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!

Books:
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

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?