Monday, February 28, 2011

A Beautiful Afternoon at the Beach!

Who knew the beach could be so beautiful in February??  Today was sunny, 77 degrees F, with a cool breeze -- sometimes too cool for us Moms, but not for those tough-skinned kids!  :)















 


Slip Sliding Away!

I've heard of sliding into a plate, as in home plate. 


All American Girls Professional Baseball League player Marg Callaghan sliding into home plate - April 22, 1948



But what about sliding off the plate???


I spent all Sunday afternoon (which was a glorious spring day!) cooking for our church's Fellowship Dinner.  I decided to make this special chocolate cake that has been Alan's favorite since our college days -- Mrs. Veale's Chocolate Cake (named after the lady who made it).  I carefully followed the recipe, even "going the extra mile" by taking the time to sift the flour and sugar together, as the recipe recommends.  ;)  While the cake cooled, I mixed up the icing.  Then, I got out the beautiful cake plate that Tiffany gave me for Christmas and imagined how pretty my cake was going to look on that cake plate! 


When I was sure the cake was cool enough, I began to ice the cake.  The icing seemed to be the perfect consistency, and the first layer went well.  Then I put the second layer on top, and spread the delicious icing on it.  That's when my troubles started!!  Suddenly, I noticed that the top layer was sliding off the bottom layer and about to slip off the cake plate!  I didn't know what to do, so I took my hand and tried to gently push it back up.  BIG Mistake!  That side of the cake just stuck to my hand, and the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got!!  I really had a mess!!!!  :(



Here is a picture of the good side:


and here is a picture of the other side!



I really don't know what went wrong!  I am guessing that maybe the house was too warm or too humid, as we had the windows open and the temps outside were right around 80 F.  But, I'm really not sure!!


Two Strikes Against Me

When I realized that this cake was definitely OUT, I quickly came up with Plan B.  I asked Hannah to throw together a cake mix and bake it in a 9x13 pan, while I finished up my main dish, and I would frost it with the leftover icing.  So, she graciously did that for me.  But, the cake had just come out of the oven when it was time to leave for church!  So, Alan and the rest of the family went without me, and I put the cake in the refrigerator to help it cool faster!  Then, I frosted it with the extra icing, and put a piece of foil across the top and hurried off to church. 

Once at church, I put it in the refrigerator.  When it was time for the fellowship meal, I took the cake out and would you believe all the icing had stuck to the foil????  It was unbelievable!  I cut it and served it anyway, even though it was a Mess!  It was pretty humbling to see that mess on the dessert table though.  :( 


I had received some compliments on my cooking this weekend, and I'm guessing I must have gotten "the big head," because God definitely Humbled Me!  :)   I don't think I will make another cake to take somewhere for a good, long while!


Maybe I should add that although my husband felt sorry for me, he was actually quite happy about having that whole cake to himself!!!  What he didn't count on was that Taylor and Joe would be just as happy about that messy little cake in the refrigerator!  I don't know what happened last night, but when I got up this morning, the cake plate was Empty!!! 


So, I feel a little embarrassed to even ask this question --  but would you like the recipe??  ;)   It is pretty Yummy -- so I will take a chance and post it, very humbly!  :)


Mrs. Veale's Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 sticks butter
4 TBSP cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp soda
1 tsp vanilla

Sift together the sugar and flour:  Put 1/2 cup sugar into sifter, then 1/2 cup flour, and keep repeating until it is all sifted.  Set aside.

In small saucepan, bring to boil:  2 sticks butter, 4 heaping TBSP cocoa, and 1 cup water.  Pour over flour/sugar mixture.

In a mixing bowl, beat 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp soda and 1 tsp vanilla with electric mixer.  Add first mixture, and beat well, scraping the bowl as needed. 

Pour into a greased 9x13 baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Let cake cool to room temperature before icing.

Icing:
1 stick butter
4 TBSP cocoa
6 TBSP strong coffee
1 pound 10x powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Put butter, cocoa and coffee in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and add 1 tsp vanilla.  Beat in powdered sugar.  If too thin, add more powdered sugar, until thick enough to spread.

Can also be made in two 9" round pans.  (But I wouldn't recommend it!!)  :)


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

I received a request for this recipe . . . and decided to just post it on my blog, as it is a favorite with family and friends.





Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
4 to 6 chicken breasts
1 cup rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup sour cream
1 stick butter
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed (or Ritz crackers is an alternative)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 TBSP poppy seeds

Directions:

1.  Cook chicken breasts in water with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of garlic.  (Optional:  for added nutrition and flavor, add pieces of celery, carrot, and onion.)

2.  Debone chicken and cut into pieces.  Strain out vegetables and bones and save the broth.

3.  Measure out enough broth to cook your rice in.  Freeze the rest!

4.  Cook rice in broth.

5.  In a large bowl, mix together chicken pieces with soups and sour cream.

6.  Melt 1 stick butter and stir in 1 sleeve crushed saltine crackers, almonds and poppy seeds.

7.  Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray (such as Pam).  Spread cooked rice on bottom of pan.  Spoon chicken mixture over rice.  Cover with poppy seed topping.

8.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

9.  I like to serve with sauteed green beans, honey-glazed carrots, and feather rolls.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All in a Day: Laundry, Laundry and More Laundry!





Today the All in a Day bloggers are talking about Laundry, which just happens to be one of the biggest challenges facing mothers of large families!!

Keeping on top of the Laundry has always been one of my greatest struggles.  Unfortunately, I still haven't found "the perfect, foolproof system" to share with you!  But, I do want to share a few helpful tips and some of the laundry wisdom I have gleaned through the years.







Covering The Basics:

1.  The bottom line is you need a system for dealing with the dirty laundry before it is washed, washing/drying/hanging out the laundry, and then folding and putting away the clean laundry.  On top of that, you need a plan for getting the ironing done.  So, you need to think through each of these steps and figure out what will work for you.


