Monday, October 31, 2011

31 Days {Day 31}: Conclusion

The 31 Days have drawn to a close.  When I read about the challenge on The Nester's site in the middle of September, my first thought was, "Yes, I'll do it!" quickly followed by a "No! I'd have to be crazy to commit to such a thing!" I knew I had a burden for women in the trenches of mothering little ones, but I also knew I had little ones of my own to care for who might not appreciate me tied up with writing for a month. 

When we left on a family vacation that same week, our computer stayed behind so I decided to take the four technology-free days to pray about whether to take on the responsibility of writing to mothers for 31 days in a row.  I literally went to sleep those nights, praying... and writing and organizing posts in my head.  

By the time we returned home, I had a peace about my mission to reach out to mothers for the 31 days of October.  I kept a notebook by my Bible and furiously scribbled notes by day and typed out paragraphs by night.  I pray that I have offered encouragement and hope to my readers this month.  I know I have been encouraged by the comments of many, some of whom were visiting my blog for the first time. 

The thing that struck me this month was how much we all want to know that what we are choosing for our families is the right thing.  Is it okay that I send my husband to the grocery store with my list when he gets home from work?  Am I being selfish if I sleep while my baby sleeps or should I get up early to read my Bible?  I'm having a hard time with two I doing something wrong?  Is it weird that I have six kids and still want more?  Where should I send my kids to school?  Why am I so overwhelmed?

It helps to remember His Word:

That's it.  His requirements are simple.

In my inner struggle to determine cloth or disposable, homeschool or public, big family or small, pacifier or not, my bed or his own, get up or sleep...have a put too much merit in trivialities?  In deciding whether to expose my little ones to vaccines or food dyes or refined sugar or television, have I remembered the crux of the matter?  

Does Gavin know Jesus?
Is Maddie living for Him?
Will Owen, Benjamin, and Alaine spend eternity in Heaven?

In a forever-scope, that's all that matters.

Could I beg a small favor?  If this series spoke to you, would you consider sharing it with other mothers who may need an encouraging word?  You can share the entire series with this link:

or with this:

31 Days

Want to read the series in its entirety? 

{Day 1}: 31 Days For the Struggling Mama, {Day 2}: You Are Not Alone, {Day 3}: Your Situation is Unique, {Day 4}: Joys and Fears, {Day 5}: It's Okay, {Day 6}: Surviving, {Day 7}: The Hardest Age, {Day 8}: real life, {Day 9}, {Day 10}: The Hardest Number, {Day 11}: The Turning of the Seasons, {Day 12}: Go Along For the Ride, {Day 13}: Then and Now, {Day 14}: Confessions, {Day 15}: more real life, {Day 16}: Tackling Bedtime, {Day 17}: Worry, {Day 18}: Traveling With Kids, {Day 19}: He Said, {Day 20}: Know Your Trigger, {Day 21}: Fitting in Quiet Time, {Day 22}: real life again, {Day 23}: Managing Bathtime, {Day 24}: Handling Housework, {Day 25}: Discipline and the Heart, {Day 26}: Soul Searching, {Day 27}: Til Death Do Us Part, {Day 28}, {Day 29}: your real life, {Day 30}: Links, {Day 31}: Conclusion

Sunday, October 30, 2011

31 Days {Day 30}: Links

Today I am quiet.  These are words I could have written myself, but they said them better (and first!). 

Savor them...

The Tunnel of Parenthood by Emily Sederstrand
Are your children under the age of 5?  This should encourage you!
The Easiest Years by Amy Scott
Are your children a little older? This is for you!

There Is No Rewind Button in Life
by Trudy Cathy
Good reminder for every stage of motherhood...and for life!

My Field and the Good Portion
by Hayley
Short and sweet...on being joyful and content.

Do Everything by Steven Curtis Chapman
 "You're picking up toys on the living room floor for the 15th time today."
Does that grab you like it grabs me? 
(I'm not linking to the
official music video because, frankly, it weirded me out.)

 Stirring the Gravy and All Needing Something by Amy Scott
I've linked to this pair of posts before, but they are my all-time favorite parenting articles! 

Stay-At-Home Vs. Working Parents: Questions to help spouses bridge the communication gap by Heather Ridby
One of the funniest things I've ever read!  (My husband wasn't as amused.)


