Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Fall, Ya'll!

    Well, it's definitely fall around here, and I couldn't be more excited!  I have always considered fall to be my favorite season--the cooler weather, changing trees, fire in the fireplace, and the holiday seasons are coming up!  For this Monday's "Joyful Mom" post, the theme is "family fun", so I thought I'd share some of our family's favorite fall activities. 

     One fun thing we like to do every fall is go to a pumpkin patch.  It's not always the same one, and sometimes we do it as a school field trip, but we enjoy doing this as a family.  It's fun to watch the boys pick out their pumpkin each year--as they get older it seems to take a little longer to find the perfect one.  This year we went as a school field trip to a working farm, so they not only got to pick out a pumpkin, but they got to see animals, do a hay-maze and corn-maze, and pick cotton. 
Two of my "turkeys" (background)  looking at a turkey!

Levi picking cotton--unenthusiastically.

Levi checking out the cotton crop.


     Of course, after we have all those pumpkins, there's only one thing to do--carve them!  While we don't really celebrate Halloween as a family, I have always enjoyed carving pumpkins with the boys.  It's a fun activity, and it doesn't have to have to be scary.  (Although, the bigger boys sometimes like something a little scary, but I don't let them get too carried away.)  This year we invited Aunt S. over to carve with us, and she carved us a great Lego man pumpkin!  Here's what the finished products looked the closet with the lights out.

Our Lego man pumpkin, and the pumpkin Mommy carved this year.

Here are the boy's pumpkins...carved with a little help from Mommy!
Middle Biscuit wanted the Pac-Man ghost on his, while First-Born wanted a ghost with a graveyard.  (No making fun...this is the extent of Mommy's artistic ability!)

     When we get done carving the pumpkins, I always take some time to roast some pumpkin seeds.  The boys have always thought that these are a great treat.  I made some savory ones this year, along with some cinnamon-sugar ones.

     Another event in the fall that I try to take part in every year is heading to a ladies retreat in Pensacola.  This is less a family-thing than a Mommy-thing, but I figure if it's good for Mommy, it's good for the whole family, right?  It is always such a blessing to be able to attend, and I am always able to glean many things for my Christian walk.  An added bonus is that everyone (especially Daddy) is very excited when Mommy gets back!   Absence makes the heart grow fonder!

     Well, these are some things we enjoy about the fall.  Remember to take time and have fun traditions with your's what they will remember when they are grown.  Check out the other "Joyful Moms" posts for today, and make sure you have a joyful Monday!  :) 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Joyful Mommy-ing--Organized!

     Well, it's my second post for "Joyful Moments", and the topic is one that is near and dear to my heart!  Organization!  Ahhh...just thinking about an organized life is bliss!  I freely admit that I am slightly OCD about a few things around here.  But when you have a Hubby, three boys, a baby on the way, teach full time, manage a house and want your kids to have clean clothes occasionally (they start the day out clean anyway!), then you have to give some thought to organization!

     The methods I have used have varied from time to time, and necessity will often motivate a change in how things are run, but basically, being organized helps me stay on top of things, rather than things staying on top of me!  Actually, I was going to take this post in a whole different direction, (more how-to rather than why) but this morning in church, the preacher (not my Dad this Sunday, but the youth pastor of our church) preached a very good message on priorities.  And that sent my line of thinking down a whole different road.

    Because, let's face it, we organize our life according to our priorities.  And also, if we are not organized, it won't be long until our priorities are out of balance--the "loud" things drowning out the more important things.  God in a God of organization, but He has a specific end result--Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."  (Emphasis mine.)  So I was thinking this morning, "How can being organized help us keep first things first?"

     So here are a few things in a list (yay for lists--very helpful for being organized!) that may help you the next time you are trying to organize (or re-organize) your life. 

      *Your personal spiritual life.   As moms, this is often the thing that slides to the bottom of the heap of things to do in a day.  We can sometimes manage to squeeze in a snatch of Bible reading as we end our day, but often this leads to being hit in the face with the Bible because we are falling asleep!  (Not really how God wants to commune with us, I'm sure!)  Recently, this is one thing I have been trying to work on for myself.  I am not a morning person, but I have been waking up a few minutes earlier every day, (hopefully before the kids are up) and having my Bible study time first.  It has been working well, and I find I am able to ponder things I have read throughout my day, which helps me keep things in perspective.  So, remember to make God first in your life--the other things have a tendency to fall in line after that!

      *Your family.    This is where the "rubber meets the road" when it comes to organization as moms.  And most people would think it would not be an area that our priorities can get out of balance, but I have seen (in my life, as well as observing others) that this is not the case.  One example is that sometimes moms forget that they were wives first.  They put the kids before their husband, and things quickly fall apart.  Another example is that moms forget their first ministry is to their own family.  They allow their other "ministries" to command all their time and effort, and their family begins to suffer.  So, it's important to organize your life so that your family takes the place that they were meant to have by the Lord.

