Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Hardest Ten Days Of My Parenting Career

Recently Sam went out of the country on a ten day mission trip. He grew up in Mexico and it had been on his heart for a long time to go back . So when the opportunity came for him to lead a team of adults down there for a short term trip, we both knew he should go.

Inevitably this created a missions trip for me too...holding down the fort and caring for five children while daddy was gone.

The kids were also on Spring Break.

Now before you think, "I don't know how she does it?" Let me explain a few things.

There are some key words in those last few sentences that should have stood out to me WAY more than they originally did. However, I put way too much confidence in my own abilities. Three years into our transition as a family of seven and the kids are getting bigger...things are much more routine...no problem (wait, who am I kidding?!?)

Words that should have stood out to me more:

daddy gone

ten days 

five children

SPRING BREAK

In true mommy guilt fashion I had convinced myself that it would be just fine if I focused 100% on my children. I've got this. I've got a plan. I can so do this.

Spoiler Alert: 

I so DID NOT HAVE THIS!

In fact, it has taken me a pretty long time to recover.

I've been silent on the blog and I've tried to take some time to gather my thoughts.

You see, prior to the trip I decided to clear my schedule, take some time off from blogging, house projects, essential oil consults...this would be a great time to focus solely on my kids.

Five days in and I texted Sam telling him that I think I discovered that five days was my max for being alone with the kids. A bit comical I should say, since there were still five days left of his trip.

However, I realized up to that point I had been heavily relying on my own abilities as a mom. My systems, my organization, my ability to be calm and rational...things that in the past seemed to help things run more smoothly at home. 

However, in these circumstance, well... 

It was constant...24/7, kids coming to my bed in the middle of the night, cleaning up bodily fluids, being the constant referee, having five kids ask me a question at once and expecting me to answer them all, five kids giving their opinions on what we should or shouldn't do, eat or not eat, "Can you turn the radio down, mom?"...two seconds later another child asks, "Can you turn the radio up, mom?"

The words cycling through my head the entire time was...this is IMPOSSIBLE! 

I am literally going to go crazy...no, I HAVE gone crazy!

I love my kids...put me in a locked room with each of them one at a time and it is like a dream come true. My favorite people...one on one quality time...I am in heaven!

Being in charge of all five of them for ten days with no school...I literally felt broken.

There were moments that I laughed from the impossible task of it all. And then there were moments that I realized how much of a detail person I am. I want to address every concern, find justice in every argument, make sure consequence are fair and that kids are having fun. 

And can I just be honest, I would also like to be the perfect mom, make no mistakes, be 100% present, patient in all things and so loving that my kids cannot find any faults in their dear mom.

Ha!

What I found?

I CANNOT do it.

I kept telling myself over and over, "I CANNOT DO IT ALL!"

It was the very last day that I broke. 

"God, I surrender." 

I whispered as tears rolled down my cheeks.

"God, I need you more."

And I realized that without having the pressure turned up, I had been coasting along for months on my own abilities.

It was that very day that I discovered something. 

The view out of my kitchen window will always look the same until I'm suddenly looking for something different. 


It was that day that I discovered that having a constant reminder of where my strength comes from is what I needed most. 

It was that day that I discovered that taking my Bible in one hand and a dry erase marker in the other, suddenly gave me the power to change my perspective.

I can't do it all.

But HE can.

He is always with us.

God, is always with us.

But if we think we have it all under control or have "our" systems in place...we forget to look for the one who has all of the strength that we need.


My perspective might be cloudy, there may be too many water and dirt marks on my window to see things clearly (life is never going to be perfect), but this is the place that I am constantly looking.

Gazing out the window.

And what better place than this...than to put a constant reminder up of where my true strength comes from.

These are the words that carried me through...


He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. 

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:29-21

Today the only "tip" I have for you is to lay down your own abilities at doing this whole mom thing the way that you think it should be.

Then go grab the closest dry erase marker and your Bible and write whatever truth you need to be reminded of most right up there on your cloudy kitchen window.

In the coming days you will still have to look for it.

You may have to be standing directly in front of the window to see it.

But the next time your standing there, doing the dishes and the tears are rolling down at the impossible job before you. That truth will carry you through.

"He gives strength to the weary..."

What truth do you need to be reminded of today?


Monday, March 23, 2015

How I Feed My Starving Children

Have you ever thought, "I want to help others, but how?" 

I certainly have.

how i feed my starving children

Yet I find more times than not, it comes way more naturally for me to focus on my own family's needs. It is almost effortless for me to roam Target filling my cart with things that my family needs (ok, and things we don't need too.)

However, then I find that I spend a lot of time at home organizing all of the stuff. You know what I mean...all of THE STUFF.

