This Might Be Controversial...

...but that hasn't really stopped me before, now has it? :)

In all seriousness, though, I am about to write a post on something that is very important to me. My goal is not to offend anyone, but to provide encouragement. Feel free to tell me if I am crossing the line in some way, as that is not my intention.

Most of you probably know that I'm a stay-at-home mom. It has always been a dream of mine to be able to stay home with our children and I am incredibly thankful that I get to do it. I am forever indebted to my dear husband, who makes it possible for me to spend all day every day with our children. It is only because he makes it his priority everyday to provide for us that we are able to do this.

Now, moms come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. We all have different dreams, goals, priorities, and talents. We each have our own fortes, weaknesses, pet peeves, and passions.

No matter our differences, I think we can all agree that we share one commonality: loving our children more than life.

Each family functions differently on a day to day basis. We all have different family situations, living situations, work situations, etc.

We are married, single, divorced, widowed. We are happy or depressed, we are pleasantly surprised or we regret that things turned out the way they did. We work full time, part time, stay at home, work from home, use a child care center, in home daycare, nanny or family/friend babysitter.

None of these is the "right" or "wrong" way to parent a child or children. None of these things mean that some parents love their children more or less than others. As parents, our lives will always be a combination of joy and struggles, no matter what our situation.

I want to be clear on the fact that I know and have a great deal of respect for a wide variety of moms. Moms that live and mother differently than I do.

My mom had to work so that we could pay our bills. Later she was a single parent so, even more so, she had to take on the role of breadwinner. I will probably never know how difficult that was but I am thankful that she did what she had to do for our family.

I have a lot of friends who are working moms...full time or part time. They are all incredible women whom I love and admire.

I also have stay-at-home mom friends who love what they do and I love them for their example to me.

So, the real reason for the post stems from a couple of different things: I had a conversation with Lindsay the other night (expecting her first babe! YAY!!). She was saying how she never thought that she would want to be a stay-at-home mom, but that she and her husband have decided that it is really important to them. They are going to make it work regardless of what sacrifices they will have to make.

Also, I have kept up with a lot of high school friends on facebook. People I really don't know that well anymore, who are saying how sad they will be to leave their baby when they go back to work. How they wish they could stay home because they can't stand the thought of someone else being with their baby more than they are (regardless of how wonderful the caregiver is!)

And it just made me think.
1. I know that staying home isn't for everyone. Whether it's because you love your job or because you can't afford to live without the income (or both!), I applaud you for the hard work you are doing for your family and for the people you come in contact with at work. It can't be easy to juggle work outside the home and work inside the home, but there are many women who do it remarkably well.
2. I know that there are a lot of women who really want to stay home with their children but think they can't afford to. This is who this post is really for.

Again, I know there are cases where it absolutely isn't financially possible, and I'm not trying to put those people down. Everyone has to make the best choice for their family based on their individual circumstances. I just want to encourage those moms, who truly desire to stay at home to really look at all of your options. Look at the ways you can cut back and live more simply. Look at some other options for earning extra money. It might be something radical, but if it is really a priority to you, you'll be willing to do some things that other people aren't willing to do.

In our marriage, and our journey as parents, we have gone through times of abundance and times of scraping for every last dollar to pay every last bill. But, I will tell you that we have always felt very blessed to be able to make it work. We have always found a way even when it was really uncomfortable.

Here are a few things that we do to make staying at home possible for me:
1. We have one car. This one is my least favorite, but for now it's the best way to save money. There are a lot of days when I'm very frustrated that I can't go somewhere, but it's worth it to me to stay home. I have to ask myself...what's really important in your life? It's a good reminder.
2. Joe's brother lives in our basement. We lovingly refer to him as "the creepy man in the basement". :) In all reality, Tony is a huge blessing to our family. He was going to move out and then plans fell through for him. As we were talking about whether or not he would find a place without roomates in the fall, we decided that little bit of extra income is very beneficial to us right now.
3. I have done temporary in home child care.
It was actually a really good way to learn that that is not my forte. I loved teaching and working in childcare centers, but in home daycare wasn't my thing. But, the offer came at a time when we needed a little extra cash, and so we took it. Probably won't do it again anytime soon, but it met a need and now we're done.
4. We don't usually pay our babysitters. That sounds really bad! What I mean is, we usually wait to take a date night when a family member is available to watch the boys. We have also traded with other couples...or taken a rain check on trading with expecting couples! :) Every couple needs some alone time...after all, good marriages make good families, but you can still find inexpensive dates. On our last date, we used a restaurant gift card and went to a dollar movie while our "creepy man in the basement" :) watched the boys. I think we spent $10. For the record, we do pay babysitters when we need to! I mean, we try to be frugal but not stingy!
5. We make our own wipes. Joe refuses to do cloth diapers, but I know a lot parents save money that way. Everybody has to pick what they want to sacrifice on, and that just isn't it for Joe! I can't say that I'm all that upset about it either. :)
6. We don't eat out as much as we used to. Trying new restaurants is one of my favorite things so it's hard not to, and we still do more than we should, but we have cut back quite a bit.
7. We stick to necessities. Well, as much as we can. I'm sure I'm a big hypocrite on some of these things! I never do any of these things perfectly, in case you didn't catch on to that! My point is, before we make a purchase, before we spend money on most anything, we put some thought into it's importance. What do we really want to provide for our children? What do we want our family to look like? Unconditional love, a foundation of faith, good friends, time with family. We want to meet their material needs. We want to provide healthcare. We want to give them social and cultural opportunities. We want them to have fun and be filled with joy and peace. So, we have made the priority me being at home rather than buying a DVR or a new summer wardrobe. Although, I'm thinking I need to buy a new dress before the weddings I am going to this summer...the one I have had since freshman year of college is looking a little worn!

I can't think of any more right now. But, as Lindsay and I were talking the other night, it made me want to share more with other women so that they might feel a little more empowered in making a decision to stay home or work. Everyone wants to be able to provide great things for their kids. Some of that includes material things, but what better way to provide for them than to be present with them as much as you can?

So, whether working mom, or stay-at-home mom:
What are your tips on living simply?
What are your tips on being truly present and purposeful with your kids when you are able to be home?


Sleeping Babies

Apparently my boys can sleep anywhere... Why Roman chose the tiny corner of his closet, I will never understand! :)


Belated Birthdays!

I have been a huge procrastinator lately...and so here, FINALLY, are the pictures of the boys' birthdays! I have lots more from the big party we had with our friends, and more pictures of the boys enjoying the summer...you can view those here.
Roman's new kitchen from Grandma Susan
Roman's guitar cake...I have been trying to get into this tradition of making a special cake for each of the boys on their birthdays...Roman requested a guitar. I was happy with the shape, but I definitely should be gone with licorice for the strings....it kind of looked like a 5 year old did that part. :)
construction hat and trucks from Grandpa Tony and Grandma Suellen
Roman in his cool new hat from Grandma and Grandpa. Judah climbing into the box to get the truck....or just for the sake of climbing. :)
Judah likes cake!

we got a pool for Judah for his birthday...and Roman picked out the big blue ball. So sweet!
Judah's puppy cake
My cute three year old!
And my adorable one year old!