My Advent Plan for Slowing Down and Building a Relationship with Jesus

My Advent Plan for Slowing Down and Building a Relationship with Jesus
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Now that I’ve figured out what I’m going to do with the kids for Advent this year, it’s time I sat down and decided what my Advent plan is going to be. Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas and Jesus’s birth.  As a mother, I now intimately understand the anticipation that comes with preparing for a birth.  There’s joy at a new life being introduced into the world, anxiety over whether you’ll be able to parent right, worry over the health of the baby and yourself, and so many other emotions all wrapped up together.  I’m sure Mary’s anticipation of Jesus’s birth was much the same, if not even more so given that she knew Jesus was going to be someone important.

We’re called to that same expectant anticipation each Advent as we prepare again for Jesus’ birth. On Christmas, we remember an actual time in history that Jesus was born. And at the same time, we are also celebrating Jesus arriving again into our homes and hearts. We must make ourselves ready for his coming, just as we make our hearts and homes ready for a new baby.

My Advent Plan for Slowing Down and Building a Relationship with Jesus

It’s Time to Make an Advent Plan

I’m a planner, so being pregnant brings a whole new layer of things that need to be thought about and prepared for.  While my pregnancies are relatively easy, I’ve still had to deal with the “normal” aches and pains, morning sickness, and stress.  In this time, I needed to nurture my body, giving it the food, rest, and grace it needed to prepare for each new change.  I prepared my mind for taking the big step into mothering, and then mothering two, by reading all that I could get my hands on.  Then, the nesting bug tends to hit me about halfway through, and I do everything I can to prepare our home for the new baby. And throughout, I prepare my heart through prayer, giving over all of my worries and anxieties to God and thanking Him for the ability to bring this new life into the world.

I’m applying these same ideas to my Advent plan this year. In the midst of this busy season, I’m going to do my best to slow down and listen to what my body and my mind are really needing during this time.  I’ll be delving into scripture and the stories of a couple Catholic female role models, allowing my mind to grow and prepare for our Lord’s birth.  As customary of the Advent season, I‘ll be preparing our home through cleaning out the old and bringing out all of the Christmas decorations. And, most importantly, I’ll be basing my Advent in prayer.

My Advent Plan for Slowing Down and Building a Relationship with Jesus

Slowing Down the Holidays

The holidays bring so much stress and busy-ness to them every year.  There are gifts to buy, events to attend, traditions to continue, cookies to bake, and on and on and on.  The to-do list never ends.  But all of these things are self-imposed, really.  There aren’t many “need to do’s” in the holidays- many, if not most, are “want to do’s.”  When I look at all of my to do’s through this concept, it helps me to see that I only have to do the things that I want to do.

However, I’m much better at saying this than actually acting it out.  I fall into the trap of wanting to do every little thing to make my kids feel the Christmas spirit as much as they can. And I want to take on every possible Advent devotion so that I will be oh so spiritually ready when the time comes. But often, this just isn’t manageable, and I end up burning out before Christmas even comes.  So this year, I’m making it part of my Advent plan to slow it down and not plan too much. To only do the things that really bring us joy.  I don’t really know what those things are yet, but I’m trying to not put expectations on myself and on what Christmas needs to be.

I don’t think Jesus wants us to feel stressed and anxious by his coming.  I think he wants us to look forward to it with joyful anticipation.  By slowing down and focusing on just the things that we want to do and the things that actually bring us closer to Him during this time, I hope to truly find the reason for the season.

A Little Light Advent Reading

I was going to choose an Advent-specific book to go through this year as part of my Advent plan.  I looked at all sorts of lists and realized I was missing the point- I already have an Advent journal waiting (read about this below!), and I don’t need to add another Advent-specific book just for the sake of it.  And, in fact, I already have a stack of religious books that I want to work through.  I am hoping that by embracing a slowness in the season, I’ll be able to take the time to read and reflect on one or two of the books already in my stack.

Right now, I am reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness, and it is rocking me. It tells the story of Servant of God Dorothy Day from childhood through her activism as a young adult in the early 1900’s and on to her establishment of the Catholic Worker Movement.  She is the epitome of what it means to be a Catholic woman working for social justice, and I am here for it.  I didn’t know much about her before starting this book, and it has already set a fire in my heart. I’m excited to keep working through this book as Advent begins. Once I’m finished, I’m thinking I’ll move onto another Catholic woman role model’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul.  This book contains the story of how St. Therese built her relationship with God and others through little acts of love.  I started this book in college and for some reason, never was able to finish it. It’s been sitting in my stack every since, so I’m hoping to actually take it up and read it through. St. Therese’s “Little Way” is something that I am really hoping to incorporate more into the way that I live and especially how I mother.  While not Advent-specific, I am hoping that by befriending these two woman, I will be able to prepare my mind and heart a little better for Jesus’ birth.

Preparing our Home for Jesus

I love Christmas. I love the season, I love the festivities, I love the feeling that it gives me, I love everything.  I think I would be one of those people who decorates pre-Thanksgiving and listens to Christmas music all year long if my husband was at all okay with that (he’s not).  However, this year after reading Kendra Tierney’s The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life, I’m starting to think harder about separating the Advent and Christmas seasons.  What I’ve decided for this year’s Advent plan is to slowly prepare our home for Christmas, just as I slowly prepare our home for a new baby.

This means that I’ll probably start Advent with some deep cleaning, putting away any leftover fall decorations, and decluttering. Then, I hope to decorate for Christmas slowly throughout the Advent season.  I pulled out our Nativity set, Advent Wreath, and Advent Calendar already to start Advent with the kids.  Maybe, I’ll pull out our stockings and a few Santa Claus decorations come St. Nick’s Day on December 6th. I’ll put up the tree a little after that and slowly get things ready so that by the time Jesus is born, we are ready to welcome Him into our homes again.  Then, of course, we’ll leave it up through the end of the true Christmas season! This year that’s January 12 (but we’ll probably leave it up a little past that, because why not 😉 )

Basing My Advent in Prayer

Though slowing things down, getting in some extra reading, and preparing our home are good things to prepare for Jesus’s birth, they mean nothing if not rooted in prayer and a relationship with God.  I’m really excited to use the Blessed is She Advent + Christmas Devotional to center my Advent and Christmas on the anticipation for Jesus and then Jesus’s birth and life throughout the Christmas season.  Each day the devotional shares a Scripture passage and reflection before providing questions to ponder and journal on.

My Advent plan is to find at least 15 minutes (hopefully 30!) each day to work on the Devotional and devote to prayer. I’ve been getting the kids to nap at the same time, so I’m hoping that this will continue through Advent, giving me a structured prayer time.  The nice thing about have a structure to follow is that I feel like I need to do it every day.  Sometimes, I’ll let my prayer time slide, thinking that I send up little prayers all day long, so I don’t need to have a separate sit down time.  By taking the time to sit down and just be with Jesus, I’ll actually be taking the time to focus on preparing my heart for his coming.

All Jesus wants from us by His coming is a relationship.  We are the ones who make it more complicated than it has to be, present company oh so included.  If I do nothing on this Advent Plan, but still grow in relationship with Jesus, then I’ve had a successful Advent.  I hope that by slowing things down, taking time to read about women who have taken this path before me, preparing our home, and taking the time to pray each day, I’ll prepare my heart, mind, body, and soul for Christmas.

P.S. Something new that I’m going to try this year is the St. Andrew’s Christmas Novena.  It’s a set prayer that is traditionally said 15 times a day throughout the Advent Season.  I didn’t include it above, because I’m not great at sticking to Novenas, much less one that lasts almost all month!  I’m going to try though, and I hope that you’ll join me. My plan is to put the below image as my phone background and just pray it every time I open my phone- I’ll probably hit the fifteen times easy then… 😉

Read About What I’m Doing with Our Kids this Advent Here!

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Our Advent Traditions for Little Kids

Our Advent Traditions for Little Kids
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This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. As an Amazon Associate, Simply Mama Bird makes a small commission off of any qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you! Thank you!

Thanksgiving comes late this year, and Advent follows only three days after- that doesn’t give us a lot of time to prepare! Since we’re going to be visiting family the week of Thanksgiving, I’m rushing to figure out what I need to all get out and prepared for our Advent traditions before we leave. Advent is probably one of my favorite times of year, and I love many of the traditions that come with it. It’s slightly ironic that I’m preparing for our time of preparation, since that’s what Advent is- a time of preparation for Jesus’ birth – But here we are!

Since having kids, it has been really fun to start figuring out which traditions we want to carry on from our childhood and which new ones we want to start in our own little family. I just started reading Kendra Tierney’s The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life, and it’s inspiring me to start creating more traditions throughout the year. Since the Catholic liturgical year starts with Advent, what better time to start being intentional about living liturgically and incorporating these fun traditions in our everyday life.

