Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

It Was Ugly (A Five Minute Friday)

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

It was ugly. There was a bee sting and disobedient children followed by a sudden realization that all was not well. Disappointment, frustration, harsh words, and fear all balled up into one, a wound ripped open in the midst of a beautiful day. It was the kind of deep wound that ruins any thought of fun or enjoyment. And the children were watching, and I felt stuck.

I didn’t want to go to the beach anymore. I didn’t want to spend another second within a five foot radius of him. I wanted to admit defeat, to go home and sob in my bed, alone. I wanted to rage against him and flail my fists and ask, “How could you??”

But the children were there, conspicuously quiet in their seats, and everyone was waiting for me. We could either go to the beach and hope for redemption or we could suffer in silence for hours on the drive home. I didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t leave either. A rock and a hard place. And the children were waiting in the backseats.
It was Ugly, how an argument threatened to ruin a beautiful day, how to recover when you feel stuck,  hope for redemption of a bad day

Silent tears fell, and an inward scream of, “It’s not fair!”  But it wasn’t fair for them, the innocents in the backseat, either.  And I knew he was sorry.  And I knew I should be sorry, too.

A war wages within, and I feel helpless to call a truce. Then a prayer, a pleading for mercy and forgiveness, a desperate cry for joy and peace rather than chaos.  Slowly, the tears dry up as peace floods my being.  He’s with us, our Comforter and Redeemer.  I’m ready now.

The walk to the beach is long, sandy dunes, and four year olds floundering in flip flops, and heavy bags filled with towels and clothing.  And I’m tempted to go back to the struggle, but I don’t.  Instead I focus on the prize, the joy that awaits on the other end, the fun I know we’ll have if we can just get there without falling to pieces.

The sun and the sand, the waves and the seagull calls, the laughter of children happy to be at peace, happy to run and dig and splash – they were all worth it, that sacrifice of giving in when I had the “right” to fight, that obedience to trust that He could bring joy in the midst of pain. He is powerful when we are helpless.

sandcastle

I pray that we won’t remember the ugly, that 15 minutes that threatened to ruin it all. I pray we’ll remember  instead the wild beauty of the dunes, the slippery feel of the clay on the lake bottom, the giant sandcastle that was bigger than any we’d ever built before, the laughter of buckets of water raining over unsuspecting heads, the rocks we collected, the look between just the two of us as we recognize our many blessings.

It was ugly.

And then it was beautiful.

Jen 🙂

Today I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday – where we write for five minutes on a word-prompt she gives us.  Stop by and check it out!

Also linking up at:

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Bags of Hope

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Today we saw the fruits of months of labor for a new ministry at our church, a ministry called Bags of Hope.  These bags will be given out to parents of infants in the NICU at a nearby hospital.  The bags contain handmade blankets, bottled water, snacks, quarters, a journal, a new testament, and other encouraging materials.  They are meant to bring Hope and comfort to families who truly need it.

This ministry began in the heart of my friend, Kasandra Begley.  Kassy (as we call her) gave birth prematurely to a son, Logan, who spent 17 days in the NICU before he passed into the care of our Father God.  But that wasn’t the end of the story for Kassy.    She could have easily given up there that day, given in to the desire to die within, given in to the numbness that consumes those who are grieving monumental loss.

And perhaps she did, for a time, give up.  Goodness knows she still grieves and probably always will, who wouldn’t?  But she kept choosing to live, even if sometimes only barely, and she kept seeking something to fill that gap left behind by an infant son.

I met Kassy nearly a year ago when she began to attend our church with her boyfriend.  She was very quiet at first, yet friendly. After a time, I asked her if she would like to do a bible study with me, and to my surprise, she agreed! 🙂  We spent quite a few months going through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, a chronological approach to the gospel.

I sensed that Kassy yearned for a relationship with our Heavenly Father, but something was standing in the way.  At times, I felt she was but a moment away from trusting in Him, only to experience a quick withdrawal.  I knew what was bothering her.  How could a loving God allow her to become pregnant, live through difficult circumstances, carry a baby, birth a baby, and watch him suffer for seventeen endless days before losing him?  How could He?

What does one say to a question like that?  I don’t know.  I don’t always understand the ways of the Father, but I believe He wants to bring good out of even the most despicable situations. So, that’s what I told her.

We continued to work through our study, right up to the suffering of Jesus, God’s one and only Son, as He willing surrendered His life for our sin.

while we were still sinners

It was then that Kassy loudly proclaimed, “Me and God have something in common!”  I was a little startled and not sure what she meant by the statement.  I prodded, “What do you mean?”  She excitedly explained that God was showing her that He had lost a Son, too, watched Him suffer physically, be beaten, scorned, and hung on a cross to die a slow and agonizing death.  God allowed His Son to die, not only for His Son’s glorification, but also for the good of all mankind.

And suddenly I realized where she was going with it.  God knew her pain, felt her loss, understood her life-draining sorrow.  He, too, lost a beloved child.  The hair on my arm stood on end as I literally felt this truth she was experiencing right before me.  It was a moment so powerful and beautiful that every fiber of my being stood at attention. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t speak.  The only thing I could do was furiously bat my lashes in an attempt to stem the floodgates.  She said, “Oh, man, I just got the chills!”  Me, too, Kassy, me, too.

