Self Care for Expecting Mamas

self-care

Self care is such a buzz phrase right now, am I right?

Guys. FOR GOOD REASON. We need to take care of ourselves if we want to be able to give the best of us to our jobs, families, and friends!

I spent years of my life not really understanding my own personality and living in a constant state of exhaustion, discomfort, and frustration. I couldn’t minister effectively, I wasn’t a present wife or mother, and I was physically unhealthy. It wasn’t until I really started paying attention to what my body and heart were telling me that I began to heal and bring myself to a physically and emotionally healthy place- a journey that, truthfully, I am still on to this day and is all the more important now that I’m expecting.

When you’re pregnant (and ESPECIALLY if you already have little ones) it’s really easy to let self care go right out the window in favor of productivity and “enjoying life” or “living it up” before baby comes. Thankfully, I don’t think it’s typically that extreme, but I do see the tendency within myself to let go of priorities that I might not otherwise because theres “only so much time left”. Pregnancy takes easy self-care things like a glass of wine and sushi right out the window (I’m not bitter…) but there are other great practices that we expecting mamas can enjoy…and I hope you do!

NAP

I honestly have had to make myself adopt the “sleep when the (toddler) sleeps” adage during my pregnancy. It was really hard to get myself to nap for a while, but I would just be so tired come the evening that I would be worthless. Taking a few short naps a week helps me recharge and be more present for my family, and especially for my husband- AKA I can actually stay awake and have a conversation or watch a movie post-toddler bedtime.

BATH

Long, luxurious soaks in the tub are awesome when your are pregnant! This is great for keeping muscles relaxed, blood pressure low, and helping you feel pampered. Even if you don’t have too much time, this little ritual can add some luxury into a season of life that often has you feeling clumsy and bloated. Just keep the water comfortable- not too hot.

BABY BONDING

A great thing to do to keep yourself calm and focused during your pregnancy is have some intentional baby bonding time. This looks different for everyone- maybe doing some hypnobirth exercises, reading to the baby, talking or singing to baby, playing music, doing pregnancy exercises. Any time that’s set apart and intentional for you and baby is going to do your mind and body good

FEED YOUR ENERGY WELL

Are you an introvert? Be conscious of how much alone time you’re getting, and be generous with yourself. It’s true- those days are numbered. Similarly, if you’re an extrovert, plan some low-key movie nights or potlucks with friends! You might not have the energy or capacity to do those things for a bit after birth. Whatever your personality needs, take the opportunity to tune in and feed your energy well.

CHILDBIRTH PREP

Again, taking any intentional time to bond with baby and prepare for what’s ahead is a great way to take care of yourself in your pregnancy. Many mamas struggle with fears about childbirth and anxieties about the newborn phase or parenting in general- and taking the time to do some solid childbirth and parenting preparation will ease your mind and bring some balance to those thoughts. You can read about some of my favorites in this post.

READ FOR FUN

For many mamas, this is something that goes out the window for quite some time after birth. If you’re a reader, take advantage and read up now! Read a novel you’ve been wanting to dive into, finish that lengthy nonfiction that’s been on your shelf for a while.

A CUP OF TEA

Unless you’re really averse to hot things in pregnancy like me (try being 7 months preggo in East Africa!) a cup of warm tea will likely make you feel so calm and relaxed. Not only is the ritual of making tea and then enjoying the cup soothing, but you can make a tea that has great balancing benefits, too. Check out my DIY pregnancy tea blend in this post!

NESTING

Just let yourself go wild. Nest away, mama. To your heart’s content. Pinterest the crap outta your house. You’ll feel great 🙂 You also might find comfort in packing your birth bag– a great way to channel that energy.

MANICURE

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel so much better when my nails and toes are scrubbed a bit and painted nicely. I just feel more put together. Whether you go somewhere for a nice treat or do it yourself, that 45 minutes could make a big difference in how you see yourself (even if you often can’t see your feet!)

