Titus 2:11-13

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Causing a Scene

Do you ever feel like you're causing a scene just by walking into a room?

I get this feeling every time I walk into a public place!  You see, what's normal, every day life to me--caring for and toting around four children under four years of age--seems a little overwhelming to the common onlooker.  When I walk into a place with a car seat in each hand and a toddler on each heel, I see heads turn, I hear little murmurs or outright "You've got your hands full!"s; and I officially feel like I have created a scene.

I'm not saying that every person who sees me and my crew thinks I'm crazy or cursed (there are many out there who would agree that I am happy and blessed!) or that every person who makes a comment means it in a negative way.   I'm not even saying that I'm bothered by the fact that we just naturally tend to create a scene.  To the contrary, I feel like it gives me a great opportunity:  an opportunity to disband the belief that a mother of young children must feel frazzled and an opportunity to disprove the assumption that all children must act unruly.

I can just imagine a mother walking into a public place, her hands full (literally), her hair all a mess, her countenance full of sorrow, hopelessly beseeching her disobedient children to "Wait for me!"  That is NOT the kind of scene that I'm okay with creating! :-)  It sure wouldn't speak much to the joys of having children.  It sure wouldn't cause onlookers to say, "Look at that blessed mother."

I want to be the mother who walks into a place, hands full (literally), countenance full of peace and joy, enjoying the company of her obedient children who are calmly staying right by her side.  I want to be that mother not because I want onlookers to sing my praises, but because I want people to know that I am not "cursed."  I want people to know that it is possible to have four children under four years of age and to still have peace and joy.  I feel in a sense like this is my responsibility.  (Luke 12:48b says, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.")

And, there's no doubt, it is a big responsibility.  But, the good news is, He who requires much of me has also given much to me.  Not only has He given me four blessings, but He has also given me His Word which instructs me and His Spirit which guides me as I endeavor to train them up.  He has given me joy.  He has given me salvation.  He has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

So, world.  As you look at me because of my full hands, I hope that what you see is my full heart. For there is my Jesus.  There is my hope.  There is my joy.  There is my peace.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Best Blog Award!


I am so honored to receive this blog award from my blogging friend September!  I wish I could give it right back to her, because her blog, One September Day, is definitely among the best that I read. :-)

I "met" September in blogland last April through our mutual blogging friend Lynnette and her clever Getting to Know You idea, and I have been following her blog ever since.  I am always encouraged by September as she shares her heart, her every day experiences, and her love for Jesus and her family.  Even though I don't know September personally, I think of her as a friend.  Visit her--I think you'll enjoy reading One September Day just as much as I do!

Here are the rules for this award:

1. To accept this award you must post it on your blog with the name and a link to the person who gave it to you.

2. Pass on the award to 5 other bloggers that you recently discovered and think are great!

3. Contact the other bloggers and let them know they have been chosen for this award

I'd like to honor the following 5 blogs with this award:

Dancing Barefoot on Weathered Ground
I started following Lynnette's blog back when she had only 40-some followers.  Today, about 1 1/2 years later, she has 666 followers!  There is a reason so many people read her blog:  it's good!  I don't personally know Lynnette; but, shortly after I had my miscarriage, one of her relatives whom I went to high school with told me about Dancing Barefoot thinking that it would be an encouragement to me--and it was!  Lynnette's blog has a way of being entertaining and inspiring all at once.  If you don't already "know" Lynnette, I hope you'll go meet her now. :-)

Raising Arrows
I "met" Amy the same way I met September--through Lynnette's Getting to Know You--and I sure am glad that I've gotten to know her!  Amy is a Christian mom who seems to have a lot of practical knowledge in so many different areas:  homeschooling, organizing, child training, writing, baby wearing, and more!  Not only is Amy knowledgeable, she is also encouraging and easy to relate to.  I always enjoy my visits to Raising Arrows, and I think you will, too!

