Monday, July 30, 2012

Saying Thanks Sunday

So I missed Thankful Thursday this past week. It wasn't intentional. And it wasn't that I wasn't thankful.  But it has been a BIG week for me as I implement some new parenting techniques and help one or more of my children move beyond some difficulties in their lives.  But that is all for another day.  Anyway, even in the midst of challenges, I have a LOT to be thankful for. Even when I am too tired to articulate that. So today will just be a delayed Thankful Thursday. We will call it Saying Thanks Sunday...

  • In trying to help one of my kids (who is very sensory seeking), over and over we found that a mini trampoline was recommended. Except that it feels like we have spent a lot of money this summer (that time of year) so I was reluctant.  I checked out Craigslist. Nothing.  I mentioned it on Facebook.  A friend replied that I was welcome to come get hers...for free.  A HUGE answer to prayer!  In just one day it has already been put to good use.
  • A visit with a friend of a friend who just listened and sweetly advised me on how to help with some of those parenting struggles
  • A husband who goes grocery shopping.  And not only that, takes two kids with him so I get a little quiet time.
  • Air conditioning. 
  • Our one rain this past week. First in a month or more.  It didn't last long enough but we will take what we can get.
  • A shaved ice outing with a friend
  • A visit with an aunt and uncle who live away from here.
  • Watching my kids swim at dusk in my parents' pool
  • A "break" on a price of something I wanted/needed for one of my kids
  • A school supply shopping date with my up and coming kindergarten student
  • Dinner out last night with a stop at the park (it had cooled off to 99 degrees or so :)
  • A daughter with a gift of empathy who sends me sweet e-cards on hard days
  • A little weight lost (though I think the next few pounds will be the hardest...)
  • The watching the gymnastics with my girls
  • A fruit bowl.  We have always had it but I have moved it down to the table rather than on top of our fridge. My kids are eating fruit like crazy.
  • A sweet offer from a friend
I know there are more. And I wish I could give more details on some of these but I try to be careful to walk that balance between honesty and protecting my family...

I just know that even in the tough times, God is there.

And for that, I am thankful.

So, what are you thankful for this week?


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Organized Chaos

I get asked a lot, "How do you do it?"

I am never quite sure whether that is truly a request for information or more of a nice way of saying, "Why on earth would anyone want to have four kids, a dog, and a job outside the house?  And blog too?"

The truth is, I really have no answers. Some parts of my house are fairly organized. Other parts are a big mess.  I can be really on top of things (like school paperwork) but at the same time we have all of our bills electronically taken out because sending the check in the mail is not our strong point.  Our children are probably not as social as they would like to be and most of the world is...some days getting out for a simple birthday party is a challenge.  And then there are the parenting challenges themselves, like the ones I mentioned in the last entry. answer?

I don't do it.

At least not with guaranteed success.

Some days, I just feel like I am surviving.

Okay, most days.

That being said, there are a few things I have found that do make my life a little less crazy.

Nothing to write a book about.

And actually several things I do that others poke fun of and sometimes even critique me for.

But to me, organization, even among the chaos, is important.

It gives me just a little sense of control.

And goodness knows I can use some of that.

 I probably have written about some of these things before, but I thought I would share again a few of my tips.  I would love to hear what tips you have for running your household smoother too.  I am always in search of new ideas!

One summer suggestion I have is that I cannot see my children before 8.  I rarely get to sleep that long since I usually awaken when hubby is leaving for work. And the youngest child is not really very quiet though we are continuously working on that.  But he does know how to read the clock nowadays.  And I shouldn't see him before 8.  (Obviously they can get up and quietly run to the bathroom if needed...if they wake up and there is sunlight, they are allowed to play QUIETLY in their room or listen to books on CD)  With some early risers, it is a way of ensuring a little quiet time for me before we hit the ground running.  I also have a mandatory 2 hour quiet time (which is true on the weekends during the school year).  The older ones usually read books or use a little of their screen time.  The younger ones listen to books on CD, read, or rest.  Obviously, if we are out and about during that time, we skip it. But it is a good quiet time for the kids and for me. :)

Next up is the "daily menu".  A couple years ago, I was tired of the "What can we have to eat for breakfast?" or "What is for lunch today?"  So last summer I started printing a little "menu".  It has a couple of purposes.  One is that it lists the day's chores.  There are three main chores that the older three rotate through; the youngest child will be participating soon. One is emptying the dishwasher. Another is re-loading it (because by then the sink is usually full of dishes).  And the third is taking out the recycles which accumulate throughout the day on the counter.  That person is also responsible for helping set and clear off the table.  In the summer I also have an "extra" chore, such as sorting clothes, dusting certain rooms, and cleaning certain areas of their room.

