Friday, December 20, 2013

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

While the weather outside is warm and sunny, Christmastime is upon us, and this year, my heart is completely overwhelmed by God's love that He's lavished on my family. For us, this year has been a lot less about braving the hurried shopping crowds and furiously baking up goodies in the kitchen, and more about being still and knowing that He is God.

Sure, there are the afternoons spent snuggling on the couch with my boys watching The Polar Express. We spend many nights driving around enjoying the Christmas lights in our community. We tediously glue googly eyes and red pom noses onto popsicle stick reindeer. Liam squeals with delight every time he sees a snowman figurine. But while Santa may sit on a throne at the mall, my desire is that Jesus sits on the throne of our hearts. Not just this Christmas season, but always.

Last night was rehearsal for our church's Christmas services, and we discussed how so often we are engulfed by an anxious spirit that accompanies our desires to give the perfect gift, decorate our home to the likeness of a Southern Living magazine, bake Pinterest-worthy recipes that our neighbors swoon over, and meet everyone's demands of our time and energy. We end up way too weary to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the most excellent reason for this season.

My prayer for all of us is that, as we turn our eyes upon Jesus, the things of this world grow strangely and wonderfully dim compared to His magnificent light. May we all experience the true peace and joy that comes from knowing and celebrating His most excellent gift!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Happy half-birthday, Riley! (Well, it's two days from now, but I can't sleep, so I figured I'd be productive.)

Has it been half a year, or am I just dreaming? HALF a year. Crazy. So, let's see. Just in the past couple of weeks, Riley has started sitting up really well by himself. In no time at all he'll be a pro at it! He also started solid foods without a hitch right around five months old. I'm glad I gave him a few weeks instead of forcing it at four months. He eats so well, and this boy is not picky! I've followed the French guidelines for solid foods and skipped cereals, heading straight for flavor-packed produce. So far, Riley's eaten leeks, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, green peas, green beans, avocado, and some banana mixed with a little coconut milk (leftover from Liam's "ice cream" treat I made).

I've been making his baby food, and I'm telling ya, this is the way to go! A $.99 bag of carrots made five days worth of food for the same price as one prepackaged container of baby food. And it's so healthy! I recently snagged a used copy of this French baby food cookbook, Bébé Gourmet, which beautifully illustrates how to make fresh veggie purees and fruit compotes, along with helpful tips for feeding times. My hope with Riley is to help him explore and come to love a wide variety of different tastes and textures. If you decide to make your own baby food, I highly suggest that cookbook!

He has lost interest in his paci and overpowered the swaddle, both of which I'm not sad to see go. He's learning how to wave, even though he holds his palm facing him and basically just drums his fingers into a fist. It's adorable. He also knows how to give kisses and then chuckles when I squeal in delight, and he is highly entertained when I play guitar and sing for him. I hope that never changes. Maybe one day we'll start a band...

To honor Riley's six-month mark, I decided to mimick Liam's half-birthday photo session in the exersaucer, which Riley now loves and Liam is jealous over. Are these two brothers, or what? I can't believe how bald Liam was compared to Riley...

Liam at six months:

And Riley currently:

I'm in love with this boy's eyes.

Ok, so this one is blurry, but I had to post my favorite of his expressions for the world to see.

Look at that little smirk.

Carrot top.

Working real hard.

Monday, December 2, 2013


I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! We were in Mississippi with my husband's family. The boys had a blast playing with their cousins, who are growing just a little too fast, in my opinion. :)

Here's a photo I managed to snag of the little bunch. The quality is not the greatest, but I thought it was too cute not to share. (This is what happens when you have multiple people taking photos of five squirmy kiddos!)

I never get tired of this smile!

He LOVED the trampoline. We may have to get one some day.

I love the way this girl loves her cousins.

Slap. Wore. Out.
My husband and I just finished reading the book "The Noticer" by Andy Andrews, given to us by my father-in-law. It's a must-read for sure! One truth that I gleaned from the story is that whatever we focus on increases; if we focus on our needs, then our needs will increase. But if we focus on the blessings in our lives, we will become increasingly blessed. What an amazing concept! Thanksgiving is such an important holiday, but a heart of gratitude is something we should cultivate all year long.

