Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shut Up and Pray!

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12

The power of a praying wife!! Yesterday I was once again struck by this. Without listing details (I don't want to embarrass him), there was something I thought my husband should be doing. But nagging (my way of encouraging) only makes it worse. So awhile back I shut-up and started praying about it. Well, lo and was presented to him. He told me it had been offered, and I had to struggle to keep my mouth shut to start in my "you really should, it would be good, etc, etc." Well, he surprised me last night (I had forgotten about it) to say he was going to.

I mention this to tell you the power of a praying wife. I know us wives are NOT perfect. But are husbands aren't either. And there are many areas of our husbands lives I am sure we want to see change in (and picking up his clothes doesn't count!). These are major areas; spiritually, financially, physically (health), etc. And like I said, nagging is not encouragement (sorry ladies!) But praying quietly about it with God can do 1 of 2 things; change your heart, or change his. It doesn't happen over night, but I have seen changes in the way we view finances, job issues, family things, church, etc. Some of these changes have majorly affected my life too-like moving-but the end result is so much better. So try never know how God will work.

Managing Kids' Fevers and Medicine Doses

We've had bouts with fevers this winter/spring, and, with multiple children needing various dosages of medicine at various times, we've started a new habit I highly recommend:

We keep a stack of blank index cards and a pen with the Tylenol and Motrin. As soon as a child starts running a fever and needs some medicine, I write down the time, dose, and which medicine was given. This is especially helpful if my husband and I are taking turns in the middle of the night; each of knows exactly what was given the previous round. Since you can alternate medicines like Tylenol and Motrin, this ensures we don't double up on one accidentally. It also helps my husband keep straight the various dosages. We also include what the fever was at the time the medicine was given. Then, if you have to call the doctor, you have all the relevant information written down instead of floating around in the Mommy Brain Vortex/Black Hole!

We also try to give medicine to all three kids at the same time. For instance, say Twin A is running a fever, Twin B is mighty cranky (and since they share eating utensils, it's only a matter of time before the fever descends), and Toddler is wanting to go to bed instead of eating dinner. I just give them all Tylenol at the same time so that we're on the same schedule.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tea Bag: Endurance

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

One of my all-time favorite verses. I am so tired right now, from soccer, pre-school, coops, 2 yr old not sleeping, husband traveling, etc. It's that time of year. So if you are feeling a little sluggish, hang in there. Let's soar together.

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Running the Race

In a few weeks, I am going to be running a 5k. This is the longest "marathon" type run I have ever done, but I think it would be fun to do another sometime. (Yes, I know 5k is only 3 miles...I'm still getting back in shape!)

But did you know how many verses in the Bible talk about running a race, and not just a physical one. This spiritual race we are running can be soooo tiring, and physically taxing. A few weeks ago our pastor told us about a survey where (I hope I get this right) the majority of pastors burn out (I want to say 80% but can't remember). They feel unappreciated, overworked, under payed. Something like 60% ended up having affairs or divorces. These are key men who are supposed to really help share, and teach the gospel. He didn't even mention missionaries.

One of the biggest factors he also mentioned, that is true for us too, is that pastors, and others end up spending hardly any "personal" time with God. Obviously they have to open the Bible for their sermon, but not for personal growth and quiet time. We get caught up in what we think is necessary and avoid the biggest part of growing our faith.

Betsy has mentioned Barbara Barker before (her book is our current resource book.) I have heard other women even say about her, they are amazed that when she speaks, how many verses from the Bible she quotes off the top of her head. That only comes from spending time in the Bible and taking the time to commit it to memory.

So without further ado, here is probably not an exhausted list, but a good one of verses in the Bible talking about running our race:

Psalm 19:5b (David talking about God's glory) like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

Proverbs 4:12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.

Isaiah 40:31 Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Galatians 5:7-8 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? that kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

Philippians 2:16 As you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Hebrews 12:1 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.

Going Green, part 2: Children's Clothes and Toys

To see the first "Going Green" post and links to subsequent ones, click here.
This post is in honor of my sister who has been a great example and enabler of recycling/reusing children's clothes and toys.

When I (Betsy) got pregnant with my first child, I didn't register (nor did I with my twins). My friends couldn't understand why not. Well, the answer was simple: we didn't need very much stuff. Why not? Because we were given a boatload of hand-me-downs: walker, stroller/carseat, pac-n-play, crib, changing table, rocker/glider with ottoman, clothes, toys, etc.

Well, we must just have had really generous friends, right? That is true in part. However, those items came from many different sources, including my in-laws (my children have all slept on my husband's crib and been changed on his old changing table!) and my sister, who loaned us some stuff in between her own children needing it.

If you're expecting a child and/or already have young children at home, consider some of the following strategies for reducing, reusing, and recycling your children's stuff. Remember, your young children, especially, won't know the difference between brand new and used. Your older children can benefit from having parents who refuse to run out and buy the latest, greatest whatever and instead choose to get it (usually in the same condition) a little later from someone else. Keep toys and baby gear to a minimum (which is hard to do, I know--even a few toys seem like a lot when they're scattered across the floor).

