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She’s Let Herself Go

Deep breath…

I’m trying to steady myself for this post. It’s a doozy…For me…

But in the attempt to be transparent and to remain honest with myself and relate-able to everyone else, I feel this is necessary.

Okay…

Brace yourselves….

Whew…

You guys,

I’ve become overweight.

I know. Sit down. Breathe into a paper bag if you need to. It’s okay. {All of this is to me, not to you.}

Here’s the thing:

I have endured a LOT of stress in the past two years, and I’ve gained weight. A visibly significant amount of it. In my head, I gained it fast, but in reality I didn’t. I gained it just like other women gain it: I put myself last too many times, I compromised what’s best for me for what was easiest for my family, I ate my stress, I let myself believe the lie that I could still eat like I was 16 when I was approaching 30, and I had way too many late night “snacks” {midnight meals} in the days when we were fiercely fighting for our children.

It didn’t just “happen” overnight. I think I just noticed it overnight. Really, I kind of knew it was creeping up, but I ignored it, until a couple of months ago…when life slowed down.  When I took my comprehensive counseling exam {which I passed, by the way}, wrapped up my time-consuming internships, said bye bye to all of my clients, and finally adopted the children I’ve been fighting for since the summer of 2013. It’s like a veil was lifted, and suddenly, I couldn’t believe myself. I felt depleted, exhausted, depressed, and angry for letting myself get to this point.

However, I’m going to go counter-culture here:

I still feel beautiful.

I really do.

What trips me up more than what think is wondering what everyone else thinks.

I’m sure in the past two years, there have been whispers from people wondering how I’m doing. Worried over the weight increase they’ve noticed. Concerned over the bags under my eyes. {And the bags on my hips}. But really, with each new pair of jeans I’ve had to buy, I still feel beautiful. I still don’t feel gross or ugly or anything else that our society tells me I should feel.

I was probably way too skinny two years ago due to a serious bought of depression, so it didn’t hurt to gain some weight to a certain point. But let’s be real: I’ve passed that point and am now swimming in the pool of the chubby.

And chubby isn’t bad. It really isn’t. From the outside, I still dress cute. I still do my hair. I still do my nails. I still do my make up. I still take pride and time and make myself look respectable.

But on the inside? Chubby isn’t great. Chubby can lead to really bad health circumstances. It can lead to heart problems, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure…. And mentally, chubby can lead to a complacency that gets chubbier and chubbier, until you are definitely unhealthy.

I have no desire to become that. So I’m making changes.

I’m in a place in my life where my 30th birthday is just a few months away, I’m done {almost} with graduate school, I’m done fostering for a very long time, and I’ve adopted the children we fought for for two years. I can care about myself again. I should have cared more about myself over the past two years, but I frankly didn’t have anything left to give.

Included on the LONG list of ways I’m starting to care for myself again:

-Plugging back into ministries in my church to give back to others and feel at one with those I love again.

-Reconnecting to the hobbies I love and enjoy, such as writing {including this blog}, quilting, and cooking.

-Spending time with my girl friends for much needed one-on-one time.

-Starting a new sleep routine since I don’t have to be up all hours studying or obsessing over court custody cases anymore.

-Reading more… My Bible. Books I’ve left on the shelf. Encouraging non-fiction pieces. Books that inspire me in my own writings. Books that make me happy. Books that make me sad. Books that make me feel human again.

-Spending more time with my family, who I feel I have sorely missed.

-Reconnecting to people I selfishly pushed aside when I was too consumed in everything else to care.

-Eating healthier and getting more active.

I’m making a LOT of changes.

I never ever ever wanted to be that girl who friends from college or high school looked up online and said, “WOW! She let herself go!” But that’s what I did, maybe not in the exact sense that it means though…

I let go of myself in the sense that I let go of everything I loved, and everything that made me feel like a woman and a person.

