Cat Craft for Kids: Free Cat Template


When I saw this cute paper cat in a fall Paper Source catalog, I thought I’d try it out with my kids. They had so much fun! I decided to quickly draw up a template for the cat I made, and I used it for a craft at my daughter’s birthday party.

Below is the free cat template with examples so you can make this craft with your kids, Girl Scout troop, homeschool group, or friends.

In black, it would look really cute for a Halloween decoration! Everyone’s cat is different, which makes it so much fun.


My 9-year-old made this sassy cat.


My seven-year-old made this queen cat.


My 3-year-old son made this tall-eared, green king cat.


This was the cat I made. If you use the free template provided, it will look like this cat. Simply print the cat template on your choice of paper and cut out the pieces just inside the black lines (to avoid a black border); glue pieces in place.


Click the link to access the template. Let me know how it turns out!


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“I’m Never Having Kids”



How many kids do you want to have? Are you going to keep going? Did you always know you wanted a big family? People ask me these questions all the time. They are interesting questions for a person like me.

I feel like motherhood happened to me without my consent or planning. In fact, part of me never wanted to have kids. When I was a teenager and my mom and I would fight, she’d say things like, “Your kids are going to be 10 times worse than you are!” And I would retort, “Well, I’m never having kids!”

When Andy and I first got married, I had this great plan to use the rhythm method for birth control, which means you track your ovulation and take your temperature first thing in the morning. On the days you are ovulating, your temperature when you first wake up is a few degrees hotter. Before ovulation, 96-98 degrees is normal for most women. After ovulation, 97-99 degrees is normal.


It worked for 11 months.

Andy and I were just petrified when we found out we were pregnant. First of all, we were in Canada when we found out. Second, we found out because I was insanely sick with morning sickness. I had no health insurance. I had just been accepted to Claremont Graduate School so I could earn my masters and Ph.D. in English and start my career. Everything about the timing was wrong.

I remember sitting across from Andy at Starbucks in Vancouver. I still remember the look on his face as he confessed how he really felt about it.

“I don’t want to have a baby. I feel like I need to escape, run away. But I can’t.”

Even though I felt the same way, I was mad at him for saying it. “How could you say something like that? I can’t run away. You can’t run away either.”

So began our adventure of pregnancy and parenthood together–10 years ago. We were 24 and 25 years old.

Thank God we had 9 months to prepare. It took awhile, but we eventually accepted our fate and became excited about having a baby–even though I threw up every single day. All day long.

So when people see me pregnant with my 5th, they always believe that I was this maternal creature who was just made to have babies and raise them peacefully in a little house in Los Angeles.

No way. I entered motherhood kicking and screaming, the same way my first baby entered the world 9 and a half years ago.

Becoming a mother was one of the most difficult, identity-crushing things that could have possibly happened to me. But you know what? It’s only in retrospect that I can see how much purpose motherhood brought to my life. How it saved me from being self-absorbed. And how it taught me that as a woman, I am strong–so much stronger than I ever thought I could be.

So I look forward to the birth of my 5th baby in November. I don’t know why we had 5. We were done when we had 2. Two girls was perfect. Then 2 girls and a boy was perfect. Then 2 girls, a boy, and another girl was more than enough. Now another girl, and it will be just an overflow of children and joy in this small house.

I never earned my master’s degree or my Ph.D. It was a sad decision to quit grad school after my first semester at Claremont. But my baby needed me. And she still needs me.

One day, I will finish my degrees, but in the meantime I will do what God has called me to do right now:

Raise children. Love Andy. And write books.


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How to Make Me Jealous



If you want to know how to make me jealous–not “I hate you” jealous, but just “You are sooooooooo lucky!” jealous, here is how to do it:

  1. Post pics of your exotic island vacations
  2. Tell me all about your travels through Europe
  3. Post pics of yourself looking awesome in a bikini
  4. Talk about your huge house
  5. Tell me how much money you are making
  6. Mention that you have no children
  7. Post updates on how you are currently reading a classic novel and sipping a cup of tea
  8. Have time to understand and use Pinterest
  9. Own a vacation home in the mountains or on the beach
  10. Have naturally big boobs. Or fake big boobs, I’m jealous either way

*Note: I am being completely and totally serious

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That Kind of Friend



I have been blessed in so many ways by my friends during this pregnancy. I have been surprised and loved and well taken care of. Friends have taken us to dinner, invited us over for dinner, and dropped off dinner. They have babysat for us, and treated my kids like their own kids. They have called, texted, messaged, and stopped by to see if I am doing OK. My friends have prayed for me and loved me even when I’m struggling–especially when I’m struggling. I forgot how much I need my friends.

