House Mix

Category Archives: Mom Diary

VIDEO: A day in the life of a stay-at-home mom

Here’s a video glimpse inside our daily life — complete with a 4 a.m. wakeup call, a frog in the house, crying (mostly from the kids), fighting and cuddles. I did miss the part when Adriano spilled his entire glass of milk on me, but managed to fit a few tips and recipes in there.

If you’re a mom of little ones you know the phrase “enjoy this time, it goes so fast” extremely well. I happen to disagree with it — it seems like my kids should be 25 by now! — but because so many people say it I wanted to make a video of a typical day for us. I want to remember how crazy staying home with three kids under the age of five actually is.

As I edited the video, I wondered if parents of older kids say this because they tend to remember the highlights, the best moments. For example, will I remember sweetly cuddling all three kids at the same time while watching a movie, or will I remember how exhausted I was and how I was counting every single minute until they went to bed? My game plan is to love and live in the present, document it as best I can and look forward to what the future has in store.

At first I thought I would do a video just for future me, but then as I got going I decided I would post it even though the quality is terrible and my videography skills are the worst. I would encourage you to do your own video too! It will be so fun to watch when the kids are grown and you think you long for “the good ol’ days.”

I’m glad I shot it on this day too, because by the time Marcello got back from his business trip I was a frazzled mess laying on the couch catching a cold. Nothing like your spouse leaving for a few days to make you see all the little things they do. I told him I’ll never leave him, I can’t handle these kiddos by myself!

Ok, here’s the video. I’m nervous to show you! It’s terrible quality and now I think I need a makeover, but it’s still accurate.

Are you speaking your family’s love language?

What does your spouse do that fills your heart to the brim? What do you do that makes your child’s eyes light up big and bright? We each receive love differently, so if we speak each other’s language we’ll get farther faster.

Marcello and I were introduced to Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” as part of our premarital counseling. We will be married 10 years this summer and this concept has proved invaluable to our marriage, and as we are now finding, also in our parenting.

I am such a believer in loving people the way they receive love that I end up talking about it in everyday conversation to friends, other moms during small talk, even the kids’ swim teacher. I’m always surprised by how many people have never heard of it.

I planned to do a blog post about it in honor of Valentine’s Day and, ironically, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time for my family to revisit Gary’s studies. The past few weeks I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and my kids are doing their best to trample on any live nerves I have left. One will not stop talking ever. One has an extra-strong whining game. And one is just into everything and breaking my back.

Last year I wrote a post about the week I changed the way I parent. I would say that all of those things still work for us, the biggest take away being sticking to our guns. In other words, no bajillion warnings or not following through. I need to say what I mean and do what I say. Now that the boys are getting older, the love languages build on those foundations.

Now Luca is almost six and Adriano is four and a half. Gary, who also wrote “The Five Love Languages of Children,” says this about the age when a predominate love language begins to emerge. Of course every child needs love from each of these categories, but one will overflow their love tank compared to the others.

Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.”
— 1 Corinthians 13:13

These are the five categories:

Words of affirmation

“This language uses words to affirm other people.” Encouraging, kind words build up this person. They respond to compliments, appreciation and encouraging words.

Some sample ideas:

  • “You look so handsome today.”
  • “I truly appreciate you taking the time to make this delicious dinner.”
  • “You’re so good at your job. It’s not easy to manage all this.”

Acts of service

“For these people, actions speak louder than words.” Babble won’t get you far with these folks, but doing something for them makes their heart swell.

Some sample ideas:

  • Do a chore he or she typically does.
  • Make a special dinner of his or her favorite food.
  • Think of something they do every day and have it ready for them before they can do it.

Receiving gifts

“For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift.” The gift doesn’t have to be extravagant or fancy, but thoughtful and meaningful. The sentiment here is “You thought of me!”

Some sample ideas:

  • Pick wild flowers to give or find a heart-shaped rock.
  • Make something with your hands: paint, whittle, sculpt, draw …
  • Buy a small souvenir to bring back, even if just from the next town over.

Quality time

“This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.” Turn off the TV, put down the phone and get rid of distractions. These people are all about spending time together with quality conversation.

Some sample ideas:

  • Sit on the couch with the TV off and talk about the day.
  • Go for a walk and chat together.
  • Go out to eat just the two of you.

Physical touch

“To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch.” These people crave physical contact — even something as simple as a pat on the shoulder, a kiss on the cheek or tousling their hair. Kids even fulfill this need by wrestling! (Gary notes that older kids also still need physical touch, and that boys and girls should be treated the same in this regard. In other words, don’t withhold contact from boys and give more to girls because of their gender.)

Some sample ideas:

  • Sit on the couch close together watching a movie.
  • Give big hugs and kiss when arriving or leaving.
  • Hold hands or offer your spouse a back rub.

