Not Enough Hours in a Day

It seems like today’s society has a competition to be busy. We are all to busy to get together, to take a break, to read a book. However, at the same time, it seems like nothing is getting done, because we are all to busy being busy. What are you busy with? Are you overcommitting and not allowing margin in your life? Or are you busy with things that are not adding value to your life? In all this busyness, there is still the same number of hours in the day, each person does with those hours what they consider important – whether they realize it or not.

How do you spend your hours?

Have you ever sat down and thought about where your time goes? What commitments and activities have you made important in your life?

In life, we make time for what is important. Look at your day, what was important to you today? If you feel like you accomplish nothing and time escapes through your fingers, at the end of each day try writing down what you did. Include everything you can think of: Eating, reading, checking social media, working, praying, reading your bible, making meals, cleaning, watching tv, driving, showering etc. I would encourage you to then use some sort of coding system, put check marks by the essential things, stars by the important things, and lines by those that were in your day but you do not value.

One Step at a Time

I am often asked how I accomplish everything I do. My usual response is that I schedule my time to work on everything a little bit. Dedicating even a little bit of time toward a goal or task is one step forward, and one step at a time you will make a long journey to where you want to be. There will be weeks you feel like you are drowning because I have too many commitments or life just seemed to happen. Those weeks step back and take a look at what you can set aside or turn down and plan your next week with room to rest. 

Life is not a race and everything does not need to be accomplished today. Know your goals and what is important to you in your life, make space for these things. Make space for relationships, for resting, to play with your children, to love your husband.

Next time when someone asks you if you have time to connect, consider saying yes, consider making time. When others are complaining about their busyness, consider offering to help or praying for them, do not play the competition game. As you make your schedule this week, consider saying “no” to a commitment, or moving something to a less committed week. As a community that embraces relationships, let’s move away from this distraction of busy and towards the goal of rest and connection.

 

 

Making Car Rides Successful

We have all been there, you have just a short trip and no one wants to go. You force them into their car seats and strap them down, they scream the whole way and you are about ready to lose your sanity. Or maybe you are potty training and forgot the extra change of clothes… now you have a soggy mess of a child and are nowhere near home. Or you decided to stay a for a last minute meeting, but you have nothing to entertain the kids. These are all incidents that happen fairly regularly, we can do some planning to help it go a little more smoothly.

Prepping the Car

Every vehicle is different, ours is awesome for the fact that we have empty storage areas in the floor behind the drivers and passenger seats. If you do not have a similar storage area, I would suggest keeping a zipped bag in the trunk or some out of the way place. In this storage goes things that we would need regularly, but do not always need. I have diapers, wipes, a change of clothes for the middle sized child (the younger one can also fit them), and an “activity bag”. These are for times when I forgot to bring a diaper or we had an unplanned “event”.

The Book Box

Books are AMAZING for car rides. We used to have a “Car Book Box”, now we have a “Car Book Bag” that hangs from the headrest between my children’s seats. In the book box or book bag, are books for the children to read while we drive around town. Generally, the books that belong in the car are books that the kids love, but I don’t, or books I have duplicates of or don’t mind losing. The rule is, if you want a book, you have to pick it out before getting in your seat (the book box was impossible to reach from their seat). I cannot tell you the number of times I look in my rear-view mirror and see all the kids looking at a book–it is peaceful bliss!

The Car Bag

At a recent MOPS meeting, a professional organizer came to speak. She shared a BRILLANT idea! The car bag. The car bag is now an essential part of our travel preparations (even just to the library and back). Our bag looks similar to this (any large bag will do):

This bag sits in our mudroom where all our coats, shoes, hats etc. are. When we are packing to go somewhere the kids and I load up “the car bag” with whatever we need (i.e. water bottles, toys, books, crayons, soccer ball, shoes etc.). In the bag there are also rolled up plastic bags, these serve as garbage bags for in the car, bags for dirty clothes etc. When the trip is over and we are headed back in, anything in the car that goes inside is put in the car bag to make the trip in. The car bag has helped keep my car clean, tidy, and I no longer loose (as many) hats, coats, socks, shoes etc.

