The Importance of Discipline: Part One

Discipline is a tough word to discuss. It brings to mind punishment, unhappy parents, screaming children, and timeouts. Its negative connotation leaves a bad taste in many mouths, particularly children. But once we understand the Biblical importance of discipline in our lives, we can use it in our homes with our children to better not only their behavior, but their spiritual well-being also.

I find the word “discipline” one of the most important words and practices in our lives. So important, that this post is only one of three parts.

Discipline comes from the word disciple. A disciple is one who follows. Therefore, discipline is basically learning the teachings and practices of the one followed. As Christians, we follow Christ. We are his disciples, and we use discipline to train our children to follow him as well.

Notice I said discipline, not punishment.

I loath the word punishment about as much as I love discipline. It drives me crazy when I hear parents or teachers scold a child or student and say he/she will be “punished.” Because punishment is nothing more that swift retribution or revenge, usually brought upon by anger.

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From a Biblical perspective, yes, God does punish; his punishment is hell. He hates sins and  in his righteous and holy anger punishes those who reject him and his love. It is a final and devastating punishment. And as wretched sinners who turn our backs on our Heavenly Father time and time again, it is exactly what we deserve.

The wages of sin is death…

But in his amazing, unending mercy and grace, he spares us from that devastating punishment thanks to the blood of his Son. Not because of anything we have done; only because of Christ’s perfect life and death in our place. God will not punish those who are his children through Christ, and time and time again we can marvel at just how wide and vast the Father’s love for us is.

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…But the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23)

God does not and will not punish us, but he does discipline us.

The Lord disciplines those he loves. (Proverbs 3:12)

We live in a sinful world, and the affects of sin are a constant presence in our lives. Our loved ones fall ill. We lose a job, or a friendship, or a house. People die, and natural disasters ravage our homes and countries. The fact is, pain, sorrow, and discomfort are a part of our every day lives.

There is a misunderstanding in our world that the terrible things that happen to us our those around us are a punishment sent from God. Think of hurricane Katrina. I heard and read many an opinion that God was punishing the city of New Orleans for its wild and sinful behavior. It was very much an attitude of, “Look what happens when you sin. God’s going to punish you. See?”

Well yes, God does punish sin. As I stated before, the punishment of sin is eternity in hell. But to view the sinful things that happen in this world as direct act of a punishing and terrifying God isn’t correct. God does not send sin to us to punish us. That would imply that God has a close relationship with sin, or that he is the originator of sin. Nothing could be further from the truth! Natural disasters, sickness, and death happen as a result of sin, not as an intention from our perfect, almighty God.

But God sometimes does allow things to happen as a means of disciplining us. Remember, discipline is completely different from punishment. The goal of punishment is to exact retribution. The goal of discipline is to train and educate out of love. When God allows things like sickness or disaster into our lives, it not because we did something bad, rather it’s because he loves us and wants to draw us closer to him. Getting sick is a reminder that our bodies are frail and to turn to our ultimate Healer for comfort. Losing a house reminds us that material possessions, although wonderful blessings, cannot save us and we cannot put our trust in them. Losing a job is a reminder to trust our Provider for all things.

But God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)

I cannot begin to understand and explain why God allows certain and very painful things, like losing a child, to happen. I cannot fully comprehend the perfect will of God. What I can say is that nothing that happens in the world is outside of the sovereignty of the Almighty. And I can promise that all things work for our good, even if we don’t know what that is yet.

And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him; who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Discipline is not unloving. In fact, discipline is a very strong example of love. It is not loving to allow someone to continue in a very damning sin. Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us with him in heaven. It’s not always very pleasant, nor enjoyable, but it reaps a benefit far greater than anything we can experience here on earth.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrew 21:11)

New Note

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10 Unexpected Things to Love about Fall

Fall.

It’s the best. By far and away it is the greatest season that God has allowed mere mortals to enjoy. Personally, I picture heaven as a sort of perma-fall. The colors. The smells. The SCARVES. I mean, it just doesn’t get any better. And so, in honor of the beginning of Fall Tomorrow on September 1 (at least that’s the beginning of Fall for the Darling Girls!), I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 unexpected things to love about Fall. We all know how amazing the colorful leaves are. And we all picture Halloween and trick or treating when we think of Autumn, but have you thought of how great Fall is because of these?!

