Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coffee Talk: Dealing with Chaos to the nth Degree

No baby yet; just a busy week around here! For today's Coffee Talk, I thought I'd share a reflection that has really helped me grow in grace with motherhood.

The potential for chaos expands as the number of children grows. With only one child, a tantrum or a whining spell may certainly be difficult to endure, but it is still much easier than dealing with two tantrums at the same time, or two kids whining about something, which is easier than three, and on and on as we add more children to the mix. At the same time, the kids may be behaving fairly well, with no one child doing anything particularly horrendous (let's say playing with finger paints). But the sheer combination of multiple children doing multiple things or making multiple messes can really stress us out. The sum is greater than the parts.

I read a recent example about kitchen helpers. One child wanting to help mix up a batch of cookie dough would be endearing. "Mommy, can I help you measure and mix?" Melts your heart. We have all the patience in the world for those kind of sweet bonding moments. But when three small children are clamoring on chairs all at the same time, and asking--all at the same time--to help add ingredients and mix, our blood pressure rises beyond what is natural. We went from a charming memory to a stressed-out situation where Mom is fighting to keep her cool, simply by adding more kids to the mix.  But it's not their fault; they're each individually trying to do what would be endearing to us if they were the only one doing it. It's just that the whole is greater than the parts. But it's up to us to find the grace to deal with these situations--to stay calm in our own spirits while still seeing them as individuals in a collective group.

So when I've found myself approaching my maximum tolerance level, I pray for more grace for the moment, and I remind myself that I should not react to my children as a collective group, but as individuals. See and respond to what each one individually is doing; don't lose it with all of them when maybe only one out of three (soon-to-be four) needs focused attention or discipline. Does that make sense?

As I was thinking through all of this, I came across this excellent post, which offers more encouragement on not allowing ourselves to hit the tipping point. Here's an excerpt:
 "Throughout your day you may have several opportunities to lose the grip. You don’t need to. You may pass up that opportunity. Having the feeling is not the indisputable sign that this must happen. Losing the bubble is a conscious decision that you can avoid making. It takes “getting the grace” to pass it by. I think we all know what it is like to have a great big emotional door in front of us. You may charge on through, or turn and pass it by. When you feel the emotional surge coming at you (a bit like sitting at the top of a slide), get the grace. Hold your tongue, and blow it out. Pray that God will give you self control. Walk away from it. It is much harder to get off a slide while screaming around the second corner half way down with your hair blowing in the wind. Also harder for your husband to get you off the slide.  Just don’t go down it. Much better for everyone!"--Grace on the Fly
I would love for us to have a coffee talk as moms about situations when we're most tempted to blow the gasket and how we can stop ourselves. I'd love to hear how you've grown in grace in this regard and any wisdom you've come upon that can help us all. Blessings!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Least Favorite Chores

So I'm not really a fan of ironing. Don't get me wrong--I like the look of nicely pressed shirts, skirts, pants, etc.; I just don't particularly enjoy being the one pressing the clothes. Once I get going, ironing isn't really that bad. It's just the getting-going part that's tough for me. But my ironing pile is mounting up.

Should I:
a) put it in a basket and save it for my mother or mother-in-law to do to help after the baby? (insert evil laugh here...)
b) spray the clothes with a wrinkle relaxer and call it good? They may not look crisp, but oh well...
c) mount up the enthusiasm and get going--just do it anyway?
d) a combination of all of the above?

In reality, I probably will employ a little bit of all the above. But...the goal will be to get the ironing board out, grab the clothes that really should be pressed, and do it despite my feelings.

With undesireable chores, I've found it's best just to not think about it too much (you can put it off all day, for days); just do it; and do it early in the day. Then it's done. You feel so much better. So let's say yes to those chores we've been putting off.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mop 'N Slide

My floors haven't been this clean in quite some time. You could chalk it up to
pre-baby nesting, except I'm not the one who's doing it. In an effort to earn some money (I told the boys long ago I would pay them 50-cents for mopping the kitchen floor and they're trying to save up for gumballs, monster trucks and other toys), the boys have been mopping like mad. (Well, ok...two times in three days...but that's more than I was getting it done lately).

