Sunday, October 21, 2012

challenges of parenthood

i always squeem when i hear people say, "being a stay at home mom is the hardest job in the world."  don't get me wrong--staying at home can be very difficult in an emotionally frustrating way that is different than work stress.  however, elevating stay at home moms to the place of doing the hardest work in the world unintentionally puts down dads and working moms. 

i've worked and stayed at home, and in my experience, staying at home is much easier for me overall.  everyone's situation is different (some people's husbands, families, friends, etc. play a huge role in helping raise their children, and others have husbands who travel or are deployed and are virtually raising their kids as single parents), so i don't think it's right to make a generalization either way that working moms or stay at home moms have it harder.  most of the challenges i've experienced as a stay at home mom i also experienced as a working mom--it is just seems to never end when you are with your kids 24/7.
all that to say--being a mom (make that a parent) is hard!!  as much as love my two rowdy boys, i've found myself losing my patience all too much recently.  it culminated at qdoba today when neither of my boys were listening at all.  parker kept hiding under the table, being loud, running around and doing everything but eat his burrito.  the restaurant was packed (including several casual friends at other tables) and as i was trying to pack up our half eaten lunches to take home to avoid any more embarrassment, paxton fell off the bench he and parker were using as a race track and hit his head on the ground.  crying ensued and i could just feel everyone staring at the frazzled mom trying to wrangle two disobedient children to the car.

i felt like a failure as a mom.  maybe i should give myself more credit for being brave enough to take two kids to church and out to lunch by myself (james was working), but ugghh.  as much i would like to say this too shall pass, avoiding eating out for a few weeks does not teach my kids respect and obedience.  in constantly working on molding my boys, there will be struggles and frustrations.  all i can control is my reaction.  my prayer for today (and every day) is that God gives me the grace, patience and love to respond in a way that shapes Parker and Paxton's hearts and actions to be more Christlike.  we all are still definitely a work in progress but thankfully we serve a God who is bigger than all of our shortcomings!  love yall.
(this pic was after baths tonight...still just as rowdy as at lunch!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

on teaching

this fall i had the opportunity to teach finance to adults finishing their degree at JBU.  when i decided to stay home, i knew if i worked again it would be doing something i was truly passionate about like education.  reflecting on my previous jobs, the ones i enjoyed most were co-teaching/tutoring at JBU and being a summer camp counselor.  i enjoy building relationships and encouraging others in subjects they may dislike (i.e. math), so when asked to teach (very part time) at JBU i knew it was something i wanted to pursue.

i just finished my first class and definitely will teach more if asked.  i've been praying for my students for a couple of months and even though i only got five weeks in the classroom with them, i hope their lives were positively impacted.  today i received an email from a student affirming my decision to teach (sorry for tooting my own horn but i want to document important life events).


I just checked my grades.  Are you kidding me?  Did I really pass this class?  And an A, OMG!

Thank you for your patience and engaging presentation of the ridiculously intimidating material.  I have a CFO that is kind of arrogant about his understanding of financial principals and my lack thereof.  I had him look at my practice exam, kind of looking for his approval/acknowledgement of my effort to learn.  He actually said, "Oh, you're actually taking real classes?"

I just wanted to let you know, that while I certainly did not learn everything there is to know about finances and financial math, I gained confidence in my ability to comprehend and understand the basics.  I will build on the fundamentals you helped me to learn. I will no longer allow him to bully me (not sure that is really what he intends, but it is how I let myself feel when dealing with him) into thinking I do not have something valuable to contribute to financial decisions about the organization I am ultimately responsible for, that by the way has an 8 million dollar operating budget.

Sorry this is late.  I felt compelled to let you know personally that you were instrumental in probably one of the most uplifting and valuable educational opportunities of my career.

Thank you!

sweet words.  love you all and hope you get the opportunity to do something you love!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