2.  There is no "one size fits all" system for conquering the laundry.  A workable system depends on many factors, including the number and age of your children, the layout of your house, the location of your laundry room, your personal homemaking style, etc.


3.  You need to keep on top of the laundry, which will most likely mean doing about four loads a day, every day, if you have a large family.  This needs to be worked into your daily schedule or routine and parts of the process can and should be assigned to your children.




Examining My Favorite Systems:

1.  My favorite location for a laundry room is near the kitchen.  That seemed to be the most convenient for me.  My worst set up was in the basement!  And it goes without saying that a laundry room is preferable to a laundry closet!


2.  My favorite system for dealing with the dirty laundry is what I used in my last house, and is illustrated by the picture in this post.  I had a large enough laundry room to accomodate four different colored baskets in a row beside the washer -- a white one for the white clothes, a tan one for light colored clothes and sheets, a blue one for dark colored clothes, and a smaller one for towels.  As soon as a particular basket got full, we put in a load of that type of clothes.  As long as I didn't get behind and in a situation where all of the baskets were overflowing, this system worked pretty well.


3.  My favorite tip for easily recognizing whose clothes are whose is the "dot system," which I learned about and implemented back in 1998 after the birth of my eighth child.  (Wish I'd done it sooner!)  Basically, it works like this -- using a Sharpie, you put one dot on the tags of your oldest child's clothes; two dots on the second oldest child's clothes; three dots on the third, and so on.  The beauty of this system is that you just add a dot when you hand the item down!  I only did this with my boys, but of course, it could be used with girls too.  My favorite post about this system, which is way more interesting than my description of it, can be found here.


4.  My favorite time for folding is after lunch.  The children bring the laundry into the family room and fold and separate the laundry according to person, while I read aloud to them from a chapter book.  This is what we are doing currently.  This system helps us keep up with two of my goals -- consistently folding the clean laundry, and consistently reading aloud!


5.  I like keeping mine and my husband's laundry separate from the children's.  I usually take one day a week to wash and fold all of our laundry.


6.  I usually take one or two afternoons during the week to do all of the ironing.  I iron my husband's and son's church pants and shirts every week.  I have actually learned to enjoy my ironing time, by using it as a time to listen to an inspiring message.  I have teaching tapes/CDs that I reserve for my ironing time that encourage me in my role of mother/homemaker/home educator!



Exploring Other Options:


1.  Many organized mothers have recommended switching to a system where each child is assigned a day to do their own laundry.  We never went to this system, partly because with so many children in each bedroom, we just didn't have room for the children to keep their dirty laundry in baskets in their bedrooms.  Currently, I am utilizing this system with my three oldest sons (ages 17, 18 and 20), who keep their laundry in their room and wash it when they get around to it.  So, their laundry is no longer my concern!!  :)


2.  Our current house has a laundry chute, which has its advantages and disadvantages.  What I don't like is that all of the laundry gets mixed together, and I have to reach in and pull out all of the white clothes or the dark clothes each time I get ready to put in a load.  What I do like is that the dirty laundry is contained and out of sight!   The younger children and I take turns putting in loads of laundry to wash.


3.  I've known mothers who have tried all kinds of fancy systems for eliminating the solitary sock problem.  I just never thought my children would realistically take the time to safety pin their socks together or use the little plastic sockmate disks.  So, I just decided to live with it, and quit stressing about it.  I have a basket in the laundry room that holds all stray socks.  Every now and then, I purge it and we start over.  I think having lonely socks is just part of family life. ("God setteth the solitary in families . . ."  Psalm 68:6)  ;)


Those are my tips.  Like you, I'm eager to check out what the other All in a Day bloggers have to say about this important topic of conquering the Laundry!



Carrie @ http://www.ourfullhouse.com/ Our Full House

Christi @ http://antsonafarm.blogspot.com/  Where the Creek Meets the Lake

Elizabeth @  http://yes-theyre-all-ours.blogspot.com/ Yes They're All Ours

Kathy @   http://www.kathymomofmany.blogspot.com/ Kathy Mom of Many

Kristy @  http://www.homemakerscottage.org/  Homemaker's Cottage

Lori @ http://1happybusymama.blogspot.com/  Happy Busy Mama

Monica @ http://www.naturalmamax4.blogspot.com/  Natural Mama

Renee @ http://bakersdozen.typepad.com/ Bakers Dozen




We would love to have you link your blog with us and share how you handle the laundry at your house. Here's how it works:


1. Copy and Paste this code to add the All in a Day banner to the top of your post.




2. Copy and paste the list of "All in a Day Bloggers" into your post.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guest Post from a Professional Organizer: Conquering the Laundry

Note:  I've had this excellent article from Professional Organizer, Kim Pittman, in my Inbox for several weeks now.  I decided to go ahead and post it today and get everyone thinking about the beloved subject of laundry!  Tomorrow, the All in a Day bloggers will be tackling this monumental topic, so go ahead and start thinking about what helps you scale the laundry mountain, so you'll be ready to link up with us tomorrow! 





As I work with clients I realize what a challenge laundry can be. Many of us have entirely too many clothes and our laundry will always be out of whack until we purge. People often ask how many clothes they should have. Although there is no “law” that says how many clothes are enough, I think it is a given that you only have as many as would fit in your closets and drawers. Most of us do not need more space, just fewer clothes. It’s not uncommon that I see piles of clean laundry on a couch or in a chair waiting to be folded and put away. Many times there is nowhere to put those clothes when they are folded. Remember that clean clothes are clutter just like dirty clothes. Washing them without putting them away does not de-clutter a room.


