Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh, Santa...

It's beginning to look at lot like Christmas. I got a little over excited this year and decorated the day before Thanksgiving. Well, almost. We got the living room set up and the first tree up. We put up the second tree last night and today, if I ever get my room clean, I'll put up the last tree. Yeah, we like to decorate for Christmas in our house.

We've been in holiday mode for a while now though. A couple week before Thanksgiving, we were at the mall and Santa happened to be there for pictures. We weren't planning on it but there was no line, the kids were in a good mood and so we though, "Why not?" Another surprise experience. Our son, purposely anti social (it's all an act... he likes the attention it gets him...) saw Santa and acted like he'd found his long lost best friend. He climbed right up next to him and started chatting away. Blew my mind. He NEVER does that. Our oldest, the one who is usually delightfully talkative to strangers, clammed up and didn't say a word. Our youngest, at nearly one and a half, cracked me up. She sat on Santa's lap with the most serious expression on her face. Like she decided she had to put on some tough girl act and didn't want every one to know that deep down inside, her inner child was elated to see the man in red. Her comically thick eyebrows made it even funnier. Thankfully, the photographer was a pro at dealing with kids that refuse to smile and she managed to get a crack of one out of her.

After leaving Santa, we made the mistake of explaining the nice/naughty list thing with the kids. For starters, they're now constantly asking if they're on the nice list. Really, if there was such a thing, most of the time, they'd be on the naughty list! Then, while explaining the list, we had to explain that Santa "sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good..." You know the rest. THIS freaked out our oldest. The idea of a strange bearded man is something that she's having a hard time comfortably wrapping her head around. We're going to the The Elf on the Shelf with the kids for the first time this year. Think she'll be even more freaked out knowing that Santa has sent an elf to constantly keep an eye on them? Yeah. This could end badly. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Next, we've got the issue of the identity of Baby Jesus. We are constantly reminding the kids that Christmas isn't about getting gifts and Santa and all the rest of the hoopla. They are very aware that Christmas is Jesus' birthday and that's the real reason why we're celebrating. We've even discussed what gifts they can give Him that'll make Him happy (my favorite is obedience to your parents). However, something I'm having a hard time explaining is who exactly Joseph is. I made the kids set up the Nativity with me (more like made them watch since I got tired of gluing heads back on the Wise Men last year). While setting it up, we talked about the Christmas story and who was who and where they came from and what role they played. I don't know how or when I finally came to understand it all when I was a kid but my oldest just isn't getting the whole "Joseph was Mary's husband but not Jesus' Daddy" thing. I guess I can understand why it's confusing to a kid who has no complete concept of multiple parents or theology or deity. But I just can't seem to explain it in a way that she understands. I think it may be just the way her brain works... (Me: Alex, get a grip. Alex: *looking around confused* Where's a grip, Mom?... understand what I'm saying?).

Then we've got  Saint Scrooge. We packed boxes for Operation Christmas Child this year. It's something we did as kids in my home and I wanted my kids to do it too in hopes for them to understand that giving to others who don't have anything is important, that the world is bigger than they are and that just as God gave to us, it is good for us to give to those in need. I let them help pick out what we packed and then they made cards to put in the boxes and they helped pack them. This whole thing resonated with my three year old son. The other day, I had one of those "proud mommy moments" until it turned into a weird "my son is a Scrooge" moment. He's got a Tonka truck that's big enough to ride in if he wanted to. A couple day ago, he took a bunch of his toys (and a few of his sisters') and was pushing it around saying that he was delivering his toys to kids that didn't have any. Made my heart melt (which started leaking out my eyes somehow...). I was touched that my son would play at giving to others. That even when he had a chance to be doing whatever he wanted to do, he was pretending to take care of others. His younger sister walks up to take her baby doll out of the truck and he screams at her. When I asked what was wrong, he responded that "she can't have these toys! I put her on the naughty list!" Awesome, Scrooge. Awesome. He also told me the other day that he wanted Santa for Christmas. When I asked what he meant, he said, "Well, if I have Santa, he can give me presents all the time." Oh, boy...

We're looking forward to all the great events our town is throwing for the holidays (an elf workshop, breakfast with Santa, light hunting...). I'm sure I'll have an entertaining story to share concerning the Elf on the Shelf. In the meantime, Santa better keep me on the "nice list" for having to deal with my three kids during the holidays ;)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Being a Soccer Mom: Not What I Expected

Every time I get on here to write, I realize that it's been way too long since my last post. This time I have a legitimate excuse for my absentmindedness and for now, I'll blame it on the holiday season even though I know for a fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with that.

Back in September, I officially became a soccer mom as my oldest daughter (4) started her very first season of soccer. What my mom calls "herd ball" because at that age, they all just herd around the ball (which surprisingly wasn't the case for this team... there were several little girls with some real skill on the team!!!). For starters, I'd like to say "Thank You" to God for putting her on the team she wound up on. I think that this group of girls and the coach she got were exactly what she needed for her first experience with sports. Alex is my gentler child. She needs quieter nurturing and soft words and lots of vocal encouragement and that's exactly what she got. Actually, what she needed surprised the heck out of me.

At home, Alex will play soccer in our back yard, running back and forth for who knows how long with the ball, trying to weave in between the cones and score in the little goal we bought for her. We honestly thought that she'd be a star out on the field and that she'd soar through this season. I don't want to sound unkind, but that's not exactly what happened. I didn't expect her to be super outgoing because I know that (outside the house) she's quiet but I didn't expect her to be quite shy. I didn't expect her to cry and run off the field the first time she got knocked down in a game and I definitely didn't expect to have to constantly yell to her to turn around to face the game as she randomly stopped running and decided to take in the surrounding scenery. I was thrilled to see her constantly improving and bewildered at her constantly divulging information to strangers about who knows what. Putting it lightly, her first soccer season  wasn't what any of us expected, really. But I am excited to say that she had a blast, is bummed that this season is over and is looking forward to playing in the spring.

Last month, our son (3) started soccer as well. He participates in a clinic at the indoor soccer facilities. The smell of the place brings back memories from when I played indoor soccer in high school. Actually, now that I think about it, I must be where my son gets it from. I was there just to have fun (I had NO skill so fun was all I had going for me). I didn't take it all that seriously and was kinda a goofball about it. So is my son. In fact, so much so that often, I'm wishing the place were a sand pit and I an ostrich so I could hide my head in the sand. When my husband signed up our son, the plan was for the two of them to go together (it's a parental participation kind of skill building clinic) and enjoy some "boy time" playing soccer together. That first night, when I came home, my husband looked so forlorn that I thought a family member had died. Nope. He just spent 45 minutes alone with our son. As he expressed his frustration with our son after the ridiculous experience they'd just had, I wanted to laugh out loud (because I'd been there myself and was glad some one else now understood what I've been going through) and then wanted to cry (because I've been there myself and was glad some one else now understood what I've been going through). The next week came around and I offered to go with him instead. Not sure what I was thinking. This kid is a nut. For starters, he thinks the fake turf is real grass and he will roll around on it, stroke it, rub his face on it and smile like the Cheshire Cat the entire time. Then, when we're doing the relay races (in teams with the other parents and kids) his gooberish stubborn streak kicks in and when you tell him that it's his turn to go and that he needs to do it, he folds his arms across his chest and yells "NO"... while all 20 other kids wait behind him for their own turn. Or when the instructor says, "Parents, slowly dribble the ball down the field and kids, try to take it from your parent" I dribble and my delightful son runs behind me laughing and spanking my butt. This too, is not what I was expecting. Again though, I'm thankful that he has the instructor that he has because this guy is great with him. He laughs at him (when I'm trying not to cry out of embarrassment) and gives him huge high-fives when he scores a goal.

I'm told by other "soccer parents" that the first go around is always the weirdest or the most unexpected or, sometimes, the most frustrating. They've all told me that the second experience will be much different and rewarding for everyone involved. I don't doubt this at all concerning Alex. She has it in her personality to want to do better every time. To be excited about improvement. Anthony though... we'll have to wait and see. Is there a sport that you can play by yourself and be a total nut job? That'd be for him.

So, I'm looking forward to watching Alex play soccer in the spring. I am proud of her for trying and for not letting her fears get the best of her. Anthony... I'm looking forward to finding the right fit for him.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Battle of the Moms

When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I had a little scare and went to the emergency room. While going over my paperwork with the nurse, she asked what my occupation  was. At the time I wasn't working and told her I was a house wife. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "Home Maker". At the time, I was just like, "Uh... whatever you say."  

A couple years ago, while having my taxes done by a wonderful older gentleman, he also asked what my job was. I said that I was a Stay at Home Mom and he shook his head. He, also looking me dead in the eye, responded that the appropriate title was Domestic Engineer. I like that one. But any time I actually use that term, people look at me like I'm tooting my own horn or like I tried to make a joke that they're just not understanding.

