Jesica Swanson: Linger

photo-1421906375741-f6bda4abe433As November rolls in with the speed of a freight train I am already feeling overwhelmed. My mind and heart are in conflict. I want to be everywhere, for every one, while simultaneously hiding away like the true hermit I am

I want to feel the joy of gratitude, the holiness of coming to the table for a meal. I want to have time for what the Greeks called “eucharisteo” – to actively express thankfulness. Isn’t that the point of Thanksgiving?  A moment in time, designed to remind us to stop, to collectively take note in the chaos and come to the table. It’s almost like communion for all of America when we choose to point that thankfulness to heaven. It reminds us to breathe and give thanks, to linger in a spirit of gratitude.

A couple months ago I decided to throw out an initiation to some of my favorite women. I dubbed it a lazy girls night in. I threw some food in the crock-pot. People could come and go as they pleased. They could bring something to share, or not. It was merely a place to gather. Though I would have been content had no one been able to make it (introvert alert), I was so happy when people actually showed up.

We ate. We laughed. We visited. Some people left and some people lingered.

Of all the beautiful things my friend Samantha has taught me, perhaps lingering is one of the best. I am not a natural lingerer. I long for it, but my uptight, highly sensing self is always preoccupied. I think, “Am I overstaying my welcome? Should I leave now? I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to be “that friend” that doesn’t know when to take a hint and head home.” But, when I watch Samantha, she never over stays her welcome, she never is a burden, but she lingers like a boss. She lingers well because she values quality time. She listens to people. She makes time for people.


Maybe, I am starting to finally get it that the best stuff happens in the lingering. It is when the walls break down a little bit or the unrestrained laughter bursts forth. Perhaps, it’s because everyone is tired or because being in a room with only a handful of people breed’s safety. If you’ve stuck around to linger, it’s probably because of a genuine affection for the people left in the building.

That night at my house some cried, some listened, words of empathy came forward. Grace and encouragement flowed freely. No pat answers were given or problems solved, but in the lingering sisterhood forms. That night it was in my living room, but I’ve experienced the power of the linger in a parked car on a Monday night, around a bonfire, and after a MOPS night out. Every moment spent with someone is “money in the bank”* of your friendship, but the lingering seems to bring a more substantial deposit to the relationship.

As things get crazy and I feel that tug to be everywhere all the time, I am trying to hit pause this season. I’m trying to linger at the table with my God and with the people that I love the most. For some, those loved ones may be family, but for others who live further from relatives, it may be the friends that have become family. I want to make sure I am leaving margin in my life for the after party, because everyone truly knows that the after party is where it’s at. So, if you want to linger, come and linger with me. I have a special place in my heart for the lingerers.

*It was Shauna Niequist, at MomCon 2014, who taught me about “money in the bank”.


JesicaJesica Swanson is wife to Norse and mother to Boden & Isley. She’s a big fan of marriage, wholehearted friendships, and loud laughter. While still trying to figure out her marketable skill set, she spends her time goofing off in Montana and writing candidly about spiritual life, marriage, motherhood, fun books and music, and whatever else pops into her head at .

Kayla Wells: Cold Spaghetti and Ice Cream Soup

Since the school year has started these are actual thoughts that have run through my head:

“How many times can a cup of coffee with milk be reheated before it will make me sick?”

“How in the world do all 3 kids have only left shoes, on the exact same day, at the same time? ”

“Sweet Jesus, what made you think I had the patience for motherhood?”- This one was kindof a prayer. Sweat had begun to bead as the school bell rang and we were STILL TRYING TO GET IN THE CAR. (Yes, I can hear the bell from my house. Yes, we are almost always barely on time.)

As I sat down to draft ideas for this post and do some much needed paperwork, I took a bite of my lunch. I had been looking forward to it all day. My favorite, leftover spaghetti. Cold, it was still cold. I didn’t have what it took to get up and heat it, again, to eat it warm. Real motherhood is eating the cold spaghetti. It wasn’t half bad.
photo-1424593090902-a67b5ab57b89Later that night my husband and I tag teamed our kids. It still took an hour to get them all in bed at the same time and stop the madness of the day. As has become our custom (since, ya know, actual date nights are hilarious dreams) my husband brought out my favorite ice cream and his. Those Individual little cartons are our guilty pleasure. We sat down to watch Netflix.

