It’s Time to Put Down My Phone and Stop the Scroll

It’s Time to Put Down My Phone and Stop the Scroll
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I kept wanting to write up how my Break Up With Your Phone Challenge went, but it never flowed the way I wanted it to.  And now, with the craziness that is the world and our personal lives right now, I feel like I’ve completely undone the work that was detoxing from my phone.  Last week, I spent on average just under 5 hours a day on my phone, with almost 7 hours on Sunday- yikes! And my anxiety at the end of each day was there to show for it.  

It is so easy to get dragged into the scroll of social media and news headlines in general, and it’s almost impossible to get out of it right now following this crazy Covid-19 pandemic.  Between that and the fact that *spoiler alert* we’re planning to move back to Minneapolis in the very near future, I’ve been trying to “take control” by getting all of the information possible so that we can make all of the right decisions.  But at the end of the day, the time on my phone has been taking me away from peace and leading me right into anxiety. While I may have *some* answers to my questions, and it is good to know what’s going on in the world, diving too deep into the details is only going to lead to a downward spiral that nobody needs. 

Luckily, I have the tools from my phone break up to navigate this crisis without diving too deep into the screen abyss. Hopefully, by sharing some of what I’m going to attempt to get myself back on track, you may be able to break away from your phone or whatever screen you’re also doing the scroll from, and we can refocus on what is happening right in front of us that we can actually control. 

Set Those App Timers

The thing that has helped me most so far (at least before the world got crazy) is setting timers on certain apps so that I can only spend so much time a day on each.  I’m able to do this through a Digital Wellbeing setting already in my phone, but there are also many apps that you can download to help with this.  While it is shocking many days to go in and see how much time I’m spending on certain apps, it’s important in taking control of that time again.  I’ve been able to stick to my less than 30 min each on Facebook and Instagram (especially with only being able to be on them after 7pm due to my Lenten fast!), but I think I’m going to need to add timers or a block on my CNN news app and my Chrome search engine since those are my biggest time wasters the last few days! 

To help with my social media Lent fast, I’ve also downloaded an app called Block in which I can create blocks of time in which I’m not even able to open up different apps during that time.  This has been super helpful in that I don’t even have the option to screw up- unless I check through my browser which I’m really doing my best not to do! By setting up my phone for success, I am able to be more intentional with my time, and actually do what I want to do in my social media rather than get sucked too far in.

Get Your Phone Out of the Bedroom (And the Dining Room!)

Setting up physical boundaries was one of the earlier steps in my phone detox challenge- starting with moving where you charge your phone.  I used to charge my phone right next to my bed so it was the last thing I did before the lights went out and the first thing I did when I woke up.  At first when I moved where I charged it, I tried to do it at our kitchen counter.  However, the way that our space is laid out, it was right within reach of my spot at our dining room table, so I ended up spending mealtimes that were just me and the kids on my phone rather than paying attention to them. 

Instead, I’ve started charging it in the bathroom overnight. I can check it for anything I might’ve missed (which is usually nothing), but then I try to leave it where it is for as long as I can instead of taking it around the house with me.  Throughout the past couple weeks, I’ve gotten back in the habit of using it during kid mealtimes, so I’m going to have to find a new physical place for it to live during those times so that I’m not tempted to use it then!  While this might seem like a good time to check out, I get super ornery with them when they’re “distracting” me from my phone, and that’s not allowing me to be the kind of mom I want to be. 

I might also try to take the physical boundaries a step further in the coming days and give my phone a “bedtime” and “wake-up time” as the How to Break Up With Your Phone book suggests.  That way, I get some wind down time at the end of the night that doesn’t include my phone, and I don’t have to start my day with yet another anxiety-inducing headline. 

Turn to Activities Other than Your Phone

During my phone breakup, I put together this list of activities that I could do rather than my phone.  For me, these are things like reading, making time for prayer, and sudoku puzzles, among others. I’ve been able to incorporate a few of these activities pretty well, but I haven’t been as great at setting myself up for success as I started out.  I’ve found that if I want to read during the day rather than be on my phone, I need to have the book that I want to read in my normal sitting spots and not stashed away somewhere.  Apparently, I’m too lazy to get my book from my bedroom when I’m in the living room, so I might as well just hang out on my phone instead. 