I've never really had any one treat me differently because I am a stay at home mom. I've decided that there's two possible reasons for this. Either 1) people see me with three really little children and a husband who works long hard hours and they realize that I really do have a "job" or 2) people see me with three really little children and a husband who works long hard hours and they realize I'm totally insane and are too afraid to say anything to me that might just make me turn feral. Either way, it is what it is.

However, lately (and it's probably been this way since the existence of working mothers and stay at home moms but I'm just now getting around to it), I've noticed that there's a "war" between moms with jobs and moms who stay at home. Like its some weird kind of competition. Who's life is more stressful... Who's the better parent... Who's more spoiled than the other... "I do my job AND yours!"... It's weird and silly in my opinion.

I'm Switzerland. Neutral. Not taking one side or the other. But I will say how I feel about both... just a little.

I look at my own mother and I'm baffled. I don't know how she did it. She went back to work just a few weeks after I was born. She worked a stressful job and came home after picking me (eventually "us") from the babysitter or school or day care and cooked dinner, bathed us, helped us with home work. My Dad was always very involved with us too and did a lot of work in and out of the home but we're talking about mom's here. She played softball on the church team, helped with school events and church events, carted us around to practices and tryouts and tournaments and such. She had her own hobbies and projects and kept our house clean and smelling good and food on our table. I don't know how she did it all. I actually feel this way about most mom's who have jobs outside the homes. I have no idea how they don't get burnt out. I wont lie, I hear about some women's jobs and I have to laugh because I'm kinda like, "I'd sure love to get paid to goof around like that all day." But then there's other women who's jobs I'll hear about and I"m like, "What the?... How do you function? NO THANK YOU!" And other times I think, "It sure would be nice to get a paycheck for all the work I do."

But for the women who DO work and don't think that Stay at Home Moms really have it tough, let me explain a few things to you. No one else is taking care of my children. I am solely responsible for their "education", the discipline, the entertainment, three square meals, field trips and everything else. I have three kids to take care of. Three kids who are constantly in our home making messes. I understand that working mothers come home from their jobs and cook and clean but my house is CONSTANTLY being used and lived in. So there is CONSTANTLY something that needs to be cleaned or re cleaned or that's broken and needs to be fixed. Every meal I cook, I have to clean up from. There's no day care worker in my house serving meals and cleaning up from them. No teacher telling the kids that it's time to clean up and putting them in time out for me when they refuse. Because we're home all day, my bathrooms are continuously being used... and peed all over and pooped in. I have to purposefully make an effort to have my children socialized. They don't have the benefit of being in a school or daycare surrounded by other children. Teachers teaching them. Day care workers doing art projects with them (which ALSO can create huge messes to clean). Working moms may deal with some real difficult people at work but the three people that I love most in this world are the ones that scream at me. That disobey me. That stress me out. All day every day. I don't mean to say that they're always bad but I sure could handle a coworker giving me a hard time much better than my own child. It's emotionally draining. And when things aren't going right, it's so easy to feel like a failure as a mom. And trust me, I've worked before. I've worked out side the home longer than I've been a stay at home mom. I've screwed up at my jobs before. Sometimes pretty bad. But never did I feel as miserable afterwards as I do when I know I've screwed up as a stay at home mom. It down right blows. And please, don't for one second think that just because I'm home all day that my evenings are completely free when the kids are in bed. I was up late last night doing laundry and ironing. Just because the kids are in bed, doesn't mean my work is done. Just like a working mom. I'm not sitting around eating bon bons all day, just like a working mother isn't. Alright, I guess I AM getting a little bit defensive here so I'll stop.

Now, I will admit that I have gotten comfortable in my role as a stay at home mom. I like it. No, I LOVE it. I get to spend time with my kids all the time. Some days are harder than others. Some days I get less hugs and kisses than on other days. But some days, I get to have water balloon fights or movie nights or "baking parties". Other days, there's so much poop every where that I wonder if I myself have turned into a turd. It's all part of the gig.

I guess I'd just like to say to the waring moms to get a grip. Stay at Home Moms: stop acting like you're victims. Stop acting like you just climbed Mt Everest while performing open heart surgery and cooking a 10 course meal. You didn't. You GET to stay at home with your children. That's a huge blessing. Stop acting like it's a chore. Working Moms: While I do feel bad that you don't get to spend as much time with your babies as I get to spend with mine, stop acting like we're nothing but a bunch of lazy people. I work hard. Some days harder than others. I know you work hard too (or at least I hope you do). I don't get monetary benefits from my job but you do. Your job may be stressful but mine is too. Give it a whirl. There's plenty of working moms that become stay at home moms and end up wishing they were back at their jobs. Worry about your task at hand and I'll worry about mine.

That being said, no matter where you "work", being a mother in general is a 24/7 gig. I don't think it ends when the kids are grown and out of the house. My mom still takes care of my sister and I in many ways. Still invests time into us and now my kids. Still works, still takes care of her home and my dad and their dogs and a whole lot more. No need to argue about who does how much of what and where it gets done.

This cup of coffee is for all the Moms out there, Wannabes Supermoms or just straight up Supermoms. Here's to all the work we do, in and out of the home.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why It's Ok When Bad Things Happen



  It's that time of year again. My little boy celebrated his third birthday yesterday. And for the last three years, we have basked in the blessing of being able to celebrate his birthday with him. It is not something that we take lightly. And every year, I have a deeper respect for God and my appreciation flourishes as I watch my little boy grow. As well, the lesson we had to learn, that I'm still learning, becomes deeper and more profound.


For those of you who know what we went through as a family, I ask you to bare with me and forgive my... excessive sentiment regarding the situation. It is still as fresh in my heart as if it just happened. I'm not sure why I still get choked up when I think about it but I do. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, let me explain, just a little.

Three years ago, my beautiful little boy was born. I was induced because of really bad back pain. He was only about a week early so it wasn't that big of a deal. A few days after we came home from the hospital, my husband had to go back to work, states away but thankfully, I had my Mom with me. Without her there, I never would have been able to survive those first few hours. At a week old, little Anthony got a fever. When a baby that young has a fever, they automatically have to do a urine sample, blood tests and a spinal tap. After all of this, they usually put the baby in the pediatric unit of the hospital until they can find out what's wrong. Well, the local hospital I'd taken him to didn't have one so he had to be taken via ambulance to Children's. Thankfully, my Mom was home with my daughter so I didn't have to worry about that. I didn't go in the ambulance but followed in my car. Upon arriving at Children's, I found that he wasn't in the unit I was originally told but was in ICU because he'd gone into shock in the ambulance. Still don't know what that really means. As I got to his room, I had to be immediately ushered out because they were having to hook him up to a breathing tube because he just wasn't doing it on his own after going into shock. He spent the next 7 days in ICU and another 3 in a recovery ward. The doctors and nurses never found out what was wrong with him, we were often told that there was no guarantee he'd survive the day or night and his poor little body swelled up so badly that we weren't allowed to touch him for a while.

I refer to these days as my Darkest Hour (read last year's blog post). Not being able to touch your brand new baby is torture. Not being able to hear him cry was surprisingly disturbing. That first week, I'd have given up both my hands just to hear him cry. It was also a dark time because of my anger, frustration and bitterness toward God. I didn't understand why God was allowing my baby, too young to have done anything to deserve any kind of punishment or suffering, to hurt so badly. To knock on Death's door. Or why He felt the need to teach ME a lesson using the life and well being of my baby. It didn't make sense to me at all. And I turned inward and it festered for a little while.

I will always be grateful for the outpouring of prayers for my little boy during that time and KNOW that the prayers of many people who love God and love my family are what played a huge part in the recovery of my baby. No doubt in my mind. Which leads me to why it's ok when bad things happen.

I obviously can't say how I'd have reacted if Anthony had died. But he didn't and I can tell you that, in this situation, him living is what shed light on the lesson I needed to learn. I needed to learn that God loves me and part of Him loving me is enjoying my praise and my thankfulness and me being able to glorify Him. God didn't MAKE this happen to my baby. But He used the situation to teach me and bring me closer to Him. And THAT is why it's ok.

I'm not about to compare my own sufferings to that of Job or that my faith is anywhere near as strong as his was. But even concerning what he went through, it was OK. For a reason. Job lost everything. His family, his house, his friends and all he owned, his health. All of it. Except his faith in God. Satan thought he was so clever trying to hurt Job and turn him away. But it backfired because not only did Job refuse to turn from God in his suffering, he chose to continue to glorify God with his life. And God blessed him greatly for it.

I recently watched a video by Lisa Chan called Be Still. In the video, a woman shared her testimony about going through a divorce and how badly hurt she was by it. But in her suffering, she turned to God and was greatly blessed by it. She grew in her own relationship with God and eventually met and married a man who loves God very much.

