Monday, July 20, 2009

Closing Down the Zoo--Friends

My hubby doing a Youth Group Scavenger Hunt with friends--they had to be under a table.

Friends are a huge blessing in our lives but when we are joined to our best friend (in marriage) and as we begin to have little friends (kids) we have less and less time for our women friends.

I loved the chapter in Shopping For Time that described how to evaluate your friendships Biblically. I recently sat down with my binder and made a list of the friends that I want to really invest in. I love ALL of my friends and want to be an encouragement to as many as I can, but realistically can't give equal time to all of them.

I had four categories, which I got from the Shopping for Time:


Friends Who Sharpen Me

Friends Who Need Friends

Friends Who Need Christ

As I made my lists it was a fresh reminder to me of where I should be with friends. Most of my friends fit into one of the above categories. If they didn't fit in the above, it helped me to realize that it's okay to let go of those friendships and neglect them more.

*Note* The book distinguishes between family and friends so any extended family would fit in a different category that would be priority over other friends. So, for those of you who were thinking you now had a good excuse to disown your brother or mother-in-law or goofy Uncle, sorry!

Things I'm learning to do to try to keep friendships in balance:

Planning for "girl time" regularly in advance so that I'm not getting too much or too little

Phone dates set up for specific times where I can talk with a friend once the kids are in bed or when my hubby is at Youth Group.

Using Caller ID and being selective about calls. As a mom, I'm "on the job" and have too much to do to spend lots of time on the phone.

Using facebook to take care of playdate details, church event questions, babysitting requests, etc. Facebook can be a time-waster if you allow it to suck you in. However, for those of us who are not "conversationally challenged" we have a very difficult time just making a quick, abrupt phone call. We have to greet the person, ask about their life, and the next thing you know a life story is coming out. Those of us enjoy talking and counseling others can find that a simple phone call about a church event becomes an hour long talk. So, facebook is WONDERFUL for quickly connecting with someone and leaving a very brief message asking a question, etc. Even with e-mails, I have a hard time being abrupt so facebook works even better for me than e-mails because the whole point is to be brief!

Not pursuing friends who make life harder. While I do want to reach out to people with God's love, even difficult people, there may be friends who drain the life out of me whom I need to step back from. They may be obsessed with cats, I may hate cats! They may have a kid who punches my kid at every playdate or they may not like being around my kid. They may hound me to get involved in things that I have no time for or may have such different standards than me that we can't understand one another. Unless God leads otherwise, I think it's okay to step back and focus on other friends in this case.

Routine Playdates. Instead of calling up friends all the time to plan playdates (or having to e-mail all the time) my mom friends and I decided at the beginning of the summer that we would make Wednesday morning Park Day and Friday afternoons Pool Day, with different moms hosting the pool parties. Due to varying schedules we've changed this on and off due to weather or other things but it's nice to have a schedule to follow so we all know when we can expect to meet together for some fun. Recently, I decided with other things we were doing that I would stop going to the Park Day for now, with the thought that come mid-August we'll probably add that in again if life allows.

Learning to say "no." I wrote yesterday about selecting what you will neglect. It's hard to say no to something fun with a friend but I must at times because of the amount of friends that God has blessed me with. Someday I will enjoy more time with women friends but my current life season doesn't allow for very much!

I shared a while back how God has weeded out "friendship idols" in my life and has taught me to find my sufficiency in His love. So, one of the biggest ways that I can keep friendships in balance it to pursue my Greatest Friend and be satisfied in Him so I'm not looking to people to meet my needs for affirmation, love, and purpose. If others are trying to meet their needs through me, I can continually point them to the Savior and not allow myself to be weighted down with trying to be everything for them.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Closing Down the Zoo--Select What to Neglect

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that after a super busy May and June, we finally had some respite in July for me to reflect on how I could intentionally make my life a little bit easier. I went over how I felt led to consider the area of food as a major area that sucked up too much time. I shared my Master List of foods to consult to make a one or two-month menu plan. I shared how I broke down my life into main priorities and considered whether or not my day was being spent on those priorities.

Now, I will share areas where I feel that I need to carefully guard that are GOOD things, but of LESS importance. I found a phrase I like a LOT the other day in an organizing book.

Some things I need to remember to neglect:

Online Time


Shopping (whether in stores or online)


Social Time with Extended Family

Enrichment for Kids (educational groups, library storytime, etc)


Phone Time


Saying Yes to Requests at Church/From Friends


Reading Fiction

Cooking/Cleaning (where there is a tendency to make things that are just extras, not necessities, or in areas where standards could be lowered or where cleaning takes precedence over higher priorities.)

I'm not saying any of these things are bad. Each of these things make up a part of our lives and can be very good things.

But, if I were to be honest, I'd have to say that when I'm doing great at limiting one thing, I'm also spending too much time on one or two other things. I may have a weekend of almost no computer time but I'm running around doing too much of the other stuff, like social picnics or church events. I may not be spending time on the phone but I'm running kids to activities that piled up. In a really crazy week, I may have LOTS of things out of whack simply because of lack of planning or lack of boundaries.

