To Everything There Is A Season

A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven

A blog about raising a young family and keeping Christ at the center of it.

The Cyrs

The Cyrs
Photo Credit: Rachel Dewhurst

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Time to Set Goals

I really can't believe another year has ended. I will say that for myself, 2013 was a blur! Our year over-flowed with blessings! God has been so good to our family. I'm just thankful that I am able to say 2013 was a good year because I know that for many 2013 was filled with difficulties, heartache, challenges, and loss. I have no idea what 2014 will bring to our family, only the Lord knows, but our prayer is that whatever we are asked to face we will do so with grace and a complete reliance on the One who establishes our days.

Not knowing what the future holds is not, however, an excuse for me to not set some goals for myself. I hesitate to set New Year's resolutions because I am terrible at keeping them, even the ones that seem easy to keep! I do want to set goals though because that is how I operate best. When I know what I am trying to accomplish and what I am working towards, that is when I function most effectively. So what are some goals I am setting for myself this year? Well number one (as it is for many of us) weight loss. But, I don't have a specific amount I am trying to lose, I am not planning to follow a specific diet and I don't plan on getting a gym membership. Because life is still incredibly busy and I still do not have a lot of free time I know that if I set a rigid goal I will get discouraged quickly. So my goal is basically to make healthier choices. I plan to eat healthier but not count points or follow rules. I'm keeping it simple...instead or reaching for the cookie I'm reaching for the carrot. I'm also planning to start exercising. A friend lent me P90X so if you don't hear from me it's because I've died.

Also on my list of goals is to read more. I don't read nearly enough and I enjoy it so much. I also want to be more deliberate in my parenting and interactions with the kids. In the business of this particular season of life where there are so many little ones I feel sometimes my older kids don't get 100% of me. I'd like to change that. And of course, the goal that is always on my list and will continue to be is to know my God better. To spend more time with him in His word and in prayer. I haven't figured out how I'm going to accomplish all this yet but I'm at least going to try.

I have so much to work on and I can easily get very discouraged when I sit back and think about all the things I would like to do better or work on or change. I'm going to take baby steps this year and not put a lot of pressure on myself. I'm going to be deliberate about making healthy eating choices but not beat myself up when I cheat (because you know I will), I'm going to make a conscious effort to read more but that might mean that I read for 30 mins a week...that is more than I do now (as far as fiction reading goes) so I'd be reaching that goal. I'm keeping it simple but at the same time giving myself something to strive towards. And hopefully by putting it out there and telling you all about it that will be enough accountability for me to stick to it!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Time to Tell You Why I Blog

I hope you didn't click on this to get some profound reason for my efforts! My reasons are not at all juicy either. First let me tell you why I DON'T blog.

I don't blog...
Because I want to make money on it...clearly
Because I think I have all the answers 
Because I am an excellent writer and you all should know it
Because I am super talented in the craft/cooking department and everyone should benefit from my abilities
Because I want to make a name for myself...or "brand" myself

So why do I do it? Honestly, the idea to start a blog was not a thought out one. It's not something I contemplated for months and then put a dream into action. I never read other peoples blogs until I started my own. I didn't even really know what blogging was. One night I was home alone because Ben was out of town for work. I had 5 kids and was struggling to get rest and feeling very cooped up. I was desperately seeking some sort of outlet for myself that didn't involve me cleaning a house or taking care of kids. Not because I don't enjoy those things I just don't enjoy ONLY doing those things. And when you have little ones at home the feeling of doing nothing else besides changing diapers and constantly training can become overwhelming. I was looking through the adult ed classes trying to see if something would strike my fancy. Anytime I would see something of interest I would find it was on an evening or time that didn't fit our schedule. The Lord was clearly shutting the door on that option as much as I was desperately trying to open it. He was stronger and it slammed in my face. Then this idea, out of nowhere came to me, "what about blogging?" So I looked into it, decided to try and create one, watched some Youtube videos on how to do some things and there it was... a blog. But it was a blank blog. What would I say? What would I write about? I prayed and just asked God to direct me. I didn't want this to be a waste of my time and just something I did that would lose it's luster in 2 months. I wanted to take a leap of faith and see what happened but I was skeptical. The driving force behind me actually continuing and publishing the first post was a feeling that God was asking me to. As crazy as that may sound, it's the truth. So why do I blog? Here's why:

I blog because...
I love to write. It's an outlet for me and I find it very therapeutic
It's something I can do other than my day-to-day mom/wife stuff that doesn't require money or me leaving the house
I love connecting with people
I enjoy sharing what God is doing in my life, the good and the bad, successes and failures
I believe God brought this opportunity to me and I want to glorify Him through it

All of these reasons are true,real reasons why I blog but the main reason I believed I was doing this when I first began was so our families, who we do not live near, could keep up with our family and see how we were doing . I really thought God brought this to mind so we would have an easier time feeling connected to them, while at the same time filling that need I had to do something "else". The funny thing is though, that is not how God has used it. In fact, most of our family doesn't even read this blog. God has done something totally different and unexpected with it. I have met new people, built relationships, helped new moms, encouraged the discouraged, been transparent (with Gods help) when that is what others needed. God has given me a boldness with this blog and shown me the importance of letting go of pride and appearances and just being real about life. I will admit that its not always easy for me to transparent. My pride fights that. But those are the posts that God has used the most to help others as evidenced by the number of "hits" it gets and the emails and comments I receive. I truly am amazed that anyone reads this blog never mind the way it reaches people. Don't circle of influence is very small! But that is ok since my goal was never to have a following. I write for the few, not the masses but mostly I write for me and my kids. Ben always mentions how these posts will be a great resource for our kids when they are older and can appreciate them. So if nothing else I am building a library of wisdom (and I use that word carefully as I know I have so much to learn) for my offspring.

