How We Do Life

I think it’s fascinating how so very different each family is. Their traditions, their way of operating, and just the way they roll. It really got me thinking about how our family does life, how WE roll. Our family is not perfect. No family is. We have numerous flaws, oddities, and times we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and vow to do better. We’re all different….and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

This is how we do life:

God is the center of our home. Everything revolves around that—our marriage, our parenting, everything else.

We say please and thank you. Even Mom and Dad do this, even with something as insignificant as passing the salt. Manners are important and show respect.

Family dinner is a high priority, and we always pray before we eat together. It’s just not the same when we all have to grab something and rush out the door, or when someone is missing. This is where we share about our day, the highs and lows, and just hang out for a time.

We expect good behavior. I am not a yeller–never have been, probably never will be. And no, I wasn’t really into “time outs” when the kids were little. There may have been an occasional swat on the backside when deliberate misbehavior happened. My kids aren’t angels, but they certainly aren’t brats either. I have no explanation for this, other than that they are just expected to behave!

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We love to read. Yes, all 7 of us. There is no secret technique or formula that we used when our kids were little, except that we read to them a lot and they saw us reading for pleasure. It caught on, and it warms my heart to see them all devouring books.

We try not to overschedule ourselves. This is such a balancing act once everyone gets to a certain age, and right now we’re in the thick of it. Each child is in at least one activity. However, we are deliberate about not being too busy and will say “no thanks” to things that will make for an overly hectic week.

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We have a minimum of technology in our house. Seven people, one laptop. No personal Ipads, Ipods, tablets or anything. (Our oldest did get a very basic cell phone for his 15th birthday.) They ask before they use the computer, and if playing games on it, a timer is usually set.

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We try not to be materialistic. We have learned to live on one income, and live well on it. Secondhand clothes are just fine by us, as well as older vehicles and a not-big house. Christmas and birthdays usually are simple. Things aren’t too important, but people are.

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We serve others as best as we can. My husband is the prime example for this and is literally one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. My parents are also great examples of this. I have become better at this as an adult (I think), but there’s always room for improvement. It is a joy to serve together, especially when it’s something the whole family can do.

Vacation and time away together is important to us. No, they are usually not fancy affairs, but that’s okay. We shoot for one week in the summer, just us, away from all of our usual stresses and things that pull for our attention. We’re not into overly crowded, “touristy” places. Give us a cabin in the middle of the woods somewhere and we are usually happy campers.

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We try to foster curiosity and a love for learning. I would label my husband and I as self-starters, or perhaps “self-motivated” people. We enjoy learning new things and encourage that in our kids. There is currently a continual pile of books on the couch, homemade contraptions or inventions in nearly every room, a plant cart in my living room, and a cricket farm and “lab” in my basement. No, our house is never picture perfect, but that’s okay with me. There’s a lot of love here and I’ll not squelch their innate curiosity. (Though too much clutter and mess does make me crazy.)

We are foodies. Kind of. My husband and I entered marriage in a unique situation—that is, we both knew how to cook. I do the majority of cooking during the week as I am the “at home” parent, and he does some meals on the weekends. We don’t eat out a whole lot as it gets wicked expensive for 7 people! Plus homemade is healthier. We have taught each kid various cooking skills, so hopefully they know how to fend for themselves once they grow up. As I’ve said before, to their future spouses: You’re Welcome.

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We try to be real. It’s interesting that my oldest, now in high school, is so very perceptive of “fake” people. I can’t stand it either, and hopefully I never come across that way. (You have permission to call me out on it if I do! Or slap me.) Like I said earlier, we are real. We are flawed. We are human.

Well folks, that’s how we do life around here. Each family has their own ways, and that’s cool. So now if you suspected that we were weird before, you got your confirmation by reading this!

Dear Kids…

Today I am re-posting something that I wrote around this time last summer. My kids start school in just a week and I got to thinking about this little letter again. Reading it a year later, I echo every word of it once more.