Knowing my tendency to not neglect these things enough, I think it's great to sit down and often and evaluate the priorities list (whether weekly or monthly) and figure out what can be done to get back into more of a balance.

Very little sewing--when I do sew now, it's in small stages, fit into my free time here and there

When it comes to fiction reading, I basically gave that up when Justus was born. I would rather spend my "free" time reading books of depth that are an encouragement to my soul, writing my thoughts down here, investing in a friendship, or going to Blog School (which is my term for reading blogs that help me to be a better homemaker (blogs with coupon tips, great recipes, organizing hints, and thoughts on being a woman of God.)

I've decided to no longer babysit kids except for the one I have once a week and except for friends needing a babysitter once in a while to go to an appointment or on an errand. Watching little ones for pay adds a lot to my workload. I got in the habit of doing it when money was scarce during the time my husband's wrist was healing but I'm ready to step back and say "No" to that for now despite continual requests.

We got Caller ID for free with our phone/internet plan in the last year and it helps IMMENSELY at saving time. In a given day we often get 6 sales calls. If we don't recognize the number, we don't pick up. And if I'm busy attending to a kid or don't have time to talk, I don't pick up either.

Other ways to select what I neglect: consulting my husband before I say yes to a volunteer opportunity, making sure that I'm spending more time with my hubby than with extended family and am not planning too much with them, NOT starting to watch a TV series online ( 24--It's addictive!) at all because I find myself unable to stop at a cliffhanger, not planning more than one or two activities for the kids to do in a week, sticking with my menus, timeblocking time with the kids intermittently with cleaning times.

Since the friendship issue is a big one, I'll tackle that one tomorrow.

What areas do you feel that you need to select to neglect? You may struggle with some of the same things or have a totally different list based on your hobbies/interests/lifestyle.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I'm Not the Mother I Wanted To Be...

Every now and then I read an article or blog post that just blows me away, brings tears to my eyes, and gives me a whole new perspective. This article did just that. I have folks in my life who have criticized my choice to have 3 (and even more someday) children or who have said they could never do it. I have seen folks pity kids in bigger families or say that those kids couldn't possibly get the attention they need. I have seen myself fail again and again to be the kind of mom I'd like to be, even with only one or two children, and have been tempted to either beat myself up over it or to envy moms in different situations who seem to have an easier life. I have worried many times over what people think of me as a mother or think of my children because of the amount of kids we have chosen to have.

That's why this article was SO REFRESHING and I just have to share it here that some of you moms out there might be rejuvenated by these wise words!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Let the Angel's Rejoice Along With Us

I am post-poning the topic I was going to cover today because of some wonderful news!!!!

Last night, on July 15th, 2009 our little girl declared she wanted to be a follower of Jesus. We have talked about the Bible to her and with her since the day she was born and she has had lots of training on why we need a Savior and what Jesus did for us. I was secretly hoping that perhaps when the 5 Day Club was going on at our house in June she might express interest to us or to the teachers about how to be forgiven of sin, but I knew that it would happen in God's timing and that I didn't need to push it or force it. She has had a strong interest in reading the story of Jesus' death in her Bible storybook for a couple of months and is deeply moved by hearing it. Because I grew up being taught Child Evangelism curriculum and have taught it for over a decade myself, I have presented the Wordless Book to Ali many times, but in the past she has been goofy, silly, or distracted as I'm explaining it. She is learning doctrine and answers about the Bible and faith in our book, "My First Book of Questions and Answers" and she loves memorizing Scripture. Most nights her Daddy prays with the kids and asks the Lord to help his kids to become followers of Jesus. We talk about sin and our need for a Savior all of the time in daily life. Yet, she still hadn't come to that step of realizing her need to believe and to ask for forgiveness for her own sins.

Last night one of my best friends rode by to drop off a plate of dessert (Yum! These are the best kinds of friends!) and a bag of fresh garden lettuce and she shared the joyous news that her son, one of Ali's best friends, had asked his parents how to show him to believe in Jesus. We were talking about it over supper as a family and thanking God for this good news and Ali declared that she wanted to follow Jesus too. I didn't want it to be a "peer pressure" thing so I told her if she was truly interested she could ask me about it later. As I dressed the boys for bed I prayed that God would lead us in our conversation that evening and in whatever happened. I got the children ready for bed and she begged me to tell her how to become a believer in Jesus and to read the crucifixion and resurrection stories. So, we read through all of the stories in the excellent book "The Jesus Storybook Bible" and I told the Wordless Book very carefully and thoroughly. I admit that I had an incredible feeling that all the previous training I have had in my entire life was leading up to this precious moment of showing my own child the plan of salvation.....
....that of all the times I've shared this message......that of all the times I've prayed with kids......this was the most important thus far. I could barely hold myself together it was such an emotional thing. After hearing the verses and going through the questions, Ali clearly understood everything perfectly and wanted to know how to be saved. I told her to pray on her own and she prayed, "Dear Jesus, please forgive me of my sins. Help me to be a follower of Jesus. Help me to have faith in you." I was blown away by her "big phrases" she used; things she's probably heard us say in the past and remembered!

