Yes Spaces- Why are they important?

Yes Spaces- Why are they important?
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We’re thinking about babyproofing in the Bird household this week. We’ve already done all the basics- nailed furniture to the walls, put in outlet covers, put bumpers on the sharp corners, etc. Even so, as Charlie is getting more and more mobile, he seems to continually be finding new places to get into that I really wish he wouldn’t. His favorite right now is playing with the phone chargers when we forget to put the cords up- and he just figured out that the garbage can opens and shuts this morning! I guess it’s time to get our apartment back into a state of being a yes space.

What is a yes space?

A yes space is a place where kiddos can explore and check everything out without having to be redirected a million times. It is a place where there is nothing dangerous or fragile that they can get into. How babyproofed a place needs to be to fit this standard may vary from person to person. For example, because I’m around the kids more, I have a higher comfort level with different objects than Tony, who automatically assumes they’re going to choke on everything and/or poke their eyes out. I’m working to find somewhere in the middle so that he can feel comfortable when he is watching the kids but they can still have some toys out 😉 .
In the Bird Household, our yes spaces don’t have any decorations or items we care about in places where the kids can grab them. Instead, they’re filled with toys, books, stuffed animals, and other play things that the kids can get to without having to ask for help. Our spaces are not very pretty or organized, but they get the job done! We keep things like paints, Play-Doh, and some of Nora’s smaller toys higher up so that Nora can still see them, but has to ask to play with them. It’s pretty Montessori in concept though the way that we put it into practice throughout our home doesn’t quite fit that style.

Why is having a yes space important?
1) It allows a mental break from saying no

Apparently, the average one-year old hears the word “no” about 400 times a day. That’s a lot of no’s! I definitely believe it though because even Nora is starting to copy my “No, Charlie, no!” as he’s running away during diaper changes, splashing in the cats’ water dish, or pulling books on top of himself. This starts to be a drain on a child, but it also is draining for me. When our yes spaces are not set up right, I have to constantly be on the watch, making sure they don’t get into things they’re not supposed to. I have to be the “mean” parent who stops them in their tracks while they’re having fun, saying no or stop at every turn. Instead, by creating a space where they can do pretty much everything, I don’t have to focus my mental energies on what they can’t do. I can pay attention to the cute things they’re doing, read to one of them while the other plays, or actually get something productive done without worrying!

2) I can get tasks done around the house

Sometimes I have to get something done around the house. And by sometimes, I mean there’s always something I could be doing. Every so often, I can get the kids to play by themselves in one of our yes spaces and get some of these somethings done. I can take 3 minutes to throw the load of laundry over while they play in Nora’s room. They can take apart the toy kitchen while I wash the dreaded high chair tray and put away breakfast. I can sweep the floors yet again while they play in the living room with their tunnel. While I, of course, am always within hearing distance so I know they’re not killing themselves or each other, I’m not super worried about rushing through the task to be back watching them.

3) I can get a quiet time break

When Nora was 15 months, she was still an awful sleeper. Around this point, we experimented and found that we could leave her in her room and after a couple minutes of being angry, she’d play or read books in her room until she fell asleep- for her nap and bedtime! It was one of the best things that ever happened to us. Now that she’s about 50/50 on whether or not she takes a nap, we’re doing the same thing. She can hang out and play in her room for a couple hours until she falls asleep or not, and I can get my much needed quiet time. Charlie is just at the point where I can leave him in his crib to play for a bit, but no putting himself to sleep quite yet. Hopefully, he can figure that trick out soon!

4) It gives the kids a chance to explore and play on their own without needing me to set their boundaries

I think this is actually the most important point. Kids need an opportunity to learn by themselves and test boundaries without someone swooping in and figuring it out for them. I know I can be guilty of doing just this when I’m sitting right down with them. By taking the time away (or just sitting on the couch scrolling on my phone…), they are able to have that independent playtime they need so desperately to learn and to create their own stories instead of having me right there to create them for them. By having a yes space, they’re able to beebop around at their leisure and check things out without me hounding over them making sure they’re not doing something they’re not supposed to. It’s also allowing them to start their own relationship as siblings when I’m not right there coaching them how to interact.

What we’re doing to create yes spaces

We attempt to make our whole house a yes space, but that’s not totally manageable all the time (I need to find a new home for Charlie’s beloved toilet bowl brushes- yuck!) Right now, we have our living room area and Nora’s bedroom set up so that they’re definitely safe for Nora and mostly safe for Charlie. (If only he didn’t pull all of the books off the shelf onto himself…) I also have been utilizing the crib with a couple books/toys as a place to put Charlie for a short period of time to clean a poopy cloth diaper, to put away laundry without it getting pulled right back out, or even to take a really quick shower. Yes spaces I’ve seen in others’ houses are playrooms (my dream!) or a big gated off portion of a room.
I’m realizing that we need to be better about keeping all of Nora’s little pieces of toys in either a separate space or away while Charlie is awake so that they don’t become choking hazards. It also seems we have to find new places for some of our cords or at least a way to keep them up and out of the way. My philosophy on babyproofing is to babyproof as we go (after the big things like strapping furniture to the wall), and I seem to have gotten a little behind! It’s time to put locks on all the cabinets and drawers I don’t want things pulled out of and maybe even the garbage can and toilets. Whatever I can do to make our home a safe space for the kids to roam, experiment, and not hear “no” all day long will contribute to making our house a somewhat peaceful place for me and a yes space for them.

