Monday, February 28, 2011

Race Cars, Star Wars, and...Legos! (What Else?)

   This was a busy weekend for us!  Starting Thursday night with the construction project that was going on in the kitchen!  No, we're not remodeling, (thank goodness...I'm not sure my nerves could handle that!) Daddy and the Scout were working on his entry in his first ever pine-car derby.  The pine-car derby is an old Scouting tradition.  It is meant to encourage Scouts and their parent to work together and have fun completing a project together.  Notice I wrote "meant" to.  Maybe that's what will happen when our Scout is older.  What actually happened was Daddy using power tools in the kitchen, a large amount of sawdust, and the Scout got bored about halfway through and left.  Did I mention that all this was between 9 and 10 pm?  Needless to say, we put a hold on the project until the next day.

   Friday:  Mommy had to get her hair cut, so that was the plan for the day.  Now, we've found a great place that's really inexpensive to get our haircut, but there's a's an hour away.  So it usually is an all day thing when I get my hair cut.  We finally got home around 8 that night, because we also had to get a birthday present for the party we would be attending on Saturday.  Well, our derby entry was only half done, so the Scout got busy sanding and painting as soon as we got home.  Thankfully, he was more interested in this part of it!  With the car painted, we headed off to bed. 

   Saturday:  We got up bright and early to eat breakfast and get to the derby which started at 9.  However, Daddy decided the car wasn't quite finished, so he spent all his time adding weight and lubricating the axles.  We left the house at 9 (!!), and I was very grateful the location for the derby was only five minutes away!  We arrived, got our car checked, and got ready for the race!  There were a lot of great cars, and I think the Scouts had fun.  There were a few tears, but all in all everyone had a good time.  Our Scout won "Most Realistic" with his car.  (I think it was because his was the only one with windows painted on it!)  Then it was off to the birthday party!

   Thankfully, the party was for the youngest son of our neighbors, who is also a Scout, so we didn't have to worry about being late...I reminded the Scout leader that his son's party was starting, umm, right now!  We piled in the cars and headed off to the party.  Well, my boys disappeared immediately upon arrival, because they knew the wonders that awaited them...this is the Lego house!  I have to admit, I was impressed!  I have never seen so many Lego outside of the Lego store.  Unfortunately, the Scout master's Lego creations that I have blogged about earlier weren't on-site.  He said he keeps them at work, (surprise, surprise!) so they won't be damaged.  He did let us take a peek into his Lego "store" though.  He's part of an online store that he sells Legos on.  After he told me how much some of them go for, I decided that the Fearless Leader needs to give up his computer hobby, and go for this instead!  (Up to 14 dollars for one Lego figure!!)  Plus, it's way more fun!  :)

   After some yummy lunch, and a really cute R2-D2 cake, the boys headed outside for a while to play Star Wars with their light sabers and space blasters.  It's so great when you have things in common with your neighbors!  :)   We had to drag them home for a nap, and then we broke out our own Legos for a while.  We built a fire-fighting boat, and watched some TV.  (Multi-tasking!)  Then it was time for supper, baths, and bed!  Everyone was more than ready after a long day! 

   Sunday:  Even though our Sundays are always full, this one seemed almost relaxing after the previous days of busy-ness!  It was nice to sit under preaching and teaching for a while.  Emphasis on sit...  Then home for supper, and more Legos, and then bed.  We have to be ready for a brand new week! 

   So, that was our was your's?  Hope you had a great one too, and that you're ready for a blessed week!  :) 

   Our entry is the red one with a windshield fourth from the left.

   Here are some other entries in the Pack 247 Pine-car Derby 2011!  :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oh Sleep, How I Miss Thee...

  Being a mom means less sleep.  For me.  This is sad.  For me.  (And occasionally, for the other members of the household, depending on how much sleep is missing!)  I actually like going to bed now. Sleeping has become tantamount to a rare and delicious dessert that you only get to finish once in a while. 

