Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flouride Concerns

My son Edison woke up crying last night. As I stumbled bleary-eyed to his room I smelled a very distinct odor. He had vomited all over himself and his bedding. I got him cleaned up and put clean sheets on his bed. He got sick one more time (this time it made it into the 'yuck bucket' I put beside his bed) before he got settled. But, then he was able to go back to sleep for the rest of the night.

This morning, he was back to business as usual without any stomach complaints whatsoever. This made me ponder what could have caused his stomach to be upset last night. I suppose it could have been a very shortlived stomach bug. But, I have other suspicions.

Yesterday, he had flouride applied to his teeth at the dentist. And, I was surprised that they don't rinse the flouride. It stays on their teeth until it gradually wears away. And, this would also mean some of it is being ingested. Could the flouride have made him sick?

I mentioned this to my husband and he said he had suspected Edison's late night illness could have been the result of flouride poisoning. Now, I had heard before that flouride was actually poisonous, but thought that perhaps those sources were being overly dramatic. Besides, dentists & doctors everywhere recommend it. And, even if it's bad in large doses, the small amount found in toothpaste & flouride treatments are safe. Right?

Well, I'm not so sure anymore. This has prompted me to do some on-line research. Now, I know that info found on line often needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But, did you know that flouride is a toxic waste product? It is used in pesticides? And, there is limited, if any, proven effectiveness in preventing tooth decay. Flouride is not recommended for children under the age of 2 because it causes brain damage!! And, these are just some of the things I've found.

We don't have flouride in our water. We have well water instead of public water. Our doctor has recommended flouride tablets to us for our children for this reason. I've always been a little leery of giving these to my children & haven't filled the prescriptions. But, we use flouridated tooth paste (Is there any out there that isn't?) and I allow flouride treatments at the dentist.

Now I'm questioning what we've always been told is the responsible thing to do. And, isn't this the case with so many other things that we unthinkingly take into our bodies? I haven't been a very aware consumer, but this may have awaken something in me. I'd love to hear any thoughts that others of you have on this topic.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Running Errands With 4 Boys

Running errands with children (any number of them, any gender) should be considered an Olympic sport I think. Here's what was on my agenda for today...pick up oldest son at school, go to dentist for appointments for oldest & second son, stop to grab fast food lunch, return son to school, and stop at bank before returning home. Easy enough, right? Except it's never that easy when you have multiple children to corral. Here's what my 'simple' errands looked like in reality...

Wake baby up at 11:00 to change diaper & nurse before leaving. Tell second son & third son to pick up toys & find their shoes. Second son finds his outdoor muddy shoes & puts them on. I tell second son he needs to find his clean shoes. Second son complains. Third son finds shoes but needs help putting them on. After several more reminders, a few tears, buckling the baby into his car seat, & making sure we have the dentist form we need for second son we all head out to the van running about 5 minutes behind schedule.

Get into van and realize that gas tank is empty. We must stop for gas first. Get to the school. Realize parking lot is full. Drive around a second time. Decide to do a 'no-no' and park in the loading zone. Pull out baby in car seat & bag full of stuffed animals to donate for the family fun fair. Go to other side of van to unbuckle third son. Walk quickly through the rain to the front door.

Buzz to be left in. Notice that oldest son is not waiting in office (usually they are if they need to leave during the day). Sign in and walk with 3 children to oldest son's classroom. Third son wants to be carried. I remind him that I can't carry him because I'm carrying the baby in his car seat. Third son cries & begs the remainder of the way to the classroom to be carried. Remind second son at least 3 times to walk and not run in the hallways.

Get to the classroom. The teacher is there, but the class is not. They are at Art. She calls the art teacher to have him send son to office. The rest of us walk back to the office. Third son continues crying to be held. We meet oldest son in office, sign out, run to van (through the rain), buckle everyone up again, and leave for the dentist's running about 15 minutes behind.

Call ahead to dentist's office to let them know we are running late. Once we arrive, unbuckle everyone again, run through the rain again. Once inside mediate potential argument between oldest & second son about who gets to push the buttons on the elevator. Get to office, take off all coats. Nurse calls us immediately. Second son freaks out (he has some fear issues at doctor & dentist appointments).

I go with second son to his room, bring third son & baby along while another nurse takes oldest son to his room. Second son refuses to get on exam chair. I set baby carrier in one corner, position third son on another chair, and sit on the exam chair with second son. Watch 'Cars' on a ceiling television set.

Baby cries, but hope that he stops on his own because second son is not going to let me up. Ask third son to try to entertain baby. Nurse comes in and talks to baby. After everyone is done & I've paid the bill, I decide to quickly nurse the baby in the reception area before heading out with all four children the rain.

Stop at Burger King. Get kids' meals in drivethrough. Pull over to park & open all kids meals & give everyone ketchup. Drive to school as children eat. Unbuckle everyone & traipse everyone inside through the rain. Drop off oldest. Bring everyone back out through the rain & buckle again.

Go through bank drivethrough. Go home. Unbuckle. Walk through the rain. Put everyone down for a nap. Whew! I think I need a nap now too. The real kicker? We have to head out again this afternoon for another set of errands. Help!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The End of 40 Days

Well, Lent has come to a close and I have to admit that I've indulged in both Facebook and sweets already. The funny thing is neither one was nearly as satisfying to experience after 40 days of abstaining as I thought they would be.

I actually forgot all about Facebook this morning. (Checking FB was part of my morning routine prior to these 40 days). But, my son Edison has been counting the days until we could go back on so he could play the Zoo World game. So, he reminded me. Really, at this point I feel like I could take it or leave it. Either way, I don't want to become as obsessed with it as I was...checking it many, many, many times during the day.

As far as sweets go, I guess you could say I've had quite a few so far today. I started my morning by having a mint chocolate biscotti with my coffee. Then, when my husband came home for lunch he brought out those home-made peanut butter eggs he brought home a couple weeks ago. (They've been stashed in the freezer). I ate 1/2 an egg. Plus I had a tiny bowl of icecream after lunch, and a couple dips into the hot fudge sundae topping (until I started reading the ingredient list & it suddenly didn't seem all that appealing anymore).

