Friday, January 18, 2019

2018 Backlog - The Farmhouse Table

Josh has had the sweetest tradition over the last few years of gifting me with blog books for each year I have blogged.  I kind of dropped the habit of scrapbooking once I began blogging and we missed those years of memories in a tangible book. 
But the past few blog years have contained less and less posts.
It doesn't help that my real camera isn't working...

Anyway, I decided that we actually DID have some fabulous memories to capture from 2018 that I want to backlog for my future blog books I will receive from Josh (hint, hint;).

My first post is a project that began at the beginning of 2018 and took the better part of the year to complete, but we eventually got it done!

We saved all of our Christmas money and added it to the Lowe's gift cards we received so we could make the table we had always dreamed of having.
And because buying a 10' table just wasn't an option, we decided to build one.  

As our family has grown we began running out of seating for any additional people that might be at our home to eat with us...and we always seem to have extra mouths to feed and people to enjoy at mealtime.  So it was a want, but certainly a need as well.

We found some FREE PLANS on Pinterest.

As we all know, the first step of a project can sometimes be the most difficult.
It took us nearly two weeks to purchase the wood.
January 12, 2018
An additional two weeks went by before we even began the sanding process.
And that process seemed to take FOREVER!

So.Much.Sanding.

January 24, 2018
Then the pieces began taking shape (another 2 weeks later, ha!)

February 3, 2018
With the cuts made we were a little more motivated to begin putting the pieces together.

February 9, 2018


Then the process of staining.
The first coat went on WAY too thick.  It took several days to dry completely.
We learned quickly from that lesson and the other two coats went much quicker.

February 13, 2018



My parents let us borrow some folding chairs so we could begin using the table.
I'd like to say we jumped on the benches super quick, but life happened...

Here was our first dinner at the new table.

March 1, 2018


FINALLY, in the middle of May we took advantage of the gorgeous weather
and began the process all over again,
this time with the benches.

May 12, 2018
July 3, 2018
By the beginning of July we were using both assembled benches.
Staining began July 3, and took a while because we could only do one bench at a time 
so we could have a place to eat and do school.

July 3, 2018
August 1st was the magic day.
The table was done! 

August 1, 2018


We had long begun incorporating this table with the many people that came in and out of our home.
They saw the whole process!
The good. The bad. The ugly.

The only way to hide this process was to shut the doors to our home,
and that simply wasn't going to happen.

And even though our table is done,
there are many more lessons to learn,
so much more refining to do,
any many, many more messes to clean up.

But you are welcome here.
Let's walk through it all together.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Season Of Release and Seeking Perspective



The last time I wrote a blog was right before heading to Via Vacation at the beginning of September. I have never neglected my blog for such a long amount of time!

We had no idea what the rest of the year was going to hold for our family.

Not only did Josh and I find ourselves in an abnormally busy traveling ministry season, but we also welcomed little 2 1/2 year old Homestar into our family the morning after we arrived back home from vacation.

I have grabbed my computer to sit down and write at least a dozen times over the course of the past 4 months but I literally can't will my mind to formulate anything blog worthy.  (Part of this is because of the nature of our lives right now.  We are sharing our family with another, one of the most difficult and beautiful things we have ever done. This means that not all of our memories are OURS to share and we want to be sensitive.)

As I look back over the past several months I see that my blog isn't the only thing that has been neglected. I have released almost every responsibility of mine that is not absolutely necessary.

When I am at my best I see that my release of so many things has been a good, healthy, necessity for this season that we are in right now.  I simply know that I can't do it all and I'm okay with that. It is viewed as a "release".

But when I am at my worst I feel like a failure. I feel like I can't keep up. I feel like I can't do it all and that feeling is very defeating. It is viewed as "neglect".

This is when I begin to doubt my calling and my capacity for that calling.

But the Lord keeps whispering the word "perspective" into my soul.

I love the quote by Raymond Edman that says, "Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light."

This year I'm praying that God would help me keep focused on His perspective.  

His perspective with relational conflict, with life circumstances, with parenting, with fostering, with ministry, with homeschooling, with EVERYTHING.