For others, laundry can be a challenge for other reasons. I have a husband and two sons and it has been challenging to remember whose socks and underwear belong to whom because they are all basically the same style and almost the same size. I learned a long time ago that I had to find a way to better organize my guys. I learned to buy different brands for each one of them. For instance, my husband wears Fruit of the Loom undershirts (Large), my oldest wears Fruit of the Loom (small and medium) and my youngest wears Hanes (small). They all like the black ankle socks. Because my husband and one son picked out the Nike brand I sewed a small white thread on the inside of my son’s socks so I would be able to tell them apart. Thankfully my other son has a different brand of socks. Sorting underwear can be a challenge as well. Once again I have a different brand for each of them so folding and sorting laundry can be done easily and effectively.


Look for opportunities to organize your family members so that doing laundry doesn’t become so frustrating. Remember that more is not better when it comes to clothes. Oftentimes more just means MORE, which translates into CLUTTER! I believe that the reason people have a box of mis-matched socks is because they have entirely too many socks and can’t keep up with them so they purchase more.


What are the challenges you face with laundry? What are some ways you could organize yourself so that doing laundry wasn’t so frustrating?



This article was written by Kim Wadkins Pittman, Professional Organizer and owner of Organize 4U in Albany, Georgia.

My Favorite Way to Get Vitamin D!!!

After reading about the supreme importance of Vitamin D3 in building and maintaining a healthy immune system, I made sure to push the Vitamin D3 this winter, and it may have paid off -- we stayed pretty healthy this winter.  Matthew did get the flu a couple weeks ago . . . .but everyone else dove into the supplements full force, taking Vitamin C, D3, Garlic, Echinacea, and Elderberry around the clock . . . and no one else got sick, thankfully!  So, I think I will continue to see that we get plenty of Vitamin D3.


The children have enjoyed taking Vitamin D3 gummies, while I've been taking Cod Liver Oil capsules.  Yesterday, it was such a beautiful day and I was tired of being stuck in the stuffy house, so we took this approach to getting our Vitamin D.  I decided this is my favorite way to get Vitamin D!  ;)









As you can see, we practically had the beach to ourselves and it was So Peaceful!!!!   I think I'm going to enjoy living so close to the beach!  ;)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Fun

I had a really Fun Weekend!  I drove over to Albany and spent the weekend with Tiffany!  :)  I packed a couple "surprises" for her too -- her two favorite little "snuggles" -- Matthew and Bethany!  :)


Friday night, we just relaxed at Tiffany's and ate too much of our favorite pizza -- Dominos Pepperoni and Cheese with extra garlic "sauce" and watched a "chick flick" -- "What a Girl Wants."  It was a really sweet, fun movie! 


Saturday morning, I headed out early and got my hair cut (Thank you Angie!) and ran a couple errands while Tiffany snuggled with Matt and Bethany!  Then, we met our good friend, Amy, and her daughter Lainie for lunch at Zaxbys.  It was great to see her and catch up on the latest happenings!  It was an absolutely Gorgeous Spring Day with a high of 80, and we enjoyed sitting outside to eat and chat!
 






Then, we went by my good friend, Martha's house, where we admired her recent remodeling and redecorating projects!   This is Tiffany and Bethany with her daughter, Lindy.  Just by chance, they were all wearing purple shirts that day!   Purple Power!  :)





This is me with my friend, Martha.  (I keep telling her that she reminds me of Doris Day!  Anyone else see a resemblance???)   ;)






















Saturday night, we ate at Outback Steakhouse, where we were treated to a complimentary Bloomin Onion!  YUM!! 




While waiting for our food, we colored the children's menu and made crazy faces for the camera.  This was the Wide Eyed Look!  :)




Yes, I win the Goofiest Look Award!  ;)




Our food was Delicious!!!  Probably THE BEST meal we have ever had at Outback!!!

I ordered Alice Springs Chicken.



Tiffany ordered some steak and shrimp dish, which was totally awesome!



And Matt was very happy with his Ribs!  Bethany played it safe with her favorite -- macaroni and cheese!




After dinner, we tried to walk off some of our food at the mall, where we found this hilarious T-shirt!  If you don't get the humor -- it is sort of an inside joke!!  Our friend, Amy, will know why we got such a kick out of this shirt that we just HAD to take a picture of it!!!





Then, we went back to Tiffany's place and watched a GREAT movie -- "Country Remedy."  This would be a wonderful family night movie!  Very sweet and somewhat sad  . . . but with a happy ending!  It reminded me of a modern day "Christy" story. 


Sunday morning, we went to church with Tiffany.  She is one of the church musicians, and it was a Treat to hear her play a beautiful special music that featured four hands on two pianos!  WOW!


Since Tiffany plays for the early service, we were able to hit Cracker Barrel after church for a wonderful Sunday Brunch!  Matt and Bethany enjoyed playing checkers while waiting for their food to arrive.



Tiffany looked very pretty!  :)



Before we knew it, our weekend was over, and it was time for us to head home, but Tiffany and I were both thankful for a Fun Weekend Together!

Friday, February 18, 2011

When Your Older Kids Treat You to a Special Time Together

I was thinking about what a blessing it is when your older kids actually help you enjoy a special time together as a couple!   Do you remember the special evening Alan and I enjoyed last summer, when Joe and Abby concocted a surprise for us, and then recruited all the kids to help them execute the plan?  That was when we enjoyed a delicious, romantic dinner at the "best restaurant in town!"   Read about it here!

If you have older kids, have they ever helped arrange a special time for you and your husband to spend together?  If so, please leave me a comment and share about it -- or blog about it and share the link here.  Perhaps it will encourage a mom still in the trenches with lots of littles!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All in a Day: Spending Time with Husbands





Today's topic is Spending Time with our Husbands.





I'm not going to gloss over the fact that this can be a challenge when you have a large family!!!  There are so many demands on our time, our energy, and the budget . . .  and it just doesn't come easy!  It is often hard to get away for the evening, let alone a long weekend or more . . . . but there are ways to make it happen!