We then talked over Christian growth and telling on yourself (confessing) to God when we sin. I mentioned that when we truly believe God sends His Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us. Then we prayed again. Ali thanked God for saving her from her sins and said, "Help me to understand who You are. Come and live in my heart." (More big phrases for a four year old, said on her own without Mom's coaching!)

She then said, "I'm a Christian!" She must have heard me say that followers of Jesus are called Christians.

I asked her if she wanted to call grandparents. She was so excited and enthusiastic which was surprising since she often doesn't want to talk on the phone or says a quick hi and then the conversation is over. She kept telling folks on the phone, "I became a Christian! Im a follower of Jesus now!" She told Grammy "Be sure to tell Boppa and Uncle Googoo (Grandpa and Uncle Grant) that I becomed a Christian!" She is very concerned for her uncle as he doesn't follow the Lord and she declared that we should pray for him every night and kept asking me why he doesn't believe in Jesus.

Then I heard her telling Jer, "I became a Christian. You should become one too." Later, he said, "I'm a Cwis-shun too!" He has to copy big sis 'cuz everyone is making a big deal of it! She said this morning, "I asked Jer last night if he wanted Jesus to forgive his sins, and he said yes, so he's a Christian too!" (He's so little, I am not sure he understands much.) Next thing you know, she'll be trying to convert Justus!

Many of the Christian people I know have come to an awareness of their need for God at the age of 4 or 5. It seems to be a ripe age when kids are raised in the church. My hubby was 4, I was 5, etc. And yet, I realize that it is God who regenerates and that "saying a prayer" isn't a magic formula because some kids that pray that prayer whether from parental pressure, or selfish motivation, etc. and yet grow up to live lives apart from God but still think they are okay because someone told them because they prayed a prayer they are going to Heaven. True faith perseveres. Sometimes people don't remember the date or the age but they just know that God has changed them and given them a desire for Him and for spiritual things and they follow Him and that's what matters! No matter how you came to faith, or what God did to open your eyes, what matters is that you worship Him, live for Him, obey Him, and persevere in Him.
I believe only God knows for sure the exact moment of salvation, but the fact that our little girls wants to believe is a sign that God is at work in her and we will continue to pray for her, train her, teach her, and help her to understand this journey she has begun as a Jesus-follower. Something I have come to realize in the last couple of years is that the Gospel (which means Good News) is for every person every day. It's not just for the unsaved/lost/non-Christians and then once they respond to it, they no longer need to hear it and thus move on to Christian growth topics. The Gospel is for believers as much as it is for the lost. We need to continually hear the Gospel, to be reminded of our need for God and what He has done for us. We need that Truth constantly so that it would strengthen us in and through the hardships of life.
Perhaps you are reading this and wondering how a person comes to belief in Jesus. What is the Good News (also known as The Gospel) ? Here is a great online presentation of how to become a believer in Jesus.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Closing Down the Zoo--Revisiting My Priorities

As I took the time last week to think over life and de-stress from a very busy summer thus far, I realized I needed to go through my priorities again and evaluate whether or not my current life schedule was lining up with my BIG life goals.

My main priorities are:





Then I sat down and made a list of things that I am currently doing or can do to live out my priorities.


Prayer, personal Bible study, Reading excellent books on theology/living for God, Ladies Bible Study, prayer with my hubby, being faithful in the roles God has given me as a wife and mother, attending church, etc.


Time to communicate, good food to eat, clean spoons (he doesn't care if the dishes aren't all done but hates if there aren't any clean spoons!), somewhat straightened house, clean work clothes, snacks he enjoys in the house, romance, encouragement, etc.


Training/Correcting all day long, feeding, washing, reading to, cuddling, talking to, teaching, laundry, etc.


Teaching my kid's Sunday School class in July, counseling a friend going through a difficult time, sending cards of encouragement, helping friends where I can, e-mailing, blogging, facebooking to stay in touch with loved ones and point others to Christ, staying connected with Mom friends, etc.

Just listing priorities and ways to accomplish those priorities is so helpful!

Next, it's good to sit down with your planner or calendar and just survey what activities are filling up your days or chunks of time. Which activities don't line up with your target priorities? What things can you cut back so that you CAN pursue your main priorities?

Putting this all down on paper opens your eyes to the things in your day that are LESS necessary that may be taking time away from things that are MORE necessary. I was reminded again that the biggest part of my day should be about God and I should not ever feel guilty about taking time to nuture that relationship and help it to grow. Secondly, I should be looking for ways to grow closer to and bless my husband. This is really hard to do during this stage of parenthood and take lots of effort; it doesn't just happen. Thirdly, I need to be caring for my children's needs for love, training, food, and clothing, and then finally, using any extra time and energy to bless my friends, serve in my church, minister to the lost, etc.