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10. Storms

There’s nothing quite like cozying up with a blanket and a cup of tea (see #2) on a stormy fall day. Throw in a leather chair in front of a fireplace and you have what my dreams are made of.

9. PREP football

Not that pro and college football are boring, but high school football is just better. You can actually go to the games and hear the pep band. Sometimes you even get to freeze your tush off on the metal bleacher. And if you are lucky, you’ll get nailed in the head with a hot dog from the hot dog launcher and catch some teens make Googley eyes at each other. Ah, youths.

8. Farmers Markets

Have you ever been to a Farmer’s Market in fall? Nevermind the summer crops! Fresh fall produce is top notch! Apples, fresh hot apple cider (go look at #2 again), corn stalks for decorating, pumpkins, gourds, mums. Just beautiful all around. Bonus if you can get your hands on some gourmet caramel apples.

7. Oatmeal for breakfast

Yes, you can have oatmeal year round. Yes, refrigerator overnight oats are the bomb. But when you wake up to that crisp fall air, crawl into your softest sweater and leggings, and sit with coffee (#2 anyone?!) and oatmeal, something magical happens. I like to call this magic: wingardium leviOATSa (Harry Potter reference anyone? You’re welcome.)

6. Routine

Summer is amazing, but it is also crazy. Vacations, longer days, later bedtimes, play dates, beach days, days with family, fairs, and more junk food all take their toll on a person. Be you mom, dad, child, or living, summer schedules are the best of times and the worst of times. Getting back into the swing of things in fall is just what the doctor ordered. (Especially if you are somewhat crazy like me and Ruth. We have anxiety issues so we need routine to stay as not-crazy as possible!)

5. Soup

Just. Yum. It’s cheap. It’s warm (there goes #2 edging it’s way into our list again!). It’s metamorphic. It’s a one pot full meal. Mothers everywhere thank you, Mister Soup Inventor Man.

4. Tights

To cover the legs that we don’t have to shave daily anymore and to control the tummies that we don’t have to suck in anymore. Until next year, bikinis.

3. Boots

I am not actually sure why boots are so amazing. Isn’t it a little odd that we now have an obsession with this footwear made popular by equestrians, farmers, and fishermen? Whatever. They’re cute and I want one of every style.

2. Hot chocolate. Coffee. Apple Cider. Mulled wine. Name a warm drink. It always tastes better when smelling the changing leaves!

Do I really need to say anything else? I don’t think so.

1. Becoming a kid all over again

Jumping in leaves. Covering your face in caramel. Rolling down a hill surrounded by changing trees. Finding twigs and crunchy leaf pieces in your hairs when you brush it. Dressing up and asking strangers for candy. Ding dong ditch (you know you’ve done it). Fall is a time to let the kid in you back out again. So go ahead and enjoy yourself and the best season around!

As always, Jesus first, darling!

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Guilt-Be-Gone

Guilt is really an interesting thing. People feel it differently, to different extents, and at different times in their lives. Some feel it daily, some not too often. Teachers always have that “one student”… “Maybe I should have tried harder with him/her”. There’s national guilt…. “What have we done as a nation and how in the world have we gotten to this horrible  point?!” And then there’s stupid guilt “what if I hurt that tree branch when I ran into it”. But the worst kind of guilt is the kind you feel over a loved one. Parents in particular know what I’m talking about.

I recently spoke to a friend who confided in me that a loved one was suffering with something. She came asking for friendly advice and a wall to bounce thoughts off of. ( I make a good wall). 

One thing I didn’t say to this person was something I really wish I would have, and I dearly hope they are reading this blog post so they at least hear it now. 

I can feel your guilt. You think you should have seen this. You think you should have known your loved one was suffering so badly. And you want to help but don’t know how which is adding to the guilt. 

Don’t feel guilty. Guilt doesn’t fix things. It immobilizes you. It sends you into shock. It puts the focus on you (not saying a guilty person is self-centered, but you catch my drift).

You look at your guilt, you forgive yourself, and you move on. 

If you’re dealing with a person who is struggling with mental health issues like depression and anxiety, guilt can come into play. “Maybe I should have asked how they we’re doing more” “Maybe I should have hung out with them more” ” Maybe I should have paid more attention”.

Who knows, maybe you should have. But that’s not the point. How could you have known. You know now so you ask Jesus for forgiveness, which he has already given to you in full, and you forgive yourself.