What has surprised me most with having activities that aren’t my phone while the kids are playing is that they will self-entertain much longer if I’m reading my book or Bible on the couch than if I’m on my phone.  The same happened when I was in a habit of doing yoga during Charlie’s nap/Nora’s quiet time- Nora would play around me with little interruptions compared to if I was just hanging out on my phone, expecting her to play. So if nothing else, finding something that you can do other than your phone *may* help your kids play by themselves longer.

I also need to find good activities that I can do with my kids that also keep me entertained- and in writing this sentence, I remembered that I wrote a post about this– go me! We’ve been doing a good amount of coloring, lots of reading, and dabbling in board games for Nora during Charlie’s naps. We’ll see what else I come up with during these few weeks of not really leaving the house (except for the occasional nature walk?) If you’ve got other ideas of things to do with your kids that don’t involve being within six feet of other people- send them my way!

I Think it’s Time for Another Phone Fast

The third weekend of the break up with your phone challenge included a 24 hour phone fast.  I kind of cheated and did it at a time that was convenient for me/ Tony had my phone in case I missed anything.  I think I should probably do another true phone fast one of these days. In truth, we probably should all take the same day away from our phones as a society and just sit inside and do something else that brings us joy. But maybe that’s the introvert in me talking. 

I found that taking that time away from my phone was both freeing and also shocking in how often I wanted to reach for my phone just as a distraction or as a time filler.  I would like to give it another shot so that I can truly reset my brain, my mind, and my soul on the things that really matter and that are happening right in front of me. After the last few weeks of letting the anxiety of the world control me, I think it’s time to take a step away, even if it’s just for 24 hours.

Give Yourself Permission to Just Be

All of this being said, I think one of the biggest things I got out of my break up with your phone challenge was the permission to just let go and *be*.  How often do we take the time to sit back and allow there to be quiet.  I’m definitely not great at it.  So maybe during this time of social distancing and anxiety inducing headlines, we can use the time to allow ourselves to be mindful, to feel what we need to feel, and then to move past it and just be. Allow yourself that quiet that your soul needs and don’t fill it up with all of the things that social media and the news are throwing at us right now. Or at least take a few moments away from it to recenter.

 

I hope that something in here will help you in this crazy time- as one of my friends texted me the other day- WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE! So here’s to a better relationship with my phone this week than last! (And hopefully a much lower average of hours on it per day.) Here’s to social distancing looking like an overreaction rather than coming too late.  And here’s to not going too crazy with our kids bouncing off the walls with nowhere to go.  All I know is my phone isn’t actually helping me get through the days, so it’s time to try other things that will.

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

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A Last Minute Lent Plan

A Last Minute Lent Plan
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We’re entering into Lent tomorrow and how is it already Lent tomorrow?  It kind of snuck up on me this year, and yet I’m actually prepared. It’s probably because this year for Lent, I’m keeping it relatively simple.  I tend to over-complicate things and add on way more than I should and end up feeling like a failure at the end. (Like that year I gave up complaining… and ended up complaining 100x more).  But this year, I’m just focusing on the areas that I really feel God calling me closer to him.  I’m not sharing these things to pretend I’m holier than thou or to even say that I’m going to stick to them. I’m sharing 80% to give myself accountability and 20% to maybe give someone a last minute idea of something to incorporate into their Lenten practice this year. 

One of my favorite Catholic fun facts is that Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation for us (we don’t have to go), and yet it is one of the most attended masses of the year, after Christmas and Easter.  Ash Wednesday is an opportunity to humble ourselves and also to be marked by an outward sign of our faith. I think people are drawn to the symbol of their faith in the ashes as well as to acts of penance. Lent is like another opportunity to start a new year’s resolution.  We enjoy a little suffering every now and then if it draws us to being a better person- plus it’s only for 40 days, right?

I like to look at my Lenten practices as the start of something that’s going to stick.  Whether that’s incorporating prayer and the scriptures better, practicing self control through fasting, or beginning a habit of charity and almsgiving, Lent gives us an opportunity to really come back to the heart of what it means to be a son or daughter of God.  At least, that’s what it should be- a time of drawing closer to God. The best thing about that is, my Lent doesn’t have to look like your Lent, just as my relationship with God isn’t going to look like yours. God calls us each to our individual relationships and asks us during this time of Lent to grow in that.

