12-05-2016

Give Yourself Permission to Nix the Christmas Card (and other trappings)

December 5, 2016

Only 20 more days until wide eyed kids tiptoe down halls in unabated excitement.
Only 21 more days until stressed eyed parents pack it all away in unabashed exaltation.

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Contrary to what you are thinking right about now, I am not a scrooge!

But sometimes the trappings of Christmas seem to do, just that – Trap us.

Trap us into believing every one of those trappings has to be done, every single year. And not only checked off the list, but completed in perfection.

Christmas Lights  Advent Calendars   Locally Sourced Gifts   Christmas Cards   Homemade Desserts   Wreaths on the Door  Christmas Caroling   Kid Made Ornaments   Trees   House Decor   Christmas Parties

The list is never ending and there is a pressure you feel that if you even just dip your toe into a certain area the result has to be Pinterest perfect.

For those around me, Christmas cards seem to be the biggest hold up. You spend a fortune on a professional photographer or try to find the just perfect candid photo of kids having a sweet moment. It all ends as you begrudgingly hand write more addresses than you thought possible.

Why is it that family photo shoots make root canal dentist visits seem more enjoyable?
Bribes and Lollipops just don’t cut it and temper tantrums erupt when your 8 year old is asked nicely forced into a collared shirt.

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So this year, instead of giving yourself a guilt trip over all you haven’t done this Christmas season..
Cuddle up in front of the fire with your kids.
Give a hug to your elderly neighbor.
Read the Christmas story from the Bible.
Nix the cards and Just Be Still. {This is what I’m doing this year!}
Don’t fill up every second of your time. The world will not end if you don’t send out cards.
Invite your brilliant sister to town and let her make elephant toothpaste for your kids

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Most of all, repeat this mantra… trappings are NOT what make the Christmas season.

Christmas is a time to remember God’s love for YOU and share that love with all mankind.
His love isn’t found bundled up in a card, present, or tree.
It’s found in the quiet and in the simple… giving a hug, bestowing a smile, or laughing together.

Christmas is found in the every day minutia of the relationships we share with those around us.

Merry Christmas!
jessica

 

 

 

09-07-2016

New Puppy, New School, New Frogs

September is here and change is on the way!

We have a new puppy, Sawyer, who reminds me daily of why I do not want to have another child. My ability and desire to wake up at 2:13am for bathroom breaks and just needing to be cuddled, has waned.

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We have a new school the kids adore. We miss old teachers who hold special places in our hearts but having a flexible learning schedule {Montessori} leads to a well rounded and much happier child.

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And we have frogs, frogs, frogs galore.

It’s clearly the birthing season for frogs.
Or the mating season.
Or we’ve simply gone back in time to the raining frog plague.

You can’t step toe outside the front door without accidentally shortening one’s life. {Okay, that might be a little dramatic. They aren’t in quite that stage of plethora.} However, they are everywhere. And if you are on the phone with me, there is a good chance you’ll be asking “What’s that noise” because the chirping is THAT loud. Even with the doors closed.

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Here’s to shorter days, cooler temps, and dog hair everywhere!

jessica

07-13-2016

Photojournal of Summer 2016: Choosing Contentment in the Messiness of Life

We’ve made it to July 13th which seems equal parts miracle “we’ve survived thus far without siblings killing one another” and equal parts “where in the world has summer gone”?

Every weekend is full of friends and family visiting or taking trips of our own and I am starting to feel like we are careening on a roller coaster that won’t slow down.

Being a girl who not only wants but truly needs a lot of margin in her life, I’m feeling a bit unraveled by all this busyness.

Despite my best intentions to fill our days with minimal cost activities and trips to the beach, we’ve actually spent most week days being very lazy at home.

Just us in our pj’s. Reading books. Getting messy with science experiments. Making lego princess castles.

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Now, don’t let me fool you that it’s all roses and peaches while we lounge around.

Our house is quite messy, sibling squabbles abound, and made beds are a thing of the past – as if they were ever even in existence in my house.

