Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What if We Refused? (A Guest Post)

Today I am privileged to introduce my friend, Theresa, to you. She encourages us to build a heavenly vision for our homes and families at her blog, Heavenly Glimpses.
Theresa's been writing a series on intentional mothering, and I am confident her post today will bless you!

 "Go hard on me, mom," declares eight-year-old, Robby, as we prepare to play one-on-one soccer in our back yard. I chuckle at his words for I know how much has changed in a few short years.

Just a few years ago I was holding back, running barely behind him as he kicked and darted toward the ball all the way up the yard to score a goal.  On occasion, I enjoyed hassling him, weaseling the ball away just to make him work harder and he'd complain that I was not going easy enough on him.

In just a few short years, he's grown and changed so much. He's more mature, able to control his emotions, and more athletically coordinated. We communicate, relate and laugh together and it wasn't even that long ago I sat up nights nursing and rocking him back to sleep.

One of those mid-nights, within the first week of bringing him home from the hospital, I had nursed him, changed his diaper, and swaddled him snug. When I went to lay him back down, he would not have it. As a new mother, I didn't know what to do for him. Weary and exhausted, I remember my anxiety rising that night. I had abruptly flung his blanket back open and re-swaddled him, then breathed deep and like a tide rushing in,  felt wisdom wash over me that would linger throughout my parenting years, not for one but for four children throughout infancy, toddlerhood, and into childhood:

Don't become frustrated, Theresa. This is just a season. You'll never have him this small again. Yes, you will lose sleep. It will be hard. But it will pass. These moments you'll find were gifts. Receive them.

I'm sure I have become frustrated over other issues, regarding children and sleep, over the past eight years, yet I cannot recall another night, hovering over an infant, in frustration over my sense of helplessness. Not one since that vivid internal monologue. And I've had many sleepless nights and those nights did pass. I encounter different frustrations and feelings of helplessness now in a whole new season and the never ending question remains, how do I choose to contend with those?
And I wonder if what made a difference eight years ago can make a difference today.

What if we refused? If we took a deep breath and decided we're not going to let weariness, frustration, and feelings of helplessness overtake our peace. We won't allow those emotions, that so easily creep in, to dictate our behavior. I wonder how it would change our parenting, how we see our children. 

Because we'll never have them as small and impressionable as they are now, ever again. Yes, we will lose sleep. It will be hard. But it will pass. What if these moments are gifts, even the hard ones? Will we receive them?

Today he dances with the ball over the winter withered grass, maneuvering fancy feet. He kicks the ball passed me and goes for the goal.

When we choose to see the bigger picture, the greater goal and desired outcome, maybe our frustrations become small. If we intentionally commit to accepting that it will be hard, that cultivating the lives of our children will take labor, sacrifice and perseverance, maybe we will bounce back quicker when we stumble - because we will.
"Good game, mom. That was fun." Robby exclaims. "Thanks for playing with me." And I think I also hear, "Thanks for being patient with me through the years. Thanks for your dedication, perseverance, and for believing in me. Thanks for upholding me with dignity and respect even though I'm smaller than you and dad. Thanks for laughing with me, and for loving me no matter what."

And I think about the little things that never really mattered. And the things that do.

Theresa is a wife and mother of four wonderful children. She is a stay-at-home-mom, whose passions are primarily with her family, writing, and in ministries that encourage mothers in this generation. Theresa has been published in MOPS International, MOMSnext e-zine and other on-line publications. Theresa authors Heavenly Glimpses blog, where she captures the heart of Christ through glimpses into the life of her children, marriage, and a humbly inspired heart.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Nurturing Mother

A few months ago, these orchids held so much promise. Two stems burst forth with no less than a dozen buds. We awaited a magnificent display of gorgeous flowers. 

Yet something went wrong. Perhaps due to a lack of watering, or lack of fertilization, the buds that held such promise of beauty never bloomed.  In fact, they shriveled up and fell off the branches altogether.

As I reflected on what went wrong, I realized: this is the perfect picture of our children’s souls...
 Keep reading at Heavenly Glimpses, where I am guest posting today on the life-giving value of choosing to intentionally nurture our children and cause their lives to bloom.
 (Simply click on the links, or go here).

Sharing with Raising Homemakers and Women Living Well

Monday, March 26, 2012

Filling in The Gaps: What Really Happens in Other People's Homes

I've written before that it can be so easy to feel like magic and wonder happens nonstop in our friend's houses, or others whom we admire, while life at our own home can be so lackadaisical. We imagine (or hear about) happy picnics, creative crafts, and loving interactions; meanwhile, we're buried in laundry, dishes, and undone chores, while our children squabble with each other, whine, complain, and fail to respond cheerfully, quickly, and obediently at times (many times). Reading whimsical status updates on Facebook or inspiring blog posts only serves to makes us feel more discouraged about real life in our very real home.

