Friday, August 21, 2015

Space - The Final Frontier


When we found out we were pregnant with Charlotte, we started making plans to move Will to a "big boy room," leaving the nursery for Baby Sister.

Because I LOVE to decorate and because I LOVE Will and because I was excited for this new chapter, I spent hours and hours on his room - incorporating parts of his personality in every detail.  I designed new artwork, found the perfect curtains, made space for his tractors, created a cozy book nook, found a home for a big and comfy reading/snuggling chair, carefully selected some special "big boy" toys for his baskets...  We bought a new crib/toddler bed...  Mark painted the walls, hung the shelves, designed a changing table in his closet, measured out where the artwork should go...  My mom sewed matching sheets and made an adorable tent to have adventures and camp-outs in...

...and, it was perfect...well-worth the sweat and the investment and the hours.

But then...

A couple of months ago, Will finally figured out how to climb out of his crib.  We knew this was inevitable, so we moved ahead and converted his crib to a toddler bed - a bed he could easily climb in and out of without killing himself in the middle of the night.

And then, bless his heart, we found Will taking FULL advantage of his snazzy room.  He was reading books and skipping naps, playing with tractors until 11 PM, climbing up to the tippy-top of his comfy chair, running laps around his tent, yanking his shelves from the drywall and, not sleeping.

So, I had to do it...  I tore apart my labor of love, dismantled Will's little paradise of fun and stripped the room bare.  Every toy, every book, every tiny thing he could find a way to play with got tossed into big IKEA bags and put in the basement.

And we were back to square one - left with a vacant, boring, ugly room.

Yes, he slept better.  Yes, he napped better, but I was mad at Will.

Not only had he squandered all my hard work, his crazy up-all-night-shenanigans had ruined a welcoming and beautiful place in our house.  Every time I walked into his blank space of a room, I was a little annoyed and a little bummed and a little distracted by its new-found ugliness.

Fast forward a few weeks.

Will and Charlotte have become obsessed with opening and shutting doors (Will opens, Charlotte shuts.  They are quite the team).  Every once in a while, I would watch them toddle off, down the hall into Will's room and shut the door.  At first, I was concerned.  Surely they would kill each other behind a closed door, away from my protection.  I would immediately follow them, open the door and confirm they were both still alive and well.

As this scene continued to repeat itself over a few days, though, I started leaving them alone for a few minutes at a time...only to hear, to my surprise, squeals of delight, belly laughs and high-pitched giggles coming from the end of the hall.

"Pay wit Chalee in woom, Mama?" Will would ask.

"You want to play with Charlie in your room?" I'd clarify.

"Okay!!!" he'd yell with a grin, and off he sprinted with Charlie at his heels.

Giggles, more giggles, belly laughs, squeals, and screams of baby talk...

Feeling like I was missing out on something incredibly fun, I started to join them, and this is what I found:

They hide behind the curtains and scream "BOO!" as the other runs away.
They wrestle and tackle and squeal with delight.
They make funny faces at each other and belly laugh until they fall backwards.
They chase and race and jump and yell...

They make their own fun in that ugly room.

Now?  It's not uncommon for the four of us - Mark, myself and the two crazies - to run into that same room after bath time, shut the door, and share the best moments of the entire day.

In that blank room, there are no toys, no decorations, no phones, no books, no clocks, no computers, no knocks at the door, no televisions...

In that big space, there's nothing but the four of us.  Wrestling.  Belly-laughing.  Being together - with nothing in the way.

Maybe an ugly, undecorated, empty room is just what I needed.

Sometimes, I think I can decorate myself into a corner with no room to run free.  We can snuggle into our matching sheets and pile of stuffed animals and forget to cuddle and wrestle with the ones we love most.  We have so many toys laying around on our floors, we can't spin and twirl with abandon.  We read so many books, we forget to have a face-to-face conversation...

Sometimes our stuff becomes clutter and our busyness becomes a stumbling block.

Maybe we need more empty rooms, more space...

Maybe, at least sometimes, we need less...

...to experience more...