Next Post:

A list of the GOOD things in my life that need to be put on hold right now so I can chase the BEST things

Some Valid Questions

Julie, also known as 3 22nds, asked, "Does having snacks around encourage your kids to snack more?"

It definitely does in the sense that if they see "fun snacks" in the pantry they will whine and beg for them and/or try to grab them on their own. They will go and survey the contents of the fridge when they get hungry and the get excited if they see cheese sticks, strawberries, yogurt cups, etc. It's no different than if you and I had warm chocolate brownies sitting on the counter, just begging for us to eat them!

But having snacks isn't the main reason they eat all the time. I have learned to distinguish between boredom eating and true hunger. My kids are earnestly hungry 5 times a day and they will eat whatever they can when they are hungry, even if it's brown rice or nothing but boiled eggs. They don't seem physically capable of going 4 hours between meals at this point. But, in order to curb "mindless, hobby eating" I have a rule that they may only have a snack at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Having this set in stone helps both the kids and I stay in a routine of what to expect in the food arena. I also cut them off most of the time. After 1 nectarine and 1/2 C. of goldfish crackers I will tell them that they will have to wait until lunch for anything more. Without limits, I wonder if they would eat all day long? It sure seems like I am making snacks/meals all day long because it seems that before and after the older two eat, Justus needs a bottle or a snack too and I'll squeeze my own meal in there somewhere only for it to be time to feed a kid again shortly after!

Cassie asked, "Are getting enough fatty foods to help their little brains develop?"

I would have to say probably, because of the fact that they eat lots of cheese daily (whether in sticks, cubes, or in a meal I fix), homemade yogurt often, drink two glasses of milk per day, have crackers for snack or meat in meals, little chocolate rewards for Jeremiah staying dry all night or going potty, tortilla chips, muffins, peanut butter, etc. If there is one area I could really work on it would be having my kids eat more meat. Neither of us really have to have meat in the meal and so I always need to stop and consider whether my kids are getting enough. So, it's good for me to consider whether or not my kiddoes are getting their daily fat intake as well as their proteins. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Master Meals List

No, I didn't forget about posting this today! I'm posting it late tonight because my mom invited me on a last minute trip to the "big city" of Casper on an errand for my Dad and I decided to join her with the three kids on about an hour's notice. So, my whole day was spent hanging out with Mom, driving, and grocery shopping. We were able to hit up Walmart and thus I stocked up majorly and discovered that Walmart prices vary a LOT! Casper Walmart's prices were much lower than the one I usually shop monthly that is in a nearby town. They also had much more selection.

For all my planning, I really can be spontaneous! And for all my planning, I still make mistakes. We both forgot to get gas in Casper and it was a very tense ride as we realized we were empty about 40 miles from the nearest town with a gas pump. But my van thankfully got us there as we drove slow, coasted down the hills, and prayed hard. You don't realize how scary this is until you've seen the desolation of certain stretches of road in Wyoming!

I share my Master List with the understanding that these are the meals OUR family likes. Many of you will cringe over some things we eat and wonder where all the ribs and pork chops are on this list. This is also not an exhaustive list as I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of the meals we like, especially more winter meals, crockpot meals, etc. So, here is my list:

Lupe’s enchiladas
Bean Burritos
Wet Burritos
Enchiladas with cream style sauce
Salsa skillet
Indian tacos
Taco dip and chips

Fetuccini Alfredo
Mushroom Linguine
Angel hair pasta and vegetables
Italian cheese bread and salad
Mac n’ Cheese
Linguine and roasted veggies
Quick Pizza

Chicken Curry Salad
Black Bean Salsa
Black bean soup
Wild Rice Soup
Chicken noodle soup
Chicken and noodles
Barley Vegetable soup
Turkey Soup
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Oven Beef Stew
Brown Sugar Chicken
BBQ Chicken
Fried Chicken
Pepper Chicken
Chicken Fajitas
Sherry Chicken
One-Dish Chicken Bake
Chicken tenders/nuggets
Chili chicken on rice
Baked Chicken
Parmesan Chicken
Cheesy Chicken
Chicken Brocolli Rice Casserole
Western Cornmeal Pie
Brown Rice Spinach Dish
Black bean veggie lasagna
Mac n’ Cheese Bake
Plowman’s share
Tuna Casserole
Baked Tomato Spaghetti
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Sloppy Joes
Chicken salad sanwiches

Stir Fry on brown rice
Quinoa and vegetables
Egg rolls
Chicken curry over rice
Homemade Pizza Pockets
Baked Potatoes
Salmon and veggies
Tuna Sauce on Biscuits
Aztec Quiche
Roast Beef
Red Beans and Rice
Deer/Elk steaks