  1. Consignment sales (these are becoming more and more abundant; consign your old stuff and buy the next batch/season's worth of stuff for your children; I have gotten some amazing deals on some beautiful clothes this way!)
  2. Trade (we trade back and forth with some of our neighbors all the time; our children are all stair stepped in age, so when one child is through with a toy or item of clothing, it gets passed to the next one in line--and sometimes back to the original family when their next child is old enough. This has worked so well that this past winter, one neighbor and I actually just swapped winter wardrobes. My daughter wore her older daughter's last winter things, and her younger daughter wore my daughter's last winter things.)
  3. Borrow (we've borrowed my sister's walker, for instance, and are about to give it back!)
  4. Hand-me-downs (this can work for everything from a cherished, hand made Easter dress to a pac-n-play to junky play clothes; these are things you don't intend to get back/don't have to give back to the giver)
  5. Online Used/Consignment (Craigslist and ebay are two models of this; I got my boys an entire matching wardrobe for spring/summer off of 2 craigslist postings this year!)
Note: car seats are not good items to buy from an unknown source in case they were in a car when the car was in an accident. Also, some states have laws for the age of the car seat.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Fruit of the Spirit (Kindness)

Check the "Savoring a Cup of Tea" index in the margin for links to other posts in this category.

Kindness is another lost virtue in our society; as a result, when this fruit of the Spirit is present in someone, it really stands out! I Corinthians 13 includes kindness as one of the first things love is: "Love is patient; it is kind...".

I think kindness is particularly in need with our living companions (husbands, roommates, children, etc.) and with the perfect stranger with whom you cross paths during your daily routines (grocery store clerks, mailman, bus driver, dry cleaner, etc.). Smile the next time you're checking out at the grocery store, dropping off the dry cleaning, going through the drive thru window; be polite and cheerful the next time you make a phone call to reserve a rental car or make a doctor's appointment.

When we are tired or frustrated with life in general, kindness seems to fly out the window, especially in relation to those in our own home. We are often nicer to our girl friends than to our husbands. So, as you pray for this fruit of the Spirit to be more manifest in your life, think of ways to demonstrate kindness to those you love most.

What is kindness? lists several synonyms for "kindness": generosity, sympathy, compassion, tenderness. For "kind," it says the following:
"Kind, gracious, kindhearted, kindly imply a sympathetic attitude toward others, and a willingness to do good or give pleasure. Kind implies a deep-seated characteristic shown either habitually or on occasion by considerate behavior."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Top Five Baby Shower Gifts

Got a baby shower coming up? The following are suggestions of items both Carrie and I have given and received that have been most appreciated. (Note that there are no clothes or toys on this list; these will always be given by someone--you can branch out!)

  1. Books! Can't go wrong here--stick with board books because they'll be the easiest for little hands in the beginning; look for simple, bright illustrations/photographs and short, simple text.
  2. "Receiving Blanket Wrap-Up": this is Carrie's ingenious creation. Take a receiving blanket (these frequently come in multi-packs; just use the extras for the next gift) and use it as your wrapping paper. Spread it out and place in the middle an assortment of practical baby toiletry items (shampoo, soap, diaper rash cream, etc.). Pull up the corners of the blanket and tie with yarn or a brightly colored ribbon. Slide a small teething toy through the yarn to dress it up.
  3. Diapers! Sounds boring, but oh, so appreciated. Size 2 is a safe bet since so many babies rapidly go through size 1.
  4. Eating Essentials. For a new mom, this can be a great, practical gift. She won't need it right away, but eventually the following will be invaluable: spoons, bowls, cups, bibs, etc. She'll also appreciate having an experienced mom give her the kinds that work best.
  5. Giftcards. When in doubt, this is a perfectly acceptable way to go. Sometimes new parents can use several gift cards together towards one larger product (stroller, car seat, etc.). Babies R Us is probably the safest choice; Target and Wal-Mart are great second choices (these places all carry diapers, so at the very least the new parents can buy more of these!).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

5 More Ways to Avoid Birthday Gifts-Part 3

Betsy gave some suggestions of what to give when the invitation to a party says "no gifts." Here are some other ideas to help avoid buying a new toy chest.
  1. Instead of gifts, ask for books only (many can be found for around $5 or less.)
  2. Ask for books/toys for donations to a local charity.
  3. Do a toy swap-each child bring a non-gender toy and each gets to pick one to take home with them (eliminates party favors too!)
  4. Have each child bring a party favor to share-like above, everyone gets something.
  5. Don't have a party: Birthday parties is a whole new blog, but you don't have to have one every year!

Top Ten Children's Birthday Presents, part 2

These are some good birthday present suggestions for young children (say, through early elementary) whom you know well (i.e. your own children, your nieces/nephews, your grandchildren, perhaps children of close friends). If you need some suggestions for children who are mere friends, see part 1. If in doubt that the child in question is still "into" something or wearing a particular size, you can always check with the parent.

