Kanned Goods: DIY Natural Shampoo

Five months back, it finally happened.  I decided to go au natural  with my hair.  I had already reduced/cut chemicals, additives, and what-not in many areas of the home, but by golly I was holding on to my Garnier Fructis shampoo and mousse.  I still love the stuff, but have been more than pleased with the results of my homemade shampoo and yes…gel :). My first thought when people say they are going natural on their hair is the “No Poo” challenge, which basically means no shampoo, only baking soda and apple cider vinegar.  Well, there was some courage lacking in this department, so I thought I’d attempt an in-between.  I knew I didn’t want to pay for natural shampoos, so I decided to try a few recipes.

Easy, cheap, and effective shampoo

Of course, everybody’s hair is different, so the “no poo” might actually work for yours.  For some, my recipes might not work (although I think they’re pretty awesome).  Regardless of how healthy your hair is, there will be a transition period, especially if you use hair products regularly.  My transition period  took about a week.  Even if all you use on your hair is a store bought shampoo, you would be amazed at how much it still strips moisture from your hair (which is why so many people feel the need to then add a moisturizer).

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal, so I vowed not to put anything store bought in my hair for one month.  Yikes.  I was terrified.  I was expecting oily, flat, smelly hair that I would have to wrap in a bandana every day.  For the record, I’m not a bandana or hat person!

Nevertheless, I took the plunge.  I was honestly surprised at how painless it was.  And though I like it better now that my hair has fully adjusted, it really wasn’t so bad.  I used a blow dryer and brush and made it work.

Now, I spend hardly anything on my shampoo, and even less than that on my homemade gel (which I am LOVING! in this summer heat and humidity).

Shampoo Recipe 1:

If you feel your hair is damaged and could benefit from a gentle “stripping” shampoo, I would recommend this recipe for 1-4 weeks.  I used it for 3 weeks and it was very effective.  I personally wouldn’t recommend it for long term use due to how powerful castile soap can be when not diluted as much.  However, lots of people find it effective on their hair.


¼ Cup Water

¼ Cup Liquid Castile soap (I use a scented Dr. Bronner’s)

½ Teaspoon Oil (like jojoba, olive, coconut, or grapeseed)

Shampoo Recipe 2:

This is my daily shampoo recipe that I use now.


Note:  This is for a full recipe.  I usually halve it because I don’t want to store a gallon of shampoo

1 gallon of water

8 tea bags (I like a cheapo green tea best; you could just use water, as well)

1/2 cup baking soda

1/4 cup castile soap (I use a scented one-peppermint-so I don’t have to add essential oils)

3 tsp xanthan gum (for thickening; you could use cornstarch as well, but it tends to clump easier)

essential oils (about 30 drops-optional; I don’t use)


Place tea bags in large pot with water.  Bring just to boiling, then remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 10-15 minutes.

Remove tea bags and stir in baking soda.  It will fizz for a minute or so.

Mix in the xanthum gum, a little at a time, whisking vigorously.  Then add the castile soap.

After it cools completely you can stir in your essential oils (optional).

You can store the shampoo in an old washed out container. (I use a Homestead Creamery Jug.)  I put what I use daily in a spritz bottle.  This works really well for helping it foam, as homemade soaps don’t have all the foaming agents of store bought.

Gel recipe to come next month, and when my hair gets a little longer, I will begin experimenting with a detangling conditioner!

Recipe adapted from:  http://ashleyshomemadeadventures.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/homemade-shampoo/

Kanned Goods: DIY Paint Boards with Beeswax Polish

My son and I have really enjoyed adding Wet-on-Wet Watercolor to our list of weekly activities.  It’s cheap, simple, and super therapeutic.  I love watching him just explore the smooth movement of the color across the page. I’ve seen lots of moms use paint boards for art activities, especially watercolors.  They contain the mess and help the paper dry properly.  Plus, it’s something you can use over and over again (unlike just laying down extra paper).  The cheapest ones I came across were $10 plus shipping.  That’s not a horrible price, but in all honesty, they’re not much to look at.  They're just a piece of wood with rounded corners and a natural finish.   Since I’m a glutton for Googling tutorials, I did.  And of course—it wasn’t hard at all.  These instructions will make 2 paint boards plus smaller boards for use with watercolors/paints.  I also found a tutorial for making my own Beeswax Wood Polish.  I only had to buy $6 of supplies total.

Waldorf Style Paint Boards

Supplies: 1 piece of Birch Plywood (I got a 24” square piece for $5.49 at Lowe’s) 1-2 Tbsp. Beeswax (found at local health food store) ¼-1/2 cup olive oil (or coconut, joboba, walnut, etc.)*

Tools: Electric Saw Sandpaper or Sander

Instructions: Cut the piece of birch into 2 paint boards.  I made mine 12”x15” (to easily fit 11”x14” paper).  You can use the smaller pieces as well, or save them for a future project.

Slightly round the corners of all pieces so there aren’t sharp points.

