Monday, February 27, 2012

Making Muddy Moments: Best. Day. Ever.

What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.

I was reminded again of the truths in this old nursery rhyme yesterday as my boys played in the dirt with their daddy for almost 5 hours yesterday afternoon.  They worked in the garden with shovels, rakes, and wheel-barrows.  They demanded drink breaks amidst their labors and complained of back aches and sore arms.  When I looked out the window I saw them trailing behind their daddy in a line of male adventure that finally culminated in a crackling bon fire as the sun went down.

While I scrubbed--yes scrubbed, the dirt from the boys hands and nails before supper last night, Griffin looked up and said, "Mommy, this was probably my best day ever."

There is something so rewarding and necessary about my boys spending a day in the shadow of their daddy, walking to and fro across the yard and getting really, really dirty in the process.  I love the fact that they could barely keep their eyes open because they were so exhausted from working all day.  I love spending time with my boys, but yesterday was a great reminder that sometimes it's important to let them bond with Daddy, which often involves lots of muddy, dirty work.  I love my guys and am thankful for them!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Learning From the Past: Potty Training Re-Visited.

I realize now that although many things become easier and simpler as my kids get older, other things become more complicated, because we are always at the mercy of time.  My first 2 kids were potty-trained before or by age 2, and although I like to think it is in part because of the mature capabilities and genius of my little ones, it probably also had a lot to do with the fact that we spent about 3 weeks mostly at home preventing accidents and learning how everything works.  

With kid #3, everything is different. I don't have 3 weeks to stay home and sit with him and clean up messes, so I keep putting it off.  We have to take Griffin to school and pick him up in the afternoon. We have errands to run and church and there is never a day when we can just sit at home.  Potty training has definitely been on the back-burner, even though I despise diapers and I think he is ready.

Last week we finally found time to make some progress in this area, and I remembered the following blog that I wrote several years ago while potty-training my daughter.  Hopefully nothing like this has happened to you before and we haven't had anything this nasty happen around here since.  Even the neatest housekeeper and most organized mommy has to clean up a BIG mess every now and then. Hopefully you don't ever feel alone! Enjoy :)

When you run poopy pants through the washing machine, none of the clothes get clean.
(From January 14, 2009)
So, if you opened this hoping to find a political metaphor or a symbolic story, then you might want to stop reading now. Unfortunately, the title of this blog is a very literal statement about what just happened to a small load of laundry that is currently enjoying a 3rd soak and rinse in extremely hot water.

As a stay at home mom to two active toddlers, my life is rarely dull. Just when things start slipping into some sort of routine, I like to shake in a dash of something or other to keep us from getting bored. When Christmas ended and we rang in the New Year, I thought it would be the best time to introduce my 22 month old to a lovely diaper-free world. A world of cotton, toilets, rewards and being a “big girl.” It was all very exciting.

I started out using many of the same methods that had worked with my son when he was about her age, and everything was progressing beautifully. New Princess underwear? Yippee! A Pez in my Sleeping Beauty Pez dispenser whenever I go on the Potty? Hooray! Flushing the big potty all by myself? Oh, the joy. With only a few minor setbacks in the first 4 days, I began feeling confident. I could hear the extra cash already coming in from the money we would save from diapers. We would be able to pay for college. We could cut back to only eating 2 meals a week off the dollar menu instead of 3. I might be able to afford a drink from Starbucks. I was free of the bondage of changing tables and diaper rash, and my daughter was walking around with a new diaper-free swagger.

Just when I thought I would be receiving my award for “Best Potty-Trainer 2009,” we began to hit a series of set-backs that involved wet pants, mysterious spots on the floor and couch, and little things that fall on the floor that nobody wants to touch with their bare hands. I did a lot of laundry and used some SPOT SHOT--which I should really advertise for them, because that stuff is amazing—and we were learning from our mistakes.

After several great days in a row, we were on track and moving forward again. Then yesterday she had a tough little accident; we were both disappointed as I dumped the mess in the big potty and threw the dirty underwear in the laundry. Since I had just done two loads earlier in the day, I left them in there, waiting until there was a full load; I have two toddlers and typically need a Sherpa and supplemental oxygen to reach the top of my clean laundry pile.

Now my story gets ugly and confusing. When I passed through the laundry room on my way out with the kids this morning, I noticed the laundry room smelled rather raunchy, but I knew there was messy stuff in there and hoped the Spray-N-Wash was working. When I returned this afternoon, I decided it was time to run the wash, whether or not the load was full, so I put in a few random dirty things and turned it on.