I should note also that if used in the opposite way, love languages can be damaging. For example, hurtful things said a words of affirmation person will cut deep. Slapping a physical touch person will wound their heart.

As I mentioned before, Marcello and I are very conscious of one another’s love languages. Mine is quality time — probably the most annoying of all the languages, of course. I value spending time together and talking. When he’s not able to give me this time, I tend to withdrawal, become sarcastic and cold. Sounds like a dream, right? So basically I’m mad at him for not spending time with me, but I’m acting like a jerk. So why would he want to spend time with me exactly? I know. I even annoy myself.

Marcello’s love language is acts of service. One time I said, “So let me get this straight. If I do the laundry you feel loved?” To which he answered yes. And I still don’t get it, but I’m grateful I know because I would never have come up with this correlation on my own. Your shirts are washed, feel the love.

In fact, he is always doing thoughtful things for me. Sometimes makes coffee and sets out a mug and spoon for me. Or picks cuts a rose and puts it on my desk. Or even when he gets the oil changed in my car, he’s showing me he loves me. Because that’s his love language. As a quality time gal, I think all these things are very sweet, but I’d still rather have a chat on couch or go for a walk together. You see what I mean?

You might be speaking to your spouse in your love language, not his, and be missing an opportunity. Gary says most people don’t marry someone of the same love language, so chances are you will have to learn how to best love your spouse. And just in case you’re curious, love languages tend to stay the same for a lifetime.

Now we are trying to apply these same principles to our kids so they feel unconditionally loved, which also coincides with behavior improvements. It’s very obvious that Luca is just as obnoxious as I am about his quality time. He needs engagement, eye contact, conversation. Otherwise, he says “you don’t care” and sulks off (not unlike myself). And if that is not effective, he just keeps talking and asking questions, determined to get the time together. When Marcello and I invest even a solid 20 minutes there is a clear change in his attitude. His love tank is filled up!

I used to think Adriano was physical touch, but now I realize that he was just very young and needed all of the love languages equally. He still gets lots of physical touch from us, but what really makes his heart sing is words of affirmation. Giving praise to that boy brings a sweet, joy-filled smile across his face as he looks humbly downward, soaking it all in. When this need is not met, let the whining begin.

The book doesn’t go into much detail about having a secondary love language, but I have noticed that Luca has a dominant (quality time) and another that comes underneath that (physical touch). If I have only 15 minutes to spend with him, I am trying to engage in conversation with direct eye contact and make sure to rub his shoulder or mess with his hair. It’s too soon to tell with Adriano, at four, what his secondary language will be. And Clara just needs all of them, all the time, all day long.

If you’d like to learn what your love languages are, you can take Gary Chapman’s quiz here.

The love languages have been indispensable to my marriage and I’m eager to continue seeing how they apply to my children. Because I have to be honest, in these early years I do not see much fruit from my labor, but I know it is not in vain. I’m laying a foundation for these kids and it’s hard work!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” — 1 Corinthians 15:58

How about you? Have you ever heard of the five love languages? What is your love language or your spouse’s? Do your kids show signs of one of these yet?

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When Mama is TIRED

When Mama is tired

This is a tricky post to write. But if I don’t write it, I would feel dishonest. I’ve been going through a bout of depression and lots of I-don’t-wanna-be-a-mom-today moments for the last month. I said it. It’s not pretty. It sounds ungrateful. But it’s still true.

Depression is not a common enemy of mine, but I recognize it when it crops up. I don’t want to get out of bed. Smiles are forced. Daily tasks seem mountainous. My creativity is clouded and lacking. Everything seems pointless. I just want to be alone, but I never am.

I know I’m not the only one this happens to, but not many talk about it. I think we are made to feel guilty if we speak in honesty or have the fear that our friends have it all together. But here’s the truth: Someone will always have it worse than us. Someone will always have it better than us. But that doesn’t detract from our current suffering. I spend a lot of time acknowledging others’ heartaches, sympathizing and praying for them — and that is a good thing — but others’ suffering doesn’t subtract from my own heartache. It’s ok to experience and talk about and walk through our own troubles, even though someone else might be worse off.

So I will share with you that I’ve been having a hard time staying home with these three small children after five and half years. Maybe you would feel safe to open up about your troubles as well —  even if it is related to something completely different. Because that’s what God wants us to do, live in a community, pray for each other, not live in isolation. In fact, isolation is exactly where our enemy wants us to stay so we feel alone and left in the dark to absorb more lies.

The beauty in trials is that when we are weak, the Lord is strong. It is through our weakness when he can do his great wonders. (2 Corinthians 12:9) How long have I been trying to do this on my own until I am broken enough to ask for help and mean it? Or maybe I did it and need to do it again. When will I open my heart to hear his voice and respond accordingly? In trying to do this on my own, without fully cooperating with him, I am sabotaging myself. Tribulation is meant to strengthen our relationship with God.