I let myself go because I poured so much of myself into school, my clients, my papers, studying for THE test, fighting for children who had no advocates, finding therapies for children in need, not facing my own grief over failed placements and lost adoptions, pulling away from the things that make me ME, pulling away from those who cared about me, turning to a pessimistic perspective on life, spending hours working on papers and class discussions while munching on very unhealthy snacks, lying to myself by thinking neglecting me was benefiting my family… You name it, I did it, and in every single way, I “let go” of myself.

Have I done good things for my kids? For sure. Would they rather I do good things for them while still caring for my basic health needs? Absolutely!

If you’ve whispered to yourself {or someone else} “Oh my gosh! Kat let herself go!” Then you aren’t wrong, and I forgive you. Because it’s true. I let myself go not in the sense that I gained weight {which will fluctuate for the rest of my life, by the way}, but because I lost myself. I let go of who I am, and I’m rediscovering myself all over again.

I’m less interested in dropping pounds and more interested in being kind to my body. I’m getting off of soda all together. Yes, those of you who have known me my entire life know well my addiction to Diet Coke. That’s going away too. I’m drinking sparkling non-caffeinated juices and water a lot more, and limiting myself to one Diet Coke a day. As a result, my joints are less swollen from the extra sodium.

I’m exercising more, and enjoying discovering things like step aerobics and kick boxing. It’s a fun way to let out some aggression {what mom of three children six and under doesn’t have aggression?},  and cooling off after long days with yoga {without all the New Age meditation that comes with it}.

I’ve almost completely cut out ground beef from my diet. I haven’t brought any home from the grocery store in over two months. We use ground turkey exclusively in our home, and eat SO much seafood. In my freezer right now, you will find tilapia, sword fish, tuna steaks, shrimp, catfish, along with chicken drumsticks and chicken breasts. It also helps that I love vegetables more than I like fruit, so that has become an easy dietary transition.

I’m praying and journaling more. I recently started reading and praying over a Psalm every night before bed.

In other words, I’m taking a “whole-me” approach to treating myself more kindly. I’m showing myself more grace {something I’ve always done for others more than for myself}, and I am worrying less about what others think about me.

It took some mustering of courage on my part to finally write this post, but I realize that no one who has known me for three years or more is duped by my embarrassing backslide. And of course there’s the hope that by publishing this, it might encourage other women out there who are struggling in similar ways.

So now, the cat is out of the bag. I’m not teeny tiny anymore. I lost myself. I did. But God never lost me, nor did he ever look at me with contempt, frustration, or judgement over my newly-grown love handles. He sees me and YOU as beautiful. He looks at us and sees his Son, smiling, and shining. Should I lose weight? Yes. For myself. To be kinder to myself. For my children. To live a long and healthy life for them and to set a positive example for my daughter. But to fit into a particular dress? Or to impress someone at a reunion? Nah. Not worth it.

That’s not a lifestyle change.

I want to make a complete life change.

I want to find me again, and I’m getting back down to the bedrock of what makes me who I am. And at the heart of who Kat is, is Christ.

I can’t do it without the Lord, and I can’t do it if my motives are outwardly focused.

Please pray for me on this journey, and all encouragement is welcome.

I’ll tell you this: since my pivotal ah-ha moment, I’ve lost two pounds , which to me, is awesome. But beyond that, I have overcome a severe addiction to fast food. I’m drinking much more water everyday than I ever have before {even when I was way too thin}….But I’ve also had a lot of fall-backs. But I keep getting up. I keep trying, and I’m now asking you all to hold me accountable. I have to say, my amazing friend Tara has been a major source of non-judgmental encouragement for me throughout this journey, I would not be as “okay” with my new body and the road that lays before me if it weren’t for her. In the way that she has encouraged me, I hope I have encouraged some of you.

Don’t lose weight to drop pounds or to impress someone. Lose weight to be your healthiest, kindest self. The self that Jesus sees when he looks at you. {I’m thinking Christ doesn’t see our waistline measurements}.