Something that Kendra Tierney’s book has me really thinking about is making the distinction between Advent and Christmas. In true liturgical living, Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas and then Christmas is Christmas day through the Epiphany (when the three kings came!) traditionally on January 6. Secular culture has it switched up with Christmas being celebrated completely in Advent and then it goes dark as soon as Christmas day is over. I am still figuring out how to immerse ourselves fully in the Christmas spirit at the same time as recognizing Advent, and I’m sure it’ll be a process throughout the years.

Advent Traditions for Little Kids

As it is, I’m sitting down and thinking about which Advent traditions I want to continue from past years or start new with our kiddos this year. I’m sharing four of the activities that I know we’re going to do this year for sure, but I’m sure I’ll end up adding some throughout the season. Advent is such a fun time for crafts, baking, and doing all of the things, but I’m not always great at planning ahead for those. The activities I’ve settled on are easy ones to do with little kids and don’t require too much energy from me on a day to day basis throughout the season.

1) Advent Calendar

Growing up, we had an Advent Calendar that formed the Nativity scene throughout December, and I loved it. So as soon as I had a child for Christmas, I went out and bought one too (the one pictured above is the one we have!) It was so fun to take turns with my brothers each day, putting up a different character each day to form the Nativity scene. Then each year, we’d write a note to ourselves so that we knew who got to go first the next year (Oh sweet, type A, little Holly). Last year, I started Nora putting a character up each morning. I don’t think she really understood what was going on (she was just a little younger than two), but she still thought it was fun! I’m excited to see if she gets more into it this year and if we can get Charlie to put up any.

This tradition is pretty simple and also acts as a fun decoration to keep up throughout the Christmas season. I love the anticipation it fosters as we get closer and closer to putting up the Holy Family and Baby Jesus. While it does feel a little silly to put the shepherds and wise men up before Baby Jesus even arrives, at the end it is fun to talk about each person’s role in the nativity story.

2) 25 Books of Christmas

25 Days of Christmas Books

I shared the details about this in my last post, but I wanted to address it again here since it is a big part of what we do in the Advent season leading up the Christmas. Each day of the 25 days leading up to Christmas, we have a wrapped Christmas book that one of the kids gets to open and that we read together as a family. Some of them are religious, some of them aren’t, but all of them get our hearts and minds in the spirit of excitement for Christmas’s coming. I love having the opportunity to share the Christmas spirit with our family through books, especially since our kiddos are big fans of reading!

By the time Christmas rolled around last year, Nora was able to find and name Mary, Jesus, Joseph, and the angels pretty easily, so I counted that as a win! Reading is a great way to introduce the ideas of the Nativity, as well as Santa, presents, snowmen, and so much more that aren’t necessarily parts of our everyday life. By the time that Christmas comes we have 25(+) Christmas books to pick from and read to keep the Christmas spirit alive through the true end of Christmas!

3) Advent Wreath

While we’ve had our Advent wreath on the table the past couple of years, we didn’t really ever do anything with it. We’d light the candles the couple of days a week that we’d remember, but that’s about it. This year, I’m hoping to incorporate these Advent Prayers from Dynamic Catholic into lighting our candles each night before dinner. Since we try to pray before our meals anyway, it’ll just be another short step before we get dinner started. Maybe if we’re feeling brave, we’ll even let Nora light the candles every so often!

We made our Advent wreath at a family night at our church when we were living in Michigan a couple years ago. It was a slightly funny time because we went with a not even one year old among all of these other little families with kiddos making their wreaths. It ended up being a fun night, and we came away with a wreath for our family. I bought some new candles from Hobby Lobby last year, but they didn’t sit well in the candle holders (which probably contributed to us not using it as much as I would have liked). This year I’m thinking about finding some colored votives to use instead- plus these’ll probably be better to use with small kiddos. There are a couple links below here if you still need to get your candles (or your wreath!) like me!

4) Traveling Nativity

This is a fun activity that I’ve seen all over Facebook and Instagram lately, and one that I’m thinking about starting with our family this year. When you take out the Nativity sets at the beginning of Advent, you set them up with just the animals, trees, shepherds outside, etc, holding back Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the three wise men. That first day, you place Mary and Joseph at the beginning of their travels somewhere else in the house and each day they travel closer to the rest of the Nativity Set. On Christmas, they arrive at the stable and then Jesus is born and placed in the manger. Then, on Christmas, the three wise men start their own journey through the house closer and closer to the stable until they reach it on the Epiphany.

I think this is such a fun way to act out the Nativity story. I’ve seen some people do it in a similar way to Elf on the Shelf , where they move the people at night and then the kids have to look around to see where they traveled on their journey. Right now, we just have Nora’s play Nativity set that she got from St. Nick last year. I’m deciding if we’ll do this with her set or if I should just go ahead and get us an adult set to do it with so that she can play with her Nativity set together all season long. Luckily, I still have a few weeks to decide!

Advent Traditions for Little Kids

This may seem like a lot, but all of it really amounts to maybe 15 extra minutes of activities a day, and it leads our hearts to focus on the anticipation of Jesus’s birth. Advent is a joyful season leading to the beauty and fun that is Christmas. I am so excited to be able to share these joys with our children and start these Advent traditions early so that they can be a part of their childhood memories someday.

I’d love to hear what Advent traditions you have in your family. How do you prepare for Christmas and for Jesus? Do you decorate the day after Thanksgiving, do it slowly throughout Advent, or decorate the whole house Christmas Eve? As we think about these things for our family, I’d love to hear what yours does! Share with us in the comments below or let me know on Facebook or Instagram. Happy preparations!

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25 Days of Christmas Books for Children Ages 0-3

25 Days of Christmas Books for Children Ages 0-3
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Since our first has a February birthday, she already LOVED books by the time that her first Christmas was approaching.  I had seen others do a 25 Days of Christmas Books on Facebook and Pinterest prekids and had always thought that it was a really cute idea.  So once we had our own little book lover, it was settled that we were also going to do a 25 Days of Christmas Books.

That first Christmas season, I spent a lot of time scouring book shelves and the internet looking for good Christmas books at good deals. I probably spent way too much money and not enough time picking out the best books.  Going back, I probably wouldn’t have done the full 25 books that first Christmas and just started our collection growing between what we loved and what we were gifted.  Even so, it was so much fun to have our little almost one year old ripping open her daily Christmas book and getting excited to read it together!

Our collection is now a mixture of what I bought that first year, gifts from family and friends, and other books I’ve added in the past couple years.  We have over 25 Christmas books now, so I just pick out our favorites to wrap and bring out the others throughout the season. I’m sticking to board books this year (since we already have them!), and I’ll probably start looking at picture books to add to the mix next Christmas when we have an almost four year old!

So What Exactly is 25 Days of Christmas Books?

It’s exactly that- you choose 25 Christmas/Winter books to share with your children throughout the season of Advent, leading up to Christmas. I see it as an Advent calendar that promotes a love of reading and books.  I have chosen to wrap them in the past (maybe because I’m a bit extra?), but that’s definitely not necessary! Just collect your books, and choose one to open each day as you prepare for Christmas. Pro-Tip: Find some place to put your books that doesn’t tempt your children to find them and open a bunch before you can stop them- ask me how I know. 

If you’re looking to start a Christmas books collection, or to do your own 25 Days of Christmas books, I’ve compiled our list of books that I’m wrapping up this year for my almost three year old and one year old for you to peruse.  As I said before, it can get expensive to buy all 25 Christmas books at once.  One tip I have for building up your collection on a budget is to check out the used books option on Amazon- many are available at a much lower price and still in good condition!  There are also many used book websites such as Better World Books and Thriftbooks that have good deals as well. Some families even check Christmas books out from the library and open them soon after they check them out so that they can get them back in time. There are so many ways to make this tradition work for your family and for your budget.

I’ve broken our books for this year down into Religious Christmas Books, Santa Books, and General Christmas Books so that you can peruse based on your own Christmas traditions.  It has been so fun to share the Christmas spirit with Nora through these 25 Days of Christmas books the last couple years, and I’m excited to get Charlie involved this year too!  I hope that you’ll find a few new Christmas books to add to your collection too!

Read More: Our Advent Traditions for Little Kids

25 Days of Christmas Books

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. As an Amazon Associate, Simply Mama Bird makes a small commission off of any qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you! Thank you!

Religious Christmas Books

I tried to find a good amount of religious Christmas books in order to have an emphasis on the “reason for the season.”  We’re Catholic, and it’s important that we share Jesus and our faith with our kids.  Books have been a really helpful tool with this.  The “problem” with Religious Christmas books is that so many of them are focused on the Nativity story- which is great!- but I’ve been trying to find other Christmas books that incorporate Jesus and God and aren’t all the Nativity story.  That being said, at least four of these books reference or talk about the Nativity and all have their own perspective on them, making them worth all having in our collection!

