Thursday, February 27, 2014

How Did I Miss It? I've Been Here The Whole Time!

"It's been a year already, and I missed the whole thing!" That's what I said last week when we were celebrating our baby girl's birthday. The youngest of our 4 children (who I refer to as Petunia here in my noisy corner of the blogosphere) turned 1 last week and I really do feel like I missed the whole year. No, I was not working another job, too involved in activities, or backpacking across Europe. I was here, doing my mommy, wife, and homeschooling thing. Every. Day. I know that time whizzes by fast, and that everything always seems like a blur, but this feeling of  "missing it" feels like more than just time flying.

I suppose it would be easy for me to chalk it up to our absolutely crazy year. We moved across the country just 3 weeks after Petunia was born, and then we moved again just shy of 6 months later. Now that story is a whole series of blog posts within itself! I plan to tell you all about it soon, I'm honestly still processing it myself ;) So every time I talk about how I feel like I missed it, everyone is quick to point to this crazy year. But it's simply not true. Well, maybe it's partially true, but this isn't the first time I have felt this way. I feel this way about all of my children and their "baby year" as I like to call it. I am willing to bet (and really hoping) that I am not the only one who feels this way. Anyone else have that guilty, "bad mom" syndrome come on you when you have to dig out the baby pictures to remind yourself what it was like?

Here's what I think a big part of the problem is: We are all too busy planning and reaching for the future, thinking about the next step, that we are neglecting the now. Sure, we think, things are fine for now, but it will be much better in a few years. It will be much better when we own a house, or have a bigger house with a large backyard for the kids and a garden, or can put on that bedroom addition. We will be happier when we get that raise, or are able to work just one job instead of 3, and have all the debt paid off. Then we will be happy; then we can relax and live. Then we can really start enjoying life. But the truth is, "then" never really comes. Sure we may accomplish the things that are on our list right now, but what we do we do? We add to it. We are always striving for the next step, and that's ok. That's great actually! We should always be moving forward, but when looking toward the future inhibits our ability to be content with and enjoy the now... when it inhibits our ability to be in the present, that's where the problem lies.

I think that a big part of the reason why memories seem fuzzy and I feel like I missed it is because, in a way, I did. I know that I was there, no one else cleaned the poop off the wall, that was ALLLLL me! But my mind was somewhere else. I resolve to be present, in both body and mind. I will strive to be fully invested in "the now", because "the now" is all we really have. When the next birthday comes around, instead of wondering how I missed it, I will be able to say, "Wow, that went fast! Awesome year, I should know, I was totally there!"

Monday, February 24, 2014

Consistently Inconsistent

There are many things that I struggle with, but if I were to choose just one thing that irritates me the most, it would be my inconsistency. I am consistently inconsistent! I always have been. When I was a kid, I tried more extra-curricular activities than I can remember: ballet, tap, acrobatics, karate, basketball, choir (I actually stuck with that one for a while), cheer-leading, majorettes, color guard, Brownies, violin..... there were probably others. With almost every one, the novelty wore off and I quit. Then there were my childhood report cards. Remember the ones that didn't come with actual grades, but rather "S" for Satisfactory or "E" for Excellent? Well, I received a lot of "I's" for INCONSISTENT!

I wish I could say that my inconsistent nature has changed, but it really hasn't. Why, you ask, is this one of the things that irritates me the most about myself? Surely there are a plethora of other sins that I deal with on a daily basis that can be much more serious than inconsistency, right? Yes, there are plenty of other sin areas that could use work, but this area affects so many aspects of my life. It affects my home, my family and most importantly, my relationship with God. When you have an inconsistent nature, you are surely not going to be naturally consistent with your prayer life and time spent in the Word. That should be our starting point, and if we are not even consistent with our starting point, then how are we to expect that we are going to be consistent with anything else?  I find it difficult to be consistent with everything from housework, to homeschool (even the curriculum I use), to projects and even methods of disciplining my children! This can make for a very chaotic household and for kids that feel unsettled. One day, I was getting ready to implement yet another new schedule for our household. I always have good intentions, I really wanted it to work! I sat the kids down to let them know that we would be starting with a new kind of schedule in the morning and my oldest daughter says to me (respectfully, but honestly), "Yeah, but it only ever lasts for a few days and then we stop." Ouch! They're on to me!