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Dear Daniel, Andrew, Heidi, Joey, and Josh,

Tomorrow you all will be heading off once again for a brand new school year!  I know you are ready to start back up, but may have some butterflies about it too. I know that I always did when I was your age.

As your dear old Mom, here are some things I’d like to tell you before I send you off to start your new grade. I know I’ve said lately that I’m excited for you all to get on that bus so I can have a little time by myself, and that is true. I do like a little time alone here at our house when it’s nice and quiet and everyone is at school. However, know that I do miss you all and am praying for you every time that bus picks you up. It’s like 5 pieces of my heart leave me and then return in the afternoon.

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Guys, I encourage you to do your absolute best while you’re at school. Each of you has been very blessed with the ability to learn things pretty easily and to usually do well on tests. Not every kid has that advantage, so don’t take it for granted. Help other kids as you are able and while it’s okay to be proud of a good grade (and you should be!), no one likes a bragger. Also, just because learning may come easier for you than some other kids, it is not an excuse to slack off. You are still called to do your best at whatever job you’ve been given, and right now that job is schoolwork.

Now, this is what I want you to know about your teachers. They are there to help you learn and be the best person you can be. Teaching is NOT an easy job, and you are to be kind and respectful to each teacher you have, even if they are not your favorite. From what I’ve seen, they really do want what’s best for their students and love all of the kids in their care. All teachers have tough days sometimes and I want you to help make their days a little brighter by being in their class.

With that being said, let’s talk about the other kids in your classes. Every kid is different, and I think you all already know that. Some kids are ones that are easy to be friends with. I used to gravitate towards those types of kids and stick with them. Other kids are not so easy to be friends with, or maybe they are difficult for the teachers and other grown-ups in the school.  Perhaps they are mean or rude or maybe even cry over silly things. Maybe it’s a kid that is dirty a lot or smells, or has other issues. Here’s the thing, guys—you just never know what that kid is dealing with at home. You all come from a pretty good household (I think!) and have two parents that dearly love you, take care of you, discipline you, and teach you about Jesus. Maybe you think every kid comes from a house like that, but they don’t.  Anymore a house like ours is a little rare. I just think that it’s important to remember that when a kid is maybe acting out or different in some way.  Please, please, be kind and show love to everyone, even if they are not especially likeable. Remember how much Jesus loves each of us, and maybe YOU are the person he is using to show that love to another kid.

Here’s another thing that ties in with what I just said: I want you guys to be a “little light” to everyone you meet at school. Dad and I think that you already have been, and we are so proud of you for that! Keep it up. I really do believe that God uses people in certain places and at certain times. For the last years and even now we think that we’ve been called to have our family be a part of the public school here. As I said before, not everyone comes from a family that believes like we do, but I want you to show them love as Jesus has commanded us to do. Maybe that means being a friend to someone who is shy, or holding a door for others, sharing a book, or inviting a kid that’s alone to play with you on the playground. You just never know what impact you’ll have on someone else.

Also, stand up for what you believe in. Our world is a little crazy right now, and sadly, it’s just going to get worse. That makes me worried for you as you grow up. This is part of what I pray about for you all the time. However, you have been taught what is right and what is wrong, and don’t be afraid to say and act on what you believe. I know you can do it!

I love you guys like crazy and will miss you. Have a great first day in your new grade!

Love, Mom

 

The Weight of Words

I should’ve seen the comment coming, but I didn’t.
Usually it happens that way. Sometimes there’s the usual suspects that you can brace yourself for and know something not-uplifting will likely come out of their mouth upon seeing you.
Then there’s the ones that take you by surprise.
Surprise or not a surprise, those words sting. A lot. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 years old or pushing 40, they still hurt. If you’re anything like me, though they may have been forgiven decades ago, those words can still smart at the oddest times many years later.
I’ve been wanting to write about the weight of our words for a long time now, but something happened last night that prompted my heart to write about it in a vulnerable way this morning.