Hopefully, this gives you one or more ideas to make your car riding a little smoother with those little people!

New Season – New Schedule

I have found that with every new season I need to re-write my schedule for myself and my little people.

I only have 1 child with me at home now, and I have had dreams of quality time, learning, bonding, and accomplishing to-do lists. However, we seem to find ourselves at home caught up in our own activities or distracted by random commitments or to-do lists. The lack of accomplishment and efficiency has led me to feel like we are just killing time. Then I realized, I did not create a new schedule for this season. I had updated my google calendar, but I had not planned out our home times.

Embracing my role as the family manager I pulled out one of my old schedules and edited it to fit the needs of our family at our current stage.

If you have never made a schedule for your little people, I suggest you check out my post on  Scheduling Your Toddler’s Day. One important thing to remember is that your schedule is a tool to help you use your time efficiently and wisely, use it, but do not be a slave to it.

Here is an example of our current schedule. I print this out in color, laminate it, and hang it on the fridge at the eye level of my littlest person. Fall 2017

Preparing Your Freezer for Fall

Fall and all the activities that come with it has begun. We limit how many activities our children participate in, yet some how our nights still seem to fill up. Between the kid’s activities, bible study, exercising, and life, time to make dinner can shrink to nothing. Meal time is such an important time to connect with your children and spouse, create memories, and build a solid foundation for your family. Before you cut your meals down to survival mode, consider making a plan for this busy season.

As fall has approached I have renewed my efforts to “feed my freezer”. When making a meal that is freezer friendly I have doubled, tripled, or quadrupled it. I then wrap or bag my bounty, label, and store it away in the freezer for a busy night when the activities steal away my cooking time. I would also recommend trying a few “take and go” meals. Breakfast burritos aren’t just for dinner. They are a great to grab, microwave, and take for you and siblings to eat while you to watch your kids practice. One thing to remember is to either individually wrap items, or put them in small enough containers for 1 family meal. There is nothing as frustrating as pulling out rolls of dough that are frozen in a solid chunk when you only need a few.

When making dinner tonight, ask yourself, can I freeze this meal or steps of this meal for another night? If so, then double it!

 

 

 

Cherry Lemon Scones-Recipe

This Recipe was modified from a recipe for Cranberry Orange Scones my Aunt Kathy had given me years ago:

Cherry Lemon Scones

MIX:

2 Cups of All Purpose Flour (can use up to half whole wheat)

2 Cups of Flour

7 tsp Sugar, divided

1 Tbl Lemon Zest (1 Lemon)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

 

Cut In:

1/3 cup cold butter

 

In a separate bowl mix and add to flour mixture:

1 cup dried cherries (can be diced if large)

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup milk

1 egg

 

Mix flour mixture and liquid mixture together until a crumbly dough forms.

Shape as desired, I either use a scone pan or shape into a round disc on a baking stone, brush with 1 Tbl milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400 for 12-15 min. until golden brown.

 

Optional Glaze (I usually leave this off unless I am making these for guests):

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

This is a great recipe to get the little people involved. If they are old enough show them how to measure on their own

Cooking Lessons – Teaching Someone Else to Make Amazing Food

If you know me well, you know I LOVE good food! I am one of those people that thinks about what I am going to eat at my next meal while I am currently eating a meal. My husband on the other hand, really just eats food to survive. He could have Cheerios every day for every meal… we literally have probably 20 boxes of plain cheerios in my kitchen right now, not for the kids, for my husband. So, one of my many goals in life is to raise my children to be food lovers, I need someone to help me in the kitchen with my food obsession!

You will find some of my favorite children’s cookbooks in previous posts. We still use these cookbooks frequently, however I just found a new one at the library and HAD to share: Kid Chef by Melina Hammer .