Sand, sand, and sand.  Don’t want splinters in those baby fingers!

Finish the boards, front and back, with your homemade natural beeswax polish.

Homemade Beeswax Polish:

You will want a 1:4 ratio of beeswax to oil.  Grating the beeswax first is optional, but will make the melting faster.

Place beeswax and oil in a microwaveable dish and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until beeswax has completely melted and dissolved.  You can add essential oils at this point if you want (make sure it is safe for wood and for toys that go in a child’s mouth).  I didn’t add any because I thought the beeswax smelled so amazing on its own.

Pour mixture into a container that allows for easy stirring.  I poured mine into a glass jar with a lid so I could store any leftover polish.

While the mixture cools, stir every once in a while to prevent separating.  It will thicken first around the edges, so make sure to scrape the sides.  You want to have an even, creamy blend at the end.

Once it’s cooled, rub it into paint boards (and any other wood you have in your house).  A little goes a long way.  Wipe away any excess with a towel, and rub any extra onto your hands and lips.  It’s wonderfully smooth and addicting.

Store any extra in an air-tight container out of direct sunlight.  Olive oil polish will last a year (joboba for 2 years) but refrigerating it will double the lifespan.

Our homemade paint boards are working wonderfully!  The watercolors wipe right off and the paper dries quickly.  You can always reapply the polish if you feel they need it.

*Note:  the olive oil finish will have a slightly yellower tinge to it than other oils, but this doesn’t show up on the wood

What to Expect When You're Expecting (The Kid Version)

In my social circle, there are five of us who had children within a few months of each other, four years ago.  This has been an amazing experience, as all of our children grew and hit their milestones together. It also means that, about 18 months ago, three out of the original five, decided to have a second child. This time, they're spaced a little bit further apart, but that same experience remains as we navigate the world of having more than one child, of sibling jealousy, and of there just not being enough hours in the day.

I found out I was pregnant with my son right around my daughter's second birthday.  At first, we didn't say anything to her, because when you're two, nine months might as well be nine years, and I was too busy trying to just find the energy to sit upright, nevermind answer questions or offer explanations.  As the months progressed, and I began to visibly show the pregnancy, we introduced her to the idea of being a big sister.  Part of this discussion came in the form of bedtime stories. It was an easy way to discuss the topic and expose her to upcoming changes, without having a formal sit-down discussion (which is practically impossible with an active two-year-old.)  If you're expecting (congratulations!) or plan to be in the not-so-distant future, here are three books I recommend for older siblings:

One Special Day: A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters

 This book was not published when I was pregnant with my second, but I've recommended it to every pregnant mom I know since I read it last year.  It  truly celebrates the older sibling, in their active, crazy, non-stop ways, while also encouraging children to find a quieter, gentler side for their new role as big brother or sister.  I love that the message is not that the older sibling will have to change, but rather take on an additional role.

Pecan Pie Baby

Unlike many sibling books which focus on life after the baby is born, Pecan Pie Baby is a story about the emotions a child feels during a mother's pregnancy.  Gia loves things the way they are.  And if everyone is so obsessed with the baby now, what's going to happen once he/she actually arrives?  Very few books I know focus on this time, and Woodson writes in a way that is so candid and in line with what I imagine most young children are thinking.

I'm a Big Sister

This book and its companion, I'm a Big Brother ,are written by the author of The Magic Schoolbus series.  If you're preparing a very young toddler for a new sibling, these are two of my favorites.  The text is simple and straightforward, describing things that only an older sibling can do (like eating pizza and ice cream) and the things a new baby will do (like cry when it's hungry).  They are older publications, but very well written. We actually gave my daughter a copy when she came to visit her brother in the hospital for the first time.

The truth is, you can only do so much to prepare your family for all the joys and challenges a new baby brings.  Newly promoted big brothers and sisters will still experience bouts of confusion, jealousy, and anger after the new baby arrives.  So as moms, we do the best we can, and hope for the best.  My own two are now 1 and 4, and are now at an age where they adore each other. 

So if you currently fall into that category of expecting a second child, take a deep breath.  Life is about to get a whole lot crazier... but oh-so-good.

The Gift of Giving: In My Arms

The cover image for Plumb's "Blink" Album, https://missinginkshop.com/plumb/store/music/blink


"Your baby blues, so full of wonder

Your curly cues, your contagious smile

And as I watch, you start to grow up

All I can do is hold you tight  

Knowing clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms  

Story books full of fairy tales

Of kings and queens and the bluest skies

My heart is torn just in knowing

You'll someday see the truth from lies


When the clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms


Castles they might crumble

Dreams may not come true

But you are never all alone

Because I will always, always love you


When the clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms, in my arms."

The Lyrics from "In My Arms", Written and Performed by:  Plumb


This song by Plumb is one of those mommy songs that always “gets” me.  I can be guaranteed a good cry by the time I get to the chorus, and by the end I’m pondering motherhood and all its many joys.  It’s good sometimes to step back from the daily routines and truly ponder what it means to love and be loved.

