Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Son Swallowed a Quarter

In a newly invented game--one that he thought of himself--my six-year old son swallowed a quarter. The game? A spin-off of Hungry, Hungry Hippos: "Stuff Your Mouth With Coins--See How Much You Can Hold." Except he couldn't hold as much as he thought he could, and down went the quarter.

He came upstairs, crying and scared. "Mom, I swallowed a quarter. Am I gonna die?" Me, not thinking he was capable of such a feat, wondered why he would be making up a story like this. But after lots of questioning, "Are you serious? Are you really serious?" and affirming he was in fact serious, the second line of questioning was, "Are you sure it was a quarter?" We are learning about the different coins right now, and I told him to show me exactly what coin he had put in his mouth. He produced a quarter.

With the coins from his piggy bank spread in piles (pennies, nickles, quarters minus one) all over the living room, he began to cry. "I don't want to die. This was too short of a life! I didn't even get to fly a plane."

I assured him that I didn't think he would die. He assured me that he would. We went in for the x-ray. On the way, I lectured him about how we don't have insurance and Christmas is in a few days (this was last week) and this is not what I want to be spending money on. Then, thoughts of surgery, flashed through my mind, and huge, horrible bills. I just prayed the quarter would go down and out quickly.

I realized he did not need lecturing in what he believed were his final moments on earth, but rather compassion and mercy. I stopped lecturing and drove silently the rest of the way. That was as much mercy as I could muster right then.

Sure enough, the x-ray showed a quarter. Fortunately, it was in his abdomen--not his trachea or esophagus, which would have required surgery in our nearest metropolitan city four hours away, since no surgeon will touch that kind of surgery here in our smallish city.

I think it's since entered the sewer system. Despite our daily checking, I think we missed its exit.

Tonight, our middle son began crying before bed and asked if he would die if he swallowed a nail. After another line of intent questioning, he admitted he did in fact swallow a nail.  My stomach sunk to the floor.
I buried my head in my hands. My husband asked him why in the world he would do such a thing. Through tears, he answered, "Because my nail was sharp and I was mad at it, so I wanted it off." It was his finger-nail.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A "Good Enough" Christmas

Is it just me, or does this Christmas seem a little different from years past? The house isn't clean enough; the tree isn't decorated enough (the ribbon ran out half-way down, and I have yet to finish it; several ornaments were removed after curious hands broke too many); the baking isn't done; cards aren't even started. My son swallowed a quarter last week and it has yet to make its way out. It's just one of those years.

I could keep stressing about it all and the lack of being the way I want it to be. Or I could relax and realize it is good enough and enjoy it as it is.

photo credit

I often wonder what Mary thought two-thousand years ago, as she prepared to give birth to her baby boy, in a place and circumstance that wasn't quite good enough. Far from home, in an unfamiliar town, with unfamiliar people. No family around. Her mother was not there to help her give birth, probably not even a mid-wife. And the location? Giving birth to God's Son in a dirty stable? Laying a newborn in a manger for feeding livestock? You've got to be kidding. Nothing seemed good enough.

And yet it was. Even more than good enough, it was one of the holiest nights (along with the Resurrection) in all history.

So even if things don't seem just so, let's remember what it is that we're really celebrating. Even the most bare-bones Christmas experience is still worlds compared to what the mother of Christ herself experienced. It's not about the fanfare. It's about the event.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The 30 Minute Principle

The list of things I'm falling behind on grows by the minute. It's beginning to look a lot like those giant Christmas lists Santa unrolls in the movies. For example, when I learned I was having a girl this time around, I purchased material to sew some adorable clothes in Making Children's Clothes. I'm a beginner seamstress; I just haven't begun.

Another example--
My third son (who just turned three and can't say his "j's" yet) looked at the wall of pictures the other day and said, "Mom, where's Whack in these pictures?" (His name is Jack). Yeah, no pictures of him on the wall anywhere. In fact, his baby book isn't even begun.

That's why I love the 30 minute principle:
Work at something every day--be it a creative project like scrapbooking or sewing, or a necessary project like putting laundry away--for 30 focused minutes (or as many focused minutes as you can with small children in the house). Set a timer if you want. When the 30 minutes is over, put the project away for the day, and start again the next day where you left off.

I read about this idea in Teri Maxwell's book Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit (which is fabulous, by the way). She says that disorganization can be one of the biggest hindrances to a meek (not easily perturbed) and quiet (gentle) spirit. I definitely find that to be true in my own life. This 30-minute principle, although referenced in Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit, is actually from her other book, Managers of Their Homes.

So whether it's getting your house under control, or finding time to work on a hobby, I encourage you to find a way to put the 30 minute principle into action! That half hour is a perfect length of time to get something accomplished without getting burned out (especially when you're cleaning or organizing). Thirty minutes a day, then stop until the next day. You may find yourself even looking forward to it...unless of course, the job that's been put off too long is cleaning out the fridge!

(linked up at Works for Me Wednesday)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Giveaway

I received an email announcement about this giveaway and thought I would share it with you! Good luck! I know my boys would love the castle blocks!

With the holiday season upon us and many people getting caught up in commercial buzz, Primrose Schools is encouraging families to slow down and reflect on their favorite things. Dr. Zurn, the Vice President of Education and Professional Development for Primrose, is helping spread her love of giving to her Dr. Z and Friends followers by sharing her Favorite Things with you and your children!

For the remainder of this week and all of next week, until December 16th, Dr. Z will describe one of her Favorite Things in a blog post and give it away at the end of the day; simply leave a comment on her post to enter for that day's giveaway and a winner will be chosen at random to win not only that day's Favorite Thing but you will also win a book that reflects the same theme.