...more togetherness, more freedom, more adventures, more joy...

...

And, if nothing else, maybe we need less just so we can sleep better at night...  Right, Will?  (wink, wink...)

PS - This is addendum is for Dad...in regard to space: the final frontier, the title of this post.  I will now write this all by heart, Dad.  Ahem...  Space: The Final Frontier...  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise...its continuing mission is to explore strange, new worlds...to seek out new life and new civilizations...to boldly go where no one has gone before!!
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Charlotte's Ice Cream + Sprinkle Party!



Clear Balloons + Tissue Paper Confetti inside!


The invitation!



Plain Pint Ice Cream Containers + Circus Animal Crackers + Fabric Scraps + Baker's Twine = Party Favors!


Ice Cream chalkboard "table cloth" is a 36''x 48'' engineer print (paper!) - about $7 to print black and white.  File is from The Caravan Shoppe.















The food table was covered in kraft wrapping paper.  I drew quick ice cream cones with chalk marker (to match cones from the chalkboard table cloth - see above!).



Photo backdrop is also an engineer print.  File from The Caravan Shoppe!














Straws are from Target, Dot cups are from Shop Sweet Lulu!





Charlie's first Sundae!  Napkins from Shop Sweet Lulu, plates from Target.






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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mommy Wars : Our Real Enemy


It's been a while, folks.  To catch up, THIS is where I talked about how much Mommy Wars stink.

And, THIS is where we chatted about WHY we Mommy War - we war because we care; we war because we were made to war.

But here's the thing.  When we armor up and draw our weapons, we'd better be dang sure of whose side we're on, and who the real enemy is.  After all, we'd hate to fight against our friends and sisters and loved ones...

And, yet...we do just that.  Our sweet friends and sisters and loved ones are falling casualty to a tragic, misguided war.  Our arrows of unsolicited advice and judgment and comparisons and disrespect and snide remarks are wounding, killing and paralyzing the very ones we should be protecting.

So let's take a minute and clarify something.

Fellow mamas are not your enemy.  We are all on the same team - Co-sleepers and Formula Feeders and Antivaxxers and Public Schoolers and Cloth Diaper-ers alike.  Like it or not, we are all allies.

And, our common enemy?  Satan.  His lies, his demons, the powers of hell, the forces of evil...

I think we are all smart enough to realize this.  We know our time and energy could be better spent warring against the devil instead of each other...but it is still very difficult to unite with people we, even superficially, disagree with.

How can we find it in our sinful, stubborn hearts to protect and support and even like mamas who CO-SLEEP?!  Or feed their babies "poisonous" FORMULA?!  Or let their babies CRY IT OUT?!  Or who WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME?!  Or who DON'T VACCINATE?!  (Insert other "horrible" things you may disagree with...)

Let me share a couple of stories...

ONE - When Mark and I lived in Sioux Falls, we worked for a ministry called Young Life.  Our mission was to equip teams of adults to invest in the lives of kids, build relationships, share life, and ultimately, share Jesus.  These adults - our Young Life Leaders - were a motley crew.  Some were fresh out of high school, others were young dads, others were grandparents.  Some of us were jocks, others band geeks and math nerds.  Our team consisted of introverts and extroverts, loud and funny, quiet and serious.  Some of us dressed in black, had obsessions with snakes and Batman...  Others wore dresses and cardigans and did Geometry problems for fun (I love you, Jess).  Some of us grew up in The Church, others were virtually unchurched.  Overall, we were all over the place.  Very few of us would have picked each other out of a crowd to befriend or hang out with.  And, yet...  Yet, we would have done anything for each other.  We loved each other deeply.  We looked forward to gathering.  We had each others' backs.  We fought and sacrificed and supported each other through thick and thin.