It is shocking to say you consider it an honor to go through trials, but the Bible tells us to be grateful for them so we grow in faith and become mature in our walk with God. In light of this, I’m attempting to look at this battle I have before me as an opportunity to grow in my relationship with Jesus and come out stronger, wiser and more compassionate to my neighbors.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4

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However, I am taking notice there is a difference between making oneself vulnerable for the sake of sisterhood, and complaining. Complaining can take us to dangerous places, such as self pity, anger or playing the victim. So I’ll skip the whole scenario on why I’m tired because you already know it. Maybe you have a couple of stubborn kids yourself. I think you already get it.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  — Philippians 2:14-16

There is one extremely underutilized tool we have that is powerful and life-altering to us and those around us — prayer. It changes everything if you let it, if you can allow your will to align with God’s and stop trying to control everything yourself. Because, let’s face it, the things you and I can control are very limited.

My situation is not going to change, so I have to. I can’t do it on my own, I’ve tried for a long time. It has to be through God, through his son. And the way it’s going to happen is through prayer. I know this, but I think I had to realize how broken and sin-filled I am before I could move forward with Christ on this journey of motherhood. And believe me, my kids have brought out an ugly side I didn’t even know was there. They have shown me the best and worst in myself.

I’m a practical application kinda girl, so I need to see how things work out in everyday life. How can prayer change things? Well, of course, that’s a very complicated answer, but may I suggest that our God has chosen to operate through humans, and if we are asking him to do something, he will probably ask us to help.

If you’re praying for hungry children, then what are you doing to feed them? If you’re praying for a better husband, then what are you doing to be a better wife? Me, I’m praying for strong-willed children, but the answer will surely involve me changing as a mother. You see, the answer to our prayers will often require our own action as well as his.

What effective prayer does not involve are: lists of things to ask a genie, things opposing God’s word in the Bible, things outside his will, things against nature. God cannot contradict himself.

Here are some specific things God is working on with me to pull me out of this funk — not overnight, but steadily.

Make a prayer list

Make a prayer list so you can see how God is working in your life

I’ve started a small list in my phone of things to pray for. It’s not there so I remember what to pray about, it’s there so I can see how God will answer or has answered. Because when we call he will answer, he promises this to us. (Jeremiah 33:3) Of course, it might not be the answer we expect or asked for, and that’s all the more reason to pay attention to what you have prayed — so you can see his handy work. I usually find it recognizable in hindsight.

Recognizing what God has done for you will build your faith. And faith, I’m learning, is the antidote to fear and anxiety.

Pray for your family

Each person in our family has an initial mug. I grab one at random and pray for that person as I have my morning coffee or afternoon tea.

I might not normally suffer from depression, but I do experience anxiety frequently. I worry about my kids, about family and friends, about the world. One thing the Holy Sprit has been telling me is to quit thinking, thinking, thinking and start praying, praying, praying!

Last Christmas Marcello’s dear friend from Italy gave me five mugs with each of our initials on them, one for each family member. The kids don’t use theirs, so I do. I started my own little tradition of grabbing a cup at random and praying for that person as I drink my tea or coffee. My oldest likes it when he sees me drinking from his mug. He points to it and says “You know what you have to do now.”

At night, instead of laying in bed worrying about the kids, I walk into their rooms as they sleep, kneel beside their bed and pray with all the passion that I used to spend being anxious. Instead of trying to push my worries to the side, I acknowledge them and bring them before the Lord and oh does that feel better! I pray for their early salvation, a hunger for Jesus, sleep, health, safety, future friends, future spouse, future career …

Make a grateful list

Be grateful

One thing we can control in our life is our thoughts. They might get away from us time to time, but ultimately we can control them. I’ve recently learned in Priscilla Shirer’s study “Armor of God” that the brain has “the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.” It’s called neuroplasticity and this means that our positive or negative thoughts can actually change the shape of our brains! (To read more look up Dr. Caroline Leaf.)

Thoughts are powerful. A positive thought can lead to another positive thought. In fact, did you know that you cannot simultaneously think a positive thought and negative thought at the same time? You have to train yourself in this way. A negative thought process in the midst of a depression or trial is a dangerous place to be. A grateful soul can guard your heart against lies, jealousy and deception.

When I was feeling the lowest, I sat down and made a grateful list. A big, long one with all things big and small. It doesn’t matter what I feel right now, the fact is God has given me so much that I didn’t even know to ask for or deserve.

This is but a season. I will be grateful for this trial, mature from it and grow in my relationship with Christ. What trial are you experiencing right now? What do you do to keep your chin up? Can I pray for you?

Teach yourself to be grateful.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. — James 1:17

Also read: The week I changed the way I parent.