Happy Spring

Oooorrrrr Summer..

It is currently 84 degrees and the temperature keeps climbing.

We are soaking up as much sunscreen covered sunshine as we can. Everyone is covered in dirt and enjoying quiet time now.

We went to visit Scott’s parents yesterday so that Scott could help set some things up for them. The girls love their dog, Sierra. She is such a sweet girl. Harper wasn’t too sure what to think of her at first, but was hugging her by the time we were leaving. haha! 

Papa even took the girls for a ride on his golf cart, which is always a favorite activity of theirs. I love that his purple golf cart has traveled all across the country with them. lol

We also made a trip down to Whole Foods. I had some coupons for a free product that is only sold at Whole Foods in our area. We also stocked up on some sale produce. I love looking in my fridge and seeing all of this goodness. This is probably the best part of Spring/Summer.. sunshine and fresh fruits!!! 

I really cannot wait to plant a garden of my own. In our area, the end of March/early April are the best times to plant; or so I have read. I have some seeds that I will plant, and have a flat of veggies/herbs that I am going to do some container gardening with. We will see if I have a green thumb. I sure hope so!

I am loving all of the spring colors that have been popping up in the stores. I can’t believe that Easter is less than a month away. We are getting all geared up at church for the egg hunt and our incredible Easter service. I just love this time of year.

 

I hope that you are having a wonderful first day of Spring; and that you are at least getting a glimpse of warmer temperatures wherever you are.

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Gluten Free/Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies?! I love them. I also love oatmeal raisin cookies. Just kidding. I hate raisins. I love oatmeal, however, so I decided to marry the two and see how it went. YUM!

Here is the recipe:

2 1/2 C All Purpose GF flour (I used this brand– this recipe is adapted from the back of the package)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
16 TBSP Vegan Butter (I used earth balance sticks)
1/2 C white sugar
1 C packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla (make sure its GF)
2 flax eggs (I use this brand– 1 TBSP flax + 3 TBSP water= 1 egg)
2 cups GF/DF chocolate chips (This is the only brand I have found.)
1 cup GF oats

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While your oven preheats, cream your butter, sugars, and vanilla. Once creamy, beat in your flax eggs. Slowly add in your dry ingredients (except for chocolate chips and oatmeal). Once this is incorporated well, add in your chocolate chips and oats. Mix until everything is completely incorporated.

Drop your cookies 1 TBSP at a time (Get one of these and you will not regret it!). Bake for approx. 12 minutes until the edges start to brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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This cookies could definitely be made without the oats if you are not an oatmeal fan, I just really like the texture. You can also use regular butter and 2 eggs, but they obviously would not be vegan.

I already am eating way too many of these cookies, and all three of my girls are big fans! Let me know if you make these!

I love incorporating baking into our homeschool day. Our kitchen gets extra messy with three little bakers, but I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

My brother-in-law lives in another country. He said that the women there do not let their children cook with them because it is too messy. I was a little shocked by that, because I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen, but I am finding that it is more common.

How is it in your house? Do you prefer to do it all yourself? Do you have a crazy messy kitchen?

5 Sustainable Baby/Toddler Options

My passion for sustainability started at a strange time. After Scott and I first got married, I was taking Interior Design classes at Missouri State University. (HIGHLY recommend them, if that is your passion.) I remember a professor saying that part of being a designer was being responsibility. Re-using furniture and decor whenever possible; or repurposing it. Another thing she mentioned was starting off using things that were made to last. It really struck a chord with me, and I was hooked.

For some reason, you tend to get laughed out of town for being a “tree hugger”. As a Christian, did God not call us to be good stewards? Wouldn’t that include this beautiful earth that he created for us to care for and enjoy? (Here is a good list to help answer that.)

If we make wise decisions from the beginning, we will waste so much less money and resources.