1) The Story of Christmas – Patricia A. Pingry

2) What Is Christmas? – Michelle Medlock Adams

3) Nativity Flap Book – Usborne Books

4) The Story of Christmas – Hayley Down

5) A Very Merry Christmas Prayer – Bonnie Rickner Jensen

 6) God Bless Our Christmas-Hannah C.Hall

7) Christmas in the Manger  – Nola Buck

8) The Story of Christmas – Fiona Boon

9) The ABCs of Christmas – Jill Howarth

10) One Christmas Bear – Anne Vittur Kennedy

11) Tonight You Are My Baby Board Book: Mary’s Christmas Gift

Santa Books

We have chosen to have a Santa tradition in our family (though this is probably the first year that it matters for our oldest, and we’re figuring out what that looks like!).  Given this, we have quite a few books that at least reference Santa.  These books are all super cute and share the holiday spirit in such a fun way.  Between rhymes, flaps, and touchy feely pads, there’s not much that can go wrong!

12) Llama Llama Jingle Bells – Anna Dewdney

13) Here Comes Christmas! – Caroline Jayne Church

14) My Christmas Star – Lucy Fleming

15) Biscuit’s Pet & Play Christmas: A Touch & Feel Book – Alyssa Satin Capucilli

16) Bizzy Bear: Christmas Helper – Benji Davies

17) The Night Before Christmas – Clement C. Moore

18) Babies Love Christmas: Lift-a-Flap Board Book – Stacy Peterson

19) A Christmas Wish for Corduroy – Don Freeman

20) Fa La La –  Leslie Patricelli

General Christmas Books

I’m rounding out my list of our 25 Books of Christmas with our books that don’t have a religious aspect and don’t mention Santa.  These are all so sweet- and the last is one of my favorites! 

21) Merry Christmas, Little One! – Sandra Magsamen

22) A Very Merry Christmas – Maudie Powell-Tuck

23) Where Is Baby’s Christmas Present?: A Lift-the-Flap Book – Karen Katz

24) Bear Stays Up for Christmas – Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman

25) Llama Llama Holiday Drama – Anna Dewdney

So there you have it! Our 25 Books of Christmas for this year.  I’ve got to get wrapping these as we’ll be gone for the week of Thanksgiving and then December is already upon us! If you have Christmas books that you love that you don’t see on this list, let me know- I’m always looking to add a good book to the pile!  As I shared, I’ll be looking especially for picture books to add for my oldest next Christmas, so send me your favorites 🙂 

Read More: Our Advent Traditions for Little Kids

25 Days of Christmas Books

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Charlie’s Birth Story: A Birth Center Birth

Charlie’s Birth Story: A Birth Center Birth
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Now that my sweet little boy is a big one year old, I thought it would be as good a time as any to write down his birth center birth story. When I sat down to start writing this post, I was blown away by how much of my labor I had already forgotten, the pain, the things I said, the things I heard. Yet, as I started writing, many of the memories flooded back, and I’m so glad that I have a chance to write them down before they go fully into the abyss that is my mama brain.

As a disclaimer, I’ll be including birth terms and probably some graphic imagery for those not acquainted with the birthing process, so if you’re not into that, I’d probably stop reading now ;).

A Birth Center Birth Story

My pregnancy with Charlie was a relatively easy one, at least compared to my first where I had bad morning sickness the first half and sciatica pain the second. With this pregnancy, I just had the usual nausea, heart burn, aches and pains, but nothing too crazy or out there.  The one thing that threw me for a loop was testing positive for Group B Strep– this meant that I would have to get to the birth center at least four hours early to get an infusion of antibiotics before I pushed the babe out. I was super worried about this as my first was born within 45 minutes of arriving at the birth center.  Spoiler alert: it ended up fine- but I was so worried as I “planned” out everything ahead of time.

I had my first birth experience at a birth center & midwife practice and chose to do the same with my second. A birth center is a really good option for low risk pregnancies in mamas who are striving for a natural birth. I love how supportive the environment is and how much the midwives and birth assistants take your desires into account throughout the whole pregnancy and into the hours you stay after the baby is born.

We had moved (twice!) in between and needed to find a new birth center, and we were not disappointed by our options in Tampa. The birth center that we chose had three midwives of whom I would have been excited to have any be present at our birth. As luck would have it, we ended up with the midwife I had only met once! I ended up really loving her, and she was a great fit for my style. Tony at one point said there was just a vibe of woman power that he didn’t really understand as she rocked on the bed with me. But more on that later.

In the last couple of weeks before Charlie was born, I started to have more and more Braxton Hicks contractions, and I knew things were starting to ramp up. We had felt we’d go early with my first, who was then 10 days late, so we tried not to get our hopes up on this one. With a hurricane going through north of us, it was possible that the pressure changes could make things go a little earlier than we had anticipated- or at least that’s what we were telling ourselves!

When I started feeling a weird pushing feeling on a Saturday morning around 38.5 weeks, I thought we should at least call the midwives.  While the midwife did not think labor was happening since there were no contractions, she said that she was more than willing to come in and check everything out if we wanted to go in. So we got a hold of one of our friends to watch Nora, packed up our things, and drove in. Like we had anticipated (since I didn’t really have strong contractions), I wasn’t really in labor, but I had progressed a tiny bit since my appointment earlier that week!

So things were starting to happen, but it could still be anywhere from that night to three weeks down the road.  In hindsight, the “pushing” sensations I had felt that morning were probably just Charlie moving further down the canal as he was sitting really low for the next couple days! After a non-stress test, just to make sure everything was good, and a quick membrane sweep, we were sent on our way.  We picked Nora up just in time for her nap, and went into the rest of our weekend looking up all of the different things we could do to get labor started. Nothing happened the rest of the day or the next, so we figured it wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

Monday evening, we took a family trip to Target to get some walking in and keep little Nora entertained. While we were walking around, I noticed that my contractions were starting to get stronger and actually timeable. I still doubted whether it was the real deal, but I was so worried about getting in soon enough to get those antibiotics that I was a little trigger happy. So again, we had our friend come over to stay with Nora after we got her to bed, and we headed back out to the birth center.

On our drive there, my contractions, of course, started to decrease, so I was worried that we were just going to be sent back home.  The midwife decided to at least get an infusion of antibiotics going just in case. Because I have tiny veins, even in pregnancy, this was almost worse than labor itself! After the veins not working in both of my arms, I ended up getting the antibiotics through my hand. She then swept my membranes again, and said that while my contractions were not super strong or together at this point, it was up to us whether or not we wanted to stay.

While we were making our decision, my contractions started to pick up and made the decision for us! The midwife said that this often happens when she gives the decision over to the parents. We brought our things from the exam room into the birth room that I had chosen ahead of time and settled in. I labored in the bed for awhile. At one point only an hour or so later, I felt pushing sensations and thought that that was quick and easy!  This ended up not being go time, and was probably Charlie moving down yet again.

Disappointed, I got up and walked around some to get contractions going harder again. This brought on some back labor which led me to trying the shower, the tub, and the funniest (yet most effective!) the toilet. The idea of a water birth is intriguing to me, and I wanted to try at least laboring in there for a little bit to see if it would help. In my interest, I forgot that I am not a fan of baths or even sitting in hot tubs. I recalled these facts as soon as I vomited the second I sat down in the tub. So back to dry land I went.

I was starting to get tired and nauseous from trying to get this baby out of my body and things didn’t seem to be progressing at the rate I wanted them to be. I was worried that they were going to send us back home at this point, but instead, the midwife suggested turning out the lights and letting us sleep in the bed as best as we could for awhile.  At this point, I remembered that we had packed a microwaveable heating pad similar to this one, and sent Tony to go warm it up to use on my back labor pains.  We laid down on the bed for awhile, and Tony slept, waking each time I nudged him to reheat up my pad.

I’m not sure if I slept at all or even how long this time was, but I could feel things starting to open up and mentally urged them to with each contraction.  It turns out that I am a very internal laborer and need dark, quiet time to progress, as this is very similar to what I did with my first labor! At some point morning hit, and the midwife came to check on how I was doing. Tony woke up and literally said, “Do you think they’re going to send us home since you’re not getting anywhere?” and I could have punched him, but kept it inside.

The midwife asked if I wanted her to see how much I had dilated over that time, and I don’t remember numbers, but I had made a lot of progress! She also said that the baby was riiiiight there and the only thing keeping him in was my bag of waters which had yet to break. She gave me the option to have my water broken or to keep going at it on my own, urging me toward the second as she didn’t think it would take very long. In this environment, I felt like having her break my water would be like admitting defeat (though I knew that it wasn’t!), so I decided to at least try on my own for awhile.

