grace

“Grace” is the English translation of a Greek word meaning “that which brings delight, joy, happiness, or good fortune.”  A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.  Mercy; clemency.   A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.  All of these things define grace in one way shape or form.  Of course there are other meanings of the word but for me it is very specific.  Grace is proving to be the word for this particular season of my life.  Once again the clouds are speaking to me as they did during the few weeks after my sweet momma died.  The clouds have gotten my attention.  I am watching and I like what I am seeing.  It is as if the Lord is speaking to me through His creation.  Several weeks ago we closed yet another chapter in our lives.  It was a good chapter with lots of great stories but I knew deep down there were more exciting pages to be written.  My soul has longed for “more” for quite some time.  As we were driving away I looked in the rearview mirror and could not help but notice the huge, dark ominous clouds behind us.  They were so incredibly beautiful but so fitting.  In front of me was a bright, blue, clear sky with huge puffy white clouds that looked as if I could lie down and go to sleep forever.  For the past couple of years I have felt as if we were in a holding pattern of sorts in our lives.  I knew then and even more so now that the Lord was priming us for our next season in life.  He had some work that needed to be done with me in particular, but His plan is slow and steady.  I knew every single day that the Lord was preparing me for things to come but He wanted to make certain I fully understood and appreciated His future blessings.  This most recent season in our lives was such a learning lesson for me.  I learned that in order for things to be the best they can be we must be patient and wait for Him.  Oh my, I am not necessarily the most patient person but I certainly learned, and continue to learn, that if we wait on Him and seek His provision things will work out for our betterment.  Learning this valuable lesson has taken me a long time to understand.  It is still a work in progress, but the outcome is looking better with each new day.

Now, back to the “grace” part;)  Throughout this process of trusting the Lord to lead my life in areas of monster-size decision-making (yes, I just made that up) I found myself being tossed around in a very bouncy bubble.  I had fallen into the trap of trying to do too much.  As moms it is so easy to do this.  Women tend to be the nurturer and caretaker of their families.  We plan, enroll, organize, shop, decorate, discipline, referee, feed, teach, shape and form these little guys we have been entrusted with.  It is very easy to get caught up in trying to do it all.  No one starts anything with the goal to fail and when you are responsible, either on your own or with a spouse, of a little human being, the pressure is insurmountable!  A woman’s brain works like this (this is for the three men that will actually read this post, one of which is my husband.  For the women who read this you can just laugh because you know it’s true) ‘I read the other day on yahoo that children who sit in front of the television more than two hours a day are twice as likely to develop learning disorders.  Great!  Now, my little angel will be kicked out of pre-k for disorderly conduct and not listening to his teacher.’  ‘Dr. Oz said that the shower head that was in my home was laden with chemicals and full of lead.  Well, I guess I will be making a stop at Home Depot for a new filtered shower head. My husband is going to love this one!’  ‘My favorite mommy blog wrote a huge article about why I should soak my nuts and beans before consuming them since the gasses they naturally produce could upset the flora in our intestinal tract.  Are you kidding me!?!  Ugh!!!  Just when I thought I had this healthy eating thing down!’  ‘I am always hearing organic, organic, organic, but my budget is screaming Aldi!  If I don’t feed my family organic they will all die of overexposure to pesticides!  What’s a girl to do?’  ‘Corn!  We can’t eat corn!?!  GMO, what the heck is that?  Is there anything we can eat anymore that comes from the store?  I feel the need to grow a humongous garden and raise my own livestock!’  ‘Baseball, football, golf, scouts, gymnastics, dance, piano lessons, violin, VBS, Sunday school, manners, chores, academics, fitness, charity, birthday parties, and on and on and on…. 

I could seriously continue on for hours but you get my drift.  As moms we get so wrapped up in the snare of perfection.  Please note that I said “snare” because it will trap you.  You see other moms doing their thing and the family is beautiful, mom is fit and trim, the kids are enrolled in private school, they excel in sports, and she is meeting the girls for coffee every week, and the family is all smiles, or so it seems.  I have had many conversations with my mommy friends about this very issue.  I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t compare, at least a little, her success as a wife and mother to those around her.  Well, I found myself in this trap of trying to do too much and I was exhausted!  There, I admit it.  As much as I enjoyed doing some of my “overkill” I was beginning to despise it.  I was starting to feel trapped.  I felt as if it were my duty to ensure the health and safety of my family with the strictest of rules.  I mean, I am the caretaker of my home.  If I don’t do it who else is there?  My husband is too busy with work and “bringing home the bacon” to take on such a monumental task so it fell in my lap.  I am at a point where I am questioning all the things I do.  Are all these things necessary, if not which ones can I just let go of?  In the midst of all of this I have really noticed the clouds and how beautiful they have been.  I have never seen clouds so majestic in all my life.  It is as if they were meant for me.  The other day I witnessed a bright, open hole in the clouds of a dark and rainy day and I felt such a reassurance that I was on the right path.  I have only seen this particular type of cloud one other time in my life, it was just the assurance I needed.  It is nothing short of awesome when we slow down a bit and really wait on Him to show us what we need to do or not do in this instance.  As for now, I am letting go of a few things in order to just simply enjoy the life I have been blessed to live.  It is not easy for me to do this but I know it is necessary.  I am sure there will come a point in my life where I can pick back up and do some of the things I let go of today but until then I will stop, breathe, and wait while giving myself a little grace…

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i have a friend

Today’s post will be a little different.  Not so much humor or ramblings of my daily happenings.  I wanted to shift the focus to someone else, someone who plays a much bigger role in my life than they realize.  I have a friend…

I have a friend who exudes the very essence of who Jesus is.  Those who know my friend and are privileged enough to share life with them understand my crazy love for this person.  I have been honored to walk alongside them for the past ten years.  I am showered with prayers and support in everything that life throws my way, regardless of their own circumstances.  Over the past ten years we have shared many laughs, stories, secrets, and just as many tears, tears that have compelled me to sit here on a Saturday afternoon in the quiet of my living room and tell my friend how truly incredible they are.  Here ya go, this one is for you girlfriend.  You know who you are.  I love you till the end…

We were a newly married couple establishing our foundation in Christ and in search for like-minded friends who were in the same sweet spot of life we were.  Our pastor encouraged us to join a small group for young married couples without children.  Within a few weeks we were on our way to a stranger’s house one evening to share our story and hopefully build lasting friendships.  Little did we realize these “strangers” would not be strangers for long.  When I first met her I felt an instant connection.  She wasn’t really like me, as in loud, bold, sassy, or ‘tell you what I think’ type of girl, but the calm, centered, cautious, and humble type.  Now, I tell you that because normally I am drawn to those similar to my personality but she was not.  There was just something about her.  As she spoke, there was a difference in her use of words.  I will never forget her closing our group one night in prayer and praying about starburst and peanut butter and jelly.  This girl was thanking God Almighty for peanut butter because she loved it!  I quickly learned that her perspective on life was incredibly fragrant, fresh, vibrant, and fun!  Who is this girl!?!  I really need to get to know her better I thought.  She was innocent and different and I wanted her in my life.