SCRUB AND LOTION

This is my secret weapon for a bad day. A good body scrub- whether a store bought one, or mixing up your own with some sugar and olive or coconut oil, and maybe some essential oils- ALL OVER YOUR BODY. Scrub the heck out of your skin. Focus on rougher areas like feet and elbows. Really go for it, let those oils sink in. Then out of the shower or bath, give yourself a good lotion. Bam. Don’t you feel better just reading this?

GRACE

The most important part of self care in pregnancy? Having grace with yourself. You’re growing a human inside of you, which requires a tremendous amount of energy, changes how your brain works, and can make you feel like you are living in an alien body. Trust me, I get how hard this is. Having grace with yourself in a demanding season is a challenge! Be kind to yourself, mama! You’re doing great.

So You Want a Natural Birth… (Tips For Success!)

natural-birth

I’m kind of a birth nerd. I’ll admit it. I LOVE to hear everyone’s birth stories and talk through birth plans and encourage mamas and snuggle newborns. I love to make women feel empowered and affirm them during labor and make suggestions and read books and articles and geek out. It’s my thing. I love it!

However, one thing that I do NOT love is seeing an unprepared mama go through a birth that she regrets. I can’t tell you how many mamas I talk to that really have their hearts set on having a natural birth, but don’t put in the time to educate themselves, become familiar with their options, and prepare their bodies and minds for what they are about to go through. Sometimes everything turns out exactly the way they would like, but more often than not, some twist of labor fate ends them up with an experience that is far from what they dreamed, and it’s a lot for them to process!

I want to be clear- I’ve got no issues with people choosing medicated births or even cesareans if it’s right for their families. My sadness is for those mamas who wanted to choose otherwise, but maybe didn’t have all the tools and information they needed to be successful, and they end up with regret. That said, I want to offer up a basic list of tools that can be used to make your natural birth easier, and perhaps increase your chances of success! YOU CAN DO THIS!

A GOOD CHILDBIRTH CLASS / PREPARATION

Honestly, y’all. This is the most important thing you can do if your heart is set on having a natural birth. We don’t have the age-old wisdom of mamas and grammas passing down what birth is like and what to expect and how to handle things anymore- we ladies need to be taught what to expect, what is happening to our bodies, and how to handle it. Invest some time and money into a solid childbirth class- and not just something your hospital offers- so that you can go into your birth informed and prepared. I personally recommend Bradley Method classes, but I have also had good experiences with hypnobirthing and birthing from within.

A YOGA BALL

Or a “birth ball“, if you want a specific one. Not only is this great for you to use for sitting in the last months of your pregnancy (it encourages the baby to be positioned perfectly and helps with elasticity of ligaments) but it’s great for helping you roll around in smooth movements and relaxing during contractions. Many women will spend much of their labor on a birth ball, because it keeps them upright (which allows gravity to help progress labor) but also allows them to relax.

A REBOZO

This labor tool is really starting to gain traction, and I love it! This is another tool that is great to use during the last months of pregnancy to encourage good positioning of the baby, but is also awesome to use during labor. The mama can get on her hands and knees and a birth attendant or partner places the rebozo around the belly and lifts up, taking the pressure off of the mama and “cradling” the baby for her. This can feel great for mama, both between and during contractions. I loved this piece on shortening labor times with a rebozo, and after my own 50+ hour labor with my daughter, I am looking forward to trying this with more vigor myself.

FOOD AND DRINK FOR LABOR

Maternal exhaustion is one of the top reasons mamas who desire a natural birth end up with a medicated one- their bodies just get tired. And rightfully so! Birth is really hard work! Though it can be difficult to work around policies if you are in a hospital, almost all birth centers (and definitely all homes, ha) now allow eating and drinking during labor. This is your chance to fuel up! When packing a bag for a natural birth, choose high-nutrient snacks that will be easy to eat in small portions, in case you are nauseous. But throw in some favorites, too- just in case! Many people opt for trail mix, clif bars, honey sticks, frozen or fresh fruit, peanut butter, electrolyte drink mixes, and herbal teas.

POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES

This is such an important tool for pursuing a natural birth. There’s something about mama society now where we trade birth stories like war stories- mine is worse than yours- when in reality, we should be encouraging one another! I believe it can make a huge difference in a mama’s outlook on birth so surround herself with positivity about birth and read empowering, beautiful birth stories. Two great resources for this are Ina May Gaskin’s books, Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Both are full of encouraging and empowering birth stories that are both honest and inspiring. This is an extensive online collection of positive birth stories, too! If you’re struggling with fear of birth because of the experiences of those around you- or even your own previous experiences- hypnobirthing could be a huge asset to your preparation. This home study course, in particular, has a great segment on releasing fear of birth.

ESSENTIAL OILS AND HERBS

Essential oils and herbs can be tremendous tools in labor, both for encouraging the body into more productive labor and for helping the mind deal with the intense emotions that accompany childbirth. Essential oils, in particular, can help make contractions more effective, ease pain, help with nausea, calm anxiety, give energy, help with headaches, and so many more labor issues- a good essential oils toolkit can be invaluable during labor! If you’re like more information on using essential oils and which ones I would recommend for your labor and delivery, feel free to email me: karli dot feedmemama at gmail dot com 🙂

RELAXATION METHODS

This really looks different for everyone, but knowing what things are effective for helping you relax is key! for some people, its a specific music playlist that they love. Maybe its an essential oil blend to diffuse, a special candle in a warmer, a scented lotion or body scrub, a warm rice sack, a special pillow or blanket or nightgown. My advice: bring it all! You want to be as relaxed as possible!

WATER FOR PAIN RELIEF

This largely depends on what is available in your birthing facility, so think about this when choosing a care provider! Having a shower available for directed heat and pressure can be great during contractions- but most mamas swear by the relief that comes from birthing in a tub or birth pool. Warmth helps relax muscles, water takes pressure off the mama and increases elasticity of the skin. This is sometimes referred to as the “natural birth’s epidural” 🙂

THE BOTTOM LINE…you need FLEXIBILITY

Being prepared is so, SO important in a natural birth. But really? You need to go into your birth with positivity and flexibility. Birth is a wild ride, and it is unpredictable! Having a set-in-stone birth plan that you are “married to” will very likely just cause you greater frustration and anxiety in the long run. By all means, know what is ideal for you! But also know that you might be repulsed by things that once felt comforting to you, you might not be able to keep food down, or a surgical birth might end up saving your baby’s life (or yours)!

What was the most useful thing you did to prepare for a natural birth?

10 Ways to Bless Your Overseas Friends

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Shameless plug from someone living overseas? Maybe. You be the judge ;)

Since we moved overseas six months ago, we have seen how difficult it can be to maintain relationships with those we love and care about the most- but also, how big of an impact a small action can have!

Many of us know people living overseas- whether serving in some kind of foreign aid position, working, or as missionaries. I have to be honest, when I lived in the states, I often felt at a loss as to how to bless them, even when I really wanted to!

That said, I want to humbly offer a list of things people have done for us that have helped bridge the gap and make us feel really loved, even at a distance. I hope it inspires you to show your overseas friends some love, too!

SEND THEM A PHOTO OF THE TWO OF YOU

This is so easy and so meaningful! I love when friends will take the time to message me an old photo or something that came up on TimeHop and just say they are missing me and encourage me a little bit. The memories are sweet and the friendship is sweeter.

