Category Archives: Happy Journal

I love my siblings….the real reason I went skydiving

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Today I went skydiving!  Yes, I actually jumped out of a plane 12,000 feet up in the air, free fell for 50 seconds, then enjoyed soaring above the earth for another 5 minutes after our parachute opened.   It was an exhilarating, thrilling, massive adrenaline rush, yet at the same time, surprisingly peaceful experience.   The moment the door to the plane opened, I felt like my heart had moved to my throat.   The moment we stood in the doorway, ready to jump, I thought to myself as I saw the ground so far below,  “Am I really doing this? Am I going to die?   Oh my goodness, Jesus help me!”  My tandem instructor counted to 3 and next thing I new I was falling.  Head back, legs tucked behind me, arms outstretched, it’s the closest thing to flying imaginable.  I loved it!!!!

Why did I skydive?   Am I a natural thrill seeker?   Nope, I am definitely not.   (Unless you consider child birth thrill seeking.  I am still of the opinion that natural childbirth is the most thrilling, exhilarating, and powerful experience I’ll ever have.)

Was this on my bucket list?  No, I don’t even have a bucket list.   I have dreams, but skydiving, though something I thought maybe I would like to experience at some point in my life, was not even close to being in my plans for this year until a few weeks ago.

I went skydiving today because I love my siblings, and I love creating memories with them.   I also went skydiving because God is teaching me to be brave and this experience required a whole new kind of bravery, but that’s for another blog post….

My sister Hannah’s birthday was last week.  Her birthday desire was to go skydiving. She asked me and our brother Micah and our sister Kaitlyn to go with her.  I told her I would think/pray about it, do a little research, and yes, probably go with her!  Kaitlyn and Micah were immediately in.   How could I not participate in this epic sibling event???!!!  AND, I thought, if Michelle Duggar (mother of 19 kids) could do it, than so could I!

If my parents did one thing right in raising us kids, (They did a TON right in raising us) they taught us to love each other and value our relationships as siblings.

This is what this my post today is all about.  Siblings.  How to nurture healthy, strong, sibling relationships in your home.

There are eight of us in our family.  Eric and me and our six children.   This makes for 28 relationship combinations in our home!  WOWSERS!!! No wonder things seem crazy sometimes.

I come from a family of six and so does my husband.  We both happen to be the oldest of four children.  I have one brother and two sisters.  Eric has one sister and two brothers.  Interesting, huh?   These opposite gender siblings all happen to be the same age (the last two siblings are a year a part, so not exactly the same age…)   If all of the Stover children had married all of the Holmlund children we could have started a new race and called it the Stovlunds.   Something to think about:)….lol…

I have always been close to my brother Micah who is 2 1/2 years younger than me.  We rarely fought with each other. I have memories of mischief with Micah including trying to turn our bedroom into a swimming pool by dumping cups and cups of water on the floor while our mom talked on the phone.  I remember being so confused as to why the carpet was all wet, but the water level not rising.  Mom gave herself a good timeout before dealing with us when she finally found out what we were doing.   Micah and I spent hours hiking the hills behind our house,  playing Nintendo, playing in dirt, going to various youth group events together, and of course, he was the chaperone of choice when Eric and I were dating.   Micah is awesome, but awesome doesn’t even begin to describe the incredible man that Micah is.  I am so thankful he is my brother and a part of my life.

As a child and teen, Kaitlyn who is 5 1/2 years younger than me, confused me.   Kaitlyn was loud, and bold, and full of fire.   I didn’t understand her childhood outbursts whether it be an outburst of joy, sadness, or pain.   I didn’t understand how Kaitlyn could do what she did or ask for what she wanted without worrying about what people would think. Kaitlyn was witty and passionate and fearless.  Me, not so much, but I wished I could be.  Though I loved her dearly, I didn’t treat Kaitlyn with tenderness or kindness like a big sister should.   Thankfully, that changed as I entered my college years.   I came home for breaks and realized how much I loved and enjoyed Kaitlyn. I repented for the way I had treated her and was finally freed from my jealousy.  Over time, we truly became great friends!  I adore Kaitlyn!!!  I am her biggest fan!  Kaitlyn brings me joy! Those characteristics that confused me in my youth, are now the very things I value in Kaitlyn and make her the strong leader that she is today.