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You see, it started like this….
We were up at my parents’ house last evening for a Memorial Day picnic. Things were going fine and we had the surprise of an older gentleman who worked with Jeff and I  years ago showing up to eat dessert and visit with my husband and I and generally catch up with everyone. When he had his visit in, he got up to leave and shook Jeff’s hand, then came over to me for a hug. This older man gave me a long, heartfelt squeeze, then loudly proclaimed, “Boy, I’ve always loved big women.” Everyone laughed. I could feel my cheeks starting to redden, and he went to joke about how my husband must like them too and made a joke about big barns or barn doors or some such nonsense. Everyone seemed amused at his antics. Everyone except me. I think I was a little flabbergasted and most definitely embarrassed. I saved my tears for later on when everyone was in bed and then broke down in front of my poor neighbor at the bus stop this morning.
Why oh why did this affect me so dearly? Especially as a supposedly confident, grown woman now pushing forty? I know I’m not alone. I have tons of sisters out there who have had to deal with similar things throughout their life and I’m sure can testify to how much it hurts.
I’ve never been petite, or svelte and willowy, or lots of the other things our culture reveres as a standard of beauty. Growing up as a tall, big kid, I have always had to field similar comments here and there. I have heard a whole litany of them. I can remember almost every one too. Even if 10 people could tell me they think I’m smart or kind or beautiful, that one comment about my weight or whatever else can easily drag me down in a tailspin and make me stew and generally feel terrible about myself. I could write a whole article (or series) about the topic of weight/size/etc, but I’ll save that for another time.
Here’s what I have to say to everyone—watch your words. Words hurt, even if they weren’t meant in a mean-spirited way. And I’m not just referring to weight, though that is a majorly sensitive one, especially for women. If I’ve gained weight, you really don’t need to tell me. I can assure you that I realize it already and am probably trying to quietly work on it. Though weight is a main one, it can really be anything. Maybe it’s parenting. Or your job status. Or your house. Or name-a-subject. Words are powerful, especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with them. Whether spoken or written, let’s use them wisely.
If you’ve used your words in a way that hurt someone, whether intentionally or no, please consider apologizing to that person. I am far, far from perfect, so I’m sure that I’ve said (or written) my share of hurtful words in the past. I know I have. I apologize to anyone that I may have hurt in this way, truly I do.
Parents, we especially need to watch what we say directly to, or in front of, our kids. You never know what they will hold onto, whether it be good or bad. We have a responsibility to build our kids up, not tear them down. I’m amazed at what my kids remember me saying to them or just in earshot of them. Usually it’s a very humbling experience to hear back what they remember me saying. Though I’m generally one to speak love and encouragement to my kids, I’m far from a perfect parent.

Lord help us all, right?
Lastly, I’m going to address those of us who have been hurt by words from someone else. They may sting for a long time, but let’s try to forgive. We live in a fallen world and these things are going to happen. What’s most important for me to remember is how much God loves me and treasures me. He thinks I’m awesome, no matter how imperfect I may be. And he thinks you are too!
Let’s use our words wisely this week.

What I’m Into: May 2016

Happy late May. Our May has been SO gray here, but I’m thrilled to see more spring & summery weather in our weekly forecast. In fact, today is beautiful and I love having the windows and doors open. There’s nothing like it!

Here is what our family is into this May:

*Crazy Russian Hacker. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, look him up on You Tube. He does all kinds of science experiments and hacks. My boys are a little obsessed with him right now. I find him pretty amusing too.

*Canada Wintergreen Mints. I remember these minty Pepto-Bismol pink wafers from when I was younger, but hadn’t seen them in a long time until recently. I picked up a bag and have been sneaking in a couple a day. I’m a sucker for most anything minty. Love them.

