Category Archives: My Big Jesus

5 Things Parents Do On Vacation Without Their Kids

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

My husband whisked me away last week for a whirlwind trip to NYC. There were several reasons (excuses?) for the trip, including a special concert, my recent birthday, and a desperate need of time off during a busy season, and it was well-timed and perfect. While it was short (48 hours, to be exact), it was just what we needed to relax a bit and treat ourselves before we stopped sleeping entirely.


During the trip, I noticed a few things we did simply because the kids weren’t around. Life with kids is awesome, but it’s different- no one will argue that. So on our two special days without them, here are a few things we did differently…

1. Eat all the fancy food. Of course when you’re in NYC, you get a little crazy about finding good food. But Hubby and I went to restaurants we’d never dream of taking the kids. There was no macaroni and cheese on any menu, and we ate adventurously (as is our favorite thing to do).

2. Walk quickly. The pace might be a bit quicker there, but we power-walked everywhere we went. We were able to make the most of our time (and not spend a fortune on cabs) because we could be quite quick. There were no strollers, no one hanging onto us or needing to stop and rearrange their sock. We strolled around the city, Googling and Yelping to find our next destination as we walked. It was amazingly simple and free.

3. Abandon the schedule. We are whenever we were hungry, and even if we weren’t. We stayed up really late. We stayed out the entire afternoon, whereas usually we are bound by naptime. There was nowhere to be except wherever we wanted. And most importantly…

4. Sleep late. I’ll be honest, the first morning, my body clock woke me up at 7:30. But I looked at the time, rolled over, and slept two more hours! It was glorious!

5. Call home a lot. We FaceTimed and texted my aunt (who kept the kids) a couple of times a day, just to make sure things were alright. And to share what we were up to. But not because we missed the kids. Nope. Not much.

It was a great time away, and fun to remember those things you get to do without your tiny buddies. But you sure do miss them while you’re gone.

My Kids’ 5 Favorite Tree Ornaments

I don’t know about your Christmas decorations, but there has been a lot of time, effort and money that’s been put into my Christmas tree. It’s an artificial tree that’s six years old. I’ve replaced the lights, compiled ornaments from every Christmas of my life (literally – we’ll get to that in a minute) and started getting some sweet things that represent my whole family.

This year, my kids have been carrying certain ornaments around the house and I keep having to ask them to be really careful. So I thought it might be amusing to share with you what their five favorite ornaments are… especially since none of them are handmade with pride or featuring their faces, like you might expect. 

1. The obnoxious singing cow. I’ll spare you details (aka the video of it happening) and just give you the cliff notes: it “moos” its way through “Jingle Bells” with questionable pitch.

2. My “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament. It winds up and plays a song that I can get stuck in my head for days. I don’t even know what song it is. The kids have fought over it so much that it’s currently sitting on the mantle.

3. The cement truck. It’s J’s favorite because it actually rolls, but every time he plays with it, he reminds me that the cement mixer doesn’t really turn.

4. This North Pole-Christmas Eve-alert ornament. Supposedly it changes color when it’s Santa begins delivering presents (spoiler alert: I’m the one that has to switch it to change the colors). It also plays a song, and it happens to be really loud. Like REALLY LOUD. So I put it where they can’t get to it. 

5. Anything with Ariel on it. I’ve spent my whole life getting Ariel ornaments from my mom. She’s my favorite princess and it’s kind of our thing. Now, EK really loves Ariel too, and so we’ve started getting them for her as well. So our tree is covered in Ariels of all sorts, and so they’re the favorites of my daughter. So naturally, two are currently broken and several were broken in years past and are glued back together. Poor Ariel. 

 There you have it. All the favorite ornaments of my three kids under five. Do your little ones have a favorite ornament?

An Advent Calendar of Surprises

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

Recently I was chatting with a friend who was flabbergasted that I’m basically done with my Christmas shopping. Really, that’s just because I love Amazon and I’m at Costco once a week. It makes it a little easier for me. But still- it made me feel really good about how well I was doing in preparation.

I finally have my decorations up now, including an Advent calendar that I made several years ago. I love the idea and doing a little something each day, and I’ve done something different inside it each year. Since my kids are all under age 5, they are just now getting into knowing what I’m reading to them, or looking forward to the activities that are in there. So this year, I filled the little pockets with Bible verses (mostly chronological, about the angel coming to Mary, Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, etc.) and Christmas-themed family activities that I ripped off of several different folks’ ideas on their sites (watch a Christmas movie, sing a carol, etc.). Then I stuck a few jelly beans in five random pockets as a fun surprise. 

But I didn’t do all of this and prepare it until we should’ve been on day 3. We had already bypassed two whole days of December and it was the afternoon of the 3rd before I got started. So naturally, it’s a little scattered and low-budget looking. I didn’t print beautiful cards. I didn’t even write very clearly on half of them. I wasn’t super creative. You might say I was a slacker.