So far, Dr. Z has given away a music set, a full collection of children’s books, and an iPad with an iTunes giftcard. The prizes for the remaining prizes for the first week are as follows, with next week’s prizes being announced soon:

December 8th: A Groupon gift card for you to use on your next family outing. The book is Field Trip Day by Lynne Plourde.

December 9th:
ArchiQuest Blocks: Kings and Castles

The book is
Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs

More about Dr. Mary Zurn: She has been with Primrose Schools since 2004 and has been paramount in developing the curriculum taught in the family of over 200 early education day care practices. With over 40 years of experience, she began her blog as a way to communicate with parents and loved ones her love for education and children.

More prizes being given away next week! Go here to enter.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

So there are some great sales at Safeway right now that I want to take advantage of, but other than that, I am trying to plan my menu around the meats I have in the freezer (and beans) and the vegetables on hand. Need to get some fruit for the week, though.

  • Oatmeal, orange juice
  • French breakfast puffs, homemade hot chocolate
  • Scrambled eggs, toast, kiwi fruit
  • Muffins, Greek yogurt with granola and honey
  • Cream of wheat
  • pancakes
  • Oven-baked omelet, toast
  • Goulash, bread and butter, oranges
  • Cheesy beef and rice, green beans
  • Vegetable beef soup, rolls
  • Chicken salad sandwiches, grapes
  • Leftovers
  • (Saturday--snacks)
  • Sunday--chili cheese dip during football
  • Pork roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, brussel sprouts, chocolate cake
  • Pork stir fry over rice, tropical fruit salad
  • Roasted chicken (or in crockpot), butternut squash, Normandy blend vegetables
  • Beef stew (crockpot), milk, bread and butter, honey
  • Pinto beans and rice (taco style), corn
  • Skillet ziti with broccoli and chicken
Visit Menu Plan Monday for more ideas!
  • Potato soup, salad

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm A Mommy, Not A Mompreneur (Part 2)

The Internet provides a fabulous way for moms to earn money from home. It sounds like a dream come true: stay-at-home to raise your children, wash your laundry, cook your meals, clean your house, offer hospitality to friends and strangers, and earn some money, too, without ever leaving your front door.

But is it really that easy? Or has feminism so crept into our beliefs that we as Christian women—many of whom profess to stand staunchly against the doctrines of feminism--are feminists and we don’t even realize it?

Feminism encourages women to pursue careers outside the home, but does Christian feminism encourage women to pursue careers inside the home? Even Christians who think they oppose feminism may find they have subconsciously been so influenced by it that they, too, crave career success, but justify it by working from home. But if one seeks to climb the career ladder in one’s field from inside the home, is that really any different than doing the same thing outside the home?

"The mompreneur movement is one steadily growing in the US as mothers try to find ways to make money, express their creativity or business acumen, and also to parent their children". --source

Read what World Net Daily has to say about feminism's influence in culture today and see if it applies to the mompreneur movement:

"So many women – and men – have bought into the notion that women should work outside the home that for the first time in American history, and perhaps world history, vast numbers of children are not primarily raised by their mothers or even by an extended family member. Instead they are raised for a significant part of their childhood by nannies and by workers at day care centers. Whatever feminists may say about [they’re] only advocating choices, everyone knows the truth: Feminism regards work outside the home as more elevating, honorable and personally productive than full-time mothering and homemaking." (bold mine) source
We may say we agree with those statements (or we may not), but what I'd like us to ask ourselves is:

Do we regard work inside the home as more elevating, honorable and personally productive than full-time mothering and homemaking?

There are so many moms out there earning a part-or full-time income from making products, writing articles, and marketing their sites and products online. Nothing wrong with that. The Proverbs 31 woman, who provides us an excellent example of biblical femininity, was involved in the marketplace, no doubt. Proverbs 31 tells us she sewed and sold linen garments, traded goods, and bought a field out of her earnings. Yet, all of her endeavors were for the good of her household—not for her own career success. From this, I gather that there is a distinction between a mom selling craft items or writing articles in her spare time and a mompreneur aggressively pursuing success from within her own home.

Plus, it sounds like the children of the Proverbs 31 woman were not small. They arose and blessed her. This tells us they were old enough to: 1) walk, and 2) talk. Perhaps she wasn’t involved in the marketplace when she was fully involved in raising small children?

Yet, many mompreneurs are not only trying to rise to the top in their fields, they’re usually also parenting little ones who desperately need Mom’s training and attention. They might even be homeschooling, too. They either have superhuman organizational skills and manage to excel at it all, or the work-family balance is out of balance.

“One of the principal issues the mompreneur faces is learning how to balance the requirements of her children with the needs of her business. This is why many sites advise people new to running a business to create small realistic expectations that will not cause too much of a burden to especially young children.” --source

The truth is--we really can't do it all. Even Crystal Paine, the famous money-saving mom, admits that her success comes with a price—it’s not a cake-walk.

“I am a firm believer that, with God's blessings and lots of hard work, anyone can successfully work from home. However, I will be the first to tell you that working from home is just that–it's work...
I won't sugar-coat the truth when it comes to working from home: if you are not prepared to put in lots and lots and lots of time and effort, working from home won't work for you.”--

Motherhood—being a good mom—is already a full-time job. Homeschooling, for those that do, is at least a part-time job. Keeping house, making nutritious meals and caring for the needs of our families is another full-time job. Since I already have two full-time jobs and one part-time job, I can’t take on anymore in this season. That’s why I’m a mommy, not a mompreneur.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm A Mommy, Not A Mompreneur (Part 1)

In the movie Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton's youth pastor tells her that sometimes all we need is to pull back from a situation to get some perspective on it. That's happened to me with blogging.