When Gabriel was young, I used to hold him close in my arms.  I had a sense of control that while there, he would be completely safe.  The clouds could race in, the storms could rage.  But he would be safe.  It was that fairy tale time—I was queen and he was my little prince.  But even in my arms I could not keep his heart beating, or feed him if his little tummy did not first send the hunger cue to his brain.

He is only 18 months now, but his independence has grown, and I have already felt those strange moments of him growing up.  And though it feels forever away, if what every mother says is true, I will blink, and he will be 18.  His dreams may not come true, his castle might crumble, and the storms might rage against him.  Even then, I will figuratively hold him in my arms, and tell him how much I love him.

The hard truth remains that he will never be completely safe in my arms.  I will do everything I can as a mother to protect my child physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  But he will be exposed to hurt and prayerfully growth in all of those areas.  I don’t want to “overprotect” him.  I think most of us have seen the harm in that extreme—need I follow up Plumb’s song with creepy Mother Gothel’s “Mama Knows Best” from Tangled?  Not the ideal either.

Thankfully, even though I cannot completely keep my child safe, I have found comfort in another truth.   It’s the love that I feel when I am so in love with my son.  It’s the fact that I am not the only one who feels this love for my son.  There’s my husband, and my parents and his parents, and Gabriel’s myriad of aunts and uncles, and his three boy cousins, and friends, ranging from 0-90 years old.  I find comfort in the fact that it’s not just me trying to help him through the storms of life.  Our community is right there helping.

The love that has overwhelmed me the most is the love from God, who says He loves us with an everlasting love, one that is higher than the heavens, deeper than the oceans, and farther than the East is from the West.  He has that same love for my son.  Love deeper than mine.  A love that can not only protect from the storms of life, but send them running the other direction with a simple command.

All these are the arms into which I find myself, my son in my arms.

Montessori Moods: The "Prepared Environment"

My kids eating lunch at their table. The “prepared environment” is what Maria Montessori called the learning space in her children’s houses (preschools). It was designed to allow the children to respond to their desire to learn and “work”. It included child-sized furniture for working and eating, as well as the specially designed Montessori materials. Everything was designed to allow the children to do things for themselves. It was also designed to be beautiful, orderly and inviting.

Get down at your child’s level in your home and see what it looks like. Can your child wash his own hands? Get his own snack? Get out crayons and a coloring book for himself?

You don’t have to make everything accessible to your child at once, but you can take steps to allow your child to do things for himself. In the original Montessori classrooms, the children served lunch to one another. The older children (5-6 year olds) would carry tureens full of soup to the table and serve the younger children. Other children would carry pitchers of water to refill glasses. Montessori discovered that young children WANT to do things for themselves and can do them if carefully shown and provided the right environment.

You can easily take steps in your home to make it more accessible to your young children and even toddlers. One of the easiest things to do is to have a child-sized table and chairs. My children are truly delighted to be able to eat at their table, color, do puzzles and other activities.  Step stools help a lot. We have one at the bathroom sink and just recently got one for the kitchen sink. The stool allows our children to wash their own hands, brush their teeth, and sometimes they get to play in the sink! Having a cabinet in the kitchen with child-sized kitchen tools is also a great idea. You can put snacks in there and on a low shelf in the refrigerator so they can help themselves.

You can make these types of modifications all over your house to allow your child to do things for himself!

Today’s Activity: Hand Washing

When presenting an activity to your child, practice beforehand and notice all the tiny motions that go into the activity. You will primarily be showing your child what to do, not telling him. Use as few words as possible.

Stand at the sink with your child on a stool next to you so that he can see you. (This is where the prepared environment is important—he can’t see what you’re doing if he doesn’t have a stool!) Show him the whole process of hand-washing being unusually slow and exaggerating all the motions. When you’re finished, ask your child if he would like to wash his hands. If he says no, say okay and move on to something else. If he says yes, show him how to move his stool into place and allow him to wash his hands. Try not to correct him if he doesn’t do something “right” (unless he’s really doing something unacceptable). If it seems like he’s missing some crucial step, plan to present it to him again some other time.

You can also check out this link for official Montessori hand-washing presentation instructions.  In  my opinion, this is more involved than is necessary for me and my kids, but I just want to expose you to the different possibilities.

Kanned Goods: DIY Glass Etching

Our first Christmas married, I spent hours perusing websites for cheap crafts I could make for others that were beautiful, meaningful, practical, and, well, looked like something you’d buy in a store.  I stumbled across Glass Etching on Martha Stewart’s website, and it has been my go-to for lots of neat (and sometimes last minute) gifts.  That Christmas I etched everybody’s name on a glass mug (that I found for $2.50 at Wal-Mart). I promise it is not near as intimidating as it sounds and it takes a whopping 15 minutes.  I recently pulled my supplies out to etch a vase for some newlyweds we’re dining with.  We had bought them some fresh tulips, but wanted to make it the gift more personal.  I etched their names and wedding date on the vase—now it is something they can use over and over again.