Guilt can be so over powering no matter what the source. That’s why you always ask Jesus to take those burdens. We live guilt-free because of him and what he has done for us, after all.

  
I am not a doctor or physician, but I consulted both before starting my journey. If you need help consult the professionals immediately! I have no training. The professionals do and they are there to help!

  

Helpful Hints for Back-to-School

As the leaves begin to change and the air cools off,  we say goodbye to summer yet again. Gone are the days of long, lazy afternoons and sleeping in. Gone are the family trips, and cookouts. Hello football and apple cider!

Of course that means one very important thing: Back To School!

In case you feel a tad stressed and under-prepared, here is a list to help you get your Back-to-school experience off on the right foot:

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  1. Be sure to spend big money on quality supplies: Because the supplies are meant to last the entire year or longer. And you can bet it is money well spent because your child would never throw those supplies in a desk, scribble all over them, or leave them on the school bus. That never happens. Don’t bother trying to find simple items in a rather mundane color. A royal blue folder just won’t do. Besides, the Disney Channel threw up on the school supplies aisle anyway. Drop the extra $1.25 on the notebook with Thor on the cover. Or Elsa. Or whatever new Disney tween star is hip. It’s worth the joy in your child’s eyes, when, two years from now, they will never admit to liking that show anyway.
  2. Buy clothes  with room to grow: Again, these clothes need to last. I recommend buying 5 or 6 sizes bigger. That way in two months when their shoes don’t fit and have holes in them, or their pants don’t fit and have holes in  them, or their shirts don’t fit and are covered in marker and spaghetti stains… and mostly likely have holes in them, you won’t slap yourself in the forehead for not being more prepared. Seriously, is there a contest amoung young boys to see who can wear out the knees of their jeans the fastest? Or do they just go at them with the Fiskars scissors? (Side note: get Fiskars, because you obviously don’t love your child enough if you don’t get them the name brand FISKARS.)
  3. Take one last trip/outing as a family: Because nothing says “I’m ready for school” like one last sunburn. Be sure to make it very clear to your children that it’s a chance for you all to spend time together and definitely NOT something to keep the kids occupied so they stop driving you crazy until you get the sweet reprieve of school. After 2 hours at the waterpark, expect that they will come up to you and say, “I’m hungry.” “I’m tired.” or “I’m bored.” Please refrain from throwing you child off the tallest water slide. It’s frowned upon.
  4. Be sure the children get a good night’s sleep: Did you need an excuse to send the children to bed at a reasonable hour? Thank you school! Gone are the days when kids stayed up late; summer’s over, y’all! Remind your children how important it is to be well rested and prepared for each school day. And try not to do your happy dance as they’re walking up the stairs. Not only is it not cool, but it’s a dead giveaway.
  5. Send them off with a healthy balanced breakfast: The morning of the first day, you wake up early to fix  your children a delicious and healthy breakfast. They are welcomed into the kitchen by the smell of bacon and the sizzle of french toast. You even made fresh  squeezed orange juice. You feel so content having filled the bellies of the babes entrusted to you, you vow to do this every morning. It’s not that hard. Fast-forward two weeks and your chucking poptarts at their backs as they fly out the door for the bus. Bonus points if you hit ’em in the head.
  6. Bring tissues: Because, you know, allergies. Nothing more.

There you have it. Back to School doesn’t have to be such a stress. As long as you’re well-prepared you can relish the moments you have with your children and marvel at how quickly they really do grow.

If I could part with one more suggestion: Wine. You have two options with this:

  1. Give to your child’s teacher. He/she will greatly appreciate it, especially if your child is, er, difficult.
  2. Drink it in celebration of the start of another school year. Not immediately. Try to wait until you get home. Let’s have some self-respect.

The (Not-so) Secrets of Weight Loss

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen plenty of articles all geared toward helping me lose weight.

“The 10 Habits of Skinny People”

“Drop 5 Pounds Now!”

“Sexy by Summer!”

I’m sure you’ve seen/read plenty. I know I have. Thousands of articles all geared toward new and “different” tricks to help you lose weight, because apparently what you’ve been doing just isn’t good enough.

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Weight loss is a very lucrative business. Americans spend an average of $20 billion on weight loss (see link above). Everyone is trying to sell you some sort of product to help you lose weight, whether its a workout plan, diet book, or magic pill. (Btw: those don’t exist.) You could spend a fortune on products geared to help you, but unless you learn the 2 major components of weight loss, they won’t work.

