Your Real Mommy

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To my surprise it had been a fun filled day with no trauma related meltdowns or behaviors. I was thankful. The sun was beaming in, the girls were looking at picture books on the couch and little man cub was pretending to win a heroic battle of some sort. I was mopping when I heard the unfiltered words effortlessly fall out of her mouth, “And see that’s your REAL mom.” 

 Those words hit my ears like a million pieces of glass piercing my weary soul and I stopped. I had to remind myself to breathe. I waited a second longer before turning my head, mop in hand and with a questioning tone said, “What did you say?” 

 Our eyes met; her dark brown eyes met my weary eyes and she fumbled for words. Two years into her adoption being final, those words somehow cut deeper now than they did two years ago. 

 “Real mom?” Why does that cut so deeply? Why do I feel like the air has just been knocked out of me? 

 To be totally transparent, it was only God that gave me grace to move towards my daughter. I was no stranger to words that severed the soul.  Sorrow and suffering had been very present in our call to adopt older children. My flesh wanted her to know the depth of pain those words caused me. 

 But Jesus. 

 I stop. I lay the mop down and I kneel down to her. 

“I love you” -a declaration to my own heart more than to hers, because sometimes we have to speak it, to believe it. 

“You have a place here. You belong. You are wanted” -a truth we are all really longing to hear.  

“I am your real mommy. I am also baby sister’s real mommy and man cub’s real mommy” -a promise that will never change no matter how hard things get. 

“I know I didn’t grow you in my belly. Your birth mom had that beautiful privilege and she will always be part of your story” - a truth we often talk about in our home. 

“You are my daughter. You will always be my daughter and you will always be part of this family…forever”- a reassurance that none of us are going anywhere. 

 Tears well up and for the first time, maybe ever, I see a genuine feeling being released. Sadness and thankfulness wrapped up in those big brown eyes and suddenly it was as if the light finally was showing through with every tear that fell. Instead of harshness, gentleness was present. Instead of anger, thankfulness. Instead of suppressing all emotion, she allowed herself to feel something real. 

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 Tears stream down my cheeks as I exhale. Baby sister comes running into my lap and man cub wraps his arms around my neck and my brown eyed girl embraces me tightly. I whisper, “I’m so glad I get to be your mommy.” For a moment in time it was as if Jesus wrapped His arms around all of us, filling us with hope. Hope that He indeed will make all things new, one day. The weighty stories, the broken hearts, the weary souls, He lifts and mends and makes strong. 

 This is what Jesus does. 

 He draws near to me in my brokenness. He meets me, face to face in my confused and misplaced heart and reminds me that I belong. He does not wave his nail pierced hands in front of my face, He simply reaches out and says, “Come.” He reminds me of my place in the kingdom and He declares that His love will never run out. 

 So tonight, I do not lose heart.Though outwardly most days I feel like I am wasting away, inwardly I believe I am being renewed.For these momentary troubles (as Paul writes) are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory, if we do not give up. So tonight, I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. I fix my eyes on Jesus and I hope today or tonight or whenever your eyes read this, you too are reminded to fix your eyes and your heart and your affections on the only one who can fill you with all HOPE and PEACE.

Engaging Summer

Note to the Reader

This post is not sponsored and all opinions and purchases are my own


As a mama of three I have to prepare myself for the long summer days. I like to look at the summer months as a time for me to intentionally engage my kids. Idle time creates chaos in our home. My kiddos thrive on a schedule and routine. So, I want to share with you what our summer months look like in hopes it will help some of you!


DEVOTIONS

My kids LOVE our devotions in the morning. It centers them and me. After breakfast and morning chores I gather the kids and we read from the book Hinds Feet on High Places. We read, discuss what we read and they write in their journals as well as draw a picture. They love this time together in the morning!

ENGAGING THE MIND

My kids NEED to have their minds engaged. Learning is fun and we make it even more fun in the summer months. They get to work towards “treats” which can be anything from outings to picking out a toy at the dollar tree. We spend at least an hour a day doing “summer school” which consists mostly of math, reading and reviewing things like site words and math facts. Below are the resources we are using and loving!

Math: Summer Bridge Activities Books(Rising 1st Grader & Rising 2nd Grader)/ Math Facts Cards

Read Aloud: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane/ The Kings Equal/ Charlottes Web/ Lon Po Po/ The Egyptian Cinderella/ A Chair for My Mother/ The Gardener/ Mrs. Katz and Tush

Individual Readers for the Kids: Magic Tree House Series/ Nate the Great and the Phony Clue/ I Can Read Readers/ Heroes for Young Readers Series/ Julian Rothman Collection


Toddler Activities

There are days it is hard to focus on “summer school” while having a disruptive toddler. I try to engage our youngest in the midst of helping the older two kiddos. Here are some things I have found my little one loves to do while the big kids do school work!