   To me, sleep has become one of those great blessings from God that we sometimes take for granted.  I know I did.  We know that during sleep our bodies rest, heal, recharge, and rejuvenate.  If you know me, you will know that I am slightly rabid on the point of my children's naps/bedtimes.  I have made it a point to keep nap time in our kids life for as long as possible.  Until the First-Born went to first grade, he napped every day.  The kiddos also go to bed at around 8-ish as often as humanly possible.  Yes, there are a few late nights here and there, especially as they get older with more levels of activity going on, but I still make it a point to get them in bed ASAP on a late night.  I really think that this has led to the boys being as healthy as they are.  Tired kids don't have the ability to fight germs as well as rested kids do.  So, I guard bedtime in this house. 

     I, unfortunately, do not seem to do well with naps.  I usually wake up feeling worse than when I laid down.  So I try to at least take a few minutes for "quiet time" while the boys are napping.  Reading, watch a TV episode from Netflix, or play a video game, just to decompress.  It's funny--there have been several nights where the hubby and I have stayed up just because we could still hear the boys rustling around, and as soon as they were quiet, we crashed!  I used to think when I was a kid that being a grown-up meant staying up as late as you want.  Now, I convince myself that 8:30 is a perfectly acceptable adult bedtime!  

   Be fore-warned, all those of you who read this blog and don't have kids yet...treasure your sleep.  Believe me, when it's gone, you will miss it!  And for the rest of us walking zombies...umm, never mind.  Whatever witty thing I was going to say left...another victim of my sleep-deprived consciousness...oh look, it's nap time!  :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Blessing of "Boring"

   Lately I've been thinking how great it is that for the most part, our life is boring.  We pretty much have the same stuff going on at around the same time every week.  I have always been thankful for "boring".  Not just because it is helpful for me (and my OCD!), but because I can see God's blessings in "boring".

   This may not make a lot of sense.  I had to explain what I meant when I was talking this concept over with the hubby.  It's not the fact that I have no desire for excitement, or spontaneity, I mean, come on, I have three boys...excitement and spontaneity are always going to be a part of this household!!  However, I am simply thankful that we are, for the most part, drama-free in our house.

   I have heard and read recently of families, just like ours, who have lost children through illnesses or accidents.  Every time I do, I stop and say a prayer of thankfulness to God for the health and safety He has given us through the birth and early years of three boys.  None of our boys has ever had to take a trip to the emergency room.  We've never had to have them in the hospital, or taken them on visit after visit to the doctor's office.  God has so blessed us in this area!  Even times when things could have gone very wrong, His hand of protection was there for us.  I am thankful that our life is "boring" in this area!

   I am thankful that our life is fairly boring when it comes to our extended family also.  I haven't had to comfort our boys through the death of someone they were close to, or explain to them why a cousin's mommy or daddy wasn't living with them anymore.  We did have some scary months early on last year when my dad was fighting his battle with lymphoma, but God was there through it all and he is enjoying his health once again.  The boys, especially the older two, were really able to see God at work in a very real way.  There are not a lot of family "issues" that we are constantly having to deal with, and I see God's hand in this area too.

   I know that many times, God is working in and through our lives when we go through times that aren't so "boring."  Those times are important for our testimony and the closeness of our walk with Christ.  But sometimes I think we forget to be grateful for the times that are "boring" in our life, and we forget what a blessing from God they can be for us!   So, if you find yourself having a day where not much goes on, and it leads to a fairly uneventful week, be grateful!  Remember that God is the Author of all our times and seasons, and be thankful that He has given you a time of "boring!"  If you're going through some "exciting" times now, hold on to the promise that God knows the plans he has for you, and He is working in your life to make you more like Him (Jeremiah 29:11).  Keep your eyes on the Saviour, and be glad for "boring!"  :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

See, Legos Are For Grown-ups Too!

