Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Shower for Mom

Whether you're the mom of one child or ten, one of the things that can be hardest to fit into the day is a shower. If you don't take one right away, once the day begins and the kids wake up, finding time to cut away for even just five minutes is very difficult (at least for me!). Are you in the same boat?

An ad in a magazine cited that showering at night is a great idea, not only to unwind from the day and relax under the hot water, but also because at night your skin is better able to hold in moisture. Especially with dry winter weather approaching, keeping in the moisture is a good thing! The ad suggested replacing a morning shower with an evening shower.

For some reason, though, I haven't made the switch to night-time showers. I think it's partly because I'm usually so tired, I just want to go to sleep. Plus, I don't like going to bed with wet hair, and I really don't want to dry it then.

If I was really on top of my game, I would shower right away in the morning. It helps wake me up and gives me an excitement for the day. I'm out of the gate and running, so to speak. I feel like I'm getting ready to start my workday, and there is a certain buzz about that (even if it's strictly psychological).

Yet, as a full-time mom and homemaker, many days it's just easier to start the day without a shower. I like to wake up and make coffee, read my Bible, then start breakfast. Then it's time to clean up the kitchen, have the kids get dressed (and me if I'm still in my robe), do some chores, start school, and on and on. Once the day's off and running, the only time I find I can get a shower in is in the afternoon when two of my three boys are napping. (My oldest son is either looking at a book, playing a computer game on, working on a craft project at the table, or playing quietly by himself for a few minutes).

That's what works for me right now, but this Coffee Talk Thursday, I'd love to hear what works for you. Are you a night-shower person, or morning, or somewhere in between? What do you like about it? (Maybe you can even convince me to become a night-time gal!).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Spinning Out of Control

On this Messy Monday, our tip today does not focus strictly on housekeeping, but on when life in general turns a little messy. May today's post bless and encourage you.

When something happens that causes us to stop the cruise control of smooth sailing--whether it's unexpected news or a day quickly spiraling out of control before our eyes--it is hard to find time to breathe and come out of the chaos. What is our response in those moments?

I just returned from a Women of Faith conference, where a major theme was trust: trust in the heart of who God is all the time. No matter what is happening, God is all-loving and all-powerful. While it is fair to wonder why He permits us to go through something, we must know His love for each of us and His plans for our lives are never in question. Never once. He has promised that all things will work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

So going back to our response in moments of chaos...

First, I think we must pray. Take time out from a situation full of potential anxiety to acknowledge the Lord and pray for His guidance in the situation. Ask for His glorious plan to be revealed through it.

Second, focus. Find one thing--one very practical thing--you can do to make a tangible difference right now. Whether it be counseling, cleaning, or comforting, focus on one thing you can do immediately to help spread a path through the chaos.

Third, HALT! I heard this acronym the other day which stands for "Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired." When you (or someone in your home) is displaying any (or all) of those emotions, just stop. Meet those immediate needs. Often that will help bring clarity to chaos.

I have always loved the verse in Ephesians 3:20, which was the theme verse of the conference. It says, "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!" (From the Message Bible translation, as quoted at the conference).

In times of chaos, it is helpful to remember--however much the moment feels like a big "whoops"--God can bring something glorious out of it. He is the Redeemer. The Redeemer of situations and of people. The chaos is not out of His control, however messy it feels in the moment.

May God bless you and guide you today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Unhappy Hour

An article in the October 2010 issue of Parents magazine offered help for a daily dilemma most parents face: the "witching" hour, as the writer referred to it. You know the one--that hour before dinner when "the day's stresses catch up with the whole family, turning well-manned children into kidzillas."

Let's take a look inside a typical home during that, shall we say, special...hour of the day? The kids are kicking it up a notch when it comes to whining, fighting over toys, and pulling at Mom's legs while she's trying frantically to hurry up dinner prep so she can solve everyone's attitude problems simply by serving them food. But one can only chop vegetables so quickly, and meat actually has to be cooked, and raw potatoes or rice aren't really edible, so Mom--and the kids--have to endure until it's ready.

But how can that period of time (I'll call it the unhappy hour) become a bit more happy?

