Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Change of Heart

When I first began parenting, I was armed with very little experience. 

I realize this is like Bill Cosby saying "I started out as a child"...haha.  But, what is amazing is that at the time, I thought I had experience.  I had worked as a caregiver for infants, K4 teacher's aid, Montessori teacher, Nanny, camp counselor/director at multiple summer camps, children's ministry director, nursery coordinator and classroom teacher, but, none of these prepared me to shape and mold the hearts of my children.

 I had never been responsible for the hearts of children or developing character in their lives.  

Then, as I began this parenting journey, it became my job to teach this little baby that I was holding in my arms about the Lord and cultivate character and the heart of a servant leader in his life...but how?

I was strict and consistent (I only had one so it was much easier...haha) and thought that was good.  I still strive to be consistent but over the years, I have realized that gaining and keep the hearts of my children is far more important than how I get them to perform.  It is rather hard to mold and shape hearts that are hard.  I have found the most hardening elements in the hearts of my children are disciplining their behavior over their heart condition and resenting them for their sinful behavior instead of loving them through it.  I look to how my Heavenly Father loves me in spite of my sinful behavior and I strive to love my children in the same way. 

It sounds so easy...doesn't it?  

But, in the day to day grind of stress and exhaustion it can be so very difficult.  It's amazing that a small thing can be so challenging and yet so imperative in the lives of my children.  It is a small adjustment within my heart with a huge impact in their lives.  When I smile at my children, use my "kind voice", and point them to scripture they are much more pliable.

Aren't we all?  

When I stop worrying about what that lady in the line at the grocery store is thinking and focus on maintaining a right relationship with my child (and my Heavenly Father because He is loaning these little ones to me), I gain more of their hearts.  It is the heart that I am after.  If I loose their hearts, I have lost it all.

Working daily to win little hearts!

What things do you do to gain the hearts of your children?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tent Building

More "cheap summer fun" here at Life as a Mother of Many.  Today, we decided to do something that I really enjoyed when I was a in a tent.  Here is a picture of me playing in a tent with my older brother and dad when I was young.

So, today we made our own tents with sheets and the dining room table.  This is always a winner.  We just pull out some old sheets, throw them over the table, and whah-la cheap summer fun!  This time we added a tunnel that we have for extra "rooms".  Evidently everyone needs their own "room" in a tent...haha.

Some of the pictures are dark as I haven't purchased the "extra" flash for the old camera and I am without an editing program as I look into the options.  But, you get the general idea from the pictures.  Fun for the whole family...even the "big kids" joined in from time to time:)

 Love those baby curls!

The tunnel was a tight fit for the older boys but they found a way to make it work and I was cracking up watching them:)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Marble Races

As the heat of summer is full upon us and we don't have a pool at our house, I have started looking for some cheap summer fun on Pintrest.  So, I thought I would try things out and then post about them here for you all to enjoy...haha.  I have a board on Pintrest dedicated to "summer fun ideas" so feel free to check it out.

The first thing that we tried this summer was a marble race.  This was so easy and cheap.  I bought two pool noodles and a bag of marbles at The Dollar Store totaling $3.  Then I cut each noodle in half and taped the four halves together with a little Duct Tape making four "race tracks".

Then we found a container to catch the marbles at the end.  And...let the races begin!

Keep checking back for more cheap summer fun.  To see all of the "cheap summer fun" posts click on that phrase in the "labels" below.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Large Family Organization...The Preschool Cabinet

Well, it's already that time again...time for another Large Family Organization post:)  I am posting a bit early as it is still Tuesday but since I have given up my perfectionist tendencies it's okay...haha.

We have a preschool cabinet in our home filled with great puzzles, magnet games, felt books, lacing cards, "string the beads" games, pegboards, matching games, etc..  Most of it is specifically designed for the 2-6 year old age range.  We use these items to entertain the littles when we are doing formal learning.

Here are a few pictures of the cabinet closed and opened.

This was a hutch in my Meme's home when I was a little girl.  I painted it, changed the hardware and love the way it turned out.  I still need to get the rest of the hardware on.  On the other hand, it keeps the littles from getting things when they aren't allowed, so, maybe I will wait...haha.

We call the time the littles are playing with these things "rug time".

"Rug time" has become one of my greatest discoveries!  Now, I will be takes tons of work and training with the littles.  But, in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the difficulties.

Here is how I do it.
1. I start when they are babies by giving them a time (or several times) every day when they play in the playpen.  It can be 20-30 minutes but it is important to train them to sit still and focus on something.
2. As soon as they outgrow their morning nap, in our home, they spend 30 minutes in the playpen with just one of the preschool items from the cabinet.    This helps them to keep the things together (unless you have a thrower...haha).
3. After they are about 2 or 2 1/2 I move them to a small rug or mat and allow them to choose one item for the 30 minute period of time.  I usually do "training" on a summer or Christmas holiday so that I can focus exclusively on it.