I love to write. I remember sitting in my bedroom, probably as young as six or seven, writing stories in notebooks I'd keep. In college, I majored in communications and minored in psychology and religion. I envisioned myself going into broadcast news and wanted to make it to the top. But I didn't see how that could fit with my other goal of being a wife and mother, and perhaps someday having a writing and speaking ministry.

God worked it all out. I did work as a journalist for a few years before deciding to trade in my career for a new career: Mommy. Honestly, even the tightest deadline (even a minute to air) is still not as challenging as motherhood can be some days. But what I am doing with my kids has value that reaches far beyond the impact of any news story.

For me, blogging has been a great way to continue to express my love for writing and my desire to encourage other moms. I tried to blog daily. But honestly, I just can't keep up. Not in this season, at least.

I know there are plenty of talented women who run successful, profitable blogs. Would I love to be in that category with them? Yes, and no. I think, if we're honest, we all want what we're doing to translate into some measurable success. But getting to that point takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. Right now, I can't do it. I can't devote the time it would take to write and market my humble blog and keep up with what I need to do at home, and most of all--raise my children. They're little now. They need lots of time and attention--attention I can't be giving them if I'm giving it to my computer.

Honestly, I don't know how other moms of small children (especially moms who say they homeschool) are finding time to be "mompreneurs." Either they have out-of-this-world organizational skills, or something's falling through the cracks.

As I've been mulling over posting on this topic, I just read what Sally Clarkson wrote and knew it was time for me to start this discussion here.
"Last Spring, I met with a young woman. She said, as many young women have said, “Sally, God is just opening so many doors for me, I just have to be a good steward of my opportunities.” (as her exhausted teen daughter was pushing her toddler in a stroller behind her, and complaining that her mom just never had time for her.) This happens to me a lot–young women who have stars in their eyes from money that can be made, audiences that can be found, numbers that can build up. [bold mine]

I have never had more opportunities come my way as now, but I do not like what I see going on in my heart and soul, and so, I am convicted that I need to cut back. I am pulling back from expectations. Pulling back from stress. And simplifying."--
That's what I've been realizing: I need to forget about trying to be big as a blogger and focus fully on what I'm called to do at home, as a wife and mother. It's my first and highest calling. It keeps me busy! It is, after all, a full-time job in itself.

I love what Paul writes, "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." (Galatians 6:4-5). The study note says, "Paul suggests that we focus instead on our own responsibilities. Are we faithfully living for God and fulfilling our responsibilities before him?"

I'll be blogging more about motherhood and mompreneurship in the next few days--just can't promise it will be tomorrow! (Part 2 is now up)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why I Love Watching The Duggars

There is something definitely unique about having a large family in today's culture. There is something even more unique when you have a family Duggar-sized. Many people, including myself, are intrigued by this special family and how they make everything work.

To get a glimpse into their daily lives and glean wisdom from their experience, I've read their books (The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families--How they Do It and A Love That Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make it Work). Recently Vision Forum offered a free Tea With Michelle Dugar video download if you liked the ministry on Facebook. From listening to Michelle share about motherhood in a conference setting, I desired to learn more from her on how she handles various challenges that come with raising multiple children. So I talked my husband into downloading the latest season on his computer, and we could watch the episodes on our TV through Apple TV . I also put in an inter-library loan request for 18 Kids and Counting: Season 2.  We just finished watching all the episodes. Today (Black Friday), has 17 Kids & Counting, Season 1 on sale for $3.99 (plus lots of other great family-friendly movies on sale)!

What we all love about watching these videos is they offer inspiration and serve as a fine model for family life. Quite frankly, whether you have one children or eleven, they're just a great example to us all. You may not agree with all their personal convictions (such as making sure their knees are always fully clothed), but you can't help but appreciate (and learn from) Michelle's calm and gentle spirit with her children. I can certainly strive to emulate that same grace with my children--a family one-fifth the size of hers.

In an era where not much on TV is wholesome or family-friendly (I heard Glee just featured a teen girl losing her virginity and two teenage boys lost theirs to each other), watching the Duggars is family-viewing at its finest. Unlike Jon and Kate Plus 8, which left me feeling sad and depressed to see how she treated her husband (while they were still married), watching the Duggars is uplifting. I love that we all, from our three-year old to my husband, can find a nugget of wisdom to take away from each episode, whether it's watching how the siblings treat each other, how they handle homeschool, how Michelle and Jim Bob respond to the children's energy and activity levels in the house, and more. They're a great example to me of not easily becoming agitated or short-tempered, but understanding that kids are kids--rules within reason but don't hyperventilate when a child is climbing on top of the couch or trying to climb up the window.

If you didn't come from a home where Christian family-life was modeled well, or even if you did, I think you'll find taking a peek into the Duggar's home can help us all learn to do it better. At the very least, you'll be inspired and encouraged that raising your family to love God and each other is one of the most important things you'll ever do.

Sharing with:
The Better Mom Mondays

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Home Ec Counter

All I remember about taking home economics in junior high is how clean the kitchen was. The only thing I recall learning to make was homemade donuts, but for some reason, the cleanliness of the counter is still in my mind to this day.  It was spotless. Cooking in the classroom kitchen felt laboratory-like. 

Like my home economics classroom, the kitchen for a nutrition class I took a few years ago was also spotless and lab-like. But when you think about it, food preparation is a science (and an art.) It deserves an austere workspace.

Yet, that's not what I find in my home most days. Sure there is room enough on the counter to do all my necessary food prep (usually). But how much more there would be if, like the classroom kitchens, there was absolutely nothing on the counter top.

