Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When you appear relatively put together but you are one screaming toddler away from drinking wine while locked in the bathroom...

I don't know what it is exactly that is causing this extreme meltdown in my friends at this particular moment in time, but it seems that everywhere I turn another one of us is struggling to pull it together and about half of us have flat out given up the ruse that we are keeping it together.

I would venture to guess that a lot of it, is just getting back into the swing of getting kids to school, and sport practice and music lessons, and where I live, harvest season.

I know that because I am a mom to four littles, I am also surrounded by other moms of the same age group, but I am willing to bet if you have older kids, you have your own struggles, or have definitely been in our place.

If you do not have kids. Quit reading now, I wouldn't want to discourage you from having children. I swear despite all our complaining, it really is the most wonderful thing to have children. Except when it isn't.

Full disclosure I am in full on potty training mode with a toddler, the baby is in a growth spurt that means not sleeping at night, and my husband is finishing harvest so I am on my own 95% of the time. So all of that to say, I am in survival mode again and I am not particularly in a positive mind set.

Here's what I do know. I am not alone. No matter how different your family make up is from mine, we are all on this leaking ship together. Every time I turn on the internet I read another article from another mom that has those really annoying titles starting with "An open letter... etc.".

This is no open letter. This is just what I know for now.

This week I have seen mom after mom around me struggling to keep up and you know what, they are doing it. How do I know? Because they got out of bed and tried. That is what being a mom is. Even if you fail miserably, and we ALL do, as long as you woke to a new day and made the choice to get up and try again, knowing the odds are against you, then you are doing a great job.

You cared enough to try, however distorted and messed up and imperfect your trying is.

As a kid, I thought my parents knew everything because they were parents. I thought they had never experienced the hardships of childhood and being a teenager, but somehow were born lame, know-it-all parents. There was some equally lame rule book that told them how to do all the awful parenting stuff they constantly doled out. My parents ran us to practices, helped with homework, did the dishes, laundry and everything in between without ever getting tired because that what parents were made for. Their world did not exist outside of being my Mom and Dad. And they made it look easy.

Of course I was all wrong. They had their own problems and exhaustions. My words and actions hurt them more than I would ever understand until I became a parent myself.

And of course the sweetest revenge of all is now they are the grandparents and I am the parent and they get all the fun stuff and I get to clean up the poop and run the errands and fall exhausted onto my pillow at night, wondering how my parents ever made it through.

Can we just quit writing and reading articles that tell us that no mom is doing it all, because we all know we are not. It should be a non-topic at this point. We all choose priorities and then scrape by on the rest.

Lets just share the truth and let others feel good about it.

I shared a picture of my messed up, dirty, disgusting kitchen on Facebook and put my ugly out there for everyone to see. That picture got more likes and comments than most cute pictures of my kids. Why? Because we want to know we aren't the only one struggling. So I put my failures out there for you all to see, not because I want sympathy, or because I think I've got it rough (my problems are largely first world problems), but I put them out there in hopes that you will feel a little less alone and a little more like you can handle this messy life we are walking through together.

For example:

I was running late for a church meeting last Sunday. I was feeling frustrated and got there with exactly two minutes to spare. The other two Moms got there even later than me and they felt bad about themselves.

My daughter came in at the end of the meeting and needed me to fix the ponytail in her hair. The other moms were impressed that I had styled her hair to begin with. One confessed she had only had time to brush her daughters hair but didn't have the time to put it up, the other said she just pulled a ponytail around the rat nest in the back of her daughters hair.  I told them the truth, my daughter did her hair herself in the car and as I spun her around I found the rubber pony severely knotted into her hair and discovered that although she had dressed herself and at first glance appeared presentable, the back of her dress was still unbuttoned, waiting for me to notice.

We all had a good laugh about what seemed like personal failures that morning and bonded over the struggle to present a good facade. Admitting that their is no facade, just moms doing our best and calling it good enough. We are all like my four year old, appearing to have it together till you turn us around and reveal the knots and the unfinished mess that we really are.

The mess is good enough. Just showing up and doing your best (and sometimes not your best because you are just too tired) but at least giving it an effort is what being a good parent is all about.

Hold your head up high, whatever, however you are doing it, you will not be judged by me. I will salute you as I pass your screaming kid in the grocery store, I will give you a sympathetic smile as you juggle getting kids in and out of cars, and as I learned yesterday, I will most definitely laugh out loud with you as your toddler runs smack dab into a 15 foot tall lamp post (because seriously toddlers are the best/worst).

Go get it, you are amazing.

P.S. That's the only title I could think of while nursing a baby, typing and taking breaks to clean up pee. Here's hoping for a great day! If not, I'll try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Power of Words

I am an avid reader. I love many different genres and tons of different authors. Knowing this about me, a girlfriend texted me the other day and said she wanted to get a devotional book, what would I recommend?

I had to tell her something, something I had felt for a long time, but I don't think I had ever given words to before.

I do not like devotionals.

I feel guilty about this, and a little like I am not as good of a person as the people who set aside time during their day and commit to a true 'devotional'.

I cannot get into them and I have never found one I can stick too. My problem is simple, they are too much work.