When I am seeking the Lord's perspective I see that it isn't my own strength loving all of these kids and this wonderful husband and the community He has surrounded me with anyway, it is Him. It's always Him.

Perspective.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"I KNOW, but..."



"I KNOW, but..."

This phrase is something that we are trying to eliminate from Jude's vocabulary.  Those words were quickly beginning to weasel their way to the beginning of EVERY excuse he had when being told that his reaction to something (or disobedience to do something) was off.

Me:"Jude I asked you to put those dirty socks in the laundry."
Jude:"I KNOW, but I wanted to finish coloring my picture."

Me:"Jude, you can't yell at Zeke like that!"
Jude:"I KNOW, but he took my Lego Flash guy."

Me:"Jude, you need to buckle you seatbelt buddy. Remember, that should be the FIRST thing you do when you get settled in the car."
Jude:"I KNOW, but I don't LIKE to wear a seatbelt."

You get the idea.

The last 24 hours or so have been pretty frustrating for me as a mom. I feel like I have been a record stuck on repeat, saying the same phrases over and over...and over.

I want so desperately for my kids to be responsible children.
To learn to clean up after themselves
To speak respectfully to each other
To do what is asked of them without trying to negotiate
To take care of the things we have been given

All of these things are VERY good things to teach our children.
In fact, the lack of these things is becoming so commonplace among this generation that I am determined to fight the battle against things like this until my kids are out of my home.

At what cost, though?
It's all about the delivery and speaking to the heart, and I have failed this week.

Josh pulled me aside this morning and gracefully and lovingly told me that he felt like I was speaking too harshly with the kids.

(Girls, you need to find you a man who loves you enough to call you out in love.  And then you need to learn to receive those words with a humble spirit...something I am working on.  My tendency is to be offended and try to justify my behavior...but that gets me nowhere but stuck and feeling like everyone else needs to change but me.  And we ALL know that we are ALL a work in progress.  Stupid pride...)

And wouldn't you know, my very first reaction to Josh's words were:
"I KNOW, but..."

...Zeke totally just spilled orange juice ALL OVER THE TABLE and just left it."
...Alethia KNOWS how to make her bed by herself. I've seen her do it a million times."
...Jude will NOT stop whining."
...it's not THAT hard for Rainy to start that paragraph with a good topic sentence."
...Cai keeps getting in everybody's faces! Nobody likes that."

For some reason I have felt justified to respond differently than I teach because I have the "parent pass" that allows outbursts of frustration, apologies with excuses, and entitlement to be the one in control.

It's that "but" that gets me into trouble.  It's that tiny little word that keeps me from seeing what I can do differently to change my heart in the situation.

It goes the same way with apologies.
Teaching our kids to apologize and forgive are part of our everyday repertoire as parents.  But so often I find myself apologizing with an excuse at the end.

"I'm so sorry for yelling at you like that, but..."

That kind of apology isn't taking full responsibility for my actions though.  It is merely going through the motions but passing part of the blame.  Sure, they may have DESERVED it, but that doesn't make what I said or did right.

Living with a "but" at the end of every sentence isn't God's way.

It doesn't breathe life into my kids.
It does quite the opposite actually.

I want my kids to see how I loved them, even in the midst of their weaknesses.
I want my kids to see that I truly care more about their hearts than their clean rooms.
I want my kids to see a mom who can own up to her sin instead of trying to pass the blame.

I'm not writing this post this morning because I have a 5-step plan to get us parents out of this mentality.  I'm right here WITH you!

But I SEE it.
I'm calling my sin out for what it is.
And I'm doing some business with God, the only one who can keep my tongue tamed and my heart soft with compassion, understanding, patience and love.

Praise God for His immediate forgiveness and the lack of the word "but" in His vocabulary.

Proverbs 16:24
"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

19 Simple Steps To Ensure You Never Have To Pay For A Vacuum Cleaner Again

Caption SHOULD read, "Never Loses Suction...Until It Does"

1 - Have 5 dirty children (but really, any children will do)

2 - Accumulate more pets than you can count (Seriously ya'll, Josh had a dad approach him at our soccer practice the other week who said, "I see ya'll have a lot of pets at your house.  You want a couple of bunnies?")