Building Blocks

Water Color Painting

Play Doug

Write and Learn Creative Center

Word Puzzle

Water Wow Books

STEM TOY ACTIVITIES

We love stem toys! They are great tools to help engage your children’s minds while still playing! We like to set up three stations. Each child starts at one station and the timer is set. They have to try and create something within the allotted time (usually between 15-20 minutes) before rotating! It is a fun game the kids love! Below are some of our favorite STEM toys!

Magnetic Tiles

Grippies

Lite-Brite

Kinesthetic Sand

Wooden Blocks


I hope you find this post helpful! If you have other summer ideas please comment below! I always am eager to hear how others structure their summer days!





Travel Activity Bins

We are getting ready to hit the road for a few weeks of vacation. We are driving over 13 hours and this mama has been prepping! One thing I struggle with as a mama are whiny/crying children. Yep. It literally makes me want to hide and scream all at the same time. My tolerance for whining is VERY low, which is why I have put these activity bins together! I know it won't solve the issue (because let's face it, as an adult I whiney too by hour 10) but I am hoping it will give my kids something to do when they get board. My kids don't watch a lot of TV so when we go on road trips I let them watch as much as they want in the car. However, you can only watch so many movies in a row before you start getting bored with that too! 

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I wanted to share these stackable activity bins I have created for our drive. They are age appropriate and all "NEW" to my kids! These are things they have not played with yet which creates a little excitement too.

Toddler Travel Bin  

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I knew I needed to have a tray for my toddler to work on that could fit over her car seat. I bought a standard black tray (I have linked below) that I am eager to try. My hope is the tray table will make the activity bin more conducive for her to play with the items. 

One of my favorite road trip activities are these Water Wow! They are brilliant and mess free (all you need is water). My big kids like them, but our toddler LOVES them! A travel size Magnetic sketch pad is always a good idea. No markers or crayons to be lost on the floor. A counting book and "noise" book which my little one loves. The little farm set I found at the dollar section at Target. 

Boy Travel Bin

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For our little man cub I also put the Water Wow in his bin. The Hidden Picture book I thought was so great to keep him entertained and finding things that can be easily circled in the car! The "Adventure" checklist was a cute little purchase from the Target dollar section and has things they can check off the list as they discover them on our drive. Who remembers those lacing shoe string "activities"? Target had a dinosaur bag with them along with stickers and cards! The top blue pouch has a series of three games- Tic Tac Toe, Spy Guess and Build A box. I think my older two will love playing those games together in the car to kill a little time! 

Girl Travel Bin

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Our oldest is at the age where she really needs things that stimulate her academically. She has learned how to read and is constantly working hard at sight words and reading signs, labels etc. I took a workbook we had at home and laminated a few pages (the ones you see at the top left of the picture). I plan to put a few dry erase markers in her bin so she can easily practice writing. I also laminated all her sight words we have been practicing and put them on a ring so she can easily flip through them (as seen at the bottom right side of the picture). All the other items are the same as our Boy Bin with the exception of the magnetic mermaid activity. Instead of the shoe string activity our son has, I placed this Target find in hers. 

I hope you find these helpful and these bins inspire some of you to create your own! I am so excited to test these out! I will report back to let you know how we liked them and things we would change. 

 

Source List

All Items not pictured below were purchased at the dollar section at Target 

 

Toys that Engage

I am a FIRM believer in buying toys that engage my children’s mind and aid in their development. When I walk into any toy store (which is very rarely), I start hunting for toys that are going to enhance my child’s language, creativity, discovery and problem solving development. Because we are raising kids in a day where everyone has a cell phone, computer, tablet, TV I am not too worried they are missing out. There will be a time and place for my kids to get screen time and learn how to work a computer, but right now their little brains need to be engaged with things that are developing them. 

Don’t get me wrong, we do let our kids watch shows and movies. We have Friday Night Movie Night and let me tell ya… they LOVE Friday Night Movie Night! There are times I let them watch a 15 minute Mother Goose Club Houseor Masha and the Bear while I get ready for the day or finish up something work wise. But they do not get “screen” time on a daily basis and this is in large because of attitude and behavioral changes in my kids when they are staring at a screen.  To be honest, I just don’t want to deal with the excessive disrespect and attitudes they tend to have after screen time.  