I have said all of this to be clear of my goals with this blog as I present an idea I have. And I need your help! I have noticed in the blog world that many bloggers create a facebook page and their readers "like" it. What I really love about this idea is it's a fun way to connect even more with those who read your blog without making your own personal facebook page all about your blog. Again, my goal is not to "brand" myself so that is not at all why I am thinking about this. I want a fun easy way to encourage and edify others without the pressure of writing a blog post. As much as I enjoy writing, it is time consuming and I don't have a lot of time these days. A facebook page I feel would allow me to write a line here and there, share quick thoughts, give recommendations on books & blogs, share my own blog posts when I have get the idea, without taking up a lot of my time. How can you help? If you read this blog, even if it's just once and awhile, "like" my facebook page. It's called To Everything There is a Season. Click on the link and it will take you right to it. Every person who likes my page will be entered into a drawing to win something hand-made by my friend Karen from Our Picket Fence. I own a few of her creations and they do not disappoint! If you take the time to visit her Etsy shop and tell us what your favorite item is in the comments here, your name will be entered twice! Who doesn't love two chances to win? The winner will be able to choose between the Lavender Filled Sachets or the Yellow Chevron Rice Hand Warmers. The winner will be announced by January 4, 2014 (2014, seriously!?). Alright, get busy "liking" the To Everything There is a Season's facebook page and visiting with Our Picket Fence...and let your friends know!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Time for My Thoughts on Christmas

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder:and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ~Is. 9:6

It may come as no surprise to you when I tell you I like to keep it simple. These are the things I enjoy...the simple things. With a little luxury thrown in here and there, when God and means allow. So for me (and Ben), Christmas is about one thing: Jesus. And this is what we teach our children. All the other stuff, which I will get to in a minute, are just extras that do not MAKE Christmas what it is. The birth of Christ, our Saviour, the one who would one day die on a cross to save us of our sins, and offer us a place in heaven. HE is what our Christmas is all about.

That being said, we do enjoy the Christmas season in other ways but they are not the priority and they are not the focus. There are 5 things that I do all I can to make time for because I want my kids to have these memories and traditions. I want them to grow up and look back and say, "at Christmas we always..." Those kinds of memories and traditions are special and I feel, worth the extra effort to make happen.

1. The tree. No matter what is going on, no matter how busy life is, we always make time to put up the tree. Even when we had our first apt. and no money, before kids came, we had a tree. It was a pathetic, Charlie Brown tree but it was a tree. Now we have an artificial one because it's just easier right now. Eventually I think we will get a real tree but for now the one pictured above is our tree and we love it. The older kids help us assemble it, Ben and I string the lights, then all the kids who are able start putting on the ornaments. We were not allowed to help with the "real" tree growing up. We had our own tree in the basement that we were allowed to decorate. Growing up I never thought that was a bad thing...till I tell people this story and you can just see the pity for us in their eyes! I want my kids to feel like this tree is theirs too, not just mine, and perfect is not my goal. Memories are. If they showed no interest in putting the ornaments on the tree then sure, I would do it myself but they really look forward to this.
2. Making sugar cookies and decorating them. We did not have this tradition in my house but I think its so much fun so we make sure to do this with our kids. This is another thing they really look forward to! This year I let Jena help me make the cookies. The boys are only interested once the frosting and sprinkles come out! This tradition I will admit is time consuming. I also don't love baking so this is a real labor of love for me. Not to mention the mess...this is a messy tradition. By the end of this everyone was covered in flour, frosting and sprinkles...but it all washes and the memories made are worth every bit of mess.

3. Sticky Buns. Oh my, these are so good. This is one of the traditions Ben had growing up that he was not at all willing to leave behind...and none of us are complaining! We all look forward to our Christmas morning sticky buns! The kids ask for these throughout the year but I only make them on Christmas morning. Whether we are home or away I always plan to make these. They are so good and everyone looks forward to them so much that its usually a hard decision when the kids are asked if they want to eat first or open gifts!

4. The Christmas Story. And I'm not talking about "Twas the Night Before Christmas", though that is a great read. I'm talking about the story of Christ's birth. I will never forget the first time I heard the Christmas story. Of course it is possible I heard it at a young age but I mean the first time I really heard it. It was the first Christmas I spent with Ben's family. Christmas morning Ben's mom told me that the seat reserved next to Ben's dad was for me. That was so special to me. I know that seat was a place one of her 6 children look forward to having but she purposed to reserve it for me knowing this was my first time listening to it with a changed heart. I will never forget that morning. So the tradition continues in our home. On Christmas morning before we do anything else, we sit down in front of the tree and Ben reads the Christmas story. As much as I love our other traditions and would miss them if they were gone, if we could only choose one I would choose this one.

5. Christmas pajamas. This is a tradition we had growing up and I love this tradition but when you have 7 kids this is not always a tradition we can afford. The past few years I have chosen to go with something most of the kids already had, like the red tartan patterned ones we all have, and just buy the one or two sizes I need. This year we had a little extra in the budget and I found Star Wars pajama bottoms at a great price for the 4 boys. No they are not exactly "Christmasy" but the boys are going to love them. For the girls I only had to buy one pajama, for Jena, and got it match what I already had for the younger two girls.