That was the aha! moment for Kassy, the moment she realized God is accessible.  He’s not just some faraway deity who metes out punishment when necessary while apathetically ignoring our most desperate pleas. He knows pain is real, wounds are real. He doesn’t turn away from the raw and often ugly emotion that oozes forth from us in our most wretched moments.

No, instead He comforts us with a comfort only He can give, overwhelms us with His very presence, and lavishes love upon us even as we cry out, Why?  Why, Father, why?

I imagine Mary Magdalene felt a similar despair when she found her Savior’s tomb empty.  The words of the angels were of no comfort to her.  The Promised Messiah was dead; what hope was left?  She couldn’t even have the satisfaction of caring for his body. In her despair, she turned away.  In her despair, she failed to see Jesus before her.  In her despair, she questioned.

John 20

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

And then He said her name.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

When Mary saw it was her Messiah calling her, the questions faded away.  All that mattered was Him, standing there before her, Hope in the flesh. She left quickly to spread this comfort that she’d been given.

What it really comes down to is this: do you believe that He loves you? I don’t just mean that you say you believe it, or that you want to believe it, but do you truly believe – heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Because if you do, if I do, then we can let go of the whys and embrace the gift, the gift of total, unconditional love and acceptance for those who believe in and call on the name of  Jesus.  When we look at Him, the author and perfecter of our faith, when we truly see Him, Lord of Lords, Blessed Redeemer, those doubts, those questions, those fears, walls, wounds, and chains…..they all fade away into the background. 

So, after my friend Kassy accepted this gift, she began to grow and change.  I started to see the real Kassy, the one who isn’t shy or quiet at all,  the one who likes to laugh and often threatens others with bodily harm (but she doesn’t really mean it, ….well, most of the time). 😉  One day she approached my husband and I about this idea to crochet baby blankets for infants in the NICU.  She wanted to honor the memory of her son by doing something she enjoys, something that brings her peace.  She also knew that our twins spent some time in the NICU four years ago when they were born prematurely, so we understood the difficulty and fear many parents experience.  She thought the church might want to be involved as well.

After discussing what NICU parents might need during an extended stay, we developed a list of items to give along with the blankets.  Eventually we settled on a name – Bags of Hope!  And just like that a new ministry was born from the pain of her situation, beauty from ashes, joy from sorrow.

Isn’t He amazing? Isn’t His comfort amazing?  It is a comfort that we just can’t contain; we are compelled to share the comfort we have received with others.  We are compelled to tell them:

There.

is.

Hope.

There is Healing.  There is Joy. There is the Promise of a better tomorrow and a perfect everlasting.

What comfort have you received, my friends?  Are you still searching for it?  It’s there for the grasping – look to Jesus.  He’s waiting for you, calling for you. If you already have comfort, are you passing it along?  Our stories, our testimonies are powerful tools in the Father’s hands.

Praise be to God, for His name is Comforter.

Jen 🙂

Would you bless Kassy and Bags of Hope by liking the facebook page and helping us spread the word?  Click the graphic below.

bags of hope button 2

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9 Ways to Sneak in Veggies

What mom wouldn’t like her children to eat more of those healthy, vitamin-bearing vegetables? If only it was easy to get kids to like vegetables in the first place!

When our firstborn was a baby (13 years ago now), I thought I did everything I could to encourage veggie-loving in his diet.  When he started baby food, I fed him vegetables first, not fruit.  When he disliked a veggie, I would sneak it between bites of fruit or sometimes even mix the two.  He ate many vegetables in mushy baby food form, but when it was time for finger foods, he balked. Alas, veggie-loving just does not come naturally to him, nor does it for many children.

With the birth of our second child, I determined to work even harder to create a love (okay, at least a tolerance)  for veggies.  And then the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, decided to bless us with a strong-willed, picky eater. 🙂  However, I learned much from dealing with his picky eating phase, a phase that felt like an eternity!  By the time our twins came along, I had a much better idea of how to get those all-important vegetables in.

So, today on Mama Mondays, I offer you this list of 9 ways to sneak in those dreaded veggies!

9 ways to sneak veggies, helping kids eat vegetables, how to get kids to eat their vegetables, sneaking vegetables into kids food, my child won't eat vegetables

  1. Start from the very beginning.

    I’m talking from within the womb!  Researchers claim that babies begin to develop tastes for foods before they are even born.  Taste buds develop around 21 weeks, at which point baby receives a flavoring of what mama eats via the amniotic fluid. So, if you want your child to grow up loving vegetables, start eating more of them yourself. Not only will this make for a healthier pregnancy, but you’ll also be more likely to feed your children foods that you already frequently consume when they get to the finger food stage. Too late for this tip?  It’s never too late to start leading by example in the area of vegetable consumption!

  2. Offer veggies first!

    We’re all familiar with the fact that most children will eat the things they like most first and save the least favorite for last.  Even adults do it. 🙂 If your children fill up on foods they like, getting them to eat those remaining vegetables will be even more difficult.  On the other hand, if you offer the veggies first when they’re still hungry, they’ll be more likely to at least try a few bites.