Most devotionals I have ever read want me to read what they have to say and then get out my bible and look up certain verses. Some even have the gall to prompt me to sit down and write out my thoughts. Whoa, hold up, how much time do you think I have?

Now, lets be clear, Jesus deserves my time. I get that. But right now, Jesus and I have an agreement. I think about him... a lot. Just not necessarily while I am sitting down with a book that is telling me how and what to think about.

Instead I read books that engage me, they get my attention and encourage me to think about the words that have been written. I can come up with my own conclusions, my own believes and if the book is well done, then I will go to the bible on my own and explore the verses further.

But I want the main verse right there for me in black and white. I want to read one book, because lets face it, I am probably juggling a baby in the other hand and don't have time for flipping back and forth between books and bibles.

Over the last several years, I have found many authors that provoke me and push me further into my faith, but it is not necessarily 'devotional' books that they write. Instead they are books on faith, and books on life. Some I can relate too, others are far from my own life experiences, but they allow me to see life through someone else's eyes.

I love books. Real books, with covers and pages. Something tangible that I can hold onto, and I prefer owning them so I can write in them, highlight and come back to them. But I have also started to follow blogs over the years from many of my favorite authors. It allows me to continue on with their words even when the book is done. Finding an author that you like is like going down the rabbit hole. One good author leads you to another, that leads you to another...

I couldn't recommend a 'devotional' to my friend the other day, but I could recommend some great christian authors. Authors that will encourage her, lift her up, and bring self awareness without ever telling her how to do it. Maybe my time will come when I am able to sit down and complete a "real" devotional. But for now, I can only recommend what I know.

I know that these women, these authors, move me with their words. They push me a little, and sometimes make me uncomfortable. They give me grace to accept my flaws and try again. I am a million miles from perfect and I will never pretend like I have it all together, but reading powerful words from everyday women reminds me that none of us are alone in this world. We are stronger when we support one another.

Heres my little support for today; a list of books I have read or that are on my list to read*, and a couple of blogs that I follow as well!

Flower Patch Farm Girl
Life in Grace
The Nesting Place

P.S. This is a devotional I often look up on my phone. One click before I am even out of bed some mornings and I am already starting my day off right. It takes less than three minutes to read!
Proverbs 31 Devotionals

P.P.S. I do most of my reading while in the car waiting for kids. Throw one in your vehicle and kill some time reading instead of looking at your phone in between picking kids ups, I guarantee you'll be surprised by how much reading you will get done!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Newest Arrival

My list of 'to-do's' is a mile long and I can think of a hundred reasons I should not be sitting here writing, but I don't care.

The long stretch of pregnancy is finally over. Baby boy joined the girl tribe nearly three weeks ago, and it has been such a blessing. My pregnancy was not an enjoyable one at all, so when he arrived nine days before my due date, I was a bit surprised, but purely delighted.

My three previous kiddos came within two days of there due date, but I kept telling my husband I didn't think I would make it to my due date with baby number four. Even with that intuition, I wasn't as prepared as I should have been. When we got home from the hospital I had lots of newborn clothes to wash and I had to dig the bassinet out of the basement and clean it up.

Here's the great thing about having multiple children; you no longer sweat the small stuff.

Have you ever seen that mom with a ton of kids and you wonder how she does it, and how she remains so calm? It's because she has given up on the stuff that doesn't matter. My girlfriend (who also has a bunch of kids) and I were discussing this not long ago, and we're not sure whether it's just laziness or if we're just rocking this motherhood thing, but there are so many things we have let go of. We decided to pretend we are rocking it.

So little man came home to a house that was only half prepared for his arrival and he could not have cared less. He has been thrown into our own brand of crazy that involves a lot of love from his big sisters, and a lot more running than I ever did with the others as newborns.

When you have more than one child, it's a physical fact that you will not have as much time for the newborn as you did with your first one. Thats ok. You love them just as much, you just love them a little harder when you do get quiet time with them.

I always struggled with nursing the girls, but whether its the fact that my body is finally coming around, or the fact that he just has things figured out, little man is nursing like crazy.  So I spend a lot of time on the couch nursing him and although it's been difficult, I have explained to the girls that I cannot be up taking care of them at those times. They are on their own for what they want, or they will have to wait. Is it easy, especially with a VERY rambunctious toddler in the house? No. But I want little man to know that he has my attention too.

So I read books to the girls, I turn on cartoons, and when they push my buttons I yell at them from the couch (I'm not proud, but it's true). My life is crazy right now, but I know it won't last. In the grand scheme of things, this will be a very short period. So I let it slide.

I let the fact that the baby needs another bath get pushed back another night, because really how dirty can he be? I let the toddler eat an orange popsicle for breakfast, because I am not going to get up with a baby stuck to my boob to wrestle it out of her death grip. I let the big girls lay next to me and watch cartoons for longer than necessary, because the quiet is soooo nice.

This phase of life will be gone before I know it. That's life. It is the wonderful, messy, full life that I use to dream of. It looks nothing like my dreams mind you, but I know in my soul that this is the life I prayed for. This one life, filled to the brim with happiness and pain, crazy and calm, it is mine. And I kind of like it.

Have a wonderful weekend!! (And don't sweat the small stuff ;)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


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. 

Homemade finger paint
Mom's homemade bread

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. :)