I finally got the kids down for a nap and heard the washing machine beep that it was done, so I went out and opened the lid. Let's just say the lovely “Tide” aroma that I was expecting was not there, and I couldn't believe what was scattered all over the bottom of my washing machine and mixed in with my clean laundry. As I quickly grabbed an old bag and some wipes and did my best to get rid of everything that wasn't an article of clothing from the wet wash, I realized that I had not only kissed my “Best Potty-Trainer” award goodbye, but I must be a horrible housewife and mother. Who runs a load of laundry with poopy pants???

So, as I sit here reflecting on all that has happened this afternoon, wondering how many times I will have to wash the clothes before they are truly clean, if they are in fact ever really clean, 
I can assure you I will be checking multiple times before casually throwing anything into washing machine from now on, and laughing at myself for thinking that something like Potty-training could ever be simple and sanitary.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thankful Thursday: A Dose of Heaven?

When a man has found something which he prefers to life, he then for the first time begins to live. 
G.K. Chesterton

I don't want to waste more than a few minutes sitting at the computer today because it's gorgeous outside; the wind is calling and the warm air is beckoning.  There are soccer balls to be kicked and kites to be flown.

But I did want to pass on a few thoughts of thankfulness while my little guy naps.  Several times over the past two weeks I've been impressed by the fact that this world is not my home.  I get so overly attached to my life sometimes and I know my focus is all out of whack.  I've wondered if even my mommy exhaustion is a reminder that my life is transient; my body is inadequate.  Is my fatigue a reminder of my need for help--and yes, even a way to focus on heaven.  

Do we ...grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing? (2 Corinthians 5:2)  

I'm so thankful for the many joys we've experience in the past week:
Sweet Babies born to dear friends
Flip Flops in February
Joyful Jumps on a Trampoline
Superman Footy Pajamas
Slobbery Morning Kisses

Last week we finished reading The Jesus Storybook Bible through for the second time with our kids.   I love the way Sally Lloyd-Jones finishes the story of Revelation, reminding us that the story is not over, that John didn't write "The End" but instead said, "Come quickly, Jesus!"  Her paraphrase of John 1:12-13 is great for little ears (and big ears) as well:

For anyone who says yes to Jesus
For anyone who believes what Jesus said
For anyone who will just reach out to take it
Then God will give them this wonderful gift:
To be born into
A whole new Life
To be who they really are
Who God always made them to be--
Their own true selves--
God's dear
I want to make the most of these moments and these days with my children.  I want to be here now in the midst of their fleeting childhood.  I want to be a part of their memory-making and work hard to love and nurture them.  And I want to keep in mind that when I am tired, it is because this life is not THE END, after all.

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now...Come further up, come further in!  ~C.S. Lewis 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Imagination Booster: Cardboard Box Doll House

My daughter spied an old wooden dollhouse in a thrift store last week that she begged to bring home...we decided to leave it there since it was in pretty bad condition. But since she has dollhouses on the brain now, I thought we'd work together this week on making a fun little home for her Barbies.

We had a perfect, extra-heavy square box around, and I pulled out the craft tub with fabric scraps, felt, lightweight wire, beads, chenille stems, a catalog, glue gun, and cardstock.

We turned the box on its side and cut off the top flap. She wanted the sides left for doors, and the bottom flap was left to extend the floor. For windows, I had her trace around a rectangle of scrap paper and then I cut them out with box cutters.

Now for the fun: decorating!!

She chose her favorite fabrics and we cut 2 rectangles of each. I turned the top edge under 1/2" and quickly stitched it to form a "rod pocket." Then I had my daughter thread both curtains on a chenille stem. I poked holes above and to each side of a window and poked the stem through.

Then on the outside, I hooked the stem through a paper clip on each end, which I had my daughter wind up tight to the box to hold the "curtain rod" securely in place.

Now the curtains could be opened or closed. She found a piece of ribbon and made tie-backs for one set.

For a mod little chandelier, we threaded a length of light-gauge wire through clear pony beads, looping it through each bead once, then coiled the length a few times to look like a light. A three-inch length of the wire was attached to the top and then poked through the ceiling. Again, we wrapped the wire around a paper clip to fasten it tight on the outside of the box. Admittedly, there was a little disappointment when it was discovered the light wouldn't actually work.

We had a piece of brick-colored felt that made a great fireplace. We cut it in half lengthwise, then used a black marker to draw a square at the bottom. We cut little "flames" out of red tissue paper, and yellow & orange felt (use what you have!). They were hot-glued over the black square to make a cozy fire.

For a mantle, we cut a rectangle of white cardstock and folded it to make a right triangle that could be glued in place. It took a couple of tries to get the angle right (my math teacher was right--I really WOULD use geometry after 9th grade!), but we finally got a straight shelf.

My daughter was then put in charge of Art for the room.

She drew a butterfly picture, which I "framed" by gluing it to black cardstock.