  3. Slice, dice, or even puree!

    This might be obvious to some of you, but it wasn’t to me thirteen years ago.  The smaller the veggies are, the less offensive they are to sensitive palates.  My all-time favorite, couldn’t-live-without-it kitchen tool is my food chopper.  If I place a nice helping of normal sized broccoli in front of my youngest son, he’ll immediately turn up his nose.  However, if I chop that broccoli to bits, he’s more willing to eat it – especially if it is combined with another food or a sauce.  I know some moms who add pureed butternut squash and other veggies to the famous toddler favorite, Mac’n’cheese. The possibilities are endless when you dice and then ….disguise.

  4. Disguise those veggies.

    I looooove casseroles/slow-cooker meals for many reasons: only one dirty pan, time to do other chores while food is baking, etc.  But my biggest reason for serving up lots and lots of casseroles is because it allows me to sneak in a lot of vegetables that my children wouldn’t eat alone.  I add petite diced tomatoes, finely diced onions and mushrooms, and sometimes even bell peppers to spaghetti sauce and chili.  I add California blend (diced, of course) to our chicken divan.  If we have scalloped potatoes, you bet I’ll be hiding some veggies in there. Shepherd’s pie, homemade potpie, even fried rice – all of these dishes are veggie-friendly!  You can even hide veggies within other veggies.  How, you ask? If I gave my 7-year-old purple cabbage to eat, I’m sure he would run the other way.  But he eats it in a salad, along with pieces of fresh radish and spinach.  Twice baked potatoes, anyone?  Stuffed bell peppers?

  5. Substitute veggies for other starches.

    In addition to hiding veggies, I’ve recently learned how to substitute vegetables for pasta and potatoes.  The spaghetti I mentioned above?  Instead of pasta, use strings of baked spaghetti squash.  The shepherd’s pie?  Instead of potatoes, used mashed cauliflower.  For chili broth, I use low-sodium V8 juice (and then I add even more veggies).

  6. Add cheese, sauce, or dip.

    Although this method can easily turn healthy veggies into big calorie veggies, when used in moderation, it’s an effective technique.  We have a son who loooves condiments of all kinds, so I’ve learned to offer a small amount with his fresh vegetables. Low-fat cheese works well with cooked vegetables.

  7. Offer a variety.

    As I mentioned in How to Make Food Fun, research supports that offering a variety can lead children to eat more of a single food group than they realize, especially if the variety is colorful.  For example, if you offer bell peppers, offer multiple colors of bell peppers.  If you’re offering broccoli, why not offer California blend instead. A variety of vegetables gives children choices, as well, and we all know they love the power of choice! 🙂9 Ways to Sneak in Veggies, how to get kids to eat their vegetables, want my child to eat veggies, sneaking vegetables into kids' food, my picky eater won't eat vegetables

  8. Try, try, and try again…and then some more.

    As a rookie mom, I had no idea how many times young children need to try a food before deciding whether they like it or not.  But when our picky eater came along, I learned that children may need to try a food 10-15 times before making up their minds about it.  It makes sense really! One day Johnny loves peas, and the next day he’ll have nothing to do with them.  Often, we give up too soon on new foods and assume that they just don’t like them.  Even if your child has repeatedly demonstrated dislike for a particular vegetable, tastes can change over time.  It never hurts to pull a rejected veggie out after a few months and try it again!

  9. Find the Why behind the “No.”

    Sometimes there is a reason behind a child’s refusal of a food other than a dislike for the taste.  I saw this clearly when our twins began to eat finger foods.  Our daughter began to refuse banana, a fruit she previously loved mashed up.  At first, I was baffled. One day I saw her try to pick up a piece of banana and she made the most disgusted face ever.  It wasn’t the taste of the banana, but the sticky texture she was objecting to. I happily fed them to her from a spoon until she learned to use a spoon herself.  Consider physical reasons for refusal as well, whether it be a texture issue (I still cannot eat beans unless they are pureed) or a possible food allergy.

There you have it: Nine ways to sneak in more veggies.  One last helpful hint – you can even use these tips on husbands – true story! 🙂

If you have a clever way to sneak in veggies, pretty please share with us in the comments!

Jen 🙂

If you found this article helpful, you might also enjoy:

6 Principles for Picky Eaters

How to Make Food Fun

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5 Ways to Stretch a Budget: Part 2 (the practical bit)

Yesterday I shared with you the first half of 5 Ways to S-t-r-e-t-c-h a Budget.  If you haven’t read the first half, I encourage you to do so as it contains the foundation of our frugal living.  In these tough economic times, it’s hard to find ways to make a small budget work, especially if you have a large family and are living on a single income. These tips should help.

And now, for part 2:

3. Pray for Your Needs and 4. Buy Gently Used

(these two overlap quite a bit)

Appliances – Finding good deals on appliances is admittedly harder than saving money on other items, but it can be done!  Our first action is to pray about it.  Remember, the Lord promises to provide for our needs.  Our favorite money-saving techniques when buying gently used appliances are to look at garage sales, ask friends and family to be on the lookout for us, check craigslist, buy scratch and dent, and so forth.

