October 24, 2014

When you wake up cranky

Eve rinsed the breakfast dishes yesterday.
She spent an hour scrubbing and rinsing while I picked up around the house.

My house was a mess and I was avoiding it like the plague.  We don't have a good chore system these days (just dishes) and I have two little ones who make a big mess in a minute if I'm not careful.  So, this morning the mess fell on me and it felt overwhelming.  (Revised chore system coming soon...)

I started my day by deleting Facebook and Instagram off my phone (too tempting).

Then, I decided I needed inspiration and uplift, so I set my phone to read The Book of Mormon to me.  Even if I wasn't completely focused on the words I just kept the audio on in the background.  I was amazed at how often words from scripture would match the random thoughts my mind was mulling over while I cleaned.  

I always start with laundry and while that is washing I go room to room.

I took a break somewhere in the midst of my morning to pull out my journal and write down some goals.  It felt SO good to think and plan and hope!  I hardly ever do all the things I hope to do, but hoping and trying is one of my greatest talents. 

What started out as a cranky day, ended up a beautifully productive day.

As I saw things that needed to be done, I wrote a list of random jobs on the whiteboard.  When the kids came home I had them choose one large or two small jobs.  It's so nice to get help with those random jobs.

In the afternoon, I baked.
Eve, Ben and I made granola, bread, and the most amazing cinnamon rolls ever.  While I was finishing the rolls, Anna fried pork chops and Drew made couscous and green beans for dinner.  

Everyday I put a pitcher to fill with water under the faucet while I'm making last minute dinner prep.  And, everyday my kids tease me when it overflows.

Drew was filling the pitcher last night and it overflowed.  I teased him and he said it was because he was trying to do so many things at once.  I laughed, "Yes, it's called multi-tasking."  I could see his brain working-- maybe Mom isn't just forgetful, maybe she's just doing a lot of different things at once also.  

We ended the night with a family trip to a haunted house, and then the big kids put the little kids to bed while Todd and I went on a date to an interesting, inspiring lecture.

Life can be good, even on cranky Thursdays.

October 22, 2014

This Kind

Eve and Ben are playing together more these days.
They are double trouble, those two.
They both have big personalities, they are happy, active, and smart.

This morning Ben threw his sippy cup off his highchair tray and it hit Eve.
She cried, hugged me tight, and pronounced emphatically-- "See, that's why I don't want that kind of baby!"

Oh, the joy of having a little brother.

Unfortunately for Eve, this is my favorite kind of baby.
I happen to love the strong, Captain Moroni, Peter type babies.
If I can survive the messy toddler years, I prefer raising leaders to raising followers.  I somehow ended up with a whole houseful of that kind of babies.  

You know immediately that these kinds of babies are going to be something.
I hope they turn out something good!

Now, better go find that little mess maker, he's fast!!
Life is good!

(If I actually took time to go onto my computer, I'd link to the cutest books.  I love them.  Little Dinos Don't Bite and Little Dinos Don't Hit...  They're cute-- and so are little Dinos.  Look them up.)

October 21, 2014

I clean.

I clean.

My good friend was unhappy at work and struggling to decide her future.  She said, "I am not going to quit my job so I can stay home and clean my house all day."

Her words have haunted me.

Do I stay home to clean all day every day?  

I will admit that my house is clean, although it is never as clean as I wish it was.  I'm too busy doing good things to clean all day, although I often wish I could spend my hours cleaning.  I could have a clean home if that was all I did.  I don't feel my life would be best spent cleaning all day, but unlike many of the voices in society today, this is not because I don't find purpose and value in menial tasks.

There are times I would feel wrong spending all day studying scriptures, serving others, writing blogs, or even praying.  The need for balance and order should not diminish the value of foundational tasks.  Creating a home of order is a GREAT and NOBLE work. 

When my home is orderly, my mind is at peace.  

I have rules about my home.

1- I welcome people into my home whatever state it is in.  Allowing people to see me in my less than perfect state, endears them to me, opens me to service, and shows them I can love them in an imperfect state.  Friendships are formed with honesty-- and honestly, my house is usually one or two hours away from "clean."

2-  I try not to apologize for messy kitchens, fingerprint windows, or laundry piles in my living room.  (I'm not great at this.)  I post messy house pictures on my blog.  I am not one who stages my house for pictures because I think the idea that our house should be model-home perfect is unhealthy.  Unrealistic home expectations lead to debt, depression, and even divorce.  

3-  I believe learning to keep an orderly home is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn in this life.  I believe clean, organized homes eminate peace and health.  I believe we cannot teach our children to clean without helping them to be accustomed to a clean home.  Order begins with me!!

4- I do NOT think clean trumps kindness or relationships.
The attitude by which I clean teaches MORE than the skill by which I clean.  I am very aware of the mental energy I eminate when I clean or as I organize chores.  I cannot expect my family to clean happily when I do not.

I believe in cleaning.

I find great symbolism as I clean.