Then we shot a photo of one Barbie to hang over the mantle...I guess she's the tenant.

Cut-out catalog pictures function as more fireplace art.

The piece of checkered felt made a perfect area rug. Now we just need to make some cardboard furniture using Tara's clever suggestions

The Barbies, homeless until now, are quite enamored with the new digs, although I overheard the blonde say she wants her own place too. Guess I better go search out another box....

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Photo Fun: Make Your Own DIFFERENT PICTURE Game!

I've mentioned before that my kids spend many hours pouring over Where's Waldo and Seek and Find books.
Last week, as I was looking at some books, and some of the junky areas throughout our home, I realized it might be fun to set up the tripod and create a few Different Pictures from our own home!  This is a fun project that can be as simple, or as complex as you want to make it.  For our purposes today, I kept it simple. 

I set up the tripod in several areas of the house where there was plenty of messy detail and added an object here and there.  I chose to photograph the kitchen counter, a pile of laundry, a bookshelf, and a few things in the toy room.  If you don't have a tripod, you can still make it work but it will be difficult to take a photo in the same location without altering positions.
I took my first picture, then went in and added or removed objects.  It was fun trying to make some obvious changes, and other more discreet changes.  For example, in the kitchen I replaced a pop-tart box, opened the coffee pot, rolled down the paper-towel, flipped the banana tree, etc.  Depending on the age and observation abilities of your kids, you could add more difficult changes in your second picture.

I uploaded the pictures and put them in a collage format so that my kids could view them side by side.  If you don't want to mess with that, simply print 2 photos and let the kids view them next to each other.  Since I printed them on paper, I just let them circle the changes they observed and had them keep a tally on the side.  My big guy has been working on keeping tallies at school and they have been counting things all over the house lately. 
They had a great time observing all the differences and were especially thrilled when they caught something small that they didn't notice at first glance.  I was thinking that if you wanted to save computer paper and ink (or if you just have a lot of time on your hands!) you might even order some inexpensive prints and put your photos into a little book as a gift or for your kids to do in the car.  Another option is if you have any type of tablet, simply save the photos and let your kids make observations from the digital photos or on the computer itself.
This was a successful observation activity that the kids enjoyed and asked to do again!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Simplicity is a Choice.

I love this quote by Ann Voskamp: Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.

As we are coming down from the high of Valentine's Day parties, eating too many cookies and reading tiny cards that declare silly things like UR Fab! (Barbie) or It's Your Destiny to have a Great Valentine's Day! (Darth Vadar), today we are staying inside to stare at the rain in our comfy clothes. We're going to make crockpot potato soup and paint.

I've been reminded again to be thankful for the thousands of simple blessings in my life: new words spoken clearly, growth spurts, crazy post-nap bed head, amazing friends, a thoughtful husband, an upcoming 3-day weekend. And simplicity truly is choice; I'm learning to eliminate the unnecessary. Can I streamline my daily chores, errands, and outings to make the most of my time--these precious winter days spent at home?  Are you writing down your daily blessings?  What have you done to encourage simplification in your life lately?
And as much as I despise the game Break the Ice, I'd probably set it up all day to see this big smile.
Teach us delight in the simple things,
and mirth that has no bitter springs;
forgiveness free of evil done,
and love to all men beneath the sun.
— Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentine's Day: Baking Up Some Love.

I don't normally post about baking or cooking (especially not cooking), but I had a successful cookie experience today that is Valentine's Day-related, so thought I would share it here!
I saw a cute idea on Pinterest to replace the classic peanut butter blossom cookies with heart-shaped Dove chocolates and today we tried it.  They are cute and delicious. Success!
Around here I like to bake on Saturdays since we normally just hang out at home. I wanted to make something seasonal for Valentine's Day next week.  Click here for the peanut butter blossom recipe I prefer, or use your own.  The only difference here is to replace the traditional Hershey Kiss on top (after the cookies have baked) with a heart-shaped Dove chocolate. MMM. I may never go back to Hershey Kisses.

My original plan was to let the kids help unwrap the chocolates and roll the dough, but with runny noses all around, I decided to let them wait and only help taste-test this time.  Letting the kids help, watch, or simply enjoy the fruit of the Little Red Hen's labor in the kitchen is always a great and tasty way to spend time together.  
Try them out if you get a chance!  These are great cookies to make for school, church, neighbors or friends. And don't forget to enjoy the words of wisdom found inside your Dove wrappers:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mommy Martyr? Silencing the Crotchety Old Lady Within.

Sunday afternoon we drove home from a lovely mountain getaway with family; our legs were cramped from hours in the car and our stomachs were nauseous from winding mountain roads. And after days spent relaxing and doing nothing, my motherly instincts kicked in immediately after we unloaded the car.  So, while I was inside scrambling through the house, sorting laundry, unloading the dishwasher and putting things in appropriate drawers, I looked out the window and saw my husband joyfully pushing all 3 of our kids as high as he could on our swing set. So often my husband gets it right.