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Pura Insulated Bottle– These bottles are so great!! They are made from stainless steel, so you don’t have to worry about the chemicals in plastic. It does have a hefty price tag, but you can replace the nipple with a soft sippy tip, a straw, and a flip top. It lasts FOREVER and grows with your child. If you have multiples, or just want some extra padding, you can purchase silicone sleeves to customize your bottle/cup some more.

Re-Play Recyled– This brand has EVERYTHING! Sippy cups, plates, bowls, flatware, you name it. There is even more than I realized! I have these snack containers and love them. It’s nice to stack a snack for each girl when we all go out, or just have individual snacks during the rare one on one outing. You can read more about their company here.

Cloth Diapers– Cloth diapering is not only earth friendly, but SO budget friendly. I was really intimidated by the idea of cloth diapering, but now I wish I had done it sooner. Don’t let it be intimidating. I love my bum-genius diapers the most, but I also have Alva baby and really like them also. (Babies R Us usually has coupons for Bum Genius.) You can check out my pinterest board if you need some information to help you get started, because it can certainly be overwhelming in the beginning. (My younger sister even made her own wipes, so you can even go as far as that!)

Green Toys– I love this brand! Everything is so cute and well-made. The toys are made from 100% recycled plastic, which is awesome. (Image source) You can see more about how they make their products here.

Refillable Baby Food Pouches– These are amazing! I own a different brand, but the zipper is extremely difficult to zip. These have really good reviews, plus there are lots of others out there. I loved making my own baby food. I knew exactly what was going into it, it was a huge money saver, and I could make a wider variety for my babies to try. I still fill these pouches with applesauce for outings, and they come in very handy when a stomach bug has invaded your home and no one has the strength to sit up.

Another great tip is to buy quality. I have said this before, so I may sound like a broken record. Buy items that will last. Check re-sale shops and B/S/T pages on Facebook and you can find quality items at a much lower price. You don’t HAVE TO pay full price. Check for deals! Amazon sometimes has products that have been opened before for significantly cheaper, even though they are still in perfect condition. That is how we got our high chair for such a steal!!

I have loved this journey of finding sustainability; especially as a family of five. If we can reduce our footprint, even by a fraction, then I will be pleased.

What are some things that I could add to this list?

Catching Up

Hello, friends! I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We were able to spend time with my entire family for the first time in 6 years. It was crowded and chaotic, but oh so fun! I spent 12 hours in the car yesterday with Harper throwing up the entire way. All of the girls got it overnight and now all have high fevers. Please pray for them to get well.

We had a full week of “vacation”. I use that term loosely because with kids there is no such thing as vacation. It’s all work! haha! The first half of the week was pretty low-key. Tuesday, we went shopping for the last of the items needed for family photos. It basically ended up being an item for each girl. We went to Target where I drooled over Christmas decorations for as long as the girls let me. Then we went to the mall and my dad met us for lunch. (Look at the cute deer at Target!)

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We hung out at my OLD.. I mean, older..sister’s house on Wednesday. We found out just how allergic Scott is to cats. Oops. It was a lot of fun to get to spend time with her catching up on life. We were so busy talking that the only pictures I really have are of her dog. HAHA! I brought her a coffee and she bought us pizza. It was pretty great team work.

We had our Thanksgiving on Friday since my younger sister was with her husband’s side of the family on Thursday. We did a lot of prep work on Thanksgiving Day. Chloe got to make merengue with my mom for a coconut cream pie (my dad’s request) and Harper got lots of Papa snuggles. He would probably disagree on the word “lots” being used, but for a two year old he got pretty lucky. haha!

Friday morning I went out for Black Friday with my mom and older sister. We ate a super delicious breakfast and Amy made coffee for me. I pulled an all-nighter and really needed it. We had our huge and delicious meal. I may have blacked out because I don’t really remember eating, but I remember it being GOOD. After everything was cleaned up we played Watch Ya Mouth and laughed (and drooled) a ton!!

On Saturday, the family all went to a Reindeer Ranch. We ate “lunch” there. We all agreed that it was more of a snack (an expensive snack) than a true lunch. Then, we got to go on a reindeer tour and feed them! Addison was too afraid to feed them, but Chloe jumped right in. Look how beautiful they are! Harper seemed to enjoy it as well. They had a playground for the kiddos to play on also, so they all had a blast.