Does anyone else out there find that you’ve “let yourself go”? Don’t be trapped in that. Put on the swimsuit, and get in the pool with your kids. Post selfies {undoctored, please!}. Share who you are, because you are a beautiful creation of God, and he is always working on us and in us, and there is no shame in that. You are beautiful, my friends. Never forget that.

Blessings,

Kat

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Halloween Candy Venn Diagram FREE Printable

Do you have a ridiculous amount of Halloween candy at your house? I sure do! While I’m not sneaking bits of chocolate goodness, I’m trying to think of creative ways to incorporate this candy into a lesson. Thus, I created the Halloween Candy Venn Diagram. And now I’m sharing it with everyone as a FREEBIE!

 

Venn Diagram.jpg

Basically, you grab two similar-yet-different candies and you compare and contrast the two. This teaches sorting skills, language skills, comparison, similarities, differences. This activity introduces new descriptive vocabulary, description, scientific investigation, and mathematical sorting skills to your elementary age student.

We compared and contrasted Milk Duds and Dots. It was a hit. Both come in boxes, both are chewy, one is chocolate, the other fruity. Lots of fun ways to compare and contrast. {Plus you get to eat it, so that’s cool too.} Buggy loved it so much, he asked if we could do another one as soon as we finished our first compare/contrast worksheet. I told him maybe tomorrow. Ha.

You could compare: M&M’s and Skittles. 3 Musketeers and Milky Ways. Nerds and Gum Drops. Have fun with it. Use what you have. 🙂

Get your FREE Halloween Candy Venn Diagram right here {or just click on the image- I like to make things simple}.

Enjoy!

Kat

Image is copywritten exclusively by mommyponders.com. Copies may be made for personal use, but please do not distribute the PDF as your own work, use it for profit, for public use, or link directly to it on your site. You may link to this webpage to share the worksheet with others. Thanks! 

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How-To Guide for Surviving a Homeschooling Convention

This month we attended our first ever homeschooling convention. I was SO excited to go, but also very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and looking at the clinic list and vendor exhibit list, I felt completely overwhelmed. I decided before we made the ten hour (yes, TEN HOUR) drive to Houston for the convention, I would create a game plan for myself to help me maneuver the clinics, workshops, guest speakers, vendors, and crowds with ease. I know myself, so I was afraid I might get into the exhibit hall and see so many shiny colorful wonderful tools and curriculum choices that I’d burn an entire debit card in one hour. A plan of action was a must. And I can honestly say, my plan worked beautifully! The convention was such a positive experience and successful kick in the pants for me that I decided to share my tips for saving money, time, and sanity at your next homeschooling convention.

Before You Go:

1. Plan Your Year

No, your planner does not have to be filled in hour-by-hour or even day by day, but before you go, you MUST have a broad idea of the topics and subjects you want to cover in the coming year. Think of the convention as a place for motivation and fine-tuning, not a place to decide what to teach your child this year. If you know what subjects you’ll be covering, what unit studies you want to explore, broadly what science experiments you want to do together then you can walk into the exhibit hall with a very specific list of things you might need. I knew we were going to study weather, so I looked for a good children’s book about weather, one that explained lightning and thunder without scaring my kiddo. I also knew we were going to do an art unit, so I looked for art supplies and art books. I wasn’t distracted by the other really fun things I found at the exhibit hall because I knew exactly what I needed for this year.

2. Set a Budget and Stick to It

I knew how much money I had to spend and that was it. I would also recommend pulling the cash before you go and not bringing your debit or credit card into the exhibit hall. One successful pitch from a curriculum company representative can blow your budget completely out of the water if you bring a check book or credit card in with you. So don’t do it.

