Grocery Shopping for Our Large Family

I noodled around several different title options before picking one because I didn’t want it to be misleading. This post is not about THEE cheapest way to shop if you have lots of kids. Or about coupon clipping. Or about the best, most filling meals for the least amount of money.

Elements of most of those things are in here, but more than anything, I’m writing this post in response to several questions I’ve received about what the process of feeding a family of 9 looks like.

And they are:

1. How often a week do you shop?

I do one big haul a week–usually on Saturday mornings. And then, we supplement as needed with a quick stop or two throughout the week. The “big haul” day has rotated through the week throughout the years (we even went together as a family immediately after church for a while there), and historically, I’ve had ALL the kids when I go (many moons ago, when the kids were all smaller and much less helpful, I used to stop on Monday evenings…after teaching two hours of classes at the gym. Because, apparently, I’m a masochist??). Lately, I’ve been heading to town on Saturday mornings for a free Cross Fit community WOD (workout of the day) and then shopping immediately after. NO KIDS. Because the oldest ones are mature enough now to do basic younger sibling maintenance (Honor’s down for a nap) while Shaun does projects around the house.

Are there words to adequately describe the sheer joy of grocery shopping alone? I’m not sure there are. But “bliss” comes to mind.

groceries1

Shaun’s been traveling a fair bit recently, so the kids were with me on a random Tuesday. We always have two baskets and take up a fair bit of space, but they are genuinely helpful (I don’t load the belt or bag groceries) and definitely know the drill after years and years of tagging along. My favorite thing about this picture is that, as I was looking at several that I took from my phone, the lady with the white hair in the back is staring at us with that same bemused expression in every single one. Ha!

2. How much do you spend?

This is the one everybody wants to know, right? I mean, we’re feeding 9 people. Surely, we must be spending a fortune. Of course, with 4 (almost FIVE!!!)-year-old twins, a 2-year-old, and a newborn, half of my people don’t actually consume that much in terms of volume yet. But the amount feels like it increases on a weekly basis, which makes me nervous.

Our typical bill for the “big haul,” including some non-food items (so, a package of toilet paper, or a box of diapers) is about $190. Obviously, there are some weeks that all of the extra stuff comes “due,” and the bill is considerably higher.

If we were to stick to that every week, that would be a pretty incredible budget for such a big family. But we always end up stopping at least one more time to grab a rotisserie chicken + fruit + milk, etc. Most weeks, we spend another $50 at least.

groceries

This particular load was about $135. I usually get more of most things (like bagels and yogurt), but we were still stocked on those from a previous trip. 

3. What do you eat every week?

I’m sure this is true of most folks, but we eat basically the same thing every week. Cereal, bagels, or eggs for breakfast, yogurt and fruit for snacks, sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, and an ever-repeating rotation of about 20 dinner options that use a lot of the same ingredients.

My go-tos are:

  • Turkey spaghetti (my kids would eat my spaghetti–you can find the recipe for my sauce at the beginning of my lasagna recipe–every single day). For reals.
  • Turkey burgers + homemade sweet potato fries + homemade guac (one of my fave meals ever that I eat without a bun and with all the fixin’s on the side).
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Taco Soup
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Turkey Burritos
  • (Chipotle-style) Chicken and Rice Bowls
  • Chicken Pesto Pasta
  • Steak + Scrambled Eggs + Roasted Seasoned Potatoes
  • Greek Chicken + Rice + Veggies
  • Turkey Meatloaf + Mashed Potatoes
  • Pot Roast
  • King Ranch Chicken
  • Quiche
  • Chicken + Veggie Stir Fry
  • Chicken + Veggie Pasta
  • Chicken or Steak Fajitas
  • Chicken + Squash Grill
  • Salsa chicken (in some form or another)
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Chicken Lettuce Wraps

We don’t do much in the way of prepacked foods, but neither do I make complicated meals.

4. What ingredients are you never without?

You’ll pretty much never find us out of: diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, limes, cilantro, avocados, OTB Corn Chips, cheddar cheese, black beans, onions, tortillas, raw chicken, and raw ground turkey (obviously those last two get cooked quickly, usually in batches for the entire week).  We are a Tex-Mex family, apparently, and I make homemade salsa (it takes 5 minutes and is SOOOO good) and guacamole on the daily. If I’m in a pinch for dinner, we’ll probably be eating burritos and black bean salsa or spaghetti that night.

groceries2

Bonus points if you can a) spot Theo or b) figure out why Nola looks so distressed (probably, she just heard that we weren’t having “her favorite spaghetti” for dinner that night). 

5. How much do you eat out?

In the past, not very much. We still don’t do tons, but we’re a little “looser” than before. Shaun and I have a “date night at home” every Thursday night when my mom has Ezra, Simon, and Della at her house. We get the four littles in bed by 7:30 and settle down on the couch with takeout Thai food to watch an episode of Fixer Upper or Vera (British crime show).

Once a week (usually on Fridays after I teach Combat or a Tuesday night if Shaun’s out of town), the kids and I will have lunch or dinner at Chick-fil-a. And we usually eat out lunch on Sundays. Plus, we go pick up the big kids from my mom every Friday night, and she fixes dinner for us + my brother’s family. So, I typically cook (or at least prep some kind of food) 5 nights a week, with Thursdays and Fridays off.  If I moan even a little bit about cooking on Sundays, Shaun orders pizza. :)

5. Any brilliant money-saving tips?

I used to religiously scout out the sales in the local ad papers and then take them to Walmart for price matching. My mom just told me that Walmart isn’t honoring competitor ads anymore, but I haven’t done this for a couple of years anyway. I did save a fair bit sometimes, but I also found that–outside of a $0.99/lb sale on grapes or some other produce–most of the things we buy regularly at Walmart were pretty comparable to the sales I usually saw.

We also used to shop at Sam’s Club, but we’ve been in such a busy season of life for so long that the extra effort of driving out there (it’s a ways from our house) and spending at least an hour grocery shopping–usually on a Sunday–just wasn’t worth it to us. We may renew our membership in the future, but for now, we’re keeping it simple.

As to coupons, I just don’t. I know I could save a lot of money, and, of course, I use the ones they include on the yogurt packages, etc., but I don’t actively buy items based on whether they have coupons available.

I think my best way to keep our food bill decent is to buy inexpensive, simple food and do a fair bit of cooking. Cheaper AND better for you!

So, there you have it, folks! What grocery shopping for 9 looks like around here. I know this will continue to evolve as the kids get older/eat more. I’m seeing lots more beans (and flatulence…) in our future.

What does grocery shopping look like at YOUR house?