Our house is built in such a way that when we open the door to our downstairs it completely blocks the hallway to the bedrooms. This allows us a little safeguarded privacy to watch something that doesn’t involve headache inducing cartoon voices or animation.

On this particular night it was now 8:30 PM. We should’ve been in the clear.

Then we heard it…

The creak of the door followed by little feet.

*Pause the show. Hide the ice cream!*

“Mommy, I gotta go potty.”

Let me tell ya friends, it’s a good thing they are so stinkin’ cute. She is 3, partially potty trained and by that I mean, she wears a pull-up because, although she has been using a toilet for over a year to poop, she REFUSES to pee on the toilet during the day.

But, at night…well, she has to pee on the potty… and here we go.

*8:45 PM, back in bed, TV on,  ice cream out. It’s a little melty, but doesn’t hurt my teeth as badly. Perfect, still time for an episode of our favorite show.*


“Mommy, I can’t sleep because sis is making noise.”

Man, he is so cute in his undies and oversized shirt, with his worn puppy under his arm.

Carrying him back to bed I breathe in his little boy smell and I realize it’s barely there. That sweet baby smell is almost gone from my little boy. He is 5 now, reluctantly in kindergarten. I am both relieved and sad it went by so fast.

Goodnight tuck-ins and a “Hush now sis, brother needs to sleep.”

During this time my husband has paid some bills and packed the lunches. God, bless this man I married. Seriously, cutting meat into little squares and making sure that the bread looks “all the way like a heart” just might be the last straw!

*9pm. Barely enough time for 1 episode but, we can make it.*

The show starts up and I hear my frustrated 8 year old say, “KeEEEEndyllllllllllLLLLL, you need to be quiet. I am tired and you keep waking me up!”

Settting down my ice cream, again, I say a little prayer “God, let me be patient, and loving”

I go. I tuck 3 year old back in, find “pink owl” because “blue owl and nightimte owl are not my friend tonight”, diffuser , star lamp, and singing teddy all turned on. “Goodnight girls. sleep well. I will see you IN.THE.MORNING.” said firmly. Exit room

*9:17 PM. Ice cream soup.*

I have expensive ice cream soup and tears.

Because, I already ate cold spaghetti.

Because, I don’t remember where we were in the show anyway.

*mindless channel surfing for 20 minutes then bed*


Do it all again.

Except, no.

I realized that night that I can’t do it anymore. Not the way I had been.

Sometimes, being a mom is just really hard work. It’s going to be that way for a while, but recently I was reminded of how quickly that can change. Actually, I am often reminded. It is rare my oldest to wake and ask for me in the night. I miss her and her baby smell. There are pictures on my walls of friends who have lost children, or were never able to have them at all. There are pictures of children I desperatly love who live too far away for me to watch them grow. My children are a gift to me and although sometimes I struggle I want to choose to remember this gift.

My oldest is both my opponent and my team mate. She is my sparkle and my drama and very often my encouragement.

My son, he is most like me. Disorder makes him crazy. He would rather have his teeth pulled than be stuck in a crowd of strangers. He is also my rule follower and always willing hugger. He’s ready to get dirty for a reason and my adventure seeker.

My youngest is my gift of grace,  my sweet surprise. She is quirky with a personality full of contradicitons. Tutu-ed pirate or sparkling princess? She is the one who ALWAYS runs with open arms a huge smile. She is the one who says “Mom, you’re back!”, when I have been gone- for 5 minutes or 5 hours or 5 days. She treats me like I am THE best thing in her world.

Moms: take heart. These children, be it 1 or 10 are a gift. Trust me. There are times that this mothering thing feels overwhelming. You are not alone in that. Not even a little.

Join with me to pray for peace this school year. For patient mamas and obedient kids. Pray that all of us, even our littlest can be Jesus for someone today.

Be proactive. I am doing this by making myself be a more organized mom. No more left shoe only mornings.

I want to leave you with this encouragement: you ARE the PERFECT mom for your kiddos. However you have come by them, however many you have- whether it be in your arms or in your heart – you were made for this. Go about this motherhood fiercely, with me.

Oh, and when you buy ice cream, buy 2. You never know when you might need a fresh carton.




Kayla Wells is a member of Bigfork MOPS and former MOPS leader.  She is married to Dan and is a mom to three. You can find her at Mommy’s Soapbox.