It has really revolutionized the homeschool experience for us.

What do you do to entertain preschoolers in your home?

This will be my last "Large Family Organization" posts for a while as I am going to focus on cheap summer fun for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Large Family Organization...The Sunday Morning Rush

 The Sunday Morning Rush...

Even if you don't have a large family, you know what I am talking about...haha.  The rush around like a chicken with it's head cut off, letting careless words slip, wounding spirits, and then putting on a big smile for those at church.  Well...maybe you don't know what I'm talking about and it's just our family that struggles.  In any event, I though I would share about how I have put the head back on the chicken and slowed things down a bit for Sunday mornings.

When we have to get out the door by a particular time and have everyone presentable, it is a challenge! I found that Sunday mornings were not peaceful in our home and that was frustrating...and my fault.  It doesn't exactly put us in the state of mind to worship when we have been fussing all morning.  So, I started finding little things to assist with a smooth Sunday morning.  Over time, I have compiled a very specific list of things that I need to get done on Saturday evenings to make Sunday mornings work.  If I stick to the list, we can have a peaceful morning, get out the door, and be presentable...most of the time:)  But, when we are running behind, I just have to decide in my heart that it's more important to have a peaceful morning and maintain a good relationship with my family than be on time.  So, sometimes we run on "large family time"...haha!

Here are the things that I do to make Sundays a "Day of Delight".

Music: This might seem like an odd beginning, but hear me out.  Over the years, I have found that some worship or classical music can bring a real peace to the home.  So, during the times that I most want peace in the home, I turn on peaceful music.  I often forget until things start getting crazy but on Sunday mornings, it's great to create an attitude of worship in our hearts. 

Breakfast:  I usually do a "self-serve" breakfast and the older four kids just help themselves to cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, toast, bagels, boiled eggs, etc.. And, we don't worry too much about the clean up.  Right now, we are going through Paul Tripp's marriage class "What Did You Expect" before worship service so we have to be ready even earlier,  However, the kids eat breakfast in their class so that helps out with the morning rush for the earlier departure time. When we are not doing a study before the worship service, the kids eat breakfast before getting dressed to preserve the Sunday clothes and keep us from having to change anyone (again...and again) before leaving.

Clothes:  I make sure that clothes are laid out for everyone in our family...even Peter and I.  This includes socks, shoes, hair bows, diapers, etc.  Anything that each child (and adults too...haha) will need to be completely ready is laid out Saturday night before bed.  Here is a picture of how I lay out the littles' clothes on the changing table.

Church Bag:  Because we have our children sit with us in church, we bring a church bag.  This is a bag that we keep full of things to help them sit still and pay attention.  For the older three (10, 9, and 7), we have notebooks and pencils.  We encourage them to take notes and have created special notebooks to help them get started.  For the littles we bring a sippy cup/bottle, snack, and several "quiet things" like felt books or small toys/games.  I check that all of these things are in the church bag and fill all sippy cups/bottles the night before.  The next morning I can just grab drinks from the refrigerator and the bag is complete.

Diaper Bag:  I check and refill the diaper bag on Saturday evenings to make sure that I have at least two diapers for each baby, plenty of wipes, and a change of clothes for all three of the littles.  I place the diaper bag and the church bag together by the "goodbye couch".

Goodbye Couch:  The goodbye couch is the place where the kids park themselves when they are ready to go...all the way down to hair and shoes.  They sit on the "goodbye couch" with a book or pen and paper.  When everyone is on the couch, we know we are ready to go.  It doesn't always work that smoothly but it does help us to know who is ready and who needs a little help.  And, it's amazing how quickly the littles follow the lead of the older kids and just go sit on (or sometimes by) the couch.

Lunch:  Lunch was a problem for so many years.  Having something ready to eat when you get home with a hungry family is really challenging.  If we know that there is nothing at home, we are tempted to go out to eat and that usually isn't in the budget...haha.  I have started using my crockpot almost exclusively for Sunday lunch.  Last Sunday we made "Chipotle style" burritos.  I have a triple crockpot and so I was able to put roast in one, black beans in another, and corn in the third.  I had the toppings and tortillas ready and made some rice when we got home.  We were ready to eat in 10-15 minutes. 

 If you are looking for ways to make Sundays a day of delight, check out "A Day of Delight" by Doorposts.  This has been one of the most influential books for me in helping our family to enjoy and look forward to Sundays.  I highly recommend it...and they are not paying me to say so...haha.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homemade Puppet Show

Sometimes in the heat of the summer, we all need some fun and entertainment.  My kids love putting on puppet shows and today we made one by hanging pool towels over the baby gate at the bottom of our stairs and using stuffed animals for puppets.  Hours of fun for kids!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Following the Passions of our Hearts

Psalm 139 tells us that God knit each of us together while still in our mother's womb.  What a fantastic concept to understand.  Part of that knitting together is beyond just the physical features but also the mind, will, emotions, gifts, talents, and passions that He chose for me and you to have.  He decided early on that I would have a gift for photography, a passion for politics, and the inability to carry a tune in a bucket...haha!  When He created us with our gifts, I believe that he intended for us to use them.  

