Monday, February 22, 2016

5 Tips to Keeping Your Home Tidy

I like order and enjoy a tidy home.  However, I don't like things sterile.  My house echoes the fact that I have a large family, one with lots of littles.  We can keep our homes in order even in the midst of toddlers and teens by practicing a few daily habits.  Here are my five top tips for keeping things tidy.

1. Make the bed!

It is amazing how clean a room looks when the bed is made.  Once your feet hit the floor in the morning, take two minutes and make your bed.  It gives you a sense of accomplishment and starts your day off right.  Teach your children to do the same.  Put covers/bedding on their beds that are easy for them to pull up and over the pillow.  One Mom I know lets her younger ones use sleeping bags on top of their beds for easy bed making.  :)

2. Contain It!
We have a variety of containers throughout our house in areas where they are most needed.  Collapsible containers from The Christmas Tree shop, stacked on a shelf, provide a wonderful spot for toys. At $1 a piece they are easy on the pocket book and come in a variety of colors that are easy on the eyes.  :)   Wicker baskets, tins, photo boxes... there are so many options.  We use containers in the kitchen to keep utensils together and produce within view.  We use baskets in the living areas to corral the kids toys so they are not all over the floor and are within easy reach so the kids can pick up in no time at all.  We label the containers so the children, and guests, know where items belong.  Example: Label a basket "Cars" or "Candles" depending what the item is you are containing.
Having a place for your items is so helpful.

It has also been awesome to have a container for paper.  We have a hot spot on our counter that seems to collect paper and such.  By putting a pretty box with a lid in that area I can corral all the paper and then go through it on the weekend when I pay the bills.  That way nothing is misplaced/lost and it stays out of sight.  The children even know what to do with paper when they are helping tidy... they just put it in the box.  :)

3. Keep counters clear.
This one is easier said than done in our home.  Our kitchen is the first room you walk into in our abode and we have little counter space.  It is easy for dishes to stack up, papers to collect, and all manner of trinkets to find their way to the counter.  To help with this I keep an empty dishpan under the sink to collect dishes that cannot go immediately into the dishwasher.  I also have the children scan the counters periodically for items that they have placed there.  If I find items that belong to them then they go into a holding  basket for a week unless they earn them back.  I find it much easier to cook dinner and remain to have a sense of accomplishment if my counters are clear.

*Another tip: I keep my dish drying rack off the counter when it is empty so it does not take up such valuable space.  I have a spot for it nearby but it would also fit under my sink if needed or on top of the refrigerator.

4. Have set times during the day where you tidy.

This is not a deep cleaning, this is a quick, efficient tidy.  We set the timer for 15 minutes and we all work together to do a tidy two to three times a day; before school, before Daddy gets home and before bed.  I assign everyone a zone (living room, dining area, kitchen...) and they just pick up what is in that room that needs to be taken care of.  It is really helpful and when we work as a team it is amazing how fast it goes.  We often beat the clock by 5 or more minutes.  Play music to keep the mood light.

5. Focus on a zone.
I have divided our home into zones... the kitchen is a zone, bathrooms are a zone, the living room and dining room are each a zone, and the bedrooms are a combined zone.  Each day we have a specific zone that we focus on and we pamper that area of the house.  We look high and low and notice what needs our attention... cobwebs on the ceiling, finger prints on the windows, dust collecting on the baseboards, this is when we tackle that area.  Again, when we all work together it goes by quickly.  I set the timer, each person has their assignment and we get it done.  When the timer dings we are done.  If everything did not get completed that is alright, we can jump in where we left off next week.  This little sanity saver keeps me from doing a spring cleaning each year.  Now, there are days when we miss a zone and that is alright.  Things happen.  I just start off on the day we are on with the assigned zone.  Example: Mondays are bathrooms, Tuesdays we are in the kitchen, Wednesday it is the dining room and sitting area and so on.  If I miss Tuesdays due to unexpected events then I just pick up with the dining room on Wednesday and we will get back to the kitchen the following week.  :)

These small steps have made life with many littles much more manageable.  Is my house Martha Stewart ready, uh, nope... but it is tidy and still says "love lives here".