on romance

last week i had a very mopey girl moment of feeling sorry for myself because i could not think of the last time my husband bought me flowers or wrote a sweet love note.  i love my husband so very much, but he is not exactly the epitome of romantic.  in my silly pity party (there are people dying all around the world and i am sad that my husband hasn't brought home roses in a while), i started thinking of romantic things i had done for him lately...
i didn't get very far (does laundry & sweeping the floor count?).  relationships take work, and while the best friend/parenting partnership part of our relationship is good, i think we both could put a little more effort into the romantic side.  to ignite the romance, my sweet neighbor, shalini, offered to watch our boys so james and i could go on a little date night.  her only condition was that i had to put effort into the date--not just go out to dinner.
i started by putting a handwritten note (with a chocolate chip cookie from chick fila--so delicious if you have not tried them!!) in james' car while he was in class asking him if he would like to join me for a date that evening. then i picked up an 18 pack of his favorite beer and put it in the fridge at home for a post date treat.  for our time sans kids, we took our rackets to the tennis courts.  while this may not seem uber romantic, it is something we loved to do together when we first started dating and something we hope to do more. 
we had a great match and even though i was up 6-5, james ended up winning 8-6.  we shared many laughs, a good workout and  two hours of free entertainment!  after a quick dinner at mcalisters, we picked up the boys and enjoyed an evening of relaxation together.  i think james may have been more excited that i thought to buy him beer than plan a date night, but either way it was a success!  since then we have both stepped up the romance with little things like him bringing me a dr. pepper this afternoon on his way home.  i'm still waiting on the flowers, but i'll smile thinking about our good times on the court... :)
(all photos from 2006).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

prayer request--baby olivia

hey yall!

please say a prayer for my college friend, stacey.  last week she gave birth to a baby girl, olivia, at 34 weeks after having a full placental abruption.  baby olivia went several minutes without oxygen and there are still a lot of unknowns as she recovers in the nicu.  you can read the whole story and updates on stacey's blog:  you are in our hearts and prayers, kaundarts!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

wordless wednesday: this is arkansas

james and i take the boys on a walk around the neighborhood nearly every night.  it is refreshing to get out of the house, burn few calories and see who else is out and about.  sometimes we hit the jackpot!
 love arkansas!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

is it the weekend yet?

love these pics of our boys.  i want to write something substantial but my brain is fried right now.  thank goodness tomorrow is friday and james is off for 5 days!  until then, i'm watching some quality tv: Big Brother & Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

i really appreciate our neighbors--such a great representation of community.  a few weeks ago we had some friends staying at our house, and within 24 hours, my sweet neighbor shalini randomly brought over cookies & another neighbor noelle dropped off yummy banana nut bread.  our out of town guests were a little weirded out at the friendliness of the neighborhood, but i wouldn't have it any other way.  it is so nice to have people you can count on 50 feet away.  some days it feels like a college dorm room going over to each others' homes and passing the afternoon away.

tonight several of our husbands were working so our neighbor tatyana cooked delicious risotto for all of the widows.  i baked chocolate chip cookies and we cut up mounds of fresh fruit for the kids.  between the four moms, we have 8 little CRAZY boys who love to cause ruckus together.  after dinner we went for a walk and saw several other friends playing outside.  our kids spend hours upon hours outside each day and i wouldn't have it any other way.

raising two boys can be exhausting, but having a supporting village around you is such a huge blessing!!!  thankful for my wonderful neighbor friends.  love.

Monday, August 20, 2012

back to school

i've loved looking through everyone's back to school photos of their kids on facebook today.  my next neighbor (and bestie) sent her son to his first day of kindergarten and we had a play date at the park to minimize the crying! ha :)
isn't he so cute?!?

parker and paxton will be going back to kids day out at pinnacle cross church in september and i am very much looking forward it!  when james and i made the decision for me to stay at home, one of our biggest questions was if the kids would still go to "school."

reasons we are still sending the kids to school:
*to enhance learning (the curriculum is excellent)
*to aid in social development (parker loves his kdo friends)
*to make my children happy (ha! parker begged to go for a good month after school ended last spring)
*to have a break from the kids--makes us that much more excited to see them when we pick them up
*to use the time to prep for the finance class i'm teaching for JBU
*to have tennis dates with my husband!

we thought about just doing one day, but i think parker really benefits from two days (that's the max at the church). the program is very reasonably priced and i am going to sub when teachers get sick to help pay for it.  the second child is discounted, so we are sending both (this is parker's 3rd year and paxton's 2nd year).  parker thrives in such a structured environment and is proud of all of the crafts he brings home.

the kdo program is not perfect, but it's the best we've found.  the kids only go from 9am-1pm, so they don't nap at school and really make the most of the four hours we pay for (they have "chapel", PE, arts and crafts, etc).  we went to another longer kdo program last summer where the kids napped and watched movies and it felt so much more like a daycare than a structured learning environment.  i am thankful for the opportunity to have my kids participate in the cross church program (even though we don't go to church there) and can't wait to hear stories on car rides home to learn all about parker's fun filled days!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

friday fun day: fire station

we had our second official week of playgroup yesterday and toured the springdale fire station.  i am not one to think guys in uniform are especially attractive, but man, look at that hottie of a husband :).
the kids got to use the big hose to knock over a cone and loved it. 
james' major at john brown was youth ministry, so i think it is neat that he gets to lead tours and go to schools to talk about fire safety. 
paxton stomping around the fire station like a big kid.
nolan, shelley & 11 day old baby allyn!  nolan and parker were in the same class at kids day out last year and became bff's.  nolan is the only kid i've ever met who is younger than parker and taller than him!  they always have a wild & great time together.
baby kate.  she is no longer the baby though as we just found out her mom will be having another girl around christmas!
 baby brynn already toddling as well!  she is exactly one month younger than pax.
sweet sloane, parker's neighbor, soccer buddy, and sunday school friend.  he and parks are only 7 days apart!
baby lucas.  our newest neighborhood baby!