You will need to make a trip to your local craft store for the etching cream and stencils.  It’s a bit of an investment up front ($10-20), but it will last you through many projects!  I bought the smallest bottle of etching cream and reusable stencils, and I still have ¾ a bottle left.


Armour Etch Cream

Stencils (You can make your own or buy these handy-dandy Rub N’ Etch stencils. There is a special glass etching stencil display where you find your cream.)

Rubber gloves

Masking tape

An old paint brush

A glass vase, mug, plate, etc.


Warning:  The etching cream bottle is covered with cautionary procedures for using it.  You even have to be over the age of 18.  With that said, please follow all instructions.  Wear protective clothing, do the project outside, if possible, and ONLY work with the cream when your children are sleeping or someone can watch them.


I’ll give you a run down of what to do, but please read all instructions and labels before proceeding.  I do suggest practicing this once on something cheap to make sure you have all the instructions down and you know how your stencils are working.

First, you’ll want to make sure the glass surface you are etching is clean.

Second, you will want to arrange the stencils.  This is my least favorite part.  It takes forever to get letters lined up in a neat row.  Make sure that if you are placing multiple stencils together that there are no exposed edges or crevices.  Apply masking tape all around the stencil(s) to hold it firmly in place.

Third, make sure you have everything you need — glass with taped-on stencils, paint brush, etching cream, and watch/timer (if needed).  Also, wear protective clothing and eye gear in case of accidental spills.  Using the paintbrush, apply a thick layer of etching cream to the stenciled area, completely covering it.  If you’re using the Rub N’ Etch stencils, you only need to let the cream sit for 60 seconds.  If you’re using a different kind (the label should tell you), you will need to let it sit for 5 minutes.  Make sure to close your bottle of cream as you don’t need to be smelling it all that time!

Fourth, run the glass under warm water, washing all the cream away.  Remove stencil and masking tape.  You may not see the etch right away, but once you towel dry it,  it should appear nicely.   Let me tell you, it really feels like magic :).

The best part is the etching is very durable.  You can pretty much do whatever the glassware says is possible (dishwasher, microwave, etc.).

I hope this inspires some beautiful handmade gifts!  Feel free to share ways that you use glass etching for your crafting.

First Moments of Motherhood: Emma Claire's Birth Story

At the start of each year, we often take time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll continue to post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC I'm going to start this post off with a humdinger of a sentence:

I had an elective induction.

Before the Natural Birth Police storm my front door, I should share the back story to my daughter's birth story.

When I was 14 years old, I met a boy at church camp. We fell hopelessly in love with one another at 21 and married at 22. Vowing to love and honor him in sickness and in health, I discovered that I was no longer staring at the 15 year old boy I met so long ago. As the words left my mouth, as I gave myself to him only and him completely, he stood before me in an iconic dress blues uniform. Deep blue coat with red piping, gold buttons adorned with the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor - he was beautiful in every way. With his chest out, shoulders back, and pride few can fathom, he vowed the same to me. Four years prior, he was pledging to defend the United States and her Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. He promised to sacrifice his day to day for the freedom of this country; knowing full well that it may demand the ultimate cost of his life.

On August 14, 2010 I became the wife of a United States Marine.

I didn't know then how much it would define my life. I didn't comprehend how marrying a marine would determine a good percentage of my existence. I wouldn't say that I was misinformed or ignorant - I just simply wasn't aware. One of my good friends, a Navy chaplain, performed our wedding ceremony. As he addressed us, in front of our friends and family, he told me of the responsibility that I would have as a marine spouse. I remember walking down the aisle after our "first kiss as husband and wife" and having a pit in the bottom of my stomach. I was terrified, happy, anxious, scared, and excited ... all at the same time! I knew in my gut that life had changed for me - for us.


 photo by: Sabrena Deal/S. Carter Studios (http://www.scarterstudios.com/index2.php)

A year and a half after our wedding I was helping my husband pack his belongings for yet another deployment. We had thought long and hard about when we wanted to start trying for a baby and we determined that after he returned from his 7 month deployment, we would begin trying. While he was gone, I made every effort I could to get my body "baby ready." After gaining a significant amount of weight on birth control, I promised myself I would lose at least 30 pounds while he was gone. It seems like a lofty goal, but I did it. I took myself off of the birth control immediately after he left so that I had an ample amount of time to recover. I bought fertility tests and a fertility monitor, pregnancy tests, and did a ton of research on the most effective ways to get pregnant.

I became what I like to call a "Knock Me Up Nutjob." My focus was all on a baby.

April 2012 arrived, my husband returned home. I was ready. He was ready.

April 2012 passed, and I still wasn't pregnant.

Punch me in the face.

May 2012 arrived. I decided to stop obsessing.

