Slowing Down In the Midst of Raising Toddlers

I seem to be in a season of slowing down. Not every day – but most days. I know I’m cramming too much into my day when I’m short with my kids and my husband. Or when I forget to pee. Well, I don’t really forget to pee – but you know what I’m talking about…you know you have to go but you hold it because someone’s asking for this and that and you just figure you’ll go later. That might be too much information for me to share but it’s the truth and it’s a personal red flag for me that I’m doing too much, I’m too busy, and my priorities are out of whack.

It might like different for you. What happens when you get too busy? Do you forget to do things? Do you lose sleep? What is it in your life that causes you to stop, look in the mirror and say, “I’m stressed out. I’m overwhelmed. I need to slow down.”

If you’ve been following me on Facebook you’ll notice that I’m traveling right now. I’m back in Massachusetts which is where I grew up. The kids are back in Arkansas with their dad and my mother-in-law and while I miss them, I am relishing and enjoying in the slowing down of my life this week. Things certainly move at a different pace when there aren’t any kids around. We took a drive through Heath yesterday and it’s one I’ll remember forever. My sister took the driver’s seat while my grandpa navigated from the passenger’s seat. Me and gram sat in the back of her Trailblazer and we both stared out our windows taking in the beauty of the country.

We had only intended to take a quick drive up to a family member’s house to take a look at the view from their barn but our excursion turned into a family history lesson that I could have never anticipated. Grandpa pointed to different one-room school houses along the way. He told us about who went where and who lived here and there. He told us about the red building where he started his job as a plumber and almost every home, business, and building he’d say, “Yep. I worked in that one too. I did the plumbing there.” It was a rare glimpse into his past and my grandpa, who is a man of very few words, talked more than I’d ever witnessed before. We wound up eating lunch out on the back deck of Charlemont Pizza. It was the first time and most likely the last, that the four of us had ever been out to eat together. Emotions started to whirl around in my heart and in my head.

Grandma looked over at me and said, “You having a good vacation, Meg?”

“Oh grandma, this is the best vacation I have ever had,” I squeaked out. And with that, I fell to pieces. The tears came without permission and I crumpled into her embrace. My sister moved her chair around to hold me and it was in her arms that I felt safe enough to let it all out. The reality of having grandparents who are undoubtedly, getting older right before our eyes is hard. I wanted to stop time yesterday. I really did.

Have you ever been so completely overwhelmed by an overflow of love? That’s my family. That’s me, out here, right now. It’s almost impossible for me to capture these moments when I have my children around me. They are my priority, of course, but this trip is an absolute reminder that I must be intentional about slowing down in the midst of raising toddlers. I don’t just want to save the bird watching, blackberry picking, and coffee morning chit-chats for once-a-year visits to Massachusetts. I want to take those traditions and bring them back home with me so that my children can taste a little bit of what it’s like to slow down and embrace rest.

Are You Leaving Enough Margin in Your Life?

I’ve been feeling kind of rushed lately. Kind of, well, overwhelmed at times. I have to laugh at this for a moment because my whole platform is helping moms go from overwhelmed to in control. But then I reminded myself that the whole reason I started this movement was because I was that overwhelmed mom and heck, I am that overwhelmed mom at times. I stopped the think about why I’ve been feeling this way and a rush of thoughts and emotions just flooded over me.

I’m not leaving enough margin in my day-to-day life to enjoy the little things. Ouch. The truth hurts sometimes. I’ve been feeling this way for a while now but didn’t have any clue as how to how I would ‘fix’ this feeling of hurriedness, and impatience with my children, and quick kisses with my husband as he passes by in the morning for work, and stressed out goodbyes as I leave the house to meet a friend, attend a meeting, network, and so on – the second he walks in the door. Rush. Rush. Rush.

I prayed this morning. I prayed that God would show me where I was missing His divine hand in my everyday life. It seems like I’ve been going to Him every morning with the same prayer but sometimes I just don’t know what to pray about – so I pray about the same thing. I’ve been asking God to show me where I can make margin in my life. How I can reach more moms, hurting moms, lonely moms, and desperate moms. This morning it became clear to me what I need to do; God will do His thing by reaching those moms and I just need to do my thing…write, love on people, be kind, gracious, and forgiving and through that – I will reach those moms. I just need to be myself. I just need to be me. I just need to leave a little margin in my life so I can hear Him when He speaks.

When the Iowa Boy Picks Rotten Corn

corn, marriage

My husband is from Iowa. I don’t know about you but when I think of Iowa, I think of cornfields…rows and rows and rows of cornfields. And that’s exactly what it looked like when he took me out to his grandfather’s farm when we were dating. It was the first time I’d met his family and I wanted to make a good impression. I’d known from the day I met Gabe that he was going to be my future husband, so I was on my best behavior when we he flew me out to his hometown.