Due to lack of time here I can't provide the recipes for all of these meals. But I will tell you that you will probably find a lot of them on my favorite recipe site, Tammy's Recipes or under the Cooking thread on my blog. If there is one you absolutely MUST have, I'll get to posting it as I have time and depending on how many requests I receive.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Closing Down the Zoo--Target Area One

One of the first things I realized when I decided to take a week of rest/contemplation from our busy summer life was that a huge area where I was facing frustration and time loss was in the FOOD arena. My kids seem to eat all day long and when you are trying to buy on sales and on a budget and are on a crazy summer schedule of frequent activity, this can be taxing. I realized that I spend way too much time shopping, cooking, searching for snacks, etc. In the summer, it's all too easy to get off of the menu planning due to endless picnics and get-togethers and I was feeling the strain of my lack of planning.

The more kids that join our family, the more organized we have to become to make things run smoothly instead of exploding into chaos. So, I came to the conclusion, which I believe is insight from God into my situation, that I need to be extremely proactive about food and work to organize my meal planning even more so that I can shop even less and buy in bulk more.

My first step was to create a Master List of meals we commonly enjoy. I had already started on this last year and had it in my home management binder and I merely added to it and typed it up. I got this idea from Marcy, a sweet friend in MN who has 4 children and obviously knows that organization is key to keeping them all fed!

My next step was to organize the meals under categories like: Mexican food, Italian food, Soups, Salads, Chicken meals, Casseroles, etc.

My third step was to assign meals to different days of the month (saving one meal a week as a free night where we can eat out, go to a picnic, or eat leftovers) and plan out two months worth of meals. Because of my Categories List of meals I was able to vary the meals greatly. A mexican meal one night, chicken the next, sandwich meal the next, etc. so that we have about 25 different suppers in a month's time. We eat a lot of rice and beans and meatless meals as well as plenty of simple meals like homemade pizza, spaghetti with tomato sauce, grilled cheese and tomato soup, etc.

The fourth step is creating a shopping list. I made a list of every ingredient I will need for every meal on my list for the next few weeks. My goal is to shop every two weeks for now and work up to shopping once a month with quick weekly produce and milk runs. As time goes on, monthly menu planning and shopping should become easier and easier as I get the hang of it and have previous months' lists to consult.

The fifth step will be to shop for all of these items, which will be an adventure! The sales haven't been very good at our local grocery stores lately and the prices are astounding! I will definitely bulk shop in the town 30 miles away where I can at least hit a Walmart for some much-cheaper prices. But even that Walmart is more pricey than the Walmarts in the midwest. Food here is just expensive! I calculated the other day that Alathia and Jeremiah, together, eat $220 worth of food each month! And that was without adding in milk and juice they drink. They typically eat very cheap snacks like hardboiled eggs, apples, crackers I got on sale, homemade bread, etc. but it still costs money! Justus eats about $60 worth of food in a month, this is not including formula. Doing the math really helped me to see why my grocery budget is always over-extended!

The sixth step is to take as many shortcuts as I can in my cooking. I already bulk cook meats and beans and chop and freeze diced onions for cooking, etc. but I need to do this even more to stay ahead of the game. I'm going to ask my hubby to help me reorganize the pantry so we can put our deep freeze (which is currently in our storage shed) in it and fill it up with breads, frozen vegetables, etc.

The seventh step is to do once or twice monthly baking days where I bake items that my family enjoys and freeze them for handy snacks.

I will share on my blog how things are going in late August after I have had a couple of months to try this out. My hope is that by buying some things in bulk, and planning ahead more I will be able to stay out of the stores, thus saving me time, and perhaps even money. I will also evaluate whether or not our current grocery budget is enough. With Justus eating more solids and growing like a weed we may need to up our weekly amount as we've had to do with our other kids when they turned one.

I am indebted to many wise women for their inspiration in menu planning. There are some GREAT blogs out there that deal with the subject. Check out some of these blogs (listed in my sidebar blog roll) for some excellent tips.


Passionate Homemaking

The Happy Housewife

Tomorrow I will share my Master List of Meals we typically make...
Wednesday I will share other ways I plan to simplify life in this hard season of rearing little ones....

We Want to See Your Faces!

For those of you who live in the area of my hubby's hometown, you are invited to
a Potluck Picnic
on Thursday, July 30th
at the park near the airport.
We will be there at around 4 p.m. with plans to eat at 5:00pm-ish
I don't think there are any grills there, so if someone would volunteer to bring hotdogs/hamburgers grilled at home that would be wonderful!
If not, we'll just have a vegetarian potluck meal with side dishes and desserts!
We will bring the cups, plates, napkins, and forks!
Anyone who knows us, even just a little bit or only from my blog, is welcome to come!
I do want to stress that because of life with 3 little ones and the possibility of a lot of friends coming, there won't be a lot of time for deep conversation! This is why I say we want to see your faces! We may not get to say much beyond "Howdy" but it would be wonderful to see your lovely faces and see how your children have grown or meet you for the first time in person!
If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments! Hope to see you there!
(And thanks to Kristin, my park consultant from that area!)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Great Wisdom on Parenting

I was greatly encouraged by these sermons on parenting. If you need some fresh encouragement as a mom, listen to these while you tackle the mountain of clean laundry, mend clothes, or de-clutter the living room!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Closing Down the Zoo Update

Wow! Where do I begin?