3. Choose Your Clinics Early

Conventions will list the clinics, workshops, and guest speakers on their website anywhere from a month to a week before the convention. Print out the descriptions of the clinic topics and read over it with your spouse. There were several clinics specifically for dads that I wanted my husband to attend, so I highlighted those for him as well. Some clinics fill up fast, so you should plan to arrive about 20 minutes early for each clinic or workshop to ensure you have a seat. I went so far as making a list (nothing fancy, I didn’t even do it on the computer) of the times of each workshop I wanted to attend each day so I knew when I needed to get up, when I could work lunch in, and when I had time to go shopping during the day. It was extremely helpful having my list of pre-selected workshops in my bag when I arrived and found myself wading through thousands of lost people.

4. Pack a Convention Bag

Of course if you’re traveling out of town as we did, we had other bags and suitcases packed for the trip, but this tip refers specifically to the convention. I would advise you to bring a backpack with you. It’s easy on your shoulder, gives you lots of room to stuff freebies and convention swag, pamphlets, and purchases. Include a notepad and pen in your backpack so you can take notes at workshops and jot down things you may see that interest you in the exhibit hall. You might also include a couple of bottles of water (it got very warm in there with all of those people wandering around and the food service table was extremely overpriced) and some kind of snack like a granola bar.

 

When You’re There:

1. Make a Pre-Purchase Trip Through the Exhibit Hall

It’s very easy to spend way too much money at conventions. Many companies do offer convention discounts on their products, but that doesn’t matter if that product wasn’t budgeted for or necessary for your school year in the first place. It’s easy to walk into an exhibit hall for a homeschooling convention and react like a kid in a candy store. If you’re like me and you live in a remote or rural area with very few homeschooling resource stores, then finding yourself in a huge convention center with wall-to-wall homeschooling products can certainly be overwhelming. This is why I advise you to make no sudden movements with your wallet! Do a walk-through of the entire exhibit hall the first afternoon if you have the time. Don’t make any purchases this time. Walk around, explore the products, write down details of products you’re interested in, including price. Keep track of items that interested you by snapping photos of them with your smart phone or jotting down notes on a note pad.

2. Compare Compare Compare

I found an early elementary book about the major world artists at one vendor booth. I loved the book and thought it would be perfect for our art unit this fall. They were offering a 10% off sale at that particular booth. I jotted this information down on my note pad and then made my rounds. Across the exhibit hall, another vendor was selling the exact same book with a 25% off convention sale. If I had purchased the book at the first booth when I originally saw it, I would have kicked myself. I saved myself six dollars and walked away with the book I wanted. Compare prices before you make purchases. I attended a clinic with a well-known author and homeschooler. She recommended a book about building character in children that I loved. I wandered around the exhibit hall and found the book available at a booth. I jotted down the information including how much that booth was asking for the book. I went back to my hotel that afternoon and looked up the book on Amazon. It was $15 cheaper online used. I ordered it right away. If you feel guilty about not buying directly from the author or publisher, or really want to support their company, then by all means, purchase from them directly at the exhibit hall. I didn’t feel concerned about this so I ordered from a private seller online and saved myself quite a bit of money.

3. Take Some Suggestions, Leave the Others

I attended one clinic led by a well-known homeschooler. She’s an author and a mother with a large family (no, not Michelle Duggar, although she was at this convention too). I was very impressed with her suggestions for creating order and organization in the home with many small children, and took feverish notes. I attended another clinic by this same speaker and was caught off guard when she went off on her personal political opinions, which teetered on the brink of being anti-government. I really hate the extremist perceptions of homeschoolers, and I didn’t like her perpetuating this concept. However, there were some gems in this clinic outside of her short rant. I didn’t get offended by our vastly opposing political and social views. I wasn’t offended when she suggested we get rid of TVs in our house. We have TVs. We have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, you name it. I love TV. My kids watch TV. We obviously feel differently about this topic, and that’s okay. I was there to learn how to keep toddlers busy while trying to teach older kids. I took the good advice and ignored the stuff I didn’t agree with. You have to realize that personal ideology and one’s views on education are deeply interwoven and sometimes attending certain clinics may open a topic that you would rather not be lectured about. Take it or leave it, but don’t get yourself worked up over it. In that same clinic, I learned some fun toddler busy box ideas that I will certainly be using with my youngest.