Mama Life Hacks {#23}: Easy (YUMMY) Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

As I sit here typing this, my stomach is rumbling in the worst way–mostly due to the fact that it’s late, and I really should be in bed, which means it’s been a while since I ate. But also because I just made a batch of the most delicious, moist, flavorful chicken EV-AH. And it smells SO good. I just had to pop on and share the “recipe.”

My sis-in-law actually turned me onto this idea when she brought multiple meals over for us during the craziness that was packing/getting the new house ready/moving…because she’s awesome like that.

So, is your pen poised yet?

Here’s what you’ll do:

Place a package or two of chicken (breast, thighs, whatever) in a crock pot and cover with enough jars of the salsa of your choice (I just use the mild picante style) to completely submerge the meat. I usually add a dash of chili powder, granulated garlic, and cumin, but the salsa adds plenty of flavor on its own.

Hit start on that bad boy and let it go until your kitchen is filled with the slightly torturous fragrance of melt-in-your-mouth, fall-apart chicken goodness.

That’s IT!

Once the chicken is cooked through (it could go all day on low, but I usually have mine on high for about 4 hours), shred it using a couple of forks, making sure to retain all of the juices and get them nice and mixed through the meat.

Trust me: you will LOVE this stuff. All of my kids do. Most of them prefer it in easy “chicken roll-up” form (flour tortilla, shredded chicken, grated cheese…heated…BOOM). In fact, everyone who’s had it in this form has gone nuts for it (I took it to a family potluck, and everybody was raving and asking me for the recipe, and I was almost embarrassed to admit how easy it was).

But Simon and I prefer it on top of THEE best nachos either of us has ever tasted.

chicken

Seriously. Just the chicken, cheese (we use sharp cheddar), and chips (On the Border, baby) are delish, but add you some tomatoes, purple onions, cilantro, and avocado, and it’s out-of-this-world good.

It would also make a great base for Chicken Tortilla Soup, enchiladas, or a taco salad. You really can’t go wrong.

Plus! If you’re like me and trying to eat clean (it’s a process, y’all; definitely not perfect), as long as you pick a salsa that doesn’t have any sugar, there’s literally nothing objectionable about the chicken itself.

Anybody else ever done this easy crock pot hack?

Got any more for me? I’ve been in a bit of a cooking slump lately, and, as much as this staple is saving my bacon, er, chicken, I’d welcome any other easy, healthy suggestions you have.

P.S. I have a “grocery shopping for large families” post in the hopper. Get excited!

Fun Mom

I have been known to say things like: “I’m not a very fun mom.”

But that’s not strictly true. I love having fun with my children. We do fun things. But I tend to think of fun moms as the kind who fix their kids pancakes with chocolate chip smiles every morning, mix up homemade play-doh on the regular, and spend hours playing Legos on the rug.

When I actually think about the logistics of that kind of behavior, though, it strikes me that, while some moms have more of a gift for play than others, it’s just not super feasible to be a fun mom ALL the time, even if it comes naturally to you.

Sure, there are times I would RATHER play Uno with my kids than do laundry (um, always), but I (and the rest of the world) would also RATHER we wear clothes, so…

Plus, the Bible has a lot more to say about training and discipline than it does about “fun,” so there’s that.

Do I have a point?

Yup! I sure do.

My goal, as a mama, is to provide my kids with a childhood full of God’s truth, first and foremost, but, right behind it, an unswerving belief that they are loved (which, come to think of it, is kind of the ultimate God’s truth).

A lot of times, that means instruction and discipline (because I can’t think of anything more unloving than letting my child flail around, lost as a goose, or neglecting to turn him away from a destructive path).

And sometimes, that means taking an unexpected day off from school and packing a picnic to the park instead (one of the beauties of homeschooling).

There are many fun mom categories in which I fall short, including: crafting (it happens, but it’s rare), library trips (ditto), trips to the pool in the summer (thank the Lord that my mom has a pool, and my three oldest spend the night with her once a week), and any kind of play involving little characters that I dance around and provide high-pitched voices for.

bed school

 

One way to earn automatic fun mom status? Let them do school on your bed (my mom loves having her picture taken. Hi, Mom!) 

Conversely, my “fun mom” strengths are:

1. Baking. I actually love whipping up something yummy with my kids in the kitchen. I don’t get uptight about their making messes (for most part), and I love to see their little faces light up when they take the first bite of whatever yummy treat “they made.”

2. Dance parties. I have been known to boogie down with my kids at least once a day. Okay, so there are stretches when that doesn’t happen for a week. But we almost always have some sort of music on during chores, and we take timeouts for a shimmy or two in between vacuuming and scrubbing toilets.

3. Reading. I’m pretty good about reading to my kids, which, to my delight, they consider fun. If I’m honest, I’m better about reading chapter books to the older kids, but I have read my fair share of Frog and Toad and Winnie the Pooh as well.

More specifically, these are two habits that elevate me to “Super Fun Mom” status in my kids’ eyes:

1. We have a constant rotation of who gets to “drive” down the driveway to our house, sitting on my lap (from Theo to Ezra, who is pushing 100 pounds). We’ve done it since the old house, and, while we don’t do it every single day, most days, whoever’s next in line clambers up to the front and gleefully “steers” us home. Good thing we have long driveways, eh?

2. Icees on Mondays. We established a tradition last year that, after we got out of home school co-op and before we hit the gym, we’d stop for Icees. What this means practically is that I buy a 32 oz. Icee and split it between all 6 older kids (Honor gets shafted), so they really only get it a taste, but they LOVE it and look forward to it every week.

And you know what? I’m guessing that these will be the little things that my kids remember about me. Not lavish birthday parties or flashy vacations but the simple, everyday pleasures we enjoyed most because we we did them together. Like when I let them listen to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” 7 times in a row (they would listen 100 times if allowed) while I prep dinner, and they race around the island shrieking with laughter, and then we all fall down in a heap of giggles at the end.

laughing

See what a fun mom I am? I keep a smile on my face even when my children are falling to pieces! Ha. Ahem. By the way, you really owe to yourself to see the rest of these photos (and read the story behind them) on my IG if you haven’t already. 

I know these will be the things that I carry in my heart for always.

So, whether you’re a natural “fun mom,” have to fight tooth and nail for it, or fall somewhere in the middle (but with a definite bent toward the training side) like me, I just want to encourage you to create little traditions for your children to remember you by.

And never measure yourself by the standards of whatever other moms are doing–even if it’s creating magical, glitter-dusted fairy wings out of nothing but Elmer’s and a scrap of tulle just because.