SNAIL MAIL

Sure, it takes forever and is really unreliable, but getting snail mail or packages when you live overseas is the BEST. It doesn’t have to be elaborate- even a birthday card can make someone’s whole day. If you’re unsure how to go about it, talk to your overseas friend or your post office worker and they can help you figure out details. Ask your friend about turn around time, too! My Grammy is a boss at this- she can land a birthday card here in Rwanda within 2 days of a birthday. She’s amazing 🙂

REMEMBER IMPORTANT DATES

Things like birthdays, anniversaries, and even important events can go largely unnoticed by stateside community. Make a point to invest in the goings on of your overseas friends- pray for big projects they have coming up, and follow up with them! Birthdays and anniversaries, too- especially when forging a new community, it can mean a lot to have some familiar love from back home.

ASK WHAT THEY NEED (OR WANT!)

I will assume that most expats are like me and have a running list on their phones of things they need or it would be nice to have from the states. This could be anything from a favorite chocolate bar to nutritional supplements to shoes for their toddler. It’s a huge blessing to have a willing person ask what we need at any given point- even if it might take a while to get here. And yeah, sometimes we just need some chocolate!

AMAZON GIFT CARD

This might seem a little off the wall, particularly if your overseas friend lives somewhere that Amazon doesn’t ship (like Rwanda). But hear me out- this is useful in a few ways. First of all, with Kindles (and Kindle apps) and with computers and phones- this is a really easy way to give a friend access to new entertainment they may not be able to get any other way- a new movie, a new book, new music. Many places in the world are English entertainment black holes and we resort to swapping movies with friends and never having new books to read. Amazon gift cards are so great for this! A friend recently gifted me a book on Kindle. I didn’t even know you could do that, but it was SO awesome!

In addition, these can also be used to ship things quickly to visitors or contacts that are coming through the country. It’s an exciting day when a friend texts and say “Hey! I know someone coming through town if you need anything, ship it here!” Cue Amazon Prime shipping to said friend and some goodies coming our way.

And really, the bottom line: especially for those of us living on missionary support, we don’t always have the budget to buy a new movie for our family night of a new book to entertain us and encourage us. This is an easy way to circumvent that.

WRITE OUT A PRAYER OR ENCOURAGEMENT

So, so meaningful. I have a few friends that faithfully send me Scripture, check up on me, send me written prayers and encouragements and general take it upon themselves to keep a pulse on my emotional health. If you can have that relationship with your overseas friends, fill that role for them. It’s so necessary.

ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR ABSENCE

We miss a lot of fun things happening in our communities back in the states. It’s sad for us, and we would be lying if we said we didn’t care. We aren’t asking to be photoshopped into group photos, but even a sweet text saying “hey, you were really missed tonight” or “you would’ve loved this” can mean the world, especially on a hard day.

ITUNES GIFT CARD

See Amazon gift card. Same idea. Someday, I’ll own that new Beyonce album….ha!

HELP ORCHESTRATE DETAILS DURING TIME IN THE STATES

This is a little more abstract, but just as meaningful and helpful. As we are preparing for our first quick furlough back to have our son, I am realizing what a crapshoot it can be to balance a schedule and jetlag and kids and seeing people and….it can be really overwhelming. Reach out to your overseas friends if they are planning a trip back, and see how you can help. Airport rides, offer to host, cook a meal, whatever- everyone’s needs will be different but your willingness will speak volumes.

REPOST, COMMENT, LIKE THINGS THEY POST ABOUT THEIR WORK

It can get lonely over here and the gratification of overseas work is far from instant. When your friends share about the work they are doing on social media, vocalize your support and let them know what they are doing is important and valued! Share a photo or a story. Comment. Give it a little heart like! We see these things and it fuels us. Promise 🙂

I hope this list was helpful and inspiring to you to love your overseas friends well! Wherever they are and whatever they are doing, your friendship is important and your love and support are crucial to their success.

*One final note. If you know your friend’s love language, hone in on things that might speak that to them. It can be hard to spend quality time with someone thousands of miles away, but a Skype call could do the trick! You might just have to think outside the box*

Living overseas? Have an idea to add? Leave it in a comment below!

How the Spiritual Disciplines Saved My Faith

I decided, last week: this has been the hardest 6 months of my life.