Back when we had a house full of young children, my husband and I rarely went anywhere alone together.  For one thing, we weren't willing to leave our children with just anyone, and most typical babysitters were overwhelmed by the prospect of watching a house full of stair-step children!  On top of that, it made a pretty expensive evening by the time we paid for a babysitter plus dinner out, etc.


Eventually, we found an amazing babysitter, and were able to enjoy some much-needed date nights!  She was homeschooled herself and had four younger brothers.  So, she wasn't scared of a few rough and tumble boys!  We trusted her; she could drive to our house; the children loved her -- it was a perfect situation -- until she had the "audacity" to go and get married!!!  ;)  Now, she has her own precious family and is a Model Mom!


Then, when our oldest daughter was about 12 or 13, she started babysitting for us for short periods of time.  We were blessed to have two daughters at the head of the pack, both of whom were very mature for their ages, very responsible, and good with the children -- so we were able to get out more once they grew old enough to babysit.  I usually took the baby with me, as I nursed exclusively, and it made it easier for the girls not to have to worry about managing a fussy baby.

Throughout our baby years, it never failed that hubby and me would be out with the baby, and someone would invariably ask if that was our only child!  :D   It was always fun to tell them how many brothers and sisters were back home!  I learned to carry a family photo as Proof!  :)


Even though it was hard to get away by ourselves back when all the children were little, at least we could put them all to bed early and squeeze in some alone time!  :)   Now days that is no longer an option!  Even though my husband is "the new 30", I'm still plain old 48 and find it harder and harder to stay up late!!!  At the same time, most of those cute little children are gone, and our house has been mysteriously filling up with teens and college students who have morphed into night owls!!   So, it is nearly impossible for us to stay up later than the kids to find quiet time together!


Another problem is there is often a line of kids waiting to talk to me -- either in person, on the house phone, or on my cell phone!  My poor husband often has trouble getting a word in edgewise!  Since he is naturally quieter and more reserved, he usually just gives up if he has to battle for my attention.

So, we find that we often have to get away to talk!!  We may attend one of our son's basketball games "alone" together, run some errands, do our bulk grocery shopping, etc.  One popular solution for us has been the coffee shop date!  Starbucks has been one of the places we frequent in order to carry on an uninterrupted conversation these past few years.  It is inexpensive, close by, and the perfect setting for conversation and coffee!


We've also discovered that our schedules have become even busier through the years, as the kids have gotten older and more involved with activities outside the home.  The past few years we have had to navigate the job and sports schedules of our older sons, which have been quite demanding at times!  In addition, my husband has always had a very busy work schedule with many night meetings, but he is busier than ever these days.  His days are Non-stop! With all this busyness and our overflowing schedules, we have found it helpful to schedule planning dates.  Starbucks works well for these too.  We pick a quiet spot and grab our planners and sit down and compare shedules and write in commitments and make sure we are "on the same page."


Occasionally, we manage to get away for a long weekend.  That was easier when our older daughters were still at home.  My husband travels a good bit for his job, and I have been able to accompany him from time to time.  I used to go with him when he had conferences in Hilton Head Island, SC and Saint Simons Island, GA.  I always enjoyed taking along books and homeschool stuff and would often sit in the room and read or plan while he was in his meetings.  Then, we would go out to dinner together in the evenings, and if it was a coastal location, we were usually able to enjoy the beach for a day or two before we had to return home.


This picture was taken last January when we managed a weekend getaway to Calloway Gardens.



And this picture was taken last May when we were headed out to dinner for our 27th anniversary.






Now it's time for you to drop by the following All in a Day bloggers and see how they manage to spend time with their husbands:


Carrie @  http://www.ourfullhouse.com/

Christi @  http://www.antsonafarm.blogspot.com/

Elizabeth @  http://yes-theyre-all-ours.blogspot.com/

Kathy @  http://www.kathymomofmany.blogspot.com/

Kristy @  http://www.homemakerscottage.org/

Lori @  http://1happybusymama.blogspot.com/

Monica @  http://www.naturalmamax4.blogspot.com/

Renee @  http://bakersdozen.typepad.com/


Then come back here and share how you fit in special times with your husband in the Comments section, or link your blog with us.


Here's how it works:

1. Copy and Paste this code to add the All in a Day banner to the top of your post.



2. Copy and paste the list of "All in a Day Bloggers" into your post.

3. Put your name and a direct link to your blog post into Mr. Linky, below.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Severed Heart Strings

A perplexed mother wonders:

"My normally obedient, cooperative son has suddenly become disobedient, uncooperative, angry, sullen and belligerent.  He refuses to snuggle and resists reading together in our special chair.  He is mean to his sister.  He won't do his chores.  What has happened to my sweet little boy??  Help!!"


My first thought is that this little boy has been inadvertently hurt, his spirit wounded, or his heart embittered and provoked to wrath in some way by his parents.  I'm sure it was totally unintentional on their part, and they are unaware of doing anything to hurt or provoke him, but heart strings have been severed, as evidenced by his sudden change in behavior.



Lou Priolo in his outstanding book, The Heart of Anger, has a powerful list entitled, "25 Ways Parents Provoke their Children to Anger."  Every time I have tried to read that book, I have gotten stalled out in that section for days and weeks!!  It is so powerful and convicting!!


I am going to share that list with you here.  To get the explanation and illumination that goes with each point, you will need to purchase the book.  I see that it is availble for $5 through Amazon -- and it would be the best $5 you ever spent!  In fact, I've once again been arrested by this list, and decided to add this book to my "reading pile!"  :)  This book also teaches proper biblical communication skills and how to use a "heart journal" to reach the heart of your children.  It is a real gem!!!




