Navigating the Changing Seasons of Family Life

Dakotapastor and I celebrated 18 years of marriage last month. I’ve been a mom almost that whole time, as our oldest was born a week or so after our first anniversary.

In this time I’ve been a stay at home mom to one and then of many. I’ve been a homeschooling mom, I’ve scrimped and saved to be a private school mom, I’ve been a public school mom. I’ve been a part-time working mom. I’ve been a work at home mom.

Now I’m in full-on career mode. Juggling the home and work and work travel and daycare are totally new concepts to this 40 something.

I’m probably not doing everything right.

Others juggle way more.

But, I’m pretty proud of myself. Stepping put of my comfort zone and seeking out not just a job, but a career, was a big step for me.

And now, as I travel around visiting colleges with my nearly-grown firstborn, I know that I made the right decision for our family.

While I would not trade the time spent raising the kids for anything, I also know, all too well, how quickly the children grow.

In a blink of an eye, our children morph from completely dependent to nearly independent.

I knew that I needed an outlet to focus my talents on. I knew that I needed more than a hobby. And, let’s face it, I knew that we needed a second income stream to fund college for six.

I love working more than I ever thought I would. I’m finding that not only am I bringing home a paycheck, which is a nice feeling, but I am gaining much more. Working in the non-profit sector, I feel like I really am making a difference in people’s lives. I am growing in knowledge and experience, I am gaining confidence, and I am slowly (very slowly) beginning to look and feel like a professional.

I am so thankful for ALL of these seasons. I would not trade my stay at home mom or homeschool mom seasons for anything. I feel so blessed to have been the main caregiver for all of my infants. I’ve taught all four boys to read (and hope to do the same with the girls.)

In many ways, I do feel like I have it all. I may not have it all at the same time, but, I truly have experienced the best of all worlds.

My advice? Acknowledge that where you are happy today may not be where you are tomorrow. Realize that no season lasts forever. Be open to knowing when a change may be warranted. Don’t let your past “I’ll nevers” rule your present. Remember that change takes time.

Chime in! Are you experiencing a season change? How are you dealing with the changes?

Random Thoughts

It is my “office” morning today. Once a week a very kind and very patient friend invites the twins over for a playdate and I get two uninterrupted hours to do whatever I want. I’ve gotten into the habit of setting myself up in a corner of a bookshop cafe with my iPad and blogging, or catching up with correspondence, or just people watching. As a busy mom it is refreshing to know that I get a window of time each week to do whatever I want.

Looking out the window I realize that winter is over. Now, I know that in many places in the country there are already flowers blooming, but this is North Dakota…our winter has the potential to drag into June. This year we have only gotten about 13 inches of snow…and I’m not complaining. I’m pretty sure that next winter we will get slammed! But for now, I’m going to relish the fact that it will be 60 degrees by this weekend. For Dakotapam, that is warm!

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I have read through the first two books of the Hunger Games trilogy and have enjoyed them, but I have to put Mockingjay on hold for now as I’m in the middle of a memoir kick as well. I’m hoping to review them here soon. As an avid people watcher, memoirs are fun for me, I can watch people from a distance.

I’m enjoying the time spent here on the blog lately. I’ve done a bit of housekeeping here, so if there is something you miss or can’t find, or does not work, please let me know. I’m also branching out a bit into advertising. I’d love to help promote family friendly small businesses and while I work out the kinks I’d love to offer a month free for four friends. Two of the slots are filled. During that month I’d like feedback on ad placement and traffic generated. So, readers, feel free to click on my sponsor buttons over on the left there…and if you want to be one of the remaining two guinea pigs, let me know!

Did you watch my Mom Encouragement vlog last week? I’m hoping to have a new one up tomorrow. I asked on the Facebook page what moms wanted to hear about and the response was “tips for getting out of the door on time in the morning”. As a non-morning person, getting up and out on time is not a natural thing for me…but we do have a system, and you can hear about it tomorrow. If you have any tips you would like me to share, leave a comment or shoot me an email! Do you have ideas of what you want to hear about on Mom Encouragement Fridays? Let me know!

Have you entered my Lovable Labels giveaway? It is an easy entry and a great prize! Perfect for siblings, cousins or BFFs! I also have a Techie Thursday review to post later today and there will be a giveaway connected with that as well. I also have a review of one of the memoirs I mentioned earlier…with a copy to give away. You really need to stay tuned!