The Flinn Files
Amber is my best friend (and one whom I know outside the blogosphere!), and I love reading her blog.  Amber and her husband Tommy found out they were expecting their first baby just a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant with the twins, so we had the joy of going through our pregnancies together.  Little did we know at the time, though, that Tommy and Amber were in for the trial of a lifetime.  Their son Miles was born in early August with some issues that threatened to take his new life; and though by the grace of God they are now beyond the threat of losing their son, Tommy and Amber are still in the midst of some trying circumstances regarding Miles' health.  The Flinn Files is the record of Miles' life and of Amber's introduction to motherhood.  I hope that you'll visit Amber, meet baby Miles, and pray for them.  And I hope that their story will cause you to sing praises to our great God!

Our Family...One Sweet Day at a Time
Abby is another blogging friend whom I know outside of the blogosphere.  I like Abby's blog because she keeps it real--and because she shares cute little stories and pictures of her sweet baby girl Adelyn. :-)  Adelyn and our baby Ande whom we lost to miscarriage were due within days of each other, so I always enjoy looking at her and thinking about how we could have had a child that age, that size, doing and learning all the same things.  I like that Abby's blog is called One "Sweet" Day at a Time--that's the perfect word to describe her! :-)

Eternal Outlook: Travis' Blog
I love Travis.  (Of course, I do!  He's my husband!)  One of my favorite things about Travis (besides his handsome looks and his manly work ethic :-)) is his godly character.  Like the name of his our website indicates, Travis has a way of keeping an eternal outlook on life, and he always encourages me to do the same.  With a wife, four children, and a great job, Travis doesn't have a lot of extra time to blog.  But when he does, you can bet it will be encouraging.  I hope you'll visit Travis' blog and meet the man you sometimes read about here on mine!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect... Eventually

What is something you've had to practice in order to be good at?

This was the ice-breaker question my husband posed to our small group at our last meeting.  Knowing that the answer didn't have to be "spiritual," my answer came to me pretty quickly:  making bread!

When I decided to begin changing the way I feed myself and my family, I set forth some goals to help keep me from getting too overwhelmed.  One of those goals was to make my own bread.

Right away, this one goal presented me with quite a challenge.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember from my "Kneading" Heaven post that I have a focal point dystonia of the forearm which has greatly affected my ability to write and to do other common tasks that require the use of the muscles in the forearm--such as kneading dough.

Knowing what the consequences of kneading dough by hand would be--and having neither a stand mixer nor enough loaf pans to oven-bake my bread--I decided I would try adapting the bread recipe to my bread machine (which I had used only two times before).  However, when I pulled my neglected bread machine out of the cupboard and prepared to use it, I realized that the paddle was missing.  I was perplexed at first, but then I remembered that on the second occasion I had made bread in the machine, it had finished baking just as I was running out the door; so I had hastily wrapped it up without taking time to remove the paddle from the loaf.  And days later when the still untouched loaf had started to mold, I threw it out, evidently forgetting that the paddle was still inside.

While I was lamenting my stupid mistake, my mom came up with a great idea:  "Maybe you could have the kids take turns helping you knead."  I loved it!  Kids love to get their hands messy, Abel loves to cook, and I would love the help!  Not only would it save me some pain, it would buy me some time before I would have to purchase either a replacement paddle for the bread machine or a new stand mixer (thus appealing to my frugal nature)!

So, when I we first started making bread back in November, Abel did all of the kneading for me.

The loaves we turned out weren't super, but they tasted good and they were good enough to keep us from having to buy bread.

Then, the weekend of Black Friday, my husband found us a great deal on the 5-quart 475-watt KitchenAid Stand Mixer I wanted so badly!
Up to $50 OFF  KitchenAid 5-quart   475-watt Stand Mixer
I got the silver one (and it really did come with those cool prep bowls and the nifty timer!) for only $199.99!  Abel had been replaced (as the "kneader," that is), but he didn't mind.  He enjoyed enjoys the new mixer almost as much as I do!

