you are (2) going on (3)

Have you recently found yourself delighted at the prospect of going to an allergy office to be stuck by needles several times because you have the opportunity to get those pokes all by your lonesome? Do you feel stuck in a loop a la Groundhog’s Day, except instead of trying to make it to February 3, you’re trying in vain to keep food off your floors and walls? Are you rapidly losing your hair (because you’re pulling it out)?

You might have an Almost-three.

Classic Almost-three. Note the spilled marker cup and the eyes that say “yeah, what of it?” Almost-threes are also masters of the smirk.

Almost-threes are a particular breed of child that can “be starving” but also “don’t want to eat that.” Almost-threes often speak in high pitched screeches that rival the decibel level of a jet engine. They love avenging self-declared grevious wrongs, unfolding perfectly matched pairs of socks, and requiring an emergency bathroom at inopportune times. Oh, Almost-threes have their sweet qualities: for one, their little half-baby faces look positively adorable scrunched up into anger. The first time, anyway. And maybe some Almost-threes say “barret feet” instead of “bare feet” or “wass” instead of “water,” and that’s just crazy sweet. 

But let’s be honest with ourselves: we’ve all heard “terrible twos.” We’ve heard “three-nager.” While each child will have a different journey toward reaching their maximum jerk potential, I urge you to consider the oft-overlooked Almost-three. Don’t let them sneak up on you. You’ll probably end up wet as a result (don’t ask what the wet is, it’s better not to know).

“Who wouldn’t want sand over every inch of their body?” -All Almost-threes

So how do you identify an Almost-three? Here are some handy things to look out for.

An Almost-three has successfully completed two journeys around the sun but has not yet completed a third.

An Almost-three simultaneously wants to “play with mama” and “no play with mama.”

Note: “Play with mama” usually means either a) physically abusing mama, b) asking for a snack, or c) making a pile of all of your puzzle pieces and immediately saying “all done.” “No play with mama” usually means your Almost-three is peeing somewhere there should certainly not be pee.

An Almost-three switches moods almost instantly.

And there are ways to work with this. “Suggest” your child take a nap because he seems sleepy. When he doth protest too much, say, “or just play nice with mama and we’ll get a snack later!” That snack may be carrots. That’s future-you’s problem.

This leads us to the Question of the Universe: WHY IS YOUR ALMOST-THREE THIS INSANE NIGHTMARE?

I have a theory, but note: this theory works really well with my current situation as a stay-at-home-mom. If you’re in a different situation but are also experiencing signs and symptoms of having an Almost-three, let me know your specifics and I will come up with a tailor made theory just for you.

As a stay-at-home-mom, I firmly believe that the Almost-three appears about six months (give or take) before you would send your little goldfish-guzzler to preschool or threeschool. Three-year-old preschool is not a requirement of any kind. Truth be told, four year old preschool isn’t either, but then you can use the reasoning of preparing for kindergarten.

But preschool for three-year-olds — especially three-year-olds that, say, don’t get out much (WE TRY OK; jk, I mean the ones that don’t go to a regular daycare) is so good. The three-year-old learns how to become a contributing member of a group. He learns to follow a somewhat regular routine. He learns that his teacher is someone to respect; he learns what respect is (in an ideal world, but hey, bear with me). 

But here’s the deal. Sometimes, when my Almost-three is asleep at night (and bonus points if he’s actually kept his pajamas and nighttime pull-up on), sometimes I look at him. I watch his tiny chest rise and fall and tear up in a sentimental way. I think, maybe you don’t need preschool this year?

Stay with your mama forever, you sweet little fluff of angel baby sent down from heaven!

And then he’ll wake up and dump a bottle of glue on his hands and I’ll say SIGN HIM UP NOW!

Almost-threes are God’s way of letting us know our littles are ready for preschool. Oh sure, we’ll cry and take a million pictures on that first day, but then we’ll drive to Starbucks alone, and we’ll smile, and we’ll think maybe I should have another baby? And then we’ll sip our coffee, remove oatmeal from our hair, and we’ll think NOPE.

premeditated meals, part 2

Here they are — in no particular order — my three FAVORITE kitchen appliances! Please know that the amazon pages listed are affiliate links and I may collect a portion of sales if items are clicked through and purchased from here.

Without further ado, the INSTANT POT!

So the Instant Pot is getting a LOT of buzz right now. But anything that can cook 2 lbs of ground beef and carrots and potatoes from stone cold raw to ready-for-dinner in about a half hour is going to get buzz. And it’s well deserved! This one appliance can do the work of so many others. It’s a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a yogurt maker (one some models) and more! One of my favorite features is the ability to sauté in the pot before doing any pressure or slow cooking. All of a sudden you’ve eliminated the need for another pan to say, sear meat or carmelize onions.