I want to know what you all do to make your homes into yes spaces! I’d love to see pictures of what you guys are doing and tips of your babyproofing methods – comment below or on Facebook, or send me a message! I look forward to seeing what you’re doing 🙂
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Mama’s Inspired by Books Too- August Edition

Mama’s Inspired by Books Too- August Edition
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Hey friends, I am starting up a monthly post in which I share the books that are inspiring me that month. Instead of wasting time on Facebook or my super addicting coloring app, I’ve been attempting to read more again- and not just parenting books! I’m finding that it is super important for my mental health with two small kiddos to make time for myself that isn’t turning my brain even more into mush. When I read, I not only get to practice a little escapism, but also I fill my brain and my heart up with new and inspiring ideas. The books I’ve been reading lately have definitely been calls to action and probably one of the reasons that I started this blog in the first place. I hope that one (or more!) of them may call your name and that you’ll be inspired by these books too!

Inspired by Books, Everybody Always, Bob Goff

1) Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff

I actually read this one several months ago now, but it was so good that I needed to share it here. This book is the follow up book to Love Does, which I actually have yet to read, so you can read them out of order without worry. Bob is a Christian speaker, author, lawyer, and father and strings many of his crazy experiences in with lessons he’s learned over the years. Each of these focuses on how important it is to give love to everyone you see no matter how they are to you or what it costs you. It made me want to break out of my introverted shell and actually talk to people when we’re out and about and, in doing so, push myself to do the uncomfortable thing that is loving on the strangers in my life. I’m really not great at this, but I’m working on it!

This book, and the next one on this list, also inspired me to actually meet our neighbors after living in our apartment for over a year.  I baked some cookies and awkwardly knocked on two of their doors (including the downstairs neighbors we’ve been scared of because our children are crazy, and we have wood floors). They turned out to be decently nice people and now we say hi to the people across the way whenever we see them out walking their dog.  Little steps in loving others make us better humans.

“Jesus talked to His friends a lot about how we should identify ourselves. He said it wouldn’t be what we said we believed or all the good we hoped to do someday. Nope, He said we would identify ourselves simply by how we loved people. It’s tempting to think there is more to it, but there’s not. Love isn’t something we fall into; love is someone we become.” – Bob Goff, Everybody Always

Inspired by Books, The Grace of Enough, Haley Stewart2) The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture by Haley Stewart

I just finished this book, and it was exactly what I needed to read right now. Haley talks about the cognitive dissonance between consumerism/the throwaway culture and living out the Gospel. It goes into the importance of slowing down and simplifying life, of focusing on the family home, and of creating a community of friends through breaking bread together.  She shares how her family made the radical decision to quit their jobs 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. Just thinking about it makes me get a little anxious, and it did her too, as she quotes Mother Angelica, “Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”  By taking a leap of faith, this seemingly crazy life change brought them closer to each other, to the Earth, and to God.

This book made me want to do something similarly crazy, except we don’t know what we’d want to do or where we’d want to go- I don’t think farming is for us ;).  Maybe, it’s as easy as starting off in our own home by slowing things down and not focusing on all the “stuff” that gets in the way of creating an intentional family culture.  Or maybe, it’s just giving ourselves over to the uncomfortable interactions we have with others and building up the community that we’re already surrounded by.  Overall, this book was a huge call out to me, and I’m interested to see where God is planning to take me (and Tony if I can convince him to read it!) next.

“Life is an adventure orchestrated by God, and our attempts to be in the driver’s seat will always result in mere frustration. Why? Because this is not the way of authentic love, which involves the total surrender of self. Authentic love calls for sacrifice. That is true of all of us. Whether it’s being up with a baby all night, caring for an aging parent, giving a hurting friend a landing place in your home for a while, or becoming a foster parent, we will be called on to sacrifice.” -Haley Stewart, The Grace of EnoughInspired by Books- Love Lives Here, Maria Goff3) Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want by Maria Goff

This book was actually written by the wife of the first book I listed. Where her husband, Bob, is an extrovert going out into the world and doing really big and important things, Maria is an introvert mostly staying at home and creating an intentional environment for her kids and husband to come home to. She talks about how often it is the small intentional decisions that we are making that really make the biggest difference in our families and in our lives.  Maria also shares how important rest is when we invest so much of ourselves into the people around us- something that I desperately needed to read.

I so loved her viewpoint as a stay at home mother in the background, as that’s often the part of the family that I take on. The points that she shared about creating an environment that is peaceful and loving for my children and husband to be home in have really hit home.  I don’t want the first thing that Tony feels when he comes home from work to be my anger and frustration with how my day has been going.  Now, I’m not talking 50’s housewife here, but by greeting Tony with a smile and not immediately going into all of the drama that my day has entailed, I am able to set a much happier tone for the rest of our evening.