What are they?

  • A structured plan
  • Self-control and discipline

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is! There really is no secret to weight loss. Any program you bought off of an infomercial  works if you follow it. Why? It’s an exercise and eating program (structured plan) that you have to follow (self control/discipline). The reason they don’t always work is because we don’t follow the plan due to lack of self discipline or the plan didn’t work for our lifestyle.

In order to be successful, we have to find something that We. Will. Stick. To. It doesn’t matter what it is or what you do.


Let me break it down.

Structured plan.

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

We actually have a our 30 Day Reset going this month, and you can download a blank schedule and fill it out to suit your preferences and tastes. The key is to find something that works. You can use ours, make up your own, or buy one. It doesn’t matter. Plan your workouts and plan your meals and snacks. Not having a plan sets you up to fail. Things to look for or include in your plan:

  • Workouts – depending on your fitness level you can start small or go big. Find an activity you enjoy whether its Zumba, running, CrossFit, yoga, walking, whatever! It doesn’t matter as long as you commit to moving your body. Schedule in  3 workouts to start (more if exercise is already a part of you life), and commit to it! Whatever time you can fit it in, treat it like an appointment or a meeting that you can’t skip. Strive for 30 minutes, but honestly anything is better than nothing. Even 5 minutes! The goal is to make exercise a part of your life, however it can fit into your life. (Again, we have a calendar you can download to help you with your planning. 🙂 )
  • Diet – this is probably the area many of us struggle with the most. I know I do. I have no problem finding time to workout or committing to a workout program, but I like to eat. Guess what? No amount of exercise is going to fix a bad diet. Many programs you can buy from companies like Beachbody will have a diet plan included. I have never been successful with those. That’s not to say they don’t work, but they don’t work for me. And that’s the key. You have to find what works for you. I always make my own little meal plan that I can base off of what I’m making my family for the week. I include three meals, two snacks a day and lots of water. I also plan for my indulgences (like a weekly bowl of ice cream. Yum!) Whatever you choose, find or make a plan that you can stick too!

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Self Control and Discipline

“Adults devise a plan and follow it. Children do what feels good.” -Dave Ramsey

This is where it gets a little tough. You can have the best diet and exercise plan in the world and still fail. Why?

Because we lack the self control or self discipline to really make it work. Ouch. I don’t mean to sound mean, it’s just the harsh truth.

Self control and discipline are muscles that need to be exercised. You so often hear people use the excuse of “I have no willpower” or “I can’t help it” to explain why they can’t lose weight. And guess what? Until you make the decision that you are going to master yourself, the excuses will always be there.

How can you exercise the “self control muscle”?

  • Set realistic goals. Make sure your plan is something you can realistically stick to. Making a plan to run 5 miles a day and eat nothing but salads when you have never gone running and hate salad isn’t something you can sustain, but switching out your morning bagel to a veggie scramble with wheat toast and taking a family walk after supper might be.
  • Practice delaying gratification. You are an adult. You can do whatever you want. But if you want to meet your goals, you need to remember how to make yourself wait. (Remember when you were a kid and your mom would make you wait until snack time to eat? It’s the same thing.) The good news is, having those meals, snacks and an indulgence planned makes it easier to to resist the kids’ goldfish at 2:30 pm when you know you have an apple and peanut butter scheduled at 3. It also makes it easier to say no to dessert every night, when you know you have a bowl of ice cream (or whatever your treat of choice is) scheduled on Saturday night. You don’t have to tell yourself no, just remind yourself to wait.
  • Deliberately practice self control. This is going to sound really wacky, but here me out. Start putting yourself in situations where you can flex your “self control muscles.” This can be a tricky thing, but part of our problem is we either lost or were never taught self control.  Allow yourself one cookie, but no more. Go shopping but don’t buy anything. Don’t allow yourself to watch TV or play on your phone for a night. When you are successful, be sure to congratulate yourself! Little things like that over time can can strengthen those muscles and it becomes easier over time to practice self control when situations surprise you.

The goal (besides weight loss) is to begin teaching yourself healthy habits that stick for life. What works for me, might not necessarily work for you.

New Note

 

Freedom 

Last night I sat on my mother-in-law’s porch looking at the beautiful countryside and pondered. Different thoughts were going through my head about the day, weekend, upcoming races, peanut butter, what-say-you; but finally I landed on a topic that occupied my thoughts for quite some time.