One friend in particular has blessed me in the most unexpected and thoughtful ways. First, she dropped off a care package when I had my worst morning sickness: ginger gum, preggie pops, acupressure bracelets, and more. Then, even though we hadn’t seen each other in awhile, she dropped off gluten-free treats for me (just for me, not to be shared with the kids!) Tomorrow she is taking me for a mani-pedi so I can feel pretty before the baby is born.

“Even if you can’t see your toes, they should be pretty!”

Some women are just the most amazing creatures. I swear. So thoughtful, generous, and caring.

I have a friend who is that kind of friend. I am so amazed and thankful.

Thank you to all of you amazing friends who love me and teach me how to be a good friend. I love you!





photo credit: marisa santiago

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Losing Baby Weight



It might be a little early to be thinking about it, since my 5th baby isn’t due for another 16 days, but I am feeling larger than capacity right now and I am really looking forward to losing baby weight.

Here is a pic of how I look right now, at 38 weeks. It’s always weird for me to post pictures of myself, but I always like to see other people’s pregnant bellies . . . so I thought it would be fun to share mine too.


Hooray! Almost done with this pregnancy!

A lot of people ask me how I lose the weight after each baby. This time around, it might be fun to try to lose the weight together, in case anyone wants to lose about 45 pounds? The following list is my own personal advice for how to lose baby weight.

Tips for losing baby weight:

#1 Breastfeed for 12-14 months, if possible

Breastfeeding my babies has always been the best way to shed the baby weight. I like to breastfeed until the baby is 12-14 months old–not to lose weight, but to bond with the baby and feed it the healthiest food possible. When I am breastfeeding, I try to eat wholesome, healthy food in order to produce enough milk. So breastfeeding is a great way to intentionally eat healthy and take care of my baby and myself, giving all my best calories and nutrients to the baby.

#2 Drink Tons of Water

Sometimes we think we are hungry but we are actually thirsty. I drink tons of water. I don’t try to measure how much I am drinking. I just drink water all day long. I bring a 1.5 liter bottle with me wherever I go, and I take sips all day, similar to sipping on coffee or snacking. Extra water is especially important when you are producing breast milk.

#3 Don’t buy junk food and don’t keep junk food in the house

Somehow, junk food finds its way into our lives. It’s at meetings, parties, the check-out line…everywhere. And it’s fine to have some. But if someone offers for you to take the extra tray home, or if the kids come home with bags and bags of candy–just say “No thanks!” or throw it away as soon as possible. It feels like it is wasteful, but it’s not. The amount of nutrition it would give you is so small and the amount of harm it actually does to your body is so great, that it’s just as much a waste inside your body as it is inside your trash can. Just throw it away. There will always be more at another event the next day.

#4 Don’t think about it too much.

Have you ever tried to lose weight or count calories and you ended up eating more food than before? This happened to me in college–you know, trying to lose the freshman 15 (or 30). When we think about food more, we eat more. When we see billboards or commercials for food, we want to eat, even if we aren’t hungry. So try not to worry about how much weight you are losing, or how quickly. Don’t even bother checking the scale. I don’t even own a scale. I just try on my old jeans when I think they might fit, and say “Yay!” or “Bummer.”

#5 Eat consistent meals

This happened without me realizing it, but when I became a mom, I didn’t have time to think about meals as much. Just planning dinner was enough. So breakfast and lunch were more about whatever was fast and on-hand. My default seemed to work:

  • A bowl of cereal or oatmeal with milk and a piece of fruit for breakfast
  • Some sort of salad for lunch, usually with chicken
  • A healthy, filling dinner involving meat, vegetables, and grains

Staying consistent with these meals really worked for me. It was simple enough to feed myself and my kids before school. It was filling enough to hold me over until the next meal. It felt healthy.

What’s for breakfast? Cereal. Oatmeal. Fruit

What’s for lunch? Salad (Kids will prefer turkey sandwiches, cheese, fruit, yogurt)

What’s for dinner? Something like this:

Monday: Fish, Rice, Broccoli
Tuesday: Chicken, Brown Rice, Asparagus
Wednesday: Spaghetti, meatballs, peas
Thursday: Cheeseburgers, salad
Friday: Homemade soup
Saturday: Steak, potatoes, green beans
Sunday: Enjoy yourself and eat out! Or have leftovers!

