Wednesday, July 06, 2011

How Does this Happen?

When I was the mom of just two, I remember seeing this picture:

After gasping, then laughing hysterically (because they are not my children), I could not for the life of me figure out how something like that could happen.  I mean, c'mon!  Where was the mother??? 

Then I had two more children.  Who were not like my first two children.  At all.

They do their part to help me understand how things like that happen. Even with me here.

Today, Jace decided that drawing on himself ...

AND our leather sofa
with a PEN 

was a good idea.

While I *thought* he was watching a movie.  The older three were playing Uno at the kitchen table.  And, I was cleaning out the refrigerator.  We weren't even technically out of the room!

Thankfully, we have a family friend who restores leather.  He told me to use alcohol to get the ink out.  I have witch hazel and hydrogen peroxide in my house.  But no alcohol.  Of course.  So, I ran to Walgreens and bought a rather large bottle.
After using nearly half the bottle

My sofa now looks like this:
Well, that's better.  Don't ya think?

Thankfully, Eddie is out of town.  He would have a stroke!  Even more thankfully, the leather-master-family-friend is coming tomorrow to (PLEASE, Lord!) restore the color.  I'm hoping that by the time Ed gets home, this will all be funny.  In the meantime, today would not be the day to check my blog, honey.  :)

Thanks to reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, I somehow moved uncharacteristically quickly from "OH NO! OH MY GOSH! OH NO! I'm gonna throw up" panic-mode


"Thank you, Lord, for this little ornery boy. Even with ink on my sofa, I'm thankful for him. I'm thankful to have a sofa.  And a friend who restores leather.  For the ability to run to Walgreens to buy alcohol.  For the elbow grease needed to rub ink out for an hour and a half."  Many gifts in the midst of frustration.  Always.  We just have to see.  Oh, how I want that to become my natural reaction.
If you haven't read that book, you should.  Just don't get your 3 year old to write on the sofa to see if its changed you.  I don't recommend that.

Hopefully, I will have some "just like new" photos to post after tomorrow. {fingers crossed}

Friday, June 10, 2011

Command Central

I posted a picture of our new "command central" on facebook this morning and had no idea how much attention it would get.  I'm glad I'm not the only one who needs this!   As suggested in the fb comments, I'm posting the details here  :)
This past year has not been pretty.  Behaviorally, my kids have fallen apart.  Bad attitudes and disobedience abound.  As the mature, responsible parent that I am, I've responded by nagging, yelling, threatening - all of it in completely unpredictable patterns.  :) 

One of the benefits of having lots of kids (if you consider 4 a lot) is many hands to do the work!  But, when I have to nag and whine and yell just to get them to dress themselves, it doesn't feel much like help.  Our old system wasn't cutting it anymore - mainly because I didn't "inspect what I expect" (love that phrase!), so I had to find a way to build in accountability for me as well.

I've told y'all before I'm not creative.  I have very few original ideas - and this is no different :)  I have been "collecting" ideas from several places (here, here, here, here and here) for the past few weeks and combined them into something that will work for our family.  I've purchased pre-made chore charts and such before.  I didn't want to spend any money this time and I wanted something that would combine chores, behavior, family rules, scheduling, the whole shebang into one system, while being easy for me.  'Cause, at the end of the day, if its not easy it won't last! 

Big picture:
 I glued baseball card protector pages with the side & one end cut off to a poster board so they act as pockets.  The craft sticks have the kids' chores written on them.  Once a week, I place the sticks in the appropriate pocket.  The kids pull the stick(s) for that day, complete the work and leave the stick in the kitchen, so I know the work is ready for inspection (accountability for me!).  Once it passes inspection, they put the stick in their bucket (our kids have been color-coded for some time, so they know which one is theirs - though it would be cute to label it. Target generally sells the buckets in their $1 section).  These are all unpaid chores - work they do to contribute to the family (I really like Dave Ramsey's philosophy on this).  If they complete this work (without reminders, complaining, etc), they are allowed to choose a paid chore from a bucket I keep in the kitchen.  Sundays are pay day.  They receive their weekly "commission" as well as any money they earned from paid chores.  The white bucket contains extra chores (or "trouble chores" as Jadyn calls them) and they are used for behavior issues related to our family rules (below). 