Here is the first full batch of bread I made using my amazing new appliance.  I still had only one loaf pan at the time, so I used the extra dough to make a few dinner rolls, breadsticks, and pretzels.  (Well, they were supposed to look like breadsticks and pretzels....)

The next investment we made was on a second stoneware loaf pan.  (I actually had one boxed up with some stuff I was going to sell at a garage sale, but when I learned that stoneware is the way to go, I pulled it out and put it to use!)
Food Network Loaf Pan at Kohls

And the latest addition to my bread-baking equipment was this!
KitchenAid GMA Grain Mill for the KitchenAid Mixer
For Christmas, Travis' parents bought me the grain mill attachment for my KitchenAid mixer!  This thing is awesome!  Having tried out a manual grain mill a couple months ago (and therefore knowing how much work it could be to grind my own flour), I felt totally spoiled to have a piece of equipment that does all the work for me.

The decision to begin baking my own bread required not only the acquisition of some equipment (which, after seeing the health benefits, I can say has been totally worth it!); it has also required the acquisition of knowledge and experience.  I didn't realize what an art bread baking really is.  I've been "practicing" making bread for a little over two months now, and I am just finally starting to end up with loaves that I'm not embarrassed to share with company.  :-)

Learning to make bread has been quite an adventure; but I guess since practice makes perfect, this perfectionist will keep right on practicing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Frugal to a Fault?

Sometimes I think life would be simpler if I wasn't so frugal.

Don't get me wrong.  I think we are to be good stewards of our money and possessions--and by nature, I don't think I could be not frugal even if I tried--but I have to admit... sometimes frugality complicates things!

Amy at Raising Arrows recently wrote a great post on frugality, and after reading it, I got to thinking about how frugal I am.  Sometimes my frugality simplifies things...

  • I do my best to not have to throw away leftovers.  I always try to cook just enough food for supper to feed all of us leftovers the next day for lunch.  This serves a few purposes:  1) I can send Travis to work with a hot, healthy lunch so that 2) he doesn't have to waste money eating out, and 3) I don't have to cook lunch for myself and the kids.
  • I wash and reuse plastic baggies of all sizes.  (Yes, Amy. I do it, too! :-))  And I also save the foil and saran wrap that I use for baking and storing my homemade bread.  This way, I not only ward off wastefulness; but I also ensure there's always the perfect size baggie/sheet of foil/length of saran wrap handy and waiting in the drawer.
...but other times it complicates things....

  • I have a hard time getting rid of excess toys.  Thanks to Abel, I recently had some success with this.  Generally, though, I'm more apt to fill another storage tub or to create new spaces to house toys than I am to just get rid of them.  While in one way I'm being frugal by making the most of what we have (in hopes of not "needing" to buy more), in another way I'm complicating things by keeping clutter.
  • I have a hard time giving up on my old clothes.  (Wait.... Is that frugality or denial??..)  I don't buy any super trendy clothing--in fact, I don't buy much clothing, period--so I feel like the things in my closet stay wearable for a few years.  (Right now I'm wearing a t-shirt from college and a pair of jeans from the Christmas before I was married which, after five years of wear, have only just now developed a hole in one knee.)  Still, I wish there were some hard and fast rule as to how long an article of clothing should be allowed to remain in a woman's closet... or how many times it should be allowed to cycle in and out of a storage tub.  Can anyone help me?  Because my frugality is battling with my fashion sense and with my space! :-)
Because my frugality tends to show up more in the area of not throwing things away than in the area of buying things cheap (although I try to do that, too, when appropriate), I have to periodically do a heart check on myself--to examine my motives for hanging on to toys that don't get played with all that much or clothes that haven't been worn in a couple years.  I have to make sure that I'm placing my security not in the amount of stuff I have available in storage but in the God who provides for all my needs.

So, while I once again mull this over, I think I'll go warm up some leftovers. :-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kids Say, vol. 5

I have collected a few more funnies.... :-)

Abel (while getting tucked in at bedtime):  Mommy, is it going to be Summer in the morning?