For years I have organized (or picked up) my home on Mondays, cleaned on Tuesdays, laundered (separating the light from dark) on Wednesday, etc..  My cleaning schedule mirrors the creation (I think there is a link to creation cleaning on my sidebar) and so as I clean, my thoughts turn to the Creation story.  Running water illicits images of great oceans.  

Cleaning is transformative and beautiful.  Of all the repetitive tasks I perform as a mother, cleaning is my favorite.  There is just something rewarding for me as I see a toothpaste-y sink wiped to a clean, shiny surface.  I find freshly bathed children and husbands equally irresistible.  I feel natural joy in a clean kitchen, wiped counters, mopped kitchen floor.  Vacuum lines in the carpet are my love language.

My home is my Garden of Eden, this is my small part of the world.  I get to create a place for my family to dwell.  As the Queen of my castle I take full responsibility for the state of my home.  

Sure, those who live with me will all have differing levels of cleanliness and skill.  But, I am the manager of the home.  My job description includes the great skills of motivator, teacher, and scheduler.  

It is so very common for parents to complain about their messy children, messy home, lazy teenagers, or unhelpful spouse.  I wonder if they understand their role is to INSPIRE, teach, facilitate.  

WE are the coaches!!  Complaining about our team just makes us look bad.  Good coaches take the team that they have and make them better.

My children are messy.  I am not the Queen of Clean or the Queen of Consistent.  

Different children are wired messier and neater.  I'm so grateful for the chance I get to teach my children to be clean.  Cleanliness and order are not skills that can be taught in one family night lesson.  These are habits taught over and over and over again.  My messiest young children have become amazingly tidy teens.  I'm so impressed.  

My creative, messiest child was in school with an overflowing desk.  Her teacher made a comment and my daughter replied, "I know I'm messy.  My mom says THIS is the year I'm going to learn to be organized."  I loved that story-- she notices her current weakness, but she also knows that I know she can learn new skills.  I really believe this is true-- we can learn beyond our natural tendencies.

I am still learning to overcome my natural laziness.  (The best part of being a mother to many is that I can literally feel my selfishness and laziness being melted off my soul.)

I choose to love the process as much as I love the result.
It makes me sad when people say "Nobody likes changing dirty diapers."
I do.  

I feel it is a privilege to be alive and able to change dirty diapers.  
I feel grateful that my babies are alive and healthy enough to potty.
I have never lost a child.  But, often as I change diapers, I imagine that THIS diaper could be my last.
Would he know how much I love him?
If my baby died- my soul would ache to change one more of his dirty diapers.

Can I tell you a thing or two about changing dirty diapers?
It is a privilege!!
It is a skill!
It is an act of service that is healthy, bonding, and crucial.

I do not bask in poo, but I cherish the opportunity that I have to serve my baby often during the day.
Keeping his bottom clean and healthy is important to me.

I teach so much as I clean him.
I teach him to trust me.
I teach him to lay still and be calm.
I teach him to find his eyes, his hair, his ears, his nose, his tongue, his toes.
I teach him animal sounds.
This is the game of responding-- I ask, he answers.  What an essential skill for him to learn.

As I change his diaper, his eyes are close to mine.  
We connect, we sing, we bond!!
I choose to love changing diapers!!!
I want my child to feel loved, not dirty and annoying.
I CHOOSE to love changing diapers because I love the child I am cleansing.

I love cleaning dirty toilets.

For almost one year, I laid in bed unable to lift, clean, or even potty.
I watched people I love serve me.
I watched people I love clean my toilets.
My body ached to work, my soul yearned to serve.
I wanted desperately to clean my own toilets-- and today I can!!!
The ability to clean my home is a gift.

As I read holy scripture, I find a God who cleans.  

2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 
3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 8)

If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Don't you love those words?
Can you hear them from your child, your kitchen, your car, your toilet?
I will.
I clean because I love.

21 Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us? ...
23 Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also. (Book of Mormon, Alma, Alma 60)

I believe a house of order is the desire of almost every person.  We might not ever achieve the level of order we hope to have, but we are unified in our desire.

In a recent General meeting of our church, Elder Jorge Klebingat, of the seventy, gave a talk "Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence"

He was obviously NOT talking about house cleaning-- but oh the divine analogy.  Cleaning is like repenting.  Cleaning, like repenting, is repetitive and renewing.  

Establish an attitude of ongoing, happy, joyful CLEANING by making it your lifestyle of choice.  Beware of the temptation to procrastinate!!

Joyful repentance...
Joyful cleaning...
Beautiful concepts to ponder as you cleanse.

The beauty of Christ's teaching was that He taught about menial tasks.  He compared menial tasks to Godly things.  Homemakers everywhere can relate to the parable of the lost silver.

8 ¶Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (New Testament, Luke, Luke 15)

This IS a holy work.

A friend gave me a framed quote once that said,
"Treasure those humdrum tasks that keep your body occupied and your mind unfettered."

Oh, don't you LOVE talking to a wise friend while you mindlessly clean?  Don't you love listening to a book on tape, an inspirational talk, or cheerful music while you clean?!!  Cleaning can be calming anti-anxiety and anti-depressant.  Cleaning signals endorphins and burns calories.  Don't you love to clean?

