Goodbye, 2014

As I sit here, on the eve of a new year, the memories from the last 365 days come flooding in.

This year has been bittersweet. We have officially lived in our new state for one year. One year we have lived away from our family support system. One year we have spent adjusting to a new area. One year I have missed my former home with every inch of my heart.

But along with the heartache came hope. New friendships were made and are growing even as I type this out. Our house on the farm feels more like home than it did at this same time last year. Our family grew again this past summer, filling a hole I didn’t know we had.

The kids are growing and learning and changing so fast. Much more quickly than I would like them to. I am so thankful for the time I have at home with my six children. Our days are spent exploring with each other and enjoying each other.

Looking onward to next year, I am anticipating great things. I’m setting a goal to daily journal my life at home with each of the kids in order to attempt to preserve these sweet memories. The things my kids say, the things we do together, the fleeting moments we can’t get back. These really are the best days of our lives.

And so, goodbye, 2014! It has been a year of growing and changing. I’m thankful for all of my blessings this year brought, and I’m hopeful for many more blessings to come!

That time all my blog posts disappeared…

Imagine my surprise when I logged on to WordPress this morning to discover ALL of my blog posts had been deleted.

My stomach got sick immediately.  Granted, my blog isn’t anything special.  Nothing glitzy or heavily-trafficked like many of the bigger bloggers out there.  But still.  This is my tiny sliver of the Internet.  A place I feel like I am safe in talking about my life; a place I feel like I can somehow make a difference in the life of someone else.

Immediately I got defensive.  “Who did this??” I thought.  “Who in the world hacked into my blog and made this nightmare happen??”

Thankfully, I had all of my posts saved to my laptop hard drive.  But what a headache to go through and repost everything. Tears came to my eyes thinking about all of the time and energy I put into each post, only to have them all simply taken away by some devious person. I text messaged my best friend and told her what happened.  Why are people so bored and intent on making other people’s lives miserable? And for the sake of what??

But then, humility.  Oh yes, humility.  That seems to be the theme in my life lately.

On my blogger’s “dashboard” (which, for you non-bloggers, is the command center of all of our posting), under “posts”, I noticed “trash 51”.  Surely if someone had wanted to make my blogging life difficult, they wouldn’t have forgotten to empty the trash can of all of the posts they worked so hard to delete.

And then I remembered that yesterday I went through my post dashboard and decided to “clean up” my drafts that have been sitting for months.  Somehow I must’ve clicked the “select all” and subsequently “trashed” all of my posts.  All of them. And then busily went to attend to my son who woke up from his nap with a special “diaper surprise” for me….

No hacker.  Just me being incompetent and busy.

*sigh*

Isn’t that the way we all react in certain situations sometimes? We always think worst-case-scenario and automatically point the finger at someone else.  Because surly our current situation is not a direct result of our own choices.  Right?  Someone has to be to blame, and it certainly can’t be little ole me…

It is easier blaming someone else instead of realizing that when we point our finger we actually have three more fingers pointing back at ourselves.

source: aklimastra.blogspot.com

source: aklimastra.blogspot.com

And so today I am thankful that my blog posts are not all gone.  I apologize if you got a million and one notifications from my blog as I went through and re-published my old posts.  And next time I will be a little more careful when I am editing my dashboard. 😉

To the Mom Who Is Having A Hard Day

source: laurajul.dk

source: laurajul.dk

Hi, friend.

I see you standing there, your tear-filled eyes looking lost and empty. You’re having a bad day, a tough day, a hard day. Maybe this is the first hard day in a long time, or maybe it is yet another hard day in what seems to be a reoccurring theme in your life.  You wish to be anywhere but right here at this very moment. You wonder what you did wrong to make all of the good days seem like a very distant memory. You pray that this day would just. be. done.

I get it.