Simple, I long for simple. 

But it doesn't just happen. I have to intentionally work towards simple. I have to make choices for our family based on simple. I have to choose to not buy another thing that we really don't need and instead...

Well, here is the story of what happened recently.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two of our family's values are gratitude & generosity. (Sam and I sat down a few years ago and narrowed down our family's core values to seven things that we wanted our kids' childhoods to be marked by. Things that they would leave our house after they have grown knowing were REALLY important to our family.)

Does that mean that I have the most grateful kids on the planet? No!

Does that mean we have a perfect family that holds to these core values all of the time? No!

It simply means that while we are doing life together as a family, Sam and I are going to do our best to teach our kids (and remind ourselves!) that being joyful, thankful, patient, respectful, generous, compassionate & responsible are all really important to our family.

How does that play out in real life you ask, well...I'll give you one recent example.

You see, I feed five kids three meals a day on a regular basis. I often hear...

"I'm starving."

"I don't like that."

"What's for dinner?"

My kids make statements every day based on their needs and their wants. 

I get it... 

However, I often tell them,

"There are kids all over the world who don't have enough food to eat."

Or, "Do you know what the word "starving" actually means?"

and then I think...

How do I connect the dots for my kids?

How do I create a culture in our house where my kids are thankful for their food?

How can we help feed the hungry?

How can we do small things with great love?

And then a friend invited me to come pack meals at Feed My Starving Children for her birthday celebration. Melissa wanted to gather friends together to see how many boxes of food could be packed in just a few short hours together.

Her idea was genius! 

So we gathered, we wore hair nets, we learned how the packing process worked, we all picked a duty (I helped seal bags and managed to somehow not seal my fingers in the process), they played party music (because I'm happy...), we sang, we cheered, we tallied each box and by the end all of Melissa's friends worked together to pack 22 boxes! 

That was enough food to provide four thousand, seven hundred and fifty two meals! 

4,752!!!

We are totally planning a family trip to go back there...soon!

While I was at FMSC I also saw a t-shirt with a Mother Teresa quote on it that I had never heard before. It summed up everything I had been feeling but couldn't put the words together to say.

feed my starving children

I foresee some brainstorming happening of how to get this quote in my house, on a wall...or ANYWHERE!

FMSC is based out of Minnesota but they have MobilePack events that go all over the United States. They also have this t-shirt available online with a donation of $50. That donation covers the cost of one box of food...enough food to provide 216 meals!

Maybe you can gather your tribe to celebrate a birthday, take your book club on an outing or grab your neighbors and go pack meals.  If you can't get to a packing event, maybe your family could save some money in a jar to donate towards buying the food that is packed. All of the food is provided by donations. 

live simply so that others may simply live

We also have some dear friends, Justin & Sarah who work with a ministry, Master's Heart, to provide food security to the many orphaned children of Mozambique who are struggling to survive. Their ministry is the real deal and so are they! To get your family involved with helping to provide food for one orphaned child you can go here.

Suddenly the question is no longer...how can I help? 

But...

How many kids can our family provide a meal for today? 

#smallthingswithgreatlove

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Living Well Spending Less

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Organizing The Kids' Library

Houston, we have a problem. 

Not to worry, it is nothing earth shattering. 

Just an idea that I came up with last month that wasn't quite working as well as I thought it would. After a bit of frustration with books spread out all over the house (in various nooks & crannies, under beds, behind doors, etc.) I decided to turn one of our IKEA shelves in the basement into our designated storage place for kids' books. 

We very creatively named it our "library." ;-)


The problem was that some of the books would slide right behind the shelf because there was a gap between the back of the shelf and where the couch angles in. Perhaps moving it against the wall would solve that problem. However this particular shelf fits great right next to the couch because it is the perfect height for setting drinks and popcorn on movie nights.


Then one afternoon it dawned on me that instead of thinking that my only option was to move the shelf, I could simply switch the books and toy bins that were on the shelves. (Ahhh, totally one of those light bulb moments where I wondered how many more months it would have taken me before I finally thought of that.) 

I got to work switching things around and decided to pull the shelf away from the couch to clean out anything that might have fallen behind there. 

Ya'll, laugh with me here...but for the first five years of married life (pre-kids!) this little organizer's heart used to swear that I would never have random toy pieces hiding under the couches or behind furniture once we had kids roaming the grounds. 

I remember thinking at the time..."how does that even happen?!?" 

Ya'll, it HAPPENS!

One child, two children, ten children...it happens!


Like, "put it all in a pile and find all of the treasures that they didn't even know they were missing," kind of happens!


I grabbed my swiffer duster, broke out the vacuum, switched the items, sorted the bins, stacked the books and stood back to gaze intently.