But then I remembered where I was 6 years ago, finding out that my mom had breast cancer, while simultaneously balancing visits to my grandfather after a fall and my sister after several brain surgeries,in different hospitals in downtown Baltimore. Maybe that was the hardest season?

Or maybe it was the season that where we were newlyweds and naively started a not-for-loss company working in post-earthquake Haiti and also took in some heroin addicts in an effort to save them by our example of Christ’s love- only to be left basically broke and definitely broken. Was that the hardest season?

The season that broke me was losing our son. Looking back, I can see that clearly- the touches of PTSD, the panic attacks in public places, not being able to sleep, always being tired, depressed, anxious, unable to really parent or be social or have much to do with my family at all. My faith fell apart as I quickly realized that the church- or at least a church service- didn’t have much to say to me as I angrily crossed my arms during songs about God being a healer and how good He was and how much He loved me. I didn’t believe those things. Just because some worship leader with a trendy hairdo sang them or wrote them or whatever didn’t make them true. My baby son was dead and he wasn’t healed and God wasn’t good. Not then. And I definitely wasn’t going to sing about it.

So many parts of that season feel like a blur- like time. I have no recollection of several months of my life. But then, there are certain things that are so vivid- the smell of the “console” essential oil blend I would use each night before bed, the color of the himalayan salt lamp I prayed would help me sleep, the feel of putting on a new pair of leggings for the first time that I would inevitably wear for weeks as I skirted the line between “getting dressed” and “I slept in these”. The gin and tonics- too frequent, the saltwater I would drink in the morning to try to reset my shot adrenals, the smell of the ocean as I would sit on the sea ledge and cry. The two little crabs I would watch digging holes every morning- and I would say to myself, “if God cares about even these little crabs, why does my life feel like such a disaster? Why doesn’t He care about me, my family?”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking lately about what got me out of that season- what saved me. Because, if I’m being honest, the last 6 months of my life truly have been the hardest- harder than all the rest. Moving to East Africa at 8 weeks pregnant is no joke- moving to Africa at all is no cakewalk anyway. Cultural stress, jet lag, the difficulty of finding a home and setting it up and learning where to buy things and forging a new community and a million other tiny decisions and interactions that just wear on your day after day- it’s mentally exhausting. Add in altitude and hyperemesis (thankfully mostly controlled) and a case of prenatal anxiety and depression because my last pregnancy ended so tragically- yeah, the last 6 months were a recipe for disaster. So why weren’t they?

Don’t get me wrong- I have had numerous breakdowns and “i’m packing up and leaving” moments. Numerous. I won’t lie to you, there have been multiple times where I was ready to throw in the towel. Multiple times where I basically didn’t leave my room- really, my bed- for an entire day. There have been
Netflix marathons and days of eating entire chocolate bars and parenting with TV. My family has not come through this unscathed and I have not always been okay. But then- how am I still here? After that hard season that broke me, with losing Hudson? How am I handling this?

I’ve come to realize that the answer lies in habit- routine- spiritual discipline. I got to the point with my faith where I was so burnt out from what I was supposed to believe about God and his character and what I was supposed to cling to as comfort that I just stopped, and was honest with myself. I was mad. I was frustrated with people throwing cliches my way that didn’t make me feel any better. So I stopped trying to pretend- at least to myself- and I surrendered.

While I don’t feel that I ever really got to a place where I abandoned my faith completely, I think that I wanted to. But something in me remembered those other hard seasons, and how I had found peace in them before, and that there must be something to that. So, I started looking for the things that had stood the test of time. Things that weren’t some kind of postmodern, comfortable pastoral revelation, but things that the church had clung to in times of real trial and pain. Here’s what I found:

Traditional prayers and creeds.