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1Cor 15:58).  Here, at face value, we are being told to spread the Gospel, for that is our most important work, but earlier in 1Corinthians, we are told that all of our work and everything we do is to be done to the honor and glory of God (1Cor 10:31). This verse tells us to be steadfast in our work. To be steadfast means to be firmly fixed or constant, unwavering, not subject to change. I want to be steadfast in the work of the Lord; steadfast in spreading the Gospel, steadfast in my pursuit of a relationship with Him and steadfast in the work that He has given me to do in my home and with my family.

Now, as I mentioned, my inconsistent nature has not changed. I have to fight every day with it. But my desire to conquer it is strong and each day I am winning more of the battles than the day before. Here are a few things that have worked the best for me as I learn to be more consistent:

Get Consistent With Your Prayer Life First
It is only through prayer and God's grace that we can be consistent with anything! If you are having trouble being consistent and you are not already consistent with your prayer life and time in the Word, then this is where you need to begin! This is where you can ask Him to help you in this area!

Set Realistic Expectations
Sure, I know that you would probably like to be diligent and consistent in your prayer life, your housework, homeschool, discipline methods, projects that you start, exercises, daily schedules that you make, everything! But start small. Decide on one or two important areas that you are going to be diligent and consistent with and focus on those things. It could be as simple as deciding that you are going to put a load of laundry in the wash, then the dryer, then fold or hang everything and put it away. Everyday. Consistently. Or maybe you decide that you are going to sign up for that Zumba class and that you are going to commit to go every week, consistently, for the entire two month session that you signed up for. Whatever you choose, just keep it simple and use it as an exercise in consistency. Practice makes perfect and soon you will find it easier to remain more consistent in all areas of your life.  

Keep Yourself Accountable
Find yourself an accountability buddy, preferably one that doesn't already struggle in this area. Nothing says failure like two inconsistent people pledging to be consistent to keep each other accountable in being consistent ;)

Make Inconsistency Inconvenient 
If possible, try and make it really difficult for yourself not to remain consistent. For years I had been committing and re-committing to lessen the amount of TV that we all watch in this household. I was not consistent with this. I would keep the TV off for a few days, and then one day I would wake up and fall right back into the familiar pattern of flicking it on and letting my kids sit in front of it for way too long. Until I made it really inconvenient for us to do so. Out of desperation to be consistent in our resolve to lesson time spent in front of the TV, we got rid of it! Well.... not completely, but we did move it out of the living room and now whenever we want to watch something, we have to carry it in and hook it all up. Furthermore, we have arranged the living room in a way that when we do have the TV out, it's in a really annoying spot and I don't want it to stay in the room after we are done watching it. I was finally able to remain consistent in this decision because it is now very inconvenient not to be!

Do you struggle with inconsistency? What are some ways you have found that helped you to be more consistent?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Getting to the Heart of Gossip

I have a confession to make. A few weeks ago, I made an assumption about someone I know. I then shared that assumption with my husband. Last week, I realized that my assumption may not have been so accurate. I asked God to forgive me, as well as let my husband know that I may be wrong and that it was wrong of me to jump to conclusions. But it got me to thinking.... was making an assumption the only thing that I did wrong here, or is there something more?

When most of us think about gossip, we picture women maliciously whispering, spreading around juicy secrets or even flat-out lies. Unless we are one of these people who can't keep our mouth shut and just love to talk about other people's lives (and especially their misfortunes), then we usually don't consider ourselves gossipers. I never have considered myself one. I try my best to keep my nose out of other people's business and I respect the secrets that my friends have shared with me. But I think there is more to it than that.  I think that we have made exceptions the the rule of gossip in order to justify our human tendencies to be blabbermouths. 

"Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered" (Proverbs 11:13) This verse is about gossip, and that was exactly what I was doing, even if I wasn't willing to admit it at first. Whether it is a secret that has been shared with you, something you saw, heard or discovered, or even a conclusion you jumped to all on your own about something; when you share that with anyone else, knowing that you wouldn't be sharing it if the person who was the subject of the discussion was present, then it is gossip.

If we were to actually make a written ammendment to that verse in Proverbs that would reflect our views on gossip, I think it might read something like this:

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.... unless you are just sharing it with your husband, because after all, you two are one. Or if you are venting to your mom about someone that did you wrong, I mean....she's your mom. Or if the secret you are keeping is just driving you nuts and you HAVE to tell somebody so that you don't explode. No one would want you to explode. Lastly, it's not necessary to keep a thing covered when you are in the company of your prayer group....sharing secrets with them will just mean more prayers for your troubled friend!
We do a pretty good job of covering our sins don't we? We can even make them look all nice and spiritual. But sin is sin. Gossip is gossip, no matter who we are talking to or for what purpose. Now I know that there are always exceptions to the rule, for instance, when someone's safety is concerned. But even in those cases, have you confronted the person directly with your concern for them first? Are you going directly to a source of help for this person? Or are you just chatting about it with your mutual friends? We need to think and pray on these things hard.

"To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people" (Titus 3:2). Let us pray daily and ask God to help us keep our big blabbermouths shut!
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Words of Love: Pin a Heart on Your Sibling

My kids love each other, I know that they do. I just wish that they would show it a little more often. So today, in the name of Valentine's Day, we are going to work on that. I picked up these cute, heart-shaped little sticky notes. I am going to hand them out to the kids and have them write positive attributes about each other on them and then stick them on each other. Hopefully, the end result is a bunch of giggly children covered head-to-toe in words of love from each other.

What are you doing special with your family today?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Peppermint Mocha Pick-Me-Up

It's that time of day again. I don't know about you, but every day around 2 or 3 o'clock I start to drag. I just don't know how I am going to get through the rest of the day. Well, I have discovered the cure for this mid-day drag, and the best thing about it is it only takes a few ingredients and they are easy to keep on hand all the time. I call it: The Peppermint Mocha Pick-Me-Up!

Here's what you will need:
  • Your favorite coffee mug (actually, any 'ol mug will do, but it tastes even better in your favorite one)
  • Coffee 
  • 1 heaping tsp of cocoa powder
  • 1 peppermint (the little, round, red & white ones that come individually wrapped are perfect. If it's near the holidays, 1/4 of a candy cane works great too. In fact, that's what I had on hand when I originally brewed up this concoction)
  • Cream and Sugar to your taste

Directions: Put your cocoa powder, peppermint and sugar in the bottom of your mug. Brew you cup of coffee like you normally do and pour in you mug. Stir until your mint is dissolved, then add your cream or milk. Adding the cream after ensures that your coffee stays hot enough to melt your mint. If you want to get extra fancy, I suppose you could add whipped cream. I never have, simply because I never have it on hand, but if I did.... I would :)

 Viola! You have just created an expensive-tasting coffee house treat for a fraction of the cost. Pretty simple, huh? This also works well as an attitude adjuster for first thing in the morning if you happen to wake up completely grumpy and resentful of the fact that you are out of bed..... not that I ever feel that way ;)

Monday, February 10, 2014

You Can't Have Your Cake and A Petting Zoo Too: Why I Say No to Huge Birthday Parties

I am going back in my mind to a simpler time. A time, not so long ago when a birthday party meant cake, ice cream and presents. Maybe a little "Pin the Tail on the Donkey", "Musical Chairs" or a Pinata if a parent felt adventurous. Every once in a while you would get invited to an extra-special party at the bowling alley, or at McDonald's where all the kids would argue about who gets the piece of cake with the Ronald McDonald sugar figurine on it.  Those were the days... just a bunch of party guests running around, playing, getting filled with sugar and going home. At least that's how I remember it growing up. So, what has happened that made me feel like the worst mother in the world because I was not throwing my child the "Disney-themed-party-of-the-year?" I blame Pinterest! 