So what do we do all those hours of the day? Well, I work really hard to keep them busy. I have a whole summer schedule for the days we don’t have something planned and it has worked well for us this summer. I will share the summer schedule in another post, but for now I want to share a few toys my kiddos are loving this summer. They are worth investing in if you don’t already have them! 

 

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Wooden Block Set

You can find these everywhere and they are not expensive. This toy has lasted in our home for about 4 years and it is probably the most played with activity! 

 

Grippies Builders

I found these on Amazon and they are awesome. They are magnetic and would be great for all ages. My only complaint is there are not tons in the bucket, but I think you can buy an extra pack to go along with them! My kids love building and even using them as pretend microphones and ice cream cones! 

 

Magnetic Tiles

My little man received these for Christmas and we ALL love them. These are magnetic so you can also place them on the fridge to make different designs! Our two year old loves them as well as our six year old so… win, win, win! 

 

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Kinesthetic Sand

I do have to supervise with this activity (mostly because our two year old still puts everything in her mouth) but this is a great activity! I bought this one because it came with an inflatable “pool” to put the sand in! The kids love digging around in it and creating.  

 

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Lite Brite

You probably had one of these when you were younger. Maybe? I didn’t, but I didn’t grow up in North America. My husband did and he said he loved this as a kid. My older two especially think this lite box is so cool. I enjoy creating designs with them on it! 

 

Sight Word Puzzle Set

Basically, I love everything Melissa & Doug. I bought this sight word puzzle this past year to have a fun activity as we were practicing sight words for school and it continues to be a great activity my older kiddos do on their own! 

Leave a comment with some of your favorite toys you have for your kids! I always want to see what others are using! I hope you find these helpful!  

 

Gender Neutral Baby Shower Inspiration

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As I was preparing for this baby shower I kept thinking about how we choose to celebrate. I LOVE planning an event to make someone feel valued and loved. I like to think through the person I’m celebrating and what they love, their style, what interest them, etc. When we stop and think about the person behind the celebration it makes all the planning and prepping worth it and more meaningful. 

I want to share this recent celebration I hosted. My sweet friend is expecting her second child so we threw her a gender-neutral baby shower, even though she knows she is having a little boy. Her style is more neutral and so I decided to stick with a neutral theme. 

Décor

Decorations were fairly simple. The colors I wanted to stick to were white and gold mixed with greenery and wood tones. I ordered large white balloons for the corners of the dinning room along with a large BABY balloon sign in gold.  I wanted the gold balloons to be the main feature on the wall and they ended up being much larger than I expected. White tablecloths and lots of greenery really dressed up the food tables. I went to a local wholesale floral place here in Birmingham (Davis Wholesale) and also picked up a few extra flowers from Trader Joes. We used plastic wear and they were all gold or clear, which went perfectly with our color scheme. 

Food

Willow + Fifth had the privilege of collaborating with Mason Dixon for this event. Mason Dixon provided all the food items for the shower and I must say it was INCREDIBLE! Mason Dixon is a 100% Gluten Free bistro and bakery. If you have been following along with me for any amount of time you know how important this is for me living with Celiac Disease. We had a brunch spread consisting of Quiche, Fruit Skewers, Scones, Sugar Cookies, Cake Pops and the most beautiful Cake. It was amazing being able to scan the table and not think twice about what I put in my mouth. Mason Dixon also provided a MOM-OSA Bar which everyone enjoyed. 

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Mason Dixon also provided our party favor... Gluten Free Macarons beautifully packaged for guest to take home! How adorable are these?!  

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I just have to add, Mason Dixon has a location in Huntsville and Homewood, Alabama. If you are local to Birmingham you must go checkout the Homewood location. You can order food, coffee or they have things you can grab and go. The quality of their food is incredible. I am so thankful for Mason Dixon and the opportunity to enjoy delicious food free of any gluten! 

Games

Last but not least here are a few cute game ideas to have at a baby shower. I love having something for guest to do that does not require a lot of work or facilitating. I found these Baby Prediction and Advice Cards on amazon for guests to fill out while eating and talking. We also had the guests write a funny saying or letter on diapers. Our guest book was a children’s book for everyone to sign and mom to take home for her little ones. 

I hope this gives you a little inspiration on how to throw a beautiful baby shower for that friend or family member! And I hope those local to Birmingham also check out Mason Dixon for your next catering event or lunch out, especially if you are gluten free. 

Leave a comment below about how you love to celebrate or feel loved and celebrated by others! I’m always wanting to hear from others! 