I do!!

My whole house is happy if I put on the Happy Little Working Song from Enchanted while we clean.

One of the best things my husband can do to help when I'm cranky is to take the kids to the park so I can spend a few uninterrupted hours cleaning my temple. Love it!!

When we're helping we're happy!!
Happy is a direct result of cleaning.  
It's a scientific law.
(We need to pause a second and really FOCUS on that which we've cleaned or that which still needs to be cleaned will rob us of those natural and good feelings.)

Children naturally LOVE to clean!!
They really do!!
Give any child under five the choice of a sink full of sudsy water with dishes to clean or the coolest toy alive-- they will CHOOSE to wash dishes.  I know it.
Teach them to feel proud of clean dishes before you make them mop the flooded floor!

We teach them to dread work by the weight and negativity WE place on work.

I certainly haven't mastered the art of teaching children to keep a home clean, so take my advice for what it's worth.  I
believe inorder to properly teach work to children you must separate your desire for a clean home with your need to teach your children to clean.  Both of these are YOUR responsibility to teach.  

I cannot be mad at my kids for my messy house, because my house is my job.  I am the teacher, the Queen, the Master-- they are my students.  Messes are an inevitable and healthy part of life!!  My job is to deal with them and teach my children how to deal with them.  Clean is the goal-- but dribbling back and forth is an essential part of the game.  

Usually, the big messes comes from ME being distracted or busy and not following through.  Accept the mess.  Embrace the process.  Joyfully and willfully clean and teach those around you to joyfully join you.

I cannot be angry at a child for being cranky, overwhelmed, or unmotivated to clean.  If I still (at age 36) feel cranky, overwhelmed, and unmotivated, then those are absolutely natural and expected behaviors from a younger child.  Getting angry at a child who is acting like a child is, frankly, childish.

When you are teaching your children to clean you must separate yourself from every single guilty feeling you have that your house needs cleaning.  Don't blame them for the mess, don't blame yourself for the mess.  Separate two lessons; how to clean up and how to keep it clean.

One- you will joyfully teach a child to clean overwhelming messes.
There are lots of skills for them to learn.  Where to begin, how not to get distracted, how music lifts your spirits, sorting, purging, working quickly, working with others, breaking a large task into smaller tasks.  Pretend you are on TV, that you are cleaning somebody else's house for an extreme home makeover.  Cleaning is fun!

Two- you will joyfully teach your child how to be more organized, more neat, and more self-disciplined.  This is not a lesson you teach while you're cleaning big messes.  Did you hear that?!!  Do not yell at your kids for making a mess the whole time you are cleaning up messes!!  If you do this, you will be teaching them that having to clean means they have done something WRONG.  No wonder nobody likes to clean.

Do you feel that moms?  Do you feel that cleaning equals failure?  Tis not so!!  Can you see that having to clean means you are doing everything right?!! We have mess because we are living and loving, eating, playing, and creating!!  Be grateful for your beloved mess!  You are great because you clean not a failure because you have to clean!  

Likewise, you repent because you are good becoming better!  Repenting means growing and becoming NOT condemning and failure.  Oh, let us teach our children to run towards God when they err, not away from Him.  

Let us teach our children they are the most amazing cleaning crew ever!!  Let's praise them for their ability to transform a Hiroshima House into a Heavenly Home with the same skill as the Cat in the Hat with Things A to Z (sometimes we clean in rhyme).  Do not teach your children that cleaning equals failure.  

Be grateful you have ANOTHER mess to clean.  See the excess of money, gifts and blessings in every single mess.

Please, next time you are complaining about a messy toddler or an overwhelming house, take a trip to the pediatric hospital near you.  Find a mother sitting near her toddler hooked up to chemo and ask her what she would rather be doing.  Ten bucks says she would tell you that a messy toddler is a happy, healthy toddler.  She would trade you in a heartbeat.  

Yes, teaching your children to be neat and disciplined is so, so important.  We teach this as we move slowly, plan ahead, establish routines.  Morning routines, sleep routines, bedtime and mealtime routines.  When we keep our bedroom clean, our children learn to keep their bedrooms clean.  

Oh the hypocrisy of parents who feel so justified in being angry at their lazy children without seeing the beam in their own eye.  First, put on your own oxygen mask!  Find joy in cleaning.

My time is up and my house is waiting to be joyfully cleansed.

I wish I could tell you exactly how to keep your home clean and tidy while inspiring your family to do the same.

I have tried, perhaps harder to figure out homemaking than I have tried to do anything else in my life.  And, I still have so much to learn.

Cleaning my house, cleaning my car, cleaning my kitchen, cleaning my children is still hard for me.
I don't know how to have a large family and have a clean home.
My floor, although regularly mopped, is always sticky.
My sliding glass doors have tongue and fingerprints smeared across them.
Despite notes, repeated training, and two Saturdays devoted to washing, ironing and rehanging lessons, I have a child who still picks her nose and strategically places boogies on her shower curtain.  Lovely.

