

Brock used to beg me to let him wear a swim shirt every time we went swimming.
When he and his friends would play shirts vs skins in basketball or soccer practice, he would always volunteer to be shirts. Even when his friends all wanted to be skins.

His scars used to really bother him. He was very self conscious, and wanted to keep his scars out of sight.

He’s past that now. He accepts and embraces his scars with pride.

Recently I heard a kid as him why he doesn’t have a belly button and Brock actually laughed and started singing the Veggie Tales song “I don’t got a belly button.”

He knows his scars tell a story. His story. His fight. Watching him grow to accepting his scars has encouraged me to do the same.

My scars tell a story.

The stretch marks on my belly are a reminder that my body has held 5 beautiful babies inside of it.

The cellulite and stretch marks on my thighs and butt are a reminder of a time that I struggled with and overcame my sweet tooth/junk food way of coping with post partum depression.

I can look in the mirror and be reminded that my body fed 4 sweet babies.

I’m reminded of the scar from small piece of my heart that went missing when one of my babies was born into Jesus arms instead of mine.

I have a painful, bulging varicose vein on my leg that reminds me of a time when I was 19 and asking my OB about a “bruise” on my leg. It’s been there ever since.

Our scars serve as a reminder. A reminder of where we’ve been. How we’ve grown.

Some scars can’t be seen. Some are so visible they can’t go unnoticed. And sometimes our stories are told through our scars.

Whether scars from illness, or childbearing, an accident, or a weight gain/weight loss cycle, our scars can remind us of how we’ve overcome.

While it is awesome to like the way you look, looking good isn’t the only purpose of our body.

Our bodies are meant to be brave. To be strong. To be selfless. To serve. To overcome.

How can I expect my son to be proud of his scars if I am ashamed of mine?

I refuse to look at my scars as a way that my body is damaged or flawed. My scars show that I am a warrior. And that is something I am thankful for.

Am I A Paralyzed Christian?

We often hear the phrase “be the hands and feet of Jesus.” I’ve heard it at church, I’ve spoken it in devotionals, I have prayed it with my children.

This phrase is often associated with Jesus’ attitude of serving and loving others.

As I said it again this week, I realized something.
I am paralyzed.

I am paralyzed from the neck down. And that breaks my heart.

I don’t use my hands. I don’t use my feet or my body or my heart. I just use my mouth. That’s it. And my fingers occasionally.

We live in a world full of Facebook Christian warriors. Keyboard warriors. Only using our fingers to daily share Christian memes or pictures with verses, or argue in an effort to “serve” God. If you can call it serving.

But how often do we truly live our life’s as the hands and feet of Jesus?

His hands were used to heal, to wash feet, to feed crowds, to calm storms, to build, to give, to serve, and love. To carry a cross.

His hands were pierced and bled as He died. For me.

His feet were used to walk on water, to carry him to the houses of sinners, to walk for miles teaching, serving and loving. To walk a hate filled path, carrying a cross, up a hill.

His feet were pierced and bled as He died. For me.

He died for me, and yet here I am, paralyzed.
Why, out of an entire body, does it seem that I only use my mouth and my words? That instead of daily serving in a way that will truly make a difference, I just use my fingers. From behind a keyboard. That instead of inconvenient serving, it seems that I look at my charity money as being “enough.” Giving money is enough serving so I can move on with my week. Sometimes I use financial donations as an easy way out.

How much more meaningful would it be to bake a widower some cookies and drop by his house for a visit, than it would be to just send him a gift card to the grocery store? How much more meaningful would it be to invite a poor family into our home to share a meal, than it would be to have a pizza delivered to them?

This week I am determined to use what God gave me. He gave me hands to serve, feet to go, and a heart to love.

I will use my hands to prepare a meal for a hungry family, or write just a simple note of encouragement to someone who I know needs it. Use my feet to go visit the sick, the nursing home, or an elderly neighbor. Use my body to babysit for a mom who needs to catch a break, or stop and help someone with a flat tire.

We are called to give more than just our money and our opinions. And I would love for you to join me in genuinely being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Please, leave a comment here or on Facebook with suggestions on ways to serve-big or small!

To my Last Baby

Sweet sweet son, today is your birthday and I am holding on tight. Holding on to the memories, the past present and future. Holding on to you.

When your brothers were younger, life seemed slower, I felt like I was able to catch more moments. But now, sometimes it seems as though life is flying by so fast that I am just spinning. I feel like I am watching life in fast forward, when all I really want is to hit the pause button.

Each time you hit a new milestone I have been filled with excitement for you, but at the back of my mind is a subtle hint of sadness.

You have been my last of all of the firsts. My last baby to take his first step, my last baby to get his first tooth, first busted lip, first word, last to take a first ride on a bike.

You are also the last of all the lasts. My last to breastfeed, last to potty train, last to rock to sleep. And I’m excited to watch you walk through more lasts. My last to go to kindergarten, last to have “muffins with mom,” last to play his last junior high basketball game, last to get your license, last to move away from my home to begin your own. I know you will be great, you will see success and failures, and endure your own loves and your own heartaches.

You are now 3 and I still rock you to sleep. It tugs on my heart to think of the day when 1pm naptime rolls around, and this lap that has rocked you, these arms that have held you, will be empty. Because you won’t need a nap. I don’t know when that last time will happen, but I know that even if my lap is empty, my heart will be full.

When your oldest brother was born, I feel like we stayed home for 4 months. When your twin brothers were born, we stuck around home for the recommended 6-8 weeks. But you, my sweet boy, you were out and about at 5 days old. And your life hasn’t slowed down since.