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You may look at these pictures and see joy & fulfillment or you may never see further than the dirt, grime, and mess.

How you look at my pictures – how you take in your own summer – your own spot in life right now,
it’s all in your perspective.

Isn’t that what joy and gratitude are really all about?
They are a choice you make every moment of your life.

You can focus on what you don’t have or spend your moments being thankful for what you do have.

When I can’t find contentment, I pray for God to show me what to give thanks for.  There have been days, months, years when all I saw was darkness, anxiety, and fear. All my life didn’t turn out to be.

But when I pray for an eternal perspective, when I beg on my knees for Him to show me what I do have right in front of me that I never fully appreciate…
He whispers back and nudges me to find the beauty found within the dirt, grime, and mess.

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There is beauty all around you.
I hope you find some today.

jessica

happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed.
happiness is the spiritual experience of living every moment with love, grace, and gratitude.
~ spiritual gangster

07-05-2016

Fine Art and Kids: 3 Tips for Taking Kids to an Art Museum

{Recently I was able to attend a media day for the re-opening of the Gibbes Museum of Art following their 2 year renovation. I was lucky to meet the very talented Merideth Garrigen of A Spot in Time photography. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs in this post are kindly provided by her. Thank you Merideth!}

I know you’re probably thinking…

Fine Art + Kids = NOT A GOOD IDEA

But I promise…
Fine Art at the Gibbes + Kids of any age = A great way to cool off in this summer heat

Whether a Monet or a homemade kid portrait, I love art.

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{
source for these 3 photos: The Local Goodness}

There’s just something therapeutic when you pick up a paint brush and express yourself on a blank slate of canvas.
It’s equally cathartic to walk through an art museum and ponder what the artist was hoping to convey.

But the thought of taking my kids to an art museum can easily send on heart palpitations.
Grimy hand-prints, a kid’s inside voice that closely resembles yelling, feet running down corridors of art…
Enough to make any brave mama pause for a moment to consider her sanity.

But passing on a love of fine art to our kids doesn’t have to be something complicated or evoke fear.

It’s simply being brave enough to expose them to it.

I’ve broken down our local art museum into what kids of different ages would appreciate. While these 3 tips/age ranges are focused on the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, I think they can be applied to most art museums in the country.

Take as few kids as you can, pick one exhibit to focus on, and don’t feel bad if you simply enter, enjoy some free AC, and then be on your merry way.

And parents, one note of advice: You may want to only take one kid at a time. 
{I for one can handle one loud talking, hands everywhere, feet running 8 year old. Add a feisty six year old into the mix and it’s simply too much for me on my own. Plus, kids love getting one on one attention from a parent.}

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PreSchooler Age: First Floor
Admission to the first floor of Gibbes is free! Don’t feel bad if you only enter to take advantage of the cooling air conditioning. We recently walked Duval Street in Key West and stopped in at numerous art galleries simply to get a break from the oppressive heat.

On this floor, youngsters can watch artist in residence at work, take part in kid classes, or grab a bite to eat and take out to the garden in the back.

The artist in residence program is really neat because your kids can watch artist create masterpieces and give you an opportunity to ask questions to the artists.
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Elementary Age: Second Floor

You and your kids will be entranced as you walk up marble ensconced steps to the breathtaking rotunda that was previously carpeted. Intricate details on the window trim, previously hidden under coats of paint, has now been exposed with the original walnut stain. {I could go on and on about the renovation changes – it really is amazing that the beauty of the building was there all along – it just happened to be covered up with paint & carpet for decades.}

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The second floor holds a miniature portrait exhibit – the selfies of the 1700 & 1800’s. It’s thought provoking to think before photography was widespread, miniature portraits were how family and friends were held close. In this day of Instagram feeds, realizing the time it would take for a portrait to be painted and then that portrait was your one keepsake of someone – how priceless.

This exhibit left me feeling nostalgic but also blessed to be able to take photograph after photograph of my kids.