So how does a family with 7 children in a difficult economy afford Christmas without breaking the bank? We get asked a lot and my answer is simple: Christmas is not about the gifts. It just isn't. From the time Noah was born we determined that Christmas would be small when it came to gifts. As parents we set the bar. So even though we only had one child and could afford to do more, we didn't. I'm thankful that we had this perspective early on because we had no idea we'd have 7 and that a small Christmas in the gift department was going to become a necessity. We don't have a strict policy per say but basically it has been one gift per kid (within our budget, which is $50 per kid) plus *stocking stuffers. The past couple of years we purchased one big gift for all the kids to share and if there was any money left over (there usually is) from our budget (which is still $50 per kid, we just combine it for the big gift) we purchase a small item for each of them so they have their own individual gift to unwrap. This year, thankfully, our family members are putting money toward bigger items for the kids to share and we are grateful. This not only helps them but it helps us. When you have 9 people living in a modest home you can only have so many toys! I know to many reading this our budget seems ridiculously small and the idea of only having one gift each under the tree is crazy. This is how we keep it simple. This is how we remain stress free at the holidays and are able to enjoy each other and the things that really matter. Having a small budget for our family at Christmas not only helps us keep perspective but it also allows us to GIVE during the holidays. There are so many with so much less then us and its important for us to get our kids involved in giving and help them see how much they have compared to others. A couple ways we do this are by putting together shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and picking stars from the tree at the kids school, and donating to Toys for Tots. There are so many ways to give and each year how we give is a little different. I hope that you all are able to experience the joy this holiday season can bring. Even when difficult times fall upon us, if we keep perspective and remember what is really important, we can have peace and contentment. Enjoy your families and your holiday traditions and more importantly...breathe! Enjoy the season, don't stress and focus on building memories!
Still waiting for Emma's
stocking to arrive!
*Stocking Stuffers: This is something I love. As a kid stocking stuffers were my favorite! So I really want to fill stockings for my kids. The problem: this can get really expensive! Not only expensive but I really dislike spending money on trinkets and things that will break a day later just to fill a stocking. So this year what I am doing is putting the Christmas pajamas in the stockings with a couple other things. And I will likely keep it this way for the years to come. Two things my kids love are chapstick and soda. They very rarely get soda and if they do its half a glass maybe three times a year. I buy the small cans of soda (the ones that are half the size of a regular can) and they each get one in their stocking...they LOVE this! So pajamas, a can of soda and a chapstick are what my kids are getting in their stocking. I'm not kidding when I say its very important to us that Christmas remains simple and focused on what is important. I always tell my kids the story my grandmother told me when I was a kid. When she was young her and her siblings received fruit and a few pieces of candy in their stockings. Fruit was a luxury for them apparently and not something they got often. She would talk about how much she looked forward to getting that orange and I remember thinking, "really, excited about an orange?!" I haven't spoken to her about this story since I've been an adult. It's very possible she exaggerated in the hopes it would make me more thankful for all I received. In any case, I tell my kids, and it does make them realize how much they have so its a good story regardless!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Time for Friendship

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down 
his life for his friends. ~John 15:13

Friends are people I feel we should all have. Friends, if chosen well, can be such a blessing. Some people, like myself, enjoy several close friends of all shapes and sizes. Others of you prefer to keep your close friends and confidants to a minimum. Some of you may even only have one person you would call a close friend. Whatever your preference, having friends is important. Even more important than having good friends is being a good friend. Some people are gifted in knowing how to be a good friend. Others, well, they need a little encouragement in this area. Since I have an over abundance of wonderful friends who have taught me so much about what it means to be a friend, I thought I'd share what I've learned. I would like to preface this by saying that the Bible teaches us clearly about friendship...the kinds of friends to look for and avoid as well as showing us that Jesus is THE friend and our example. This post isn't a Bible study on friendship...just some practical advice from a girl who thinks friendship is important and tries hard to be a friend worth having.

The first thing I've learned is that in order to be a good friend you need to be available. Trust me I know what you are thinking, "I don't have time to be there every time my friend needs me". I get it. I have a family and I am not able to just drop everything in an instant. Being available is more than just physically being there. Distance, for instance, would prohibit even the greatest of friends from being available physically. We live in a time where technology makes it easier than ever to be available. With things like texting, FaceTime & Skype, and email it is so manageable for us to be there for our friends even when distance and time prevent us from being able to hold a hand or give a hug. Being available just means you are willing to set some time aside from your busy schedule to make a phone call, send a quick text, write an email or Skype. This is especially important when you know your friend is going through a difficult or challenging time. I can't tell you how encouraging it is when I am having a hard day and I suddenly get a text from a friend letting me know they are praying for me. Or a friend I haven't heard from in awhile will send a card or email letting me know they've been thinking of me. Another thing I've learned is you need to learn what your friend's need. Have you ever heard of the book, "The Five Love Languages"? In it the author is speaking to married couples but I think it translates into all types of relationships. The 5 love languages are:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Receiving Gifts
Quality Time
Physical Touch
Knowing the ways in which the people you are in relationships with feel loved will help you be a better friend (and wife, sister, mother, etc.). For me my love language is Acts of Service with Quality Time a close second. I feel most loved when people give me their time (which is valuable) and help me with a task. I have friends who are amazing at making me feel loved. I have one friend who is always reminding me she will come over and help if I have a project to work on. Today in fact she was here helping me core, peel, and slice A LOT of apples that were given to me. It meant so much to me that she was willing to take time out of her day to spend it here with me chatting and working on something I desperately needed to get done yet could not have by myself. When my sister was recently here visiting for the week she made me feel loved by cleaning...every time I looked she was cleaning something that I
never have time to do like the oven. Another friend ALWAYS folds my laundry when she comes to visit. She doesn't even ask anymore. She sees it and does it automatically while we are chatting. These kinds of friends are a blessing and make me feel loved because that is my love language. Not that the other things on the list are not appreciated...they are very much appreciated. Because Acts of Service is my love language it is how I most easily show love. My first thought is to bring you a meal, watch your kids or help with a project. But that might not be my friends love language so its important that I learn what is so that I can be there for
them in a way that lets them know I care and makes them feel loved.
I've learned that being a good friend requires me to be accepting of others for who they are and not expecting them to change to suit my preferences. Do all of my friends and I think alike or act alike? No. How boring would that be! I had one friend say recently, "I thank God for each of you ladies, and the way our different personalities complement each other". Differences are good and we should be willing to accept our friends and love them for who they are. I'm thankful for my friends who are patient and gracious with my imperfect self and keep me around despite my undesirable qualities that I know at times drive them crazy!
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I have learned that my children are watching me and the kind of friend I am to others will have an impact on them. I am their first example of what a friend is. Not because I am trying to be their friend, (that's a post for a different day), but because they see how I treat my friends, how I speak to them or about them and whether or not I make time for them. I am the first person who teaches them what a friend is and what it means to be a friend. I want my kids to make wise choices when it comes to choosing friends and I want my example to be one that they can emulate. I have found the best training they can get in learning to be a good friend is with their brothers and sisters. These are their first friends and learning to be a good friend to each other will give them just the practice they need to be a good friend to others.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Time for Thankfulness: Revised and Updated for 2013