Someone also asked me to share a few parenting books that I recommend.   I thought and thought (and thought and thought).  I love Dr. Sears's The Baby Book and How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor by Robert Mendelsohn for medical advice, but I can't think of one single parenting philosophy book that I've ever read!  That being said,  I've heard only good things about these books:

*all links, including book links, are for your ease in navigation; I do not profit or benefit in any way by your clicking.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

31 Days {Day 29}: your real life

This is my real life, but what is yours?  Blog your real life photos and add your link below. 
(Please refer back to me in your post.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Comfort Food Friday: Dessert Week

 Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

The mother of my maid of honor gave me a copy of this recipe at my bridal shower over ten years ago and it is so good we're still not tired of it!

Stir together 1 3/4 cups of boiling water, 1 cup of oats, and 1 stick of butter.  Let stand for 10 minutes. 

Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar,  1/2 cup of white sugar, 2 eggs, 1 3/4 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of cocoa, and 1 cup of chocolate chips.  

Mix together and spread in a greased 9 x 13" pan.  Sprinkle with 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. 

This is the fourth and last week of October's Comfort Food Friday so if you have a dessert or any comfort recipe to share, consider linking up!

31 Days {Day 28}

He said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you,

for my power is made perfect in weakness.“

…For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

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Reminder: Tomorrow I'll give you the chance to link up your real life photos.  Take a moment with your camera to show us what real life looks like in your family.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

31 Days {Day 27}: Til Death Do Us Part

As this month {and these 31 Days} draw to a close, I want to take a moment to touch on an important point. 

When my children are grown and leave home, my husband will still be here.

It is easy to get wrapped in my children-- who needs a drink, who needs new shoes, who pushed who and was it done on purpose or by accident.  My day begins with dressing the little ones and fixing breakfast for all.  Then I teach school and read books, fix lunch and lay children down for naps.  I cook dinner and play games and push swings and give baths.  The day is brimming with diapers and spills and squeals.  When at last I've tucked the blankets under chins, I am  tired and sometimes a little grumpy, too. 

Do I leave any time to cherish my husband? 
Do I send him the message that he is important?

I'd like to think that I do.  We never part ways without a kiss and an "I love you."   We connect on the phone multiple times throughout the day.  I leave him notes to find in his lunchbox.  When he's home, we talk while we wash the dishes or do the bills.    Our kids laugh at the pet names we have for each other. 

Still, I am sobered by the realization that when the children are gone-- whether it is ten years from now or twenty-- it is going to be me and him again.  When I no longer am responsible for the everyday needs of my little ones, when the chaos has calmed and the days are eerily quiet, when the years have passed in a whirlwind and I find myself on the other side of them...we will be two again.

If I wait until life slows down to show him I love him, it will be too late.

These years matter. 

Reminder: On Saturday, I'll give you the chance to link up your real life photos.  Take a moment with your camera to show us what real life looks like in your family.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

31 Days {Day 26}: Soul Searching

There is a pull to focus our attention outside of our homes.  Whether it is the lure of outside employment or the cry of a ministry that needs assistance, the pull is strong.  We know that Jesus told us to, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation," but when our children are young, does our world, perhaps, begin at home?

We would do well to remember that when Paul implored the older women to, "...urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God," he was showing us that our husbands and children and homes were meant to be our first ministry-- before teaching Sunday school, before volunteering to run the clothing drive, before blogging (ouch!), even before bringing a new mom a meal or calling a shut-in.  These are all commendable, upstanding, wonderful ministries, and if the season is right, we shouldn't hesitate, but if either of our good ministries causes us to neglect our primary role as wife and mother, we are missing the boat. 

It has been argued that if our first love is the Lord, then doing His work is always best, even at the risk of jeopardizing our time at home.   The Bible warns,"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"  We could say the same in reference to our families...

"For what will it profit us to win the souls of the world and lose the souls of our children?"

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

31 Days {Day 25}: Discipline and the Heart

I think right now the thing I struggle with most as a mother is keeping peace in our home.  As the kids get older, I struggle less and less with not getting enough sleep (I'm used to it!) and changing diapers all day long (I've changed diapers every day for almost nine years!), and more with getting my children to show love and compassion to each other in their daily interactions. 

Whether it is nit-picky squabbles over being bumped into on the way out of the bedroom door or the rolling-on-the-floor snatching matches over who was holding the toy first, it is frustrating trying to figure out what to do and how to get it to stop. 