So, I’ve figured out one or two things in each of the pillars of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving that I hope will act to bring me closer to God and to being the best version of myself (which I tend to think are the same thing).  I hope that by sharing, I’ll be able to actually stick to what I’m saying I’m going to do (40 days is a looooong time!) and maybe one of you will feel called to do one or more of the things along with me 🙂

Prayer

I think devoting good time to prayer is probably the most important part of Lent, especially since the point is to grow in relationship with God and prayer is just that.  In my year of quiet so far, I’ve managed to keep up my weekly holy hour. With that, however, I’ve somehow gotten so much worse at devoting some time daily to quiet prayer because I’ll just talk to God when I do my holy hour.  That’s not really how it works, so in Lent, my prayer focus is on taking back some of each day to give it to prayer.

To help, I’m using the book Prayer: 40 Days of Practice by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson.  I’ve sprinkled this book into my prayer time before, but I’m excited to come back to it day after day throughout Lent rather than just sporadically.  The book is laid out with a short prayer and contemplative imagery for each day, and they’re really convicting. Each set of six prayers also goes along with a different spiritual practice- journaling, exercise, fasting, meditation, lament, and intercession.  While I’ve dabbled in most of these practices, I’m excited to actually go full in and see what type of prayer is working in this phase of my life.

Something that I’ve started recently and hope to continue through Lent- and hopefully beyond- is incorporating more scripture into my prayer.  Someone I’m following on Instagram shared their way of getting into their Bible everyday and I really loved it, so I’m trying it for myself. She said she picks a word and googles it before 30 day bible plan and a whole bunch of suggestions come up.  So I decided to start with “quiet” as it’s my word of the year.

This is one of the plans that came up, and it’s been really good so far! Each day, I’m reading the listed verses and the passage around it, writing down the verses in my notebook to come back to.  It’s been really beautiful to dig back into scripture and see what God has to say to me each day. If you do nothing else for Lent, read a little bit from your Bible everyday- this is really the greatest way to grow in relationship with God.

Fasting

Now on to Fasting.  This is the biggie of Lent, the one everyone is about and asking about – “What are you going to give up for Lent?”  While, Catholics are called to give up meat on Fridays (which I actually haven’t *had* to do for the past few years because I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding), we’re also called to either give up or add something that helps us practice self-control.  That could be something as simple as chocolate or as crazy as giving up your car. I really like this list from Kendra Tierney of Catholic All Year if you’re still looking for something for yourself.

I don’t even remember what I gave up last year, or if I added something instead, but it obviously didn’t have a big effect on me.  This year, I looked at my life and tried to see what was most keeping me from God and keeping me from being my best self. In continuing with my 30 Day Break Up with your phone challenge (which I’ll share soon how it went!), I’ve decided to be social media free during the awake hours of our kids.  Instead, I’m hoping to use that time to get some more prayer in, focus better on my children, and to just be (and maybe do a few of these activities).

Read More: Why I’m Breaking Up With My Phone

Almsgiving

The pillar of Almsgiving is always the hardest for me to figure out what to do that I feel will actually make an impact.  Almsgiving is the sharing of money, time, and/or talents with those in need. We’re pretty good at doing sporadic donations to different charities and to the church, so for us giving a sum of money to a certain charity just doesn’t feel “Lent-y.” And while, I’d really love to be able to volunteer somewhere in some capacity, it’s just been really hard to find something that works in this stage of life of having little kids.  I was thinking about making a meal for a different family each week, and then realized that we don’t actually know many people to even make meals for (so maybe that’s actually something I should work on… haha)

In finalizing what I was going to do for this pillar, I found our local Catholic Charities page and looked into what their current needs are.  We’ve donated semi-regularly to the Pregnancy Help Center run through them, and I wanted to see if they had any other organizations that need a little extra help right now.  I found that they are asking for “Hope Kits” for refugees resettling in our area. This is an issue that my husband and I have felt passionate about, but didn’t really know how to actually help.  While, it’s just a little something for us to put together a basket or two of cleaning or kitchen supplies, it will hopefully help someone who has gone through unimaginable trauma feel welcomed and loved in a small way.

I definitely suggest looking into your local Catholic Charities or any other reputable organization that’s really helping people and see what their needs are during this season.  I feel like so many organizations get extra donations during the Christmas holiday season that by this point of the year, they’re starting to run a little dry.  Let us give a little bit extra of our money, time, or talents to these organizations that do the work of caring for our neighbors well.