Who’s Got Your Back?

The other night was one of those nights. You know. Like it’s written in the stars or your fortune cookie:  your kids will misbehave today and so will youNothing works out right. It’s pure, cranky chaos.

It had been a long day and my husband was gone for the evening. I struggled through on my own. Cursing under my breath. Practicing deep breathing bCIMG0599etween screaming bouts. Matching my 10 year old snide comment for snide comment. Reacting with the same short fuse as my 5 year old and the indignation of my 8 year old. It wasn’t pretty. So as bedtime approached I made the rounds along each bed; apologizing, asking forgiveness, explaining that I’m not perfect and I know it and God help me, I’m working on it. Really, though the behavior leading up to this moment is certainly never ideal, the chance to model sincere regret and ask for forgiveness is golden. I mean, there’s got to be a flip-side, right?

Anyway, my kids usually make it so easy. They melt. The tension and bad mood that settled between their shoulder blades releases and I feel them go soft, give into my love, lean into my arms. I lean into them, smell their hair and hold on tight. This time, when I got to my daughter’s bed she took my hand, looked me in the eyes and said I just wish Papa were here. Oh, I bristled. I assumed she was referring to the classic Good Parent-Bad Parent dilemma (and we all know which side I was on). But then she explained.

It’s just that you need a Back-up Person, Mama. I just wish you could have had a Back-up Person tonight. Everyone needs a Back-up.

Then, she hugged me. She left me there, leaning over her bed, my mouth wide open in awe of the wisdom, love and empathy she showed to me in such an undeserving moment. She really nailed it this time.

Who is your Back-up Person? A husband, a partner, a mother, a best friend… It can be anyone ready to step in when you’ve had it up to here, when you are stuck in an ugly cycle and need a moment to breathe, to swim back up to the surface. It’s crucial in this mothering gig that someone has our backs. Hopefully we all have at least one person looking out for us. Ideally we have that village surrounding us with someone not only behind, but also on each side and in front of us. Let’s build that together for each other. Use MOPS this year as yet another way to have each other’s backs. Support each other, listen, encourage and laugh.

With your back covered you can face forward with confidence, go out into the world as mothers, as women, and flourish.


Ida Fischer is a Bigfork MOPS alumnus.  She is married to Maarten and mother to Sam (10), Noa (8), and Mylo (5). She enjoys everything outdoors, reading, and spending time alone to paint. You can find her blog and artwork at Ida Fischer Art and Illustration.

It is RACE TIME!!! Well, almost!

Bigfork MOPS is so excited to announce our 2015 Run for Your Mama Fundraising Race happening on May 16th, 2015 in beautiful Bigfork Montana (on the Northeast corner of Flathead Lake).  We have a family friendly 5k race (also timed for our competitive racers) as well as a kids fun run and tons of prizes and family fun for all.  Check out our race page to register and be sure to join our Facebook event to stay up to date on our wonderful sponsors as well as the festivities and tons of fun.

Click Here to see Highlights from our last race:

Run for Your Mama 2013

Do you want to know more…here are some helpful links!

RACE PAGE (for race registration or to donate to Bigfork MOPS):

FACEBOOK EVENT for our 2015 RACE (please join and share):

RACE QUESTIONS and/or COMMENTS: Leave a comment on our Race Page or email our Race coordinator at .

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Thank you all for your support!

-Bigfork MOPS because Better Moms Make a Better World!

Annie Ricci: Beating Back Those Self-Doubt Gremlins

confidenceI volunteered for this little writing gig because I love to write, to connect with people through words. As I sit down to draft my first submission, I feel a little anxious. Maybe a tad worried. The self-doubt gremlins step up their attack with questions like: What if moms don’t like what you say? What can you contribute that is worthwhile? What makes you qualified to write anything about this year’s theme around bravery?

Do those gremlins haunt you, too? The attack questions may be different, but you know the feeling I talk about. The sensation that someone just punched you in the gut, you can’t breathe, and your heart races faster than a NASCAR racer. How do you beat back those gremlins? How do you bravely face that barrage of anxiety? Does your method of dealing with those feelings leave you standing taller, feeling braver? Or, does it leave you feeling a little disappointed? Well, for better or worse, right or wrong, here are three ways I put the smack-down to those pesky gremlins. I hope it’s something you can use, too.