#6 Don’t skip meals

I never skip meals. Skipping meals makes me crazy. I am pretty sure I am hypoglycemic, so if I don’t eat, I get really irritable and upset. Plus, skipping meals tells your body, “Store! We aren’t getting enough! Store for later!” And we don’t want our bodies to have to pack things away for later use. We want our bodies to know they can use everything we give them right now. If you are in the habit of skipping meals, or if you have told your body to “store,” don’t worry. Your body is smart and it will go back to the way it was meant to be if you start eating consistent meals that have the nutrients your body needs.

#7 Exercise Your Way

What is your favorite activity? Do you love playing softball? Belly dancing? Taking walks in the evening? Whatever you love to do, make it part of your weekly schedule and do it consistently. For example, it might work for you to take long walks on Sunday nights for 1.5 hours. If you are like me, a scheduled ballet class is perfect for 1.5 hours of intense exercise once a week.

# 8 Don’t try to rush it

Give yourself plenty of time and plenty of grace when you are trying to lose baby weight. I try to keep in mind that it took 10 months to put on the weight, so it’s OK to take 10 months to lose it again.

What do you think? You want to join me and lose 45 pounds by summer?

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400 Less Stuff


Less stuff, more space to breathe. This is my goal for this week, in order to simplify as much as possible for baby number 5:  get 400 things out of the house. Sell them all for a dollar. Make $400 toward the hospital bill for the new baby.

We have attempted to have a garage sale the past two weekends. Instead, we spent that time getting ready for the garage sale, which should actually happen this weekend. Maybe it’s a little bit hopeful, but I think we can do it, based on what we sold at our last one.

So far, I have taken a ton of stuff out of the house, and it still feels like there is so much more to go. I can’t believe how many things 6 people can accumulate over the years!

I am really bad at knowing what to keep and what to get rid of. I really admire people who have no attachment to stuff and just toss it or give it away. How do you do it? How do you know you will never need it again? Wouldn’t it be frustrating to buy a new version of something you just tossed? I take this line of thinking all the way down to a black tank top. I’m thinking to myself, I can still use this black tank top. I can sleep in it. Or, if it’s ripped, I can use it as a dust cloth.

Luckily (or unluckily), things are getting so crammed and crowded around here that I can’t even stand the idea of keeping anything we don’t absolutely need.

I will have to let you know how it goes! Any advice for a successful garage sale?

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Why I Made My Book Free

A lot of people ask me this question: “Why did you make your book free?”

Andy was the first person to suggest that I make my ebook free, only accepting tips from the people who wanted to donate. My first reaction was to tell him, “Yeah, I’ll consider that…” But in my head I was thinking, No way. I can’t afford to do that. I need to earn some money!

About 6 months went by, and I thought about it more and more. I downloaded a few free ebooks and became more and more familiar with the culture of giving things away online. People were giving away free advice, tutorials, prints, pdfs, and photos online, usually with the intention to draw the customer in to the real product they wanted to sell. For example, I found a free ebook about the 5 most effective blogging techniques, and at the end was a link to buy a certain blog theme (a theme is the template for how a blog looks. Some are free, some cost money, and some are custom made.)

So on a business level, the idea started to make sense to me: give the book away for free for exposure and to collect a list of emails of people who download the book and might become fans of my writing. But that still didn’t satiate my desire to earn some money for the endless hours I had put into my project, not to mention to cover the costs of hiring an editor and cover designer.

We took our kids up to Hume Lake with the college group from our church last year. It was the year my Bible study friends and I committed to reading through the whole Bible (which I highly recommend!) I had been reading about first-fruit offerings, love offerings, and offerings that were pleasing to the Lord. As I was singing to the Lord one night during the evening meeting, I prayed in my heart: Lord, if you want me to, I will give my ebook away for free. I’ll give away 100. No, I’ll give away 1,000!

The answer I received from the Lord that night was this: Ten thousand.

It almost knocked me backwards. I knew it was the Holy Spirit. Because that number never would have come from my own imagination.

My response was Yes. I didn’t understand why, but I knew it was from the Lord and I had to say yes. For some reason, God’s command to give away 10,000 free copies of my ebook seemed so right.

Then the leader at Hume asked us to write down with our left hand, or our weak hand, whatever we heard from the Lord during a time of listening prayer. What I wrote down, so slowly and messily with my left hand, were these words from the Lord: Love Andy. Give Freely. Pray.