His grandpa owned a farm where he harvested corn and soybeans. I remember the day pretty well. We were both in our twenties and still giddy about having found such amazing love. The sounds of our laughs while riding his grandparents’ 2-seated bicycle was an outward expression of what our hearts felt. It was love. I prided myself on having a corn-fed, corn-bread boyfriend who knew literally, how to spot the perfect ear of corn. Take it or leave it but it was a quality that made me fall head over heals for him.

I always left the corn buying up to him. No really. I did. I never questioned whether or not the corn would be good when I husked it for dinner. I just knew that Gabe had an ‘eye’ for corn. He was from Iowa, after all.

Fast forward to our lives today. Fifteen-plus years together and three kids later, he is still my man. But he went to the grocery store the other day and when I opened the fridge to prep for dinner, I noticed some not-so-good-looking corn. I was kind of shocked. “Did Gabe pick that out?” I thought. “No. There’s no way he could have picked that ugly looking corn out and actually paid for it.” But the fact is, he did.

What on earth? I wanted so badly to say something. My first reaction was to give him a hard time about it but I felt something telling me to just cook it. Just cook it and eat it and say thank you for it. So, I husked that corn, put it in a pot on the stove and crossed my fingers that some of the snaggly looking kernels would somehow emerge like new kernels of golden corn. Well, they didn’t. But I served my family the corn and you know, it was actually really good. I have to admit, I DID say something to Gabe before I served it. It wasn’t so much as a “What’s this?” but rather, a “Hey, honey, this corn looks different than the ones you usually pick out…” Regardless. It all turned out okay and the rotten corn my Iowa man picked out ended up being a fresh, new perspective for this east coast wife.

What’s on your heart today? Do you have or do you need to take a different look at something as trivial as rotten corn? Tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you. xoxo Meagan

What It’s Like to Be My Friend

friendship, cowboy boots

How odd is this post? I know. I went swimming with my kids today and took a Barre class just prior to that. For some reason, all of these funny things kept rolling around in my head about what it’s like to be friends with me and I knew I had to share it with you all. So here goes:

  1. I WILL make you laugh at some point in our friendship.
  2. I sometimes say the wrong thing but I apologize and own it.
  3. I support my friends in all of their hopes, dreams and misses.
  4. I ‘check out’ sometimes because of my depression. Yes, I just wrote that. Sometimes I don’t feel like talking on the phone or going to the gym or doing anything at all. It’s very rare that I feel that way but when I do, my friends know to text me and tell me they’re thinking of me.
  5. I remember special occasions and dates in your life. I always put important dates of yours on my calendar so I will remember.
  6. I love sending cards. In the mail. Sometimes just because. It’s my way of telling you that I’m thinking about you, you’ve been on my heart, and I miss you.
  7. I will make a lot of mistakes in my parenting. I write about parenting. That is my platform. That is what I know to write – but it’s because I have a lot of examples to choose from 🙂
  8. I love my kids and I am their biggest fan. If I feel left out, made fun of or if my kids feel that way – I get extremely protective.
  9. I’m very protective of my quiet time everyday. When Elinor goes down for her 2-3 hour nap, I do not let anyone in the house to play. I make my two older kids either play, watch the IPad or play at their friend’s house for that time.
  10. Sometimes I swear…but I don’t like to. My husband and I used to swear a lot pre-kids. We ended up using a quarter jar to get us to stop and it worked. Every now and then…one slips and when it does…I feel awful.
  11. I love asking questions about you. I love knowing about you, where you’re from, your family, your history, what makes you tick, what makes you happy and everything else in between. I get that from my dad.
  12. I’m very sensitive. Yes, I’m one of those friends. My feelings get hurt very easily and I internalize almost everything. I’ve gotten better about this but am still working on having a more laid back attitude about things.
  13. I love checking the mailbox everyday. For real 🙂
  14. If I have a lot to talk to you about (updates, questions, etc.) I will write my questions out on a post-it note before I see you.
  15. I will choose to see the best in you because it brings friendships closer.

I know there are a few more things that I’d like to share but these are the ones that were in my head all day. If you’re reading this – you and I are probably friends and for that, I am thankful. Love you sweet friend!

One of My Favorite Places to Drink Coffee

coffee, my mission

One of my favorite places to drink coffee is at Keen Bean Coffee Roasters in Mt. Vernon, MO. I found this place when I moved to Mt. Vernon in 2007 and was so excited about having a place in town that reminded me of the cute little coffee shops I frequented in Boston. It reminded me of home. It reminded me of the times I would head to the tucked away local coffee shops and study for my exams in college. It was perfect and I miss it. I moved out of Mt. Vernon one year ago last weekend and while I love Arkansas and all that it has to offer – I miss the people of Mt. Vernon. They made this east coast transplant feel welcome and loved and wanted and for that, I am forever grateful.