I try to be neat and disciplined, but it still takes daily grit and determination.
I try to keep my van tidy, but it is not.
I have designed and created hundreds of chore charts and designated spots for hundreds of shoes and still I have shoes in my entry ways and Saturday morning negotiations.
My favorite advice is-- never stop starting.

I really hate putting my clothes away at the end of the day.  Oh, I have a procrastinating soul.  But, I think THIS is the year I will stop procrastinating.

God doesn't ask us to repent because He expects us not to sin.
We repent because we are mortal and sin is part of the plan.
Repenting is a joyful gift, an opportunity for cleansing and growth.
Cleaning is like repenting.

We clean because mess is inevitable.
We clean because work is worship.
We clean because we are hopeful and grateful.
We clean because cleansing is holy.
We clean because it is a service and a sacrifice.

44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven (New Testament, Luke, Luke 7)

I believe I clean because I love much.
I believe that as I serve I am sanctified and cleansed myself.
Yes, I find cleaning to be a holy sacrament.
I feel privileged to be able to serve my family.
I love to clean.
In the repetition of cleansing I am purified.
Life, with clean diapers, wiped counters, shining toilets and vacuum lines is good.
Life, even with stinky diapers, sticky counters, ringed toilet bowls, and crumby carpets, is an absolute gift.

Time to stop preaching and keep practicing.  :)

Let me leave you with one final thought.
My Savior-- He cleans.
He cleans my soul, He wipes my tears, He walks with me as I clean my home.
How can I ever despise the menial tasks of caring for my home and family when each task drips of holy symbolism, incomparable love and eternal grace?

5 After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. (New Testament, John, John 13)

I believe we do not know now the significance of the daily acts of service we perform.  But, we will know hereafter.

Perhaps it is the act of changing diapers, washing feet, cleaning together, that creates eternal family connections.

Lord, dost thou wash me?
What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.

If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
If I wash thee-- thou hast part with me!

I am like Him.
As I wash them, they have part with me and Him.

Today, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!

Not my dishes only, but my clothes and my floor and my boogered shower curtain.

I clean and I am cleansed.
I feel honored that I get to clean my home, clean my family, and clean my soul.
As I wash, I am healed.

9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord. (Old Testament, Psalms, Psalm 113)

October 19, 2014

I cook.

Ellie made me breakfast in bed this morning, sliced apples, pancakes from scratch, and pure maple syrup.

She used eggs from our chickens (I smiled as I crunched a few shell pieces), apples from a nearby orchard, flour from a local Mennonite store, and even went out in the rain to cut a rose to decorate the plate.  I'm absolutely certain that my kitchen is a whirlwind of a mess.

I felt loved.  I felt fed.  
I loved her more for serving me.

Oh, food-- food!
I really love beautiful, colorful, delicious, healthy food.  I have often said that produce is my antidepressant of choice.  

As much as I intrinsically love food, in all it's variety, I have had to learn to appreciate the repetitive act of feeding myself and others.

Anyone who has been pregnant can attest to the  direct correlation between hunger and emotions.  As one who was pregnant for six full years of my life, I testify that a good nap and a good meal changes things.

My sweet husband learned to feed me or send me to my room for a nap when my emotions would pour out.  He always asks, "What have you eaten?  What can I get you?"  

We need to stop fighting with each other and start feeding each other more!  Believe me- it works.  Make more cookies and your children will squabble less.  Ha!  Do not argue or fight with a cranky child!! Feed them or help them to sleep.  

The stupidest advice we ever give newlywed couples is "Never go to bed angry."  No!!  Go. To. Bed!!!  You are probably not even angry, you're just tired.  (Please excuse my random rant.  Sleep and food are so related in my mind and my role as a wife, mother, and homemaker.)

Regular, healthy, beautiful meals in your home will change things.  

Don't you love John 21:15-17?

15 ¶So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 

How many times did Christ teach that loving and feeding went hand in hand?

Don't you love the parallel between nourishing physical bodies and nourishing souls?  We hunger for both physical and spiritual nourishment.

How many times did Christ TEACH and FEED?  Almost every single time.  Spirits are receptive when bellies are full.

Feeding is divinely repetitive.  I believe our life has purpose and as such, I find purpose and holiness in performing the menial tasks of life.  I believe Naaman was cured from leprosy by washing and washing and washing and washing and washing and washing and washing, seven times in the river Jordan.  (2 Kings 2:5). I also believe that we are bonded together as friends and family, parent and child, as we cook and eat together.  The act of feeding creates loving bonds.  

I struggle to DO what I KNOW to be good.  My meals are not perfectly planned and prepared.  Feeding takes effort and work.  I learned this weekend that work and worship are the same word in Hebrew.  I feel that I worship as I work.  I might not DO things as well as I wish I could, but I firmly BELIEVE that feeding others is a holy act.

We hunger, our children hunger, our neighbors hunger.  Hunger is a gift that helps us to take time to feast upon that which is good.  Hunger draws us together.  Hunger pulls us back to our Heavenly Father as it pulls our children back to us.  Let's kill the fatted calf!  Let's rejoice when our children come to us for food!  Feeding others is a privilege that we would yearn for if our children were lost or wandering.  I hope Heaven feels like a Thanksgiving family dinner.