For example, awhile back, I read about a good friend's homeschool day. Her sons reenacted Jamestown by building forts out of Lincoln Logs (my boys just throw Lincoln Logs every which way and have yet to build any kind of structure). She shared that her sons went outside to "build wattle and daub [mud] walls just as the colonists did for their homes and buildings inside the fort." They "drove stakes (small sticks) into the ground, intertwined between the stakes and formed mud around the structure to dry and harden."

Doesn't that sound highly creative and tremendously impressive? The sting of comparison began; I wished we could have a day like that, where the boys were that creative with their play and got along well enough and long enough to work together on projects like that.

And yet...

My friend was honest enough to "fill in the gaps." With her permission, I'll share what really happened (from her post):
"Today was honestly a very frustrating day...I felt that nothing was getting done to the level that I had expected it to. My plan for sitting and reading turned into a disaster as books were falling off the couch, Hannah was all over, drooling over everything and screeching. Austen kept zoning out, Moriah was being a complete 'Ramona' and Jay was fine.

When we were outside building our walls, Austen kept asking me over and over if there were ants outside, and if they were going to climb up their wall (to see my son's opinion of ants see this post nature walk turns deadly.) Then, when the boys went upstairs they kept coming down over and over because "so-and-so was not helping, they weren't sure how to do it....". I had imagined them upstairs for hours playing and creating this fort. Darn you expectations. THEN, our Lincoln Logs kept falling over, Hannah again, crept upstairs and tried to be the jolly green giant and overtake the poor Indians and Colonists. Then, after it was all over, Moriah destroyed the entire fort. The icing on the cake.

To say that I felt quite defeated today was for sure. It was just a frustrating day. I want every day to move seamless and smooth and that is an unrealistic expectation, I want Moriah to be a "big helper" everyday and that is unrealistic. Finally, tonight, the kids were told to go upstairs to brush teeth.....we hear run, laugh, run, laugh, upstairs and Austen caught a corner with his forehead, huge bump, huge gash that by God's grace did not break open and averting a trip to the Urgent Care and huge screams. Ok, breathe, God give me grace right now because more than anything I feel angry for their disobedience. Needless to say, I am thankful they are in bed...

Anyone else ever have days like mine? More than anything I want to down an iced mocha with whip....more than anything....but since we have no coffee and I am too tired to go out , I"ll settle for crackers and iced water instead. Here's to a new day tomorrow."
What I love about Amanda's post is--it's real. And it made me feel better about my own situation. (Ha ha). I love the crackers and ice water part, too. It's just real life.

We can live our lives comparing ourselves to a standard that doesn't exist, because we are all imperfect people. Or we can embrace the days that we have been given and live them out fully, to the best of our ability. With heaping spoonfuls of God's grace, we can aim to make magic within our own walls. But when we hit reality, as everyone does (even though you won't hear about it on Facebook), know that you're not the only one. Most people simply fail to fill in the gaps.

(P.S. I really recommend Amanda's blog, Spilled Milk and Wet Kisses. Especially for homeschool moms, I think it will inspire and encourage you, as it points you closer to the Lord. Take a look around; you'll be glad you did)

Sharing with:
Raising Homemakers

Women Living Well
Works for Me Wednesday

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Should Moms Wear White?

Shopping in Target the other day, I had to run back to the fitting rooms to nurse my baby before leaving the store. Of course, as you walk through the clothing department and see all the new spring styles, you find some things that you fall in love with. (Plus, I've just been thinking that I really need to get a cute pair of pants that fits...comfy sweats and yoga pants around the house until I can zip up my pre-4th pregnancy pants only work for so long; still love skirts, too, but I don't wear them everyday).

One of the always-in-style pieces for spring and summer is a pair of white jeans or capris. They're so versatile. You can wear them with anything. They look crisp.
But do they stay clean? That's the problem when you're a mom.

I skipped out on the white, and bought myself a pair of these instead:
The best part is the elastic/drawstring waistband. :) And still more fashionable than sweats...

Yet, during a recent dinner, they still managed to collect splashes of orange baby food and drips of Italian salad dressing (while eating and holding my baby at the same time). Said splashes of baby food also ruined my brand new white t-shirt (although I put some Dawn on the spots right away and sprayed Oxi-Clean on it bbefore bed, so we'll see when it comes out of the wash...).
I gained new confidence in my decision to forgo the white in this season of raising little ones.