The product we're using must really be working, because the floors are squeaky clean. Slip and slide clean. So clean the dog can't even walk on them. She sits at the entrance to our kitchen/dining room, where the carpet meets the tile, gets down on all fours, and proceeds to try to step slowly, carefully, like the scene in Bambi of Thumper on ice. The boys have even come up with a game that they call "Slick and slide," where they get a running start from the living room and see how far they can slide on the kitchen floor. So far no badly wounded heads or broken bones.

So what are we using? Well, I wrote the other day how I found a bottle of "Mop 'N Shine" at the Dollar Tree. I figured, for only a dollar, I'd give it a try. Plus, if the kids can use it and do the chore, without having to deal with a bucket full of soapy water (think flash flood on the floor), so be it. So we bought the Mop 'N Shine, and the boys squirt it on the floor and mop it up with damp microfiber cloths that we clothespin on the Swiffer. (A more frugal way to get the job done).

They're earning money; I'm getting a squeaky clean floor. It's a win-win for everyone. Except the dog, that is...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Coffee Talk: Break Time for Mom

"Most moms of young children report that it is not a single major crisis that brings them to the edge of breakdown. Rather, it is the constant accumulation of everyday hassles. With no breaks."
--Elisa Morgan & Carol Kuykendall, What Every Mom Needs

As moms, we are all in need of mercy...every single day, and several times every day. We love our children, we enjoy them, but when we're breaking up a squabble for the tenth time, or trying to keep one from biting another for the third time, or putting ice on the eye that just got a block thrown at it from a brother, or helping the one who's having a high-drama day, we grow weary. It's taxing. We crave a break. This quote sums it up perfectly: 
"Moms of preschoolers are said to be the most exhausted, fatigued, and worn-out strata of our society. Functioning on little sleep, unbalanced nutrition, little exercise, and frazzled nerves, we're expected to constantly juggle a jumble of balls without ever dropping one or losing our footing." --What Every Mom Needs
Elisa Morgan writes that "moms of preschoolers have a basic, undeniable need to take a break before they break." It doesn't have to be a long break. It can even be a mini-break--a few minutes in the midst of what otherwise feels like chaos to gain perspective. Here are some ideas:
  • Feed your spirit with prayer, reading a Psalm or another portion of Scripture. Read it aloud to the kids too. Talk about redeeming the day.
  • Laugh and lighten up.
  • Pace yourself with chores.
  • Sit down and play with the kids for a few minutes.
  • Get some fresh air and exercise. Take a hike! Take the kids to the park.
Another idea, which cracked me up when I read about it because it's so true is "Wal-Marting":
"Wal-Marting goes something like this: My day has gotten progressively worse. Any slight deviation from routine sets off my temper. My children seem particularly fussy. We run out of juice midday. The kitten keeps using the couch as a scratching post. Two unexpected bills come in the mail, and I get four phone calls during naptime. I can hardly wait for my husband to get home from work. As he walks through the door and asks me how my day has been, I explain that I am in need of some alone time. He says he'll see me later. I hop in the car and head to Wal-Mart."--What Every Mom Needs

Many times, I have felt the same way. It isn't a manicure or a pedicure or a massage that I crave in those moments; my idea of a splurge is hopping over to Sam's Club or Target or Wal-Mart for a few minutes without the kids just to walk around and browse. I don't even have to buy anything. Just being somewhere alone for a few minutes, where I can look at things without also keeping on eye on the kids and answering the "Mommy, can we get this?" questions that come every few seconds, restores sanity.

All this being said, I was convicted once about the philosophy of "me-time." I wrote about it here. We must remember that Jesus said we would find our lives in laying down our lives for others. So we don't always need to escape from the house and the realities of life as mom; we just need to find a way to refresh our spirits in the midst of it all.