Vehicles – We have never had a car payment, ever. When we realize that it’s time for a new (to us) vehicle, we start praying! Sensing a theme yet? 🙂 We know we cannot afford a car payment while attempting to pay down student loans, so we ask God to send us a vehicle that will meet our needs as well as our budget.  Praise the Lord, He has always provided the vehicles we needed, sometimes even at no cost to us, including the necessary switch to a minivan before the birth of our twins!  Then, we are often able to pass on the blessing by giving our old vehicle to someone else in need.

For necessary car repairs, we also pray.  My husband does whatever he can himself, but if it’s a major repair, we usually have to ask for help.  We’ve been blessed with some mechanics in the family, but when they are busy we have also turned to church family or friends.  If you know someone mechanically minded, you could even trade services – offer to babysit, make a meal, or some other skill you or your husband have!

Furniture – In our home, you will not find new furniture. It’s a luxury we cannot afford, although I’ll admit I’ve been tempted at times!  The majority of our furniture has come from garage sales, hand-me-downs, Goodwill, Craigslist, and so forth. We often pray for furniture needs as well, especially when we moved last year and our twins needed to graduate to full-sized beds and dressers of their own.

God provided a set of bunkbeds, a loft bed, a few dressers, a desk, and more – most of which came from one garage sale.  We had looked at loft beds online for our daughter’s room since it was going to be quite small, but they were very pricey. We prayed about it and just didn’t feel peaceful about spending that much money on a want.  That very weekend, God provided via the garage sale where we found a white loft bed with matching shelves and dresser – all for $50!  They wanted to get rid of it so badly, they even threw in an extra desk. Praise the Lord! If we had not been willing to wait, we would have unnecessarily spent well over $400.

Baby Items – We have pretty much outgrown the baby years here, but when we found out we were pregnant with twins over four years ago, I learned a lot about trusting God to provide for needs in this area.  He provided a second crib, clothing, a second exersaucer (which wasn’t even a need, really), and so forth from generous friends and even neighbors. We even found car seats we really liked on clearance in one of those moments when you know God is just blessing you for the fun of it! 🙂

I also shopped a lot of garage sales, but my favorite place to shop was the nearest second-hand baby store, called Once Upon a Child.  Not only are the gently used items half the price of a new item, but also outgrown baby clothing and items can be traded in for cash or store credit.  If you don’t have one in your area, check for another baby thrift store. E-bay was another source of gently used items that I utilized.  Last but not least, I often swapped items with ladies at church. For more ideas on how to save in the baby area, read 9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes.

Vacations – We do splurge a little in this area (at least what we call splurging). God has always provided a way for us to vacation when needed.

5 Ways to Stretch a Budget, big family on single income, make a tight budget work, how to save money, pastor's salary, vacation

Now that my husband ministers full-time, vacations are becoming much more of an actual need than a want, and as the saver in the family, I’m learning to see them that way. 🙂  However, the funding isn’t always available, even for a “cheap” vacation like camping. In this case, we have vacationed at relatives’ homes, we have swapped houses, and we have even found some ministries for pastor’s families who help provide lodging.  If you are a family in full-time ministry in desperate need of rejuvenation, please visit this site: http://www.lawrencewilson.com/free-retreats-vacations-pastors/ .

Utilities – You can only stretch this budget so far since heat and electricity are necessities (in this country anyway).  However, setting the thermostat at 66 or 67 in the winter months and 75 or 76  in the summer months saves quite a bit of money.  If you can’t go that far, even a couple of degrees can make a difference.

Consider rewarding your children for turning off unnecessary lights or appliances in the home to motivate them to keep utility costs to a minimum.  Additionally, we utilize the budget-billing program to keep our monthly costs even, which is easier to budget for. Consider investing in energy efficient appliances, but only if you have the finances to.  Again, if your budget is lacking, pray about it.

5. Do It Yourself Whenever Possible

Haircuts, Home  improvements, Home decorating, Lanscaping, Gardening, Sewing, Homemade cleaning products – whatever you can do on your own rather than paying someone else to do is like money in the bank!  A $25 pair of clippers lasts a long time – just sayin’. (See this tutorial to learn how to cut boy hair at home and my pinterest board for lots of other DIY tutorials.) Learn how to re-purpose everyday items such as baby wipes.  And with the invention of Pinterest and the DIY blogs readily available, we really have little excuse to avoid learning some new skills, right? 🙂

If you have already tried to d-i-y and it just isn’t working, why not trade services to save money on the things you need help with?  A few years ago, I promised my husband I would never again ask him to lay laminate wood flooring after we sold our previous home.  He was miserable doing it and encountered much difficulty, even with the help of my brother-in-law!  But we can barter with friends next time we need new flooring.

Praying for Needs, How to stretch an already tight budget, single income, large family, how to save money

So that’s how we live frugally to achieve our financial goals.  After 14 years of marriage, my husband has learned to appreciate my frugal nature, and I have learned to allow him to balance it out.  Sometimes it’s nice to have the freedom to buy something new, or something that is a want rather than a need.  I’m thankful for God’s wisdom in the mate He chose for me!