Another great thing about the Instant Pot is that once it’s done pressure cooking, it can keep your food warm for an extended period of time. This is great for our family because when Jason’s working nights, he’ll leave our house between 4 and 4:30. If the rest of us aren’t ready for dinner quite that early, he can still take his portion and leave the rest in the pot to stay warm. There have been so many times when I haven’t started a slow cooker early enough for him to eat before leaving, and since this cooks food so quickly, it’s usually not an issue.

Cons: It IS bulky. If you don’t want to leave this on your counter, you may have to search a bit to find appropriately-sized cupboard space. It’s also pricey — consider how often you’ll use the Instant Pot before taking the plunge (for the record, I do get my money’s worth).

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Next up… the AIR FRYER!

OK, I’m going to be honest, I’m waiting for the internet to blow up about this thing. It is amazing. It “fries” your food using a tiny fraction of the oil typical fryers need, and it does this using hot circulating air. You can go pretty simple with the Air Fryer — throw in some sliced potatoes brushed lightly with the oil of your choice and in about ten minutes you have some pretty awesome French fries. BUT! The Air Fryer can do so much more than this. To date, I’ve made copycat Chick-Fil-A chicken patties, carne asada (yes, 1.5 lbs of flank steak!), DONUTS (work in progress, but I mean, they got eaten), and tandoori chicken. There are just so many things you can make with this thing, and I feel like nobody talks about it.

If you like to buy frozen foods (mini pizzas, French fries, other appetizers), the Air Fryer will crisp those up faster and better than your oven can. And while there is a range of temperatures at which you can cook different foods, the Air Fryer does not require the long pre-heating time the oven does.

Cons: Like the Instant Pot, it’s bulky and it’s pricey. If you struggle with finding time for cooking, I do recommend one or both, however. They do speed up the process!

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And finally… the ZOJIRUSHI BREAD MAKER!

I’m going to start out by listing the con for this one — it’s expensive! I absolutely LOVE this bread maker, but please know there are much more reasonably priced bread makers out there. I can’t speak to them, however, because this is the only bread maker I’ve ever owned.

I LOVE homemade bread, but it really is an event. It can take up almost the whole day, and if, at the end of the process, you learn your yeast is bad, you’re toast. (Pun totally intended.) It takes me less than ten minutes to throw all of my bread ingredients in the bread maker and press the “start” button. Or, if I’m heading to bed and want to wake up to the aroma of freshly baked bread (which is something I highly recommend), I can schedule the cooking so it will finish just as my alarm is going off. So far, I’ve made white bread, whole wheat bread, and banana bread, but there are just so many other options. Every loaf has been amazing and delicious. Now I’m kind of drooling and need to make bread tonight.

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My runner-up favorites can be found below:

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Happy cooking, premeditated family!

premeditated meals, part 1

My nerd is showing because Y’ALL — I’m talking about food.

I love food. I think that’s one of the reasons I love every single thing about Shauna Niequest — she is a Christian/mom/wife/superstar who also loves food. She’s written on and on about the balance between body acceptance and the richness and pleasure in eating well, and that is a line I tread regularly.

Food is spiritual. Whether we are filling our children’s bellies or bringing a dish to a family in need, we are doing God’s work. The kind of food doesn’t matter as much as the feeling behind it. Before I start getting a bit too dramatic, please know that there are many times I stand, bleary-eyed, in front of the microwave reheating boxed macaroni and cheese for my children. In that moment, my motivation may simply be “feed the kids quick,” but when I reflect on those times, I know that I am still providing for them in a real and tangible way.

But life.

LIFE, y’all. I know it’s hard to break out of the mealtime madness routine. Our lives are busy and full, and sometimes the thought of standing in a kitchen and making a big mess and chaos is just less than desirable. But if you are like me, you know that a delicious meal can, if only for a moment, soothe and comfort.

I do not claim to be any sort of food or meal prep expert, but I am premeditated, and I’m going to share some goodness with you. This week I’m talking about basic tips and how-to’s, but next week I’ll be talking about my favorite appliances (like the star-of-the-hour, the INSTANT POT!).

Premeditated Meals in 5 Easy Steps!