Back to the toilet I went, as I found that it was the best place to push in hopes of breaking my water- plus it would’ve held the mess! It was also the most painful place. Those 15-30 minutes were some of the longest of the entire labor. I finally bargained with myself that after two more contractions without my water breaking, I would just have her break it. The two contractions went by with no luck, so I got into the bed again to have her break my water.  She used a long poker thing to break my water, and it was such a feeling of relief.

Once the procedure was finished at 9:10am, I asked her what I was supposed to do next, and she said just to follow whatever my body was saying. I got on my hands and knees and started pushing. After only one or two pushes at 9:15am, he was out!  I don’t know who was more surprised, the midwife & assistant, me, or Tony who was still “in the south end” holding my hips. I quickly flipped around to grab our newly born baby boy and brought him to my chest.

The best thing about a birth center is that all of the “new” best practices of skin to skin following birth, delayed cord clamping, and the golden hour to prompt breastfeeding are standard practice. The midwife was also very excited to show us the placenta after it was birthed and seemed sad when we said we weren’t going to do anything with it.

During this golden hour, I realized that I had forgotten about all of those sweet little newborn sounds. I snuggled our little guy close and tried breastfeeding which he didn’t take to right away, but figured out about an hour or so later. He was born with a little bit of fuzz on his head that looked like it might be red (even after some of the blood was cleaned off!).  We didn’t have a name going into his labor, and still didn’t have a name at this point so we started throwing around some of our favorites.  I was slowly falling in love with this new little guy.

As we were getting acquainted with our newborn, the midwife and nurse checked my vitals and did the baby measurements they could do with him still on my chest. I only had a small tear that didn’t end up needing any stitches, so we were in pretty good shape. Eventually, the baby was weighed and measured all around, and even being a week early, he was a tiny bit bigger than his big sister had been! At 7lb, 8oz, and 19.5 inches, he wasn’t too little and wasn’t too big. What a perfect little baby!

At some point, we ordered in McDonald’s breakfast as my first post birth meal- a tradition we continued from Nora’s birth.  And, after getting a little food in and starting to feel up to walking around, we were getting antsy to go. The crazy thing about the birth center is that you go home 4-6 hours after you’ve delivered the baby. Because I’ve only done birth centers, I can’t imagine having to stay in the hospital for days before heading out! I was getting excited to get back home, see Nora, and get started on our life as a family of four. The nurse did our final check, I got changed, and put our little boy (still unnamed at the time) into his carseat and went out into the world for the first time, ready to come back for our check again in a couple days.

So there you have it, Charlie’s birth story! The hours, days, and honestly the last year have gone by in a blur. The adjustment to two kiddos has been really hard at times, but seeing their relationship grow has been such a blessing. This little boy is our “happy child” and it’s not often that he doesn’t have a smile on his face. I’ve learned so much in this past year, and I look forward to the many lessons I have yet to learn moving forward. I lucked out with a really great birth experience, and I hope that we’ll be just as blessed with any future babies. 

A Birth Center Birth Story

If you have any questions about birth centers, natural birth, or even the adjustment to two kiddos- send them my way! Either email me at holly@simplymamabird.com or reach out on Facebook or Instagram.  Before kiddos, I had been seriously considering going into women’s health and so all of this is my jam, and I love talking about it!  Look for Nora’s birth story when we celebrate her third birthday in February! 

For more information on Natural Birth, my favorite books are listed below with the first (Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth) being the only one I read in both pregnancies.

These books are Amazon Affiliate products and if you choose to purchase one, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Read More from Simply Mama Bird:

I’m Saying No Less to My Toddler- What I’m Saying Instead

Fostering a Love of Books from Early On

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The Seven Book Challenge- The Books that have Inspired, Challenged, and Encouraged Me

The Seven Book Challenge- The Books that have Inspired, Challenged, and Encouraged Me
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I was asked by one of my good friends to do the Seven Book Challenge that has been going around Facebook lately. The challenge is to post seven book covers over seven days without an explanation or review and then pass the torch onto the next friend.  It fosters a community of readers and introduces your friends to a new set of books.  I’m not usually one for these kind of Facebook challenges, but I do love sharing about books so I thought I’d give this one a go!

It was hard to narrow down the books I wanted to share to just seven. I decided to share the few that have been having an impact on me lately and a few that I’ve gone back to multiple times for inspiration. And because I didn’t want to stop at just sharing the covers, I thought I’d write a quick post for the blog, sharing my thoughts and reviews on these books.  I hope that you find one (or more) that will inspire you too! These are in no particular order, so scroll to find the ones that speak to you 🙂

The Seven Book Challenge

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. As an Amazon Associate, Simply Mama Bird makes a small commission off of any qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you! Thank you!

1) Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

I love the Martha and Mary story in the Bible. It’s the one story that calls me by name every time I hear it- it brings me a calmness that I don’t find many places. I read this book in college, and it helped bring everything into perspective for me. It was okay to be busy, to do all of the things, and to want perfection, even, but God had to always come first.  Weaver shares how having a “living room intimacy” with Jesus will logically lead to a “kitchen service.”  We’re called to a both/and, not an either/or.  We need to center our days around Jesus, and then allow that to change us. The book also emphasizes that while we often place our own value on how productive we are, our value is, instead, in being God’s child. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is such a good read for my heart, and I continue to find new nuggets of wisdom each time I read it. 

“Have you ever tried to do it all? I have, I do, and I probably always will. It’s not only in my nature; it’s also in my job description- and yours too. Being a woman requires more stamina, more creativity, and more wisdom than I ever dreamed as a young girl. And that’s not just true for today’s busy women. It has always been the case.” – Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

Read More: For All the Martha’s in the Back

2) No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

I just finished this parenting book recently, and I think it will be super helpful as I get more and more into the parenting trenches with our toddlers. The author’s focus is on parenting with a whole brain perspective. He shares that when a child is misbehaving, they are often reacting with their downstairs brain, defaulting to an irrational fight or flight response.  It is our job as parents to help them learn how to integrate their upstairs brain so that they may learn how to self regulate better in future situations.  My biggest takeaway from this book is the reframing of discipline as punishment to discipline as teaching. Discipline and boundaries are necessary. But, our goal is to connect, redirect, and then teach when the child is ready to learn, instead of pounding in a lesson in the midst of a chaotic moment.  If you’re at all interested in gentle parenting and the hows and why’s, this book is a great starting place!

“You’re probably not going to enjoy discipline, or look forward to future meltdowns. But when you realize that these “misbehavior moments” aren’t just miserable experiences to endure, but actually opportunities for knowledge and growth, you can reframe the whole experience and recognize it as a chance to build the brain and create something meaningful and significant in your child’s life.” -Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson, No-Drama Discipline

3) Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

This is the only book I read through again in my second pregnancy, and I will probably read through in any future ones as well. For anyone seeking a natural birth, this is the book to read. The first half is all birth stories, ranging from home birth to hospital birth.  The stories showcase the many ways that women react to labor and really puts a spotlight on some of the ways our current society medicalizes pregnancy and labor, rather than looking at it as a natural thing. The second half goes more into the details of the how’s and why’s of different labor choices and was super informative, especially as a first time mom.  What I love most about this book is that it empowers the woman in her pregnancy and labor to make the choices that are best for her and her body. Definitely a must read if you’re pregnant or at all interested in pregnancy and labor.

“What I mean by true capacities of the female body are those that are experienced by real women, whether or not these abilities are recognized by medical authorities. The way I see it, the most trustworthy knowledge about women’s bodies combines the best of what medical science has offered over the past century or two with what women have always been able to learn about themselves before birth moved into hospitals” – Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

4) Girl, Arise! by Claire Swinarski

Girl, Arise! is written by the creator of The Catholic Feminist Podcast (one of my favorites!). The tagline is “A Catholic Feminist’s Invitation to Live Boldly, Love Your Faith, and Change the World.” The phrase “Catholic Feminist” can sometimes seem like an oxymoron, and a lot of people wonder how these two things can come together what with the seeming disconnect between issues such as birth control, abortion, lack of women priests, and gay marriage. It all comes down to what your definition of a feminist is- Claire’s working definition is “to be a feminist is to believe that women are beautiful, unique, and equal in dignity to men.” The Catholic church is one that is focused on upholding the dignity of the person, so really, these phrases go hand in hand. I could probably talk all day about this issue, but I’ll save that for another time. This book is a great start to looking into what it means to be a Feminist and a Catholic, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone struggling with this dissonance.

“Pro-life should be more than a rallying cry; it should be more than a slogan on a bumper sticker or tank top. It should be more than abortion, capital punishment, and immigration. It isn’t a set of laws but a state of mind and heart- one that consistently puts people over profit and puts those people on equal footing. To be pro-life means to avoid wishing harm on others and to instead put them first.” – Claire Swinarski, Girl, Arise!