With that in mind, though, I’m always looking for ways to improve that fit within my wheelhouse of strengths (because the traditions that form organically stem from a shared love–both yours and your kids’–of the activity, and that’s going to vary wildly from family to family).

So, hit me with your best fun mom ideas! Who knows? I may just find a new tradition to steal!

L.I.F.E.

How ’bout that original title, yo? But seriously, you guys. I have no excuse for disappearing except that I have been doing more living than writing about it. And, while all of the memes would tell me that that means that I must be doing something right (and they would be correct), I can honestly say that I’ve missed “chatting” with you guys here in this little corner of the internet. I have a plethora of half-written blogs floating around in my brain:

  • Big family dynamics to consider when planning a house
  • A recap of our beach trip (from 6 weeks ago…hides face)
  • A tour of the updates so far on the house
  • A post about comparison in motherhood
  • A post about our homeschooling routine
  • A round-up of the best Amazon Warehouse Deals I’ve scored (I’ve gotten some goooood ones)
  • Insert random post title here

But I don’t really have the brain power right now, at 10:23 PM, to be terribly topical, so I’m just going with the ol’ fire hydrant approach.

So, what have we been up to? Well, some exciting house updates, for one.

**As a quick follow-up to my tile gaffe post, we did some scrubbing on it, which lightened the grout a bit it and made it less noticeable, and after talking to a friend who is also a tile expert, we’re just going to let it breathe for a while, try out some rugs, and then go from there. If we absolutely cannot take it, we’ll rip it up and start again. Or paint the entire floor. Or…something. But I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

I ALMOST feel sheepish telling you guys about the things that we’re NOT doing on this house currently, considering what big DIYers we are and how much we have invested until just recently. Almost, but not quite. Because you know what’s better than bragging rights on doing it all yourself? Having it DONE. (We’re still doing all of the finish work on the exterior, the interior plumbing, the rest of the concrete counter tops, the lighting, the electrical, etc., so yeah…it’s still pretty busy around here)

And done is where we are (or at least close to it) with our floors.

lifelately5

 

{Hello, beautiful, happy craft room/girl cave/office/studio/Paint and Prose headquarters}

We found a crew to lay our laminate “wood” floors (brand: Mohawk, color: Rare Vintage Fawn Chestnut…because just calling it one of those words would have been way too vague #verbose), and they’ve aaaaaalmost finished TODAY…but we ended up a bit short on laminate. Sigh.

Even so, all we lack is the loft, which means that we can start actually cleaning things so that they stay clean (you know, relatively). And then moving furniture where it actually belongs…instead of its languishing in piles in the workshop and garage or being shuffled around from room to room.

lifelately2

 

Our master bedroom was the very first floor they laid, and we set up the furniture in it that very night! 

The piece of furniture I’m most excited about hauling out of storage?

lifelately7

 

This amazing couch I scored at Anthropologie (yes, I bought furniture from Anthro…wild). It’s 10 (!!!) feet long, the coolest shade of blue, and was a fabulous deal, since it was a floor sample. (Especially jazzed, since right after I bought it, they stopped selling floor samples altogether).

Mostly, I’m just excited about the concept of things being more finished than not because we’ve been in a state of flux in some state or form for a good 6 months now, which, while not a huge span of time in the grand scheme of life, is enough to make this creature of habit a bit antsy at times. (Ask Shaun about my meltdown about the ugly burn pile in our yard; or better yet, don’t).

What else? While we’ve been “doing school” all summer (I have the three oldest continue with their basics at a slower pace and diminished amount), we officially started back at our home school co-op last Monday, and I am loving the chance to dust off my teaching chops.(Weird metaphor…did I mention it’s late-ish?).

lifelately3  I did something I’ve never done and bought the oldest 5 BRAND NEW personalized backpacks from Land’s End. They were on sale (of course), but the thing I like most is that they have a lifetime guarantee, so if (when) they snap a strap or rip a hole in the bottom, I can get a brand new replacement for free (crazy but true…and no, I’m not being paid to say this). 

I was laughing with Shaun about the fact that, after hearing from my kids about how most of their teachers just spent the first day going over rules and having everyone introduce themselves, I felt like I was probably the only nutter who hosed my students down with tons of notes and grammar and 4 take-home assignments. I’m sure that’s not actually true, but it’s definitely my personality. I can’t seem to reign in the desire to stuff AS MUCH info as possible in their young brains for the 55 minutes a week that I have each of my classes.

It helps that I’m teaching eager-beaver homeschoolers, for sure.Including Ezra, whom I am requiring to take Spanish 1 with me, even though it’s usually an 8th grade + level class. He is the eagerest of all the beavers, though, and is a joy to have in class, so we’re both pretty thrilled with the arrangement.

In other news, I have officially drunk the Cross Fit Koolaid–or sipped it, at least–and…I liked it! There’s a Cross Fit gym that several of my friends go to that has a free community WOD (Workout of the Day) that I’ve gone to 3 times now, and I can’t really begin to describe how much I enjoy it. Even though it’s really, really hard, and I’m definitely the odd woman out with my newbie–”Um, what’s a wall ball?”–self. If you’re a Cross Fitter, feel free to speak up in the comments. I haven’t dived in and paid for a membership or anything, but I am more excited about Saturday mornings than I’ve been in a while, and I am determined to learn how to do a hand stand push up or at least seriously injure myself trying.

In other news, Honor is eating everything in sight and loving life… While Theo has definitely entered his “can’t handle any emotional distress without descending into temporary madness” phase. AKA: my faaaaaavorite!

lifelately lifelately1

 

He still has plenty of cheerful moments, but he has also developed quite the formidable stink eye.

I was so hoping we would skip this stage with him because he possessed just the sunniest of dispositions as a baby/toddler. And, if I’m honest, it’s nothing like the twins’ 18-month bout of insanity, since he doesn’t despise his car seat like they did. But there’s still a whole lot screeching and “No-ing” (on both our parts) and floor-wallowing (just his…although, I’m tempted sometimes), and disciplining going on. It helps that Honor is such a dreamboat, though. I mean. Seriously. I just want to eat him with a spoon.

lifelately6

He’s 7 months now, and everybody still fights over who gets to hold him. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what has my children’s attention so completely captured, they were building Sam and Pippin (our guinea pigs) a block maze to run through. 

Shaun is getting ready to tackle another big block of work trips (they always come in chunks, it seems), but the good news is that the kids and I will get to go with him on a couple (Honor will, of course, tag along by default). There’s one I’m especially excited about, but…more on that later.

In fact, more on all of it later, since I’ve jabbered on plenty for now and really need a shower before bed.