A spotless counter encourages cooking and baking. The whole process is easier, because, for one, there is room to work. Things don't have to be cleared or shuffled around first, which can discourage home-cooking and baking.

So that is my goal for this week--to get the counter completely cleared (perhaps even of appliances...we'll see) and then keep it that way.

MomSense Winner

The winner of  MomSense: A Common-Sense Guide to Confident Mothering is Andrea.
Andrea, I've sent you an email. Please send me your mailing address, and I will get your book out to you.

Thanks, everyone, for entering. Even if you didn't win a copy, I hope you have a chance to read it! It's a great, confidence-inspiring book.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Smooth-Sailing Sundays

Are Sunday mornings stressful at your home? Trying to get everyone out the door for church on time, while looking for needed, but misplaced items (like one missing shoe) can make the most patient among us come unglued. I told my husband before church that I knew my warning signs and I was approaching the "I'm going to lose it now!" emergency signal. At church, one of my best friends said, "You look stressed." (It was either really obvious, or this is a testimony to the fact that she knows me well).

Although the morning was full of promise (since I woke up for good at 6AM and got breakfast ready shortly thereafter and laid out the boys' clothes--minus shoes), it all fell apart.

Here are just a few of the items we couldn't find in the half hour before needing to head out the door:
  • baby's diaper cover to match her dress
  • the hat I had crocheted for her, which would have matched her outfit perfectly
  • matching shoes for our 3-year old
  • one of my shoes (thanks to little boys who play in our closet)
  • the next set of checks for the checkbook
In retrospect, this list doesn't seem too long. But the stress lies in having to find multiple items in mere minutes. And if you can't find them, it is even more frustrating.

The key to being prepared, and having a peaceful Sunday morning, really starts Saturday night.

Last week, for Lauren's baby dedication, I wanted to ensure a peaceful morning. So Saturday night was really geared toward a smooth Sunday morning, instead of our own leisure. I figured out what each of the boys was going to wear, and laid out their clothes--complete down to socks and shoes. I made sure anything that needed to be pressed was. I put the baby's dress, tights, and shoes together (except I forgot to find the hair ribbon the night before).

On Sunday morning, we got up and immediately started getting ready. Then, if there was extra time before church, the kids could play or do whatever they wanted once they were ready. This was so much more peaceful than procrastinating and then having to rush like mad...which in the end just makes everyone mad.

(Lauren has laid out a helpful list here as well:

What tips have helped you get out of the house peacefully?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MomSense: A Common Sense Guide to Confident Mothering

 You would think that, with my fourth child, I would be pretty confident in my mothering. Not necessarily so. Sure, I am more confident in many areas, such as interpreting what an infant is trying to communicate, how to go about potty-training boys, and how to deal with a temper tantrum in public. But after the birth of my fourth, I suddenly felt like a wave tossed to and fro in regard to our parenting philosophy in general. We've always adopted more of a Dr. Sears/attachment parenting style, but I found the convenience of the schedule of the Baby Wise approach appealing. The only problem is I've never had the grit to let my baby "cry it out" for a half hour or more.

So when I was offered the opportunity to read and review MomSense: A Common-Sense Guide to Confident Mothering, I jumped at it. This sounded exactly like what I needed! Check out what the book's back cover has to say:
"Do blogs, books, magazines, and well-meaning women in your life have you questioning your mothering intuition? Jean Blacker is here to tell you that you are the best mom for your children--and you have what it takes to raise them.

With personal stories from real moms and proven, practical advice, MomSense helps you honestly assess your skills, embrace your mothering instincts, and develop your own unique mothering style. Rather than pushing one 'right' way to be a mom, this hope-filled book shows you that you can have contentment, joy, and confidence in your role as Mom."
Right off the bat, this is a unique book. First, it's the first book I've ever read that is printed in blue ink! Beyond that, like the back cover states, it's not advocating a specific parenting style ("do-it-this-way-or- else") but it encourages moms to take an honest look at one's own particular style and become more confident in our MomSense.

What exactly is "MomSense"? Author Jean Blackmer, who is herself the mother of three sons and the publishing manager at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International defines it as "Mom intuition plus common sense." The good news is--even if you don't have very much mommy training starting out (or much common sense!), you can learn new skills and improve your MomSense everyday throughout your parenting journey. (And, by the way, in case you ever feel like mothering leaves you somewhat scatter-brained, Jean points out that "a woman's brain begins functioning at new levels once she becomes a mom." So, even if you're fumbling around in your purse, trying to find your keys, while your kids are begging for quarters for the gumball machine at the grocery store, and the bagger is just waiting on you so he can help you unload your groceries in your car, your MomSense is off the charts!)

After introducing the idea of MomSense and sharing encouragement for growth in our skills as mothers, Jean explores how our mothering is shaped by our own mothers, both positively and negatively. This chapter provided an opportunity for reflection. You've probably found in your own life, that no matter how many times you used to say, "I'll never do that as a mom!", you find yourself doing those very things now that you are a mom. Through reading this chapter (and the reflection questions at the end), I identified some areas where I can work intentionally to improve my MomSense.

The next chapter focuses on decision making. "Life is jam-packed with decisions. How does a person make decisions and live without regret?" You'll find answers here, in this immensely helpful chapter. It offers great advice for trusting your own intuition more fully and making confident decisions. For those like me, who tend to be indecisive and seek out tons of information before making a decision and then second-guess decisions to no end, this chapter was a real confidence booster.