It was so refreshing for me to pray something that had been prayed by so many people for so many years. One of the first things I did was pray the Novena of St. Andrew for all of December. It’s a prayer commonly used in Catholic churches and particularly asking the Lord to bless the wombs of women. It felt easier and safer to me than just telling God how pissed I was about my empty uterus. The prayers of both St. Francis and St. Patrick have all brought direction and comfort in the past year as well. Even the Lord’s Prayer gave me words when, often, I didn’t have them. And the creeds- especially the Nicene Creed- helped me figure out what I believed again on a really basic level- like “okay, if I can agree to this as my foundation, maybe I can move forward”. I am still wrestling, but I am being honest about it. I’ll say them until they sink in. Until I really, really believe them again.

Meditation and silence.

This maybe started out as a more practical way to deal with my anxiety and panic attacks- to help myself start my day calm and centered and focused. But my mediation practice grew into something that I craved and needed in order to really get through my day with any semblance of mental sanity and peace. I looked at different kinds of meditation and “centering prayers” and tried many- and still practice them to this day, though perhaps with less frequency. But those times of remembering how small I was and how big God is and how out of control of everything I truly was helped reground me in the midst of a chaotic and emotionally messy season. The Liturgists have a really great Centering Prayer recording, as well as an excellent episode on meditation. I have also really enjoyed getting Richard Rohr’s daily meditation emails.

Reading the Bible.

This was the hardest for me- and probably still is, if I’m honest. Sadly, I am one of those people that comes through a Bible college with a lower esteem for Scripture than I would like- after studying how the canon was formed and the politics of it all, I just wonder, what else is out there that we are missing? And moreso, I haven’t shaken the feeling that the Bible is just another textbook for me to pull apart and study. After 7 years, it’s really difficult for me to read the Bible as a mystical, transcendent message of God’s love for us that speaks personally to me. I’m still worried about finding background knowledge and looking up greek words and ALL the CONTEXT and really, it’s just hard for me to sit down and bask and be comforted.

However- I found a little tool that has really helped. I am a big fan of Lara Casey’s productivity tools- not only are they beautiful and help women really get to the heart of what they love, but they are so centered on living a life for Christ, whether overtly or not. Last year, Lara released her series of Write the Word Journals, a simple idea in which we write out a Bible passage on one page, and then just whatever is on our hearts on the other. I’ll be honest, deciding to do this got me to open my Bible and let out some feelings, little by little, for the first time in months. Since then, it has become a staple in my routine of daily quiet and has allowed me to venture back into scripture gently, yet with some direction. I am really grateful.

Another big tool for me, has been the Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals book– and, now, the app as well. While it is meant to be read in community, I go through each day’s liturgy in my own quiet time, meditating on the centering words, reading the Scriptures, and praying the prayers. It has allowed me to have some structure to my thoughts and reading and prayers that I have craved- some direction- while still keeping time with things that I care about. I like the space given to pray for others. I like the way the selected readings and quotes are from heroes of the faith, both old and more contemporary. It’s exposed me to thinkers and martyrs that I didn’t know before- people that have paved the way. I really value that. The app includes these readings, as well as a midday and evening liturgy, which I try to pray as often as I can remember. I feel like I need to recenter myself as often as possible. Which brings me to my next tool…

The Chimes app. I don’t actually remember where I first heard of this, but it’s a simple enough idea- your phone will make a little chime noise every hour, on the hour, for whatever hours of the day you want it to. So every day, from 7am to 9pm, I will get a tiny chime on the hour. At that point, I choose what to do with that tiny wake up call- right now, I am working on memorizing the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. For a while, it was the Beatitudes, and before that it was Psalm 23. Sometimes I will recite all 3! But this little chime helps me take a second and recenter myself before I get on with my day. It’s just a minute or so out of each hour, but if I am diligent to really do it, it makes a huge difference. Sometimes that chime goes off in the middle of a tough parenting moment, or while I’m exhaustedly doing dishes, or maybe having a difficult conversation with my spouse. It’s a great reminder.