  
Today is Independence Day. I’m a mom now. How do I convey the importance of Independence Day to my daughter and any future children God may bless my husband and me with? 

As some may know, my husband is in the military and in a couple weeks we will be saying goodbye to him for awhile. He will be stateside so the fear of overseas work does not present itself, but for the next several years we won’t be seeing much of him. How do I explain this to my child? How do I explain why this should make her proud?

Independence Day set us apart from the rest of the colonial west. We said no to forceful control. 

The Bill of Rights says no to blocking out our freedom of worship. In a time now-a-days where we face tightening legalities, it is hard for Christians to stand up and calmly say “Solus Christus.” As we grow older, as we become more aware of the world, our own temptations, and the work that needs to be done, we can look at Independence Day and see it as a gift from God. He has given us the opportunity to work and fight for this freedom. Praise be to God that we didn’t have to work and fight for our heavenly freedom. It was given to us. But it was bought at the price. That price was the perfect blood of Christ. He did it FOR US. So that we could enjoy eternal freedom in Heaven.

Our Freedom in America was bought at a price. The price of those who stepped forward to say they are willing to lay their lives down. 

How do I convey the importance of our freedom and how we have it?

  
Little one, our true freedom is in heaven with Jesus. Our time on earth is a gift that should be spent worshipping him and telling others about this freedom given to us. We are so blessed to live in a land where our faith WILL NOT be taken from us. We have men and women who are willing to die for you so you can utilize your freedom appropriately. We should be proud of our freedom. And we should be proud of being American. And we should most importantly be proud of being Christian.IMG_1145-0

Post 3 of 3: Now is the Time to Seize the Day

Newsies.

Mic drop.

 

Anyway……..The time has come to get down to it. I have been writing a short series in an attempt to explain the connection between our mental health, spiritual health, and physical health.

Post 1 showed you that our overall health as Christians is similar to a solar system. Jesus always needs to be at the CENTER!

Post 2 showed you the need to buckle down on your physical health if you want to improve your mental health.

Post 3 will show you a plan to get your entire “Solar System” on track!

It’s all well and good to talk these points to death. Just kidding. It isn’t. Talking about turning your health around won’t actually give you the benefits of, you know, ACTUALLY turning your health around. So let’s buckle down and make a plan.

If you are anything like me, you need to have a plan set in place before accomplishing even the most minute tasks, otherwise you won’t actually stick to it. So far I just happen to be the only one of the Darling sisters that has the biggest issue with stick-to-it-iveness. I don’t know why. But I think lack of a serious plan might play a role. Either that or the “constantly being pregnant” thing. And the “getting really sick while pregnant” thing. Or the “husband is always gone” thing. Or the “I’m just really stinking tired because I am a mom and never have enough sleep” thing. Or the “I’m an INFJ personality and I basically feel that any and everything in this temporary world besides spiritual health is utterly meaningless so what’s the point” thing. Should I go on? Fine, I’ll stop. You get my point. I have a lot of excuses. So do you. Some are entirely valid. Others, not so much. But you and I are going to take 30 days and set those on a shelf in a deep dark closet in our brain with a big fat lock on it (Hahaha. “Fat lock.” Pun totally unintended but hilarious!). I will officially be starting July 1. I suggest you take a few days to prepare yourself, your family, and your pantry for a health overhaul. Take some time to research, find devotional books and hymns, and get your plan into place.

Our plan will incorporate the three main components addressed in my little rant: Spiritual health, physical health, and mental health. So here is what we are going to do:

  • Pray to Jesus.
  • Reset our bodies by eating only clean, whole foods for 30 days.
  • Strengthen our bodies, minds, and self-image by exercising every weekday.
  • Read daily devotions.
  • Pray to Jesus out loud.
  • Learn a new hymn or hymn verse weekly or monthly.
  • Intentionalize POSITIVE time with our spouses and friends to maintain avenues of open communication.
  • Pray to Jesus with your children.
  • Cut out the negative. Please. For everyone’s sake. It is toxic.
  • Pray to Jesus with your spouse.
  • Supplement with vitamins and minerals.
  • Drink LOTS and LOTS of water.
  • Also: pray to Jesus.

