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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Time to Judge Me

Things you may or may not know about me as a Mom or about my parenting....

I delivered all my babies in a hospital and home birth was NEVER an option

I had 4 of my babies naturally, 3 of my babies with an epidural, none by c-section

I ask the nurses to keep my babies in the nursery if it's not busy so I can get a full nights sleep during my hospital stay

I have bottle fed all my babies with generic brand formula

I use disposable diapers

I do vaccinate my children

I do not co-sleep and my babies have slept in cribs from day 1....on their stomach

Some of my babies are thumb/finger suckers and some take a pacifier, none have buck teeth 

I do not demand feed I schedule feed

I use the cry it out method, within reason

I introduce solids around 5 months and I do not make my own baby food

I have a zero tolerance policy for whining or throwing fits when a child doesn't get their way

I think children are most successful when boundaries, rules, consequences and rewards are a part of their lives.

I think it is important to introduce hard work and responsibility at a young age

I don't like the idea of giving kids an allowance for doing I don't

I think most parents have something to offer me no matter how many years they have been parenting or how many children they have. We can all learn from each other, even if our parenting styles are different

Now let me ask many times while reading those points did you judge me for the way I choose to parent? Which one was your hot button point? Was it that I don't co-sleep? Was it that I don't use cloth diapers? Or that I vaccinate? Admit it. You read this and there were times you read something that you didn't like or agree with. And after reading all of this you judged me and made a decision about the kind of parent I am. I understand...because I've been guilty of it too at times.

For about a year now I have been so burdened for young/new moms. I receive a lot of private emails from new moms who have questions and who are looking for advice regarding the choices they should make for their child. Many new moms are so insecure about their ability to choose for themselves what is best for their children and I find this so sad. As much as I enjoy social media for its many benefits and as much as I enjoy reading blogs and reading parenting books, I find that too much of the information we have access to as moms is critical and judgmental. Every decision a parent could possibly make, from vaccinating to the kind of diaper you use, is met with opposition. There is always someone on the other side ready to shame you for your choice, ready to tell you why they are right and you are wrong. And this is also the reason why I know several moms who have either deleted their Facebook accounts all together or have seriously considered it or just plain took a break for a few months. All because the more time they spent on it the more inadequate they felt as a mom. 

I am writing this to let all you moms reading know that you do not need to seek approval from those around you regarding the choices you make for YOUR child. No one has the right to make you feel like a bad parent because you are doing things differently than they are. Find people and blogs and books that encourage you in this adventure of parenthood and even find a couple who will challenge you to be better but avoid the places and people who shame you and condemn and mock you for the choices you are making. Being a mom is hard enough so surround yourself with positive influences. Most of all, pray! Ask God to show you what HE wants you do. No one knows better than him what is best and right for your family. As wonderful as parenting books and blogs and friends can be at answering questions and encouraging you nothing will guide you better than God's own word. 

I want to leave you on this note. I enjoy blogging and sharing my thoughts with you but if I have ever been part of the problem, if I have ever made you feel badly about how you do things as a parent I apologize. My goal is not to add to the criticism out there but to encourage you. I pray that God would help me in doing that! I also want to tell you that you are doing a great job! A mom cannot hear that often enough. You really are, don't be too hard on yourself. We all have areas we need to work on but we are all doing a good job in other areas as well. Find the balance and be happy and confident in your parenting ability...and most of all enjoy the job you've been given as a mom. It's the best job out there!

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, 
and things wherewith one may edify another. ~Rom.14:19

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Time for Quiet

Right now the house is, so quiet. It's also very early in the morning, still dark outside and still very cold in the house because the fire Ben just built before leaving for work hasn't heated up the house yet. There are very few moments in my day to day routine that are this quiet. I've gotten up, said goodbye to my husband, fed the baby, eaten breakfast, read my Bible and a few blog posts that encouraged me. I still have 35 minutes before I have to wake up the kids and it is no longer quiet in here. In the quiet I am able to think and gather my thoughts. In the quiet I am able to reflect on what God is doing in my life and with our family. In the quiet I am able to meditate on Gods word and how it applies to me today, in this moment. In the quiet I am able to find perspective.