The girls seem to be a little less whiny and more fun this week, I’m wondering if our whiny week last week was due to a virus or teething? I’m just glad to have my happy girls back!

I’m heading into a four day weekend and I look forward to spending some good time with the older boys. They are ready for spring as well…they have a need to run and jump and get out and burn all of that energy!

Chime in! What have you been up to? Do you have any feedback to share? I’d love to hear from you!

When I Grow Up. . .

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be many different things when I grew up. I wanted to be Miss America (Who wouldn’t? Right?), I wanted to be a teacher, Katie Couric, a mom, a famous actress.

I did not want to become a blogger.

Duh. I’m old. When I was growing up there were no bloggers. There were news columnists…which were close to blogging. But I did not want to be one of those. Columnists have to write. I wanted to talk. I hated writing. I loved to talk (my poor mom).

I still love to talk (my poor friends). And since many of my friends live so far away and they screen their phone calls so well, I’ve turned to blogging.

I’ve grown to love writing. That happened sometime between my Freshman and Senior year in college.

Blogging has allowed me to learn things that I never would have learned otherwise. Things like HTML, public relations, harnessing social media, and ahem, a modicum of organization.

Blogging has introduced me to some fabulous people, both local and across the country. Blogging has served as my virtual back fence.

But blogging still catches me off guard. A few months ago I got a Twitter message from young filmmaker, Matt Fern. He told me that he was doing a series of 2-3 minute profiles of North Dakotans and he would like to profile me and my blog. At first I thought that sounded so silly. After all, I’m just a little mom blogger.

But that is silly talk. Everyone has a story to tell. Even mom bloggers.

So I agreed to let Matt step into my life and film me and my family for a bit. Let me tell you, he does some awesome work! My profile was featured today on the Daily Dakotan You Tube Channel. From the reaction of my friends and readers, I am learning that I am achieving one of the goals that I have set for this blog. I am an encouragement for mothers. And I let moms know that it is ok to be less than perfect.

As a result, I’ve been thrust into some great company. . .several of whom are living my childhood dreams!

Like Miss North Dakota, Ariana Walker!

Make sure that you watch all the way to the end and find out how you can help Ariana make it to the top 15 in the Miss America Pageant coming up!

And then there is one of my other childhood dreams. . .

Television News Reporter! Isn’t Kate’s story awesome?

Another one of my fellow bloggers has been featured as well.

My new goal for when I grow up is to take photos half as well as Clint does!

So, what do you think? Don’t I have some of the coolest neighbors ever? I’m very thankful for this fun experience, thankful for the gifts God has given me to share, and thankful for you too. . .the reason I bother to write at all!


Why We Don’t Have an Elf on the Shelf

Let me get this out in the open. I’m not judging you if you have adopted an elf to report your children’s behavior to Santa. I’m not. But, let’s just say, it’s not for me.

Lest you think I’m all Bah Humbug and no fun…click around here. We have a lot of fun. We laugh a lot, our kids are spoiled rotten (really), and they are mostly well-behaved.

But when we get down to it, Christmas is about gifts. And not just any gifts. One particular Gift. One we received not because of our exemplary behavior, but because we needed Him.

So, for the same reasons I try not to bribe my kids to so the regular things they should do anyway, I’m not going to bribe or cajole my children into being good family members in hopes of receiving good things for Christmas. Sometimes they are wonderful, lovely creatures, and sometimes they prove perfectly that they were born sinful human beings, in need of a Savior.

In our home our children find chocolate coins and other little trinkets in their shoes on the morning of December 6. We discuss the real St. Nicholas. We continue to focus on Advent. We repent of our sins. We pray that Christ will come again. And on December 24 and 25 we go to church and we have a grand celebration with our church family. We eat too much fabulous food, and we give our children too many presents that they don’t deserve. However, our parental love for our children overlooks their most obvious flaws and we want to give them good gifts.

Our Heavenly Father is the same. He does not need someone to report our behavior to Him. He knows our very thoughts and our hearts. And, in spite of, and because of our behavior He sent His perfect, holy, innocent Son to earth to be sin for us.

That, my dear readers, is a gift that cannot be bought. It is a free gift.

Join me throughout Advent as I share some of our traditions (fun and serious) and glorify the most  Wonderful Gift of all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)


Chime in! What special ways do you mark Advent? Are you incorporating new traditions this year? You know I’d love to hear from you!


