Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Truth

Today I was amazing.

I got the oldest to school on time, ran errands with the little ones, came home and scrubbed the whole house in time for a very important meeting with the banker, I folded (and PUT AWAY laundry) and as I type this, homemade supper is simmering on the stove.

Seriously, today I nailed it. Yesterday was the exact opposite.

A dear friend is struggling with life right now. She feels like she is sinking and that she is failing in every area of life; motherhood, marriage, and work.

Everywhere I look I see another post or article on how we need to rid ourselves of Mom guilt, and then another one on how to balance work and home life, and another on the need to let it all go. I have even written my own versions of such things.

Here is the truth. I am so over it.

I am over hearing how we need to do this and that to have balance and rid ourselves of the guilt. There is no such thing as doing it all. Somedays you kick butt, somedays you suck at life. That's the truth of it. There is no magic pill, we are all struggling and somedays are just better or worse than others.

We were not created to be perfect. We were created to live life, suffering the ups and downs that pull us towards needing to be saved. It's when we get so low and so down that we realize that this life is truly out of our control. It's when we are weeping on the bathroom floor that we so often realize that WE are simply not enough. When we turn ourselves over to God and admit that we cannot control any of it, we finally feel we have a sense of purpose, a sense of control.

Ironic isn't it, giving up control is when we find the best sense of control.

When we walk around pretending like we have it all together, we are doing everyone in our lives a disservice. I have struggled with this a lot lately. When people ask how I'm doing, part of me wants to lie and say, "Good! How about you?" But then I am faking it. I am pretending all is well, when really, I am having a hard time.

What if that person that asked me, is having a hard day, and when I lie, she feels inclined to say, "Oh yes I'm good too."

Instead what if we make ourselves vulnerable, and we tell the truth. "You know, I'm ok. Things are a little hard right now, but I know they'll get better." Then the friend might feel free to say, "Oh thank goodness I'm not the only one right now. Today feels like its never going to end. I'm glad I'm not alone."

Now I believe there is a fine line. No one wants to talk to the person who is always a downer and wants to tell you how bad life sucks all the time. But being honest and not pretending it is all sunshine and roses, opens yourself up to creating a safe place for someone else who could be struggling too.

Life is imperfect and somedays are going to be really awful, in fact sometimes, days will turn into weeks of misery. But if we look for the silver lining, it is there. There is always a ray of hope even in the darkest of times, a light that signals there is a break ahead.

Keep your head up, don't quit. Look for that friend that tells you its ok to fall apart, and it's ok to try again tomorrow.

Confess to all the world, you do not have it all together, you are imperfect and are striving to be better. Aren't we all just doing the same thing? We are putting one foot in front of the other, hoping to create a better world, either for ourselves, for our family, for the human race.

Be a ray of light for the people around you, but don't be afraid to show your own darkness. It might just be the darkness that lifts someone else up and frees them from their own burdens. We are all just stumbling through this life together and walking each other home.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sensory play: From manure to play dough

My Mom is an incredible woman. She can make just about anything, whether cooking, baking, painting, sewing, or more. Plus she can hold her own out on the farm doing the dirty work. I inherited about half of that and quite frankly being just half the woman my mother is, is a pretty lucky thing.

As a kid I remember making homemade play dough all the time with my Mom. We lived way out in the country, like hilly billy, back woods, distance. We didn't have the luxury of buying new play dough if we left the play dough out and it dried up. Instead, we made our own.

I've always made play dough with my girls since they were teeny tiny as well. Today, I switched it up just a bit. I added scents! I used the same recipe my mom has used since we were kids, and when it came time to add the dye, I also added an essential oil to each of them.

Now, lest you think that I am bragging, or running for Mom of the year, yesterday the two oldest spent several hours out in the cattle pen, literally up to their knees in spring time muck (poop with a little dirt tossed in) and came back covered head to toe in it. We most certainly do not spend everyday making sensory play things and holding hands and singing Kumbaya.

But since I can't really share tips on how to let your children loose in manure and teach them to roll in it like small piglets, I will instead share my Mom's recipe for homemade play dough.

Homemade Playdough 
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup salt
1 Tablespoon alum 
1 3/4 cups water
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil 
(essential oil of choice)optional

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. 

Bring water to boil, add alum and oil. 

Pour into flour mixture. 

Mix till all combine. 

Separate into however many portions you want. I usually do four and add food dye in the color the kids want. 4-6 drops of food dye per dough ball. Then roll, squish, mix till desired color. If you want, add a couple drops of essential oil for a twist. 




It's that simple. Your kids will love it. The essential oil is completely optional, and since this is my first time, I have no idea if its worth it, or if I'll just end up nagging at the kids to not eat the play dough. It could be just a new temptation, but it can't be any worse than rolling in manure! 