*Earl Grey Tea. Though I am a serious coffee lover, I do enjoy the occasional cup of tea. (Especially since we’ve had all these yucky dismal days!) I really enjoy Earl Grey, which I like to brew nice and strong. Sheesh, I also just realized that I sound like a total old lady with my pink mints and tea bags;)

*Abide With Me by Matt Maher.  I absolutely, positively am in love with this song right now. It is such a great one that captures a bit about what it’s like to walk with the Lord everyday. Click on Abide With Me to give it a listen.

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*Colossians 3. My husband and I have been working through this chapter as a couple and in leading a group of young adults in Sunday School. The above verse was one I had adopted last year as a verse to dwell on and try to live by. The whole chapter is awesome though.

*Poppies. This is the right time of year to see vibrant poppies blooming along the road in certain spots. We just planted several in a flower bed in our yard, so I’m hoping they make it! I think they are SO beautiful.

I hope that you are finding beautiful and encouraging things in your day to day life as well, whether it be big or small.

What I’m Into: April 2016

Howdy, howdy, and Happy April!

I realize I haven’t posted much lately, but that’s because the weeks have just been flying by this Spring. Basically April through mid-June are a blur here, for there are just so many extra things going on with us this time of year.

In case you’ve missed me, these are some things I’ve been into lately:

*Refinishing furniture. I’m almost finished a piece that was in my daughter’s room, which I painted in this fun purple color from Krylon. I’m not into tedious processes, so this helped me skip the whole sanding/priming mess and just spray away! It went on great! I am also experimenting with doing my own chalk paint to redo a storage bench that has been lingering in my basement. (I used a baking soda paste mixed with latex paint.)

*Lula Roe. This is a clothing company which has grown exponentially in the past year. My best friend started selling it and I really love their comfy skirts and dresses. I know a lot of folks are into the whole legging thing, but it’s not quite my comfort zone….as a public service I’ll not wear the pair I own out of my house.You’re welcome;)

*Aussie 3 Minute Miracle. This is a conditioner I started using a few months ago and noticed a difference when I do use it regularly. My hair is quite thick and has the tendency to be dry and frizzy. There are many things that don’t really work for me, but this one actually does I think! I still have big hair, but at least it’s not so dry.

*Working part-time. After many years of being a stay at home Mom (which I loved), I have been working part time this year. I just felt like it was time, especially as some of my volunteer responsibilities will be waning soon. At first I was helping in a tax office, then a position became available at my church for an admin. I applied, interviewed, and got the job. I think it’s been a great fit for me.

(As a funny/embarrassing aside, I did wear a Lula Roe dress the first day I worked at the office alone. It happens to be a nice modest length but twirls very easily. A UPS man came to deliver a big package, and I went out to open the door for him and sign. As I was signing, a HUGE gust of wind suddenly came up and blew my dress up a LOT! Thankfully I was wearing tights underneath, but I was kinda embarrassed. I didn’t say anything, and he didn’t say anything….)

*The Princess Bride. I know I had seen this maybe once or twice years ago, but it’s a classic for many other people. We decided to watch it one night, and my girl AND all the boys liked it! They also just discovered Harry & the Henderson’s. Thank you 1980’s!

I’ll sign off for now. Thank you for checking in!

Rachel

 

 

 

40 Bags in 40 Days: Wrapping Up

Well, this is it. My 40 days are over and I’m DONE!

If you have missed my earlier posts, last month I had challenged myself to get rid of at least 1 bag of trash or donated items a day for 40 days.

The final tally? 15 bags and a whopping 32 boxes of stuff.

Some of these were just plain trash and others were donated to a local thrift store.

Would I do this again in the future? Absolutely.

Honestly, I think it would be beneficial to do it at least once a year. Sure, I’ve done purges before, but not quite as intentionally as this one. There were several areas I hadn’t even fully touched in a few years (hello, Christmas decoration area). Others I’ve gone over here and there, but stuff just accumulates, you know? Especially when you have seven bodies in one house. I can candidly say that I didn’t have to invest a huge amount of time to this project, just a bit every day.