The other purpose is the breakfast and lunch "menu".

Like most kids, my kids would eat chicken nuggets or Ramen noodles every single day for lunch or Pop Tarts for breakfast daily.  Not that Pop Tarts are bad, but I just can't afford to have four kids eating Pop Tarts seven days a week.  And while Ramen noodles are a very cheap lunch, we do occasionally have leftovers that need to be eaten. They won't be...unless choices are limited. So now I give about four or five lunch choices (including leftovers)
I think I shared this before but I keep this on my wall in the kitchen.  I change it weekly with a dry erase marker.  (I usually plan on Saturday for the next week what our meals will be, then I make grocery lists based upon that and use the Grocery IQ app on my phone.  I also post our weekly menu on our cooking blog, mainly for accountability. :)  I still get asked a few times a day, "What is for dinner?" But I will only answer the youngest child who is not reading yet.  The others, I just point to the wall...
One thing I do for my youngest child is "bag" outfits in gallon size ziplocks.  I keep several in his bottom drawer.  Each day, he chooses which outfit he wants to wear and puts the bag back into the drawer empty.  It gives him some choice in his clothing but helps make sure they match.  When I do laundry and put his clean clothes away, I refill any empty bags as I look through the other clothes drawers.  With my 8 year old, I do something similar, just minus the bags. I pair outfits and keep them in one drawer. Otherwise, she tends to dig through drawers trying to find matches, and then we end up with a really big mess.
These are the dirty clothes baskets in our (Mark's and my) closet.  We have a "whites", "Off-whites/yellows/khakis", "reds/pinks/purples", and darks (blues, greens, and blacks) basket.  When it is sorting day, the kids either move the baskets to the living room or bring their dirty clothes basket to the closet and sort them.  By the way, even my five year old can sort with assistance.  One tip my friend Katie shared recently was buying mesh laundry bags and having the kids keep socks in them, then just washing the bag. Saves on lost socks and trying to match up. I haven't bought any yet but I am going to do that. I think I will have them throw undies in their too.  Should save me a lot of sorting time.

We also have a separate towel basket. And speaking of towels, each child has a set color so we always know who they belong to. 
The snack drawer.  The kids know when it is snack time, they can get something out of the snack drawer or the fridge (like fruit, yogurt, crackers, etc).  They used to dig through the pantry and would on occasion use an ingredient for an upcoming meal.  So this has saved me a little frustration. :)
These are just a few of the things I do for the sake of my sanity

What are some of your favorite organizing tips?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On the Ledge

I am going to be honest here.

It has been a tough summer.

Really, the summer has not gone the way I wanted.

Most of it is out of my control.

I started off the summer excited. It was going to be our longest summer ever!  Hooray!  More time to just be. To just enjoy.  Except that things haven't gone that way. And I find myself whining, "This is the longest summer ever..."

Who knew this would be the hottest summer ever? That our grass would crunch under our feet?

The heat, more than once, has squashed some of my summer plans.  I mean, it is too hot to even run over to a swimming hole. Not to mention, there is probably no water IN the swimming hole.

And then there is the job stuff. Don't get me wrong. I support my husband 100% (and more) in his job quest.  And it wasn't like we asked for the changes anyway.  But it has still been a bit stressful.  And it is a big test of faith. Going from a steady paycheck to basically "commission" (not to mention the costs involved with start up)...well, it is a bit unsettling. And new.

And then there is parenthood.  It is not easy.  And this summer, it has been less than easy. I don't want to get into specifics.  I will just say one or more child is experiencing growing pains.  Not physical ones. Emotional ones.  And with that, I am experiencing growing pains too. I am learning new ways to parent.  Some days I feel too old. After all, I should know at this point how to parent. But I don't.  I feel like a piece of clay, stretched and pulled.  And part of me wants to cry. I do some days.  But in the end, I have to believe God is bringing me through the fire to be a vessel for Him. For my kids.  And for others.  And who kids may end up being useful vessels for Him too!

While we did have a trip to the beach (mostly fun but with some kid stress) and a week at my sister's, there are many other things I have not gotten to do that I had hoped.