Here are some thoughts on my life this week:

*I've been doing some prioritizing and planning that will hopefully free up more of my time during this incredibly tiring stage of parenting 3 littles. I'll write more on this very soon.

*No matter how simple I try to make life, it will not be "simple" in the sense of totally soul-satisfying/refreshing/peaceful/easy until Heaven. No matter how much I try to "cut stuff out" of my life, my life is going to be full of very hard work because of the 3 little blessings I am caring for and training.

*These last couple of months have definitely felt like the TOUGHEST stretch of having 3 Four and Under thus far. Why?

-Baby making messes in his highchair

-Baby now napping only 1-2 hours a day instead of 3-4

-Baby crawling and exploring

-The kids playing outside all day requiring me to spend more time out of the house, which means I have less time indoors for doing chores

-The kids eating like elephants with all the calories they burn running and swimming all day! I shop all the time only to see a bare refrigerator most of the time. I feel like my life revolves around searching for yet another snack for the kids. (Of course the bare fridge is also due to the fact that my hubby eats a 5,000 calorie-per-day diet too and seems to have the world's fastest metabolism.)

-The heat sapping my strength. It hasn't been terribly hot here and we haven't even put in our air conditioning unit yet but the hotter days do have an effect on energy levels.

-My kids being "extra-regular." Though two are potty-trained, none can wipe themselves (and Jer sometimes still has poopy accidents). Due to my kids regularity, I wipe poopy bottoms 7 times per day!

-The kids not wanting to go to sleep until it's dark so with the longer days of summer they require lots of extra discipline for an hour or two after they've been put to bed. Because of the sunrise and Daddy's alarm clock, they are up early most days. So, our kid-free zone has shrunk from 12 hours (in the wintertime) per day to 9 hours per day (most of which are spent sleeping).

-Sometimes all 3 kids nap at the same time but most often I have one kid who is up when the other two are napping. Jer naps the most, still logging about 3 hours a day of naps. Justus only naps 1 or 2 hours a day now and Ali only naps if she's really worn out from going to the park or swimming. So, even my "Mommy-break" time involves supervising Ali or Justus or both.

*Three is the number that officially has CHALLENGED me. And while I somehow still would like another kid or two in the future, I feel like 3 is the big number that pushed me to my knees. I don't remember ever feeling so over-worked or challenged with only one or two children in the house.

*I love my role and my family but I am continually tempted to hate my life because of the endless demands and the un-doing of everything I work at. Day in and day out I am being tested, refined, stretched, and compelled to either lose it or to let go and trust God. Day after day I'm faced with whether I will believe God's truth or the lies that I can't handle this, that my weary body is going to crumble into a heap and die, that it's too much responsibility, that the work is menial, that kids are not a blessing, etc. Fighting for joy truly feels like being in a war most days.

*I need to give myself more grace. God has gifted me with infinite grace. It's time I follow in His footsteps and stop requiring more of myself than I can possibly do. Shortcuts or help in my homemaking tasks, even if they cost money, can help save one's sanity. In the spiritual realm, trying to change my sin patterns by myself doesn't work. I absolutely cannot do it without the Holy Spirit's transforming power.

*I absolutely NEED God's Word. God's Word can lift my spirits and infuse me with hope and truth, something I need every day as much as I need air or water if I'm going to succeed as a mother. Though I've always needed God and His Word, I feel like I'm at a new level of needing His words as I seek to train these little ones for Him.

*I've been praying desperate, heart-wrenching prayers for a dishwasher if that would be His will. Because I cook a lot from scratch and dirty a LOT of dishes, a dishwasher would save me around 8 hours of labor per week.

*Daddy took all 3 kids on special, separate Daddy-Dates this week (and it was his idea, he hadn't read Natalie's post on how they did this too when they "closed down the zoo.") Alathia and Jeremiah LOVED this one-on-one time at McDonalds with Daddy and felt so special! Justus got to go on a stroller walk. And the older kid who ended up staying home had more personal attention from Mommy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Something I'm Learning.....

"close down the zoo"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Closing Down the Zoo

As June drew to a close, I began to greatly look forward to the coming of July. It seems like May and June were a blur of activity that just swallowed us up. The things we were involved in were great things and we don't have any regrets, but after having my hub's birthday, Father's Day, our anniversary, Fourth of July, 5 Day Clubs, company visiting us, picnics galore, etc. I relish the chance to stay at home and enjoy some lazy summer days in our much-less-busy weeks in mid-July. Of course there will always be poopy bottoms to wipe and bills to pay, things to prepare for, and dishes to wash, but I am going to take it slow-ER for a few weeks!