Ahhhh...

If it wasn't for the fact that quiet time was about to conclude upstairs I would have totally grabbed a cup of tea and just stared at this little organized haven for a moment longer.


You see, what I am learning as a mom is that the "norm" for my kids' play room is that there are going to be lots of treasures under the couch.

And most definitely the books won't stay like this...


Nor will the toy bins always stay sorted like this...


But you know what?

I am perfectly ok with that. Because having a messy play room means that kids live here, that prayers were answered, and that friends come over and play. And when I focus on that...on being thankful for ALL of that, then the mess doesn't need to be completely gone for me to feel joyful.

Thanksgiving is where it all begins

p.s. A little extra joy does however come now from walking by the "library" and smiling that one problem was solved. No more books falling behind the shelf. :-)


organizing the kids' library




Monday, March 9, 2015

An Inviting Home: A KFC Nugget-vention

 
This is a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% mine!
 
 
a KFC nugget-vention

 

Our kids love chicken nuggets. However, most times we end up at the same place eating the same pressed shaped nuggets. Can anyone else relate? We needed a Nugget-vention!

When KFC debuted with Popcorn Nuggets we decided to intervene and have the kids try them. Why? Because they stand out from the competition. KFC Popcorn Nuggets are 100% white meat and are never formed or pressed into uniform shapes like the competition. It's crispy and the chicken is one solid piece.

Now my mouth is watering...
 
 
We were intrigued with the Popcorn Nuggets and planned a family dinner out. Our method for meals out is waters all around (that is also our little trick for saving and making eating out for a family of seven more affordable.) I really like how KFC has plates, utensils and napkins on hand to make serving up a large family dinner a snap. We couldn't get the food on the plates fast enough as hands rushed around opening sauces, passing out forks, serving up plates and making sure each child had a little bit of everything.

The kids are always eager to help when it means that dinner is about to commence.

Unfortunately, in the process, a few kids got hot sauce on their plate accidentally instead of ketchup...oops. Getting the right sauces ordered for each child and then passed out correctly is a whole other topic. Oy vey!

Hot sauce aside, our kids were thrilled and gobbled up the goodness...every last bite. (And nobody spilled their water which was icing on the cake!)
 
 
To check out KFC online go here. You can also check out their facebook page and find out more information about their Popcorn Nuggets here.

Who in your life needs a "Nugget-vention!?!" 

A few days after our dinner my kids saw this commercial. They laughed and giggled and said, "those WERE really good!"

I smiled.

Immediately, I thought back to our night out as a family, our hot sauce dilemma, yummy Popcorn Nuggets and how everyone walked away with full tummies and a great family memory!


Do you or a friend need a nugget-vention? Tell me in the comments.
 
This is a KFC-sponsored post for BlogHer. All opinions are 100% my own. 

KFC Corporation, based in Louisville, Ky., is the world’s most popular chicken restaurant chain. KFC specializes in Original Recipe®, Extra Crispy™, Kentucky Grilled Chicken® and Extra Crispy™ Tenders, Hot Wings™, Go Cup®, KFC Famous Bowls®, Pot Pies, freshly prepared chicken sandwiches, biscuits and home-style side items. There are more 4,300 KFC outlets in the United States.  KFC Corporation is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., Louisville, Ky. (NYSE: YUM.) For more information, visit www.kfc.com. Follow KFC on Facebook and Twitter.

Be sure to visit the KFC brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Monthly Budget Breakdown ~ February 2015

In an effort to challenge my contentment meter and stay within a budget,
I have $50 per month to spend on Decor & DIY projects for around the house. 
On the first Tuesday of every month I'll show you how I spent it 

Here is the monthly breakdown for February...

Starting Balance = $110.37 (you can check out here to see what was spent in January.)
Income: February $50 + Starting Balance = $160.37 left to spend

As of late, Sam and I have been having a lot of conversations surrounding remodeling projects in our home. Conversations that have come out of necessity and figuring out how to tackle one problem at a time in our house. 

Things like having water damage to various ceilings from an upstairs toilet that overflowed a couple of times. Also now that we have kids who are showering instead of bathing we have gotten more motivated to finally fix some more of the upstairs bathroom issues as well. (The kids can't get the temperature right by themselves due to the current faucet quirks and half of the water comes out the bottom spout while half comes out of the shower head.) 

The list of projects could go on and on, much like any home. 

However, as discussions continue with bigger projects it can easily seem as though they are far off and out of reach as pennies are saved. Yet I find that the biggest thing to help keep me motivated to save is to spend. Does that seem funny? I find that tackling small projects that help keep things fresh & organized keeps me motivated to save for those bigger, much needed projects. 