I have more things to be thankful for than I could possibly share on my blog, but here are five things I'm especially thankful for this year:

1. Riley. Not to take anything away from my heart towards Liam, but Riley came at the most perfect time this year. It just shows that while the mountaintop is exhilarating, new life grows in the valley.

2. Freedom in Christ. Probably the biggest, most life-changing lesson I've learned this year is the extent of which Christ has set us free. We are free from legalism, from guilt and the burdens that life, and others, can place on us. We are free from the paralyzing grip of oppression, even while in the midst of it. I love how God has set my heart free this year.

3. Friends that stick like glue. I'm completely humbled by how much our support system has grown this year. We've met some amazing people that we are so thankful to do life with!

4. Our home. We've enjoyed living in our first house for a year and a half now, and there were times this past year when we weren't sure we'd be able to keep it. We don't take for granted living one day in this beautiful home that God has given us!

5. Hope for the future. The longer we go through trials, the smaller that light at the end of the tunnel can seem. But the Lord keeps giving us evidence to cling to that confirms He's in control, that He's still at work in our lives. He hasn't, and will never, leave us nor turn His back on us. That truth allows me to look ahead with eager anticipation.

What are you most thankful for this year?

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Riley turned five months old this week, and can I just say, this kid is my mini-me. I mean, look at that face! I feel like I'm staring at my own baby pictures here.

Riley's checkup was Tuesday, and he weighs 15 pounds 4 ounces and is 26 inches long—still 20th percentile in weight and middle of the road for height! But he feels so...sturdy. I'm not used to carrying around such a big baby!

We had a rough week last week, where Riley would turn onto his stomach in his sleep, wake up, freak out...repeat. But now I think he's quite the tummy sleeper. He wakes up happy, lifts his trunk and smiles at me after each nap. Such a charmer, that kid. He still plays with my hair while he drinks his bottle and laughs at pretty much everything his big brother does. Their favorite thing now is when Liam tickles Riley's feet.

In the past month, Riley has dropped from six feedings to four, and from four naps to two long ones. He and Liam now share the afternoon nap, which means I get at least two and a half hours to myself in the afternoon. I'm so happy I could twerk. :)

Riley was completely not interested in solid foods at four months, so I plan to try again next week. (I don't know why I have this need to start new things like that on a Monday, but I do.)

This is such a fun age! I'm loving the roly poly, cuddly baby stage. :)

Some more eye candy:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I had the extreme pleasure of capturing a few sweet moments with the Eubanks family this past weekend. Are these not three of the most beautiful children? Dad Cory honorably serves our country in the U.S. Air Force as mom Jandy is busy raising three precious kiddos.

I don't want to spoil their whole surprise when they receive their photos, but I couldn't resist posting a few of my favorites for you to gush over!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What I celebrate on Halloween.

I get asked quite a bit about my views on Halloween, and whether or not I'm going to dress up my little munchkins and take them door-to-door for candy. I kind of hem and haw around the issue and usually just say that we're not really into Halloween. It's just not our thing. And understandably, I get some pretty weird looks. So I'll explain myself.

I can't tell you how you should feel about this day, and I wouldn't dare try. I'm not the Holy Spirit, nor am I an expert on the history of Halloween, even though I have studied some of its traditions. I can only share with you some personal thoughts on the holiday.

Any way you slice it, and no matter how many "innocent" activities are offered on Halloween, this holiday is simply a day designed to make fear seem fun. It is a day that, in many ways, glorifies darkness: witches, spells, ghosts, scary stories, haunted houses...All of these things originate out of darkness.

I've been in some low places in my life, and I've seen the impact that opening myself up (even a little) to the dark side can have on my life. But thanks be to Christ that He has conquered death and lifted me out of darkness and into His glorious light! He is light, and in Him there can be no darkness. I'm so incredibly grateful for that!

I've come to a place in my life where I want more than anything to reflect this light! I'm so desperate for more of Him that I'm just not interested in celebrating anything that does not give Him glory, or that would even dare to take the glory away from Him.