Now it is your turn.  Please leave a comment below telling us about some of your tips to keeping order in your home.

Cheering you on,

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Freedom of Being Vulnerable

  The wind sweeps across the field as if looking for something precious.  She swirls the snow with force as she mournfully cries.  I shudder and feel her desperation. Day turns to night and in the light of the moon she's still searching, her pleas reach my ears and I cannot help but feel alone.

 I listen to her lament.

 My soul is unsettled.

 Her song fades into the background as I think about my own pain, my own loss; and like the wind, I search futilely for what I could have said or done differently to prevent the heartache.  Back and forth I scan the events that transpired and the words spoken.  They replay in my mind over and over as I drift off into a restless sleep.  Anxiety rises up like a great wave threatening to crash over me and sweep me out into the dark nothingness.  I cry out for help.  My arm reaches up for safety but no one is there.  The wave crashes over me and I succumb to it's force.  I sink deeper and deeper until I can no longer see the light... my body becomes numb, despair engulfs me and then:

PEACE. Be still.

A light so blinding, so brilliantly white, surrounds me.  A warmth pervades my inner most being.  The sadness, the pain, they are still there but are more like a memory, they do not hold the same sting.  I am placed on solid ground , a blanket is about me as I look out over a gray, green sea and again:

PEACE. Be still.

I awake from my dream, the blankets still clutched tight near my chin.  As I think about events in my life I am reminded that it's not me. There are things and relationships that I cannot fix. In fact, I dare say, I cannot truly fix anything.  The fixing is up to God and currently my role is to just be still and to acknowledge that we all have hurts... vulnerable places that the Lord wants to heal.  However, the true healing, lasting peace, can only begin with surrender.

 Today I surrender control, guilt, pride, shame, fear and the bondage that they bring.

I will try to no longer look in the mirror saying "I am not good enough" because that is a lie.  I AM good enough, good enough for God to die for and adore.  I am worthy not in and of myself, I am worthy because He loves me.

And YOU are worthy!!!

I have been on a quest for authenticity for years.  I honestly desire for people to see the real me.  I try to be transparent with those I know, including you my beloved readers.  Sometimes that means I get hurt.  At those times, I have two options:

1. I can sink back into old habits, covering up those areas of my life that others find offensive in order to find approval.
2. I can continue to be who God has called me to be and to not be ashamed, remembering that my value comes from Him and Him alone and not from my relationships, my ministry, or what I do.

 Ever since I was a little girl I have loved people, have longed for deep relationship and have found joy in serving others.  Fast forward 35 years and so much of that little girl still remains.  There have been bumps, bruises and traumas along the way, but each has been a lesson.  A practice to show compassion or a stumbling block to feed my hurt and anger.  I have unfortunately done both.  However I am more aware now.

I am aware of the vulnerable world we live in and how I am susceptible to it and I am grateful.  I am grateful because I now know that through the pain and the hurt there is also joy and healing.  If I were to numb the pain I would also be numbing the joy for you cannot selectively numb emotion.  It is all or nothing.  So although the trials are hard and painful I am grateful for them because they have taught me how to be free and have shown me that I am valued, I am worthy and I am enough.

I stand before the window, the stars are twinkling across the velvet sky.  I pull the blanket around my shoulders and watch the moon cast it's beams across the frozen field.  I'm vulnerable.. exposed... and yet that is okay because I have peace.

Peace in the stillness.

I stop and listen.. the wind has softened.  The frantic searching is over and her wailing has turned to a soft whisper.  She must have found what she was looking for.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

In the Name of Love

The baby is crying, my toddler is throwing his socks into the trash, our three year old is peeing in the flower garden, my five year old is pulling on my apron to show me the 59th picture she has drawn me today, my seven year old comes in with a bloody gash because of his most recent stunt on his bike, and my fourteen year old has an algebra question that is beyond my capability as I try to throw dinner together and talk to my Mom on the phone.  My brain starts to melt down because it is all so overwhelming.  I peek at the clock and think... he should be home soon and then I can breathe easier.
  Then the cell phone goes off with a text "Sorry, am running late. Job is taking longer than I thought.  Don't hold dinner for me."  Instead of empathizing with what my husband is going through I have a pity party for myself and it is easy to allow resentment to creep in.