I will be sticking to a mostly Whole30 nutrition plan, although I will also incorporate Isagenix into my daily eating. Truth be told, there really is no such thing as “mostly Whole30.” That doesn’t exist. Whole30 is an amazing way to reset your body and listen to what it is telling you to eat and NOT to eat. That being said I already know that I DO NOT do well without my Ionix Supreme and Isa-Lean shakes. But if you are wanting to buckle down and learn something about your body and food in general, go Whole30. All the way, baby. Rent the book or check out their website. Totally worth while.

Now, I know this looks a wee bit daunting. So lets take it one step at a time.

  1. Print out this monthly calendar and weekly schedule to have in front of you daily. calendar image
  2. Fill in 3 meals per day for every day of your 30 days. No need to get detailed, just give yourself a general menu so you can stick to a plan and make grocery lists a little easier. Each meal must be compliant with Whole30 guidelines. No cheats!
  3. Also write in a number to show either how many miles you will run, how many minutes you will spend exercising, how many circuits, how many (insert other exercise-y words here). Side note: if you are starting from scratch and haven’t done any exercising or healthy eating in a loooooong time, start with eating right. Exercise will just fall right into place later. FOCUS ON FOOD.
  4. Schedule, at the very LEAST, 3 dates with your spouse and 1 outing with friends into your month. Write it in and don’t cancel! At home dates are todes fine. That’s how we role.
  5. On your weekly schedule, fill in what each weekday might look like. Include your meal times, your devotion times, your prayer times, work outs, snacks, water drinking, and whatever else you need reminding of.
  6. (Optional): Make it all pretty so you can hang it on your kitchen window and it looks nice. 🙂 You could also print out two calendars. One calendar for food and water and one for a training regimen.

After you print off your calendar and fill it in, it might look something like this:

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After filling it in, I wish I had just printed two and separated the workout plan from the eating plan. But I wasn’t about to redo it all for you crazy peeps. So mine is a little busy. That’s ok. It’s just for me, and it serves it’s purpose.

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I need some major help. As I stated before, I just happen to be the least “fit” darling. So a little encouragement and maybe even a little companionship in my journey would me suuuuper amazing! I had four beautiful babies in the span of 5 years. It is hard to spend time taking care of myself. It is hard FINDING time to take care of myself. But my brain is going hazy and my butt is going crazy, so it’s time. So PLEASE join me, even if it is just saying a prayer for me from afar! I’ll take all the support I can get!

One final note: this can all be quite daunting for some. I’m wrapping all three components of my health into one big 30 day reset. If this isn’t for you, then zero in on your spiritual health. Dedicate 30 days to finishing those devotionals and Bible readings. Learn some hymns.

Jesus First, Darling!

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P.S. Check back into our 30Day Reset page frequently to comment and give encouragement to me and others. Also, you can follow us on Pinterest for some workout ideas, some Whole30 recipes (that even kids might enjoy!), and some scriptural centering.  

Man… And Baby’s Best Friend

Hey nerds, (can I call you nerds? I mean it in a totally *high five, slap ya on the back, kick ya in the knees funny kinda way*)

As most of you know, I am a wife, mom, and dog owner. Melvin is my trusty steed and protector of all that is right in this house. Don’t tell my Marine husband that I just said our 17 lb dog is the main protector of our home. I’m thinking my Military hunk’s feathers would be ruffled.


Anyway, I LOVE my dog to pieces, and for those who have read some of my past work, Melvin is one of my coping tools for my depression and anxiety. Animals, especially dogs, are great that way because they are very atuned to emotions and moods. And they’re very loyal. On a mother’s note, he’s also my baby girl’s bestie. They play together and giggle A LOT. Melvin is definitely part of the family 100%.

Which brings me to the topic of this post at hand. People have asked me how I prepped the Melv-dawg for the birth of baby girl. I thought I’d make a list for any other expectant mommies whose pup holds a special place in her heart. I do have to say, though, I am by no means a professional dog trainer. These are just things that have worked in my home but may not work in someone else’s home.

  • Firstly, for anybody who has a dog, it’s very important to remember that they are PACK ANIMALS. They understand they are part of the family and will love you and be loyal to you- BUT- it is their instinct to view it in terms of pack, which means there is a hierarchy. And as a pet, it is important they know they are at “the bottom” of the hierarchy. This doesn’t mean you kick the dog around or be cruel, instead it means that you teach your dog to be loyal, protect his “pack members” (aka his family) and to obey the boundaries and rules you give him. Dogs NEED boundaries. (Just like kids but that’s a different topic) If you don’t give your dog boundaries they will constantly feel like they have to provide their own boundaries which could result in a battle for the alpha position. Melvin knows where he is in the pack. Funnily enough, even though my husband is the head of the house, in Melvin’s mind, I’m the alpha. I am a stay at home mom so I am always with him, I take him for the most walks, and I am the supplier of food. I also just bonded with him immensely from the get go.