So those are my Lent plans this year! I would love to hear what yours are- connect with me on Facebook or Instagram (though I won’t see it until “after hours” 😉 ) or contact me here!  Happy Lent!

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10 Activities to Do Instead of Getting Sucked Into My Phone

10 Activities to Do Instead of Getting Sucked Into My Phone
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I shared in my last post that Tony and I are working through a 30 Day Break Up With Your Phone Challenge.  It’s going pretty well overall, though I am definitely still very addicted to my phone. I’m noticing the addiction though, so that’s a start 😉 !  On Saturday, our challenge for the day was to figure out some activities to do in place of getting sucked into our phones. It’s Monday night as I write this, and I have yet to truly sit down and figure those out for myself yet (which probably explains the waaaaaay too much time that I spent on it today. Oops).  

I’ve shared before that I often get sucked into my phone in those moments of quiet right after putting Charlie down for his nap or when we finally get both kids down for bedtime.  I usually just need a break where no one is touching me or asking me to do something for them. Sometimes this ends up with me sitting on the couch for almost an hour without resurfacing. When I look up that hour later, I hardly remember what I was even looking at and I don’t usually feel all that refreshed.  Since, I’m on a journey to use my time, even my veg time, more intentionally, I am working on figuring out the activities I can turn to instead of my phone that allow me to veg in a way that’s way more refreshing.

In saying this, I don’t think that taking a brain break on your phone is necessarily bad.  I think it just needs to be a little more intentional than what I’m currently doing.  My phone background now states “What do you want to pay attention to?”  Sometimes that is the posts on Facebook or Instagram, but often, I’m just looking for a way to relax.  Since doing the social media scroll doesn’t often leave me feeling more refreshed, I need to find activities instead of my phone for these moments.  Then I can save the scroll for when that’s what I actually want to do so that I can be a little more intentional in that time.  

I checked out quite a few lists of activities to do instead of my phone online, and many of them included ideas outside of the home.  Since I stay at home with my three and one year old, there aren’t a lot of times I can just leave the house and do something by myself.  That being said, going out somewhere with my kids does prevent me from using my phone as much as I do at home!  Plus, in general, I am a much better mom when we are out and about than when we’re just hanging out at home.

So here’s my list of activities that I can do instead of getting sucked into my phone.  I hope to incorporate these into the times I usually pick up my phone while I’m just hanging around the house with the kids, as well as in those quiet moments where I’m just needing something to occupy my hands while I relax.  Most are activities that I can do at home with minimal prep work. And also minimal cleanup since my toddler’s hands tend to get into EVERYTHING.  I’m thinking about posting this list somewhere in my house so that I can turn to these and have a plan for what to do rather than going straight to my phone. It’s time to start some new habits and hobbies!

1) Reading

I have a goal to read at least three books a month this year.  The last couple days, I’ve been attempting to read an “easy reader” novel (in book form!) while the kids are playing instead of going on my phone. Then at night or when I’m able to focus better, I have a book that I need to pay a little more attention to (I’m still reading Dorothy Day’s A Long Loneliness from Advent).  I figure if the kids see me reading, they’ll just want to read more too!

2) Prayer Time

I really do try to incorporate some sort of meditation/prayer time into my every day life. With that being said, how often do I sit down on my phone for an hour, but only take 15 minutes (if that!) to pray? I definitely could switch those times around and grow so much more spiritually and as a person. 

3) Yoga/Pilates

I’ve always been pretty into yoga, but I’ve never kept up with it regularly.  Since starting this challenge, Tony and I have been attempting to do a 20-30 minute YouTube Yoga video (I’m a big fan of these ones!) every night right after we get the kids to bed.  It’s been a great way to start our night and keeps us from falling into the phone/TV trap as soon as we sit down. I’ve also been pulling out my yoga mat some afternoons while Nora is awake during Charlie’s nap. She’ll sometimes do some things with me, but often will just play on her own, and I get a little exercise in.

4) Coloring

I have a couple of Adult Coloring Books that are so relaxing when I actually get into them.  I’ve actually forgotten about doing this, so I’ll have to pull them out of our guest/now Charlie’s room so that I can actually do them when the feeling strikes.  What’s nice about coloring is that you can see what you’ve done with your time, but it’s still pretty mindless. Plus, it’s a good thing to do while chatting or listening to a podcast! 