4. Ask Questions

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet homeschoolers with much more experience than you. Take advantage of this chance to talk to others and don’t be afraid to ask questions! I have found that homeschoolers are very helpful. They’re eager to talk to you, eager to encourage you, eager to support you or give you tips. I was surprised at first by how kind and open many of the people I met were. But really, we’re in this together, and I want my child to succeed as much as I want other people’s children to succeed. I don’t want homeschoolers to have a reputation for failure or laziness, so if there’s anyway I could help someone exploring the idea of homeschooling, even with my very new and limited experience, I would do it.

After You Return Home

If you’re anything like me, when you get home (or on the way home) from a homeschooling convention, you’re going to feel energized, excited, and a little overwhelmed by the new information at your fingertips.

1. Get Organized

I attended one clinic all about organizing your time and finding the best day planner for your personal habits and style. I found several beautiful and detailed planners at the convention that were very pricey but also overwhelmed me. I don’t need my entire life in one book. Some people do. Some prefer that. I just need something I can flip to at a glance that tells me what today will look like. I did some internet research and found this perfect, simple daily planner on Etsy for only $3.33 from SimpleJoysofHome. You download and print as many times as you need to. It was perfect for me. Take the tips you received and start your school year off on the right foot. Put away toys, sort out old books, pull the ones you know you’ll use this year, get rid of old supplies, and get yourself in order. Take that motivation and excitement from the convention and pour it into something constructive!

2. Compile Your Notes

Don’t let all of those great notes you took during your workshops stay stuffed in a drawer {or left in your backpack until next summer}. About a week after we got back from the convention, my go-getter attitude was waning and I was losing the excitement and motivation I had the week before. I was overwhelmed with lesson planning and struggling to organize our school space. I you realized that I needed to compile some of those notes that encouraged me so much at the convention and print them out on one page that I could add to my planner for a boost of encouragement and a refresher. It gives me something to turn to anytime I start to feel tired or overwhelmed. One speaker said, “God gave you your children for a reason and a purpose. They were given to YOU to strengthen you, change you, help you, and bring you closer to the Lord. So remember that when you start to feel frustrated by a strong willed or defiant child.” I need that reminder printed out somewhere to read daily! You may have other gems from the convention that encourage you on a daily basis or help you stay focused when things get foggy throughout the year.

With a pre-formed action plan, your homeschooling convention can be a positive and enlightening experience. I left feeling so encouraged, motivated, and excited for the possibilities this school year holds. I realize how precious Kindergarten is, and I can’t wait to start this year with my boys! I hope this list helps you feel less overwhelmed when you attend your next convention. Let me know if it helps! 🙂

Blessings,

Kat@MommyPonders

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Devotional Time for Little Ones

I’m not an affiliate or associated in anyway with the books mentioned in this post. Just a mom who loves hearing reviews from other moms, and helping people find great resources for their families.

Image Buggy got some Christmas money and I let him get a few toys and fun things with it, but I also set a little bit aside because I really wanted to find some kind of devotional for him that we could study together. We LOVE the Jesus Storybook Bible, but we’ve read through that about a dozen times cover to cover, and I was wanting something fresh to really study positive character building concepts as well as Scripture.

I always recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible for parents wanting to introduce their children to the concept of a Savior and lay the groundwork for their knowledge of the stories of the Bible and who Jesus actually is. It’s a perfect resource for that.

However, I have discovered a new book that works wonderfully for teaching basic life lessons, such as sharing, helping, reading your Bible, being polite, having fun, resting, etc. The One Year Devotional for Preschoolers was exactly what I was looking for. The lessons are super short {just one page each}, with beautiful and engaging illustrations. They ask questions that spark important conversations with my kiddos, and then tie it into a memory verse from the Bible. Each lesson also ends with a two line rhyming prayer, which Buggy loves. He’ll repeat it like a little song until he has it memorized.