25 Ways Parents Provoke Their Children to Wrath:

1.  Lack of Marital Harmony
2.  A Child-Centered Home
3.  Modeling Sinful Anger
4.  Disciplining in Anger
5.  Scolding
6.  Inconsistent Discipline
7.  Double Standards
8.  Being Legalistic
9.  Not Admitting Wrong/Not Asking for Forgiveness
10. Consistent Fault-Finding
11. Parents Reversing God-Given Roles
12. Not Listening to Your Child/Not Taking His Side of the Story Seriously
13. Comparing Your Child to Others
14. Not Making Time to Talk
15. Not Praising or Encouraging Your Child
16. Failing to Keep Your Promises
17. Chastening in Front of Others
18. Not Allowing Enough Freedom
19. Allowing Too Much Freedom
20. Mocking Your Children
21. Abusing Them Physically
22. Ridiculing or Name Calling
23. Unrealistic Expectations
24. Practicing Favoritism
25. Child Training with Worldly Methodologies Inconsistent with God's Word


WOW!   That is quite a list, isn't it??  
If your toes are the least bit sore, you will really be blown away by the additional information that accompanies each point in the book.  You might also benefit from the list that includes helpful steps for repenting from provoking your children to anger.  Yes, get the book!!!  (I'm moving it to the TOP of my reading pile!!)  :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

More on Tying Heart Strings



Did you read my post yesterday on Tying Heart Strings?  Since posting that yesterday evening, I thought of two more ways to tie heart strings with our children.  These are important enough that I really wanted to add them to the list.  So, I am just going to pick up where I left off:

 

9.  LEARN

Be willing to learn about the things your children are interested in.  When your children are intrigued by a certain academic subject or hobby, take the time to learn more about that topic, so that you can enter in to conversations and/or enjoy watching or participating in the activity with them.  Some of the subjects I have willingly learned more about over the years due to a child's interests are:  piano, flute, violin, chalk drawing, basketball, baseball, football, competitive chess, camping, kayaking, the history of The War Between the States, and even Facebook!  ;)  When we take time to learn about something that our children are passionate about, it shows that we love them enough to value their interests, and builds some pretty strong heart strings!   I even know of families that have taken on new hobbies as an entire family that reflect a child's interest or passion -- such as attending war re-enactments or living history demonstrations.



10.  CONFESS/FORGIVE

One last thing -- be willing to admit when you are wrong and ask forgiveness.  Pride builds walls; humility tears them down!  Also be willing to forgive your children when they have made mistakes and come to you seeking forgiveness.


"He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends." -- Proverbs 17:9 Amplified version




As you've read this list of ten ways to tie heart strings with your children, have you thought about the fact that your children can apply these principles in their relationships with one another as well?  One of our primary goals in choosing home education for our family has been to build a close-knit, loving family, with ties that bind hearts together through the storms of life.  These heart-tying strategies will help our children develop lasting bonds with their siblings!


Furthermore, with this being Valentine's Day, I encourage you to go back and re-read all 10 ways of tying heart strings with your children, and think about how you could apply each one of these to tie some heart strings with your husband!   I think you'll readily see that it won't take much creativity to apply these to your marital relationship as well!


I hope you have fun tying some heart strings today!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tying Heart Strings

I first heard of the concept of tying heart strings from Michael and Debi Pearl back in the early 90's.  I probably read about it first in their no-nonsense book on child training, To Train Up a Child.   Basically, tying heart strings is a word picture for building lasting bonds of love, admiration and affection between a parent and child.  I see it as the flip side of the child training coin -- it takes both in balance to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted children.

Many parents err on the side of being too harsh, demanding and legalistic with their children.  Other parents err on the side of  being too merciful, permissive, and indulgent with their offspring.  If the parenting coin is tilted too far in either direction, the heart strings will be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d and may even snap in two.

Therefore, it is critical for parents to strive to be balanced in their approach to parenting, seeking to discipline and correct their children in love and grace.

In Ephesians 6:4, parents, and specifically fathers, are instructed to train their children in the Lord, through nurturing balanced with teaching and correction -- "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."



How to Tie Heart Strings with Your Children:



1. TIME

One of the most important things you can do to tie heart strings is to spend time with your children doing things together.  This includes working, playing, pursuing hobbies, and tackling projects of various types.  I think this is demonstrated by the way Jesus invested in his disciples, just living life with them and taking advantage of teachable moments to teach them truths about the Kingdom.  It is so natural!  The idea of scheduling "quality time" at a convenient time at the end of the day or week when it fits into a parent's schedule is really just a sham, a salve for the consciences of guilt-ridden, overly-committed parents.  No matter how hard you try, moments of connecting heart to heart are rarely scheduled and rarely convenient!


2.  LISTEN

It is very easy for parents to learn to tune out the incessant chatter of their children, especially when they have a lot of them!  It may be "cheaper by the dozen," but it's definitely not quieter by the dozen!!!  ;)  We have to train ourselves to really listen to our children.  As mentioned in the previous point, this rarely happens at convenient, carefully planned out times!!  The crucial thing to remember is that whoever listens to our children and young adults will win their hearts!


3.  PRAISE

Don't just talk to your children -- Praise them!  Encourage them!  Bless them!  Of course you have to instruct them and correct them.  If you don't, they won't know how to please you!  But, since criticism tends to break heart strings, make sure you praise them way more than you criticize and correct them.  Even if their character is lacking, get out your magnifying glass and look hard for the smallest demonstration of positive character, and then praise, praise, praise!! 


4.  SMILE

Many years ago I was exhorted by a wise mother to give my children "100 watt smiles" every day.  She encouraged me to make sure I smiled brightly at each child throughout the day, but especially the first time I saw that child when they woke up in the morning or after a nap.  When you have lots of littles and you are enjoying some uninterrupted quiet time early in the morning or during nap time, how do you greet that lucky child that first interrupts your solitude?  Do you Groan and Frown because your "me-time" has come to an end?  Or do you greet that child warmly and flash him or her your best "100 watt smile?"  Frowns break heart strings; smiles tie them!!