It had been a long week of temper tantrums, sleepless nights due to little ones waking up, bandages for boo boos, a malfunctioning dishwasher, a dryer that does not want to dry properly after having it serviced, running errands, teaching school, and a sense of overwhelm that was palpable in the air.

Headlights turn into our driveway and before he finishes parking the vehicle, six souls who call him "Daddy" scramble to the door to greet him.  He enters our home  covered in insulation, sweat, and a bit  bloodied and bruised.  I look at him with concern and he just says "it's nothing to worry about, just a little scratch".  The children obviously are unaware of Daddy's exhaustion as they pounce on him and regale him with stories about their day.
"I can do a new stunt on my bike!"
" I peed in Mommy's flowers."
"I caught a new bug for my collection."
"I made you a card."
"Wanna hear my new joke?"

  He does not complain.  Instead, he welcomes them.

I breathe deeply.

He is home.  Safe.  Thank you Lord.

We don't have a lot of time to connect these days and I confess, there are times where I become resentful and bitter.  There are times where I cry because I want a husband who is able to be more available, who is able to go out on a date night more than once/twice a year.  A husband who can stay awake beside me to talk at night or share a quiet moment once the children are asleep.  Tonight I longed to snuggle up beside him and watch a movie... something other than a Pixar film.  We sit side by side on the couch and press "play".   I knew once I felt his body relax beside me that it was over.  He was gone.  The snoring began and rather than becoming angry, tears filled my eyes.

HardWork by !paddy, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  Hard work by  !paddy 

I studied this man whom I have been married to for sixteen years.

 His beard now flecked with silver, his hands are calloused, spotted with paint, nicked and worn from 12 hour days.  He comes home exhausted from working 65 hours a week and yet he smiles, the laugh lines are evident on his face, that handsome face that captivated me oh so long ago and that still makes my heart beat rapidly.

Here was this man who breaks his body daily to put bread on our table.  He works so hard so  I can be home to teach the children and raise them up with the values we have put into place.  The sacrifice he makes to our family is beyond what I ever imagined.  He sacrifices his sleep and is awake well before the sun rises in order to get to his first job.  Then while I am gathering the children around the table to eat breakfast and do our devotions, he is driving to his second job with hardly any time between shifts to have a break.

I gazed at him next to me and the reality hit me.

I have been so selfish.

I have only seen the piles of extra laundry from working in construction, the unfinished projects because "he is never home", the lack of date nights and cancelled plans because of long hours.  I missed the big picture.

He does all of this because of his vast love for me and our family.

The tears coursed down my cheeks and my teenage son looked across the room at me as if asking "Are you okay?"
 I replied "I just love your Daddy so much."
"I know you do Mom."
Then a voice says groggily "I love you too" before the snoring returns.  My heart breaks as the guilt hits.

He does this for you.

It is not that he wants to be away from us for so long, he does not want to beat up his body every day with such physical labor just to make ends meet, he wants to provide for us and to show us his love by keeping a roof over our heads, food on our table and for me to be able to live out my dream of being at home to be with our beautiful children.

He chooses to sacrifice himself so I can be in this place at this time because it is what is best for our family.

He is a humble man, one who does not complain or whine.  He takes what life hands him and makes the most of it.  He comes home exhausted and pours himself out until there just isn't any more left to give.

I finally get it... finally see the truth rather than my selfish desires.

My darling husband, for all the times I have been exasperated, for all the times I have misunderstood you, and for the times I have simply not recognized how amazing you are... I am sorry.

I love you and cherish you.  Thank you for all that you do for me and our family.