As I think back to those early days there are a few things that stick out in my mind.  One of which is her laugh.  Her laugh is so big and full of happiness.  Her entire face lights up and she dances with laughter, literally.  Her eyes pierce you like the sunshine peeking through the tree branches.  I absolutely love her smile which is so incredibly contagious.   One thing I have always admired about her is when you talk to her she really listens.  Nothing distracts her and you have her full attention.  When we talk she always asks me the very same question, “How can I pray for you my friend?”  She is a constant in my life.  Again, I have been privileged to walk alongside her.  As with any true friend you are there for both the good and the bad.  When my sweet mom died she was there by my side feeling my grief and praying for me every step of the way.  I will never forget her faithfulness.  She has witnessed my storms and I have hers.  The Lord promises us so many amazing things, but we are also reminded that we live in a fallen world and bad things can happen and tears will fall when you least expect it.

Well, a time came when my friend would need me more than any other time in our friendship.  I remember almost every detail of that evening.  I was sitting on my couch when I received a phone call.  My friend’s husband was missing and the only thing she requested from me was to pray for his safe return.  My mind began to spin and try to comprehend the information in which I had just received.  I hung up the phone and tried to begin piecing the puzzle together but I simply could not.  What is going on, I thought!?!  As time would reveal, he would not return to her on this Earth but in heaven when God would call her home.  My heart hurt so deeply for her and I wanted so badly to “fix” what had happened to her sweet family but I knew that was not possible.  I witnessed her go through something so horrific that most anyone would buckle and fall beneath the weight of the immense pressure.  She was knocked down but not without Jesus standing right next to her to hold her hand and pick her right back up.  She remained steadfast in her trust  in Jesus and never wavered.  I will never forget rushing to that funeral home only caring to see my friend and look into those eyes and assure her that I was here for her.  When I finally reached her in that incredibly long line I stopped and grabbed her looking in those eyes that were always so bright and I saw her emptiness, an emptiness that revealed the hardships of this life, again life in a fallen world.  My friend was feeling the pain that I pray I never experience.  I stood there holding her only imagining what was going through her mind since this had all become so real.  The line behind me was backing up but I didn’t care.  They could wait.  She needed me and I knew it.  She needed all of us whose lives she had touched in different ways.

It has been just shy of two years since my friend’s husband went to be with the Lord.  I have watched her break free of many of the chains which naturally accompany this type of situation.  She has her laugh back.  Her eyes are full again, full of the promises of Jesus.  She has grown into a woman who I can confidently say she never thought she would be.  Through all of this her strength is the most amazing thing I have witnessed.  Despite the fact that in one instant her entire life changed, she is still standing.  She inspires me to be a better person.  For those who know her, we sit back and simply marvel at her incredible strength.  My friend is without a doubt one of the purest, most gentle, kind, loving, and compassionate people I have ever met.  He has found favor with her and walks alongside her leading her to still waters.  I felt my friend needed to hear this.  She is an amazing mother and friend and each and every day does more than she realizes to further the kingdom.  He is far from done with her.  She will continue to walk the path which He has laid before her and she will hold her red banner high…

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slowing down

IMG_6328Finally, a few moments I can just sit and relax.  It’s just me, my coffee, Adele, and the quiet.  Yes, my house is peaceful for just a little while.  The younger two are napping and the older ones are reading quietly.  Today has been one of those rare days we finished our chores early, therefor allowing me to sit and blog for a while.  My writing has taken a backseat in the last several weeks.  Lately everything has felt extremely chaotic, at least in my brain it has felt that way.  I know that part of it is this time of year.  When the sun begins to warm the air outside and the cool breeze blows and I smell that clean crisp air I do not want to be inside dealing with tasky chores.  I would rather be cleaning, organizing, gardening, and just getting my house in order from being inside for the past several months.  I enjoy freshening up and clearing out any clutter that gets in my way on a daily basis.

Our school year just ended and I am very happy for the much-needed break!  This homeschool momma was experiencing burnout from our daily grind.  We start our school year mid-July so I can keep things flexible for travel, random fun days, or just days that things are off in our house and no one wants to sit and do schoolwork that day.  I have found myself in the midst of curriculum mania and researching my favorite websites for curriculum choices for next year.  I will be changing things up a bit.  We absolutely loved our math program this year and I see great advancements in that area for both children.  We will be keeping with the same program for next year and I am excited!  Our Language Arts program for this year was a struggle.  I did not like teaching it and the kids did not like doing it.  Of course, my oldest is as studious as they come and more than willing to complete her Language Arts each day but voiced her dislike for it.  My first grader was brought to tears at least twice a week when I pulled out that blue binder.  He hated it and so did I.  So I decided half way through the book that I was done and began pulling things off the internet and maximizing our reading time each day.  I also increased their computer time on our online reading and phonics program.  I feel this is nothing that will hurt them but teach them to be flexible.  It’s like my husband tells me, “They won’t be thirty years old and not able to read.  They will get it and are doing just fine.  Relax.”  Ok, he’s right.  So I scrapped it and moved on.  I felt free!

We joined a homeschool co-op this year for the first time.  For those who are unfamiliar with what that is I will explain.  A homeschool  co-op is where multiple families gather together once or several times per week and learn things as a group.  I knew last summer that this was something I wanted the kids to experience.  Yes, my kids are socialized and a great bit I might add, but I thought they would benefit in multiple ways being in a classroom setting under the direction of someone other than me.  As the year progressed I watched my kids blossom in so many areas.  My oldest was slowly overcoming her fear to speak in front of an audience and my son was learning the importance of following the direction of a teacher besides his mom.  I loved listening to them in the backseat talking about what they learned or singing those catchy tunes about the presidents or different types of rock formations.  I really wanted this to work out for us but it just wasn’t.  It was not working for me.  If it is not something I enjoy teaching it most likely won’t be something they enjoy learning.  I found myself unable to fit our co-op work into the rest of our week at home.  One thing I have learned as a teacher is that I need a plan, lesson plans that is.

When my oldest was in Kindergarten and I was pregnant with baby number four I thought that homeschool was me sitting at the kitchen table with a few random math sheets and coloring pages from a book I bought at Costco.  While in some instances this is ok since it is just Kindergarten and it should be more about fun learning I found that it was difficult for me because I felt unorganized and unprepared.  I did not like feeling that way.  I knew by the time the next year rolled around that I needed a curriculum with lesson plans all laid out to keep me in line and accountable.  Not every homeschool mom likes this type of restriction and that is perfectly ok, but for someone like me it is a must.  In saying all that, the co-op did not work for me since I was left to organize their learning on my own from the things we talked about on co-op day.  So armed with this information I set out to find something to better suit our family.  Of course my plan for next school year is on my mind daily.  Next year, not only will our curriculum be changing, but so will our week.  I have allowed myself to fall under too much pressure that was unnecessary.  My goal is to take a more relaxed approach to things next year.  I am going to give myself grace to not have to do it all.  The last two months of our school year were absolutely crazy, once again, my fault for not sticking to my plan.  I walk away from our school year knowing the changes I need to make for next year.  I am sure each year I will do things differently.  Thankfully, I have the freedom to change things when necessary.

IMG_6338So for now I will enjoy the luxury of simply having fun.  I have given my children permission you might say to just be who they are, kids that is.  We have spent the last couple of weeks since finishing school playing outside, meeting friends at the park, attending baseball games, riding bikes, enjoying water balloon fights, playing the Wii, blowing bubbles, flying our kite, camping, having mud fights,watching movies, and just simply relaxing.  I have not blogged or done anything tasky because I want them to know they are my priority.  They come before any chore I have laid before me.  Sitting back and watching them play so well together and really listening to their little conversations really puts a smile on this momma’s face.  Again, the Lord knows exactly what we need when we need it and this stressed out mom needed just to chill and listen to those sweet little voices.

the day…

clouds - CopyIt was a Monday.  The sky was blue, the air crisp, and the sunshine warmed my skin.  Spring had arrived and my heart was full.  I woke up and dressed for work as I did every day and packed my lunch, then headed out the door.  My day went on as usual with day-to-day office work and issues, chatting with co-workers about typical office drama and loving married life.  We had been married just six short months and loving every single minute of it.  Our life was awesome!  We were looking to buy a new house and start planting seeds for our bright future.  Life as a newlywed couple was everything I had imagined.