I guess it sounds like I really overindulged in the sweets so far today. When I write it all down, it sounds like a lot. The scary thing is...this is NOTHING compared to how much sugary stuff I used to eat on a daily basis.

So, what's my point? I was expecting to find much more enjoyment in being able to have these things in my life again. And, instead, if anything, they've lost some of their appeal. Perhaps this is the first step in learning some moderation.

I've been thinking that this idea of fasting is something I should continue throughout the year. When, I give up something that I've come to rely on, it forces me to analyze WHY that thing is so important to me. And, it helps me to be more aware of how I need to rely completely on God on not on other stuff.

So, perhaps in another week or so I'll begin a new 40 days of fasting. What could be next? Perhaps the television? Could I handle 40 days without HGTV, TLC, or Bravo? I bet I could. More importantly, what could I gain?

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Mishmash

Do you have those days where you start out behind schedule and you just can't seem to catch up? That's today for me. So, even though I've got a sinkful of dishes waiting for me and a million other things that just haven't gotten done yet, I'm going to take a few minutes to engage in my new favorite decompress activity...write in my blog.

1. Have you checked out the new templates available on Blogger yet? I received an e-mail today from Blogger which gave some information. If you haven't seen the e-mail yet, you can go to your Dashboard & look for Blogger in Draft (near the bottom). Click on that, go to Layout, and then to Template Designer. I played around with them a little bit and I kinda like the one I found to use. What do you think?

2. Lent is almost over & I can almost taste those homemade peanut butter eggs already! Still, I hope that I'll be able to keep my sweets intake in moderation once I start eating them again. Maybe I can try to limit myself to a sweet treat once or twice a week. Same goes for Facebook. While I am interested to get back on there and see what's up, I think moderation is going to be the key.

3. I'm a little behind on my 40 bags in 40 days. I think my count is up to about 20. However, I plan to make purging unwanted & un-needed items more of a lifestyle now.

4. I went grocery shopping today with 3 of the 4 boys. Somehow I always end up spending more than I want when I have the boys with me. I'm not able to concentrate when I'm trying to juggle shopping with soothing a crying baby and making sure my 2 and 5 year old aren't climbing in the dairy case. That's what I get for not shopping with a list.

5. When we got home, the baby needed to be nursed. In the meantime, Edison decided to 'help' by unloading all the groceries into a gigantic pile on the floor. At least he had good intentions.

Well, my hubby was able to come home from work early today, so I better go spend a little time with him. Husbands come before blogging....right?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Our Every Need

I'm very excited today. I got new chairs for my dining table. Well, they are actually used chairs, but they are new to me. And, we were in desperate need of new chairs.

1. Our old chairs were UGLY (that alone is not what constituted our need)
2. Our old chairs were falling apart. We had to check to make sure all the legs were relatively straight before sitting in them at risk of falling on the floor (THIS is what constituted our need).

The most exciting part about this purchase? They were $10 a piece at our local Reuzit store. They had 3 matching chairs. I would have liked to have had more, but this will do for now. We have 2 benches that we use at the table as well.

They aren't perfect, but they are better than what we had. And, my husband and I agree that we are in a stage of life where raising 4 rowdy, messy boys does not mix well with having new stuff. We would rather have nice-ish stuff that we're not worried about getting the inevitable scratches, dents, or stains than new stuff that we couldn't really LIVE with.

The really, really cool thing about this find is that I had prayed that God would help me find some decent, low-cost chairs quickly before someone hurt themselves by falling off a breaking chair. And, He provided! I had looked into buying new chairs from the local Wal-mart or K-mart and at $50 a pop, even that was a little steep for our current budget. I thought I'd probably have to wait until yard sale & auction season to find what I wanted. Then, I stopped in at the Reuzit store on a whim today, not really expecting to find anything. But, there they were.

It reminds me so much of last summer when our dining table was falling apart (the original match to our old chairs). I had considered buying new, but wasn't willing to spend hundreds of dollars on something my children would beat up. I prayed about it and a couple days later drove by someone's house where they had a cool table set out for sale for $20. The table was actually a pub-table style, but my husband just sawed off the bottom couple inches off the legs to make it regular table height.

I am amazed time and time again at how God provides our EVERY need.

Anyway, this is what the old chairs looked like.

These were the last surviving 2 chairs out of a set of 6 that went the old dining table which also bit the dust. Oh, and you get a really nice look at our 60 year old linoleum in these pictures...another household project waiting on time & money. (Our old farmhouse floors are completely uneven & slanted due to settling of the house. That needs to be addressed before we can replace the flooring.)

A closer look at the condition of the old chairs. Sorry about the sideways view.

Falling apart

The 'new' chairs. They aren't perfect, but they are much more sturdy. I'm not crazy about them having fabric seats (it's hard to tell in this pic, but the fabric is black). I usually like to have things that are easy to wipe off since we have multiple spills & such during the day.

I think they go with the dining table pretty well. Maybe someday I'll paint them or re-stain them.

These are the benches we have on the other sides of the table. These were yard sale finds from a few years ago. I had covered the tops with fabric, but as you can see they are already marked up & stained quite a bit.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Job?

Here's the pressing question that is on my mind today. Is it my job to keep my children entertained? I want to say the answer is 'No', but my children seem to think otherwise. Then I have to ask myself, 'Have I led them to believe that when they are bored they can count on mom to find something for them to do?'.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's important to take time out of the day to play games with them, read stories, or play outside. But shouldn't they also be capable of doing these things amongst themselves?

It's especially frustrating to me when I consider how MANY toys, games, books, etc. etc. my children have. And they are STILL bored! Obviously the answer is not more STUFF.