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. ~Psalm 100:4

November is the time of year everybody starts thinking of things they are thankful for, leading up to Thanksgiving. It's all over Facebook with status' each day of something one is thankful for. So I decided, because consistency is not my greatest strength, that instead of each day posting one thing I'm thankful for I instead would just make a list of 30 things, one for each day of the month!

I am thankful for:

1.First and foremost I'm thankful for Christ dying on the cross and forgiving me of my sins. I don't want to think of who I would be or where I would be without HIM. 

2. My husband. I am amazed every day that God gave me such a good man. He is my best friend and loves me unconditionally...good days AND bad days! I love him so much and am so thankful for him.

3. Seven healthy children. WOW! With so many stories lately of children who are sick and dying I am thankful each day for how God has blessed us in this area.

4. For Noah. Everyone needs a Noah. He is a love and could sit and chat and hug all day. He is  just so thoughtful. He is a good friend and so good to his siblings. He makes me laugh because he is as awkward as I am and he frustrates me because we are so much alike!! But I wouldn't change anything about him.

5. For Owen. He is so much like his dad, I love that. He's our goofball and always knows how to put a smile on my face. He is determined and hard working but loves making everything in life fun!

6. For Gabe. Gabe is all boy & all personality. He never stops thinking, or talking or moving. He's our most exhausting one but always makes life interesting with his unpredictable ways. He's a born leader & strong willed and so interested in the world around him.

7. For Will. He's my "sweet William". He is so kind and gentle. He is the first one to pick something up if you've dropped it. He's also very organized, always making sure things go where they belong. He loves to laugh ,even if he has no idea what he's laughing about! I can't imagine our family without him.

8. For Jena. She is a girly- girl with a side of tom boy in her. Truly it just depends on her mood and I love that about her. She loves to tease, her brothers especially, and loves it when she is teased back. She's also such a big helper. She loves to help fold laundry and load/unload the dishwasher...and is actually very good at both! So thankful for her helping spirit. 

9. For Tess. My little Tessie-Lou is the happiest, smiley-est baby there is...after Will, because he was too. She has a smile at the ready almost constantly. You will hear a lot of people say that they've never heard her cry. While she does cry, I'm not surprised some haven't heard it because it is so rare. She adds so much joy to our house and we're so thankful for her.

10. For Emma. Though these first couple of months have been tough since she is a baby more on the fussy side I'm so thankful that fussy is the worst I can say because so many parents face very real and scary ailments with their kids. When she does smile she has the most adorable dimple, just like Noah's and it makes my day. I'm so thankful God blessed us with a 3rd little girl and I'm looking forward to seeing her personality come through.

11. For the fact that I can be a stay at home mom. There are many challenging and tough days but there are more great and rewarding days and I'm thankful I'm able to be home with the kids.

12. For my husband having a job. In this economy the fact that he has a stable job cannot be taken for granted. 

13. For friends who are unbelievably loving and supportive. I'm so blessed with so many great women in my life. 

14. For family. My kids are blessed to have all their grandparents and 3 great-grandparents, lots of aunts & uncles and cousins. 

15. For coffee. It has to be said! I'm thankful for very, very strong (preferably Starbucks) coffee. 

16. To be an American. Despite everything that is happening and going on in our country...some things very scary...I'm still proud to be an American.

17. For the Bible and for the freedom to own as many as I want, read it whenever I want without fear of being thrown in prison or losing my life.

18. For our home. It's warm and safe and full of love. It's a place where there is always an over abundance of all of life's necessities-Praise God!

19. That Ben and I are healthy. It sure makes taking care of this family a whole lot easier!

20. For modern conveniences! Life is a lot easier today with things like indoor plumbing, electricity, dishwashers, cell phones, computers, etc.! 

21. For Facebook. That may seem like a strange thing to be thankful for but when you stay home taking care of a lot of little ones it's hard to get out and F/B has helped me feel connected to people. So many of my friends have been a huge source of encouragement.

22. For nature. Mountains to climb, trails to hike, lakes and oceans to swim in, animals to watch. God's creation is amazing!

23. I'm thankful that Ben's parents give us beef each year! Sure helps our grocery budget!!!

24. I'm thankful for how God has gifted Ben with so many skills & talents-have I mentioned how just plain awesome I think my husband is??

25. I'm thankful I have eyes that see and ears that hear. This is definitely something I take for granted, and shouldn't!

26. I'm thankful for things like make-up, hair color, hair straighteners, and nail polish. These may be frivolous things but they  are things that are sure to put a smile on my face when I'm feeling frumpy and less than pretty!

27. Music!! I love that there is music for every mood and occasion. I especially love the way it can prepare our hearts to worship God and express our love to him.

28. I'm thankful for the way God has provided for our family. A lot of people say it is too expensive to have a big family but we have seen God's provision for our every need and almost every want and I am so thankful for that. What an awesome God we serve!

29. Fire. Not only because it heats a home and cooks food but because of the way it brings people together to talk and laugh around a campfire eating s'mores. This is one of my most favorite family times!

30. The fact that I woke up today and so did my most precious gifts, Ben and the kids. I'm thankful for the gift of each day.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Time for Pinterest Hits...and Misses!