The work day had finally come to an end and it was time to go home.  My in-laws had just left that morning after spending several days with us.  My husband was very sick with strep throat and had stayed home from work.   I was headed home to check on him and fulfill my wifely duty of caring for him the rest of the evening.  My mother (who I talked to every single day) had just left the day before for vacation with her sisters and sister-in-law so I called her on my way home from work to check on her but she did not answer.  Oh well, she must be having fun pulling on those slot machines that she loved so much.  She rarely did things for herself so I made the decision to let her be and have fun.  She would call me back when she noticed she missed my call.  I arrived home, checked on my husband in bed, and then proceeded to take a quick nap on the couch.  The house was quiet so it seemed like a great idea.  Little did I realize it was the calm before the storm.

I laid down on the couch in the dark of my living room.  I had only been asleep for just a short bit when I heard my cell phone ring.  I ignored it.  It could wait.  Then my house phone rang.  I ignored that too.  I was tired.  Then I heard my house phone ring again for the second time.  Geez!  What’s up?  Can’t a girl just get a little nap in after a long day of work?  The caller i.d. showed my sister’s home phone number.  So I answered the phone in my ‘I am asleep and aggravated that you just woke me up voice.’  “Hello!?!”  It was my brother-in-law.  Ok..odd.  Not that we never spoke but why was he calling me?  I was still kind of out of it and not piecing everything together yet.  Why are you calling I thought?  He said, “there has been an accident.”  I was no longer sleepy.  My mind was alert and my heart was pounding through my chest, blood pressure up, and panic came across my entire body.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I can feel that same feeling as I type this today.  “It’s your mom,” he said.  Now, in order to better understand the thoughts that immediately raced through my mind let me give you a little background about my mom.  She gave birth to me at a later age than most other moms.  Whenever there was an occasion for parents to come to school the age difference in my mom to other moms was quite noticeable.  It did not bother me in the way you would think.  But it did bother me in a big way. I knew that as you aged your life came to an end.  Grandparents all around me were passing away and older people (much older than my mom but as a child I only saw grey hair) in our church were dying as well.  It was the natural process of life but as a child it caused me to worry that my little grey haired momma was next in line.  Remember I am a child thinking as such.  So in saying that I worried she would die while I was still young.  I used to pray, “God please let my mom live long enough to see me get married and to get to know my children.”  Now, back to the story at hand…  “Accident!?!  What accident?  What are you talking about?”  Silence….  “Is my mom ok?” Silence and then I hear him choke.  “Is my mom alive?”  And at that very moment I could actually feel my heart stop beating for about five seconds and I knew what was coming next.  The one thing I had dreaded my entire life.  Oh God no, please no!!  “No,” he said.  Time stood still…….  I remember screaming so loudly and then throwing the phone as hard as I could against the wall.  I lost all ability to stand and immediately fell to the floor.  My worst nightmare had come true.  My heart shattered into a million pieces and I knew my life would never be the same.  One of the hardships of life on this Earth had completely pulled the rug out from under me, literally.  There is no way to describe into words the feelings I felt realizing that my very own momma would never return home to me.  I would never be able to make her laugh again or hear her voice, at least not in this life.  The next few days are a blur.

I remember certain things and some things my mind has blocked out.  The days went by and life went on but for me it was as if time had stood still.  My mom was gone.  She wasn’t there to laugh with me about all our little stupid inside jokes or there to give me a Bible verse when life got tough.  She always had a Bible verse ready and waiting no matter what problem I brought to her.  She was amazing!  To this very day I miss her so badly!  Several weeks went by and Mother’s Day had arrived.  I can’t tell you how much I dreaded this particular Mother’s Day.  I remember feeling so envious of all the families together with their moms at church and lunch.  It was awful.  The pain only intensified seeing them happy and laughing and loving on their moms.  After church I was in our bedroom alone and crying and talking to God about my feelings and deep inescapable heartache.  One of the things I loved most about my mom was her laugh.  It was awesome.  Not very many people could really get her cracking up, but I sure could.  We would laugh about the smallest things.  She loved all my stories.  Some of my best memories are sitting around with my mom, aunts, and sister cracking jokes on the family.  I was talking to God about my deep disappointment that I would never have the chance to make her laugh and then I fell asleep on the bed.  During that short nap I dreamt about my mom.  It was the first dream I had of her since she passed away.  Oh how I longed to dream of her just to see her face again!  There she was right in front of me and I actually got to hug her, and hug her tight I did!  That dream is still so vivid.  We were at a grocery store cracking jokes on some random lady in the grocery aisle.  I was throwing out the jokes left and right and my mom was completely cracking up!  Oh her laughter was so awesome in that dream!  Then I woke up.  My heart was so full for just a split second and then reality pierced my heart yet again.  It was just a dream and she really is gone.  But wait….moments before I fell asleep I told the Lord how sad I was that I would never make her laugh again.  It was then I knew.  A peace fell over me like nothing I had ever felt and I knew what I had just experienced was from the Lord.  He allowed me to have one final hee-haw laugh fest with my momma.  I knew then He was with me and was going to make everything ok.  I never felt angry at God for taking my mother home, but I did question why.  She was too young I thought.  I had not had children yet for her to know and love.  It just seemed too early for her to leave her Earthly home.

A few weeks had gone by and I was driving to work one morning.  As with every morning (and noon and night) I was thinking about my sweet mom.  I was feeling sad that she would never see my children being born, my daughter at dance class or my son at a sporting event.  I looked up at the sky and it was beautiful. The sun was shining brightly and the clouds looked like huge cotton balls.  The sky was the most beautiful blue I had ever seen.  There was a big huge hole in the middle of one giant cloud as if heaven had opened up.  Then at that very moment I heard the Lord speak to me.  I will never forget these words, “I do roll back the clouds and let them see.  I let them see the good things.”  And with that I was ok for the day.  Now, I can count on both hands how many times I have felt the overwhelming presence of the Lord come over me and speak to me.  It isn’t often but it has happened.

So, there you have it.  It’s raw, gut wrenching, but very real.  The last ten years without her have been all kinds of things.  It hasn’t been easy but it could have been harder.  Looking back I see how awesome our God is and how he knows just exactly what He is doing.  We don’t always understand it when we are going through difficulties but no matter what, we must trust in Him and His plan.  Jeremiah 29:11-14, “For I know the plans I have for you, “ says the Lord.  “They are plans for good and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.  I will be found by you, “ says the Lord.  It has been ten years today that she was called home and I can’t believe how that time has passed.  To this day she is on my heart and mind each and every day.  I still have days that I cry like a little girl thinking of her sweet demeanor and loving eyes that never judged me.  I miss her dearly but am so thankful that I serve a God who promises me that one day we will be together again in a glorious heaven with no pain or sorrow.  I love you mom.  Until then…

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one wild night

So last night as I stood there extremely excited to be carrying on a conversation with some very well- known people, I felt as if someone was watching me.  You know that feeling when the hair on the back of your next stands up and a chill comes over your whole body?  Well that is what I was feeling.  Who is in this room watching ME?  I had been personally invited to a high-profile dinner to talk about my new blog.  Really!!?!!  Wow, I am beyond shocked.  Someone, whom I can’t mention yet, was shown my blog and was told they must read it.  They informed me once they were through laughing and excited to have read something so relatable that they knew I needed to share my blog with others.  Who would have thought little ol’ me would be rubbing shoulders with some of the most well-known names in the celebrity community?  I should have started writing years ago!