You see when it's no longer quiet what happens is the house is filled with the stomping of feet, the sounds of sword fights, the bangs of little boys pretending to be super hero's, the high-pitched squeals of a little girl laughing because her brothers are tickling her, the coos of the baby, the loud grunts from the just 1-year old who so desperately wants to be heard but has not found the words to speak yet. Sometimes the quiet is filled with squabbles and tiffs, crying about hurt feelings, someone not sharing or someone getting hurt. The quiet is broken by the demands of 7 little people all needing their mom for one thing or another from food and diaper changes to reading a book or finding a lost toy. The quiet is interrupted by emails that need to be returned or sent, doctor appointments that need to be made or rescheduled, phone calls that need to be returned,
phone calls that should be returned but never are, deodorant and shampoo that needs to be ordered on Amazon (with prime 2-day shipping of course) because that is faster than trying to leave the house, beds that need to be changed because we seem to always be in potty training mode over here! The list goes on and the longer the list the harder perspective is to find.

This quiet time I receive is a wonderful gift from God even though at times, in the pitch black of 4:30 am and the freezing cold of winter, I do not see it as such. It's not always easy to force myself out from under the very warm covers (these days an infant in the house makes it necessary) but I am always glad I did. As hard as it is I have realized that I need this quiet time more desperately than I need sleep. Sleep is important and I make sure I get what I can but the extra time in the morning alone with God, to reflect and meditate is just as needful to my health and mental well-being as sleep is. The uninterrupted silence that allows me to plan my day or week, to look ahead about what needs to get done and find Gods direction on what my priorities should be and what I need to leave behind. The time to look back and see how I can do things differently or better or not at all! To reflect on the countless blessings I have. Yes as I sit here at the cold computer, with just a lamp to light my words, I am reminded how necessary this quiet time is!

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Time for Chip & Dip Season

Did you know chip & dip season is upon us? You didn't? Well neither did I until recently. I saw an article that was saying Velveeta was going to be in short supply. Someone then commented that it was likely a marketing scheme to get people to stock up on it as we head into chip & dip season. I'm not sure how true all this is but since chips & dip (sometimes veggies too) is my all-time favorite snack I didn't need too much proof to be convinced. So, in the spirit of "chip & dip" season, I give you my top 3 favorite dips. Enjoy!

1. Clam Dip
I'm sure my family cannot claim this as their original recipe but I grew up with this dip. Every Christmas my Memere Albert, my Matante Ann and my Dad would make it...other times of the year too. It's my number one favorite dip. Since I don't follow a recipe and eyeball all the ingredients I will do my best to give you our version of this family favorite.

You will need:
1 pkg. cream cheese
1 can minced clams (reserve the juice)
1/4 tsp of garlic powder (or more or less, do so according to taste)
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce (about 4-5 shakes of the bottle into the dip)

Put the cream cheese and a small amount of the clam juice into a mixing bowl. Beat together for a minute or so, scraping bowl. Continue to add clam juice and mix till the cream cheese is smooth. Discard remaining clam juice. I use about half the juice. For a double recipe I use one whole can's worth of juice. Now add the clams, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving. Serve with plain chips or the way my Memere always did...with Bugles.

2. Hot Crab Dip
This recipe comes from my very favorite cookbook. It was given to us as a wedding present and I use it all the time. It's called Betty Crocker's Cookbook: Wedding Edition***. I receive a lot of compliments on this dip every time I serve it and it makes my top 3 list!

You will need:
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 C mayo
1/4 C dry white cooking wine or apple juice
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
4 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 can crab meat, drained, cartilage removed and flaked
1/3 C sliced almonds

Heat oven to 375. Mix all ingredients except crab meat and almonds in mixer till well blended. Stir in crab meat. Spread mixture in ungreased pie plate. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake uncovered 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with crackers (Triscuits are my favorite) or Melba toast crackers.