But still...we're not perfect as He is perfect. Sometimes we need a few minutes to get it together. (I think this is why the Internet is so popular...quick break in the midst of a hectic day). What are your favorite ways to take a break?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Funny Pregnancy Comments

So I am officially due with baby number four, our first girl, August 16. But I must look ready to deliver any day now, based on the comments I have been receiving while out and about. Here are some of my favorites. They just make me smirk and giggle. The things people cannot leave unsaid...;)
  • "Wow! You're ready to pop!" (as if it were that easy)
  • "When are you due?" Upon hearing my due date is still 2-4 weeks away, the follow up by at least two people:
  • "Are you sure you're not having twins?" and
  • "Just one baby in there???" (ok, go ahead and call me huge, that's fine). :) I'm 5'4", and what can I say--short women tend to be all baby up front. We can't help it. It's called a short torso.
  • "Going for a basketball [football/baseball] team?"
  • "Are you gonna make it?"
Sometimes you just have to smile and go with it. Although I should come up with some great one-liners in response...

Have a great day!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Power of a Woman's Touch

When it comes to making a house a home, we as women just have a certain knack that can not be underestimated. This became so clear to me on a recent outing to check out some open houses. We specifically went to see house because the pictures of it on the computer caught our eye. It was tastefully decorated and homey. Once inside, however, it was a different story. The owners had moved out, leaving nothing behind--except a substantial amount of repairs. Everywhere you looked there was something broken or damaged. It did not look well cared for, as the pictures led us to believe. It looked like it had been destroyed.

When we got home, my husband looked at the brochure from that house (showing it when the family still lived there). He said, "Now, what about this one? We didn't see this house." I reminded him that we had just come from that house.

How interesting it is that when a home is turned into a home, the eye is drawn to everything that is appealing and drawn away from that which needs repair.  The house was the same house in the pictures that it was when we looked at it.  The difference was the woman's touch (which lent it such an appealing air in the photos) was now missing.

Making home an inviting place to be doesn't have to cost a lot of money, or any additional money at all. There are simple things we can all do to kick the cozy welcome factor up a notch or two. We can clear clutter, we can add a few plants or pick some flowers from the garden and put them in a pretty vase, we can arrange (or rearrange) decorations we already own in an attractive way.  Every home is different, and every decorating style is different. The goal is to figure out what ours is individually and use it to bless our families. And let's not forget the power of our attitude and words to affect the atmosphere of our homes as well.

So what can we do today to display the unspoken power of a woman's touch at home?

Related post: A Little Care Goes a Long Way

Menu Plan Monday

It has just been hot around here. But after a week of quasi-cooking, I am finally feeling motivated to create a real menu plan and cook some decent meals (thanks, by the way, for some ideas on what to cook when you don't feel like cooking!).

Oatmeal, cantaloupe
Tuna salad sandwiches, carrot, celery sticks
Cheesy beef and rice, green beans

Swedish pancakes
Berries, cottage cheese
Broccoli-cheese quiche, orange jello
BBQ Chicken drumsticks (crockpot), Cabbage ramen salad, boiled red potatoes

Granola, bananas
McDonald's with free meal cards from summer reading program

Eggs in a hole, oranges
Chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, apples
Sausage Rigatoni bake (I might try this in the crockpot), salad, Rocky Road brownies

Peanut Butter baked oatmeal
Cilantro chicken salad
Grilled chicken marinated in Italian dressing, orange rice, Crunchy romaine strawberry salad

Chicken tortilla casserole, salad, corn

Farmer's breakfast casserole
Sesame chicken, rice, sugar snap peas

(linked to Menu Plan Monday)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Coffee Talk: What Do You Make When You Don't Feel Like Cooking?