Once I finished my short but highly exciting conversation with one of my favorite singers of all time, I casually take a sip from my champagne glass then my eyes began to gaze around the room.  Who is watching me?  I see many groups of people talking.  Some of them I recognize as anyone would, but others I have no clue.  Everyone seems to be having a very enjoyable evening drinking, laughing, and stuffing their faces full of fabulous hors d’oeuvers.  I am sipping my champagne scanning the room and see no one watching me until….  Oh my gosh!  No freakin way!  Could he be?  Me?  No….  Well maybe?  I look up to see him smiling at me with that crooked  grin that I remember when I was on the dating scene and searching for Mr. Right.  The crooked grin is something a guy will flash to a girl when he likes what he sees but not sure if the feeling is reciprocated.  It’s a test run before the attempt will be made to speak with her so he doesn’t look like a fool for approaching her only to be rejected and suffer a bruised ego.  Our eyes locked and without hesitation I smile back.  It was an automatic response on my part and looking back something I had no control over.  His smile went from crooked to full grin extending from ear to ear.  Now what was I to do?  This is an awkward moment.  Did I just fall trap to his “I can have any girl in here ego” or was this going to go anywhere?

I casually turn and walk toward the bar to refill my champagne glass.  In the midst of that whole scenario I got so nervous I gulped down ¾ of a glass of Perrier-Jouet Rose’ in a matter of forty-five seconds.  Great!  Now I looked like a drunk in front of Mr. Hotness himself!  I am standing at the bar waiting on my second glass which I am sure will turn into a third due to my emotional state, when I hear an unfamiliar voice say, “hi, I see you are really enjoying that glass of champagne.”  I turn and just about lose all ability to speak.  I quickly gather myself and laugh it off in order to not look like a complete dork and say, “yes, I do enjoy a good glass of bubbly from time to time.”  Bubbly…really?  Is that my best line?  He is intrigued and takes a seat right next to me.  Now, my body is on fire and I feel like I could vomit.  This seriously can’t be happening.  His eyes are relaxed as is his whole body and he seems so at ease.  Total opposite of me!  I am trying my best to be as calm and cool as humanly possible.  He says, “Hi, my name is Jerry Butler.”  Allow me to break that down for you in a better known language.  Gerard Butler!GB  If you don’t know who that is then you should stop reading any further because you have been living under a rock for the past seven years and none of this will mean anything to you.  Furthermore, you don’t know me very well and my love for all movies with his gorgeous face (just seek out the movie 300 and he proudly graces the cover).  We spend the evening talking and laughing and hitting it off so smoothly that I forget his celebrity status.  The tables turn and I have taken the confident lead and he has been spun into my web.  Oh yeah, this girl still has game!

In order to wrap this up I leave you with this…  I am standing in a beautiful lake front cabin wondering what had just taken place.  I am smiling and feeling all warm and fuzzy.  He is smiling and totally into me and I now that this is a beautiful thing.  At that moment I look out a huge sliding glass door facing the lake to see a boat quickly approaching.  This boat was moving fast and headed in our direction.  I could only see one passenger on board but as it reached the shoreline I about lost my breath.  Exiting the boat was a very large man with one heck of a physique.  I knew immediately who this was.  You have got to be kidding me!  What in the world was going on here?  Really!?!  All for me?  He approaches the sliding glass door and lets himself in.  He too flashes that incredible smile at me and then takes one look at Jerry.  The two are just about to duke it out over me when I hear a baby.  A baby?  Where the heck is that coming from?  There is no baby in this house.  “Momma! Momma!  Daddy…bluh blah foo la la dah dee goo!”  Huh?  This baby really needs to shut up because this love triangle is getting awesome!  The man on the boat says, “Hi, I am Dewayne Johnson.”  Just in case you are still reading even though you were living under that rock, Dewayne Johnson is aka The Rock.  TROh yes, take a moment and allow that to sink in……  Go ahead, I understand….  The two men begin to argue about me and who I should be with and suddenly that baby voice appears again.  WHAT’S UP WITH THIS BABY!?!  Get this kid out of here!  I want to enjoy this moment and what is to come without hearing a kid!  The baby voice gets louder and then I hear a sneeze that sounds all too familiar.  My eyes open and then I am very quickly brought back to reality.  I see the top of my baby’s head in his crib carrying on a full conversation with himself and then proceed to look over at my husband and his crazy hair and him sneeze twice more.  Oh well, a girl can dream. ..  Haha…  Don’t get your feelings hurt honey.  You know I love you ;).  And that was how I spent my overnight hours!  Enjoying a glass of wine and reading celebrity gossip just before bed might have attributed to my colorful imagination, ya think?  Maybe, hopefully, the drama will continue tonight!  I hope I brought a little laughter to your day!

lovin the sunshine

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Spring is in the air and I could not be happier!  I love the smell of blooming flowers and fresh-cut grass.  Warm sunny days and fresh air blowing through my house just puts me in the best of moods.  Just the thought of planting fresh flowers and sprucing up my lawn makes Spring one of my favorite times of year.  Growing up my mom would always notice the yellow buttercups when they first bloomed and excitedly announce the coming of warmer weather!  There is just something about a new season that makes me want to clean and organize.  I do love my jeans and sweatshirt weather and the fact that I don’t sweat profusely does make winter time that much more appealing, but I will take flip-flops and sundresses any day!  I love seeing all the tank tops, shorts, sandals, and sunblock adorning the store racks and shelves.  Aisles of beach towels and sand buckets, water guns, and goggles make any trip to Target exciting!  All winter we are forced to somewhat hibernate indoors and eat lots of hot and heavy comfort foods.  Ok…maybe not forced to eat them but it makes for a good excuse ;)!  So by the time warm weather hits, this momma of four is ready to get outside!

This year I have high hopes to really get out there and plant a big garden.  A garden filled with tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, onions, fresh herbs, and whatever else I can find and feel the need to plant.  I would also like to can whatever comes out of my garden.  As a kid I remember always having a huge garden.  It was so fun picking all those fresh vegetables.  Until you have picked fruits or vegetables from a garden or have bought them from a farmer you do not realize how different they look from their store-bought counterparts.  An apple picked fresh from a tree is void of that shiny toxic wax that someone puts on them to look better at the supermarket.  A cucumber pulled straight off the vine feels prickly and too is void of that greasy waxy film.  If I were to get the chance to plant a peach or apple tree you can bet I will do that too!  Since starting this new journey to better health for my family food has taken on a whole new meaning.  We frequent our local farmers market in the warmer weather.  I also make the effort to buy from a local farmer who brings his fruits, veggies, and eggs into town and sets up shop in a local church parking lot.  As much as my taste buds love processed food the rest of my body does not.  So the thought of growing my own food and saving the extra money on the organic price tag, is important to me.  Not to mention the life lessons my children will learn about growing something from the ground up.  That in itself is enough to inspire me to get out there and dig up a bunch of dirt!