Hannah was my baby.  She was born when I was 11 years old.   I actually told our mother that Hannah was mine.  Kaitlyn and Micah were hers, but Hannah belonged to me.   I know that this is not true, and Hannah is very much my mother’s daughter, this just shows how much I loved and cared for Hannah.  I loved holding her, playing with her, teaching her, praying for her, caring for her, etc…. Our relationship hasn’t always been easy, but I have enjoyed watching Hannah grow up and become the beautiful, wise, humble, Christlike woman she is today.   Hannah is a tremendous blessing to me, my love for her goes deep,  and we are also very close.

Eric and I want our children to get along.   We desire our children to honor, love, value, and respect one another.  We want our children to feel safe with each other.  We want our kids to grow up realizing what a gift from God it is that they have siblings.   We expect our children to treat each other with kindness, and we continually remind them that they can be best friends.   Oh, there are PLENTY of arguments, tears, and misunderstandings in the Holmlund household. But for the most part, our kids really love each other and enjoy being in each other’s presence. Even to this day, they frequently ask for ANOTHER sibling.

I want to share some things that we do in our family to help nurture and protect our children’s relationships with each other. Many of these things I learned from my experiences growing up in the Stover house.

We don’t allow our children to be mean.  They are not allowed to call each other names, physically hurt each other,  mock each other, or put each other down.  By nature humans are inclined to be mean from time to time.  Our kids are not flawless in this regard, neither am I, but once it begins, we nip it in the bud.  Tirzah somehow heard the expression, “You’re a loser.” (Probably from a movie)  She quickly put that phrase to use and told Judah, “You’re a loser.” Does she know what this means?  Probably not, it just feels good to say, right?   Well, Tirzah has learned (actually, she’s in the process of learning)  that saying things like this are not acceptable in the Holmlund house.  Those are unkind words.  We have the fruit of the Spirit and kindness is one of those fruits.  Our kids are freer to be themselves and grow close to each other when they know that meanness is not allowed.

We make up.  Almost every time I got in a fight with my siblings my mother made us hold hands, look into each other’s eyes and say, “You are my sister/brother and I love you.”  We groaned, and twisted, and acted like it was such a horrible thing to do, but really, I was thankful my mom made us make up and state our love.  We also had to say 3 nice things about each other, also while holding hands.  We don’t do this every time our kids get into a tiff, but we do it from time to time (I have a feeling I’ll be using this “make up” tactic here more in the future, because it’s sooo good!). Our kids also groan at this, but often giggle, and I know that it helps them get back their connectedness after an argument.  We apologize to each other for wrong doings.   We apologize and forgive and then we move on.

Bible time.  Our family devotions encourage sibling unity and love.  Putting Jesus first in your home, reading the word and praying together is, in my opinion, the number one way to develop family and sibling unity.

Homeschooling.  I realize, not everyone reading this blog homeschools, so I want to preface what I am about to say by stating that I do not believe there is one right way to educate your child.  We are all called to different things depending upon our family and situation. My husband went to public school, for the most part had a good experience, and he and his siblings all love each other and are close.  Our family has chosen to homeschool.  We love homeschooling for many reasons, one of them being the amount of time we get to spend together as a family.  Our big kids get to see many of the hilarious and adorable things our little kids do throughout the day.  Our little kids get to be held by, hugged and kissed, and cared for by their older siblings often.   Siblings close in age have plenty of time to play together.   I love reading history books and novels as all of our children are gathered around our kitchen table, or comfy on our family room couch.

Travelling together, building memories.  I asked our children what they think helps them to be close.  Isabelle and Emmy both said going on family trips.   We go on a lot of trips in our family whether it be mission trips or family vacations.  We love travelling.   We pair older siblings up with younger siblings when we fly on planes.   On road trips our kids are all packed in close in our small, class C RV.  We make a lot of memories together.  Fighting and isolating is pretty much not an option when we travel.  Our children love eating new foods, swimming together, working on projects together, and serving together when we go different places.  We creative special memories when we travel together.   Shared new experiences keep us close and foster intimacy between our kids.

Teamwork.  I often tell our children that our family is a team.  Laundry gets done faster (usually) when done as a team.  Cleaning the kitchen, doing animal chores, yard work, gardening, you name it, is easier and funner when done as a team.   Our children are protective of each other.  When one of us is blessed, we are all blessed.  When one of us is hurt, we have compassion for and care for each other.   We love each other and support each other.   In April, our supplemental homeschool program called Olive Tree has a graduation program for all of the children involved.  Eric and I will shout and cheer loudly and wildly for our kids when their name is called and they walk across the stage.  They smile and blush and are proud to be Holmlunds.