5) Sudoku/Crosswords

I saw this idea when I was doing a quick search of my own for ideas of activities to do instead of my phone.  I used to be very into Sudoku puzzles, and I have an app for it on my phone, but I haven’t done a paper one in quite some time! I’m thinking I’ll go out and get an activity book or two with crossword puzzles, word searches, sudoku puzzles, and whatever else to work on during my downtime. Building up my brain is never a bad thing!

6) Cross Stitch/Knitting/Crafting

This one requires a little bit of prep work to get the materials ready, but I keep seeing people doing cross stitch lately, and I’m very interested.  One of my friends said it’s not too bad to do around kids, so I’ll have to look into that. Knitting is another crafty thing that doesn’t require too much brain power (once I relearn how to do it!).  I’m finding that I need to exercise my right side brain and get that creative itch taken care of a little better, so what better way than to start a new crafting hobby.

7) 15 Min Declutters

While not quite as relaxing, I’ve been really getting into doing 15 Minute Declutters.  Sometimes I set a timer, but more often I just sit down and take whatever time it takes to go through a small area. Tonight, I sorted through the kids socks, sweatshirts, and shoes, and now everything is in its place.  Decluttering is one of those things that I have to force myself to start, but I usually enjoy the process, and I definitely enjoy the end result. 

8) Baking

I’m currently deciding if I want to get into baking. I love baking (and the results from baking), but I have a lack of people to bake for/ I probably shouldn’t eat the entire batch of cookies every time I make them.  I’d love to learn more about making my own bread, or maybe some “healthier” baking. Or I just need to make more friends/babies to eat my baked goods.  Either way, it’s another slightly mindless activity that results in something much better than what my phone can bring.

9) Call a Friend

While I often want to just relax and talk to nobody for awhile once the kids are in bed, I do have days where I just need a little extra adult chatter time.  Especially now that Charlie is actually sleeping at night, I have a good chunk of time available to catch up and build relationships with friends and family that I’ve not been as good about keeping in touch with over the past year.  While I use the phone in these conversations, it’s much more intentional than the social media scroll.

10) Nap/ Go to Bed Early

And for my last activity I could do instead of going on my phone. I can just use that time to sleep.  Pretty self explanatory 😉

10 Activities to do Instead of Getting Sucked Into My Phone

So that’s my quick list of activities to do instead of getting sucked into my phone. I’d love to hear what ideas you have or if there’s anything that has been working well for you! Find me on Instagram and Facebook or send me a message here with your ideas!

Read More: Why I’m Breaking Up With My Phone

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

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Why I’m Breaking Up With My Phone

Why I’m Breaking Up With My Phone
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My husband texted me the other day asking if I’d consider doing the 30 day break up with your phone challenge from his book with him. And for the first time that he’s asked me to do something like this, I didn’t take it personally- it was actually something that I had been thinking about.  And so, I just said that I was interested in learning more about it. When I got home, he handed me the book “How to Break Up With Your Phone” by Catherine Price. Upon reading the introduction, I knew that breaking up with my phone was something that I needed to do.

Why I'm Breaking Up With My Phone

During the introduction of the book, the author leads you through the Smartphone Compulsion Test developed by Dr. David Greenfield which basically shows that any person with a smartphone could probably be diagnosed with a psychiatric addiction worthy of meeting with a therapist.  How scary (but probably true!) is that? She also touches on the effects that smartphones have on our brains, mental health, relationships, attention spans, and so much more. I had kind of known many of these things before reading it, but having them all listed in the same place was quite eye-opening.

A couple weeks ago, I lost my phone from 10am until that night when my husband got home and could call it for me.  I kept trying to look for it, but to no avail. And the way that my youngest likes to hide things, it could really have been anywhere.  At first, I felt so anxious- what if something happened to my husband and he needed me? What if I needed to contact someone myself? How was I going to take pictures of the cute things my kids were doing? What if one of the people I followed on Instagram posted something really interesting and I *gasp* missed it?  I say this slightly facetiously, but I actually thought these things. And I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way when their phone is lost. It’s kind of silly when you sit down to really think about it. 