As far as my wardrobe goes, I am already planning my Spring looks consisting of tank tops, shorts, long flowy sundresses, and new sunglasses.  It seems that every year there is a new fashion trend and it is in every store ad and on every commercial.  There is hardly ever a time that I jump on the fashion band wagon and sport their hideous looks.  Last year I noticed and have noticed this year as well all the clothes hanging on hundreds of hangers very brightly colored screaming 1986!  Really?  In my opinion the only good thing that came out of the 80’s was the music.  I could listen to Duran Duran, U2, Tears for Fears, Stevie Nicks (yes I realize that she came out long before that but I remember her from my youth), Journey, and most of the good hair bands any day!  BUT ask me to sport those wild punk rock clothes with neon colors and big hair, NO WAY!  I will stick to my khaki shorts and tank tops.  It took me several years just to wear capri pants because I was so self-conscious of my small ankles.  Do you really think I am going to wear something that looks like my six-year-old threw together?  I think not.  I am confident another fashion trend will be filling the pages of the store ads this season and I won’t be jumping off the couch to go and make a purchase.

Last week I cashed in a little me time and treated myself to an afternoon at the salon for a little hair touch up.  Each and every time I get my hair done I come home and my husband tells me it looks the same.  I am sure I am not the only wife who experiences this.  But, put me in a room with another female and we will talk about my hair for ten minutes and all that I had done.  I guess it’s just the difference between the male and female brain, Mars versus Venus (another really good book).  When the seasons change I feel my hair should also.  With warmer weather comes a few more highlights and a few more layers to lighten the weight of my hair.  When cooler weather hits I am inspired to add more low lights and a heavier cut.  Girls will plan this out along with the timing of a pedicure to compliment a new outfit they bought whereas a guy will wear the same clothes Spring, Summer, and Fall and clip his toenails once a month whether he needs to or not 😉 .  (In this post you are getting a small glimpse of the “true girly girl” side of me!  I just can’t help it.  I have been this way my whole life.  I love all things girly!)

What things do you look forward to when the days are a little warmer?  Do you start planning a fresh new look, or maybe a family vacation?  Does your menu at home change?  Does anyone have a garden or is that on the wish list for this year too?  I hope you and your family can get outside, soak up the natural vitamin D and enjoy God’s beautiful Earth!    Have fun in the sunshine!

the quiet

IMG_6302I have come to the conclusion that I am the quietest person in my house including the dog (well at least in the morning).  From the time my eyes open in the early morning I wonder how I am going to make it downstairs without waking a single person.  When it comes to the first part of my day I prefer to enjoy it alone or with just my husband.  I have learned that my day runs much smoother when I can wake up on my own, drink my coffee without interruption, and have a little me time before my day gets started.  In that time I like to either read my Bible or devotional (or both if time allows) with no distractions around me.  It is my time with the Lord to just have a one on one conversation with Him.  When I lay it all out there and give Him my worries, anxieties, fears, blessings, and things I am most grateful for I seem to have a much better day.

I lay there for a minute or so just listening.  Is anyone awake or making any movement?  Can I escape the warm comfort of my bed without my knees, hips, and ankles popping so the baby does not hear me leave the room (for now he is in our room in his own crib)?  Once I have achieved the first goal of my morning of keeping little poopy pants comfortably asleep, my next challenge lies before me.  Oh goodness, the dreaded creaking hallway floor.  Now, you would think that after years of navigating the hallway and knowing exactly where to step so I don’t sound the “creaking and popping floor alarm telling the entire family mommy is awake,” this would not present a problem.  BUT, without fail a new board in the flooring decides to wake up from time to time and let its’ noises be heard.  As I begin the eleven step tango down the hallway I am praying that I don’t step on the BIG ONE.  I would swear that my neighbors can hear that one, it is so loud.  Here I go.  Step, step, step, leap, step, step, leap, leap, and tip toe quietly, finally made it to the stairs.  Now, I have to step in just the right place on my bottom two stairs that also like to pop and creek in order to let my kids know MOMMY IS AWAKE!!!  Whew…made it.  I stagger into the kitchen and smell the coffee which is calling my name.  As I have gotten older I have learned an appreciation for the early morning hours that I once hated in my youth.  They are quiet, still, and peaceful.  My house is so busy and loud most of the day that when there is silence as peaceful as in the morning it just makes me smile.

Once downstairs, my dog sees me and she immediately feels the need to remind me that she is here.  She sneezes so loud about three times, has the loudest yawn on any dog I have ever heard, and begins to scratch her nails on the hardwood floor in excitement to see me.  Yes, this is sweet and I love that she gets excited to see me but at 6:25 in the morning I am trying my darndest not to wake my kids.  SHHHHHHHHH!!!!  I tell her.  I reach into the cabinet grab my coffee and CLANG!  I have hit the coffee cups together!  UGH!  I just made it through the most difficult task of not making a peep and I have to bang the coffee cups together.  I am immediately aggravated.  I stop and listen.  Do I hear any little feet hitting the floor…..no, good.   I grab my coffee and warm blanket and sit on my couch.  YES!  I made it -Ahhhhhhh….one of the sweet spots of my day,  my alone time with Jesus.  There is just something so comforting knowing that He is always there to listen and really cares about the littlest details of my life.

A few minutes pass and I hear the heavy footsteps of my husband.  Now, I know it is him because without fail when he is walking down our hallway he seems to hit each and every one of those loud and creaky boards in the floor that I carefully avoided moments earlier.  Really!?!  I have made every effort to be as quiet as possible and he walks downstairs like he is being chased by a pack of wolves.  He gets to the kitchen and bangs about five coffee cups together until he has picked his favorite one and then proceeds to slam it on the counter.  He pours his coffee and sits next to me.  He then proceeds to sneeze five times that has the octave of a ninety year old man with hearing problems.  What the heck!!?!!  What is with all this sneezing and noise making?  To this day he does not understand my need to be so quiet in the morning.  I have explained to him my desperate need for a few moments of quiet before the kids wake up.  Truthfully, he too thinks he is so quiet, the morning ninja per say.  I remind him that ninjas do not sneeze and know the floor board pattern in the hallway, he is no ninja!

In a house with little ones the laughter and pitter-patter of little feet is a sound that I make every effort to embed in my brain space.  One day those little footsteps won’t be there and it will just be my husband and I.  Oh how this makes me sad.  Whenever I am bothered by the yelling, fighting, high-pitched squeals, banging, clanging, or total destruction of our home from these little guys I am quickly reminded that it is all too fleeting.  I look at my oldest and simply can not believe that she will be eight in a few months!  Where has the time gone?  My babies are growing up.  I hold my youngest a little tighter and a little longer every day knowing that he won’t be this small for much longer.  Now, I am a big ball of snot and will conclude my thoughts for the day.  Just remember (and I am reminding myself as I type this) we must savor every moment of every day whether it be loud, interrupted, silly, chaotic, or peaceful and still.  It is but a moment…

slather it on

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Have you ever tried making your own lotion, facial moisturizer, chap stick, shampoo (didn’t go so well), laundry soap, all purpose household cleaner, butter, chicken broth, or Kombucha?  Well I have.  I have made and continue to make most of the items listed but in order to spare you the insane details of each product and how I make them we are going to focus on lotion and facial moisturizer.  It takes me about fifteen minutes to make both lotions.  I love to watch someones face change when I tell them I make all these crazy things.  It makes me laugh.  But, without fail no matter how weird they think I might be, they are almost always intrigued!  I have gotten several requests to post how to make my lotions.  I figured it would be a great thing to talk about  since it is so easy and most everyone uses it!  Oh goodness, my journey of making lots of different everyday household and personal items has been nothing short of exciting for me!  I love saving money and love caring for my family even more!  After learning of my husband’s intolerance to gluten the door swung wide open for me to explore other avenues of my family’s health.  I did not really have a particular order of ailments that I was going to tackle so I started with the ones that bothered me the most.  Two of my four children suffer from mild eczema.  It has bothered me since I first noticed it several years ago.  It has never seemed to bother them but all I wanted to do was fix it!  I know from our experience that eliminating gluten from their diet definitely helps!  But, they do eat a little gluten here and there.  So, it does not ever seem to truly go away.  I have vowed that this is our year to get really strict with the kids and their diet.  Notice I said this is the “year.”  Baby steps…  That is what we have to do on our journey to better health.  Sometimes all the options and solutions can be so exhausting that one can feel completely overwhelmed.  Well, hopefully I can help in some way if you too are looking for a few changes.