It seems like it happens every summer: the desire to labor in the kitchen, creating a nice meal, is just not there when the temps are high. Aside from it being hot outside (and inside--we don't have air conditioning), I'm very pregnant, and I want to make something quick and easy. So what are some easy summer stand-by meals for those "don't-want-to-cook" nights?
  • Sloppy joes, salad
  • tacos or taco salad (it's great to have browned ground beef already to go in freezer baggies that you can just pull out, put in a pan, warm slowly with a little water and season accordingly)
  • Quesadillas
  • Putting chicken or another meat in the crockpot with BBQ sauce, Italian dressing, or another sauce
  • Eggs (veggie omelets, scrambled eggs--plain or with veggies and cheese)
  • Giving meat to my husband to grill
I'd love to hear your ideas for what you turn to for these hot summer nights when you have to feed your family but wish you didn't. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What I Love About Living in a Small(ish) Town

When I first moved to where our family now lives, I was 21, fresh out of college and ready to start my career in broadcast news as a reporter for our local NBC station. I envisioned moving on after my first job, climbing the ladder to better and better news markets until eventually I wanted to end up working for a major network, such as FOX in New York. I wanted to be a wife and mother someday, too, and I never could quite figure out how these different tracts would merge.

Before I moved, an older friend asked what I'd do if I met my husband in my new city. I just laughed at the idea, because I thought every guy here would be a cowboy, and that really wasn't my big-city type. Yet, a few weeks after attending one of the churches here, I met the man who is now my husband.

After a few months of spending time in groups with friends, we started dating. After about six months of dating, we were engaged. After six more months, we were married. Although he no longer rodeos or works on a ranch, I ended up marrying a cowboy after all. It turned out alright. Going on nine years and soon-to-be four kids later, here we are--in the same small town I had such a hard time adjusting to.

When you move from a city of over a million to a city of about 50,000, it's a huge adjustment. No more Pier 1 Imports, or Cost-Plus World Market, or Barnes and Noble with a Starbucks in it. None of the places I loved to go just to browse were anywhere within a half day's drive. Plus, the landscape here was so different than where I was raised in the Midwest, with hills and hills of green grass and more trees and lakes than you can count.

After living here for about six months, I flew home for a week. When the plane touched down here again, I really didn't want to be here. If it weren't for my husband (at the time, my boyfriend), I would have taken another job offer I had received and high-tailed it out of here. But I stayed. And I'm glad I did.

This small town grew on me. Now I love it. There's that saying that with God, there are no coincidences. I love that no matter where I go, it seems like I always bump into someone I know.  These spontaneous visits are always fun and encouraging.

I love the family-feel our city offers. Today was our local parade day to kick off the county fair. Most all of the businesses close for the morning, if not for the day. Families, children, and senior citizens line both sides of the main downtown streets to watch the parade floats pass by and catch candy.

Our city is growing. We now have not one, but two Starbucks; we recently got an Olive Garden; and a Kohl's department store is on the way. We have beautiful mountain views and plenty of outdoor activities. It's just a good place to raise a family. I'm glad my friend turned out to be right: I met my husband after all, and this city has become my home.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Frugality and Convenience

Often, in the interest of saving money, we sacrifice convenience. Whether it be making our own foods from scratch rather than buying pre-made mixes, washing and chopping whole fruits and vegetables instead of buying pre-cut, or making our own homemade cleaners rather than grabbing something off the shelf at the store, we trade a bit of time for a bit of savings. Most of us don't mind. We know those savings can add up.

But sometimes, at different seasons of our lives, we may choose to pay a bit more for the convenience of having something ready-made. If we are frugal by nature, this might be difficult at first, but let's remember, it's just a choice to buy a benefit for a season. Another option is to come up with our own frugal version of the commercial product.