“Ability is what we can already do; an ambition is who we want to become… I try to focus my time on doing things that serve and advance the most lasting and beautiful of my ambitions. The kind Jesus talked to His friends about. Figure out what those are for you, and do more of that.” – Maria Goff, Love Lives Here

Inspired by Books- Anne of Green Gables4) The Anne of Green Gables Collection: Anne Shirley Books 1-6 by L. M. Montgomery

I’m trying to figure out how to get back into fiction books and which ones are worth reading when there are so many to choose from at the library. I decided to start by going back to the classics. By scrolling through my Hoopla app (containing ebooks and audiobooks from the library), I found this collection and thought I’d give it a try. I vaguely remember reading these when I was younger, but a lot of the story is reading new to me. If you haven’t read the Anne of Green Gables books, I definitely recommend them, and if you haven’t read them as an adult, I’d recommend going back and reading them. Since I’m reading it in ebook form, I’ve been able to read it on my phone while I’m nursing Charlie back to sleep for the 4th time that night, allowing me to get a little more reading in during an otherwise “wasted” time.  I’m currently on the third book, and they are just so good for my soul.

Anne has such a beautiful, childlike whimsy about her that has been rubbing off on the way I’m seeing the world right now. It’s helping me to see more of the positives and to look at life with more of a childlike lens.  I’m remembering the importance of having an imagination and of using it to change what might seem like a bad situation into a good one.  Anne is the type of character I’m excited to introduce my kiddos to in the future- kind, but bold, and always striving to do her best in her life and in the lives of those around her. These are such sweet books and really easy reads for those of you who have mushy brains like me right now!

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

I’ve been having such a great time getting back into reading- it’s kind of fun to be sneaking another chapter in after my self-instilled bedtime! (#OnceANerdAlwaysANerd) I hope you’ll be inspired by these books too! I’d love to hear what you’re reading right now.  Comment below or share with me on Facebook what you’re reading- I have quite the stack waiting to be read right now, and I’m always looking for more suggestions of what to add to the list next!

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash


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Enter Simply Mama Bird

Enter Simply Mama Bird
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When I restarted the Tony and Holly Wing It blog a month ago, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like it or if I would really want to go anywhere with it.  So I wrote a couple of posts and dipped my toes in the water. I’ve found that I really enjoy writing publicly and want to continue doing it in a more legit fashion.  Enter Simply Mama Bird! I’m excited to really hit the ground running with this new and improved “Winging It” blog. It is giving me a creative outlet outside of mothering that I have been really craving lately.  It also has fulfilled a calling that I’ve had on my heart for awhile.

I hope to share my journey in living and loving intentionally with you all. This can look like a lot of different things. In our current stage of life, it looks like mothering my children as best as I can, being the wife that my husband needs, taking time for Jesus, and being a good steward of this earth. I hope to cover these topics (and more!) as I get into blogging more. I’d also love to hear what you guys want to know more about- let me do the research for you and give you our take on what we’re doing! Send me an email via the Contact Page or sign up for our newsletter below:

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I also realized that I never really gave the low down on what the Bird Family is doing with our lives right now- especially since everyone that I talk to is wondering how in the world we ended up in Tampa, FL!  Tony’s job has us moving pretty often right now as he moves through different roles to get him acquainted with different grocery businesses throughout the country. After living in Minneapolis, MN after college for a couple years, we moved to Grand Rapids, MI in July 2018.  Ten months later, we moved again to Tampa, Fl. While, it’s been a whirlwind, we’ve been able to do these moves pretty easily given that I stay at home with our two rugrats and his company takes care of a lot of the logistics for us. We have no idea what we want our “long term” location to be, so in the meantime we’re going with the flow with Tony’s job and enjoying being within 30 minutes of the beach as long as we’re in Florida. 

We have two sweet kiddos who run my days right now.  Nora is currently 2.5 and potty training. She’s got a strong, mostly sweet, personality and is quite particular (just like her mama, I’m told 😉 ).  She was our surprise honeymoon baby and turned our world upside down in the best way. Nora’s an adventure all on her own, and then we decided to add Charlie to the mix!  Charlie just turned 10 months and is a super happy little boy, most of the time. He’s crawling like a mad man and getting into so much more than Nora ever did. They’re both growing like weeds and keep me on my toes constantly. As they start playing together more, it has been so sweet to watch as their relationship begins. I feel so blessed to be these babies’ mother and can’t wait to see where life takes our little family. 

I hope that you’ll enjoy being a part of this blogging journey. I hope that you’ll find something here that inspires you or helps you on your own journey. I hope that every so often I’ll make you smile or laugh out loud. I hope that you’ll feel that I’m a part of your village, just as you are all mine. If you want to see what’s inspiring me daily, follow along with Simply Mama Bird on Facebook and/or Pinterest, and make sure to follow along in our newsletter for Bird Family updates!  Thanks for coming along for the adventure- it should be a wild ride!

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Fostering a Love of Books from Early On

Fostering a Love of Books from Early On
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After thinking through how we want to be intentional with our children’s books moving forward, I’m looking back at the things we have done so far to foster a love of books in Nora. Right now we feel like great parents who did everything right when it came to reading, but it’ll be super interesting to see if it was really just Nora and that we had nothing to do with it (like so much of parenting seems to be) or if Charlie will also find a love of reading. Either way, I’m trying to remember all that we did so that I can do my best to set Charlie (and any future children we may be blessed with) up to have a love of books too.

1) Start ‘em young

While I was pregnant, I read that it was important to expose your kiddos to books and all sorts of words from an early age, and I took that to heart. I remember feeling so silly reading to my one month old, but also it gave me a way to interact with Nora when I didn’t know quite what to do with a little baby. She didn’t really get into it until later into her first year, but some of those first snuggles with books are really special memories and ingrained into our little family a love of reading together that I hope will last. I think by introducing reading as a bonding activity from a really young age, we made it more accessible for both Nora and for us as she continued to develop. It became a go-to activity instead of an afterthought.

