Category: Uncategorized

The perfectly behaved toddler.

I don’t have one.  If you find the cure all, train all, fix all, perfect answer that works the same on every one. . .well, I’d probably not believe you anyway!

So seriously, though, I couldn’t resist putting some ridiculous title on what I’m about to say.  I currently have a 2 going on 3 y.o. who may be the most challenging toddler I’ve had so far.  I’ve had 7, a couple with very strong wills.  This one still is way more challenging.  He’s busy, he’s non-verbal, possibly some hearing problems and some known vision ones.  It’s hard sometimes to know how to teach and train a typical toddler, but with limited communication it’s overwhelming at times.  And he’s not calm or quiet or still.  Ever.  He’s the one, who when  you look away. . .has escaped the stroller seat, climbed the furniture and is standing on top of something, possibly dangerous, laughing hysterically with a disturbing gleam in his eye!  Goodness!

So now to the point.  I’ve recently been encouraged by the Serenity Prayer, the long version.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.   ~Reinhold Niebuhr

How does this apply to toddlers?  “Give me the courage to change that which should be changed…” is such a powerful concept!  What can you change, today?  Choose little things.  My favorite to start with is “Sit, be quiet and stay.”  Teach your children, all of them to do this everyday.  Work on it everyday.  Have everyone sit.  Explain what you’re doing.  “We’re going to practice sitting still and being quiet!”  Give the littlest ones a book or a toy.  Don’t give it back if they throw it.  Sit by the littlest ones, they’ll need help and reminders to master this concept.  It’s huge!  Transforming.

If you could at any time ask your children to gather, sit down and be still for say, 15 minutes or 30 minutes, couldn’t that radically shift the stress of a situation?  Children and adults have lost the ability to be content without entertainment.  I know this sounds simply, maybe silly.  But try it.  I had forgotten.  Then after Christmas craziness, family, travel, sugar and all I realized I had a grumpy toddler.  I practiced this.  What an instant difference!  He cheers up.  Not forever, but I don’t need forever!

When you take away everything, all the stuff and the freedom to move about and interact, they quiet.  Outside, but also inside.  Then, when released they are calmer for a time.  Grateful for the freedom again whether they recognize it or not.  Waiting builds patience.  Lack builds gratefulness for their toys and things.  Peace with nothing makes peace with anything easier.

Don’t give up, dear Mamas who feel overwhelmed and exhausted!  Find a small thing that should be changed in your home or family and have the courage to change it.  Over time that collection of small, subtle changes will add up to great change and transformation!


Back Story & Grace

I recently talked with my children about grace.  Having grace for others and trying to understand their situation.  So often it’s easy to look briefly into someone else’s life or at their actions and make quick judgements.  We say or even just think that we know what they should do.  We know how they could solve their problems.  As we talked, I told my children when you find yourself tempted to judge to ask three questions.

Do you know their back story?

Do you know their current situation?

Are you able and willing to help?

Everyone has back story.  Every situation has backstory.  It not just the why, but usually the underlying big why behind what we do, how we feel, how we react and so many of the choices we make.  Where did you grow up?  What was your family like?  What are your hopes and dreams, your disappointments, your betrayals, hurts and wounds?  These form your backstory.  The backstory of our lives affects how we perceive the world around us and how we interact with those in our lives.

Current situation.  What’s going on in their life?  Right now, today, this week, or even this year.  What is their home like?  Are they struggling in their marriage, finances or at work?  Why are they doing what they are doing?  Not the big, deep why like back story.   This is more akin to temperature.  Current story tells you what their day-to-day life looks like.  Their capacity, margin.  This matters.

Finally, are you in their life?  Are you willing and able to help?  You think you have an answer to their problem, but are you willing to get involved in the solution?  It is easy to say you know what someone should do. . .it’s a lot harder to get involved and help.  Getting into someone’s life is messy, time-consuming and complicated.

Ten years ago, we lost our daughter, Hannah.  She was three, sweet, beautiful and then gone.  We were devastated.  I remember walking through the grocery store, numb.  My baby was gone, my world was shaken, but I still had two little boys at home.  They needed me to function, but I was having a hard time breathing.  I remember being in that grocery store and thinking that all these people were so near me and yet had absolutely no idea that my heart was broken.  I looked normal but was far from it.  It hit me that there had to be others.  Other people in crisis walking around, seemingly functional, but devastated inside.

It shifted the way that I perceive people all around me.  She might have lost her child too.  He might have lost his wife.  She might be struggling with chronic pain. He might have just lost his job… house, car, dog.  She might have a new baby and be sleep deprived.  There might be abuse at home.  You just don’t know.  Give people grace.  Strangers, friends and family.  You don’t walk in their shoes or live their lives.  Don’t pretend you know what’s best for them or that you know everything about their problems and how to solve them.