For example, right now, our kitchen mop is unwieldy for the boys. But the Swiffer Wet-Jet is just the right size for them. They'll mop the floor for me with the Swiffer. Yet, the refill pads are a bit more than I'd prefer to pay. It feels like a waste. Yet...would I take the trade-off: spend some money I wouldn't ordinarily spend to make it convenient for the boys to take over cleaning the floor? In this season, I think I will settle for that. (Update: I realized I could take some old wash rags or microfiber cleaning cloths--bought at the Dollar Tree--and use clothes pins to attach them to the Swiffer; a workable more frugal and environmentally friendly solution).

However, I'm going to skip buying the bottle of refill solution. Because the boys love to push the squirt button, too much solution ends up on the floor, and that is a waste. So I give them a squirt bottle with water mixed with Shaklee's Basic-H (or you could do water and vinegar, or another combination), have them squirt a small area, then wipe it with the Swiffer. (Update: Also at the Dollar Tree, I found a bottle of Mop and Shine. Just squirt it out and then wipe it up. This is another option).

When the baby comes, I may also spend a little money that normally I think is unnecessary to buy paper plates and some convenience foods that my husband or I can prepare quickly and easily. Hamburger Helper isn't my preferred dinner of choice, but if I can give the box to my husband and it gets me out of cooking dinner during the week or two post-baby, so be it. A trade off for a time.

What are some trade-offs you've chosen to make to save time right now, or vice versa--to save money? Or...what are some frugal ways you've found to substitute your own version of common convenience products, such as the Swiffer pads and solution?

(linked to Works for Me Wednesday)

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Octomom's In-Need-of-Mercy Moment (On Live TV)

Controversy surrounding her aside, when I checked my email today, I came across a link to a news article that made me curious: Octomom Brings 9 of Her Kids Along for Chaotic 'TODAY' Visit  .
Reading the article and watching the video made me feel empathy for her. Imagine trying to answer questions in a live interview on national TV with eight two-year olds on an open set with no one to help you but your 9-year old daughter. I know how hard it can be to corral my three in certain places, and I know how stressed out I would be in her situation. Add that she has three times the number of children I have, and no husband to help her, and my heart went out to her.

If you get a few extra minutes, browse the article, watch the video...
Ir's humorous, partly because it's so realistic of 2-year old behavior. I bet we can all relate!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why I Don't Buy Organic Milk

As moms, we pay close attention to our grocery dollars. We choose which foods our family's hard-earned money will purchase and which foods we'll say no to in the interest of health, nutrition and expense. One of the big debates today is organic versus non-organic--specifically with regard to milk. You'll read horror stories about non-organic dairies--the foods fed to the cows, the over-crowded feedlots, the antibiotics and steroids pumped into the cows that reportedly makes its way into the milk we drink. I read one blog post once where a mom compared buying non-organic milk to buying her family illicit drugs. A little over the top, in my opinion.

Yet, one of the first lessons I learned as a news reporter was to choose your sources carefully. First-hand sources are the most reliable and trustworthy. Therefore, my opinion that the arguments against regular milk are largely untrue is based on first-hand information from one of my best friends, whose parents and in-laws both own large dairies in California. Plus, the Central Valley area in which she lives produces something like 90% of the nation's milk. I'd say she's a pretty reliable source. So you can read and believe what other sources tell you about dairies, or you can believe her first-hand account. Here's the truth of what happens on a dairy, according to my friend.

First of all, the cows are the farmers' livelihood. This means great time and expense is devoted to taking excellent care of the herd. The better cared for they are, the better their milk will be, and the greater the profit for the dairy. (Plus, many of these dairy families are committed Christians, and so there are stewardship issues and deep personal values involved in caring for their cows).

My friend told me nutritionists come often and check the cows' pH-levels, to see if they are alkaline or acidic. Their diets are adjusted accordingly. Few of us monitor our diet and nutrition as closely as these cows are checked. My friend said they grow their own corn, but in addition, citrus producers send surplus citrus, almond producers send almond wholes, and other healthful foods are ground up and fed to the cows as well. Plus, yes, they are also turned out to pasture where they can graze on grass.