When bad things happen, it's ok because God has a way to use the situation to better you and bless you and bring you closer to Him. If you let Him. There's a whole lot of bad that happens in the world that I can't explain. At all. Gruesome murders, tragic natural disasters, babies getting cancer... I can't explain it other than that through it, God has a plan for some one involved, maybe every one involved, for hope and prosperity and a design that the person will draw closer to Him and be able to give Him praise and honor through it. I know that's what He had in plan for me. I know that through the suffering that my family went through, my faith in Him grew, my belief in the power of prayer changed dramatically (really for our entire family and helped us trust God through prayer during recent trials) and my trust in the sincerity of other Christians (something I thought I had totally lost) was renewed.

I'm not a huge fan of using individual Bible verses to serve my own purpose or prove a point that I'm trying to make but through the years, these verses have helped me, given me hope and joy during trials and frustrating times, during pain and sufferings.

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." *May I just say that the fact alone that God things enough about me to make plans for me, let alone the fact that they're GOOD plans blows my mind!*

1 Samuel 15:29 "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man, that He should change His mind." *Any promise that God makes to me is going to be kept. If He has promised good things for me, I can rest assured that good things are in store for me. It's all about how I choose to see the things that happen. He only wants good for me and since He has given His word... :) *

Ecclesiastes 7:14 "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future." *God's got everything under control. During the good and the bad in my life, God knows what's in store for me and I can trust Him with my future.*

Isaiah 54:10 "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you." *Even when the world is crumbling down around me, God still loves me and I can always count on that. *

We are also told over and over in the Bible that God takes care of those who love Him. We're told that He doesn't allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle. He must have known that the only thing I could handle was what happened and nothing more because His mercy allowed my son to make a full recovery with no problems following.

It's OK when bad things happen because God has a design. A plan that, if we choose to see (and trust me, I know, I KNOW how hard it can be to let go, open your eyes and heart and SEE), will help us grow and bring us closer into His loving arms and bless us as well as glorify Him.

Please feel free to comment and share your own experiences with learning lessons from God through your own pains and struggles. If you have questions or need to talk, you can share here or email me at acmaxwell@live.com. I hope you have a blessed day!



Monday, October 1, 2012

Children: Bountiful Blessings

My last blog post was a bit of a ranting vent. I've bounced back and forth since writing it on feeling that it was ok to write it and that it was wrong for me to point out the frustrations I experience while dealing with my son. At times, I felt guilty for writing it. Should I really be venting to strangers (some of you aren't strangers but for the most part...) about the trouble my son can be? Was there really even a point in writing the whole thing? I got a ton of wonderful advice as a result of writing it though. I also got a chance to see a passage of the Bible that I've read a million times in a new light. Or more in a deeper way.

A few days ago, I began to read 1 Samuel. I started to skip the first couple chapters because I've read them before but felt that God prompted me to just start from the beginning. And I'm glad He did.

The beginning of 1 Samuel starts with a woman named Hannah. She is one of two wives of a man named Elkanah. His first wife had kids. I don't know exactly how many but she had more than Hannah. Hannah was barren. Reproductively challenged, infertile... how ever you choose to say it. She couldn't have kids. And it's the only thing she wanted. Her husband's other wife would even mock her inability to conceive. One year, on a trip to town to worship, Hannah had a bit of a breakdown before the Lord and pleaded with Him to give her a child. The priest, Eli, saw her and confronted her and upon realizing that she was truly grief stricken and down, he encouraged her and told her to have peace and "may God give you what you've asked of him" (1 Samuel 1:17). She and her family go home and soon after, God gives her what she's been asking Him for, a child. A son. She then promises God that she will thank Him for his gift by giving back to Him what He blessed her with. When her son, Samuel, is of the right age, she takes him to the priest Eli and has him serve the Lord under Eli. God then blesses her further and she has something like 6 more kids.

I have been so richly blessed. I have had no problem whatsoever conceiving. I have been blessed with ridiculous fertility. And I thank God for it. Honestly. I have friends and family who have struggled for YEARS going through the pain and devastation and life altering experience with infertility. It was hard to watch them go through it so I can only imagine what it was like to actually be in their shoes. I also see all these women who are wreck less with their "blessing". I also know women who seem to keep having babies over and over that they can't seem to take care of. And I don't mean "can't" in the sense that they're struggling financially or have health problems or something. The women are just selfish creatures that don't care about the kids they keep bringing into the world and dump them on to other people. Makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.

I understand what God was trying to teach me through my million and one time reading this passage about Hannah and Samuel. My son is a blessing. He is a gift. Not only was his birth a gift, and then him living through his ordeal in the hospital but each day since then has been a blessing. And the answer to my problem with my son's delightfully strong willed behavior is to do what Hannah did. Maybe not in the same exact way but it boils down to the same thing. God has blessed me with an amazing little boy. Full of life and excitement and joy (until he's not getting his own way). Expressive and creative and affectionate. The best thing I can do for him and for myself and for the rest of our family is to turn him over to God.

There are a whole bunch of different ways I can do this. The gist of it is making sure that he is saturated with the Love and Word of God. That he knows what his purpose here on earth is, why God created him, what God did for him in sending His OWN Son to pay the price for our sins and make sure he is trained in the words, teachings, principles and truths of the Bible. That's what Hannah did. That's EXACTLY what I need to do with and for my own son. And for my daughters. The same return of blessing has to happen with them too.

Understanding WHY God blessed me with my children has made me see Him and they in a different light. All of this is something I knew before but... differently. Like I said, not as deep.

I wish I was as eloquent as Hannah, in her song of praise recorded for the rest of time to be read over and over in thanks to God, but I'm not. So I will just pledge here to spend the rest of my life giving back to God the blessings He has trusted me with.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Joys of Having a Boy

I remember hearing the sonogram technician tell me that I was having a girl. My husband sat next to me and smiled as we found out the sex of our first baby. I started crying. I had really wanted a boy. The poor tech started looking at me like I was crazy and I'm pretty sure my hubby was thinking the same thing. He asked me what was wrong and all I could get out between my sobs was, "She's going to grow up and hate me!" I don't hate my own Mom. Not in the least bit. But we've had words. And maybe that's what I was thinking at that moment... add the delightful pregnancy hormones to the mix and you've got my reaction.

I was pretty sure when we got pregnant for the second time that it was a boy. And low and behold, he was.

When we got pregnant with our third baby, I begged God for another boy. I wanted a playmate for my son and I wanted my first, my oldest daughter, to be my little princess for ever and ever. And I wanted her to have two boys to beat up all the other guys that will come calling one day. But I see now that God giving us another little girl was nothing short of mercy. There's no way I could handle more than one boy.

Nothing has prepared me for having a little boy. I didn't understand boys when I was little and it seems that I understand them even less as an adult.

My pregnancy with my son was pretty uncomfortable. I had pretty intense lower back pain... pretty close to my butt... and that should have been a warning. Then, right after birth, he got very sick. Not long after that, he developed a delightful rash that got infected. Then he couldn't (wouldn't we now know) eat solids. And he puked at every opportunity. I don't mean normal baby spit up. I'm talking full on barf up the entire bottle he'd just drank.

He is special to me specifically because of all that we went through together when he was sick. When you almost loose a child and they make a full recovery, knowing that you walked through the darkness together and made it to the other side creates a bond. One that he hasn't fully recognized yet.

He's our "problem child". I don't mean to be unkind in calling him that but if you knew how EASY of a baby and kid our first child has been you'd understand. And I just don't know what to do with him.

This kid could win a medal for most outrageous temper tantrums. His specialty: public places. We recently went to the county fair and he got so mad that the ride the kids were on was over that he screamed so much he couldn't eat and then when we put him in the stroller because we knew getting him to walk was out of the question, he thrashed and screamed so much that I thought he was going to physically hurt himself. He has climbed up to the top of the McDonald's play place and refused to come down for HOURS. This happened when our youngest was still a baby and I had to plead with him until a kind old lady offered to watch the baby for me while I climbed up into the play place to get him. He was pretty surprised to see my angry face come around the corner. He has stuck cares up into the tail pipes of my car. He has ripped the child safety gates off the wall. He has pushed his sisters down the stairs. He has hit my Dad while we were out to dinner. He has pulled hand fulls of hair out of his older sister's head. He gets angry at the baby when she doesn't want to play with him and more and will pull on her and push her.

He's high maintenance. He's actually really picky about what shoes he wears. He refuses to eat almost anything except lollipops. He won't go to the bathroom with out taking all of his clothes off except his shirt. He's at a height where if he pees, he's too short to get it all into the toilet and if he stands on the stool, he overshoots. The baseboards in our bathroom are constantly yellow. Recently, he's refused to flush the toilet when he poops because "Poop scares the bugs away, Mom." I don't know WHERE he got that one! He insisted the other night that my name was "Alice the Great". If your kids watch Little Bill, you know who I'm talking about. He doesn't play well with other kids and if you touch one of his cars, you better be skilled in martial arts or you're a goner.
He's all boy. He's into cars. He's not afraid to pick up bugs and lizards and frogs. He even likes going to the "boy store" with his Dad (Autozone). He likes it when we drive fast and hates sitting at stop lights. He can't sit still to save his life and gets angry if myself or one of his sisters enters the room while he and Daddy are having a boys night. He only wants the blue plate for his meals.