  1. Nice books (in addition to fun stories, think about children's encyclopedic books--like ones on animals, dry-erase activity books which teach drawing/writing, or nice editions of classics)
  2. Subscription to a children's magazine (like Cricket, Click, Ladybug, etc.)
  3. Pass to zoo, museum, or other such destination
  4. Additions to an existing collection (such as Hot Wheels, Geo Trax/Thomas train sets, doll house furniture, etc.)
  5. Constructive toys (blocks, Legos, Tinker Toys, etc.)
  6. Arts and crafts supplies (Color Wonder equipment, drawing paper, colored pencils, even a fun smock or craft kit)
  7. Something homemade (if you're good at something, use that gift! My own children have received very cool board books illustrated by one grandmother who's an artist, a darling smocked dress by one grandmother who sews well, mugs painted by their very talented and crafty aunt, wooden puzzle made by their dad, etc.)
  8. Complete outfit in current or upcoming size (i.e. matching shorts and shirt, even pajamas)
  9. Bug jar/butterfly garden (these can be found at pet stores as well as at Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, etc.)
  10. Age-appropriate quality movies or CD's (perhaps a favorite of your own family's, a classic, or simply one you know the child would like)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tea Bag: Building Others Up

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

What is coming out of your mouth (especially when your children and husband are in the room)?

Top Five Children's Birthday Presents, part 1

When an invitation to a young child's birthday says "no gifts necessary" or something to that effect, no one seems to take it seriously...except perhaps yours truly. Since I (Betsy) hope people take me seriously when I put that on my children's birthday invitations, I choose to believe the other parents are similarly hopeful. But, since none of us like to show up empty handed to said birthday party, here are some small suggestions that have been well received by my own children and those of my friends:

  1. Fun birthday cards (the ones with music are especially popular)
  2. Bubbles
  3. Stickers and other consumables such as markers, art paper, coloring books, etc. (things the child can use up over time)
  4. Play-doh
  5. a book (paperbacks are cheap; board books are also nice)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bathtime "Business"

Well, I am trying to give my 2 yr old a bath while folding laundry, and putting another load on to dry (you know, constant multi-tasking!) In the middle of this, I hear exclaimes, "Mama, I did it!" (all proud of himself.) I turn around, and start trying to figure out what he did, when I see two nice floating "logs" (use your imagination!). That was the end of bathtime.

"No Crying Over Spilled Milk"...Happy Monday!

Playdate Calamities

Betsy called me today telling about an experience with her daughter she hadn't encountered before. She had a friend come by this morning with her kids, and during the time, Betsy's daughter became a terror (well, I don't know, I wasn't there). She didn't want to share, had a problem with them playing with her toys, and that sort of things. We have experienced this many times and have come up with some good solutions that I thought I would share:
  1. Preparation: Prepare your child for a coming visit. Explain that little Johnny is coming to play and we are going to share our toys with him-he is our guest.
  2. Remove: Put up any special toys that your child covets, or might could get broken. It will save a temper-tantrum later when Johnny reaches for it. Everything else is fair game-they are just toys after all and can be replaced, repaired, and meant to be played with.
  3. Learn to share: The younger they are, the harder it is, but NECESSARY! With older ones, let the guest get it first for a few minutes, then make them trade. Guests can learn to share too :-). And don't allow grabbing and snatching away. If needed, put a toy up if both kids are fighting over it too much. I promise they will move on.
  4. Hospitality: Never too early to teach your children hospitality. These are our guests, we treat them with respect, and they go first. If not, then they won't be able to have friends over again. Hopefully your child will be treated with the same regard when they are the guest.
  5. Discipline: Don't be afraid to discipline while your guests are there. As embarrassing as it is, you still don't need to overlook offensive behavior. And make your child apologize for their behavior (if old enough.) Otherwise, how will they learn for the next time.

There are many other things too, like my child is always afraid his friends are going to take his toys home, and I have to explain (preparation) that they are just coming to play with them at our house. Or one time he tried to give away a car that our younger son played with. I stepped in an explained to our guest that it was for our other son, I'm sorry he couldn't have it. My son's friend had no problem with that, and I was the current authority. I could go on. Just remember this is a learning experience and an important part of their social development.

Laundry Triple Threat

After our birthday festivities this weekend, here's a short list of stains I treated this morning: ketchup, green and blue icing, chocolate, Cheeto crumbs, baked beans, ..... I've worked out a laundry triple threat for stains that almost always works (it doesn't work great on grease, but that's about it). ALL of the above stains came out--even from solid white shirts. Here it is: pre-treat with Stain Stick (or the gel variety). Wash clothes in warmest water they can take with good regular detergent* and a generous scoop of Oxy. Ta Da! Stains come out! Anyone else have a system they'd like to share?

My neighbor swears by a healthy pre-treatment of dish soap (worked into the stain vigorously) on grease stains; I've had moderate success with this treatment and think I just need to work the soap in a little more. Simple Green is another laundry booster, similar to Oxy, that supposedly works great. Haven't tried it yet--anyone else out there tried this one? With grass stain and popsicle stain season fast looming, we need to get our strain treatment strategies in order!

*I've been a die hard Tide user for tough stains/laundry needs, but just recently switched to the Sam's club brand (Member's Mark); the container looks the same as Tide and I believe it's their comparable product. So far, I've had great success!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Reflections on the Past Year

My twins are 1 year old today! I've been reflecting over the past week or so on what the Lord has taught me this year as I experienced my first year being a MOM (Mother of Multiples). Here's a short list:

I am NOT in Control of My Life: the Lord Is

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me (even getting up 6 times in the middle of the night for the umpteenth night in a row)

K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid) (80% of the side dishes I've cooked this past year have been steamed broccoli and baked sweet potatoes; my boys wear mostly solid colored clothing; I did my Christmas shopping online; we eat leftovers or grilled cheese every Sunday for lunch;....)