3 - Mandate an open door policy so that you always have other people in and out (preferably ones that come with small children that can help the process)

4 - Make sure you purchase an old home with layers of filth and dust underneath your current carpeted flooring

***Steps 1-4 are only needed to ensure the overuse of your current vacuum cleaner***

NOTE - Bypass Steps 1 -4 if you are one of those rare people that actually cleans on a schedule whether your house actually needs it or not.  Personally I prefer steps 1-4, but you do you.

5 - Begin cycling through vacuum cleaners on a 6-9 month basis, no matter how hard you try to maintain them, because they CAN.NOT.KEEP.UP.WITH.THE.FILTH.

6 - Voice your frustration about how society doesn't make things the way they used to anymore (My parents got a toaster for their wedding and it lasted for DECADES ya'll! I can't even imagine!)

7 - Then mention that you are going to have to shell out a bunch of money...AGAIN... because steps 1-4 require them

8 - Surround yourself with friends in your life who can speak truth and hope in such times of need

9 - Adhere to her advice immediately by scouring Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons for the best vacuum cleaner deal you can find

10 - Purchase the beautiful machine and save the receipt and box in a safe place (because we KNOW we are going to need it in a few months)

11 - Use the vacuum cleaner as seen in previous steps

12 - Wait for the clean smell of a freshly vacuumed room to be replaced by that burned plastic/rubber smell that no candle or oil diffuser can stand against

13 - Pray that you can at LEAST get the dog hair up from the living room before your small group comes in the door

14 - Keep praying that prayer for another week or so until the vacuum cleaner begins spitting out its contents in defiance as you quietly curse at it under your breathe. (I guess I can't blame it. It has worked a long hard 4 months and 23 days *insert eye roll*)

15 - Turn your frown upside down as you walk to your shed to pull out the box and receipt.

16 - Walk into Bed, Bath and Beyond with your head held high because today is YOUR day!  It is the day you get a BRAND NEW VACUUM CLEANER FOR FREE!

17 - But don't walk out of there without your new receipt that you are going to need in another few months to repeat these steps

18 - Return home and unpackaged that brand new vacuum cleaner and realize that you probably should have returned your other one weeks ago because you really shouldn't have to empty the container 4 times with one vacuuming that was JUST completed with your other vacuum cleaner!

19 - Let your heart be happy as you make those fresh vacuum lines in your carpet once again

People, THIS is why we need each other!

NOTE - This system will work with anything you purchase from Bed, Bath and Beyond.  In fact, I texted my friend to thank her for telling me about this and she said she is just WAITING for her Vitamix to go so she can take it back and get a new one, lol. This same friend also upgrades her vacuum cleaner by paying the difference on her returned broken vacuum cleaner!  I mean, do I have brilliant friends or what?! They have a "no questions asked" return policy.  Who knew?!  Well, now YOU do.  You're welcome!
     

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Be The Change


I have one particular child going through something right now. We have been at a stalemate for years and we are at a point where we really need to address this issue head-on...again.

Talking to them last night I tried to reassure them that I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of the situation is COMPLETELY out of their control, but that I also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were at least SOME things that they COULD control.

This child simply hasn't put any effort into the part they could control because they can't control it ALL. We set out a game plan, knowing there is absolute grace in what is out of their control, and just doing our best to make progress in the part that IS in their control.

This takes discipline.
This takes motivation.
This takes getting over the pride that keeps us from taking ownership and seeing our own responsibility for growth, (because let's face it, as soon as we think "Whatever, I'm good with God. It's YOU that has to get it together.", you are fooling yourself into the lie that you have arrived and don't have any sin in your own heart to work out. We are ALL works in progress).
Which all takes a LOT of prayer, because it is ONLY THROUGH CHRIST that we can make the move.

I tried to explain that they would never have freedom from this particular situation unless they chose to make a move in a different direction.