If you are not on Pinterest by now, you really should be! I think whoever came up with this idea is a genius; it has made my life a lot easier on several occasions! When I'm in a funk meal planning, the first place I go is Pinterest. I pin a lot of things. Most of us on Pinterest do. But how many of those pins do we actually try or do? I've been making an effort over the past few months to take some of the things I've pinned and actually make them. Since I haven't exactly had a lot of time for crafts or DIY projects but I still HAVE to cook, the pins I've made lately are recipes. So here are some of the ones we enjoyed...and some not so much!

1. Breaded Ranch Chicken 

This recipe was a hit! It was so tasty and very easy. I'm one who almost always has some packets of Ranch dressing mix on hand so this is a recipe I can make in a flash. Though I did recently pin a recipe for DIY ranch seasoning, which I hope to try soon. If it turns out to be a hit then I can make this recipe with my own seasoning. 

2. Vegetable Mac n Cheese

This recipe was another fact, it's on the menu for this weekend. I first made this recipe when we were having guests over for lunch. I know it's risky to try new recipes when company's coming but I took a chance anyway. I'm glad I did. It is such a fun take on mac n cheese, has lots of veggies, which I found you can choose the ones you like and eliminate the ones you don't (I did not put squash in mine). It has nice flavor and the red pepper flakes give it just the right amount of kick to make it interesting!

3. Crock Pot Chex Mix

This one I am going to have to say is a miss...for me anyway. Not so much on taste, because it tastes fine. My problem with it is that it makes a mess of your crock pot! And I don't find it easier to do it in the crock pot then in the oven. I prefer my oven method so I'm going to stick with it. I guess my suggestion would be if you decide to try it then invest in some crock pot liners and save yourself a lot of scrubbing!

4. Chicken Pot Pie Cupcakes

If there is anything I love, it's finding a recipe that the kids devour. And this recipe is one of them. Another item I always have on hand are refrigerator biscuits. I grab these when they go on sale and freeze them (yes, they freeze beautifully!) so all I have to do when I've got some leftover chicken to use up is thaw some biscuits and we've got ourselves a meal everyone will love! This is one of those recipes too that you can play around with. Make your filling to your liking and then bake them up. It's an easy recipe and a neat way to use up some leftovers!

5. Buffalo Chicken Bites

This one I'm afraid to say is a miss. None of us cared for this recipe...and we're big buffalo chicken fans. I can't quite put my finger on what it was about this recipe that made it not to our liking but even after 3 or 4 attempts, we still didn't like it. Maybe you'll have better luck than I did!

6. Sweet & Sour Chicken

This is by far the BEST recipe I've pinned on Pinterest to date! Everyone I've made it for has also raved about it. It's not exactly a quick and easy recipe...there's some prep work and planning involved. But it is so worth the effort. This recipe also freezes very well. Prepare it up until the baking stage. Freeze it. Then when you're ready to eat it stick it in the oven and let it finish cooking. You will not regret taking the time to make this, I promise!

7. S'mores Bars

I do not do a lot of baking. It's not my favorite thing to do. I would much rather cook a meal. But I do try to bake for the sake of my family so I like recipes that are quick and easy. This one is's very quick and easy if you have everything you need. But I'm calling it a miss. It just wasn't as good as you'd think it would be. I guess there's just no beating a real s'more by the campfire so my suggestion is this...if you have the ingredients for s'mores, make yourself a campfire and enjoy the real deal because these pale in comparison!

8. Strawberry-Yogurt Cake

This recipe is a huge HIT! It takes some planning because it calls for a few ingredients I don't always have on hand but it's definitely worth making. It's so yummy and very easy to make! I highly recommend this recipe!

9. Poppy-Seed Chicken Casserole

This recipe I just recently tried when my in-laws were visiting and we say it's a hit! It is really yummy and the poppy seeds give it a great flavor. This one Ben even talked about days later...that's when you know you've found a recipe that's a keeper! The instructions say that some add rice to the bottom and I absolutely did. I added 2 cups of cooked rice to the bottom of the casserole. I think next time I might experiment by throwing in some veggies. I love recipes I can be creative with and this is definitely one of them.

10. Coconut Rice

This recipe I have not tried yet but I plan to this weekend. It seems super simple. I even bought minute rice, which I never do, to ensure it comes out just as it's supposed to. I love coconut and I think this fun take on rice will go nicely with the shrimp I'm planning to make to go with it. It seems too simple to mess up but we shall see!

So here you have it! A few of my "pins" that have proved successful and not so successful. Maybe you can incorporate some of these recipes into your menu planning this month. I hope to have some time in the near future to try out the more crafty & DIY type pins I have waiting for me...and when I do I'll be sure to let you know how they turned out!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Time to Come Clean

“Not that we are adequate to think anything of ourselves,
but our adequacy is of God” ~II Cor. 3:5

Two months have passed since Emma entered our lives...and it has absolutely felt like two months. I'm actually shocked its only been two months since it has felt like a much longer period of time. That's how it goes when life is challenging. When I made the decision to start this blog and decided on a name for it my reasons were two-fold. One reason was that the portion of scripture where "to everything there is a season" comes from is one of Ben's favorites and was read at our wedding so it has special memories attached to it for us. The second reason was because one time when Noah was just a baby and very colicky someone said to me, "this is just a season". That has stuck with me ever since and has sort of become my mantra. Life is full of different seasons. Some seasons last longer than others but seasons don't last forever. Eventually they end and a new one begins. That is where I take comfort these days. I know God has a perfect plan and purpose for the challenges we are facing right now and I am confident He will see us through. I have been asked a few times recently why I haven't written a blog post in awhile. The truth is my head is one big foggy mess right now! I am a blessed lady, this I know. I have a wonderfully supportive, Godly husband and 7 beautiful and healthy children and I get to take care of them! I have everything I could ever want. So when I say I'm a hot mess I don't mean to sound negative as though my life is so hard. I just mean that having Emma, and adjusting to the kind of baby she is, and figuring out how to manage my time well so that I am able to care for everyone has been tough. It has meant that we've had to say no to a lot of things and limit our commitments. This is not an easy thing for someone like me, and with these decisions have come a great deal of guilt. That mommy guilt is a powerful thing isn't it? Even with the elimination of certain activities from our lives, "for a season", I'm still falling short! In the first few weeks of school one of the boys went to school without a lunch, one didn't have his instrument for the first day of band practice, I scheduled a parent-teacher conference with one of the teachers from LAST year and didn't notice till that teacher emailed me telling me she didn't have my kids this year, and one of the boys (I'm almost too ashamed to admit this) actually went to school with a HUGE rip in his jeans right on his bum, which went unnoticed by me until I was getting him ready for bed! Seriously!? This is how thick the fog is people!