Further into the second floor is The Mary Jackson gallery of sweet grass baskets, including a huge piece that took Jackson 3 years to make specifically for the Museum. It is her largest basket ever made. Make sure to ask the Gibbes how they hung the basket using magnets.

Teenagers: Third Floor
This new gallery space is perfect for teenagers and those wanting to reflect on deep intellectual thoughts while viewing special exhibits.

An unraveled Confederate flag. Burnt artwork. Monuments being torn down.

All things to consider as you view The Things We Carry, a contemporary art exhibit focusing on the troubled history of race relations in the American South.

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Words cannot describe this exhibit.
Allot plenty of time to process and reflect on the meaning found in these masterpieces.

We were lucky to have the Museum curator guide us through this exhibit and explain in detail each piece of art. If a tour guide is available for this part of the museum, I highly recommend it.

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So let’s go inspire our kids to be artists!

Be brave, take the kids one at a time if you can {that’s what I’ll be doing}, and check out your local art museum.

Find some AC this week & Stay Cool!
jessica

 

{A huge thanks to the Gibbes Museum of Art for inviting me to their media day. The renovations are stunning and I can’t wait to show their fine art to my children.}

 

05-26-2016

Event Calendar: Summer 2016 in Charleston

I’m one of those mamas who doesn’t believe in the last week of school, so tomorrow’s the last day before summer break for my kids.

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And right about now, I’m feeling pretty good about our summer plans.
Which primarily involves the beach, the library, and the sprinkler out back.

You see, all our summer activities hover around one common denominator: that word being FREE.

So every year about this time, I’m thinking – Okay, this is gonna be the year that I am FINALLY organized with our summer calendar. I’m going to make a master spreadsheet of all the going ons in our town and any time I feel like we are on the verge of insanity (which, in our house, normally happens a few times every day) – we can voila – look at the calendar and find something fun and different to do.

But reality looks a bit more like this…

By June 14th, only two weeks into summer break, I’ll be skirting the edges of a mental breakdown from 24 hours a day with my kids and my house will have turned into pure chaos with no hope of finding out what activites are offered that day.

So this year I finally did it!

I created a master schedule of all the free or minimal cost events for kids in Charleston!

This calendar isn’t about camps, events that require pre-registration or cost a lot of money.

Instead, this is the perfect resource for those…
“I just need to find something happening in one hour or the kids are going to drive me to bedlam” moments.

There is now a link on my homepage called Charleston Events, so you can go directly there to find it.

Please keep in mind the library has hundreds of activities all by itself if you count all their locations. So don’t throw away your Charleston County Library Summer Reading Program Calendar! There are also at least 7 places in the lowcountry that offer movies for kids & families in the summer. I’ve tried adding all the June movies for 3 of the locations and will continue to add the remaining June movies in the next week.

I hope ya’ll enjoy this and it helps you out a little this summer when you just don’t know how to entertain the kids one more day!

jessica

04-20-2016

The Benefits of Boredom…Why it’s great if your kid says “Mom, I’m Bored”

There I was, a 14 year old girl stuck in the throes of puberty, navigating S curves on a back mountain road en route to my aunt’s house.

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That dreaded season, aka – tax season, had arrived.

April was again upon us and my parents were driving to my number loving accountant Aunt Judy’s house.

I never understood why I had to go along. Her having daughters much older than myself, there wasn’t much for me to do.

Back in those prehistoric times, before tablets and instant internet access, there were only 3 tv channels to choose from and none of them featured anything interesting to a teenager.

Looking back, I don’t even think she had a tv so there wasn’t much for me to do except “be bored”.

And in that boredom, I spent countless hours reading magazines.

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But CosmoGirl and Seventeen, these were not.

No, instead I got the thrill of reading Mother Earth News and every academic journal you could imagine on healthy organic earthy type eating.

I had no idea what composting was and held no interest in the microorganisms found in collards.

{Kale had yet to become gourmet back then.}

Yet, when push comes to shove – and you have nothing better to do – you read whats in front of you.