But what about my kids? You may have asked. Aren't they missing out? Not at all! They can certainly dress up any time they want to. I promise they will not miss out on the fun or have a subpar childhood if they don't trick or treat once a year. In fact, my little Liam loves wearing his cowboy boots and stomping around the house almost every day of the week. And we celebrate the heck out of the season! We love going to fall festivals and on hayrides and picking out pumpkins and mums. We'll indulge in our share of fall-inspired treats and jump into piles of leaves in our freshly raked yard.

Please do not misunderstand my lack of participation as judgment or condemnation or legalism. Your kids are absolutely adorable in their costumes, and I love seeing their smiling faces on Instagram! And if we were going to be home tonight, we would gladly open our door and warmly welcome our neighbors to help themselves to a piece (or two or three) of candy.

But to me, the real treat is Jesus: who He is for me, and what He has done in my life. There is absolutely nothing better!

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and of sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7 

I recently read a blog post about how this is the one day of the year where our neighbors come right to our doorstep, and we as Christians should seize the opportunity to serve our community in love. While I don't necessarily agree that that means we should celebrate Halloween in the traditional ways that the world does, I love the idea of using every opportunity to point others toward Jesus! Which is why I'm writing this post. If you are struggling in your life and would like to know more about how Christ has made us conquerors and banished the power of fear over us, please send me a message! I'd love to share my story with you.

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Monday, October 28, 2013

October in pictures

October has been filled with beautiful moments with my boys, watching them grow closer every day. I'm one blessed mama.

Riley now loves to play with my hair or hold my chin in his hand while I'm feeding him his bottle. I feel like my heart will explode when he does this!

Liam has started saying, "Have a good day!" to his daddy when Kelley goes to work, and at the end of the day, he'll say, "Good day with mama." I'm glad he thinks so!

This past weekend we went to a local pumpkin patch, but all Liam wanted to do was ride the tractor! In fact, we took a wagon ride (pulled by a tractor) to the pumpkin patch to pick our pumpkins, and once we got off the wagon, Liam wanted to get right back on and continue riding! We did, however, convince him to pick out a pumpkin, and he enjoyed walking through the patch, rolling pumpkins and picking grass. Gotta love that kid!

What fall activities have you enjoyed this month?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blessed transition.

Today I realized that several of my friends are in need of encouragement in the midst of transition, mainly changes with their husbands’ jobs. Our family was right smack in the middle of this same situation this time last year, and my heart goes out to those who are feeling overwhelmed right now. I’d love to share how we have made it through in hopes that our story may bring others a little hope.

My husband was unemployed for almost four months after being let go for what we felt was an unjust, undeserved reason. He was accused of something he didn’t do (and could even prove he didn’t do!), and we got nowhere trying to refute it. He was disqualified for unemployment assistance, and he had no good reason to give during interviews when asked why he left his previous job, so he missed out on several full- and part-time openings. He did end up with a new job that has been a great opportunity, but it is half the pay of his previous position and offers no benefits. We’d just bought a house, and I was pregnant with our pleasant surprise, Riley. We were FREAKING OUT!

Our situation also raised the question from onlookers of why I was not looking for a full-time job. Actually, I was. But the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom was never about finances; I stayed home not because we could afford it, but because we felt it fit God’s vision for our family. We had to choose to be obedient and trust God to bless our obedience and to provide. And even if our decision were about finances, logistically it still made more sense for me to stay at home. Nevertheless, I did look for a job, knowing it wasn’t what was best for our family. Even jobs I was highly qualified for were dead ends. I found part-time work, which was short-lived because I kept blacking out at work due to a difficult pregnancy. God was making it clear that me working was not the answer, as much as my human nature felt an urgency to jump in and help out.