5.  SYMPATHIZE

When you sympathize with your children's struggles, sorrows and disappointments you will tie heart strings.  Try to remember what it was like when you were a child.  Emotions and problems and disappointments that we have learned to weather are HUGE in the heart of a child!  Don't ever mock them or belittle them or make light of their problems and emotions, unless you want to destroy heart strings!!


6.  TOUCH

Make sure you touch your children every day, as this is an important key to tying heart strings.  Some children will need and desire less physical touch than others, but if you are a person who doesn't value physical touch, don't assume that your children are the same.  It is easy to get in lots of physical touch when you have babies and toddlers who need carried, nursed, snuggled, and held.  But, when your children get older, you will be surprised how easy it is to neglect to connect with them in this important way.  Find appropriate ways to touch each of your children and do it every day -- hug them, snuggle with them, tousle their hair, hold hands, put your arm around their shoulders, give them high five's, create a special handshake, etc.


7.  GIVE  

Give your children little gifts and surprises occasionally.  Help them reach their goals if they are saving money for some special item.  Buy or make them little treats; make their favorite foods; write them special messages and love notes.  Make them feel special and loved!  Little gifts can earn big dividends when it comes to tying heart strings with our children!


8.  SERVE 

Of course we serve our families every day, but an unexpected act of service can really tie some heart strings!  On occasion, turn down your children's bed covers and put mints on their pillows, make their bed for them, unload the dishwasher or clean the kitchen or take out the trash when it is their turn.  Do these things as surprise love gifts!  This is especially meaningful when your older kids are extremely busy, tired or stressed with school and jobs, and you do something unexpectedly to lighten their load.


These are great ways to tie heart strings, but this is not an exhaustive list.  In what ways have you tied heart strings with your children?

Warehouse Shopping

I know you've probably moved on, but I'm still thinking about grocery shopping over here!  :) 

Probably because yesterday afternoon my husband took us to a larger city, not too far away, where they have a Costco.  I have been a faithful Sam's Club shopper for the last twenty years, but I am new to the Costco experience.





My first impression??  Prices seemed comparable to Sam's, with a wider selection.  I especially liked the fact that they stock healthier items, such as whole grain pastas, natural peanut butter, and many organic brands.  I also liked being able to buy a ten pound package of rolled oats for making granola.


We decided to buy a year's membership and give it a try over the next twelve months.  The plan is to go there once a month and stock up, then fill in with the local grocery store sales.  I am excited about being able to obtain some higher quality foods in bulk quantities at a reasonable price!!


So, I'm wondering -- do you shop at Sam's or Costco?  If you have both available to you, which do you prefer and why? 

If you are a Costco shopper, can you tell me some of your favorite items to buy there, so I can be on the look out for them?  I'm starting on my Costco list for next month right now, so give me a heads up!  :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Guest Post from a Professional Organizer: Help for the Overwhelmed Mother




I often speak with moms who are overwhelmed and stressed. They find themselves doing everything to run the house – laundry, meals, errands – while the children and dad are playing video games. Something about this picture is not fair. I firmly believe the family needs to work together.


My boys are now 18 and 22 years old and I am thankful that early in their lives (during preschool years) I was blessed with the tools that helped mold them into the independent young men they are now. One of those tools was Larry Burkett’s book, “The Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples.”  Several chapters in this book are devoted to teaching kids how to handle their finances and I would strongly recommend this book to anyone, whether you have children or not. One of the lessons I learned from his book was the responsibility of parents to teach their children to be good employees. They should learn how to work diligently and how to handle their money.


So at ages 3 and 7, this is what it looked like at our house. We had to find jobs for our kids based upon their abilities to perform. The 3 year old could empty the trash cans in the bathrooms and bedrooms and feed the pets. Our older child had jobs such as unloading the silverware from the dishwasher, setting the table and even separating the laundry. As they grew up, they learned how to do chores that were more difficult such as swapping the clothes from the washer to the dryer. The boys were only given 2-3 regular responsibilities. We had a chart on the refrigerator and for every job they completed they put an “x” on the chart. Each “x” represented 5 cents. We NEVER used this chart or the money they earned as a form of punishment nor did we pay them to pick up their toys or do other tasks that were expected of them.


Occasionally they took the initiative to do their chores without being told and we rewarded them for “seeing the need and meeting the need”. Oftentimes we would tell them to put 2 “x’s” down as a means of reward. I remember several times asking my sons to dust the baseboards paying them 5 “x’s”. It was like a game to them to see who could finish first and the chore became fun. On the other hand, if they ever complained about doing their chore they still had to complete the task, but did not get compensated for it. These small chores provided help for me and the boys learned how to work diligently. It also gave us an opportunity to praise them. Everyone won in this situation. Little did we know then we were setting our kids up for success in so many areas of their lives.




Payday for the boys came every two weeks. They would add up their x’s which usually totaled $1.50 or less. (In later years it might be $5.00.) They were given their savings deposit slips to fill out. They put 50% into their savings, 10% was their tithe and 40% was their money to spend. You would probably think that the 60 cents they had to spend would burn a hole in their pocket, but it never did. They didn’t always have anything in particular they wanted to buy. And when they found a toy they wanted to buy, they could do so because they had their own money. Both the boys bought their own cars when they were seniors in high school. One child actually was able to pay cash for his car.


However, the most amazing result was the generosity they displayed. I can remember our youngest coming home from 1st grade around Christmas one day only to go straight into his room to his wallet. He was frustrated because his class was going to purchase volleyballs through Samaritan’s Purse and the cost was $6/volleyball. In his words he said, “If I had 2 more dollars then I could buy 2 volleyballs.” One other moment I recall was at Christmas when our family decided we would do something special for our garbage man with a special needs child. We discussed this opportunity as a family and our oldest son went into his bedroom and came out with $10 to contribute. We quickly learned that because they showed ownership of their money it did not cause a heart of greed, but rather a heart of selflessness. They learned at a very early age how to give with joy to those who were less fortunate. Today they are still living a life of generosity, looking for opportunities to give to others.