May 21, 2012 arrived and so did the two pink lines. I was pregnant. I peed on 8 pregnancy tests just to be sure. Panic ensued. I feared miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, anything and everything. To top all of this off, we found out that my husband would be heading to recruiting school and we had a move coming up.

Though I would not define my pregnancy as difficult, everyone else tells me it was. I had serious morning sickness resulting in having to use two anti-nausea medications just to get me to eat even just a little bit of food. In my first two trimesters I lost a total of 30 pounds. In addition, I faced uncertainty of the health of my child. (You can read that story here.)

Despite any illness or difficulty in pregnancy, my husband had to leave for recruiting school in San Diego at the beginning of my third trimester. His parting words were, "Don't have that baby until I get back." So ... I crossed my legs and held on for a long 8 weeks without him. About 3 weeks into his schooling, he called to tell me where we were expected to move so he could recruit for the Marine Corps the next three years. Basically the conversation went like this:

Him: "So ... we're moving to Wyoming." Me: "Haha, okay... I'll get to work on finding us a house up there."

We were expected to be in Wyoming on February 2, 2013. I should mention, however, that my due date was January 21, 2013.

From the beginning, I shared with my midwife that I would be moving and we weren't sure when exactly, but it would be before I delivered or immediately after. She is used to working with military families and promised to help in any way she could. As soon as we found out when we were expected to move you can imagine the panic that came into my life. Not only did I have to find us a house in a place we've never been, find renters for the home we own in North Carolina, plan our movers, transfer all of our information and utilities, and 5,508 other things  ... I ALSO had to deliver a child. The stress took its toll on my body and I began having contractions at 37 weeks. Many mornings I would be standing in my bathroom hunched over the counter just praying and asking God that "this was it" and that "my Emma was on her way." Needless to say ... it wasn't time. At my 38 week appointment my midwife determined that (sorry if men are reading this) my "cervix was viable for induction." Now, before anyone loses their cool and starts yelling about "unnecessary interventions by medical professionals" here's what you should know ...

I asked to be induced. 

My midwife, as much as she didn't want to admit it, did NOT want to induce me, but understood why it had to be done. Her only stipulation was that it be done at 39 weeks, and if my cervix wasn't ready, at 40 weeks. My health, along with my baby's health, were of her utmost importance. I was scheduled to be induced the following Monday on January 14, 2013. I breathed a sigh of relief.

On that Monday evening I walked into the hospital, I was placed in a room, and the process started. Cytotec was placed, and contractions increased. More Cytotec was given. I dilated a little bit. At 3:30AM my water broke on its own and Pitocin was administered.

Now, for all of you women clutching the computer screen and screaming "NOOOOOO!!! NO PITOCIN!!!!!!!!!!!" - just hold on and bear with me. It gets worse before it gets better. The Pitocin did its work and I was contracting, but unfortunately it made me very sick. With my vomiting and crying and increased contractions came a great amount of panic. I barely remember this point, but my husband told me it was hard to watch. I clutched his hand, I leaned against my mom's chest, and I remember uttering the words I didn't want to say, but knew I had to ...

"I need the epidural now."

I knew going into my induction that epidural would be on the table. Despite my desire to have an epidural-free labor, I understood that my labor would be lengthy and that it would be unrealistic of me (after a certain point) to go without. I had promised myself to try, but as soon as I lost control or I was not progressing, I vowed that I would get an epidural - without shame. (That's the key point! No shame!) In the 13 hours that I was in the hospital I had only dilated 3cm. I requested Zofran for my nausea and Stadol for my pain and I waited on the anesthesiologist.

He arrived. And I wanted to kiss him on his mouth. But I'm a married woman.

As he administered my epidural I talked to him about how I shouldn't have gone to college, but instead invested all of that money into a boob job and lyposuction so that I could be Miss America. He tried to muffle his laughter and hide his face, but really, the ridiculousness that poured out of my mouth (thank you, Sir Stadol) was too good not to laugh at. He made a quick exit, my husband went home to shower, and my mom and stepdad took some naps.

Exactly an hour and a half after my epidural was administered, I was checked.

And I was 10cm.

And my husband was at home. Showering.

He sprinted into my room to find me smiling and happy and in Stadol-world. Then I started to come back to reality. To come off the high, if you will. It was time to push. They dialed back my epidural. I began to feel everything. Every contraction, in all it's strength, it was surreal. To go from feeling nothing to feeling everything. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and pushed some more. I laughed and chatted in between pushes. My mom to my right, husband to my left. My mom, who has seven children of her own, assured me I was doing well. But my baby wasn't coming. The nurse had this look on her face, puzzled, like something wasn't right here. She said she would be back and was hoping that my midwife could help things along.

In came my midwife, and she had to turn my baby who had spent the past hour of pushing being slammed against my pelvic bone. The poor girl. She was turned, and I started to push some more. They kept telling me to let the contractions build. I held onto my husband's bicep (which is part of the reason I was knocked up in the first place ... ironic.) and I pushed with all my might. The contractions continued to build. I remember talking in between them, trying to keep my spirits up. And then there was "that push." You know the push I'm talking about. The push where everyone shrieks, "WE CAN SEE HER HEAD!" Only, my mom added, "AND SHE'S SO BALD!" 