Maybe your husband works long, late hours, leaving you and your kids at home, alone, day-in and day-out.  Or maybe your husband is serving our country, spending weeks, months, years away from your family. The brief moments of adult conversation seem to pale in comparison to the busy, noisy toddler-chatter that fills your ears from sun-up to sun-down. Everyone else seems so busy with their own lives to even notice. Solitude amidst a tribe of your little ones; it is deafening. Missing what life was like before these little blessings entered your world.  Missing friends and family, and wondering if being a mom will always feel this lonely.

I get it.  I promise you aren’t alone.  I know those moments when you feel like you just can’t have one more conversation about Legos, or Sesame Street, or bodily functions.  But I promise those conversations, while repetitive, are important. They are building a bond between you and your child that nothing can separate. Hang on to those times when you get to have adult time, and don’t be afraid to reach out to other moms in your area.  Chances are they need a friend just like you.

Maybe you were up all night with a sick baby. The luxury of napping during the day is no longer an option with a toddler and preschooler running around.  Catching up on sleep seems near impossible, and you are feeling run-down.  Your tank is near-empty. Days when there are more hours than energy left before bedtime. Where did the energy you used to have disappear to? Will life always be this hard?

I get it.  I so, so get it. Sometimes it seems like there isn’t enough caffeine in the world. But look at that sweet baby that only you can bring comfort to.  The baby who loves you and needs you and silently thanks you for your self-less, sacrificial love through the late-night hours. Find the strength to make it through the day and pray for peaceful sleep tonight.

Maybe you have been struggling with behavior problems.  The kids that you love more than life itself are driving you up the proverbial wall.  Whining, bickering, temper tantrum-ing, fighting.  You bounce between refereeing and feeling like you have somehow failed your children.  Your mind is swimming: Where did they pick up this bad behavior? Will they ever get along? Am I cut out for this mom stuff? You want. to. quit.

I get it. But, remember that your kids are human beings and not puppets: they make their own decisions and sometimes that means making bad decisions. What matters most is teaching them forgiveness and unconditional love. Be thankful for the opportunity to teach your kids under the shelter of your love. You are just what your kids need right now. Find the courage inside to say, “I am enough for my kids.”

Maybe you’re having a day where you are stretched thin. A day where you barely have time to breathe between all of the errands (doctor appointments, story time at the library, play group, grocery shopping, school pick up). A day where there just aren’t enough hours to get your ever-growing to-do list done. A day where you feel like you just can’t juggle anything else.  You’re afraid to let anyone down, but you are the one who suffers in the end.

I get it. I have days where I want to shut down “mom’s taxi service” and lock us all in at home. I’m here to tell you to not be afraid to say no. Don’t worry about disappointing your kids if you cut down on the rat-race schedule. These moments you have making memories with your kids can happen anywhere. It’s okay to say no.  It’s okay to skip a swimming lesson every once in a while. It’s not okay for you to be so rushed and run ragged that you can’t enjoy this one life you have to live.

Maybe you are fighting depression.  The long days seem like a struggle, the minutes ticking by ever-slowly.  The simplest, smallest interruptions that often accompany kid-life (spilled milk, forgotten homework, whining) trigger a fire deep inside of you, erupting in anger. Or maybe you just can’t find a reason to smile amidst the antics and folly of your kids. Instant regret and mom-guilt follow.  How many times have you had days where you just want to lay in bed all day, buried beneath the blankets in total darkness? Will there ever be joy in life again? Why am I so down when I have so much to be thankful for?

I get it. I’m right there with you. But every day you press on and push forward, every day you say “I can do it” over and over, every day you refuse to give up: you are a warrior momma!  Tomorrow is a new day.  Hang on to the hope that tomorrow will be better.  One step at a time. Make a list of all your blessings and hold it close for hard days like today. Don’t let the pain and sadness of the moment have victory over your life.

Maybe you are having financial problems and you just don’t know how the bills will be paid. Or maybe you’re battling health issues, trying to deal with chronic pain, or awaiting a diagnosis. Or maybe you’re struggling through marital problems and you feel like you don’t know when things will turn the corner. Or maybe you are grieving the loss of a loved one that you would give anything to see again. Or maybe you are dealing with anxiety, trying to curb the worries and troubles in your mind. The list could go on.