5) The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart

I raved about this book when I read it, and it had to make this list too. I had originally gotten this book from the library and ended up buying a copy so that I can read it again and/or share it with others.  In The Grace of Enough, Stewart shares how her family made the radical decision to leave their “normal” lives and move halfway across the country, away from extended family, to start a life doing an internship on a sustainable farm with no flushing toilets, all with three small kiddos. Through this journey, her family learned about slow living, sustainability, and hospitality, among other things, in a way they might not have otherwise. These are all ideas that I’d love to incorporate more into our lives, and so I am using this book as a reminder to not get caught up in the world. I want to instead focus on our family, those around us, and, most importantly, on Jesus. 

“But the heart of the matter is that our children will watch us. The most powerful antidote to the throwaway culture is when we model simplicity, hospitality, and generosity in “the domestic church.” In this school of love, the home, we aim to educate children in faith and charity so that they will not be taken in by the false promises of consumerism… My prayer is that someday my children will see something beautiful in our crazy experiment and the goodness of what we wanted to offer them.” – Haley Stewart, The Grace of Enough

6) Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery with the Saints

This book is set up as a daily devotional with each month focusing on a different virtue to grow in.  Each day has a quote from a saint and then a few stories of that saint or others living out the virtue that is being referenced. I have been using this book in my prayer time, allowing myself to skip to the day I’m on instead of trying to catch up.  Maybe some day, I’ll read them all!  The Lord has been using this book to really call me to growth in a lot of different areas. It makes me think deeper about what I’m doing and where I’m going and draws me closer to him in my prayer time.  If you’re looking for something to give more depth to your moral growth, this is the book for you! 

“When once we have placed ourselves totally in the hands of God, we have no cause to fear misfortune; for if any should come to us, He will know how to make it turn ot our good, by ways which we do not know now, but which, one day, we shall know- St. Vincent De Paul” – Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery with the Saints

7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

This book seems a little out of place among the others, but definitely belongs among my seven top books.  The Harry Potter series was such an important part of my adolescence and taught me so many life lessons that I hope to also pass onto my children through the books. The seventh, and final book, stood out to me as it was the end of an era. I had grown up with Harry and the gang, and it felt like the closing of a door when the last book was finally published. Even so, the books were something that I grew closer with friends and family through, and still do now (Tony and I literally quoted Harry Potter today).  The greatest thing about the books is that I can go back and reread them as if I am meeting again with old friends, even as an adult.

If you have not listened to the audio books of the Harry Potter series, I highly recommend them. The narrator does such a great job bringing the characters to life in the recordings. My family used them as road trip books, and the bond that we grew out of sharing Harry Potter together is really beautiful.  Check them out through Audible– you get a couple free audio books with a trial (and you get to keep them even if you quit)!

It was hard to pick one quote, so here are two 😉

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Dumbledore, JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” – Also Dumbledore, JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Seven Book Challenge

So there you have it, my seven book challenge! I’d love to hear what your seven books are. Maybe they’ve changed your life, they are inspiring you currently, or they are your go to old friends. Whatever they are, send them my way so that I can add them to my to-read list too!

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Self Care for the Mom that Thinks She Doesn’t Need It

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I am the literal worst at self care.  I have gone a week without a shower because “I couldn’t find the time.”  I am so bad at asking for help. Even worse, I am so bad at recognizing my own needs to even ask others for their help.  But I am working on taking better care of myself, and, Mama, you need to take care of yourself too.

How many times are we burning the wick at both ends? Giving all that we can on little sleep to all of the people that we can. This is exasperated for me by the fact that I’m an enneagram 2 (if you haven’t heard of the enneagram check out this podcast that introduced me to it- I’m obsessed). Being a 2 means that I’m a nurturer by nature. I tend to put others needs above my own, and I feel needy or selfish when I ask for something that benefits me. 

This isn’t an inherently bad thing, but lately it has been catching up with me. As a stay at home mom to two littles under the age of three, I feel like I always have to be on. I need to kiss the owies, make the mac and cheese, and be present at all times. Or so I feel. What often gets neglected is my care for myself.  Last week, we were quarantined in the house for the full week due to a weird virus, and I’m learning that not being able to leave the house sets off some triggers for me. My mental health took a nice little dive on, ironically, World Mental Health Day. 

Luckily, I’m starting to understand the things I need to do to reset myself, to reinvest in myself, and to pull myself back together.  My dips in mental health aren’t too bad. But I do need to watch myself and make sure I don’t allow myself to get to an unhealthy place. Mama, you need to watch yourself too. This list is for the mamas like me, the ones who forget that you need to take time for self care too.  If for no other reason than it will help you be more present for your children (for those of you who need an external reason like me 😉 ). 

Self Care for the Mama Who Thinks She Doesn't Need It

1) Take a Shower

Like I said, I’ve been known to put off showers for faaaaar too long because who has time for that?  I have time for that. I just don’t allow my time to be used for that. It’s funny because so often I dread taking the time to take a shower, to have that time to myself, and then once I’m in, I don’t want to get out. Sometimes, all it takes to reset is to get right back to the basics. 

Take a shower. Shave your legs. Put on some nice lotion. Brush your teeth. Put on some real clothes.  It’s crazy how taking just that little amount of time to do something so basic, can allow you a whole new outlook on the other side.  And when I say take a shower, I mean a shower alone- not one with your kiddos right outside the door! Figure out what needs to happen for this to happen and do it (at least once a week 😉 ).

2) Do something that’s fun for you

One of the funniest questions I think gets posed to mothers is “what are your hobbies?” I’m a mom, I don’t have time for hobbies!  Like I said, I barely have time to shower! But, I do think it’s so important for us to have something that we do for ourselves, something that makes us feel like the full grown human that we are.  Whether that’s reading, sewing, running, or whatever else floats your boat, find that thing that makes you smile for yourself again. Something that you look forward to picking up again.

Personally, I’ve been getting into reading again, and it’s been such a good form of self care for myself.  Not only have I been able to escape my daily life by diving into good books, I’ve also been able to work my brain a little bit. I have things to talk about with real live humans! This blog has been a really good hobby for me as well- something creative that I’m doing for myself. Maybe you can’t devote time to a hobby every day, but maybe you can once or twice a week.  By starting small, you can find that thing that brings you life and fills your spirit up so that you can go out and be present for others again.

3) Get some quiet time

As a mom, I get it, finding quiet time in your day is easier said than done! What is quiet, even!? I’ve discovered that I desperately need to have at least a small pocket of quiet time everyday for my own sanity. I try to structure my kiddo’s naps and bedtimes in a way that I can ensure that. When kiddo sleep gets out of whack, I tend to get a little freaked out and worry about when my next moment of quiet will come. Maybe this is a Holly thing or an introvert thing, but I don’t think it is completely.  

We all need a little time to sit with just ourselves and allow the quiet to sweep over. For me that often looks like getting my prayer time in during the (hopefully) overlapping nap times for my kids. For you, it might be waking up earlier than the kids to meditate or it might be sitting in a room with noise canceling headphones on for five minutes while your kiddos play by themselves in a safe space. I’m finding that no matter what it is, I need to use this time to unplug from everything around me and just be (no cell phone allowed).  If you’re like me and need this time desperately, talk to the people in your life and figure out a way to get it. 

4) Get out of the house alone

This is another one that is easier said than done for a lot of moms. As I’ve gotten further into my staying at home journey, I’ve found that finding times that I can get out of the house alone is another thing that I need to incorporate into my self care routine in order to be a better mom.  By taking time by myself away from my kiddos, I’m able to come back to them and appreciate them more. I’ve been trying to get a couple hours each weekend, and it has truly been lifegiving.

If you’re having a hard time getting out of the house by yourself right now, start thinking of strategies that will help you get there.  Actually take up that friend who says she’ll watch your children. Ask your husband to take the kids for the afternoon on the weekend. See what family could help you get that time out.  Or even hire a babysitter for a couple hours. People will help you out- you just need to ask. And once you do get out of the house- do something that fills you up (not just errands!) My first couple outings by myself were simply going to a coffee shop and coloring in an adult coloring book for an hour. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just do something for you.

5) Talk to someone who cares about you

Find your tribe of people that you can turn to to help build you up.  Whether it’s your husband, your mom, or your best friend, find time to chat with them. And when you do, be honest when they ask how you are. They know that you love your children more than anything in the world. They also know that they love you and want the best for you, outside of being a mom. Let them push you into doing something for yourself when they see you wavering. 

If you feel like you don’t have someone to talk to, reach out. Find a good mom’s group, either in person or on the internet. Message someone that you used to be really close to- see what they’re up to, be vulnerable with them if it seems right. Reach out to me- my inbox is always ready for you (I am a 2 after all!) In today’s time of isolation, reach out and find those people who will listen to you and who will push you to be the best version of yourself, which includes taking the time for your own self care.

