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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Time for the Toddlers Creed

I'm sure every mom is shaking her head in agreement as she reads this creed. Even if your children are grown, I'm sure you can remember dealing with this when they were toddlers. I don't believe any toddler is exempt from the "mine" phase. No child has to be taught to be selfish, it's naturally a part of all of us. 
For the past 9 or so years we have had a toddler in the house, sometimes 2, so this creed resonates truth to me because all of my kids at some point have been the poster child for this creed! And it is a most exhausting phase!

My personal belief, (and you are free to disagree and have an opinion of your own), is that just because this is characteristic of all toddlers does not mean it's okay behavior. This is the part that I find exhausting. It is so much easier to just appease a child and let them have what they want. The exhausting part is the training that is involved in getting your toddler to recognize the world does not revolve around him. Training is work...a lot of work. It's very easy to get tired and weary and want to give up. I'm am not going to tell you that I have never given in, never done what was easiest but it's not the norm.  The key is to not give up! Keep on keeping on because in the end it is so worth it. 
The more kids I have had the easier the training has become, not only because I have more experience but because there are so many more little people the toddler has to learn to share with. They get lots of practice. Now the "mine" phases are very short lived because they learn quickly that in a house with 6 kids, nothing is ever really "mine". When Noah was in this phase Owen was a little baby so I took the opportunity to train Noah to share before it became an issue. He had to learn to share with me. My kids are not allowed to say, "mine!" in that nasty toddler way. Even if the item is in fact theirs we teach them to say it belongs to them in a nice and gentle tone. The sooner you get a toddler out of the habit of saying "mine"
or taking toys away from another child, or to share the easier life will be. And I am not saying that my kids are perfect. Yes for the most part they share well and you will rarely see them rip a toy out of another child's hands...but that is because we are training them not to do those things. It is behavior that we do not make excuses for or feel is acceptable just because they are "toddlers". And when they do any of those things we address it right away, regardless of the situation or where we are. 
One tip I have that I feel has really helped with this is that I do allow my toddler one thing that they do not have to share. Each of my kids has an item that is special to them that they carry around and sleep with. For Will it's his corduroy bear, for Jena it's her tag blanket, etc. These items they are not required to share even when a friend is over. Knowing that they have one go-to thing during frustrating moments has really helped them accept sharing something they want when a sibling or friend had it first. Another little trick that is sort of a house rule here is when it comes to blocks we tell the older kids (I consider them "older" starting at age 4) to build a tower for the toddlers to knock down. We were having so many fights because the older kids wanted to build but the younger ones just wanted to know the drill. So we have said that while everyone is awake the older kids build things for the younger to knock down and then when the younger kids are in bed the older ones can build freely without fear of it being destroyed. This has worked very well for us and has taught our kids of varying ages to play well together. 
If you are a mom in the toddler phase for the first time I want to encourage you it does get better! And yes, there are things you can do to get them out of the "mine" phase and teach them to share, etc. And once you've conquered that you'll be nice and tired to face the next challenge...because if I've learned anything it's just when you think you've conquered everything, another mountain appears! Happy training!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Time for Felt Pins/Magnets

You have all heard me admit time and time again that I am not a crafty/creative person. But I really enjoy doing crafts...especially the easy ones. Thankfully I have some really crafty people in my life and so I get great ideas from them. We did this craft at a recent Bible study and it was very easy. I thought they'd make great "just because" gifts for people whose day you want to brighten. 

You will need the following:
* Felt flowers (can find on amazon, joann fabrics, etc.)
* Small colorful buttons (use what you have on hand or you can get little bags cheap like the ones pictured at Walmart)
* Pin backs (I got mine on amazon but I'm sure any craft store carries them)
* Magnetic Buttons (Walmart)
* Hot glue gun

Once you have all your supplies the fun begins. I got everything except the buttons on Amazon because I don't have a lot of time for shopping so I take advantage of the free shipping and I don't have to leave the's a win-win. The buttons I found at Walmart for $1.97 a bag because I didn't have a lot of colorful buttons on hand. First you will want to plan out your flower. You can use 2-3 different sizes/colors and hot glue one on top of the other to make a colorful flower. Then you choose a button to hot glue in the center of the flower. Now you can either make it a magnet or a pin. Once you decide hot glue the pin back or self adhesive magnet to the back of the flower and you are done! 
These aren't just for adults either. I made a pin for Jena and she loves it. I keep it on her jacket and it gives it a fun spring flair! Hope you enjoy making these for yourselves!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Time for Great Kid Products