I really appreciated my friend Natalie's post on this very subject (and I copied her phrase for my title!) She is a Youth Pastor's wife who is accustomed to busy times with church activities and little ones. I so appreciated her thoughts on taking time to invest in her family. I, too, need to get back to healthier eating habits after loads of picnic food, and take even more shortcuts to carve out more time to rest and stay home. I continue to strive to mother with gentleness and it's much easier to do so when there is less on my plate. I am reminded of my need to sit down and take stock of what we are involved in as a family and make sure that what our days are swallowed up with are the things that are top priority. I'm continually learning that the simple life doesn't just happen. Like exercise, it takes effort to pursue simplicity. There are so many good things I can be doing; things to further my kids' education, things that my parents want me to do for them, things that my friends invite me to, cute gifts I could be sewing for people, things that help someone in need, etc. but I need to carefully evaluate everything in light of what God wants me to do and to be involved with.

So, this week I'll be contemplating how I will "Close Down the Zoo" for a time. Check back in a few days as I'll share how it's going!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Advance Prep and Flexibility

I was asked by our company a couple of times, in reference to getting supper made, "How did you do this?" Considering we were busy all day taking care of kids or going places, it was a very valid question!

The key for me is being prepared. I have watched 6 small children on many occasions before and I know that there is no time for cooking with that many kids in the house! So, I made sure that cooking wasn't something I would have to do when company was here. What I did:

*Planned simple meals

*Took shortcuts like buying french bread from the grocery bakery instead of making homemade

*Froze rolls and sandwich bread so we'd have plenty on hand

*Made a lasagna and a chicken/brocolli/rice casserole a few days before they came

*Washed lettuce and had it ready to go from the ziploc bag to the bowl for salad

*Made a big batch of brownies all at once before they came (1 pan was dessert the first night, 1 pan was part of our contribution to the church potluck the next night)
*Made the Black Bean Salsa for the potluck earlier in the day when the kids were busy/sleeping

*Had lunchmeat and sliced cheese on hand for sandwiches

*Served ice-cream bars for dessert one night so I wouldn't have to make anything (it was nice that they just happened to be on sale this week too!)

*Had sloppy joe meat ready to put on buns for lunch

*Shopped in advance for all the meals
*Cleaned in advance as much as possible so I didn't have to do it all the day or two before they arrived

I've always loved to plan ahead and organize. Yep, I'm the kid who packed for church camp like 3 weeks in advance, made lists, had all the little travel bottles, etc. I still do that for big trips! Being prepared is such a lifesaver in so many aspects of motherhood. The more kids I have, the more prepared I need to be. With any future pregnancies my goal is to have a huge freezer full of food before I hit Week 7 when the misery of all-day sickness hits. I've already told my husband that we should take about $400 and hit Wal-Mart and fill up our chest freezer with easy-to-make meals since we know from much experience that I won't want to cook for a few months and now there are lots of hungry mouths to feed! With each baby I have had, I have made up about 20 meals before the baby's birth and froze them. This made those first few months a breeze with a new baby! Most moms use diaper bags, right? Diaper bags are just one small way of being prepared for the inevitable!

When you talk to moms of lots of children, who are a wealth of information and inspiration, I might add, it is clear that preparation and organization are very key to their surviving and having a peaceful life. That's not to say that their house is perfect or they never need to be flexible, but it is to say that most of them have learned to manage their lives instead of living in constant chaos. The women I know with the most children end up doing more of the once-a-month cooking or the once-a-month shopping or the monthly menu plan instead of the weekly. They are experts at stocking up clothing in the next-size up for their children and stashing gifts away in advance to be prepared for birthdays and holidays. They often freeze things ahead, have a large pantry, buy in bulk, and cook in bulk. They plan a month or two at a time with lesson planning for homeschooling (or even a year at a time!) and they often prepare for the next day the night before by laying out clothing or putting breakfast food on the table, etc. They have all kinds of crockpot recipes so that a hot meal is ready in the crockpot after church or after a long day.

Advance prep will be your best friend when it comes to managing a household of kids or having company. Of course you have to remember that flexibility should go hand-in-hand with that too. I may look at my Master Packing List a hundred times and we still might run out of diapers on vacation and need a midnight run to Wal-Mart or the kids may lose every pair of shoes we brought them even if we brought extra. When this happens, you have to roll with the punches and just learn to be flexible. It didn't kill Jeremiah to wear his sister's pajamas from the dirty clothes bag when he wet through every extra outfit of his on one vacation. We did survive when my very-organized Mom forgot the diapers on a camping trip when my little brother was only 1 and she was taking 6 kids (my cousins and I) camping at the lake by herself. And though I shopped for all the food in advance, I still made a quick store trip when it turned out that the cream cheese I had frozen was such a nasty consistency we couldn't use it on our bagels and needed some fresh cream cheese. So, while preparation will help you a lot, don't put all of your hope in it or you will be disappointed! Life will always contain many surprises and frustrations but if you are prepared you will face a lot less of them than if you aren't prepared!

