Wednesday, May 29, 2013

just a warning...

Good evening, friends!

I'm here to give a friendly public service announcement that I'm doing some blog housekeeping, and will soon be removing the links from the sidebar on the right hand side.  Those links are there for me so I have all of my favorite blogs in one spot, but some of you might use those links to peruse those blogs too. 

Bookmark the ones you love on your browser, because very soon they'll be disappearing!

This mama is exhausted and headed for bed - goodnight...




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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

5 Reasons Why a Bigger House Isn't Always Better


"You're going need a bigger house!"

We've heard some form of this statement each time we welcomed one of our last three babies home,  bringing our kid count to seven. 

We always laughed it off, or said something in response that was weak and was not at all what we truly wanted to say.  Like, "Oh, we're just fine in our house!"  and "Are you offering to pay for a new house for us?"  (insert a nervous laugh)

With some thought, and a few years to mull this topic over in my mind, here's what I truly want to say about a bigger house:






1.     If we lived in the third world, there most probably wouldn't be talk of bigger houses if the one we currently lived in was larger than a majority of the houses on the earth.  Talk of bigger houses is an "American Dream" concept, one that can be tiresome and just plain bleh (for the lack of a better word.)  We generally don't need bigger houses, we want bigger houses.  There's a glaring difference.  Around the world, people don't just want food and clean water, they need it too.  It's hard to wade through the needs and wants some times - I'm right there with you.  I'm not saying moving to a bigger house is wrong, but it's a good idea to camp on the idea of need vs. want when considering a change.  We've contemplated building a new house that suits our growing kids (who just won't stop growing) and to better use the space, but the time is not now.  We are exceedingly thankful and love where we live.  Three kids to a bedroom times two and all. 

2.     I'll throw in an obvious one:  Smaller house means less to clean.  Because the majority of us doesn't have a cleaning staff.  The family is the cleaning staff, and this cleaning lady and her staff does not want more house to clean, thankyouverymuch. 

3.     Keeping small keeps your debt load small or non-existent.  Going bigger, unless you can pay out-of-pocket, just leads to more debt.  More debt = more stress.  Now, who needs that?  Not I, said the fly. 

4.     You just can't avoid having to share in our home.  It's a true benefit in our self-absorbed culture for children and adults alike to have to share.   Entitlement and selfishness can creep in when children and adults don't have anyone to share with.  We think things should be easy, convenient, and make us gloriously happy.  Sharing in childhood can produce adults who more readily think of the needs of others.  And if handled with care, smaller spaces can mean better manners, more empathy, stronger bonds, and better organization for those living within. 

5.      Living in smaller spaces causes you to grapple with the contentment factor.  

 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:11-13

I once heard that contentment isn't having what you want, but wanting what you have.  I agree, and I'd take it a step further and say that contentment is possible because Jesus Christ gives us the strength and ability to "want what we have."  We sometimes forget that we aren't supposed to be able to be content without the help of our Savior.  So I'd say, a perfect place to live would not be in a bigger house, it would be to live in contentment until and if we're called by the Lord to move elsewhere. 

What reasons would you add to this list?



TheBetterMom.com

Friday, May 24, 2013

Five Minute Friday: VIEW




"Where a beautiful crowd spends five minutes all writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here. It’s like free writing therapy for the tongue-tied, tired, or blocked blogger. And boy are these folks the best." - Lisa-Jo Baker.com



This time, we're writing for 5 minutes on the topic of "View."

GO:

We've all heard it. 

"Enjoy these days with your kids, because they go by so quickly."

We smile and nod, because we're nice like that, all while thinking to ourselves, "I'm trying.  But these days seem to go so slow."

And as the years go by, we know the older woman in the express lane was right.  She was once in my shoes, but the view has now changed.  She's no longer down on the field, she's in the sky box, up in the nosebleed section peering down on what was her life from a different perspective.

So, older women in the store?   Next time one of you tells me to enjoy this - to soak it all in... I'm going to sincerely smile, and tell you I'm sitting back, enjoying the view from here. 

STOP.


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Thursday, May 23, 2013

you've come a long way, baby

 
{37 weeks pregnant, 2 weeks, 4 months, and 11 months}

I shared this comparison photo collage HERE on the facebook page yesterday, but I thought I'd share it here too since some of you aren't on facebook.  If you are on facebook, consider joining me there!

I love being able to compare how far we've come!  I took pictures all through my pregnancy in this exact spot on my kitchen too... I'm so glad I did. 