Prayer.  I pray for our children to be close.  I pray for their hearts to be soft and not jealous.  I pray that they value each other.   I pray that they will be lifelong friends.  I pray that they will encourage each other and support each other even when they grow up and leave our home.

We prioritize our family.   Our children all have friends close to their age.  They all love play dates and hanging out with other kids.   This being said, our kids never seem desperate for play dates or sleepovers.   They truly are each other’s best friends.  I’m not just saying this because it sounds good.  It is the truth.  Whether it is Josiah and Emmy hanging out, Emmy and Isabelle, Judah and Tirzah, or Tirzah and Ruthie.  They are all friends.  We make our family time a priority over time with peers.  They go to youth group, dance classes,  and Olive Tree.  They have play dates with neighbors and friends.   But on those nights that we don’t have planned activities, we make sure we are home together as a family. My mother continually reminded me and my siblings growing up, that friends may come and go, but Lord willing, siblings you’ll have forever.

Love your kids all equally and differently.   Praise and encourage your children’s unique and individual giftings.  Be careful of putting labels on your children or comparing your children to each other.  My mom used to say, “There are no shy Stovers.”  Even if a couple of us were more introverted and a couple more extroverted, shyness was not allowed because we are the light of the world.  We are Jesus to people around us.  I LOVE that my mom told us this!   I tell my kids the same thing, “No shy Holmlunds.”   If you have a “difficult”  child.  Look for and call out that child’s good qualities.  My husband has been so helpful to me in this area.  Our kids all have VERY different personalities.  Some are easier to relate to and handle then others, but not one is better than the other.  They are all different and they are all wonderful!

Grace.  Our kids are not going to get along 100% of the time.  They are going to have disagreements, arguments, and fights.  They are going to say stupid things to each other. Often our kids feel frustrated by their disagreements or they feel badly about the way they have treated each other.  I remind them that even their daddy and I have disagreements and get angry with each other.  The important thing is to forgive each other and to move forward after those disagreements.   While we need to foster an atmosphere of kindness and respect, it is impossible to expect our children to be perfect.   I have found that our kids are freer to get along, make up, and be each other’s friends when they experience grace from me.

I encourage you to help your children honor, value, and love each other!  Ask God to help you foster an environment of unity in your home.   Raise a standard against discord and meanness. Don’t be afraid to set new rules regarding how your children should treat each other.   Have fun as a family!   Be free to prioritize family time above everything else.  Declare your family name to be a name that your children can be proud of.

I would love to hear how you nurture and protect your children’s relationships with each other! Please free to comment with your thoughts, ideas, and experiences.   I look forward to reading what you have to say and learning from you!   Our families are all good works in progress.

Below are some pictures from my memory making, epic experience, skydiving with my siblings.

Here we are moments after we first arrived at Mile High Skydiving Center in Longmont, CO.

Here we are moments after we first arrived at Mile High Skydiving Center in Longmont, CO.

4 of our awesome friends also went skydiving to celebrate two birthdays!  They jumped in the plane right before ours, so we got to see their descent.  Having them there, made the experience all the more fun!

4 of our awesome friends also went skydiving to celebrate two birthdays! They jumped out of  the plane right before ours so we got to see their descent. Having them there made the experience all the more fun!

My whole fam came with to support me!

My whole fam came with to support me!  They were VERY patient and found some creative things to do during the wait…

My sister Kaitlyn's husband Joel and son with my Eric and Ruthie.  Note, they both are wearing their babies in ergos.   Thankful for my wonderful husband who let me skydive!  He's the best.

My sister Kaitlyn’s husband Joel and son with my Eric and Ruthie. Note, they both are wearing their babies in ergos. Thankful for my wonderful husband who let me skydive! He’s the best.

I AM brave.....and scared, and excited, and nervous, and ecstatic, etc.....,

I AM brave…..and scared, and excited, and nervous, and ecstatic, etc…..,

Our mom and dad came to support us.  I think they had almost as much fun as we did just seeing us make this memory together.

Our mom and dad came to support us. I think they had almost as much fun as we did just seeing us make this memory together.  That’s my dad in the purple shirt next to our Isabelle.  About to ride over to the airport.

Getting suited up!

Getting suited up!

Kaitlyn, me, Micah, and Hannah.  We are READY!!!

Kaitlyn, me, Micah, and Hannah. We are READY!!!