Family Rules:
 I boiled all our rules down to one word:  R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  :)  Respect for parents, siblings, property, others & self.  Each heading has some more detailed examples of what it looks like.  You can download ours here.  If they break a rule, they go to the chart and accept their discipline and read the Bible verse(s) associated with it.  If they break the same rule again that day, they move on to the Motivator (including extra chores).  This has made discipline consistent.  No need for me to yell, nag, threaten, etc ... and no need for them to get angry with me over unfair punishments I'm doling out just because I'm grumpier than the last time the same behavior occurred.  This week has been much calmer and happier for all of us!

Weekly Schedule
 I added a dry erase weekly schedule I found at Target. It has a space for each family member, which I love. Our weeks get really busy, so this will come in very handy in the fall! Its on a magnetic board where I've hung different schedules - like the pool hours and church activities!  Summer stuff for now, but it will hold kids' activity schedules in the fall).  The board is also a dry erase board, so I've listed their weekly "commission" - and the breakdown of giving, saving and keeping. 

Morning Routine:

 This is the same for all of them and for each day, so I wrote it on the poster board.  On Sunday, I will decide if they earned their stick for the week (meaning they did their morning routine without reminders all week).  If they do not earn it, they do not get paid for any paid chores they may have done. 

Evening Routine:
They love to spend time with Ed and me in the evenings - sitting & talking, playing games, reading books, etc.  The sooner they complete their evening routine, the more time they get with us.  We used to do room cleaning in the mornings, but it drives Ed batty to put the kids to bed in a messy room and I like the idea of teaching them to go to bed with their things tidy.  They also have mom and dad time to look forward to which seems to be a much bigger incentive to work quickly than school time.  Lol.  Jake has had his room cleaned before dinner every night this week! *Hmmm .... I wonder which kid's love language is quality time??*  :)

If I was going to do it again, I would write the days of the week at the top of each pocket (as they get covered up by the sticks where I wrote them).  I was planning to use library pockets, but didn't have enough (and didn't want to spend money, remember?).  I think they might look a bit more tidy (and I do like tidy!).  Also, command hooks would hold the buckets better than the giant thumbtacks I used that leave equally giant holes in the wall (but, again, using what I already had).  I would have also used a colored poster board instead of white.  But, all of this is purely cosmetic.  I plan to hang a file holder under the calendar to hold other papers we may need as well.   Oh, the extra bucket up high holds dry erase markers, eraser, etc.  I didn't want to be hunting for those when I need them!

It is working beautifully for us so far!  I hope it helps some other mamas!  If you have some ideas, PLEASE share in the comments!  :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

I have been MIA in blog-land for over three months now. This blog has suffered some droughts in the past, but none quite this long, I don't think!
I just haven't been myself lately. I love blogging and I really want to get back to it. This is the closest thing I have to a scrapbook. Blogging makes me think more about taking pictures and capturing sweet moments with my family. Hopefully, this is the start of getting back in the game! :)

I have been dreading this month since one year ago today when Jackson passed away.

I will never forget waking up at 3am April 11, 2010 in a panic about him. I truly believe God was telling me he was gone. I tried all morning to get him to move. I felt like I was going nuts, but desperate to feel him kick. By noon, I told Ed ... and life felt like it began swirling out of control from then on. One of the most painful memories of that day was watching Ed's face as my midwife moved the doppler around my belly, searching for a heartbeat. I will never forget the pain of watching his heart break into a million pieces when she didn't find one. It was almost as hard as losing my baby boy.
There are still some hard days left to get through this month, including Jackson's birthday on the 20th.
I know the first year is the hardest, so I'm looking forward to getting beyond that milestone. I trust that God is and will continue to bring good out of even this, the most painful heartbreak of my life.
We would covet your prayers for us this month!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Burns!

Last night, my little brother, Erin got married!!  We were so thrilled to be part of their special day.  We're even more jazzed about *officially* welcoming Beth into our family!  

All of the wedding festivities were wonderful. Everything went off without a hitch. The bride was beautiful - and the groom looked pretty good, too ;)

My kids did a great job as ring bearers and flower girls - and were adorable (or so I thought!).  I can't wait to see some pictures.  Somehow in the hustle and bustle of it all, I didn't get a single picture on my camera (or phone)  :/  Hopefully, I'll have some to post soon.

I hope they had a great time and will always remember the love and devotion they felt yesterday.  Even on the days they don't particularly like each other.  :)  I know they can't imagine a day like that right now, which is just as it should be.

We were so honored to be included and are so thrilled for them as they begin the amazing journey of marriage. 

Congratulations, honeymooners!  We love y'all and are very happy for you!

