Toy-Free Christmas & Limits

As a family, we have so much.  So many things to be thankful for, so many blessings, so much love.  We have trekked through over 6 years of marriage, up and down, around and through.  We have triumphed, conquered, and won a lot of battles, and we have also faltered, crashed and burned, and failed in much more.  We have welcomed three incredible tiny humans into our family, and made a mess of parenting, learning as we go.  Lately, our hearts have seen a need in our family.  Its not easy to define.  The same way a smell is hard to describe.  But Brandon and I have seen it, and we both are working to meet the need.  Our little ladies feel like they are at a turning point where a lot of what their character and behavior will end up looking like, is being shaped right now.  Silly you may think, but we see the need for them to be urged along in the right direction.

So with the season of Christmas upon us, we are taking every opportunity to teach them.  And we have seen how Christmas ends up teaching them back.  Sometimes it hasn’t been great things.  Last year they surged through an all day marathon of Christmas on Christmas day, and then for the next two weeks, they kept thinking every time we saw family, there would be gifts for them.  It was crazy.  We had taught them all about giving, and they learned to love giving, but Christmas also taught them about getting… and my little girls sure love getting.  Haha, and in last years case, they loved it a little too much.

So this year as we approach Christmas day, along with teaching them about Christ, about giving, about celebration, merriment, hope, and love, we are also teaching them about limits.  We are gently showing them how limits work.  “Yes you may have some yummy reindeer chow, but no you can not have a whole bowlful.”  Seriously, I have to teach that to them.  My second born would eat the entire kitchen full of reindeer chow if we let her.  She needs rules.  She needs those limits.  So this year we are limiting the day.  We aren’t going to do an all day long marathon.  They can’t do it.  We laugh about it because for the last 3 years we have said at the end of the day that ‘next year we can’t do this the same way’ and then we end up putting ourselves in the same situation, haha, you all know you have done the same thing once or twice.  Am I right?  Now that we have 3 kids in the mix, we are finally limiting the day.  We are hoping by having a calmer evening at home, with only one big morning, our kids will be able to soak in the day and we’ll have time for them, for their needs.  To get on the floor and play with each of them as they enjoy their new “whatevers”.  To let the little ones nap and rest.  And the whole day won’t fly by without us pausing to enjoy it.

Another new thing we are doing this year is a toy-free Christmas.  Call me crazy.  I don’t mind, sometimes I sure feel like I am.  But as soon as the words slipped out of our mouths, we both knew that a toy-free Christmas is what we wanted.  The way we have toys set up in our house makes it easy to do this.  We already have lots of great toys that fill up their imagination for hours.  The girls don’t really have any ‘wants’ for certain toys.  And we feel like by doing a toy-free year, we might end up stumbling upon some fun new gift that becomes a sort of tradition.  I definitely don’t think it would be something every family would enjoy doing, want to do, or need to do.  But for us, it works, or at least, we are hoping it’ll work.  We found great books for the girls, and some fun clothing items that they would enjoy and also need, and then we are also re-decorating their room for them as a surprise gift.  When you have 3 kids sharing 1 room, its a challenge to fit everything in there, so we are hoping to get their sleeping situation improved, and then put a fun place for reading books and story time.  Our stocking stuffers are all fun things they love like stickers, dried fruit, cookie mixes, coloring books, crafty items, hair accessories, and some of their favorite foods that we don’t always buy.  I am hoping that their Christmas experience this year will be a turn for the better.  That they won’t be as exhausted and instead be able to soak up lots of fun and love.  And they’ll be able to enjoy more than just ‘getting’ this year.  We are infusing their days leading up to it will lots of little lessons, giving times, and fun family activities.

If I look back, I can remember the Christmas when I was 5.  It is just about the first Christmas I actually remember.  So this year might be the first one that Shiloh remembers for the rest of her life.  And I want her to remember great things, and to feel cherished, to remember being a part of it all.  I can’t wait for the many years to come when these little ladies will join in more with cooking, baking, and all the things that make Christmas magical for me.  Or maybe they’ll be like their Daddy and get in the season by finding a Christmas tree… or being outside in the snow.  Or both.  But we are finally taking the time to think more about them, and about being intentional with them for Christmastime.


Conquering and Building

Not very long ago… perhaps 2 months maybe, we were hitting a wall regarding our little ladies.  Forget the cliche terrible twos.  Terrible can be at any age.  Trust us.  Am I right parents?  I feel like my mom said several times when I was younger, “one day I hope you have a child who is like you so you will learn how difficult you can be”.  Thanks Mom.  You win.