You aren’t alone, friend. Our challenges may be different, and the roads we are walking may not look the same, but we are all foraging through the wildness of this life together.  Sometimes when all you can see is the darkness and fog around you, you just need someone to tell you that breakthrough is just around the corner.  Hope is just around corner.  Maybe not today or tomorrow, but I promise you that the days won’t always be this hard.

bad day

source: pinterest.com

 

Life: Simple

 

Image found via Google image search

Image found via Google image search

Ever feel like life is just too full?

Everything in life is moving in hyper-drive, vying for my attention, emotions, energy. I try my hardest to keep up with the housework, schoolwork, child-rearing, and wife duties, but, more often than not, something has to give. Generally speaking, that “something” is, 9-times-out-of-10, housework.

I wouldn’t consider myself a slob in any way, shape or form.  But, I’m busy.  So it isn’t unusual to see dishes on the counter or a pile of clean laundry waiting (ever so patiently) to be folded.

While I absolutely hate that my house is rarely Pinterest perfect, I have also come to realize that this is just the stage of life we are in and it won’t always be this way.

We had a guest speaker at my MOPS group this past week.  I absolutely love listening to other moms share their heart, their drive, their passion because, more often than not, I can totally relate to some aspect. This speaker was no different. The topic? Home organization.

The speaker was very real and her topic so extremely relevant. She is a mom to 6 kids (all born within eight years, which is so similar to my six in seven) who has found a way to avoid the stress and chaos that comes from having so many children (who in turn have so much “stuff”).

Live simply.

I have been on a mission lately to trim down our possessions and try to live a more “minimalist” lifestyle.  When you have eight people living in a 1400 square foot house, less is always better! So I could really relate to what the speaker was saying. And something she said really resonated with me: when our homes are so cluttered and unorganized, our minds will not be 100% present with our kids, even though we are physically present.

Wow!  The more I think about this, the more I realize how right she is. When my house is a disaster-zone, my mind goes 100 miles per hour, racing through to-do lists of things that need to be cleaned, items that need to be put away, chores that need to be accomplished. It is so hard to be totally focused on my sweet kiddos when there is so much chaos around us.

And then there is the ripple effect: I become short with my kids and blow up over the smallest things that happen. The kids ask me to play/read/cuddle with them, but I’m so pre-occupied that I say “no” more often than I’d like. Someone spills something accidentally while I’m attending to something else, and my emotional thermometer erupts and overflows ugliness all over an innocent situation.

Those mind-consuming things can actually rob us of our emotions and energy.

On the flip side, when my home is orderly, peace follows.  I don’t feel the constant nagging, reminding me of everything that I have to do.  Instead, I can relax and truly enjoy my family.

Now, how can I ever get to the point where my house feels more peaceful and less… not?

Talking things over with my husband (who tends to be the idea-shaper in our relationship) we decided that we have too. much. stuff.  Sure, I had made strides in clearing out some of the clutter, but if I were to be honest with myself, there are many other things I could part with.  Having less “stuff” will mean less cleaning, tidying, organizing of said “stuff”. I need to get to the point where we are living more simply so life doesn’t seem so overwhelming. So I can focus more on what truly matters (my family) and spend less time and energy putting out the “fires” of life (the daily demands).

Live life simply so you can love more extravagantly.

That is my new mantra in life.  I want to be more present with my kids and, in order to do that, I’m going to cut out any unnecessary distractions life may throw my way.  And that includes extra “stuff”.

When you have six kids, you multiply that by six birthdays, and six sets of gifts at every holiday.  It gets to be a LOT!  Our toy room and the kids’ closet is out. of. control!

I’m kind of ashamed to say this, but here goes: I am waaaaaay behind on folding and putting away laundry.  (Again.) I’m not even exaggerating when I say I have ten loads of clean laundry sitting on my bedroom floor, waiting to be folded and put away.  There are also approximately four loads of dirty laundry waiting to be washed. PLUS our closets are all completely filled with clothing.  Something is wrong with this picture.  We obviously have WAY more clothing than any eight people would need. And I’m stressing out because, every day, I go into my room and see the clothes that need to be folded and put away, plus the clothes waiting to be laundered.  It is ridiculous!