Self Care for the Mama Who Thinks She Doesn't Need It

Your needs are important, Mama.  You can’t pour from an empty glass, so find what fills your glass and do more of that.  Give yourself grace to have bad days, but don’t let yourself dwell in them. Find your strategies to pull yourself back up and allow others around you to help you. Allow yourself to be nurtured and cared for. If not for you, for the benefit of those around you.  Know that I’m speaking to myself too, and I’m on this journey with you. With that being said, I’d love to hear your basic self care tips- let me know what yours are by dropping a comment below or chatting with me on Instagram or Facebook! I can’t wait to have you as part of my tribe <3

Read More: 7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

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Embrace the Fall When It Still Feels like Summer

Embrace the Fall When It Still Feels like Summer
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This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. As an Amazon Associate, Simply Mama Bird receives a small commission from qualifying purchases. Thank You!

I am having a big case of Fall FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) this year.  As a girl born and raised in Wisconsin, being in Florida during the fall is just awful.  I want the brisk days, leggings and sweaters, and the changing of the leaves. This is our second fall in Florida, and I don’t remember my longing for all things autumn being this bad last year.  That could definitely be because I was mega pregnant and then had a newborn mid October, though. This year, I am feeling it full force, so I am figuring out how to embrace fall when it still feels like summer.

I don’t know what it is about seasons that people just really flock to.  I think as humans, we like the chance to shake things up, to reorganize our lives, to start things over, and fall provides just that.  It has really been getting a cult following lately- maybe it was this way before too, but as I’ve become an adult it seems like people don’t just love fall- they LOVE it.  They like the leggings and scarves, the pumpkin spice everything, all of the fall activities, and, of course, the plethora of Instagram picture opportunities. I also think part of the reason people love fall is that it satisfies all of our senses- there are so many things to see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. 

Plus, it’s the beginning of the holiday season and so many different family traditions. I’m starting to realize I’m a tad nostalgic and love tradition.  I want to get our pumpkins, put up our decorations, and bake all of the things just like I did as a child. And I’m excited to do these things with my children.  Luckily, even amidst these 80 degree days, I’m able to embrace the fall when it still feels like summer.  It just takes being a little more intentional than walking outside our front door.  Here are some of the ideas and activities we’re looking forward to this year!

Embrace the Fall When It Still Feels like Summer

Decorating for Fall When It Feels like Summer

I’ve been slacking hardcore on decorations this year.  I think I just skipped the month of September between our hurricane scare and then a stomach bug hitting our children. We have very minimal fall decorations up (and I just put them up this past Friday!). Part of that is probably because we don’t have many fall decorations stocked up to begin with.  We’re trying to be intentional about the pieces we bring into our home and not just putting up junk. Plus, we need to have decorations that we’re either okay with the kids destroying or that they can’t destroy. Between these two qualifications, we have very little in way of fall decorations (or really decorations at all #toddlerlife).  

Being in Florida, where the leaves outside are still as green as the summer, we need to put up something as a visible reminder that the time of year is changing. I love these window clings as they make me feel like maybe the leaves outside are different colors- it’s all about self deception 😉 .  We also have a couple of little fall signs hanging around the house, and we’ll get some pumpkins/gourds later this month to use as decorations.  Whatever we can do to bring a little fall spirit to our household helps!

Fall Crafts & Activities for the Kids

I’m not usually a crafty mom, but there is something about this fall that is getting me inspired.  My toddler, Nora, is just getting to the age where we can do some more crafty things. The other day, we went on a “scavenger hunt” around our apartment complex.  While we don’t have leaves of many different colors, there were some dead leaves on the ground that I could pretend were fall leaves. We also picked up some flowers, sticks, rocks, and grasses on our adventure.  The next day, Nora and I made a little collage with all of our findings. It actually turned out pretty cool- and then after keeping it around for a couple days, we returned the items back to the outdoors (the best kind of project!). 

We also tried doing some pumpkin paper plate crafts the other day.  It was pretty simple- just some paper plates and some paint and I left her to it.  We had a pretty pink and blue “pumpkin” at the end- I’m all about that toddler creativity haha! We’ll probably do a couple more as I get ambitious throughout the next couple weeks 😉 . The nice thing about these kind of crafts is that they can double for decorations- and it’s okay if they get destroyed! 

Eat All of the Fall Foods

Fall has sooooo many good foods and flavors associated with it! Between pumpkins, apples, squash, zucchinis, and sweet potatoes, I don’t know where you can go wrong.  My husband is a fuddy dud and doesn’t like pumpkin (who doesn’t like pumpkin!?), so I’m having to make pumpkin sweets just for myself and the kids.  I guess I shouldn’t complain, though, more for me!  I asked my friend for her pumpkin cookie recipe she made all the time in college and they hit the spot. Plus, pumpkin is technically healthy, right?

We’ve also been eating our fair share of apples since they’ve come into season.  I’m hoping to find some good zucchinis and other fall squashes to make some good ole fall recipes in the next months. There really is something special about making foods to fit the seasons. I tend to feel with my stomach and love others by baking and cooking- especially sweets- so this time of year just calls to me. Send me your favorite fall recipes- sweets or meals. I’m just starting to figure out what my go-to’s are going to be as my kiddos grow. What we’ve made so far has definitely helped bring the fall into our household.

Embrace the Fall when It Still Feels Like Summer

Seek Out Fall Events- Even when it still feels like summer!

I Googled where to get pumpkins the other day, and I was astounded by all of the options that we have- places I didn’t even know existed!  A lot of the churches down here will have a hosted “pumpkin patch” and there are a couple different farmers markets we might look into to hit up for our fall harvest foods.  We’re not lacking for children’s fall activities either.  Especially as Halloween approaches, there are an abundance of children’s fall festivals and trick or treat opportunities throughout the city.

If you’re looking for fall activities in your area, do a quick Google search of your area.  I’ve actually had even better luck looking through Facebook- searching for fall activities in your area could present multiple different options for your family to enjoy! One we’re looking forward to trying out in our area is actually right down the street from us- a place that has a little petting farm, pumpkin patch, and other activities for kiddos. There are so many fun things to get out and do in our communities during this time of year- even if we’re still wearing our shorts and sandals! 

Bring on the Fall Smells

I am not a fragrance person usually- my husband is the candle lover in our family.  But man, I have been loving our apple candle the last few days! It’s been creating a cozy atmosphere in our house. I’m thinking we might need to stock up on some fall smelling candles this year (and then maybe some winter ones- I’ll keep you posted!).  I know there are some people who will make something called stovetop potpourri where they have a boiling pot with different fall smelling foods like apples and spices or whatnot- what a fun idea! (Though maybe that’d heat up our house more than we want?)

Whether it’s a candle, stovetop potpourri, essential oils, or just a fall air freshener, adding a little bit of fall fragrance to the air helps create a new atmosphere.  I think there truly is something about fall appealing to all of our senses, especially smell.  There’s a distinct smell to fall up north that can’t quite be captured in a candle. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to add a little something into the air to remind us of the fall season even when it still feels like summer.

Embrace the Fall When It Still Feels Like Summer

Get that Fall Reading On

If you’re a follower of the blog, you know we love our books around here. When I was looking for our long lost fall decorations earlier this week, I found our stash of fall children’s books too! I had forgotten we had so many- I had found a smaller stash a month or so ago and thought that’s all we had. I don’t know who was more excited- Nora or me! It’s been fun reading these books that have been put away for awhile, and Charlie is getting into them too. A few of our favorites from our stack are shown below- My one year old is a BIG fan of the Don’t Push the Button books, and my toddler is all about the Where’s Boo series of board books (there’s Christmas and Valentine’s Day too!)

This year has forced us to embrace the fall when it still feels like summer.  And I’m kind of glad it has.  We’re learning which traditions are important to us and which activities we want to be a part of our family culture.  We’ve had to be intentional about bringing the fall spirit into our home. And there have been benefits to it still being warm- we don’t have to bundle up the kids on our way out of the house to our different activities for one!  While we look forward to spending next fall actually experiencing fall (we hope!), this year has showed us how to embrace the fall when it still feels like summer.

What fall activities do you enjoy doing with your family? Whether you’re actually experiencing the fall season change or simply embracing the fall when it still feels like summer like us, I’d love to hear what’s on your fall bucket list this year! Let me know by commenting below or chatting with us on Facebook or Instagram.  I’m looking forward to hearing what your family loves 🙂

 

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Motherhood Will Make Me a Saint

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Brick House in the City posted a story on their social media accounts last week that rocked me. It told of how a young St. Therese would call out “Mama!” as she went down each step and would wait for her mother’s reply before going down another step. Each step she would call out, and each step her mother would call tenderly, “Yes, my child.” And so it went as she went down the stairs.

