motherhood

What the kids & I are into these days No. 2

After my previous post What the kids & I are into these days, I really enjoyed the feedback from you all about the products, shows, etc that your family is into.  So I thought I’d write another post and keep the conversation going!  So here are a few more things rocking our world right now.

Sling TV

slingWe have been cable-free for most of our 15 years of marriage, mostly because we are ridiculously cheap frugal.  So we normally have an exterior HD antenna (like this one) for our local channels and Netflix.  This works GREAT, especially since it costs a whopping total of $8/month.  The only drawback is that we can’t watch many sports.. and we love us some football around here.  So last fall we decided to cancel Netflix and give Sling TV a try.  We loved it!  I’ll do my best to explain it.  Sling TV is an a la carte live cable service with no contract.  Their basic package is $20 a month and includes CNN, ESPN, Disney Channel and lots more (see pic).  Not only can you watch shows live, but there are also many previous episodes available to watch.  You need a device to stream Sling and we purchased a Roku to do this.  If you prepay your first 3 months of Sling TV, you can get a Roku from them for 50% off (info here).

What we loved:

  • Watching live sports
  • Disney movies
  • Live news
  • Movies on AMC
  • House Hunters, Duck Dynasty and of course Fixer Upper!

What we didn’t like:

  • Commercials.  We’re SO not used to commercials since we’ve had Netflix for so long.  I am amazed at how evil some of them can be!  So I had to stay close if my kids were watching.
  • There wasn’t as much for kids as there is on Netflix.

So we kept Sling TV through the football season, then cancelled it and resumed Netflix for the kids and to save money.  We’re planning to switch back when football season is here (go Noles!)

The Book of Virtues

book of virtuesI love to read aloud to my kids.  And I love classic literature.  The Book of Virtues combines both, so it makes the perfect addition to your home library.  Right now we are reading one or two short passages each morning.  The book is a collection of “moral stories” and is categorized by character quality, such as self-discipline, compassion, etc. You will find classic poems, Bible stories, writings by America’s founding fathers and much more.  Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite poems called Boy Wanted…

A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl.

A boy who does not smoke and has no desire to learn how.

A boy who never bullies other boys or allows boys to bully him.

A boy who, when he does not know a thing, says, “I do not know”; and when he has made a mistake says, “I’m sorry”; and, when requested to do anything, immediately says, “I’ll try.”

How great is that?!

Trikke Carving Scooter

trikkeMy kids don’t play with toys.  I don’t get it.  But I’ve given up.  The truth is that they want to be outside playing with their friends, climbing trees, building fires, chopping down trees, fishing and piling way too many people into a paddleboat.  So when it’s time to make Christmas lists for the grandparents, I’m always on the hunt for anything that they can use outside.  Two years ago I hit the jackpot with these Trikke Carving Scooters.  Granted, these things are expensive, but hear me out.  They are equally fun for my 4 year old and my 13 year old, meaning this toy has lasting power!  It can either be powered by one leg like a traditional scooter, or by standing on it with both feet and twisting your body back and forth.  And they go really fast if you want them to.  I can’t say enough about how much we love these!

 

Now it’s your turn!  What is your famiy into these days?

 

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Why I’m a little tired of being called a super mom

I could never do what you do.

Better you than me.

I don’t have as much patience as you.

These are the top comments I hear from other moms when they hear that I have lots of kids or that I homeschool.  And I’m here to say that those 3 statements couldn’t be any further from the truth.

You can do what I do.

You would probably do it better than me.

You SURELY have as much patience as me.

BThere is a myth that large-family and/or homeschooling moms are somehow a cut above the rest.  That only a select few can succeed at such a feat and the rest of moms shouldn’t even try.  As my tween daughter would say, that’s “riDONCulous.”

Just like a runner finishes a marathon or an accountant finishes an audit or a nurse graduates from school, any mom can raise lots of kids or homeschool.  And just like running, business and college, it’s not easy or for the faint of heart. Dare I say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done?  But it should be hard.  Molding little tyrannical toddlers into responsible adults is no small job.  But it’s doable.  And worthy of being done.

So why shouldn’t you do it?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to raise a bunch of beautiful babies who go out and change the world?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to teach those minds of mush what they need to know?  Why not you?

But I must confess that I do have one secret weapon.  And I’m guessing many moms in my situation would agree.

I have Someone who steps in and takes over when I am spent, done, gone, about to run away.  He made me a promise a long time ago that when I am weak, He would be strong on my behalf.  I’ve taken Him at His word and found him to be completely trustworthy.