Somewhere along the line, I put these expectations on myself to throw my children these huge, themed birthday parties complete with bounce house, hand-made party favors, pony rides, and a designer cake. While I have never gone that  big before, I have tried my hand at cute, coordinated, extra-special, themed parties. I tried. I never met my own expectations and I became completely stressed out. Parties like these are great. If party planning is your passion and you have the time and resources to pull something like that off, then more power to you! Keep doing what you are doing, because my kids love going to your parties! But if you are like me and have neither the time nor the resources in your budget to pull something like that off, then don't. Don't put so much pressure on yourself that you can't even have a happy day with the birthday child because you are so stressed, and don't go into debt at the Party Supply store when all that is really necessary is that your child feels loved and special.
Keep it simple! Those are three of my favorite words. Birthdays in this house start off with chocolate chip muffins for breakfast. The birthday child gets a candle in theirs. We sing, of course. That evening, the birthday boy or girl gets to pick what's for dinner and then we usually have ice cream sundaes for dessert. We sing again. We will also have a small party on the weekend for extended family and maybe a friend or two. Every once in a while I will do a spaghetti dinner for a birthday party, but usually it's just a few simple snacks, followed by cake (yep, more singing), ice cream and presents. We will hang a few streamers up and sometimes get a few balloons, but that's it. Simple. And do you know what? My kids have just as much fun at their simple parties as they did when I tried to have a big, fancy, themed one. In fact, in my case, they were probably happier because Mom wasn't so stressed out! So the way I see it, whether you go big or small, you accomplish the same goal: A child who feels special, surrounded by those who love him on his special day.

How do you celebrate your children's birthdays? Do you go big or keep it simple?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Home Full of Blessings, A Home Full of Noise

Hi, I'm Rae! My home is full of noise. Most of it is joyful noise, some of it is not. I try and take joy in all of it! In fact, I am taking joy in it this very moment as Hubby has let me lock myself away in a room so that I can finally get this blog up and running. I hear the screeches and squeals of my 4 children as they echo down the hallway to my room. It sounds joyful out there.... I think. There have been times where Hubby has taken the kids out of the house so that I could get something done, and it's not that I don't enjoy the quiet, I REALLY do! But.... it's weird, almost kind of eerie, because it's not the norm. The norm is noise, and I have come to love the sound of it. This is how it is meant to be. I have a home full of blessings, which for me, equals a home full of noise. 

I haven't always felt this way about the noise level in my home, and yes, of course certain kinds of noise still grate on my nerves. The tattling noise, the whining noise, the kids-being-way-too-rough-and-crazy noise, the sibling arguing noise..... need I go on? None of those are particularly joyful moments, but I have learned to take joy in them anyway, because it comes with the territory of having children and THAT is a joy within itself! I can take joy in the noise of kids being crazy, because it means that they are all home and we are all together. I can even take joy in those whiny or tattling moments, because it means that God has given me a perfect opportunity for instruction.

 Now, I am by no means perfect at this, I still get irritated and impatient as I believe most parents do. I rely on the Lord each day to give me joy and to help me find it even the most unlikely of places. And even when it's hard to find something joyful in the noise of a fit-throwing 3-year-old, I can always look forward to the many other noises that will far outweigh that one. Like the excited yelling of children as their Daddy walks in the door from work, the boisterous laughter that comes from having a silly-face contest, the shouts of, "Hey! Now I get it!" from a child who has been struggling with a math concept, and the loud cheering as they watch their baby sister start taking her first steps with her push-walker. I wouldn't trade that noise for anything!

I hope that you will come visit me here frequently as I write about faith, family, taking care of the home, parenting, homeschooling. I may share some recipes, a funny story or whatever suits my fancy at the moment. What I want most is to be a help and an encouragement to all who visit here, that is my prayer. Whatever I am led to write about, it's likely that I will be doing it with an earful of noise. Preferably the joyful kind.