Embarrassingly, I kind of forgot that reading to small babies was a thing with Charlie until a couple months ago. I guess that’s the problem of the second child. However, he got to soak in all of the books that I was reading to Nora while he was also on my lap or wandering the room, so I don’t really feel too too bad. When I do remember to read just to him, he’s been really into all of the touch and feel books. His favorites right now are the “That’s not my…” series through Usborne and any of the Alphaprints ones. Nora liked those too, but Charlie LOVES them. Nora seemed to be more into books with rhyming like One, Two, Three! by Sandra Boynton (really anything by her is great!) and my personal favorite, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  It’s been really interesting to watch as their tastes in toys, books, and activities already differ! If I recall Nora correctly, the flap books will come next developmentally for Charlie (though with his ability to destroy things, we might need to hold off for awhile!) Some of Nora’s favorites were Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? and the Usborne Little Red Penguin series, and I’m excited to bring those out for Charlie to read when he’s ready!

2) Never say no to reading and read often

As Nora became more interested in books, I did my best to read to her whenever she’d ask for as long as she would listen. We’d often read first thing in the morning while I was still coming to (I’m not really a morning person). It was a really sweet way to start our day, and I’m kind of sad that I’ve gone away from that in our new morning routine. Thinking about this now, I might have to start doing this again in our mornings! We have also always associated books with naptime and bedtime, and then sprinkled them throughout playtime. When we were trying to get Nora to sleep on her own (at 14 months…), we finally got to the point that we’d leave her in her room, and she’d read books for 5 minutes- 2 hours, and then finally fall asleep (our kids really aren’t fans of sleeping). We figured there was nothing wrong with her reading as long as she wanted if she eventually fell asleep!

Of course, I’ve had to start bending my “never say no to reading” rule now that her books are getting longer (those 5 Minute Stories add up!) and Charlie is needing more attention. I do still try to make a point of sitting down and reading with her for a good amount of time each day, though. I’m much better at reading than doing pretend voices for all of her animals, so it’s always my first suggestion during Charlie’s morning nap and my Nora alone time.

3) Be surrounded with books

We have books everywhere. There is a basket of children’s picture books in the living room, a basket of Charlie’s books next to the recliner, a bookshelf of board books in Nora’s room, and even potty training books on the toilet. Not to mention the books Nora carries into different rooms and forgets about. I think it’s so important to be in close reach of books as it makes it easier to pick up a book to start reading. It’s also, then, a reminder of reading as an activity to both the kiddos and to me. Charlie is just now starting to grab books out of his basket or off the shelf in Nora’s room, and while he’s doing it just to explore and make a mess, it reminds me that I should be reading to him (a reminder which I apparently need!).

We also like to make a point of reading books out and about. I like to have at least a couple books in the car for when we’re going places for Nora to read- this works well for books that are duplicated! I’m realizing that I should also start putting some in for Charlie too! Nora has a knack for finding books everywhere we go. There are sections of books at both the children’s museum and the mall we go to (it’s a really awesome, child-friendly mall!), and we also try to make it to the library at least once a week for Toddler Time and/or just to read. Reading out in the wild is way more exciting than at home! It’s also really good for us to switch up which books we are reading and find new ones that we might want to get for home.

4) There’s no such thing as too many books

We were blessed to have people gift a favorite book instead of a card for Nora’s baby shower to really start off our collection of books. Since then, between gifts and our own book-buying addiction, we’ve more than filled up Nora’s bookshelves. I get sick of reading the same stories over and over, so I like to have enough that we can mix it up a little bit. We currently have too many board books than what can fit on Nora’s shelf, so I rotate them once a week to freshen her up and make it seem like she has a whole new shelf of books to choose from. Nora LOVES new books, so this tends to work pretty well. Whenever an actually new book enters our household, Nora wants to read it what seems like hundreds of times in those first few days of having it. It’s fun to see that excitement come from something as simple as books.

As we grow out of our basket of children’s picture books, I’m looking at ways to store them. In our someday house, I’d love to have a playroom with a library wall (#bigdreams). I’m really eyeing up either this or this shelf so that we can start displaying our books with the fronts out instead of just the spines.

There’s a meme I saw on Facebook that sums up how I feel about this subject:

Usborne- too many books, not enough shelves

Tony and I love having our own books around and that addiction has poured over into our children’s books. We hope to foster a love of books in our family that continues throughout our children’s lives, as it has in ours. These are just some of the ways that we’ve attempted to do that with Nora, and it’ll be a wait and see if it also inspires the same love in Charlie.

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Getting Intentional with our Children’s Books

Getting Intentional with our Children’s Books
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There was an article going around earlier this year that talked about about how the Inuits use storytelling as a way of teaching their children rules, boundaries, and emotional regulation.*  I really loved the premise of this, but had a hard time figuring out how to create the right stories for the lessons that applied to our family.  I tried to come up with stories on the spot about characters who shared, who brushed their teeth well, or who listened to their mommy, but it turns out, I’m a not a natural storyteller.  I’m embarrassed to admit that in just the last couple weeks, I realized that I can use already written story books to teach these lessons and many other values.  I didn’t need to make my own stories up when I have a wealth of stories right at my fingertips.  Since we are reading often with Nora, I bet she’s already been picking up on these lessons through the intentional children’s books we’ve already been reading.