Speaking of decisions, one of the most important choices a mom can make is in regards to the attitude of her spirit. With "practical tips and tools," Jean addresses several areas that are crucial for successful mothering. These are listed and explained as:
  • Sense of Patience: Intentionally practicing patience: the ability to endure waiting, delay or provacation without becoming annoyed or upset
  • Sense of Respect. Modeling and teaching the Golden Rule: do unto others are you would have them do unto you.
  • Sense of Consistency. Becoming the reliable, faithful mom your children need.
  • Sense of Perspective. Avoiding the nonsense and focusing on what matters most/
  • Sense of Self-Control. Practicing and modeling self-discipline in a self-indulgent world
  • Sense of Calm. Remaining composed in the chaos and creating a peaceful home.
  • Sense of Joy. Maintaining a sense of humor and creating a joyful atmosphere in the home.
  • Sense of Love. Building a sensible mothering philosophy grounded in unconditional love.
The above sections are rich not only with encouragement, but also with practical areas where we can all improve our MomSense.

Finally, Jean shares helpful advice for dealing with some of the common challenges of motherhood, such as handling tantrums in public, potty-training, dealing with sibling rivalry, handling advice from in-laws, and more.

Because motherhood is not one-size-fits-all, you won't find that kind of an approach in this book. What you will find, however, is plenty of grace, encouragement, and practical tips to help you become the best mom for your kids. You'll learn how to make decisions in their (and your) best interest, and how to feel confident about them.

Especially because mothering boys can present unique challenges for us moms (since they are so different from us!), I wanted to ask Jean for any tips on becoming more confident in raising sons.

Here's what she had to say:
"First, it's an important step to realize and accept that you are a girl and raising boys can be challenging, they are definitely different than girls.

My advice to help moms grow in their MomSense (and confidence) in raising boys is to rely on things you know, your common sense, such as boys typically are more physical, greater risk takers and louder than girls. And often boys are attracted to things such as video games, balls, trucks and guns. But, it is common sense that even though a boy is more physical it's not okay to hurt someone else, or boys are louder doesn't mean it's okay to be loud all the time, or it's okay to allow your boys to take risks just teach them safety skills too (A book came across my desk called "50 dangerous things every boy should do" or something like that :)., or just because a boy is attracted to video games doesn't mean it's good for him to play endless hours etc.

Then use your mom intuition. You know your boy better than anyone else. If you know what makes him tick you can help him grow in those passions and direct his - what girls might feel are negatives - his boyishness - into positives. For example, a boy that is super physical would probably really enjoy contact sports and needs to get outside every day and release that energy. If you know your son gets a thrill from taking risks help him find some fun and safe ways to experience the adventures he craves. (Husbands are often good sources for this.) Be intentional about really observing your son and getting to know him, be his biggest cheerleader, and trust your intuition in your mothering of him, over time you will become more confident. At times you still will feel at a loss for understanding your boys so I really encourage communication with other moms of sons and glean wisdom from each other, keep a sense of humor, and enjoy your boys and the passion, energy and adventure they bring to your life!"
In conclusion, MomSense: A Common-Sense Guide to Confident Motheringtruly helped me to not only make a decision regarding our parenting style and newborn scheduling, but encouraged me to grow in my confidence as a mom and in the decisions I make for our family. I heartily recommend this book. can win a copy, courtesy of MOPS. Just leave a comment on this post. I'd love to hear what one area you'd specifically like to become more confident in, in regard to motherhood (but you don't have to share that). I'll post a winner on Monday. (Please be sure to leave your email in the contact. Shipping to US residents only, please).

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review and one to give away.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Menu Plan Monday & After school Snack Ideas

This week, I am trying to plan again from what I have on hand in the freezer/frig and cupboards. I will make a trip to the store to pick up some fresh vegetables and fruit to round out the meals and for snacks. To save on produce, I usually try to shop for fruits and vegetables that are .99 cents per pound (or as close to that as possible). (You can read more about that in this post.)

Apples are in season and on sale for .88 cents per pound right now. Lots of ideas there: applesauce, apple crisp/pie, apple slices of course, baked apples, applesauce bread, apple cake or coffee cake...

Scroll down if you're looking for new after school snack ideas.
  • Overnight caramel rolls
  • Oatmeal, bananas
  • Oven baked omelet, toast, grapefruit
  • French breakfast puffs, Greek yogurt, granola and honey
  • Cold cereal/granola, bananas
  • Hot cereal (Cream of Wheat, Coco Wheats), orange juice
  • Pancakes

  • Stromboli, veggie tray
  • Leftovers
  • Beefy biscuit casserole (carry over), corn, apple slices
  • Sandwiches, carrot and celery sticks
  • Cheesy beef and rice, green beans, bread and butter
  • Saturday:  leftover pizza and snacks

  • Beef tips over noodles, salad, rolls, apple pie
  • Cranberry chicken, rice, broccoli
  • Hamburgers, fries, tossed salad, jello, maybe chocolate cake for dessert
  • Pork roast, acorn squash, Normandy blend vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, yellow squash)
  • Homemade Pizza night
  • Beef stroganoff, green beans
  • Roast chicken, butternut squash with butter and brown sugar, brussel sprouts
 I would also like to share some great, healthy ideas for after school/late afternoon snacks.
  • Peanut butter baked oatmeal (tastes like a soft granola)--my kids eat the entire 9x13 pan in a few hours
  • Lazy Granola
  • Cranberry-apricot granola bars (using homemade granola recipe above)
  • Apricot-oatmeal cookies
  • Applesauce bread (could also do in a bundt pan) (make your own applesauce using all the yummy apples in season and on sale now!)
  • Ranger cookies (whole wheat flour, coconut, Craisins, oats)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Ants-on-a-log (or celery with strawberry cream cheese)
  • Graham crackers with strawberry cream cheese
  • Fruit slices with or without dip
  • Veggies and dip
  • Wholegrain Crackers and cheese
  • Almonds/walnuts/pistachios (for children old enough), apple slices, cheese cubes
  • Whole-grain muffins, plus lots of other ideas in this post
What are some of your favorite after school snacks?

