Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Holiday Juggling

I have never been able to figure out if I am an extrovert or an introvert.

If you know me personally, you probably think right away, "She's an extrovert!". But as much as I love people, and gatherings; I love, love, love being at home. I love being here with my people, watching movies, playing board games, just existing, together at home. It's my favorite. 

So when I have running around to do, it can get stressful for me. I can quickly feel overwhelmed, constantly picking up one kid, dropping off another, going to town and back again several times a day. And when things are scheduled on a Sunday, my tolerance level peaks out. I like my Sundays to rest, reset, and breathe. 

This month I do not have a single Sunday that will be spent at home. 

I am dreading it already. I want to curl up and cry. I want to stomp my feet and say, "No, No, No". I want to put on my pajamas and Christmas music, lock the door and pout. 

But since that does not appear to be an option, I am trying to manage the best I can and look for the silver lining. 

Here are two small things that I have been doing to keep the chaos from taking over. 

Bullet Journaling  This is not the crazy, doodling, over eccentric version that you see on Pinterest. This video discusses using a  practical, all in one notebook to organize and schedule all the busy-ness. I've only been doing it for a month, and I already swear by it! 

Short daily devotion I'll admit, I am a failure at reading a daily devotion, but I also know for a fact that on the days that I do read it, it changes my perspective and puts me in a much better mindset. 

There is no magic key. Life can be overwhelming. I am doing both of the things listed above and I still feel like a swirling mess on some days, but at least it's only somedays, and not everyday! I still managed to schedule a church Christmas party at the same time and same day as my daughters school Christmas program. I will not be winning any organization awards, but only one hiccup (so far) feels like a triumph with the schedule I am trying to balance lately!

I use my journal as more of a planner, to write my To Do List's, my notes from various meetings, and shopping lists. It just helps to have it in one notebook, rather than scattered around on various scrap papers like I had before. The biggest thing for me is the index at the beginning. It's the simplest thing and a life changer as far as being able to find my notes for a particular topic. 

I still use my calendar on my phone, and set alerts for upcoming programs, snack days, special events, meetings, etc, but I also write down the notes for those things in my bullet journal. I like having something tangible that I can grab and jot down whatever I am thinking about and not have to worry about forgetting my idea or train of thought. And good grief, that train threatens to de-rail a hundred times a day!

Enjoy the holiday season, it'll be over before we know it, and then its just cold and January! I'm off to tackle some of my To Do's while the babies sleep!



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Love a Little More

The baby didn't sleep last night. As in, he was awake every, single, hour, and intermittently, his sister woke me up as well. I should be sleeping right now, truly, but he just laid down for his nap and there are words I want to say. So I give them to you.

I have a friend who is hurting right now. She has received hard news, and her heart is broken and my heart breaks for her. I would fix it all if I could; wouldn't we all, given the chance?

But of course I can't. I can pray like crazy, I can listen and I can be supportive. I can also cook and I can bring drinks, because sometimes, you just need good food and a good drink.

There is a lot of negative in the world right now. I could blame it on the recent election, but I think it has more to do with our mindsets. It's easy to latch onto the doomsday mentality. It's easy to get sucked into our own head space and worry and turmoil.

The holidays for me are a beautiful, magical, wonderful time of year. I know that is not true for everyone, but for me, it is.

So I begin celebrating early. I am ok with that. It makes me happy, it makes me feel good, and if I end up sharing my holiday goodies with you on a random Wednesday, then I am willing to bet you will judge me a little less harshly.

So I beg you, don't freak out if someone is singing Christmas carols already, or if they have their Christmas decorations out. Don't tell me "IT'S NOT EVEN THANKSGIVING YET", because isn't the fact that we get to celebrate Thanksgiving at all, circle back to that little miracle baby we celebrate at Christmas?

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we could all live every day with that special shimmer that Christmas brings, or even if you are of a different religion, the warmth that comes from the holiday season? Shouldn't that be something we try with all our might to bring to others all year round? Not everyone is better at the holidays, there are the few whom it bring out the worst in. I've seen it, I know them.

But overall, if you look past the gift buying, and the rushing around, if you look at the smiles and the joy, for all that is good, look at the children. It's the one time of year that even the kids who have it pretty bad, get a chance to dream, get a chance to believe. As a society, we tend to remember those less fortunate this time of year. And I for one, would love to see that all year round.

So I will hold my head up high, I will sing my Christmas carols at the top of my lungs, I will put up my Christmas decorations the minute I feel like it might bring extra joy where it is needed and I will not feel badly about it.

Whatever brings you joy, go and do it and if it can bring joy to others, even better.

Open yourselves up to the world around you, everyday. Don't wait for a special holiday or a special season or even a special occasion. Light up the world around you with love and with happiness, others will feel it too.

I want my people to feel that love everyday and I want just a little extra of it during the holidays.

So if I start feeling festive and begin loving on everybody a little harder a month earlier than I am suppose to, then so be it. I am ok with it. It makes me happy, it makes me smile, and how can that be a bad thing?

Go make this chex mix recipe, turn off the tv, bring out a board game, gather your people. You will thank me. Your house will smell delicious, your friends will like you better and you can freeze it in gallon baggies to bring out during the holidays later because it makes a huge batch! Go forth, eat, drink and be Merry (or at the very least, a little less cynical).

Happy holidays!


Holiday Chex Mix

6 cups cheerios
6 cups wheat chex
6 cups rice chex
one bag of thin pretzel rods
1 can mixed nuts
2 cups peanuts

Mix all of the above in a large roasting pan. I use one like this, (without the rack in it!). You can even buy a large disposable one at the grocery store!

In a medium sauce pan, heat the following on low on the stove top till the butter is melted.

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup salted butter
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
4 TBLS Worcestershire 
1-3 TBLS Tobasco sauce (depending on if you like a little kick)

Pour over the cereal mixture. Give it a good stir. Put it in the oven at 200 degrees for 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. 






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!

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.