I’m sure I missed something, but I hope these ideas have helped you find areas in which you can stretch your budget, tooEven if you currently have a budget with a little room to spare, why not consider cutting back in just one area so that you can support global missions or feed a hungry child?  When looking around our home, I can see there are things that we could live without even today, so I’m challenging myself here, too.  Remember that as with any changes in life, learning to live more frugally is a work in progress.  Even small steps can lead to success!

Have a great budget-stretching tip?  Share with us in the comments!

Jen 🙂

If you enjoyed this post, you might suggest these practical suggestions for making things last:

http://harvestlanecottage.blogspot.com/2013/06/forty-ways-to-use-it-up-wear-it-out.html

or this post with additional ideas for savings in order to live on one income:

http://yourmodernfamily.com/how-to-become-a-stay-at-home-mom-on-one-income/

or these postw detailing how to save on kids’ clothes:

9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes (part 1)

9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes (part 2)

 

Also linking up at:

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Five Minute Friday: Rhythm

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Rhythm

I often say that our youngest son, four years old, marches to the beat of a different drum.  He’s the baby of the family.  Born a mere minute after his twin sister, he remains somewhat of a mystery to me. He’s faced many trials in his young life already: a premature birth, an apnea monitor, an adverse reaction to immunizations resulting in a seizure disorder, a misshapen head requiring a corrective helmet, enlarged tonsils that interrupted sleep, removal of said tonsils that resulted in a brief hospitalization, and so on.

Despite said trials, he is my happy child, my cuddler, the one who pats my face gently, the one who seeks me out regularly just for a quick snuggle and then it’s back to playing.  He requires near constant physical touch.

And rhythm, oh does he have rhythm. I often wonder if he will be a conductor someday because the first body part to catch the beat is usually a hand.  He loves music, and he loves it loud.  His whole body is one with the cadence.

Out of all four children, he’s the one I have the least clue about.  Who will he grow up to be, this young boy? What drives him? When I think of him, I think of words like smile and touch and laughter.  He’s the son who gets crazy silly when he’s sleepy.  He’s the one who laughs at weird noises.  I once entertained him all the way through a grocery store trip by repeating a single phrase in a weird voice. “Do it again, mommy. Again!” And peals of laughter rang out all through the store.

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To say I love him just isn’t sufficient. He’s oh-so-different, unique, precious to me. He doesn’t even have to do anything special to make me love him.  I just love him for who he is, even without completely understanding him, this boy who marches to the beat of a different drum. My love for him is overwhelming and fierce.  I would die for this boy.

And that’s how God feels about all of His children.

Jen 🙂

Five Minute Friday is a challenge, a free-writing exercise that takes place every friday over at http://www.lisajobaker.com.  Join us! 🙂

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15 Uses for Baby Wipes

mama mondays2

I’m trying something new here on the blog.  On Mondays, I will be sharing advice, tips, stories from my years of parenting.  If you aren’t a mama, perhaps you could pass what is written on to a mama you know who could use it!  So, for the next few weeks, join us for Mama Mondays!

As an avid couponer, I am often able to buy baby wipes for free or very cheap (usually free!).  If you live in an area with a Kroger store, you may be able to find wipes for free this week with a printable coupon on coupons.com!  In our household, we make every effort to live a frugal lifestyle because we live on one income (my husband’s) and he is a full-time minister.  Because wipes are much cheaper than paper towel and other harsher cleaning products, I’ve learned to use them for many purposes that have nothing to do with babies.  Although my two youngest children are now toilet trained, I continue to buy wipes for everyday use!

Even if you prefer to a more all-natural lifestyle, you can still use these ideas with homemade baby wipes. They are easy to make and still gentle enough for little hands!  Want to learn how to make homemade baby wipes?  It’s really simple.  Check out this pinterest board for tutorials.

baby wipes

  1. Keep some on hand for guests in your home who might have babies or toddlers.  Nothing is worse than running out of wipes when you are away from home!
  2. Remove make-up before bedtime.  Baby wipes are convenient and very gentle on the skin, but do a great job of removing mascara and the like!
  3. Clean messy hands of all ages, even adults. Something about seeing a grown man reach for a baby wipe makes me smile. 🙂
  4. Wipe off the kitchen table after meal or snack time. Since I’m usually already using a wipe to clean off messy preschooler hands, I use the other side of the wipe to quickly go over the area of the table they were sitting at.
  5. Use them on the kitchen counter for quick clean ups!
  6. Help small hands do chores such as wiping off the bathroom sink.  I don’t want my young children to use cleaning fluids that could harm them.  Wipes are gentle enough for them to handle and they are thick enough to withstand some scrubbing.
  7. Help small hands learn to dust. Again, no need to spray harsh chemicals!
  8. Keep a package of wipes in the car for messy hands, faces, etc. while you’re on the go.
  9. Clean electronic surfaces.  They are not too wet, so they won’t leave water behind.
  10. Remove spilled food or drink from clothing before it leaves a stain!  I love taking care of stains right away in order to avoid more work later. J
  11. Remove paint or washable marker from unwanted surfaces. Unfortunately, most permanent marker is another story….
  12. Clean off dirty patio furniture. Want to have an impromptu outdoor meal?  Send your oldest child outside with a wipe or two to make sure your patio table is clean!
  13. Spot clean living room furniture.  Again, if you can get to a mess right away, it’s less likely to create a stain that will be difficult to remove later on!
  14. Remove stickiness from children’s hair when a bath isn’t an option.
  15. Clean off pet paws when coming in from a muddy yard.