What have you guys been up to? Have your kids started school yet? Do any of you have your kids do schoolwork in the summer? Anyone else have a 2 1/2-year-old whose life-management skills have deteriorated drastically?

We can eat virtual ice cream together and chant “Hard is not the same thing as bad” while holding virtual hands. K? Cool. It’s a plan.

A Clothing Confession + a Tile Tight Spot

Did you know that there’s not a “t” word that means: “predicament?” At least not one that I could think of or that Google could help me out with.

I know because I looked so I could achieve maximum alliteration in today’s post title (#wordnerd).

But that is entirely beside the point because this post is about two very different topics, which are only connected by the tenuous thread of one having been photographed on top of another.

First up, a confession:

I took the 4 youngest to Goodwill last Friday because, between the red dirt and the sheet rock dust and the concrete floors and sub-floors and plywood that my children are all pretty well constantly rolling around on, rubbing up against, and/or attempting, in some form or another, to embed into their persons…most of their clothes are trashed.

Which is fine because their play clothes were getting pretty worn out already, but, with our home school co-op starting in a week and 1/2 and cooler temperatures coming (ahem…in another 5 months), it was time to get a few “new” things for the chitlins.

But wait. That’s not the confession.

Here goes: I bought two things for me too.

**hangs head in shame

I had already determined that, given my self-imposed 6 month clothing fast, I wouldn’t even cast my eyes in the direction of the women’s department. And I didn’t. Pinky promise.

HOWEVER, as we were entering the clothing area, there was a rack set up with a bunch of miscellaneous items on it. And what did my eyes behold but a pair of neutral TOMS wedge booties–the likes of which I have eyed up every fall season for the past 5 years. No lie. I just haven’t ever managed to make myself bite the bullet to buy an $80 pair of shoes that should cost half that (in my not-so-humble opinion). They were in fantastic condition, minus a faint gray mark on one (which I was pretty sure I could get out), and I snatched them up, squinting at the tag–half-hoping/half-fearing they would be my size.

And you know what? They were! (Size 9–I have big feet), and, when I slipped them on, they fit like a dream. I put them in my cart and went on my merry way, not entirely sure I would buy them, but half giddy at the potential.

I spent the next hour alternating between combing through the children’s racks, feeding Honor while standing up and combing through the children’s racks, and–toward the end–breaking up squabbles between the twins and Theo while combing through the children’s racks (for the first 45 minutes, they were playing happily with the toys, which Goodwill had had the good sense to relocate next to the children’s section).

Halfway through all of this combing, I stumbled upon another item that I’ve had on my mental wish list for years: a black/white buffalo check puffer vest.

I love puffer vests. In East Texas, we don’t have much use for full on coats–even during the winter–so puffer vests are a great way to stay toasty on a chilly (but still not truly cold) day. I have several, all of which I wear regularly in the colder months, but I’ve had my eye out for this particular style for ages.

And there it was, wedged between a 3T tutu and a size 8 pair of jeans. Because that’s just how Goodwill rolls.

It, too, had a small mark I was pretty sure I could get out but was otherwise perfect, and it fit!

So, into my basket it went.

master tile

I debated all the way to the front whether I would buy them and almost took them out of my basket several times, but in the end, buy them I did.

Because, ultimately, the purpose of my fast is to eliminate impulse (“but it’s so cute and CHEAP!”) purchases of things that only ever get worn once and then spend the rest of their dejected lives stuffed in a closet corner–NOT to pass up good quality staples at great prices that I’ve had in mind for a long time.

Anyhoo, I promised to keep you updated, and now I have, so there you go! Back to fasting!

(P.S. Both of the marks came out like a dream)

Moving on, can we talk about that pretty tile from the picture above?

I love it!

Except…and it’s a really big except.

But first a little background…

After the frenzy of getting moved in, things have slowed down considerably in the DIY department–partially because they finally could, partially because of summer, and partially because Shaun has been utterly slammed with his day job.

That last reason has been the biggest deciding factor in choosing to hire out a few of the finishing things, and tile was pretty high on his list of, “I’d rather nots/don’t have times.”

We found someone able to start the day we left for Gulf Shores, Alabama (3 weeks ago) and came home to a lovely tiled kitchen…

tiled kitchen

and downstairs bath…

downstairs bath tile

That was fun!

Not as fun?

This:

master tile1

(See all of the dark areas? They’re not an optical illusion. There really is more grout in those spaces)

That would be the master bathroom tiled with all of that lovely black and white penny tile. I chose gray grout to hide stains, but, unfortunately, the area in front of the sink ended up showing the grid patterns of the mosaic tiles (they come in approximately 1 sq. foot sections).

master tile2

{See the lines?}

Honestly, we’re not sure what happened. The area to the right where the tub will be does NOT show the grid lines. At least not nearly as noticeably. And the same person did the work almost entirely at the same time. So, why the application is so much better on the first 8 feet is beyond me.

master tile3

(This whole area in front of the window is considerably more even. Almost no areas of concentrated grout}

Another problem?

We ran out of tile.

Doh.

I mean, measure twice and install once, right, Abbie?

You guys. I measure a GAJILLION times. And I ordered 10% extra for waste.

But then, we decided to use the same tile on the shower floor. But even then, we did the math, and we should have been fine.

Except that it turned out that a lot of the tiles had issues. Irregularities. Missing pieces, broken tiles. Etcetera.

So, we ended up one row short.

I ordered more from Overstock, thinking it would be no big deal. I mean, it was the same manufacturer, and I had only ordered the first batch last fall.

Double doh.

The tiles were DIFFERENT. Not to the naked eye, really. Same design. But they’re slightly more off-white, slightly thicker (in height), and more beveled…all subtle differences that look anything but subtle once the gray grout is in.

master tile2

{See the super white strip on the far left? Yeah. Triple Doh}

So, here we are, with half a beautifully tiled master bath, 45% a streaky, segmented mess of a master bath, and one ridiculous-looking strip of non-matching tile.

It kind of makes me sick to my stomach because it’s so permanent.

We haven’t really had any big uh-ohs during this build, for which I’m grateful. But I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty disappointed about this one.

Which is where you come in. Has anyone else ever installed mosaic tile squares, only to have the squares themselves show up super obviously when grouted? I have a feeling I wouldn’t have even noticed the lines if we’d used white grout, but I also know the grout wouldn’t have stayed white-looking for long.

If you have experienced this, did you find a way to fix or diminish the effect? We’re going to give the extra-thick grout lines a good scrubbing in hopes of minimizing the impression of segmentation, but I know that won’t completely fix it.