Finding just the right toy or item for kids can be a hit or miss ordeal. With so many options available out there it's hard to know what will end up being the gift of the year and what will be a dud. In our house birthdays and Christmas gifts are on the small side for a few reasons. One is there are so many kids that it adds up and we do not have an unlimited supply of funds...I know surprising! But the other reason is that it's important to us that our kids not become too spoiled...I say "too spoiled" because I think today in America, the majority of kids are spoiled in comparison to children in some other parts of the world. I can remember my grandmother telling me stories of how at Christmastime her and her siblings (there were several) would get fruit and a piece of candy in their stockings and they always looked forward to that. Because fruit was a luxury. My kids are amazed when I tell them this because we are never in short supply of fruit... or candy for that matter. 

So because we aren't the kind of parents who shower our kids with 10 different gifts at birthdays we like to make wise choices on what we are going to get them. My main concern is that the item be good quality. I would much rather spend a little more on an item that is well made and that I know will last then a little on a cheap product that is going to break next week...because what I've learned in a house full of boys is that toys break...a lot! So here is a short list of items that have stood the test of time AND been something my kids actually use for more than 10 minutes!

 **You can click on the underlined links to see images of the products.

Melissa & Doug Art Easel- A few Christmas' ago, my younger sister bought this as a gift for all the kids. At the time it was mostly the 3 older boys who would be able to use this but now it is something everyone uses. My kids love drawing, coloring, painting, etc. so this has been a perfect gift for them. It has the dry erase board, chalk board and side for paper to paint or draw on. It gets used everyday and I can't even tell you how much paper we go through in this house. It is very sturdy and all Melissa & Doug products are!

Some items that I love to go along with this are: 

Art Easel Paper Roll- You can use regular paper because it comes with clips but I like having the rolls for painting.
Mr.Sketch Scented Markers-Remember these markers??! We love them here and they last! I've done the whole buying markers at the dollar store thing but they last about a day. 
Paint Cups- My aunt bought these for the kids one year and they are the best thing I've ever owned when it comes to paint supplies. It makes painting practically mess free with no spills and no wasted paint. These are a must-have!

Item #2 that we love in this house is:

All-Terrain Tricylcle This bike is the best thing we have ever bought for our kids before they can ride a two-wheeled bike. Friends of ours had this for their son and once we saw how our kids loved it and how sturdy and well-made it was we knew we had to have it. It is also very inexpensive, considering the quality. Plus if you've ever been to our house you know everything we own needs to be "all-terrain". 

Item #3 that we feel is a must-have...

Wooden Play Kitchen- We didn't actually think about getting the kids a play kitchen until Jena came around because I never really thought the boys would use it much. I knew I wanted a wooden one because most of the plastic ones I'd seen were very tippy and always looked hard to keep clean. Plus I wanted something durable that would last. I only read good reviews about KidCraft products and after owning one I highly recommend them. They are very well made...not unbreakable (ask me how I know) but very well made and worth the money. The funny thing is that while yes, Jena plays with it a lot, so do the boys!! They all love this toy. And I highly recommend getting the Melissa & Doug Wooden Foods to go with it because the plastic stuff just gets stepped on and broken.

The next item I didn't think I would love having as much as I do...

Nintendo Wii Gaming System- The older boys had been asking for a wii for a few years but we were very hesitant to start bringing video games into the house. When we finally came to a point where we were willing to give the Wii a try we started looking for a second-hand one to buy. This was going to be a Christmas gift for the four boys to share. We found a family on craigslist who was getting rid of all their wii stuff because they were moving out of state and didn't want to bring it with them. We paid $100 for the wii console with 2 remotes, 2 nunchucks, 2 baseball bats, 2 golf clubs, 2 tennis rackets, a rifle, wii fit board and about 20 games. We were thanking God that day! The kids were so excited and it's actually been a great thing to have. It's something the kids can do at most age levels, we can do it as a family and with wii fit we can use it to exercise. What we've also done is stream Netflix through it and that has been great since Netflix is the only kind of tv watching we have in our house. We do have rules about what kind of games they are allowed to play and we do limit their play on it. They are not allowed to play wii or watch tv on school nights, only on weekends and even then we limit their time on it. We think this makes a GREAT family gift!