So, I’m not there yet. I’m not healed, or whole- I still feel very broken, though maybe I always should? But these things, these daily practices- they keep me grounded. They keep me stable and able to have grace with myself and handle my circumstances and relinquish control, even if just for a brief second of my day, of each hour.

If you’re here today, too- I pray that these things will inspire you or maybe give you hope, too. Maybe you can’t recite Scripture on the hour yet, but maybe you can just ask God for mercy. Maybe you don’t want to open your Bible, but you can practice some meditation. Wherever you are- have grace with yourself, keep being honest, and know that you aren’t alone, and that you are very loved- whether you feel it or not.

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Sweet Gifts for a 2-Year-Old Girl

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Our little one turned two this last month (CRYING FACE!) and we had to get pretty creative when it came to getting her gifts. As a family, we really value thoughtful and intentional gift giving, as well as supporting mindful and responsible companies. Add to that our impending move to Rwanda, and we had a heap of challenges when it came to shopping!

I thought to myself… I really can’t be the only one dealing with being stumped when it comes to birthdays for a 2 year old…so, I want to share with you what we found!

PERSONALIZED and APPROPRIATE BOOKS

Because our daughter’s name is, well, rather unique (Hallelujah) (no really, that’s her name), we decided to get her a personalized “Lost My Name” book. I saw these advertised on Facebook for a bit and checked it out- boy, is it beautiful! It will teach her how to spell her own name and includes lots of animals for her to learn. A great bedtime story!

We also got her a few books that are appropriate for what she is learning right now: shapes, colors, counting. We love this one by Eric Carle and this Olaf counting book is super cute!

HER OWN VERSION OF YOUR THINGS

Okay, this isn’t the most mindful or green, but my little one LOVES putting on my jewelry, so I thought- why not let her have some of her own? She picked out a super cute Anna and Elsa set at Target, similar to this one. Adorbs galore.

I also gave her some of “her own” essential oil bottles to play with- just empty ones of mine, but still- it makes her feel included in many of my daily activities.

Halle also got a $1 makeup brush in her stocking, which she loves! She “plays pretties”. 🙂

FINGER PUPPETS

So much imagination in a 2 year old! This set of finger puppets is SO cute and entertaining. We have so much fun looking at them and naming all of the animals.

OK TO WAKE CLOCK

You guys. If I could recommend ONE THING to you, it’s THIS CLOCK. Buy it right now. IT’s incredible. She stays quiet in bed until it turns green, and then she is super happy! DO IT!

BUY WHAT THEY NEED…BUT ALSO WHAT THEY LIKE

For me, this means buying clothes with Minnie Mouse or Elsa on them, even though I would much rather dress her in solids or floral prints. She needs new socks? For her birthday, she can have Minnie socks. I’ll concede to the impractical on this point!

BABY DOLL SETS

My sweet and thoughtful mother-in-law hooked Halle up with some incredible swag for her baby for Christmas! Not only did she get a gorgeous bed/blankie/diaper bag set (with cloth diapers!) but also a sewn toddler-sized babywearing sling! I can’t handle the cuteness. Halle loves to wear her baby- and she’s always “shhhh sleeping” when she does!

TINY KITCHEN

This is the best! Sometimes, I am prepping food or cooking hot things and Halle just can’t safely help me at this age. So, we found a fun little kitchen set to put in our kitchen, so she can cook while I do, too! Much smaller and more portable than those behemoth full-on kitchen sets, this can be toted outside for water play, moved from room to room, and easily cleaned!

HER OWN PLAY TENT

This one is a splurge, but we have loved every minute of Halle’s own play tent. She loves to go in and read, or put her babies to bed- and BONUS, toys can easily be thrown in for a quick clean up when needed!

10 Ideas for Showing a Grieving Friend You Care (Plus 3 Things NOT To Do)

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Grief is a funny thing- we all feel it at some point or another, and yet when we are confronted with grief in the life of a friend or family member, it can be really hard to know how to react and support them the best.