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 from the rearview

I'm cracking myself up over the title of this post.  This year has felt a bit like a rear view, ifyouknowwhatImean. 

For those of you who only visit my blog once a year, here's the recap ... if you'd like the abbreviated version, check facebook for my 'year in status updates.' 
For the ladies, here's the longer, slightly more detailed version:

We won’t be sad to say goodbye to 2010.  Even though a new year can't change circumstances, there are just some years that seem more deserving of a swift kick in the pants, ya know?
We began 2010 excited about Sustala baby #5 joining our family! We learned we were having a boy and named him Jackson Erin, after Ed’s grandfather, Pawpaw Jackson and my youngest brother, Erin. Sadly, Jackson was stillborn at 24 weeks due to a cord entanglement. As you can imagine, it has been a difficult journey to grieve the loss of our little boy. As always, God has been present in every detail. His hand has been evident at every turn. I’ve tried to write about our grief and the journey of faith it has required on this blog in hopes that it may one day minister to someone else. This has been the loneliest journey of my life – even though I know I'm not alone.  Ed and I are both surprised at just how difficult losing Jackson still is – even eight months later. The pain that lingers is not something we could have anticipated. Our children have struggled through this in their own ways – they mention Jackson frequently and say often they wish he had lived. Jadyn got upset when I was talking with a woman I didn't know.  When she asked how many children I have, I answered, "Two boys & two girls." (I don’t feel comfortable burdening everyone I meet with what happened)  Jadyn exclaimed, “MOM! You have THREE boys!!!” Awkward…but precious nonetheless.   It warms my heart how they embrace him as part of our family.  In the picture above, Jordan is holding our "Jackson-bear" because we wanted him represented somehow.
This year also marked having three official homeschoolers! That has been quite the adventure, but still remains a beautiful, wonderful fit for our family. I have enjoyed the time I get to spend with each of the kids one-on-one as well as the time we have together as a family. The flexibility it provides has come in very handy (again) this year as well!

The kids have had a busy year. Jordan (10) joined a homeschool choir called Joyful Sound! I continue to be amazed at the doors God opens for her! She gets to do her two favorite things:  sing and dance!  She has also had a lot of orthodontic work – which will continue next year with braces, as we work to correct her under bite and hopefully improve articulation.
Jacob (8 ½) has taken his soccer interest to a new level, playing junior select soccer. He loves the professional coaching and the seriousness of the players.  If he sees a ball, you can bet his feet are on it - juggling, kicking, something!  He continues to excel in academics, especially math. He is in his second year of cub scouts, as a bear. 
Jadyn (5 ½) is in Kindergarten and is into all things creative. She has been lucky enough to participate in one of the Joyful Sound! show choirs with Jordan as well as taking gymnastics.
Jace (2 1/2) is a short and stocky, happy, extremely busy little guy who loves music, trains, balls and anything his big sisters and brother are doing! He makes us laugh every single day.  It took him a while to start talking in more than single syllable words, but now we can't shut him up! 

Despite (or more likely because of) the heartbreak this year, we have been able to get away a little.  Ed and I went to San Antonio a couple times, went to Dallas and made a trip to Chicago.  We also rented a beach house in Galveston with the kids in May, which was just heavenly!!  It was so wonderful, we're hoping to make it an annual event. 

We are ending this year bitter sweetly...
Bitterly, we are saying goodbye to Ed’s sister, Stacey & her family as they move to Southeast Asia. It’s a wonderful opportunity for their family, so we are excited for them, but sad for ourselves!
We are also working on repairs to our house after a recent flooding episode. You can read more about that here.  :/
Sweetly, we are looking forward to my brother, Erin’s wedding in three weeks!! We are honored to participate in the day as a bridesmaid, groomsman, flower girls and ring bearers :)  We look forward to ‘officially’ welcoming Beth into our family!

As difficult as this year has been, we know God only has good plans for us – and He will be faithful to bring good even out of our suffering. We pray that you will sense His blessings and provision in your lives as well!

Merry Christmas, blog friends!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

No grey matter here!

As has become customary, it is feast or famine around this blog! 

Very little grey matter here.  :)

Here's the high (and low) lights of the last few weeks. 

The day after Thanksgiving, our family was decorating for Christmas.  About half-way through decorating the tree, Ed said, "Why are there wet footprints on the floor???"

