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“Starting tomorrow, my mom isn’t allowed to eat breakfast.”

“Really? But that is the most important meal of the day!”

“It is for her new diet. She said it isn’t the most important meal for adults.”

“Oh. I see.”

“She can only have 20 calories a day.”

 

Now, obviously this child got some of the info wrong, but this is a snippet of a conversation I recently had with a little girl. I was heartbroken…and a little angry. This little girl was being taught that skipping meals was a good way to lose weight.

Moms, please listen carefully to what I am about to say: If you are going to diet and try to lose weight, there is a much better way to discuss it with your children, especially your daughters!

As a little girl, I remember eating a candy bar at my grandparents’ house with my little brother. My nanny looked at me and said, “You’re going to end up fat if you eat those sweets!” She did not say the same thing to my brother. I remember feeling shame and embarrassment. This was not the only comment I would ever receive from her. As I grew into a teenager, she would still criticize what I was putting into my mouth.

My mom had learned not to make those comments to me because she had endured them as well. Looking back now, I can see how it affected my mom, though. My Irish grandmother had told my mom, when she moved to America, that, “She was going to end up fat like all the other Americans.” I watched my mom try diet after diet, some successful, some not.  I saw her be so unhappy with her body and so disappointed in herself.

Fast forward to me growing into a woman. Looking back, I have always felt fat, even when I wasn’t at all. I look back at pictures and remember how much I hated my body, and now I see nothing wrong with the way I looked. I don’t write this to blame my grandmother. She probably endured the same thing from her mother. I write this to show an example of how we, as mothers, directly affect the way our daughters view their bodies. If we speak negatively about our bodies, and our daughters grow up to have similar bodies, how do you think they will feel? I am built like my mom. She was built like her mom. It is genetics. Not that we shouldn’t strive to be the healthiest versions of ourselves, but we also need to love ourselves just as we are.

Because of this generational impact on my life, I make it a point to never speak negatively about my body in front of my daughter. She will never know when I am trying to lose weight. She will never see my weigh myself. She will, however,  hear me say that I feel pretty in a new outfit. She will hear me say that I have always liked my legs and my many, many freckles.

Our girls get negative body image shoved in their faces from every direction possible, more than we ever did! Motherhood has the greatest potential influence in human life. We must display a positive body image at all times, even when we least feel positive about our bodies. I don’t remember commercials or magazine ads that I saw growing up, but I do remember how my mom felt about herself.

So, moms, PLEASE do not talk negatively about your body to, or discuss your fad diet with, your daughters. Teach them to take care of their bodies, to eat healthy foods and to be strong! We may be the only one teaching them just how special and precious they really are.

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love, jamie

The D Word. 

As soon as she was out of the car, the tears started. I was dropping my daughter off at school. I wasn‘t crying because of one thing in particular. I was crying because of all the things. Life had just gotten so…heavy. The thought of going to work that day seemed completely impossible. I remember calling my husband and just crying. He simply told me to come home. I had never heard better words.
I had been struggling for awhile. He knew it and I knew it. We had talked about it. I can’t really pinpoint exactly when it had started. Maybe it started as post-partum? All I know is that I couldn’t handle it anymore. Going through hard times in my life, I have dealt with depression, but I had always been able to work through it and eventually the cloud would lift. “You are so strong!” people would always tell me. As a Christian, I had always thought that I just needed to focus more on my relationship with God and it would go away.
This time was different. It wasn’t going away. It had been hanging over my head for months. Life kept getting heavier and heavier. I cried…a lot. Every day. Multiple times a day. Often at things that were not sad. I have always been an extrovert, but I found myself barely able to leave the house. Just getting dressed and feeding my children became an incredibly difficult chore. To put it simply, I could not cope with daily life.
Thankfully, I had recently started spending consistent time with an incredible friend I was able to confide in. She has a masters degree in counseling and I very much value her wisdom. After hearing me, she encouraged me to see a doctor. She also lovingly pushed me to make an appointment and came to my house to watch my kids so I could go. I had no excuse but to go!
“You are moderately to severely depressed.” The doctor told me that after I answered what seemed like a million questions. With those words, I felt a weight lifted. I wasn’t making this up. I wasn’t just being “crazy.” A highly-trained health professional could see my pain. She looked me in the eyes and promised to help me. “We will find a way for you to feel better. You deserve it.”
That was almost eight months ago. My doctor has worked with me to find an antidepressant medication that works for me. I have started regular counseling. And let me tell you, I feel a million times better. The craziness of life hasn’t changed. With blending a family with five children, working, managing a household and everything else, life is chaotic most days. But it is bearable. I no longer feel as though I can’t perform the simplest of tasks.
Don’t get me wrong, life is not perfect. I am still exhausted (five kids including twin toddlers!). There are still the challenges that come along with blending a family and co-parenting with ex-spouses. I am still grieving the death of my dad. But I am able to get up and make the most of each day. I don’t feel as though I am struggling just to survive. I am enjoying life again.
I don’t share all of this to gain pity or a pat on the back. I share this in hopes that someone reading this will not feel alone, broken or crazy. There is such a stigma surrounding mental illness and medication. One of my thoughts when preparing my story was, “What will people think of me? What will fellow Christians think of me?” It makes me sad and frustrated that that was my first thought. 