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2014 Resolutions

I really hate new year resolutions. I always have. In the past, I’ve always broken those resolutions by February, and then spent the rest of the spring trying to remember what I even resolved to do more or less of in the first place. Guilt follows, and then you usually end up backsliding even further into whatever bad habit you were trying to break. For these reasons, I haven’t made a new years resolution in many years.

But this year I’m doing things a little different. I realize that there are two types of resolutions: Those you want, and those you need. This year, I’m not resolving to do things I want. I’m resolving to do things I need.

For instance, resolution #1– I want to lose about five {twelve} pounds. Instead, I’m going to not worry about numbers and say that I need to get more active. I need to ride my bike, jog, go for walks with Buggy, etc. rather than worry about numbers on a scale. That’s a much easier resolution to stick to than restricting my beauty and self worth to some magic number that tells me when I can finally be happy with my body. That’s stupid. I just need to be a little healthier.

Resolution #2- I want to be more organized, but really, I need to be less stressed. Organization will definitely help with my stress levels, so this week before Travis returns to work, I’m going to organize closets, cabinets, and shelves so we can start this next semester off with a little more peace. Beyond that though, I’m not going to kill myself for the rest of the year trying to have a Martha Stewart closet. In the past, I’ve downloaded binders full of checklists and helpful tips on how to keep a better organized home, and then I end up not following the tips {because they aren’t specific to our family} and I beat myself up for it. I’m not gonna do that. We’ll start the year off as fresh and tidy as possible, but beyond that, I’m not going to stress out about it.

Resolution #3-
Our school year usually starts in January in our household. It’s the perfect time for new beginnings and fresh ideas, and I just love starting school at the beginning of the calendar year. Usually I have all of these plans for unit studies, books, and skills that I want to tackle at the start of the year. I find myself on Pinterest late at night finding adorable crafts and activities for Buggy, but then reality sets in and we usually don’t have time to do even half of the things I wanted to do. I have two other children at home who have various therapies and appointments, and I try my hardest to work in what I can with Buggy, but last year a great deal of time was spent in my head feeling angry with myself and worrying that I had let him down.

I realize now that I did not let him down, and that from our little hiatus from school he learned so many other invaluable things. And still, we took time to play games, snuggle, tickle, laugh, read books and sing songs. So this year, instead of focusing on all the cutes stuff I want to do, I’m going to focus on the simple things I need to do. I need to read with him more. I need to stop doing the dishes sometimes and sit down to make train tracks with him. I need to have tickle fights. I need to watch “Curious George” in the mornings. My spirit needs that, he needs that, and I need to not live in guilt over the things we didn’t get done.

And lastly, resolution #4- This year, I need to slow down and stop beating myself up. I need to realize I’m a great mom, a loving wife, and a mediocre housekeeper who at least keeps things from reaching that unlivable level of dirty. I’m proud of us fostering. I’m proud of us homeschooling. I’m proud that we are different from other families that we know. I’m resolving to cherish this chaos that others don’t understand and often criticize. I’m resolving to be even less conventional than we already are, and I’m resolving to love it more than I already do. I’m resolving to not compete with other families and worry over what one kid is doing that mine isn’t. I want to go at his pace, at our pace.

This year will be about simplifying, saying “no” more often, and cherishing what we have here. This is the year of focusing on what our spirits need and worrying less about what others say. It’s about doing things to feed and grow our family rather than what we want or desire. This is a year about taking things as they come and not fretting over the future {which is very hard to do in fostering}. This year I need to feel the Lord’s peace around me and let out a big sigh of relief that I don’t have control and He does.

I hope that 2014 brings a sweet simplicity to our home as well as yours. I hope it brings you peace and joy and calmness. What are some of your resolutions for this year?

Kat

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How We “Do” Santa

This time of year, I’m reading a lot of posts about Old Saint Nick, particularly from Christians who don’t “do” Santa. I’ve read many different reasons for not introducing children to Santa. Fears of children feeling lied to. Convictions about making the holidays too Santa focused and not Jesus focused. Fears of teaching materialism or consumerism. Fears of stealing from the glory of our Lord’s birth. Given all of this, I thought I would share what we do and why.