big brother dylan, another great neighbor friend.  some of my favorite kids!!

after our tour we chowed down on pudding chip cookies (looove them) and mr. james gave everyone fire safety stickers and coloring books.  it was a wonderful outing and i look forward to more fun fridays in the upcoming weeks!  love yall and hope you are having wonderful weekends.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

wordless wednesday: boys

God Loves Little Boys
(Randy Grayson)

God loves little boys and all that they do
Exploring and laughing and roughhousing, too.
God loves their energy, eagerness and wit.
He loves their serious side and their fanciful spirit.

He guides them and tends them while they grow,
Giving them all of the grace he can bestow.
God's plan for his boys is wondrous as well,
Because soon in their place little men will dwell.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

chicken parmesan bake

one of my goals in staying at home is to cook more.  so far, not so good.  blame it on traveling, lack of appetite in the summer heat, whatever makes me feel better, but i have yet to become mrs. domestic.  cooking can be overwhelming--finding recipes, planning meals, shopping, forgetting important items in said recipes and cleaning up, blah.  however, i've realized that i do not have to find a recipe for every single meal.  for lunch--sandwiches, soups, macaroni, chicken nuggets, pizza, leftovers, etc fit the bill (or are at least better than eating fast food).  for dinners when the husband is working, i keep it simple as well. so my amended goal of cooking more is to plan 4 solid dinners a week. 

this week is off to a good start--sunday we made pulled pork sandwiches in the slow cooker and last night we cooked chicken parm bake

delicious and easy! cleanup is minimal as well--no pans, bowls, nothing besides a cutting board to chop up the fresh basil (yum!).

i also put together a little excel spreadsheet i put together of all of the meals we enjoy.  below is part of the work in progress...i added many more items and hyperlinks to the recipes for easier planning. 

love you all and have a wonderful week!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Friday Fun Day Playgroup: Week 1

A few friends and I recently put together a playgroup with different activities for every Friday in the fall.  This week marked the kick off at our neighborhood pool and we had a great time!  Nine mommies came out and 15 kiddos.  Even if just one person came it would've been fun but it was nice to see everyone and catch up a little.  I love, love these kids!!  The girls are just so sweet even when our boys are rowdy troublemakers.

If anyone in Northwest Arkansas ever wants to get out of the house and meet up, let me know and I can send you the schedule!  It is very informal and most of the activities are free.  Next week we are touring the fire station with Mr. James! :).  Love you all and hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

wordless wednesday: colorado

thank you all for the great comments, emails, etc from yesterday!  i am working my way through replying to everyone.  in the mean time, here are a couple of my favorite pics from our trip to colorado this summer.  love these guys!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

preparing to stay at home: finances

like many families, the biggest question james and i had in deciding if i would stay home would be if we could afford to live on one income.  not just one income, but a firefighter's salary (our ideal is that james does not have to get another job so he can be home with our family as much as possible, but he has offered several times to get a second job if that is what it takes for me to be able to stay at home).  just to give a ballpark (since gov't salaries are published anyway), we are talking about living on less than this guy who wrote a book on a family of 4 living on $40,000/year

i don't share this to claim that we are super people or money experts by any means, but in hopes that our story will encourage others that they can live on one income if desired no matter what that income.  the other day i was at the pool reading money (nerd alert) and came across an article, "the challenge: saving for college & retirement on one income."  i squealed to a friend, "this article was meant for us!" and then went on to read that the one family income was $136,000/year.  whh..whhhat?  then the expert predicted a 60% success rate of reaching financial goals.  depressing.

so for anyone with a one family income that is not six figures, this is for you.  you can plan and live on much less if you really want to.  for us and the author above, the key to living on less is long term planning.  you won't get rich over night and nor will you go deeply into debt in one day (hopefully).   3 1/2 years ago while i was pregnant with our first child, parker, i blogged about our financial plan.  it is fun to look back and read our financial ideals and how we are doing on accomplishing said goals. without further ado, i give you

5 steps taken to live on one income:

1. low house payment.  i really hoped to have our house paid off by the time i quit work.  1 1/2 years ago we made prepaying our mortgage a high priority, and paid off over half of our homes' current worth.  coincidentally with interest rates below 3% right now on 15 year fixed rate loans, we refinanced our remaining balance and have a very doable payment.  i'm not going to lie--it is bittersweet knowing that if i worked 2 more years we could have the house completely paid off, but in 2 more years parker will be in kindergarten i don't want to give away those precious years with him.  plus knowing that we are paying more principal each month than interest makes me feel better that we are still working to pay it off (and we can always pay more if we want to, but with interest rates lower than inflation who is in a hurry?).