You have access to this same secret weapon.  His name is the Lord of Hosts. God Almighty.  He is the source of patience.  The source of order.  The source of organization.  The source of love.

How many times have I cried out to him (usually by about 8:00am,) okay Lord, I’m all out of patience!  I need to draw on yours now.  And He delivers.  Every.single.time.

So, yes, mom… you can do it.  Because He has all that you need.  He loves those babies even more than you do, if you can imagine it.  He spent 9 months crafting them in perfection in your womb, just the place He chose for them to begin.  And He has big plans for those mini monsters.  Plans for them to learn, to influence and to thrive.  Surely He will give you all you need to partner with Him in this incredible role of Mom.

Time with God:: How I manage to stay connected in the midst of kids & chaos

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Because if I go read my Bible in my room for 30 minutes, the 2yr old will find the chocolate cake batter!

I was 19 and away at college.  I would wander out of my red brick dorm and across the street to the breezy outdoor amphitheater, complete with white columns among a pristine lawn.  There I would sit with my warm coffee, full journal and frequently-read Bible, praying and reading and writing complete sentences.  THIS is what a “quiet time” with the Lord is supposed to be… or so I thought for many, many years after.  But I found it impossible to recreate that sublime moment as my blessed life brought me a house to care for and babies to puke on its floors.  On those few days when I could actually FIND my Bible, I spent the entire time re-reading the same chapter five times because each verse had been interrupted with butt-wiping or fight-settling or snack-providing.  And at the end of my so-called quiet time, I felt more stressed than when I had begun and more prone to giving up on the whole idea.  And maybe I would have if it hadn’t been for the GUILT. See, I was a youth leader. I was a small-group leader.  I SHOULD BE HAVING PEACEFUL, ANOINTED, INSPIRED TIMES WITH GOD EVERY DAY. But I wasn’t. I was fighting to read a chapter that I wasn’t even comprehending.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Well, girlfriend, I am 12 years and 5 kids into this parenting adventure and I have some advice for you.

Give up on having a daily quiet time.

At least that white column, hot coffee type.  Girl, you are in a new season and you need a new strategy.  I feel like I’ve finally found it and MAN is it liberating!  Now, slow down.  I didn’t say to give up on connecting with the Lord.  That is more necessary now than ever!!  I mean, what did I even have to pray about in college?  Which elective to pick?  What to wear on my date?  Oy.  NOW is when we need to cry out, ask for wisdom and draw on His strength.  But not in the same way. New season.  New strategy.

So how do we do it?  Here’s what’s been working for me.

work willingly

A dear friend gave me this and I’ve had it by my sink ever since. Such a great reminder!

Put Bible verses up in my house

No, you don’t need the help of Pinterest or a trip to Hobby Lobby.  (unless you want to go to Hobby Lobby, then by all means use this as your excuse)

Just grab some computer paper and your Bible and write down a few verses that encourage you.  Tape those things around your house. No tape?  Band-aids work great! I put mine by my kitchen sink, washing machine and fridge.  Which means I’m guaranteed to read those verses about 100 times a day!

Listen to worship music

Whether you use Pandora, Spotify, or YouTube, make yourself a good playlist.  And if you’re not tech savvy or want to cry at the thought of anyone having enough free time to make a playlist, just go to YouTube and search “worship playlist.”  Hit play.  Done.  Do this while you wash dishes, make dinner, fold laundry, nurse the baby, whatever.

Listen to quality Christian teachers

During the day, put on a video of a good Christian teacher.  Some of my favorites are Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and Matt Chandler.  Even if you only catch bits and pieces as you walk in and out of the room (what is this “sitting down” thing that people speak of?), that’s fine.  And it’s great for your kids to hear too!

Follow Christian people & organizations on social media

Let’s face it.  What you see while you scroll through Facebook / Instagram / Twitter really does affect your perspective. Next time you’re sitting in a car line  or sitting at the 22nd pediatrician visit this month, go through your social media and delete all the trash, all the new age nonsense, all the gossips, etc.  Then start following some people or organizations that post truth. Some of my favorites are GraceLaced, Lysa TerKeurst, Franklin Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, and Dr. Henry Cloud.

Read the Bible and pray with your kids

Did I lose you?  Has your mom guilt already overcome you?  Wait, hear me out.  This is what it looks like at my house.

Me: “Kids!!!  Grab your Bibles and come sit down.”

