Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Slumps?

Summer should be a time for fun, family, enjoying the outdoors, and some relaxation.
Yet, it seems that about 95% of the women I talk to are stressed, overwhelmed, and just plain exhausted.
While we can't escape the need to work in this life, whether it's parenting, a job, caregiving, home ownership, etc. we really have more choices than we think in regards to our schedules.  The thing that is hard is that there are soooo many good opportunities out there that it is beyond easy to get over-committed.  It's a downhill slide into too many activities, too much information, and too many friends and an uphill climb to live within our priorities.
My Mom always said, "If I can't get my dishes done, I'm doing too much."
Even though I do two dishwasher loads a day minimum, I don't know if I'll ever catch up 100% on dishes, so I've tweaked my mom's phrase for myself:
If I can't do our Bible verse memorization in the morning with the kids, then we're doing too much.
If we can't have read-aloud time every day then we're doing too much.
Ladies Bible Study and our mother/daughter Friday Bible study in Ali's room are more important than trips to the circus, the pool, the lake, or a friend's house.
Most days this summer I feel like we are having lots of "down time" and are not too stressed out.  Our kids aren't doing summer sports, and I've been evaluating each activity in our week and considering whether it is worth the effort involved or whether it will add stress to our family life.  I'm definitely not perfect at this though!  Sometimes, without even thinking, I will say yes to something only to realize it wasn't a good idea and I chose the good thing over the best thing.  Here are some guidelines that I jotted down to help me stay in line with my priorities of glorifying God as a wife and a mom when considering my children's activities/playdates:
1.  Ya Wanna?
Do I want to do this?  Does my child want to do this?
Sometimes we get asked to do things that we don't even want to do.  Sometimes we push our kids to live out our dreams instead of theirs.  Yes, there is a time and a place for sacrifice and selflessness, but if you hate babysitting why do you say yes every time someone asks you if you will do it?  It sounds like a no-brainer but so many gals I know are guilted or pressured, whether by friends or their spouse, into doing activities they hate.  Keep in mind, I'm speaking of chilren's activities and playdates here.  We will all have to do things we don't like to do (cleaning the bathroom, math homework, etc.) but in regards to things we have choices about, it is a question to consider.  Better to be honest and tell someone you don't like playing basketball, or hiking or taking care of their dog when they go away, etc. than getting roped into doing it and becoming bitter about it!
2.  Nighty-night!
Is it during my child's naptime?  Though only one of our children still naps, and usually doesn't sleep during naptime anymore, I still enforce rest time and feel it is a necessity in our days....if only for Mama to have an hour of peace and quiet!
3.  Housework Happy!
Will this cut into time I need at home to finish chores?  Being a homemaker does involve spending time at home (go figure!) and a home is NOT an easy thing to manage.  There is cleaning, cooking, laundry, yard work, bills, phone calls to make, etc. etc. to keep a family and home running smoothly.   
4.  Peace and Quiet
Does it leave margin in my day?
Will being involved in this activity leave me with no "quiet time" or free time in my day?  As an introverted person I need a little bit of time each day to have no talking and no people in the room with me.  If I don't take that time during the afternoon, I will need some in the evening so that I can recharge...otherwise I get very crabby.
5.  Bless or stress? 
Will this inspire or teach my child or just stress them out?  Will hanging out with that friend encourage them or contribute to bad character?  Will this event or opportunity pack their day with too much activity or cause me to have to drive around like a taxi service?
6.  Cha-ching!
Can I afford this activity?  Living on one income in a two-income world takes a lot of careful planning and self-restraint.  Contrary to people's opinions that say I'm lucky to be a stay-at-home-mom, I know it takes a lot of saying no to things that the rest of the world thinks are necessities.  One of our friend's daughters asked her mom for restaurant pizza and said, "Just put it on your card mommy!"  A perfect opportunity for my friend to explain that the debit card isn't magic money and that sometimes we can't eat out, or buy toys at the circus, etc. etc. etc. because we don't have the money to do so.
7.  No Rush
A friend and I were talking about the stress of last-minute invitations.  Spontaneity can be fun if it's rare, but on a typical day, it's stressful to have a last-minute change of plans.  If you are asked to do something or go somewhere, take a little time to think it over.  Check your schedule/appointment book/calendar and talk it over with your husband.  I once had a young friend who would pray over EVERY opportunity that came her way...down to the most minute thing.  She was wise beyond her years!  One of my friends has decided that she will say "no" to anything that she is asked to do the day of.  I guess I'd better make sure I invite her to things a few days in advance! =)


Monday, June 24, 2013


I have lots of fun pictures to sort through and share from our Yellowstone trip, but today I just had to share these fun pics of my girls.  I love seeing how much they love each other, from Ali's tender, mothering care of her little sister, to Katri's copying of her big sis and trying to take all of her stuff. 