1. First I take a deep breath. No, not just a sigh–but an-honest-to-goodness DEEP Breath. I breathe in through the nose slowly and pretend my stomach is a balloon I fill with air. Then I let it out slowly, sometimes slower than the inhale. Oxygenated blood to the brain helps clear out the stress hormones and lowers blood pressure. Then, I can think with a clearer head.

2. Next, I ask myself this series of questions:
“If this gremlin is right, what is the worst that can happen?” And I try to imagine all the worst case scenarios I can. (They will kick me out of MOPS.)

“How truly likely is that to happen?” Well, probably not THAT likely.

“What is more realistic/ likely to happen?” Some people will like what I have to say, some won’t, and some won’t care because the topic doesn’t relate to them.

“Am I going to be ok no matter what happens with this situation; I mean, does my life or happiness depend on the outcome?” Well, it’s not life or death, really and I am probably going to be just fine.

3. I check in with myself to see if I feel any better. If yes, I do the happy dance and move on. If not, I repeat steps 1 & 2. If the gremlin of self-doubt won’t let go after a couple of those rounds, I find a trusted friend or loved one to share my worries with. I listen to them tell me “You got this, girl,” and I listen with my heart and believe them as they recount all the ways in which I really do “got this.” Because, after all, they wouldn’t–and never have–lied to me. AND THEN…we do the happy dance together… on the gremlin’s grave!

So, if you are one of those gals that feels nervous when you are about to share something at your MOPS table, like, you are worried what everyone is going to think when you open your mouth. Take a DEEEEEP breath. Put the smack-down on that self-doubt gremlin. Be YOU, bravely. What you have to say to us matters.

anniebw 001I am a mom, wife, daughter, friend, professional coach and licensed marriage and family therapist who is always seeking ways to be a better person today than I was yesterday.
You can find me at:
You can also find me on Facebook.

photo credit: Son of Groucho via photopin cc

Summer Challenge!

A special thanks to Jan for her challenging, helpful, encouraging talk last week! We’ve posted it here for your convenience! Happy summer MOPS! 



This summer, you will be very busy…

You will be:

  • Working more than full-time
  • Teaching, training, leading by example
  • Nurturing a small human or multiple human beings
  • Creating a family culture in which these little humans can thrive
  • Setting limits, explaining “why”, keeping little humans safe and healthy
  • Creating lifetime memories for your children
  • Determining how they will view themselves and how they will approach life

You will busy; I know this because you are a mom.  And you thought the summer might be relaxing?! Being a mom is like running a marathon and training for it at the same time…you really don’t get time off –even in the summer

 About a month ago, I was in the Portland area helping my mom after surgery.  It was a gorgeous late spring day with everything in full bloom. Next to the house is a green space and playground.  As I worked outside, I watched a young mom come and put her young daughter in a child’s swing and sit down in a swing beside her.  The mom talked on her phone for a while, texted and then got up and took a picture of her daughter swinging and sat back down and continued to relate to her phone.  In the half hour that I worked and watched them, the mom hardly took her eyes off of her phone and there were no words exchanged between her and her little one.  They were outside together on a beautiful day and yet they were worlds apart. This is only a snapshot of their whole day. I don’t know anything else about the rest of it, but this picture arrested me and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

In the “olden” days, when my kids were preschoolers, we had no devices to entertain us or our kids.  It fact, none of  your moms had any of the devices we have now.  The “I”things…Ipod, Ipad, Iphone and others have exploded in the last 10 years as have dvd players, games and apps. I don’t need to tell you that we live in an extraordinary technological age.  It is wonderful in many ways, but it comes also with problems and challenges. With this explosion of technology comes more potential for moms to be distracted away from their kids and more potential to use “devices” to entertain or distract children away from their parents. More, in this case, can mean less.

So in view of this, I’d like encourage you with some ideas and challenge you to keep on excelling as a mom even as we all look forward to summer. I think you are all up to the challenge.  You are good moms and are always learning new ways to be better moms.

Summer of Challenge:

UnplugIntentionally cut down on your use of “devices” when in the company of your family. Don’t be available to everyone all the time. Be available to your family and put everyone else on hold sometimes.  Instead of planning some time “off” of your phone or ipod, try setting aside time to be on and limit that time.  Just say “no” to too much “I” stuff in order to say yes to the little ones who really want your face time.