Be sure to visit Menu Plan Monday at for more menu planning ideas!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Love Languages of Our Children

Does your child know how much you love him? Probably yes, but he'll know it best if you express it in the language of love he understands--his unique love language.

You've probably heard of the book called The 5 Love Languages of Children. In it, author Gary Chapman outlines the

five universal love languages:
  • quality time
  • words of affirmation
  • gifts
  • acts of service
  • touch (hugs, cuddling, holding hands)
The book's back cover explains that "every child (like every adult) expresses and receives love best through one of [these] five communication styles. If your love language is different from your children's, you'd better learn to translate fast. Or you could miss your chance to meet their deepest emotional needs."

I find this to be so true in my own life. One of my boys, in particular, has been acting up quite a bit lately. But when someone does something one-on-one with him, he is such a happy boy, and so helpful. He will then obey any request, quickly and with a pleasant spirit. Could it be because he feels a special fellowship from his love language (quality time) being met?

What I realize is that this child needs a little more one-on-one time, instead of always corporate time, where he's one out of four children. He needs focused attention to feel loved.

Maybe we can all take some time on Sunday to think through our children's love languages and find at least one practical way this week to express love in the language they best understand. As an added bonus, my guess is they'll behave a bit better, too.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yummy, Delicious Homemade Hot Chocolate

In the movie Chocolat, I was enraptured (ok, maybe that's too strong of a word to use there, but how often do you really get to use it?) as I watched Juliette Binoche prepare a cup of hot chocolate. I remember thinking, "That must taste really good."

Well, I've found a recipe that tastes like I imagined that cup of hot "chocolat" would.

It's simple, frugal, and oh so yummy. Way more delicious than a packet of Swiss Miss (and healthier, too). Did you know unsweetened cocoa contains healthy antioxidants?

Here's the recipe (straight off the side of the Hershey's Baking Cocoa Natural Unsweetened, 8oz Can)

Favorite Hot Cocoa
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
dash salt
1/3 c. hot water
4 cups milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in saucepan; stir in water. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir 2 minutes. Stir in milk and heat. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat, add vanilla.
I see they also have dark chocolate too. The can looks like this:

I think this would be delicious with homemade whipped cream and some chocolate shavings on top!

(linked to Frugal Friday)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Men Should Not Send Women to Buy Mouse Traps

On the way out the door to Wal-Mart, I asked my husband if there was anything he wanted me to pick up for him. "Yeah, mouse traps," he said. "And if there's a difference between the cheap ones and the more expensive ones, go with the more expensive ones." Ok. Buying mouse traps can't be too hard, right? Wrong.

Standing in the aisle looking at all the different ways to kill mice, I was overwhelmed. The pictures got me. Little mice laying upside down, gagging. Definitely not buying that one. Poor little mouse. Then it hit me--I was about to murder a mouse! Although I have no problem swatting flies (and find it strangely gratifying-- kidding), I suddenly had a conscience problem selecting a mouse trap. Here's where packaging definitely matters.

Check out this picture.

Doesn't that just tug at your heart? Even a little? To know you're the person buying this trap to do that to a mouse is a terrible feeling--even though the mouse did get into my bag of wheat. Revenge aside, I couldn't do it.
But in the end, I did. The covered lid convinced me. I wouldn't have to see the poor creature. What you don't know you can justify.
Once I got home, I read the reviews on Amazon. It sounds like the traps I bought don't really work that well anyway. My conscience feels better. But that doesn't solve the problem of the mice in the garage...
To get the job done right, I am sending my husband to buy the traps. It is, after all, a man's job.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Silence is a Mom's Worst Nightmare

When my boys are home, silence is a terrible thing. It means destruction lurks behind the corner, devastation looms downstairs, and doom is inevitable upstairs. Free will in the house comes with a messy price.

Just a few days ago, while working on reading with my 6-year old, my other two sons and partners-in-crime, ages 4 and 3, traveled downstairs. I thought they were happily playing--it is, after all, the playroom; yet it was quiet. Too quiet. And that's never a good sign.

What I found was surprising. And infuriating. They had pumped out all the liquid soap in the bathroom, plus all the lotion from my Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy Orange Ginger Energy Body Lotion and my Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy Lavender Vanilla "Sleep" Body Lotion (which aren't cheap) and apparently decided their toys--including their LeapFrog Read and Sing Little Leap needed a massage.

The aromatherapy from the orange ginger lotion must have worked: they had plenty of energy. Unfortunately, the lavendar vanilla scent did not seem to calm me.
After a discussion about why we don't smear soap and lotion all over our toys, I thought we had checked that category of mischief off the list. Wrong. It morphed into a fascination with aerosol cans.
When I went upstairs after they were taking too long for a potty trip, I discovered that they started spraying Lysol on toys (not terrible I suppose, as we approach flu season), and in the toilet. Steady streams of toothpaste squeezed out in the toilet look like blue poo. And my makeup? Well, let's not even go there.
How do we keep our kids out of mischief? I'm not sure. But I'll tell you one thing--listen for the silence. Then proceed immediately and with caution, calming yourself in advance for what you're likely to find.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Motherhood and the Maple Tree

Motherhood is like a maple tree. Numerous demands on our time and attention tap our sweet syrup. Our love pours out into little lives (and not-so-little lives), filling their buckets. But sometimes, we find our sap is slowing to a trickle.  