And when people judge you, and they will, this still applies.  Do you know their back story and situation?  Are you willing to lovingly confront them, get into their life and help them learn how they hurt you with their judgements?

I think before we speak or even mentally pass judgement about someone else’s life or failures we should take a moment to assess.  Do I know their stories, both past and present?  Am I willing to take the time to help?  If you cannot answer yes to these, then do you really have the right to speak up, or even judge them in your heart?  Or do you need to just give them grace.  Work on your own issues, perhaps offer to help, and give people grace, especially when they’re struggling, give them grace.


Early Bird tip #1: Childbirth Classes

You want a natural birth?  What about a childbirth class?  The ideal time to take a childbirth education class is probably around 5-6 months.  You are getting bigger, so it feels real enough to take all the information seriously.  You have had some time to read up on things and get a sense of what is important to you and what kind of birth experience you are hoping to achieve.

I teach The Bradley Method® so, of course, that’s the class that I think everyone should take!  But, there are certainly other options out there and not all areas have an active Bradley® Instructor.  I definitely think taking a good, natural childbirth class is essential, especially for a first time mom wanting a natural birth.

Here are some things I’d recommend looking for in a class/instructor:

  1.  Birth Experience – Has she had natural birth(s) herself.  This is key.  Make sure.
  2. Qualifications- Is she certified or registered with a method or an independent teacher not affiliated with anyone.  There are certainly some ladies with amazing experience and perhaps not affiliated with a method. Bradley Method® instructors receive extensive training and on-going educational requirements each year.
  3. Philosophy/Class goals – Some hospitals offer free or inexpensive classes, but sometimes these classes aren’t truly geared toward teaching natural childbirth principles at all.  This varies greatly from area to area.
  4. Statistics – How do her students do in birth?  Most instructors can give you some idea of her students’ statistics.  My couples average around a 10% c-section rate and over 80% of the others achieve a non-medicated, natural birth.  That tracks very closely with The Bradley Method’s® national stats.  That’s key.  Make sure an instructor has a proven track-record of successful outcomes using the techniques/information she teaches.
  5. Personal recommendation – Ask your friends, especially those who had a good birth experience what classes they took  More specifically, who do you know that had a birth similar to what you’re hoping for?
  6. Look early – you can always sign-up for a class ahead of time, but sometimes ladies wait so long they can’t get the entire class finished before their due date!  Inquire early!

Happy birthing!  And don’t feel like you can’t keep looking, keep asking, keep inquiring. There are many great teachers out there, passing along what we know to those coming along after us. . .you’ll find one!

Please visit to locate a Bradley Method® Instructor near you! (more…)

Home. Sweet. Home.

You know that feeling. . .walking into your own house after a trip.  Tonight we arrived home after 5 days on the road and even my children now notice and express that inexplicable sweetness of home.

Truly it is not just one thing, but so many weaved together that make home, home.  My favorite, red coffee mug.  My bed.  Ah, my bed.  My laundry room. . .truly I love my laundry room. . .all the more for having used a laundromat on the trip!  My chickens and cats, my chair, my sink, my projects, my everything.  It just feels good and right and brings sweet peace to my very soul!

As I was actually basking in this fabulous feeling of immersing back into my world here on the farm. . .washing the beautiful pile of eggs, unpacking, reordering packed things, directing my children in various things, it hit me.  This isn’t home.  Not really.  As much, and oh so much more, as that hotel is not my home.  This home is not my home.  My real home, my permanent, true, eternal home is heaven!

Imagine how it will feel. . .the smells of familiarity, the things of comfort, beauty and peace.  We will someday go truly home and realize that all of this – the beauty, the loveliness, the hardships – all of it.  It was the temporary, the hotel, the trip.  Heaven is home.  And I must wonder if God wants to remind us in these moments on earth where we come into our earthly home after a trip and feel that sweetness of home to remember where our home is.  When we crawl into our own bed and relish the clean, crisp feel of those familiar sheets, to remember where we can find true rest for our souls.


Smell the Roses. . .

My littlest one is just over 1 now.  A boy.  Sweet, happy, and like most of my babies not very good at sleeping through the night.  He still gets up once or twice a night to eat.  Ravenous.  Almost desperate for milk and then goes immediately back to sleep.  They’ve all done this and thankfully most of them nursed!  So we’d spend that middle of the night time snuggling, sleeping and nursing in a twilight state of bliss.  Not this baby.  He doesn’t nurse.  Never has.  Seven babies and this one would not nurse.  I always have some difficulties getting my babies to nurse, but they always do eventually.  Except him.  You just never know what life will bring.