And when it comes to the non-matching tiles, there’s literally nothing I can think of but adding a rug runner directly in front of the sink to hide it.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal. I mean, it’s a floor. In a house. Which is a blessing. We are grateful.

In the small picture, though, I’d really love to find a way to “fix” it as much as possible.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you might have!

The I Do Chronicles: Assume You’re Wrong

I had to do a quick search before I even wrote this post to see how long it had been since my last I Do Chronicles post…

i-do-chronicles

9 months, almost exactly. It’s not so much that God hasn’t been teaching me more about marriage. He has. It would be nigh on impossible to go through an entire 2 years building process and not learn a thing or two. (Come to think of it, it would be pretty impossible to do ANYTHING for 2 years of marriage and not learn something). But he hasn’t been giving me tons of time to share what I’ve learned with you guys lately. Not that anything I’ve written in this series has been earth-shattering or “new” to most of you (anybody?), but I always find that, whether it’s a new concept or not, any encouragement I can get to approach my: marriage, mothering, friendships, work, life…in a godlier way…is a good thing. I hope you’ll find that true too.

A few days ago, I called Shaun on the way home from the gym to ask him if he would be willing to grab a loaf of bread for our dinner from the grocery store. To clarify: this was the grocery store that I was going to be driving by on the way home. Whereas, he was already home and would have to leave the house to go there.

That’s not usually my style. I have been known to teach two fitness classes, then take 7 children grocery-shopping at 7 PM. It’s not my preference, and I avoid it like the plague, but if it’s the only time it can be done, it gets done.

That evening, though, I was utterly wiped out, and the thought of taking my four littlest (the older three were home) inside the store for one item was giving me the heebie-jeebies. Plus, since our move, we now live 3 minutes from a grocery store.

And Shaun is an awfully nice guy, so I really didn’t think he’d mind taking the three older kids on a quick trip (especially since they are an absolute breeze to take places, what with their complete lack of complicated car seat buckles…not to mention 2-year-old drama).

But instead of a quick, “Sure!” there was a long pause, pregnant with hesitation, over the phone line.

And I’m not going to lie. I was disappointed. And a little irritated. And embarrassed. (Because, seriously, what kind of sissy are you, Abbie, that you call your husband to get bread when you’re perfectly capable of getting it yourself, girl?). I immediately started back-pedaling: “Never mind. Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I was just checking, but I can totally do it, since you’re busy.”

More silence on the phone line.

At this point, the irritation was starting to win, and the words were piling up: “Okay, I’ll get the bread and be home in a bit. Love you, b-…”

I didn’t quite get the “bye” out before he said: “I was trying to surprise you by installing the guest bathroom sink before you got home. I don’t mind getting the bread at all, but I was just trying to finish up really fast before you got back, so you could see it done.”

half bath

Hello, you beautiful “surprise” sink, you!

half bath1 You guys.

I don’t know if there’s a term for “relieved with a side of ‘I’m a jerk,’” but if there is, that’s what I felt.

I had assumedthat he was feeling put upon by my “unnecessary” request.

I had assumed that he was annoyed and/or judging me for even asking.

I had assumedthat I had a right to get a little miffed by his not immediately saying yes.

I had assumed that he was more concerned with what he needed than what I did.

But nothing could have been further from the truth.

Of course, I apologized and told him to keep on fixing the sink. I would get the bread. But he wasn’t having it. “You already know now,” he said. “I can finish it later. I’ll get the bread. You just come home.”

So, I did.

Of course, in true “Dad’s buying the groceries” form, he brought home all kinds of junk food that I never let the kids have, so they were thrilled with the outcome…but that’s another blog for another day. ;)

Can I just encourage you (me?) not to assume the worst (or even the seemingly obvious) about our spouses?

While this example is pretty minor and ended well on all counts (I was fully prepared to stop and get the bread and not feel huffy when I got home; thankfully, my irritation was mild at best), I can think of plenty of others in which my jumping to conclusions snowballed into a full blown fight. And for NO. GOOD. REASON.

This time, though, I spent the rest of drive home feeling grateful for my husband and committing myself to the Lord to assume the best about the man he’s given me to love every chance I get.

In fact, next time I’m tempted to assume the worst, I’m going to instead assume I’m wrong.

It won’t be easy (being wrong is hard, yo), but hard is not the same thing as bad…especially when it makes my marriage better.

6 Months, No Clothes

My deepest apologies, friends, for the click bait title. I just couldn’t resist.

So, you know how I mentioned in one of my child-training posts that I want to teach myself and my children to be less entitled and less enamored of worldly things?

Well, it’s wasn’t just idle words (I hope).

Here’s the thing: I love bargains. I always have. And I couldn’t care less about name brands–at least in terms of status symbols. I like that certain brands are known for their quality but will only buy them at steep discounts and am happiest when I find them secondhand at Goodwill (i.e. I talk about being an Anthro-lover, but I only buy things from there on rock-bottom clearance with an extra percentage off plus a coupon). And if something declares that I spent a lot of money on it by the brand emblazoned on it, I literally won’t buy it. (Because, even if I bought it for an incredible bargain, I would feel compelled to go around telling everybody about how I hadn’t actually paid full price, and–let’s be honest–that’s just obnoxious).

So! In case many, many rounds of Thrifted or Grifted have failed to convince long-time readers that I love me a good deal…the above overkill paragraph probably won’t either. But I guess you get the point that I don’t spend a lot of money on, well, practically anything.

And that’s a good thing.

But, as I’m sure you’ve heard, you can actually have too much of a good thing.

And in this case, my too much of a good thing is: cheap (as in inexpensive) clothes.

My nose was pretty well rubbed in this fact as I sorted, donated, sorted, packed, sorted, and unpacked an embarrassing amount of clothing in the process of prepping to move.

And that was after several rounds of the same a year ago when I donated over 50 bags of “stuff.”

Not too surprisingly, I realized that, like just about every other creature of habit on the planet, I found myself reaching for the same 20 items of clothing, which was making everything else in my closet jealous and sad. But never fear! This is a not a blog about how I threw out everything I owned and have now vowed to wear the same 3 t-shirts and 2 pairs of pants until the end of time, amen.

Yes, I donated and gave away a ton. Yes, I f-i-n-a-l-l-y tossed the ratty stuff. Yes, I tried to only bring the things that I truly loved and plan on actually wearing. And, even so, I have puh-lenty of clothes.

Which is why…I’m not buying any more for 6 months.

Anybody else feel a bit let down by my big revelation? I mean, big woo, Abbie. 6 whole months of not buying clothes. Cry me a river, please.