If I am not able to play with them then they ask if they can watch TV or play on the computer. I do allow some tv & computer time during the day, but I'm trying to limit how much. My boys would happily sit and veg out in front of the tv or computer for HOURS if I let them.

Usually what happens next (when I say no to tv or computer) is that they follow me wherever I may be and lay on the floor or drape themselves across a chair moaning about how bored they are and 'What can they DO?'. I often make suggestions, going through a checklist of their many toys & activities. This is met with more groans and declarations that it's all so BORING.

This makes me want to march upstairs and gather up all that boring stuff and get rid of it! I've even threatened to do exactly that. Of course this is met with horror. How could I get rid of their things?!

All I know is that when my sister closest in age (I have another sister 12 years younger than me) & I were young we entertained ourselves. I don't remember relying on our mother to keep us from being bored. And, if we did complain about boredom, she probably sent us outside.

Believe me, I try this tactic with my boys as well. But, they always want me to come outside with them. Sometimes I do and sometimes I can't. I still have the baby to care for, laundry to do, meals to prepare, etc.

So, please, if anyone out there has any suggestions or words of wisdom, please pass them on to me. I want my boys to use their imaginations, get creative, and entertain themselves. It would be one less job for me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Simple and Ordinary is OK

As I sat down with a plate of spaghetti (my lunch) to write this post, I heard the thump of boy feet coming down the stairs. I had just put everyone down for a nap & I thought for sure it was my 5 year old coming down to tell me he couldn't sleep. But, surprise, surprise it was my 2 year old who apparently can climb out of the crib now!

Charlie was soon to be evicted from the crib anyway. The baby is growing out of his bassinet and will need to move into the crib. Charlie has been very reluctant to use his big boy toddler bed and due to laziness (or exhaustion) on the part of my husband & I, we haven't pushed the issue. But, now that the crib doesn't even have the benefit of containing him anymore we will have to get serious about making the transition.

I scooped my little man up and carried him back upstairs quite to his dismay. There were a great amount of tears on his part as I tried to put him back in the crib. So, I took a deep breath to hold back my building frustration and decided to rock him for a bit.

As we have added more children to our family, there has been less time for things like rocking a sleepy child. I rocked our oldest son before every nap & bedtime. Now that seems like such a luxury. Still there's something wonderful about forcing myself to calm my mind & body and simply enjoy my child in the moment.

There were a couple links to other posts I wanted to share today. The first one speaks to the beauty of plain, everyday tasks. Check out this post by Sarah over on Clover Lane. She talks about how sometimes life as a stay at home mom seems boring, mundane, or lonely, but that's it's exactly where she wants to be in this season of life.

Another post I recently read was found over at Antique Mommy. Her post titled, 'No One Drops In For Coffee Anymore' talks about the dying art of simple hospitality. So many of us, myself included, fall into the trap of thinking that hospitality has to be something that would make Martha Stewart proud. If our house isn't in perfect order, the menu & decorations not perfectly planned then it's not good enough. She talks about her parents and how despite the 'ordinary-ness' of their home & what they offer guests, theirs is still a place that people enjoy 'dropping in' again and again.

And, here's a post I'm adding at the last minute because she just posted it to her blog. 'What You Don't Do' is a must read over at 320 Sycamore.

I hope you enjoy these links. Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The First Day of Spring!

Happy Spring everyone! It's a beautiful, sunny 70 degrees today and I am totally digging it! Unfortunately our oldest son started off the day feeling really feverish and under the weather. But, even he has stirred himself off the couch & has headed outside to enjoy the fresh air. Here are some highlights from our day so far...

1. Edison has not been able to resist picking flowers (usually by the root) ever since he was a toddler. Even though I explain which outside flowers are for picking and which are for looking at and enjoying, he just can't seem to help himself. So, this morning he came to me, proudly declaring that he found some onions. And, there he was, clutching the new shoots of a handful of flower bulbs that I had planted in the fall. Yes, the bulbs certainly did look like new onions to his 5 year old eyes. Sometimes all I can do is sigh.

2. My husband has been outside all morning cutting & splitting wood (already thinking ahead to heating for next winter). He's had the off & on company of the 2 middle boys. Close to noon I decided to prod sickie boy off the couch & to take him & the baby outside. I snapped Joseph into his Baby Bjorn & headed out. Here's the fun part: As we walked across the yard toward my husband and father-in-law, Joseph started laughing! His first laugh! He's definitely going to be an outside boy just like my others.

3. Who needs a minivan when you've got a tractor?

Ugh! Don't look too closely at me. I look a little rough. But, here's the whole family loaded up on the tractor right before we all went for a little ride.

Our dog is happily trotting along behind.

That's my oldest son 'driving' the tractor (with a lot of daddy help).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You Know You're the Only Girl...

You know you're the only girl living in a houseful of boys when...

1. You are the only one who does NOT think installing a urinal in the bathroom is an awesome idea.

2. You actually CONSIDER the idea of installing a urinal when you sit on a wet toilet seat for the umpteenth time because the other members of your household forget to lift it before using the toilet.

3. Your flowerbed has been repurposed as a digging area.

4. You are the only one who cares that your home is more functional than it is pretty and well-decorated.

5. Attempts to include ingredients like barley, spinach, or anything labeled 'organic' in meals is met with suspicion and disapproval.

6. Talking about 'feelings' may as well be speaking a foreign language.

7. Shows like Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs win the (almost) unanimous vote over American Idol or House Hunters.

8. Your house smells more strongly of dirty socks and wet dog than it does of scented candles.

9. You sometimes forget that there are conversations that do not revolve around the topics of hunting, fishing, video games, tractors, and engines.

10. You are the only one who can hear the dog bark or the baby cry. And, you are the only one who knows the location of clean socks & underwear.

11. Going to the grocery store by yourself seems as relaxing and luxurious as a visit to the spa.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Just Another Manic...Wednesday?