Today, we're celebrating the last day of school - but I guess we should have celebrated yesterday since we've not done a lick of school today!  We've been too busy celebrating.  We turned in our quarterly work samples and semester progress reports to our umbrella school, bought some donuts (and ate them,) went to the park, grabbed lunch, then went to our dear friends' adoption fundraiser yard sale! 

Great day!!! 


School's out for summer!




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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

hope for the little years


 
Sometimes even if you love life with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in the home, things can get mundane and downright hard.
 
 
This last year, we've had four babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to raise, along with the three older school-age kids.  At times, the days caused me to want to jump right back into my bed willing it to be the weekend again.  And at other times it rolled along swimmingly.  I was exhausted, yes.  That's normal for a mom of littles, even on a smooth day.  On those easy-ish days, I didn't get teary or get a raging headache, like I did on those not-so-smooth ones.  
 


 
 
There were breaks in the clouds, bringing a lightness to our days
 that I was and am so thankful for. 
 
Days when I didn't feel so alone.  So wiped out and frazzled. 
 
Through the realities of this life God has gifted us with - and it is a gift - I've learned so much. 
 
Those days that were tear and headache free weren't the result of changes in my circumstances, they were a result in changes in me.

Living life with little ones in the house is a precious, giggly, and carefree time.  But it can also be a host of other things that aren't so pleasant.   Here's how the ratio of smooth days started to greatly outweigh the hard ones: 



1.  Be Kind to Yourself, Get Up Earlier Than Them

Before you roll your eyes at me, and what I'm about to write, hear me out.  I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON.  I'm normally a stayupwaypastyourbedtime kind of person.  But necessity breeds invention, or however that saying goes... and oh, has necessity been breeding some inventions!  Years ago, I could sort of get away with sleeping in until one of the children woke me up.  But now things have changed.  Nowadays, mama feels cranky if she isn't dressed, and is mostly put together by the time the kiddos come barreling up the stairs in the morning. Plus, without a time to get grounded reading the Bible, things can go awry quite quickly with my attitude about things.

When I hit that snooze button (because I always do,) it's my reminder to start praying, all cozy in my bed.  Sometimes that bed is so inviting, that I pray for a loooong time between alarms.  But it wakes me up, and fills me up before even stepping foot on the floor to get a shower, read, and get on the computer. 

The kids have been trained since they were preschoolers or young elementary aged to stay in their rooms and play with their siblings until their clocks read a certain time.  (Currently, that time is 8:30 a.m.)  It has been a good system for our family.  It's predictable for all of us. 

By the time I see that first child's face at precisely 8:30 a.m., it's go time.  Time to feed the baby, get breakfast for the other little ones, get little ones dressed, play for a bit, and start school.  There's no time for mama to be lagging behind trying to get ready while the house has come alive for the day, plus the kids need their mama. 

Some families have found a system that works for them that looks entirely different than ours.  I'm so glad.  But maybe some of you are floundering.  Maybe you're feeling lost and overwhelmed before you even start the day.  The demands of kids and morning routines are just too much. 

Consider cozying up in bed a little earlier at night, and give yourself a breather in the morning to just be still and start the day without the rush and frenzy that mornings can bring. 

 
 
2.  Let Go of Perfect
 
Us Moms are prone to the urge to have all of our ducks neatly in a row, and have them stay there.  I learned pretty quickly that my little duckies like to roam and don't stay clean, perfectly groomed and fluffed for long. 
 
Bedhead is now a staple in our house along with cold cereal for breakfast on the weekdays.  We may gussy up a tad when we go out. But at home, we're low-maintenance.
 
Mismatched clothes are the outfits of choice around here.  We're ragamuffins, and we like it that way.  None of the kids care that the culture of the day looks down on these sorts of things - if God looks at our hearts, why should we teach our kids otherwise? I'd much rather have a kid who, rather than embracing the trends of the day, runs hard after the timeless truths of the Gospel.
 
Attitudes can easily turn into idols of the heart for a mama who lets her appearance, and that of her family become so important that she isn't happy unless everything looks like it's in place. 
 
While I don't struggle so much with the appearances of myself and my family members, I do struggle with the urge to control.  I so desperately want things to go as planned, that my day feels all topsy-turvy if it veers.  God has helped me reign in this struggle, and it's a work in progress. 
 
One thing I have to remind myself of when the days feel overwhelming, is that my kids are not robots.  They were not created to follow blindly, act perfectly, and keep quiet.  I remind myself that I don't want robots, I want my kids.  My loveable, squirrely, kind, loud, and precious kids. 
 