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (New Testament, Luke 15)

My relationships are strengthened as I feed others.  

From the moment I first bring my newborn baby to my breast to eat, I am bonding that baby to me.  Children learn early that mother and father equals food, warmth, protection, comfort and love.  I am teaching my children over and over and over again as I nourish them.  I am blessing them with a secure foundation as I consistently feed and serve them.  

As we feed bodies we are loving souls.  Feeding bonds.  It is beautiful.  God must have known this when he created bodies and children that required food.  

We are teaching as we feed.  Lessons of peace and security taught during the first years of our children's lives while they eat hourly are lessons that we will want them to remember into their adult years.  

It is natural for children to learn to feed themselves and in time to learn to feed others.  What a privilege it is to be able to teach our families the joy of feeding others.  I hope my children feel the value of feeding those they love.  I hope they always find joy in nourishing.

My wise cousin adopted a baby.  During the early months with him, SHE fed him.  She wasn't able to nurse, but she created that bond by being the one with the food.  What a smart mother.  What a lucky little boy.

Oh how my mother soul aches for mothers all over the world who cannot feed their children.  We are SO lucky.  We can feed those we love and we have excess to share.  Let us reach out to help others feed their lambs.

My morning time is up although I could testify of the art of nourishing all day long.  

Feeding my husband and children bonds them to me and the act of serving them transforms my soul.  It is an honor to serve.  It is an honor to feed.  It is an honor to be fed.  I feel loved and cared for when I am fed, and I love feeding.

One of the best things I can do as I strive to create a peaceful home, is try to have the kitchen table set and dinner at least planned before my husband comes home for work.  He might not admit it, or even notice it, but he feels peace when he sees the table set.  Our evenings run smoother when I create a healthy meal for our family.  

I try to have dinner cooked before Todd comes home, and my favorite nights I see him pull up the driveway and call to my children, "Come quickly!  Dad's home!  Let's all sit down before he comes inside."  Food cooking on the stove and a table carefully set, symbolizes to my family that all is well.  It just does.

A healthy breakfast starts our days off right.
Holidays are happier with traditions that focus on food.
There is beauty all around when there's FOOD at home!!

A hungry family is a cranky family.

Oh, how wise the plan that makes teenage boys excessively hungry during those transformative years!!  What a gift it is to FEED them.  

We cook!  We serve!  We feed His lambs.
We feed over and over and over again.
Don't you love it?!

Many times I feel like my whole life revolves around planning, buying, preparing and serving food.  I absolutely feel this is a great work!  Yes, feeding and washing dishes is work-- but it is good work. I feel feeding others is perhaps the greatest of all work.  If feeding is not the greatest work-- it is certainly the most foundational of all good works.

I am proud to nourish.

How I cherish the opportunity to feed those I love.  I hope those in my home feel fed, both physically and spiritually.

Let us STOP focusing on the drudgery of dirty dishes and start focusing on the divine opportunity we are blessed with to serve and comfort.  The art of nourishing is a skill and an honor.  
I'm not the best cook-- but I do believe with my whole soul that cooking for those I love is doing something great.

I am thankful I can cook!!
Life is a little better with a full stomach.

October 17, 2014

Broom, Beautiful Broom!

This is The Best Tip Ever!!
I'm about to Change. Your. Lives.


Sweep out your cars-- with a broom and dustpan.  If you need to, keep a little broom right under the front passenger seat.

Let's come clean ladies (and as many men who read this blog).  If you have children, your car gets pretty bad, worse than you'd ever admit.  You may be obsessed with keeping it clean (as I am at times), but it doesn't matter.  It gets bad.  Look in the cracks of the car seats and you'll still find nasty remnants of things you are certain you have never fed your children.

If you don't have children or a messy car, try this.  Take a broom and dustpan to Walmart (or Trader Joes if you prefer cleaning organic messes).  Park next to a well-used mom vehicle.  Wait until you see a semi-frazzled but still smiling mother pushing her overflowing cart from the store with her restless tots.  Smile at her from a distance, say you are doing public service, and offer to SWEEP out her car.  She'll think you're weird, but she might just let you.  It will be an education (or a walk down memory lane).

Honestly, sometimes I just WISH I had some random kind person who would show up and clean out my car.  Actually, that reminded me!!  I learned this broom trick from a friend who showed up one morning when I was sitting in the middle of a morning mess trying to get motivated.  She just started cleaning my kitchen.  She said, "Let me clean, you put stuff away."  Then, she swept the black mat in front of my back door.  It's the mat that catches the dog dirt and outside mess.  (My kids play outside more here, which naturally means they get dirtier.  I love it but oh the mess.)  My sweet friend scrubbed the mat with a broom and got it cleaner than I've been able to do it with a vacuum.  Genius.  Changed my life.

I hear her voice often when I get overwhelmed with mess and don't know where to begin-- "You put things away, anyone can clean."  I start with picking up and assign the cleaning to a nearby child.  (Thanks Stef!!)