      *Household management.    This is a fancy word for "chores."  That's right, all the stuff we do that no one seems to notice or appreciate, but it has to be done.  I struggle in this area--mainly because I focus on the chores, rather than the reason for the chores.  A put-together house is important to me.  Really important.  Can't-go-to-sleep-if-there-are-dishes-in-the-sink important.  (*Sigh--I know, I know, I told you I was OCD!)  But I forget that sometimes the floor can go unmopped if it means a child's heart is encouraged.  Clothes can stay unfolded for a while if it means that I can spend some time in a teachable moment.  This is a difficult challenge for me...OCD, remember?  The biggest thing as far as being organized in the chores (how-to moment!) for me has been assigning each day a specific task and trying to get that thing done that day.  For example, now that I am away from home for a large portion of the day, all the laundry doesn't get done in one day like it used to. (!!)  So, I try to get at least two loads done on Monday when I get home, and try to finish the rest on Tuesday.  Straightening is done daily, with "actual" cleaning done either on Thursday afternoon, or first thing Saturday morning.  (Lately, Saturday morning has been working quite well--I'm thinking of making this a permanent change...)  I try to reserve Friday afternoons for "winding down" time from the long week of school. 

     *Fun times.     Who organizes or prioritizes fun?  Doesn't that-well-take the FUN out of it?  Not for this mommy!  If I didn't organize for fun and make it a priority, there would be many times that days would go by without any fun whatsoever!  It's easy for me to fall into a trap of always finding another chore that needs to be done, or something that needs to be taken care of, to the detriment of moments for rejuvenating.  Especially during the busy-ness of the school year, when the days are shorter with more things to fit into them.  So I have been trying to work on this with a little more consistency.  I have noticed that the kids get less frustrated if they realize that there is a time when the work will be finished, and they will get to have some fun.  One thing recently (how-to moment!) that has worked well for us has been a personal list for each of the boys.  I jot down the things they need to accomplish and roughly how long it should take, and hand them the list.  They like being able to see exactly what they need to have done to earn their recreation time.  Plus, they can cross each thing out, and I am not having to constantly ask, "Is this or that done yet?"  This has an added benefit of teaching organization and time management to the boys as well, because if it's not done by supper, then they don't get the recreation time.

     Well, there's a lot more that can be written on this topic, but this post has been long enough!  I hope it was an encouragement to you, and that it helps you to remember that organization is part of God's plan for a well-ordered (hence peaceful!) life!  Check out what the other moms have to say on this topic as well!   It might be fun to get in touch with your inner OCD tendencies, and see where it will take you!  :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Moments of Joy in Mommy-ing

   So, my S-I-L who also blogs has started a "Joyful Mom Monday" blogging series where people can link up their blog to hers and we can all read what the other wrote about mothering.  (At least that's what I think it means...I haven't delved too deeply into the blogging experience, other than to figure out who to work my own...barely.)  Anyway, I wanted to see if I could actually figure this out, and also wanted to encourage her in her new venture, so I am going to attempt to take part in this--periodically.  My blogging has suffered lately--I think it's because I'm a little busy right now--haha!

   Since I decided to try to take part in this, I have been thinking about being joyful as a mom, and as a "regular" person.  For those of you who may not know me, the sort-of theme of my blog is taking the time to look for those little moments of joy and fun in your life--the "Lego" moments.  Like opening your make-up drawer to find a Lego pirate man looking up at you.  :)

    I think a big part of being joyful as a mom--and as a "regular" person too--is looking for those moments.   Some people may think that mothers are just full of fun and joy because, after all they are moms.  I mean, you're surrounded by happy, funny little people all day, who love you and need you more than anything else.  Your life must be overflowing with joy and happiness, right? 

     Well, yes, in some sense.  In the sense that children are a blessing from the Lord, and therefore a source of joy.  In the sense that they are gifts to be nurtured, and that God has entrusted you (me!!) to train and care for them.  But these are the more--hmmm, how can I put it--ethereal aspects of the joy of motherhood.  The kind that are there, but it's-sometimes-hard-to-see-it way.  The joy you think is going to be a part of your everyday life when you become a mother--and then you bring your baby home from the hospital.

     And you quickly realize that mommy-ing isn't what you see on the Johnson&Johnson commercials.  You know--the beautiful, swaddled infant contentedly snuggling with his miraculously slender post-baby mother.  It's more about 3am, walking miles in your living room with a writhing starfish that used to be your long-awaited baby.  That's when you have to start looking for the moments of joy.

     But I think this is true of any person's life.  If we do not look for the joys that are in front of us, then it is very easy to miss them.  In the hustle and bustle of "the daily grind" we have to be actively searching for the moments of joy.  Sometimes it's easier than other times.  There are days in mothering when you are surrounded by happy little people and it's easy to have joy.  Just like in life, when things are going great and it's easy to think of those joyful moments.  Then there are other days.  Loss of a job, unexpected illness, or one of the many other difficult things life may hold for us.  Those are the times when it's difficult to see  what we can be joyful about.

   As Christians, our example in all things is Jesus.  He is what we aspire to be like.  And He had to look for the joy in the difficult circumstances in His life as well.  In Hebrews 12:2, it says "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Emphasis mine.)  To me, this verse is telling me that Jesus had to remind himself of the joy that was to come during the hardest time in His life.