Just Do It (Sure, meeting your friend at Chick-Fil-A is going to be an all-day endeavor, but you just gotta get out of the house sometimes; I ask for help; I take people up on their offers to help without pondering it too much, wondering if they really mean it....)

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (by this I'm referring to the truly unimportant small things: whether the clean laundry gets put up right away, what your house looks like when people come over, if you're eating leftovers three nights in a row, what someone might be thinking of your small herd, if the ironing ever gets done, if the home improvement project stays "in process" for an extra month or eight, how much dog hair your crawler might be consuming in his explorations throughout the house,....)

Life is in the Details (this refers to those glorious everyday details in your family's life--I'm learning to keep my camera handy. For instance, the delightful way one son eats with food in his mouth and in both hands--all at the same time. Or, the way my toddler comes running in, out of breath, and says, "I run so fast." Or, perhaps the twinkle that seems to show up in one twin's eyes in every picture I look at. What about remembering someone's birthday? Or, leaving a small note for my husband by the coffee maker. Savoring a trip to the grocery when I get to go without the kids. Enjoying a good book, even if it takes me longer to finish than in my previous life. My toddler's first successful pee pee in the potty!)

Life's Not Fair (I'm learning to stop comparing my life to others; I could complain because I had twins a mere 18 months after my daughter was born and there were months, before my boys could sit up, in which I physically couldn't fit all my children in one grocery cart. Or, I could look at it this way: all those other people are missing out on the cool-ness that multiples bring to your life--the way they interact with each other, the interest you garner in every public place from perfect strangers, the help that is freely offered in every store/business, the fact that my three children will never remember not having each other in their lives.)

It's All Relative (For instance, compared to this time last year, I have a smokin' hot body.)

Always Be Prepared (our diaper bag ALWAYS has, in addition to diapers and wipes, the following: animal crackers, sippy cups, extra onesies, toys, etc.)

Think Outside the Box (I do not have the time to scrapbook for my kids, so I made digital photo books for each one. I did my Christmas shopping online. Our boys slept in the living room and the hallway for the first months of their lives. We're learning to think of ALL possible solutions to any given problem/situation, no matter how unconventional.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sunday Morning Worship Prep., Intro

I (Betsy) have thought a lot about how to prepare for Sunday morning worship over the past few years. I mean preparation both practically speaking and personally speaking. As each new phase of life occurs (marriage, new baby, etc.), the Sunday morning routine gets tweaked. I'm going to throw some ideas out over the next few weeks that have helped my family and me get to church both on time and in a right frame of mind, but first I want to begin by sharing about our Easter Sunday morning.

Of all Sunday mornings to be prepared, Easter Sunday morning is it! So, nothing daunted, I carefully ironed all our Easter outfits ahead of time, packed the diaper bag with extra changes of clothes, planned a quick-but-substantial breakfast and had it ready ahead of time, and made sure everyone had baths/showers the day/night before. We did make it to church on time and in reasonably good moods; I even had my Sunday school lesson ready. However, Easter morning did NOT go as planned.

First, we woke up to a cold morning. I checked the forecast to see what the temperature by noon would be like. Hmmm... was going to be in the 40's until mid-afternoon. Backup (warmer) outfits were pulled out; incidentally these were the backups in the diaper bag, so now there were no backup clothes in the diaper bag in case of accidents at church. Daddy had breakfast supervision duty while I tried on several outfits, hunting for a suitable, warm Eastery outfit. Daddy fell asleep on the couch, and he woke up to the sight of our large dogs polishing off the kids' breakfast. We still have no idea how much the kids actually consumed. We finally made it to the car and to church on time; we forgot: snacks for the way home (we live 40 minutes from church, so snacks for the way home go a long way...), burp cloths for the boys for nursery (one of them threw up several times during nursery that morning), backup outfits in case the "potty trained" toddler had an accident or boys threw up/peed on themselves (one boy came home with no socks), .....

As I ran around the house that morning, fuming and fussing at everyone in my way while I tried to make everything "picture perfect," I had to remind myself of some of the things I'll be sharing with you in the coming weeks. So, stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hump Day=Lazy Day

Wednesday is my only lazy day right now. Well, sort of! In other words, I don't have to be anywhere by 9:00 am. Every other day, we have something we have to, or want to be at (including Saturdays right now!) I highly encourage you to take one day, or morning in our case, slow. Great to stop and reflect on how your week is going, catch up on dishes, or squeeze in that quiet time that has gone out the window. I can refresh for the rest of the busy week, and not get mad at my children because we are late going out the door. So keep that bath robe on and get lazy (or for once take a morning shower!)

Happy Hump Day! (Hump Day=middle of week, downhill from now on!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Struggle of Becoming "Mom"-Part 2

"What Would Jesus Do?"--i.e. What is the Biblical model for having children?

I know many who have struggled with what God intends for our families, and how many children we should "try" for or want to have. In my Part 1 post, I stated that I think the size of family doesn't matter as much as a Godly family does. And I said there are several Biblical examples of all types/sizes of family.