Anyway, I applied the broom principle to my car, and found equal satisfaction!

You will all learn what an amazing tool that little broom is in a dirty car.  It works in car seats, door frames, and rugs.  That little broom cleans rugs better than gas station vacuumes do.  

Don't forget to scrub around the legs of the benches or in the grooves of the door.  

A broom has become my favorite tool to clean my car, door mats, and kitchen rugs.  Think-- short, swift strokes, like a broom scrub brush.  It's magic.

The broom might not help with the random shoes, toys, pieces of bread, or moldy sausages (ahem), that you might find hiding in your vehicle.  But, it will keep your rugs clean.

Baby wipes work for any other car mess-doors, windows, leather, etc.  Baby wipes should be stored in the car along with an extra diaper if you have more than one child.  

My organizing friend Taneil says she locks the door to her van upon reaching her driveway (locking the children inside).  She kindly but firmly insists that her children bring every last sock with them out of the car.  When they still leave lunch boxes, homework, shin guards, and underwear on their seats, she hunts them down and drags them back to clean up their messes.  They know she will check and that she WILL follow through and come find them.  So now they keep the car clean.  Well, all but two of her kids.  Haha.  And, even though she is the Queen of Clean with children, her car carpets still get messy.  So, I know it's universal.

Try the broom.

It especially works great when you only have one minute to clean a huge white van before picking up the sweetest, childless, wife of a professor your husband works with.  ;)

Happy Sweeping!!

PS- Todd is home from Germany and not feeling well, poor guy.  He "doesn't think it's Ebola", but might head to the doctor to make sure.  Poor guy.  I am very compassionate, but he knows me too well to miss the laughter behind my concern.  

PPS- Jakob and Anna were last to the car this morning.  I ran back inside to encourage them.  I was curt with Anna and she was sassy in return blaming me (not the fact that she slept in) for her tardiness.  I asked how on Earth this could be my fault.  She said in her best 7th grade voice, "You ALWAYS make me brush my teeth."  Again, my laughing eyes gave me away.  Sometimes my sense of humor trumps my compassion. Often I laugh and tease when I should comfort and soothe.  
I think this is why they ask Todd to take out their splinters.  ;)

Happy Weekend!

October 16, 2014

Thursday Thoughts.

Todd is in Germany for the week.
I am enjoying my fast and crazy life here at home.

Anna had her surgery follow-up appointment and her hand looks great.
(It still looks crazy sad to me, but great as  far as stitched-up hands look.)
I had a friend in college who was the most beautiful, gentle, kind girl.  She was married to a hunk of a husband.  And, half of her face and her neck was scarred from a burn accident when she was a child.  I remember wondering if her mother ached every time she saw her burned little girl.  The answer is, yes.  You always ache, but at the very same time your heart swells with pride at the beauty that grows through the ashes.
This was our two hour long appointment, followed by physical therapy.
Ben was beastly.
He is officially not fun anywhere that he can't climb, throw, eat, jump, crash, or hit.  Haha.
BOY O BOY!!  I remember BOYS!!
He's a cute little stink.
(Look closely at this picture... Ellie is doing really cool things with her nails.  It involves youtube, mugs of water, covering your finger with tape, and floating two different colors of nail polish in it.  Ellie is SO fun.)

We are drinking in Fall.
It's amazingly perfect here.

What's your favorite season?
Least favorite?

I have been contemplating this because I tend to enjoy whatever season we are in the most.  I'm a cup-half-full kind of girl.
But, I've decided.

My least favorite season is... Spring.
Isn't that odd?

I love the white, crisp beauty of winter.  Love it.
I think that by the time Spring comes, I'm ready for Summer and warm weather.  I feel most agitated by muddy, cold Spring days.  Weird, I know.  I like a decisive season-- hot summers, cool falls, snowy winters... And spring just drags on winter sometimes.  If I have to pick a least favorite, that's what I'd pick.  At least until Spring comes.  :) (no, I'm not going to take the time to edit my capitalization in this silly paragraph.)

My FIRST ever late night project school project.  And ironically, it would have been finished earlier if I had not accidentally thrown away and had to repurchase the poster board.  (My kids are ridiculously independent with their schoolwork.)  It was fun working with Anna, although she is as particular about poster placement as she was about sock wrinkles for the first ten years of her life.  Anna is the most perfectionistic of all my perfectionists.

I was told after school that walking by Anna's desk, her teacher exclaimed "Anna!  Look at that poster!  It's the best I've ever seen!"  So, I suppose her attention to detail does pay off.  
My grocery shopping is all finished.
I hate when I spend most of my budget on the first day we get paid.  Ha!

I'm folding laundry today.
I've been up at the school helping with 6th grade and PTO.
I LOVE schools.  Good, good people work in the school system.
No matter what legislation is passed, I love schools because I love teachers.