We’re a Santa-believing family. I grew up believing in Santa. Travis grew up believing in Santa. We had stockings, we raced to the tree to see what delights awaited. But, we also grew up in Christian homes. My parents read to us the story of Christ’s birth from the book of Luke every year. We attended Christmas Eve church services with our extended family. I grew up singing in the church Christmas choir. And honestly, looking back on my childhood, I was never once confused about what Christmas was really celebrating. I’ve always known Christmas to be a celebration of our Lord’s birth. I even remember a song we sang in the church choir when I was seven or eight: “Happy birthday Jesus. I’m so glad it’s Christmas. All the carols and bells make the holidays swell, but it’s all about You….”

I understand all of the arguments that Santa can take away from the true celebration. When so much emphasis is placed on Santa and gifts and toys, how could kids not get confused? Well, Travis and I work hard to make sure our kids aren’t. For one thing, we don’t use Santa as a threat. Absolutely zero emphasis is placed on “the naughty list” in our home. There’s no such thing here.

In our home, Santa is the perfect segue to explaining mercy, love, grace, and redemption to very young children. We believe Santa is the perfect way to introduce children to the substitutionary atonement of Jesus’ death on the cross. Did you make that leap with me, or are some of you clicking the X at the top of the page? Please don’t! Hear me out.

It all goes back to the original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas.

*Brief history lesson ahead*

Saint Nicholas was born to wealthy parents who died in an epidemic. They left him his inheritance, and, feeling convicted by the words of Christ compelling him to care for the needy, he sold off his entire inheritance to give back to the poor, the sick, the needy, the widows and orphans. He was persecuted for his faith and never stopped caring for others and loving those in need. Now, is this the same jolly old elf who famously slides down our chimneys? No. But rather than painting a picture of Santa as a toy manufacturer who watches your every move, eager to punish you with coal if you’re bad, we speak of Santa as a believer in Jesus who gives with love and grace.

We have explained to Buggy that Santa gives gifts out of the kindness and goodness of his own heart, because his desire is that all people will know the love that Jesus freely gives to all. We explain that whether he’s been good or bad Santa still comes. And the reason he comes regardless of Buggy’s behavior is because Jesus loves regardless of our behavior. Do our kids deserve gifts from Santa and stockings full of goodies? Probably not. But we rely on disciplinary methods in our home that work {most of the time} so threats that Santa may bring them nothing really aren’t necessary. And such threats run counter to the portrait I want to paint of Santa, a loving saint of our Lord.

Santa gives because his heart overflows with joy for the Lord who gave his life for us…Not because we deserve it. Santa gives so that we may know kindness and mercy and grace. Santa gives so that we may know generosity for others as well. Every year since Travis and I married, we’ve made it a special tradition to choose one or two children from the Salvation Army Christmas tree. We lovingly pick out gifts for these children and try to get them as much from their request ticket as we can. Now that we have kids, we include them in this. Buggy loves it. He looks forward to it every year and takes great pride in selecting only the best for his chosen Angel Tree child. I’m always careful to explain to him that just as he gives gifts out of the love and goodness in his heart for these children he doesn’t know, Santa also gives him gifts out of the kindness of his heart. And it’s all done in reflection of the ultimate love of Jesus Christ.

My son loves the magic wonder of Christmas that Santa’s arrival brings, but he also moves quickly to dispel any confusion about what Christmas is really about. This mama’s heart swelled with pride just the other morning when I heard him telling Miss Priss at breakfast, “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. It’s so nice he lets us give everybody else presents on HIS birthday!” Worries about confusion flew out the door.

Someday I’ll sit him down and tell him the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and everything else. For now though, I’m loving the magic of Santa. I love using Santa as a concrete tool to teach my child less concrete concepts like grace, love, and generosity. In the meantime, I’m careful to talk often about the birth of Christ and the love that came into the world on that night in Bethlehem.