Shoot, guys, I would’ve lost it! Can you imagine the patience it would take to call out “Yes, my child” on Every. Single. Step.  I get so upset when Nora won’t go up a full set of stairs without any recognition. We’re going through a phase where she wants to be carried everywhere- especially up the stairs. So this particular story called directly to my heart. I try to convince my sweet toddler to come up the steps by herself with patience, kindness, and most of the time, I just carry her if she’s really insisting.  But, other times, I yell, or leave her crying because I have to set down the million other things I am carrying up the stairs (including her actually can’t go up the stairs by himself little brother).  In these moments, I know that God is doing His sanctifying work in me.

What Would St. Zelie Do?

I wonder if St. Zelie had this internal struggle with little Therese.  She knew it was best to be patient and encourage her little girl, but maybe sometimes she just wanted to yell “Therese, come on! Just come down the stairs already!” But her response with patience and love is probably part of the reason St. Zelie came to be recognized as a saint- she had the patience of a saint, as they say.  There are other stories of how little St. Therese tested her mother’s patience. I wonder if, really, having her little girl being as testing as she was led St. Zelie to her sanctity. If by offering up her tendencies to impatience or anger, she was able to grow closer to God.   I would bet you that her journey in motherhood made her a saint.

I want to be a saint like St. Zelie too. While this sounds a little high and mighty, a saint is really just someone who has gone to heaven, someone who is fully in the presence of God. We have “canonized” saints in the Catholic church- these are people who have obviously followed God in their time alive and then have had two miracles proven in their name (plus a bunch of other logistical steps). We have a lot of them- a lot of men and women, like St. Zelie, to look to as an example of what it means to follow Jesus.  But, there are (I hope!) so many more saints than the ones that we have canonized, and I hope to be a part of this community someday.  

Motherhood will Make Me a Saint

Motherhood Will Make Me A Saint

I think motherhood is proving to be my quickest path to get there. The day in and day out of toddler tantrums, dirty diapers, and night wakings are doing their work in me. (And we’re not even to the teenage years yet!)  I believe God is using these little moments with my kiddos to draw me closer to Him, though I don’t always see it that way. It’s in the moments we see the face of Jesus in our children that we are being sanctified.

“He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me'” Matthew 25:45

I fail at this often.  I don’t always (or ever!) respond with the sweet patience that St. Zelie responded with to her little Therese.  Instead, I get frustrated and yell. I complain to my husband. I stop being present with my kiddos. I don’t treat every little toddler or baby suffering as an act for God. Every little task of motherhood seems so menial and not worth it, everything is always undone.

But, sometimes, I do respond with patience. I give that extra hug and snuggle instead of yelling.  I swallow my complaints and smile through it.  Sometimes, I work a little harder to be more present. Sometimes I remember to “offer it up,” to see Jesus in the face of my children. I embrace the “littleness” of motherhood as my journey to heaven.

And in these moments, I feel God smiling, saying “I see you. You’re doing a great job. Keep it up!” You see, God doesn’t need us to be perfect.  He simply wants us to be love to those around us- especially to those little beings that he’s entrusted us with. He wants us to try our best every day. Even more importantly, He wants us to call on Him in prayer when we’re not doing so hot. 

Prayer in Motherhood

It’s ironic because I am both drawn away from prayer and to prayer as a mother.  I often feel like I don’t have any pockets of time in my day to give to God. Or I don’t have a moment of silence in my day. I feel like I can’t do more than five minutes, so why even start? Or, like a couple days ago, I close my eyes to pray and immediately fall asleep. 

But at the same time, Jesus is calling to my heart. He asks me to spend that time- as little or “unproductive” as it may be. He calms my heart and shows me the next steps. Even in those days where all I get out are a morning offering– He blesses my day. He gives me the patience that I need. And even better, when I’m not the mom that I want to be that day, He takes me into His loving arms and reassures me that tomorrow is another day. I get the chance to rest and reset. 

Motherhood Will Make Me a Saint

Motherhood Will Make Me a Saint

Motherhood is strengthening me in all of the different virtues, ones I knew I needed help in and others I thought I had covered. I was made to be a mother, and, yet, I am challenged every day. This motherhood thing is pushing me to rely on God so much more than I ever thought I would need to.  As I’ve been praying the St. Therese of Lisieux Novena the past week, this litany of words from it has been convicting me, especially when I apply it in terms of motherhood. I hope that they’ll call on your heart too.  Join me in the journey to being a saint- whether motherhood is making you a saint, or something else, we’re all called to the journey. Pray for me, as I’ll pray for you.

I love your people, Lord. Help me to love them more!

I reflect you to the world, Lord. Help me to reflect you more clearly!

I rely on you, Lord. Help me to rely on you more!

I accept your will, Lord. Help me to accept your will every day!

I try to forgive, Lord. Help me to forgive 70 times 7 times!

I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!

I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!

I trust you, Lord. Help me to trust you more!

I love you, Lord. Help me to love you more!

 

Read More From Simply Mama Bird:

Mother Teresa on How Love Can Change the World 

7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

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Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids Will Love

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This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. As an Amazon Associate, Simply Mama Bird receives a small commission from qualifying purchases. Thank You!

It’s been a long, hot, and rainy summer in sunny Florida. We’ve been spending a lot more time inside in the air conditioning than I’d like to admit. Luckily, my kids don’t seem to mind too much.  As I wrote about in my last post, I sometimes have a hard time remaining present with my kiddos. I also really enjoy and try to prioritize having playtime with my children. Given this, I’ve had to find activities that both my kids and I enjoy so that I can remain present with them. It’s taken some time and experimentation to figure out what these are – and they definitely change from time to time. 

Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids Will LoveRead More: 7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

Right now, we’re keeping our playtime pretty basic.  We’ve tried a lot of different activities and have bought and been gifted many different toys.  The activities that I’ve listed are ones that we keep coming back to.  Plus, they’re ones that I don’t get bored of too easily- which makes a big deal! As the seasons change in our hometowns up north, I know many of you will be looking for good indoor activities in those cold winter months. Hopefully some of these will also be basic, but fun activities that both you and your kids will love.

1) Reading

Reading is one of our favorite pastimes in the Bird household. Both my husband and I are big readers, and it’s something that we want to pass onto our children. Luckily they seem to have caught the reading bug! Because reading is something both the kiddos and I enjoy, it’s an easy redirect from any activity that I keep looking at my phone during.  I like to let my toddler pick out which books she wants to read and then huddle up on the couch for awhile. My 11mo will beebop around the room while we read, or sometimes he’ll hunker down with us for a chunk of time.  He’s just getting to the point that he’ll also sit down to several good board books as well. Some of the ones that have been keeping his attention lately are:

Read More: Fostering a Love of Books from an Early On

2) Painting

My toddler never says no to painting. While this is an activity that requires a little more work on my part, I also find that I really enjoy crafting and, therefore, stay more present during this type of activity. I’m not really a Pinterest mom and haven’t pulled any special looking crafts off yet. Instead, I just set her up with a “palette” of paint, some paper, a cup of water, and a variety of paintbrushes, and she goes to town. I keep it easy on me and fun for her. I haven’t attempted any painting with my 11mo but I might try out this edible paints recipe soon! With my toddler, I’m a big fan of the washable paints linked below (they come out of her clothes when she inevitably gets some on them). We usually will just use pages out of coloring books or some printer paper we have laying around to keep it really easy. Some of her works of art we save and send to family and others go straight to the recycling bin when they dry!

3) Play-Doh

Play-Doh is another activity that my toddler enjoys that I also enjoy.  This is also a really good activity when I need to do some things around the house! I enjoy playing with it too, so I end up joining in at some point.  She received some Play-Doh tools and cutters as a gift last Christmas, and we’ve been putting them to good use recently.  At some point, a bunch of small dinosaurs from the Dollar Store also ended up with the Play-Doh, and now it’s a joint activity with them being her main characters.  We can spend a good chunk of time making different animals, creating a scene, or just rolling it creating “green beans.” Awhile back, I made this edible playdough recipe that I need to make some more of soon so that Charlie can start playing with us too! 

4) Kitchen Pretend Play

I enjoy doing pretend play when it’s more modeled after real life.  My husband is much better at creating crazy scenes and playing them out with the kids, but I’m just not there yet. Instead, I like to do real life pretend things like cooking in their play kitchen and having a picnic with their picnic things. For awhile, my toddler was doing cupcake parties for all of her stuffed animals and it was so sweet. I just had to sit back and “eat” cupcakes while she did all of the work- my favorite kind of play! My 11mo also is very into our toy kitchen, though it’s mostly to just pull things out of it and slam the doors. Either way, it’s been a really good addition to our play and an activity that both the kids and I enjoy. It looks like the set of food we got isn’t available anymore, but I really like the quality of the Learning Resources Brand listed below. I’ve also added a bunch of old utensils and dishes from our kitchen that we weren’t using anymore!