2. 10 month emergency fund.  we never had a spoken goal in terms of months (i think 3-6 probably would've been fine), but my husband is very conservative when it comes to saving and so we set a target $ amount together and i put in my notice after we reached our goal.  i ended up working 8 more weeks which added a little padding and paid for all of our summer vacations so we didn't have to use savings.  if for some reason our budget is not working, our emergency fund should give us plenty of time to reevaluate and find extra work.

3. pay off all debt besides our mortgage.  when we first got married, we set a goal of never financing anything besides our home.  if we could not save up the cash for a car or anything else, then we didn't want to buy it.  i know this sounds like a lofty goal, but in trying to live on one income while we still had two, i think it is possible.  we did this as much as we could and even though the firefighters make fun of james' corolla, it is worth it to us to not have car payments.

4. save for our next car. we knew we would not be able to save a lot each month on a firefighter's salary besides the amount going to the principal of our house, so we set aside a little money for our next vehicle whenever we need one and put it in dividend paying stocks.  the fate of the market will determine our our vehicle selection, so if you see us driving a beater around town you know what happened :).  seriously, though, we have read several articles on dividend paying stocks and appreciate the small quarterly income they provide in this low savings rate era.

5. prepay as much as possible.  we've prepaid our gym membership until march of 2014 (which i would not recommend!), so james and i try to take advantage of this and other free activities like our neighborhood pool, going on walks, going to the park, playing tennis, etc.  we also paid 6 months of car insurance, cell phones (we are on a family plan so we pay a family member), etc. while we had two incomes to make the transition easier during the first few months.  i also stocked up on deal piggies and living social vouchers for fun summer activities like jumpzone and the tulsa zoo.

phew.  if you are still reading, thanks for your time.  james and i are just starting this journey and hope to report in another few years that we are so happy with the decisions we've made.  love you all and have a wonderful day!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


i have officially been a stay at home mom for two months!  overall it is going really well, but with every transition comes positives and opportunities for growth.

a couple of weeks ago, james and i had a little spat in which he shared that i was throwing off his routine by wanting to go to the gym at 8:45am instead of his usual 9:30am.  for 3 years, james has faithfully gone to the gym nearly every day he is home (a mini escape from the boys if nothing else).  now that i am home and the class i like to attend at the gym is at 8:45am, we've been going earlier.  no big deal, right?  it's really not, and james willingly goes at 8:45 to make me happy, but it is a change.

in the afternoon when the boys nap from 1-3, james used to have a couple hours of peace and quiet all to himself.  he could choose the tv show, he could do yard work, he could do whatever he wanted.  he pretty much still can, but there is another adult in the home--change.

one major positive with me staying home is that we have so much time together.  our relationship is at one of its strongest points and we've enjoyed nearly every day of the last two months.  when KDO starts in the fall, we will be able to play tennis, go on lunch dates, etc.  however, an opportunity lies in not spending so much time together that we go crazy and want to kill each other.

to remedy this potential pitfall, we are trying to give each other as much time to ourselves as possible.  james gets $2 movies since he is a firefighter, so he's seen every movie in theaters right now (and the dark knight twice).  he encourages me to go out in the afternoon, but without spending much money and with most of my friends working or at home with their kids, i've come to need a hobby (hello, blog!).

financially, we've made no major changes.  james still enjoys golf with his friends and i still shop at gymboree. we've made an effort to eat out less both for health and cost, but we still have our weekly sunday lunch at qdoba (keepin' it classy!) and eat at chick fila more than we should.  we still don't have internet on our phones and try to live (semi) frugally, but our lifestyle is the same.

i know i am still in the honeymoon stage of staying at home (how long does that last?), but am loving our new family arrangement and am thankful for the blessing of james and my sweet (crazy) boys.  love!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


i love this picture.  not only do i love these ladies & these kids, but i love that i've gotten to spend time with them over the last two years in a community group.