A few helpful tips (some ideas from the article in Parents')  :
  • Cut up an apple or a pear, or another fruit, and put it on the table, perhaps along with some cheese cubes and whole-grain crackers, so everyone can have something healthy to snack on while waiting for dinner. (I think sometimes, a big part of the problem is that little people have little tummies. Especially if they didn't eat much of their lunch, they may be starving. We know that doesn't feel good. We know how to deal with it if we're starving; they don't. So they fight and whine and tug on you--all in an effort to say, "Mom, please help me now!" (even though it never translates that clearly!).
  • If you have time, help overstimulated kids relax by taking a short walk outside before the evening routine begins. The article says this helps melt away the day's "leftover stress."
  • Put on some relaxing music, to help the kids mark the time as a transition from a busy day into wind-down period of dinner and a leisurely evening (unless it's a busy evening ahead). Regardless, a period from 4-5pm, or 4:30-5:30pm, or whenever you need it now!, of having the kids get comfy on the couch, or lay on the floor with pillows and look at books, or kids' magazines, and listen to music may curb many of the problems that otherwise occur. (This week we tried it with a Bible Songs for Kids CD, my son's High Five magazine, other books for my little ones, and it worked well to occupy them--peacefully--while I started dinner).
  • I thought this was a neat idea from the article: When Dad gets home from work and changes clothes (or Mom too), perhaps have the kids change into more comfy clothes too. This, again, will signal to them that there is a switch happening in the day--going from busy to relaxing. (The drawback of this is it creates more laundry, but if they keep their lounge clothes clean (good luck!), they could rewear them for several days in a row.)
  • Keep dinner fairly simple until children can help execute more involved recipes and meals. I am learning this is my time to really work the tried-and-true family favorites that take a half hour or less (or close to that). My love for fun new recipes that are more gourmetish can wait until we're out of "unhappy" hour territory.
  • Simplifying dinner prep also means you can eat at an earlier hour, which is something the article also suggests. If you feed your kids at 4:30pm, they can still come and sit back at the table when you and your husband eat.
  • I really like this idea: Remember that "small children aren't able to tell time yet. So it's helpful to have a signal that one part of the day is done and another is just beginning." The article suggests having the child go on a hide-and-seek mission through the house, which will keep him or her occupied while you can start dinner.
I hope you can find at least one idea that will work for your family and help transform that hard hour into one that is a bit more enjoyable.

Please share if you've found any tips that help manage that time period!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finding Daily Motivation

A woman called in to the Dr. Laura radio program last week with a question that many of us share. She was having trouble staying on track with her budget, her diet, and her exercise program. What it boiled down to was that she felt motivation in the beginning, but then her motivation waned, and she wanted to know what she could do to stay motivated.

How Dr. Laura answered was both interesting and inspiring.

She shared that everyone seems to think there is this inner reservoir of motivation that must be tapped into, and most people struggle with finding it. I have certainly found this to be true in my own life; I often wonder why the motivation some of my friends exhibit by running daily doesn't course through my veins as well. Like the caller, I've wondered how I can capture the source for this motivation.

Guess what? The inner well of motivation doesn't really exist; there is nothing wrong with you if you don't feel particularly motivated. Dr. Laura said that most people usually don't feel all that motivated to do what they have committed to do. It's a character issue, not a motivation issue.

That kind of puts it in perspective doesn't it?

So people who seem to be more motivated than most simply commit to following through with what they've said they will do, whether or not they feel like it on any given day. This applies to getting a handle on housekeeping, exercising, sticking to a budget, improving one's diet, and anything else you can think of. "Giving up" is less about not feel motivated that day and more about not keeping one's word and perhaps even being lazy--definitely undesirable character traits.

So the next time you don't feel all that motivated to pick up at the end of the day, or put laundry away, or make dinner, or go for a walk, or discipline spending, ask yourself instead what's in your character: do you keep your word? Are you a hard worker? Do you honor your commitments to your family? Then forget about motivation and prove your character by doing the jobs anyway.

I hope this encourages you, as it encouraged me!

(linked to Works for Me Wednesday)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spending Fast

In A Woman After God's Own Heart, Elizabeth George declares that a simple way to save some money is to go on a spending fast for a month.  Determine not to buy anything that is not absolutely necessary.

Distinguishing between a want and a need can sometimes be a bit tricky, however. I can keep myself from going to Hobby Lobby for a month, and from the mall, and from online shopping. Where it gets harder for me is at the grocery store.

Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh Odor & Dirt Eliminator, Plus Oxi Clean Dirt Fighters, Carpet & Room, 30oz
Here's a silly example:

On my next grocery shopping trip, I have vacuuming powder on my list. I like how it makes my house smell. It's only a dollar-something. Want or need? Want.

I have peanut butter on my list, but I still have some peanut butter in the cupboard. Want or need? Want.

I have oatmeal on my Sam's Club list, but I still have a bag left. I don't go to Sam's Club but once a month anyway, so shouldn't I just get some more while I'm there anyway for when I run out? I could, but it's not truly a need right now.

Coffee at Starbucks is not a need (although some days it can certainly feel like it, can't it?!). Coffee out anywhere is not a need. New makeup or a fun new lip gloss is probably not a need, unless you are approaching being completely out.