Ok. So. Here are a few things I did for Melvin before baby girl was born:

  1. We gave him a specific area for his bed. I like to call it “Melvin’s apartment” because I’m dumb and weird like that. But it is a specific area that we haven’t moved that Melvin knows he can always go to.
  2. In my last trimester I would sit with Melvin and pull his ears and whiskers. It sounds slightly mean, and maybe I am, but I know children have a destructive curious nature so I wanted to prepare him for being poked and prodded and to teach him to be still and do nothing. Obviously if baby girl is pulling his tail I will jump in immediately, but Melvin has been very gentle with her despite her… *curiosity*. I would also randomly *cry out* when it was quiet in the house to get him used to less pleasant noises. Yes. I looked like a raving lunatic considering I was 9 months pregnant, waddling around in 90 degree weather making newborn crying noises. You can imagine the dignity and grace I held myself with.
  3. When we brought baby girl home from the hospital we made sure we didn’t keep her “far away”. We wanted Melvin to associate her with happiness. We started by letting him smell her feet right when we walked in the door. And every day we would sit and hold her and let him come up and take a sniff for a minute or so. As she grew older we would let him sit next to her and be on the floor next to her during her tummy time.  He wasn’t allowed on the blanket she would lay on, but he would lay right next to the blanket. This was all heavily supervised of course.
  4. Now baby girl is almost 11 months old. They play and explore together and I will give her a treat to give to Melvs. Sometimes I’ll put her hand around the tennis ball to throw to play fetch.

Just remember though, all animals have instinct which can be a good and bad thing. They will be very loyal, but you never know when an accident could happen. Which is why I ALWAYS suggest you be right there when your child and pet are playing.

Honestly my biggest problem is keeping baby girl from eating dog food…. Any baby proofing suggestions?!? #shesbuildingherimmunesystem?

To Organic or Not Organic?

Yoga or CrossFit? Paleo or Vegan? Costco or Sams? When it comes to our health, we are inundated with choices, and often, it can be kind of confusing. Ask anyone what the best option is, and you’ll find very strong opinions on either side of the debate.

When it comes to our food the choices are endless. Walk through your typically grocery store and you’ll find shelves of foods – some healthy, some not – all vying for your dollar. Some of the choices, like whether to buy red or green leaf lettuce are simple and don’t really matter too much. But some, like whether or not to buy organic, can be a little trickier.

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You’ll find two very strong schools of thought on organic food:

  1. It’s far superior, more nutritious, and totally worth the extra money.
  2. It doesn’t matter, conventional methods are totally safe so why waste the money?

The organic issue has really exploded in the last several years, and as moms it can be really frustrating and confusing to wade through all the information. We want to feed our families the healthiest food possible, but we don’t want to break the bank. $7 for a pint of organic strawberries?!? There goes your college fund, kids.

So how can we find the healthy balance in this crazy, heated, overly complicated debate?

First, let’s talk about what organic is. The term “organic” is used to describe food grown or raised without pesticides, gmo’s (genetically modified organisms), or synthetic fertilizers. It also means that animal products are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.

This can be a problem because over exposure to pesticides and other chemicals can lead to a host of health problems: headaches, nausea, hormone disruption, cancer, and behavioral disorders. (toxicsaction.org) Toxic chemicals taken into the body in any way leads to poor health, whether ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Basically, our world is a toxic trap. Thanks a lot, sin.

When it comes to meat or dairy, the risk is even greater.  With all the negative effects of factory farming, we as consumers need to be a little more aware of where our food is coming from. These large industrial farms are a breeding ground for disease leading to a heavy use of antibiotics in the animals (which ends up in our food.) Growth hormones are injected into animals and can end our on our tables. Full fat dairy like milk and butter can contain high levels of these toxins. (Because toxins love fat.)

Now that you’re naturally freaking out, what are we supposed to do?  Organic costs so much more, and if you have even the average sized family on the averaged size income, the cost can become ridiculous. (Check out some of the articles below to find out why organic food costs more.)