Happy Monday friends, enjoy this Easter week. 


P.S. 
Homemade finger paint
Mom's homemade bread

P.P.S.
If you want tips on farm sensory play, find a mud hole, dirt pile, or manure pile. Then let your children loose, turn your back, and walk away. Come back at a later time, while unsupervised, they will have no doubt figured out how to rub all sorts of sensory items: disgusting-filthy-you-do-not-want-to-know-what-that-is-sensory items, in their hair, up their arms, and in the mouths. They will be grinning from ear to ear. Take them home, hose them down and put them in the bath. Repeat as necessary for quality sensory play.






Saturday, March 12, 2016

For the Love of Home

My house is a mess. Not just run of the mill, I have kids messy, but real deal, it would take some serious hours of deep cleaning to tackle this mess, mess.

With little energy and time being at a premium, I tackled the most visible thing that I can handle right now that is driving me crazy.

The girls do most of their crafting, sewing, homework, you name it, at our dining room table. I am constantly nagging at them to put away their project for meal time and yet inevitably I end up scooping it all up and dropping it on the fireplace mantle next to the table. This has led to a fireplace that was overflowing with piles of discarded projects.

I began looking for a free standing piece of furniture to put in the dining room, something multifunctional to hold all of our puzzles, crayons, papers, crafts, board games, etc. I thought perhaps a buffet with lots of storage or a hutch would do the trick. Right away I found the perfect piece, but at $425 I wasn't prepared to invest that kind of money yet.

Yesterday I was searching the internet for inspiration, and I got to thinking about how I could utilize the furniture I already had for the purpose that I needed. A little bit of brainstorming later and I had a solution.

I emptied all of the DVD's from the TV stand and put them into the empty coffee table in the toy room. I then sorted through the junk on the mantle of the fireplace that had been accumulating since Christmas. I pitched the junk, scraps of paper, broken crayons, old receipts and kept what little was left.

Then I had to wait till my husband came home to help with the heavy lifting. We moved the (portable electric) fireplace from the dining room and swapped it for the tv stand in the living room. With such a small shift, I was able to empty the piano bench that was holding all the puzzles and take the stack of music that was on top of the piano and put it in the bench where it belonged! Crazy, I know.

The crafting supplies, markers, coloring books and legos that had been stacked precariously on the fireplace went inside the TV stand where all the DVD's used to be.

Later today, when I find the energy, the board games that have been taking up precious space in my utility closet will get moved to the TV stand turned dining room storage as well.

It was really just a matter of perspective. The Nester is always talking about shopping your own home, and I get a little frustrated sometimes, because I feel like I don't have much to shop from in my home. But last night I proved myself wrong. One simple swap of furniture and all of the sudden both rooms are more functional.

Here are some links from around the web that inspire me to keep plucking away, even during this exhausting time.









Here's to the weekend, and hoping you find yourself comfortable in your own home. That you feel happy, settled, and rested. Happy Saturday friends! 








Monday, March 7, 2016

Working From Home

Mondays are my work day. Working from home means having to be a self starter, which I tend not to be. If something has a deadline, you can bet I will have it done, and done well, on time. But until its necessary for me to actually begin a task, I put it off.

Case in point, today, none of the bills due are actually due today or tomorrow. So I am sitting at my desk writing rather than getting down to business.

When we got married, my husband and I discussed what our roles in our family business were going to be. It took a lot of learning and give and take, but we agreed that I would handle the bulk of the office work and he would handle the bulk of the outdoor chores. It isn't perfect and we both pitch in  to help the other out when its needed, but for us, this is the system that works best.

Working from home requires a specific kind of balance. A balance that has taken me a very long time to figure out. I use to think that since I worked from home, I just did my office work when it needed to be done. If it was the weekend and something was due, I did it. If it was late at night and my husband wanted to go over paperwork, I did. Holidays meant nothing to me, I worked over those too.

I worked by the same ethic that most farmer/ranchers do, there are no days off.

I did this for a long, long time. It burnt me out and made me miserable. It wasn't till a couple years back on a Fourth of July that I had a revelation.

My husband feeds cattle and does chores that are an absolute necessity. They have to be done every day at relatively the same time. So every year, I would wait for him to finish all his chores before the girls and I would join him and head to the river to celebrate the festivities of the holiday.

I would be miserable and pouty. I would sometimes try to help him get done earlier, but with all the kids in tow, we usually just slowed him down. So we sat and we waited.

Then two year ago on that Fourth of July I realized, just because a certain work schedule works for him, doesn't mean it has to work for me. I could take weekends/holidays off. It was the Fourth of July, no one else with a desk job was working, they were at the river celebrating. I could do that too! I didn't have to sit at home with anxious kids and pout and feel sorry for myself, I could head out and wait for my husband at the river just as easily as I could wait for him at home!