Sure my girls are princesses when we wave hello to you in the grocery store aisles.  They use all their polite manners when we come over for play dates.  But at home, in the car, and every little moment in between, we were at war.  And frankly, who has time for fighting, right?  I wanted to give up.  I was giving up in so many ways, and more like giving in so many other ways.  Brandon and I both were.  We were letting things slip.  “Choose our battles” we would say.  But the more that we let slip through, the more we just couldn’t wait for bedtime to come so our little ‘monsters’ would go to sleep and we could clock out of parenting duties.  I mean, literally, we were rushing them to get in bed as soon as dinner was done.  I am not exaggerating.

Their bad behavior was consuming us.  We finally hit a breaking point… and I can’t even recall it as a momentous thing that took place, it was just a quiet ah-ha moment that we both realized we had to stop it.  We had to fight back.  Why were we letting our children set the rules?  Why were we letting them get away with terrible behavior?  Why were we allowing them to argue, to fight, to insult each other?  Why were we allowing tantrums?  We were tired, thats why.  But we prayed and regained some clarity, and realized that we needed to fight for our girls.  We needed to fight the bad behavior, we needed to do it for them, for their sake.

So we began not allowing anything to slip through.  I mean, nothing.  NOTHING.  And at the same time, we began adding structure back into our weeks.  It helped that I could begin homeschooling at the same time.  School alone added the structure we needed.  School also added lots of attention and love into their little cups.  You know, those cups all kids have that need to be constantly filled.  We fought for those cups to be filled, for their days to be structured, and for their actions to be watched so that nothing bad was slipping through the cracks.

I began picking up on what was behind the bad behavior, the roots of the problems.  I began noticing unhealthy competitions between the girls, or ways that they weren’t loving each other well.   Things that perhaps we have never taught them how to do.   And so we started providing opportunities for them to learn how to love each other in ways that we would like to see.   The results were immediate.

It was a marathon of conquering the bad, the sin, the frustrations, the exhaustion, the confusion, and the ugliness that was creeping into our lives, our family, and our home.  Conquering it, rather than ignoring it.  Conquering it, rather than allowing it to crush us.  We conquered and then we started building.  We are still doing this.  I don’t foresee that we’ll ever be done.  There will always be something new to conquer and something new to build upon.  We are building these little people into who God has made them to be.   We are building them up, they need our help, they HAVE TO be helped in order to learn about who they are and what it means to be a young girl, a sister, a daughter.  We have to help define that for them.  We are guiding them, we are learning about their tendencies and their gifts.  We are learning about how God has made them in order to best build them up.  We are building up ourselves, building up our family and our home.   This can’t be done passively.  Although I do believe God can be working in unseeable ways, I mean, hello, He is God.  But we have to do the work.  No one else is going to do it for us.  We have to get off our complacent, exhausted, coffee loving behinds and get it DONE.  I know we can.  Jesus did so much more and overcame so much that He gives us the hope, the love, the strength, and the grace that fuels us during those hard and difficult marathons in life.


“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  -Romans 8:37

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  -1 John 4:4 


How We Do Chores {5 years old & 2 years old}

I am a firm believer in chores.  I am pretty sure I had chores early on in life, but unfortunately all I can remember is using my Fischer-Price vacuum.  When I was around 7 years old I remember better.  My mom had me dust, unload the dishwasher, take the trash out of the trashcans in the bathrooms and rooms, things like that.  Brandon had daily chores.  Things like weeding, mowing, sweeping, vacuuming, and taking out the trash.  So we believe in the value of having our girls work hard and participate in helping around the house.  I can’t recall at what age I began having each of them learn how to do some chores.  I think Shiloh was 3 when I first started.  But lets just say these are the chores they get to do now that they are 5 and 2 (2 and a half to be exact).

I usually try to time the chores while Leilani is first up in the morning.  That way they can get into their room and not disturb her nap time.  We typically start with them both helping to unload any clothes from the dryer.  Most mornings its Brandon’s work clothes in there, so they already know that those go onto Mommy & Daddy’s bed (for me to fold and put away later on).  Then we take out the family laundry hamper.


One takes the clothes out of the hamper, and the other puts them into the washing machine.  I usually monitor the clothes going into the wash, in case there are any special items that need to be cared for differently.  Most of the time I wash all our clothes the same: delicate cycle with cold water.  Any stained clothes or whites that get bleached don’t get put into the laundry hamper, I keep them up on the washing machine so I can pre-treat them, and then those loads I do without the girlies help.  Anyways.  We start the load and they have a blast taking turns pushing the buttons.