I hadn't even noticed what a gorgeous evening it was, or how urgently my 3 moppets needed to run. I joined my little family in the yard and spent some time playing. It is sad that I still have to remind myself of my true priorities so often. I am always chasing down balance, and it's tricky.  And while I certainly don't intend to play good cop bad cop with my husband, why does it happen sometimes? Because somebody has to do the laundry and put things away?

It's no secret that I like to plan; I like to keep things together and fairly controlled in my life, but sometimes I catch myself in a moment like this—looking out a window at laughing kids while I'm unpacking suitcases and worrying about messes and supper and bedtime and I realize my balance has tipped the wrong way. Again. So often I am once again the party pooper who is only worried about everyone having clean fingernails and 9 hours of sleep.

As moms, not only do we find ourselves constantly dragging the chains of housework and food preparation, but we also might find ourselves yelling about dangerous games of horseplay, plastic Light Sabers that swing dangerously close to faces, climbing to dangerous heights on chairs and ladders, and on and on and on. We are protective by nature; we want our kids safe and our houses clean. At the same time, I want to guard against turning my natural motherly instincts into a complete fun zapper. If I am so focused on safe kids and a perfect house, I might get my wish, but I might end up with kids who fearfully tip toe around their own home. And the sparks of bitterness and resentment that sometimes ignite might eventually turn me into the dreadful crotchety old lady I fear I may someday become.

Sometimes I feel the crotchety old lady welling up inside me. Many of us have her. She is the voice that loves to bombard me with facts: the laundry needs done. The floor needs cleaned. The kids are due for a bath. She is the voice that says, my workday is never done and I never get enough sleep! She is the one who rolls her eyes when nobody helps clean up the kitchen after dinner and throws a fantastic pity party because she's the only person who ever does anything around here!

And while the crotchety old lady may be telling the truth and presenting legitimate facts, she needs a new pair of old lady glasses to take a real look at the present. I love the English word for the present—because it is a reminder that NOW is a gift. And when I let the ugly voice of an embittered old lady shout negativity inside my head all day, when I inevitably become a REAL crotchety old lady someday, who will be left to listen to my whiny stories about the injustices of life? Nobody wants to listen to that. I'm afraid women are particularly guilty of this. Granted, the monotony of these years and the lack of immediate gratification is often draining. And we might not get daily recognition for our dirty work and child-rearing responsibilities, but what can I do now to focus on the present—these many gifts before me that outweigh the infinite messes and endless discipline sessions?

I am the first to admit that some days the crotchety old lady in my head wins the battle. Sure, I would love to roll around on the floor with the kids all day instead of folding laundry or I wish I could sleep in until 9 just once in my life! I am trying to silence this cranky old lady with reminders of other truths. These days are fleeting. My babies already need me less each minute of every day. I am blessed. Not only are they watching my every move, but they actually still want to play with me and sit on my lap.

Obviously I don't think we should just let our home become filled with dirty laundry and dishes and cobwebs. There's no need to make bath night a semi-annual event, but we need to balance our responsibilities to our husbands and kids in a genuine attempt to enjoy and appreciate the present. I have seen what happens when women wallow in years of self-pity over the thankless job of motherhood, and it isn't attractive. When I am especially tired, I feel myself becoming the mommy martyr, the one who doesn't have time to sit and play with matchbox cars because there is just too much to do! It's just a matter of time before the mommy martyr becomes the crotchety old lady, because the patterns and selfish thinking are already there.  

I am so guilty of this, and although one of my greatest fears is becoming the bitter, cranky old lady, I know that I need to focus on the truths of the present to keep her from eventually taking over. When it comes down to it, the crotchety old lady is my selfishness, telling me that the gifts of the present are never enough. These moments are temporary in every way; let's send the poor old lady to a place where she won't drag us down with her selfish, bitter thoughts again. 

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.  Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.
Philippians 2:1-4

Friday, February 3, 2012

Giveaway Winners!

Exciting day! We have some prize-winners to announce!

First up, is the giveaway for choice of one I SPY bag from our Etsy shop. Winner is LEBI.

We are thrilled to have made it to 100 Blog Followers this week as well! That means we can give away our 100th Post Prizes! The names drawn are:
NEYSA - Original Art by Tara
SHERRY - $10 Amazon gift card

Aaannnnd, since we're on a giveaway roll, we're going to give away one more I SPY bag to our 100th follower: ALEYTA

Details will be emailed to all winners. Thanks so much for entering and following The Mud Pie Makers!!