With love,

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Days Are Long

"The days are long, but the years are short."
How true is that quote?!  As a Mom the days are so long and weary that I forget in a few years these days will be gone.  Sure there will be no more fights to break up, Legos to trip over, or sleepless nights.  There will also be no more snuggle time as we read books in bed, late night talks with my teenager,  little dimpled hands holding mine as we walk the field, pockets full of shells to empty from a day treasure hunting at the beach, boo boo's to kiss, game nights, a house full of teenagers laughing contagiously, sweet smiles and little voices saying "I love you Mommy".  These precious ones of mine will grow up quicker than I could ever imagine. As I write this, my oldest is already talking about college, will be driving in a year and is ready to shave.  Where does the time go?

I do not want to become so bogged down by the here and now, the fighting and squabbling, the piles of laundry, the mountain of dishes, and all that make the days long and weary that I am blind to the joy of these fleeting years that are passing before my eyes, like sand in a sieve.  

My children will probably not remember everything we did today, in fact when I look back at my childhood the memories are scattered and few.  However, I DO remember that I was loved and I pray that when my children look back on their childhood years they will remember the same.  Please do take a moment today to read this short post by Anna from Feminine Adventures on Creating a Worldview Through Forgotten Moments, I pray that it inspires and encourages you today as it has me.

Many blessings as you journey through these precious years of motherhood beloved.

By His Grace,

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

She Did What She Could


Mark 14:1-9English Standard Version (ESV)

The Plot to Kill Jesus

14 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,[a] as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

I have always loved this scene.  The perfume that was used to annoint Jesus's feet was worth a full years wages and yet this woman poured it out and wiped his feet with it because she knew who He was.  She wanted to give Him her very best and while others criticized and questioned she went ahead and offered her best to the Lord.  She did what she could.

I try to put into perspective how this applies to me in the here and now.  I have five children (the youngest four are ages seven and under) with a sixth on the way and life is SO busy.  I try to balance household duties, errands, and other tasks as well as finding time to read to my kiddos and snuggle them. Sometimes things go by the wayside. The dishes might be piled up on the counter when my husband walks through the door, there may be three baskets of laundry waiting to be put away, or I may have turned off my phone just so I could read a book undisturbed with the kids. At the end of the day when I survey my surroundings sometimes I have a sinking feeling inside of me because I know that there will be even more dishes to do tomorrow and the clothes still did not get put away and I have four messages that need to be returned. I ask the Lord for His strength and wisdom and I am reminded that

  "She did what she could". 

It was more important for the woman to anoint Jesus and show Him her love rather than sell the precious nard and use the money for other things. She was  rebuked by those who were with Jesus for showing love and respect to the King of Kings.

Do you ever feel like this woman? 

You give something priceless (your time) to those you love (your family) and you may be rebuked for it either from others or from yourself. Do you catch yourself saying "well, maybe if I had not read two stories to the kids I could have done the dishes".

 I second guess myself at the end of the day wondering what I could have cut back on in order to have accomplished everything on my list. I need to remember to focus on what the Lord would have me accomplish in any given day rather than what I want to accomplish.

My desire is to focus on that which is precious in front of me.  The children the Lord has blessed my life with are only here with me for a season - the chores can wait, the phone can wait, the urgencies of this life can all be cast aside for what is truly important.  

Satan LOVES to water and nurture the  seeds of doubt in our minds which allows them to grow into an insecurity that can eat away at our peace and joy. I am not going to be a perfect mom, I am going to make mistakes and fail my children and my family but I am doing what I can to the best of my ability. I am investing my time and energy into my family and hopefully in doing so, I am bringing glory to God.

So next time you walk by the sink of stacked pots and pans, or you trip over the army men in the hall, or push the basket of clothes aside so you can go push your toddler on the swing, nurse a baby, brush your teenage daughter's hair while having a heart to heart... remember that what you are doing is important and worth it.

 May the work of our hands and our hearts be a sweet perfume to the Lord just as the nard was to Jesus, a beautiful gift given from a genuine heart of love.