We searched for the cause of wetness - checking the usual places:  Jace's diaper (the kid has serious talent) and wet socks.  No dice.  Then, Jake exclaims, "Dad!  There's a giant puddle over there!"

*cue parent freak out*

The puddle appears to be coming from our bedroom/bathroom, so naturally Ed runs that direction.  To find our bedroom carpet and bathroom floor soaking wet along with dripping water coming from our closet ceiling.  :) 
Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas! a big ol' mess!

Ed runs upstairs to the bathroom above ours where he discovers a flooded bathroom which clearly originated from a sink that had the drain plugged (by a washcloth), the water turned on full blast (and of course, the door closed).  The water ran from the bathroom to Jace's room on one side and the gameroom (AKA our school room) on the other :/

All eyes immediately turn to Jadyn.  Funny (or not) how in times like that, everyone knows exactly who the culprit is.  In most homes, you might assume the two year old.  Cause two year olds do stuff like that. 
In our home, we have a Jadyn.  Cute as a button she may be.  But the child does not think through her actions.  She is impulsive, creative and curious - not a good combination.  I've decided that God has provided Jadyn to be sure I never become prideful as a parent.   :/ 

Long story short - the majority of our carpet has to be replaced along with the {brand new} hard wood floors in our family room as well as some sheet rock, paint & door frame repairs.  Mostly a giant inconvenience at the most expensive time of year - and, y'all, homeowner deductibles are freaking high!!!  I guess since Ed works in auto insurance and I think of the typical auto deductible being around $500, I just assumed it would be $500 - $1000.   La la land is where I was a livin!   Wish I could go back!  ;)

The other biggies around here - I can't remember if I've mentioned or not, but Jordan joined a Christian homeschool choir called Joyful Sound!  Amazing that she can be included in such a thing ... just another example of how God continues to open doors for her that I couldn't have imagined ten years ago!  Not only is Jordan in the choir, but she is also in one of the show choirs, so she gets to do her two favorite things - sing AND dance!  :)  It turned out they were in need of another child in the show choir and Jadyn just happened to be in the back at rehearsal, learning the dance, so her lucky little self got to join the show choir for the Christmas performance, even though she's not technically quite old enough!!
At any rate, Joyful Sound! does ministry concerts the first two weeks of December - all over Houston to all sorts of people/groups/places.  We are talking about 3-6 concerts per DAY!  Amazing outreach to so many - and I was beyond excited to participate this year.  The girls were loving every minute of it! 
A couple days into ministry season, Jordan was struck by a stomach virus.  Thankfully, it only lasted a couple days, but as soon as she was well, it hit me, Jace and Jadyn - and by yesterday Jake was in the mix as well :(  Its been a long week, but everyone appears to be on the mend (assuming Ed doesn't become the final victim!).   The worst part has been missing so many concerts.   We still have the big Christmas concert this weekend and next week for ministry, so still plenty to look forward to!

I hope things are a little less eventful at your place :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Family Pictures

A few weeks ago, we had our family pictures made by Joe Heiliger.   He will forever have a special place in my heart.

In addition to having his own photography business, Joe is also a volunteer photographer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep - a worldwide organization that ministers to parents suffering the loss of a baby through free professional photography services.  Our family was blessed in a way I can't even describe by Joe and NILMDTS! 

Getting family pictures made was bittersweet for me, but we included our "Jackson-bear."  He is a favorite with the kids and it seemed appropriate to represent him.  We could not have asked for more beautiful weather and the pictures turned out great!  These are a couple of my favorites:

Our beautiful family
Adorable kiddos
Jacob, Jace, Jadyn, Jordan
Oh, how I love my family!  I feel immensely blessed and thankful!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Six Months

Six months can seem like a lifetime.  Or the blink of an eye. 

These past six months have been a mixture of both for me.  It feels like a lifetime of swimming in a turbulent sea of grief ... and like the blink of an eye since I held my baby boy for the first and only time.

It sure seems like six months ought to be long enough. 

It ought to be long enough that the thought of Jackson doesn't bring tears to me eyes. 

It ought to be long enough that I don't get choked up writing about him. 

It ought to be long enough that I don't think about every "first" without him. 

It ought to be long enough that my arms don't still ache to hold him.

It ought to be long enough that I don't feel a lump in my throat at the sight of a pregnant mama. 

It ought to be long enough that seeing my children together doesn't remind me he's missing.

It ought to be long enough that I don't still cry myself to sleep some nights.

It ought to be long enough that the sight of a new baby boy doesn't take my breath away.