at jbu, the term "community" was so overused most students grew desensitized to it.  it wouldn't surprise me if community groups are on the satirical list of stuff white people like.  but over the last two years, our family has been blessed to be a part of a great community (i don't like the word group because it sounds so exclusive) of people who have become some of our best friends.

it is not easy to be a part of a community group with young children.  the logistics of coordinating babysitters, food, locations, etc mixed with the guilt of sending your child with a babysitter after working during the day is sometimes too much.  there have been times when we've thought about stopping and i'm sure others have as well, but we've pressed on and can see the rewards of effort put into the relationships. 

the ladies above are beautiful inside and out, and it is so nice to walk down the street and see smiling faces of friends who've been there through the celebrations and struggles.  tomorrow we get to find out the sex of a baby on the way and i can't wait to cut into the cake! 

(invitation designed by jennifer of parents playground who has been working hard perfecting the details of the party)

here's to another great year of community, growth & support traversing the crazy world of life parenting toddlers together.  love!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

wordless wednesday

these pictures are pretty accurate depictions of the boys' personalities right now!


Monday, July 30, 2012

little fish

summer favorite: the neighborhood pool. 

now that we've lived in a community with a pool, i'm not sure we'll ever be able to go back (much like converting to a king bed).  the pool is on our daily agenda and never gets old.  i pack the boys a bowl of grapes & strawberries and we embark on our 1/2 mile walk to the watering hole.  we love meeting up with friends and meeting new neighbors.
parker is a FISH.  he loves, loves, loves the pool.  he is not afraid of the water one bit and can jump in the deep end and swim to the ladder at 3 years old!  (no worries, i stay close to him).  he taught himself how to do a flip off the side of the pool and can do both back and front flips in the water.  he is so happy being out in the sun.  with all of this talk of generation XL, i am thankful for morning exercise (which = longer nap!).
paxton took a few weeks to warm up to the water, but now loves it almost as much as his brother.  like parks, pax has been known to jump off the side into deep water so we have to keep a close eye on our little walking machine.
i am so thankful to have this "free" summer activity at our fingertips and am living it up while the temps are over 100 every day!
my little snuggle bug.  and because it's fun to compare, here is a little video of parker at paxton's age.  i hope to have a similar video of pax to post soon!  love yall.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

taking it to the man

i can't believe i am finally a stay at home mom!  since parker was born, i've known i wanted to stay home.  i wrote several posts about the stress of being a working mom, and i knew it was not best for me or my family.  however, i didn't want to make a rash, emotional decision and wanted to make sure financially we could afford it (another post to come on how we prepared financially for the change).

so why did i decide to stay home? 
*to make memories with my kids
*to be their primary teacher and influence
*to be a better mom
*to give my children my first and best energy of the day (instead of working for the first 9 hours and being tired/stressed out when i come home)
*to take my kids to the pool and park instead of having someone else text me photos of them enjoying the pool
*to teach them how to read
*to not be locked to a computer all day
*to cook more and eat more meals at home
*to hang out with other stay at home moms
*to workout
*to take care of myself
*to volunteer more
*to participate in a women's Bible study
*to spend time in the sun
*to give my husband a break from taking care of the kids so much by himself
*to enjoy life (it is so short!)

disclaimer: i fully understand that you can do most if not all of these things as a working mom.  some people are better parents when they are working and i completely respect and admire that.  others work to provide for their families and i respect that so much, too.  for me, i was trying to work and do everything and was not doing anything well.

i know that staying at home is not easy, but after 2 months, i could not be any happier with my choice. i've been called by recruiters asking when i want to go back to work, and my answer is that i am loving life right now and have no desire to go back to work any time soon.  here's to reading books, building forts and spending lots of quality time together as a family!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

paxton & parker's nursery

i am doing a link up today with kelly's korner about nurseries!  below are a few pics of paxton's nursery... i used the same room/bedding for both boys because i am too cheap to buy all new things.

paxton's dedication verse, isaiah 40:31, above his crib:
originally the boys were going to share a room, but until they both fully sleep through the night without waking each other up, parker is sleeping in the guest bedroom.  the wall still bears his name (and i just realized i didn't straighten the plates before snapping the pic.  oh well, there room is far from perfect!)
 paxton's big boy bed (parker's bed when we have actualy guests sleeping in the guest room).
paxton's sweet pillow i got at a local craft fair and the quilt my mother in law made.  she picked out all of the materials and it matches the boys' room perfectly.  love!
 growth chart!  it lists famous people's height on the left side and our family members height on the right
sweet cards line the top of the room.  i wanted some way to display them and they make the perfect nursery border!
i am working on a post of why i decided to be a stay at home mom and how we planned for it...thanks for reading--more to come! :)