Here are a few of the biblical examples, all from the book of Genesis, and all in Christ's lineage (See Matthew 1):

The Infertile Family: Genesis 18:11, "Abraham and Sarah were already old...and Sarah was past the age of childbearing." Yet, we know God had plans for Abraham, the "father of nations". He and Sarah bore one important son, Isaac. And Isaac was their one and only too (Gen. 22:2), not counting Hagaar's son, Ishmael.

Twins: Now, interestingly, Rebekah was barren. Isaac prayed on her behalf (Gen. 25: 21). And in Gen. 25:24 she had twin boys. I could not find any other mention of more children.

The Large Family: Jacob, we know had 12 sons (Gen 35:23). Six of them, and 1 daughter came from Leah--that's 7 children for Leah. And we know the 12 sons were to become the 12 tribes of Israel, and also his son Judah is in Christ's lineage.

The Adopted Child: Also, interestingly, adoption plays a HUGE role in the history of the Israelites. Moses is adopted by Pharaoh's wife (Exodus 2:10), which means Moses' mother was willing to give him away to another. God orchestrated it so the Israelites would be set free from Egypt. Moses is from the tribe of Levi...the tribe of Judah is where Christ's lineage comes from, but the Levites were the ones who upheld the Old Testament Law.

Miscarriages: There are not really any miscarriages recorded, although there were children that died (i.e. Bathsheba's first son from David died.) But that doesn't mean they didn't happened. They just may not have been recorded. Many of the infertile women may have had miscarriages. With no living children, they were considered barren.

What does all this mean? Well, the point I would like to make is this: All types of families were present in the Bible. These in particular had a special significance to the birth of Christ. It didn't matter that they had 1 child, many children, or an adopted child. They each trusted God, and their children were used for mighty things. So for us today, does that mean we should have one child or many or none. I think the answer lies in what God is leading you to do. He has shown he doesn't have to have a large army to work his plan, he needs those that are faithful and willing to follow. And he will in turn show you the right course for your family.

Going Green, part 1: The Blue Towel

For the first "Going Green" post, click here.
This post is dedicated to my in-law's for their example in the 3R's, and for introducing me to the wonderful blue towel! (They also keep me well-stocked with said blue towel.)

The blue towel to which I refer is none other than the humble, ubiquitous blue towel used in hospitals. For some reason, like the little striped newborn blankets, they are the same in every hospital. The only difference, I've been told, is that they're white in the cardiac wings of hospitals. This towel, for those who may never have seen one in person, is about the size of an ordinary dish towel, is coarsely woven cotton--also like many dish towels, and is cobalt blue. Conveniently, they're my favorite color.

But the charms and uses of the blue towel go far, far beyond its nice color. How do I, a stay-at-home mom, come by bags and bags of blue towels that can be used for any number of occasions? My father-in-law is a nurse anesthetist. Therefore, he is in surgery all day at his hospital. When the nurses open a box of these blue towels (they come 10 to a box), the unused towels must be discarded since they are no longer sterile. My father-in-law takes the unused ones home, thus practicing the 3R's in one simple act: reducing trash, reusing the towels in another way, and recycling these towels in a sense because they get used over and over and over again. You may not have access to blue towels, but surely you have some old hand or dish towels lying around. Consider using them instead of paper towels or other wasteful products for some of the following we've discovered: (we do throw away blue towels when they get nasty--they've still been used for more than they would have been had they been thrown away unused).

  • drying dishes
  • hand towels in kitchen
  • prep towels to wipe your hands on during food prep
  • cleaning up spills
  • cleaning up vomit
  • cleaning up pee (when you're potty training a child, you clean this up a lot!)
  • cleaning up wet paint
  • cleaning dirty animals (dogs when they come in from the rain)
  • cleaning baseboards
  • cleaning windowsills
  • cleaning tops of door frames
  • cleaning cabinet surfaces
  • spare towels in your car (in case your children or car need some clean up)
  • oil rags when checking car's oil
  • work shop rags
  • burp cloths
  • "warmers"--wrapped around dishes to keep them warm in transit
  • "insulators"--wrapped around frozen food to keep them cool in transit
  • "cloth" napkins--yes, we've even done this!
  • folded up under faucets that leak
  • the list could go on and on and on.....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Freedom to Eat Junk Food!

I (Betsy) try really hard to feed my family healthy, inexpensive meals. This is often a big challenge because inexpensive usually means more work (chopping vegetables instead of buying pre-chopped, etc.), healthy stuff is often more expensive than junk food (mac and cheese is awfully cheap!), and my children, like their peers, often prefer salty, sugary food over a healthy alternative. So, planning my weekly menus can take forever as I try to figure out what everyone will eat, what's healthy/nutritious, and what is most affordable given that week's sale.

Here's a solution that has helped me tremendously for lunch time options that I'm expanding now for dinner and breakfast: one meal a week is junk food. I plan it that way! I've been doing that for lunch since I first got pregnant with my twins. For the duration of that pregnancy, my toddler and I had mac and cheese every Friday. Sometimes we threw in a side course of fruit, sometimes not. Why does that help? For some reason, it's much easier to "be strong" the rest of the week if I know there's a free day coming up (dieters often use this strategy, allowing themselves to eat dessert one day a week). Mentally, I know one meal is taken care of, is easy, something I don't have to think about. This also helps me resist swinging through various drive thrus if I'm out running errands with the kids. My hope is that the same principle will help us, at dinner, avoid ordering pizza or getting takeout from the local cheap Chinese place quite as often. After all, we'll still be coming out ahead in the cost category even if we're not doing any better nutritionally at home.