I was on the phone with a good friend a little while back, when Emma was not sleeping at all, and I was sharing with the friend how the previous few nights had gone. They had not gone well and I had not been sleeping and I told her how the night before I was just holding Emma, who was not wanting to sleep and quite fussy. I was so exhausted and so frustrated that I just cried....and cried and cried. And then she said to me, "I'm so glad to hear that you cried. I was starting to think you had some kind of super human strength because you always seem so positive and look so happy". And it hit me...while its a good thing to try and keep a positive attitude and outlook, and while we should be able to find joy in the midst of our difficulties, I realized it might also be important for me to tell you all that yes, I do struggle and I don't always have things under control. Big surprise right?! I have done my share of crying, my share of saying, "its not fair that baby #7 is this hard...I have 6 others to take care of ", I have had my tantrums and bad attitudes in the past 2 months. Trust me! But what you also need to know is that I didn't stay there. I'm human and God knows I'm human. He knows my feelings and He cares. He wants me to be honest with him and tell Him how I'm feeling but what He doesn't want is for me to remain in that state. I am to cast my cares and my burdens at His feet, give them to him and then trust that He will give me what I need to face the next day...or even the next minute. This particular "season" has not been an easy one for Ben and I. But we know it won't last forever and we are thankful for a God who gives us what we need in the moment. I tell people we are in survival mode right now. And there are times I feel guilty that is all I can give, I feel inadequate when I have to say I'm hanging on by a thread. But with Gods help we will get through this challenging period. We covet your prayers and I hope by sharing my heart and letting you in on how I've been feeling I am helping even one mom out there feel like she's not alone and that even us "seasoned" moms have bad days too!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Time to Remember 9/11

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, 
neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with 
thee whithersoever thou goest. ~Joshua 1:9

Where were you? This is a question that always comes up on this day, as we remember what happened. Anyone old enough to have been aware of what was going on 12 years ago on this day knows where they were and what they were doing. We don't have to write it down to remember because it is ingrained in our minds forever. I was working for a non-profit at the time. Our office happened to be in a federal building. We heard about the first tower on the radio, then shortly after the second plane hit. We were stunned. It didn't seem real. Our building was evacuated for precautionary reasons and I remember spending the rest of the day at home, glued to the tv, watching events unfold. 

The events of that day changed things in our country forever. A terrorist attack on our own soil is something we need to never forget. We need to remember that there are individuals and groups out there that hate America, hate Americans. This is not some conspiracy theory, its the truth. As we read the headlines in the news the past couple of weeks it would seem as though some have forgotten what happened to America that day and who did it to us. Our country and our leaders need so much prayer for wisdom as they make decisions that affect us all, but more importantly affect our military.

What would our country be like without a military? What would happen if we did not have individuals willing to serve? I don't even want to know what it would be like. We are blessed to have the military we do, we are so fortunate to have the many who are willing to serve sacrificially. Imagine if parents refused to support their child joining the military or if our children refused to serve? I am truly so thankful for our service men and woman and their families who have given their lives for my freedom and the freedom of my children. I don't know what my kids are going to grow up to be or do with their lives. The only hope I have for them is that they are faithful to God in whatever they feel he is leading them to do. If that is to join the military then I will support them in that choice and be so proud of them. The Bible gives us many examples of honorable men who served God as military men. We needed men of courage and honor then and we need them now. 

Our prayers today are with those who lost loved ones on September 11 and they are also with those who give of themselves to keep us safe every day whether it be in the military or as a first responder. The Cyr family thanks you and we will not forget your sacrifice!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Time to Feel Like a Vending Machine

I'm convinced whoever coined the phrase, "after 3 it's just one more", never had more than 3 kids! Because let me tell you, it may seem to everyone else that it is "just one more", but to the parents raising, "just one more", one more is a lot! People say this to me all the time. And it's not usually woman of families with 5 or more kids saying it to me. It's just about always from moms or 2 or 3. So because I am asked this a lot, and I so don't feel that statement is accurate, I ponder on it quite a bit.I'm trying to find the accuracy in the statement as it relates to my life and I just can't. Let me tell you why...