   Okay, so in keeping with the theme of this blog, namely Legos and family, I got this really great email yesterday.  It was from our next-door neighbor, who also happens to be the first-born's Cub Scout leader.  We have enjoyed getting to know our neighbors better through Scouts, and we knew that they had several things in common with us.  They also have all boys (4!), and their boys enjoy Legos and Star Wars and several other things like our boys.  (The last snow day we had, all of the boys (theirs and ours) were running around outside with light-sabers and space shooters playing "Star Wars"!  They are also home-schoolers, and are the children's ministry leaders at their church.  Suffice it to say, I'm not sure where he came up with the time to do this, but I was really impressed!  Go on over and check out what he did, especially if you're familiar with the Birmingham area.  So awesome!  :)   


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Motivational Methods

   Okay, let's face it.  You are not going to find a job that calls for more diverse job skills than being a wife and/or a mother.  I don't think any university anywhere could offer a four year degree that could prepare you for this!  And forget about getting your Master's degree!  God gave us our special talents and abilities, and He wants us to put them to the best use.  I think this is why most women don't have very much difficulty in doing more than one thing at a time; God has hardwired us to be able to cook supper, watch kids, talk on the phone, and fold laundry all at the same time! 

   One job skill that I have been having put to the test lately is the role of "motivational speaker."  Our first-born (aka the Lawyer) is in the first grade.  We have the privilege of being able to send him to our church-school.  So, out the door he goes every morning, to face the hallowed halls of knowledge.

    Unfortunately, he thinks that, for the most part, he is not in need of this knowledge, and so he proceeds to slack.  Now, he is not by any means unable to do the work.  On the contrary, I think the actual problem is the opposite.  He is tired of learning to write the letter 'M', so he goes to school with the mindset that what he is learning is not important.  Here's where the "motivational" part comes in! 

   My first idea was to move him up a grade.  However, I wasn't completely convinced that this was the way to go, since it would teach him that the 'boring' stuff in life could be skipped over when you want to.  Not a great lesson to instill early on in his school career!  Our Fearless Leader was also not sold on this idea, and he recommended increasing the volume of work accomplished in a day.  It would then stand to reason that he would be busier with getting his work completed, and then have less time to waste.  We also gave him a second grade elective course that could be worked on when his first-grade goals were completed.  Well, this worked great...for about a week!  Then he began to get his increased work done, and still have time to waste.  This meant that he would sit idly in his desk, and get lost in 'day-dream' land.  Not the desired effect...

   So, we took some time to re-visit what had worked for motivation in his past.  We remembered that when he was potty-training, we had a sticker chart.  Every time he went on the potty successfully, he got a sticker on his chart.  When he filled the chart (I think it was 9 squares altogether), we went to the park.  (This had one quirky side effect though, because now all my children refer to the local park as the 'sticker park'!)  So, now he has a new chart.  If he gets through a day of school with no demerits, he receives a sticker on his chart.  If he does this Monday through Thursday, then he get Friday out of school to have a fun day with mommy and the little boys.  Since we implemented this new system about four weeks ago, he has earned two Fridays out of school.  (One week he had an extra day out of school because of snow.)  This week has been a good one, so tomorrow we are heading to the park by daddy's office, and then going to eat lunch with daddy! 

   It is our hope to instill good work habits, and to teach the principle of doing your best no matter what.  You don't really think about the fact that someone taught you this until you are faced with teaching it to someone else!  Lots of patience and prayer is required in this crazy thing called parenting!  If any of you have "motivational" techniques that are a success for you, leave a note in the comments section.  After all, I have two more boys that aren't in school yet!  Not to mention a big guy that still hasn't mastered the definition of the words "laundry hamper"!  :) 

                                        Our active first-born!  :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grandparents, Legos, and Other Fun Stuff!

   So it's been a little while since I've posted last!  We were pretty busy the last few days with some extra stuff going on.

   The in-laws came down for a few days to visit.  The boys haven't gotten to spend much time with their dad's parents because they lived several states away.  Traveling that far (flying or driving) is a daunting task, so we couldn't make the trip as often as we may have liked!  Now, Grandpa & Grandma are retired, so they got an RV and are traveling around, visiting all their kids and grandkids!