One of the passions that He placed within my heart is an unquenchable desire to study History. Reading biographies was a large part of my History education as a homeschool child and it changed who I became as an adult.

One of the great things about studying History is that we can learn so much from those who have come before us.  If we learn the lesson well, we can avoid making the same mistakes and we can be encouraged to make the right decisions. 

(Picture compliments of

One person whom I have learned much from is Eric Liddell.  No, I didn't learn to be a fast runner or how to win any athletic competition, but I did learn to follow the passions that my Heavenly Father placed in my heart.  It is oh, so easy to hold back in fear and not use those gifts to their full potential.  It can also be difficult at times to find and understand those gifts and passions. 
Eric Liddell found his talent and passion.  Who could ever forget that scene from "Chariots of Fire" when Eric was challenged on the secular nature of his pursuit...running.  He had been raised the child of missionaries in China and had a passion for evangelizing.  But, when God created Eric Liddell, He created him fast.  Eric responded to the challenge by saying, "When I run, I feel His pleasure".  


Can't you just feel God's pleasure when you look at that picture?  God created him fast, and he was using that gift to it's full potential.  Here is the story behind the paper in his hand taken from  

 "As Liddell went to the starting blocks for the race, an American slipped 
a piece of paper in his hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, 
"Those who honour me I will honour." Liddell ran with that piece 
of paper in his hand and not only won the race but broke the existing 
world record with a time of 47.6 seconds."

That really sums it all up for me.  When I am using the gifts that the Lord gave me, I can feel His pleasure.  So, in my adult life I am learning to use my gifts and pursue the passions that He placed in my heart...and just trust Him with the details.  

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,"  Hebrews 12:1

Large Family Organization: the notebook

Welcome to Large Family Organization Wednesday!  Today, I decided to repost one of my earliest posts on how I organize my time, commitments, grocery lists, etc. all in a notebook that I fondly call my "brain".  haha.  Without this "brain", I would be totally lost.  And, the times that I get lazy and don't write things down or don't check the calendar in my "brain", I end up missing something that I had intended to go to or do.  

So, without further ado...


 I would like to introduce you to my brain.  It's not what you think.  My brain is purple, has three rings, lots of paper and dividers in it, and every thought that I deem important.  (That is, if I remember to write it down...haha.)

I didn't always have this notebook.  As a matter of fact, my "brain", is a relatively new addition to my attempt to be organized and together.  It has been a process, to say the least.  It all started a few years back.

I noticed that one of my friends frequently carried a 3 ring binder with her.  I was impressed at her organization but thought little of it...until my sixth baby made his appearance.  Still tunneling through stacks of boxes from a recent move and unpacking from several weeks vacation in Texas, I didn't feel like I was coming up for air.  After taking care of all the needs of my little ones, spending special time with them, and schooling them, there was little time left for getting caught up.

Then, I noticed another friend of mine with a 3 ring binder and she made a comment about having all of her important things in there.  I knew that I must be missing something really important here because neither of these mommy friends had time for frivolous notebook creating:)  I decided to dig deeper and find out just what was in these three ring binders.  A few conversations later, I was hooked and decided that I should give this 3 ring binder thing a shot.  It definitely couldn't hurt and maybe my friends were on to something:) I really did need help me keep it all together without reinventing the wheel...definitely don't have time for reinventing!

So, first I went shopping...always my favorite part of any project:)  I picked out a purple (my favorite color...hoping I will be more inclined to actually use it!) binder that had not only the three rings in it, but also several files and a place to keep pins and small items...and most importantly, a zipper to keep it closed.  (In this house, it won't last very long if it's not zipped closed.)

Years ago I used to keep a notebook next to my bed so that if I thought of something important when falling asleep, I could write it down and sleep peacefully knowing that I would not forget that ever important thought...haha.  I am always amazed by the number of the things that I think of or remember when I am falling asleep!

This notebook is a larger and more in depth version of that same thing.  Included in my "brain" 3 ring binder is my monthly meal planning, ongoing grocery and shopping lists, house cleaning schedule and rotation, daily schedules for school, things that I want to research, writing projects, anything involving my kids, a calendar (home made...of course), and things that I organize like events for my local homeschooling support group, church potlucks...and anything that I would like to remember.  As Henry Loftin, director of Glowing Heart Ministries used to tell us college kids many years ago, "The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest mind."  I totally agree!

Amazing the difference!  My brain can actually rest now and not have to remember every detail of everything going on.  I just run and check my "brain" when in doubt...and I run to it quite often these days.  I can rely on my "brain" to remember for me.  And, as long as I write it all down and check the "brain", I stay on track:)

What things do you do to organize and remember all the details?