Tracy and Darrell Bradshaw, owners of Keen Bean, are some of the nicest people you will meet. It’s evident that they love what they do and they love their community. When I asked Tracy if I could have one of my book signings at her shop this summer, she said yes. And when I asked her if she would donate some gift certificates to my “Overwhelmed to In Control” Facebook group of women, she said yes. So supportive and encouraging are my friends in Mt. Vernon and I do not take that for granted. I have waited a large part of my adult life to meet people who would make me want to be a better person and believe in me enough that I would believe in myself enough to make some of my wildest dreams come true. Women, friends and mentors like Terrie, Shannon, Jolene and Donna, have all left imprints on my heart that I carry with me everyday. Friends and people that I know God placed in my life at the exact moment he knew I would need them, like Amanda, Nichole, Candace, Jene, Kristina, Katrina, Chelsie, Lauren, Angela, Kayla, Bridgette, Cortney, Theresa and Alexis included me when I was a brand new mom looking for my way. They also let me walk alongside them when I was learning about my faith and asking question upon question.

I love that I can connect with them and stay connected with them through social media. I also love that I will get to see them again soon – towards the end of the summer when my debut book, “I See You,” releases later this year.

Summer Bucket List 2016

My kids have been asking if we can do this and do that this summer so I decided to come up with a summer bucket list (with their help, of course). I thought this might be a fun idea center for any of you who are looking for things to do with your kids.

Ruffing Summer Bucket List 2016

1.) We used to go to Bass Pro all the time when we lived in Missouri and that is the number one thing that Dylan wants to do. So, we will be heading to the flagship store pretty soon. They always have fun stuff going on and this year is no exception. They usually have a family summer camp program that is free and a lot of fun.

2.) Hannah loves Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO and she is BEGGING  to go but as you know it is kind of pricey. So, I’m not sure if we will go this summer or not but I do know they offer half off on Thursdays. You can usually pick up these half off tickets at a grocery store.

3. The Candy House has awesome candy making classes that I’ve been taking my kids to for the past few years now. I highly recommend this place and it is well worth the $10/$15 that it costs per kid.

4. We have a season’s pass to the Amazeum and usually go once a week so we will definitely continue to do that. You can pack a lunch and eat in their little dine-in lunch place. Their cafe is kind of overpriced in my opinion and very limited with what they offer.

5. The Dickerson Park Zoo is one of our favorite places. We can easily spend most of the day there and my kids love feeding the giraffes and riding the train.

6. Parks. I love parks because they’re free but I we don’t go much in the summer because of the heat…so, we usually go to the Splash Pad. It’s free, it’s outside and it’s fun. There’s also this awesome icee truck nearby that hits the spot for my sweet tooth every.single.time.

7. The pool at our community center is amazing. It’s brand new, clean, convenient and affordable.

8. The library has a great summer reading program so we will try and go there once a week for storytime and to log our hours to earn prizes.

9. Barnes & Noble also has a free summer reading program and they have a wonderful storytime every Saturday at 11am. I enjoy getting a cup of coffee at the Starbucks while I sit with my kids and listen to someone else read a book for once 🙂

This is what we’ve come up with so far but I know we’ll be adding to this list. Feel free to comment on my page and add your own things so that we can all see them! Share this page with friends to give them some fun ideas for the summer and don’t forget to sign up for my free newsletter!

What if???

cats and milk

What if we lived in a place where moms were allowed to be moms? What if we lived in a judgement free zone where moms could make mistakes? What if…we gave ourselves a break from doing it all? What would that look like? Well, it might look like this…No, that’s not my house, or my kids or my cat. I don’t have a cat…I have a dog. Anyways, the point is – who cares? Who cares if your house is messy. Sometimes I do but you know what, it will get cleaned. Give yourself time to rest and be human. If you don’t get to the dishes until the next morning – that’s okay.

I’ve come to realize that I am my worst critic. I really am. I expect a lot out of myself and when I don’t deliver on my own standards – I put myself down. Not out loud – but in my head. I tell myself I need to do more, I need to play more with the kids, I need to read more to the kids, I need to make healthier dinners. I tell myself I need to be working out more than I already am and when I see another grey hair in the mirror, I can’t believe I’ve let myself go. No one else puts that pressure on me. Well, sometimes I think my kids do because they’re constantly asking for things, but in reality, I am not giving myself room to breathe and to be human. I’m not allowing myself any margin in my life to have down time or quiet time. My kids have quiet time but I generally do things around the house or write during that time. I need to be more intentional about self feeding. Meaning, carving out time for me. No one else is going to put that there except for me. What would your day look like if you gave yourself 15 minutes of uninterrupted time? Would you be a better mom for it? Would you be a sweeter wife? I’m constantly lifting my friends up when they pull themselves down but what I really want is for them to look inside themselves and see that they’re already the most amazing mom. They’re already the mom they need to be for their kids and they’re already the wife who loves her husband. I bet you are too. I bet  you are just as amazing as I think you are and if I could tell you that in person, I totally would (and maybe I already have). xoxo Meagan