What do you think? Is there a way for moms to safely wear white (and keep it white)?!

Sharing with:
The Better Mom Mondays
Raising Homemakers 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to Make Egg Rolls

Bok Choy, Napa cabbage, real water chestnuts (the kind you have to peel), celery, onion, ginger root, and garlic were just a few of the vegetables included in the Asian pack I ordered the last time I got a Bountiful Basket.
A friend of mine mentioned she used the veggies to make egg rolls from scratch. Intrigued, I asked for the recipe. Here is a photo tutorial for egg rolls, courtesy of my friend Donna (and her friend Karen, whose recipe this is). I will say, I thought it was going to be a time-consuming, involved process, but it wasn't too bad. Perfect for a Saturday night!
Step one: purchase egg roll wrappers from your grocery store and the needed vegetables. (I asked for help finding egg roll wrappers; at Safeway, they were in the produce department, in the refrigerated produce section--with pre-cut veggies, etc.) Although the brands will likely vary by region, here is a photo to show what you are looking for:

Step 2: cook 1 pound meat (whatever kind you want--pork, shrimp, ground beef, etc. I used ground beef)
Step 3: Shred a head of cabbage (I used about half a head of regular green cabbage in addition to some Napa cabbage)
--Chop one can water chestnuts
--grate a cup of carrots
--chop: 1 c. celery, 1/2 c. chopped onion, 2 c. mushrooms (or zucchini), 1/8 c. green pepper; be sure to chop finely or put in food processor
(*I added some Bok Choy in place of the mushrooms/zucchini and really liked it)
Step 4: Stir-fry veggies and add cooked meat of choice; then mix:
2 T. water, 2 T. soy sauce, 1 t. ground ginger (or 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger root), 1 clove garlic (minced), 1 T. cornstarch; and pour sauce over meat and veggies, warm slightly, and let cool while preparing egg rolls.
Step 5: Unroll egg wrappers. On a lightly sprayed/buttered sheet of tin foil, lay egg wrapper as shown below. Scoop about a tablespoon of filling across bottom third of wrapper (I used my Pampered Chef cookie scoop)
  • Fold bottom corner up
  • Fold sides in
  • Roll up
  • Brush the top triangle lightly (very lightly) with water. Continue until all egg rolls are assembled before beginning to fry.
  • Heat oil in a large, heavy pan (I used my Lodge Dutch Oven with about 2 inches of vegetable oil (although I think peanut oil would also be a great choice).

  • Heat oil to 375-degrees. I used a candy/deep frying thermometer to closely watch the temperature, turning the burner up or down as needed during frying.
  • Fry four to five egg rolls at a time, watching closely, and turning as they turn golden (or to desired doneness) (less than a few minutes per side)
  • Drain on paper towels and serve!

The next day, I heated the leftover egg rolls in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes. In my opinion, they tasted even better this way. Some of the excess oil dripped out, and the egg rolls were very crispy still.

Here is a sauce recipe to try. This is not the typical red sweet-and-sour sauce you will find at the Chinese restaurants, but very good, nonetheless. (For a red sauce recipe, just Google it. Or try adding a few tablespoons of ketchup and a bit of clear corn syrup to this recipe--if you don't think corn syrup is evil, that is).

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
  • 3/4 c. pineapple juice
  • 1/4 c. vinegar (rice vinegar would be great)
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • Mix and cook until it becomes transparent
Sure, these aren't as simple as ordering Chinese take-out, but they taste fabulous! Definitely worth the effort. And fun!
(P.S. I'm on Pinterest now. Find me here)

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Home Management=Stress Management

"Establishing and caring for a home is so much more than a decorating dilemma or an organizational challenge or a call to love one's family! It is a commitment of heart, mind, and soul to the task of subduing (making productive) a very specific part of the earth--the domain of the home. It involves teaching minds and nurturing hearts and shaping souls, in addition to getting the rugs vacuumed and dinner on the table!"--Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity

Manage: transitive verb

1: to handle or direct with a degree of skill: as a : to make and keep compliant <can't manage their child> b : to treat with care : husband <managed his resources carefully>
c : to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of <manage a business>
2: to work upon or try to alter for a purpose <manage the press>
3: to succeed in accomplishing : contrive <managed to escape from prison>
4: to direct the professional career of <an agency that manages entertainers>

As home managers, we do all of the above. We handle and direct our homes with (ideally) ever-increasing degrees of skill, we treat it (and the people within it) with care, we exercise supervisory direction of all that goes on inside, we have a purpose for our work beyond what the eye can see, we aim to succeed in accomplishing our goals, and--despite what society thinks--homemaking is a professional career!