Now that they are away at college, I don’t have to worry about whether they know how to do laundry or even whether they can handle their finances, because they have proven time and time again that they are responsible young men. They learned early how to live within their means and how to share their blessings with others.
 
 
 
Article by Kim Wadkins Pittman, Professional Organizer and owner of Organize 4U in Albany, Georgia

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Line Up by the Van




I realized last night that I completely forgot to talk about one of the most helpful strategies I used to employ when shopping by myself with several young children.


One area of concern facing mothers of lots of littles is how to safely get everyone out of the car or van.  You don't want little ones jumping out of the van and darting into traffic, while you are fiddling with the baby's carseat.  So, I trained all of my young children to "line up beside the van" every time we parked somewhere.  So, while I was gathering my purse, the diaper bag, my shopping list, my cell phone (strike the cell phone -- this was back in the old days before everyone had a cell phone!!), and getting the baby out of the carseat, the children would exit the van and all line up along the passenger side of the van until I was ready.  (It was actually quite cute -- wish I had a picture!)  Then, I grabbed a hand or two, and instructed everyone to grab a buddy, meaning each older child held hands with a younger child untiil we all arrived safely into the store.


Once in the store, my method for handling the madness was covered in my last post.


It is also helpful to have a strategy for returning to the van after a shopping trip.  The ideal situation is when the bag boy takes out your groceries for you, puts them in the back of the van, and returns the cart to the store, leaving you with nothing to worry about except getting all of the children buckled back into their carseats.  For a mom struggling with many little ones, it might be worth it to only shop at stores where there is complimentary carry out service. 


When carrying out my own groceries, I made sure to get the children safely buckled into the van first.  Once I had some older children, they were instructed to help the younger children into the van and get them buckled up, while I put the groceries in the back.  Then, I would lock the car, making sure I had the keys in my hand, while I quickly put the cart away.  To make this easier and safer, I learned to always look for a parking spot near a cart return.


I also wanted to add to my previous post on grocery shopping that there is nothing wrong with a mother utilizing help from her husband or mother, so that she is freed up to do her weekly shopping alone.  It can be a nice break for her, and a lot less stressful!  However, in my case, my husband worked long hours and I didn't live close enough to my mom for her to watch the children every time I went shopping or to the doctor.  So, I learned to manage all necessary errands by myself.  In retrospect, that was a good thing.  For one thing, I know it can be done, and I am now able to encourage other young mothers who are facing the same dilemma.  Furthermore, it forced me to train my children how to behave during such excursions.  At one point in recent years, I remember being shocked when I realized that my youngest children didn't know about lining up by the van and had not been well trained in proper store behavior!  That was because they primarily stayed home with an older sibling while I did the shopping!!  So, be thankful for these opportunities to train your young children and to build character (yours and theirs)!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

All in a Day: Grocery Shopping












Today the All in a Day bloggers are talking about grocery shopping with a large family. So pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, sink into your favorite chair, and drop in on each of the following Moms to see what they have to say about this topic. They'll be expecting you! ;)


Carrie @ Our Full House  http://www.ourfullhouse.com/


Elizabeth @ Yes They're All Ours  http://yes-theyre-all-ours.blogspot.com/


Kathy @ Kathy Mom of Many  http://www.kathymomofmany.blogspot.com/


Kristy @ Homemaker's Cottage  http://www.homemakerscottage.org/


Lori @ Happy Busy Mama  http://1happybusymama.blogspot.com/


Monica @ Natural Mama  http://www.naturalmamax4.blogspot.com/


Renee @ Bakers Dozen  http://bakersdozen.typepad.com/


Christi @ Ants on a Farm  http://antsonafarm.blogspot.com/

 


I have found that how and where I shop has changed through the years, depending on a number of variables.  Currently, my husband takes us to SAMS Club once a month, where we stock up on many things that we like to buy there.  We always fill the back of the van with coolers, and fill them up with our favorite refrigerated and frozen items.  We also stock up on paper towels and toilet paper and stuff like that from SAMS.  Then, each week I shop from the sales ads at Publix, Winn Dixie and CVS, using coupons as I am able.  I love to stock up on the Buy One Get One Free items that are advertised each week!   I used to save a lot of money by shopping at Aldi's but we haven't lived near an Aldi's for the past five years.  :(  I also order my grains, honey, sucanat and coconut oil from a whole foods co-op -- and used to buy fresh, local free-range eggs and raw milk -- but since I've recently relocated to the other side of the state, I will need to do some research and see if I can re-establish sources for these items.


As far as my weekly grocery shopping, at this point in my life, I often go to the grocery store ALONE or with just one or two helpers!  But, it wasn't always this way!!  I can't help but laugh when I hear of young mothers of one or two little ones who can't go to the grocery store unless their mom or mother-in-law watches the babies!  Before I had my own home-grown babysitters, I regularly went to the grocery store with all of my children -- which grew from one to seven before my oldest was old enough to be left in charge of everyone while I ran to the grocery store.  Believe me, that was quite an entourage!!!  ;)


So, how did I manage with as many as seven children in tow??  I want to share some tips that helped me, and will hopefully help you, accomplish such a task!





Survival Tips for Grocery Shopping with Young Children:



1.  Schedule your trip! 

If at all possible, do not attempt grocery shopping during naptime or with hungry, sleepy, cranky or sick babies and children.  It will be a disaster every time!  (Guess how I know!)