New fall boots are not a need. If we really want to get down to it, more than one pair of appropriate shoes for the season is not a need (Although wearing tennis shoes with a skirt may look a little strange, so let's change this to two--a pair of dress shoes and a pair of active shoes). :)

When we say no to a few seemingly inexpensive purchases (or a few big purchases) that we otherwise would have said yes to, the savings in a month can easily add up to twenty dollars or more. While no one is going to scream at you for breaking your spending fast if you treat a friend to coffee, or purchase a different "want," taking a very frugal approach to spending for a month (or more) is a great exercise in discipline and wise stewardship. Plus, it helps train our minds to really distinguish between wants and needs.

I encourage you to try it sometime if you haven't already! If you have, I'd love for you to share about some of the items you cut out of your spending for the month. What are some of the most common money-wasters: things many people think are needs that are really just wants?

Visit Frugal Friday for more ideas on ways to save!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Little Care Goes A Long Way

On our camping trip in the mountains, we drove down the pass to a sleepy little town on the other side of the mountain to get some ice cream. A majority of the homes in this small town were in a state of disrepair. It was depressing, because even if people didn't have the money to make major repairs, there are still small things they can do on their property to show they care, like pulling weeds and mowing the lawn.

One such house really left an impression on me. A small white cottage with a gable-style roof, it had so much potential. It could have been so charming. There was a small cottage-style garden lining the front walk, but that's where the charm stopped. The house needed paint, window panes were broken, and the door looked like it needed to be replaced twenty years ago. The roof was starting to cave in, too. I understand those kind of repairs take money. They would be so easy to overlook if other more minor repairs were not left undone. For example, the curtains (bed sheets) were torn and ripped. It only takes a tiny bit of effort (and no money) to stitch them up--even just fold them up and staple them, or tie them with inexpensive ribbon. Through a bare window, from twenty feet away, I could see a very messy room: boxes stacked up, clutter all around. From what I saw, it was obvious that these homeowners just stopped caring.

There was such a disconnect from where this house was and where it could be. Seeing it made me sad.

On the flip side, back at home, I love to walk through a certain neighborhood because it is always so charming, like walking through the pages of Country Living or Southern Living magazine. The houses inspire me, and I get ideas for little things I can do to make my house more charming too. Little things like window boxes, or flower pots on the front steps, a wreath on the front door. I realize these require money, but could be saved up for, if one's budget does not allow immediate purchasing.

"The wise woman builds her house..." (Proverbs 14: 1)

Growing up, I loved to dream about the kind of home I wanted some day, what I wanted it to look and feel like. My parents divorced when my sisters and I were young, and I yearned to someday have a loving Christian family of my own. I imagined what kind of wife and mom I'd be, and the things I'd do to give a sense of sweetness to my family. The dreams always involved creating a cozy interior, part of which would be achieved through cooking and baking and creating a welcoming atmosphere (especially in the kitchen). Although each day isn't perfect, that is still my vision for my family.

So whether it's something we can do on the exterior of our home to make it look more charming, or something in the interior to make the atmosphere more charming (something as simple as making a special breakfast and serving it on pretty plates), let's aim to show our family--and others--that we care. A little care truly goes a long way.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sloppy Discipline

Thanks for hanging in there with me while I've taken a blogging break! While I can't promise daily posts right now, I will aim for at least three a week. So with that, let's get this started! :)

A mom relayed to a group of women recently that she had gotten "sloppy" with disciplining her children. She shared that a few of the problems created from it included ignorning parents' requests, back-talking, and bad attitudes.  Her statement gave me pause.

If I'm honest, many days it is all too tempting to be "sloppy" with discipline. Let's face it: discipline usually breaks the temporary peace of the moment. On those mom's-in-need-of mercy days when multiple children are crying more than usual, throwing fits more than usual, and generally acting up more than usual, it is very, very tempting to ignore a seemingly smaller infraction--choosing short-term peace over the duty to discipline.

And yet:
"The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother."--Proverbs 29:15.

 What "a child left to himself" means to me is exactly that--a mom doesn't correct when she should, essentially turning a blind eye. Whether it's a spanking, a time-out, or a discussion about how the situation should have been handled differently, the mom chooses not to act. She just ignores the behavior and leaves the child to himself. What is the outcome? Her son will grow up to be a disgrace.

Sloppy discipline carries over into other areas of life too. We can exhibit sloppiness in our housekeeping by not doing what we should be doing when we should be doing it; we can show a sloppy lack of discipline in our spending habits, our eating habits, our exercise habits or lack thereof (something I am working on), even personal habits like gossip, being critical, and more.

Following through with necessary discipline will cause less peace in the moment but more peace down the road.

How can we be less sloppy and more disciplined today?
Correction demands that we act. We cannot stand idly by and ignore misbehavior or outright defiance (even though yes, it is sometimes easier in the short-run to let it slide. But as the mom shared, letting it slide was being sloppy).