 May the grace and peace of our precious Savior be with you this week as your train up your children according to His will and purposes.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mommy Must Haves for Babies

Being pregnant with my sixth blessing, other Mommies tend to ask if I have any recommendations for them.  With Mother's Day around the corner I thought I would share  a few Mommy Must Haves that I have come to love and depend on.

222a by, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by 

I am a firm believer in baby wearing.  It makes life so much easier when you can snuggle your little one close and get a few things accomplished around the house, or even just go for a walk.  Nab yourself a carrier of some sort and allow your hands to be free! :)  We use a Moby wrap as well as an Ergo.  Both have saved my back and my sanity and by having multiple carriers I have flexibility.
By using a carrier I am able to go on a long walk, vacuum, do dishes and laundry, play in my garden, grocery shop with both hands, bring the kids to the park, and have many other adventures.  Both the Moby and the Ergo come in a variety of colors/designs from something neutral to something whimsical so you can express your personality while showing off your sweet bundle.

For Sleeping:

I have found the joy in swaddling my babies. Swaddled newborns sleep better and I found it hard to wrap my baby up like a burrito in a receiving blanket.  I just could not wrap my squriming little monkey tight enough . Then I came across these swaddle blankets and now I own five.  They are WONDERFUL.  The velcro helps the blanket stay nice and secure during bedtime which means baby sleeps longer and stays at a constant temperature without becoming unwrapped in the middle of the night.  The fleece ones are a bit too warm for summer babies but work well for winter if you live in a cooler climate.   The Swaddleme blanket keeps baby snug by using velcro so your little wiggle worm cannot squirm free of the confines of her cocoon. Our babies have enjoyed being snug and will sleep longer which means, Momma can sleep longer too.

Adri Atlantis, 2 days old by t r e v y, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  t r e v y 

White noise of some sort is welcome by all in our home. We downloaded Ocean Waves from Itunes for our Ipod.  My kids have always needed a bit of noise while they sleep and something as simple as a sound machine has been a lifesaver for us.

Cloth Diapering:

Fuzzi Bunz Diapers was our first experience with cloth diapers when our second son arrived.  We have been cloth diapering for over seven years now and we still love it.  Our Fuzzi Bunz lasted through three babies before I decided to switch to cotton prefolds and wool covers.  The FB's were in such  excellent condition (even after washing daily for years) that I was able to sell them at a decent price and use part of that money to buy our current diaper system.  For someone just entering the cloth diaper world I would highly recommend a pocket diaper such as Fuzzi Bunz.  They are easy to use and are very close to disposable diapers in their style/ease.

Fuzzi Bunz has excellent customer service as well.  There were a few times we received a defective diaper and all we had to do was contact the company, mail the defective diaper back and they replaced them as well as sending us free inserts/wipes.

We purchased our FB's through  Kelly's Closet... the service has been wonderful and the prices are the best around.  It may look like a lot of money up front but when you consider how much it costs to use disposables (around $3,000 from birth to potty training including disposable wipes) it saves you thousands to buy cloth.

We made the switch to prefolds and wool covers because we wanted pure cotton on our babies skin. We go through Green Mountain Diapers for our cotton prefolds and buy Disana covers via amazon.

Both Kelly's Closet and Green Mountain Diapers have excellent customer service and a wealth of information on their sites to encourage you in your diapering journey as well as wonderful FAQ to help you along the way.  If you have any questions I would be more than happy to share with your our cloth diapering journey.  Just zip me an email by clicking "email me" in the sidebar or post a comment below with your question(s).

Natalie & Fluff Stash by moohaha, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  moohaha 
Ever since the beginning of our cloth diapering journey we have been using Charlies Soap.  It is great for cloth diapers and you can use it for all of your laundering needs.  We purchase a 32 lb bucket and it lasts us almost 2 years.  We use it for all of our laundry and wash 3 loads a day.  A little goes a LONG way.  We have children with sensitive skin so this laundry soap has been a perfect fit for our family and leaves my laundry fresh and clean without harsh chemicals.