And then the toys. OHHHHHH, the toys.  We have one small room dedicated as the “toy room” (although a more accurate description would be “toy dumping ground”). Two toy boxes, plus a dress up box, plus a large play barn.  Then in the boys’ room are the Legos, K’Nex and other building toys.  In the girls’ room are all of the baby toys, pretend toys, and stuffed animals.  And lastly is the kids’ closet.  Toys covering every available inch of shelving (Duplos, Lincoln logs, Weebles, Barbies, etc.). Trying to keep the toys organized and in their place takes an act of God most days because my kids are quite the professional mess-makers.  It is EXTREMELY stressful because there are so many sets and totes and pieces and oh. my. word.  Just thinking about it makes my head spin.

I’m done. This is insanity! My stress level is up and my patience level is low. So I’m making it my goal to eliminate 50% of our stuff.  I want to live more simply so we can love more extravagantly!

The less time I spend cleaning and fixing and organizing means the more time I can love on my kiddos. This isn’t going to be easy but I’m committing to this not only for my sanity but to bring peace to my home. (Before and after pictures to come!!)

What about you?  Are there any areas of your life you can pare down so you can focus more on what truly matters?

Shifting Seasons

Today

Today

As I sit here typing, we are experiencing our first snowstorm of the season.

To say I’m depressed about the snow is a HUGE understatement.

Even though it has been a long six months since our last snowfall, it doesn’t seem easier going through these snowy times again. Sometimes I wish I lived in a less-snowy climate.

The cold, bitter wind seems to blow effortlessly through this old farmhouse’s window-panes. Snow drifting across the fields and our long, dirt driveway make traveling a nightmare. Our barn across the yard is barely visible through the snow globe-like conditions outside. I dream of living in a place where snow is a rarity, sunshine and green grass an over-abundance.

Isn’t it funny how the seasons of the year can be much like the seasons of our lives? Seasons of joy and peace and warmth (Spring, Summer and Autumn). And seasons of despair and dread and hopelessness (Winter).

Spring, the promise of better times ahead.  Green buds popping up across the landscape, sweet smelling blossoms covering the apple trees, and the almost-forgotten patches of grass appearing beneath the fast-melting snow. The sun shines differently during these Spring days. Cheerfulness permeates through the mud puddles my kids splash in.

Summer is a season of joy and warmth that I greatly anticipate each year.  A much-welcomed reprieve after months and months of cold. A promise I look forward to each year.  Barbecues, roasted marshmallows, late nights outside catching lightning bugs, camping, giggling, new memories.  The heat and humidity, while harsh at times, are anticipated and quickly remedied with popsicles and playing in the sprinkler.

Autumn means crisp air, sunny days, and sweatshirt weather. The perfect weather.  Not too hot, not too cold.  The hours in a day are spent in bliss. Leaf piles, laughter, hot cocoa, and pumpkin-everything.  And preparation.  Preparation for the hard times ahead.  Canning, stocking pantries and wood rooms. Autumn is the foretelling of times to come.  A shadow that passes too quickly before the first snowflake falls.

Winter.  In our part of the country, Winter is filled with snow, frigid temps, ice, and months filled with longing, waiting for warmer weather.  For those of us with kids, Winter comes with hats and boots and gloves and snow pants and thick, warm socks, and layers upon layers of warm clothes multiplied by the number of kids in the house.  Large amounts of time spent getting kids ready to head out the door, large amounts of time spent getting kids unthawed.

And just when we think we can’t possibly handle another day of staring at the frozen tundra, when our sanity reaches its breaking point, the world around us melts and is reborn. Spring.

Without the cold, hard seasons of our lives, we wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate or be thankful for the sunny, easy seasons.