5) Musical Instruments

Some days I curse myself for getting musical instruments for the kids and some days I thank myself. Lately, it’s been more of the latter.  My youngest is really into music, so it’s been really fun to watch him experiment with making different sounds with the shakers or to try to hit the hammer on the xylophone.  He also is very into singing “Ah” into containers, so we’ve included some random ones in our musical instrument bin. My toddler also loves them and will hand one out to everyone in the family (plus some stuffed animal friends) to play a song together- usually the ABC’s of which she sings. Other times, we’ll turn on some music and play along with it. It’s a really fun activity to watch and be a part of with my kiddos.

6) Practicing New Motor Skills

This is one of my biggest go to’s right now, as my little guy is riiiiight on the edge of walking. We’ve been having a lot of fun coaxing him to walk toward us. I’m a big fan of the milestones, so if we’re on the edge of one, I’m way better at remaining present and wanting to catch every movement. It’s also a fun thing to get my toddler to be a part of.  She has been saying “Come Here, Charlie” whenever we want him to crawl back to us (especially when he’s running away during a diaper change). Now, she’s learned to say that when I’m trying to get him to walk off the couch to me. She’s very excited for him to start walking so that they can play more together! We’ve done this at every stage- including the toddler’s jumping and spinning which she’s a big fan of now!

7) Puzzles

My toddler had a span where she was very very into puzzles. I think we overdid the ones we had, so she’s been out of them for a little bit.  I’m thinking about rotating some back in this week though! Puzzles are definitely an activity that I can get behind, as I love to do them myself. Sometimes, it can be frustrating to not be able to hop right in and help her. Or she gets sick of it halfway through, and pieces get scattered everywhere. Even so, I love to watch her little brain work as she figures out how the pieces fit together.  We also have a Melissa and Doug knob puzzle that my little guy likes to pull all of the pieces out of, and, if I’m lucky, the toddler will put them back in!

8) Blocks

Blocks have been a great activity for both my little guy and my toddler lately. Both of them LOVE to knock over towers. My toddler will sometimes spend a good chunk of time building a tower and then knock it over either herself or with her Godzilla stuffed toy her daddy got her. My son will make a beeline for any tower he sees as he is all about destruction right now.  I enjoy making semi-elaborate towers- if I get a chance to get them high enough- so it’s a fun activity for both the kids and I.  We’ve been really into our wood blocks recently (the same ones I had as a kid!), but we’ve also had spans of time that my toddler has enjoyed playing with the Mega Blocks (or color blocks as she calls them).  I’m thinking about looking into either Duplos or Magnatiles for our toddler’s Christmas present this year to add to our building supplies!

These are just some of the activities that both the kids and I are enjoying right now.  There are obviously so many more that I could list!  As they change developmentally, the activities and toys that they are interested keep changing, but these are the basic ones that we keep coming back to again and again.  I’d love to hear about any activities that both you and your kids enjoy!  Comment below or chat with us on Facebook or Instagram

Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids Will Enjoy

Read More: Yes Spaces- Why are they important? 

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7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, we may receive a small commission through qualifying purchases. Thank you 🙂

How many times do we hear “Mama, come play with me” or “Mama, look at this” and respond with “not right now, honey” or “after I do this”? I know I do it so many times every day.  I am always putting other activities in front of being present with my kiddos. Sometimes it’s things that have to be done, like changing a diaper or getting dinner on the table. But so often, it’s something that doesn’t need to be taking my attention.  Whether it’s scrolling through Facebook, doing the laundry, or whatever other thing is distracting me at the moment, it’s not nearly as important as being a more present mom to my kiddos. 

I’m blessed to be staying at home with my kids in this season of life, and so I spend a lot of time with them.  Even so, a lot of that time, I’m not being fully present with them. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s good to let children self entertain and learn how to play on their own. It’s good to take the time to clean up after a meal or send a text out to a friend. And it’s good to have time away, focusing on “mama” things. But our kids need us, they need our attention and our interest in the things they’re interested in. Even if it’s a quick moment of connection amidst a busy day, these moments of connection are what our children crave and thrive on.

7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom

I fail in little (and big) ways every day in this journey to being more present.  My goal is that when my kids look back, they will remember me as a mom who loved them with all her heart and gave them the attention they needed. Not as the “wait until I’m done with ____” mom that I so often am right now. The following ideas are some of the things I’ve been trying on my journey to being a more present mom. Some I try to do every day, others every once in awhile.  See if there are any that will help you, too, on your journey to being more present with your children.

1) Put the phone down

Our phones are so addicting- between starting up this blog, keeping up with social media, and reading whatever funny article some acquaintance from high school posted, I feel like I’m always on it. I’ve started to put limits on myself- I can only have it when the kids are sleeping or eating, I keep it on the kitchen counter, or I can do this one task but then it goes away.  Find what works for you to put the phone down and be present with those in front of you. It’s okay to indulge every once in awhile, but we don’t want our kids thinking we love our phone more than we love them. 

2) Do activities you enjoy

I am way better at being a more present mom with my kids when we are doing something that I enjoy doing.  I love reading to my kids, so I try to incorporate that somewhere every day. Puzzles and painting are also go to’s for me as Nora has gotten older.  When I’m excited about something she’s doing, she gets even more excited to share it with me. Experiment with different games, toys, and activities to see what you enjoy doing. Do more of that!

Read More: Fun Indoor Activities that Both You and Your Kids will Love

                 

3) Invest in yourself

I am such a better mom when my cup is full. That is, when I take time for myself away from the kids, when I have some bit of quiet in the day. By putting myself first sometimes and taking the time I need, I’m able to come back refreshed and ready to take on tantrums and messes with a little more patience and a lot more love.  Sometimes that’s as easy as taking a shower (with no kids in the bathroom!) and sometimes, I need my husband to watch the kids while I go to Starbucks or the library. Whether it’s taking time to pray or have quiet in the morning, getting a workout in during naptime, or just simply taking a nice shower, find that thing that fills your cup and take the time to invest in yourself.

Read More: Self Care for the Mom That Thinks She Doesn’t Need It 

4) Include kids in household chores

I get so distracted from my kids when the house is a mess. I’m either away cleaning it or thinking about all of the things I need to do when I’m trying to play with them. By incorporating them in tasks like cooking, laundry, or sweeping, I’m able to practice being a more present mom to my kids while also getting the things I need to get done done. Sometimes this means it takes a little bit longer to get a task done, but so often they enjoy being a part of the process. Invite your little ones to do your to do list with you- you might be surprised at what they’re able to do!   

5) Turn up the music

I’m learning that putting on some music and having a dance party (or as Nora is starting to call them- talent shows) is one of the best things to reset my brain and prompt my being more present.  There’s something about dancing with my kiddos that adds a little extra joy to my day. Nora is starting to sing along to different songs and Charlie is a dancing machine, so it’s been really fun to share these times together.  Whether it’s “mama” music, old classics, or Toddler Radio on Pandora (my go to), put on some music and see what happens.

6) Get out of the house

I am such a better mom when we leave the house. When we’re at home, I have the dishes and laundry beckoning me, my phone is in easy reach, and I get bored of playing the same old games. Enter outings! Whether it’s something simple like going to the grocery store, or a bigger outing like going to the zoo, I’m able to disconnect from all of the things waiting for me at home, and just be present with my kiddos. Find those places that bring you joy, and include them in your weekly routine. Or if you’re having a bad day, just take that spontaneous trip to the park! Sometimes all we need is a good reset and getting out of the house does just that, allowing you to be a more present mom.

7) Soak in the hugs and snuggles 

My kiddos are still little, so they still enjoy getting mama snuggles. Sometimes all that I need to do to make a little one happy is pull them into my lap and spend some time snuggling and talking or reading a book.  By having that loving physical contact, we’re able to say to our kids that they matter without having to say it at all. Plus snuggling is good for our children’s and our own well-being.  We release oxytocin when we cuddle, which leads to happy feelings and bonding. So take some time to snuggle with your little ones today, if only for a couple minutes.

7 Easy Ways to Start Being a More Present Mom Today

The cliche is so true- kids grow big so fast. I want to make sure my children feel loved during the time that I’m blessed to have them. By being a more present mom, I hope to be their person when they need to talk, to be the one they turn to when they need a hug or some extra snuggles, and to be who they call whenever they’re in trouble. I’m starting on this journey now, and I hope that you’ll come along with me.  Let me know what you do to be more present with your kids by leaving a comment below or by chatting with us on Facebook or Instagram

Keep Reading: I’m Saying No Less to my Toddler- What I’m Saying Instead

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