How To Cook a Stress Free Thanksgiving Meal

I know how it is. You picture the Thanksgiving meal worthy of a spread in a magazine, but when Thanksgiving Thursday comes around, you are desperately thawing a frozen turkey and sending your husband out to the store for more butter. Meanwhile, your toddler is eating the fake fruit in your cornucopia centerpiece and  the dog just ran away with a pickle. . .which means a mess to clean up now and later.

I know, because I’ve been there. After so many years of graduate school, and living closer to relatives, Thanksgiving was always a holiday spent at other people’s houses. That was great, except I longed to make our own traditions.I couldn’t wait. I just knew that my Thanksgiving dinner was going to be picture perfect, calm, and a foodie’s dream.

The first year that I cooked our very own Thanksgiving dinner went pretty well. The Rev. kept the boys occupied at the church or elsewhere and I cooked and simmered and served up several new, untested dishes. They were beautiful. And. . .nobody ate them. Since then I learned a Thanksgiving dinner truth:

Stick to Traditions

I learned the hard way. While I can experiment with food much of the year, Thanksgiving needs to be predictable. If I want to put something wild and different in the stuffing, I need to do it on some average Monday night when I roast a chicken. That turkey? Just sprinkle some salt and pepper on the top and slide it into the oven, thank you very much. Dakotateen has come to look forward to my super simple and family tradition cranberry relish. Were I to substitute in some cooked, or gelled or frozen concoction I would have a teenage mutiny on my hands. The good news is, mine is super easy, and Dakotateen prepares it! (Scroll down for the recipe!)

Plan Ahead

If you stick to your family’s traditional dishes for Thanksgiving dinner, planning should be easy. Simply list your menu on a piece of paper and then a list of ingredients needed. I no longer need a list! A frozen turkey needs a few days to thaw in the refrigerator. A fresh turkey cost a bit more, but tastes much better and can be picked up the day before Thanksgiving, freeing up fridge space. Me, I roast a large, bone in, turkey breast. It takes up less space in my oven, roasts faster, and we mostly prefer white meat turkey. I also splurge a spiral sliced ham. It warms up quickly and is great left over as well.

Have a Plan of Attack

I do most of my food prep on Thanksgiving day. I have a small (really) kitchen. To do too much work ahead would take up space that I don’t have. So that means cooking day needs to be organized. Now, anyone who knows me in person just giggled a little. I’m not organized. BUT, I can fake it when I need to.

My plan of attack goes something like this:

  • Clear the counters (because I’m not organized).
  • Get the turkey breast in the oven.
  • Begin chopping onions and celery for stuffing.
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Cut up cheese and sausage for the grazing children who will come into the kitchen whining for food. (Your best offense is a good defense)
  • Set our coloring pages and craft supplies for the same children. They can make the centerpiece. Martha won’t approve, but she’s probably not invited.
  • Start preparing the stuffing. Put it in the oven.
  • When the turkey is 45 minutes from done, pop the ham in the oven.
  • Begin peeling potatoes.
  • Put the potatoes on to boil.
  • Call the teen in to make the cranberry relish and cut up pickles.
  • Prepare the green bean casserole.
  • take stuffing out of oven, check on meat and put beans in the oven.
  • Mash the potatoes.
  • Take meat out of the oven and set on the counter to rest.
  • put bread in the oven (We use canned crescent rolls and I have the kids shape them)
  • Make the gravy.
  • Have the kids set the table.
  • Slice the turkey
  • take beans and bread out of the oven
  • Set serving utensils in the serving bowls.
  • Gather the family.
  • Give thanks.
  • Dig in.
As you can see, I serve a fairly simple meal. I serve what we eat. The table is rarely picture perfect. When I was on bed rest with the twins we used paper plates and plastic cutlery. On normal years I DO pull out the china. My point is, we don’t have to fall over ourselves to make the perfect meal. We need only cook with love, and let others help us.

Cranberry Relish

  • 1 bag fresh whole cranberries
  • I navel orange, peel on, washed and quartered
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
Pulse the berries and the orange with peel in a food processor until it is fairly coarse. Put in a bowl, stir in sugar, refrigerate for one hour. Enjoy.
Chime in! What are your tips for a simply enjoyable Thanksgiving? You know I’d love to hear from you!