First of all. If you have 1 child think about all the work, time, energy, effort that goes into raising that 1 child. Okay now multiply it by 2. I remember thinking how tough it was to juggle everything when I had my second. Figuring out schedules and nap times, etc. All my work was suddenly doubled. Okay, now put yourself in my shoes. All the work of raising 1 child and multiply that by 7. See how when you look at it from my perspective, it's not "just one more". It is the needs, wants, desires of one child multiplied 7 times. Seven behaviors to train and mold. The demands are never ending...and I seriously mean that. Don't misunderstand me. These are demands I cherish (most of the time) and that I consider to be blessings. This is not me complaining that there are so many needs to meet. While the needs are overwhelming and do get the best of me at times, I feel incredibly blessed that God has allowed me 7 little persons needs to meet. That being's a lot and it definitely does not feel like, "just one more". A whole new person brings with it a whole new life of needs and wants that you have to meet. And with only one mom and one dad we are slightly outnumbered. A friend who has 5 teenagers once said to me a few years ago, "don't you feel like a vending machine". She went on to explain to me that is how she felt when her kids were younger. At the time I honestly didn't understand what she meant and could not relate to the analogy. Most likely because at the time the 4 I had were very young, most non-verbal. Now I completely understand and it's the most accurate analogy I can think of. Little people are constantly asking for something...I mean ALWAYS. My kids can attest to me saying at least once a day, "stop asking me for things!". 
Those of you with 3 or less children, think of the times when you have to switch over closets and what a daunting task that is to do with even 1 child. Multiply it by 7. Think of school shopping. Supplies get expensive when you are buying for 1 or 2. Multiply that by 7. If you have 3 little mouths to feed and know your budget takes a hit due to the amount of food you have to buy...multiply that by 7. Don't even get me started on clothes shopping! You can
understand maybe why second-hand stores are our best friends! Think to the future...1 or 2 to put through college...multiply that by 7. I think I've made my point. None of this is to say that we are worried in any way about providing for these kids. We know God will provide and we also in no way ever complain that we have to feed, clothe and educate 7 kids. Truly if given the chance to do things differently we certainly would not. This is all to try and prove my point that the phrase, "its just one more", is not really that accurate.I'm not saying that raising 7 is harder than raising 3, I'm simply saying that it's not "just one more". Not to us anyway! And maybe that is because my kids are all still little. I'm sure once they are all teenagers I won't feel like a vending machine as much because they will be able to do most of these things on their own. 
How do I attempt to not let the demands of raising so many little ones get the better of me. Well I cannot say I do this consistently...especially in the last few months but for me it comes down to perspective. Putting things into perspective has a way of clearing the fog and allowing me to focus on the things that matter. It's not always going to be like this. Like so many have reminded me goes by so quickly. Before you know it they are grown up! I already have a 9 year old and I can't tell you how it happened. It went by so fast! Taking the time to see the blessings in the demands helps me to not drown in the many tasks before me right now. This is a season and its a season God wants me to find joy in, which I do majority of the time. And my times of greatest clarity, perspective, and joy come when I've been faithful in spending time in Gods word. There is no denying the power it has to bring peace to my soul. 
So there it is, my perspective on a phrase that has irked me lately! You may find a mom with a lot of kids who disagrees, actually I'm sure you can, but for us, "just one more" sounds more like, "ONE MORE!". But we always rejoice in our "ONE MORE!". 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Time to Adjust

The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his 
people with peace. ~Psalm 29:11

Emma Michelle has made her arrival and not a moment too soon. Weighing in at 10lbs, 10 oz I was thankful she came a little over 3 weeks early! All the kids were so excited to meet her and beg me all the time if they can hold her. We are certainly feeling blessed. 
But you know, blessed isn't the only thing we are feeling. We are feeling outnumbered, overwhelmed, tired, and weak. Does this surprise you? People keep asking us how things are going, or how we are doing and then seem surprised when we don't say that things are going excellent and we've got this all under control! I realize you expect that with baby 7 things are old hat to us but really this has been a rather hard adjustment.The fact that we have two babies in the house is a big factor in our feeling like we don't have this under control. Tess is still a baby at 10 months so we have two to give bottles to and feed and two who don't walk, and two who can't verbalize their needs and two who can't really do anything on their own yet. Not to mention the other 5 that still need us for things! This is a new experience for us and the closest to having twins either of us ever wants to be! Before this our closest two were 14 months apart and honestly that was nothing compared to this! Of course if God had ever seen fit to bless us with twins we would have been happy but right now, we are glad they have come one at a time! We are relying on Gods grace and strength to get us through each day and we know He will...this is just going to take some time!
My Irish Twins-10 months apart!

Emma is also dealing with jaundice. They did discharge her from the hospital because her numbers were borderline at the time so we were told to keep an eye on her. Yesterday at her check up her numbers had gone up into a zone that could present some dangers. So we had more lab work done this morning to see if her numbers went down...but they didn't. The went up. If her number gets to 20 she will have to be hospitalized and put under the bili lights. This morning she is at 17. So we have been told to keep doing what we are doing which is feeding her every 2hrs (or less if she wants...yes, exhausting!) and having her sleep in the sun. Please pray that her numbers would decrease without the need to be hospitalized. We are thankful that she doesn't present any of the other symptoms associated with jaundiced such as being lethargic and not wanting to eat. Those are danger signs that we need to be keeping an eye out for. Otherwise for a premie she is doing great. The Dr's are really happy with how she looks and we are so thankful!

There are so many things I am thankful for in regards to Emma's pregnancy and delivery.My health is one of them. Up until a couple weeks ago my blood pressure and sugars remained right where they needed to be and I know that was the power of all your prayers at work. My BP took a turn for the worst last week. I was put on "bed rest" but realistically we all knew that was impossible so I was to do as little as possible and not leave the house unless I absolutely had to. Even with doing those things and resting as much as I could my BP still got dangerously high. I was sent to the hospital a couple times to be monitored when the decision was finally made the best thing for me health wise was to induce me and deliver the baby to get my blood pressure down. We saw Gods hand in this delivery everywhere we looked. That day the Dewhurst family, whose daughters have been babysitting for us lately, were able to come and watch the kids for us since we had no child care. They arrived in lightening speed and even spent the night so Ben could stay with me at the hospital after I delivered! We are so grateful to them! Also, when you've delivered as many babies as I have at the same hospital ( a small hospital) the nurses come to know you very well and we know the nurses well. I have my favorite nurse. I have loved her since she helped deliver Gabe and then Will. She was the nurse on duty that day and I was so thrilled. She's amazing! And the icing on the cake was that my favorite Dr., the one I request to only be seen by, happened to be on call and delivered Emma. I was on cloud 9 really with my medical team! It doesn't hurt my Dr. is originally from Madawaska! God just blessed over and above. My blood pressure remains stable, not great, but not terribly high so I don't need to be on meds this time around and we are praising God for that. 
So long story short we are all doing well, we are happy and blessed but also tired and overwhelmed. All the meals our friends are providing are a saving grace right now, we are so blessed by wonderful friends. Bear with us as we slip off the radar for a few months and get to know our new addition and adjust to life as we know it now! Your prayers and love and support mean so much...we know how blessed we are!
Our 7 amazing kids!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Time to Get out of the House with Little People

I am asked often how I manage to run my errands with all the kids. I constantly hear, "I don't know how you do it". I actually don't think twice about it anymore because it has been a way of life for so long but, to those that do wonder, I thought I'd fill you in on some of my tips and tricks that make going out manageable. 