We cannot continue to pretend that it does not happen. And as the church, we cannot continue to pretend that it does not affect Christians, or that it is a reflection of the person’s relationship with Christ. We must not blame the person struggling. We must love, listen, encourage, and support.

So, I say…
To the one who feels incredibly lonely,
To the one who cannot stop the tears,
To the one who cannot get out of bed,
To the one who cannot leave the house,
To the one who there is nothing good left in their life,
To the one who feels excessive amounts of guilt,
To the one who cannot seem to be able to make the simplest of decisions,
To the one who feels like the world would be better without them,
You are not alone. You are loved. The world needs you. It can get better. As difficult as it may seem to reach out, please do. You are not broken. You have done nothing wrong. My biggest regret is not reaching out sooner. Odds are, when you reach out for help, there will be someone there who completely understands you. Reaching out in the middle of your struggle does not make you a burden. It makes you brave. Be brave, friend. You deserve to feel better. 

You are worth it.

love, 

jamie

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Jeff and the boys are all taking a little nap. I am laying on my bed listening to the church bells play, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and reflecting on this past year. 

It has been a difficult year. A lot of pain and loss. A lot of tears, sadness and even some anger. A lot of questioning of God’s plans for us. But as I lay here I am reminded of how much good this past year has brought us as well. I am thankful to look back and see that no matter how much hurt, pain and confusion there is in our lives sometimes, that we have a God who is always there to listen and give us endless amounts of grace. 

It is easy to allow our minds to be clouded by the hard times. I am learning how the quiet times I allow myself often bring peace and clarity. And along with peace and clarity often comes thankfulness. 

If you can’t say anything nice, talk about something else.

“[…] said we shouldn’t talk to people who are voting for Donald Trump.”

I was taken aback a bit to hear that sentence come out of Carolina’s mouth. She’s 8 and not prone to political statements of any kind, even just repeating those she hears from adults. But – much to my delight – she’s starting to take a slight interest in politics after her Papa’s successful primary re-election campaign, so part of me was a little tickled at the statement, even though I couldn’t have disagreed with her more.

“We shouldn’t talk to people who…”

Finish that sentence. I can think of lots of ways:

…who are rude.

…who are disrespectful.

…who are invading our personal space and making us feel uncomfortable.

None of those things have to do with beliefs. Don’t talk to people who you don’t agree with? Those are exactly the people we should be talking to. Look, I know this election season is acrimonious and angry and angsty. I know this presidential campaign is dividing friends and families. But we have got to keep talking.

I don’t mean arguing. I don’t mean trying to persuade people, through logical arguments or news articles from suspect news sources, to change their beliefs. I truly mean talking.

“Hi.”

“How are you?”

“Are you going to finish your French fries?”

As human beings we need connectivity. We need relationships. We need kindness. We’re seeing precious little of that during this election. I see too many people bragging about the people they’ve deleted on social media, or posting demands to “Delete me now if you believe…” Just yesterday I saw someone talk about a friend they lost over this election and I can’t think of many sillier things over which to lose a friend.

One of my least favorite things about the current political discourse in the United States is the dehumanization of the other. “Liberalism is a form of mental illness.” I actually heard a human being say this the other day. I’ve listened to a local talk radio host declare the members of local government have no morals.

No morals? At all? Yeah?

Maybe it was cute the first time someone said that. But it’s not cute anymore. I see it trickling down from how national political commentators talk about politicians – whom they might be friendly with behind closed doors – to how people talk about their local government and how we talk about each other. It’s not cute.

This election will end, and soon. The finish line is in sight and we’ll all be free of this burden. But your family and friends aren’t going anywhere, so what is your relationship with them going to be like Nov. 9?

Talk to them. Today. If you can have a civil discussion of politics, by all means do it. That’s great. We need all of the intelligent discourse we can get. But if you can’t, that’s OK too. Talk to them about something else. We still need connection. We still need relationships. That won’t change, no matter who lives in the White House or represents you in Washington, D.C.

We need each other. Talk to your family. Talk to your friends. Talk to strangers you pass on the street.

“Hi.”

“How are you?”