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We also helped my mom put up one of her Christmas trees. Once again, I’m not sure how much help our crazy crew was, but we tried. haha! Sunday was the usual- church, lunch, and re-packing all of our junk. The girls also got to open their presents from Mimi and Papa. Christmas is going to be SO fun this year!!!

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Even though our car ride was pretty rough on Monday, I feel really blessed. My grandparents are in a nursing home that is just slightly off our path home. We were able to stop and visit them. I left Harper with Scott. I honestly thought she was just car sick, but kept her out to be safe. I feel terrible that everyone was harboring this bug. Hugging my grandma and grandpa is one of the best feelings. They are two incredible people who I love so dearly.

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There is one more thing though! My best friend from High School was able to take some family pictures for us! We had initially planned on Wednesday, but it rained all day. It was a huge blessing (for us anyway) because we got them done on Friday. Our whole crew was together. So, we got our family photos, and then the rest of the family met us and we were able to take our first group shot in years. They turned out so beautifully!!! Meredith Michelle Photos has all of the credit for these beauties below:

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They are so stunning. I could just stare all day. Thank you, Lord, for a week full of blessings and for whoever invented the washing machine.

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you get any good deals over the weekend?

This is Halloween

I cannot even believe that Halloween is just 12 days away!! Where has the time gone? October seems to be flying by, and I’m a little disappointed. October is my favorite month, but the dramatic shifts in temperature have left me feeling pretty lousy through most of it. Pull it together, Oklahoma!!

Anyway, twelve days away, and my children will not make up their minds about costumes. For months now, Addi has wanted to be an elephant and Chloe has wanted to be a bunny. Awesome. That’s not too hard other than making an elephant nose mask. Yikes. This month, however, everyone keeps changing their minds. Addison wants to be Marshall (from Paw Patrol), then a cat, then back to an elephant, well maybe elephant ears/cat face/marshall paws, just an elephant, OH WAIT I WANT TO BE A WITCH! Chloe has mostly stuck with a bunny, but then will pick other random things. They have to decide today so that I can get their costumes started and done.

Harper still can’t say what she wants to be, but LOVES puppies. Seriously, the kid is saying “woof” instead of words to other people. Scott had the really awesome idea for her to be Skye from Paw Patrol since she already has the pink glasses. (Skye wears pink goggles if you don’t know.) She is easy, and currently my favorite child. I’m just kidding.. she’s always the favorite. 😉

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I pulled out our decorations from the van today. Yes, our beat up white van is a storage area. (Just 23 days until our hopefully move-in-the-house date). The girls lost their minds. Everyone was so excited. I always let them pick where to put the pumpkins. I really don’t have a whole lot of Halloween decorations. I love decorating for Holidays, but usually end up buying fall things so they can be out for several months. Anyway, most of what I have is from Dollar Tree or the clearance section of Target post-Halloween. I always wanted to hang witch hats from the ceiling so it looked like they were floating. I finally found some for VERY cheap a couple of years ago after Halloween, and I love it.

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I wrapped cobwebs around the wooden map that is hanging up year-round. (I won this beauty in a giveaway, and it is my favorite piece of art that we own.)

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The girls love that our lamp now glows purple. What could be better?

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I also filled our giant pumpkin with candy. I saw these at Target several years ago and thought “I must have one!” It went on clearance and I bought it; immediately wondering what on earth I would do with a MASSIVE plastic pumpkin. Usually I put huge rocks inside of it so it decorates the outside. This year, we will actually get to hand out candy at home so it has a real purpose.

Am I the only one whose kids won’t decide on a costume? Do any of you parents dress up? My mom always took us out trick-or-treating and I don’t remember her dressing up, so I have just never planned on it. This is our first year actually going, and I’m out of my mind excited! Maybe we should dress up though? Let me know in the comments!