1. MEAL PLAN

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A fun meal prep notebook is a total game changer.
Even if you aren’t a big planner, please please plan out some meals. Start with dinners if you are new to meal planning — I plan out dinners for each day (though sometimes they do get shuffled around) and a few breakfasts and lunches for the week. I use a magnetic notebook and leave it on my fridge so I always know what meals we’ll be eating on a given day.

2. GROCERY SHOP

A given, sure, but I’m only including this here because IF you can somewhow make this work, immediately after grocery shopping I love to…

3. PREP THOSE MEALS

Prepped food! (Label maker sold separately.)

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Snacks, lunches, veggies
Chop your veggies. Cook things that can be cooked ahead of time and easily reheated. Start putting meal ingredients together in a way that will make the actual cooking of them a breeze. While I’m at it, I also like to bag up whatever snacks I bought (goldfish, pretzels, etc.) and get them ready to throw at hangry kids when necessary throughout the week. If you can manage to do this

Some caveats here: yes, there are a million videos/articles/blogs on the internet that will tell you how to store your veggies. Usually these won’t say “cut them all up!” because this will sometimes cause them to go bad quicker. Know how many veggies you’ll eat in a week and buy/prep that much only. You’ll be much more likely to eat it if it’s ready to go anyway, and couldn’t we all eat more easy veggies? We could.

If the idea of making all of those snack baggies makes your earth-loving heart cringe, look into reusable cloth snack bags. I do like the cloth bags I have, but if I’m being honest, I use ziplocks a lot. We are a people who lose things.

4. COOK THOSE MEALS

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A happy little chicken pot pie all ready for the oven!
Hopefully, your meal prep will make the cooking EASY. Throwing salads together, reheating taco meat, or throwing a bag of ready-t0-go food into a slow cooker. It’s hard to feed your people everyday. Make this as simple as possible.

5. EAT!

Perhaps this goes without saying, but hey, eat your food. Really eat it. Sit down at the table, pour yourself a glass of wine or La Croix, pray with your family, eat with your family. Take the time to be present, because life comes at you fast. And your food will taste better if you, ya know, sit and chew it.

That’s all for today. Happy meal prep! Check back on Thursday for my favorite kitchen stuff!

on growing pains

Show me that smile again (show me that smile)

Don’t waste another minute on your crying

We’re nowhere near the end (we’re nowhere near)

The best is ready to begin…

First of all, I think it’s important for you to know that I did just type out the Growing Pains theme song by memory. So to answer your question, yes, I’ve always watched far too much television.

Now I’ll give you a minute to sing through the rest of the theme song…

The luckiest dreamers who never quit dreaming…

We got each other, sharing the laughter and love (laughter and love).

Are you crying too? No? Just me then, huh. OK.

I’m a proud, solid crier. I will cry about anything. I’ve read on the World Wide Web that this means I am strong or emotionally mature or something. I didn’t learn that until recently, when I had long since adjusted to my tearjerky ways. For a really long time, I was worried people would see me cry and wonder why I couldn’t hold myself together. Or come over with hugs and sympathetic eyes I was not, in fact, emotionally mature enough to deal with. So I wouldn’t cry unless I was in my bedroom, in a bathroom stall, or anywhere that other’s eyes weren’t. 

What did I do instead of confronting my own emotions in public? I made jokes.

(It’s all making sense now, you’re thinking to yourself. It’s OK. Every comedian has an origin story.)

From my wise old age of 32 (PS THAT is a joke), I realize that most of my dramatic hidden sobfests were truly simply teenage growing pains.  (Show me that smile.) That’s not to say I’m past the hard days and the need for a good bathroom cry, it’s just to say I’ve reached a point in my life where I realize those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days of adolescence were temporary and necessary for growth. So now I don’t care who I cry in front of or why, if people agree with me politically, or honestly, if people like me that much. (I MEAN OK OBVIOUSLY I WANT THEM TO LIKE ME but meh, I’ve got my people.)

I made it through the growing pains (don’t waste another minute on your crying) unscathed; or at least, not too terribly screwed up.

So why does the thought of Boone’s growing pains make me want to double over in nausea? I don’t want him to cry. I don’t want people to disagree with his thoughts on politics and dog gone it, I WANT PEOPLE TO LIKE HIM!

Don’t worry, baby, everyone will always love you and you’ll be fine.

There’s a disconnect, I think, between parenting someone who has to take the painful journey of growing up and being someone who has already experienced it. On the one hand, I realize all of the embarrassing interactions and crushing blows are a vital part of helping us through awkward phases of adolescence. On the other hand, Boone and Jonah are my precious little kitten-puppy-ice cream-unicorn creations. They are smart and funny and everyone needs to appreciate how unique and awesome they are. So maybe they can just skip the whole “weird growth phase” that I think lasts from about preschool-college and just be totally self-assured right from the get-go? Huh? Maybe? 