So I have pumped for 14 months and gotten donations from a dear, generous, gracious friend with an abundance to fill in the gaps.  All this to say – it’s been long.  I never imagined I’d be pumping this long or that he wouldn’t ever nurse.  I didn’t envision the nighttime feedings being all bottles and no twilight, sleepy snuggling where I don’t have to fully wake up and pour things, wash things, pump things!  It’s been harder than normal.  But, I’m thankful.  I have milk.  And a friend with more milk. A healthy, happy, beautiful baby who has gotten my milk all this time though not the way I dreamed.

Last night, at 2 a.m. I was up with my little man.  He was ravenous as usual.  I fed him, burped him and he snuggled in and fell asleep on me.  I stayed like this awhile before laying him back down to sleep.  He’s so sweet and sleepy, happy, warm.  The smell of a baby’s head and their warm breath is distinct and priceless.

I remember, when I was a new mother,  older mothers saying they did things like this.  It seemed almost silly.  I was so tired then (Ha!).  I had so much to do if the baby was asleep.  But now I understand.  The moments are passing quickly.  The babies have grown into young men, boys, little girls and even this little one so big, mobile, talking and growing so fast!

I took a few moments to stop and smell the roses.  Sleep can wait.  Dishes, laundry and everything else can wait.  This sweet, little man asleep in my arms is a moment that I need to linger over and cherish.  His smell, his breath, his fat little fingers curled up on me. . .sweet delight.  Far better than the fragrance of any flower.  Pure, heavenly delight right here in my life if only I take the time to stop and enjoy what’s there before me.






Practicing Hospitality

 . . .Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. . .I Peter 4:8-9 ESV

One of our family’s New Year’s resolutions is to invite someone over every week.  Yep.  Every week.  Did I mention there are 8 of us.

My children range from age 10 months to 14 years.  We homeschool, have a very small farm, special needs and I teach childbirth classes one night a week and am a doula so I occasionally attend births too!  Whew – we are busy.  Always.  We work very hard to minimize our obligations to things in general because just living life – schooling, animals, medical appointments, laundry, baths for Pete’s sake! – keep us pretty well booked.  There’s not a ton of time leftover.  Ever.  Sometimes there is down time and sometimes, honestly, there’s not a lot.  So why on earth would be even attempt to have people over this much??  I’ll explain.

First of all – the Bible says to do it.

Not weekly, mind you.  But “show hospitality” and again in Romans, “practice hospitality.”  We take this to heart.  There are some things in the Bible that aren’t always this clear, things we must wrestle out for ourselves.  This one is simple. Do it.  Don’t grumble.  Practice it which kinda implies some amount of regularity.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. . .Romans 12:9-13 ESV

I find it interested that in both of these often quoted passages there is talk of love and then hospitality.  The first one addresses this idea that love covers sins. . .spending time together, living life together opens the door for healing when the offenses or sins happen.  The second passage again starts with talking about love and then ends with another call to hospitality.

Ship Docking.

This is a big reason we’re stepping up a notch in hospitality this year.  Our children are getting older.  Especially important to our oldest son is time with friends.  I remember feeling that way too.  We want to provide opportunities for him to connect with people his age, to forge good friendships and to have fun.  However, we prefer to do things as a family for the most part.  In order to meet his need for friendship and peer time and maintain our conviction to not segment our family in a bunch of different directions all the time, we decided to invite people over more often. And we’re giving our children input on who we invite.  The friendships that we form in our young adult years are often the same ones that see us through finding a spouse, standing up with us on our wedding day, giving input as we navigate becoming independent adults and even into adulthood and parenthood.  We want to help him dock his ship alongside other God-fearing, respectful and hardworking young men and women.  Young adults who will sharpen him, laugh with him, challenge him and push him on toward becoming all that he can be.

Our house stays cleaner.

When we host regularly we stay more faithful in keeping our home presentable.  We always try to keep things decent.  However, whenever someone is coming over we always take a few more minutes to tidy up, rescue the bathrooms, pick up toys and usually put something that smells good in the diffuser.  I like this.  It’s a bonus.

Things will get in the way.

There are a multitude of things that will derail our plans – sickness, scheduling conflicts, vacations, holidays and on and on.  But, if we aim for once a week and even succeed half the time that would be 25 times we’d invite someone over this year.  That’s huge.  Way better than we typically do. We’re committed this year to keeping after it – no giving up.  Sickness, holidays, hard weeks, busy schedules. . .No excuses!  If we fall off -we’re going to get right back up on that horse and keep at it.