During the good seasons of life it is hard to remember that, yes, the tough seasons of life are going to be there, whether we want them to or not. The hours in a day melt like a popsicle on Summer’s pavement. The seasons shift effortlessly, methodically, rhythmically. And even as the bright, warm seasons will turn dark and cold, the dark, cold seasons will eventually turn bright and warm once again.  We just need to hold on a little bit longer.

Hope is just around the corner.

So for now, I will embrace today for what it is, because no matter how much I sit and pout, today is still today.  The snow is still going to fly. The wind is still going to blow.  At least today I am one day closer to Spring.

Hope.

Pass the Super Glue, Please!

Source: glossyinc.com

Source: glossyinc.com

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is this: “How do you do it all?”  (In reference to raising five-soon-to-be-six young kids, homeschooling, housekeeping, etc.)

The long answer I usually give is something along the lines of, “My husband is an awesome helper! We are a team and take care of whatever needs to be done. Our kids are also learning to help more so our family unit functions more smoothly.” (Which is, quite frankly, 100% true… I have an awesome hubby who steps in helps right from the moment he gets home from work!)

But wanna hear the more-real short answer?  Quite honestly, most days I don’t, I can’t, do it all.

Exhibit A:

My clean clothing pile from this morning.

My clean clothing pile from this morning.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Looking around my house and examining my day-to-day life, I really don’t feel like I have it all together.  Have you seen the pile of papers on my counter that still needs to be sorted through? And the reading lessons waiting to be completed by my five and six year olds? And phone calls and messages waiting to be returned? And the sink full of dirty dishes? And Pinterest projects waiting to be started? (Thank heavens my kids don’t have Pinterest accounts so they can’t see all the awesome things other moms are doing with their kids!!)

I most definitely do not have it all together. And to be honest, I don’t know if any of us do. (However, if you DO know how to keep it all together all the time, please feel free to share your secret because I would love to know!) And you know what? I’m ok with not having it all together!  The times I feel most stressed out are the times I let the things I “need to do”, the things I feel I must complete in order to be a good mom, wife, friend, fill up my immediate vision and I lose sight of what really matters most: this time in life I have here with my kids.

How can we possibly fit cleaning, laundry, school/learning, exploring, creative outlets, food preparation, reading, nurturing, character building, life skills, socializing, and sleep all in one 24 hour period?  I don’t know about you, but I physically can’t do it all, no matter how much coffee I consume.

Some days are picture-perfect, while (many) other days are filled with the “bumps” and “hiccups” of life. Unexpected injuries (like, hypothetically speaking, someone pushing their little sister out of a bunk bed, resulting in a broken arm and several hours spent at the ER, because that would never happen here… right…) and needs seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times.  Our best laid-out plans and schedules need to pause while we tend to the most important issue of the moment, which often revolves around the little ones in our lives.  (One of the many reasons my bedroom floor is usually covered in clean laundry, patiently waiting to be folded and put away properly.)

Some things in life have got to give and take the back burner while we focus our time and energy on what is most important.    For some of us, the list of things to do seems never ending, growing longer by the day.  And while we should make goals to try to get caught up (eventually), our number one goal should be to be present with our kids.  Right here, right now.  The laundry piles, dirty dishes, e-mail and Facebook messages, school lessons, shopping lists, piles of paperwork will always be there, no matter how hard we try to stay caught up.  Our kids, however, are only here for a brief moment in our lives.

Everything can’t be a priority in life, so I’m learning it is ok to backlog things that aren’t as important as my children.  Don’t be afraid to let the laundry get backed up a little. In fact, I challenge you to embrace the daily “messes” of life! Muddy footprints on the floor; healthy little bodies to run. Dirty dishes in the sink; full tummies. Sleepless nights; comforted babies. Full laundry baskets; even fuller hearts. Happy children; happy homes.

family

Yes, having Mommy Super Glue available for the times I am barely hanging on by a thread, trying to keep it all together, would be really handy.  But going through the trials and experiences of daily life, learning along the way how to function and make our lives work when we feel like there just aren’t enough hours in a day, figuring out what our real priorities in life are, is way more beneficial than a quick-fix.

Because the best things in life take time and are more appreciated when all is said and done. 🙂