As soon as they saw head I was pushing like a crazy person. Every contraction I pushed harder and harder and harder. Then the burning. Oh the burning.

I breathed.

I pushed.

It burned more.

I breathed.

I pushed.

Her head was out.

Her shoulders.

And then I got the green light. My midwife says, "Okay, if you can reach go ahead and pull her out."

So I did. I reached and I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her right out. I sat her on my stomach. My eyes filled with giant tears, she started to cry a loud, healthy cry. I did it. I had a baby.

At 3:41PM on January 15, 2013 after almost 24 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing, I had delivered a 7lbs, 3.3oz baby girl that will forever wear the name, Emma Claire. She was dreamy and that moment immediately defined my existence. My husband held her in his arms as he paced around the hospital room. He stared at her like she had hung the moon. He was captivated and more in love with her than he ever thought possible. My mom stood in the background and texted my siblings who anxiously waited on me as I pushed for 305 years. We welcomed our daughter into this world. This crazy, hard to fathom, impossible to comprehend Marine Corps world.

With her new pink skin, wide blue eyes, and perfectly bald head, my daughter entered the world. Ten days later she would be moving to Wyoming. But that's another story for another day.

I have found that not all birth stories are the same. Would any woman love to have an all-natural birth with no medication and no interventions? Absolutely! We would also love it to be pain free, to glow the whole time, and to not poop on the table as we push. The reality is - the labor and delivery is just as unique as the child! During my moments of stress I would often say, "If only I had gotten pregnant two months later!" or "I wish we would have waited until we moved to begin trying to have a baby!" But now? I wouldn't dream of anything different. I prayed over and over that God would protect her from any affects of the induction and epidural. He did just that. Not once did her heart rate drop or increase. She was discharged 24 hours after her birth. Her lungs were strong. She was as healthy as a horse.


On August 14, 2010 my life changed dramatically as I became the wife of a marine.

On January 15, 2013 my life changed forever as I became a mother.


photo by: Megan Jones/Megan Jones Photography (meganmcjonesphotography.yolasite.com)


At the start of each year, we often take time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll continue to post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC Intentional My goal was to write for this blog at least once per month. Yet, the last post I wrote was oh...in October. Are there reasons? Oh yes, there are lots of reasons: family visiting, sickness (as I write this I'm on day 4 of something awful...thank God for babysitters!), allergy and amino acids testing for our little man, Thanksgiving, Christmas, traveling, a death in the family. Yes, there are reasons. But I think the overarching reason? Lack of intentionality. Granted, all of those things are more important than writing  a blog post (sorry TMC), however, if I'm going to constantly give myself a guilt trip for not completing a blog post, or a craft project, or whatever it may be, then I think I need to do a little self-examination.

Our little one is full of energy, and I work 25+ hours each week outside of the home. Many days, when bedtime hits, I'm drained, and all I feel like doing is sitting on the couch, mindlessly surfing the internet (read: Facebook and/or Pinterest) or watching TV. And sometimes, that is OK, and needed. However, I then begin to rack up in my brain all of the things I haven't yet done: blog, paint that cabinet, organize the storage area, start running again, etc.; and I begin to feel guilty. Then, I feel overwhelmed because I don't know where to start on any of those things, so I turn to the fall-back and am right where I started.

What I'm realizing is that I can choose how to spend that downtime; I control it, it doesn't control me. (OK, some nights, it wins. Let's be honest) I need to own my decisions. If I am choosing to spend time online, fine. Then I must be happy with that. If I am not happy with that, then it is up to me to choose differently. Sitting by idly and wishing I'd spent my time differently does nothing to actually change the way I am spending that time, it only adds to my frustration and guilt.

Today, today I am sleeping, resting, blogging and possibly finishing up a few episodes of Downton Abbey with my husband (who is finally hooked, hooray!). Why? Because I am sick, and I need the rest. And those are the choices I am making. Tomorrow, whatever decisions we make with our time, let them be because we thoughtfully and intentionally chose to do those things, instead of passively letting our life live itself for us.

The Gift of Giving--Crazy Love

Les Miserables How far would I go to care for my son? 

This is a thought I have often had during those trembling, earth shattering, lioness raging up in me, crazy love moments where I look at my toddler sleeping in my arms, and wonder if there is ANYTHING I would not do for him.

The story of Les Miserables is gaining quite a bit of popularity right now, and I will say that I have been a fan for years.  It became my favorite piece of literature as soon as Jean Valjean walked away from the priest’s home with those candlesticks that forever shouted grace to his heart.  As soon as I met Fantine, Cosette’s mother, I admired her.  She was placed on my shelf of “people who are passionate above calculating”. You've got to give them credit.  They do things we would probably never do.  Fantine’s love for her daughter, and utter desperation in providing for her, extends further than any other person in literature.  She descends to the darkest depths of misery, eventually selling her body in prostitution to scrape together whatever she can to send to Cosette, who lives miles away under the care of less than admirable people.  I remember shaking my head at her in disbelief.  Does anybody love another person like this?