The day started with me waking up a half hour before my son needed to get on the bus. Luckily he was already awake & making himself breakfast. But, he chose this morning to inform me that he needed to wear green, orange, and yellow for St. Patrick's Day. The green I get, but orange & yellow? Apparently, those are the colors of the gold that the leprechaun would give the children if they could catch him. OK.

So, we're running late as it is...and now I need to find an outfit consisting of green, yellow, and orange?

"What about just green Wyatt? That's the color most people wear on St. Patrick's."
Nope. Not good enough. He was more concerned about wearing the colors of the gold. After pulling just about every shirt out of his drawer we finally settled on an orange shirt with a dinosaur who had shades of yellow and green.

Whew. Crisis averted.

So, after getting Wyatt on the bus, I went back inside to finish getting myself and the other children ready for the day. Let me tell you, this day was just getting started!

I think I surrendered any bit of gracefulness I may have had when I became a mother. Now I am just a full-time klutz. I can't begin to tell you how often I have caught myself just in the knick of time before falling or tripping. The scariest is when this happens while carrying a child. But, I've been spared any major spills so far.

This morning, though, I was coming down the steps (OK - hurrying down the steps) and I stepped on a pair of scissors one of my boys left at the bottom. Somehow, this threw me so much off balance that I fell, twisting both my ankles beneath me. Fortunately, I was not carrying the baby.

And, let me tell you, it HURT! There was about a minute or so where I thought I may have actually broken both my ankles. And, in that minute, a million thoughts went through my mind. How would I get help? Would my children bring the phone to me? What in the world would I do if I broke both ankles? I wouldn't be able to walk! How would I care for my children?

As I sat there pondering my 5 year old was oblivious to the loud crash & cry I must have made and continued to watch TV. My two year old, however, came to me saying, 'Help. Mommy.', and tried to help me by offering me his hand so I could stand. "Mommy can't stand just yet honey" I said. But, bless his heart, he stayed there with me.

After the initial pain & shock subsided, I started to slowly move my legs & realized I was going to be OK. I tentatively stood up to see if I could put weight on my ankles. Good to go! If there is any lesson in this, I suppose it's that I need to hurry a little less and watch out for booby traps left by my children!

The other exciting part of our day was that Edison was due for his 5 year checkup...and final set of immunizations for Kindergarten. No big deal, right? Let me tell you a little about Edison. He can be a very compliant, easy-going child. But, visits to the doctor and dentist throw him into hysterics. It's not a fun thing even if I just had him with me. But, I would have his two younger brothers along.

I considered asking my husband to take him. But, I decided that I need for Edison to learn that he had to behave for mommy the same way he'd behave for daddy. So, off we went. There were some moments where I thought for sure he'd kick into a high-gear freakout. But, he actually did very well. We have an awesome pediatrician and she even coaxed a smile or two out of him.

I had promised Edison that if he cooperated at the doctor's office we would go to the Burger King with the indoor play area. (Yes. I sometimes bribe my children.) We had the play area mostly to ourselves when we got there. Edison & Charlie happily ate their kid's meals while Joseph slept. Ah. A few minutes of peace.

All in all it was a good trip. The boys got to work out some of their energy & I got to sit and enjoy watching my children play. At home it always feels like such a whirlwind that sometimes I forget to just stop and observe how adorable they are.

As we were leaving one of the women who was there with her grand-daughter asked me if my son has chicken pox. What? I wasn't even sure what she was talking about or why she asked me that. I was kind of distracted anyway as I was trying to get the boys ready to leave. I mentioned that he had a bug bite he'd been itching, but no, he didn't have chicken pox. "Oh." She said. "Well, it's been going around."

It wasn't until we were out of the door that I realized she must have been noticing the rash that Edison almost always has on the sides of his cheeks. He has a mild case of ecxema. I'm so used to seeing it that I don't even really think about it anymore. So, this woman probably thought I was one of 'those' moms who brings sick children to public places & then throws some lame excuse about what a bug bite or some such thing.

I don't know why this embarrassed me, but it did.

Anyway, on another note....It was 9 years ago today that my husband proposed to me. We were on a group mission trip to Juarez, Mexico at the time & he proposed the day we were to return home. He said something about wanting to take a walk before we left. I did wonder why we seemed to be wandering aimlessly on our walk (He was looking for just the right spot to pop the question). It wasn't until he was fumbling in his pocket trying to pull out the ring box that I realized what was going on.

I said yes.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 28 Thoughts

I had to go back to the calendar and count how many days we are into Lent. I haven't really been keeping track, but I have to admit it's starting to feel like an eternity. That's kind of sad isn't it?

My husband came home carrying an egg carton last night. I assumed it was an empty one that someone who got eggs from us was returning. Then he opened it.

Homemade chocolate covered peanut butter eggs! Oh. My. Word. I think he may be trying to torture me. This is true temptation.

Now, I have to admit that I did allow myself one dessert so far during Lent. But, it was in celebration of my son Edison's birthday. I had cake and ice cream at his birthday party. Is that terrible? I haven't decided yet if I should feel guilty or not. But, then again, guilt really isn't supposed to be the driving force in these 40 days.

Giving up dessert & sweets even for this short period of time has been really, really hard. I know that I use food as a comfort item. I've known that about myself for a long time. But, I didn't realize how dependent I am on it.

I'll admit that I was hoping that giving up sweets for 40 days would have the side benefit of weight loss. And, at first it did (at least a couple pounds), until I started replacing the sweets I was missing with other snacking and bigger meal portions. If anything I may have gained a couple pounds at this point.

What is my point? I feel like God is kind of bringing me to my knees on the whole issue of food. I have always struggled with my weight. I've always struggled with food. I love food & the pleasure it brings me, but it also seems to be my nemesis. In junior high, I used food (or the lack of it really) to bring some sort of control to my life. I battled anorexia for about a year. I scared my parents to death as my weight plummeted & I refused to eat.

All these years later my problem is the opposite. I take in too much food. I use food to make me feel better when I'm depressed or bored. I use food to celebrate. Food has become my medicine and my reward.