This time in our lives has been a true test of our faith in God—faith that He is Who He says He is, that He will come through for us, that His timing is perfect, that He’d provide/redeem/restore, etc. I’d love to say I’m a spontaneous person, but I’m not. I’m the ultimate planner, and I thought I was going to lose my mind not being able to see two feet in front of my face. So here are a few of the tough lessons I’ve had to learn and truths that have gotten me through (and are still getting me through!):

  • Remind yourself of what you know: God is sovereign. His heart toward His children is good. He can do anything, at any time; His supply is limitless. His economy is perfect. He WILL NOT fail you. Repeat as needed. 
  • Don’t make decisions out of fear that God will not come through. For us, we knew that I was to remain at home, and we knew that we were supposed to stay in Birmingham. Regardless of outside pressure to compromise on either of those points, we knew what God’s will was for us in those two areas, and we had to decide not to compromise out of fear that God wouldn’t provide. Don’t take a job that is not a good situation because you’re afraid you have no choice. Don’t pass up an opportunity to be a blessing to someone else because you’re afraid to spend any resources you think might be limited. God’s resources are limitless, and you have access to them through Jesus. He WANTS to come through for you. He takes great pleasure in swooping in at the last minute, in the last hour, and being the Hero none can compete with. Trust Him, and refuse to let fear be your motivation for your actions.
  • Be sensitive to what the Lord is trying to do in your heart. For us, it has been learning to let go of our plans and our need for control. It’s about learning to be present and living in the meantime. It’s been learning Who God really is to us, and what relying on Him for everything really looks like. And it’s been learning what really matters: people. Other people. Not things. Not our own materialistic and even shallow desires. But loving God’s people and building relationships. And a whole mess of other stuff. Boy, do we have a lot to learn! Learn all that He wants you to learn during times when your faith is being tested. 
  • Take one day at a time. Often, I got so overwhelmed when I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel that I just didn’t want to get out of bed most mornings. I thought I was going to drown in my woes. I would constantly ask, when will this end? It still hasn’t, really. I wish I could share some miraculous, happy ending to our story right now. But it’s not over yet. Our struggles have actually intensified, but our ability to have peace in the storm has grown immensely. I’ve even learned to laugh when the next trial comes our way (or when a piece of my car randomly falls off while driving down the interstate!). 
  • Learn to lean on others. Ooh, this is a doozy! My husband and I love to be the ones helping others. It’s a frustrating place to be to have to accept help from others, to sometimes feel like we have nothing to give. But every vessel that is willing to be emptied has to be refilled at some point. I guess this is our refill. And we both could use a little lesson in humility, too.
  • Lift up one another. Wow, is this one tough! Ladies, let me tell you (sadly, from experience) that emasculating your husband does no one any good. As strong as I thought I was, there were times where I micromanaged and browbeat my better half, who in my opinion wasn’t doing enough to find employment. In my mind, there would be no rest for the weary until there was a paycheck coming in. I’m embarrassed to say, at times I treated him like a child, nagging him like I was his mother (who, ironically, is not a nag at all). The reality is no one could make him feel worse or more like a failure than he already did. But what he really needed, more than he needed me to “fix things,” was for me to pray for him, uplift him, serve him, encourage him, and by all means, to straighten the bedcovers, not curl up under them! I am learning to speak to the man he has the potential to be. This is the time for us to be each other’s biggest fan, to be teammates…not to partner with the Accuser to tear one another down. 
  • Learn to rest. One of my mentors told me that when I work, God rests. But when I rest, God works. First, I had to learn what rest looked like. (It looks a little more like peace and less like passivity.) Then I had to learn how to keep myself from getting in God’s way, from acting like I knew best…or really, from playing God. I have had to learn how to be still and know that He is God, and to wait on Him to work things out. In His timing, not mine. Ouch. 
  • Practice thankfulness. Man. Not having much actually makes me realize how much I really do have. I am so blessed; I feel like I really have nothing to complain about. One thing that has helped me keep my head from falling off during this time is to open my eyes to all the reasons I should be thankful. I've developed a genuine appreciation for what I do have and have learned to see the true beauty in how God has blessed me. Every time my baby smiles at me or my toddler attacks me with wet kisses, I feel like my heart will burst. When I tackle the piles of laundry, I'm so humbled to have such wonderful friends who have blessed us with box after box of gently worn children's clothes. When I plan my grocery shopping, I'm thankful that I can catch some great sales at the grocery store. When we're down to one car and the kids and I are stuck at home, I am amazed at how God has enabled us to own a home that is perfect for what we need. Thankfulness has kept my heart from growing resentful. 
  • Learn to be resourceful. Recently, I found a bunch of leftover paint from when we lived in our rental house. I was in a painting mood, so I used it to paint the hallways in our home. It turned out to be just the right shade! We had a no-spend month earlier this year where we enjoyed meals the whole month from what I cleaned out of our pantry and freezer. I've also gotten a little crafty and used scrap materials that were laying around the house to decorate with or to plan activities for Liam. It's amazing what resources are at your disposal when you stop to take a look around! 
  • Don't worry. Worrying does us no good. I spent so much of my precious-little energy during my pregnancy worrying about what our future would look like. Surprisingly, it didn't get anything done. Worrying didn't pay the bills. It didn't provide health insurance. It didn't cause a plan to magically appear. It just tied me up in knots and kept our home in a state of anxiety. Read Matthew 6: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." 
Even as I type this, I’m realizing I still have so much to learn during this process. And even though I’m in a hurry to get to the other side, God has all the time in the world. He will take as long as it takes to refine me in fire and make me more like Him. That’s His priority. The bills aren’t a problem for Him; He’s more concerned with my heart than I am about our debts. 
If you didn’t completely block out eighth grade chemistry, you may remember that in science, there are physical changes and chemical changes. Physical changes happen when the physical properties of a substance are changed; they can always change back. But chemical changes transform an object’s chemical makeup; they are forever changed from the inside out. My husband and I shared with each other last night that we honestly don’t feel like life will ever go back to “normal” for us. There has been a chemical change in all of this. At the end of this phase we’re in, there will be a new normal, and we will never be the same. And I’m kind of looking forward to it. 
In fact, I'm counting on it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why my toddler is crying.