Over a year ago, we implemented a new Bible-based system of having the children deal with their disagreements with each other before bringing them to me.  If Owen takes the pencil that Gavin was using, instead of tattling to me, Gavin should politely ask Owen to hand it back.  If Owen refuses to comply or throws it at him or has some other unsavory reaction, Gavin is then allowed to approach Brian or me for assistance and place the problem in our hands.  We love the concept of this plan and work daily on having the children understand why we do this, but reality is that in the heat of an argument, their first reaction is to yell, whine, stomp, and tattle. 

I used to require that my children apologize to each other after these ugly confrontations.  I'd have them face each other and parrot, "I'm sorry," and, "It's okay," but it all seemed rather meaningless.  Now I have a different approach.  I say, "I know you hurt your brother and I think you should apologize, but I am not going to make you.  I want you to actually be sorry before you say the words." 

You see, that is the key.  Racing to see who can jump on the favorite swing first or taking the last donut or grabbing toys or whining over whose turn it is to pick the music in the car are issues of the heart .  They are more than surface altercations. It boils down to, "I think I deserve better than you. I like my way better than yours," because...

"The heart is deceitful above all things."

I try to relate their issues to my own.  I may not whine about who sits next to me in the car, but do I complain when someone pulls out in front of me on the highway?  I don't hit my brother when he makes a face at me, but do I snap at my husband if he has to work late?  I don't complain about what's for dinner, but do I pout when I run out of milk?  Our problems and reactions may be different, but they all point to an "I deserve better" attitude.

There is no easy answer for this.  I know my children love each other.  I know it when I see them help Benjamin put on his coat and shoes to play outside, and when they hoist him up to play in the bed of Daddy's truck with them.  I know it when I see the excitement on their faces when they hear Alaine waking up from her nap.  I know it when I hear Owen tell Maddie that she is his best friend, but...

So basically, we are dealing with heart issues.  Yes, I need to be diligent in guiding and molding, but I also need to be mindful that parenting books, gimmicks, scolding, and time-outs are not the answer.

Jesus is.

Want to catch up? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

31 Days {Day 24}: Handling Housework

The saying goes, " So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!  I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep," and it is oh so true.  But...yes, there is a but....BUT there is still housework to be done.  The children come first, but the toilet still needs a scrubbing.  Snuggling with my toddler is important, but I do need to sweep the crumbs from the kitchen floor. 
Reading stories and tickling and pushing them on the backyard swing is priceless, but no one wants to sleep on stale sheets.  Housework is another of those things that must be dealt with (or at least thought about) on a daily basis.  I don't know about you, but keeping up with even the most basic cleaning has at times been a major stresser. 

When my children were younger, I began teaching them to help around the house.  We began with small tasks.  Keeping them by my side or close-by as we worked guaranteed that no one was getting into mischief in another room of the house.  Because they worked with or near me, it was best to spread the cleaning and housework chores over the whole week instead of attempting to clean the whole house in one shot.  We changed sheets every other Monday, dusted the downstairs on Tuesday, cleaned the bathroom on Thursday, and so on.  Sometimes...who am I kidding...many times I wished that I could do my work alone, knowing it would be so much easier to wait until everyone was sleeping or otherwise occupied.  One morning when Gavin was about 15 or 16 months old, I found  him shut in the bathroom where he was swishing the toilet brush into the toilet bowl. 

But of course, babies don't keep, and as my babies grew, they became a genuine help around the house.  We still tend to spread the housework throughout the week, but on weeks when company is coming (which has been three weeks in  a row this month), we will spend a larger space of time washing, scrubbing, dusting ceiling fans, vacuuming crevices, and beating rugs to get the whole house clean and shiny all at once.   I could not have even entertained the thought of doing such a thing without the help of another adult a couple of years ago, but we are now in a new season, and even though our current home is larger than our townhouse was and has an extra bathroom, it is infinitely easier to clean with everything on one floor.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." 

Whether you have the time and energy to keep your house clean from top to bottom or whether you can only commit to the bare necessities, do it all as unto Him!

{Disclaimer: Though this post was written to give you ideas and to illustrate how our family handles the household chores, remember that you are walking your own path!}

Sunday, October 23, 2011

31 Days {Day 23}: Managing Bathtime

Bathing children is a necessary evil.

Over three years ago, when I was pregnant with Benjamin, I was tempted to let my other three kids go for days on end without a dip in the bathtub.  It wasn't that I liked them to be dirty, but  hefting my large self up the stairs and hoisting kids up and over the edge of the bathtub was a lot of work.  Standing up to wash them was uncomfortable, but when kneeling, there was no place for my belly.