   Now, I have great in-laws, and I am thankful for that.  But I stress when they (or anyone really) come to visit.  I think this has to do with my OCD, because I need the house to be CLEAN when people are coming, and let's face it, with three boys it just doesn't stay that way for long.  So I cleaned the house Thursday, and again Friday morning, and then the little boys and I decorated the house for Valentine's Day.  We finger-painted (another struggle with OCD!), and put up decorations that we had gotten at the Dollar Store.  The in-laws showed up early Friday afternoon, right in the middle of a snowball fight we were having with the left-over snow.  (Ulterior motive on that: if the boys are outside, they can't mess up the clean house!!)  The boys were excited, and immediately dragged Grandpa off to the toy room to play with (what else?) LEGOS!  Grandpa built a house for them, and then fell asleep on the floor of the toy room, tired after a long day of driving!  I reminded the boys that Grandpa sleeping on the floor was not like Daddy sleeping on the floor, and they were not to jump on him under any circumstances!  Then it was supper time.

   Since I'm confessing things, I will just admit that cooking for people stresses me out too.  (I know...I have issues with things being just right...!)  So, I cooked dinner, and it was well-received, which helped me relax a little.  The boys and I made a heart-shaped cake for Valentine's Day, so we enjoyed that for dessert.

   Saturday, Daddy got up and cooked breakfast for everyone (he knows about my cooking issues), and then we decided to take the grandparents to the Lego Store in the mall.  Now, the in-laws are from a smaller town, in a fairly sparsely populated state, so I tried to give them advanced warning about the state of the mall on a Saturday, especially the weekend of the holiday of guilt-induced money spending.  But they decided to brave it anyway, so on we went.  Poor Grandpa looked like he was having second thoughts about 15 minutes into it!  But we made it, and the boys and Daddy came out with some new Legos, which made their day!

   We had to say good-bye to Grandpa and Grandma this morning, and when they left, the first thing Middle Biscuit said was "When are Grandma and Grandpa going to be coming back from the beach?"  (They are going down to visit more grandkids who live in Pensacola, which is where we take the boys to the beach!)  I assured him that they would be coming back through soon, maybe even close to his birthday in May.  Thankfully, we had a fun day of a school party at the park to take our mind off it, so we got ready to go without too much drama!

   Today being Valentine's Day, everyone is thinking about love and things of the nature.  I am thankful that my boys are loved, not only by us of course, but also that they have a network of loving, supportive family members that they know love them too!  We are looking forward to getting to see some of them more often, and teaching our boys the importance of love and loyalty to your family!

   Now I have to get ready for the rest of our Valentine's Day.  Making my hubby and kiddos favorite meal of spaghetti (I have no trouble cooking for them!), and I have some 'loving' laundry to finish up!   You can love in all kinds of ways, right?  :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

There's This Book I've Been Reading...

   So, we have a new store here in Birmingham.  It has quickly become a place that I must stay away from, unless I have money to spend.  Because I can't go in without spending money on something; usually several somethings.  It is probably the best store in the world, at least to me.  It's called "2nd & Charles", and it is a used book store.  That sounds like no big deal, right?  Most people think dingy paperbacks, old textbooks, and things you're never going to read when they think of used book stores.  Not this place.  Thinks Barnes & Nobles minus the coffee shop and high prices.  Actually, it was started by Barnes & Nobles in an attempt to meet a need of exchanging books you've read, and getting new books for them, I think.  Anyway, suffice it to say, the store is awesome.  You can take used books, DVDs, CDs, and video games, and turn them in at the store.  They price them while you look around, and then offer you cash or store credit for your items.  Then you can SHOP!!  The store is huge.  I could move in there with no problem and spend the rest of my life reading.  I don't think I could read all the books they have...ever.  Not to mention DVDs & video games. 

   But I digress.  I didn't really start this post to advertise, but to tell you about this book I've been reading.  I have been wanting my own copy for a while.  Someone gave one to our family as a gift when I was a kid, and I really enjoyed reading it then.  It's called "The Book of Virtues" and it is edited & compiled by William J. Bennett.  Basically, he takes several virtues like 'Self-Discipline', 'Responsibility', Friendship', and so on, and then compiles poems, stories (both fiction & non-fiction), fables, and essays that bring out different aspects of the particular virtue.  I found a copy at 2nd & Charles a few weeks ago, and I've been reading it off and on to the boys, and on my own.