And the last item that I am going to recommend is not a new item, its actually been around since I was a kid, but it is a must have for any home with older kids...

Legos! And I don't mean the big kind, the regular kind. I went a long time not having legos in the house because my older boys never played with the big bricks we had so I figured they wouldn't like the small ones and where Legos are so expensive I was hesitant to spend the money. One day I was at a thrift store and there was a HUGE bin of legos. I asked the guy how much he was asking and I got them all for $20!!! It was a steal because there were hundreds of dollars worth of Legos in the bin. I realize not everyone can be so lucky to give Legos a try for such a small price but I assure you they are worth the money! Even Jena, who is almost 3, loves to play with them with her brothers. This is something that gets used on a daily basis in our house. 

These are a few of our favorite things when it comes to our kids from toddlers and beyond. I would love to hear about products that you have found your kids will spend hours playing with and have stood the test of time in your home!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Time for Vacation Week

April vacation is here and honestly I'd been really looking forward to it. I enjoy having the older kids home with us and since we were in San Diego the last school vacation I was looking forward to spending the extra time with them. We've managed to stay fairly busy and have a lot of fun so I thought I'd give you a glimpse into what vacation week looks like at our house...

We started off the week by going shopping for some
 vacation week activities. I saw on the weather (as reliable as it is) that there was some rain expected so thought it best to be prepared. Jena's idea of what we should bring home and mine were different, haha but it was fun taking all of them with me to choose a few things. Anytime we are ever at Walmart the two things they always ask to see are the bikes/cars and the lobsters in the tank. This car was actually charged and Noah accidentally made it drive off the rack...that was the end of that! :) What we did leave the store with was a puzzle, a lego kit and stuff to make puppets because my kids are currently in a puppet show that they are being creative! 
A word of advice to you fellow moms who are puzzle haters as I am...NEVER buy your child a "Lenticular" puzzle. They are, I think, the worst thing ever created. Every piece looks exactly the same and it's a hologram so there are actually two pictures on each piece. We have yet to finish this horrible thing but have to because I promised them I would modge podge it afterwards so they could hang it on their

wall...because of course it was a Star Wars puzzle. 

We did go to the beach one day and it was SO cold, so cold in fact I didn't take any pictures! The only things that kept me from turning around were that the kids were really excited to be there, I was meeting friends there and I drove an hour to get there! We stayed and toughed it out and actually the kids didn't even seem to notice how cold it was. Tess was wrapped in about 3 towels and eventually fell asleep so it wasn't completely horrible and the kids had a great time. When we got home it was about 10 degrees warmer and the sun was out so we all thawed out in the hot sun outside! 

I had the opportunity another day to have a couple girls over to help train them to babysit and take care of babies. That was such a blessing. It was so fun to spend time with girls who actually wanted to be there helping and playing with the kids. Mom is doing a great job with those two!! We have not had access to a babysitter in a couple years now, other than friends who generously offer here and there, so the opportunity to train these girls to babysit for us is great. The kids had so much fun with them. I'm looking forward to spending more time with them...they'll be ready to babysit in no time! 

Today as I write this we have no plans and we are all enjoying the lazy, no commitment day. We have been taking it easy, cleaning our rooms, putting away laundry, lots of playing in the playroom (cowboys and spies today) and watching a movie. Every kid needs a down day like this...moms too! Later on we'll (they will actually, I'll observe) tackle the Lego Star Wars kit we bought and get that made so they can play with it. I also promised a game of Catan so we'll aim to fit that in too. Even Tess was needing a slow day as she's been snoozing most of the morning! Tomorrow is the day everyone has been counting down to! Dad is taking a day off to spend with us and we've got big plans. We let the kids decide what they wanted to do and everyone unanimously agreed that bowling at "daddy's shipyard" (they think he owns it)  would be the "funnest" and ice cream afterwards. It was suggested we go to Friendly's but then we heard about Shane''s of Maine's awesome deal this week....75 cent burgers & hot dogs and $1 ice cream that's where we'll be! 