 



 
3.  Keep Doing the Things You're Proud Of
 
You know those days, when you're so proud of yourself for making play dough with the kids, or sitting on the floor reading books for an hour?  Those days that seem few and far between? 
 
Keep doing those things. 
 
Keep sitting down at lunch with them, memorizing a verse together.
Keep bird-watching with them out the window in the winter, and out on a blanket in the summer.
Keep letting them crack the eggs, and stir the cookie dough.
Keep lingering in their bedroom at night, telling just one more made-up story. 
Keep your fingernails painted just the way they did them for you.
Keep hanging their drawings up in your room.
 
 
 
 
Press on, my friends!  The little years are fleeting, and before long you'll be on to another stage. ( I'm preaching to myself here.) You are a gift to your family, a rare and precious gem. 
 
"She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her."
Proverbs 3:15
 
 
Please feel free to share this with the moms in your life! 
 
 

 
 
 

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

When you have kids... Episode 2: the bathroom


If you missed Episode 1: the store - click HERE.

Before having kids, the bathroom was just an ordinary place to do your business, get clean, and get out.  There was no lingering going on back then, unless you were soaking in a hot bath (which you could take any time you pleased.)  You never had to announce to anyone you were going to go use the restroom, and you most certainly didn't announce that you had to "go potty." 



source
 
For moms, bathrooms have changed from being a place of business, to a place of refuge and shelter. Moms have been known to escape to the bathroom to pray,  take a time-out for themselves to re-group, make a phone call, or read. 

The bathroom is the perfect sanctuary because the door locks, and you can kill two birds with one stone.   Plus, the only things that can fit underneath the door are little fingers grasping for their mother's toes, scrawled out notes, small toys, insects, and pet snakes.  Let's pray a pet snake has never been sent under the bathroom door to find you.  But I wouldn't put it past a child who is lost without his mother to try and squeeze ol' Slither under the door to assess the situation. 

I have seven children, three of whom are far past the age where they absolutely need mom during the two minutes I'm away.  But do they still?  You betcha.  (To borrow a term from a famous fellow Arctic mom.)  One day, I counted five separate knocks from five separate kids.  It started like this...

First knock:  "Yes?"

Second knock:  "What do you need?" 

Third knock:  "WHAT??!!"

Fourth knock:  "This had better be an emergency.  Is someone dead or bleeding?  If not, you have no reason to be knocking while I'm in the bathroom."

Fifth knock:  __________________________

That fifth knock is greeted with silence.  You know you've done it.   If you pretend you aren't in there, they will give up and go back to whatever they were doing before, right?  Well, sometimes.

 

source


Usually I slip off quietly to the restroom unnoticed, though sometimes I announce my departure on a particularly trying day by calling everyone's attention and saying something like this:

"Mom's going to the bathroom.  Nobody follow me." 

You'd think I was a mobster heading down to the docks for a midnight meeting with a guy named Sonny.  Who talks to their kids like that?  Well,  sometimes I do.  And I'd imagine sometimes you do too. 

Taking a shower has new meaning too.  If your spouse is home, and has your back, you can take more leisurely showers.  And, boy, do those kind of showers feel luxurious.  Shaving your legs feels like a rare spa treatment.  But if you're home alone with the kids, most showers are quick and business-like.  Much like the freezing cold camp showers I'm sure most of us have been subjected to sometime in our lives.  It's in and out.


source
 

I heard of a great solution for bathroom visitors that are grade school age and up, and I honestly can't remember where I heard it.  But I'd imagine that sliding some math fractions under the door for the interrupter to solve would be enough to teach the older "they should know better" crowd to not interrupt your short break. 

For the youngers?  Well, I haven't figured that one out just yet.  All these years, they still come a knockin'.  But I know they love me.  I know they need me.  And I can deal with that.  I treasure that. 

I just hope the stories my kids tell their spouses about me when they're older are accurate.  I've never met mobsters named Sonny down at the docks at midnight.  Ever.


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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

11 months


Today is little Miss Emmalie Claire's 11 month birthday!

As you can see, she is quite the little ham.  And just two days ago, she pulled herself up to a stand for the first time! 

Oh, how we love having this little peanut in our lives.  She is a true blessing and a definite mark of redemption in our lives.  We praise God for you, Emmy. 




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Being a beginning writer


I've loved to write since I was a girl.