Publishing, promoting, and receiving praise for my first novel–the motivation for all of it had to grow from those three actions.

Love Andy

Give Freely


Since April, I have already given away about 3,000 downloads of my book. I am almost a third of the way to my goal! But it doesn’t matter anymore, you know, how quickly I make it to 10,000. Because the emails and reviews I have received from girls who have read my book are so beautiful. Their enthusiasm and appreciation fill my heart, and that is the greatest reward I could ask for.

Do you have your free copy yet? Have you recommended it to the young women in your life who like a good clean love story? Please Share!

Click here to get the ebook in the nook format from Barnes & Noble. Or you can click the links below and get it in the Kindle (mobi) format or just a PDF. It’s also available anywhere ebooks are sold.



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What Do You Really Need for a New Baby?

what-do-I-really-needHere is my list of what you need for a new baby:

  1. A really good stroller (Not necessarily $600 good, just something that is good quality and won’t fall apart)
  2. An infant car seat that can attach to the stroller
  3. Bassinet or Moses basket for the first few months
  4. Crib, crib mattress, and crib sheets for when the baby is 4-6 months and up
  5. Cozy baby blankets and swaddle blankets
  6. Bath towel and lots of washcloths
  7. Gentle baby soap (I like Burt’s Bees)
  8. Infant bath support spongey thing for the kitchen sink (see this post for how I give a newborn baby a bath)
  9. Cotton balls (I recommend using wet cotton balls instead of wipes for the first few months to avoid diaper rash)
  10. Diapers
  11. Burp cloths
  12. Baby hats, socks, long sleeved onesies, clothing that you can layer.
  13. Gentle laundry soap (I like Mrs. Meyers)
  14. Cozy, warm baby pajamas
  15. Board books
  16. Infant carrier or wrap of your choice
  17. Possibly a baby swing that swings side-to-side and front-to-back (brilliant for my 1st baby, but now I don’t need one)
  18. Possibly bottles and supplemental formula
  19. Summer Infant Car Seat Insert (I’m convinced that it’s the reason my 3rd and 4th baby did not scream in the car the way my 1st and 2nd did)
  20. I’m probably forgetting something that I will add here later, but I think that’s it

And a few things for Mommy to Be!

  1. Cozy jammies to bring to the hospital (loose enough for nursing)
  2. Lots of feminine pads
  3. Nursing bras
  4. Breast pump and supplies
  5. Boob pads for leaking breastmilk
  6. Lanolin ointment for sore boobs
  7. Nursing shawl
  8. Good pillows
  9. Books and resources for encouragement for the first two weeks of learning to breastfeed a newborn baby
  10. A network of supportive people who will bring meals, help clean your house, and tell you what a great job you are doing


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Where’s My Nesting Instinct?

nesting-instinct-image-chelsearotunnoBecause this is my 5th baby (I’m due November 9 or sometime around there) my nesting instinct took way too long to kick in.

For my 1st baby, I had everything purchased and prepared a month in advance. I had the room set up, clothes hung on matching hangers in the closet, the room decorated and filled with gifts from our amazing family and friends. We had 4 or 5 baby showers, hospital tours and classes completed, and everything in our lives prepared. Our nest for our new little one was clean and in order.

Fast forward to my 5th pregnancy and my situation is quite the opposite.

I have nothing ready. Really. nothing. Oh wait, I did buy some cute onesies from H&M. And I washed some baby hats and burp cloths that I found in the garage.

I’ve noticed 2 interesting differences between my nesting instinct for my 1st baby and my 5th baby.

First, while preparation for the 1st child meant getting stuff and filling a room with gear, the preparation for the 5th child is more like emptying my life of everything I don’t need, deleting as much stuff as possible, cleaning out everything that is excess, and simplifying until I feel like I can breathe.

Second, because of my age and experience with babies, I feel more prepared for this baby–maybe not physically or materially, but definitely spiritually and emotionally. I was a nervous wreck before my 1st baby was born, but I am relaxed and at peace about my 5th.

Yet I keep asking myself, What do I need to get? What do I need to buy? How should I prepare?

The reality is that I have everything I need: a warm place to sleep and food to eat; a husband who loves and provides for us; and confidence in who God has designed me to be as a mother to my baby.

Everything else is just stuff. Some of the stuff is important, but a lot of it isn’t. The list of things you actually need to take care of a baby is so much smaller than the list of suggestions you get at the baby registry.

In my next post, called What Do You Really Need for a New Baby? I will give you a short list of what I actually use for a baby, as opposed to what I thought I would use when I had my first baby.