   So, under the section on "Responsibility", I found this really great little poem about personal responsibility.  I read it out loud to the boys and asked them what they thought it meant.  Without missing a beat, our little Lawyer said "Do your own business!"  (This is something we've been working with him on of late, so the idea was fresh in his mind!)  I thought I'd copy it over into this post.  I am considering making the boys memorize it, especially the oldest one! (We 'oldest's have a hard time with not forcing helping others make sure they are doing what they're supposed to be doing!)

                                                      If You Were

                    If you were busy being kind,
                    Before you knew it, you would find
                    You'd soon forget to think 'twas true
                    That someone was unkind to you.

                    If you were busy being glad,
                    And cheering people who are sad,
                    Although your heart might ache a bit,
                    You'd soon forget to notice it.

                    If you were busy being good,
                    And doing just the best you could,
                    You'd not have time to blame some man
                    Who's doing just the best he can.

                    If you were busy being right,
                    You'd find yourself too busy quite
                    To criticize your neighbor long
                    Because he's busy being wrong.

   Hope this helps you, like it helped me, to remember and practice I Thess. 4:11! :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Work, Work, Work!

    We all know that being a mom is a full-time job.  I once told my hubby that moms are on a shift schedule too, just like factory workers...but we work all the shifts ourselves!  However, doing all the work ourselves is also doing a disservice to our kiddos.  If they are in the habit of having things done for them, then by the time they need to do for themselves, it will be too late to teach them!  I have seen this play out several times in others lives.  I think moms get so caught up in serving the family, that they forget to teach the principle of serving to their kids.

   One of the biggest ways to teach serving to your kids is requiring them to WORK.  Yep, you know it...good old-fashioned CHORES.  It seems like a lot of people have a fear of making their kids work, thinking that they are robbing them of their childhood in some way.  Actually, all they are doing is raising up a group of self-involved people who have no idea how to work for themselves or anyone else.  I grew up having responsibilities that I had to accomplish before I was able to pursue my own leisure activities.  Of course, in the moment, I thought that the my parents were torturing me, but I am grateful for the experience now, because I know how to do things, and do them right.

    So, we have implemented chores from a fairly young age in our house.  Of course, with the first kid, you sometimes don't think about these things early enough, so our oldest got some time off early in his life!  He was introduced to chores at a later date than his brothers were!  Which chores you assign & at what ages are going to be dependent on your kids and their relative maturities.  As of right now, our 6 year old is responsible for making his bed, cleaning up toys, wiping the table after meal times, sweeping the floor with the dustpan, and taking out the trash.  Our 4 year old must also make his bed and clean up toys, but he is also responsible for feeding our cat, straightening the living room, and helping mommy empty the dishwasher.  However, because our 2 year old doesn't like being left out, he often helps with feeding the cat & emptying the dishwasher! I also have them put away their own laundry and set the table for meals.  

   I didn't grow up with an allowance, so I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle this aspect of chore time with the boys.  So, our fearless leader :) came up with this plan:  any chore that the boys do that is to help someone else with their job will earn allowance.  Therefore, the chores they do to help mommy (feeding the cat, trash, & the kitchen chores etc.), they will earn a nickel for each job each day.  the chores that they do for themselves (making bed, picking up toys, etc.)  do not earn money.  This reinforces the principle of personal responsibility for yourself, but also teaches the principle of working for someone else and receiving a wage that depends on that work.  We have a chore chart (Melissa & Doug magnetic one)  that helps us keep up with who does what, on what day. Payday is usually Sunday morning before church.  They divide their money in their banks labeled "Save" "Spend" and "Give".  (This helps teach that we give some of our money to God...thanks to their Sunday-School teacher for those!)   This system seems to work well for us, and as the boys get older, their chores will change and grow with them.