What are some tips for becoming more prepared? If you are totally new to being prepared, I suggest trying some of these ideas and incorporating them bit by bit (not all at once) into your life:

*Rising early to have time with God and prepare for the day

*Using a daily list (whether in your head or on paper), a home management binder, Daily Docket, or schedule to map out your day and write down things that need to be done
*Make supper in the morning so when the "pit hour" comes and all the kids are crying you can just heat it up!

*Making a Master List of your family's favorite 50 meals that you can consult when you need menu-planning ideas

*Getting into the habit of making a weekly menu-plan and shopping once a week or less

*Making up a Master Packing List to look over when you are packing for trips so you don't forget those important items for each person in the family

*Making a Master Grocery List as my friend Heather did to help avoid forgetting items on shopping trips

*Having a weekly "stock-the-diaper-bag" routine where you make sure there are a few outfits, a few diapers and some wipes, and some toys, etc. It's no use taking a diaper bag if it's not stocked!

*Making a weekly schedule or routine for activities you can do with your child (playdough one day, painting the next, etc.)

*Setting out the cups/bowls/cereal/bread the night before so breakfast goes smoothly

*When chicken goes on sale, cook 4-6# of it in a crockpot or in a roasting pan in the oven. Cool it, chop or shred it, and freeze it for a handy addition to meals when you are cooking. Do the same for cooking hamburger, dried beans, etc.

*Do a Baking Day to prep snacks and breads for your family so they are easily accesible.

*Buying a freezer chest that you can use to buy ahead when things go on sale.

*Having an emergency kit in the car, first aid kit in the house, and fire extinguisher handy.

*Pack a Park-Kit for the trunk of your car. Going to the park all the time in the summer? Don't want to fuss with packing snacks and drinks every time? Fill an empty diaper box with crackers, bottled water, wipes, band-aids, sunscreen, sun hats, a blanket, sunglasses, kleenex, sand toys, etc. and then you will have it handy if you need it. Of course you will have to restock it now and then though!

*Have a few outfits that are older or faded that you were going to toss or give to the thrift store? Stash one outfit per person in your trunk of your car. Then, when you are at a picnic and your kid wets on you or you discover you forgot to stock the diaper bag, you won't have to drive home! Just remember to put them back in the trunk of the car after you wash them.

*Back up all of your photos and home videos on CDs/DVDs/Memory card, etc. and keep them in a fireproof box with your important documents.

*Make a Travel Bag and fill with activities that your kids can do on long car trips.
*Pack separate bags for each day for a vacation. I love this idea I found online a while back! Instead of having 5 separate suitcases which Dad has to haul into the tent/hotel every day, pack an outfit for each person in one brown bag or tote bag, labeled DAY ONE. Then you just have to bring in blankets, diapers, the bathroom bag, and the DAY ONE bag. We do this now on some vacations/trips and it's so nice to have everyone's swimsuit handy in the swim bag when you want to go to the lake or pool or a church bag fully stocked with church outfits.

*Make a gift stash and add to it as you find great new stuff for cheap at yard sales, or on clearance. Then you can "shop at home" for someone when you want to bless someone who is having a hard day or give someone a birthday surprise.

I'd LOVE to hear your ideas for being prepared since this list is just a starting point!

And have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July everyone!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Yard Saling Treasures!

Another organizational find! Hurray! My friend Lori has one of these 6-high baskets for her daughter's clothes, and I've always wanted one too. $3 at a yard sale! Now instead of having all of Jer's clothes in one rubbermaid tub on a shelf, he has them organized according to shirts, shorts, PJs, pants, etc.
Brand new package of birthday invites (for Justus' upcoming first birthday), brand new Animal Bingo game, and brand new package of lens cleaner for glasses. Underneath these items is a brand new serving tray that can be used to serve meals in bed or in front of the TV. I thought it would be fun to have as a special treat for when the kids are sick and just want to lay on the couch.

Little bear-shaped glass jar--10 cents
I will put this in my gift stash and fill it with gummy bears for a kid's birthday treat

Hiking boots for Ali. Hard to believe our girl is wearing sizes 12 and 13 now!!!

Cute sundress-50 cents

New socks-10 cents

New boys' shorts--50 cents

This entire box of sand-art crafts was 50 cents. I had seen something like this online on clearance for $1 a package but I'm so glad now that I didn't buy it since I found these. These will be perfect preschool-at-home crafts this winter. Many of them are meant to be Christmas ornaments so these will make nice Christmas gifts for the great grandmas!

Latest Sewing Project

I made this Chic Sisters apron for a dear friend who is getting married this summer. (Please ignore my wild-bang-thing that's going on here!)
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