I used to wonder if they would ever play together since they are 6 years apart, but they often play babies, barbies, store, tea party, cooking, etc. together.

Little girls bring so much beauty and happiness to the world!

10 Years!

Yesterday was our 10th anniversary.  We spent 4 kid-free days celebrating this milestone in beautiful Yellowstone National Park.  I have tons of pictures to share here!

Next to Lower Falls....though it is summer, it's still chilly in Yellowstone!

We had a wonderful time away without kids, but we were soooo excited to see them when we got back and spoiled them with rock candy suckers and new t-shirts!  They missed us a lot but had fun camping with Grammy and Boppa.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chasing Horses, Otherwise Known as Fun Photographer Exercise

Josiah is 30!

Today my guy entered the "middle ages" and joined me in the 30's.  We usually just do something with our own family of 6 for his birthday but this year I told him I'd be throwing him a big party since it is a milestone year! 

One of our family traditions is to have the birthday person choose the day's menu. 

Josiah chose:

Cowboy coffeecake for breakfast (I also cooked up some bacon for him as a surprise...which he loved!)

Grilled cheese sandwiches and pickles for lunch (one of his favorite childhood lunches that his mom used to make into the shape of a butterfly, with the pickle as the body...)

Cook-out/BBQ for dinner

Cake and lots of ice-cream (his nightly dessert)

He got lots of junk food, and even some yummy homemade cookies, as gifts from his friends, who know the way to Josiah's heart is through his stomach.  Some sweet friends of ours who always bless us with extra elk and deer gave him a big box of frozen meat and hamburger as a birthday gift.  What a HUGE blessing!  I'm so grateful for that meat and for friends that are so generous.

I'm thankful for a husband who grows more like Christ each and every year.  I love watching him be a great Daddy to our kids, I love that he's expanded his views and has grown so much in graciousness and peacemaking over the years and that his goal in life is to be a servant and live for the Lord no matter what job he's doing or what town he's living in.  He isn't perfect, and marriage isn't always easy, but as we've "grown up" together over the last decade I've realized that relationships can get better with age!  Aging is a great thing, not something to be feared or dreaded!

Josiah loves watching Danny MacAskill videos on youtube.  Hey, even I have to admit that guy can do unearthly things on a bike.  I made him a Packer's-colored mountain with Danny jumping over his "Over the Hill" sign.

Packers colors for a cheesehead!  I don't know how my hubby came out of MN a Packer's fan and not a Vikings fan!  Most of the guys in WY are Bronco nuts.  I found this cheesehead hat at a yard sale this summer.  It came in handy on the food table, which, quite ironically, was missing cheese as part of the spread!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Bucket List