But I decided to just start somewhere and see where it goes. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up with a full-on capsule wardrobe as a result of all of this. Maybe I’ll end up only wearing itchy hair-dresses as penance for buying too many clothes from Goodwill for too many years (#nope).

In all honesty, I haven’t bought many clothes at all in the past year due to: pregnancy, house expenses, lack of interest/time, etc. But not being ABLE to buy anything is another animal entirely. I don’t go to very many stores these days, but now, when I do, I avoid the clothing section altogether, whereas, in the past, I would have made sure to at least rifle through the clearance racks.

The three exceptions–since we’re going for honesty here–have been a tankini top that I bought to match some swim bottoms I wore to the beach last week, a big beach hat that I wore there (both kind of necessary), and a pair of slip on sneakers that I grabbed for $3 when my flip flops broke on the trip. But I have yet to wear them, so I may return them.

It’s been two months since I’ve bought any clothing (other than the above items), and I…don’t miss shopping. Mostly because I stay away from it. I’m sure I would be considerably more tempted if I were putting myself in harm’s way, so to speak. But, as I mentioned before, I already wasn’t doing much of it, so it hasn’t been a huge shift.

But, huge or not, it’s been good.

My 6 months will be up right before Christmas, so maybe I’ll treat myself to something nice (on major sale, of course) at the end of it. But maybe I won’t. As always, I will keep you posted, whether you want me to or not.

Anybody else ever gone on a clothing fast? (I’m sure many of you don’t need to and are rolling your eyes at me, but…maybe not everybody?)

Or done a capsule wardrobe?

I thought I like variety too much to even consider one, but the older I get and the more kids I have, the more I care about a) quality/long-lasting pieces and b) simplicity (too many options = frustration/time I don’t have spent on picking outfits).

6 Months of Honor

My goodness, have I got a lot to share with you guys! We just got back from a fun family trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama, which I will post about later this week (Lord willing), but today, I wanted to take a second to talk about this little nugget of sunshine, who is…

 6 months old.  six months1
(As of yesterday).

Because a baby who is easy to take to the beach is an easy baby, indeed.

Honor Daniel is pretty much the definition of a dream baby. Which…is crazy because I didn’t think any baby could be more chill than Theo (not sure Honor is, but he’s giving him a run for his money). Of course, while Honor coos and dimples and does his best to win over the planet (pretty successful effort…everywhere I take him, people fall in love with him), Theo alternates between being thee funniest little kid and…a 2-year-old (need I say more?).

six months3

It’s okay–better than okay!–if you have abs like biscuit dough when you’re this age. Oh, his rolls are scrumptious!

Theo can still be delightful (often is), but in terms of  charm points, Honor’s definitely ahead at the moment (but then, he kind of has the unfair “baby” card to play). Especially now that he’s back to sleeping through the night (it helped immensely when we moved upstairs, and his pack n’ play was no longer 18″ from me).  six months

No one around here ever complains about holding Honor. Wonder why.

Even with teething (his bottom two juuuuuust popped through), he spends about 98% of his waking hours alternating between smiling, grabbing his toes, happily drooling on everything in sight, giving big, sloppy, open-mouthed kisses, and checking off every other “cute” box in the book. He wakes up in a good mood and goes to bed easily. It’s honestly kind of ridiculous. And I can’t imagine an easier baby to travel with (it’s a 9 hour drive to Gulf Shores).

HOWEVER.

As far as milestones, he’s a total slug. He rolled over at 3 months (pretty par) but hasn’t done practically anything since. He doesn’t crawl (or make any attempts to), doesn’t sit up on his own (although he’s quite strong and perfectly capable if he actually tried), and couldn’t care less about rolling all over the carpet (not that I blame him, since our current rug is a dhurrie one, which is about as soft as a ticked off porcupine).

six months2

Crawl?? Ha! That’s for peasants. Why crawl when my adoring subjects will carry me? 

Theo was the exact opposite in this regard. He did everything early. Earlier, in fact, than any of my other kids. Honor, on the other hand, is laidback and easygoing in the extreme and seems in no hurry whatsoever to be his own man, er, baby.

But he sure is the sweetest, cuddliest little slug you ever did see. And I know full well by this point that a mobile baby is a much harder baby to keep up with, so I’m actually grateful for my little 6-month-old sloth–especially since we don’t have flooring down in most of the house yet, and dirty, paint-splotched concrete is less than ideal for soft little baby hands and knees.

six months4

His reaction to Nola’s revealing that, one day, he will be required to transport his adorable chub all on his lonesome from point A to point B–AKA: walk. 

I know that every mother feels a little shock upon realizing that her new babe is “suddenly” no longer an infant, but this past 6 months really have been the most incredible whirlwind with Honor’s birth, prepping the old house to sell, selling it, busting our buns to get the new house ready to move into, moving, and then settling in (at least a little). I can definitely remember life before Honor (so I won’t say it feels like he’s always been here), but it seems a bit like an alternate reality–and one with considerably less sunshine and smiles (cheesy, but this kid really is a sweetheart).

So, happy 6 months, baby boy! It’s been an absolute Honor (whyyyyyy? I just couldn’t help myself. Sorry guys).

 

Our Favorite Family Movies

So, after Monday’s post, several people asked me about the movies that we watch, and, while I think I’ve talked about this in past, it’s been long enough that I can’t even think which search terms to use to look for the post, so I thought I’d write another one–hopefully, both as a resource for those interested in quality family movies and as a reminder for myself of goodies to revisit when we can’t think of anything to watch for family movie night (Sunday night at our house).

And so, without further ado, I give you:

Our Favorite Family Movies

The Emperor’s New Groove (I like this one more than my kids do, more’s the pity; it’s just so clever)

Chicken Run (same here…the dialogue makes me giggle, but most of it–in all of its Britishness–sails right over my kids’ heads)

Candleshoe

Herbie Rides Again (and its sequels, which get progressively sillier and more obnoxious but which the kids still love)

Mary Poppins

Homeward Bound

Beauty and the Beast (the cartoon)

Swiss Family Robinson (my boys looooooove this one)

Star Wars (basically all iterations of this series–both the prequels, the classics, and the sequels–are pretty clean, and my kids thrill to the action sequences)

The Princess Bride

The Swan Princess

The Sword in the Stone

Robin Hood (both the cartoon and the live action classic)

The Sound of Music

My Fair Lady

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Shaun thinks this one is ridiculous, but my kids get a kick out of it)

The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit series (these are pretty intense for little kids, but I have found that mine do pretty well with them from an early age, and I’m good with them because of their rock solid good vs. evil messages)

Inside Out (we’ve actually only seen this one once, but it was really clever, and I think we need to revisit it soon)

The Narnia Movies

Epic

The Wizard of Oz

Singin’ in the Rain

Bolt (Mittens is my spirit animal)

Babe

The Incredibles

How to Train Your Dragon (1 and 2)

The Jungle Book (the new one, the cartoon, and the 1994 version)

Charlotte’s Web

A Bug’s Life

The Parent Trap (the classic version)

The March of the Penguins

Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Shaun the Sheep

Paddington (another one that makes me laugh even harder than it does my kids)

Movies we haven’t watched as a family yet, but I want to:

The Rookie

Spellbound

Mad Hot Ballroom

Hoosiers

My Dog Skip

Secondhand Lions (Although, if I remember correctly, this one’s better suited for a “clean films” version…more on that below).