I read an article recently comparing parents’ phone addictions to secondhand smoke and felt so convicted.  Instead of having the physical effects that secondhand smoke has, our smartphone use may have social and developmental effects on our children.  And just like society had a hard time kicking smoking to the side, we’re going to have a hard time kicking phone addiction to the side too.  What’s so sad is that our children are not getting the eye contact, communication, and emotional support necessary to help them learn and develop important social skills because we’re too sucked into our phones (Read this article too!). Plus, how can I expect my children to not watch their screens when their mom is so obviously on her screen?    

via MEME

And it’s not only affecting my children, but my own life as well. The New Year brought its onslaught of resolutions into my life.  I’ve begun to do yoga more regularly. I’m trying to really incorporate more book reading in my life. I want to be much better about having a daily prayer time.  There are so many things to be done around the house. I’d like to call my people more, invite our friends over, and go out to see them. And maybe I’d even like to pick up a hobby, get a little crafty?  Start baking more? Get really into organizing? But who has time for all of these things? Me, probably, if I wouldn’t waste all of my free time on my phone.  

And finally, if my word for the year is truly going to be “Quiet,” it seems that God is calling me to truly dig a little deeper and find more opportunities for that quiet.  Breaking up with my phone seems to be one of those opportunities.  Our phones give us such a source of disquiet every time we look at them. I feel the pull of more more more every time I go into it. I’ve got to check my email, my Instagram, my Facebook, maybe I’ll pop over to Pinterest, oh, what’s the weather going to be this week, that’s an interesting notification from CNN, I should get that thing from Amazon. And on and on it goes.

And not all of it is bad. I do need the mental break to just veg sometimes. Plus, I really do learn so much from the articles, Instagram captions, and blog posts that I read.  I feel more connected to my loved ones when I see the pictures that they share. I love receiving the Blessed Is She devotionals, theSkimm news updates, and so much more to my inbox daily. These things are good, and I find joy and learn from so much of them. But at the same time, I’ll really be okay if I miss something.  So it’s time to start being intentional and break up with my phone.

Why I'm Breaking Up With My Phone

So, my husband and I are starting in on author Catherine Price’s method to break up with our phones. We’re currently on Day Two and my favorite thing about it so far is that she’s not calling us to completely quit our phones, but instead to use them as a tool rather than letting them use us. I’m excited to see how we get there. In the meantime, this break up might mean that I write less, or it might even mean that I write more. Who knows?! But it should be a journey. And it’s a much needed journey for both my husband and I.  I’m excited to share how breaking up with my phone truly goes with all of you in thirty days.

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

Read More: An Advent of Quiet- Finding My Word of the Year

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An Advent of Quiet- Finding My Word of the Year

An Advent of Quiet- Finding My Word of the Year
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Happy New Year! It’s a new year and not only that, a new decade. And with that, it seems that everyone is really taking the time to look back over the past decade and then figure out their words of the year or resolutions for the next. While, I like to say that I’m not one for most resolutions (we definitely ate Taco Bell at 8pm on New Years Day), I’m a sucker for a good opportunity to think about the things I would like to grow in in the upcoming year. And so I’ve been reflecting on the past and looking toward what I’d like to change in the future- thus entering the Advent of Quiet. 

An Advent of Quiet

At the beginning of Advent, I was starting to think through what I wanted my “word of the year” to be for 2020. I’d never really done a word of the year before, but it seems to be all the vogue along with making a resolution right now.  As I was praying about it, the word “quiet” kept coming up.  I laughed at this at first, since I have a very loud house with two rowdy toddlers, a silly husband, and two vocal cats. But as I took the time to think about it, I realized that all of this makes the quiet that much more important. 

After thinking about it some more, I checked out Jen Fulwiler’s random word of the year generator, just to see if something better would come. I got the word “Comfort.”  And then I heard about Dayspring’s word of the year quiz and took that too. I got the word “Rest.” So I think the Lord is trying to tell me something this year.

You see, I am someone who tends to worry too much about things that I cannot control. I put expectations on myself that nobody else has for me. I say I’m a perfectionist in recovery, when I’m actually still just a perfectionist. The past five years have consisted of us jumping from life change to life change, getting married, having babies, and moving all over the place. Between that, unreasonable expectations of how much I can get done in a day and then filling up the little quiet time I have with social media and other junk, I’m tired.

And so going into Advent, I decided I didn’t want to be all of those things. I wanted to slow down and not do every thing that people say you “have” to do during the holidays. I chose the few things that I wanted to do with my kids.  We only did the activities that brought us joy, and we went right through Advent and Christmas with hardly any stress. It was groundbreaking- I didn’t have to take my kids to see Christmas lights or do a million little Christmas crafts if I didn’t want to. Instead, I took the time to pray and reflect on the past year, on what Advent really meant, and what I’m looking forward to in the future. And it was so good.