When I recently revisited the story of Les Miserables in theaters, I didn’t just admire Fantine this time.  I understood.  As a mother now, I understood the desperation that would bring a mother to such sacrifice.  I understood the kind of love it takes to live for years without your child, but still care for them with every breath you take.  I understood how some people (Fantine in mind) summon up the notion to do crazy things for their children.  This crazy love is a gift that Fantine pours out on Cosette, and it’s also one that gives back in greater fold, for as Fantine and Jean Valjean joyously sing at the end, “To love another person is to see the face of God!”

Still, in the day-to-day moments, I am filled with selfishness, and wonder whose ornery kid is destroying my living room.  I am often guilty of desiring an orderly day more than the happiness and creativity of a messy toddler.  I often love myself so much.   That admirable love just seems so very far away because I mother under a roof of relative comfort, ease and safety.

The sad part of it is--there will be broken love in our homes, whether it’s given out of the desperation of a messed up world (as Fantine’s was) or whether it’s given from a heart that simply struggles to love another over self.

The wonderful part of it is?  Even broken love gives back to us beyond measure—in the joys of our children and in the beauty of seeing God.  Perhaps this is what makes love so crazy after all.

"Wisdom" of The Soon-To-Be Mom

January is often a time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC--

When I first found out I was pregnant I'm sure my oldest sister probably thought to herself, "Oh crap, here it comes..."

Over the past few months I have texted her at least four times a week asking random questions about aches, pains, breasts, hips, and lady parts. As my oldest sister, with three children of her own, it is her responsibility (opinion warning) to be my living, breathing, and talking version of What to Expect When You're Expecting. 

   My sister has handled me well, but as with most new moms I began my pregnancy in search of as much information as I possibly could. Despite my upbringing with six siblings and experience with babies as a nanny and "Auntie Kels," becoming mom is an entirely different ball game. Don't get me wrong, I've got the job of auntie on lock. Give them lots of candy and treats they shouldn't have, let them watch as many episodes of Fresh Beat Band as they want, and under no circumstances put them to bed when you were instructed to. If they cry, you just give them back. If they bite you, you just give them back. If they are in a bad mood, well you get it by now, just give them back! However, the one growing inside of me right at this moment, the one that could come out at any point in time over the next few weeks - I can't give her back. She's mine. And I've checked all the baby and pregnancy books - kids do NOT come with a return policy! There is no label on them that reads,

"If dissatisfied with lack of sleep, sore boobs, mastitis, crying (even your own), and lady parts on fire please return to hospital to have baby shoved back inside." 

   When I found out that this month's theme would be Gaining Wisdom I realized that I have been seeking wisdom as a pregnant woman and soon-to-be mother. From asking my sister a slew of weekly questions to reading from blogs and books - the past nine months have been based around gaining as much knowledge as possible on pregnancy, labor, pumping, and all things baby related. Quite frankly, I've scared myself more than I've educated myself! But as I prepared to write this post I thought to myself, "What is wisdom when it comes to being a new mom?"

Let me first define wisdom: "(n) The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise."

Laughable, right?

   Nothing about that definition applies to a new mom. Nothing. Experience? Being an aunt doesn't qualify me for being a mother. Knowledge? Two days ago I had to ask my midwife why my stomach and back hurt so bad throughout the day only to find out I have been having false labor. Good judgement? When someone shared the benefits of co-sleeping to me I asked her (sarcastically) if it is 'as beneficial' for our baby to co-sleep with our yellow and black labradors instead of me. (She didn't think it was as funny as I did. Actually she didn't find it funny at all.)

   We seek the wisdom and the knowledge of others because we know absolutely nothing. By asking others we are receiving opinions and ideas that we hope to apply when our children come into this world. The simple truth remains, however, that it is ultimately our decisions and choices that guide how we raise and nurture our children. It's important to be educated, to seek the wisdom and knowledge of others, but in the end we gain the most wisdom by doing it. Applying little things here and there, but never living by the books, the blogs, or the opinions. I believe whole-heartedly that there are two births that occur when we have our children. The birth of the child is obvious, something to remember and cherish, but in that moment there is the birth of the mother. Things change for us in that moment. Our existence is no longer defined by our accomplishments, our goals, our tasks, or our agendas. Our world is immediately wrapped around the baby that just ripped apart our downstairs and has spent the past 10 minutes screaming at us because our boobs are seemingly defective. Get comfy ... It will be 18 years before you get a break and unfortunately those boobs will never shrink back to normal.