TGIF! Even though I don't really get weekends, I'm so happy my hubby will be home for the next couple of days. This has been a long week!

I recently read a status update that a father posted about why his toddler was crying. I was so relieved to see that breakdowns seem to be a normal thing among two- and three-year-olds. Just for fun, I decided to make my own list. (For some reason, a lot of them have to do with oatmeal.)

Reasons my son is having a meltdown:
1.     I put the oatmeal in the microwave to cook.
2.     I put milk in the oatmeal.
3.     I set the bowl of oatmeal in front of him.
4.     I tried to feed him oatmeal with a spoon.
5.     I tried to let him feed himself the oatmeal.
6.     The oatmeal is too hot.
7.     A single oat got stuck on his lip.
8.     The sound of the spoon scraping the bowl of oatmeal.
9.     The bottom of the bowl is visible.
10.  I didn’t use the right color of spoon to feed him oatmeal.
11.  He loves oatmeal so much it causes him pain.
12.  He is overwhelmed by how hungry he is that he can’t eat.
13.  He can’t get every last drop of the smoothie through his straw.
14.  I tried to pick the straw up in the glass so he could drink more of the smoothie.
15.  The smoothie wasn’t ready fast enough.
16.  The puzzle piece isn’t turned the right way to fit in the space on the puzzle board.
17.  The puzzle piece won’t fit in the wrong space.
18.  His bear smells like detergent.
19.  His baby brother is sitting in the bumbo seat.
20.  His baby brother isn’t crying and doesn’t need a pacifier.
21.  His baby brother is crying.
22.  I didn’t wait long enough after he woke up to get him up from his nap.
23.  I waited too long to go in his room after he woke up from his nap.
24.  I’m about to change his dirty diaper.
25.  His ¾ length sleeves hit his arm in a weird place.
26.  He is wearing long sleeves.
27.  His pants leg has ridden up.
28.  He isn’t wearing socks.
29.  I am wearing boots.
30.  I’m not wearing boots.
31.  He and his bear are having a fight.
32.  He misses his bear.
33.  Riley is playing with a toy.
34.  I’m brushing his teeth weird.
35.  I didn’t give him the toothpaste to hold while I brushed his teeth.
36.  I won’t let him touch the candle flame.
37.  I won’t let him play with a knife on the counter.
38.  I won’t let him play with nails.
39.  I won’t let him poke Riley in the eye.
40.  I won’t let him smack Riley in the chest.
41.  I won’t let him pick up Riley by his neck.
42.  I won’t let him stand on Riley while Riley is doing tummy time. Or ever.
43.  The Curious George DVD isn’t loading fast enough.
44.  I won’t let him dump his milk all over himself.
45.  He’s not allowed to pick up a wasp.
46.  I picked the wrong shirt for him to wear.
47.  I didn’t walk over to the closet the right way.
48.  His hair is sticking up.
49.  I’m wearing glasses.
50.  I’m not wearing glasses.
51.  He turned his toy off, and now it won't make noise.
52.  There's a breadcrumb on his orange slice.
53.  The cheese on his toast is too melty.
54.  He got grape jelly on his fingers.
55.  The playdough doesn't taste good.
56.  The cookies have to bake before he can eat one.
57.  He needs to blow his nose.
58.  His eye is watery.
59.  His smoothie is too cold.
60.  I can't sit in his high chair with him.