It ought to be long enough that I don't flinch when I hear the joyous news of another baby's arrival.

It ought to be long enough that anniversaries don't feel so painfully raw. 

It ought to be long enough.

It just ought to be. 

But, it's not.  At least not for me. 

And that's OK.  'Cause six months have passed in the blink of an eye.

I love you with all my mommy-heart, Jackson Erin.  I will never forget you - or stop missing you.  Until I hold you in my arms again. 

Friday, October 08, 2010

"Journey with Jordan" 2010

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  If you read my blog, you're probably already aware of Down Syndrome.  Our goal is to make everyone aware of what is possible despite Down Syndrome. 

October is also that time of year when we start looking forward to the annual Buddy Walk!

We had an incredible "Journey with Jordan" team last year and I'm hoping we can pull it off again this year!

This year the walk is FREE to participate in!  We would be honored if you would join "Journey with Jordan" Saturday, November 6, 2010 @ 1pm at Jones Plaza in Downtown Houston.  Even if you aren't available to walk, please consider supporting our team through a donation!

Check out our Buddy Walk page here to register to walk and/or donate:

Thank you for supporting our beautiful Jordan and in helping us raising awareness about Down Syndrome! 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

10 Years

I can hardly believe it.  I have a 10 year old! 

 This beautiful, amazing, silly, wonderful, smart girl came into my life 10 years ago today and while sadness and grief reigned for the night, JOY came in the morning!
She is, in many ways, a constant reminder of God's goodness.  Of His provision.  Of His mercies and love.  When I think back to this day ten years ago, I am reminded of the immense sadness I felt about her diagnosis.  But, I'm also reminded of the love for her that washed over me.  A powerful love like I could not have imagined before that day.   I'm so blessed to have experienced the power of that love with four more children.  But, my sweet Jordan was the beginning of it all. 

I love you so much, Jordan-bug!  Happy 10th Birthday, Beautiful! 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Organized Mom Series: Part 4: Organized Places

First of all, I want to say that I am blown away by the response from this series! Thank you for the encouragement and I'm so glad it is helping so many of you!   I'm running low on ideas, so if you have some topics you'd like me to talk about, let me know. 

Now, for organizing all the stuff!

I like the things that live in my home to have a home.  A place to be when not in use.  I know people that are far more rigid about this than I am and others that are far more lax about it. Which must make me the "happy medium."  :)  We are all different and just like everything else we've talked about in this series, the important thing is finding what works for your family in a way that lines up with the priorities God has for you. For me, its about teaching my kids to be good stewards of what we own; making things easy to find when we need them, while keeping the clutter to a minimum.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that cleaning out closets or drawers, organizing, creating storage solutions, etc is like pure therapy for me. When I'm stressed, I clean stuff out! I purge, I move things around, I reorganize, I straighten ... and then ... I feel all better. Or at least a little better.  {Guess what I've been doing like crazy the past few months? ahem.}

I recognize its my way of coping with things I can't control.

Like life.

But, I digress.

Generally speaking, I like to keep 'like with like' and store it near where it is used/needed. Say, for example, dishes in the kitchen and toilet paper in the bathroom ... that kind of thing. :)   Its not rocket science, but sometimes it does require some thought

I also try to have a purpose in mind for each room.  Obviously, most rooms have an implied purpose, but I try to zoom in on that a bit.  Basically a way for me to evaluate what goes into the room.  For example, in our study, we have a large bookcase that houses most of our books and games as well as my craft supplies and some office supplies.  If it doesn't fit into one of those categories (or isn't pretty to look at it), it has to live somewhere else.   I try to keep my laundry room down to things used for small storage, cleaning, laundry or getting out the door.   Rooms can quickly become dumping grounds if they don't have some "ground rules."

Not only do I like tidy, but I married a man who also prefers it.  He's worse than me.  If he had his rathers, our house would not look like children live in it.  Let's just say he's not a fan of toys-strewn-about.  Or play kitchens in the breakfast room.  Or playdoh on the table.  Or toys out-of-place. 

Fan or not, this is his current reality.  But, in the spirit of happily-ever-after, I try to appease him as much as possible.  We usually do a quick put-everything-away-that-appears-childlike straighten before he comes home in the evening.  And, I've found that as long as the family room is tidy, he endures the rest. 
At the end of the day, I want him to find our home peaceful and relaxing; a haven.  We keep our library books and video games in the family room, but otherwise, child-paraphernalia is housed elsewhere. 