Then they move into their room.  With three girls all sharing a modest sized room, we have to keep it clean.  I have organized their toys into 4 totes, labeled, and placed inside the closet.  They both know which toys belong where.  Well, I should say, Shiloh knows.  Capri is fairly good at it.  But honestly, I don’t care if toys get put in the wrong tote, as long as they get put into one.  Every so often I re-organize them.  It helps that they don’t have an over abundance of toys.  I am strict about that.  For us, it works to keep the toys to a minimum and to make sure we have a small amount of toys that give them hours of fun, creative, and endless play.  Also, we don’t have many large toys. Maybe 4 or 5 bigger toys and those we have found spots for under the bed, or the closet also.  I learned a couple years ago that if I had a spot for their toys to go, then it made cleaning up a breeze.  Now no matter how messy their room gets, they can clean it up completely in under 10 minutes all by themselves.  Seriously, all moms need to figure out a system that works for them like this.  Its amazing.

Shiloh has been learning how to make her bed.  Again, I don’t care if its perfect, as long as the sheets and comforter are pulled up and the stuffed animals are put away or put neatly by the pillows.  While they work on those chores, I grab anything that is on their dresser and clean those things up.  And then when the totes are all filled, I pick them up and put them back into the closet.  Capri and Shiloh then do a sweep of the living room looking for any toys left around out there and put them away into the totes.  Done and done.

Next, we move out to the living room.  Capri puts books away into the book basket that have been taken out.  I let them have the freedom to grab library books at any time to sit and read to themselves.  So usually they have made a mess after breakfast and there are books all over the sofa and floor.  Putting them away is a perfect chore for little Capri.  And everything takes longer with a 2 year old.  So while she does that.  Shiloh sweeps.

Shiloh hasn’t always swept.  Before I gave her my little hand vac and let her vacuum up the crumbs under the kitchen table.  But now she is good as sweeping.  I guess its a perfect example of how some kids motor skills need time to grow before they are ready for certain chores.  She is able to sweep the entire main rooms and also manage sweeping up the crumbs into the dustpan.  She misses spots, but that is fine.  I deep clean it myself enough that having her miss places is still worth having her learn and help with a majority of the floors.

When the floors have been swept, its Capri’s turn to dry mop them.  She LOVES to do this.  She’ll actually do it for 30 minutes if I let her.

By this time, the clothes in the wash are finished.  Just to give you an idea of the time, the cycle runs for 34 minutes.  So all in 30 minutes time, their room is cleaned, the main floors are swept and clean, and none of these chores were rushed… and with anything we do, there were lots of little kid breaks as they giggle and run around.  So next, the girls take their places and pull clothes out of the wash and put them into the dryer.  Its cute, with most things they like to take turns and switch around, but with this chore, Shiloh likes to pull clothes out of the wash and then hand them to Capri, and she puts them into the dryer.  I usually watch them do this just to make sure nothing that is suppose to air dry gets put in the dryer, or to help with any wet clothes that get tangled and hard to pull out of the washing machine.

Then fast forward and when the clothes are all done and dry, I sit down on the floor and fold them up.  What works for me is to just fold up the girls clothes into sorted piles.  I save Brandon and my clothes to do later myself.  Then Shiloh’s job is to take each pile and go put them away in her drawers.

Like I said before, this is a typical chore time for us.  But it varies.  I don’t use a chart… my girls just aren’t motivated by stickers for these kinds of things.  Some days its just one of these chores.  Some days we don’t do any.  But I think the biggest thing I have learned is that they aren’t doing a chore without watching me do them first.  They have watched me for so long doing these things that now they are familiar with them.  And in some cases are eager to do it because they want to be “like mommy”.  Also, most of these chores I had to work at teaching them how to do them.  But it pays off.  It pays off to sit there and put in the extra time doing it alongside them because now they can do most, if not all their chores, completely independent.  I just tell them its time to clean their room, and they do it.  When we first began, I had to sit in their room, pick up a toy, and then point to where they should go put it.  So some chores take that investment time first.  Other chores they get to do are helping to feed Roxy, clean their hamster’s cage, take groceries out of the bag and hand them to me, put their dirty dishes into the sink, wipe clean the kitchen table, and when we go grocery shopping, they get to hold the list for me and help me check out.

I also don’t pay them.  Maybe one day I’ll give them opportunities to go above and beyond and earn some money doing a chore.  But for now, I am teaching them that these chores are just a part of their role in our family.  Their reward for cleaning their room is having a clean room (and a sane mommy).  I make sure I encourage them.  Their little personalities love to hear “I love the way you are sweeping”  or “you are really great at putting your toys where they belong”.  They are learning to take pride in their chores and have fun while doing them.  I love seeing their faces as they do their chores.  It says everything.