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Looking back now, I am grateful my parents made me cross the mountain to go to my aunt’s house.

Blessed I am, that there was nothing to do but read food science periodicals.

Undoubtedly, reading gardening and food magazines helped shape me into being the food lover I am today.

I learned a ton of random cooking tips and helpful hints that even now, 20 plus years later, I incorporate into the foods I prepare on a daily basis.

Did you know that when sauteing onions, you should sprinkle salt on them when they first go into the pan to allow them to ‘sweat’ out some of their natural water – which helps speed up the browning or caramelizing of the onions.

Or this tip…when you add seasonings and salt for soups you should do this in a gradual process throughout the entire cooking time. This provides a depth of flavors that cannot be achieved if you only only add the salt and seasonings at the end. If you only add stuff at the end, it really just tastes salty.

Or…Dried herbs really need liquid and time for absorbing to impart their flavors, so use those in soups where there is plenty of liquid plus quite a bit of cooking time. Try to only use fresh herbs (which cost more) when you aren’t cooking with much liquid or plan to only add the herbs at the end, right before serving.

I learned moderation must be key because
In 1989 eggs were bad but by 1992 they were great.
In 1990 butter was all the rage but in 1991 it was banned.

Even as a teenager I thought it was a bit odd how often different ‘studies’ conflicted each other.
Moderation, not a diet, is the only way to maintain a healthy body.

I learned benefits of raised garden beds and composting methods long before they were hip and trendy.

There is no doubt, my love of food and the geeky studies of food science, is a result of being bored and forced to do something I didn’t want to do.

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Reading what was on hand broadened my horizons and shaped me vastly into who I am as an adult.

Cooking and baking are my two biggest hobbies, hands down.

Nothing gets my time like my kitchen and nothing delights me more than friends at my kitchen table eating a home cooked, from scratch meal.

So the point is.

Allow your kids to be bored.

Allow them to drive you crazy and get used to them saying their friends get a tablet, a smart phone, a new whatever. Accept that you will often hear them yell “life isn’t fair”.

You know what, they are right.

LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

But the earlier you figure that out, the better off you’ll be.

Being bored has great results and unexpected outcomes.

I’m quite sure my parents never worried over my boredom and they had no intentional plans for me to become a foodie.

You may feel as if you are depriving your child if they aren’t constantly doing something FUN. You may feel as if you are doing something wrong if every minute of your child’s day isn’t jam packed in this overscheduled crazy busy society we live in.

But there is a beauty found in curling up in a window box seat with curtains whipping in the breeze as you read something you’d never normally read. Your imagination soars, your curiosity is cultivated, and your mind is exposed to new ways of thought.

No video game
No tablet
No smartphone
can ever win when compared with the lifetime of learning which results from being bored.

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So be brave, you moms & dad’s of the 21st century.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Dorothy Parker

Be empowered to take away the digital screen
even if it means they say they hate you.

Don’t feel guilty if you have to force them to go outside,
to play, to rediscover the natural world.

Be bold and hand them a book they’d never normally pick up by choice.

You just might be doing your kids’ future selves a favor.

jessica

 

03-29-2016

4 Easy & Fun Spring Break Crafts

Falling asleep last night, I asked my husband if we could homeschool.  You see, it’s Spring Break in our neck of the woods and that means lazy mornings, pajama clad bottoms, and outdoor excursions of who can jump the highest on the trampoline.

It’s sublime.

That’s exactly what home-schooling is like, right?

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Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) Jared isn’t a fan of me being the kids’ sole educator so back to school in a week they will go.

To be realistic, I’ve heard when you homeschool, you actually have to get stuff done! That’s where I’d have a problem…follow through isn’t my #1 skill.

I like the overall concept of homeschooling {especially the not rushing out the door in the morning} but I’d also be EXTREMELY happy if they’d just shorten the hours for public school. 7 hour work days + almost 1 hour of getting there and back {afternoon carpool lines are LONG in this town of mine} = almost 8 hours a day for kids who should be out exploring the great outdoors longer than the time they spend indoors every day.