We’re at a crossroads in our family right now, so there’s a lot to pray about. We will probably be moving soon, and that might mean living in a real, adult house. Which means we’ll be first time homeowners with no idea how to do that. We also are starting to think about if/when we want to add another child to the family.  Do we want to fill up our minivan or slow it way down? We’re figuring out what we want to prioritize in our lives and how we’re going to get there.  We are deciding what we want our family to look like, the values and traditions we want to start, and what kind of people we want to raise. All of these big changes and decisions seem to be coming at us at once. 

Normally, the Type A planner in me would be freaking out at the fact that we have no true plan for what is going to happen over the next year. But God is doing good work in me, and I feel a lot of peace instead.  I think my slow, “quiet” Advent has a lot to do with that. And so, I want to bring that into the New Year. But because I am a Type A planner, I do have a little bit of a plan for how I want to make quiet my word of the year. 

Make More Quiet Moments

This will be my greatest challenge this year- making more quiet moments.  I’m finding that if I am not intentional in creating the quiet time that I need, then I don’t get that time. And as I’m learning more about myself, I know that having that time is important to my mental, physical, and spiritual health. As we are in a transition to no naps with our almost three year old, this is getting a little tricky.  At the same time, our one year old is finally sleeping through the night so that opens up a whole new world.  The following are the times that I am trying to block off for quiet time.

1) Nap time

Even with our three year old not napping as often anymore, we all need our break during the day.  So whether it’s quiet time in our rooms or a little extra screen time for the toddler, nap time is the best time to get a dedicated block of quiet every day. 

2) Post Bedtime

Up until a month or so ago, Charlie had his first wake-up within two hours of going to bed, giving us little to no time at night to settle into any sort of quiet. While, my husband and I like to have time at night to catch up and hang out, it’s nice every couple of nights to have intentional quiet time on each of our own parts instead.

3) Weekly Holy Hour

This is my biggest change for this year- adding in a dedicated time of quiet prayer every week. It takes a little more planning ahead of time with my husband, but the couple of times I’ve made it work so far, it has been such a fruitful and refreshing time for me. 

Making My Quiet Time Intentional

The step after creating the time is actually using the time “productively.”  Sometimes, that looks like prayer time or reading a book. Other times, it looks like taking a nap myself! I took quite a few naps during Advent and it was so good. Often my prayer time or book reading will turn into a nap and that’s okay too.  The point of investing in a quiet time is to refresh and rest up so that I can go back at it again with a full spirit, so that I can be more present.  

I also struggle with filling all of my quiet, me time with chores or things off of my to do list rather than taking the time to rest and to invest back into myself.  One of the things I’ve been working on lately is fitting many of my to do’s in while the kids are awake and self-entertaining (or at least not actively getting into trouble). That way once they’re down for naps or bed, I can take that time to do the things that fill me up instead of chores. 

Limiting Social Media

Social media is my biggest detractor from intentional quiet time.  Many times, as soon as I get the kids down for their naps/quiet time, I sit down on the couch, start my scrolling on social media, and sometimes don’t look up until I hear a cry from one of their rooms.  There are so many beautiful things that people are sharing and not enough time to read and see them all. I so want to be a part of the different groups and conversations that I see happening, but as I get more involved and sucked in, I lose the quiet time that I really need for myself.  So, I’m figuring out where my personal boundaries are with social media. 

I’m also finding that starting this blog did not help with figuring out those boundaries. Some of you may have noticed that I took a step back from posting during the holidays, and that’s because I was so bogged down with the social media updating that tends to go along with blogging that I got lost in it.  Now that I’ve taken time to quiet everything and refresh, I am working on finding the right balance to how much social media I do with the blog. I’m hoping to just do what’s bringing me joy, helping others some, and only as God’s calling me. 

An Advent of Quiet

So thanks for sticking with me! I’m excited to see what God breathes into this year through my quiet time. And I hope that you will be able to find some quiet time for yourself as well- even if your “word” isn’t quiet. Let me know what your resolutions or words of the year are over on Facebook or Instagram!  It should be a good one- 2020. Here’s to the Advent of Quiet!

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

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

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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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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!

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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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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