Gratitude Du Jour

I am really-truly-absolutely-fully loving this winter and all the icy cold blasts & falling snow & days off & a MUCH slower pace to life.
A long, sweet season to breathe, relax, enjoy, get cozy, grow, heal, think, plan, dream.
Peace. Tranquility. Quiet. Stillness.
My newly snow-covered blue spruce, home to a beautiful family of cardinals, collected snow on its limbs, slightly blowing in the cold, biting breeze.
I’m a sucker for holiday window clings. Valentine’s is just around the corner. *LOVE*
Hot cocoa and marshmallows to warm you from the inside out.
Perfect after playing in the snow.
A sweet treat that brings big smiles to my loves.
“Hearts of Love” I write to each of my children from Feb 1 to Valentine’s Day.
Every day I write out just one thing I absolute ADORE about each child & leave them on the counter to greet them in the morning. Individualized. Personalized. Never a repeated note.
You can bet when they see them come February, the sleep from their eyes instantly vanishes.
They just LOVE getting love notes from their momma.
(And momma loves writing them, too.)
My kids end the morning with both full bellies & full hearts.  
Though all of my children are homeschooled, my two eldest kids take choir at the local public school. (Tra la la) We, too, celebrate all the days off from public school due to weather. Our days at home have been seamless, uninterrupted days of flow (much like holidays & summer vacation). It’s been a lovely break from the norm.
Surprise lunch dates with my honey. When he pops out of his office and on the fly asks if I can go out to lunch with him. Can’t believe we’re finally to the stage in parenting where this is even a possibility. He still takes my breath away.

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Meditate: Like A Child

As a child, I meditated all the time.

Now, I wouldn’t have called it “meditation” at the time– rather, I named it “playing outdoors“. But in essence, meditating was exactly what I was doing.

Sure I was out there making forts, climbing trees, go-carting & snowmobiling with the neighbors boys, stomping through ponds, etc. But I also spent hours (I literally mean: HOURS daily & weekly) just sitting there… staring out into nature… listening to the birds… zoning out… day-dreaming… watching the breeze rustle the leaves & grass… catching snow flakes & analyzing their intricate designs… observing bugs on the move… thinking about life & everything & nothing…

And if I wasn’t sitting somewhere, then I was hiking through the woods or riding my bike… usually alone… observing… fantasizing… entranced… wondering… quiet… smelling… watching… taking everything in…
Shoot, I was even out there tasting things: like wild strawberries & raspberries & apples I found, nuts that dropped from the trees by the road, clover, etc. (Nothing poisonous! LOL)

Rain… snow… sleet… hot… cold… Weather never deterred me. The world and nature absolutely entranced me. And anytime I got a spare moment, I would try to be out in it, enjoying whatever beautiful moment it could give me. Just couldn’t live without it.

It brought me PEACE inside.

HAPPINESS. CALM. BALANCE. RELAXATION. JOY.

And ultimately, it played a role in my SALVATION story. I’d heard about God & Jesus & the Holy Spirit & the Bible all at church. And one day, in one of my contemplative/enjoying-nature moments, something clicked inside me:

God knew every blade of grass, every leaf that falls, every call & feather of a bird, every snowflake, every star & cloud… How? Because He created all of it! And if nature is so amazing and beautiful and mesmerizing and entrancing and enthralling… then how much more is GOD, the One who made it all?! I finally shifted from worshiping the created to worshiping the Creator. He became my God & I accepted Jesus as my Lord & Savior on a warm summer sunset on a grassy hillside across the street from my house.


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Even during my college years… I made it outdoors nearly every single day to “meditate” alone: walking, rollerblading, finding a quiet bench/nook of a campus building in which to sit & enjoy nature (or journal), walking around the local park & along the river, sitting in my car with the windows rolled down/feeling the breeze, etc.

Something happened though when I became an adult/mother: my “mediation practice” pretty much stopped. Sure I took my kids outside regularly, but they wanted me to play with them, or someone pooped & I had to change a diaper :-), or they wanted to show me a caterpillar, etc.– nature was no longer a time without distraction. Plus, I had a bazillion kids (ok, 7… but it feels like a bazillion– *wink*)– so I was no longer able to spend time alone in nature like I used to. A one mile walk with my kiddos was about as far as their little legs could carry them– so gone were my long hikes & bike rides. And as much as I love my little darlings, they talk A LOT (like non-stop)– so my experiences with nature were no longer quiet.

Oh, my dear hubby would totally give me time-off from the mothering gig, but then in that time of freedom all I wanted to do was sleep (LOL).

I didn’t realize how vitally important getting alone in the quiet was for me (esp out in nature).
I didn’t realize it would totally fill my energy tank (& help me to be a better wife/mom/person).

I *could* have made it a priority.
I *could* have made time & opportunity for it.
I just didn’t understand how vitally important it was for my sheer sanity!