Connect-Intentionally plan for relating to your kids as persons worthy of your time and attention. {My pet peeve: a friend talking or texting on the phone to someone else when she is spending time with me.  In a similar way, I think children can feel jealous of your time on the phone and conversely, very much valued when they get your full attention.} You are your little one’s favorite attraction.  From birth to about 3, 4 or 5, depending on the child’s personality, children want most to relate to mom…more than toys, other kids or other people-even sometimes dad.  It won’t always be so…this is probably the only time in the life your child that they want to so intensely relate to you.  In ten years, they won’t even want to be seen in the same space with you!  Plan to give full attention to your kids this summer.

Get active and explore with your kids-Intentionally plan to enjoy activities together.   The brain is tripling in size between birth and 3 yrs of age.  Children need lots of multi-dimensional, sensory, tactile and cognitive activities as their brain develops.  The less time on any screen and more real time activities can build in them longer attention spans and more impulse control for success in later life. Studies have shown the negative effects of too much screen time in children and researchers recommend zero screen time for children under 3 years old.  Children need to be exploring, moving, climbing, touching, building, holding, throwing, lifting, drawing, scribbling, smelling, rolling, listening, looking, imagining, creating, running, jumping, hugging, and talking. 

Even in the summer, they need learning activities and they need plenty of your undivided attention.  This is a good time for you to give it to them.

So, I throw out a challenge to unplug and connect this summer with your children.  In order to help with this challenge, I am going give a lot of tried and true ideas for activities. I have used these with my kids or other people’s kids.

Things to do with kids at and around home:

  • The very best stuff for kids in the summer…water, stones, sticks, and dirt! Kids can be entertained with the basic elements of nature.
  • Tub, bucket or bowl of water outside…cups and pitchers and pouring things, things to stir with.  Add soap for even a longer event.  Has the added benefit of calming your child.  (washing dishes, doll clothes)
  • Dirt or sand for digging.  Add cars and trucks if you want.
  • Paint brushes and water…house,car, sidewalk.
  • Hose on car, house, driveway, plants.
  • Squirt bottles of paint on an old sheet hung up
  • Bubbles and fly swatters
  • Sidewalk chalk dipped in water
  • Paint clay pots or wooden bird houses, decorate picnic table with paint, paint old furniture outside
  • Tent, sleeping under stars, camping out, and cooking on a camp stove (practice in your yard)
  • Backyard obstacle course
  •  goofy golf course that you set up in your backyard
  • scavenger hunts for natural things
  • collecting stuff in bags on walks
  • Life size giant Candyland board on driveway drawn with chalk, kids are the pieces and draw cards
  • Idea jar for when they say I’m bored or as I always said to my kids, you must be tired, go take a nap. Or assign chores when they say this and they will think of things to do very quickly!

Creative Inside: dress up, kitchen band, car garages and towns out of cereal boxes, decorate paper tablecloth (news roll ends), office supplies for playing office

Learning activities: counting everything-pretzels, m&Ms, toys to pick up, etc; identify letters when you see them, sounds in the car and make signs, lists, scribbling for writing; listening to books, reading lots and having much conversation with you.


Out and About

Amtrak, libraries, kites, car wash, Baskin-Robbins, Sweet Peaks, Brookies-Cookies, Kalispell school playgrounds, WF park, WF city beach, Lkside Volunteer Park, Glacier Apgar bike trails, Yellow Bay picnic area, Lone Pine State Pk, Danny On trail-WF mtn., Birch Lk in Jewel Basin, Bike trails in Kal., Swimming lessons-(BF club, Summit, Woodland Pk pool), Upick fruit, Wayfarers Pk, Swan Lk, Greenhouses, Petco, Hedstrom’s dairy

What to do in the car-Road trips large and small…

Group stories, abc game, Fortunately-Unfortunately game(Unfortunately there is a lion coming, Fortunately I have had lion taming lessons), Write or draw out scavenger hunt to look for things while in the car, claim a car color

Dry erase pages, magnetic letters, dimes to spend, bags with treats, activities etc, audio books, plastic bags with activities

Id’s, first aide, snacks, water, towels, extra clothes and shoes, entertainment packs

Avoid Meltdowns-be proactive and prepared: Too hot, tired, hungry, too much activity, changes, stimulus, not enough “mom” time, no schedule; always have food and water on hand!