Another nice investment when using cloth is a diaper sprayer.  This little gadget hooks right up to your toilet and works like the sprayer in your kitchen sink that you use for your dishes.  The sprayer comes in handy to knock off the ickies into the toilet, especially once baby starts on solid foods.

For Nursing:
 My nursing pillow is invaluable to me... these wonderful inventions really help with comfort while bonding with your sweet babe.  I bring mine to the hospital when I go into labor so I can have it after birth and it stays with me at all times until my little one is weaned.

My Brest Friend nursing pillow is my  bedside companion.  I used to be a die hard Boppy fan until I discovered this sturdy pillow.  With the Boppy I had to prop pillows all around me while using it so my boys could get a proper latch.  With the Brest Friend it is made of foam so it is not super squishy and it has raised bumps for baby's head to make for a comfortable latch.  The pillow also has a plastic buckle so you can fasten it securely behind you and my favorite part... it has lumbar support.  For those of us with ferocious nursers it is nice to have that extra support for our backs when we spend half of our day nursing those first few months. If your baby spits up a lot consider purchasing an extra slipcover.

The Bebe au Lait nursing cover is one of my favorite purchases as a breast feeding Momma.  Not only is it beautiful to use but it is practical and such a security saver.  When I nursed the boys I would cover up with a blanket and they would tug it off... since the Bebe au Lait cover is placed around your neck and is secured with a D-ring, the kiddos cannot yank it off.  Plus there is a rigid, plastic curve at the top of the cover so air can reach your baby and you can peek on your precious one while nursing.  That little piece of plastic is what makes Bebe Au Lait stand out from other nursing covers I have seen... it is great to be able to look in on baby PLUS it keeps your little one from getting all sweaty.
The nursing cover has been especially wonderful to have when out in public and I have received many compliments on it.  There are a variety of fabric choices from funky to feminine and the material is top quality.  There are also terry cloth pockets sewn on the inside of the cover for you to stash a pacifier, burp rag, or nursing pads.

 I also recommend grabbing a stack of Gerber prefold diapers.  They are a plain, white cotton that is nice and thick and are perfect to use as burp rags.  They are affordable and useful well after nursing, they make the best dust rags around!  :)  Or, you can use them as doublers for night time if you are cloth diapering your baby.

Nursing tank tops are a necessity for a new Mom. I have a rotation of five tank tops and I wear them underneath my shirts rather than by themselves as I am rather conservative when it comes to fashion.  The tank tops are comfortable and are easy to use one handed.  I wear these shirts every day while nursing and I wear them while I am pregnant since they are long and can cover my belly bump and keep it from being cold. They have stood the test of time and are definitely worth investing in.  It is hard to find a bra that fits AND is comfortable, especially once your milk comes in,  I have found that using the nursing tanks I do not need a bra underneath as they provide support and coverage. Plus it is  easy with the nursing tops to find one that fits and they are very easy to nurse in.

These tanks by Gilligan & O'Malley have proven to be of good quality as well as comfortable and stylish.  Mine lasted me about two years and I wore them daily.  I then upgraded to nursing tank tops from  GlamourMom.  These tanks are pricey so I wait until they go on sale but the support they give "the girls" is astounding and so far they have lasted me the past three years and i have worn them daily for that time.

A bottle of Lansinoh will quickly become your breast, I mean, best friend.  I used this cream profusely the first few weeks of nursing while my body became used to a little person being attached to me like a Hoover vacuum.  Lansinoh is made of lanolin (a.k.a. sheep sweat).  It is completely safe for Mom and baby and you do not need to remove it before nursing.  It is wonderfully soothing.  My reccomendation is to buy two tubes of this magical cream, one for your nightstand and one for the diaper bag.

Breast Pads.
Wish I had a wonderful brand to recommend.  I have yet to find ones that are 100% perfect, they tend to show through clothing at times.  However, I do prefer the cloth, washable ones over disposable.  I think cotton pads are more comfy and the fact that you can wash and reuse them is great.  I purchased mine off of ebay.  I bought 5 pairs for $10 including shipping.  They have worked well but are not always the most discreet.