*This post is sponsored by Mason Dixon through our collaboration, all opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Animal Brunch

Are you needing a little Birthday Inspiration? I am always looking for cute, cheap ways to make others feel celebrated! I hosted a Wild Animal Brunch Birthday for our two year old. 

We had the party outside in the backyard. It was very windy the morning of the party which made things a little more challenging but it all turned out great. We had 25 people present at the party. I ended up going $9 over our budget but I was very happy I stayed as close to the budget as I did. For those who missed the birthday budget chat visit this cute little Tea Party BirthdayI threw.   

I wanted the décor to be simple and woodsy but not too masculine as this was for my daughter’s birthday. I bought little animal figurines from the dollar tree and spray painted them gold. I laid them out on the food table and they also ended up being weights to hold down the flying napkins! I bought a number 2 balloon to hang in the center of a greenery piece I made from our back yard. The morning of the party I collected my stick and greenery from our yard and tied it the way I wanted it and hung it over the table as a centerpiece.  I absolutely loved the little honey bear cups that held juice and chocolate milk for the guests. I tried to stick with a white and gold theme, which is why I bought all gold plastic wear. 

Over the years I’ve steadily collected serving platters and tablecloths that I use for any events we host at our home. I’ve always looked for neutral pieces so that they can be utilized for any theme. The wooden trunk displays were borrowed from a friend.  

As for food, it was a brunch. We had fun picking wild animal names for the various food items:

Mini Quiche- Critter Quiche

Sausage- Wild Game

Croissants- Duck Feed

Fruit- Birdie Bites 

Nuts and Pretzels- Deer Corn 

Juice- Honey Bear Juice 

Mint Water- Watering Hole 

Our daughter is allergic to eggs so I always make a homemade egg-free cake! If you follow along on Instagram you probably saw me making the cake. But for those of you who didn’t, here is my little secret for making an easy egg-free birthday cake. 

Recipe: 

You buy an egg-free box cake (Just check the labels and make sure there are no eggs in the mix.)

Substitute the eggs with applesauce. For every egg called for on the box, substitute a 1/3-cup of unsweetened applesauce. 

Substitute the water with sprite. 

That is it! You then follow the box directions as usual. However, I usually have to bake the cake a little longer than usual. The cake turned out extremely moist and the guests loved it! 

Total I spent $59 for this wild birthday party and we had such a lovely time visiting with friends!

Décor Items I Bought: 

Balloon(this is not the exact one but similar) 

Animal Figures(I bought these individually at Dollar Tree) 

 Spray Paint

 Honey Bear Cups

Birthday on a Budget

Tea Party

When you have multiple kiddos, birthdays get tricky. As a mama I want my kids to feel celebrated but I also don’t want to break the bank on birthdays, especially because our house celebrates four birthdays within the first three months of the New Year. This year my husband and I decided to allot a dollar amount to each child and they got to choose how they celebrated their birthday.

 

I want to share a few ideas to make a simple, yet fun and creative, birthday party. Mamas who have little girls, this one is for you.

 

Our afternoon tea party was a great way to invite a few of my daughter’s friends and their moms. We had 11 people present for the tea party. The girls came dressed in their finest tea dresses and the mamas visited while managing the amount of cake and tea that was spilt.

 

I sent a free online invitation to each of the families. No need to pay for an invitation when an online one is free and easy to get an RSVP.  I went to Trader Joe’s and bought discounted flowers and eucalyptus. I hung eucalyptus over the table and placed a few flowers in mason jars on the tables. I wanted the table to feel elegant so I used white dishes I already had- again, free. I did buy pink plastic utensils to make the clean up easier. I bought a 97 cent balloon and tassel arrangement to place by the food table.  

 

The morning of the party I ran to our local grocery store and picked up a clearance cake and cupcakes. They were the perfect size, very elegant and tasted just as good. Cheap but beautiful! Win- win in my book! We had heart shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, homemade muffins, crackers and hummus and last but not least non-caffeinated tea. I also provided juice and mint water for those who didn’t want something hot.

 

I always love to have a little game to play at a party. My sister helped me by making this game; pin the teacup on the saucer. The girls loved it and it was cheap to make. I only had to buy the white poster board and doilies. I had the construction paper and glue. We also had coloring pages I printed off from my personal computer. I downloaded a few sheets of teacups for the girls to color as we waited for everyone to arrive at the very beginning! It was a great time-filler for the girls before we really got started with the party.

 

Total I spent $50 for this amazing tea party and it was a total hit! It was a beautiful party. I stayed within my budget, which made my husband and me happy! Our girl felt celebrated and valued, not to mention it was a great time visiting with other moms and their daughters.