We often tell our kids when they are arguing back and forth about something that nothing is going to change unless one of them takes the higher road and stops it.  Sometimes it means simply walking away (because it's hard to argue when nobody else is in the room to argue with).  Other times it's as simple as just NOT fighting back. Either way, SOMEONE is going to have to change something for it to stop.

If you are feeling stuck and not knowing how to get out of the pit, try taking a step in a different direction.
Try offering grace instead of blame.
Try softening your heart instead of building up that wall.
Try loving instead of putting down.
Try stepping in the shoes of someone else instead of always playing the victim.
Try forgiveness instead of holding on to the trophy of bitterness, anger and/or resentment.

I don't know what it needs to be for you, but just try something different.

It is uncomfortable for sure.
It absolutely seems unfair much of the time.
But isn't the grace we've been freely given just as important as the grace we are commanded to give?

I know, I know...easier said than done, but MAN is it worth it!

Today, take one step in a different direction to begin to be the change.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

15 Minutes To Progress


Have you ever had one of those days?

You know, where the to-do list keeps growing and growing with no end in sight.

It might be a list full of the more mundane things in life such as just changing over the laundry or unloading the dishwasher to keep the dishes cycle going. Or it could be bigger more time-sensitive things.

Regardless, if you are having one of those days and you can't figure out where to begin I've got a simple system that helps my brain get motivated and unstuck.

First I prioritize my list into separate sublists:

  1. Things that MUST get done today
  2. Things that need to get done but are not time sensitive
  3. Things that have been hanging over my head that I'd like to get done but are not urgent at all
I like to start with 2-3 small things that I KNOW can be accomplished relatively quickly so I can make some checks off of my list and feel like I really can get some stuff accomplished.

Set the timer for 15 minutes for each small thing you want to get done.  Most of the time it is something that gets completed way before the timer will ever go off so go ahead and see how many of those small tasks you can get done in those first 15 minutes.  It will challenge yourself to get moving.

After checking a couple small tasks off of my list  I look at my #1 list of things that MUST get done but may take a bit of heel digging and time.

Turn off all notifications on phones and computers and put aside anything else that might distract you.

Then set a timer for 15 minutes and just dive in.  You will be surprised at how quickly you can get in the zone when you get rid of all other distractions and you work as hard as you can until the timer goes off.  Most likely you will be ready to keep going once that initial 15 minutes is up.

Just getting started is the hardest part, but EVERYONE can give it just 15 minutes of undistracted focus to get going.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Micaiah Joel Turns 9


Today we celebrate the day Cai came into this world!
He was by far my easiest delivery.

He may have cried his entire first year of existence (not entirely true, but kind of, lol)
but this kid has grown into a world class comedian
making it his personal mission to make everyone around him laugh
(no matter what the cost sometimes).

He says his favorite things right now are:
soccer - he has become obsessed with this sport and learning it in detail
food - he is VERY passionate about his food
art - he is an AMAZING artist!

He is super creative and a very hard worker when he sets his mind to something.

His hair is gorgeous
and his smile is adorable.

His laugh is contagious
and his heart is sweet.

He asks a million questions and wants to know every detail
(of everyone's conversations, ha!)

Cai, it is an absolute pleasure to be your mom. You certainly keep the atmosphere full of life around here!  We continue to pray that you will be a man of Truth and I believe you are living up to your namesake and pray that you will continue to walk closely to Jesus.
Happy birthday buddy!
Love, Mom

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Life Cycle Of A Colony Cuke

Stage 1: The Colony gardener will sow her tiny cucumber seeds in the garden

Stage 2: The tiny cucumber seeds will grow and actually THRIVE (at least in 2018)

Stage 3: The plants will bear an obscene amount of fruit that the Colony gardener will not realize until stage 4

Stage 4: The Colony gardener will realize her garden hasn't gotten much attention over the course of a 2-week span and will then spend a hot afternoon in the garden playing hide-n-seek with a bunch of cucumbers.
(Clearly I won the game!)