Since the skin is the largest organ of the human body why not treat it with extreme care?  I mean our family tries to eat right for our internal parts and overall health, why not treat our skin the same?  If you wouldn’t drink a toxin such as Windex or bleach, then why would I put something toxic on my skin?  If I understand correctly my skin “drinks” whatever I put on it right?  So….it drinks my lotion?  Well, let’s take a look at what is in my old store bought lotion.  Hmmmm…this should be interesting…..(to name a few) Petrolatum, Glycol Stearate, Sodium Acrylate/Acryloyidimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Dimethicone, Urea (really!!! I don’t even want to know what that is!!), Butylcarbamate, and the list goes on.    Well doesn’t that sound delicious?  Just serve me up some Urea with a side of Titanium Dioxide and call it a day.  This particular lotion is a very popular store brand lotion that is compared to Vaseline Aloe Fresh.  As a health conscious momma I was not willing to stand for this.  I wanted something better for my babies.  Why not make my own lotion?  It can’t be that hard, right?  I began to research making lotions at home.  My goodness the options are endless!  Once I found what I felt like was a good basic option I did a little tweaking of my own to the recipe .

So here is my recipe:  This recipe makes both a body lotion and a facial moisturizer.  I just pour the body lotion in a pint size mason jar and the facial moisturizer in a much smaller glass jar.  The only difference in the two is the facial moisturizer has essential oils and the body lotion does not.

¼ Cup of Coconut Oil (if your skin is dry you can use Olive oil instead, if it is combination you can use half olive oil and half coconut oil) – Coconut is very light and not oily once absorbed.  Keep in mind if you use olive oil your lotion will have a yellow/green tint to it.

¼ Cup + 1 Tbsp. of Emulsifying wax (NOT beeswax for this recipe) – the Emulsifying Wax Pastilles work best

1 ¼ cup of HOT water

1 tsp. Avocado oil

1 tsp. Calendula oil (or you can just use 2 tsp. of Avocado oil as it is very good for you skin.  Calendula is a good oil for sensitive skin and used a lot in baby lotions)

10-25 drops of essential oil of choice (I don’t use any essential oils for my body lotion but I do use Frankincense and Myrrh for my facial moisturizer) – Frankincense is a natural anti-wrinkle!!!  Optional.

Let’s just make this as easy as possible (detailed pictures of each step are below).  Place a small pot on the stove with approximately 2-3 inches of water in it.  Turn the burner on medium heat.  Place Coconut oil/Olive oil and emulsifying was in a Pyrex jar and place the Pyrex jar in the pot with water (this is called a double boiler).  Stir frequently until the wax and oil have liquefied.  Remove the Pyrex jar from the pot and turn the burner off.  At this point add your Avocado oil and Calendula oil in your Pyrex jar of wax and oil.  Stir all the oils and wax mixture for thirty seconds or so.  Next, add the hot water and stir until mixed well.  When you add the water your mixture will immediately turn white (unless you use olive oil) and look like whole milk.  When I make lotion I make both lotion and facial moisturizer at the same time.  So, I have my pint size mason jar and my smaller glass jar (for my moisturizer) in front of me.  Fill your smaller glass jar almost full then pour the rest into the pint size jar.  At this point I leave the pint size jar (my body lotion) alone but add a few essential oils to my smaller glass jar (face moisturizer).  I like Frankincense for its’ anti-wrinkle properties and Myrrh since it is good for the skin.  I use around five drops of Myrrh and seven or eight of the Frankincense oil.  Now, for those of you who have gotten quite used to your store-bought lotions don’t expect them to smell the same!  The store lotions have a lot of toxic chemicals and perfumes in them to make them more appealing to your sense of smell whereas your homemade product does not, at least in this case with the oils I choose.  The Myrrh is a more clean smell whereas the Frankincense is a more medicinal/musty smell.  The smell only lasts for a few minutes on my face and then is quickly absorbed into my skin.  I have made sure of this by asking my husband to smell my face and neck!  Hey, I love natural stuff but I don’t want to smell like a hippie!  Once you have poured your liquid lotions in their glass jars set them on top of the microwave, on the counter, or somewhere to cool down and become creamy like lotion.  I like to leave the lids off during this process otherwise if you put the lids on while the lotion mixture is still warm/hot steam forms inside the jar and on the lid dripping back into your lotion and you don’t want that.  Over the course of the next several hours while the lotion is thickening be sure and stir your lotions thoroughly two or three times.  Sometimes the oils like to separate from the wax in spots and by stirring them during the thickening process you eliminate this problem.

Now, since water has been added to this recipe and no preservatives  have , this lotion will not last as long as store-bought lotion.  This has never been a problem for us as we use it daily.  Mine lasts about six weeks for both the lotion and moisturizer.  I did have one moisturizer that I made that had too much Frankincense in it and I quit using it because the smell was so strong.  I left it in my bathroom closet for maybe a couple of months and when I found it and opened it up it had a different almost spoiled type smell to it.  So just be aware of this.  It should be ok for six weeks or so.  I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about making homemade lotion.  It really is fun for me and I love saving the extra money for all these specialty lotions for dry or sensitive skin.  I haven’t purchased lotions for our family including my facial moisturizer (which I use twice a day everyday) for over eighteen months.  Now, coming from me a former Clinique, Olay, Neutrogena, Biore, and Aveeno user that is a big deal!  Anytime I can make something out of things from my kitchen for everyday products, I am all for that!  Let me know what you think.  I would love to hear if you try it!  If you have any questions I would love to answer them!  Have fun!

On a side note, I get my oils and waxes from here.

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i love you more

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In honor of Valentine’s Day I thought I would write about two of my favorites, love and marriage.  Now, once the tune from Married With Children is out of your head, let’s focus on this post 😉  You know you were singing the tune!  Anyway, if you have been reading my blog at all you know that I have been married for ten years.  It’s hard to believe it has been a decade (using the word decade sounds like a really long time to me)!  A good “long time” of course.