We made a Summer Bucket List so that we could be sure to include a few of everyone's favorites in our summertime activities.
Here are the goals my kids and I came up with:
Do the Library Summer Program
Ali-Go to Pioneer School at the museum for a week
Josiah and I-10th Anniversary getaway trip
Visit the local museum
Have some friends and their families over for dinner
Visit some parks we've never been to before
Ride Boppa's horses
Make a water sensory blob
Go on family bikes rides
Draw with sidewalk chalk
Swim in the backyard pool almost every day
Visit Yellowstone with Josiah's parents
KK-play with Abigail and "Emmy" her friends
Do a Family Movie Night
Summer matinee movies at the theater for $1
Go to the park in Thermopolis and have ice-cream with cousins
Go to the Circus
Go swimming at the local pool
Justus-have a family birthday party in August
Celebrate Daddy's big 30th birthday with a BBQ party
Attend a couple of Vacation Bible Schools
Host a 5-Day Club and help feed the teen missionaries
Lake Days with friends
4th of July fun--picnics, fireworks, parade, rodeo, etc.
Camp a couple of times as a family
Attend Lego Club (Ali) and Jr. Lego Club (the boys) at the library
Eat lots of ice-cream
Lots of hanging out with friends
Attend the weekly church sport's nights/fellowship nights when we can
Playdates with Ansley, CC and Diana, Heidi, Eli, Stella and Celeste, Carston, and Dylan
Attend Gold Rush Days at South Pass City
Have lots of leisure time for fun in the sun and relaxing
The MOST IMPORTANT goal of our summer is to get into the Word of God.  No matter who you are or what your responsibilities, it is always a fight to make God's Word a priority and you have to make the time or it won't happen.  I have seen how easily even church activities and homeschool studies can crowd out family Bible time. is what our family is doing to make sure that doesn't happen.  If nothing else happens on our Summer Bucket List, I want to make sure that this stuff happens:
We are continuing to listen to Daddy read to them from the Bible every night
Having morning devotional time with Mom (Going through Thriving Family magazines' 60 Day Trip around the World praying for the nations)
Memorizing the ABC verses (26 verses printable I found online)
Ali and I:  Mother/Daughter tea time Bible Study every Friday morning
Me-weekly Bible Study that my mom leads in the summer-this summer we're doing "Having a Mary Spirit" by Joanna Weaver.
Take the kids to 5-Day Club, as well as church and Sunday School
Ali-personal Quiet Time once a day where she is looking up Bible verses for our study
Educational Goals:
Ali and Jer:  Read/listen to books for 1,200 minutes during the month of the library program challenge
Justus and KK:  listen to 600 minutes of stories
Ali and Jer: 1-2 pages of Math each weekday
Ali:  Learn cursive, do 1-2 pages in cursive workbook copying Scripture
Jer:  Practice handwriting, reading, and writing for 10-20 minutes a day
Ali and Jer-taking a free, 3-day class at the library in June called Word Play
Ali and Jer--taking a free, 3-day class at the library in July called Let's Pretend
Working on their Nature Notebooks (which they love) as we explore God's creation
Make a Gold Rush Days lapbook
Make a lapbook of their choice
Read alouds:
The Secret at Pheasant Cottage and Rainbow Garden
by Patricia St. John
Start the Christian Heritage series by Nancy Rue
Me-attend a practicum (training) for Classical Conversations in Casper, WY
Me-prepare to be a CC Tutor for the coming school year
Summer Chores:
Morning routine after breakfast:
Brush teeth
Make beds
Straighten Rooms
Help Mom with a household chore
Afternoon clean-up time before Daddy comes home
Sometimes the big kids help Grammy rake her yard or help her water the community garden, where she works part-time, and get paid to do odd jobs for her.
I'd like to have my kids help more with laundry, dishes, and cooking.  Lately they've been pretty spoiled and haven't helped a lot in those areas!  Ali often cleans like crazy just to bless me and she cleans the kids' bathroom 2-3 times a week, but my boys NEED to work harder and learn to do more of the chores.
So, this is our roadmap for the summer.  It may look like a LOT of things to do to some of you, and to others it may seem really low-key.  Every family is different!  My kids happen to be REALLY high-energy kids who love social activities and sports.  We live in a small town, that's very outdoorsy, and we can get to where we need to go within a minute or two.  So, I think we have a great balance of calm and rest and fun and energy-burning activities!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day

Josiah is an exceptional daddy!  He definitely deserved to be spoiled on Father's Day.
We celebrated the night before Father's Day with a family dinner of his choice (corn dogs, french fries, waffle fries, buffalo wings, chips and salsa, etc.) and he taught me to play Disc Golf, one of his new favorite sports, while the kids ran along behind us.  It was a fun evening!

On Father's Day evening we went to my parent's house to celebrate with my dad.  Josiah was gone on a downhill mountain-biking ride he'd planned for several of the men and teen guys in our church.  I brought homemade apple pie and coffee smoothies, two things my dad really likes.

I've been waiting over a year to be able to do a card like this with the 2-4-6-8 theme.  Using lots of duct tape (the perfect addition to a man's card), we made one of these cards for each of the grandpas and Daddy too.  The kids stamped their handprints on the back of the cardstock behind their photo, and they signed their names next to their handprint.

The kids biked around the pasture while Boppa watched.

Josiah got home before dark from his wild 3-hour ride down the mountain, and wasn't too tired to goof off with the kids a bit.

A huge milestone in KK's life!  She has normally been very afraid of guys, especially men with mustaches.  Though Boppa has tried for 2 years to win her over, constantly supplying her with chocolate treats, she would never let him hold her.  On Father's Day, she allowed him to hold her, kiss her, and she even gave him a kiss!  Hurray!
Father's Day wouldn't be complete without some shooting!  My brothers used to chase each other around wildly shooting the nerf bows.

KK sits on a log, pretending to ride a horsey.  My dad and hubby are building
another log cabin for someone this summer.
They peel the logs by hand!  (In case you're wondering, my dad wears copper bracelets on his wrist, and has for years, because they help his wrists feel better!)

The family athlete becomes a "log walker" and spent an hour just balancing on the logs.
He did manage, as usual, to get a bloody nose when he pushed his sister in the swing and didn't get out of the way in time, and he also ended up slipping a few times and straddling the log hard!