I'm always amazed at how fast a week flies by. But I can say we made the most of our time and had a lot of fun! And it makes me look forward to summer vacation all the more! Hope all you other moms had a fun spring break too!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Time to Not Fit In

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. ~Psalm 127:5

Big family, large family, boat load of kids, however you label a family with several kids, I think we are there. I don't know what the definition of a big family is. There are people like the Duggar's who make families like mine seem puny. Then there are people with 3 kids who label themselves as having a big family so clearly the definition of a large family is subjective. But with number seven on the way, I am going to take the leap and label us a big family....understanding that yes, there are several who have gone before us who have had twice as many as we do. However, I don't think that changes the fact that 7 is a lot. And if it's not then it just feels like a lot. 

Within the past year I have had an interest in reading blogs written by other Christian woman who are raising 6 or more kids in hopes of gleaning wisdom and advice. The topics of organization and time management in particular interest me because to raise a family with a lot of little kids, those two things are almost a requirement. Otherwise it's just chaos. Maybe you like that kind of life but I don't. Many posts that I have read have been helpful and fun to read. On some level I can relate and that is nice.But then there are the posts where I say to myself, "I don't belong here". I may be raising the same amount of kids as this woman is but I cannot relate to what she is saying or talking about.

 Do you know that some of these moms have meal/menu plans that are more complicated than trigonometry? My menu plan is simple and has worked great for me so far so I don't understand the need to make it so complicated. Do you know that I'm pretty sure I am one of the only moms raising 6+ kids that does not home school? And to be perfectly clear, I think homeschooling is a great option for some. Even the blogs written by non-christian moms are homeschoolers. So on that front, I can't relate. I apparently am also the only mom raising a big family that does not buy all my grains, sugars, spices, what have you's at whole foods in bulk....nor do I make my own bread because yeast intimidates me. It also would appear that I am the only large family mom who has no skills. I don't sew, quilt, knit, crochet, and I'm not at all artistic nor do I have the time to learn any of those things even though I wish I could do even one of them so I can't relate to the moms who are making their own clothes and curtains to cut costs. And apparently animals and large families go hand in hand. You will not find goats or cows or pigs or chickens (although that idea was briefly thrown around since we go through so many eggs) at our house...not even a cat or a dog. We do live in the woods but we are far from a family who farms and I can almost guarantee we never will be. My husband grew up on a farm so he knows perfectly well that is not the life for him...God would have to intervene big time!

But the thing that stood out to me the most and probably the thing I let influence me the most is that apparently I have the only 9 year old of a large family that if he so needed to, could not run the whole house like these families 9 year olds can. At least that is what they claim. Boy, girl, it doesn't matter. Now, I have an incredible 9-year-old. He is smart, kind, loving and has a good attitude about helping when he's asked. But he's also normal. He likes to do 9-year-old things and yes, most of the time he acts his age....AS HE SHOULD! I was really starting to feel like I was failing my kids because there is no way Noah could run the house should Ben and I one day need him to. Sure the kids would eat toast and cereal, he'd make sure they were safe in the house and could put a movie on for them. He could feed Tess a jar of food...maybe....if he absolutely had to, but diapers....NO WAY. Could he educate the kids, feed barn animals, make bread from scratch and and build a fire to keep the house warm? No he couldn't. Because he's 9. I'm so thankful my friend said this to me, "should any 9-year-old be running the house?". I'm so thankful for that comment because it helped me put things in perspective again. I was being way too hard on myself. My kids are just that, they're kids, and they should be allowed to be the age they are. Responsibility is good and they all (even our 2-year-old) have their chores and responsibilities that we require of them but they should not have to grow up faster than they need too. They will have plenty of time to be grown up and run a house of their own...they don't need to be capable of running mine, not at 9 anyway.