On the flip side, he can be a total sweet heart. I wasn't feeling well the other day and when I told him this, he stroked my leg and said, "It's ok, Mom. I'll take good care of you." He will tell me that I'm his best friend. Pretty sure he's said that about Sponge Bob too but still... it's nice to hear every once in a while. He'll thank me for making him pancakes. Or try to share his half eaten gumball with me. And he's honest. He doesn't lie to me if he did something wrong and I ask if he was the one that did it. I don't know what to do with him most of the time. Often, I end up crying after he goes to bed or begging my husband to deal with him as soon as he gets home or loosing it all together and flipping out. I'll be checking out a book that several women have suggested to me recently about "the strong willed child".

I don't feel prepared to be the parent of a little boy. At all. Most of the time, I'm at a total loss for how to deal with him or understand him. Something tells me that it wont get any easier either, even when he leaves the "terrible two" stage (he'll be three in two weeks and there's no end in sight). This Wannabe Supermom has met her match. And this battle is a toughie. At least he's cute, right? ;) My bundle of joy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Passing The Test

When my first child was about 2 months old, I knew I wanted another baby. Immediately. I think it took a little longer for the desire to kick in for my husband but still, we were pregnant with baby #2 by the time our daughter was 7 months old.

A week after our son was born, he had to return to the hospital and stayed in the ICU for around 10 days. Then, he ended up getting eczema (on his face) which got so bad that he developed a staph infection. The whole ordeal lasted until he was about 7 months old. After that, we realized that he couldn't swallow solids (which turned out to be psychological for him... a strange thing that's baffled my mind since we learned of it). When he finally settled into a normal life pattern, baby fever kicked back in and we got pregnant again shortly after he turned one.

Our baby turned one this past June. And I've been waiting for the insatiable baby fever to start back up, wondering when I will again be consumed with the desire to be pregnant and hold a brand new baby that I will love with an intensity bordering madness before it's even conceived. I mean, I'm no Octomom but anyone who's ever caught "the fever" knows what I'm talking about. There is something inside a woman that desperately yearns to have a baby. Not all women. But a lot of us. I've been waiting for this yearning to creep up and rock my world again.

I would like it to be noted though, that after our son, it was my husband that caught the fever. I knew I wanted another one but HE's the one that wanted one RIGHT AWAY. Yeah, blame him ;)

The first time I knew I was pregnant with our first daughter was during a movie. We were newly weds and one night had sat down to watch Knocked Up. During the movie, somewhere around the time that a discussion was going on about what the options were regarding keeping the baby, I started sobbing. Like, uncontrollable sobbing that continued throughout the entire movie. I couldn't understand why some one would even consider NOT keeping a precious little life that many of us would give our pinkie toes to have. After the movie was over, I went into the bathroom and cried some more. I mean, cried. Full on waterworks, hiccup inducing, salty, big 'ol alligator tears. And then I ran dry. When I did, I looked up into the mirror and was like, "Um... what the heck is wrong with me?!?" I laugh about it now, because I was so confused at that very moment. I'm a crier for sure. But not like that and I couldn't understand why I was SO devastated by such a stupid movie. Then it hit me. The next day, I went out and bought some pregnancy tests and sure enough, the waterworks were due to my out of control pregnancy hormones.

Last night, we watched What to Expect When You're Expecting. And I passed the test. For the record, so did my husband. Remembering the aching desire I used to get when watching movies about pregnant women and babies, I was worried that the fever would catch while we were watching it last night. Don't get me wrong, I will take as many babies as God gives me. But I'm not jumping in line. He's gonna hafta drag me kicking and screaming. During the movie, I found myself connecting most to the mom who had the uncomfortable awkward pregnancy... you know, the one with the heat flashes and the waddling, the cankles, uncontrollable bladder problems among other gross side effects of pregnancy. And it hit me... I enjoyed being pregnant but remembering all the pain and frustration that came with it... I'm just fine without ever having to go down that road again. The only time I cried during the movie was when the young girl had a miscarriage because I could relate to her pain, having been there myself. And that was it. I would look over at my husband from time to time, trying to read his face and thankfully, whether he was bored or just exhausted, there were no signs of the fever.

We both love our children fiercely. We would die for them. We sacrifice and will continue to do so for their sakes. We have poured our blood, sweat and tears into them for four years now and will for the rest of our lives. But that does not mean we feel the need to add another to the mix. Every one has their own threshold. I know some women with 6 kids. I know a woman who has 12... last I knew. She may have had more since then. I know plenty of women who only have one. And it's all they can handle. My threshold is three. I've lost my mind because of them but have just enough left to know that I don't need more. Now, if God sees fit to give us another one, so be it. But (thankfully), neither of us are going to try or plan for one. Our little family is a great size for us, the perfect size. And although lately I have been kicking myself for having them all so close in age, I know that a time will come when I'm thanking God that I did.

This Wannabe Supermom has passed yet another test, crossed over another hurdle, become immune to the fever... the baby fever...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Through My Mother's Eye

One of my earliest memories is of me as a very small child. I don't know if my sister was even born yet but I'm guessing she either was brand new or about to arrive. The memory is of my mom walking into my play room, taking one look around the chaos that I'd created and telling me sternly to clean up. Upon hearing her words and surveying the mess, I looked up at the window, wishing I could fly out of it to escape the task before me. I've considered this memory many times, thinking about how that my initial reaction was "flight" and not "fight". I've analyzed if this was the beginning to my "escape my problems" issue or my depression problems. But until tonight, I'd never really looked at it from my poor Mom's point of view.

For me, there are two parts of parenting that are harder than anything else, two parts that I mull over constantly. The first is seeing my children in pain. I think that part of why this is such a huge issue for me is because a) who in their right mind enjoys seeing their kids hurt? and b) I've almost lost a child before and it was by far, the most painful, frustrating experience of my life and not being able to comfort my baby who was, by many means, dying inside, was torture... for both of us. The other part of parenting that I find most difficult, that I deal with more and more each day as my kids get older, is disciplining them. Today for example, I snapped. Totally lost it to the point that my phone sobbing induced my husband to sneak out of work a bit earlier.

I can not express how tired I am of cleaning up my kids' toys. I spend so much time cleaning up their toys that I'm unable to get to many of my other household chores.I recognize that this is mostly my fault. For starters, I enjoy spoiling my kids. Which is wrong, really, but it's hard not to want to make your kids smile. On the other side, I end up getting impatient with their lack of drive in cleaning up their toys that the result is me picking up super quickly. Today though, I decided that I wasn't picking up another toy. I wasn't going to clean their tornado-wreck looking messes in their rooms or the 50 plus books they'd pulled off the shelves. I realize that a sudden "foot down" after 4 years of cleaning up FOR them came as a shock to all of us but still, I put my foot down. If they wanted a movie night, they had to clean their rooms. Then, when the hour to start the movie passed and the rooms still weren't clean, it turned in to disciplining. Thankfully, after hours of arguing and crying (on every one's part) Daddy came home and backed me up. But the crying and arguing continued and the rooms are still a mess. This kind of day wears me out quicker than hours of outdoor, manual labor in the middle of summer does.

When I was thinking about the kids' cleaning their rooms and how overwhelming the task of picking up their toys must feel to them, I thought about my Mom on that day long ago. I'm sure that with me (as I STILL have a hard time keeping my own room clean) she had her work cut out for her. I'm sure that she'd worked a long hard day at work and coming home and spending time cooking dinner, finding me in a destroyed disaster, she felt overwhelmed herself. She probably felt similar to me. And was tired of picking up my toys FOR me. Now, I feel bad. Now, that memory shifts for me and I see it differently. I find myself wondering where my Mom was emotionally, instead of my own weird "Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away" Forest Gump moment. I find myself in her shoes. And knowing exactly how she must have felt. It's not a great feeling.

This thinking has spurred me to want to change this painful process. I am in NO way judging my Mom for her methods of parenting. In fact, I think she was, and is, a great Mom. I know that without her, my life wouldn't have been as great as it was. I also know that the mistakes I ended up making are not her fault. My decisions in life where just that. My choices. But I don't feel like being the tired, frustrated Mom any more. I know that a lot of the chaotic dynamic between the kids and I, at this stage in our lives, is my own fault. I have to come up with another way to deal with this problem, this meltdown causing "CLEAN YOUR ROOM OR I THROW ALL YOUR TOYS AWAY" problem. I understand that my kids are still young but I honestly feel that if I don't nip this in the bud now, we will all end up paying for it.