Stage 5: The Colony gardener will then assess the victorious bounty
(Sorry little premature carrots that I accidentally uprooted. You were still very tasty AND you prove that others are still out there fighting for their lives well)

Stage 6: Some of the cucumbers will be cut into slices for the Colony children to consume with humus or homemade ranch
(rather quickly, I might add)


Stage 7: Other cucumbers will be cut into slices and paired with freshly picked mint from the garden to infuse in deliciously refreshing water.
(which will be consumed just as quickly)
(cucumber infused water has several health benefits!)


Stage 8: The leftovers from the water are then fed to the chickens as a nice refreshing snack.
(Did you know that by feeding cucumbers to your chickens you can help lower their body temperature on hot summer days?)

I love it when things can be used to their fullest!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

It Takes A Village ~ Tips and Tricks To Make Life A Little Less Crazy

This photo makes it look like two of the towels are the same color,
but one is actually a light brown and another is gray.

A few years ago, after implementing a great disciplinary idea I had learned from one of my friends, one of my kids said: "See, that is the problem with moms.  They hang out together and TALK and give each other ideas!"

It is SO true!

Just about every idea we have for discipline, organization and strategies has come from reading books, other's examples and ideas from friends. You better believe I watch my friend's very closely to see what works for them and pull from their ideas when I see one that also might work for us!

I want to tell you about one such idea that has literally saved us water, money, time, angst and battles.

I was looking at 12 cups lining my counter.  None of which were mine and Josh was at work, so they certainly weren't his.  It was only lunchtime so I knew that by the end of the day the amount of cups was going to grow but not the number of children using them.

I voiced my frustration to my friend.  I told her that we had tried to tell our kids to remember which cup was theirs and where they placed it so they could keep up with it throughout the day so we didn't have this problem, but it never seemed to work. I mean, I can't blame them.  I can't even keep up with my OWN cup...except that mine looks different than everyone else's so it's easy for me to spot or for others to find for me (shout out to Alethia who is my right-hand find-mom's-phone, keys, pocketbook, flip flops, cup...).

Then my friend spoke up and told me of the most brilliant idea that she does with her family.  They each have their own color cup! So simple, yet SO ingenious.

Then she went on to say that she does the same thing with towels.  And I immediately backtracked over the course of the week and realized just how many loads of towels I have washed (not to mention that my dryer takes about 3 cycles to actually dry a load, so I typically line-dry them outside), conversations I've had with the kids about hanging up their towel, remembering where they hung it up and then reusing the towel so I don't have to wash SO MANY FREAKING TOWELS all the time because nobody will claim them.  And then the famous question I ask on a daily basis: "Who's towel is this? I need you to come and hang it up to dry."

Here is where I post my disclaimer about Colony cleanliness.  Our family has NEVER been the family whose kids get clean every night...or even every OTHER night.  I know, I know, we have failed as parents...but we just can't do it all, and I'm okay with it.  That being said, we do now have 1 teenage girl, an almost teenage boy, and other little humans that smell pretty rotten most of the time, so we are trying to get better.  But regardless of the amount of times our kids get clean (or don't get clean), towels somehow always end up in random corners of the house or under kitchen tables or even OUTSIDE in the yard SMH (I know I'm going out on a limb with my great vulnerability and honesty here today, ha!).

Also, since I've already stopped, you can check out my simplified laundry routine that I wrote about HERE.  I actually think I came up with this one myself!

Okay, back to today's post.

So I did what any smart mama would do.  I drove to Target, found 5 towels ON SALE (it was a gift from the Lord!) that matched the colors of the kids bathroom, then marched right over to the kitchen aisle and picked out closely color-related cups, BPA FREE, and only $.79 people, and rushed home with high hopes.

I quickly went over the plan with the kids and I'm telling you, it was worked like a charm!

The kids now have one towel.  Their only responsibility is to hang it back up on the rack in the bathroom and when I do my weekly load of towels I'll throw them in to clean it.

As for their cup, they must grab their cup, and ONLY their cup, wash it out and keep it close by for the next use.

What ideas have you learned from your friends that have been a lifesaver for you?