I'm still not sure what God is preparing in my heart. I am seeing how this is an area I need to turn over to Him. My own willpower is weak & insufficient. I am praying that God would give me some healthy attitudes toward food. But, most of all to learn to rely more on Him.

I've mentioned before that giving up facebook hasn't been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. As a matter of fact it's been a relief not to be caught up in the different virtual games my children and I were playing. Really. Does anyone care how many animals we have in our virtual zoo?

If I had given up the computer completely, then it would be a different story. In many ways I've replaced facebook with blogging. I've really been enjoying writing my own blog & I've been spending a lot of time discovering other mommy bloggers and reading their thoughts. I've become fascinated with this blog world.

But, like everything else exploring the blogosphere needs to be done in moderation and with care. There are moms out there with some awesome crafty or baking ideas & hints. There are moms who are skilled housekeepers, organizers, gardeners, etc. And, reading their posts can be very inspiring. It can also be unhealthy when I start comparing myself to the strengths of others.

And, that's what this whole 40 day journey was supposed to be. A time of preparation. For who God wants ME to be. It's easy to lose sight of that when we put our focus on others.

I am learning some interesting things about myself. For one thing these first 28 days of Lent haven't been particularly spiritual. I've been more focused on what my flesh is missing than on what God wants to give to me. I was a little upset with myself that I've spent these 28 days in minimal prayer & very little if any Bible reading.

Maybe it's just taken 28 days to get through my thick-headedness. It would be very easy to start looking ahead to the end of Lent. We're in the home stretch. But, I feel like I've just now reached a point where I can fully admit my weaknesses. And, maybe, that's the real beginning of Lent for me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to Plow a Garden

I mentioned last week that we plowed our garden. What I failed to mention is HOW the garden got plowed. Check out this short video clip of the plowing of our garden.

That would be my husband driving the tractor & my father-in-law operating the plow. The tractor & plow both belong to my father-in-law. If you don't have a plow made to pulled by tractors, but you have a plow made to be pulled by horses (but no horse), it stands to reason that you find a way to use the tractor & old-time plow together.

John & his dad really do crack me up. But, hey, it gets the job done!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Frugal Living for our Family (part 1)

Well, I went to do one of my favorite things shopping! I'm not sure why it's so exciting for me, other than it gets me out of the house and it's pretty much the only shopping I do. Plus the discount grocery stores I go to are always like a treasure hunt. You never know what you might find there!

We also picked up some chicken feed and seeds at Agway today. Edison picked out some Sugarbaby Watermelon seeds. We also got red & yellow onion sets, sugar pea, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds. It's still too early to plant the watermelon & pumpkins, but those were boy requests. So, we had to be sure to grab some.

Now, maybe if the rain stops we can actually do some planting! But, it looks as though we'll have to wait until next week sometime.

I know one of the topics I wanted to write about here was how our family lives frugally. It's something I thought I'd talk about a little today. It's especially fresh on my mind since I just spent money at the grocery store today. And, spending money often makes me think about ways I could spend less. Anyway, here are a few things we do...

1. Food/Groceries - This is one of the biggest areas that I can control since I am the one who does the grocery shopping and food preparation. The biggest thing we do to save money in this area is choosing where we shop. There are 2 discount grocery stores that I frequent. One is a Mennonite owned & run store called Glenwood Foods. The other is Sharp Shopper. I love these stores because so often the food is priced at half (or even less) of what you'd pay at the regular grocery. You do need to watch the dates a bit. Many items sell so cheap because they are outdated. And, I don't have a problem with this. As Americans we so often throw away things that are still perfectly good. I am careful though with dairy & produce items & check them thoroughly first to make sure they aren't showing signs of spoilage.

The downside with shopping at these types of stores is that they don't always have everything that I may need. The items they carry can vary greatly from week to week depending on what is available to them. So, I still often need to stop in at the nearby Walmart to pick up additional items.

The other downside is that because the items are always different, it's like a treasure hunt (as I mentioned above). And, sometimes I'll pick up things that I don't really need or wasn't planning on buying because they are such a good deal. But, if I pick up enough unplanned good deals it can seriously effect my final bill.

We seriously limit the amount of prepared/ convenience foods that we buy & I try to prepare most of our foods from scratch. Also, I love to bake, so I'd rather spend my money on baking supplies than on packaged cookies or cakes. After all, homemade tastes better anyway.

We rarely eat out. And, we limit our takeout nights to once or twice a month. This one is hard for me, because I love eating at restaurants. When we do go out to eat we try to make sure it's at a place that we really love.

Many of our vegetables are homegrown. We (and I'm including my family in this, because they share with us) grow our own sweet corn, green beans, soy beans, sugar peas, onions, potatoes, tomatoes. We freeze corn and beans for the winter and can tomatoes. I've also tried my hand at canning homemade spaghetti sauce, but haven't found a recipe that I love yet. I'd like to can homemade salsa this year.

We also can cherries and pears from our trees and our families' trees. And, we make and can our own applesauce with apples either from our own tree or the local orchard. I also buy peaches in bulk from our local orchard & can or freeze them.

2. Clothing - We actually spend very little on clothes. It is rare that my husband or I go shopping for ourselves. This is actually something I'd like to do a little more of, but we make do with what we have. I stopped worrying about being the most fashionable person a long time ago. Also, my sister-in-law has been kind enough to pass along a bunch of new or nearly new clothing to me that she was unable to wear. When I was pregnant, most of my maternity clothing was loaned or given to me by friends. And, if there is something that I need I try to check out consignment stores or yard sales before buying new.

And, even with four boys, we have bought very little for them. Again, much of this is due to the generosity of family and friends. Most of their clothing is hand-me-downs or gifts from Christmas & birthdays. I've bought a few pieces for them here & there, but rarely shop for them. I do like to watch on-line sales since taking 4 boys out to shop can be difficult to say the least.