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The good news is, the nutritional value of conventional produce is just the same as organic. (Although some make claims that organic is more nutritional,  it’s based on shaky evidence.) And the benefits of eating plenty of fruits and veggies greatly outweighs the risk of your exposure to pesticides. So if all you can afford is conventionally grown produce, it’s ok.

Opting for organic greatly reduces your exposure to hormones, antibiotics, disease, and pesticides. Plus, organic meat and dairy will naturally have a greater ratio of omega 3 fatty acids since the animals are grass fed (as God intended.)

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All that being said, just because something has the label “organic” doesn’t make it a healthy food. Organic cookies are still cookies. Food companies are discovering that people like to think they’re buying a healthy product. That means more money in their pocket. The organic label can trip people up, thinking that they are buy a healthy product when they buy their kids organic fruit snacks, but in reality, a bunch of conventionally grown bananas are far superior.(And cheaper too!)

To be honest, what you purchase and feed your families is completely up to you. But the following is my personal opinion on when to buy organic based on what I’ve read and researched. I’ve listed them in order of importance and shared how I try and save money. The best option for purchasing your food is to go directly to the farmers who grow it. By cutting out the middle man, you can save money and purchase food with far superior nutrition.

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  1. Dairy: The greatest way to save is simple cut your dairy consumption down. (Which lately, we have been doing.) If I buy it, I purchase full fat dairy. (And I would recommend you do too.) Our bigger dairy purchases are yogurt and butter, but occasionally we will buy whole milk. If you’re on a budget, I have found reasonably priced organic milk at stores like Aldi, and often there are coupons available at other stores like Woodmans. There’s no need to spend $6 on a half gallon of milk.
  2. Meat and Poultry: This can be a budget buster, so the trick is to try and shop locally if you can, otherwise try and balance. Some of my favorite tricks can save a little money. We can’t get all of our meat organic, simply because we can’t afford that, but I try the best I can. One of my favorite things to do it to buy whole chickens. The price per pound is almost always cheaper because you don’t have to pay for someone to do the work of de-boning or skinning a chicken. (Check here for more reasons and a great recipe for using a whole chicken.) Planning your meals to get the most out of you chicken or beef allows you to stretch out your budget. (And choosing organic means you can purchase fattier cuts of meat since their cheaper. Again see above.)
  3. Eggs: The nutritional value of organic versus conventional eggs is basically the same. My latest trick is buying them in bulk at Costco. We go through quite a few eggs so it makes sense for us. But stores like Walmart and Target do offer organic eggs under their store brands, which can make it a little more affordable.
  4. Produce on the Dirty Dozen list: To be honest, this is probably where I skimp the most. Some things like spinach, lettuce and carrots are easy to find organic and also super cheap! Others, like berries, are a little harder. My favorite stores for inexpensive organic produce are Woodmans and Aldi. Again, buy what you can afford. Another great trick is to purchase frozen fruit and veg; it’s cheaper and has the same (if not better) nutritional value.
  5. Whatever else you can afford: This is where the organic cookies can sneak up on you. I do buy products like organic Mac and Cheese for my kids, because at Aldi, it’s basically the same price. Other products that we go through a lot like applesauce and ketchup are also decently priced and since both tomatoes and apples are on the Dirty Dozen list, I try and keep those products organic. But remember, organic ketchup is not a health food. Organic animal crackers don’t offer your children any superior nutritional benefit.Mac and Cheese is still Mac and Cheese regardless of the organic sticker.

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the hoopla regarding organic foods, but the bottom line is do the best you can to fee your family. A conventionally grown apple is better that an organic, sugar-filled granola bar any day.

New Note

 

Recommended reading:

Prevention.com Reasons to go organic

Organic.org Top ten reasons to support Organic

Huffington Post Organic vs. Conventional

FoxNews Why organic costs so much

RealTruth A look at factory farming

WebMD A great summary of organics and further information on what to purchase

Five Steps to CLEAN

Are you sick of living in a pig sty 24/7? Are your kiddos little tornados that destroy anything and everything in their paths? Are you up to your eyeballs in toys and diapers and dirty dishes? Have no fear. All you need to do is follow these five simple steps to enjoy a mess-free house every day:

 

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P.S. If you don’t understand sarcasm, please take a class in it before implementing these steps.

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