The book starts with cooking lessons, each lesson is 2-6 pages long followed by a recipe to practice the learned skills. My 6 year old has been cooking with me since she was 2 and knows many basic skills, she is still loving this book. I can’t believe how much she is soaking in. I do wish there were a few more pictures like the DK cookbooks, but this is the first book I have found that has actual lessons to teach your child. For lunch today my three little people (ages 6, 4 & 3) were learning knife skills slicing, chopping, and dicing, they made an amazing fresh salsa! I would have taken a picture, but I was too busy eating it over quesadillas. The text part of the lesson can get a little long, I think this book is PERFECT for ages 5 and up.

I originally questioned what the author meant by “healthy”, but I have been pleasantly surprised. The salsa they made today was full of fresh veggies, fruit and herbs, the French toast did not add any sugar, and most the recipes we have tried and looked at have been similar.

I know this picture below looks a like everything is clean and tidy… I will tell you this is the lesson that they learn to use the stove top, it got a little stressful having all 3 involved, especially when they had to figure out how to crack the egg onto a hot skillet! They made French Toast, Fried Eggs, and I cut up some fruit to go with it. No one was burned and the food tasted great!

Seeking Happiness – My Struggle with Consumerism

It seems like a common goal in the lives of Americans is to be happy. Our culture has led us to believe that this happiness comes from stuff. Buying stuff, having stuff, enjoying stuff. The joy of new things and stuff is indeed one of my struggles. I look forward to new clothes, more craft supplies, more books, educational supplies for the kids, cleaning tools, dog toys, and this may sound crazy, but I love having new food to make new creations in the kitchen. These all may sound like normal healthy spending habits, but when seeking this “stuff” becomes an obsession or distracts me form my real purpose in life, then I need to focus on redirecting my energy.

My Struggle

Every day, everywhere I look I am greeted with consumerism- and it sucks me in. I see it on Facebook, I look for it on Amazon, I walk past it in the store. When I meet with my friends they talk about books, kitchen gadgets, food (that is crazy expensive–for no good reason), I see their cute clothes and cannot help but want to buy something new. Before I know it I am home wasting hours of my life looking at dresses online, or I am setting up deal alerts for new shoes so I can be comfy and cute while I hike.

I cannot hide from consumerism. Our culture is so immersed in consumerism, our economy runs and thrives on consumerism. We work day after day earning a pay check just to spend it again and again. If I want to focus on my true purpose in life, the purpose Christ has given me, if I want to have contentment and be okay with less, then I have to have help. Help from Christ, who alone can give strength, love, contentment, peace, and joy.

Real Happiness

God did not intend for me to seek “happiness”, let alone to seek “stuff”. He intended me for relationship, relationship with Him and with others. The world has so often distracted me from my purpose here. Instead of focusing on loving others, on sharing the peace and contentment Christ has to offer, instead of spending time loving and growing in Christ, I rush around busy to “get ahead”. I spend my time working hard to have a perfect house, yard, and life, working to save money so I can spend it again. Real happiness and joy does not come from stuff, or “being ahead”, instead it comes form those laughs shared with friends, that time spent in prayer, those moments of joy watching my children laugh, learn, and grow. Instead of looking for the best deal on dresses or books, I want to spend my time loving and teaching my children, sharing stories and helping my friends and neighbors, loving and enjoying time with my husband, learning who Christ is and being Christ to others. I want to be content, in all things and  in all places.

Finding a Mentor

I remember standing in my church foyer talking to a woman, I had a 2 year old and an infant at the time. She mentioned training your child to come to you when you call them. I was shocked, “YOU CAN TRAIN YOUR CHILD TO COME TO YOU”? That day I asked this amazing woman to be my mentor. That was the beginning of a long relationship that has changed my parenting for the better.