This is our plane.  Sitting packed in tight next to my siblings and our tandum instructors is an experience I'll treasure.  Looking into Kaitlyn, and Micah, and Hannah's eyes and seeing their excitement, knowing together we were doing something none of us had ever done before was amazing...Thank you Hannah!!!!

This is our plane. Sitting packed in tight next to my siblings and our tandum instructors is an experience I’ll treasure. forever.  Looking into Kaitlyn, Micah, and Hannah’s eyes and seeing their excitement, knowing together we were doing something none of us had ever done before was indescribably awesome…Thank you Hannah!!!!

This would be me in the sky getting ready to land!

This is me in the sky getting ready to land!!!

I did it!

I did it!  Relief, awe, satisfaction, joy, and thankfulness flooded my mind and body as my feet hit the earth.  So much FUN!

We siblings embraced in a joyful and adrenalin filled hug moments after we all landed safely.

We siblings embraced in a joyful and adrenalin filled hug moments after we all landed safely.

I love these siblings of mine. Our love for each other is deep, is fiercely loyal, faithful and true.  I pray my children will love each other like the four of us do!

I love these siblings of mine. Our love for each other is deep, is fiercely loyal, faithful and true. I pray my children will love each other like the four of us do!

Baby Wearing

Wearing Ruthie in my silk wrap.

I love baby wearing!  My friends and family will attest to this. Not only have I been baby wearing for almost 14 years, I’ve given multiple carriers away as gifts and encouraged mommies to wear their babies.  Baby wearing is one of my top “Happy Journal” things in all of life.  I’m wearing my 10 month old on my back right now as I write.  I love having my little ones close to me while I grocery shop, cook, clean, teach, choreograph, and play.   I love knowing they are experiencing the world and learning new things from the safety of my arms and close enough to look at my face.  I love savoring the preciousness of that first year of my baby’s life by having her right at my heart.   I love the convenience of breastfeeding that comes with baby wearing.   Women all around the world for thousands of years have been wearing their babies every day. Baby wearing produces easy going, happy babies!

My baby wearing began when our first born, Josiah, was only a few weeks old.   I was 21 years young.   Josiah wanted to be held most of the time, and I wanted to hold him, most of the time.  I made a sling out of a big white sheet.  Since then, and five children later, I’ve used a Snuggli,  Baby Bjorn, Sling E-Zee, Hava Sling, Moby, Ergo, and Sakura Bloom Slings. Just recently I tried a Girasol woven wrap.  There are more carriers out there than I can count and many blogs and websites devoted to baby wearing.  I’m going to briefly give my baby wearing recommendations and then post some of my favorite baby wearing pics.

If I could only keep one baby carrier which one would it be?   The Ergo!  I’ve used my Ergo a ton.  I’ve brought it to Israel twice, Maui, Jamaica, various road trips, and of course I’ve worn it for walks, hikes, shopping trips, while gardening, cooking, cleaning, etc…  My babies and toddlers also love the Ergo.  You can wear little ones up to 45 pounds or as long as you both are comfortable.  I appreciate the convenience of wearing my little ones on my front, on my back, or on my hip.  It’s easy to get them in and out of.  It’s super comfortable, durable, easy to clean, and doesn’t take up much space.  There’s a zippered pocket for keys, diapers, and it a little bag of wipes.  It also has a little sunshade that can be pulled up and snapped over baby’s head.  There you go.  The Ergo!

Oh how I love the ring sling.   My first ring sling was the Sling E-Zee .  It’s a padded ring sling that comes in a bunch of colors and patters.  I found it to be extremely comfortable and our Isabelle spent many happy hours in that sling. I wore that sling out.  I now have two Sakura Bloom ring slings, one linen sling and one silk sling.  Though I’d have to choose the Ergo if I could only have one carrier, my Sakura Bloom slings get used everyday, multiple times a day. These slings are so comfortable and beautiful.  I recently wore RuthAnne for hours in my linen sling while leading a dance camp in Lake Providence, Louisiana.  I enjoy looking at beautiful pictures of mothers and their babies in Sakura Bloom slings.  I follow several Sakura Bloom Sling Diarists who document their mothering and baby wearing experience on Instagram.   The linen sling is breathable, soft, and great for all climates including heat and humidity.  The silk is grippy, lightweight, and so beautiful.   I love the convenience of a ring sling.  You can slip it on and off in seconds and it folds up easily into your diaper bag or purse.  The ring sling is also convenient for breastfeeding, I often use the tail of my sling as a nursing cover-up.