Maybe this seems really obvious to everyone else, maybe I was a little late figuring things out. I am ok with that, I'm often a little behind on the obvious.

But that new perspective changed everything for me. I began looking ahead and taking care of business so that I would have my weekends free, Mondays became my day to sit down and take charge of what I needed to finish that week. Holidays were suddenly manageable. I no longer came back from a holiday break feeling overwhelmed or had to take time away from holidays to finish some work task. Instead I planned ahead and prepared to take time off.

When you work for yourself, you can get in the mode of never really taking time off. Everyday, anytime of day there is work that can and needs to be done, but it was making me miserable.

Here's what has been working for me in this season of my life. Its bound to change, and I will have to change with it, but for now:

  • I don't do business work on the weekends, unless it can't be avoided (cattle often ship on Sundays and sometimes office work MUST be done on Saturdays). 
  • Holidays are time off. 
  • Sundays are family day. No office work. 
  • No business work in the evenings. This is a big one for me. Often thats the only time that my husband can sit down to go over work with me, but I avoid it unless its absolutely necessary. I need to be able to clock out and have my downtime before bed especially after the kids have gone to sleep. 

One of the perks to working for yourself is that it can be individually tailored to suit your own needs. So if you work for yourself and are running into road blocks that seem to always be bringing you down, I encourage you to look at your day to day schedule and see if there is an area that can be restructured.

Whatever it is, that makes you happy, find a way to make it happen. There will be the unavoidable tasks, hello taxes! Babies will get sick and mess up your Monday-work day. So be flexible, be willing to learn what works best for your business, your family, for you personally. Just remember for most of us, work is a necessity to be done so we can enjoy life, and if you're not enjoying life, maybe its time to make a change.


Disclaimer: I do not have it all together, my work system has its flaws, sometimes I yell or swear while doing paperwork. I am human. :)




Monday, February 29, 2016

How do you know?

Inevitably when you are a talker and open like I am, people will ask you questions. When I am pregnant, the questions often center there.

The other night, while out with several friends, I was asked the same question over and over. How did you know you wanted another baby or how do you know when you are done having babies?

Obviously I cannot answer for everyone, but I can tell you what my experience has been.

With each of our pregnancies, I would wonder, "Is this my last pregnancy?" Then I would be cuddling those sweet little newborns, with their soft skin and fresh smell and I would wonder "Is this the last time I will have a newborn of my own?"

People had told me over the years, "Trust me you will know when you are done having babies." But it was such vague answer, it was something they couldn't describe, just a knowing sense.

That was frustrating.

This is my fourth pregnancy, we have three wonderful little girls. In discussing whether or not to try for another baby, we asked ourselves; Would we be trying just to have a chance at a boy? Can we afford another baby? Am I emotionally prepared to take care of another baby? How will this impact our lives? How will this impact our girls' lives?

There were so many questions, but for us, it came down to this: We weren't sure if having another baby was the right decision. We only knew that we would never regret having another baby, but we might regret not having one.

So we went for it. We threw caution and pro's and con's and rational out the window and we decided to try to have another baby.

And here's the thing. We tried, one month, then I panicked.

Maybe I wasn't ready for this, maybe my days of babies were done and I was ready for older kids, maybe the timing was all wrong. I was terrified we had committed to something I wasn't prepared to take on. So I prayed. I prayed really hard, all the time.

I told God that I wasn't sure we had made the right decision. I was scared.

And God answered.

I was pregnant, right away.

The night I told my husband we were pregnant, our three year old walked out of her room at 9 pm and threw up on the floor. Then came the morning (all day) sickness, exhaustion reared its ugly head, our baby girl quit sleeping through the night, we headed into flu season and the holiday season.

I was trying to accomplish everyday tasks, like laundry, dishes, and cleaning house, and I would find myself collapsed on the couch crying from the sheer amount of effort the smallest task took. It hit me one day, early on, in the most overwhelming clear realization, this was my last pregnancy. I just KNEW.

Since finding out we were pregnant, I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have looked at my husband and said, "This is our last time." He has been extremely helpful and supportive. He has picked up more household chores than ever before, and I could not be more grateful. But after dealing with my exhaustion, emotions, and hormones, he feels it just as strongly as I do. My body, my mind and my heart have said to me, this is it, this is the last pregnancy.

Sure, we have questioned whether or not its partly hormonal me talking, and I could change my mind later on. I could, yes, but just as surely as I know I love the children I have, and the baby I am carrying, I also know this is the last time I plan on going through this stage of life.

There is a peace in that knowledge. I soak in every last moment with this pregnancy, knowing it is probably my last. I savor each milestone with a certain finality. It makes the hard days a little easier knowing that this is the last time I will go through these phases. Even though each day is getting easier, there is a freedom in the knowledge that I have made my decision.