Me (to Abel when he showed up downstairs a while after getting tucked in for bed):  What are you doing up?
Abel:  Well... I just rolled over, and suddenly I realized I couldn't sleep!


A couple days after "it finally clicked," Amariah jumped up from her play in the living room and took off running towards the bathroom announcing, "I need go potty!  I need go potty!"  Then, while still on the run, she looked over her shoulder, pointed to her butt, and said, "Don't come out, potty!"

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Let's Help Each Other!

Today I received this through the mail.

That's a lot of diapers, huh?! We go through 8-10 diapers a day, so buying in bulk is almost a must for us these days.

And with four children under four (and a bitterly cold Iowa winter), shopping online when possible is another "almost must." It's not that my kids are too naughty to take into a store--they're not. It's just that loading up four kids and coordinating outings around feedings and naps is more work for me than it's worth. (Oh... and then there's the thing where I prefer to stay warm. :-))

That's why I like Diapers.com! On Diapers.com, I can buy larger boxes of diapers than are available in stores (for the same price or less per diaper), and I can do it right from the comfort of my own home. And since I make sure to order at least $49 worth of stuff, I even get free shipping right to my door in 1-2 days!

Another cool thing about Diapers.com is that they sell way more than just diapers: clothing, shoes, toys, books, baby gear, baby food, furniture, bedding, and more! So, with a little planning ahead, it's easy to order $49 worth of stuff that you really need and then not have to pay shipping on it.

Since we all like to save a little money, here's another perk of using Diapers.com. You'll get $10 off your first order, and I'll get a $5 credit when you place your first order if you use my unique referral code of TRAV8136!

Happy ordering, friends! Now, if you'll excuse me, I probably need to go change a diaper.... :-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Dream Come True

Last night I dusted off my dress shoes, unburied my jewelry box, mixed up my separated-because-it-hasn't-been-used-in-so-long custom blended foundation, pulled out an almost forgotten dress, and went on a date with my husband!  This wasn't just any date, though.  He took me to see the Broadway musical The Lion King!!!  (Can you tell I'm excited?!)

When I found out several months ago that The Lion King was coming to Des Moines, I began secretly hoping that my husband would surprise me with tickets.  I never asked him if we could go.  He knew from numerous past conversations how badly I've always wanted to see The Lion King; and the awesome husband that he is, I knew that he would grant my desire if it was at all possible.

Well, he didn't let me down!  And neither did the show!  It. was. AMAZING!  The set, the costumes, the mind-blowing talent... I was absolutely enthralled by every part of it.  As I watched the show, taking in every detail, I had to keep reminding myself that I was really there.  I felt totally privileged to be in the presence of such extremely gifted people, and I was thankful to God for the opportunity to enjoy the talents that He has given them.  It was an experience like nothing I've ever had.

All dressed up with somewhere to go!

My Christmas gift from my wonderful husband!

What a night!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting Practical... Again

I find that the toughest things are sometimes done best on a whim.

While I was nursing the babies this morning, I said to Abel without much premeditated thought, "Abel, do you think we should get rid of some of your toys?"  Much to my surprise, he answered, "Yeah, we have way too many toys.  Here, I'll start making a pile of toys to get rid of."  And as his little pile began to grow, so did my motivation.

It's been almost a year ago that I determined the need to get practical with the amount of stuff (i.e. clothes and toys) we are hanging on to.  Unfortunately, my resolve wasn't strong enough at the time; I ended up reorganizing toys instead of minimizing them, recognizing the fact that someday I would have to face the growing toy problem.

So, thanks to my whim and Abel's inspiration, today was that day!  We are officially getting rid of three larger toys and two diaper boxes full of smaller toys!  In fact, if I would have let him--and I probably should have--Abel would have parted ways with even more than that.  Perhaps that will be for another day....