I wish legislature would introduce a bill making school only 4-5 hours long. I promise you, you really can cover everything a kid needs to learn in less than 5 hours. But I have zero hope any legislature would ever introduce or sign that bill into being. Not only are there numerous parents reasons that would stand against it, but when the presidential race is as disheartening and low-class as it is this year, there is little confidence I have in government at the moment.

In other news, I’ve begun freelance writing!

I never set out to be a writer. Freshman English was a major battle with victory being anything other than a failing F. Redlined papers were the norm and constantly switching between present and past tense verbs seems to be something I am exceptional at.

But I’ve felt a calling on my heart to write more and when I say calling – I mean – I’ve tried to do anything other than write but yet I can never escape the voice in my head telling me to write. So I write my blog, do occasional freelance writing, and my newest goal is to write for 30 minutes every single day. Not with the purpose of publishing – but simply writing every. single. day.

So to the point of this post…I recently wrote Get Crafty This Spring: Easy projects to try with your crew for Lowcountry Parent. Activities for all age ranges are provided and the activities are not hard. I hope you’ll enjoy some quality time with your kids this spring break (or this summer) as you put together rafts and sailboats, create a zippered pouch perfect for holding treasures like rocks and seashells, or build a zipline for Goldie the Engineer.

{A huge thanks to the local businesses that dreamed up these activities and provided instructions. Huck Finn School. Five Eighth Seams. Camp Perri. Education Station.}

Today’s spring break agenda for us includes taking a nature walk to find the ‘perfect’ sticks for building this raft.

Enjoy your spring break being crafty and making messes with the kids!

jessica

10-22-2015

Confession of a People Pleasing Lady

{Whew…I’m getting pretty humble up in here today…sharing my flaws with ya’ll.}

I wish it weren’t so, but sometimes when I serve others, I consider how great it’s going to make me look.

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It’s not intentional, I never consciously aim to do that.

But a few years ago, upon some deep reflection, I realized I often want people to know all the ways I serve others.

Yeah, that’s me… this approval seeking, people pleasing lady.

Blame it on the middle child syndrome, but all I want is for other people to like me.

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And you know what, they probably do already…so why am I going out of my way to blatantly seek it?
And if they don’t, then who cares???

I remember Anah who sat beside me for years.
Us young twenty year olds, crammed into a much too small cubicle, making way too many cold calls.

One day she shared how each evening she made her husband an amazing sandwich when he got off work.
The sandwich sounded like a creation worthy of Dagworth’s fame in Blondie.

The awe inspiring part of her story was that Anah made the sandwich as an act of true love.

You could just tell. It wasn’t for her husband’s praise. She didn’t tell me so I would think she was a great wife.

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We just happened to be talking about her husband having to work late and as a consequence he didn’t really eat dinner. Thus, she made him something really special every evening. I’ll never forget the smile on her face when she talked about making it. She delighted in doing such a mundane task and filling that work with an abundance of joy.

Her serving was simply an outpouring of the love she had towards her husband.

When we serve others with a gracious heart we aren’t focused on the accolades or the recognition. I’m reminded in Anah’s story that a serving heart is most often found in the mundane, in the small tasks we do every single day that never receive a thank you or praise.

And I pray, that as I grow older and wiser, my heart will be more content to serve without being seen.

jessica

 

{Day 22 of the #write31days challenge. I’m writing all about A Servant’s Heart, the series list can be found here.}

10-18-2015

3 Things You May Not Know About Me

What I’ve learned during my attempt to write 31 days in a row.

#1. I am a perfectionist
Granted, I had come to that forgone conclusion a number of years ago. However, I am reminded daily during this October challenge that if the post isn’t my best work, it is still ok to click publish. The difficulty of writing
every.single.day
means that a few of the blog post may be really good and some may be ok but many might fall quite short of perfect. So I’m slowly accepting that perfectionism is overrated!