IMG_6214I remember the very day I first laid eyes on him as if it were yesterday.  He was walking in the mall on the opposite side of me with two of his friends. He was wearing jeans, a blue and white letterman jacket with baseball, football, and hockey on the back, and a blue Yankees hat worn low right above his eyes.  I was in looooooove the minute I spotted him!  For the sake of that comment you must keep in mind that I was two months shy of my fourteenth birthday.  When you are a teenage girl and the opposite sex even looks your way and smiles you start writing your name with his last name on paper the minute you are in the privacy of your bedroom.  Oh you remember, don’t act like you never did that!  Back to the story…  I thought he was HOT!  I mean Super-Hot!!  Whoa…who was this guy and where did he go to school?  I must find out!  Well, anyone who knows me knows I am not shy about going after something I want.  So, what did little Miss Priss (that would be me) do?  I followed him around that mall for a good twenty minutes watching him and taking mental notes of his behavior.  I mean I had to make sure he wasn’t a weirdo!  I needed to make sure his actions aligned with his looks.  Of course I could never ever let him know what I was doing.  I had to remain incognito.  Well I did just that and was pleasantly surprised.  He was cool.  No dorky dance moves or obnoxious flirting with girls.  I liked him.  Well like a lioness about to attack her prey when opportunity struck for me to talk to him, I did.  The rest is history…

There were three things my mom always told me when I was seeking a potential lifelong mate.  She would remind me when I began talking about a guy in a somewhat serious realm, “Now honey, just remember, every date is a possible mate.”  She also advised me to find someone who could make me laugh.  “Laughter is like medicine honey, it is good for the soul,” she would say.  Also, she encouraged me to marry a MAN in every sense of the word, not an immature lazy boy who did not understand life and responsibility.  Last, but certainly not least she stressed (and I mean stressed) the importance of marrying a man who loved and honored the Lord.  When you are fifteen or eighteen years old you don’t realize the importance in that last statement until years later (more often than not).  At that age you seem to focus on the wrong things.

Over the years we have built an amazing and loving friendship which is the foundation of who we really are.  He is my very best friend and my biggest cheerleader.  When I am in one of my moods, no one is better at pulling me out of that mood than him.  He knows me better than anyone else.  I love to be with him no matter what we do.  I truly appreciate his hard work and dedication to our family.  Never once have we wavered in our love for each other.  Divorce has never been an option and has never needed to be.  We have always gotten along very well.  Yes, we do have our disagreements like every other couple in the world but we are well-balanced in most areas.  If you have ever read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman then you know the awesomeness of his book!  If you haven’t then I give you my personal recommendation to read it, as it will help you understand your spouse (and even children) better.  I read that book years ago and so many lightbulbs came on for me that I felt somewhat dumb for not already knowing those things about my husband.

One of the secrets to our amazing marriage is my husbands willingness to love me more.  Everything he does he does with me and our family in mind.  Every decision he makes he thinks of us first.  You ask, well what about your willingness to love him more?  Your previous statement sounds a little one-sided?  Well, this has been a work in progress for me.  I can admit that he has done a better job of thinking of us first than I have of him.  I have learned, and continue to do so, about how to love him well.  I have always loved him with every ounce of my being but I haven’t been the best at showing it in his love language (again, read the book!!).  I think he would agree that I am much better today than when we were first married.  On the other hand, he has always been very good at loving me in my love language.  It seemed to come natural to him.  Now, for the sake of keeping it real…  Yes, we argue!  He is Italian and I am a hormonal woman (we could really just stop there and everyone would understand but for the sake of this story I will go into  a little more detail)!  Our arguments can get pretty heated and he has slept on the couch a night or two.  Hey, I’m not giving up the bed. I gave birth to four children and breastfed for thirty-six months.  Need I say more?  He gets on my nerves so bad sometimes I want to slap him into Tuesday.  I drive him nuts daily with my never-ending line of questions about everything!  I’m a girl it comes with the territory.  I need details!!  I’m selfish and I like my time alone, this hurts his feelings.  When he just wants to sit and deflate from his day that is when I will decide it is the perfect time to bring up a subject that definitely should wait until later.  Sometimes I just want a good fight.  Not always, but occasionally.  Hehehe…  So, see we are like everyone else.  We are human.  But we are two humans that have been privileged to spend our lives together.  God knew what He was doing that day when that young man decided to venture out to the mall.  I was not there by accident.  It was all in His plan.  A plan that is still being carried out today.  This morning when we were talking about Valentine’s Day, we decided I should write something about marriage.  He suggested that he write from the husband’s point of view.  I thought it was a great idea.  So hear you go.  Allow me to introduce you to my husband.

In his words…

Ball and Chain, old hag, old lady, the boss, control freak, the nagging one – these are all names I have heard others call their wife – and to this day I just do not get it.  I believe that when you say “I do”, you say “I do”, to be, well “the one”.  Yes, the one – and that is “the one” that loves, cherishes, is happy for, understands, is patient with (most of the time), longs for, and competes with –  that is what I want to hit on today – the love competition.

We have a saying, “I love you more than you love me,” and in most cases people would assume we are being fake.  Reality is, we are not.  See, we truly believe that our relationship was established by God and for His will.  We know that He offers some pretty amazing benefits if you include Him in your marriage – I will hit on that in a moment.  In saying that, it really does start with you.  You are the one that makes the decision to honor what has been granted to you.  Why would you not cherish that with all your heart? I know some do a great job at this, but truthfully some really don’t.  Now do not get me wrong, there are plenty of times that we look at each other and wonder what has happened to the other person we married, but ultimately we know that we were made to be compatible and together .

To those benefits I mentioned a minute ago – I look at her every day (even when I am mad) and think I cannot believe that she is my wife.  In my eyes, she is the most beautiful, smart, sexy, honorable, honest, funny, sexy, witty, interesting, sexy, and very sexy woman on the planet.  Also, I was blessed by the Almighty to take care of her and make her feel important.  I always wonder when I see a struggling, or untrustworthy marriage on how it got there, or what efforts did that couple make to maintain that longing for one another that they felt from the moment they laid eyes on each other.  I also know that it does not start in just one day, be it loving or hating it takes an effort to do both.  So, again, why chose to hate when loving is so much better.  In saying that I do also believe it is harder to love than hate.  Think of it this way, and I test this all the time.  But ask someone how they are doing, the usual response is, “Fine – well Johnny is sick and Deloris has an ulcer blah blah blah” – negative, and not “fine”. It is human nature to focus on flaws, what one is not doing, or does not have.  Not to mention how much the media, internet, society etc. play into this notion.  People always need more, and everything needs an antagonist, but truth is – it is all bologna – a lie.  Try this, when someone asks how you are, respond with, “Great – I am grateful for this day, for my family, for my job that provides me money for food!”  The person (guaranteed) will look at you like – ok nut job.  Because – They are NOT used to a positive response.

I believe this concept applies to your marriage.  My wife always tells me I need a hobby because I am always in need of her.  But the truth is I do not need her, I want her and she is a hobby for me of sorts. Her stories and interests (I am writing in HER BLOG aren’t I) are mine as well.  We have FOUR kids, hobby enough for me.  I love what we have and what she offers – these are the benefits that I am talking about (yes I know there are more, but not for this blog).  My job is to ensure she knows that I love her more than she loves me and most of all know that our love grows stronger every day.  C’mon, I want to be able to look at her when she is 91 and think…..MAN she is one hot momma!  So my advice – for what it is worth, practice what you want and desire, stay clear from the “Ball and Chain, old hag, old lady, the boss, control freak, the nagging one” name calling to her or with friends.  Go and tell your wife how she makes you feel, how good she looks.  Recollect your wedding with her, relive the “favorite” moment you had with her.  Tell her about how excited you were to share this with her – give her a hug and do not LET go, take a deep breath and smell her hair, look her in the eyes and tell her she is singly the greatest thing that has ever happened to you (perhaps the other benefit may occur thereafter)…remember God has a plan, and we all have a shelf life – love like today is the last day and again love her more than she loves you.   Happy Valentine’s day – I love you honey.