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Assembly Line

We started baby cereal yesterday!  I haven't felt that Isabel and Elliana were ready for solids until the last week or so.  At 7 1/2 months of age, they are a little older than most babies who are just starting cereal, but I really wanted to keep them as babies for as long as possible to wait until the time seemed right.  They hadn't started sitting up on their own very well until just recently, and they had been acting quite satisfied with breast milk alone (except for the days when I failed to drink enough water to produce well...); so we waited.

Isabel and Elliana got their new space-saver high chairs over the weekend, and feeling like the time was finally right, we put them to use right away.  I have to admit, the first time feeding two babies was a little trickier than feeding just one.  After nursing, I rounded up two bibs and two spoons and two cups of water (all coordinating, of course :-)) and put the girls in their two new matching seats.  As I mixed up the cereal, Isabel and Elliana, as if they knew what was coming, began getting a bit impatient.  I hurried to my seat in front of the highchairs and presented Isabel with her first bite.  As the spoon neared her reach, she grabbed hold of it and shoved it into her mouth.  Then, putting one spoon down and picking up the other, I scooped up Elliana's first bite.  Before the spoon was even heading in her direction, she opened her mouth as wide as could be and waited.  I continued going back and forth between them, giving each girl two bites at a time.  With each taste, both girls seemed to want the next bite even more than the last; and they began objecting to the 5-8 seconds they would have to wait in between turns.  I was going as fast as I could, trying to keep all things equal and both girls happy.  There was no waiting or talking or playing in between bites--I had a job to do!

Isabel got full first and was ready to get down and get a diaper change.  Elliana, still hungry, waited not so patiently while I carried Isabel into the living room to play with some toys (the diaper change would have to wait).  Back in the kitchen, I continued to feed Elliana until she, too, was finally full, and got her down only to discover that Isabel wasn't the only one now in need of a diaper change.  I carried Elliana to the changing table, and immediately after getting her taken care of, I scooped up Isabel to do the same for her.  As I finished with Isabel and looked at my two full, clean, contented babies, I paused for a moment and let out a sigh as I said to my husband, "I feel like a one-woman assembly line!" :-)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Taking Heed

Last night I prayed a scary prayer: Lord, empty me of myself.

I've seen this past week that the beginning of the new year has given me a chance to refocus. I have felt for a while now that I've been in a bit of a dry spell, spiritually speaking; but with this new beginning has come new mercies ("It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV) and renewed desire: desire to be in the Word, desire to pray, and desire to grow.

As I have been spending more time in the Word and in prayer--and even doing a good deed here and there--I have recognized in myself a dangerous attitude of pride creeping up. Do you know the feeling? I stayed up late to read my Bible and pray instead of going to bed. I'm feeling pretty good about myself.... I really helped that person out. Now others are going to think pretty highly of me.... Pretty ugly thoughts, huh?!

So, last night I said to God, "God, this is a scary thing to pray, but... empty me of myself." And then He brought an old song to my mind.
It's all about You, Jesus.
And all this is for You, for Your glory and Your fame.
It's not about me....
It's not about me. Without Him, I am nothing and can do nothing. It is only because of Him that I can pray and that I can thirst for His word and that I can desire to know Him more. It is only because of Him that I can love and that I can serve and that I can grow.

1 Corinthians 10:12 says, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." Today, I am taking heed.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It Finally Clicked!

I'm not sure how it happened, but it finally did.  Amariah is potty trained!  A few days ago she finally started telling me when she needed to go to the bathroom--before it was too late.

It's been a long road getting to this point.  I first started setting Amariah on the toilet around 1 year of age.  You wouldn't think potty training should span a 1 1/2 year period; apparently, she wasn't ready and I wasn't committed.  (Although, to give myself a bit of a break, part of that time I simply wasn't able to commit--I was pregnant with twins, and then I had twins!) :-)  My lack of commitment led to a lot of inconsistency, and her lack of interest led to a lot of frustration (which led to more inconsistency...).  I tried a wide gamut of approaches: from discipline to reward and from encouragement to threats, nothing I did seemed to work.