I've always thought of home management as working hard to keep up on what needs to be done (trying to stay afloat) in order to bless my family, but I've never really thought of it as a stress-reduction system--until I read Sally Clarkson's insight in The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity.
"My purpose in organizing my household is not to live up to some external value system, but to make life easier and more peaceful for the whole family. I have learned that I can reduce the anxiety we feel by reducing the stressors, at the same time knowing that they will never totally go away...

Effective home management can do a lot to reduce the stress in our families. Once I began thinking of home management as stress reduction, I found it much easier to pinpoint the areas in my home life that needed attention and to come up with a plan for reducing the stress."
Sally believes the three biggest stresses fall into the categories of stuff, information (papers), and time. Making a specific plan to effectively manage each of these areas, daily and a "purge" day every few months, can help tremendously to lighten our subconscious (or perhaps very conscious!) stress level, thereby creating a more peaceful feeling in the hearts and minds of each of our family members.

For me, one of the areas that is causing the greatest stress is laundry. Not getting it washed or dried, but getting it put away. Actually, even that isn't so hard...but the bottom of each basket contains what I'll call a "layer of sediment"--assorted mismatched socks, outgrown clothes that need to be given away, out-of-season clothes that need to be packed away. The bottom third of every laundry basket I own is filled with this kind of stuff; I just need to intentionally take time this week to deal with it. While what's lurking in the bottom of the laundry baskets doesn't bother anyone but me, everyone will enjoy a more peaceful home when this task gets done, because I'll feel more peaceful, and thus, they will, too.

Everyone in our family--especially our husbands--probably has different problem areas that really bother them and make the home less of the restful haven it should be. In Large Family Logistics, Kim Brenneman quotes organizational and homemaking expert Emilie Barnes' advice of asking our husbands daily if there is anything specific we can do for them that day. I would modify by encouraging us to ask specifically what in our homes our husbands would most like to see us do, if we could only do one extra project each day.

May we intentionally look this week at ways we can improve our home management and thereby decrease our stress!

(linked to the Homemaking link-up at Raising Homemakers and Deep Roots at Home)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Planning for a Good Day

One of the essential ingredients to a successful day is a good plan. While a plan cannot foresee, nor prevent, interruptions or the actions and attitudes of others, it can keep us on track when we would otherwise succumb to temporary disarray. Staring wide-eyed in wonder is a good thing when we are beholding God’s creation, but it’s not so pleasant when we are looking around at our house in chaos, wondering what to do next. A plan keeps us trekking.

“It is most important to set goals and write your list for the day,” writes Nancy Campbell in her devotional book for mothers. “Some mothers like to write their list the night before, others like to do it in the early morning quiet before the start of the day. You will accomplish a lot more with a list. But remember, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t cross off everything on your list!...Even if you cross off one or two things, you are accomplishing something. When my children were little, sometimes I would only complete one extra task! At least it was better than nothing at all!”

Because every personality is different, there is no one right way to plan. Some prefer the by-the-clock method of planning, where every project or chore is assigned a set time; others like to list things to do before noon and things to do after noon; and others prefer a more relaxed approach of jotting down some general goals for the day, accomplishing them as they move through the day and the list. I think I fall in the latter category, although I have tried having a time for everything. Personally, while wonderful in theory, I found that approach a little too time consuming to create and stressful to manage.

“It is more important to set the right tone in your home and create an atmosphere of rest, peace, and harmony, than to make everyone tense by getting through something just for the sake of getting through it.” ---Nancy Campbell

Somewhere, I once came across a planning sheet that you could use with each of your children each day. You would write down goals in different areas, such as motor skills (a few hands-on projects to do) and cognitive skills (work-sheet pages, reading, math, etc.). I thought this was a great idea.

Lately, I’ve been jotting down daily to-do goals in these areas: spiritual, marriage, parenting, fitness (ideally!). I write down what books I plan to read out loud to the kids (right now it’s Family-Time Bible in Pictures,The House at Pooh Corner,and A Child's History of the World,in addition to any others they select through the day) and what learning activities we’ll do (math projects, handwriting, phonics/reading).

I’m also listing my homemaking and organizational goals each day. I’m starting to focus on the old-fashioned but highly effective system of devoting a day each the week to a specific task, such as laundry day, kitchen day, and cleaning day. I will write more about this in one of my next posts.

At the end of a long day, creating a plan for the next day is a step that’s easy to skip. I feel like I can save time and just wing it. Yet, saving a few minutes then costs me later. So yes, I could wing it. But it feels better (and goes better) when I plan it.

Part 1: I Didin't Plan for Chaos!
(Linked to Raising Homemakers and Works for Me Wednesday)