2.  Make a list! 

You will want to progress through the store as quickly as possible, while everyone is in a good mood!  So, make sure to have a grocery list prepared, with like items grouped together, if possible.  Have the coupons you plan to use clipped onto your list, tucked neatly in an envelope, or at least squished into your pocket.  You will not have time to sort through coupons if you are shopping with an assortment of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers!  You will also be too pre-occupied to plan your meals as you go, so it's best to plan your meals and shopping list beforehand.



3.  Have a plan! 

Know how you will actually keep all the children corralled.  When I was at this stage, I usually had the baby in a sling (so I had my hands free), the toddler in the front seat of the cart, perhaps a pre-schooler in the back of the cart, and the other children walking along side the cart.  The younger ones were instructed to walk holding on to the cart, so I could see everyone and wouldn't run over any one's heels with the buggy!  Eventually, we got to the stage where one of my older daughters also pushed a cart, which doubled our space for kid containment!  I decided not to worry about which store was the cheapest, and chose to shop at the store with the Widest aisles so we wouldn't always be in the way of other shoppers!  :)



4.  Train your children! 

If children know what is expected of them during a trip to the store, are drilled in proper behavior, and know that you are willing to leave a cart full of food, if necessary, to tend to a discipline issue, then you will get satisfactory behavior most of the time.  Of course, children will always want to test the limits from time to time, some more so than others!  So, you have to be prepared to follow through with whatever discipline you have decided upon.



5.  Reward good behavior!  

This is not exactly bribing, I think!  ;)  The key is to communicate your expectations beforehand and tell the children that if they behave appropriately (make sure they know what that means!), that you will buy them one treat.  I suggest getting something that everyone can share -- such as a box of cereal (fruit loops was a favorite!), a bag of Goldfish, a box of cookies or some other treat.  Many times these were enjoyed in the van on the way home! 



6. Allow Your Children to Help!

Children love to help; it makes them feel needed.  Point out what you need and let them take turns getting cans or boxes off the shelves and placing them in the buggy.  Be sure to praise them for how Tall, Strong, and Grown up they are getting!  Children especially love to help unload the cart, and keeping them busy unloading prevents them from begging for candy or staring at the appalling pictures on magazine fronts at the check-out queue!  



7.  Be Prepared for the Unexpected!

It just goes without saying that your baby will have the worst blowout of the week, while you are out shopping and out of diapers and have only an outgrown shirt or onesie in the diaper bag!!!   ;)  So, try to have a well-stocked diaper bag with you!  But, if you don't -- there is no need to panic.  Proceed to the nearest baby row and purchase a bag of diapers, a container of wipes, and if necessary, a new outfit and then calmly walk to the restroom and strip that baby down to his/her birthday suit and rebuild from the ground up!  (Then store these diapers and wipes in the car/van for future emergencies!)  I remember more than once throwing away an entire outfit in the Wal-mart restroom that was just too nasty to try to salvage, and buying something off the clearance rack for a baby that had pulled such a trick!  This problem may resurface with potty-training toddlers -- Don't panic!  It's the same problem, same solution, just a bigger mess!!  ;)



8.  Be Prepared for the Expected!

If you have more than two or possibly three children, you can count on the fact that people will be watching you and counting heads and shaking their heads in wonder.  You also know that you will receive many comments and questions from strangers, some admiring, some curious, and some just downright rude.  The best thing you can do is to just accept it and purpose not to be offended, but to look at it as an opportunity to share the message that children are a blessing, and that you may have your hands full, but you have your heart full, too!  It helps if you prepare a few witty quips that you can use for common questions, as people will always catch you when you are the most distracted and unable to come up with a good retort!   




Hopefully, the above tips will help you navigate the grocery store with a cart full of little kids with some degree of dignity!  Oh, and one more tip -- if you want to maintain your dignity, make sure you read the sign above the register before you unload your cart full of groceries!  Otherwise, you may find yourself in the humiliating situation I was stuck in one time:  I had finally unloaded an overflowing cart of groceries, while juggling a crying baby and some grouchy little ones, only to notice after the last item was unloaded that the check out was clearly marked "Express Lane: Twenty Items or Less!"  I realized that other customers were looking at me accusingly, and oh how I wanted to sink down through the cracks in the floor!!  ;)



Grocery shopping with older children is quite a different experience.  I no longer have to change dirty diapers or visit every bathroom in every store for the child who is potty training, but now it is my bladder that is likely to be the cause of a hasty trip to the grocery store bathroom!   (Some of you older moms of many know what I'm talking about!!!!)   ;)







Helpful Tips for Grocery Shopping with Older Children:



1.  Make a list.

It is always more cost and time effective to enter a grocery store with a plan!  Know what you need and have your list ready, along with any coupons you plan to redeem.



2.  Divide and Conquer.

Nowadays, when I take the children with me to the grocery store, I divide them into groups of two or three and give them a few items from my list to find and bring to the cart.  They love doing this, and it really speeds up our trip!



3.  Teach them about Getting the Best Deal.

Take time to teach them to look at the unit price to discern which item is the best bargain.  Also, teach them to look for store brands instead of the national brands.  Make sure they know to look for the Buy One Get One Free items, and know whether you need to buy both items to get the discounted price.  (For example, you need to buy both items at Winn Dixie, but can only buy one item if you choose at Publix.)



4.  Enlist their Help with Couponing.

Instruct your children to look for "blinkies" and other coupons.  Many times they are located at their eye level, so they can help you find coupons you would otherwise miss.  Show them how to select the right size and number of products so that you are eligible to redeem the coupon you have.



5.  Teach them to Read the Labels.

Grocery shopping together gives you a great opportunity to teach your children about ingredients you want to avoid, such as trans fats, hydrogenated oils, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, etc.  As your eyes start getting older, your children will be invaluable at helping you actually read those fine-printed ingredient lists!!!  :) 



So, there you have it -- my tips for grocery shopping with a lot of little children and with a crew of older children.  I bet you have some helpful ideas to share about grocery shopping, too.  We would love to have you link your blog with us for All in a Day.


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