Do something enough & it becomes a habit. Do a habit enough & it becomes a script that constantly runs in the background (causing you to act instinctively without thought or notice). The habit of not getting alone (outdoors) to “meditate” had unfortunately become my daily norm. My “stress reliever” was now gone.

You can bet it caused me an emotional break at some point.
And you can bet anxiety/panic has been a close (but hated) companion of mine for the past almost 6 years.

About a year ago, I’d had enough: I wanted relief, I wanted release and rest and peace and just plain HAPPINESS. Since then, I’ve undergone HUGE strides of spiritual, emotional, and interpersonal growth (which I will share in future posts). I’ve plead with the Lord to help me see. And He’s been so loving in the process of bringing awareness. No big bites I couldn’t chew. Just consistent little baby steps that I could totally handle.

And FINALLY (like just here very recently!) I have become AWARE (thank You, Jesus!), have begun to peel back this layer of bad habit, and have been getting outside alone (yes even in these winter temps) to “meditate” in the quiet. And if it’s just too darn cold out, I’ve been MAKING the time to sit & do nothing indoors, to quiet my environment & mind, stare out a window, doodle in the frost on the windows, watch a candle flicker, listen to my fav calming music, stare at the ceiling, whatever! But it’s quiet… I’m alone… giving my mind a break… turning “off” for a bit.

It’s made me a better wife & mom. It’s made me a better homeschool teacher. It’s helped me become more patient and CHILL with disturbances. It’s helped calm me through stress & chaos that would normally undo me. It’s like I can finally breathe.

Meditation has deeply changed me. I SO wish I would have recognized the grand importance of maintaining my practice of “meditation” through all my early mothering years. Oh man, that would that have saved me a crap-ton of angst and turmoil and frustration and stress and just downright anger.

I’m finally so aware of it’s importance that I’ve been making it a daily practice for ALL (7) OF MY KIDS to meditate. No toys, no tech, no music, no writing/doodling, no nothing. Just go somewhere private & alone, either inside or out, and for 15-20 min daily they do NOTHING. No chores. No school. No conversations with their siblings. Seriously: nothing.

They say it’s the absolute BEST time of their day!!! They look SO forward to it. They even ASK me for it! “When can we meditate, mom?” 🙂

I’m beginning to finally see just how vitally important meditation is for EVERYONE: even little babies/toddlers, teens, adults, elderly, & everything in-between.

Quiet your heart & mind for just a few minutes each day. Call it what you want (meditation, quiet time, taking a rest, a break, etc) but just DO IT. Turn “off”. Do nothing. Listen. Sleep (if you need it). Enjoy nature. Give your mind & body a break. Just for like 15-20 minutes daily. Believe me, you will deeply enjoy it– and it will so help you to be your best!!!

#liveawakened #livefullyalive #meditation #nature #getalone #turnoff #serenity #calmyourheartmindbody #itsthemostwonderfultimeoftheday #nevertoobusytomeditate

**And for all you Michiganders out there (that’s where I grew up!!!)… #puremichigan… you’ll enjoy this YouTube entry. Someone went down a dirt road/driveway somewhere in MI and recorded the local sounds of nature. BOY it took me back. It literally made me cry because THAT was my childhood. THAT was the background “music” of my childhood. I live in Indiana now and nature sounds a little differently– this was a total blast from my past– so thoroughly enjoyed it. I oftentimes actually listen to this tract when I’m alone & “meditating”. Enjoy!!! (esp if you’re from Michigan):

#yesmichiganthefeelingsforever #puremichigan

Adventure Awaits

One of the hallmarks of a really good movie/TV show or book is this: did it give you, the viewer or reader, a good thrill or adventure? Did it take you through emotional highs & lows? Did it really make you think? Did it take you to places you’d never been before? Was there suspense? Was there sacrifice? Did it leave you on the edge of your seat? Were you just dying to know what happens next? Did it draw you into another reality for a time? Were you upset to see it come to an end?

What I’ve come to realize is this: our lives, too, are an adventure to be experienced. Maybe not a full-on Indiana Jones/death-defying sort of adventure. (Though this *may* be some people’s reality.) But the human experience is for sure filled with emotional ups & downs, anxieties about what’s next, gains & losses, and unexpected twists & turns.

Now, I’m not a big fan of unnecessary drama, like what’s portrayed in the entertainment world. What I mean by “unnecessary” is the drama that’s produced through deceit, lies, secrets, & “oh, I just couldn’t tell so-&-so about that!” sort of thing. SO MUCH stupid drama can be reduced or eliminated in life through mere *communication*. Nope, not a fan of THAT kind of drama!

According to Google, drama can be defined as: an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances. And adventure is defined as: engaging in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory. Ok, let’s drop the “hazardous” part shall we? LOL. But seriously, I don’t want to live a boring life.