Getting Intentional with our Children's Books

Learning Lessons Through Books

Getting intentional with drawing the lessons out has been a little harder, but seems to be worth it.  Nora has been having a really hard time sharing what used to be “her” baby toys with Charlie now that he’s big enough to be playing with the more exciting ones. We recently checked out the Big Book of the Berenstain Bears from the library and in it is the story The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby. In the story, Brother Bear gets a new big bed so that Sister Bear can have his baby bed when she is born.  Brother Bear is so excited that he has his new bed, but also that he has a little sister that is using his old bed.  When Nora was trying to take over Charlie’s play house the other day, I brought up the story of how Brother Bear had to give his little bed away, and it clicked for her in that moment that it was good to share her things. Of course, this didn’t last all day, but it’s a start!

Prepare for New Activities

As I’ve shared in past posts, we have been using books to help us with all sorts of activities already. We have our potty training books (The Potty Train and Usborne Books What is Poop? are still read multiple times a day here) and our church books.  I just bought some new Usborne books talking about feelings in hopes that Nora will share what emotion she is experiencing instead of just melting down- the two’s are fun.  We started pretty young with Nora with all of the shapes, numbers, and letters books, and I think, because of that, she’s got those pretty well down, so we know that books are a good way, at least for her, of teaching her different ideas.

Introduce New Ideas for Play

Even the books that don’t have as obvious of an emphasis have been helpful for creating new play ideas, introducing places we are going, and talking about how to handle different situations. One of the most random lately is from her 5-Minute Mickey Mouse Stories in which one of the stories talks about a picnic at which they eat fruit salad. She went through a huge phase of serving us fruit salad made of all sorts of different objects.  Nora’s also all of a sudden very into Pete the Cat books, and after reading Pete the Kitty and the Case of the Hiccups a million times, every time she gets the hiccups (which is surprisingly often), she says “How do you stop the hiccups?” and then goes through all of the different ideas the friends in the book have. It’s pretty funny!

Live and Learn Vicariously Through Books

In thinking about how much she is picking up from these stories right now, I’m trying to be intentional in the books that she’s reading. I want to surround her with materials that help her become a good human as she continues to grow and learn. I recently read The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie and came away with so many ideas for forming a family culture based on stories. One of the ideas that stood out the most to me was that reading allows people to live vicariously through experiences of those in the book, so that they don’t necessarily need to live it themselves to gain the perspective and learn the lessons. Books also can then have an impact on how compassionate your children become by exposing them to these different perspectives. I feel like we know this intuitively as adults with the difference that reading a headline in the news feels vs. reading a story about someone who is experiencing what’s going on in that headline. Stories are the conduit by which people feel the perspectives of others and, hopefully, then grow in compassion.

Introduction to Empathy and Kindness

In our family, then, I want to find intentional children’s books that are not just a cute story but also, either subconsciously or not, teach values and tell stories that we want to be a part of our family culture. If I had to choose one quality that our kids have when I send them out into the world, it would be that they are kind. I want them to be empathetic and compassionate with others.  I may not succeed (who knows what kind of kiddos Tony and I make), but I can give them a good foundation to start from. To help with this, I’ve started looking for books with a diverse set of characters in race, class, and ability, as well as in family type. I want to find more books about characters from different places in the world and about different cultures. I want to find books in which characters figure out how to solve disagreements compassionately. I want to find books that the characters face hardships, and though they may not solve all of their problems, they still find sparks of happiness. I want to provide a wide basis of characters for my kids to fall in love with and learn alongside.

We're Getting Intentional with our Children's Books

Let’s Choose Intentional Children’s Books

This is a little overwhelming- there are soooooo many books to choose from and not near enough time to read through them all. Luckily we’re starting early- Nora’s only 2.5 and just starting into the “big kid” books, and Charlie’s just starting to get into his touch and feel books. I’ve started looking at lists of intentional children’s books on different blogs, finding different classics that are classic for a reason, and just trying out different books at the library. Nora’s an eager book listener, so she’ll definitely be our guinea pig as we figure out which books are worth adding to our shelves and which just don’t fit.  I’d love to hear if any of you have books you love dearly- both intentional and just fun ones to get us started. We’re just starting to fill our bookshelves with true children’s picture books, and I need help finding the ones that will help us instill the values we hold dear in our kiddos <3

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Fostering a Love of Books from Early On

Fun Indoor Activities Both You and Your Kids will Love 


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For All the Martha’s in the Back

For All the Martha’s in the Back
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Monday was St. Martha’s feast day. As some of those who knew me in college know, I am a big Martha fan girl, and I could talk all day about her (maybe I’ll have to write a book someday 😉 ). I even led a Bible study based on Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World and the subsequent, Having a Mary Spirit, both by Joanna Weaver. For those who don’t know the reference, check out Luke 10:40-42

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

And, man, I am such a Martha- getting distracted with all of the extraneous details of life and motherhood, making sure everything is in order before I take a moment to sit down, breathe, and remember what the point of it all is. The only reason I even knew it was St. Martha’s feast day was, ironically, because it was listed in my new planner that I’m using to keep all of my to do lists and basically my life pulled together. For the last couple nights, I spent all night checking off my to do list and left my prayer time to the very end of it. Then Charlie woke up one night and Nora the next, so there my quiet time, and thus my prayer time, went out the window.  I was angry, distracted, and tired, and there was nothing anyone could do to bring me out of that mood. But then, I remembered St. Martha and Jesus’ words to her that I had even written into my planner- Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary.