The Middle Child Dilemma

helping moms go from overwhelmed to in control

I have three kids. Dylan (7), Hannah (4), and Elinor (2). Hannah, of course, is my middle child. She is the child I prayed for when Gabe and I were trying for our second baby. When we found out we were pregnant with a girl, we had two names in mind; Hannah and Reese. I let Dylan choose and he chose Hannah. It wasn’t until after she was named that I came across this verse in the Bible, 1 Samuel 1:27, “For this child I have prayed…” I later learned that this verse refers to when Hannah prayed for the Lord to give her a son. There’s that name again, Hannah. I had no idea. I can’t help but think God had this all planned out for me. He knew I would get pregnant with a girl and He knew I would name her Hannah. There was no one in my life at the time whose name was Hannah and so I wasn’t carrying it on or using it as a namesake.

Who knew that this child would someday be my most treasured human being. All of my children are but Hannah is special in her own way. She is the middle child and with that comes all sorts of challenges. She demands more of my attention than the other two. Is it because she’s the middle child? She wines more than the other two. Is it because she’s the middle child? She talks back more than the other two. Is it because she’s the middle child? I started to look into this. This idea that there really is a middle-child syndrome that they speak of. The one where the middle child feels left out, forgotten, overlooked. I started to look at my own parenting of her and questioned whether or not I was doing things right. Was I spending enough time with her? Was I giving her enough praise? Was I making enough eye contact? Was I on my phone too much when she was trying to get my attention?

All of these thoughts started swirling around in my head and started to make me feel like I’d all of a sudden messed up my child’s entire life. I started to put that awful, crazy, heavy word as a label: GUILT. The mother of all words. I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t present enough. Some days I was so ridden with guilt that I would do anything and everything just to appease her. I would let bad behavior slide and I would make excuses for her attitude. When Gabe delicately said to me one day, “Why do you give her so many passes? You don’t do that for Dylan.” Ouch. Convicted much? But he was right. Why was I allowing her to get away with these things and not Dylan? Simple. She is my middle child. The point of this is – don’t let guilt be the reason for any part of your parenting. Let your parenting be a reflection of God’s love for you and for all of His children. Treat each of your children with the same love and the same grace that covers us all.

I’ve stirred things up a bit over here. I’ve started following through on my threats to take away TV time. I’ve started following through on losing play privileges with her friends. Not because she is my middle child but because she is one of my three children.

When I start to feel guilt creep back in like a nasty bug, I squash it right out of my head and instead, fill myself with truth and grace and love. I remind myself of all the things I do right by being Hannah’s mom and I take hold of the less than proud parenting-moments and I ask for forgiveness. Whether that’s out loud or in my heart or both. I do it because I want my middle child to know that she is loved just as much as her brother and sister. 

The Behavior Jar

Dylan has started play therapy and while this form of therapy is not new for us – we are hopeful that this time it will work since Dylan is older and better able to cooperate. Watch this cute little video of me showing you what the jar looks like and how it should be used.

If you decide to use marbles, you can move your marker/level up a little bit higher. Since I used really tiny beads, I want to keep Dylan engaged and interested so I made his first goal about a half an inch high. His dad and I talked about the different goals and went over them with Dylan. Here’s what that looks like:

  • $5 at Target
  • Chuck E Cheese
  • Movie with a friend
  • Sleepover

These are in order of him reaching each goal. You can’t take any beads away since the point of the reward system is to have a “safe” place where the child can see their good deeds and good decisions. Once you start taking things away, the system becomes unstable and the idea is that the child will lose interest. Today is day one for us. I’ll keep you posted!

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Reason behind the book

I am blown away by the immense amount of support that I have received for my forthcoming book, “I See You” which comes out later this summer. Friends, family and even strangers  have continued to encourage me every step of the way and I am just so thankful for all the love. I have had a few people ask me what the book is about so I thought I would answer that here.

“I See You” is a parenting book about raising my son Dylan. The book is divided into two parts. The first half is about the struggles I experienced with Dylan when he was just a baby and not understanding why I could never soothe him or calm him down. Each chapter is a personal account of our family’s life through the years as we sought help for our son’s tantrums, meltdowns, and strong-willed attitude.

The second half of the book is about taking care of yourself. I have included worksheets to help you breakdown big things in your life that may be overwhelming you into bite-sized nuggets of truth to help you on your way. I share tips and tricks that have helped me over the years to parent my own children when I’m feeling depressed, run down and like a flat out failure. This book encourages, equips and gives parents hope to keep going when they feel like they can’t go anymore.

You will be the first to know about the book’s release date and all of my local book signings. Thanks again for your support!