TWO - Years ago, when I was working at a church, I was weathering a rough patch in life.  Through a series of events, I stumbled into a group of people who were gathering for weekly prayer meetings - again, a random bunch!  We were from different denominations, different backgrounds, shared different views on some theological points.  We were wives and college students and farmers and moms and grandpas and missionaries and ninety year-olds.  We rarely hung out, other than to meet for prayer.  We were not on each other's list of people to call on a Friday night to get together.  We had very little in common.  We didn't know what each other's favorite colors were or what each of us did last weekend or how we met our spouses.  And, yet...  Yet, we experienced a supernatural kind of unity I can't begin to fully explain.  We laughed and cried and intercessed and stood in the gap for each other, and our churches, as hours would fly by.  We, too, loved each other deeply.  Even to this day, I am not exaggerating in saying we'd die for one another.

In both situations, these groups of people had much to disagree about.  We had plenty to divide over, and even more to become annoyed with.  So, why were these groups so tight, so full of love, so united?  Why were we so willing to protect and defend and sacrifice for each other?

Despite our differences, we were united in a greater mission - fighting for the purposes of the Lord and warring against Satan.

Though the group of Young Life leaders wouldn't normally befriend each other, we were united in reaching kids for Jesus.  We warred against the powers of hell to spread the gospel.  

Though my prayer meeting friends wouldn't normally hang out with each other, we were united in praying for our community.  We warred against the enemy in calling forth the Lord's fullness for our area.

In these groups, the importance of the mission superseded our differences.

The things we did not have in common, and the things we could have disagreed upon, seemed smaller, compared to the weight and gravity of our common, overarching objectives.

So.  Back to Mommy Wars...

The truth is, Satan hates our children.  He hates families.  He hates moms and dads.  As we sit and obliviously bicker about organic baby food, demons are on targeted missions to attack and destroy our most precious treasures and callings.  The enemy will stop at nothing to tear apart our marriages, desecrate the sanctity of our children's lives, cause us to believe we will never measure up as a mother, and reduce our families to brokenness.

This is not cause for fear - this is a call to action.

When we stop and realize this and embrace this truth, we should feel compelled, all the more, to unite with fellow mothers around a mission that is much greater than ourselves.

Instead of wasting time judging and disrespecting and comparing breast milk over Enfamil, war against Satan!

You were made to war.  

The battle lines have been drawn, and it's time for us to take our rightful place in the Lord's army, and stand our ground.

Put on the full armor of God, and war for Truth!

War to share the gospel in your community!  War to care for the orphan!  War to raise up the next generation of worshippers!  War to disciple younger women!  War to care for the sick and elderly!    War to enfold minority families!  War to raise up a generation of young people who are sold out for Jesus!  War to further the kingdom of God, here, as it is in heaven!
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Monday, July 20, 2015

FREE PRINTABLE : Strength + Dignity

Hooray for free stuff!!

You guys.  Check out the "Free Printables" section of my blog.

See it?  Towards the top of this page?  To the right?  FREE PRINTABLES??

You will want to keep checking this section from time to time because I am feeling all sweet and generous these days, and I want to share the love with YOU.

This print is FREE and downloadable and ready to print.  Just click the picture to be redirected to the file itself.


Another color option is available if you visit the FREE PRINTABLES section of the blog.

Also, I would LOVE to see pictures of how you used these freebies.  Email or tag me in your creations! 

Instagram: @ldeyounge
Facebook: The DeYounge Life
Email: ldeyounge@gmail.com

Happy printing!!

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why We Mommy War



Catch up on previous Mommy Wars posts HERE!

Most of us know this mommy war business needs to stop.  I'm guessing we'd all be in favor of turning OFF judgments, hurtful comments, controversy, polarization, and unsolicited advice.  I'm also guessing we'd all be in favor of turning ON love, mutual respect, and support...

But really - where is that ON/OFF switch?  

If you find it, let me know.  I've been searching for it for the last two years.  I'd love to just flip a switch and feel more warm fuzzies towards mamas I disagree with, but try as I may, I can't get over my passionate viewpoints and emotions long enough to want to hug moms who just don't get it.

I don't even want to high five them.

And I will certainly not be holding their hands, singing Kumbaya around a campfire any time soon.

...

So there you have it.  Mommy Wars will never end because Liza Jane DeYounge is an opinionated, judgmental, brat-of-a-mama who can't seem to "play nice."