I don't know what the future will hold, and I don't even pretend to know what God has planned. I cannot imagine what I will feel when friends and family continue having babies, I'm sure I will feel desire and trepidation.

As for me, and my plans, I am done trying to have more babies after this pregnancy. I do not want to put my body through this again, I don't want to take away from my other kids and the time I have for them. I don't want to be tired, and emotional, and exhausted and to feel defeated again. I just KNOW. I don't take this lightly, but I want to be honest for those that have asked, to perhaps ease the frustration for other women who are treading those uncertain waters.

I don't think it is the same for everyone. There are a million different perspectives and considerations for each individual faced with this decision. I can only speak for myself and hope that helps make it a little easier for someone else!

P.S. Great article on How many kids do you hope to have?




Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Little Encouragement

This pregnancy has been hard. I do not want sympathy, I am not asking for pity. I put myself in this position literally and figuratively. I am owning that. I am simply saying to all the mothers out there, whether you have one or ten, having kids is hard.

I have reached my limit where we are in survival mode. With my other pregnancies, I could still pull myself together the majority of the time. Now just putting on pants is hard. The whole process of having to find a clean pair, and take off my pajamas, and actually put one leg at a time into them is hard.

The baby ate dried flies off the windowsill the other day. The four year old got stitches. The kindergartener had to bring me crackers because I was too sick to get up. My mom and sister folded my laundry while visiting. My bedroom looks like my closet threw up.

A wonderful person complimented me the other day on how well I handle motherhood, and I nearly burst into tears. Because it is so hard.

Don't listen to that little voice that tells you there are people out there doing it better. They aren't, they might be doing it different, but they aren't any better at it than you.

To all the mothers out there, you are awesome. I just wanted you to hear that today. You are a rockstar. If you got out of bed this morning and fed your children today, way to go! If you went to work and breathed a sigh of relief to be free from the whining, breathe it up! If you called in sick just to spend a little extra time with your babies, you are amazing! If you locked yourself in the bathroom for quiet time, I commend you. If you cried in the closet, I feel for you.

If your kids colored each others bodies with markers, including their butt cracks, you can do this. If your daughter started slamming doors, you are a wonderful mother. If your toddler learned to flush things down the toilet, we've all been there.

Being a mom is hard. Ask your mother, ask your grandmother, ask the first woman you see at the grocery store. We are in this together and sometimes all we need to hear is that it's all going to be ok.

Tell your babies you love them. Everything else will work itself out.

It's Wednesday dear friends, which means nothing as mothers, we don't get days off and even when we are away from our children, they are the first thing on our mind. But you were lucky enough to wake up today and face another day, so hold your head up high, dust the goldfish crumbs off your backside and know that you are not alone.

We can do this.




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Season of Loving

The days are long but the years are short.

Amen.

Every day feels like I am working in circles and at the end of the day when I lay down, if you asked me what I did that day, I wouldn't be able to tell you.

My days are full with babies, naps, messes, kisses and cuddles. We also fight and cry and apologize over and over. It is a season for grace, a season for learning, a season for growing, but mostly it is a season for loving.

I've been told over and over by friends who's children have grown that the little years will go by fast. If I am honest, for a long time I couldn't wrap my head around that. The days just felt so long, and so hard.

But time is a fickle thing.

I am coming to realize that there will always be dishes, and laundry, and rooms to clean, but the days where they fight over who gets to sit next to me, or climb on my lap to read a book or just want me to hold them, will soon fade. Then I will be left with the laundry and the dishes and the rooms, but not the innocence of their love.

Now is the time, while they are open to my love, and eager to accept it, that I have to build that bond. Then when the love gets harder to do, they will have the foundation already there.

For a long time I've been thinking that if they just got a little older, then my work load would lighten, but now I realize it won't; it will only shift.

I will soon be raising young girls, and then teenagers, and those years will bring their own trials. The constant need for my physical presence, that feels so overwhelming right now, will soon no longer be a top priority.

I lay them down and watch them sleep, and in their beautiful little faces, I am beginning to see it. I see how the oldest looks more like a young lady than a toddler. I notice that my wild child is taller than she was a month ago. I see my youngest losing the newborn softness and rounding into a baby.

It is then, in the quiet that I am overcome with awe.

These exhausting days are a blessing. My children are an amazing gift, and the fact that I am able to raise them in a safe, loving home, is my gift to them.

I have been given the greatest responsibility in the world, to raise up these beautiful little people to be loving, kind, and honest.

It is no small thing to be charged with the work of raising children. I am going to pour out my love for them and know that whatever I do, as long as I love them, I am doing the best thing possible for them.

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, 
he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6