I will say I have it easier now than I did in the beginning. When Jena was born I had 5 kids, ages 5 and under so those days were more challenging than they are now. With 3 kids in school, getting out of the house is "easy" during the school year. Although in a few short weeks I will again have 4 kids, 4 and under at home so the challenges will be there still as far as getting out of the house goes. Thankfully I have had a lot of practice over the years so the thought of it isn't nearly as daunting as it used to be. The following are things I do to make being in public manageable and I don't think you have to have 4 or 5 kids to implement this. These are all things I also did when I had 1 or 2. 

1. Train them at Home: This is really important. If you don't expect obedience at home, don't expect it from them in public. Take the time to teach them to obey right away, all the way and with a happy heart! When they are playing outside in the yard is a great time. Teaching them not to stray and obeying boundaries at home will help you while you are out. Generally speaking, if they are in the habit of obeying you at home they will be able to do it in public.  I always cringe when I see a kid run away from their mom. It may seem harmless when it happens in the yard but change the scenery and this is happening in a parking lot and it's an accident waiting to happen. 

2. Have a plan: Ok yes, by nature I am a planner. I plan everything and feel passionately that plans are good, necessary and bring order to the world. I also understand that we are not all made this way. Some of you can wake up in the morning not having a clue what you will do, what you will eat, what you will clean and it works for you. That's great. But when it comes to having multiple little ones to get in and out of a vehicle in a busy or even non-busy parking lot you NEED a plan if you want to keep everyone safe. Hopefully if you've done tip #1, you aren't too worried. I teach ALL my kids, yes even my 8 & 9 year old to keep one hand on our vehicle as I am getting them out one by one. No one is allowed to walk around the car, run off, etc. They have to stand still keeping one hand on our vehicle. If your child has a hard time obeying then practice this in the driveway at home and then test it out in a parking lot you know is safe and not busy. I also park next to the cart return, when possible so that the ones that are going in the cart can be set in it right away and it also makes getting into the store and returning the cart easier. When it's not possible and I have to wait till I get in the store to get a cart then I delegate one little to each of the older two boys. They have to hold their hand as we walk into the store and usually I have a couple I'm carrying, or helping into the store. 

3. State expectations clearly: Don't assume that your children know what good behavior is. Make sure they know and understand what your expectations are. Expectations will vary from errand to errand sometimes. I usually take a couple minutes before we arrive to our destination to remind them what I expect of them, what they will do while we are there and what responsibilities, if any, I have for them. The Dr.'s office is a tougher one for me than the grocery store. At least at the grocery store they are walking around (most of them) and moving. At a Dr.'s office there is a lot of sitting and waiting and that is understandably hard for most kids. But they CAN do it so again, practice at home if you have to. I have in the past set a timer and made my kids sit and read a book without moving or talking till the timer went off. Don't expect perfection but do expect a decent effort. I have some that sitting still is not a problem and who needed very little training. Then there are others who just can't seem to sit still for more than 2 minutes no matter how much training they get. If I see them making an honest effort to obey that is when I am pleased. As they age you can raise your expectations but its important to be realistic and understand that not all kids are the same. 

4. Be Prepared: This pregnancy I have been seen weekly by my OB from the very beginning, which means we have spent A LOT of time in the Dr's office. The nurses and Dr.'s are amazed at how well my kids do and comment about it often. And honestly sometimes I'm even amazed! But I do go prepared. With my OB I cannot always plan my appts. at times that are good for our schedule. Because I am there weekly, I have to take the time I can get and sometimes that has meant in the middle of nap time or lunch time. I bring snacks if I have to, I bring my ipad if I have to. I don't typically allow the kids electronics in the Dr.s office because I feel they should be able to sit quietly and talk with each other or read books without needing electronics to behave and be quiet. But when I know we will be there during a difficult time of day then I do allow it. When I do have more control over when a Dr. appt. will be like our well-child visits for example, then I am mindful to choose a time that fits in with our schedule well so that it's not interfering with nap time or meal time. That usually means I am at the pediatrician early in the morning. 

5. Balance Rewards and Consequences: Don't expect your kids to obey and meet your expectations if there are no consequences for not doing it. At the same time, be reasonable. Some errands are more difficult on kids than others and understanding that and being willing to reward good behavior in those times will go a long way. I don't reward good behavior for the errands that are a part of our everyday life like grocery shopping or well-child visits. Although on a side note. When we are at the grocery store my kids LOVE going to see the lobsters in the tank. It takes extra time, sometimes time I don't have but it is a nice incentive for them to behave. If they've been behaving then when we get to the tank we stop for 5 or so minutes so they can watch them. But during those time when it's an errand that is out of the norm and may be more challenging for the kids then tell them in advance that if they behave and meet your (reasonable) expectations then they will be rewarded. Recently we had a Dr. appt. at Noah's cardiologist. This is not your typical Dr. appt. as it's very long...2-3 hrs long to be exact. I had all 6 kids with me. They did fantastic and they were rewarded. Always follow through with your rewards and consequences. 

These are ways that have helped our family manage out of the house with all the kids. The more you do it the easier it gets. There will be kinks to work out in the beginning and there will be those days where they just don't want to cooperate. It happens! Don't get discouraged or think you're doing something wrong. Try again next time!