“Are you going to finish your French fries?”

desires of the heart

Tonight I was sitting at dinner with my husband and our boys. Life has been busier than normal lately.

On top of the usual – we have five kids and a few jobs – we have had family in town from Ireland and Jeff’s dad is running for re-election as our county assessor. Last week, on top of working and campaigning for my father-in-law, we had eight kids in our house. So, amidst all the chaos, we haven’t had a lot of face time to just talk and connect.

All day today I was excited to just sit across from him and chat – in between feeding babies bites of food and being forced to play peekaboo, of course. We shared our days with each other and he caught me up to speed on campaign stuff. The topic then changed to blogging and what it looks like for us to tell our stories. For the past couple days, I have been trying to figure out what to write about this week. A few different things have been on my mind, but one particular topic hit me hard during our conversation.

In discussing our busyness, I explained that I am always torn. I struggle with a feeling of wanting to DO more and at the same time feeling completely overwhelmed with everything already on my plate.

I want to have an impact on people.

I want to reach people.

I want to be closer to people.

I want to live more intentionally.

I want to cultivate relationships.

I desire community.

These are strong desires, but the reality of it is I barely have time to shower daily as it is.  At the same time, I truly believe that these desires are from God, so I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make these desires happen. And, in return, I spend a lot of time feeling like a failure who just can’t seem to make these things happen.

Tonight as I was pouring my heart out to my husband, I looked across the table at my boys and God spoke to my heart. And I felt like a fool.

You see, God has given me these desires. But I have had my focus on the wrong people. The desires to cultivate relationships, live more intentionally and have community aren’t as out of my grasp as I have thought.

I looked at my husband and I looked at my boys and I heard God speak softly to my heart, saying, “These are the people I have for you. This man. These boys. Your daughter and new step-daughters. These are the people I have given you these desires for.”

I am used to being busy. But instead of feeling like God is telling me to do more, God is telling me to slow down. To be at home with the incredible family he has so graciously given me and really cultivate these relationships. Blending two families is hard. Really hard. But it is not impossible. Tonight I go to bed thankful for a God who fulfills the desires of my heart.

Where is the “inspirational music”?!

The past year has been hectic for us, to say the least. Fourteen months ago I gave birth to our twin boys and we blended our two families. Eleven months ago my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. We got married 6 months ago and moved into a new house. My dad was put on hospice care 3 months ago and passed away a month later.

There have been many days when I find myself just trying to survive the day…or hour…or moment. There have been moments when I have felt like I am a great mom and there have been moments when I have felt like the world’s worst mom. Moments of trying to take care of my family and moments of trying to find time for myself. Moments when I have felt like I have it all together and moments when I have felt like I was completely falling apart. Moments of triumph and moments of despair. Life has been all about adjustments lately. It has been a whirlwind of a year. Some things planned, others not. But such is life.

As a new mom to twins (it still shocks me when I say that!), I have sought out information and tips from other twin moms. There are so many blogs and groups, some of which have been super helpful and encouraging. I have always been a fan of reading blogs and getting ideas from them (Hello, Pinterest!). I am the world’s biggest procrastinator and least organized person, so I need all the help I can get!

Recently I came across a blog entry titled “14 Steps Toward a Simpler Life.” So naturally, I clicked. Who doesn’t want a simpler life?! Step 1: Create a morning routine. That sounds good. I can always use more routine in my crazy life. I continued to read. The lady who wrote the blog went on to explain her morning routine that makes life so much simpler. She wakes up with her baby one to two hours before the rest of the family. The baby watches her tidy up the house, clean the kitchen and get supper started for that evening. She also takes a walk with the baby, if the weather is nice. She then gets breakfast on the table for the family when they wake up and she enjoys having “inspirational music” playing softly in the background. That was only step ONE to living a simpler life.

Let me walk you through my morning routine. The babies wake up around 4:30 a.m. I fumble around in the dark to get them bottles. They drink and go back to sleep. Never does it cross my mind to wake up and start making meals or cleaning. I go back to sleep, praying the babies will sleep in as late as possible. Around 6:30 I am woken up again, either by babies or our older kids. I immediately wish that everyone would go away so I could sleep for another 10 hours. I ignore everyone as long as they will let me until I eventually drag myself out of bed to feed the starving children. I feed and change babies while instructing the older kids to get ready for school, often times with my patience hanging by a single thread. Our older kids eat breakfast at school so I am off the hook there! I pack up babies and throw on acceptable clothing, usually sweats, to take everyone to school. When I get back home, I try to get some kind of cleaning done while I trip over babies who follow me everywhere I go.