So, I'm expanding junk food to include one breakfast and one dinner a week. I'll be posting some easy recipes/meal ideas in the coming days on full tummies, so check it out if you're interested. We'll no doubt be eating our junk food dinner on Saturday nights since that's generally the day my husband and I have been working in the yard or perhaps gone out with the kids--a day when I don't have as much time in the kitchen. In addition to hot dogs, corndogs, fish sticks, pb&j, and grilled cheese, there are lots of other options that feel a little more like a real meal, but are really no more effort. Homemade hot pockets, anyone?

I'll also be posting some sandwich/wrap ideas; these can be quite healthy, but often feel more relaxed than a "meat and three" meal. Perfect for those nice, warm days when you just want to pack up a meal and head to the park for a picnic (or eat on your screened in porch!).

Tea Bag: Looking Ahead

Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6

Would your children, if grown today, be proud of you? If not, in what ways could you change so you can be looked at with pride?

*This does not mean over-indulging them either :-).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More on the "O" word

In thinking, I came up with several more points of over-commitment that I hadn't mentioned before. So here are a few more pointers.

1. Church volunteering: This is a major area where I think a lot of people over-commit. Well, it's ministry right? Really take into consideration what the commitment entails. And if you are spending all your time with the church, your family may be suffering or you will just get really burnt out. Try to focus on one area that you know you do well and enjoy! And don't be afraid to say "no". It may open up the door for someone else to minister that has been wanting too.

2. Older children and activities: When your kids hit junior high and above, you may just feel like a taxi driver. Wearing them out is not best either. Our parents let us play sports/extra activity, but only 1 sport at a time. AND, if our grades were to ever suffer, well that was it for us! You can also volunteer to help your child's team or group. You can coach, judge, cheer, provide snacks, or something to stay involved with them and spend more quality time.

3. Plan it: Get a good calendar or day planner. And before you commit to something, check the calendar! My favorite calendar now is one that has lines for each individual person. So if a doctor's appointment is scheduled I can at a glance tell who it is for.

4. Simplify: If you are on the go, simplify things at home. That way, when you drag in at the end of the day all tired, you can rest and not worry about the clutter. And plan a good cleaning day each week. The carpet won't vacuum itself!

5. Homeschooler beware: Homeschoolers can fall into a really big over-commitment trap just by running around to different coops and events. Try to attend field trips where all the kids can participate and enjoy them. You can also plan coops at the same time for different ages-only one place to drive to. And for older ones, plan carpools for their classes so you can stay at home some with your other younger kids.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kids Say The Funniest Things

In the midst of a trying day, you just know something is going to pop out!

We are trying to get the kids room cleaned. It is a disaster, no suprise. Our 5 yr old is deciding to play with every toy instead of cleaning (stall, stall, stall). So finally, getting REALLY frustrated, I have given him a specific task of picking up hotwheels or else. He says he can't find them. I say they are in this basket we had filled with toys from the living room...he has two eyes, he can see them. In which he looks at me, squints his eyes, and announces, "now I only have one eye."

Sometimes you just have to laugh! Happy Friday.

Resource of the Month Review: Faith Pointes

Faith Pointes by Barbara Barker and Denise Hamilton is an inspiring read. The book is based on Barbara's life and a Bible study she developed. The "pointes" in question are essential elements of the Christian walk.

Barbara's voice is strong in the book--you can close your eyes and hear her saying every word. For those unfamiliar with the Barkers, Frank and Barbara have been used by the Lord mightily, both as church planters of Briarwood PCA in Birmingham (a "megachurch") and in individual lives of the many people to whom they have opened their lives (and hearts and home). Barbara has a background in ballet, and has founded and taught with the Briarwood Ballet. In the book, Barbara includes stories of amazing answers to prayer, her own struggles as a young mother, and her life as wife to a pastor. She also includes a chapter detailing her own conversion and the subsequent work the Lord has done in her life.

The book is organized by chapters devoted to an essential element of the Christian life (i.e. faith), each followed by discussion questions and a Bible study on that particular element. Individuals or groups could easily use this book as a jumping off point for further study.

Carrie and I are privileged to know the Barkers personally, and we both tremendously enjoyed this book! Barbara has meant a lot to both of us.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


There is a new movie coming out, EXPELLED, disputing some of the Darwinian ideas of creation, and focusing more on intelligent design. It will be released in theaters April 18, 2008. Check it out at .

Quiet Time Help

I often have a hard time with having my quiet time, from deciding what to do, to actually making the time for it. And there is no right or wrong. Here are a few suggestions for any one needing ideas:

1. Having "quiet" quiet time-and for moms, this may rotate. Try to pick a time of day that you aren't too tired, and the kids don't have to bother you. Early morning, nap time, or the kids bed times are good for this.

2. Having accountability. I am always more consistent when I am in a Bible study that has homework. It makes you study the Bible atleast once before the next class :-). You can also ask a friend, or family member to keep you accountable and study something together.

3. Rotating the subject matter. Your quiet time doesn't always have to be studying the Bible. There are many good books that can be used. A great one is our resource of the month. Not only is it an easy read, but she has discussion questions and a Bible study at the end of each chapter. You could even read the chapter one day, and do the Bible study the next.