Soothing gel pads are a life saver for those first few weeks with a newborn.  These disposable, cooling gel pads from Lansinoh are a must have when you begin nursing.  They are a bit of an investment but I only needed to use them the first two weeks while my body adjusted to having a little leech on it at all times.

Breast Pump:
 I have an Avent Isis and I love it.  I have had it since my first son was born, thirteen years ago, and it has worked great with all of my babies.  It is affordable, manual (the electric ones scare the bejeebers out of me), and has stood the test of time.  Not to mention it is comfortable, believe it or not.  :)  If you are a woman who has been blessed with a larger chest then you may want to invest in some inserts that attach right to your pump.  I use the inserts from  Pumpin' Pal,   They come in three different sizes and work beautifully for those times when you are engorged or just have gone up a size.  Having the inserts have saved me from much discomfort.  They are affordable and easy to use.

we use standard Gerber glass bottles.
 Nothing fancy, easy to clean/sterilize.

Baby Accessories:
I find that you do not really need a whole lot of accessories for babies.  I tend to bathe little babies in the sink or in a large bowl until they are able to use the tub.
Most play mats and marketed baby items are over stimulating for my kiddos so I just stick the basics... a blanket on the floor with a few toys scattered about.  You will find that kids enjoy playing with simple things the most anyway rather than noisy items.  With that being said, there are a few items that I have found I cannot be without.

A well made diaper bag:
This versatile bag by LL Bean holds enough necessities for a newborn and a toddler without being overly huge.  Plus, it comes in a variety of colors that do not scream "baby".  I am not a person who wants to tote around a diaper bag with the cow jumping over the moon.  I want something that is neutral and can serve a purpose outside of being a tote for diapers.  The LL Bean diaper bag is labeled as a "diaper bag" but can be easily used as a messenger bag as your  child grows.  Superb LL Bean quality, affordable price, stylish looks, and it meets all of my picky standards.  Definitely a keeper in my book.

portable high chair  is a wonderful item to have.  We had been given a very nice Eddie Bauer high chair but the thing was HUGE and hard to clean.  It was pretty to look at but that was about it.  we found that we got much more use out of our inexpensive, multi-colored portable high chair.  It was small, folded up so it was compact and easy to travel with, and plastic = very easy to clean.  It has done the job for the last decade so why mess with a good thing.

When our little ones are older I have found some kind of a play station invaluable.  I do not invest in a play mat or other accessories because they outgrow them so quickly but someone purchased an activity center for us when our second child was born and it was awesome.  It takes up space, which is the only downside, however it keeps baby in one spot while Momma is cooking and is well worth the money in my opinion.

A stroller/ car seat.
We have never used an umbrella stroller so I cannot vouch for them but a good, solid stroller is necessary when Momma wants to take a walk or do a small shopping trip.  When we had our first son we loved the Graco stroller (similar to the one in the link).  The infant car seat fits right inside of it and once they outgrow the car seat the stroller is still wonderful until they are old enough to walk by themselves.  Now that we have two stroller monkeys, we have a double stroller which is nice but it is not as easy to maneuver as the single stroller.  All in all, I find Graco to be the best brand for strollers/car seats.

What are some of your Mommy (or Daddy)  favorites outside of chocolate and a good book?  Please leave your ideas below in the comment section.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

YOU are the Best Mom for your Children.

It is easy to feel isolated in a world of busyness.  The tugs and demands of everyday life seem to take over at times - the baby is crying and needs to be fed, laundry is taunting me from the corner, the dishes stacked on the counter are waiting for a sudsy bath... come to think of it, when was the last time I bathed our five year old?  Can I throw her in with the dishes and tackle two tasks at the same time?

There are days when the thoughts creep into the recesses of my mind and it starts with a whisper that, if not squealched, becomes louder and Louder and LOUDER until I start believing "I am a failure".  "I am incompetent because I cannot keep up with the demands of every day life".