   When I did research on this post I skipped over all of the "new mommy" questions and went right to the gut of things. I wanted to hear moms tell me what their children do or have done that have made them proud. I wanted to slide past all of the breastfeeding/pumping questions or post-labor healing tips and tricks. With days (or weeks) to go I needed to read that this is all going to be worth it. I needed to see women in my life brag about their children and how parenting, regardless of how difficult, has its rewards. The task before me is a daunting one and in my search of wisdom I've often just returned scared or confused. I hoped to find the light at the end of the tunnel that says, "You'll get through it and it will be awesome." So, I posted on my personal Facebook account asking mothers what has been one of their proudest moments. You know what most of the ladies responded with?

"I can't choose just one!"

   I read each response. I poured over the brags and the flaunts and praises and I smiled to myself. I sought comfort in my time of fear, and I found it. Maybe that's all the wisdom I need to glean right now. Maybe, just maybe, I just need to know it's worth it; that the pride outweighs the challenges.

So for now I'll sit back and wait on my daughter to make her grand entrance into the world. And when I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing or am fearful I will focus on what's to come:

Pride, confidence, wisdom, and the birth of a mother. 

The Gift of Giving: Pondering

A column about how emptying yourself as a mother can become a fulfilling lifestyle. The adage that mothers continually give, give, give is nothing new.  If you’re at the entrance of motherhood this universal is right at the forefront…at 2 am, when your nipples are bleeding from breastfeeding.  Or at 8 pm when you have to leave everything early because it’s bedtime, of course.

I truly view Gabriel’s birth as my own birth as well—the birth of a mother.  I strongly believe that life begins at conception, and so I know I had been a mother for nine months already, but birthing my son brought something out of me that wasn’t there before.  I also view Gabriel’s first 12 weeks of life as my “chrysalis” stage, if you will.  I felt cocooned into myself, separated from the world, and cut off from the person I used to be, as I attempted to transform into a mother and, in the process, die to my old self.  (This sounds very dramatic, I know…but please bear with the illustration).  I emerged, not a perfect butterfly mother, but a mother nonetheless.  One willing to give of myself.  One willing to find joy in giving, and thus embrace the gift of giving. Butterfly One of my favorite quotes about mothers is from Tenneva Jordan:   “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” To me, it’s such a funny and practical illustration of what I want to be—not fulfilled by eating the pie (and I do LOVE pie, and would have a hard time denying it), but fulfilled by watching my family enjoy eating the pie.

One of my biggest fears about motherhood is not what I’ll do wrong to my kids, but what I’ll do wrong with my heart.  I fear the bitterness and resentment that I see overcome attitudes in moms—something that will harm me, my husband and my kids.  I fear the temptations to say “You don’t know how hard it is to be a mom,” or “I never get a break as a mom,” or “why do you always need, need, need.” These feelings are embarrassing to even admit.  Especially when I am rewarded with the love of my son, that smile when I treat him to something special, the unexpected (though snotty) kisses I get on my nose, and the way his arms reach out to me when I pick him up from childcare.

These things and more make it all worth it.  They fill me with more joy than my petty, selfish complaints.  They give me a fresher outlook than my inward focused one.  They give me more energy than my self-pity.

The gift of giving becomes fulfilling when we ponder all things motherhood in our hearts.  During this time of year I am reminded of the nativity story, and how Mary rode on a donkey at 9 months pregnant, was denied even a private bed and room for birthing, labored and birthed in a stable surrounded by the smell of manure, and wrapped her newborn in strips of cloth (go mama, right?).  Their only visitors were shepherds (again with the manure).  What does it say at the end of this humble story (which I doubt went according to her birth plan)?  Mary pondered all these things in her heart.  Not just when the heating blankets arrived, or the sitz bath, or lactation consultant (because she probably had none of these things).  She pondered the treasure and gift she had been given.

I was surprised when I looked up the verb “to ponder.” These days, it means “to consider something deeply and thoroughly,” but I like the archaic meaning, “to estimate the worth of, to appraise.”

This holiday season, I am encouraged to ponder the worth of motherhood, to appraise how it can satisfy me when I sacrificially give.  It is a priceless gift.  This may not make the days less hard, but it will certainly make them more worthwhile.


Instagram Round-Up | October

Much fun was had this October as we discussed traditions both here on the blog and at our regular get togethers! Between crafting, costumes, and sharing traditions and recipes, we had a busy month here at the Motherhood Collective!

October Instagram Round-Up

The 2nd Monday of the month we gathered together and listened to one mom's experience with Baby Led Weaning. Recipes were shared and questions were asked. Did you miss it? Check out the following resources our speaker suggested:

The 4th Monday of the month we gathered together to make pomanders and share our family traditions, round-table style! In case you couldn't be there to hear our many mamas share their family traditions, here are a few blog posts we posted this month about holiday traditions:

As always, our leadership team gathered together a handful of times to brainstorm ideas, check items off their to-do lists, and encourage one another in this balancing act of motherhood.

We are so thankful for all the sweet mamas who share here on the blog, join us at our activities, and volunteer to help make it all happen! We love this community so very much.

Here's to a great November!