Up until the time my daughter turned 2 parenting seemed easy… then one challenge after another rolled my way. In addition to my formal mentor, over the past 4 years, I have 3-4 other women who have come alongside me to support me in my many roles. These women have not only provided me with resources and ideas, but they have given me emotional and spiritual support and encouragement. Often after meeting with my mentor or one of these women I would feel inspired and rejuvenated and ready to attack this parenting role and do my best. It has been an amazing blessing from God to have these women in my life, encouraging me every step along the way in my parenting, spiritual leadership, family and household management, marriage, and personal growth.

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“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2: 3-5

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How To Find A Mentor

Every Mentor and every Mentee are different, creating all different relationships. I see a mentor as a cross between a cheerleader, coach, and spiritual guide. They are someone you can turn to with questions, when you need encouragement or prayer, or to just have a good laugh and share life. I chose my mentor because her relationship with her children was strong and good and her family and home management skills were amazing-this was what I wanted. Is there an area of your life you want to improve? Find someone who has those skills, ask them to mentor you in that area. If there is a woman in your church that you feel has an amazing family, she may be a good mentor for you. Your mentor doesn’t have to be “old” or even older than you, think of it like life is a journey, and they are just a little farther down the road you want to be on.

Setting Up The Relationship

Some relationships develop naturally due to commonly interacting, others are more formal. If you have asked someone to formally mentor you, here are some tips:

  • Pick some set dates or times to meet- otherwise you may both get busy and just let it slide, be intentional!
  • Set a date or time period to check in and see if both parties want to continue the mentoring commitment- your personalities may not work out, or time availability may change, give both parties an option out without the awkwardness
  • Discuss your vision for the relationship- what do you as the mentee want to get out of this relationship? How does the mentor envision her part? Do these mesh together? Now is also the time to talk about boundaries and confidentiality
  • Lean on your mentor- be vulnerable, your mentor is hear to support you
  • Show appreciation- Your mentor is giving her time and heart to teach, train, encourage, and support you
  • Be flexible- as both you and your mentor’s schedule, vision, and growth changes, be flexible to trying something new and making changes to your commitment

What Do You Do With Your Mentor?

The activities you do with your mentor are as varied as the mentor and mentee relationship. With my mentors we have exercised together, lived life together, read books together etc. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Read a book on a topic you are interested in learning about (something she is skilled in), discuss the book together
  • Do a study together
  • Cook or bake together
  • Write a list of questions and get her insight
  • Go for a walk together and talk
  • Have her give you a formal lesson in an area you want to learn about
  • Pray together
  • Share a meal together

The Car Book Box

As our home library of children’s books began to grow I started to get duplicate books, or books I did not really care to read. For some reason my children LOVE the books I do not like… I think they like to torture me. Since this is the case I always feel bad donating those books that they love so dearly. Now the go to the Car Book Box.

The Car book box is a box of books that I do not mind getting ruined or lost. They sit in a tucked away spot in our car. When my children load up to go somewhere (anywhere), they may pick out 1-2 books to look at. This has resulted in the quietest car rides EVER, they look at books and I get some peace. Once we arrive at our destination, the books go back in the box.

Seats and situations have moved around a little in our van, so now we have 2 bags of books. These bags I made tie to around the headrest of the seat in front of their seat. I prefer the box, but the bags stay out of the way more.

Happy Reading!

Surviving Without Television

Occasionally it comes up in conversation that we do not have television, I usually get the response, neither do we, we watch netflix. We do not have that either. We do not watch television. The next response I get is, “wow, what do you do in the evenings?”. My husband also tends to correct me, we do have some forms of television. This post is about what we do and do not have in regards to television, how we use it, and why.

Do not Have:

Cable

Netflix

Hulu

Do Have:

Antenna

Amazon Prime (for movies)

Google Play Account (for Movies)

Why We Dropped Cable

When my first child was born, I remember watching a 30 minute show while I nursed her. Then it turned into another show, and another, until before I knew it hours had passed by in oblivion. This issue, along with our desire to cut back in unnecessary spending resulted in us dropping cable when we moved to our new location. We wanted to spend time as a family making memories and after the kids went to bed we wanted to spend time together as friends, growing and working on our marriage.

why-waste-life-on-a-couch-when-you-can-spend-it-making-memories

Getting the Antenna:

For a few years after our move, we went with absolutely no television watching. We did not have anything, but a TV and DVD player. On weekends, when we wanted to watch a movie, we would stop by redbox and rent a movie for the night. This was the extent that our TV was used for.