Weekending

We had a pretty special weekend!!!

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Scott’s parents came to spend the weekend with us, and it was lovely. As you can see, it got really cool outside on Friday. Addison was dying to take Mimi and Papa to see the fountains that she visits each week. So, that is what we did. Chloe had not seen them either, so she was pretty excited to go! As we were walking, we discovered a Starbucks kidding inside one of the buildings. WE stopped in for some hot chocolate (or chocolate milk) and cookies. God bless my mother-in-law for getting me a PSL! What I love about this is that Denise knows Harper’s food allergies and made sure that she got a treat, too. She got hummus and pretzels, which makes her dip-loving heart happy. 🙂

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Mimi also brought cowboy hats for the girls to wear. Addi wore hers the most often.

Friday night, Scott’s mom offered to watch the girls for us while we went out and spent the night at a hotel. It was glorious. We went on a double date with some friends of ours, and ate really delicious food with great company. Sleeping through the night without a child waking us up was also really amazing… plus I am a huge fan of continental breakfasts. Scott went downstairs and brought breakfast up for me while I was still asleep. Did I mention that he is the greatest husband in the world?

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On Saturday, we went to the park and even got Mimi to climb the tower! Chloe serenaded us with her stick guitar and a song that she made up. I love her imagination.

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I can’t forget to mention that Addison’s 5th birthday is later this month, and Mimi brought a huge present for her! This treehouse has been a source of constant entertainment, and is so darn cute!!

I really love having company come to visit. Living far away from family makes you really appreciate the time that you get to spend with them. I am really grateful that they were able to come.

My sister and her family will be here on Wednesday, and I am completely giddy because it has been a YEAR since I have seen them!!! Blessings upon blessings, I tell you!!!

Happy Monday, friends!!! How was your weekend?

5 Favorite Diaper Bags

Mamas, we carry a diaper bag FOR-EVER. Even when your child is done with diapers it seems that you are carrying their stuff.. well, Chloe is six and I’m still carrying things for her.. So, forever. In my opinion, diaper bags need to be functional (obviously) and it’s a huge bonus if they are pretty. When you just have a baby, you typically don’t feel at your most beautiful. (You just gave birth to a human, you ARE  a rockstar.) It can get old to carry a gross looking diaper bag around. You are a mom, but you are still a woman.

My first diaper bag screamed MOM and I loved it at first because I was a new mom. I wanted the world to know. But, the baby does that for you and I really couldn’t wait to carry a pretty bag again. Well, when you find out that you are pregnant again with a 6 month old baby, you realize you will never carry anything pretty (besides your babes) again.

Enter: the diaper bags in disguise. I feel like many of these bags don’t scream “I’M A DIAPER BAG” but are still super functional and will last well beyond the baby years. (sob) Obviously, do not break the bank to buy a diaper bag. Maybe add a nice one to your baby registry. There is typically someone who is willing to spend more for a baby shower. If not, gift cards and those handy coupons they give you to spend on what remains on your registry. Bingo!

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  1. Lily Jade You really can’t go wrong with any style that they have. I won a bag in a giveaway earlier this year. I picked the Shaylee because it was in stock. Seriously, it is beautiful. But, the function for me just never quite fit. I found a buy, sell, trade group on Facebook and was able to trade for an Elizabeth. It has been a match made in heaven. Functional pockets galore, and it’s beautiful!

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2. Petunia Pickle Bottom Altogether Tote This tote may be the most fun bag on the planet. I wear pretty much all neutrals. Black, grey, and white with dark blue or black denim with a little chambray pretty much sum up my wardrobe. A fun pop of color is great. If a bright color isn’t your thing, it comes in many other colors; including neutrals.

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3. Skip Hop- Grand Central I saw a mama carrying this bag a few weeks ago. It caught my eye and I think it is so cute!! Outer pockets are a huge bonus! They can carry bottles and sippy cups without spilling all over the contents of your bag!