   My biggest struggle with this is simply the fact that I can do it faster myself, and so I do!  Once again our fearless leader helped me with this!  He is much more willing to give the boys challenging jobs, and expect them to carry them out!  A funny example of this principle in action happened the other day.  Stitch, our 2 year old, (so named by his brothers after they watched the movie "Lilo & Stitch", because he 'likes to yell and break stuff'!) caught his shirt on a small nail that was poking out of one of our cabinets.  He left, and a few minutes later, came back with his plastic hammer, and proceeded to hammer the nail back in!  His plastic tool wasn't very effective, so I got the 'big' hammer out, and helped him fix the nails in the cabinet.  The fact that he thought to fix the problem himself, rather than ask for help made me realize that maybe, just maybe, our hard work is paying off!  :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Grocery Shopping as an Art Form...

   So, today is Wednesday, and for me that means grocery shopping day.  I have been asked by several people lately how much we spend on food and how can you make your food budget go further.  So I thought that I might do a quick blog about my favorite ways to stretch what God has blessed us with.

   1.  Think of grocery shopping as a challenge, not a chore.  I like to look at grocery shopping as a kind of scavenger hunt for the best deals.  This has stood me in good stead as I made the trek from store to store for the steals & deals.  "I am the Indiana Jones of grocery shopping..." has been the refrain in the back of my mind on occasion!

   2. Avoid the Wal-Mart trap.   This is one mistake I made in the early days.  You get trapped into thinking that Wal-Mart has the best prices on everything, so you start shopping there for everything.  Unfortunately, this mentality caused our grocery bill to sky-rocket over a few months, until Jared finally said something.  Of course, I immediately replied "But I'm buying everything at Wal-Mart!"  However, when we sent back and looked, we realized that our grocery bill had nearly doubled during that time.  One of the biggest issues we had was with the meat and produce prices. 

   3. Check the circulars.   When we discovered this problem, I had to change my grocery shopping habits quickly.  The way that worked best for us then was for me to check all the local store circulars and buy the things that were on sale.  I just went from store to store and took advantage of marked down things, BOGO items, and "sticker meat."  (For those who don't know what this is...if you get to the grocery store early enough in the morning, you have a really good chance of finding meat that has been marked down because it is getting too close to its non-sale date.  This has been a great help to me often!)

    4.  Don't be afraid of 'generic'.   Personally, this has not really ever been as issue with me, because I grew up on generic food.  Plus, I am the least picky person I know, so slight taste differences in the food aren't that noticeable to me.  In most instances, you can barely tell the difference between the store-brand and name-brand items.  If you're willing to give store-brands a try, you can save a lot of money that way.

   5. Discount grocery stores.   This is my biggest weapon in the arsenal of stretching our food budget.  I have to admit, when I saw they were building an Aldi in our area, I was definitely excited.  We had shopped there when I was a kid, so I knew that it was great for saving money.  Yes, they are more work, but since I started doing the bulk of my shopping there, our food expenses have gone down by at least a third.  I would encourage you to find a discount store in your area and start shopping there for a while.  You will really notice the difference!  If you don't have a whole discount grocery store, you may want to try a type of store like Fred's or Dollar General.  I used to buy a lot of my dry goods and canned foods at DG because they were less than the grocery store.

   6. Buying in bulk.   I have to admit, I was not a fan of bulk-buying for a long time.  The receipts always seemed so HUGE when I got done!  But now that I have three growing boys and a growing husband :), I am becoming reconciled to the benefits of this method.  I have made the discovery that, for us, the things that I DON'T buy generic (Huggies, Tide, Swiffers, and a few other things) are better prices at Costco.  Also, most bulk store have their own brand too, and I have found that to be just as good as the name brand in most cases.  Costco also sends out monthly coupons, so that is an added savings on the things I already buy.  I try to time my purchases so that they coincide with the coupons. 

   Well, this post is getting pretty long, so I guess I'll wrap up for now.  I hope these few ideas will help you be a better steward of what God has given you.  If you have any other questions about something I didn't mention, just drop me a note in the 'comments' section.  Don't forget, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in that which is much:" Luke 16:10  Happy shopping and saving!  :)