No. 

So how do I parent embarrassment? And not minor embarrassment — big, life-changing, dramatic, the-sky-is-falling embarrassment.

Here’s the short answer: I don’t know. I don’t know today, because today nothing made the sky fall. I can’t plan for it — even though you know I’d love to — because I don’t know what it will be. I don’t know if a boy will say he doesn’t want to be friends anymore or if, as a college senior, he’ll write an email complaining about a professor and then accidentally send it directly to that professor. (OK but honestly, I might be able to help him out of that one.)

I admit, this has been troubling me more than I’d like. I want to have a plan in my head on all of the ways I can protect my children. And so God has whispered, first quietly and then a little louder and more insistently-

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

And this is where I tell you God surely has a sense of humor since He’s repeating this to girl who literally read “What to Expect: the Toddler Years” when she was in her first trimester with her firstborn. God, I want to worry about things! It’s how I plan!

And He says, yes, of course, I know. But don’t.

So I’m not. Instead of worrying about how to handle the tough parts of parenting, instead of reading books or developing helpful plans, I’m praying. I’m asking for wisdom to be doled out when I’ll need it. It is one of the many ways God’s trying to strengthen my faith and my dependence on Him. It’s not easy. I mean it’s not crying-in-a-bathroom-stall, but — hey. Are our whole entire lives just one continuous stretch of growing pains? Were Jason and Maggie Seaver learning just as much about life as Mike, Carol, Ben, and later Chrissy? Will we ever figure anything out at all?

No.

Matthew 6:34. 

We got each other, sharing the laughter and love…

everything i need to know i learned from my toddler

Toddlers have a particular kind of wisdom that is often overlooked by the fact that they’re highly emotionally unstable. If you take the time to really dissect the toddler behavior, however, you will see that there is much to learn from your tiny little mood machine…

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: a genius.

Love your body.

Company over? In a public place? Somebody just make you put clothes on? SCREW IT, TAKE THOSE CLOTHES OFF. Your body is beautiful and a gift that should be given to everyone. (Please note there may be some legal repercussions here if you  try this one out in your local Target. The message is the same: love thyself.)

Fight for what you want.

Even if it’s just the blue cup instead of the red cup. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you (and want you to have the blue cup of your dreams)!

Don’t take “no” for an answer.

Also refuse to take “maybe,” “we’ll see,” “for the love just please stop talking,” “MAMA JUST NEEDS SOME ALONE TIME,” or muffled whimpers for answer either.

A cute smile goes a long way.

Even if you’ve been, like, a huge jerk all day. Just saying.

Be honest.

Yep, mommy does have a soft belly. Thanks for pointing that out. That man is wearing a silly hat. I bet he’s delighted to hear that. Oh no, he said “wow does she think!” and not anything about your odor. He’s admiring your brain. We have to go.

Let someone else take care of you.

Sometimes mysterious and invisible injuries can only be fixed by a kiss and a snuggle. Let yourself be kissed and snuggled, even if your wounds aren’t visible to the naked eye.

Love yourself.

Because, let’s face it, you’re the coolest person you know. Except for maybe your mom.

hashtag mom life hacks

I love my babies.

Ooh, this fake snow with the consistency of soggy cotton balls was a great idea; good thinking, me.

You love yours too. I know this.

But sometimes… oh man, sometimes… the task of parenting is hard. There are certainly days when all I want to do is stay snuggled up in bed all day, totally alone, and yet, the kids need “breakfast” and “clothes” and whatnot. And so even though “stay in bed mom” is one of my favorite quotes from the cult classic Arrested Development,  I simply cannot adopt that lifestyle.

So here’s what I do when I am forced to maternally fake it ’til I make it.

BATH TIME

Sure. OK. Bath time can be a crazy splashy experience that leaves everyone feeling soggy and tired. BUT. When you do bath time at, say, 2 pm? You can let that sucker drag on until the water turns cold. If you need to, keep one eye on your child and the water cascading down the side of the bathtub and the other eye on your book/television show/website of choice. To extend the fun, throw glow sticks into the bath. Instead of making the bath the thing to get through before you can finally put your lovely little monsters to bed, take the power back and let the bath work for you.