Although these are the main uses we have for baby wipes, I’m sure there are many more!  Have an idea?  Please share with us in the comments!

Jen 🙂

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How to Make Food Fun!

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Yesterday I shared with you 6 Principles for Picky Eaters, including our pediatrician approved Toddler Technique for mealtime.  Learning how to deal with toddler stubbornness over food relieved a lot of stress for us!   So today, I want to add some detail to one of those principles: Make food fun.

Let the kids help!

If having children underfoot in the kitchen absolutely drives you batty (and honestly, some days this is me), then let them set the table if they are old enough, or let them help plan the menu for the week.  Research shows that the more involved children are in any process, the more likely they are to take ownership of it.  The more ownership they take, the more cooperative they become.  Even if all your children can do is bring you a spoon to stir with or put out napkins, etc., encourage them to get involved in the process.

  • As a mama who easily falls into “maintain control” mode, I can see how kids in the kitchen might seem like a recipe for stress.  However, if I prepare myself mentally ahead of time for the extra mess and potential disasters, I’m much more likely to enjoy the time spent cooking with my children.  That said, some days I just prefer to cook alone. 🙂

Be an artist!

This is an area that I’m still growing in, but we all know that even adults enjoy food that is more visually appealing (it’s all about the presentation).  If you want more ideas on how to get creative with food, check out my parenting board on pinterest.  While I’m not confident in my abilities to reproduce the more intricate results, the more simple pins are probably doable. They are at least inspiring me to get a little more creative.

  • A good place to start is to arrange food into different shapes (make a smiley face) or to make sure the plate contains what nutritionists refer to as “a rainbow of color” with various shades of fruits and veggies.  Additionally, you could add food coloring to bread dough, mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, or soup for fun.
  • Take advantage of holidays and create holiday-inspired plates of food.  I even have a really creative friend who, once a month or so, creates a themed meal complete with décor!
  • Research validates that the more colorful the plate is, the more interested children will be in eating  and even in trying new foods.  Did you know that people presented with a bowl of multi-colored m&ms will eat more in one sitting than those who are presented with bowl of m&ms that are all the same color?
  • We can use this mind trick to our advantage with fruits and veggies! 🙂 If you offer multiple colors, you’re likely to see the kids eating more in one sitting.  Think about it: would you rather eat a cup of raw carrots only, or a cup of mixed raw veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, celery, broccoli, bell peppers, and so on?  I would definitely eat more if more than one veggie was available at a time.

 

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Tell a story about the food or play “let’s pretend” with it.

We once told our twins that raw broccoli trees were really dinosaur food, and it worked – for a few meals at least.  (Be sure to be honest about made-up stories, though, or you’ll be busted for lying when your children get older and wiser). We also tell all of our children how important healthy food is for their bodies – vitamin C helps keep you healthy, protein gives you energy, fiber helps you poop, and so forth.  I guarantee if you have young boys and you mention poop, they’ll eat that fiber in a heartbeat!! 😉

  • Once, our middle child practically inhaled a bag of carrots within the span of a few days because he wanted to improve his vision (I think he read about it at school).
  • When stories or facts don’t work, get silly.  For example, I encouraged a boy I was babysitting to eat a sandwich he didn’t really like by telling him to eat it like Cookie Monster would.  Maybe even tell your children to make noises while eating– it will make them laugh! Remember Ralphie’s little brother from A Christmas Story eating like a pig?? 🙂  I’m not sure I personally would go to that extreme, but it’s the right idea.

 

Make the table a fun, family-oriented place.

Our four kiddos love suppertime because we are all together at the table (most nights).  It’s a time when everyone gets to share a story or a joke and each child has his or her own moment in the spotlight.  We talk a lot. We laugh a lot.  And while they’re busy laughing, they’re eating!  Unless of course, things get a little too crazy.  But most of the time, having fun at the table keeps them interested in staying longer and at the same time, strengthens our family bond. Win, win!

Picky Eaters can easily drain the joy from mealtimes, if we allow them to.  My husband and I decided years ago that we wanted to be able to enjoy family mealtime with our children.  In order to accomplish that goal, we had to first do some training and disciplining in so we could  have peace at the table.

It took quite a bit of time and a lot of consistent effort, but I’m happy to report that mealtime battles are very rare in our house anymore, even with our preschoolers! 🙂  (I cannot however claim that they are non-existent.  Everyone has an off day now and then and children especially like to randomly challenge previously established boundaries.)  Now we look forward to those evening meals together and can focus more on that funny thing our middle child just said rather than on what is or isn’t being eaten.

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I hope you are able to employ some of these tips in order to make mealtime less stressful at your house!  The older my children get, the more I realize that these early years pass all too quickly.  Thus, it’s important to do the necessary training in order to be able to enjoy these years to the fullest (although, I realize there are some moments that are just NOT enjoyable whatsoever). 🙂

While I still have your attention, let me also humbly admit that I am not a perfect mom.  I’m not even perfect in the parenting boundaries that I myself have agreed to, along with my husband.  Sometimes I break the “rules.”  Sometimes I’m so weary of battling that I choose to surrender for the night. We can always try again tomorrow, right? 🙂

If you struggle with feeling like you just aren’t doing things right, please take some time to read The Superwoman Myth or Peaceful Parenting, No Thanks to Pinterest.  Moms are so hard on themselves, and I definitely don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on a mama who is already at her limit!

