Stressed? Blessed? Or Something in Between?

I have a rare fall Saturday at home today. The coffee is brewing. The girls are mindlessly watching cartoons. The first of many loads of laundry is washing (or the last of the midweek loads are rewashing–don’t judge!)

We are having an absolutely picture-perfect fall her in North Dakota this year. The stuff that magazine covers are made of.

I should be out walking paths crunching leaves.

I should be baking up all the apples.

I should be decking my house out in all of the fall decorations I have collected over the years.

This is what social media tells me I should be doing (and let’s not just blame social media! I’ve been at this mom gig long before Facebook and Pinterest. Before that we had parenting magazines that told us how to be perfect!)

What am I doing instead?

  • I’m waiting for that blessed coffee to finish brewing (why so slow, friend?).
  • I’m finally catching up on past-due writing (when the 9-5 is heavy on writing it is less fun on the off hours).
  • I’m getting used to a new Bluetooth keyboard–since about five important keys stopped working on the last one–as my Facebook friends were gleefully aware of!
  • I’m wondering where all of this laundry comes from!!!!
  • I’m looking at this big bag of fresh-picked apples on my counter with mixed feelings. I’m both thankful for God’s rich bounty, and a little overwhelmed with the responsibility of good stewardship.
  • I’m looking at my messy house while gently reminding myself that I had six children for such a time as this. I can cook and they can clean!
  • I’m thankful that the coffee has finally finished brewing and I am thankful for a stainless steel tumbler that keeps it actually hot when I set it down somewhere and forget about it for hours!
  • I’m thinking that all I really want to do is crochet. I’m working on a stack of dishcloths for Christmas gifts, which is a very fun way to play with new techniques! Speaking of new techniques, I fell down the Tunisian Crochet rabbit hole this week and finally got a new set of Tunisian hooks in the mail (thanks Amazon!)
  • I’m mentally procrastinating

The other night a dear friend commented in reference to me that I have six kids and never seem stressed. Well, I am stressed, a lot! My kids will vouch for me, and as such, I fear that I am not being real enough in public! I’ve been setting it as a goal to yell less for years now. . .and I’ve yet to succeed. I’m drowning in the clutter that a household of eight creates. Last week every last one of our dinners was on the fly–and one included using a coupon at KFC.

This is not the mom I ever wanted to be.

I always wanted to one of those moms who happily attended every sporting and school event, while maintaining an organized household, a shining disposition, and a balanced checkbook. Instead, I more resemble Mrs. Hannigan from Annie.

And yet, at the end of the day (most of) my kids hug me good night and tell me how much they love me. And yet, in the morning when I sit down to do my devotions I am reminded of just how much my God loves me.

Because you are precious in my eyes,

And honored, and I love you,

I give men in return for you,

Peoples in exchange for your life.

Isaiah 43:4

So, what am I? Blessed, stressed, or something in between? I still have to say, I am overwhelmingly blessed.

This is the Stuff

Last night I was flipping through radio stations on the way home from a work night at church with two crying babies in the back of the van. The lyrics of this song resonated with me. Yes, I lose my keys, and even worse, I lose my temper, but in the midst of all of this, God uses me.

God has the amazing power to work seemingly bad situations into good. If you have read much here the past year and a half, you have certainly seen the roller coasters that our family and our church family have been on. To say things have been rocky is too much of an understatement.

I have to admit I have spent far too much time in the past few years saying “why me?” “why us?” and even just a plaintive, “Why, God?”

And yet I’m reminded, every day, when I look into the eyes of my children that God’s plans are ALWAYS better than my plans!

I’ve had a lot of great plans in my life, and very few of them have come to fruition. I could look at that as a downfall, or I can look at my “failures” as blessings that God has granted me. He gave me the chance to let go of my own plans and let his plans blossom and grow.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,  for those who are called according to his purpose.

And yes, that verse alone is great news. However, if we look at the verses that surround it, it becomes even better news for us!

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because  the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,  for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:26-30

How true it is that we don’t know what to pray for. In some ways we are no better than our children who follow us around the grocery store asking for Fruit Loops and gummy worms and “blue juice”. We ask got for riches and fame and an end to all struggle, when what we really need is patience, faith, and a quiet spirit.

So, chime in! Has something been driving you crazy? Can you see God’s work in your life, even if it is always through the rear view mirror? I’d love to hear from you!

This post is part of the Blogelina Blogging Buddy Bloghop!

How to Prevent Childhood Obesity: Start in Your Kitchen

The facts are staggering. Childhood obesity is a major problem in America. How is it that a nation that is so obsessed with health and dieting has such a high rate of childhood obesity?

Statistics show that nearly 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese! I have six children. Statistically, 2 of them should be overweight. However, all six are slim and fit! If you were to view the genetics of both sides of our family you would see that Dakotapam’s children are genetically predisposed to being at least a little chubby.

How have we managed to (so far) beat the childhood obesity odds?