Which I think is sorta funny ... I mean it is called the family room after all!   :) 

And lest he sound like an ogre, Ed is a really fun dad.  He just likes to pretend the kids don't exist after they hit the hay.  :)  Its how he unwinds.  So, even though I may not totally understand his need, I still try to respect it. 
I'm up for sharing room-by-room organization/storage ideas - if anyone is interested.  If there's a particular place you want details on, say the word.  I'm not an expert by any means, but I do enjoy it and I'll happily share what works for me! 

From Jacob

Hi, this is Jacob. My mom said I could write a note on her blog.  I am selling popcorn for cub scouts.  If you want to buy some click here
Thank you for helping me!

Thursday, September 02, 2010


I find it interesting that things can be so hidden in plain sight.  How, once revealed, they seem so obvious and unmistakable.  Yet, they were unseen. 

I think God knows how much truth we can handle.  For a level of maturity, a season or even our whole lives.  He knows how easily we get overwhelmed.  Certainly, if he had shown me 20 years ago that this would be my life, I would have run screaming the other direction.  I wouldn't have felt capable.  I might have ended up in the belly of a whale.  Or something.  I am thankful He reveals little pieces at a time.  Because small pieces are still a lot to take in!  And, I'm grateful He is faithful to equip us for the journey He calls us to.  Even though I still wanna run screaming some days!  :)

There have been two overriding themes of God's work in my life the past couple years that have come into laser focus the last few months.  One centers around lies about God I have bought into.  Lies that I think are perpetuated by the church.  By 'the church,' I'm referring to the modern, American Christian church as a whole.  The other is about me.  Me, me, me, me, me and me.  Selfishness.  Interestingly enough, God has intertwined the two and revealed just how selfishly I view Him

The past few years, I've grown weary of church.  I don't mean the building or even the people.   I mean all the canned, Americanized answers for God.  All the legalism disguised and described as faith, obedience and blessings.   Everything tied up with a nice, neat little bow - while anything that doesn't fit in the little box gets ignored.  The idea that if we just do it all right enough then nothing but "blessings" will come into our lives.  That somehow if we live right enough, God will protect us from bad things.  The idea that somehow we earn what we get. 

The problem with this thinking is that A) Its not Biblical.  Minor detail.  We are not capable of doing it right enough.  Hence, Jesus!  B) We also have to own the reverse lie - that when bad things do happen, it must be because I wasn't righteous or obedient enough.   And C) That good/bad are measured merely by how it makes me feel.  If I don't like it, it must be bad and if I do like it or it makes me feel good, then it must be good (or a blessing).  Because no blessing of mine would show up feeling bad!

Do you see the selfishness wrapped up in this thinking?  Its all about ME!!  It shows itself in the way we view and handle difficulties, inconveniences and problems.  In the way we view the positive things in our lives - when we become prideful in believing that we somehow deserve the good we have.  In the way we pray, asking for what makes us feel good.  Even in the ways we worship - we want to feel good in worship, we want it to be entertaining or "right" enough for our standards!  In the way we view the role of church in our lives.  Isn't it frequently about what we can get out of it?  How it makes us feel, what activities they provide for us or our children; how entertained we are during the services.  How much we like the people. We expect the church to teach us all we need to know about the Lord.  We want to show up on Sunday, have a nice time, feel good, look good and go home without an ounce of energy to expend in our relationship with God.  All the while, expecting nothing but blessings to rain down.  Because as Americans, we are into the idea of convenience.  In all things.  Including our faith.  Our churches have bought into it as well - they entertain us, so we'll show up.  They provide more and more activities so our kids will show up.  They water down the Scriptures so it feels good - and we don't have to be convicted.  Its a vicious cycle!  When the teaching doesn't come back around to reveal the selfishness that grips our hearts, we end up with even more of it!  And the cycle continues.

That's not to say there aren't profound blessings when we live according to God's will.  I believe there are also difficult consequences that result from living outside of His will.  But, being a Christian isn't so much about following rules or feeling good - its about a relationship with a Savior that we can't live without! Its about living in accordance with what He has called us to, as unique individuals.  To live out the priorities He has in mind for us - whether they are convenient and cozy or not!  About living our lives in a way that brings glory to God, even if it means something less than pleasure for us.  About living out our faith, rather than expecting it to live out in spite of us!  It isn't always pretty.  It doesn't always feel good.  I believe that God IS good and that His plans are only for good.  But good in our economy is so different from God's!  The Bible says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."  Isaiah 55:8  Just because something doesn't feel good to us, doesn't mean it is not good!  Our emotions are fickle and untrustworthy!  We cannot rely on them to guide our faith.  If we trust that God is good, then we trust it when blessings overflow AND in our deepest pains.  Even when our human minds can't begin to comprehend our circumstances as good.