To my Mom, I'd like to say, I'm sorry. Sorry for not keeping my room clean (for 27 years). Sorry for not understanding what you were going through as a mother and sorry for not trying. Thank you for not giving up on me and thank you for not settling with my messy behavior.

If any one has any suggestions on how to deal with the toy, crying, cleanup, tantrum thing... Please, be my appreciated guest and comment with your tips, advice or sympathy.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Be Still by Lisa Chan: A Review and Giveaway

Irony rarely makes me smile but right now it does. My last post was about needing a vacation. I was frazzled and tired and quite honestly a little burnt out. I was relying on my own strength, as I so often foolishly do. Later that day, I sat down and watched a video I was asked to view and was so humbled but at the same time was given comfort and peace. God always provides what we need but sometimes (more often than not) we have to be still in His presence. Just be still.

Like every other mother I've ever met, the concept of "being still" is so foreign that we laugh it off and move on. Who has time to just sit and be quiet? Really. I have three kids, ages 4 and under. No one sits still. And if I try to, my three adorable nut cases take advantage of it. There is always something to be cleaned. Laundry to be folded and put away. Dogs to clean up after. Gardens to tend, children to feed (and then the cleaning of the mess that follows that), a husband to attend to, emails to answer, bills to file, work to be done. Always. It never stops. In Proverbs 31, it says that the wife's candle does not go out at night. She is always taking care of the people that depend on her and the tasks at hand. Where does God come in? Church on Sundays or Wednesday night? Even the process of going to church is time consuming. I get up at 5:40 to make sure I can shower and get dressed before every one else wakes up. Then its time to take out the dogs, make breakfast, get every one up and moving and more often than not, I've broken a sweat by the time we get in the car and head off. I'm drained and this video prompted me to consider something that deep down inside, I already knew.

I'm the reason why I'm drained. I'm the reason why I'm stressed. It's not because of God. He's there. If only I will sit and be still. Nothing else. He wants to fill me with peace and wonder and comfort and love. Most of us have heard the first part of Psalm 46: 10, "Be still and know that I am God..." This one statement is so deeply profound in meaning. However, while it IS so deep, it's so simple at the same time. If we take the time to just be still, to know who God is, to let Him show us... If we get out of our own way long enough to JUST BE STILL, He will show us who He is. And bless us richly in the process. It is something that I'm working on myself. That I will always have to work on.

In this video, Lisa Chan (wife of Francis Chan, pastor, speaker and much more), reminds us women of how important it is to sit at the feet of God and just BE STILL. I think one of the reasons why I loved this video was because Lisa herself is a busy woman. She has children to take care of. A husband who is very busy ministering to a vast number of people in all kinds of venues. Her own ministries she leads. She understands and knew the need for time alone with God. I also loved that there is another woman, Susan, who had a very different experience dealing with a divorce and the pain that accompanies that and her own need to be still and listen to God and how she was so fully blessed by doing so. God will take care of us if we come to Him.

Please take the time to watch the trailer for Lisa Chan's video, Be Still. I think this video is great for just one woman to sit and watch by herself or even in a Bible Study setting. After watching, follow the steps to enter to win a copy of the video for yourself. You will be very blessed by Lisa's words and the godly wisdom she shares.

Lisa Chan's True Beauty BE STILL Video





Here's how to enter to win a free copy of the video:

1) Leave a comment below and share your own experience with learning how to BE STILL in the presence of God or how you know that it's something you need to really begin seeking to do in your own life.

2) Share my facebook link on your own facebook page. Make sure you tag the blog's facebook page, A Wannabe Supermom, in your post so that I know you share this review.

3) Share the link on Twitter. Make sure you tag me (@MaxAbby) and @TrueBeautyFilms when you do so I know you shared it.

The more places you share, the more entries you have to win this awesome video. The chance to enter ends Septemeber 9th a midnight EST.




Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mommy Needs A Vacation

It's been a long day and an even longer week. And it's not even over yet. In fact, even when the weekend comes, although I'll be able to relax a little more and my hubby will be home, I'll still be working. Part of the "motherhood" package. As I sit here writing this, I can see a pile of dishes that still need to be done. I know that after that, I will have to get my husbands stuff ready for work tomorrow, clean up the living room, gather all the 8 billion crayons scattered on the table and floor, take care of the dogs for the night, put clothes away and shower. None of which I feel like doing. Except the shower part. I'd like to turn that into a bubble bath instead but know that I'll end up sitting in the water till I look like an albino prune and there will be no time for the rest of what needs to be done.

What I really feel like doing is going on a vacation all by myself. In the last 6 years, I've been away from the hubby and kids twice. The first was overnight a few hours away to see a girlfriend that had just moved back to the east coast. I don't think I was gone for even 24 hours. The second time was when my grandfather died and I had to go up to PA for his funeral. Not a vacation. Couldn't even really enjoy getting to be around family since my poor dad was stuck in a hospital, recovering from a pretty bad motorcycle accident just days before.

Vacations with the kids are... well, it's been so long since we've even done one of those that I can't remember. Sometime before the baby was born. But vacations with kids are still work. I want a vacation where I can sleep in, do whatever I want, where ever I want and not have to worry about a darn thing. I'd love to sink my toes in the sand with a good book, a pina colada and tanning oil. That way, I'd actually be able to read a sentence and move on the the next one without ending up re-reading the first one 15 times. Uninterrupted reading is something too many people take for granted. I'd love to be able to sit down at a restaurant and eat hot food without having to cut up some one elses and refill drinks and pick up silverware off the floor before I even got to smell my own. I'd love to go to the bathroom without some one banging on the door, or throwing it wide open so the rest of the house can see what I'm doing. I'd love to go shopping without having to yell, "Don't touch that mannequin! Leave it's arms alone!" or "Please don't squeeze that lotion!" or "Don't eat that gum! Leave it stuck under the counter."

While I desperately need a break, I know how it would really turn out if I went away for a couple days alone. I may spend the first day on the beach. But after an hour, I'd wish I had someone to play in the water with. Yup, I'd enjoy the bubble bath in the hotel room but I'd dry off and get dressed while watching whatever lame local channels were on. Then I'd go shopping and not have any one to consult about an outfit unless I wanted to text pictures to my husband... who would have his hands so full with the kids that he probably wouldn't get back to me in time to convince me to get it... so I'd walk out empty handed. Then I'd go to dinner. I'd eat a nice hot meal, but I'd be bored to tears with no one to talk to. I'd probably talk way too much to the waitress and then have to leave her an even bigger tip just for putting up with me. I'd head back to the hotel room, eventually get in bed and never be able to fall asleep. I hate sleeping alone now. Really. Even though my husband used to work away from home and would fly home on the weekends, sometimes not even being able to come home that often, I've never gotten used to sleeping without him. Ask my sister. When I went home for my grandfather's funeral, I had to share a bed with her. She said that I kept trying to snuggle up to her during the night. Hahaha, I'm glad that's all I did. Back to the point... I hate it and I wouldn't get good sleep. Waking up in the morning, I'd drink that funky coffee in the tiny pot that's in my room (because I'd have been too cheap in the first place to go to a nice hotel) and wish I was cooking breakfast in my own kitchen instead of eating the "complementary breakfast" in the lobby consisting of pop tarts and donuts that have been touched by all kinds of dirty hands already. Then, I probably wouldn't know what to do with myself. I'd be bored and lonely. Missing physical contact and conversations. I'd be thinking about my family non stop, probably even texting or calling often. Any time I'd hear a kid, I'd turn around in a flash thinking it was my own. I'd be jealous of all the couples I'd see, walking around holding hands and kissing. Then I'd realize that home is where I really want to be and I'd get in my car and go back.

I know myself well enough to know that that is exactly how it would happen. I need a break but my heart is here, where my husband and children are. So maybe, instead of doing the dishes and cleaning the crayons, I'll just get my hubby's work stuff ready and head upstairs with a book. Perhaps that is all the vacation time I need right now.

Thanks for listening. I think this post was more along the lines of therapy for me than anything else...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

You Might Be A Parent If:

I don't know about you, but Tuesdays are often tougher for me to get through than Mondays are. I really don't have a huge problem with Monday's. But Tuesdays... They're not the first day, not half way through the week, not close to the weekend... Anyway, I find myself needing a laugh more on Tuesdays than most others. So, I'm sharing a little something amusing about signs that prove you're well into parenthood.

You Might Be A Parent If:

- you've mastered walking down the hall to the kids' room during the night with your eyes closed.

- you know to check your seat at the table for anything sticky before you sit down.

- making a quick trip to the grocery store with the kids means packing bags, having an itinerary and an escape plan.

- you're thankful when you finally smell a poopy diaper after not changing one for almost 48 hours.

- you're a pro at eating, feeding, cleaning, and reading all at the same time.

- you organize so many different schedules, bills, appointments, meetings and the like that you could easily handle being the president's personal assistant.