#2. I love taking & sharing photos of my families life
Real life is messy, it’s chaotic, and I feel most free to be me when I am with my family. So whether it’s making mudpies, wading through the marsh to find a creek brimming with blue crabs, or playing on abandoned catamarans…being outside in nature is where I am happiest. And I hope that by viewing the photographs I share of my family, you are encouraged to spend more time with your children, family, and friends in this great big world we’ve been blessed to inhabit. {It also doesn’t hurt that when I’m feeling less than thrilled to write, my readers {you amazing person that you are for reading my blog} still seem to enjoy my photos. So thank you!}

#3. My best writing is completed in the morning
We all have a time of day when our productivity peaks and then quickly descends into “let’s just put that off for a few more hours because I really need to do something else drastically important…like call someone??” If I don’t click publish prior to 10 o’clock in the morning, you will find me on the wheel of procrastinating by calling a sister, a friend, really anyone who will pick up the phone and just let me talk about absolutely nothing so I can escape from the task at hand.

So here we are…it’s 9:42pm, I have yet to write anything about a servant’s heart, but I do have some photos I could share!!! And I have laryngitis so unfortunately I can’t call anyone to help me in my procrastination.

Enjoy the photos! And thank you so much for taking time to read my blog.

jessica

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Day 18 of the #write31days challenge. I’m supposed to be writing about a Servant’s Heart…but sharing photographs is so much easier!

10-13-2015

How to Become the Parent You Want to Be

After not so quietly emphasizing “please just go get dressed”, my son responds with an astute observation…

“Mom, your patience seems to be running low today.”

I smile back and quietly whisper…”Yes, I think you’ve got that right.”

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On the days when my patience seems lowest.
On the days when the words from my mouth are more likely to be sour rather than sweet.
On the days when I don’t think there is time to slow down & savor, time to breathe, or time to relax.

Those are my hardest parenting days. And I’ve come to realize that, more often than not,
my children’s behavior is not what leads to my frustrations and lack of patience.

More often than not, the problem is found in me.

It’s found in me not taking care of myself.
It’s found in me not bothering to set an alarm – hence we are running late for school and yet another tardy will send us to the principal’s office.
It’s found in me being frustrated at something in my own life that has nothing to do with the kids.

Whether it’s exhaustion after a night of poor rest,
feeling crappy because I haven’t taken time to exercise,
or a disagreement with my husband.

All of these things, and more, can easily result in me not being the parent I want to be.
So I really have to question where my frustrations are stemming from.

Am I upset with what my child is doing or am I simply not happy in my own circumstances?

I am certainly not saying that children shouldn’t be disciplined or that our children’s behavior never leads to frustration and less than best parenting.

But for me, I’ve found that the better I take care of myself, the better parent I can be.

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So if my goal is to yell less, have more patience, for the words from my mouth to overflow with grace…

Then I need to remind myself that they are only children. I’m the adult here. And I make a choice every day, every single moment, how to respond when their actions and choices are not what I would desire.

And the best way for me to make a parenting choice I am proud of is directly linked to how well I am taking care of myself.

Whether it’s waking up 30 minutes early {even if that means 5:30am} so I can have my quiet time with Christ in solitude, getting out with girlfriends one evening, or going to bed before I normally do so I can be well rested.

All these things help me parent with grace and kindness.

And if you think you just don’t have any extra time in your day to do something for yourself…
I promise that you do!
Even just setting aside a 15 minute walk can do wonders for anyone’s outlook.

It’s never too late to take care of ourselves so we can be the parents we seek to be.
jessica

{Insight into this concept was from The Orange Rhino blog. Years ago, I read this particular post of hers and #8 really hit home with me. I realized that way too often the problem with my parenting was found in me rather than what my children’s behavior was. I’ve come to realize that they will probably always walk a little slower than I think acceptable, be a bit more clingy than I’d prefer, etc. And when I choose to take care of myself first then I am able to make smarter, kinder, more grace filled parenting choices.}

Day 13 of the #write31days challenge!