I know.  I am the problem.

Maybe others of you struggle, like me?  Anyone?  ...  Bueller?

We can continue to grit our teeth, fake a smile and pretend we respect and support those we disagree with (even as we think, "They are SO wrong!")...  We can modify our behaviors towards other moms and be nice to each other on the outside...  But, we (and by "we," I mean "I") really need to dig a little deeper to get to the heart of this issue.

First, let me get the Sunday School answer out of the way.  Why do we war against other moms?  Because we are sinners.  We are prone to wander, we are liable to judge, we are apt to disrespect our fellow sisters in Christ.

WE NEED JESUS.

Please hear that loud and clear.  Without Him and His grace, we will continue to fail.  More and more sisters will fall - casualties in a tragic war.  We need to pray that, ultimately, our hearts would be transformed from the inside out, and that our attitudes and actions would be more like Jesus'.

Though I think this first truth - we war because we are sinners - is the most important truth, I am going to spend more time unpacking two other ideas, mostly because I think they are less obvious and are less talked about in our mommy circles.  This next statement might surprise you...

I don't think Mommy Wars are ALL BAD.

In fact, I think a lot of facets of our wars are GOOD.

Why?

We war because we care!

We should care!  Caring is good and necessary and completely foundational in being a mom.  Our children are our most prized possessions - among our very greatest blessings.  Our kids are our most precious treasures. 

No wonder our hearts grieve over parenting decisions.  No wonder we lie wide awake in the middle of the night worrying about our kids' health.  No wonder we over-research and over-analyze every approach in raising our little ones.  No wonder we are meticulous.  No wonder we are guarded.  No wonder we are passionate about our beliefs.  Our love and our care and our zeal for our little ones becomes so strong that when someone, or something, comes against (or even disagrees with) those beliefs and approaches, it cuts to our core - deep into our hearts, and the urge to draw our weapons is a natural response.

We should not be surprised by this.

We should not be ashamed of this.

Feeling strongly about our children and taking our parenting seriously are not things we need to apologize for.  We should take a stand, fight, bleed and war for the things that matter most.

Taking this a step further, we war because we were made to war.

Why else would we be commanded by GOD to put on armor, of all things?  Why else would we be called to "fight the good fight" as a "good soldier of Christ Jesus?"  Language of battles, soldiers, weapons, war and fights are all over the Bible.  Heck, even if you don't care about the Bible, why else would the "Mama Bear" instinct to defend, protect and fight come so naturally?

There is something instinctual, woven into the fabric of our DNA, that will continue to spur us on in battling - even dying - for our most precious treasures.

...

This is where things get a little tricky. Though we should care, and though we were made to war, I believe our passionate beliefs and our mommy wars are, largely, misguided.

The gigantic problem in all of this is that we are warring against each other instead of uniting with each other to fight against our real enemy.  

More on this later.
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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Best Iced Coffee + A Free Printable!



Just last night, a friend asked me about my iced coffee recipe, which reminded me I hadn't posted this yet.  Lame.  Better late than never, yes?

When the weather gets warmer, this is a necessity in our house!

You can find the full recipe HERE, from The Pioneer Woman, and here are a handful of tips from yours truly!

1) I always use Starbucks ground coffee.  It is a little more expensive, but worth the investment.

2) I always use a DECAF roast.  This is just a preference, but I like to drink iced coffee even late in the day, so decaf is the way to go for me.

3) I have yet to find cheesecloth (to strain the grounds) in my little town.  I have always used a (clean, new - wink, wink!) cloth diaper insert, and it works great!

4) When the summer dishes go on sale at Wal-Mart and Target, I stock up on pretty bottles, then use them to give iced coffee gifts!  The bottles in the picture were just over $1 a piece on clearance.  We've used it for inexpensive Mother's Day gifts and presents for our sweet babysitters.


5) Remember, this is a CONCENTRATE, so you will need to add ice, creamer, or whatever else when you actually serve the drink.  When I give the concentrate as gifts, I use baker's twine to tie a pretty tag on the bottle with instructions.  Snag my printable tags HERE for FREE!