These are simply techniques that I found helpful for our family, but each family is different and each child is different.  What works for us may or may not work for you!  If mealtime is still a battle at your house, don’t give up;  find a solution that works for you. 🙂

Do you have a great tip for how to make food fun?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Happy Eating,

Jen 🙂

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6 Principles for Picky Eaters

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We’ve all experienced it: the transformation of that babbling baby who happily ate ALL of the baby food groups into the terrible toddler who only wants to eat crackers.  Every child goes through a picky eater phase.  Of course, some children take picky eating to more of an extreme level than others! Our firstborn was easy, our second was challenging, and our third and fourth (twins) offered another perspective altogether.

Nevertheless, how we react to this picky-eater phase (much like any other phase) helps determine whether our children remain stuck in that phase or whether they grow through it. Thus, I offer you these 6 Principles for Picky Eaters based on my thirteen-plus years of parenting so far:

1. Decide ahead of time where you’ll draw the line and stick to it!  If you first set out with the goal of having your child clean his or her plate and later decided that’s too difficult, your child may see this as a sign of weakness.  Any sign of weakness can lead to a doubled effort on the child’s part to break you – seriously.  Trust me: at the first glimpse of weakness, your tiny tyrant will “seize the day” and your job will suddenly become that much more difficult.

2. Use the “Try at least one bite” rule.  This rule came directly from my mother, and I find it very suitable still.  At our house, the kids are not allowed to turn down an entire plate of food, especially something new, without even tasting it.  Even now that they are older, every food group must be at least tasted before they are allowed to reject it.

When he was a toddler, our middle child became so adept at turning down food, that I feared he would be adversely affected.  However, when I mentioned my mommy fears to our seasoned pediatrician, he just smiled knowingly and kindly pointed out that my toddler was perfectly chubby and wasn’t going to “starve” any time soon. It was our doctor’s obvious revelation that gave me permission to wait our strong-willed toddler out.  Here’s the technique we used:

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  • Offer the plate several times, giving the child a few minutes to try in between. Be on your toes during this phase. If it lasts too long, you’re likely to experience the ceremonial dumping of the plate. 😉
  • If the food is repeatedly refused, take it away and end mealtime altogether. (This step will prevent much frustration for everyone – including older children – and can even prevent irritations such as plate dumping, fit throwing, cup tossing, etc.)
  • Remove child from highchair or table with the reminder that the food will be waiting when he or she is hungry.
  • Cover the plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate if necessary.
  • Re-heat whenever the child asks for food and offer plate again. If your child is very strong-willed and you don’t want to reheat the food often, show the child the plate.  Tell the child if he or she is hungry, this is what he or she can have.  If  he or she immediately refuses, don’t even bother re-heating.
  • If the food  is again refused, put it back in the fridge.
  • Repeat cycle until the child eats (how much is up to you) or until bedtime.  Most children will break down and eat it when they get hungry enough.  However, I once re-heated a plate FIVE times within the space of two hours for our middle child.  So, don’t be surprised if your child continues to test until the process is well-established!
  • Important Note: absolutely NO snacks or milk should be given in the meantime (only water). This was per our pediatrician’s advice, and it makes sense.  A glass of milk is more than enough to satisfy hunger pains for an hour or two, especially for small children.  By caving in with a little bit of milk or even a single cracker, you will undo all of your hard work thus far. (Obviously if your child has a medical condition that does not allow for depriving them, follow your own doctor’s advice.)
  • Above all, be consistent!  I cannot emphasize that enough.  Once we started using this technique, we rarely had to employ it after the first few victories.  Toddlers and Preschoolers alike are quick to learn when we are consistent in our parenting.

*Disclaimer: this technique doesn’t work as well when that stubborn toddler becomes a sly four-year-old.  One day, we set out the plate at lunch time and had to put it back in the fridge.  We got it out at snack time and put it back. We got it back out at supper time and put it back.  We got it out once more at bedtime, at which point my son grinned wickedly and said, “But I won’t have to eat it for breakfast.”  Well-played, son, well-played. I decided to let him have his small victory, but he still went to bed hungry. It hasn’t happened since then. 🙂

*Disclaimer #2: This technique should only be used for healthy children!  Please see the note of caution at the end of the article.

Micah

3. Create a test to see if your child is truly full, or if they just don’t want to eat what’s in front of them.  If our children are asking for more of something they liked (or for dessert), but they haven’t eaten the other items on their plates, I ask them to finish the majority of the other items first.

For example, our daughter loooooves bread.  When presented with a plate of half of a sandwich, fruit, and fresh veggies, she will often eat the bread and the fruit, leaving the meat and the veggies.  Then, she’s likely to ask for more bread or more fruit.  We make her eat the majority of what she left behind (the meat and veggies) before giving her more of what she desires.