In fact… when I graduated college and moved to the town I now live, the all-consuming theme of my prayers were: “God, give me an adventure!” Starting off with a clean slate, new beginnings– let’s rock this adult thing! Of course by “adventure” I thought that meant working as an addictions counselor, attaining my Masters in Counseling, taking part in behavioral research projects, getting my professional works published, public speaking, world travel, moving to a big city with a fancy-pants office…

Yeah, my idea of “adventure” wasn’t exactly the same as God’s. ha ha ha

In fact, God’s “adventure” took a crazy turn in a very opposite direction.

One week after graduating college/moving: I met my future husband. A whirlwind courtship ensued. From first date to marriage: 10 months time. To add to the crazy, we brought home a little honeymoon souvenir, aka our first-born child. We crunched numbers & prayed for direction– but it made no financial sense for me to go back to work after our baby was born– it would be better for me to stay home & raise our baby. My plans/dreams to pursue a career “adventure” came tumbling down with that one positive pregnancy test.

Don’t get me wrong… I did NOT resent my baby one iota! She was one of the most amazing gifts I could have ever received! But with her birth brought a sort of dying to myself… a surrendering of my will to God’s… a giving up process that took me years to really get a grip on.

But now that I’m 16 years out and can see God’s hand in everything a little more clearly, I’m ever so thankful that I gave God the reigns of my life completely. I’d NEVER have painted a canvas like He did. And my life is SO VERY different than I’d ever have imagined. But it is good. And God is good.

I truly believe this adventure He carved out for me FAR surpasses anything I could have created on my own. He knew what I really needed and wanted deep down. He knew that being married young & having (7) children & raising them in the name & power of Jesus His Son was exactly what was going to be the most fulfilling adventure I could have ever been on.

So many twists & turns. So many “what’s around the corner?” ‘s. So many super high ups and super low lows. Being a wife & mom has tried me, stretched me, developed me, & truly made me a better person. All made possible because I surrendered. I gave God my everything. And in giving up my life, I actually found it.

If you’re struggling to give God your everything, may I be a voice of encouragement to you today: He won’t let you down. He will never leave you or forsake you (esp in those dark days). He will show you & lead you down a life path that will not only WOW you but you’ll finally be fulfilled and have joy (not just circumstantial happiness). You will feel a peace that surpasses all understanding. You’ll be riveted. You’ll finally be able to breathe because you’ll be fulfilling what you were put on this planet to do. There will no longer be the lingering thought that “there’s gotta be more to life.” You’ll no longer dread Monday’s & you’ll no longer live for the weekends & holidays. You’ll truly love your life. Even when those hard days come, you’ll see God working and moving. You’ll see Him there with you every step of the way.

In living a surrendered life, we also will walk through the darkness 100% with God. He grieves when we grieve. He keeps a record of our sorrows & tears (Ps. 56:8). He comforts us. He helps us through all our struggles. He grows us & strengthens us & matures us. We are never alone. There are new mercies every morning. And when we go through hell & back, then we can be there for others when they go through the fire. We can comfort them with the comfort we received from God.

May I encourage you to open your white-knuckled hands and allow God the full reigns to your life. Maybe nothing drastic will happen. Then again, maybe God has a complete life transformation in store. Who knows?! All I know is that in following God (even if that looks drastically different than you thought) you will have a peace & joy & fulfillment & a true inner congruence to your soul. I want that for you!!!

#liveawakened #livefullyalive #surrender #loseyourlifetofindit #trustGodfully #lifeisanadventure #hangonfortheride #bebrave

Random: Automatic Public Toilets

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Yes, this post is totally random. You will most definitely get that from time to time with me. Well, today is that lucky, odd day. My totally random thought of the day is about: Automatic Public Toilets.

Regardless of the fact that it’s nice to not have to hand flush (or kick flush)… if you’re a parent of a potty training toddler… or maybe said toddler (or parent) is terrified of the automatic flush… or you just have the tendency to sit too still for far too long…
I think we can all agree that automatic public toilets can be a pain.

They sometimes flush too randomly… they sometimes flush too early… sometimes they repeatedly flush… sometimes the flush is just startlingly too fast or loud… sometimes you’re just not prepared…

Well, I have a tip for you!

Somewhere I learned the following hack (& boy, is it ever useful!). If you’ve already discovered this little trick, than kudos: you, too, have been enjoying being in the driver’s seat of toilet control. For those of you yet to discover, may I reveal the following secret to you. Ta-da:

I’ll tell you what… I was about 3-4 kids in before I discovered this trick! It’s so simple! I’ve never had freaked out kids (or me) in the bathroom ever since!

So, if this is the first time you’ve ever seen this: you’re welcome. Enjoy. Hope this random thought of mine today is actually a blessing to you.