My kids' Daddy has modeled a love for sports for them, especially biking, but most importantly, he takes time every day to teach them about the Lord, read the Bible to them, pray with them, and give them lots of hugs and love!
I'm so thankful for him and also for a Dad who raised me in the Truth!

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Last fall I discovered Thirty-One.  Maybe some of you have been buying it for a while, but here in Wyoming, I think it's an understatement to say, "We're behind the times."
I love Thirty-One so much that my friends all think I should sell it.   However, I hate doing sales work and would rather just support my cousin who sells it rather than sell it myself.  My cousin teases me about the number of totes I own and the amount of stuff I'm currently drooling over but ultimately she loves my business! =) I did host a party for her, via Skype, since she lives in another state.  I was sure I would barely make the minimum sales perk and would get $20 of free credit at the most.  Little did I know that Thirty-One sells itself!  My party went to $800 in no time (even though only 3 friends were able to attend--many friends ordered online) and I got 2 half-price items, over $100 in free products, and some hostess exclusives.  And don't even get me started on their yearly 70% off sale!  I have to hold myself's the most exciting clearance of my year!  I also look for Thirty-One used.  When a friend stopped selling it, she sold a lot of her items for half-price on the local Mom's Swap page.
While you can be an organized woman, a prepared mommy, and a homeschooler without Thirty-One.....this stuff definitely makes it easier!  I'll give you a tour of some of my favorite bags.
The large utility tote is the perfect library book bag for a "homeschooler's load."  Between trips to and from the library, it keeps the books together and tidy on our homeschool table.  How many bags can boast that they are large enough to hold a homeschool family's library books?
The organizing utility tote is WONDERFUL for my cleaning supplies.  I leave it in the back of my van so I'm always ready to go for my cleaning jobs that I do on Friday afternoons.  I got this for half-price from my friend.  These bags are far easier to move from room to room when you are cleaning than a bulky plastic cleaning caddy.

Got this $30 organizing utility tote for $10 from the Thirty-One clearance sale.  I've never had a better park bag that keeps 6 or 7 water bottles/smoothies upright and not leaking all over.  Love the organizing utility tote!

My other large utility tote is great for fetching my Bountiful Basket each week, holds tons of groceries, makes a great beach bag, and holds a lot for weekend trips/camping.  I often take this to church loaded with junk to give to other people and inevitably it's full by the time we get home.  The only bag that really holds a 6-person-family's stuff when you go somewhere!

Because I turned 31 this year and I love the company Thirty-One sooooo much, I thought it would be criminal to buy anything else with my birthday money this year.  I was glad to be able to score the weekender bag in my favorite print for half-price.

For hosting a party, I got this hostess exclusive, a camera backpack, with a matching water bottle thermal.  It has made my photo shoots easier and keeps all of my camera gear handy on hikes and trips.  I use the water bottle thermal every day!  It keeps my water nice and cool on hot summer days.
Got this for 1/4 of the original price on the clearance sale!
I use my thermal totes nearly every day.  We picnic/hike/bike a lot and the small one is great for quick snacks for church and soccer games and the larger one holds enough food for the whole clan.

I got this one for 1/3 of the original price from a friend who used to sell Thirty-One.

My mom wanted some Thirty-One so for Mother's Day I gave her a couple of my older pieces, since she liked the colors a lot, and upgraded to this pretty turquoise bag.  So now, my mom has the black polka-dot organizing utility tote and I use this as my park bag!

I got this free with my hostess credit.  It keeps our homeschool area neat and I can find everything quickly.

I got this little pouch for my first-aid kit and bug balm.  I have to get into this thing DAILY... unfortunately....sometimes even 3 or 4 times a day!  My boys are not careful!  But looking at the cute pictures helps the screaming child calm down while I bandage them up!
I'm not being paid or rewarded for promoting Thirty-One.  I just love it....(in case you couldn't tell already)!!!  This month is the only month they are offering the Large Utility Tote in the adorable flip-flop print.  If you spend $31 or more you get a Large Utility Tote for $10.  Go in with a friend and each of you could get a Large Utility Tote for $26, including tax and shipping!
Don't have a Thirty-One consultant already?  No matter where you live, you can order from my cousin Hallie in MN here: 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"That" Kid