{10 minutes of searching for Bibles, me included}

Me: “Let’s read [whatever pops in my head / a story that’s been on my mind / something my church has been teaching / today’s Proverb]”

Big kids take turns reading the verses.

By now your littles may be coloring on your walls or sitting on your head (I wish I was making that up).  So you might be done for the day.  But maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit’s sweet peace has descended on that room (try it, it happens!) and maybe there’s time for a few questions.  Ask the kids what they thought.  Explain the verses to them.  Make some sort of practical application.  Now take turns praying.

{10 minutes later… after THAT child has prayed for every known creature and situation in the entire universe}

You’re done.  You did it!  No one died!  And guess what?  You learned something too.  There is NO better way to learn something than to teach it.  Trust me.  I’ve just figured out compound interest, thanks to homeschooling!

Talk to your kids about God during the day

Isn’t the sky gorgeous?  God painted that!  He paints a new one every day!

Why do you think God made a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly?

Did you know that God made this tangly hair?  Let’s brush it and see if we can count it.  Did you know He knows the exact number?

I’m sorry your tummy hurts.  Let’s ask God to heal it.

That was very naughty.  God says that children should obey their parents… and he promises long life if you do!

I promise you that these types of comments will do so much to direct their AND YOUR hearts toward the Lord.

Pray all day long

Who said prayer had to be a 30-minute event that happens in a closet?  Here’s what my prayer life looks like these days.

Lord, thank you that my children like to greet the rising sun, so that I can see your sunrise… and forgive me for maybe not meaning that.

Lord, help me make breakfast for 5 kids with 2 bananas and 3 bagels.

Lord, forgive me for yelling at the kids and lecturing them about how starving kids in Africa would die for a breakfast made from 2 bananas and 3 bagels.”

Lord, our attempt at a family devotional was a disaster.  Help me to do that better next time.  Give me a better strategy.

Lord thank you that I get to stay home with these kids, an answer to prayer from a long time ago.

Lord thank you that we have the money to pay for these clothes and this washing machine that I get to spend so much time with.

Lord, it’s 3pm and I don’t think I’m going to make it through this day without hurting someone.  Please be my strength.  You say that You are strong in my weakness.

Lord, I just heard about someone who is sick / hurting / lonely / poor.  Please be with them and thank you for giving me a new perspective on my wonderful life.  Help me to stay grateful.

Lord, we made it through another day.  Those sweet babies are the world to me.  What a privilege it is to raise them, even though I am currently wearing more than one of their bodily fluids.

So there you have it.  My uber-spiritual prayer life.  Now, is there time for true intercession, true undivided time with God? Of course!  It’s tough to manage, but it is necessary.  But I think in this season, God is okay with our one-liners.  You see, He already knows the cries of your heart.  It is our choice to cry TO HIM that is so pleasing to Him.

So be at peace sweet mama.  Make some intentional efforts to weave your connections with God into your day.  And then relax.  He is with you.  Look to Him for all you need and cut yourself some slack.

Morning Chores :: How I managed to get my kids moving in the morning on their own

Somewhere around the time when my kids were entering the preschool stage, I realized that our mornings were a mess.  They were staying in their pajamas too long, forgetting to brush their teeth, watching too much TV and generally falling into the undisciplined, stay-at-home stereotype that I badly wanted to avoid.

So I came up with a super simple list of what each kid needed to do every morning.  And I called it “morning chores” because that sounded better than “get your shiny hiney off the couch.”  In the years since then, we’ve seen lots of charts and plans come and go, but the morning chores are still going strong.  So I thought I’d write about it, in case this idea can be helpful to any of you.

Morning Chores

Am I the only one with a serious shoes-by-the-door crisis?

What do you want your kids to do every morning to start their day?  Write those things down on a piece of paper (cute printable or chalkboard paint not required, thank you Jesus).  Post them somewhere in the house. Choose an approximate time you want them to start and finish.  Then each morning, make it happen.  This will take lots of consistency and repetition. (I’ve decided about 90% of good parenting is comprised of those two words).  But over time, all you will need to do is say, “Okay, precious cherubs, it’s time to start your morning chores.”  To which they will respond with, “Yes dearest parent” and skip away, whistling while they work.  Well, something like that.  But seriously, the day will come when they will even start this process without your nagging prompting.