3. Mexican layer dip
Because Ben and I love Mexican food but we do not like beans, I had to create my own dip that I would actually eat. I'm not going to take credit for this even though I can't find a recipe anywhere like it. I'm sure it exists somewhere though. This is a great recipe to tweak and make your own. Add or remove any ingredient you think will make it something you can enjoy! You really can't mess this up.

You will need:
8oz cream cheese
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
1/2-1 C salsa of your choice
1-2 C grated cheddar (or Mexican blend) cheese
1/2 green pepper, diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tomato, diced

Pre-heat oven to 350. In a mixer add cream cheese and taco seasoning. Mix scraping sides often till well blended and cream cheese is smooth. In an 8X8 baking dish, spread the cream cheese mixture on the bottom so that it is spread evenly. Pour Salsa over the cream cheese and spread evenly. Next, saute the peppers and onions on the stove till they are softened but not cooked through, approximately 5-6 mins. Spread the peppers and onions over the salsa. Now add the tomatoes over the peppers and onions. Spread the cheese over the veggies evenly. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Do you have a favorite dip you'd like to share? I'm always looking for a new one to try so go ahead and share it with us!

***Betty Crocker's Cookbook: Wedding Edition is excellent! I highly recommend giving this cookbook to a young newlywed couple as a gift. There are so many fabulous tips and suggestions in it along with practical recipes for a young family!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Time for Birthday Parties

"Let your moderation be known unto all men. 
The LORD is at hand." Phil. 4:5

With my oldest turning 10 this month (yes, crazy!) I've had birthday parties on the brain. I think it is interesting to notice how everyone has a different take on how they do birthdays. Some of you put people like me to shame! I'll admit after seeing some of the spreads you moms put on, the guilt starts to set in, like maybe I'm not doing enough for my kids to acknowledge their day. But after 5 minutes it goes away. Because once I start remembering that I'm not just planning one or two birthdays I'm planning seven, I quickly remember why it is I don't go all out for birthdays. My reasons go something like this:

TIME:  I have a few kids. Whatever precedent we set for how birthdays will be celebrated needs to be consistent across the board. If I decide I'm going to be that mom who goes all out planning a birthday party I need to think about the time that is involved with that. Then I need to multiply it by 7...because that is how many times I'm going to be doing it. That is time I just don't have. I mean have you seen some of these birthday parties???? Handmade banners, fancy cupcakes, DIY party favors, themed games, and on and on. Just visit Pinterest and you'll see what I'm talking about. Or maybe you've attended a few yourself. Of course you can buy a lot of these things pre-made an save yourself the work, save yourself some time but that comes with a price tag, which leads me to....

COST: It is expensive to throw a birthday party. Even if you make everything yourself, buy everything on clearance (because you've had the theme planned out for the past 11 months and hit every clearance shelf you encountered) and have it at home, it still costs money. I would say a modest, low-budget birthday party costs what, $100? Ok, now I just have to multiply that by 7. Am I willing to spend $700/year just on decorations, party favors and cake??? No, sorry, I'm not. Imagine the parties where a place is rented out, lunch is served, and activities are prepared. You're talking some serious cash. I know I've attended birthday parties where I am almost certain the party favors we took home cost more than the gift I gave! To me that is insanity! Leading me to my next point....

SANITY: Do you know how crazy I would get if I was planning 7 themed birthday parties a year? I know myself and I can get really caught up in planning parties...I love to plan parties. Its not my lack of desire that keeps me from the all out birthday bash. I have so much to do that if I added birthday party planning to my list I know it would send me over the edge.I would obsess over the perfect theme, just the right party favors and games. I'd be on Pinterest day and night searching for the latest and greatest birthday trends. I'd feel the need to be at the stores constantly to see what's on sale and stressing over whether or not to make the cake myself (rarely a good idea) or buy one and if I'm going to buy one am I a bad mom if I go with Shaw's or does it have to come from a fancy bakery? You see what I mean?