- you know every character on every cartoon on every network... and find yourself singing the theme songs even when you're alone in the car.

- you're wound so tight after dealing with screaming kids all day that a grizzly wouldn't even consider messing with you.

- you've given your crockpot a pet name.

- the kids ask if it's time for you to clean again.

- when your spouse asks the kids how they'd feel about mommy getting a job, their response is, "She has one. She works for us here at home." (yes, mine actually said this recently)

- the only thing in the universe that scares you now is your kids when they're really sick.

- you can top your parents' "when I was a kid..." stories.

- staying up late means making it past 9:30.

- sleeping in means not getting out of bed (even though you've been laying there awake for 45 minutes) until 7:30. (which I honestly can't remember the last time I did)

- you actually use the phrase, "because I said so" when your kids question your authority.

- you know the quickest way to get in and out of every park, library, mall and grocery store.

- you finish watching the kids' movies even after they've gone to bed because you know that its better than any adult movie that's come out in the last 5 years or so.

- you find yourself looking at the clock every few minutes for the last hour before the kids go to bed, counting down the seconds to freedom.

- you're bummed when the kids go to bed because you had so much fun with them during the day.

- you enjoy planning family outings like the county fair or Christmas light hunting because you know that it's a good possibility that you'll have just as much fun, if not more, than the kids.

- you can't remember what life was like before the kids came along and you have no desire to.



Happy Tuesday! (Don't forget to encourage someone today!)

-

Monday, August 13, 2012

Encouragement: You Are Not Alone

   On Friday, while at SAM's Club eating lunch with my three kids, who were actually behaving very well, my heart broke for a mother at the nearby register. She had two kids in the cart but one was screaming louder than I'd ever heard any kid scream before. I think it was one of those cries where the kid was angry that he didn't get his way but that in the process of letting it be known, he had worn himself out and just couldn't come down from the "tantrum high". I felt bad for the mom because I've been there. Then she turned just enough for me to see her face and I wish so badly that I'd offered some help. Maybe I would have been more inclined to had I not had my own three with me. She didn't look angry or frustrated. She looked like she was about to cry. Cry from exhaustion, from embarrassment and quite possibly from just being flat out overwhelmed. I remember being extremely thankful that my own kids were controlling themselves so well.

   On Saturday, we went out as a family to the shops in the local "downtown" area. Normally, I'd have loved this. I mean, I enjoyed most of it. The cute knickknack antique shops. Being with my husband who I hadn't seen much of in the last two weeks. The great weather. My own son kept acting up though. By the end of the 2 hours or so, I was so worn out from trying to help my husband discipline him while keeping track of the other two kids. My mind went to the poor woman at the register. She is not alone. I am not alone.

   I say this because I do it also, it is so easy to get wrapped up in our own world and frustrations and duties as wives and mothers that we forget all the other women going through the same exact thing. I know full on how some women feel when, at the end of the day, they collapse into bed and shed a tear or a full sob. Being a wife and mother is tough. It's not easy. Never has been and never will be. I am NOT down playing the man's role in the family. "Heavy lies the crown." And I don't feel like wearing the crown. But while the husband is out providing for the family, the wife is at home taking care of the rest. Even as I write this, I'm pretty tuckered out. My body is tired, my mind is tired and more often than not, my spirit is tired. Sometimes, I'm either crying or screaming. Often, I don't have the energy for either. But I'm not the only one.

   When I was going through some serious emotional issues, some pretty intense depression, I found that meds didn't work, "therapy" didn't work, ignoring it didn't work... Other than prayer, the only thing that REALLY drew me out of my funk was focusing on helping others. I'm not saying that this will fix my weariness as a mother. But it will help lift the spirits. And usually, when the spirits are lifted, the body and mind feel better too. Encouraging other moms and letting them know that they're not alone in the journey of motherhood is going to be something I'd like to focus on from now on. Not making it my top priority, but up there. I think it's important, part of who we are as women, to help our friends. To build others up. To be a support system. Recently, another mom has been encouraging me. She probably doesn't even realize that she's been doing it but it has been so refreshing to me to know that she is going through some of the same things that I'm going through, feels the same way I do about certain things. It made me realize that I can do the same for other moms. Friends, family, strangers. Doesn't matter.

   I'd like to suggest that you, moms, start encouraging another mother. That you start pouring out your heart a little to let her know that a) you're there and care and b) that you're dealing with some of the same tough stuff. You can send an email. Make a phone call. Send funny little comics (or I think they're called memes or something like that? lol, what are they called?). Just do it. Leave your own pitty party long enough to lend a shoulder or hold out a hand or offer a little laugh. You need it just as much as they do.

   I love getting comments so if you have any suggestions or tips on how to encourage other mothers, or even something that you find encouraging... Shoot, if you need some one to pray for you as you deal with the ins and outs of motherhood, feel free to share and know that you'll be prayed for.

   Hope you have had a great Monday!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My $200 Monthly Grocery Budget

Recently, my husband and I sat down and had a conversation about our budget. It's something I recommend that every couple do, just so there's a real understanding on both ends what the expectations are, how much can be spent and what/why/how you're planning to save. That being said, I hate these conversations. For this very reason: I don't mix well with money. I mean, I can find a deal like no other. But it becomes addictive. To the point where I just wanna shop. When I'm bummed, I want to shop. It isn't called "retail therapy" for nothing. But during this recent financial conversation, my husband was re budgeting and asked me how much I would need a month for groceries (for 5 people), dog food (for three dogs) and diapers. Something stupid inside of me blurted, "$200!" He hesitated, looked me dead in the eye and said, "You sure about that?" To which I stupidly replied, "Yeah, Babe. I got this." I should have asked for more. I COULD have asked for more. But after I said it, I realized that the worst I could do was TRY to stick to that budget and fail. If I didn't try though, I'd never know.

To start, I'm going to tell you exactly what must be done in order to accomplish this. Because I actually did it. There's a few things you MUST do though in order to come even close to it.

1) Have a plan. I figured out what groceries we had. I researched meals online and I printed out a monthly calendar dedicated to my meal planning. It is taped up next to the fridge so I know each day what we're eating. A few days before my next "month" starts, I'll make up the meal plan calendar for September. It's really not as hard as it sounds. Best part is, I haven't had to make everything on the calendar so far since sometimes we've had leftovers. Seriously though, I planned a months worth of meals while sitting and watching TV with my hubby one night. It's not some huge, crazy project. And Pinterest has TONS of meal ideas!

2) Use cash. Like paper money. Not your debit card. I don't think I'd have thought of it on my own but my hubby went to the ATM, pulled out $200 and handed it to me. This way is so much better than using a card. It's hard to know exactly how much of the $200 has been spent if you're using the card. With cash, you know, "Alright, I just spend $63.89, I have $136.11 left in my hands." Just easier to keep track of.

3) Get over yourself and brand names. I picked up mac and cheese at Walmart, buying the Walmart brand, for $0.48 a box. I bought the Kroger brand hot dogs for $0.88 for a 10 pack. Kroger brand "spaghetti-o's" are 58 cents. Deals can be found (even better ones than with coupons) if you stick to the store brands. I remember one time, having a coupon for Helluva-Good Dip. The stuff really is amazing. But even with the coupon discount, it was still cheaper AND the quantity larger with the Kroger brand. Not saying it was AS good but it was still really yummy and I saved money.

Those are my biggest pieces of advice. Now, I'll go further to explain some other principles for bargain grocery shopping that I've learned.

1) I bought the dog food and diapers first. That way, I knew exactly how much I had left to spend on groceries. Also, I bought both at SAM's club. I get more diapers, cheaper, and they work just fine. They've worked for all three of my kids and I swear by them. Honestly, I liked them more than both Pampers and Huggies. The dog food is the SAM's brand but it's a 50 lb bag of dog food ( I have two boxers and a bulldog) for like $21. Not bad. I supplement their food at home though. They often get rice mixed in with their dog food (excellent filler! and it's cheap!), they have vitamins, get omega oils poured on their food AND get any and all egg shells. Making eggs for breakfast? Save the shells, crush them up as fine as you possibly can and mix them with the dog food. They're full of calcium. So what my dogs may not be getting from their cheaper dog food, we're making up for in other ways.

2) I bought certain items in bulk. Cheap items. At SAM's, bulk items that I use a lot, like garlic or rice or coffee, come WAY cheaper. I get my creamer, sugar and flour from SAM's as well. I buy my bacon there. $25 for enough bacon, when portioned to 9 slices per portion, gave me close to 40 portions. You do the math. Other items, like certain meats or eggs, I wont buy because I CAN find them elsewhere for much much cheaper. For example: We eat a lot of eggs. A LOT of eggs. I have three kids that I have to feed breakfast too every day (and I'm a HUGE believer that breakfast is THE most important meal, so it better be good). At Walmart, I get 5 dozen eggs for less than $6.