3. Housing - We do not live in our dream home. Yet. We live in what we can afford during this time of our lives. We often refer to our house as the 'brooding house'. It's where we are raising our children while they are young. We are straining a bit at the seams & will need to find something larger as these boys get larger. But for now it works.

Our house was purchased at an auction by my father-in-law and in turn purchased by my husband (before we were married) for a ridiculously low amount. However, our home was built and owned by an Old Order Mennonite family. When my husband bought the house it had no electricity, no insulation, minimal plumbing, and needed lots of cosmetic work. Luckily, my husband is very handy and was able do much of the work himself.

But then we got married, a couple years later the children started arriving, and work on the house has slowed down quite a bit. There is still so much that needs to be done. And, I'm not talking in an HGTV kind of way where people walk through prospective homes & just don't like the look of perfectly good kitchen counter or floors or appliances and talk about how they 'need' to upgrade to granite & tile or whatever. I'm talking we have a sunporch that has a ceiling that is falling in bit by bit. The linoleum in our kitchen is at least 50-60 years old. Speaking of linoleum, there is still linoleum on our stairs and on the walls going up the stairs (why anyone ever thought this was a good idea, I don't know). There are exposed, unfinished heating vents upstairs. Since our house had no closets my husband had to add them to the bedrooms. The closet in the boy's room is still an unfinished hole in the wall (this can't be finished out until the upstairs heating is finished). Etc. etc. I could go on and on.

My point is, we live with what we can afford. We don't want to go into debt, so we slowly do the work on the house that we can. I often suffer from house envy. I see how 'perfect' other homes are. And, frankly, sometimes I'm embarrassed by my house. I try to keep it in perspective though. Our home would still be considered luxurious by 85% of the world's population. We have everything we need...and more.

I found this link on another blog post today and it really spoke to the whole issue of contentment.

4. Credit cards - We do not carry any debt with the exception of our mortgage. During the time we were both working before we started having children we made an effort to live off my husband's income & use mine toward paying off debt. Once those debts were paid we committed to living debt free. We found a lot of great tips and advice from Dave Ramsey. But, there are a lot of great financial advisors out there who all pretty much teach the same philosophy of living within your means, living debt free, and saving.

These are the main areas where we control our money. I'll address a few other areas in an upcoming post.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's As Good As Spring

OK. I know Spring isn't officially here. Yet. But, today, it's as good as spring! I was outside with the boys and friends who came to play this morning & part of the afternoon. It was so beautiful and we were having such a good time that even thoughts of housework & laundry couldn't guilt me back inside.

And, my husband came home early from work to get the tractor ready to plow the garden. The putt putt putt of that old one-cylinder tractor signals that warmer weather is here & that we'll be spending a lot more time outside.

I'm even planning on picking out my seeds this weekend at the local Agway. I need to go and buy more chicken feed, so I figured that while I was there I better pick out the things I want to plant. Last year I waited too long & all the red seed potatoes & some other things were sold out already. Trust me. People in our area are serious about their gardens.

And, it's also warm enough now that we can think of moving the chickens out of their winter accomodations in the barn to the outdoor chicken coop & chicken yard. I'm looking forward to this. The chickens are always trying to storm the door when I come in to feed them. I have to throw food scraps over the top of the door before I open it so I don't have a chicken stampede. It will be so good to have them outside again.

And, it's good to be outside. The fresh air and the sunshine are medicine for the soul!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Edison!

Today is the birthday of my second son, Edison. Five years ago this bundle of energy was born. We joke that he was wiggly from the moment we first saw him on the ultrasound. He was my fastest & easiest birth out of all four boys. I'm not sure what that means other than he was anxious to come into this world.

Edison is my outgoing, sometimes precocious, sometimes dramatic child. He often surprises us with things he says...sounding much older than his years. He loves fishing and playing games. He's not too sure about going to Kindergarten this Fall, but he 'guesses he can try it' if I go with him.

Happy Birthday Little Man!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happy Thoughts

It's the little things that can make such a difference in a day. Little negative things can add up and make a day miserable. But, little positive things can add up to a good day. Sometimes we need to choose to look at the positive things.

Yesterday was a good day. So, I thought I'd share the positive things that made it that way.

1. The sun was shining! I know I'm very much affected by the seasons and the weather. Winter can be a depressing time for me. But, I love Spring! It's my favorite time of year. Yesterday we got a preview of the Spring weather that is on it's way. It was a beautiful day outside & my children were able to go outside to play. Wonderful!

2. My mom came to help me out. I know I am blessed. I live two doors away from my in-laws who are wonderful people and are always happy to help us out. And, my parents live about 35 minutes away. They are also so generous with their time and support! My mom has been coming to our house frequently since Joseph was born to lend a hand.
It was so nice to get a few things done around the house while she was here. But, most of all it's so wonderful to have company...another adult to talk to! And, my boys love the extra attention.

3. I got a closet cleaned out! I cleared out all my maternity clothes and packed them up for my sister who is expecting her first child. It's funny how I always felt like I had nothing to wear while I was pregnant yet I filled a large box & two paper grocery bags with clothes. Then, I brought my regular clothes down from the attic & put them back in the closet.
I'll let you in on a secret. I still don't fit into most of my non-pregnacy clothes. Shhhh. But, I figured getting rid of the maternity stuff & pulling out the others will kind of force me to get serious about losing the weight I gained while I was pregnant. Besides, I can't afford to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe.

4. Joseph is an awesome sleeper! I'm actually a little afraid to talk about it. I don't want to jinx myself. My oldest boys never slept through the night until they were well over one year old. Each of them woke up 2,3, or 4 times a night during that first year or so of their lives. I was always jealous of other moms who said their children had been sleeping through the night since they were 6 weeks old. Honestly, I kind of thought they were exaggerating!
But, now I have a little man who is doing exactly that! Typically he'll go to sleep around 9 p.m. or so. And, even though I'll hear him stir a couple times a night, he'll generally sleep until at least 5:30 or 6 a.m. I get a full night's sleep! And, believe me, that's huge!