EXCESS:  Also, I really don't like the idea of inviting 10 or so friends to a birthday party, every single year, for every child. First, all those families feel the burden of bringing a gift. Not everyone has it in their budget to provide a gift, and you know yours is not the only party they are being invited to. Its hard enough at times to just provide for your own family! Second, children do not need to be receiving 10 or so toys, most of which they will tire of in a week, on top of what they are already receiving from their family. Even if you tell people the gift is not necessary, you know they are going to bring one because that's what you do at birthday parties. Wouldn't it be cool if  parents had their kids choose a charity or two that families could give to instead of bringing a gift? 

Basically this is what it boils down to. Like the holidays, we tend to keep birthday's modest. We feel that our money is better spent being used toward an experience or outing for the child rather than on a big birthday party. Activities like going to a theme park, museum, movie theater, etc. are things I would much rather spend my money on since we just don't have it in our budget to do these things every weekend. The only time this is different is for the 1st birthday. This is my FAVORITE birthday. I don't know why, maybe because I'm just so proud of us for surviving another year of taking care of an infant but I love them and do plan a theme and invite family. The other time this will be different is for a milestone birthday, but even then it's low-key compared to what many do!

In our family we look at birthday's as an opportunity to make that individual feel like the day is all about them...because in a big family it very rarely is ever about any one person. It can't be. And I just don't feel the big birthday bash is necessary to accomplish this goal. What I will do is let them choose their favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner and make that for them...within reason. I let them choose the kind of cake they want and the theme. Sometimes I make it or sometimes I buy it...from Shaw's! I also will buy paper plates and napkins to go with the theme to eat dinner on. We ask them what they would like to do that day and try to make it happen...again, within reason. If my family is able to come down, which they are VERY good about doing, then that is the party. If it's their birthday they don't have to do their chores for that day and usually they are allowed to stay up a little later than everyone else. These things may seem small but to my kids these are big things that make them feel special.

Everything we do for our kids is a teachable moment and helps shape the kind of individual they will become. We really feel teaching our kids moderation at a young age is invaluable, especially when we live in a world where the philosophy seems to be "the more the better". As cliche as it sounds, we really believe "less is more" and that is the approach we take when it comes to birthday's...and life in general.

So, how do you celebrate? 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Time for Church Nursery

But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. ~Mark 10:14

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link titled 7 Reasons to Serve in the Church Nursery. Click on the link and read the post for yourself, it's very interesting especially if you are someone who attends church and uses the nursery.

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that the topic of church nursery is sort of a hot button issue with Ben and I. When you have little children, especially when you have a lot of little ones, the nursery ministry is very important to you. I know there are some of you who feel children should never be in the nursery and can get really heated about parents needing to train their kids from infancy to sit in church...I've heard it all before. I'm not going to say I disagree. I think that if you do not want to put your kids in the nursery then you shouldn't and no one in the church, Pastor or otherwise, should make you feel bad about that. Our children are all very close in age so pretty much we have had two babies to take care of on top of the other kids. Ben is also the piano player in our church for every service so I am alone to train the kids to sit still for about 30 mins of a 60 min. service. Maybe I'm doing something wrong but it's near impossible to have two babies in my arms all while trying to train my older ones. Currently I have 5 sitting with us in church and a couple still need some direction. So I use the nursery...unashamedly. Because selfishly, I want to be able to attend at least one service on Sunday where I am able to pay attention and not constantly be "training" a child. I do try to have them out of the nursery by age 3. This is when we have started having our children sit with us during the evening services, a couple of the kids were 2 years old. Sunday mornings there are age-appropriate classes for them to go to and I will say that our kids are blessed to have some really great Sunday School and Jr. Church teachers.