My husband kept up on his sports updates via the internet. After a few years of his sports withdrawal, he purchased an antenna so that we could at least pull in local stations for an occasional sports game (about once a month). This is why we now have the antenna.

Streaming Movies:

We tend to do most our non-grocery shopping on Amazon. This is partly due to our desire to limit unnecessary spending, but also partly due to our laziness. Due to our devotion to Amazon, we decided to try a free year of Prime. We of course decided to keep it after the year was up. Having Amazon Prime allows us to watch our movies for free since we select slow shipping and get a $1 credit each time. We also stream movies directly through play.google.com (which we also get for free through an app we use).

Having Amazon and Google, now allows us to stream movies directly for the children and ourselves. This being said, we have rented a total of 27 (14 through amazon prime and 13 through play.google) movies in the year 2016, about 1/3 of those being documentaries and one of those being a season of Elementary, which had 24 episodes (run time 40-45 minutes). So all in total we watched 3.24 movie run time/month in 2016. I am however missing the BBC Earth DVDs we own in this calculation, so lets be really liberal and assume we watched 4 movies a month, or 1 a week in 2016.

The 4 movies a month is what daddy and mommy watch after the kids go to bed, we consider this date night. I am not actually sure how much our kids watch, Amazon doesn’t record when I direct play Daniel Tiger. I am guessing 1 episode of Daniel Tiger a month on average, MAYBE 2–yes, that is it. Watching a “movie” (aka a show) is reserved for “sick days” and special family movies nights. Sometimes we will try to watch a longer movie with the kids (longer than 30 minutes) but rarely (once a year?). Sometimes if my husband is gone we will watch 2 episodes of Daniel tiger together with a special popcorn treat.

What Do We do Instead?

We do not watch television because there are other things we prefer to do with our time… and it costs money (but that is the minor side). We would rather our kids be using their imagination to play or spending time as a family. My children have grown up this way (so far, they are still very young) and they are used to it. They know how to entertain themselves (usually).

When I need to work on something like dinner or write a letter or want to read a magazine or my bible I let them know what I am doing and tell them they need to play or, depending on the activity I am doing, they can join me. If I am cooking, they can help or I may have them do their responsibilities. Our children are also excited to play together, since they have all had a 2 hour break from each other during quiet time. If I am reading my bible or a magazine or book, they usually opt to read their own bible, magazine, or book with me. Now don’t get me wrong, this does not always work perfectly, more than once I have had children fighting or pleading for me to hold them or some other emergency necessitating that I drop everything and focus all my energy on them. They are young, they are learning, this is a time of learning and growing for ALL of us.

My husband and I see our evenings as time together, time to grow and learn, time to sleep.We feel that this rarely happens when we watch television, or even a movie. We both love exercising and often get up early or workout after the kids go to bed. We also enjoy reading and often read books together out loud. There have been times we do a bible study together (this comes and goes). We also enjoy strategy games and will often play one in the evenings, or my husband tries to talk me into playing a game of billiards. There have also been times we just visit. There are other times that one of us has a commitment in the evening and I catch up on my responsibilities or he just rests and catches up on emails.

I remember, not too long ago, my husband mentioning it had been a while since we watched a movie. We both agreed how wonderful it was. Often we watch a movie because we are tired, but do not want to go to bed and I find that afterward I feel drained and exhausted, I very rarely end the movie feeling refreshed.

This change in our family over the last 4 years has been amazing. We have built endless memories reading, exploring, camping, playing games, running around, and more. We have saved money towards retirement and feel more positive about life and have been able to focus on what our God’s purpose is for us.