Most of us have at least one kid who is "that" kid.  The kid who pushes your buttons...oh...every 5 seconds or so and seems to have an unearthly talent for embarrassing you and/or getting into scrapes or life-threatening situations.
Though Alathia was a very strong-willed and difficult toddler, she quickly matured and became Mama's big helper and a very obedient little girl.  Jer went through a stubborn phase as a pre-schooler but is back to being compliant and sensitive.  Now, in the wake of his siblings' budding maturity, Justus has taken it up on himself to make sure that Mama's job is exhausting, hard, incredibly frustrating....a challenge.
My dad calls Justus "Dennis."  While I don't like the idea of giving kids negative nicknames so that they become like that word/identity or have lifelong emotional scars, I have to say that the resemblance is uncanny between the two.  We recently watched some old Dennis the Menace movies and the little blonde guy in the movie is exactly like our Justus.  Justus is cheerful, positive, curious, cute, and very smart just like Dennis but without intending to get into trouble, it follows him everywhere like there is a magnetic force within his body that attracts it. 
For example:  We go to the ice-cream parlor as a family one hot summer evening.  Jer accidentally spills a little slush on Justus, and so he asks to be cleaned up.  Just when we get that mess cleaned up, Justus spills a huge amount of slushy all over the ice-cream parlor floor, causing the waitress to have to get out the broom and dustpan.  Poor gal!  Then he needs a wet wipe for the table and goes to get one from the lady at the counter.  But one isn't enough.  He needs more napkins for the drips all over him.  Then he comes back to his seat and realizes that when you bite styrofoam, it causes a hole!  Go figure!  His slushy is dripping out of the bottom of his cup.  Meaning...he has to bug the waitress YET AGAIN for a second cup to put on his leaking slushy.  Upon arriving home, he left the last remaining 1/5 of his slushy on the wooden cutting board, where even in a double cup, it leaked all over the counter and floor that night unbeknownst to us until the morning.
Sigh.  This is just an example of 20 minutes with Justus and his unintentional mischief.  Throw in deliberate disobedience, like his frequent hitting of his little sister, his refusing to come out of the closet for his Sunday School teacher, and his escaping from the pastor's wife during Children's Church and roaming through the church during the sermon for 200 people to observe and you have an immediate trip on the Humble Express.  And then there is his sticking the craft down his pants at library storytime and dancing around looking horribly inappropriate, his numerous brushes with death, his glass-shattering screaming, his endless bruises and scrapes in a day, and his swinging a belt around and causing a gushing wound on his brother's head, and you wonder if you will survive parenting him to adulthood.  When one is in charge of keeping him alive and out of trouble for 13 hours every day, all day, it leaves one a very worn-out Mama. 
I was so blessed by a paragraph in Kari Patterson's book "Plenty:  31 Sips of Joy for Moms Everywhere."  (I've really enjoyed her little book, which I got free on my Kindle.)  In Chapter 8, entitled, "When You're Struggling..." pastor's wife, author, speaker, and blogger Kari writes:
I felt like going to a therapy meeting and saying, "Hi, I'm Kari, and yes, my son is "that kid."  Why this Lord?  I'm busting my tail at parenting.  I read all the books, try all the methods, pray pray pray.  I study the Word, teach him Bible verses, I spend all day with him.  This is humiliating and I feel like everyone's an expert on this except me.....I don't want to be the mom of the bad kid!"
She goes on to talk about how God spoke to her through a children's Bible story about Naaman.  Naaman wanted healing, but was too proud to lower himself to dip into the dirty Jordan river.  Kari saw Naaman in herself.  She said, "How many times had I prayed, "God heal me of my pride.  God sanctify me.  God grant me humility.  God grant me a teachable spirit.  God help me connect with the real needs of women around me.  God help me grow in maturity and wisdom.  God reveal areas that are sinful that need your touch.  God heal me of my selfishness, heal me of my insecurity, heal me of myself."
He answered:  Go wash in the Jordan.
Go wash in the murky, stinky waters of a toddler's rebellion and embarrassing misbehavior.  Go wash in the murky waters of trial and error, charting unknown waters, trying new things that often don't work.  Go wash in the waters of humility, in the waters of asking others for help, in the waters of exhausting reptition and consistency.  Go wash in the waters of faith and not of sight.
"But Lord!  I'd rather wash in the crystal clean waters of Bible Study.  I'd like to grow in my sanctification about blogging?......But these waters?  These are stinky, smelly, and humiliating."
Like Naaman, I finally surrendered to the stinky waters of struggle. 
When the word of criticism stings:  Go wash.
When you have "that kid:" Go wash. 
Whatever is stinky and smelly in your life may actually be the means of your salvation.
So, here I am, in the "Jordan" with Justy.  I know he's a special kid.  He has more charisma than anyone in our family.  He'll undoubtedly be the most popular as a teenager, and will likely be a leader amongst his peers and a dangerous man of God.  I can be thankful that he's continually bringing me to my knees...for there is no better place to be!

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