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4. Skip Hop Chelsea Skip Hop is really an awesome brand that last without completely breaking the bank! This bag easily will last through the baby years and beyond!! The color is so beautiful and classic (and also comes in black if you are worried about stains). Look at allllllllllll of those pockets!

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5. Timi & Leslie Charlie Y’all, this is a SEVEN piece set. I have heard nothing but good things about these bags, though I have personally never tried them. It is one that I drooled over while I was pregnant with Harper, but never ended up deciding on a bag. This bag is huge and an obviously hold a ton! The added stroller clips are just a huge bonus to me. I love being able to easily attach my diaper bag to the stroller (or shopping cart) and go.

**For the record, I use Think King stroller hooks and LOVE them.

 

 

This post is not sponsored by any of the above brands. All Amazon links are affiliate links, and you can see my full disclosure statement on the “referral links” page. Thank you for supporting me while I help support my family.

Comparison

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Image via Pinterest

You have heard the saying that Comparison is the thief of all joy, right? Oh, how true that is.

I find myself getting caught up in the comparison game a lot. I mean, A LOT. We haven’t taken a real vacation since April 2011. A vacation alone just as us? A random two night trip to Kansas City when we were newlyweds. I see these families going on vacations and having a blast, and I start feeling really down. Will we ever be able to do that? Will we ever get to show our children all of the beauty in this country? I have to stop myself though.

We may not get to go on “real” vacations, but at least once a year we get to travel back to Illinois and spend time with our families. Scott’s parents just moved to Arizona over the summer, so that is making things a little more tricky. But, how blessed are we that we get to take our kids to see all FOUR of their grandparents?! They get to see their aunts, uncles, and cousins also.

I see people who own their home. They get to plant gardens and do whatever they want to their house without asking permission. I have to be honest, this is my biggest joy stealer. I have ALWAYS loved homes and home design. I watched HGTV with my mom ALL THE TIME. I took interior design courses at Missouri State University. I LOVE cozy spaces and pinning my heart out. In Michigan, we lived in a tiny little house that was basically a glorified apartment. Now, we live in a literal apartment, and it really put me in a funk. Again, I have to really stop and count my blessings.

In January, we were facing homelessness. The church we were at had to cut Scott in order to afford survival. We were heartbroken and honestly afraid. We would be moving in with one of our sets of parents. When we were able to move all of our stuff into our “own” space, it felt so good. I was so incredibly grateful to be able to set furniture up however I wanted, and have space to somewhat spread out. I cried tears of joy. Now that the newness and excitement has worn off, I have allowed myself to feel ungrateful for what I have.

Isn’t this all so silly? We live in a world of social media where we can see everyone’s perfect outfits, homes, and projects… and post-baby bodies. It’s nearly impossible to be bombarded with the temptation to compare.. to be perfect.

May we never forget…

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Stop comparing yourself to someone else. God created us all with different talents and abilities. As long as you use those talents and abilities to glorify Him, that is all that matters!!!

I can make my tiny apartment a welcoming space to love on others. It doesn’t have to be huge and immaculate to be hospitable. It is still a daily battle; but one that I am willing to continue to fight.

 

Do you struggle with perfection and comparison? What have you done to overcome that battle?

 

Homeschooling Multiple Ages

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Many homeschool families are balancing many ages and grades with their children. This is something that had me incredibly nervous this year. Chloe is doing 1st grade, Addi is doing pre-k, and Harper is making messes. 😉 Now, we certainly are not the first family to face this, but I wanted to share some of the simple things that have worked for us so far.