I know I’ve talked about “clean films” on social media before, but I can’t remember if I have here on the blog. So, basically, years ago, my mom discovered this site called cleanfilms.com (now defunct), and since then, there have been various versions of it under different names.

So, what are they?

They are sites that sells edited DVDs. They remove all: profanity, nudity, sex, graphic violence, etc. and they do a great job. Most movies are edited pretty seamlessly.

The current one I know about is called Good Media DVDs.

We have quite a few edited movies, ranging from ones that really need it (like Jerry Maguire) to middling ones (like Notting Hill, which is one of my favorite movies…edited), to fairly innocuous stuff (like You’ve Got Mail and While You Were Sleeping…which still have pockets of profanity I could do without).

We even have some movies from them that require no edits whatsoever, just because they were cheap (around $5).

So, now it’s your turn to hit me with your favorite clean, quality family movies! Pretty please? We are always on the hunt for new gems!

What Child Training Looks Like at Our House {Part 2}

First up, thank y’all so much for your response to last week’s child-training blog. It’s impossible to predict how people will react to that kind of post, and I really appreciate your kind comments and encouragements!

So, I actually wrote most of the below at the same time as the first post but ultimately decided to split it up because–dude–that thing was long, and also, there seemed to be a natural break in the “methods.” I think you’ll find today’s post a bit more…specific? Practical? Nitty gritty? Something like that.

Disclaimer: I am sharing some very specific practices of ours because I have been asked what we do. I do not share them because I think they are the only way or are the gold standard for child-training. If you get something encouraging or helpful out of this post, great! If not, carry on. You are the best mama for your kids because God chose YOU and no one else to fill that role.

Okay, enough intro. Onward and upward.

6. We praise generously

Or at least we try to. If my children do something kind or thoughtful, I heap praise on them in spades. I’ll sing and dance about it if I have to. If they are unselfish, I tell them how proud I am of them. I try to look for ways to affirm their efforts to do right without it becoming some sort of Pavlovian system. As with every other area of motherhood, I fail mightily in this one. But this I can tell you: when I genuinely praise my children for their true successes in character, they beam with joy. When I point out to them ways in which they have grown, they are so excited to realize that the Lord is making progress in their hearts.

7. We don’t tolerate whining

Compassion is not my strong suit. And while it’s yet another mothering goal of mine to be more empathetic with my children, my naturally no-nonsense personality definitely lends itself to shutting whining down quickly. Shaun is very similar in this regard, so we have a saying in our house: “Fussing never gets you what you want.” And it’s true. I don’t think we’ve ever given into a request that was presented in a whiny or entitled manner. We don’t give our kids things to “shut them up” or to make our lives easier at that moment (because it pretty much always makes things harder later on).

That said, there are mountains I’m not willing to die on. Potty training? I’ll do it when they show they’re ready, thanks. Taking the paci away? Theo has just gotten to the point where he can really deal with being told, “That is ONLY for bedtime or naps,” (he’s the only child so far who’s been interested in a paci this long, but we have had finger-suckers too), and pretty soon, after we’ve adjusted to the new house a little more, he won’t have it at all. Right now, his paci at bedtime makes my life simpler, and that simplicity itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However. He NEVER receives his paci if he demands it or asks for it in a whiny way. He is always required to be kind in his wording, no matter how tired or frustrated he is…or no dice.

8. We are really, really big on respectful speech

Speaking of asking kindly, we do please, thank you, you’re welcome, yes/no ma’am/sir from pretty much 1 year on. With near constant repetition and reminding (yup, all day, every day), by 2, our kids have it down 50% of the time. By 4, they’re pretty solid.

So what, Abbie? I mean, all you’re doing is training them to be little parrots, right?

I don’t think so.

By emphasizing kind speech and then modeling specific phrases that show respect, we are cultivating not just the mechanics of the behavior but the attitude behind it as well. (We explain how these phrases demonstrate honor to people and are a blessing to them as well).

We also quickly shut down any form of disrespectful behavior toward each other or anyone else (I don’t think it would even occur to our kids to be mouthy to any adult at this point). Even in joking form, they are not allowed to call each other names or use phrases like, “You’re not my friend anymore” or “I don’t like you.” And if they do, they are required to ask for (and give) forgiveness.

Again, it goes back to doing things “as unto the Lord.” Don’t like your sister right now? Oh well. I can’t force you to like her, but you still have to be kind in your words and actions. Because the Lord first loved us, even in our unloveliest states, we have no excuse.

The other day, I told Theo that he was “acting awful.” Not my finest mothering moment, but there had been a whole lot of pretty awful screeching and demanding going on from the backseat. His response? “No, Mama, YOU awful.”

At least a part of me wanted to laugh. I mean, I pretty much set myself up for that one, right? Plus, his scrunched up brows, puckered lips, and lisp were pretty cute. But his words and attitude were not. So, I told him that he does not get to say disrespectful words to Mama and that he had to apologize. Of course, he didn’t fully understand the word “disrespectful,” and I will be working to use more constructive terms to describe his behavior in the future. But he got the gist (because he had definitely been trying to insult me), and he hasn’t tried it since. We’ll see if it sticks.

Again, I hesitate to share all of this with you because it may sound like I am bragging that, “My kids don’t backtalk.” It’s certainly not because they’re not capable, though. But, because it’s never even been an option in our house, they don’t tend to go there at this point.

9. We are careful of what we watch/read/listen to

Another reason my kids don’t do “attitudes” is because we don’t consume media in which kids have them.

Same with profanity or ugly language.

One of my favorite “my kids” anecdotes of all time goes a little something like this:

One day at the gym, a little boy called another child a “dumbass.” Simon, who was 6 at the time, literally tackled him with his hand over his mouth and said, “We do NOT say that!”

The childcare workers told me that he didn’t seem like he was trying to hurt the kid, just full of zeal to keep him from saying anything else crude.