This trend of needing at times, to intentionally choose to show love is common to all moms. So common, in fact, that the Bible addresses it. In Paul's letter to Titus , he encourages older women to train the younger women to love their husbands and their children? Doesn't that just come naturally? Why would anyone need to be trained in it?

I think I have a clue...

The Greek word for "love" in that text is "phileo," which is the friendship type of love. After the initial "I'm-so-in-love-with-you" feelings wear off (for either our husbands or our newborns, but I'll focus on our kids in this post), we could use help to keep on loving our children in the friendship sort of way. They can annoy us, disobey us, test our patience, and sometimes just plain drive us nuts. We love them unconditionally for life, but at times, we need training and encouragement to continue to like them, to love them in a friendship sort of way. (See this post for raising our kids so we like them). We still need to tap our sweet syrup into their lives in a cheerful way.

I love what Jean Blackmer has to say on this topic:
"It's easier to love our children unconditionally when they are newborns. Nothing compares to that experience. And thank God he lets us experience that type of love for our babies--so that when they're toddlers throwing a temper tantrum at the park, we remember how much we love them, even though we might not feel it right at that moment...
As time passes, we forget those days of snuggling with our baby. We forget the smell of the lotion we slather on their bodies. And we don't always feel love. Sometimes love becomes a choice. We choose to love even when we don't feel like it, and this choice will be easier if we practice loving intentionally." -- Jean Blackmer, MomSense: A Common-Sense Guide to Confident Mothering
So when we find this type of love for our children needs to be poured out in a little higher concentration in our lives, where can we turn to find this practical help?
  • Our relationship with the Lord. Insight through Scripture, prayer and the Holy Spirit
  • Older moms whom we admire
  • Peer moms who can share what they're learning, what's helping them
  • Inspirational books and articles on motherhood (I love and the free Above Rubies newsletter, as well as Nancy Campbell's book The Power of Motherhood: What the Bible Says About Mothers)
  • Teaching resources (audio messages on motherhood, etc.)
  • Blog posts from Christian ministry leaders and others with a passionate heart toward mothering (I find so much encouragement at
In conclusion, choosing to love our kids in a friendly way does sometimes take a little intentionality. When they're pestering us with the same request for the 20th time in a day, or they're disobeying or otherwise irritating us, we're not allowed to just turn a cold shoulder, to shove the lid on our syrup bucket, and say, in essence, "No more kind love for you today." We need to train ourselves to love them in a friendly-sort-of way still.

Some posts I've loved lately are:
(linked up with Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How The Time Change Helps My Home Management

Even with an extra hour, we still managed to be a few minutes late to church this morning. How's that for a laugh?

Overall, though, I really enjoy the first few days of the time change.

Here's why:

It lends me a helping hand. You can read more here:

Now, just to figure out my baby's new schedule...

Menu Plan Monday

This weekend, I browsed through a copy of Colorado Colore: A Palate of Tastes (Celebrating Twenty Five Years of Culinary Artistry)

What a fabulous cookbook! Many creative and gourmet ideas (plus some easier fare).  This, like the other Colorado cookbooks put out by the Junior League of Denver (Colorado Cache Cookbook, Creme De Colorado Cookbook (Celebrating Twenty Five Years of Culinary Artistry) and Colorado Collagefeature truly unique recipes.

Here's a few from Colorado Colore that I'll be making this week:
Curry pumpkin soup
Balsamic glazed beets (with maple syrup)
Rosemary Chicken in herb vinaigrette
Twice-baked acorn squash
Fruited cranberry scones

Here's what else is on the menu. (Oh, and did I mention I'm going to try to do it all from my freezer and pantry this week).

  • Apple Oatmeal (cooked with diced apples, in apple juice)
  • Pumpkin waffles, milk
  • Scrambled eggs, toast
  • Granola/cereal, juice
  • Cranberry scones, Greek yogurt with honey and granola
  • Whole wheat pancakes with chokecherry syrup

  • Curry pumpkin soup, french rolls
  • Ravioli with spaghetti sauce, salad
  • Minestrone, crackers
  • Stir fry over rice
  • Chicken salad sandwiches, apple slices
  • Leftovers

  • Beef stew from leftover Sunday roast, applesauce, homemade (?) wheat bread (depending on how the day goes)
  • Lemon pepper pork roast, balsamic glazed beets, mashed potatoes, leafy green salad
  • Beef stroganoff, green beans, fruit of some sort (peaches?)
  • Rosemary chicken in herb vinaigrette, twice-baked acorn squash, apple pie (again, on an ideal day)
  • Waikiki meatballs over rice, broccoli, grapes (didn't happen last week)
  • Cranberry chicken, rice, asparagus
  • Tilapia, sweet potato fries, mixed vegetables (another carry-over)
 I would love to do some baking this week. Plus, we have some company coming. I would love to hear how you handle making extra dishes for company. Do you do it all (or most of it) ahead of their arrival? I think that would probably work best. Now, just to get around to it...

Visit Menu Plan Monday at for more menu ideas!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Craving Spiritual Milk

Whenever I have a nursing infant, this verse takes on new meaning to me:

"Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." (1 Peter 2:2, NASB).

Newborns need to nurse every few hours, for about 15-20 minutes at a time. You cannot feed your baby once in the morning for 10 minutes and call it good for the rest of the day. The feedings need to be continuous throughout the day so that the infant is receiving the nourishment she needs. A fed baby is a content baby. A hungry baby is miserable and lets everyone know it through her cries.