After Benjamin's birth, the belly went away, but I was often holding or nursing him during bathtime and only had full use of one hand.  I devised a fun way to guarantee everyone (even the two-year-old) learned to wash him (or her) self when I was unable.  Each child would grab a bar of soap, washcloth, or body puff while I sang our own song to the tune of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush." 

"This the way we wash our arms,
Wash our arms,
Wash our arms.
This is the way we wash our arms
On a Monday evening."

Do you know that my littlest ones still ask that I sing that song at their bathtime...and even though they are fully capable of washing themselves now, I usually oblige!

{Disclaimer: Though this post was written to give you ideas and to illustrate how our family handles bathtime, remember that you are walking your own path!}

Saturday, October 22, 2011

31 Days {Day 22}: real life again

If you enjoy these peeks into my real life
consider joining me next Saturday, 
when I'll have a place for you to link up 
your real life photos. 

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Comfort Food Friday: Side Dish Week

Sweet Potato Casserole

I'm not a huge plain sweet potato fan, but this?  This I can't resist.  While it's technically a side dish, it can pass as a dessert or even a main dish in my book!   This casserole finds its way to our Thanksgiving table every year, but it is welcome on the table any day. 

Mix together 3 cups mashed sweet potato, 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of melted butter, 2 eggs, and 1/3 cup of milk.  Spread into a greased 9 x 13" glass pan. 

Mix together 1/2 cup of  brown sugar, 1/4 cup of flour, 2 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter, and 1/2 cup of oats.  Sprinkle evenly over top of casserole.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Coming up...
October 28: Dessert Week

31 Days {Day 21}: Fitting in Quiet Time

When I was growing up, my mom would read her Bible in the morning before my brother and I got up for the day.  We didn't often see her do it because she rose before us, but when we stumbled down the stairs in the morning with bleary eyes, her well-worn grey Bible usually sat beside her on the couch. 

We've all heard it said our day should begin with the Lord, but what can be done when rising out of bed early signals the rest of the house to do the same? 

My children are early birds and the sound of me stirring around the house, no matter how quietly, is an open invitation for them to join me.  I learned early on that it was counter-productive for me to attempt a quiet time in the morning.  It seemed that before I even settled my buns on the couch with my Bible that toddling feet and busy mouths joined my party.  It was frustrating to wake early while getting nothing accomplished, especially since the early rising left everyone-- including me--sleep deprived and grumpy.

Soon I began to understand that studying His Word in the morning was not a  God-imposed requirement.  It was a burden I was placing on myself.  The Bible is real and true and life-giving whether I read in the morning, during nap-time, late at night, while changing a diaper, or hiding out in my closet. 

He is a God of compassion. He is a God of patience and understanding. He knows my needs and, day and night, He meets me where I am. 

He'll meet you, too.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Days {Day 20}: Know Your Trigger

We have good days.  We have bad days.  It's universal, and I bet if you stop and take a minute to think about it, you can come up with a few things that increase your chances of having a bad day.

Is it waking up to a messy house?

Is it not having a plan for dinner?

Is it having an appointment in the middle of naptime?

Is it having somewhere to go for the fourth day in a row?  Or perhaps staying home for the fourth day in a row? 

For me, I know that Thursdays used to get me down.  I rarely dread Mondays (or rainy days, for that matter).  I'm fresh from the weekend and I welcome a chance to get back into a routine, get the laundry caught up, and put the house back in order.  We almost always plan to stay home on Mondays.  I'd also sail through Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but on Thursdays, I'd crash.  Brian works late most every Thursday night so I'd spend an entire day-- from early morning to bedtime-- alone and overwhelmed.  I yelled a lot more.  I cried a lot more.  I'd feel guilty and ask forgiveness and vow to do better next week, but when Thursday rolled around again, it was more of the same cycle of discouragement. 

Girl play
Fed up with myself, I devised a plan to make Thursdays better.  Every few weeks, I'd invite friends over on Thursday mornings to give us something to look forward to and to give me adult conversation. In the off-weeks, we'd go to the library or read a stack of fun books before we began our school day.  In the afternoon, I'd let the kids watch a movie while I took a nap or read a book.  We'd fix an easy dinner and serve it earlier than usual.  We'd sing a bunch of silly songs actions songs in the living room before bed so everyone could get their wiggles out before the tedious routine of teeth brushing and cover tucking. 