I struggled after Jordan was born with this whole concept.  That somehow Jordan having Down Syndrome and a heart defect was a result of my sins.  It was all about ME.  I always knew it wasn't a mistake.  That God wasn't looking down, saying, "Uh.Oh!"  But, it didn't occur to me until a few years later that God may have specific purposes in creating her the way He did.  Purposes bigger than my wants and desires.  Plans to bring glory to Himself.  He began to reframe it for me - to reveal that being Jordan's mom was a privilege - not just because I love her - but because I get a front row seat to see His hand at work. 
I struggle again with Jackson's death.  Differently this time, but still with the selfishness.  I can't help but wonder, Why?  Why even create him in the first place?  Its easy to stand back and look at our culture and see the entitlement mentality; the pervasive consummation with self.  But, to stand back and see it in my faith?  Wow, that was hard.  God has graciously given me a glimpse of His purposes with Jackson.  A purpose that I could not have imagined in a million years.  And, here's the kicker ... it has absolutely nothing to do with ME!!!  Don't think that little revelation didn't send me into a tailspin.  On the one hand, I was praising God for revealing purpose for my precious little boy.  Purpose in why He created Jackson - and purpose in why he died when he did.  What a gift!!  An expected, beautiful gift that I wouldn't have even asked for.  And yet, at the end of it, I was left with this ... How can this NOT be about ME?  He's MY baby! 

I don't have all the answers.  I can't explain it away.  I certainly can't wrap it up in a nice neat little package that feels good for me or anyone else.  All I know is that not everything is about me.  Even when it feels like it should be.  At the end of the day, its all about God bringing about His plans, His purposes and receiving His glory!  And since God has chosen this journey for us, I want to walk it out in a way that honors Him!  A way that glorifies Him.   

Reading is always therapeutic for me and here are a couple books that are helping me work some of this out.

I recently finished Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl
by Lysa TerKeurst - I highly recommend it.  Especially if you're like me and fed up with canned, feel-good Christianity.

I've also started Radical by David Platt.  This one will rock your world!  Its a MUST READ for every believer!!!!

We need a fresh look at Christianity.  At God.  God has so much more in store than just US!  I don't know about you, but I'm kinda tired of ME!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gettin' Fancy with Downloads!

If you've been reading my Organized Mom Series, you may have noticed that I've done a lot of explaining about my schedules and "worksheets" I've created online. 

I am happy to say that I figured out how to upload my documents so that you can just click a link and see them!  If they are helpful to you, feel free to use them.  You should be able to manipulate the data to make the forms work for you.  Or just use them as a bouncing off point to create your own!

This is my fall homeschool file.  I mentioned that I have several schedules that revolve around our homeschool.  This file contains my schedules & planners for school, plus our Daily Schedule & Chore List!  Even though I call it my "homeschool" file - there are some charts that can be useful to anyone!  (I have Jordan's NACD program and a schedule for her program activities in this file as well, but they are not included in this uploaded version). 
*Disclaimer:  Even though our days are scheduled, it doesn't mean this is what each day really looks like.  We have interruptions, inconveniences and illnesses just like everyone else!  This is just the goal for normal weeks.  {whatever those are}  Mainly, its my way of keeping me focused!  :)

This is another school planner I used a couple years ago ... when we had fewer subjects and fewer students :)  I put it in a 3 ring binder so that when it was open, I could see both pages at once, side by side.
This is my menu planner.  Very basic  :) 
This is the Weekly Overview Chart I created (based on Kat's (at Inspired to Action) - in her e-book, Maximize Your Mornings)

I put my kids' Morning Routine/Chore Charts in a page protector and they use a dry erase marker to check off as they go.  Here are the different ways I do them based on age/reading skills.  When Jordan was younger, I cut out a picture of each item, put Velcro on the back and she had a place to actually move the item to a finished column.  You teacher-y types may know that as a "picture schedule."  At least that's what Jordan's Pre-K teacher called it.  ;) 
Jacob's Morning Routine/Chore Chart