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the prize jar

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Keeping things running (somewhat) smoothly on a daily basis in our house requires a plan.  When little ones are involved in anything we do, we have found that specific instructions are needed.  About a year ago I found myself in a very frustrated spot with housework and homeschool along with all the other daily and weekly demands of my big family.  I thought I would share with you a few things we as a family do in hopes that  it could benefit yours.

By nature I am not a very structured and organized person.  My brain gets a little crazy and smoke comes out of my ears with my brain on overdrive.  This has gotten particularly worse since having children.  It’s one thing to tackle an organizational project by yourself when you can think clearly and with no interruptions, but when little ones are in the midst of that project chaos takes on a whole new meaning.  My husband is far better at making a to-do list and executing that list in order and on time.  Now, granted while he is completing his to do list I am occupying the kids.  Seeing my frustration and sensing my feelings of helplessness he sat me down and suggested a few things for me to do with the kids.  At first, I immediately somewhat blocked what he was saying from entering my brain space and took the attitude of “He just doesn’t understand, things flow differently on a daily basis at home than at the office.”  Which is true, although I began seeing the potential benefit of what he was saying as I hesitantly listened.  😉  One of the most genius and obvious ideas he laid before me was to make a list for each child to do and complete each day.  We have a laminator so he suggested I laminate the list and give them a dry erase marker and clipboard to walk around with as they executed each chore.  Hmmmmmm….  My creative side kicked in and I began to envision what this cute little “chore chart” could look like.  I sat down and began to think of what I wanted them to do each day.

Prize Jar Chart to do listI wanted this list (Click here for To Do List) to be more than chore oriented.  My goal was to ultimately teach them discipline and responsibility.  The thoughts began to flow.  I began thinking, age appropriate of course.  First was for them to get themselves dressed and ready for the day.  Now, this seems like a no-brainer but I am thinking in terms of them doing it everyday without me having to remind them to do so.  Next, would be making their bed and picking up their bedroom.  I immediately was taken back to my childhood and visioned my room.  It was always messy and my bed was never made.  To this day my bed is only made when I change the sheets.  I know, you think why would you have your children do something that you yourself don’t do on a daily basis?  Children emulate their parents.  It wasn’t so much that I really cared if their beds were made or not, it was the responsibility of taking care of what they own I wanted them to grasp.  Once they were dressed for the day and their room was picked up and bed made I wanted them to learn the concept of helping the family as a whole.

Now, laundry in our house is just crazy.  I’m sure you can relate.  As much as I loathe laundry, I quickly remind myself that without all that laundry I would not have my precious family.  With that thought I am ok with all the smelly socks and food stained shirts.  I needed help with the daily chore of washing, folding, and putting away clothes and towels for six people.  So laundry was added to their list.  My requirement is they must fold and put away one basket of laundry per day (for the older two, who are six and seven).  My three-year old does a small pile of dish rags and hand towels just to get the concept.  My oldest can sort them into whites, darks, towels, etc. which is a big help too but not required.  On the rare occasion that she asks to sort them, by all means I let her.  Next are the dishes.  Oh my…the kitchen can quickly look like something in a nightmare if I don’t stay on top of it.  So, I decided to have them help in this area as well.  They must load or unload the dishwasher (I go through first and take out the knives and dangerous pieces before they get to that chore, but I explained to my older two not to touch those items) each day.  Last, were the bathrooms.  Now, my first thought was aimed at my son.  Anyone with boys knows exactly what I am talking about before I even bring it up.  No matter how hard I have tried to explain, there is just something innate with boys when it comes to marking their territory.  Every bathroom in my house smells of urine each and every day no matter how many times I clean it!  Every single time I attempt to use the bathroom I must first wipe off the seat (yes, I have explained to my son to wipe up after himself) before I sit down.  I have learned to never sit on a toilet seat in the dark!  To a boy the back of the toilet lid and seat are like an imaginary bullseye that he aims for each time he uses the restroom.  I have walked in on this aiming game and see its results each time I clean.  Ugh!  It is so gross!  So, with all that said the bathroom needed to become something they helped maintain.  My hope was that by having them clean up their (his) messes it would cause him to think twice before marking the lid, seat, and tank.  Well, lets just say it is a work in progress.  Now, as much as all that seems, allow me to break it down in real-time.

Each day my older two have to complete five things on their list, period.  Those things are: 1. Get dressed and brush teeth 2. Make bed 3. Clean bedroom 4. Homeschool 5. Fold and put away laundry.  Now to sweeten the pot I added something a little extra at the bottom of their list for motivational purposes.  They must complete one of two tasks (their choice) in order to pick a “prize” out of the Prize Jar.  I’ll explain the prize jar in a moment.  Those tasks are: 1. Load or unload the dishwasher 2. Clean bathroom (bathroom of their choice).  If they complete the first five things on their list AND complete one “extra” task they can select a prize from our very popular prize jar.  The prize jar is the sole reason my children are motivated to complete their daily chores.  The prize jar is a big clear plastic container that once held bite sized pretzels from Costco.  I ripped off the label and designed a cuter and brighter label with glitter and stickers that screams “hey, cool stuff inside!”

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The contents of the jar include dollar store items such as pencils, tattoos, stickers, water guns, cute erasers, but most importantly, envelopes.  Envelopes?  What is so special about an envelope you say?  Well, allow me to explain.  Inside the prize jar among the pencils and tattoos there are about ten white envelopes each with a single question mark on the front.  Inside the envelope is a small sheet of paper with a “prize” written on it.  Some of the prizes include; $5 to spend at the dollar store or Target, breakfast with dad at Waffle House (yes, despite my efforts for healthy eating my kids looooove Waffle House), jet bath (we have a tub with jacuzzi jets that my kids love to play in which makes lots of  bubbles), stay up for thirty extra minutes at bedtime, no chores for one day, help dad with a project (this was aimed at my son who loves to help dad fix stuff around the house or tinker with the family van), pick the movie for family movie night, sleep in the tent (this is where we build a tent made of sheets in their bedroom and they all sleep together), paint fingernails with mom, play dress up with mom, an afternoon with the family at the park, etc.  You get the idea.  My ultimate goal is for my children to learn that with hard work comes great reward.  I try not to “over reward” them at times because I also want them to understand that sometimes in life you help out and contribute just because you should.  I tell my kids all the time that our family is too big for anyone to be lazy.

So our day starts off with breakfast obviously, then about an hour or so of cartoons and playtime then I am ready to roll!.  The t.v. is shut off and I say “ok lets get started on our prize jar charts!”  I first called it the “chore chart” but I was afraid that sounded like drudgery and I wanted it to have a positive connotation.  So I changed the “chore chart” to “prize jar chart.”  As much as I would love to tell you that they immediately hop to it and knock it all out in an hour, (the cleaning part not the homeschool part) I can’t.  Yes, I have to remind them to stay on task and check on them every so often to make sure they are progressing.  My oldest is really good at knocking it out but my son gets reeeeeally distracted!  The cleaning and laundry chores are to be done before lunch and then we homeschool while the two younger ones are napping.  Once they have completed their entire prize jar chart they can select a prize, usually the envelope, and then proceed to play for the remainder of the day.  Our typical day usually ends around 5pm which is when I start dinner.  Like any other family we have great days with minimal fighting and my kids are awesome at executing their charts and mommy is very happy!  Other days it is all I can do to get them to brush their teeth.  It is a work in progress, but I see improvements more often than not.  What does your day look like?  I always love hearing other suggestions!