But giving my kids something to look forward to each day was important to me. I wanted them to look for a little surprise, and to wonder whether today was the day with candy. I wanted them to read a verse each day about Jesus’s coming, and have the reminder of what Christmas is about.

My kids don’t care that it could’ve been a little nicer or that I was two days late. They love surprises, and they love having a thing to look forward to. That’s all advent is, anyway: the looking forward to things to come. It’s the anticipation of Christ’s arrival, and the coming of a king. It’s a surprise, a glorious and wonderful surprise, the saving of souls and celebration of the saints.

From the Manger to the Cross


Oh, how the first Sunday of advent prepares my heart for Christmas. Today is a day of celebrating, and also a day of being intentional about turning our hearts to the manger to await the coming of our King.

To turn my heart away from decorations and gift-buying can sometimes be hard. Often, getting caught up in Black Friday sales and locating the perfect decor for the unfestive corner of my home take precedence after Thanksgiving. Because t this morning, my pastor likened Thanksgiving and Christmas to s kind of homecoming. We typically gather with our families or even travel to our (former? forever?) homes to be with those we love. He nudged us to apply this sense of “homecoming” to the Christian life. A homecoming not for physical things, but coming home to the eternal love of a Father, the spirit of loving, giving no and worshiping a King who has sacrificed everything to bring us home.

We are reminded as Christians, especially during the Christmas and Easter seasons that we are only in a temporary home. This world is not our forever home, and we should never forget that. The home we look forward to joining is the perfect place to spend eternity, together with the saints and our Jesus in heaven. We have been adopted into the most prestigious, loving and healthy family there is, assigning us to a feast table beyond our wildest imaginations. We are accepted and loved and made whole in this familial identity. We have indeed found our worth in the sacrifice that was made on our behalf.

So as you enter Advent, turning your heart to the manger, don’t forget that the manger leads to the cross. We are on this journey together, pointing to the same destination in a few months’ time. This anticipation of the arrival of our King leads to His death, but also His resurrection, the mind-blowing realization that He has done the work to keep us His and whole and bring us home.

The Case for Starting Christmas Celebrations Early. 

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

As a musician, I’ve been early to the Christmas spirit every single year of my life. I’m usually practicing in October for this Christmas concert or that caroling event, because inevitably someone wants perfectly polished holiday music at their event, which happens to be the first Tuesday in December. Or whatever the case may be.

But for some reason, this year, I hadn’t really been feeling it – which is especially odd, given that Advent starts ridiculously early (as Thanksgiving is ridiculously late) and I should’ve been anticipating its arrival. The weather has been unseasonably warm, I’ve been focused on other things, and Christmas, well, is sneaking up on me.

However, I’ve made a decision. I will no longer feel bad for starting to decorate early. I won’t feel bad when I tune my radio to the station that plays Christmas music on November 1st. I won’t get snarky about Starbucks’ holiday cups, no matter what they look like. I won’t post on Facebook about how it’s annoying that the local shopping centers have wreaths hung up the day after Halloween. I won’t feel bad about asking my husband to get our tree and garlands from the attic before we’ve hosted our Thanksgiving meal.

You know why?

Because we all need some cheer. There’s not a single person in this world who doesn’t benefit from a little cheering up, a little extra love sent their way, or a sparkly card in the mail. There isn’t a single person who doesn’t need to hear good news, a joyful message, or to be reminded that there is at least one thing we can latch on to that will forever be positive: Jesus loves us.

He loves us so much that he came to save us, even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:6). He IS the Good News, the reason we turn our thoughts during Advent to his humble arrival, and get up on Christmas morning with unspeakable joy in our hearts. And those things are worth celebrating even longer than 25 days a year, longer than the month that’s between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I will celebrate his blessed coming, his incredible life, his terrible death, and his glorious rising on the third day. I will celebrate these things every single day, and live my life with the light that comes from knowing him personally. I won’t feel a bit guilty if I need to hear a little Christmas music in June just because I feel like it. He is worth celebrating no matter what time of year it is.

Things I Forgot About Labor Till I Saw It From the Sidelines

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

A couple of weeks ago, I was given the privilege of being in the hospital with my best friend and her husband as she labored and they prepared to meet their little girl. I don’t know how helpful I was – mostly cracking jokes to relieve tension and trying to find something good on TV – but I truly enjoyed being there, and experiencing labor from the sidelines. It’s a little different when you’re not the one in pain. There are a few things I totally forgot about, even having done it three times. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten about these things…

The shakes and the itching. Epidurals, and just plain ol’ high pain levels can cause crazy side effects. Thanks universe, the pain wasn’t bad enough without itchy feet and shaky hands.