Oh how I long for a mentor on days like this.  Someone who can take my hand during this season of busyness of having lots of littles and tell me it will be okay.  Someone who can share stories of ink drawings on walls, spilled milk, sibling rivalry, lack of sleep, and finances that are stretched so thin you know it is only by the grace of God that you remain where you are.  Unfortunately, not everyone has the blessing of a flesh and blood mentor and so when I have days of longing/needing like this I try to turn my eyes to the Lord and call a close friend who is also in the thick of it and have her pray with me.

I cannot help but smile when I think of how the Lord knows what we need, when we need it.

Photo from pixabay
 Last week I had had a trying day with the children.  ( I have five blessings with our sixth due in eight weeks.  The youngest four came about in six years so we have a whole bunch of little people in our house.)  I raised my voice, I cried, and I thought about how inadequate I was as a mother.  I tried redeeming what Satan was attempting to destroy but it was still not a joyfilled day as I had hoped it would be.  That night while getting ready for bed my seven year old came up to me and wrapped his arms around my waist.  He looked into my eyes and said "Momma, you are the best Mom ever".  My heart almost stopped.  Didn't he see the same woman this morning having a big girl tempertantrum over chores not done?  Didn't he hear the same woman spouting and sputtering under her breath as she cleaned up the third spill in twenty minutes?

My response came from a heart of guilt...
"Oh baby, if I was the best Mom ever then I would not lose my cool like  I did today.  You deserve a better Mommy... one who doesn't get upset as much."
My boy, my seven year old, with his wavy white blond hair and brilliantly blue eyes looked up at me hurt and spoke sternly.
"Don't ever say that Mom.  Don't ever say that you aren't the best Mommy because when you do, it sounds like there are other Moms out there for me and... well... there isn't.  You are the only Mom for me and even when you are upset, you are still the best and I love you."

I swallowed the lump in my throat and with a wavering voice, apologized to my darling son who spoke so much life into me that I do not know if he will ever know the impact of his words in that dimly lit hallway as we stood together in our pajamas.  The fact of the matter is that he loves and forgives me even when I am an idiot, just like the Lord does.  He loves me with my many shortcomings and flaws and does not want anyone else to be his Mommy other than me.

 The woman at the grocery store who has the perfect figure, perfect hair and makeup and she walks about pointing out the colors to her toddler who giggles with delight may be a wonderful Momma and seem to be all put together but that is not the Mommy he wants to tuck him in at night.  The Mommy who can put her children in as many extracurricular programs as they want and buy them a toy when they ask for it  because she has the means to may be such a fun Momma but that is not who he wants pushing him on the swingset in our yard.  The Momma who is always smiling, who speaks calmly in the midst of chaos and trying times, and who appears to have the patience of a saint may be an amazing Mom but that is not who he wants by his side when life comes crashing in.  He wants me... with my ever changing figure, my quirky personality, my homemade crafts and zany science experiements that don't always work.  He wants me even when I crash and crumble in front of him because of my own sins and he sits next to me as I pray and seek forgiveness.  The other Moms may be wonderful but they are not ME and your children want the same.  They don't want the perfect Mom because she is not going to show them why they need Jesus. They don't want the "other" Moms, even though they may be awesome Mommies to their children, they are not you!  They want you... with all of your flaws and brokeness and bad breath and crazy hair days.  They want you even when you lose your cool and say words you wish you could take back, they want you to be their Momma even when you just don't feel like it.

And that my friends... is what we call the gift of grace.  We all have rough days and we can beat ourselves up relentlessly and then God reminds us, sometimes through our beautiful children, that there is only one Momma in this world for these precious ones He has blessed us with.

You are doing a GREAT job!  You may not have a mentor to pat you on the back (or maybe you do in which case... give her a big ol' hug from me!)  and keep pouring encouragement into you but you have a Savior who hears your heart even if you have a hard time speaking it out loud to Him.  You have children who are watching in the wings and waiting... waiting for that chance to give you a hug or a smile to let you know that YOU are the best for them.

Lifting you up today,