5. My house is relatively clutter free right now. 'Relatively' is the operative word. To other people it might still be a clutter nightmare. But, for us, it's actually pretty least the downstairs is. And, I find that the state of my house really affects my mood too. When the mess is out of control, everything seems so much more chaotic. But, when things are neater, I feel better.

There you have it...happy thoughts! And, it looks like today is going to be another beautiful day. So, I'm going to go chase my children away from the t.v. & send them outside.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mommy Guilt

I'll admit it. I've been wallowing in some serious mommy guilt lately. Trying to balance caring for 4 young children and a home is leaving me frustrated, overwhelmed, and burned out many days.

Last night was a doozy. My husband had his men's bible study so I was alone with the children during that difficult hour or two leading up to bedtime. In my hubby's defense, he did offer to stay home (I told him to go) and he came home early, because he knew I was on the edge.

For some reason, post-dinnertime is always the noisiest, rowdiest time of the day. I don't think I can give you the full picture because so often I'm functioning on autopilot. But it goes something like this. Boy 1 and Boy 2 are fighting with each other. I mediate. In the meantime Boy 3 is whining for something (he's still learning to talk, so I'm not really sure what it is). I try to decipher what he's saying. Boy 4 (the baby) starts crying LOUDLY. I turn toward him but Boy 1 & 2 haven't solved their issue yet & that situation elevates. Boy 3 whines louder (I still haven't figured out for what). Dog barks at some unknown thing LOUDLY. Boy 1 hits Boy 2. Boy 2 retaliates. LOUD crying and yelling from both ensues. Baby cries LOUDER. Boy 3 starts pulling on me insistently demanding the unknown item. I need to pee. I've needed to pee for a while (and after having 4 children the urgency to pee needs to be taken seriously). I tell baby to hold on until I run to bathroom. I send Boys 1 & 2 to their rooms until I can talk to them. Boy 3 follows me to bathroom. Phone rings. I ignore it. Finish in bathrooom. I pick up baby. Boy 1 runs back down to tell me Boy 2 is still bothering him. Baby continues to cry. Boy 2 yells down the stairs that he didn't do anything. He says it's Boy 1 who is bothering him. Boy 3 falls on floor out of frustration that I haven't been able to help him yet.

Do I need to go on? Do you get the picture? The thing is, unfortunately, this kind of chaos seems to be the norm. Ok - it's not ALL the time. But, it sure happens more often than I'd like. Last night, after struggling to get the boys bathed (I'm not sure why I tried to do that when my husband was not there to help me),and in their pj's, my nerves were frayed. The straw that broke the camel's back is when Boy 1 and 2 started screaming and crying because each of them kicked the other. I didn't know who kicked first or why and at that point I didn't care.

So, with a screaming baby on my hip, 2 crying big boys, and a wet, naked toddler who still needed to be wrestled into a diaper and pj's, I lost it. I yelled at Boy 1 & 2 that as soon as they had on their pajamas and their teeth were brushed they needed to get straight into bed with no stories. Tears ensued - theirs and mine. I felt terrible. I want so much to be one of those sweet-spirited mothers who always maintain their cool & speak firmly yet calmly. This definitely wasn't the case.

And, this is what my husband walked into when he came home...everyone in tears and the stress level through the roof. He took over with the oldest 3 and I went downstairs with the baby to try to calm & feed him.

And, the mommy guilt washed over me full force. What was I doing wrong? Why is this so difficult? I love my children with a passion & God gave them to me for a reason. Am I messing up God's plan? Am I ruining my children? And, on and on went my thoughts as I cried.

When my husband came downstairs after tucking everyone in he listened to me cry & talk. I had a hard time putting what I was feeling into words. The best I could come up with is 'I'm tired of feeling like a crappy mom.'. He assured me that I'm a good mom, that my children love me, and that it's normal for them to test their limits with me.

But, it's hard to believe sometimes. Sometimes it feels like I'm missing the mark time after time. So, I was excited to find this book recommendation at another blog today. The book is called 'Parenting is Your Highest Calling & 8 Other Myths that Trap Us Into Worry & Guilt'. It sounds like it's right up my alley & probably has some truths I really need to hear right now. I'm not normally an impulse shopper but I went directly to Amazon and ordered a copy.

Parenting IS a huge responsibility, but God also knows that we are human. We are not perfect. Parents are imperfect. Children are imperfect. Life is imperfect. But, His grace abounds. And that's what I'm clinging to today - His grace. And, I hope that somehow I can mirror that grace to my children.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Indoor Boy Sports

If there is one thing I know as the mother to all boys, it's that boys are just so PHYSICAL. There are very few things my boys will sit still is listening to a story being read to them (good thing!). Another is playing computer games or watching TV (not such a good thing - and even these activities involve legs & arms askew and certainly not necessarily in a SITTING position).

Otherwise, constant movement and noise is the norm. I always thought I'd be one of those creative moms who would come up with art & craft activities for my children on a regular basis. Although, I've tried a few such activities I've found the effort is not worth the amount of time the boys will spend on it. It may take me 15 minutes to get all the materials assembled & set out and it will take them all of 30 seconds to paste one piece of paper or scribble a few crayon marks before announcing that they are 'done'. So, I've more or less given up.

Lately some of their favorite activities seem to be 'donkey kicking' and 'running the track'. Here's the low-down on these boy sports.
1. Donkey Kicking - For some reason this activity is best carried out when they first remove their shirts. They get into a position as if about to do a handstand and then kick their legs as high as possible.

2. Running the Track - We have a very small living room and no family room. So, often the boys gravitate to the largest room in the house which is our kitchen/ dining room. It's truly an old farmhouse kitchen. Running the track usually takes place immediately after dinner once the table has been cleared. For reasons unknown to my husband and I this seems to signal that it is time for the races. The boys' energy switch is turned on and 'running the track' ensues. This activity takes two forms. One is where they take their large trucks & tractors and zoom them around and around our kitchen table. The second is where they ask me turn to turn on music and as the music plays they themselves zoom around and around the kitchen table.