While there are the many day-to-day areas that make me feel I am inadequate for the  calling of being a mom to several children and not qualified to call myself a "large family mom" there are a few very important ways we are on the same page. We agree that children are a blessing. They are a precious gift from God no matter what anyone says. You can think that 7 is too many but I will never listen because 7 is wonderful in our eyes. Is it overwhelming at times? Yes, it is but its wonderful nonetheless. When you get to watch these kids grow and know that God has entrusted you with the awesome responsibility of raising them you can't do anything but be thankful for this ministry God has given you. My kids are my ministry and it's a high calling! When you see all your kids interacting and loving on each other and see how excited they are when you bring a new baby home you know you're onto something good.
What other people think doesn't matter. These kids don't feel like they are neglected or that there are too many kids, it's quite the opposite. They keep praying for more kids (sometimes mom wishes they would take 2-3 year breaks from those prayers, haha) and their eyes light up when they find out another one is coming. They are the ones living this life and they think it's awesome to have so many brothers and sisters. So many teachers and staff at the school have remarked to us how nice it is that our boys are so excited about a new baby coming.
They are telling everyone! I wish everyone felt the way they did and saw having a lot of kids with the same joy they (and we) do. And when I say that I don't mean I think everyone should want to raise 7's definitely not for everyone. 

So, while I am not sure exactly where I fit in, one thing I do know for sure is that I love being a mom and I consider it a privilege and blessing that I get to be a stay-at-home mom. I love that I have a big family and I am okay with the way we are choosing to do things because we are seeking God's guidance and the choices we make are made with prayerful consideration for what God wants from us. I just need to take my own advice and not compare myself with the way these other "large family" moms are doing things. It's amazing how often I have to be reminded that God is not going to show someone else how I should be doing things, he's going to show me. And that is all I have to be concerned with! 

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Time for Accountability

The other day Noah came home and shared with me that a student in his class had written on his shirt with permanent marker. I believe it was to be a joke, not sure exactly how it happened. I didn't put too much thought into it, it was unfortunate because Noah really liked that shirt, but I bought it at the goodwill (there's a reason I refuse to pay full price for clothes for 7 kids!!) and hardly paid anything for it. Also, the mark on his shirt was small and hardly noticeable. I explained to Noah these things happen and while I don't want him doing things like that, reminded him it was just a shirt and it wasn't a big deal. 

A couple days later Noah shares with me that the friend who wrote on his shirt was very upset because his mom was going to make him take his own money to give to us to replace the shirt. I was very impressed with this. Not too often do you see parents actually holding their kids accountable for their actions. But while I was very impressed and appreciated the gesture I felt it was my duty to fill the mom in on just how little I paid for the shirt, how small the damage was, and that really no harm had been done. She responded with her own letter but also included was a letter to Noah from his friend apologizing for writing on his shirt. This meant so much more to me than if they had given us $50 and here's why. 

This mom took seriously the fact that her son had ruined something that belonged to someone else. Yes, we all realize the child was not trying to be mean but regardless of the motive, the parent understood the importance of teaching the child we don't write on other peoples property. Then she took measures to make sure the child fully understood the consequence of his actions by making him pay for the damage with his own I am sure he was sad to part with because if he's anything like my boys he was saving that for some really cool toy or game! The point is the child was held responsible for his actions. This was not a parent who was going to blame something or someone else but instead put the responsibility right where it belonged. As a parent who is striving to do the same I was so appreciative of this because really I feel we see too little of this in the world today. Everything seems to always be someone else's fault. 

We went through a period where one of our kids was writing with pencils and crayons on the bedroom walls. Once we pinpointed who the culprit was and got them to confess, their response was, "well so and so left them in my room". Okay, yes, "so and so" was supposed to put them away in the proper place, not leave them on the floor of the bedroom but that does not mean you are not responsible for the writing on the wall! Said artist was 3, almost 4 at the time and Ben and I were sure this child knew better because we had taught all of them that we only draw on paper. In the end the one who did the damage spent an hour washing and scrubbing the walls to get as much off as they could and did in fact learn not to draw on walls anymore. And of course, we reiterated where the proper place for pencils and crayons is!

To conclude the shirt incident, everyone was left happy. The student was happy because he got to keep his hard earned money. Both moms were happy because there was understanding and accountability and Noah is happy because I'm still going to let him wear the shirt! If only all conflicts and incidents could be resolved so amicably!