PODCASTS

One of my favorite escapes is an earbud in one ear playing the podcast of my choosing. Thanks to my dear friend Leanne, that podcast is currently The Sword and the Scale, a true crime podcast that is incredibly dark and addicting. I think I like it so much not because it is wholesome and uplifting (NOPE) but because it really feels like the opposite of my everyday life. I can start a television show for my toddler and do the dishes while listening to people being totally, totally illegal. It’s a weird little macabre getaway, and I love it.

**NOTE: You can be less dark than I am and use music or happy podcasts in your ear too. I mean, you do you.

SPEAKING OF A SHOW FOR YOUR TODDLER…

Some days will have too much screen time. Some days will have none. Accept the fact that everything in life is moderation and don’t beat yourself up for a lazy, visually stimulating day, especially during winter in Michigan. Especially especially during winter in Michigan where there isn’t snow to go out and play in but it’s still too dang cold to easily go play outside. The warmth will come. Embrace the cold.

PAJAMA DAY

Self-explanatory. Love your jammies, love yourself.

GET OUT

This last one is a little controversial, even in my own mind. Some days I really don’t want to leave (especially if it’s a self-declared Pajama Day; see above). But sometimes — perhaps this is when your toddler has dumped out the same box of crayons for the fourth time in a row — you say, “NOPE!” and you run errands (made up if necessary), find an indoor park or museum, go to a movie theatre, visit a friend, get in the car and just drive… I’ve had great success digging my way out of a hard mom day by simply changing our location. Yes, sometimes this can be more stressful than just staying home and repeatedly cleaning up that *&%^ box of crayons. Use at your own risk.

Being a mom is truly the most amazing thing I’ve done with my life… but it’s hard, y’all. Let’s stop pretending like the hard days don’t happen. Let’s embrace the hot, crazy mess that is motherhood and survive it together, however we know how. What are your mom life hacks?

doing it all and doing it better

At Boone’s school this year, the theme is TRY. Try something new. Try if it’s hard. If at first you don’t succeed… you get it. Boone brought home a “Try” worksheet yesterday that he had to fill out with his own personal “try” goal.

Boone wearing his school “TRY” t-shirt “TRYING” to teach Jonah counting. (This lasted about five minutes.)

“This year, I will TRY…” the paper prompted, and in Boone’s big, loopy, first grade handwriting, he had written “to do everything better”

This broke my heart.
OK. Before we start filming after school specials, I would like to present a theory as to why he wrote he wanted to do everything better: it was easy. This is the same kid who simply answers “God” when asked when he learned about in Sunday School. The same kid who, for his daily journal homework, still doesn’t totally understand why I won’t let him always write “I ate breakfast. I ate lunch. I ate dinner.” (But I DID THOSE THINGS!, he reasons.)
It broke my heart because that would be my “Try” goal too. But I wouldn’t decide on that goal until I had thought about how to add more exercise into my life, how to eat healthier, how to stop loving tortilla chips and beer at the end of a long day, how to organize a closet more efficiently. I would have all of these little improvements overwhelm my brain until I screamed in submission, fine! I’ll just do EVERYTHING BETTER!
I can go to bed at night after a full and wonderful day of healthy choices, productive housework, and important self-care time and still berate myself for not finishing that load of laundry in the dryer. It’s not healthy. It’s not right. And it’s exhausting.
During my social media fast, I found the times when I was most tempted to idly scroll through news feeds and pictures would be when I was overwhelmed with all the little things I just wanted to do better. It was an escape, a way to take the pressure off, if only for a moment. But the point of the fast was to replace something — in my case, social media — with a deeper relationship with God. When the demands of my life (the demands I put on myself, mind you) became overwhelming, I couldn’t just ignore them for a while. So I pulled out my Bible, either hard or digital copy, depending on the day. I pulled out Shauna Niequist’s Savor, or a devotional I was working through on my phone. I spent the time I would have spent mindlessly scrolling in the presence of God, and I realized I don’t have to do it all.

Free Advertisement: Buy this book. And all of Shauna’s books. They’re just… good.

But, God! The dishes!

Will be there tomorrow.

The laundry!

Isn’t overwhelming. And you have clothes enough for now.

Dinner! Bathrooms! Educational fun with Jonah! Social interaction with Jonah! All of Boone’s school work, piano, Cub Scouts, choir —

You need to slow down. Find peace in me, and trust that I will help you do everything you need to do.

I feel like when God says “everything you need to do” He literally means “need” and not “what pinterest and facebook and instagram makes you think you should do.” The little nagging voice of mine doesn’t go away. Especially when laundry isn’t done and the floors are covered in popcorn pieces. But I’m learning to try and replace my angry voice with God’s peaceful one. I may not be able to do everything better — but I’m really, truly learning that I might not have to.