The waiting. As if you haven’t had enough waiting for things during your entire pregnancy, it just multiples in the labor and delivery ward. It is so BORING when you’re waiting to dilate, waiting for the next time you’re getting checked, waiting for the medicine to kick in, waiting for the next contraction, waiting to finally start pushing… The waiting seems to never end.

The endless flow of Coca-Cola. After trying for nine months to cut out most of your caffeine, stay hydrated, and be as healthy as possible, the labor nurses come in with Coke after Coke after Coke… and the most perfect little pellets of ice… it’s glorious.

The crappy TV. If you’ve labored late during or through the night, you know that the only thing on TV to distract you is pure crap. Nothing but low-budget infomercials and strange, B-list celebrity reality shows happen between midnight and the 5 o’clock news.

The mindless banter. Nurses come in to check on you, and you answer questions, maybe crack a joke. Whoever is in the room with you – spouse, friend, etc – mentions random things from their Facebook newsfeeds or funny stories that pop into their heads. Your doctor comes in to see how you’re doing, and you make small talk about the same thing every time they come in. It’s purely to be polite, when you’d really just like to be left alone.

When your bladder is empty, your contractions don’t seem as bad. I still don’t fully know the science behind it, but contractions are SO much worse when your bladder is full. So after your third Coke, just go ahead and have them empty your bladder for you. It’ll help – really.

The inability to be still. You get to a certain point in your labor when the epidural isn’t doing much, and your body wants to push, but they say you aren’t ready yet. This leads to wanting to hop off the bed and do jumping jacks until the baby comes out. That’s a little unrealistic, of course, so you resort to squirming on the bed, nervous for the next contraction, but also wanting them to come more quickly and get the process over with.

Labor is a beautiful process, because at the end, you’ve added a bundle of joy to your family. But whether they’re things etched in your memory forever, or things that get glossed over in your mind the older your baby gets, the labor process is full of all those little moments – some sweet, some funny, and some just plain miserable – that make up your entire experience.

Halloween Fail

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

My family is a Disney-loving crew. Hubby and I grew up watching the movies, visiting Disney world, collecting paraphernalia and loving every minute, so why shouldn’t we do that with our kids?

That being said, we recognized this year as the perfect year for a group costume. We could still dictate what the kids would dress up as, and pull off a silly, matching family costume. Because we’re a group of five, we decided on the Incredibles.

True story: Hubby and I were Mr. and Mrs. Incredible before we had kids (see below) because we happen to have pretty good body types for it – aka Hubby is a big, strong dude, and I have short hair and hips. (Disclaimer: our attempt to make Hubby’s hair blond simply turned it green. Oops.)

So naturally, with that being our best costume together ever, we decided to bring it back with our three kids. I started looking for the costumes (less iron-on this time) and rounding up everyone’s parts. I got really excited, and let the kids run around in their outfits several times. This week, Hubby and I finally tried on ours!

Oh crap.

We aren’t huge people. Okay, well, fine. Hubby is a heavyweight wrestler, but I ordered him the largest size so it should’ve been fine. But I’m not a huge person! And I ordered my costume based on their sizing chart! I should’ve known that superhero outfits would be… well… tight. And that a $30 costume wouldn’t be… uh… totally well-made. So naturally, Hubby and I are melted and poured into our costumes. Because I ordered them according to size charts. UGH I don’t want to go to my church’s Trunk or Treat in a costume fit for a Sig Ep party. So I get on figuring out how to be a little more comfortable and less… risqué.

It just so happens that I have a friend who had the same idea I did – family of 5 Disney lovers, young kids – obviously they’re also the Incredibles. I shot her a text – “What do I do?!” She said, “Oh, you’re also Elastigirl: Brazilian Edition?” Yikes. Looks like we are both in a pinch – literally. We each brainstormed ideas of what to put on top to just cover up – black bathing suit bottoms? Probably not that helpful. A tutu? Black granny panties? Finally I decided on a black skirt I have that would cover more than a tutu would, and be more comfortable to boot. Hubby decided to wear a pair of black shorts over his, and a red shirt underneath. Preventing a wardrobe malfunction was a little more difficult than I had anticipated.

So now, after much deliberation on what to wear, how to wear it, and all the excitement building for the last few weeks, two out of our three kids are sick. The other probably will have it soon, so she’s also in quarantine. No trunk or treat. No visiting neighbors. No collecting candy from every house on the block. No wearing our costumes, unless it’s while we sit in our house with the lights off. This Halloween still ended up being a huge fail.

This is us, on our back porch, before I put a note on the door and turned the lights out.

This post is part of my NaBloPoMo, where I publish a piece every day in November. Many of the posts will be writing exercises, sometimes straying from my usual style.