  1. I cook from scratch and use real foods. The temptation when trying to control your own weight, or that of your children is to prepare and serve “diet” foods. If you were to peek in my refrigerator and pantry you would be hard pressed to find any reduced fat, or sugar-free artificially sweetened foods. In my experience, full fat foods (in moderation) are more satisfying and closer to their natural state. A more satisfying meal leads to less over-consumption. Also, many reduced fat, fat free and sugar free foods have added extra ingredients (many of which you cannot pronounce) to make up for what is missing. So, in our kitchen I cook with butter, and real cheese, and full fat milk. I also make many of my own sauces, and very rarely use packaged mixes.
  2. I serve more water. When you attempt beginning a diet, the first thing you do is up your water consumption. Proper hydration is essential to our health and water is the perfect liquid. However, the temptation is to give our kids lots of juices and sports drinks and excessive amounts of cow’s milk instead of water. The current AAP guideline is that children ages 1-6 should have no more than 4-6 ounces of juice, and older children should be limited to 8-12 ounces of juice a day. Preference should be given to eating actual fruit over fruit juices. The AAP recommends  2 cups of milk/dairy for children ages 1-7 and 3 cups a day for ages 8-18. In our family our children get enough fruit juice and dairy before dinner, so our dinner beverage is water.
  3. I rethought my fruitbowl. I always have a bowl of fruit available to the kids for snacks. I have found that they appreciate vegetable options as well. Whole, peeled carrots are a treat for my bigger kids, and they also enjoy raw broccoli and cauliflower dipped in some Ranch dressing. Apples are an ideal, portable snack, and my kids learn to eat whole apples from a very young age. Spend some time a few days a week preparing fruits and vegetables for family snacking. The fiber in fruits and vegetables helps fill up little tummies and you are teaching healthy snack strategies.
  4. I got my kids involved in meal planning. My boys know where I store the cookbooks and food magazines and have been known to thumb through them. When they see a new dish that interests them, I make sure to try it out on my next meal plan. My kids are more willing to try new foods if they are involved in the planning process. We also have fun theme food nights, such as different ethnic foods, Superbowl foods, movie themed meals. We also talk about what makes certain foods healthier than others. As a matter of fact, we talk about food a lot; where it comes from, how it is produced, the benefits to our bodies and the like.
  5. I break the rules sometimes. Let your kids know that it is OK to splurge sometimes. My kids look forward to soft drinks with popcorn for our at home movie nights (I am so thankful that some soft drink brands are going back to sweetening with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup). I have a sweet tooth and that comes out at dessert time several times a week! The key is keeping most of your diet healthy, so that the splurges are the exception and not the rule!

So, chime in!  How are you preventing childhood obesity in your home? I’d love to hear from you!

My Cherished Readers:

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Last week I asked you to chime in on your thoughts on holidays and dates and family time. Chime in you did.

I am humbled. You all gave me so much to think about! I’m going to really cherish my time having all of my kids under one roof for the holidays and learn to be really flexible in the future.

While, ideally, the Rev. and I would go TO the grandchildrens’ homes for Christmas, The Rev.’s vocation just may impede this, unless they live close to us (we’ve not set a great example int his regard.) I have, however, come to learn that it is very difficult on young families to pack up and visit far flung relatives, especially when children are very young and used to certain routine and space. Money is also an issue as even driving vacations can be cost prohibitive. So, as grandparents, I hope we can do most of the traveling.

I  know that with two small babies in the house it seems silly to be planning to be a grandmother. However, our oldest is 14. We were blessed with him at age 24. 10 years is not that far away!

I also know that having the girls later in our parenting career will complicate things. Will they be forced to spend a few Christmases away from their home? Perhaps. I do know that they will spend more holidays without their siblings than their brothers will.

So, thank you for your frankness, your willingness to put it all out there, for joining in the conversation! It has been an eye opening conversation to say the least, and I appreciate learning from all of you!

And now, another chance to chime in! As you look back at 2010, what is the most eye opening experience you had? Let me know!

Good friends are better than magazines!

Dakotapam and friends
Here I am with two of my BFFs, separated by miles, connected by the interwebs!

I’ve come pretty far as a mom.

I’ve gone from the one needing constant advice to being the one asked for advice.

I’ve been able to let go of some of the temptations that come with motherhood. The temptation to compare children is less than it used to be, though the addition of twins to our dynamic makes comparisons almost impossible to avoid. I am letting go of the temptation to feel guilty about every little thing.

I trust myself more.

Yet, I do not doubt myself less.

As a matter of fact, not a day goes by in which I wonder if I’m not failing my children in some way.

  • Are they suffering because there are so many of them and only one of me?
  • Do they feel unconditionally loved?
  • Do I expect too much from them?
  • Am I expecting too little of them?
  • Have I done enough to ensure that they will be productive members of society, good husbands, wives, fathers or mothers?

I knew that motherhood was not going to be easy. What I was not prepared for was how all consuming it would be. I was not prepared to see all of my bad habits in walking, talking form. I was not prepared for all for all of  the work I would have to do with reining in my temper.

I somehow thought that motherhood would look like it does in the magazines. Slightly fuzzy and out of focus, serene and blissful. I’d wear coordinating outfits and we would finger paint in my sparkling clean kitchen.

What we get instead is a motley (yet lovable) crew watching Spongebob in my dusty living room while I hide out in my yoga pants in another room eating my secret stash of chocolate and hoping that the babies don’t find me.

If I only believed what I saw in the magazines, I could do nothing but despair! But I have some really good friends. They let me in on their lives at the messiest times.

  • Good mommy friends make your sticky kitchen seem just a bit cleaner.
  • Good mommy friends let you know that white socks CAN go well with little boy dress pants.
  • Good mommy friends gently remind you that ketchup can double as a vegetable some days.
  • Good mommy friends always seem to know when you need a cup of coffee.

I need, and appreciate my mommy friends, more than I can even express here. I live far from extended family, so my fellow mothers become my family. We turn to each other for advice, comfort, an encouraging word, or just a shoulder to cry on.

So, if you haven’t done it lately, thank a friend who makes your road easier!

So, what about you? What has friendship meant to you? Are your friends newer, older or in between? Do you let YOUR friends see your sticky kitchen? Chime in!