It’s good for our children.

There are so many ways that it’s good for our children.  They learn to serve others, through cleaning ahead of time and after company leaves.  They learn to be good hosts themselves – sharing toys and favorite seats.  I believe they are better guests having been frequent hosts.  My children have often experienced the frustration of guests who come and don’t help pick up after themselves.  I teach them to have grace and clean up with a cheerful heart, but also to be sure to clean up after themselves and offer to help after a party at someone else’s house.

Sometimes it feels tiring, sometimes it takes way too much effort to sync up with another family, sometimes the children get sick and sometimes I just don’t feel like hosting.  Sometimes my dear son with special needs uses the distraction of company to overflow and clog my toilet (that one happened again tonight).  But rain or shine, this year, we’re going to practice.  Perhaps we’ll get better at it, but no matter, I am confident there will be blessing in our faithful obedience!



I Hate Making Meal Plans

If you know me or have even been in my house you may have noticed that mounted on the front of my refrigerator is a dry erase menu board/calendar.  Quite often, especially ladies, comment about it when they visit.


“A whole month of meals planned ahead.”

“You must be so organized.”

The truth is – I truly HATE making meal plans!  Truly.  Which is why I do it a month at a time.  I do not like planning what to cook for the week.  I do not like planning it for the month.  But so much more I absolutely loathe arriving on a given day of the week and having nothing planned and having to think up something that day!  Hate it.

I nearly refuse to go to the store specifically for one or two items only. . .especially if they are needed desperately for dinner. . .tonight.  We live in the country.  To go to any store it takes nearly 30 minutes round trip just driving.  I feel like it’s such a waste of time to run into town for just one errand let alone just one item!

Long ago in my mothering and home managing journey I started making menus.  I realized that in order to provide tasty, nourishing meals for my family I needed to have a plan.  And that is something I do love – eating tasty food!  🙂  It was very important to me that the food I was serving my growing family was nutritious and wholesome.  But, when I would fail to plan well we would end up eating out more, spending way too much money on take out.  We would eat poorer quality food.  The truth is – it does take some time – or a whole lot of money – to provide made from scratch whole food based meals.  Sigh.

I made a week’s plan and it worked.  No more scrambling, less eating out, better food.  Then the week was over and drat!  I had to make another plan.  So I began doing two weeks at a time.  That got more comfortable so eventually I figured I’d rather do the work once and be done for an entire month and that plan works for me.

Here’s the secrets you can’t see on my pretty, organized looking board. . .

I only stick to the plan about half the time!  Funny, no?  Seriously, nearly every week we change many of the planned meals and are most grateful for that brilliant inventor of dry erase things.  I’ve heard so many people say they can’t do a meal plan because they hate feeling boxed in or controlled.  That’s truly funny to me.  I make my plan.  Then I constantly change it.  It’s so freeing!  I’m free to change as often as I like.  And I’m free to not think about it and just follow the plan.  Lovely.  Guests coming over – swap a couple things around to find something that’s easier for a crowd.  Husband gone for a night – fix “Egg Roll in a Bowl,” or some other tasty thing he could live without instead of my original plan.  Too many leftovers building up in the fridge – leftover night.

The beauty is – I only have to do the job I hate – planning –  once every month or two.  And the month’s plan will often work again for the next month with a few easy tweaks.  I’m free to be as impulsive and creative as I like or just auto-pilot through the menu board.  I always consult the menu board when I make my grocery list so there’s always 5-10 meals worth of ingredients on hand.  But I can swap them, postpone them or cancel them as much as I want.

I hate making menus.  But I love having one made.  I love eating tasty food.  And I love knowing I’m doing something good for my family.

Here’s Feb in case you’re curious. . .

  1. Leftovers
  2. Quesadillas
  3. Nachos
  4. Fish & Potatoes
  5. Italian Beef & Salad
  6. Egg Roll in a Bowl
  7. Sunday – Kids Cook Day
  8. Red Beans & Rice
  9. Taco Salads
  10. Chicken Taco Soup
  11. Leftovers
  12. Cheeseburger Pie
  13. Nachos
  14. Sunday – Kids Cook Day
  15. Egg Roll in a Bowl
  16. Cubed Steak & Salads
  17. Chana Dahl Soup
  18. Baked Chicken & Rice
  19. Fish & Potatoes
  20. Leftovers
  21. Sunday – Kids Cook Day
  22. Taco Salads
  23. Egg Roll in a Bowl
  24. Chicken Taco Soup
  25. Nachos
  26. Sloppy Joes
  27. Chicken & Vegetable Soup
  28. Sunday – Kids Cook Day