This past month I updated our containers on the stairs. I found them at Target for $7.99 each. 


While a project like this isn't going to add value to our home per se, it certainly keeps me motivated to stay on course. It is fun to make little changes to our home and create a place that we enjoy being in. For this organizer/lover of teal...rounding the corner of the stairs to see these happy bins certainly makes me smile. 

Final Breakdown...
Beginning Balance $160.37 - $55.93 (February purchases) = $104.44

Did you complete any projects this past month or switch up something in your home?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

She Doesn't Know What Is For Dinner Either!

As we continue to live in this world surrounded by technology I can count many friends who have found their significant other online. Technology opens up a whole new world to dating. However, it’s not just couples who are meeting online but new friendships can be made. Never before have you been able to connect so easily with others who have similar interests and passions as you do.

Years ago (circa 2013) when this blog was just beginning, Kristen left her first comment. A few months later, after more posts and more comments, she emailed me telling me about our many similarities. We were each mothers of five kids (three by adoption and two by birth), we both lived in Minnesota, we both enjoyed decorating, and both love God with all of our heart. 

The similarities didn't end there but those were certainly a few of them.

Fast-forward to last week when we finally got to meet in person at a Caribou coffee shop on a cold Minnesota winter night. Of course, certain thoughts went through my mind (as I'm sure went through hers)...

“I’m glad we are meeting in a public place.”

“I hope she isn’t crazy.”

“What if she thinks I am crazy?!?”

Spoiler Alert: She was as NICE as can be!


We talked about life with five kids. In fact, Kristen and her husband are in the process of adopting again. A child from Haiti. Which led to conversations about if our family was planning on having any more kids. To not leave you hanging…The answer is No and Yes. (It’s a hard answer to give once your heart has been opened to adoption.) 

Their imminent family expansion had us jumping right into conversations about twelve passenger vans and how many people max out each of our minivans (fyi, some Sienna’s seat 8 and Odyssey’s max out at 7). Both of us were chuckling as we remembered what life was like at the beginning of each of our transitions; learning to buckle all five kids into car seats in a limited space (it’s like an Olympic Sport, I tell ya! They should have timed competitions and give out medals for it.)

We also talked about how all of our kids have a two hour “quiet time” and how that is what helps keep us sane and helps the kids have a time to reset. Even moms need a break, or at least a little break, from the noise and refereeing in the midst of all of the other responsibilities. 

We both mentioned how hard our transitions have been and how, even during the challenges, it has been so fulfilling knowing that we were doing what God had led us and equipped us to do.

However, there was one thing that really stood out to me from our conversation…like REALLY stood out to me. It was when Kristen said that she doesn't usually know what is for dinner.

Most days her kids wake up in the morning and are already asking, “what’s for dinner?” I just chuckled and said, YES! :-) Some days if they know they are going to be gone later in the afternoon she’ll throw something in the crock pot that morning but otherwise, for the most part, she doesn't know what’s for dinner...either

I wasn't alone on this!

While I created a menu board months ago to help with this problem I readily admitted that most weeks it sits blank. I try to plan ahead but the majority of the time my planning ahead is simply in hopes that I get to the grocery store that week and can grab the essentials.


Even that plan fails sometimes…we have been out of bananas for days (our kids really like bananas).

So I guess I’d like to leave you with that.

Perhaps today you simply need to hear that two moms in Minnesota have NO CLUE what’s for dinner tonight. Be encouraged friends. This life can be hard sometimes, but it is good! It is incredibly worth it!

So if today you still have no idea what the plan is for dinner, don't worry...that makes three of us! ;-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ouchie Spray Recipe Using Essential Oils

I stock band-aids in our house, but most of the time the kids don't really need them they are just there for moral support. Are your kids like that? Even if there is absolutely no blood, a band-aid somehow comforts them. 

I get it.

However, the frugal mother of five in me would rather snuggle them and just buy stock in a band-aid company instead of band-aids themselves. In fact, in previous years I eventually made a "there has to be at least a GLIMPSE of red if you are going to get a band-aid" policy.

What I did want was something on hand that helped soothe their emotions and helped with their ailment. So when my friend gave me this recipe last year for ouchie spray we started using it and never looked back. 

ouchie spray using essential oils

I keep a bottle in my purse and can easily pull it out when life happens. Now when cuts, scrapes or burns happen I simply grab the ouchie spray. (Bonus that it doesn't sting!) 

My new motto is...

"Spray & Go Play!"

DisclaimerEssential oils are not meant to treat, cure or prevent disease. This information represents how I, a doTERRA wellness advocate, use essential oils in our home to benefit our family's health.
(photo credit Sarah Hardie Photography)
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