6) This keeps in your fridge for a few weeks.  Beyond that point, though, I think it starts to taste funny.  Mark doesn't notice it, but for you highly sensitive folks, heads up.  Bleh.

Good luck, friends!  Enjoy!
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

On Mommy Wars


I had no idea what I was getting into.

Though I had read all the books, gone to the classes, talked to all the professionals and over-researched every tiny, intricate, detail of birth and parenting, nothing prepared me for what was in store when I had my first child.

Nobody told me how judgmental, how hurtful, how alienating and how hot the Mommy Wars would rage around me.  

Oh.

You thought I was going to talk about something else?  Like, how unprepared I was for the amount of poop that could come out of a tiny, seven pound baby?  Or how surprised I was by the overwhelming love that filled my heart the first time I laid eyes on my son?  Or how unready I was to tackle the real life messiness of what it means to be a mama?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Those things, too.

But really, guys.  I just have to talk about these Mommy Wars for a minute.

They are the worst.

I had no idea we mamas could find so much to fight about.  Natural births or scheduled c-sections?  Pacifiers or nipple confusion?  Breastfeeding or straight formula?  Or pumping?  Or exclusively pumping?  Circumcision or not?  Swaddles or no?  Baby-wearing?  Co-Sleeping?  Sleep Training?  Cry it out?  Attachment parenting?  And vaccines!  What about those?!  Organic?  Pesticides?  Maternity leave?  Stay-at-home?  Work from home?  Daycare?  Cloth diapers?  Disposable?  

The list makes me anxious just writing it.  

Those of us who tend to be more assertive join the war with our disapproving looks, our pointed questions, our not-so-helpful horror stories, and our not-so-helpful unsolicited advice.  Those of us who tend to be more passive aggressive join the fight by "just" posting controversial and polarizing articles on Facebook, and slipping in snide remarks when we're in the company of likeminded friends.  "Can you believe they let their baby cry it out?!"  If you're like me, you tend to stay out of the trenches and more on the sidelines, but your mind becomes the battlefield - I stay up at night fighting these dumb battles in my head.  "Am I really making the right decision?  What will so-and-so think?  How would anyone in their right mind do that?!  How selfish.  How naive."  

I don't think any mom is immune.  The battle rages on - all around us - and it seems to show up in every detail of our parenting.

Praise the Lord, some of us aren't buying it.  There are so many great mamas out there who are sounding the alarm and saying, "This Mommy War stuff is a load of crap, and we should not be fighting this much!  Stop, stop, stop!"  High fives - all around.  

Many articles I have read in regard to ending Mommy Wars have hovered around some common themes - judge less, love more, put yourself in another mom's shoes, be respectful, etc.  Though I heartily agree with these sentiments, I have felt like something was missing.

I'm not sure these approaches really get to the root of the issue.  We can modify our behaviors, keep trimming back the weeds of judgments and disrespectful comments and polarizing Facebook articles, we can keep desperately trying to love each other more, but until we really pull up the roots and get to the heart of the problem, those stubborn weeds will keep growing back.  Another, different issue will pop up, we will be offended or defensive or passionate, and we will jump into battle all over again.  And, beyond pulling up the weeds, how in the world do we disagreeing mamas build positive relationships in the space that's cleared?

I would like to take another handful of blog posts to talk more in depth about these sorts of things.  I won't be writing as someone who has this all figured out.  Heck, I still pick up my sword and join the Mommy Wars all-too-often.  Instead, I will be writing as a weak, sinful, somebody who is fed up with the way things are, and who wants to be part of the change I am hoping to see in the world.  The only way I know how to tackle this warring epidemic, at least right now, is to continue the discussion through some of my writing.  

Because we need to keep talking about this.  We need to keep chipping away at the issue, or it will continue to rage.  Let these blog posts provoke some thinking and some talking and some changing, in however the Lord leads.

Up next?  What might be at the heart of all of our mommy warring.  
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