Day by Day

I have taken a HUGE hiatus from the blog.  First it started as just the need to put my laptop down and focus on my family, myself, and my household.  Later my laptop actually took its own hiatus and I had to send it to get repaired. Well, its back, and I am back too!  I missed this little place to share my heart and my thoughts.

Some of ya’ll who know me well, will know that I struggle with post partum depression.  Even saying it is hard.  I think sometimes there is a stereotype associated with it.  And as a mom, there is the guilt that you shouldn’t have it because it’ll somehow hinder your kids.  I wanted to share my story.  Perhaps it will helps someone else.

I have gotten post partum depression (PPD) after each of my girls were born.  It doesn’t hit until they are around 5 months old.  Don’t ask me why, I am not an expert… but what I think happens is that around 5 months my girls begin to eat solids, and nurse less.  So something hormonally changes as they nurse less that puts me into a season of PPD.  For me, my biggest symptoms aren’t crying, sadness, etc… my symptoms include memory loss, not being able to focus, easily overwhelmed, and more along those lines.  Brandon usually is the first to notice it.  Having his support through this all has been crucial.  His love and gentleness amazes me.

Yea, I have bad days, days that are hard to function normally.  After Shiloh was born, it was the worst.  I didn’t understand what was happening, didn’t reach out for help, and didn’t know how common PPD was.  When Capri turned 5 months old, I was more self-aware and when the PPD hit, I tried for 2 months to use some natural remedies and lifestyle changes.  They didn’t help (probably didn’t hurt it though).  So, after a lot of prayer, and against my stubbornness, I saw a doctor.  He was great.  He used some kind of screening tests… I wish I could remember more about them…  Anyways, I scored super high for PPD despite the fact that I wasn’t showing the more “depression-style” symptoms.  He prescribed me some medication to help bring my body back into balance.  Now after Leilani’s birth, the medication has helped enormously.  When she was 5 months old, my scatter brain, 2 second memory symptoms arrived, but this time, I was prepared.  Now I am managing them, making sure I get through this season of life.  Handling the PPD.  It doesn’t scare me anymore.  I don’t feel guilty like I used to.  I don’t stress over it.  I take it day by day.  And I know this won’t last forever.

So after all my rambling.  I am thankful to get to share this story here… haha, and hopefully it can help someone else who has had, has, will have PPD.  I can honestly say that I am being the best mommy I can be for my daughters.  Through the failures, through the hard times, they are getting the best of me.  God has shown me a lot through these past 5 years.  I have learned a lot as I trusted Him and sought after wisdom, grace, healing, and patience.  Day by day I need Him.  More than anything else, I need Him.  He lifts my spirit, and He encourages me.  He reminds me to not let my flesh get the best of me.

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

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Update:  If you are a mommy (or not) and feel like you might have PPD, anxiety, or any other kind of mental/physical/emotional struggle, please, PLEASE, reach out to someone.  Tell your husband, a close friend, call your doctor.  Its not shameful.  A good doctor will know how to treat your symptoms.  Sometimes your symptoms might look like mine, sometimes they will be different.  If you feel like the walls are closing in around you, hopeless, unmotivated, angry, anxious, snippy, exhausted, reclusive… then I urge you to get help.  I felt those all at one point or another.  And keeping them to myself only made things worse.  Opening up to my husband helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.  Eventually it was Brandon that made me get help.  He even called and made the appointment for me.  He drove me there.  He supported me through the whole thing.  Emotionally, I needed that support system.  If you feel like you can’t do it yourself, ask someone to make you get help.   You deserve it.  Trust me, you really deserve it!   

Little Ekstrom Conversations- {Capri Edition}


Or otherwise referred to in our house as Caprisms…

Conversation 1.
Capri:  Jesus, thank you for…. (pauses to look at Shiloh)…. Hey!  Close your eyes!

Conversation 2.
Mommy:  Capri, what did you dream about?
Capri:  I dream about… um… tooties.

Conversation 3.
Mommy:  Thank you for doing my hair.  Does Mommy look pretty?
Capri:  No.  Not yet.

Conversation 4.
Capri:  You are the best mommy ever!  And I am the best Capri ever.

Conversation 5.
Daddy:  Capri, you need to get back in the kitchen.
Capri:  Oh, haha, sorry.  I forgive you.

Conversation 6.
Daddy:  Well hi Miss Diva!
Capri:  I am not Miss Diva, I am Capri.

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