I closed the blog post and felt defeated. There was no way I was going to read the remaining 13 steps when I can’t even get step one down. My thoughts consume me. I’m not doing this right! My kids don’t have breakfast waiting for them on the table when they wake up! The house is a mess! Where is the “inspirational music”?! I am obviously not living a simpler life and am miserably failing this whole mother gig. And then I start to get mad. Why do I do this? Why do WE do this?

As moms, we are constantly measuring ourselves up to each other. Anytime anyone comes into my home, my first words are usually, “Please excuse the mess! Life has been crazy lately,” followed by a nervous laugh. And I know I am not alone in this because my friends say the same thing to me when I walk in to their homes! Or, if I have the time, which I usually don’t, I will clean my house and pretend that it always looks like that…because that is what everyone else’s houses look like all the time, right?!

And don’t even get me started on social media. I love social media. I mean, have you used those SnapChat filters? So fun. But when scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I can’t help but feel like I’m failing again. I see a friend’s spotless living room as she posts a picture of her new furniture. Another friend posts a picture of a bunch of cutesy crafts she did with her kids. My living room looks like a bomb made of cheerios and toys just went off. I am often times too tired, or lack the patience, for cute craft time.

And everyone’s successful weight loss journeys? I am lucky to have time to brush my teeth. Forget finding time to work out.

Why do I do this to myself? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we feel the need to be perfect? None of us are, yet we all pretend to be. I constantly tell my children that doing their best is what I expect. I do not expect perfection from them. So why do I expect it from myself? Why do I shame myself for “failing” at so many things when I am not failing at all?

I feel a strong need to break this cycle. It is a vicious struggle that I am willing to fight. I do a damned good job.  I wake up every morning and snuggle everyone in my family…well, except for our teenager who would rather die than be snuggled. Our children do not go without a meal. I change diapers. So. Many. Diapers. I help with homework. I go to work to help provide for them. I clean the house. I discipline them when they need it. I pray for them individually and on a daily basis. I strive to be a godly example for my children to follow.

There have been and will be days when I will struggle. There will be days when I feel like I am drowning. But I will always do my best and try my hardest. I will not be perfect and I will stop beating myself up for it. And I will remind myself over and over that I am good enough. You are good enough. Keep on, Mama. You are doing such an incredible job even if it doesn’t feel like it! Do your best and know that it is enough.

Mamas, let’s start giving each other a little slack, okay? Let’s love on each other. Encourage one another. Be real with each other. Enjoy a cup of coffee and great conversation with a friend in your messy kitchen! Perfection is not attainable. So let’s stop striving for it and put our energy into more important things.

If anyone wants to come hang out while I fold the seventeen loads of laundry that I have been avoiding, you know where to find me!

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“…this group must somehow form a family…” – The Brady Bunch

I guess if we are going to have a blog that is primarily about blending our two families, we should introduce our family members. So, here we are…

 

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Jeff aka “Dad,” “Daddy,” “Big Daddy Kess” and “Biscuit.”  (Okay, so those last two nicknames are self-given and the kids refuse to call him either.)

This guy is our ROCK. This family simply wouldn’t function without him. He is the hardest worker, both at his job and at home. He is easily the kindest man I have ever known and everyone loves him. He makes us (or at least me) laugh on a daily basis. He is also the best listener and always knows just what to say to make you feel better. There is no better dad on the planet and these five kids are the luckiest. Our lives are all better because of this man right here.

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Jamie aka “Mama Bear”

The heart of our family. She teaches us all through her daily life about giving, loving, living a life that makes you happy and putting family first, including the friends who become family. Jamie has a heart as big as all outdoors and an unending supply of sass. Mama Bear always has a hug and wise words ready for all of our children and isn’t afraid to give tough love when needed. They just don’t make many mothers like this one.

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Victoria – 15

Victoria is Jeff’s oldest daughter and our rock star big sister. She is incredibly smart and witty. She has a huge heart and is good at everything she does, including singing, writing, dancing and acting. And selfies. This girl also has a crazy amount of patience in dealing with four younger, often wild, siblings.

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Ava – age 9

Ava is Jamie’s only daughter. She is the little mama of the group and loves to take care of her little brothers. She has a servant’s heart and loves fiercely. She can usually be found snuggling her mama or putting together a talent show with Carolina.

 

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Carolina – age 8

Carolina is Jeff’s youngest daughter. Some of her favorite activities include Minecraft, planning talent shows with Ava, and she is our resident bookworm. She is an aspiring YouTuber and is constantly making us all laugh with her random quotes.

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Romey & Finnegan – age 13 months

And last but not least, our family was completed with these baby bears! Romey is the social butterfly, while Finnegan immediately looks for Mommy or Daddy at the first sign of a stranger. Romey loves to clap and Finnegan loves to “Go, go, go!” Both boys love to snuggle and are giddy when they get attention from their big sisters.

 

Thanks for joining us on this journey!