Jadyn's Morning Routine/Chore Chart

I love to create charts and worksheets that work for my family!  Finding organizational systems online or in stores is one thing, but each family is unique in their needs, so many times creating your own gives you a system that works better. 
Let me know if you find these helpful!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Organized Mom Series: Part 3 ~ Meal Planning

Find Part 1 ~ Maximize Your Mornings {here}
 and Part 2 ~ Schedules {here}

This one may seem like a pain in the tush, but it makes life much easier!
I may be an organization-nerd, but it does have its rewards.  This is one of them.  I've long been a menu planner of some sort.  It was rather crude for many years, but worked fine while my family was smaller. Feeding a family of six, however, requires some organization in order to avoid fast food outings and frozen pizzas.  Trying to provide healthy food also requires planning.  Feeding a family of 6 healthy food?  Well, you get the picture.

"She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks."  Proverbs 31: 15-17

I mentioned in the first two posts of this series (about mornings and schedules) that I plan time for planning.  That may sound funny - but our days, homeschooling and meals all require a bit of planning in order for things to run smoothly.  I spend five minutes each morning planning my day.  Since we have schedules in place, its quick and only requires me to think about things outside of our normal routine and things on my (never-ending) to-do list. 

I also spend about an hour each week planning meals. 

There are many blogs that discuss in great detail how and why to plan meals.  Check out my Homemaking Help tab at the top for some good links. 

I'm sure you will be shocked to learn I use a *binder* for meal planning!  {I warned you about the binders}
I keep my most-used recipes in the binder along with weekly meal plan sheets - which are just 'worksheets' I created on the computer that lists each day, a space for the meals (and page # from a cookbook when necessary) as well as a separate column for prep work needed.  So, if I'm making something on Tuesday that requires meat to be thawed, I add "thaw meat" in the "prep" box for Monday.  That way when Tuesday at 5pm rolls around, I don't have to waste time thawing meat or thinking up Plan B!  Because many of the soaked grain foods I make require several days to prepare (when you count making yogurt, soaking the grains and then actually cooking the food), this prep column is a huge 'think-saver' for me! :)
This is the food prep I do in the mornings while preparing/cleaning up breakfast.  I also *try* to prep lunch and snacks then as well.  I've found it saves time, keeps clean-up throughout the day to a minimum and just generally makes the day run smoother. 

The menu isn't set in stone - I frequently move things around based on time, mood, etc.  But, if its planned, I know I have all the necessary ingredients on hand and conveniently, I don't have to think as much.  Which you may have noticed is the driving force for me!  :) {I'm pretty sure that babies suck brain cells - and do so at an increasing rate the further down the birth order they are, so after 5 babies & turning 40 in December, my brain cells are in short supply!!}  It also makes it simple for Ed on the weekends to jump in and help out with meals.  Most Saturdays, he makes breakfast for the kids - 'cause he's dreamy and amazing like that - and our meal plan makes it easy for him to know what to prepare.

As I'm scheduling, I keep my calendar handy and consider our schedule for each day.  We generally go to the 8:30 service at church on Sunday mornings, so Sunday breakfasts are fast & simple.  Tuesdays this fall we won't be home for dinners, due to kids' activities, so I will be planning take-along meals (using Easy Lunch Boxes! These babies are a homeschooler's dream, cause I don't know very many homeschoolers that spend all day at home! Go figure.).  If we are entertaining or going to someone else's house for dinner - that is reflected on my plan.  And you can bet, I schedule snacky lunches!!  I also plan to use left overs.  Once the plan is in place, making a grocery list is a breeze!  {The shopping, on the other hand ... well ... that's a whole 'nother story ...}
All of this planning takes about an hour.  But it saves me much more than that throughout the week by not having to think about what to do for every.single.meal, by streamlining food prep, not spending more time or money than necessary at the store, and by not hitting the drive thru more often than necessary. 

{Funny just how often Chic Fil A is necessary}  

I've found planning a week at a time works best for me - and my meal plan runs from Thursday to Wednesday (because Wednesday is my grocery shopping day). I know some moms that like to plan two weeks at a time or even a month at a time. There are lots of moms who cook once a month and use food from the freezer for meals.  There are whole cookbooks, websites and blogs devoted to that idea!  Some moms double everything they make and freeze the extra for another meal.  Its not double the work, because you are already cooking.  The important thing is finding a streamlined process that makes feeding your family

Choose a plan and see if it doesn't save you lots of time and energy!  {And by energy, I mean the kind that requires your noggin}