     So, be encouraged mommies!  It's okay to have to look hard for the joy some days.  Just so long as you are looking.  Because that's what's look!  And you'll find them more often than you Legos scattered in your house!  :)

     Be sure to check out the other "Joyful Mom" blogs for today as well!  Because, let's face it, Mondays can always use a little more joy!  :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Just Checking In!

     It's been a little while since I did a "just checking in" post.  I thought it would be good to run down what we've been up to lately around here! 

     The kiddos:  The boys have been doing okay lately.  We seem to be going through a "phase" or two, especially with the eldest and the youngest.  It has been the topic of many late-night conversations between Daddy and Mommy.  We don't dismiss the boys behavior as "just a phase"--it is something that needs to be recognized and dealt with accordingly.  But we like to determine if there is a root cause for the behavior that stems from something else going on in our lives.  We have had a lot of changes, and there are several more big ones coming up, and this can cause upheaval in little ones' lives!  Which they act on the only way they can--by acting up!  Our biggest issue right now is speaking respectfully.  First-Born tends to be precocious for his age, and very verbal, and doesn't think the things he thinks (and then says) can be disrespectful to those around him.  Especially to Mommy.  He has definitely out-grown the "little boy" stage of his life, and has required Daddy's firm hand several times recently.  One of the most difficult things to instill is to think first, and speak second--there are lots of grown-ups who still struggle with this!  Stitch is at that 3-year old talkative stage, and has picked up "answering back" from big brother.  *Sigh--it's funny--undesirable behaviors are like germs; they get passed around!

     The Baby:  Things are going well with the upcoming little one!  We are already being blessed with little girl things, and the shower isn't until December!  I was thinking about the blog, and realized I need to think of a good code name for her...any suggestions?  The doctor said things looked great at the last check-up.  I admit, I asked him if I was measuring bigger than normal, because I've been feeling huge lately.  He said I wasn't, and that it was just fourth-baby issues.  Baby's getting stronger though--Daddy got to feel her really kicking the other night!  :)

     Our ministry:  This is something I have to keep reminding myself...sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis.  This is not a is a ministry!  This keeps me from getting frustrated with being outside the home, feeling like things are slipping through the cracks, or dealing with one more behavior issue at school.  In moments of complete honesty I must admit that I miss being a "stay-at-home" mom.  Looking back, life seemed so much simpler then!  Now, I am feeling pulled in a million directions at once!  I know Satan can use these thoughts to discourage, so I pray a lot through the day for wisdom and strength. And I keep reminding myself that this is God's direction for our family right now, and He will give us the strength to persevere!  

    Well, that about wraps it up for what's going on around here in our day-to-day life!  It's time to jump back in--two little boys need their baths, and then it's bedtime for three rambunctious boys and one not-so-rambunctious Mommy!  After lunches are packed, and laundry is put away, of course!  "Little by little, inch by inch..."  :) 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Much-Needed Family Fun Time!

     This weekend we were able to get away for a little trip as a family.  It was First-Born's 8th birthday last weekend.  One thing we have found that works for us is to take the kids on a trip somewhere for their birthday instead of buying them another "thing."  (Because, believe me, we have enough toys to stock a store for a week!)  They tend to remember it longer as well.  This works especially well for First-Born, because he is a "see-and-learn" kind of kid, rather than a "play-with-a-toy" kind.

     So, we decided to take a family member up on their invitation to visit and spend the night, and then head to a wildlife preserve and natural science museum the next day.  First-Born is our budding naturalist, and really enjoys learning about God's creatures and creation!

     After a fun visit with family, and a yummy breakfast of French Toast, we set off on our adventure.  We went to the wildlife preserve first, to beat the heat of the day.  This preserve mainly focused on birds, and we were able to see several different kinds of birds, eagle's nest!  This was VERY exciting to the boys, as they love eagles, and have never seen a nest that big before!  Here is a picture of it from the car...

     We also went for a hike on one of the nature trails that was a part of the preserve.  We always enjoy hiking together, but Daddy said it will obviously be a little while before he can take the noisy boys hunting with him!  :) 

     After the hike, we let First-Born pick where he wanted to go eat lunch.  Thankfully for our budget, he picked Arbys, which has a great dollar menu!  (When you have a growing family, you judge restaurants based solely on the caliber of their dollar menu.  Our favorite pick is Wendys!)  So, after a good lunch, we headed to our next destination.

     Cooks Pest Control Museum was the next stop.  I know, I thought is was odd for a pest control company to have a museum as well.  But we had heard good things about it, and it was FREE, so off we went.  It turned out to be a really neat place!  They had a lot of interesting exhibits of local AL wildlife, plus a good collection of rocks and minerals.  The boys thought it was really great, and spent a lot of time looking at each thing.  One of their favorites was the stuffed alligator that was right on their level.  They just HAD to get a picture doing this...

And this...
And don't forget this!
     Then we hopped in the car to head home, with a trip to Dairy Queen for ice cream cones.  Mommy was even brave and let the boys eat their cones in the car!  There were no messes though, much to my relief!  All in all, it was a really great family day...the only problem is, when you have one fun time like that, you always want another one!  Hmmm, when's our next day off from school...? :)