Then there’s the wrap.  I had a Moby, but it was too hot and bulky for me.  Recently, I tried a Girasol Woven Wrap.  I find this woven wrap to be much more comfortable than the Moby. Woven wraps can be worn in many different ways. There are multiple YouTube videos dedicated to teaching Mamas wrapping technique.  I enjoyed wearing my toddler on my back.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll continue to use the woven wrap.  While it’s fun to try out different carries, I’m not sure I want to spend the time it takes to learn all the carries or to get wrapped up when I go out in public.

For a whole lot more info on baby wearing check out the thebabywearer.com .  Pretty much every question you can think of regarding baby wearing or baby wearing products is located there.

I also recommend reading Dr. Sear’s articles on baby wearing.

So now, here are those pics I promised you.

With baby Isabelle in my first sling.  The Sling E-Zee.

With baby Isabelle in my first sling. The Sling E-Zee.

Judah and I by the Eiffel Tower.

Judah and I by the Eiffel Tower.

Wearing Judah in India.

In the mountains of Rayacotta, India.

Wearing Tirzah in Israel on our first trip there.

Wearing Tirzah on our first trip to Israel.

This pic, just makes me happy. Eric wearing Tirzah as he paints next to our RV parked on the shore of Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico.

Even big kids can be worn.  Judah in Israel.

Even big kids can be worn. Judah in Israel.

With a little Starbucks:).

Sportin my Sakura Bloom Linen in Maple with a little Starbucks:).

Sling back carry as I wash dishes.

Sakura Bloom back carry as I wash dishes.

Front carry in the Girasol woven wrap.

Front carry in the Girasol woven wrap.

Content baby, happy mama.

Content baby, happy mama.

Happy Journal

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Having an attitude of gratitude and a thankful heart is extremely important to me.  It’s a huge part of my life and why I have joy even when life is difficult.  I’ve always been impacted by the story of the 10 lepers who heard that Jesus was coming near their village. These lepers had probably heard about the miracles that Jesus had done and hoped that he would provide a miracle for them too.  When they saw Jesus they cried out to him from far away and asked Him to have mercy on them.  Jesus told them to go show themselves to the Priest. So they went, and on their way they were healed.  10 lepers were healed, but Luke 17:15-16 says that only 1 of the 10 returned to thank Jesus who had healed him.  I can imagine what it must have felt like to be a leper, to be an outcast, to be sick, covered in sores, disgusting, no hope, no future, yet in one moment these ten lives were restored. They’re healed.  They’re cleansed.  They’re freed. How could those other nine not run back and thank Jesus….

Gratitude and the act of giving thanks brings happiness.  I learned the power of this about 6 years ago.  I was going through a hard time.   My husband was involved in the most stressful work project of his life, our marriage was struggling, I was dealing with some other family issues, and I felt depressed.   One night, while taking a bath, I read an article in Reader’s Digest called The New Science of Thank You .  This article talked about how people who are thankful are happier and live better lives.  It challenged the reader to daily write down three things that you are thankful for from that day.  Around that same time my sister told me about a lady who kept a “Happy Journal”.  She had a journal with an ongoing list of things that made her happy. I was inspired by this article and the story of this lady and her happy journal.

So, I decided to start my own Happy Journal and daily record three things that I was thankful for, three things that made me happy.  I wrote down simple things like hot baths, candles, the smell of rain, chocolate, a working dishwasher, color of fall leaves, and the list goes on an on.   As I thought about the things that brought me happiness I became thankful and my feelings of depression lessened and then went away. My family got through that difficult season stronger than we had been when we entered it.

 

My first Happy Journal entries

My first Happy Journal entries

I continue to write in my Happy Journal, not every day, but if I start feeling discouraged or dissatisfied, out comes my journal.  You can tell I’m struggling when you see the number of thankful, happy journal entries increase!  Our children now have happy journals.  I get to teach my kids the power of gratitude, and I love hearing what makes them happy.  They write things like apples, noodles, going on walks, scarves, Daddy, fish, Gramma’s house, going swimming, and our pet goats.

Tirzah and her Happy Journal

Are you feeling depressed?  Do you find it difficult to be thankful or content with your life and what you have?  I encourage you to start your own Happy Journal.  Daily write down three things that brought you joy, three things that you can thank God for.  Be like that one who came back to Jesus to thank him for what he had done.

I recommend reading the The New Science of Thank You , and I also recommend reading the book 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  It could change your life:).