  1. Combine where you can This is by far the biggest help. There are many things that Chloe is learning that I know Addi can learn at the same time. Especially in the beginning, when most grades are simply reviewing what was learned the previous year. If I am making copies of worksheets that I know Addi would enjoy, I make sure to make doubles.(Please do this legally. Our workbooks are not allowed to be copied, but the worksheets in the teacher books are.) I can teach a subject to both girls at the same time, and it is so much easier. They really enjoy it, too!
  2. Take turns Both of my girls are at ages where they cannot read. Chloe is learning right now, so it’s getting a little easier with her. Sometimes, they both need my attention on different things. I try to plan and give Chloe work that she can do independently while I do work with Addi that requires more attention. It helps that Addi’s work is much shorter, so I get one on one time with Chloe later.
  3. Let your younger children get bored If you start off with constant entertainment, they will expect that every day. The best thing you can do for yourself, and your children, is to let them be. Make them figure out a way to entertain themselves. Harper mostly looks at books, plays with puzzles, and pretends she is a puppy while school work is happening. It is so much easier than her expecting me to do special projects with her each day.
  4. Make it fun Learning should be fun! If you make sure that your children are engaged and actively learning, things will go so much better. This also helps keep all ages entertained at once. We shake things up and use random objects in the place of our counting blocks for Math. Since it is autumn (my favorite) we are doing a lot of themed science work. I honestly cannot wait to do some pumpkin guts exploring.
  5. Take brain breaks I have found that taking a few breaks to get out the wiggles and refresh seem to really help. My girls have quite the bond, and they really love all getting a chance to play together in the middle of our school day. This also helps Chloe to not feel jealous that her sisters are playing without her.

There have already been many days where I tell my husband that I want to quit. Homeschooling is hard. It’s stressful and a lot of work. But, it is so worth it. I have seen Chloe grow so much already. I see Addi learning more and more. Harper watches and I can see her wheels turning. I get a very unique view as a homeschooling mom. I know that it is not for everyone, and it may not stay for us. Right now, it’s a blessing.

What are some of your tips for keeping younger siblings happy?

Quiet Time

It is so hard to take time alone as a mom. I am terrible at it. I go to the grocery store alone. That’s really about it. I don’t even do that as often as I used to. *I want to add that this is in no way Scott’s fault. He is ALWAYS encouraging me to go out alone when he is home. I just don’t do it.*

I was talking with him about how I really wanted to get my hair done. He told me to go for it. So, I actually listened. ha! I called and set up an appointment. I had my pictures all ready. One was a balayage that was light blonde at the roots working its way into REALLY light blonde at the tips. The other was just a warmer color with some highlights. Now, I never do anything crazy with my hair. I decided that I wanted to do something fun.

This is my hair.. The first picture looks like a wig because I NEVER have that much volume.

I have SILVER hair! I wasn’t really going for silver hair, but it is the hip thing to do right now. I guess? I don’t know what is hip anymore. In my bathroom lighting, it looks like I have strawberry blonde roots with light blue hair. I seriously panicked and thought about selling an organ to pay to have it re-done. Thankfully, I went to church and everyone was raving about how much they loved it. I also got to see it in a normal light (I don’t know whats up with the bathroom lights..) and realized that it was pretty. It is SO different. But, really pretty. Plus, it is just hair.

It took 4 1/2 hours for this to be done. I had 4 1/2 hours TO. MYSELF. I love having my hair played with, so it was basically heaven. While I had a toner on my head, Denise sat me down in a huge massage chair for twenty minutes. You know what I love the most about Denise. She didn’t chatter away the whole time. Am I the only one who hates when a hairdresser talks the entire time. I just want to fall asleep in your chair and wake up looking fabulous. She was so kind and kept offering me drinks and snacks.

Honestly, even if my hair was actually light blue and orange, it would still have been worth it. I came home feeling so refreshed and rejuvenated. I love being a mom. However, you have to be “on” 100% of the time. My kids never give me a moment of peace. Someone is always wanting something and someone is ALWAYS touching me.

It is so important that we, as moms, take some quiet time. We need to do something for ourselves occasionally. We are better moms and better wives. We spend so much of our time pouring into others; especially as a ministry wife and mom. If we don’t take the time to fill ourselves back up, we will dry out. So, go have your hair done. Go get a cup of coffee alone. Take a walk alone or go for a job. Just do something to recharge your batteries. It does not have to be big and extravagant. Just make sure that you take care of YOU, too.