I'm drawn to putting my thoughts into words, then stringing them together on a page.  In the last several years God has put a dream in my heart:  to someday be an author of a real book you can hold in your hands. 



Writing is something I'm thinking of constantly - it just won't go away.  So I figured instead of running away from it, or shooing it away because this season of life isn't conducive to it,  I'd invite it in and see what happens.  So lately, I've been reading books about writing and doing some research online about writing.  Well... and um, I've been writing too.  I'm a non-fiction girl - I like to write from the heart; so I can grow, and the reader can too.  It's a scary thing to say you've been writing, because it feels like I'm saying I think I have something worth publishing.  Time will tell if I actually do, but for now, I'm going to obey the voice that tells me to write and not worry about the rest. 

All of this reading and research has inspired me tremendously.  So instead of keeping all of my new-found knowledge to myself, I thought I'd share it here.  Who knows?  Maybe some of you are budding closet writers like myself, and could use some encouragement and some direction.  And if you aren't, maybe you could share this with people in your life who might be wanna-be writers as well. 



I love reading about the writing process of published authors.  My favorites are those who write the kind of books I see myself writing, and who are moms like me.  Knowing that other moms with children living at home can do it, helps me think it's not crazy for me to think about.  Even though it feels crazy most of the time. 

These two gals blog about things that are so helpful to me.

Emily Freeman
     On Writing (all of Emily's posts on writing in one spot)


Lysa TerKeurst
     Writing/Speaking (all of Lysa's posts on writing and speaking)





There are countless books and articles on the subject of writing - here are my current favorites:

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The Creative Call (An Artist's Response to the Way of the Spirit) by Janice Elsheimer
Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark

And then there's that much needed thesaurus.  Here's my personal favorite:

Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus

*I love how this thesaurus adds words and phrases such as "out to lunch" or "kick up a fuss."  Should you hug a thesaurus?  I don't know, but I might have.  I love it that much.   



These articles are great too:

When You Don't Have a Cabin or a Dog... But Are Still Called to Write by Sarah Mae

"A Message Growing Inside of Me" an interview with Emily Freeman

Every Book Starts With a Sentence by Lysa Terkeurst

How to Get Published by literary agent Rachel Gardner



There you go...  just a bit of the information that has has been building up inside me.  Carving out time to write and learn about writing with seven kids and a husband is slightly insane.  But one has to start somewhere if God is whispering "write" into their ear.  So I'm starting.  Staring to pray, seek, learn, write, and believe. 

I may be writing for an opportunity years down the road, or it may be just for this blog audience, but I don't care - I'm doing something I love.  And that is a reward in itself. 

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

So much GRACE



Have you ever been the recipient of so much grace, that it overwhelms?

That was me two days ago as I was flying across the country with baby Emmalie, back home to our family.  I had been praying hard (and I know others were too - thank you) for my return trip.  My neck was acting up and was locked up as a result of holding Emmy in my arms for hours on end on the flights down a few days before.  On the return trip, I'd be alone with the baby and my painful neck. 

I decided I'd chronicle my trip home here so I'd never forget - and to publicly praise God - who deserves so much more than my offering for all He has done. 

It started the night before the trek home, as my sister, nephews and I were getting ready to drive two hours back to Nashville so we could sleep for a few hours in a hotel before they dropped us off to fly out the next morning.  Before leaving town, their chiropractor (who had just arrived back in town) told us we could meet him at the country club where he was golfing.  Yes, we met him on the front steps of a country club, where I proceeded to lie down on the brick steps and have my neck and upper back adjusted.  It resulted in immediate relief for me, and thankfulness exuding out of my bones... GRACE #1



We drove off into the night, arrived in music city, and crashed for four hours in a hotel at the airport.  I had been dreading this moment even before I arrived in Tennessee.  The saying goodbye part.  I tear up just thinking about it.  My sister and I are close.  Really close.  We cried like babies clinging to each other, after I clung to my nephews - wishing I could know them, truly know them, and I headed in to check-in for the long haul home after turning around to wave just one more time.  With my reddened face, I took a deep breath and headed toward my gate.  At the front of the eternal line at security, a kind couple offered to do anything they could to make going through security easy for me... GRACE #2


When I reached my gate, I checked to see if there were any empty seats on the plane for baby's car seat.  There wasn't.  Upon entering the airplane, a friendly flight attendant took my boarding pass to see what seat I was assigned to, and stated that they put me in the wrong seat mentioning something about oxygen masks and babies.  After moving a person or two, I was assigned to a new seat at the very front of the small aircraft (it was one of those planes with just three seats in each row, one on one side of the aisle, two on the other.)  I was given the bulkhead spot with tons of legroom and no seat in front of me.  GRACE #3