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Thanks for joining me in my 31 day writing challenge. I will continue to post every day in October on the topic of pregnancy. If you missed any of my posts, you can start here.

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The Best Way to Bathe a Baby

How do you give a newborn baby a bath without

traumatizing everyone in the room?

How to get from this


to this


to this


Is it normal for a new baby to scream in the bath? At first I thought it was. Until I finally figured out the best way to bathe a baby.

Edited: I love that I have these pictures of my third baby, my only boy! Now he is almost 4 years old!

image-the-best-way-to-bathe-a-babyBath Preparation: 3 minutes

Choose a warm time of day when the baby will be able to nap after the bath. He or she will probably be sleepy after the relaxing bath.

Use a clean kitchen sink to bathe your baby. Place a dry bath sponge cushion in the empty sink. It should be large enough to cushion the baby’s head and body. Prop it vertically along the back corner of the sink. Cover it with a clean, dry baby towel. Set aside another clean, dry towel to dry baby after the bath. Open the cap to the baby soap (I like Burt’s Bees Baby Wash) so it is ready to use.

Run the sink water on the opposite side of the sink so the towel and cushion stay dry for now. This will prevent a chill when you set baby on the cushion. Set the sink water to a good temperature that is very warm but does not sting your inner wrist. Be sure that it is set and not getting hotter the longer it runs. Hold down the spray attachment and be sure water is running the same perfect temperature through the sprayer. Leave the water running while you go grab your baby.

Bath Time! 3 minutes

Check baby’s diaper and make sure there is no poop. If there is poop, change your baby’s diaper before starting the bath.

Remember to relax, sing, and smile while you bathe your baby. If you are tense and frowning, your baby will think there is something wrong.

Bring baby to the sink (The water is already running and set to the right temperature.) Quickly undress baby in your arms or on the after-bath towel and remove diaper. Place him or her inside the sink on the dry towel and cushion. Baby should be propped upright on top of the bath cushion, with head, back and bottom supported by the cushion.

Obviously, never leave your baby unattended in the bath, even for a second. Avoid spraying water in baby’s eyes.

Run the sprayer on the opposite side of the sink to be sure water is the perfect temperature: very warm but does not sting your inner wrist.

The actual bath should take maybe two minutes. Start by spraying or pouring water on your baby’s feet. Then wet his or her legs and arms. Finally, wet the hair.

As you spray, avoid getting water on the belly button if the cord has not fallen off. Treat the belly button and, if applicable, the circumcision, as advised by your pediatrician.

Quickly, using a dime sized drop of baby soap, wash baby’s hair and face first. Be sure to gently wash in the creases of the neck and ears. Rinse clean.

Next, with another dollop of soap, wash baby’s stomach, back, arms, and armpits. Rinse clean. Wash baby’s feet and legs. Be sure to wash in the creases of the legs like behind the knees. Rinse clean.

Last, with another drop of soap, gently wash the front and then back of the baby’s bottom area. Rinse clean. If you think baby needs a final rinse, do one more quick rinse, turn off water, and lift baby to the clean dry towel. Immediately wrap baby in the towel to minimize the chill of the air on the wet body.

Drying Off: 3 minutes

Laugh and play with your baby as you dry, diaper, and clothe. Baby’s bottom should be completely dry to avoid diaper rash. This is a good time to apply a small amount of baby lotion if baby’s skin is sensitive.

Dry in between baby’s toes before putting socks on baby’s feet. Dry baby’s armpits and neck area before putting on a shirt or onesie.

After a bath, a baby likes to be warm. Remember to dress baby in long sleeves, long pants, and socks after the bath. When hair is completely dry, put on a light hat. Wrap or swaddle baby in a clean blanket. If he or she starts to fuss, it is likely that the relaxation of the bath brought up a burp or helped release a poop. Try burping baby and check diaper. Baby is most likely fussy because he or she wants to sleep.

Finally, hold baby close. Feed or nurse baby and he or she will be ready to fall asleep.

*This kitchen sink method worked brilliantly from newborn to four months old, or until my baby was too big for the sink.

**Older babies enjoy taking a bath with mom or dad. Just put on your swimsuit and get in the tub with your baby in your arms or on your lap, making bath time fun. Make sure water level is low to avoid dipping baby’s face in the water. Keep dry towels close by so you can dry baby before drying yourself. Or ask your spouse to take baby from you and dry baby while you dry off.

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