And now it is winding down.

I find myself on a ledge.

On a ledge looking down below.

Trying not to think about what could have, should have been.

Instead trying to be thankful for what it has been. And for what God has intended it to be even though it wasn't my plans.


That is me.

On the ledge.

Trusting that God will not let me fall.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Comedy of Errors...NOT!

I am back...did you miss me? 


Last Saturday morning we got up earlier than usual for a vacation day (we had been in Florida all week). We finished packing up, cleaned up the house, and loaded the car up.

It was time to leave.

A lot of times I go for a walk on the beach one last time.

But I didn't this year.

I needed to finish some things up.

And I knew it would just make me sad.

I was already sad.

I cannot explain it. 

I just feel at home there.

I have never lived on the beach. I didn't even visit the beach much as a kid. 

But it is like home.

There is a calm.

Even when my children are driving me crazy.

It really is my rejuvenation to help me get through life for the rest of the year.

Don't get me wrong. 

God really does that.

But the memories of the beach, my feet in the sand, the waves lapping at my feet.

All are music to my heart.  Soothing to my soul.  My reminder of who God is.

Anyway, we needed to get on the road.

It had just worked out that Mark's nephew was getting married that night.  Perfect timing!  We were heading that direction.

We even gave ourselves some wiggle room with time.

Plus we gained an hour back due to time zones.

Ready, set, go.

We were on our way.

Except not too long after we left we found ourselves crawling along with a whole lot of other people who were also leaving the area.  And our wiggle room time shortened. 

What should have been a 40 minute drive took about 2 hours I think.

Not long after we got onto the interstate which was moving much smoother, a child announced he/she had to go to the bathroom.

We pulled off and found ourselves in a line of traffic.  Again.

Then we got moving again and I was feeling hopeful.  Maybe, just maybe...though we would be cutting it close.

And then we got near Mobile.

And we were at a turtle's pace again.


Okay, so maybe, just maybe, we could get to Mark's parents, change our clothes, drop off the dog, and head to the reception.

Then it rained.  Hard.

And just when I thought we might make it, we heard a horrible noise and slowed down.

You have got to be kidding me.

A blowout.


If you have read for a while, you may remember this happened to us in Mississippi when we were coming home after Christmas. 

I am beginning to wonder about my van and Mississippi highways.

We pulled over to the first safe area we could, a little side road.

Mark got out to check what had happened.

A few minutes later, I glanced out and saw him wincing.

Oh no.

I hopped out of the car to check on him.

Apparently we not only had a tire blowout.  Hubby also had a knee blowout when he crouched down to look at the tire.

I am so thankful that we had three people (actually five all together) stop by to check on us.

They helped us in a BIG way since hubby couldn't put any weight on his leg and I couldn't get the tire off myself.

God took care of us.

We finally got the little "donut" on then headed back down the road.

Too late for the wedding.  Or the reception.  Not to mention the hubby couldn't even walk.

We at least got to have a nice visit with family after the wedding was over.

The next morning we got a new tire and found some crutches for Mark to use.

And then we headed back on the road again.

Overall, that trip was uneventful compared to the day before.

We still had a moment or two of standstill traffic.

But we finally made it.

Home at last. 

On a positive note, we came home to find the new Arkansas birth certificates of our younger two waiting for us.  Woohoo!

And the vacation is over.

But don't worry...I will be coming back with pictures.  Very soon.

More later.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Breaking News...

I am interrupting my own beach updates to bring some breaking news.

Mark is no longer unemployed.

Yet technically he isn't employed either.

Well, I guess he is.

Just not by someone else.

After looking at several options, praying, and exploring possibilities, we have a decision.

Mark is going to be his own boss.

Yes, self-employed.

He has a company name and everything. (Integrated Solutions Group)

There are still a couple details to work out (the whole paying taxes thing and what to do about health insurance) but otherwise, he is ready to go.

I would love to tell you exactly what he will be doing but I don't know that I can do it justice. :)

I know he will be a consultant for business development for other companies.  He can handle marketing needs.  He is also an excellent lighting designer.  And I think there is more.

Like I said, I can't do it justice.

The funny thing is he has wanted to do this ever since I have known him.

But when we were newlyweds, I couldn't handle that thought of not having a steady income.  Then we had one kid, then two kids.  No way, Jose.  Now we have four kids and a furry pup, and I said, "Go for it..."

And he is.

Looking forward to where God is leading him!