Want some ideas?  Here’s what my kids’ lists look like:

My almost 12 year old

  • brush teeth, hair, wash face
  • get dressed, put away pj’s
  • eat breakfast
  • sweep kitchen floor
  • clean off school table
  • clean up shoes by the front door
  • 25 sit-ups, 15 push-ups, 25 jumping jacks
  • read one chapter of the Bible and pray

My 10 year old

  • brush teeth, gel hair
  • get dressed, put away pj’s
  • eat breakfast
  • take out the kitchen trash
  • empty the dishwasher
  • pick up the kids’ bathroom
  • 20 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, 25 jumping jacks
  • read 10 Bible verses, pray

My 7 year old

  • brush teeth, gel hair
  • get dressed, put away pj’s
  • eat breakfast
  • clean breakfast table and chairs
  • clean up remotes, cords, controllers, games, dvd’s
  • 15 sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks
  • read 5 Bible verses, pray

My 5 year old

  • brush teeth and hair
  • get dressed, put away pj’s
  • eat breakfast
  • empty the silverware from dishwasher
  • push in the dining room chairs
  • put away blankets and lovies that were brought out of bed

My 3 year old

  • brush teeth
  • eat breakfast
  • put away blankets and lovies that were brought out of bed

Morning choresSince my kids generally like to greet the rising sun, this happens between 8 and 9am around here.  And it really helps if we don’t watch TV in the morning.  The only thing kids hate to hear more than “do your morning chores” is “turn off the TV and do your morning chores.”

Beyond helping us get our mornings started, I’m hoping that these routines will have long-term benefits.  Wouldn’t it be great  if they got in the habit of starting off the day with good hygiene, exercise and worship?  Isn’t that a pretty cool benefit of parenting?  Being able to instill good qualities in the next generation, no matter how basic?

Now if only I would make a similar list for myself….

The Beautiful Grossness of Motherhood

I am an introvert.  I have five children.  This is proof of God’s sense of humor.  After spending 5 hours homeschooling each day, my ears and mouth need a break.  So many words.  From me.  From them.  So then I say these words: Go outside. And close the door.  

We are blessed with a big yard and five homeschooling besties next door, so this works.  But there is one problem.  Dirty The Beautiful Grossness of Motherhoodfeet.  (Should flip flops even count as shoes? But I digress.) So several times a day I find myself in the bathroom, scrubbing the backyard off my littles’ feet.  I’m not a big fan of this activity.  It’s gross.  Super gross.  For all the diapers I’ve changed and boogers I’ve picked, the foot-washing ranks at the top of my eeewww list.

But it’s not just gross.  It’s almost pointless.  Because those shiny little feet don’t stay shiny for long.  They will soon be covered with backyard again.  And we will be back at the sink, digging dirt from between tiny toes.  And sometimes while I scrub, I look at myself in the mirror and look at my un-make-uped face, my hair that needs colored and maybe even brushed, and I feel small.  I feel like “just a stay at home mom.”  How no one will ever know or thank me for all the little things I do for my family.  I think about a woman somewhere with her freshly colored hair, in her pencil skirt and stilettos, sitting in some important meeting with important people, thinking her own thoughts and peeing whenever she wants to.  I imagine the appreciation she receives, the attention her work brings.  And I feel small.  

Then I read a story.  Maybe you can guess which one.  A story from John 13 about a very important person, in fact the most important person who ever lived, who spent time washing dirty feet.

Jesus…rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…

It isn’t everyday a stay-at-home mom can say she’s done exactly what Jesus did.  I’ve never fed five thousand or raised the dead, but, I have washed feet!  And so did He!  What a beautiful moment of being able to personally relate to my Savior!  This seemingly menial task takes on tremendous importance in this new light of revelation.

But surely Jesus didn’t just wash their feet because He was tired of the stink or wanted to protect the floors.  No.

So when He had washed their feet… He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

The sight of God Almighty on bent knee over a basin of dirty water sends a very clear message.  That He values service.  That humility is paramount.  That menial tasks have worth in the Kingdom.  In that moment, He saw me at the sink, and He said, “Carrie, I value what you do for your kids.  It’s important.  It’s the work of the ministry.  Keep at it.”

carrieschuessler.wordpress.com :: The Beautiful Grossness of MotherhoodSo, what “small” tasks occupy your days?  Do you care for an aging relative?  Remember to call a lonely friend?  Do you work a little extra so you can support a missionary?  Do you write encouraging notes to your pastor?  Mow your neighbor’s yard?  Spend hours in prayer that no one ever sees?  Do you work with excellence for a boss who doesn’t seem to notice?  Do you serve a spouse who never says thank you?  My friend, you are washing feet.  He sees, He knows and He is pleased.