It's a hard-knock life for a toddler, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

L'art de vivre (the art of living)

The other day, I experienced the rare occasion that both boys were asleep at the same time. This happens much like a lunar eclipse, and about as often. Of course, it lasted just short of 30 minutes, but during that break, I decided to soak in a bubble bath and give myself a facial. Something I haven’t done since Riley came along.

What’s gotten into me? I’m learning joie de vivre, the joy of living. My newest installment of my growing French obsession, French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, has reminded me that not only is it not selfish to be good to yourself, it’s vital to a long and satisfying life.

We Americans are notorious for slamming the pedal to the metal, burning the candle at both ends, as if we find some moral redemption by enslaving ourselves to some self-sacrificial work ethic. The French don’t live this way. They are ever present, in the moment, experiencing their world with all five senses, and finding joy in even the most seemingly insignificant pleasures. 

One secret to staying svelte is to keep your eye on the big picture of overall wellness. It’s not just about eating the right foods, but it’s also about keeping your whole life in balance.

In order to achieve this balance, Guiliano suggests a few steps to recalibrate your life: First, keep a food diary to identify your food offenders (the extra calories you consume that don’t add anything to your quality of life but add to your waistline). Second, recasting: Eat a detoxifying leek soup for a weekend (she includes the recipe!) while you plan to slowly eliminate or make substitutions for those offenders. Third, make healthy choices that you can sustain over a lifetime. No crash diets or marathon workout sessions, just small adjustments that make a big difference over time without depriving you of meaningful pleasures.

These are some of the small adjustments she suggests: 

More water. Drink a glass first thing in the morning and last thing before you go to bed. Drink water all day long (she suggests at least two quarts). Plain water. Or water with lemon. Just don’t count Crystal Light, sugary juices or Diet Coke as water. Because they’re not. 

More fruits and vegetables. Duh. Why do I have to keep hearing this? The secret to preventing disease, slowing down aging, and maintaining a healthy weight is to EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. In fact, we should build our meals around them, not treat them as obligatory side dishes or fillers. And she encourages readers to enjoy produce that’s in season, so we experience its true freshness and taste (and it’s easier on the wallet). Yes, it’s less expensive to eat healthy across the pond, but consuming less meat and processed foods, and eating what is in season, makes up for the rising cost of fresh produce. 

Move more. French women don’t go to gyms. They don’t see the appeal of slaving away on intimidating machines to punish ourselves for eating chocolate. And let’s face it, French women are not going to do something that doesn’t bring them pleasure. Of course, they don’t see eating chocolate as a sin, either. Instead, they just move more. They make lots of small movements throughout the day, so they don’t have to concentrate all their activity into a 45-minute sweatfest on the treadmill. They do, however, walk A LOT. 

Eat less food more slowly, and use all five senses. The French are fully present during mealtimes. They don’t shovel a plate full of food into their mouths in 10 minutes like we Americans often do. They don’t eat standing up or in their cars or in front of the TV (or hiding in the closet eating junk food so my toddler doesn’t ask for some…Oh, is that just me?). They take time to taste all of the flavors in their food, to enjoy the presentation on their plate, to smell the aromas. They eat very slowly, so they are satisfied faster while consuming less. 