Here’s the best part, y’all. Simon didn’t know the word “ass” at that point. He had no clue what the compound word meant. He was just horrified at the kid’s use of “dumb!”

And therein lies the tension of “being in the world but not of it” that we try to maintain in our family.

If my goal were to guarantee that my kids never hear a curse word or suggestive song lyric, we would never go to the gym (or most restaurants or, well, much of anywhere). The other day, the girls at the gym’s front desk informed me regretfully that they’d had an incident in which a mother became very upset and dropped an F-bomb or two in front of all the kids.

Here’s the thing: as much as that didn’t thrill me, neither did it concern me too much (if for no other reason than that it was only the twins, Theo, and Honor there that day, and they’ve never heard that word).

Our goal is to use Philipians 4:8 as our guide for what we watch/read/hear. As we do, I am trusting that, with the Holy Spirit as their guide and a firm foundation in the fruits of the spirit, merely witnessing occasional profanity or immodest dress or snotty behavior or whatever will have very little effect on my children’s character. Especially as we take the time to address the heart attitude behind it.

However, a constant inundation that we invite into our home? That’s a different story.

Because from the overflow of the heart, the lips speak. And we plant things in our hearts through repetitive exposure and embracing of them (in other words, we train our hearts to love them, and, boy, does it not take much training to get our hearts to love sin).

Because of this, we are pretty picky and intentional about the movies, books, and music we consume in our house.

There have been a few times we’ve been a little more careless (and by “careless,” I mean that we had some reservations but looked up the movie on Plugged in Movie Reviews and commonsensemedia.org, and it seemed “fine”), and our kids have totally called us on it.

We mostly stick to classic and “old-school” movies, but a few weeks go, we watched the first 15 minutes of a current “kids’” movie for family movie night, and, even only half-watching from the kitchen where I was making dinner, I found myself cringing at the foolishness of the dialogue. I was about to ask Shaun to turn it off when Simon said, “You know, Mama, this is really not godly at all. He is being super disrespectful. I don’t think we should watch this.” Word, kid. (Can you tell Simon is a truth-lover?).

Because they are encouraged to use respectful speech on the daily and exposed so little to snarky, sarcastic, “comeback” laden dialogue, they are able to recognize the folly of it when they do encounter it.

(And this is from a girl who has to watch her own sarcastic tendencies on the daily).

10. We limit screen time and encourage reading

My children get 30 minutes of game play a week on our Wii. Well, the three oldest do. The younger ones get none at this point. We don’t do individual screen time at all. No tablets or phone games, unless we are making a very specific exception for vacation.

game play

(Oh, the joy of 30 whole minutes of Mario Kart!)

Whenever we have introduced any kind of consistent individual screen time, it has fostered selfishness, competition, whining, and addictive behavior. Maybe that’s different in your house, but it just doesn’t go well in ours.

So, we’ve just done away with it all together. Even though they do get some of these privileges at grandparents’ houses, they don’t ask for it at home and are too busy doing other things all day. I’m sure this will have to be adjusted (as will everything we do) as they get older, but for now, it’s best for our family.

I usually require the three oldest to read for a minimum of 30 minutes in the afternoon, and if my children ever come to me bored (which is almost never), I give them the option to read or to help me with a chore.

We watch between 0 and 1 1/2 hours of “TV” a day (we don’t have channels or Netflix, but Peppa Pig, Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, The Kratt Brothers, and Shaun the Sheep are our current go-tos on YouTube), depending on whether they’ve had laundry to do (I let them watch shows while folding as long as they actually are folding) or have been at the gym (where they almost always have a show going, which the kids usually watch at least part of).

We will never be accused of being hip at our house, but as far as I’m concerned, my children are incredibly uncool in the coolest way possible. They know very little about current trends, desirable brands, or hot games.

And I think that’s rad because I only get one chance to protect their innocence, and I choose to do that by shielding them from character-destroying influences while still making them very aware of the true evils that exist in this world.

We study other cultures. We learn Hebrew and Spanish. We read about what’s happening in Syria with ISIS’s systematic genocide of Christians and other “undesirable” people groups. We remember the Holocaust and don’t skip over the hard parts in the Bible. We read updates from Voice of the Martyrs. We don’t sugar-coat sin and death. It’s a part of this world we live in, and they are aware of it and its consequences.

So far, I am happy with how UNworldly my kids are while still being able to deal with some tough stuff (some of which I don’t feel at liberty to go into here but which has definitely given them a taste for real life hardships and hard emotional situations).

In other areas, though, I see lots of room for improvement. Both in them and me.

I haven’t figured out how to make our desire for incorporating more service projects and community outreach work in our family’s schedule.

Even with the fact that I almost never buy my children new clothes or shoes or toys (with birthdays and Christmas being almost the only exceptions), I still feel like they are too entitled (as am I).

I’d love to figure out how to foster more empathy for a hurting world in need of Jesus (in them and me). It’s just too easy to get caught up in all of this focus on training ourselves to the exclusion of truly seeing others (because the Bible does NOT say that pure and undefiled religion is well-behaved kids).

As much as we are an atypical first world family in some ways (lots of kids, lots of home businesses, DIY houses, etc.), we are typical in our love of first-world comforts. We can train ourselves out of that. I want to train us out of that.

I hope that you can hear my heart in these posts, y’all. I am all too aware of my shortcomings as a human and as a mother. I see mamas all the time that are killing it and want to pick their brains so that I, too, can excel in a certain area.

flooring

(One of the benefits of child-training? The 6-year-old gets the little ones snacks while the older boys lay flooring. Nap time for mama! Jokes, folks. Jokes).

However, as imperfect as we all are, I genuinely believe that I have remarkable kids who will be world-changing messengers of the gospel. And I know that I, by the grace of God, am the primary instrument in nurturing that.

Honestly? As many times as I fail each day, those last two sentences above should be a giant encouragement to any mama. BY THE GRACE OF GOD, I–a sinner, saved by Jesus Christ–have the privilege of having the most significant role in shaping my children into remarkable kids who, I believe, will be world-changing messengers of the gospel. A privilege which I exercise very imperfectly. But that’s the power of God’s word and his grace. And he has called me to share them with my children as I foster their hearts in discipline, in love, in word, and in deed.

I hope I can encourage you to view your role in training your children’s hearts toward the Lord as a high and holy calling. It’s pretty easy to see it as a chore (I do, sometimes) or to feel like we’re not making headway (we are!).

But we can’t grow wear of doing good! If we don’t, we WILL reap a harvest. That’s a promise.

Child-training is hard. But I bet you know what I have to say to that. Yup. Hard is not the same thing as bad. Not by a long shot.