What does that even look like, though?  Is it bad to want order and to always have a plan and to want others to help you follow through with that plan to a T (okay, maybe not to the T!).  I don’t think so.  It’s good to have the servant’s heart that Martha has.  It’s even good to want things to be beautiful and perfect for those around you. Indeed, I think having aspects of Martha in my personality helps me to be a good mother, to be a good wife, and to do what I need to do to keep moving forward every day. The problem comes in when I’m doing all of the ordering, planning, and following through without taking the time to invite Jesus in, taking the time to sit with Him away from it all, and centering what may seem like chaos sometimes around Him.

There’s a later passage in John 11 where Martha is featured shortly again. This time she runs to Jesus and trusts him with her chaos. It’s time for me to hand over my chaos too.

So, being a Martha, I’m planning out what that looks like.

1) I want to start my day with the Morning Offering.

I put a reminder in my phone every morning at 8am with the words of the Morning Offering so that I’ll automatically do this before I can do anything else on my phone. It’s probably good to get off to a good start, right?

2) I want to find a time earlier in my day than 10pm to carve out just 15 quiet minutes to spend in prayer.

This is getting really hard lately. I’m finding that I really need that quiet time, and I’m just not getting it in my day between Nora not napping all of a sudden and Charlie not wanting to go to bed at a reasonable time. This’ll probably last a month and then go back to some semblance of normality, but in the meantime, I need to find some quiet time scattered throughout my day.

3) I want to invite Jesus into my chaos and throw up that “Jesus, I trust in you” a little more.

I tried this more today, and it did make such a difference to bring Jesus along through the potty accidents, the long nursing sessions, and the tantrums. It allowed me to have a little more patience and a lot more love to give to my kiddos. Plus, I was, admittedly, a much nicer person to Tony tonight than I have been in the last week. (It probably helps that he was able to get Charlie asleep by himself tonight!)

These are just little steps on my journey in this stage of life, as I pick up mess after mess, cook meal after meal, and kiss booboo after booboo.  I’m not going to make it through if I don’t have Jesus along, and I thank St. Martha for that reminder this week. It’s time to recenter, refocus, and remember the big picture <3

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How We’re Getting Through Church Right Now

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As I took both kids to church this morning by myself since Tony is out of town, I remembered how not long ago, I was trying to do this every week while he was doing his RCIA classes. He had to sit with his class and then leave after the homily, and I had to figure out how to get Nora to church while mega pregnant and then with a newborn. On one of these weekends after Charlie was born, Nora made a run for the altar after Communion. It was one of those moments that happens completely in slow motion. I saw her look back at me, smile mischieviously, and then run even faster all the way to the altar and to the priest. I chased after her, babywearing little Charlie and all, and we caused quite the scene- the look of surprise on the priest’s face when I finally got to her behind the altar will be burned into my memory forever. Many comments of Nora’s future Olympic track career happened as we made our way out after church. To say it was mortifying is an understatement, and I took a break from taking the two of them by myself for awhile.

Luckily, this morning did not include any track practice, and Nora not only stayed in the pew, but also semi-participated. Of course, she was a wiggle-worm per usual, but she also sang along with some of the songs, did the sign of peace, and sat/stood when everyone else was. Now that Charlie is getting more mobile and chatty, he’s starting to become more of a handful at Mass too. God must’ve been watching over us closely today, though, because Charlie fell asleep in the carrier sometime after the homily. It was a major success in my books, and we treated ourselves to Culvers after 🙂

Culvers after Church!

As I said before, I took a bit of a break from taking both kids by myself after Nora’s great escape and figured out Masses I could go to either alone or just with Charlie. Tony had his confirmation around Easter and could sit with us at Mass again, so Nora got to come along again. It helped so much to have another set of hands, as it tends to work best if both kids are being held, but she still is a handful. It’s important to me to introduce our children to Jesus and the Church from a young age, and I’m a full believer in Jesus saying to let the little children come to him applying to the kiddos being at Mass whenever possible. However, that’s easier said than done many weekends, and there are weekends here and there that end in tears (on both parts). Here are some of the strategies that we’ve started to make our mass-goings a little less eventful and a little more fruitful. (Disclaimer: these don’t work for us every weekend! Try at your own risk 😉 )

1) Books- in church and out

Nora LOVES books, so this works pretty well with her. Sometimes she gets angry when we don’t read them out loud to her, though, so we have to do some whisper reading at times. When she was a little younger, we did books with flaps that would last a little longer. One of our favorites is the classic Dear Zoo. Now that she’s into “big kid” books, I’ve been trying to do more faith based books. Our current favorite books are I Went to Mass: What did I See? and A Missal for Toddlers. Both of these books talk about what happens at Mass, so reading these before church helps Nora know what’s happening while we’re there. If we read them during, we have her point to where the different objects/people are at our real church. This has helped her IMMENSELY, and I’m so glad we got these. Finally, we have The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories that is a little longer than a normal board book with beautiful pictures and succinct Bible stories, so it’s fun to go through at church.