Happy flushings!

Live awakened. Live fully alive.

#totallyrandomthoughtoftheday   #bathroomhack   #nomoresurprises   #pottypeacefully

Tip: Saving Money Eating Out

I had no idea Dairy Queen’s did this. Nor do I know why, or for how long, or if only certain stores participate… So pardon the lack of details and information…

But…

The DQ near us, for several months, hosted 1/2 off lunches from 11a-2p on Wednesdays.

Half off EVERYTHING. I mean EVERYTHING: ice cream cakes, pop, Blizzards, sandwiches, sides, kids meals… The only things not included were the $5 and $6 meal deals. But everything else was fair game.

When I went last time, I filled the bellies of myself and six of my kids for just over $20! It was unreal. I couldn’t believe it! That never happens eating out!

I found out on Facebook that TODAY is the last day my local DQ will be participating in this program. 😦 Don’t know the reason why.
But someone mentioned in the comments that their DQ in Ohio was just starting up the 1/2 off lunches thing.
So that leads me to believe that other DQ’s around the US are participating in the same program.

So, check with your local or neighboring DQ’s to see if they participate in 1/2 off lunches. You never know! You just might be able to get those Hot Eats, Cool Treats for super cheap!

Dairy_Queen_Grill_&_Chill_sign.jpg

Where’d All The Toothpaste Go?

Not too long ago, I found us going through a LOT of toothpaste. I’d buy a tube and not long after, sure enough, a child would come to me saying they’re out (cuz kids, for some reason, can’t report when something’s getting low— they wait and share only when something’s OUT– go fig– *insert eye roll*).

Couldn’t figure out why we kept running out. Are they squirting it into the trash or toilet? Dumping it down the drain? WHAT?!

Then one day I was actually in the bathroom when my kids were brushing their teeth. Found out what was happening. Caught them in the act. All (6) of my kids were using WAY too much toothpaste!!!

Here’s a pic of the amount all my kids WERE using! Two times a day!!!

Toothpaste_and_brush.jpg

 


Here are the proper amounts of toothpaste to use depending on age:

Children under 2, about a grain of rice amount.
Children 3-5, about a pea sized.

toothpaste_amount

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Children 5+ to adults:

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Using any more than said above amounts prob doesn’t offer any more brushing benefit.

Now that all of our kids know how much to use, toothpaste around here lasts much longer. Yea.

So I know this isn’t a huge thing, but with a large family, every little thing like this adds up. We try to save everywhere we can.

 

 

 

Bag, Bag, Bag!

We save money by reusing bags. All kinds of bags. Like…

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Baggies.

Be it snack, sandwich, quart, or gallon baggies, often times you can reuse them.

Now, if I’m storing something greasy or slimy (like pepperoni or a hotdog)… or something super fragrant (like an onion or garlic toast)… or something sticky (like prunes)… I most likely won’t reuse bags.

But if I was storing something benign like crackers, Cheerios, peanuts, M & M’s, candy, etc., I will most definitely reuse the bag. Why waste and throw away? Either shake out crumbs (if there is any)… maybe do a quick rinse if necessary (and set out to air dry)… and reuse it for later.

Reuse for food, of course.

But I’ll also reuse old bags for getting rid of stinky stuff: like poopy diapers or rotten leftovers. Seals in the smell. PU

Or if I’m throwing away something liquid-y but chunky (like a soup that died in the fridge), something I don’t want to run down the drain, I’ll dump it in an old baggie and then thrown away in the regular kitchen trash.

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Who else keeps a “bag of bags”? Come on, show of hands.

Well, we sure do. Those bags are SO dang useful. (Thanks Walmart & Kroger!) We seriously use them all.the.time.

Biggest most consistent use for us is as bathroom trash can liners. They fit perfectly. I know, not terribly classy, but they work and it saves us money. I’ll often leave a bag or two at the bottom of the trash for ease of emptying out the trash the next time.

We also will use them for poopy diapers. Thankfully Miss Little Lamb is still exclusively breastfed and so her poo’s don’t smell too bad. But man, when they start eating solids, HELLO. This isn’t quite as effective at trapping in smells as a seal-able baggie, but these do work well enough to at least get it out to alley trash without dying.

But for storing, carrying, and all around every day usage, can’t beat these bags!

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And weekly grocery shopping.

We’ve used these bags for SO long. Yeah, some of those are Windows 7 bags. That’s dating them. But they are so useful. Since we do 90% of our shopping at Aldi, it saves us $$ each week, that we don’t have to purchase bags to take our groceries home in. I know it’s only pocket change, but it adds up. Especially if you’re purchasing weekly groceries for a family of 9!

 

There’s a monetary gain to reusing bags… but yeah, it’s also better on the environment as well.

So reuse those bags! 🙂