Though acknowledging my trigger was helpful and pre-planning eased the stress, I'm convinced those things were not what helped me through the day.  No.  It all changed when I realized that no matter how much of an effort I made to make things smoother, I still failed every. single. week. so on Thursday mornings before I even left my bed, I prayed for wisdom.  I prayed for His help to hold up my hands when I could not.  It  made all the difference.

Can I say that every Thursday is now a cheerful, happy bouquet of roses?  Certainly not,  but I can say that I know His strength is perfect and He is faithful.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

31 Days {Day 19}: He Said

Something eery occurred at our house last night.  One child, having had no nap, had gone to bed early and the other four went outside to play while I did the supper dishes in an almost empty house.  It all felt very odd. 

"Listen," I said to Brian. "Do you hear it?" 

"Hear what?"

"That's just it," I said.  "I can't hear anything.  It's quiet in here." 

While driving down the highway as we began our trek home from our recent vacation, Brian commented, "Do you realize how much simpler it would be if it was just the two of us on this trip?  When it was time to leave, we would throw our suitcase in back of the car and go." 

We laughed for a few minutes, thinking of how there would be no scramble to find missing shoes, no making sure everyone had used the bathroom, no questions of, "Are we almost home?" or,"Can we listen to Veggie Tales?" ten minutes into the trip. 

"Well," he concluded, "there are years ahead for all that. Might as well enjoy this now because we'll miss them when they're gone."

That's right.  This lovely chaos won't last forever.  Embrace it while you can.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

31 Days {and Tri-Moms}: Traveling With Kids

When we were planning our family vacation in September, I admitted to Brian one night that, though I wasn't dreading the trip, I wasn't looking forward to it like the rest of the family.  He and the kids were counting the days.  Me?  I was thinking about how much planning goes into taking five kids on a trip!  The thought of packing enough diapers and clothing to last seven people (including one who is newly potty-trained) four days was more than a little overwhelming.  The thoughts of skipped naps and bedtime in an unfamiliar place and eating out with a squirmy toddler quite frankly seemed like too much work to be called vacation.  I whined a little and moped a little, but after confessing this to my husband, I was convicted.  Why should my attitude dampen the spirits of the rest?    Who said that what is worthwhile must always be easy, anyway?

One daunting aspect of our trip was the almost four hour drive.  Several years ago, we took a trip and I painstakingly packed each child their own tote-bag filled with fun treasures to discover as we drove. Unfortunately, the children were too young to pace themselves and before we were even an hour out of town, they had finished sifting through their bags.  This year, I was captain of the shared trip bag.  I borrowed a stack of books from my mom's shelf, checked out a radio drama from the library, printed a few activities from the internet, and stashed coloring books and individual baggies of crayons (containing 8-10 basic colors).  I kept the contents of the bag a mystery.  Though the kids saw me slip things into the bag in the week leading up to our departure, they didn't know everything it held until the trip.    

One of the things they enjoyed the most were the scavenger hunts I printed.  (Google "travel scavenger hunts" and you'll find oodles!)  I printed three of varying levels-- mostly pictures with a few words for Owen and Maddie, and mostly words with a few pictures for Gavin.  Then I slipped them into page protector sheets to make them reusable.  I meant to toss a few dry erase marker into our bag, but I forgot.  Crayons worked just fine and wiped away when the activity was complete. 

Apparently attitude was the key to my success because once I stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to embrace this trip, it was one of the best vacations we've ever been on as a family.   Did we forget to pack anything?  Yes...sippy cups, a jacket for Maddie, Brian's belt...!  Did the trip add extra work?  Yes, but I even maintained a smile as I hand-washed pee-pee undies in the sink with dish soap.  We squeezed in naps in the car and powered through until bedtime, when Brian and I were too tired to enjoy a movie on the big screen TV. 

A key thing we learned on this trip was that the most memorable things were not always the most complicated or most expensive.  When we announced we were having ice cream for dinner, we were met with the biggest of smiles.  Exploring a petting zoo in the rain brought a free thrill!  Driving the ups and downs of back-country hills was compared to riding a roller coaster. 

Staying home would surely have been the easy choice, but taking this trip together was the right one. 

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My fellow Tri-Moms, Allyson @ A Heart For Home and Christy @ A Living Homeschool are sharing their travel tips today, too.  Take a moment to pop in and say hello.

Coming Soon
November 1: Thanksgiving crafts and recipes
November 15: Teaching the meaning of Thanksgiving

Winter topics TBA

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