A couple months ago I finally started telling people, "She is potty trained (i.e. I have done the training).  Now she just has to decide to do it."  Things weren't looking very promising, and then suddenly... something clicked!  And boy, am I and the budget and the washing machine glad!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Just Another Day

Isn't it neat how we parents grow as our family grows?  I remember looking at large families before having children of my own and thinking, How on earth do they manage?!  And then when I became a slightly overwhelmed mother of one, I realized what a wonderful thing it was that I didn't have to become a mother of several all at once--I would have a chance to grow along with my family, one baby (or two!) at a time.

I never could have foreseen my husband and myself doing what we did today.  In sub-zero weather, we (along with what must have been the rest of the Des Moines populous :-)) ventured out for our monthly trip to Costco with two toddlers and two infants in tow.  I wonder if it was apparent to our fellow shoppers why we were buying in bulk.... :-)

One of the best things about having four children under four years of age (two of them being infants) is that Travis and I really have to work as a team.  When Abel and Amariah both announced they needed to go to the bathroom about halfway through the trip, all six of us had to make our way to the front of the store.  While Travis manned the cart full of merchandise and the stroller full of babies, I took Abel and Amariah into the extremely busy women's restroom.  Seeing that there was no way three people in winter coats were going to fit in one stall, I sent Abel in one by himself and went into another with Amariah.  Although it was a little nerve racking, Abel was very obedient and stayed put and we made it out okay... minus one of Amariah's barrettes which somehow managed to fall into the toilet as she was peering over it to admire her work. :-)

Another of the best things about having four children under four years of age is that all kinds of people go out of their way to get a peek at our children and to make their comments.  Many people want to tell us about the twins in their own family.  Others want to ask how old they are.  Some want to let us know that we must be crazy to have four young children.  And a few want to share in our joy and acknowledge that we are blessed. My favorite of these encounters today was with an older woman.  Seeing the double stroller, she approached to get a look at the babies and to ask how old they are.  After proceeding to express how glad she was that she isn't me, she realized that there were two more children standing beside the stroller who also belong to me and said as she walked away, "Okay, you do deserve a reward."

Four years ago, I probably would have agreed with her.  But today, this blessed mother of four would say that it's just another day.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Beginning

I like new beginnings--a chance to look back and a chance to start over.  I wish I had it so together that I didn't need a fresh start--that I was so perfect I could just keep doing exactly what I'm doing and be fine; but even the most devoted Christian and the most noble wife and the most loving mother falls short of perfect.  Even though I know I'll never be perfect this side of heaven, it is still the desire of my heart to try.  The Christian/wife/mother who finds herself no longer trying finds herself in a dangerous place.  After all, every relationship--be it your relationship with God, your spouse, or your children--requires effort.  And I guess that's where the need for a new beginning--a fresh start--comes in.

My husband asked me this morning, "So if you could change jobs for the new year, would you?"  My answer, of course, was no--I love being a stay-at-home mom.  But who hasn't had days where you'd be tempted to say yes?... Yes, I want out of these circumstances.... Yes, I am tired of trying....

Sometimes it gets hard to keep putting forth the effort that a healthy relationship requires.  It's hard to set aside purposeful time to spend with God.  It's hard to selflessly give your energies (or what's left of them) to your husband at the end of a long day.  It's hard to put work aside in the interest of spending quality time with your children.  It's hard to love.  It's hard to serve.  It's hard to_____.... And because it's hard--and because I'm human--I fail.

I fail, but I don't give up.

I never officially "make" New Year's resolutions, but I like September's idea of choosing a theme for the new year--an area in which I need growth and in which I will strive to better meet God's standard.  Thinking back over the past year, it seems like maybe the Lord has been showing me that the area I need growth in is my relationships--especially my relationship with Him, with my husband, and with my children.  I'm not exactly sure what this process of growth will require of me, but I am sure that it will be a process and that it will be hard.

As I stand at this new beginning, I praise God that His Word will be a light unto my path and that His mercies will be new every morning!

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