Now the flight attendant had to work to shuffle folks around to fill the seat next to me.  The lady across the aisle from me kept to herself and her kindle, never looking my way.  When the attendant asked her to move into the seat next to me, she flat out said no.  She didn't want to move.  Tears were starting to pool and people were staring.  There were others that said they didn't want to move to sit by me as well.  I was feeling fragile, having just said goodbye to my sister.  This wouldn't have bothered me on a normal day, but my heart was raw this 6 a.m. morning.  Then up pops this man, about ten years younger than my dad... he didn't mind sitting by a mama and her little baby.  At first, I was honestly praying for a kindly older woman.  One who loved babies, and wouldn't mind if my baby was squirmy or squealing. 


He sat down with a friendly smile.  We began to chit chat about baby Em and about where we were traveling to and from.  You know, the normal airplane seatmate conversation.  I found him to be a man of God pretty quickly.  Turns out he is a ministry leader and pastor originally from South Africa now living in the states, and has started 113 churches in Kenya and Uganda.  We had great conversation talking about our families, orphans, and ministry.  He offered to hold Emmalie whenever I needed.  He spoke words to me that resonated deep within.  Like he knew me already.  He encouraged me in my dreams - saying that God would use me.  Then as we were making our final descent into our destination, he spoke a blessing over me and my family that caused more tears to fall freely - all I could do was smile, nod, and whisper a thank you.  What a gift this man was to me that morning.  It was a reminder of God's faithfulness to me.  I believe God sent this man to show me that He cares and He knows.  GRACE #4


I waved goodbye to my new friend, who waited in the jet way to see if I needed any help getting off the plane and unfolding my stroller that was waiting for me.  I waved goodbye and thanked him once again and rushed toward my new gate.  I literally ran through O'Hare (no small airport) passing a cute little tea and sandwich shop (Argo Tea) as I zoomed by, wishing I had time to stop.  A 6 hour flight was just in front of me, and I knew they were starting to board already as I searched for my new terminal.  So I continued on, deciding to settle for some junky fast food that would be closer to my gate.


I finally reached gate L1, and what should sit just before my gate?  Argo Tea.  GRACE #5

I grabbed my sandwich, drink, and cookie for the long flight home, as I eyed the line to board my flight which was quickly dwindling.  It was go time. 


I stepped up to the desk to get my gate check ticket for the stroller and car seat.  Then I asked if there was any chance there was an empty seat for Emmalie.  I prayed there was an empty seat for her.  I was desperate, my aching neck was desperate for an empty seat.    She shook her head no as she stared at the screen.  She then looked up at me, and said there were no two seats together - and that I'd have to gate check my car seat too.  Then she surprised me and said, "Wait a minute," while she tapped at the keyboard as gate agents do. 

She then picked up the intercom calling a woman's name.  There was a slim to none chance she would still be in the boarding area, since there were only ten folks left in line.  A woman second in line looks over, gets out of line and comes over.  I was breathing a huge sigh of relief and belief all at the same time.  This woman had no problem moving up one row so that I could have her seat for Emmalie.  Tears began to threaten again as I thanked God again for His obvious goodness to me.  GRACE #6




Then the gate agent took it a step further, and called out the name of a man who was also supposed to be in our row.  He would have to move from the window seat to the aisle, since car seats have to go by the window, and she wanted to run that by him.  He too "happened" to still be in the boarding area even though the other one hundred eighty or more people were already packed in the jet.  He took one look at us, and smiled saying that he, kids, and airplanes didn't get along, and asking to be moved from our row.  This time, I was beaming - so happy someone didn't want to sit by us.  I told him I didn't take any offense, that in fact I was thrilled.  We now were the proud owners of a whole row of seats to ourselves.  GRACE # 7

It was the best plane ride I've ever had hands down.  My baby girl slept 3 hours of it (GRACE #8), and I enjoyed some peace and quiet, and a couple movies.  I was absolutely overwhelmed by the grace God showed me that day.  It is impossible to deny the hand of God in the lives of those He calls His own.  He is REAL.  He is LOVING.  He is GOOD.  I'm sure you all have similar stories, and I pray He will continue to show Himself to us through the circumstances in our lives and as answers to our prayers. 



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