Contrary to public opinion, they do not administer steroids to the cows to help them make milk faster. Plus, most milk cartons these days are printed with a statement that the milk is from cows not treated with rBST growth hormones. I don't know where that idea got perpetuated, but I believe the vast majority of dairies do not employ the dreadful practices the organic-milk crowd rails against them.

Yet, here's my favorite, most convincing argument about the safety of non-organic milk:

My friend's family's dairy is made up of 2,200 head of milk cows. One day, one cow was on a trace amount of antibiotics. This cow accidentally made it in the milking line. Oh-oh, right? Antibiotics in our milk. Wrong. When the milk truck came to take the milk, mandatory testing (performed on the milk every time it is picked up) detected that trace amount of antibiotic--from one cow out of 2,200. The entire tank of milk had to be dumped, per FDA regulations. So since this is true, how in the world can people say that cows' antibiotics make it into the milk we drink? It just doesn't happen.

Here is some additional proof:
"Sick dairy cows treated with antibiotics for humane reasons go through an FDA-prescribed withdrawal time that varies, based on the antibiotic and the animal’s illness. This means that during the withdrawal time, the sick animal’s milk and the antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply. The FDA also has set strict standards for the presence of antibiotics in milk, and each and every milk tanker is tested for the presence of the important antibiotics before the milk is allowed to enter the milk processing facility. The milk from the rare tanker truck which has been accidentally contaminated is discarded and does not enter the human food chain." Source:
Additionally, with the radiation issues coming from Japan, my friend shared with me that we are all safer if we do not rely on any one dairy or farm--organic or not--for our milk, eggs, and meat. This is because if a radiation cloud were to contaminate a farm, or radiation got into the feed, we would be exposed to that radiation through the cow's milk, let's say. If it were our only source of milk, its effects would be highly concentrated in our bodies. But if we bought our milk at the store from a wide range of producers, any effects from possible radiation at one farm would be dispersed and lessened in our bodies. Does that make sense?

Going back to the heart of the issue, my friend lives just down the road from an organic dairy. She really believes her family takes better care of her cows and devotes more time and attention to them than the organic dairy does.

If, after reading this, you are still convinced you want to dedicate some of your grocery budget to organic milk, that's fine. But if you are on the fence about it all, I hope this report helps convince you that non-organic milk is really ok. Don't believe everything you read against non-organic dairies. Listen to dairy farmers themselves. Hear what they have to say about their farms and practices (a great source is, and then make a decision for yourself.

I'd love to hear your opinion of it all, and if you have any questions, I'll see if I can get them answered for you. (My friend, a conventional California dairy farmer, shared in a post here about the nutrition and care they give their cows, and her take on why organic is a non-issue when it comes to milk, in her professional opinion. That post of mine is here).
(linked to Works for Me Wednesday)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Raise 'Em To Like 'Em

Hope everyone had a nice weekend and enjoyed a relaxing 4th of July (for those in the States)! We took a little trip to visit family. Those kind of trips--even if they're short--can be so rejuvenating. It just helps to get out of the daily routine and gather some fresh perspective.

One of the reminders I came away with was to enjoy my children more each day. As a friend of mine shared with me in a recent conversation that her mother's parenting advice was to "raise them so you like them." I think it is so easy as moms to focus on our children's faults and weaknesses--those areas where we need to devote extra attention to their character growth, manners and behavior in general. When we spend a lot of time thinking about their flaws and what we need to do to help them, we can all too easily forget to also (and maybe more importantly) look for the good seeds--the areas where they bring a smile to our faces, the places we see them growing in character, the things they do that make us proud that they're our kids.
While we point out and help them work on the negatives in their lives, we need to be sure this isn't all we're doing. We absolutely must be sure to encourage our kids daily. They need to know how much we love them, and that all our "self-help" on their behalf is meant for their good.

So let's help our kids to work on what they need to as we raise them, but don't forget to let them know lots and lots of times in lots and lots of ways that we also like them...a lot.