I'm going to an interfaith luncheon today and Time Out for Women in Saratoga Springs tomorrow and our whole family got invited over to another professor's home for dinner on Sunday (isn't that nice?).  (Like that fancy punctuation?)!
Hope we don't destroy their fancy home or rare artifacts from Zimbabwe. 
I'm so excited!!  
Anyone else going to that Time Out for Women??
See my lip?
Rocco hit my face with his head and my tooth went all the way through my lip.
It hurts.  Really hurts.
I did not sentence him to a life in purgatory or even growl at him.  
(Honest, only stolen cookie dough and three months of catheters, not even a face full of blood, can illicit fire and brimstone from my mouth.  Haha. Oh-- don't even look at the commas in that ridiculous sentence.)

Have a great Thursday friends!!
I must stop before my grammar drives me crazy!!  Oh my.
Life is good!!  Fall is fabulous!
I really need to start thinking about Halloween.  :)
Enjoy today!

October 13, 2014

The Value of Making a Home

As a wife, mother, homemaker, peacemaker, I take my job very seriously.

I am not a wage-earner, but I will laugh if you assume that I don't work.  I work AND I get paid.  There needs to be more discussion on the currency of the parental investments we make.  

I'm going to speak bluntly, because I believe we are intelligent enough to be honest with each other.  I am concerned. I honestly feel that women are devaluing womanhood.  I feel that Feminism is taking something good, like the idea that women and men are equal, and allowing this concept to devalue every role that is traditionally female.  (Don't believe me?  Go visit the Seneca Fall's National Women's Rights Museum.  They do no celebrate equal rights for women, they celebrate women being freed from their subservient roles as a wife, mother, and homemakers.)

The result of Feminist ideas might very well be laws that allow women the right to vote, laws that protect women in abusive marriages, and laws that enable women to work and get an eduction.  All those things are so good, and essential.  

But, we are missing something!!  This same philosophy seeps into our brains and causes us to be so very conflicted.  As we serve in our homes, doing menial tasks, we hear society telling us that we were meant for greater things.  We overlook our investment and focus on our sacrifices.

We are so kind and sensitive to the many women who work (and we should be), that we're afraid to really acknowledge the benefit of a mother's influence in the home.  Even working women, whose husbands stay at home with their children, should celebrate their unique contribution to their home.  Frankly, you do not even need to have children to create a holy home.  I watch my young children learn to be homemakers as they make their beds with care and prop their beloved stuffed animals neatly on their pillow.  

Women, our roles may expand, but let us not forget where we came from!  Let's not trade our birthright for a latte'.  We are fighting to grow our branches by cutting off our roots.  The results are imminently dangerous.

I actually believe that we are quite amazing, adaptable, and capable.  Living in this day of time saving devices and wealth, I believe women can do anything they put their mind to.  Meaning, I believe that women can work, husbands can do laundry, life can be a tag team effort-- however you choose to manage your home, I believe you CAN do it successfully.  

Turning this discussion into a black and white discussion on whether or not mothers should work outside of the home conveniently masks my whole point.  Homemaking is a job that all parents share!!  This is a discussion that should unite (not divide) us.  

I absolutely feel that the menial tasks done at home are of value.  Devaluing home work does not empower women.  Devaluing home work weakens a society.  When children are raised in a house of peace and order, society is strengthened.

So, what exactly do I do all day?  What is my job?  Why on earth would any educated, capable, intelligent woman (which I am) ever choose to stay at home "cleaning toilets and changing diapers" all day?  

Thanks for asking.

My life's ambition is to create an orderly, happy, peaceful home.  I have not figured out how to do it yet (I've been learning and creating for 15 years), but I do believe this ideal is possible.  

Why?  Why do I wake up every single morning of my life and try to create my dream home?  Because I believe in my core that no success can compensate for failure in the home.  I believe the family I created deserves my best efforts. I feel hypocritical performing for strangers when my home is chaotic.  

I value the physical and mental health of my children, my husband, and myself. 

My main jobs as a maker of the home are to nurture and nourish.  I nourish and nurture and in so doing I am nourished and nurtured.

As a nurturer, I create a home environment that is safe, orderly, inviting, and supportive.  I hug, I wipe away tears, I soothe on stressful days, I carry Band-aids.  I listen.  I encourage.  I love.  I cheer up the cranky, inspire the lazy, distract the angry, heal the sick, clean the dirty, and some days raise the dead!  Oh, how I yearn to learn the great skill of nurturing.

As a nourisher, I feed my family healthy food, I feed their spirits with inspiration, I feed their hearts with love and affection, and I feed their minds with knowledge of good things.  Nourishing is, by divine design, a task of refining repetition.  

There is grace in the daily opportunity to nourish again, keep feeding, keep teaching, keep filling. The moulding of both physical and spiritual happens over time and is a result of years and years of input.  Thank goodness!  I would not want my children's health to be determined by one boxed Mac n Cheese dinner or their social character ruined by one maternal tantrum.  Daily nourishing to body and spirit, over time, yields beautiful results.  It's pretty hard to "ruin" a kid because we are programmed to be quite renewing and resilient.  

(Oh, I could write ten blogs on Christ as the ultimate nurturer and constant nourisher.  How I cherish my weekly bite of bread and sip of water that symbolizes Christ becoming part of me.  He nourishes and changes me day after day after day, in small and simple ways.  I become like Him as I feed His lambs.  And, they become like Him as they see me trying day after day to be more like Him.  It's beautiful really.)