As I was reading the list from the post, numbers 5 & 6 were the ones I was silently screaming "Amen!" to. The author says, "a growing Christian is always a serving Christian". This is so true. As Christians we should be driven by the Holy Spirit to serve. Too many today are not doing this and it is evident in churches of every shape and size. As it relates to church nursery I can attest to having been told more than once by more than one person, "I've done my time taking care of kids. I worked in the nursery for X amount of years and raised my own family. Now its someone else's turn." I can understand needing a break from a particular ministry. It is very easy to get stuck in a ministry and get burnt out. I've seen it happen and it's really unfortunate. Once a person becomes too exhausted to serve anymore they very rarely come back to the ministry after a period of respite. When it comes to the nursery I think this is what happens. There are so few willing to serve in this ministry that the burden of it falls on only a few. And to make it worse, often times of the few that are willing only some of them are consistently reliable and show up when they are expected to or take the time to find a replacement when they cannot...which means it falls again onto the faithful few. It is so easy to lose your joy in serving which is why I felt #6 was so important to be pointed out.

The author says, "The church nursery is the first contact young families will have with your church. Your friendly greeting and exceptional care for their children can make a great first impression for your church. If they don’t feel like their children are safe, they will not return – and rightly so." This is absolutely spot on. This goes for Sunday School teachers, Jr. church workers and anyone else who will be working with my child for the morning. Churches want young families to come and to STAY but I feel a lot of times they forget that in order to get the young families to stay (there is always the exception...some will stay regardless but this is the EXCEPTION, not the rule) their children's ministries need to be well staffed and organized. Too often Ben and I have felt like a burden to people when we show up needing the nursery and folks are scrambling to find someone, anyone, who is willing to stay and watch the kids. This is NOT a good first impression. Personally I feel that there should be a nursery worker in the nursery at least 10 mins before the service starts to greet any family who will arrive to drop off a child. I don't feel it is a good testimony when a family arrives to an empty nursery and is waiting around for a worker who is running late. But that's just my opinion!

I know that as a mom who is using the nursery this post might seem a bit self-serving. I want to assure you that is not my purpose. My purpose is to give you a moms perspective. I've been putting children in the church nursery for 10 years straight now so I have a little experience with it. Some good, some bad. I have the perspective of what it is like to be a visitor needing the nursery and as a mom who works in the nursery. I want nursery workers to understand how vital this ministry is to us moms and what a blessing it can be when it is run properly and effectively. I want to encourage you to find joy in serving in this way because whether you think so or not you are having an impact on young lives...and it can be a positive one or a negative one. The choice is yours. I know my younger kids have all had their favorite nursery worker. It's been neat to see how each of them has bonded and found something special with different ones. What has also been a blessing to my heart is seeing the nursery workers bond with my kids and learn what they love. Jena for instance has always loved purses. Ask any lady in our church about this...chances are they have a story to tell you about her going through their purse looking for either mints, chapstick or an Ipod! So a couple of the workers began bringing a purse just for her and filling it with things they new she would like when it was their turn for nursery duty. That is love and that is how I believe we are to serve and minister to children in the nursery. If you are currently a worker in the nursery and are finding it hard to find joy in serving then I would encourage you to not give it up all together but rather pray that God would change your heart and help you learn to love the children and the ministry. If you are a mom who is discouraged because of your church nursery ministry then I want to encourage you to pray and ask God to help you. It may mean He starts by using you to set the example in the nursery. Ben and I know all about discouragement when it comes to this and I will admit it is very hard at times. But prayer is more powerful than you know so I would encourage you to commit to praying for your church nursery workers and the ministry that God would work in the hearts of the workers. Pray also for yourself that you will not allow discouragement to turn to bitterness. Ask God to help you see what is good, pure, true, etc. (Phil 4:8). Then wait patiently and see how God will work it out! I believe there is a purpose and a place for the church nursery and I believe that God can use the workers in the nursery in a very mighty way if they would only allow him to...and some are! Look to them as your example. I promise others will be blessed by it...especially the children and their parents!