2) Babywearing

I generally have Charlie in a front carrier during church so that I can have my hands free to help Nora with whatever she’s doing/ make sure she doesn’t eat it off of the kneeler she’s standing on. This was especially helpful when he was a newborn because he could nurse and sleep easily in it, and I could also hold Nora. I also did this with Nora when she was a baby, and it was so helpful to keep her content in those bitty baby months. Now that he’s a little more wiggly, he’s not as content to sit in the carrier. However, I’ll still bring it in if I think he’s going to need to nap during Mass or if it’s just me, like today. We use the Boba Wrap or the Happy Wrap when they’re really little and then switch to the Ergobaby Carrier when they’re bigger. I definitely get some interesting looks when I end up wearing Charlie and also have Nora on my hip, but I guess #catholicfamily?

3) Participating in the Mass

I’ve really started trying to get Nora to be more a part of the mass in the last couple months. We’ll point out the priest, candles, ushers, crucifix, holy water, etc. She likes to find the different objects/people- we just are working on making her “Found it!” a whisper instead of a shout… She also has been picking up on some of the songs and prayers- the Gloria and Alleluia are favorites! It’s not so much staring at the back of people’s heads if she also feels like she’s participating. Plus it’s so cute to hear her little voice as it sings “Glory to God…” and says the Our Father. It makes us feel like we’re doing something right bringing out squirmy 2.5 year old into Mass. The only thing that really kept her attention today were the songs- I told her beforehand that she had to whisper except for at the songs when she could sing as loud as she wanted to, so she even joined in with the cantor only parts!

4) Toys/Activities

I try to pack one “Activity” each week just in case we need something extra during the homily or other need to be quiet parts. Sometimes it’s lacing activities (like these or these), sometimes it’s stickers and a coloring page, sometimes it’s our Melissa & Doug Reusable Dry-Erase Activity Pad , and sometimes it’s one of our Melissa & Doug Water Wow! pads. We don’t always pull out these activities for Nora and have been trying to keep her attention mostly on the service, but they always come in clutch when we have to use them!

For Charlie (and for Nora when she was younger), we make sure to pack a lovey and some teethers to play with. Our current favorites are his ChewsLife rosary, these teething keys, and this teether. He’s starting to get chatty in Mass and never took to a pacifier like Nora did (we called it her plug), so we’re trying to figure out what level of baby chatter to allow before getting up out of the pew. So far, we’ve stayed in the pew and let him chatter a bit.

5) Snacks

This one is a little controversial. We’ve decided that we’re okay with a little bit of food if it’s seeming necessary. I’ve tried Cheerios in one of these cup things, but Nora ended up with them alllll over and it was a disaster. We’ve had success with the applesauce or baby food pouches since it’s minimal mess and it takes her a little bit to suck it down so she’s quiet for that time period. Lately, we’ve been doing fruit snacks for her. I try to hold off until the homily and then use them if she asks to buy us a little time of quiet. It’s been worth it for us to catch a little break- especially since she knows exactly where in the diaper bag the snacks live and will ask for them repeatedly until we open them. Toddlers are fun.

6) A Whole Lot of Prayer and Patience

I think this applies to all aspects of my life right now, but especially during the testing time that Mass tends to be with small people in tow. When we are actually able to get to church before Mass starts and not during the first song (about 25% of the time right now…), I include being able to pay attention and having patience with the kiddos in my beginning prayers. I find when I’m able to do this, I’m at least able to catch snippets of the readings and homily. We actually got there ahead of time today (a small miracle), and I included Nora in my beginning prayers, so they also included her behaving and being kind.

It also helps to know that someday the kids will sit nicely and pay attention, and I’ll be able to pay attention to the full mass again without pulling an endless supply of things out of the diaper bag. This is only a season! In the meantime, I’ll snuggle my babies close, whisper sing songs and whisper read books, and then catch up on the readings when we get back home.

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Here’s to the Start of Potty Training

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We started “successfully” potty training Nora about two weeks ago now.  She’s definitely nowhere near finished, as she had two big accidents today, but we are making progress! It was a draining first week, a more accident prone second week, and now my parents are here so we are all over the place. While, we’ve not finished yet, I’ve already written a few new lessons in my parenting book.

1) It’s good to be prepared.

We had been thinking about potty training since before Charlie was born, but the timing never seemed right. We always had a trip coming up, or a baby to be born, or something else that made us postpone starting. While I was pregnant, and still had time to myself, I read the popular book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right.  It was really good to have read this book before we actually started, but I probably should read it again.  We have not followed everything this book laid out, but some of the tips have come in handy.

We also bought three potty seats because we’re over achievers. We’ve used the Munchkin Potty Seat in the bathroom, the Munchkin 3-in-1 Multi Stage Potty first in our living room and then in our van, and keep the OXO Tot Potty for Travel in the backpack to go out and about. It was good to have these ahead of time to introduce them to her slowly so she knew what to do with them when she actually started.

At some point, we had also picked up a couple packs of underwear from Target, had some microfiber cloths laying around the house for cleaning up accidents, and bought a ton of potty books.  We thought we would be good to go whenever we decided to bite the bullet- and I was glad to be ready with all of our supplies before I thought we would need to be!