You entered a world of crazy and busy. A world that already had places filled by 3 other amazing little boys. A world of soccer, and school musicals. Of church camps and vacations. And you fit right in to your spot without complaint. I know it probably hasn’t been easy, but you go with it with grace and excitement. Of course, you do make sure to keep us on our toes. Like the time you dropped our keys down a pipe at a baseball game.

You hold my heart in your chubby little hands. But yet, sometimes I still feel guilty.

I am sorry that some days after I have a long day, it seems that you just get my leftovers.

I’m sorry that I should be a “been there done that,” wise mom, who knows what she is doing, but honestly, most of the time, I don’t. Some days I feel like I have forgotten everything about how to be a mom. Some days I crave that wisdom that I should have, but feel that I am lacking. Please know I am trying with every ounce of my being. And when I fail, thank you for your patience. Your love keeps me going.

I’m sorry if it seems that I couldn’t care less when you eat off the floor, even though I cared when your oldest brother was little. I promise I care. But I’ve learned you will live through ingesting floor crumbs.

I am sorry that a lot of times you get the tired version of me. Sometimes I just feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired. Thank you for being willing to just sit, cuddle and do nothing with me. I hope you remember these moments.

I am sorry that your oldest brother has 5 full DVDs from his first 2 months of life. And somehow we seem to have lost our cameras when you were born. I am sorry that I completed baby books, calendars, and scrapbooks for your older brothers. And I think the only pages of your book that is filled out are the pages I did before you were born. I just hope that maybe my cell phone pictures are timestamped- that will be your baby book.

I am sorry that you have gotten the less sympathetic version of me than what your oldest brother got. If he fell, I was quick to scoop him up and cry with him. Sometimes I would even stand close enough that I could catch him before he fell. But you, my tough strong boy, I watch you fall. I let you run to me and I kiss your owies and send you back on your way.
I’m sorry that almost all of your clothes, shoes, toys and books are hand me downs.

I am pretty sure your third word was “poop.” And you love to say it, because it makes your big brothers laugh. And I’m OK with that. I have gotten to witness countless giggle fits from the 4 of you.

I am sorry that sharing is all you have ever known. You share my time, my lap, my arms, my focus, and my energy. Because those things have limits.

But I want you to know something. My love and my heart are limitless. There are no boundaries on the love I can give. You joining our family didn’t make me split my love. My love just grows as our family has grown.

You are my joy. You complete our family in ways I never could have imagined. You have been the perfect addition.

I know that tonight when I tuck you in I will kiss your squishy cheeks and say “I love you baby Beau.” And you will say “I not baby. I Beau.” And you will be right. You are not a baby, but you will always be my last baby.

 

Be sure to find me on Facebook and check out my Children’s Bible reading journal here.

Ladies, if you want change…start with yourselves.

Lots of screaming been going on. Yelling. Fighting. Frustration. Anger. Marching. Rock throwing. Trash burning. Hate.

And it is consuming. It is hard to miss and easy to spot. It’s there. Always there. And us ladies have been behind the majority of it here lately.

You say you want higher pay. Then work for it. Work hard for it. Work so hard that your boss has no excuse not to pay more. Shoot, work hard enough to be the boss yourself. My husband works for a billion dollar company. And guess what?! His boss?? Yeah she is a woman. And she is in charge of thousands of men. How awesome is it that we live in a country where that is even possible!

You say you are pro-life. Well then give. Give your time, your money, give yourself to serving and caring for unwanted children.

You say you want to breastfeed in public. Do it. It’s legal. It is your right. And then just get over it if you get a funny look. Get over it. Not everyone will agree with everything you do. Just get over it and keep doing you.

You say you’re fighting for the women who have been abused. Then be their friend. Feed them, love them, visit with them. Send them a gift. Just cause. Cause they are a person and you care.

You complain about how men treat you. Well then focus on teaching your sons. Teaching their friends. TEACH THEM how to treat women, so that one day that same complaint won’t be said of them. Things aren’t fixed overnight. But you can fix it in the next generation.

You say you want respect. Well then earn it. Earn it. And I don’t mean earning it by parading around in a vagina costume. Earn it by showing love, and patience. By using manners and intellect. Earn respect by giving it. By respecting others first.

You say you want equality. Yet you’re fighting for superiority.

You say “at least American women have rights” as you compare our freedoms to the lack of female freedoms in other countries. Well pray for those women. Pray that one day there will no longer be an “at least.” Pray that one day those women will get to experience even an ounce of the freedoms that we American women so willingly trample over.

You scream “don’t call me a slut.” Well then don’t dress and act like one.

You yell “don’t sexualize and objectify women.” Well then don’t sexualize yourself. Quit begging for attention by showing it all. Quit using your low-cut shirts to try to get free drinks. Quit flirting your way out of tickets (yes, I did this in college. It infuriated my little brother who was with me, because he knew that if he had been driving then he would have gotten the ticket.) Quit turning a blind eye to the porn industry.

Change is possible. It can happen. And it is important that it does.

Just think how humbling it would be for the young women 50 years from now to be thanking us. Thanking us for being respectful, thanking us for teaching our sons- their husbands and fathers- how to treat women, thanking us for not using our bodies for their sex appeal, but for the strength that comes from our hearts. Thanking us for mothering the motherless, loving the un-lovable, and serving the lowly. Thanking us for breaking racial barriers. As women.

Be a generation of women that is worthy of being thanked.

I tell my kids all the time “You can’t control how they act. You can only control how you act. And make sure you’re doing it right. It starts with you.”

Ladies, we can’t just blame men. We are a part of the problem, but we can most definitely also be part of the solution.

I truly believe that we women can change things. We are strong, determined, fearless, and motivated. But change starts with US.

Find me on Facebook and check out my Children’s Bible reading and journal schedule below!