After going through several devastating miscarriages in the past few years, I have seen some amazing showings of support from friends and family- and had some pretty terrible things said to me, too (probably with great intentions). With that, I want to offer a simple list of ideas to show a grieving friend that you care, no matter what the circumstance might be.

COOK THEM SOMETHING

This could be as elaborate as setting up some kind of meal train, or as simple as baking some cookies and leaving them by the door. Cooking, while good self care and distraction for some, can turn into a burdensome chore in a time of distress- and, lets be honest, eating for comfort is totally a thing. If you don’t cook, buy something already made, or think about sending a box from Blue Apron or another similar service. We had a Blue Apron box sent to us after we lost our son, and it was a huge blessing to just not have to think about what I was cooking.

MEMORIALIZE THE LOST LOVED ONE

This can look a lot of different ways, depending on what might speak to your friend- personalized jewelry, printing out photos, making a slide show of memories, making a pillow out of someone’s clothing. Two of my most precious possessions are a necklace with all of my babies’ birthstones (gifted to me by my best friends) and a pillow made from my grandfather’s favorite shirt after he passed away.

OFFER HELP

Babysitting, cleaning, groceries, gas, dog walking, school runs- anything that involves getting up off the couch or out of bed, offer to do it! Particularly if you’re really good at one of those things.

TEXT, CALL, OR EMAIL

Maybe this seems simple, but check up on your friend. Set a reminder on your phone every few days to see how they are doing- tell them you are thinking of them and praying for them and just generally here if they need it.

MAKE A CARE PACKAGE

This can be fun and easy- put together a little basket or box of nice things for your friend! Candy, a new CD or DVD, beer or wine, bath products, a new-to-them book, gift cards, a mug and some tea or coffee, a soft blanket- anything to pamper your friend a bit and make them feel loved and known.

OFFER A DISTRACTION

Sometimes we just need a girls night out, or a night in with a movie, or a pedicure, or to go bowling, or to go to the zoo. Offer up some of these ideas to your friend and try to get them social, if they’re up for it!

SEND FLOWERS OR A PLANT

I’ll never forget our friends sending us an orchid in the mail- they lived in Africa! They used ProPlants to send us a beautiful orchid and it meant the world. This is a great idea if you live far away.

REMEMBER ANNIVERSARIES

Birthdays, due dates, anniversaries of passing- remembering and acknowledging these things, especially in the future, will mean more than you know. Set a reminder in your phone or write it in your calendar- maybe even a few days ahead so you can send a card.

ASK THEM WHAT THEY NEED

Sometimes, there may be a need that you can’t possibly anticipate- maybe something work related or health related or whatnot- and you might only know it’s there if you ask. There might not be a specific need, but on the off chance there is, you could really bless your friend in a big way.

SHOW UP

Funerals, memorials, church services, what have you- go there. If you’re on the fence, do it. I have always lived by this rule- it’s better to show up and be supportive but maybe feel a little awkward than it is to miss out on the chance to support and love on a friend. Years later, I have had friends tell me how much it meant to them that I went out of my way to attend a memorial or funeral that I had initially doubted whether or not I should attend. Make the choice to be there.

AND, SOME THINGS NOT TO DO…

OFFER CLICHES

“God’s got a plan”, “time heals”, “they’re in a better place”, “you can try again”, “you can have another”- maybe all of those things are true, but they aren’t helpful. Say things like “I’m so sorry”, and “I’m here for you”.

JUSTIFY

One of the hardest, to be sure. “God needed another angel” or “there must have been something wrong with that one” or “it was their time”- again, these things just make it worse. Just listen to your friend and affirm them. Let them feel what they feel and be by their side.

HIDE

Finally, don’t duck and cover. Lean into the awkwardness and the pain and just be there- be present with your friend- even if you don’t totally know what to do. The worst thing you can do is disappear. Hopefully, this list has given you some ideas of what to do instead!