Make compensations and substitutions. Every morning, I have a bagel with crunchy peanut butter, something I picked up from my cross-country running days as a pre-race meal. But since I’m no longer running races (or enjoying the metabolism of a teenager), I’ve substituted the bagel for a bagel thin (100 calories). And I add a portion of fruit. This is what Guiliano means by making substitutes for food offenders.

There are no foods that the French see as guilty pleasure or as off-limits. They enjoy all foods in moderation and, in fact, take great delight in a varied palate. But they choose to make their calories count, like choosing to savor a small square of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate rather than gobbling a handful of processed Snickers bars. They pay attention to what they put into their bodies, and when. And of course, they don't feel deprived because their whole life is in balance; they don't depend on food to fulfill them. 

Another small change I’ve made is at bedtime. There is about a two-hour window after the boys go to bed that my husband and I have time to ourselves. We usually resort to catching up on our favorite shows on Hulu Plus in bed while snacking on some food that we didn’t want to eat in front of Liam. (We’re trying to teach him healthy eating habits, after all.) Sound familiar? Tell me we’re not the only ones who do this.

I’m not really sure why I snack. Comfort, maybe? Certainly not because I’m that hungry so soon after dinner. Comfort, and maybe just habit. So instead, I now sip a glass of water while we watch our shows. Or, I skip the shows altogether and read a book I enjoy, take a relaxing bath, or give myself a pedicure. I choose to do something that “feeds my soul” rather than my stomach.

That’s a central element to living like the French do. It’s hard to sum up the principles in this book, as I could pretty much quote the whole thing! But if I had to develop a mantra that defines French living, it would be this: Be good to your whole person. Pay attention. Practice l’art d’vivre!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Riley // four months old

Riley is four months old today! I actually took photos of him on his four-month birthday, so I'm feeling pretty productive today. Which is a miracle, considering how this day has gone.

Our jeep has been breaking down on us, so we put it in the shop this morning. The boys and I dropped Kelley off at work, so I thought it would be a nice treat to go to Heavenly Donut Company this morning (I had a coupon for a free doughnut; is there anything better?). Liam threw a tantrum when he finished his one doughnut, and I wouldn't buy another one. Then he threw a tantrum when I wouldn't let him pour his milk all over himself. So we left.

I ambitiously decided that, since we had the car for the day, I would take him to the library. (This was the first time he'd gone with me.) He loved it, except for when I was checking out and wouldn't let him tap on the glass display cabinet near the front desk. He threw a tantrum. In the painfully quiet library. I was wearing Riley in the front carrier, so I couldn't just pick Liam up, and I had a difficult time corralling him. It was quite the scene. I was so embarrassed, and furious, that I drove around for almost an hour calming down before I went home. Liam fell asleep in the car and then wouldn't take his nap this afternoon. Needless to say, we're watching Thomas the Train ALL afternoon.

But then there's this little guy, who is always happy to see me, who always cackles at my jokes, who is enamored by my singing, and who rolled over for the first time today! (I missed it because I was writing this post!) He is all smiles these days; even when he's overtired I can make him smile. It makes up for the times that Liam is discontent (can we say two-year molars?).

Riley's checkup is Friday, and I can't wait to see how much he's grown. His little leg rolls are getting so deep, it takes painstaking effort to keep him clean. He's in six-month clothing now. Liam was the opposite—still in three-month clothing at six months old! He loves holding my hand when I feed him, and his favorite thing is squealing (really loud!). I also thought that as Riley's hair grew out, it would lay down, but I was mistaken. He now looks like a dandelion. My little dandelion. (Don't tell him I called him that as a baby when he gets older!)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rules are meant to be broken...

Because sometimes, you just need to eat oatmeal cookies. In the floor. Wearing your jammies. Before lunch. After watching Curious George the entire morning.