By the time bedtime arrives, I am more than ready for some peace and quiet.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Well, this is the stuff that is on my mind today so here are some updates...

1. 40 bags in 40 days - Here's another pile of stuff that I'm accumulating to take to a donation store. This time around I've got a bunch of books and magazines and miscellaneous stuff. Today I went through the boy's bookshelves and took out ripped books to toss and ones that never get looked at to donate. Plus I had two huge (and I mean HUGE) boxes of books that were saved from when I was a kid and from when I was teaching. I went through those boxes as well & consolidated those books down to just one box.

I've got decluttering fever! I am ready to toss & give away stuff like never before. Still, it's hard to get past that mentality I have of saving things 'just in case'...just in case I need it sometime, just in case my children would want to have it someday, just in case I want to sell it, etc. etc. Also, I become sentimentaly attached to things. I can remember who gave each toy or stuffed animal to the boys. Many times I can remember the occasion. So, that's another hurdle I need to get beyond, because the boys have too much stuff!

2. Lent - I had some serious sugar cravings over the weekend. I attribute the cravings to stress. And, I REALLY wanted my comfort food. I was irritated and angry without it. But, I held firm! I decided I wanted some baked oatmeal for breakfast after denying myself those oatmeal raisin bars last week. So, I made some last night to have for breakfast this morning. And, I even replaced some of the sugar & butter with applesauce & bananas when I made it. It was still yummy!
I actually don't miss Facebook too much. The part I miss is reading other people's posts & commenting on them or having them comment on mine. I've had a few people tell me they are reading my blog, but it's just not as interactive as facebook. That's what I miss - the interaction.

3. Hubby and I are making some financial decisions right now. I won't say too much about that other than it involves making some changes in our life. And, change always scares me. I'm very much a status quo kinda gal. Oh, I'll dream about change, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, I'd rather not take the risk. So, we are really praying and seeking God's guidance in this area of our life.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I love naptime! It's usually the only time during the day that I can have a little time to myself and maybe even a coherent, uninterrupted thought. My boys are early risers. And they are on full speed from the moment they wake up. Me? Not so much. I would prefer to have about an hour to myself to clear the cobwebs from my brain and reach at least a functional mode. However, I don't have that luxury...but I do have coffee!

So, I really look forward to that time of day when the house is quiet, no-one is demanding anything from me, and I can do whatever I want to do in peace. I usually eat my lunch over naptime. It's my only quiet, stress-free meal of the day. And, I do stuff on the computer over naptime. Lately, I've been working on this blog. But, before this, I was spending the time on Facebook.

I sometimes feel guilty for not utilizing this time to get more done around the house. I certainly don't get much done when the boys are awake! While there are days that I do get some housework accomplished over naptime, I also feel like this is my only break during the day. With the big boys awake between 6-6:30 a.m. and the baby finally tuckering out between 9:30-10 p.m., I think I put in more than enough hours.

Sometimes people are surprised to find out that my 4 (almost 5) year old still naps. It's not to say that he doesn't moan and groan about it...because he does. And, there are days that I hear him bumping around upstairs and I know he's not sleeping. But, for the most part he still sleeps over this time. His body would probably be fine without a nap. But, you know what? I need him to take that nap. And, so, I enforce naptime. Does that make me a mean mommy?

If you think that makes me a mean mommy, then this next confession makes me even meaner. I will often make my first grader take a nap as well on days he's home from school. And, on Sundays, we ALL take naps...Mommy & Daddy too. It's just something that works for us.

I do realize there is coming a day very soon where my older boys will definitely be beyond an age where I can continue to have them take naps. (Although,if it were up to me they'd still be napping at 16!) Even so, I think it's still a good idea to have a quiet time of some sort in the afternoons. We can all benefit from slowing down just a bit.

For now, I'll enjoy the bit of a respite that I have.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gardening Fever

My mind is turning to Spring and to starting this year's garden. I have high hopes every year for what I will accomplish with my garden. But, with small children, it is always a challenge to keep after it the way I would like. Most years I end up with as many (or more) weeds as actual crops. You know it's bad if your husband has to take a lawn mower to the garden to get rid of the weeds!

Even though I don't have much time to devote to my garden during this season of my life, I still enjoy having one. My family always kept a large garden as I grew up. Actually, my parents still keep a large garden. My freezer is stocked with sweet corn, green beans, and soy beans that they grew. Each summer we have a 'work party' where we will husk, blanch, and cut the sweet corn by the dozens. It takes a group of us almost all day, but the homegrown corn in our freezer is worth it!

As for my own garden, I plant tomatoes, onions, and zucchini every year. We also grow potatoes and some sweet corn 'for eating' (in other words for eating fresh corn on the cob, but not enough to freeze). I usually also plant some green beans 'for eating' and we plant sunflowers for the fun of it!

As far as fruit goes, we have our own apple tree. It's a gnarly old thing though and half the tree is now dead. Last year the apples were pitiful & wormy. We ended up buying apples for eating and for applesauce from a local orchard. My in-laws also have apples trees, pear trees, and cherry trees. So, we are able to use that fruit as well.

Canning and freezing fruits and vegetables seems to have come back in vogue over the last couple years. For me, it's something I grew up doing and continue to do now that I have my own family. For one thing, nothing tastes better than homegrown food! Plus, it's a great way to save money on the grocery bill. But, I'll get into that subject more when I talk about how our family lives frugally in a future post.

This year I'm hoping to increase my tomato crop. I've already used all the canned tomatoes, tomato juice, and spaghetti sauce from last year's crop. I would also love to try lima beans (one of my favorite vegetables) and some late season crops like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

I have to be realistic though as I plan my garden. With a new addition to our family, I'm sure it will even be harder to dedicate time to the garden. Still, I'm going to try because the benefits are worth it!
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