Also, babies need to be fed milk. Breastmilk is certainly the purest form, but formula meets the need as well. You cannot put water in a bottle, or tea, or chocolate milk, or any number of "substitutes." To nourish a baby, you must provide pure milk.

And why do babies need to be fed? Not only for meeting current needs for sustenance but also for promoting growth.

So what do I take away from this?

1. Just like a newborn needs frequent feedings throughout the day, we, too, need continuous nourishment in the Word of God. A baby feeds for several minutes at a time. Before a feeding, the baby may get a bit fussy. After the feeding, the baby is happy and peaceful. After our feeding in the Word, we should feel peaceful and content as well. Without this feeding, we may become increasingly miserable, even if our cries are not expressed as vocally as a newborn. (We may make those around us miserable as well).

2. "Long for the pure milk of the word."
How often do we seek to feed ourselves with something other than the "pure milk of the word"? I have no problem taking frequent feedings throughout the day on things other than the word. Every few hours, for a pick-me-up, I'll run over to my laptop and check what's going on in the Internet. I'll seek a dose of encouragement through an inspiring blog, I'll check what friends are up to on Facebook. But do I long to feed myself first with the pure milk of the word?  To be honest, after I've "fed" myself in the morning, I think that feeding can last me all day, and I substitute other things for feedings the rest of the day. This is as silly as feeding a newborn a bottle of water and expecting it to meet her needs.

This week, let's challenge ourselves to nourish ourselves with the pure milk of the Word. Let's see if we become more content as we feed our bodies and spirits every few hours what they truly need. This is not meant to be a legalistic "read-your-Bible-every-three-hours-or-else" rule, but rather a principle for our good.

And if you don't know where to start, you could begin with the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and read about Jesus' life. You could start reading Proverbs for wisdom, or the Psalms for encouragement. Or you could just start at the beginning (Genesis) and work your way through. Or you could read a chapter from the Gospels in the morning, a Proverb a few hours later, a Psalm a few hours later, maybe a letter from Paul after that (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc).

So when you start feeling like you're running low, just like a newborn starts to feel like it's time for another feeding, let's give ourselves a good healthy dose of that pure spiritual milk of the word.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why You Need a Friend

I commited to blog every day for the next 30 days with BlogHer's NaBloPoMo challenge.

Everyday, I have ideas of what I want to write about. Everyday, I can't seem to find the time to sit down and write as thoroughly as I'd like to. So I don't. I wait until I can say it all, the way I want to say it. (Sometimes, I need to process my thoughts, too. Like this week, I'm thinking through big things--adversity and motherhood, handling challenges, not feeling depressed. Through God's grace and mercy, I'm reaching conclusions. I'll share them with you...soon).

But, for the next 30 days, I will not let my hesitancy to post until I'm ready to write it well hold me back.

So off the top of my head, today I just want to say:

You need a friend.

Blogs are great and a wonderful source of encouragement. But what I'm realizing lately is you need a real-life friend--someone you can call in the middle of the afternoon and say, "I'm having a really bad day, wanna take the kids to the park?" Or, "I'm about to lose it. Can we meet at the park?" Or, "I need to get out of the house for a bit. Wanna go to McDonald's play land?"

Friends help us keep our sanity when our husbands are still at work. Friends help lift our spirits. Friends encourage us simply by sharing that they're struggling with the same things we are. Friends inspire us by sharing what's working for them. Friends give us new ideas. Friends even order pizza for us, when they know our mother-in-law is coming and we need a crash-cleaning day.

Friends are a blessing. Celebrate the ones you have. Pray for a good one if you need one now.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why I'm Loving Skirts

The post-baby belly prompted my aversion to pants. No thanks, buttons-that-don't-button because you're on fabric that's two sizes too small. My children and I all love muffin tops, but not on Mama. Goodbye, pants. Hello skirts!

Skirts (particularly long skirts) are not only pretty and feminine; they're also incredibly comfortable, making them the perfect postpartum piece. No zippers (generally). They lay nicely, draping modestly from the hips, rather than following the outline of all the curves.  It may be my imagination, but I feel like men treat me more like a lady (opening doors and minding their manners) when I'm wearing a long skirt. It's as if femininity brings out gentlemanly behavior.

To find out what skirts are most fashionable for fall, I contacted Shari Braendel, considered America's leading Christian fashion expert and author of the new book, Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad: A Style Guide for Every Woman

Here's what she had to say:
"Hi Cheryl, the trendiest skirts for fall are longer in length and have some fullness to them...a little flair. Old Navy is showing them in their new arrivals for fall. Short and straight is not's longer and full with some flair...most body types can wear them....wear with boots."

[and more info sent from Shari, found on]


"Lazy Girl's easy approach to fashion requires lots of well-tailored pieces that are easy to mix and match. Thankfully, fall's new hemline, the "midi" length (which hits anywhere between the bottom of the knee and mid-shin) flatters most figures and makes finding work-appropriate outfits a no-brainer. When looking for these low-dipping hemlines, pick a darker hue, like [a] black Brioni pencil skirt, to help elongate legs, and always opt for a heel to enhance the appearance of toned calves."

*picture from Old Navy (Jersey maxi skirts)

I also like some of the women's skirts at, particularly the Nantucket Denim Long skirt. I contacted her to see if she would be willing to do a skirt giveaway or sale in exchange for featuring her products, but she declined.

To make fall fashion more frugal, I always love to shop nice-quality thrift-stores first (if you have a few minutes). I found a few great black knit skirts, very similar to the Old Navy Jersey maxi skirt, for a few dollars, rather than a few twenties. One of the best ways to increase your income is not necessarily to earn more, but to stretch what you do have further. 

Fashion meets faith, and frugality!

(linked to Frugal Friday)