3) Compare prices. If I buy a small pack of cream cheese at Walmart, it's about $1.35. At Kroger, it's 99 cents. It may not seem like a huge deal but at the end, when you're saving that 36 cents on like 40 items, it adds up. You can buy more. I love Publix, but if I've gotta shop cheap, I can't go there. It's cheaper to shop at Kroger. I recently started researching prices at Aldi and will be going there next shopping session because I've found that some of their prices are even better than Krogers.

4) I know how the sales work. At Kroger, they have 10 for $10 deals on all kinds of stuff. Thankfully, you can mix and match. It took me a while to realize this though. So, if I know that I can save by buying 10 items that are under the 10 for $10, I'm going to make sure I do it.

5) I look for "Manager Specials". Every once in a while, we find outrageous deals at Kroger thanks to these. We found a peach sponge cake, normally like $7 for like $2.50 because it was the last one or it had to be sold immediately. Score! I found meat there this time around with a Manager's Special sticker on it. The date doesn't always have anything to do with it. Sometimes, it's just that their inventory is getting backed up so they need items sold. So they put it on sale. I bought a good bit of pork for super cheap. Which leads into my next point...

6) Portion your meals properly. SAM's club sells their own brand of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. These breasts are SO big! I know that I'd have leftovers for weeks if I cooked like 3 for our 5 people. So when I get home, I cut each breast in half, put it in freezer ziplocks and put them in the freezer. Half a breast is perfect for cooking up and putting in pasta, quesadillas, soups, or even, if you wanted to have something like chicken strips. Slice it right, use larger crumbs like Panko crumbs (also nice and cheap) to help give them more body and help fill you up. I've got three kids. But they're only 4, almost 3 and 1. My 4 year old eats like a bird, my son goes back and forth on what he likes and doesn't like and my 1 year old thinks its more fun to throw her food recently than actually eat it. Also, my husband is often working late and sometimes has to eat out for business purposes. So to avoid having leftovers, because I know that in my house, they often get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about for roughly a year and then get tossed, I make sure that I cook the right amount of food. Also helps to keep you from over eating. Healthier AND cheaper.

7) Now, this next part is going to seem a little... "granola" to some of you but I'm not a hippie and I've actually really come to enjoy this. Make as much from scratch as possible. I make my own pasta. Time consuming but not as difficult as you'd think. I make my own tomato sauce with tomatoes from my garden. I make my own mashed potatoes ( I will NEVER be able to wrap my head around boxed potatoes) and I like to make my deserts from scratch as well. Making pizzas and pretzels from scratch is fun! I really enjoy cooking though. I guess if you don't, this suggestion is going to seem overwhelming or just flat out lame. Whatever. I've saved a TON of money doing it this way.

I've had to be creative for meals. We're not eating fillet mignons and tuna steaks or quinoa (that stuff is good but SO not good for my budget). Tonight, we're having chilli dogs. That's it. I'll cut up some carrot sticks with ranch on the side just so the kids are getting their veggie dose. Jello is an excellent and cheap desert (super cheap at Kroger). Oh, that's another thing. I've found that it's cheaper to do things like celery and carrots for snacks than it is to actually buy snack snacks. Like fruit snacks in my house (bought in bulk from SAMs) last just about as long as a bag of carrots... but I'm paying at least $7 MORE for the fruit snacks than I am for the carrots. Craziness. So eating healthy is better in even more ways than just the obvious.

Now, I succeeded in meeting our budget for the month. In fact, I've got $16 leftover. Now, that money is going to be gone in the next couple days but if I work it right, I wont go over. And the only reason I'm even spending it is because my husband's 17 year old boy cousin is coming to stay with us for a week. I hear teenage boys eat like hard working grown men so I've gotta prep. It's always a good idea though, I think, to try to have a little left over money, just in case you need milk or something of that nature.

Grocery shopping on a tight budget isn't as hard as you think. Just cut out a lot of the expensive junk food that you eat (or buy the store brand... store brand tortilla chips at Kroger fall under the 10 for $10, or even the Walmart brand are only $1.25... regular Tostidos are like almost $5 a bag!!!!), plan properly (take inventory of what you DO have) and schedule your meals. That way, you know how much of what exactly you're going to need when you go shopping. Get creative too. Keep your eyes open for bargains. No biggie.

If you have specific questions about how I managed to keep this budget, please ask. Feel free to either comment below or to post on my facebook page. The facebook page would be an even better way to get more tips and money saving suggestions from other moms. Either way... Please ask away! Happy shopping!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mommy's Little Helper

 I read something recently, can't remember exactly what it was, that said that doctors used to prescribe women Valium for their "nerves" or to help them cope with the stress of being housewives. Um... really? I thought this was nuts for a whole slew of reasons. So I googled it. Sure enough, in the 60's, SAHM's were poppin pills left and right. So.... what in the world am I supposed to take for my nerves? Seriously. These women couldn't handle being housewives? What? Did they think it was a lot to deal with? Tough to do? Huh. Who'd have known?

Anyway, I've found another little helper. It's one that's not new and is all over the place and it even says on the box that it's got a whole bunch of different functions and purposes but I didn't discover any more than like two until recently.

Baking Soda. Yup. Boring as it may sound. And I know that I may have just lost some of you reading. Seriously though, if some one knew of something fantastic, I'd hope they'd share the news. Just like Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. If you've never tried them (and you can use the "off" brand and they work just as well), you're not living. Holy Clean Walls, Batman! Yeah. But back to the baking soda.

I think that I first started seeing things about it on Pinterest (another form of Mommy's Little Helper). So I decided to break out a box (or 4) and put it to use. In the last week, here's how I've used it and how it's helped rock my world:

1) Mosquito itch reliever. Mix a little with some water and just a touch of Windex (yeah, you read right). Enough to make it a thick paste. Then just put a little on the mosquito bite. My daughter got bit up really bad the other day. She had at least 15 bites on her arms and legs. And she seemed to think that telling me over and over how bad they itched, that I would be able to make it stop. We've tried benedryhl and hydrocortizone cream before but neither worked for her. But this did. And I'm not gonna lie, the peace and quite that followed, the lack of whining and complaining about how bad they itched, was music to my ears. Try it!

2) I have tiles on the floor in my bathroom. Somehow, I neglected them badly over time and the grout between the tiles had gotten really dirty. Scrubbing with other cleaners didn't help. I mixed some baking soda with water and hydrogen peroxide, grabbed a toothbrush, got on my hands and knees and went to town. 20 minutes later, the grout was white again and it looked like I had brand new floors.

3) Anti-boy-potty-training-smell-thing... I don't even know what to call it. All I know is that my almost 3 year old son is thrilled to be potty trained. And he's thrilled that he can "pee like a big boy"... meaning, he stands up to do it. Only problem is that if he stands on the stool, he overshoots but if he's standing on the floor, he's too short to get it in properly. So a lot of pee ends up on the floor, and the toilet, and in weirder places. The bathroom has been reeking of urine and it seemed like no matter how much I cleaned or what I used, I just couldn't get the smell to go away. Until today. A friend pinned a recipe for this very problem that worked like a charm. Mix the baking soda with water and lemon juice. So I did. And I got back down on my hands and knees with the toothbrush and scrubbed the floors. And the toilet. And the floor boards. And there's no more pee smell. I can not express how happy this made me. That bathroom has been stinking so bad that it's made me borderline insane. Who wants a room of their home smelling like a public restroom? I sure don't. And now I don't have to.

4) Hand softener. After using all this baking soda, I noticed that my hands felt much softer. So I decided to test it. I mixed enough of it with water to make a thick paste and then just grabbed a bit and gave myself a hand massage. I couldn't believe how much softer my hands were afterwards. I'm gonna try in on my feet later. I can't wait to have baby soft feet.

I also sprinkle it on my dog's beds and in their crates to help maintain the dog smell. I used to keep it in my freezer but I never really understood why. I know it's a great deodorizer but my freezers have never smelled weird in the first place so who knows... Also, Arm & Hammer, one of the most popular brands of baking soda, makes this amazing carpet deodorizer (we call it "carpet sprinkle" in our house). You can buy it in a whole bunch of different scents or you can buy it in what I'm assuming is basically a fancy packaged version of regular baking soda. Since I've been using it (when I vacuum), my carpets have smelled so good. You wouldn't know I have three dogs and three kids.

I know that baking soda has a billion more uses (cooking, cleaning, deodorizing and what not) but these are my most recent tried and true. I think that when I go shopping again in a few days, I'm going to get a whole bunch more and tackle some more projects with it. I hear you can polish silver, make home made tooth paste, remove coffee stains and even, with the help of boiling vinegar, unclog your drains.