2) It’s also good to be surprised.

I was really dreading starting the process and having to always know where the closest potty was for the rest of my life (I may be a little dramatic).  My parents were going to be out to visit us soon, so when Tony and I discussed when we should really start encouraging her to start, we thought that we’d wait a couple weeks until after they were gone.  Tony had a work trip and was going to be out of town for a few days in that time frame, so it was better just to wait. Of course, Nora tends to have her own plans (as most toddlers do), so she woke up the first day he was going to be gone and stated that she’d like to wear undies and pee in the potty now. And because I’m winging this parenting thing, I just went with it.  That first day was a good amount of accidents, but she also made it to the potty a couple times! The whole process ended up being way easier than I had anticipated, and I’m glad we waited until she wanted to do it rather than “forcing” it on her.  Had we introduced it before she was ready, I think it would’ve turned into more of a power struggle- especially with our strong-willed, opinionated little girl.  The overall dread I had over potty training left and was replaced by a new “can-do” attitude, as Tony calls it.

3) It’s okay to have setbacks.

I should’ve known that potty training wouldn’t be over as soon as it started and that she wouldn’t just start politely saying “Mommy, I’d like to go use the toilet now, please” and then go all by herself.  Over the first weekend, she had a couple big accidents that led to her not wanting to go anymore. Then she started saying her “booty” hurt, so being the kind of hypochondriac parent that I am, I thought she might have a UTI (even though she exhibited none of the symptoms- but you never know!!)  I gave her a couple days break where I didn’t push it, and she kept saying it.  Luckily, Charlie already had a doctor’s appointment that week, so we were able to get her in too to check. After an hour of trying to pee at the doctor’s office and then half an hour in our trunk trying some more, we finally had a sample to give to the doctor.  Of course, it ended up being nothing. On the way home, Nora said “I feel all better now. I like going to the doctor.”  So at least we got that out of our doctor’s appointment!

We started up again that next afternoon with success again! I guess it’s just important to jump back in when things are seeming to go backward. But it’s also probably good to listen to your toddler’s “symptoms” even if it turns into nothing.

4) The magic of music and books is a beautiful thing.

The amount of times I’ve sang the Daniel Tiger Potty song in the last two weeks is astounding.

When you have to go potty, stop! and go right away. Flush and Wash and be on your way!

The Daniel Goes to the Potty book was our anthem that first week- it even has a fun button to press that has a flushing sound, what joy! The episode it’s based on was also a hit (Prince Wednesday Goes to the Potty/Daniel Goes to the Potty). My mom had also given us a few potty books that we had been reading in preparation, Peep and Egg: I’m Not Using the Potty and Vegetables in Underwear, that have both been big hits.  Our newest favorite is The Potty Train– chugga chugga, pooo pooo. We keep these and a couple Usborne poop books on top of the toilet where we go and read them as we wait. They also work as bribes to get her to sit on the toilet when I’m thinking it might be time to go. Sometimes we’ll sing songs instead, The ABC’s is always a hit 😉 Whatever passes the time, right?

5) There’s nothing more exciting than that first time, except maybe the second time

I think the excitement around potty training falls into the “things I didn’t expect before I became a parent” category. The look of pride on Nora’s face the first time she went potty was so awesome to see and be present to.  It made all of the accidents and mopping up pee so worth it (at least so far…). Still, every time she goes, she has a smile on her face and a look of surprise that it’s actually happening.  She finally got that big P in the toilet yesterday and she was so excited, but also trying to figure out how it all works.  It’s so fun to see her little mind rolling.

Of course, we are still only a couple weeks in, there are still accidents happening (multiple today!), still diapers to clean up at nap/bedtime, and so much ahead of us.  These little peeks into Nora’s head have been so awesome- even if it is making us spend a long time reading and singing in the bathroom everyday!  Here’s to a fast transition to going by herself, without too many tears (on either of our parts!)

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To Begin, Begin

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I probably should have restarted this blog a long time ago. 

Like when we found out I was pregnant a month after we were married and two weeks before I was supposed to start PA school.

Or when we almost bought a duplex when we had no idea what we were doing with our lives.

Or when we chose a birth center and went home 5 hours after Nora was born without having given her a name yet.

Or when we moved to Grand Rapids, MI when Nora was 5 months old.

Or when I decided to do Nora’s first airplane experience by myself.

Or when we decided it was time to add a second baby to the mix.

Or when we moved to Tampa, FL 10 months after we had moved to Michigan, when I was 4 months pregnant.

Or when we had to figure out who was going to watch Nora while I was in labor after just moving even further from family.

Or when I decided to do Charlie’s first airplane ride experience by myself with two under two.

Or when we did our first long family road trip to Wisconsin from Florida.

But little did we know, we’d still be winging life after our crazy trip.  Tony and I recently decided that our whole life together has been a series of bad decisions that have gone right. Hopefully, they’ll continue to!  We’re excited to have you along on this journey as we tackle life in the only way we know how to- with too much planning for the wrong things, not enough planning for the right things, and a whole lot of faith that it’ll all work out. 

Be patient with me as I figure out this whole blogging thing and do some page organization. Turns out it’s a little more than writing something up and pressing publish ;).  Who knows where this is going to go or if I’ll stick with it, but as William Wordsworth said, “To begin, begin,” and that’s just what I’m going to do. 

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