Every time I resent the repetitive nature of nourishing, I recognize how grateful I am for the chance to try again and again and again and again and again to fill my family with good stuff!  

I find great value in routine and order.  Children respond well to routine and order.  Adults respond well to routine and order.  I absolutely believe that mental health is affected by your environment.  I find illness in homes that are too clean and too messy.

Unfortunately, my family is all awake now and my time for philosophizing has come to an end.  

Quickly, here is a list of what I do...

I clean.
I cook.
I establish routines.
I set the tone.
I provide physical touch.
I decorate.
I celebrate.
I reach out.

This week (or two) I want to talk about these topics in some depth.  I think there is great value in basic things.  

Yes, I cook, wash dishes, wipe bottoms, and clean toilets.  And in these menial tasks I feel that I am absolutely shaping the next generation.  Societies crumble when their children are hungry, dirty, and neglected.  Marriages and relationships crumble when no time is spent strengthening them.

I find nobility and honor in my work at home.  I am grateful to be alive to serve and teach and enjoy those that I love most.  Yes, homemaking for me is a full-time job.  I believe I am paid in excess- I can't give a crust without getting a loaf in return.  My bread basket runneth over.  

Everyone who has ever struggled to make a home knows that we all have individual strengths and weaknesses.  You might be better at cuddling your kids and I might be better at organizing their closets.  The point of any discussion is NOT to say that we all should be equally skilled and judging each other.  

The point is not to condemn ourselves because we are not better than we already are.  

The point is to say-- home skills are IMPORTANT AND VALUABLE.  Homemaking is not only an honorable profession, strong homes are the bedrock of strong societies.  

Life is good, when our homes are strong.
I know it.


October 09, 2014

I'm a miracle!

Dear Kristen--
I hope this is the last picture I will post of my scarred belly.  Haha!  Maybe I'll post a belly picture again when Ben turns 40.  

My scar looks great as far as scars go.  If you want to feel good about yourself, just have eight kids.  Everyone will tell you how great you look "for having eight kids".

Physically I feel normal.  I don't ever, ever even leak urine.  (Not even when I sneeze or jump on a trampoline.)  My sex-life is fully functional and fun!  My bowels work.  My stomach doesn't hurt.  I know this is TMI-- but we're friends.  ;)

I'm NOT exhausted.  I don't take ANY medication aside from Fatigue to Fantastic Energy Revitilization System vitamins that I drink daily (when I remember).  I love them.  

People who see me, who know about my surgery, are pretty much amazed.  Everyone is always asking "How are you really?"  And really-- I'm NORMAL!!!!  I'm good!  I'm healed and happy.  I could die tomorrow (so could you), and I would die HAPPY!

Ahhhh!!  NORMAL feels amazing when you don't ever think normal will return.

Ben CLIMBED ONTO THE KITCHEN TABLE today.  He started running/walking this weekend and he is going to give me a run for my money.  I know toddlers and this little guy is one BIG spirit.  I LOVE it.  I'm SO grateful.

Mentally, I think I miss my old friends in Oregon and Texas sometimes.  I didn't get out a lot last year and I feel lonely for adults at times.  But, I'm not depressed.  I'm excited, grateful, and hopeful.

I am nervous to exercise or do anything physically strenuous.  But, I'm not nervous I might die.  I went on some pretty intense roller coasters this summer and I thought "if I was going to die, I would already be dead."  Ha!  

I believe in our ability to heal.  We can heal from intense physical challenges, we can heal from intense emotional challenges, and we can heal from mental and physical illness.  I didn't curse God when my healing took time, but I also never stopped believing that I could be healed.  

Our bodies are AMAZINGLY resilient.  I cannot go through the temple without knowing the reality of temple blessings in my life.  

My body is a quilt-- a beloved, well-used quilt.  And, I love my body.  

I know that prayers are answered.  I felt your prayers pulling me back to life, literally.  

Honestly, I would do this again if I had to choose tomorrow knowing what I know now.  I would still choose Ben.  I would choose LIFE, even when it's hard.  I KNOW that suffering is holy and sanctifying.  It is an honor to endure.  

I call Ben my grand finale' and he is.  My magnum opus (Charlotte's Web).  He is a gift.  

Really-- I'm great.  I try to wear my compression socks.  My feet ache when I do a lot, and my fingers tingle.  I think my circulation is slower.  I actually LOVE when my feet ache.  Todd is so sweet to rub them for me and it ALWAYS reminds me of the months my legs were on fire!! I am SO grateful for the reminder of how far I've come.

My actual stomach is still numb around my scar.  I haven't had a yeast or urine infection since my last surgery!!!!  A-MA-ZING!!  My 6 month check-up is coming up in November.

Thank you!! Thank you all for walking this journey with me.  My family has been blessed by many.  
I believe in miracles.
I believe in God.
I believe our life (and our trials) have meaning and purpose.

Life is an absolute gift-- and my tummy reminds me of that every single day.
All is well!!
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