4. Getting a "read through the Bible in a year" Bible. It breaks each book down to manageable sections for each day. You don't have to think about what to read, and look what you can accomplish in a year!

5. Just taking the time to pray. There is no better way to personally communicate with God. And if you leave out all the rest, remember to always be praying. Psalm 15:29: The Lord is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

Avoiding the "O" word!

Trying to avoid the "O" word? Aren't we all.

I'm talking about Over-Committed!! Which can lead to overtired, overworked, overstimulated, overwhelmed, overweight (yes that too!), and any other "over" word you can add. What's funny is that people have talked about how NOT to be over-committed for years, yet I still haven't seen much proof. And there are lots of down sides. I have strived so hard to start becoming UNover-committed (not sure I am succeeding), but here are a few pointers I have learned to keep in mind when scheduling your lives:

1. Your spiritual quiet time: Most important! A woman leading a Bible study did an illustration once. She filled up a container with lots of small beans (daily tasks). Then tried adding 3 golf balls (ex. quiet time, prayer, church, etc) into the container. They of course didn't fit. BUT when she put the 3 balls in FIRST, then poured the in the beans, it all fit just fine. And pray about what you need to be involved in!

2. Families come first: If you don't have time to plan a few sit down family meals a week, then something is a problem. I'm not talking about families where the husband has to work out of town either. You can also plan family nights of games, movies, or just play time. We loved this growing up. Make your family your priority.

3. Sports/ballet/gymnastics: Oh yes, we all know little Johnny will be a star soccer player at 3 right?! Now I don't think it is terrible to start kids on some sport young. They will probably have fun. Just control it. You can't be on a ball field and soccer field at the same time. And kids don't have to start sports early to be good at it either. Most kids don't know what their favorite sport is yet, and many who start later are just as good, if not better than the rest of the team. Sports also mean time commitment. We are in soccer right now and ever Saturday morning is taking up for 2 months. So plan accordingly, and don't over plan-neither you or your kids will have any fun.

4. Friends: I get so busy, many times I hardly have anyone over for dinner, play date, whatever. My house is also not clean because I am not here to do it. But, it is also hard to really get to know friends, or your kids friends, if you don't spend good quality time with them. And that can't happen racing to the car for the next event. But I can honestly say, those I know best are those that I have either spent good quality time over dinner, small play date, or similar where we can really interact. It doesn't take much either, then you can maintain through phone calls, or on the side lines of a soccer game easily.

5. Frazzle Dazzled: Don't be afraid to say NO! If you are tired, frazzled, and frustrated, your kids probably are too. Kids thrive on schedule and security of home! And the overweight part...well if you are on the go, your meal will be too and that means usually more fat, higher calories.

I have really learned to be content and not feeling like I am missing out if not involved in every single thing. No one thinks less likely of you if you aren't. I have also been so worn out before that I just haven't enjoyed life. Learning to back off allows us more family time-more closeness to what matter most!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's a Hard Knock Life

A friend of mine who just had twin boys a month ago was telling me how frustrating it was for her sometimes when she would finish nursing one boy and need to nurse the second; boy number 1 might still be fussy and typically would be consoled by Mommy a little bit longer--but in the twin world, you just have to fuss sometimes while your twin takes precedence.

Today, I got to witness that yet again in my own little family and mentally sang with Annie, "It's a hard knock life...." Here's what occurs: all three kids have recently finished lunch and are out of high chairs, cleaned up, and entertaining themselves. Twin A is getting a bit fussy, so I read a book to him. Still fussy... I figured it was naptime-related (it was the usual time) and scooped him up to head upstairs. With that AMAZING skill I have acquired through much trial and error these past months, I realized in the nick of time that Twin A was going to lose his lunch and swiftly held him over the wood floor. Only a tiny bit landed on the carpet and yours truly. Well, once the spasms had passed, Twin A got put on the floor, out of the mess, and stripped of his soiled clothing. He's screaming and my toddler is shrieking/screaming (she always gets a little freaked out at forceful vomiting). Do I, as Mommy dearest, pick up either of these weeping little ones to comfort and console them? No. It's a hard knock life. Instead, I grabbed towels and dustpan as fast as I could and began to clean up the mess. Why? Because Twin B is rapidly crawling over to see what all the fuss is about. Tyranny of the urgent often reigns supreme in our house. In this case, a crawling 1 year old carrying vomit to the far corners of the house won the prize. I prevented that scenario while verbally trying to comfort the other two. Thankfully, the toddler was mollified, and soon I was able to tend to Twin A--the one most in need of comfort, eh?

Going Green: An Introduction and the 3R's

This series is dedicated to the humble, but wonderful "blue towel."

In my (Betsy's) family, with three children ages 1, 1, and 2 1/2, we don't mean "reading, writing, and arithmetic" when we refer to the "three R's." Instead, we are referring to "reduce, reuse, and recycle." There is a lot of information out there these days about "going green" and being environmentally friendly. Have you noticed that frequently this involves buying yet another heavily marketed product or perhaps includes suggestions that just won't work for your family (i.e. growing all your own food or converting fully to solar energy). I must confess that my husband and I are eco-friendly enough to think these ideas are cool; however, we do not possess the means to do either of those ideas as of yet.