Childhood is so short. And in our society, it’s growing shorter and shorter. I want my home to be filled with magic and wonder, excitement and joy. I want to plant a seed of graciousness, generosity, and appreciation in my son’s heart, and I think Santa is perfect for that. Santa is whatever you make him to be. If you paint him as a genie who grants you anything you want, or a judge who harshly decides if you’ve been naughty or nice, then that’s what he’ll be in your home. In our home, Santa is a wonderful saint of the Lord who gives because Jesus gave his life for us.

Maybe this model doesn’t work for every family. Maybe it doesn’t change your mind about Santa. I’m not really trying to combat any of the arguments I’ve read against Santa, because I respect each parent to parent as they see fit. Your convictions are different from mine, and your concerns and priorities are different from mine. But I did want to put our version of Santa out there for anyone who is looking for a way to keep Santa a part of Christmas without taking focus off of Christ. How do you celebrate Christmas? What is your take on the jolly old elf?

Kat

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Please Write My Local News Station President

I never ever ever get on my soap box. Well, not often. Ok, that’s a lie.

Y’all know that probably the one thing I’m MOST passionate about is advocating for abused and neglected children in foster care. I’ve been very troubled this week about KCBD president Dan Jackson’s rallying cry against the Texas state foster care system in his editorial “Consider This” segment on Lubbock, TX News Channel 11. Jackson’s opinions are biased, his facts are false and poorly researched, and his investigative journalism is severely lacking. His editorial titled “CPS Needs a Serious Overhaul” has done nothing but created hate speech against CPS, foster families, and all those involved in the DFCS world.

He has blanketed this entire department and the people who work on the lowest level of it (the foster families) in a negative light and painted us all with the same brush as abusive foster families, which are RARE. To say that ALL of CPS needs an overhaul because of one highly publicized and horrific case is as irresponsible as saying the entire public education system needs an overhaul because of one bad teacher. Foster families and CPS caseworkers already fight an uphill battle against negative public opinion from people on the “outside” who genuinely misunderstand what we do, and Mr. Jackson’s editorial does not help. His public position gives him power, but I believe he’s using it irresponsibly and he’s hurting a lot of people.

So, I wrote Mr. Jackson today on behalf of myself, my family, our passion to help children in need, and all foster families everywhere who feel as we do. I’m simply asking him to clarify that not ALL foster families are abusive monsters. Not ALL caseworkers look the other way when they know there are children in need of help and care. Instead of encouraging the public to complain and spread hate about what they dislike about “the system,” perhaps he could encourage them to attend an information meeting about becoming a CASA volunteer. Or perhaps they could sit in on a PRIDE class to learn more about fostering. In light of this month being National Adoption Month, I’m particularly upset that he chose right now to take this negative platform against all of us.

In fostering, I have found my niche, my voice, and my ministry. I would deeply encourage my friends and family who care so deeply for these children to also please write Mr. Jackson and encourage him to shed a positive light on the people who dedicate their lives everyday to protecting and serving these children in need. Our caseworkers are amazing. They put themselves in dangerous neighborhoods and dangerous situations every single day, missing Cub Scouts and soccer games for their own children to rescue kids from crack houses, meth labs, and sexual abuse. Our entire extended family, friends, and church family have bent over backwards to support us in this ministry and love on our precious foster kids. To suggest we are all in need of reform and a “house cleaning” as he put it is frankly insulting to all people who support us in foster care.

This story could be presented in a much more constructive light. Please consider composing a one or two paragraph email to him asking him to call off his metaphorical dogs who are so freely attacking us on Facebook and the KCBD website. There’s a severe public misconception about how foster care works, and I believe he should present a realistic perspective of this system.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I hope you’ll pray and think about this. The email address for comments on his opinion segment is considerthis@kcbd.com. Let’s see how many emails we can get to him!

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