Who needs Valium when you've got a box of baking soda? Well...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The "Uh-Oh" Moments

Alright, any mother (or father... or any attentive person taking care of a child, really) can tell you that there's certain things that a child will do or say that let you know you're in trouble, that you're in for some kind of unpleasant surprise. That your immediate world is about to get turned upside down for a moment. Drop all you're doing, put on the hazard suit, gird your loins, charge head first into battle. My inspiration for this post comes from my beautiful one year old daughter. Tonight, she said her first "word" other than "dada" or "mama". She said, "Uh-Oh". Initially, it was adorable. Then, when the other two children paused, looked at each other and then started giggling, I knew I was in trouble. Any kind of giggling only encourages the "uh-oh" moments. Boy am I in for it...

As a parent, you know you're in trouble when:

- a kid goes into the bathroom and is quiet for a really long time. Usually, this means you're going to walk in there and find poop in the strangest places and/or the kid will be completely naked, trying to bath them self in the sink.

- you hear... nothing. Whenever my kids are upstairs playing in their rooms and I'm downstairs doing something like cooking dinner, as soon as I realize that I haven't heard them for more than 2 minutes, they're up to something. It could be anything from finding that they've opened their closet and pulled most of the clothes off the hangers and mixed them in with all the dirty clothes or they've some how managed to disassemble the chairs and table that it took you 6 hours to put together in the first place.

- you hear one child screaming and crying and another laughing and yelling. Recently, I was downstairs cleaning and I heard my son wailing. Usually, he's picking on his sisters and they're the ones wailing. Then I heard the baby laughing. This alone freaked me out. What could she be doing that would upset him so badly. I ran upstairs to find him sitting on the toilet, freshly full of floaters, and her arms and hands covered in whatever was in the toilet. She had decided to toss his toy cars in the toilet as he was using it and then they both proceeded to fish the cars out themselves. Really gross. Really really gross.

- you hear the dog licking and chomping when you know you've not given him anything. The baby has a bad habit of giving the dogs food. Including chocolate, which they're so very grateful for. And she's just gotten tall enough to knock stuff, food, onto the floor off the table or counter. Sometimes even things you were planning on cooking for dinner, which she will so lovingly share with her four legged friends before you even realize what's going on.

- you hear one kid making fun of the other. A few nights ago, my husband and I could hear our daughters "conversing" so we tip toed up to the door to listen. We heard the baby very obviously fake crying but then we heard our oldest telling her to stop being a baby, to stop faking it and then she mocked her fake cry. My 4 year old is a bully. I will accept full responsibility for this one, as I was a bully when I was a kid, mostly trying to hide my insecurities. I must still do it with out realizing. It's a really bad trait that I'm going to have to make sure she never gets and in order to do that, I'm going to have to be extra careful what I say and do around the kids. I'm in BIG trouble with this one. Most of the time, I don't realize what I've said until after it comes flying out of my mouth.

- you ask your kids, who're in the next room what they're doing and the response you get is, "Anything!"

- you say something along the lines of, "Do you need a spanking, or what?" and the reply is, "Or what."

- your kid tells you that you need to do more yoga or that your boobs are too big.

- you've said something once in jest and the kid actually believes (and repeats) it. To pay my Dad back for some prank he pulled on me using my kids (lol, yeah, we're like that and I love it) when my parents came to visit near his and my daughter's birthday (they have the same birthday), I told my daughter that OGPOG was older than dirt. Now she says it all the time. She also thinks he wears diapers for some reason. In case you read this, Dad, I don't remember what that one's about, lol... I love you :)

I've got three kids. I'd have my work cut out for me even if I only had one. But I've got three. And they're all close enough in age as to where they'll all be partners in crime together. SO not looking forward to puberty hitting in my house. Gonna be a rough couple of years.

To all you knew parents out there, since it actually seems like quite a few people I know are having first time babies right now, prepare yourself. Get a sense of humor if you don't have one already, develop some kind of stonewall face (because some of the stuff kids do will shock you to the point that your jaw will literally drop open) so they can't see you falter and pray up. You're in for a wild ride.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back To School

Just throwing this out there, but I did NOT miss the beeping of the school buses turning around in my culdesac, waking up my kids at 6:30. Moving on...

It's that time again. I thought that the school buses refrequenting our street were just practicing for the school year and I guess they are but many schools in the Atlanta Metro area (ooopppsss... I just let it slip where I live... don't know that I've done that before...) have already started. That's insane to me. I feel bad for the kids. I mean, I liked school and all but having summer vacation end in July is just crazy anarchy. Well, I'm not serious about that part, but really, I'd be bummed.

My kids are 4, almost 3 and 1. Back to school? At those ages? Yup. But I'm takin a different approach. We had considered getting our oldest into a Head Start program but quite frankly, I'm not ready to let her go just yet. On top of having two other little ones that I'd have to cart back and forth with me a couple times a day to pick my oldest up from school... Just not the right thing for our family right now. So I'm home schooling. "Home School". I'm going to "teach" them at home. I'm laughing and shaking my head just thinking about it. It's not full on home schooling, like I'm not part of a program or reporting to any one but through the help of some fellow moms and the wonderful Internet, I've found some great resources and an easy to use curriculum.

My curriculum, from Hubbard's Cupboard, seems to be one that's pretty easy to follow. It's all planned out by age, including resources, book suggestions, printables... the whole works. On top of which is the added bonus that it's a Christian curriculum. I like that the kid's will be learning about God and the Bible while learning the other basic need to know stuff.

Some other sites that I found that have great printables and tips are:

www.havefunteaching.com
www.freehomeschoolprintables.blogspot.com
www.teachingblogaddict.com

I decided to treat this homeschooling project like it's real school so that the kids can get into it. I've designated a spot in the kitchen for our schedules, their weekly key points, Bible verses and charts. An area on my office will be sectioned off where we will be doing the actual school work and learning. We already bought them school supplies and later this week, I'll be hitting up The Dollar Tree in their "teacher" section to buy more posters and bulletin board supplies. The next few nights will consist of me rearranging my office (again) and preparing their lesson plans. I'm even scheduling in field trips that pertain to certain things in the curriculum. I have to be so serious with it or I'll never be serious about it. And I'm pretty sure that education, no matter what the age, is extremely important. I mean, I'm not Tiger Mom but still...

Since I am TOTALLY knew to all of this, I would appreciate any and all tips and advice any one can give me. Seriously. Any kind of teaching methods or organizational suggestions are more than welcome. I'm really bad at sticking to things and being organized but I realize how important this is, especially preparing my oldest for Kindergarten next year.

This Wannabe Supermom may end up kicking herself in a few weeks but for now, I'm tacklin another project in this adventure called "motherhood".

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Narnia, Middle Earth and other children's fairy tales...

Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books as bedtime stories for his children? And that quite a bit of his muses were his wife and kids? While his books are serious but with touches of wonder and beauty, I have to wonder what kinds of dreams his kids had falling asleep hearing him tell these stories.

The same with The Chronicles of Narnia. And most of the stories written by the Grim brothers. They can be a little bit... intense. Sometimes scary.

I've been researching lately on how to improve my kids' reading skills and often, I find suggestions that reading actual books, like book books and not just picture books, to the kids will help them. It'll help their language skills as well as their ability to understand and follow in depth stories. The Chronicles of Narnia was suggested over and over. I LOVED these books as a kid. I can't remember how old I was when I started reading them but I know it was in elementary school. I can even remember the box set my parents bought me. Same with The Lord of the Rings. I got them for my birthday the summer between my 4th and 5th grade year. I still have them. Except The Hobbit. I read it so many times that it fell apart. But my parents bought me a whole new beautiful hard cover boxed set a couple years ago. Along with the box set of the movies. I love love love those books. In high school, we had to do a British author report in our English class and I chose Tolkien. He was a fascinating man. Most of his colleagues thought he was nuts when he wrote the books and they were pretty unpopular at first. If only they knew what it would turn into... Anyway...

My kids are 4, almost 3 and 1. Part of me wonders if they're too young for me to be reading these kinds of books to them. I read the Grim Brothers' fairy tales to them. Stories that are filled with pain and monsters and tragedy. Seriously. Have you ever really paid attention to the stories? REALLY thought about them? How could stories about Narnia or Middle Earth be worse? I think the stories are longer and more detailed but I think I'm going to give it a try. Added bonus that Lewis and Tolkien were Christians. My dad used to tell us stories when we were little and I only discovered later, that those stories were from The LOTR books. I loved hearing the stories he told. Loved them. And was thrilled when I got to read them for myself. I am so very thankful that he introduced me to these books.

I think that it's just as important to cultivate a child's imagination as it is their language and social and reading and math, science, etc, skills. With out an imagination, creativity is lacking and as far as I'm concerned, where creativity is lacking, robots are formed. I want my children to grow up to be happy, successful people. Not robots.

Tomorrow, at the library, I'll be picking up the first of the Narnia books (which is The Magician's Nephew... NOT The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe). I will introduce my kids' to a whole new exciting world and pray that they understand the meaning to its fullest when the time comes. They'll never know how totally excited I am to start reading these books to them...

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