Tip: I use a similar method when my children ask for seconds of an unhealthy treat or snack.  “If you’re really still hungry, have some carrots.”  If they eat the carrots, they were really hungry and they ate a healthy snack.  If not, then they weren’t hungry and just wanted more cake, cookies, etc. Children are often smarter and more devious than we realize!)

4. Use the “take ______more bites” rule.  If one of our children wants to be excused from the table, but I can see they haven’t eaten very much of their meal, or very much of their veggies, I usually insist on at least a few more bites.  I only do this if they’ve eaten less than half of the portion.  Most times, they are able to stomach at least a few bites of whatever food group they’ve chosen to reject.

Start with a lower number of bites and then increase the amount as they grow older.  For example, our preschoolers might be required to take only two or three more bites, but our older children might be asked to take closer to ten (especially the sly middle child who takes the tiniest bites ever known to mankind).  An alternate method would be to divide the portion in half and ask them to eat only one half.  This method works well with older children.

*Disclaimer: if your child is visibly gagging on the food, think long and hard about whether or not you want to clean up a pile of puke before you choose to enforce this rule.   I’ve learned through experience that sometimes, they just CAN’T eat the foods we’d like them to – it’s not a matter of disobedience or control, but rather an uncontrollable physical response to a particular taste or texture. Again, see the note of caution at the end of the article.

gracie plate

5.Make it fun!  Remember when your stubborn child was a smiling baby and you would makes spoonfuls of baby food into airplanes, or choo-choo trains, etc.?  Remember that baby smushing food on the high chair tray and running a finger through piles of goo?  But to the stubborn toddler we say, “quit playing with your food” or “sit still and take a bite.”

Now, I’m all for table manners, but somewhere along the line, we parents often quit making food fun!  If you make food fun, or even the eating experience itself fun, your child is likely to stay at the table longer and eat more of that healthy food you worked so hard to prepare (or at least arrange on a plate).  How do I make food fun, you ask?  Tune in tomorrow for a short post on Making Food Fun! 🙂

6. Be patient….. OR…. Win the war, not the battle. Naturally, patience is the last thing on your mind when your picky child dumps his or her plate for the second, third, fourth time of the day. Many of my most desperate prayers for patience were inspired by mealtime battles with our middle child. However, take a moment to remind yourself that this is only a phase.  You may lose battles here and there, but the goal is to win the war!

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In retrospect, I think the mantra for all mamas of small children should be, “This too shall pass” because it is true.  The parenting problems that so often seem unbearable today will be gone tomorrow, replaced by a new phase with its own set of problems.

If we can keep the years of picky eating in perspective, we realize that there is no need to stress about our children’s eating habits.  All we can do is our best to encourage them to make healthy eating choices, and then we have to trust God with the rest.

If you’re looking for tips specifically on how to include veggies in the diet without a fuss, click here!

I hope you find these picky-eater tips helpful.  If you have a tip to share with the rest of us, leave a comment!

Jen 🙂

*Reader Kimberly makes an excellent point – if your child is extremely picky, please consult your physician! There may be underlying physical issues, such as food allergies or intolerances, that are causing the trouble.  Thanks, Kimberly! 🙂

Enjoyed this article? Check out this post on how to keep those Eaters happy during meal-prep:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/top-5-toddler-approved-tips-for-preventing-pre-meal-meltdowns/

Sharing this post with: How Do You Do It? and #TheLoft

You may also find this post linked up at any of these lovely blogs.

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Rough Morning?

Some days just getting started in the morning is the most difficult challenge we’ll face all day long.  You know the days when:

the kids wake up way too early

you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list

you didn’t get enough sleep

you’re so grumpy you feel out of control

it’s rainy and dreary outside

all you want to do is get back in your comfy bed.

How do you overcome those dreary mornings? What do you do when you wake up with zero motivation?  How do you get past a grumpy mood so early in the day?

Today I’m honored to guest post over at my cousin Angie’s blog, My Four Monkeys.  I’ll be sharing ten tips for getting your inner motor going first thing in the morning. Just click the picture below to read the full post at her site:

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Be sure to leave some comments for us on her page and give us your best advice for dealing with a not-so-great morning!

Jen 🙂

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Five Minute Friday: Imagine

Imagine.

Imagine a home filled with three rowdy, laughing boys and one daughter with a giggle high and light.

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In that home you might hear such phrases as:

“Don’t lick your brother’s face” and

“You can’t beat up your sister’s special doll.”

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You might also find messes like this on your nine-foot ceilings,

evidence of a seven-year-old boy left too long in the bath. 🙂

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Now imagine a young, often tired mama, who tends to be on the serious side.

She dislikes messes,

and rowdiness,

and chaos.

She appreciates controlled fun, if there is such a thing.

I never imagined myself to be the mama of so many boys, but I certainly am thankful for God’s wisdom in placing them in my care.  By the grace of God, I’m learning to embrace

noise,

chaos,

wrestling, and even….

….fart jokes. 🙂

Imagine that tired, young mama opening her mind and heart to a world of fun and let’s pretend.  Those rowdy boys and silly daughter teach her to play. They teach her to take life less seriously.

Imagine life without my children?  Impossible!

Jen 🙂

What do your children teach you?  Share with us in the comments.

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