I think this earns me the Mom of the Year Award. Ok, not really. But Riley decided randomly to wake up at 3 this morning, and he didn't go back to sleep until about 4:15. (It just happened to be the night after I wrote a blog post about what wonderful sleepers my boys are!) And Liam has been congested for two days (pray it's not a sinus infection!), so he's kind of miserable. Anyway, we're all slumming it in our PJs today.

What's the point of having rules and structure if you don't rebel every now and then, right?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sleep like a bébé.

In all the reading I've been doing about French parenting, there is one thing it seems I may have actually done right: teaching our babies to sleep. (Or as the French call it, to do their nights.)

I get asked frequently (usually by exhausted parents of eight-month- to two-year-olds) how I got Riley to sleep through the night at six weeks old. I've mentioned before that my husband and I tried the Babywise method with both boys after witnessing so many of our friends have success with it. I'll casually answer to inquiring parents that Babywise was helpful, but here are some specific things we did to help "nudge" both our boys into full nighttime sleep:

1. Establish a routine. We are not rabid clock watchers, but I was a stickler for consistent feeding intervals to regulate our babies' hunger patterns. Liam ate every three hours from birth, so with Riley, we started out feeding every three hours, until from observation I noticed he needed to eat every two-and-a-half. So we adapted until he was ready to stretch longer. This step is about responding to baby's cues (always feed a hungry baby; don't always assume they are hungry just because they cry), but also creating a routine that helps baby feel secure. I did wake my babies up to eat to keep them eating at about the same times every day, and I did not feed them any sooner than two hours from their last feeding. (This also helped with their reflux, as feeding too soon would upset their digestion.)

2. Eat-wake-sleep. This is crucial. I'd feed our baby, keep him up a little while, and then put him to sleep when he's sleepy but still awake. This way, I'm not nursing or bottle-feeding him to sleep, he eats better because he's well rested, his food has time to digest before he lays down, and his waketime is more pleasant because he's well rested and not hungry. At first, I had to work VERY hard to keep both boys awake while they ate. But it's important, and better for the whole family, that they get full feedings at regular intervals throughout the day, rather than snack all day long. And, with this cycle, babies don't learn to rely on milk to go to sleep.

3. Baby sleeps anywhere but with Mommy. I'm not a fan of co-sleeping. Not only is it dangerous, but I also tried not to start habits we'd have to break later. Liam slept in his bed every night from the time he got home from the hospital. Riley slept in a pack-and-play in our room for the first two months (so he wouldn't wake up Liam); then we transferred him to his room.

4. Don't wake them up at night. While I would wake both boys during the day to keep them from sleeping through their feeding times, I let them wake naturally at night. Even though I was breastfeeding, I would only feed them when they woke up. I kept nighttime feedings as brief as possible, meaning I would only change them if they really needed it, I used as little light as possible, and I didn't talk or make a lot of noise.

5. Utilize the "pause." This is a widely used French method, but Babywise encourages it, too. I wouldn't rush in to my baby the moment he made a sound (and still don't, with Riley). I let him cry for a few moments and analyze the cry. Babies are noisy sleepers. They move about, flutter their eyelids or sometimes open their eyes, grunt and even cry while they are moving from one sleep cycle to the next. Are they just getting resettled? I won't know if I respond immediately, and I might even wake them up. Pausing to assess the situation before rushing in encourages my baby to put himself back to sleep.

6. Create bedtime rituals. At our boys' bedtime feedings, we'd bathe them (not every night), put lotion on them, read the same book and pray over them, and then put them to bed. Having a ritual signals to them that it's bedtime. We also simply explained to them that it was bedtime, time for the family to go to sleep. The French believe that babies absorb information more than we think they do, and that it's important to talk to them like they can understand it, even from birth. I believe that, too.

Some parents (especially in America) feel you should feed your baby on-demand, pick them up every time they cry, sleep with them in your bed, and carry them around all day so they will feel secure. I believe having parents who are loving, in charge, and confident, and having predictable, consistent routines, helps build a lifelong relationship of trust. It's working for us, and it's worked for many of our friends. And of course, it's working for the French.

Let me know if any of these tips work for you!