Since I am very interested in ways we can make our house/family/lifestyle more eco-friendly, I thought I'd start a little mini-series on our blog to encourage anyone else with similar goals. I'll tell you about the strategies we've adopted, the goals/habits we'd like to begin, and the wonderful nature of trading with friends and neighbors. First, though, I'll explain a little bit about why these ideas are important to us.

My husband and I believe strongly in the idea of stewardship: God has created a beautiful world and placed mankind (made in his image) on earth to exercise dominion over it. We are supposed to be filling the earth and subduing it. I do not believe that means using up the earth's resources as fast as we can; in other words, the Lord did not put us in charge of the rest of the planet so we can take, take, take. Rather, I think we are to view the earth as his creation--a gift here for our enjoyment, sustenance, and, thanks to the fall, sanctification. Because of the entry of sin into the created order, our world is fallen. Disease, pollution, greed, etc. all play their part in the fallen creation; our calling as Christians, people made in God's image, is to bring restoration to the world as God equips us. We cannot recreate Eden, fully erasing the effects of sin. But I do think we have a responsibility to tend this earth with the mindset that it is a gift for us to take care of and to use for God's glory--not a gift meant to be mined willy-nilly for whatever might benefit us in the moment. God told Adam he would eat by the sweat of his brow; part of the consequence of the fall is that we will have to work to tend this earth, to eat, to glean its benefits to us. So, don't throw out all "green" suggestions as just another hippy idea. Take some time to think through the ramifications of stewarding God's creation as he has equipped us--each of us in our current situations.

My family's current situation involves two kids in diapers, one in diapers part-time (nap/nighttime), baby food (a necessity which is fast waning!), a big gas-guzzling SUV, the necessity for my husband to drive to work, a decent yet still finite income, and the willingness to use lots of elbow grease to fix up our old (80 years old) home. All of these factors, plus many more (like living in a medium-sized city in the Southeast) play a role in what we can do or choose to do in our stewardship of God's creation. Stay tuned for the methods we've adopted, the habits we'd like to change, and the suggestions we've heard from others.

Part 1: The Blue Towel
Part 2: Children's Clothes and Toys
Part 3: The 3R's for Food
Part 4: Appliances
Part 5: Reusable Grocery Bags
Part 6: Cloth Diapers
Part 7: Toiletries and Cleaning Equipment
Part 8: Lawn and Garden
Part 9: Technology and the Paper Trail
Part 10: Final Thoughts

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tea Bag: Our Current Standing

I Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.

Our pastor explained this best: Serve God as you are, where you are. Don't look for other opportunities or situations when God has placed you where he wants you to be. That means for moms, serving God is serving our families. Honor God in your current position.

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Fruit of the Spirit (Patience)

To see the other Fruit of the Spirit posts, check the Savoring a Cup of Tea Index in the margin.

Patience is a virtue lacking in our society. We have fast food, drive thru dry cleaners, instant access to customer service and various accounts via the internet, instant movie watching and music listening through streaming online. Therefore, when we have to actually wait for something, we hate it!

I've had to pray for patience much this year. In fact, when we commenced potty training our toddler in the fall, I started praying for all of the fruits of the Spirit! Nothing is more glaring to me when I'm interacting with my toddler than my lack of patience. And yet, as the children's song reminds me, "God is patient, too," and "think of all the times when others have to wait for you."

Patience is something I notice my children lacking, too--it goes right along with the rest of the fruits of the Spirit. In particular, when you aren't patient, it's much harder to be kind, gentle, or exercise self-control. I pray for this fruit daily and am realizing that I need to look for ways to model this to my children. I also need to pray for the Spirit to be working in their lives.

Although this is a fruit of the Spirit, as with the other fruits, we can create an environment more conducive to its growth. Carrie and I were confessing the other day that we'd each yelled at our toddlers to "hurry up" when the fault had really been ours: we'd slept in a little, we were the ones running late, we hadn't left enough time. Planning ahead a wee bit more would foster an environment much more conducive to my toddler's pace and my patience.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Spring Cleaning: the Car...

I took out the car seats and what to my wondering eyes did appear?
A lost sippy cup, crushed animal crackers, dried up apple, and a smear....

Is it spring cleaning time for your car, too? Our twins are about to turn one and it's time to flip those car seats around. I took out all three car seats (toddler's too!) to wash them and loosen straps (all are a bit snug, even without bulky winter coats!) and noticed a plethora of random trip trash. We traveled quite a bit over the holidays and haven't really cleaned out the car since. If you're in that boat, too, then seize one of these nice spring days, pull out the car seats (wash them!), and clean out the car. It really doesn't take much: picking up trash, rescuing winter hats and various cups lodged under the seats, and straightening the toys/books you keep in the car for long trips (we have a small stash in the pockets behind the front seats--within easy reach for yours truly to hand back to cranky kids while Dad is driving). Voila! Clean car! If you're really inspired, you can vacuum the whole kit and caboodle. Ours deserves at least that. Since none of our kids can reach the windows, we don't have any messy fingerprints to clean off yet.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tea Bag: Rain, Rain, Go Away

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:2, 7, 10

April showers bring May flowers. Use the rainy days to wash away what you need to so you can bloom come May (or sooner!)