Now, some of you may be wondering if I had heard of or read the Marie Kondo book (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up). I did pick up a copy over this time and read it. Obviously I did not follow her method, as she recommends tackling categories like all the clothing all at once and doing one giant purge within a very short time frame. Some of her recommendations were good, like only keep what you love and discard everything that does not bring you joy in some way. A few other things in the book were a little too new-agey to me and I found myself kind of rolling my eyes a bit.

So, all in all, I am sort of proud and glad that I followed this thing through. I would recommend it to anyone feeling the creep of “too much stuff.”

 

40 Bags in 40 Days: Week 3 Update

15 Bags and 11 Boxes.

That’s what I’ve gotten rid of so far in this little challenge.

This week I lost steam for a couple of days so it could have been more than that by now.

The only areas I have left to finish are my basement and my garage.Those are biggies, so I know that there will be plenty of tossing and donating taking place from those areas.

Since the weather is supposed to be warm and spring-like, this should make at least the garage much easier to conquer.

What I’ve tackled this week:

Cleaning supplies-1 bag

Toys-1 bag

Upstairs Hall Closet-1 bag

Heidi’s closet-2 boxes

Boy’s closet-1 bag, 1 giant box

Seasonal Decorations-3 boxes

Areas I plan to tackle this coming week:

Basement

Garage

Once the basement and garage are completed, I will have gone over the whole house!

What a feeling:)

40 Bags in 40 Days: Week 2 Update

A couple of weeks into this bugger and I’m still going semi-strong.

If you have not tuned in thus far, I am tackling a “40 Bags in 40 Days” decluttering challenge. Basically I am ridding my sweet, modest home of any extra junk we don’t use or need (or perhaps just don’t like anymore). There are 7 people that live here, so you can imagine how quickly things can accumulate!

Up to this point I have gotten rid of 12 trash bags and 4 big boxes of various items.  I was extremely pleased that my husband jumped on board without being asked. One of our boys had an event on Saturday, so I was away a good chunk of the day. I came home to find all of his clothes purged and sorted!  Sweet!!

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Areas I tackled this past week:

Refrigerator-inside

Upstairs bathroom

My clothes

Jeff’s clothes

Shoes

Downstairs bookshelves

Fabric/Sewing area

What I plan to hit this coming week:

Girl Bedroom

Boy Bedroom

Toys

Seasonal Decorations (basement)

Basement-other

 

40 Bags in 40 Days: Week 1 Update

Today I am updating you all on how my “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge is going.

Seven days have passed since I first posted about this.

So, how’d I do? Did I keep it up or did I  fall off of the decluttering wagon?

Well….so far I have rounded up 6 big trash bags full of stuff to pitch and 3 big boxes of items to donate. It feels great.

I’m glad that I did give myself grace as far as one area a day, because there were two days where I just didn’t have the time to tackle it. However, I was able to make up several areas in one day where I did have the time & energy to purge things.

One mistake I’ve made is trying to do this one day when the kids were here to see what was being taken out….not good. Especially when I hit their game shelving area. Suddenly a penguin game that I thought they were done with was the best thing ever and literally made one kid cry. I caved and let it come back in the house where they played with it for the next hour. Everything else left the house.

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Areas I have purged so far:

Kids art/craft cabinet

Cookbooks

China cabinet

Tupperware

Pantry

Downstairs bathroom

Medicine closet/toiletries

Coat closet/Pegs

Game shelf

Pots/Pans/Bakeware

Kitchen countertops

Fridge-outside

Laundry Closet

Game plan for this coming week:

Fridge-inside

Master bedroom closet

Under the bed

Living room bookshelves

Fabric/sewing area

Our dressers

Upstairs hall closet

I’ll check back in another week to let you know how it has progressed.

So far so good!