Three rules to get your baby sleep trained and sleeping through the night by 12 weeks old.

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Here’s our newest member of the Benjamin Family, Sarah Noelle, happily sleeping through the night…

Today, I’m tackling sleep.  Before I start, I just want to say that whether you decide to sleep train your baby or not is (obviously) up to you.  I know for me, I would be miserable if I didn’t get good sleep.  But, that’s ME.  I have friends whose kids are not sleep trained, and sure they laugh/complain about it, but they get through it.  Everyone will get through it.  But, as for me and my house, we heart sleep.   I am not saying I am the authority on this, but I now have FIVE children sleeping through the night.  Sarah Noelle, our almost 12 week old just completed her first solid week of glorious sleep!  Ahhhhh!  So, what does sleeping through the night mean?  For me, if I get 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep—that counts.  Some babies are more awesome than others.  Sarah is sleeping now from about 10:30 pm to 6:00/6:30 am.  Dreamy.  Last Saturday it was 7:45 am.  Wow the week I’ve had!  I am a new woman!!

I can’t believe how many books are written about sleep.  It really isn’t that hard.  So, here are the top three things to get your sweet baby sleeping through the night:

1.  This one is numero uno for a REASON!  Be sure to feed your baby every 2 and a half to three hours during the dayIf they are sleeping, wake them up!  Do whatever you need to do.   I kept my angel babe awake by unbuttoning their outfit and tickling their feet.  I know they say “never wake a sleeping baby,” and it is so tempting to let them sleep because you are SO tired.  Don’t.  I’d rather sleep at night—like good sleep.  So, at night let them go as long as they want.  They will wake up when they are hungry and let you know it!  This simple thing helps baby learn the difference between daytime (awake time) and night-time (sleep time).

Now, talking about newborns specifically, they sleep ALL the time!  You will feel like they are hardly awake.  Totally normal.  So their “wake time” might only be 15 minutes or so and then they most likely will just fall asleep on their own.  Don’t get duped into thinking your baby is a super genius and you don’t need to sleep train them.  You do.  Stick with the plan, I am telling you it works.

Back or belly?  Honestly, I’ve done both.  My pediatrician in Tallahassee was not happy with me when I told her I was sleeping my then newborn Lucy on her belly.  So, which one?  I am going to say on their back for many reasons.  It should be reason enough that it is what our Doctors recommend because of SIDS.  But, may I also add that my three children who were belly sleepers were HORRIBLE travel babies!!  And my “back to sleep” babies are much better travelers.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.  But, I am convinced that it was just so hard for my belly sleepers to get comfy in their car seat being on their backs.  *Side note* I do think it takes back sleepers a week or two longer to sleep through the night as compared to a belly sleeper, but it is worth it to me.

2.  Get your baby on a schedule.  Meaning feed your baby, play with your baby (awake time) then it is nap time for baby. Here’s an example of my day with my baby Sarah Noelle, now that she’s sleeping through the night:

6:30 am – 7:00 am feed

7:00 am – 8:00/8:30 am awake time/play time (play time is longer or shorter depending on her; if she starts to fuss, it is her telling me it is nap time)

8:00/8:30 am – 9:30 am nap time

9:30 am – 10:00 am feed

10:00 am – 11:00/11:30 am awake time/play time

11:00/11:30 am – 12:30 pm nap time

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm feed

1:00 pm – 2:00/2:30 pm awake time/play time

2:00/2:30 pm – 3:30 pm nap time

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm feed

4:00 pm – 5:00/5:30 pm awake time/play time

5:00/5:30 pm – 6:30 pm nap time

6:30 pm – 7:00 pm feed

7:00 pm – 8:00/8:30 pm awake time/play time

8:00/8:30 pm – 9:30 nap time

9:30 pm – 10:00 pm feed and to bed for the night

6:00/6:30 am she’s sucking her thumb waiting for Mommy, ready to eat.

*When she was not sleeping through the night there was a 2:00ish am feeding as well.  And these times are approximate, give or take 5-10 minutes.

3.  It is OK for your baby to cry.  Here is the hard part, the training part.  Anyone out there ever trained for anything?  Be it sports, music, anything?  It is NOT EASY.  But, totally worth it and doable.  I can see all the on-demand Moms rolling their eyes and wanting to scream at me.  Save it.  If you are good with what you’ve got going—yay for you!!  Seriously, if that works for you, I am thrilled for you.  But, I prefer NOT having a baby on my boob whenever they whimper.  I want to know that if I feed my baby at 9:30 am, I know that I have a good little while to venture out before they are hungry again.  I have plenty of friends that are on-demand feeding Mommas, and they are awesome at it!  They can nurse babies doing just about anything—grocery shopping included!  That is just not me.

So, now what?  When do you start letting them cry it out?  I am so glad you asked.  Here you go:  Your first month, just love on that sweet angel babe as much as you can.  It will look something like this:  feed them, burp them, hold them, let them nap on you, etc.  Those will be the best and most precious moments in your LIFE!  But, come week 5 and on, start letting them cry it out for nap time.  I give a nap “allowance,” and what I mean by that is I give them an extra 30-40 minutes to settle into their nap before it is “officially” nap time.  So, when (not if, when) they cry, they have enough time to cry and soothe themselves and still have a good hour of sleep time.

I know that hearing your baby crying is hard, so hard.  Turn off the sound on your monitor if you need to.  Watch the video monitor if you need to, but most likely, they are ok.  If you are worried, go check on them.  But, let them cry.  The longest mine has cried was 45 minutes.  Torture.  BUT, that is only for a few days, a few nap times and then they get it, and boom—your baby knows how to nap.  Praise The LORD!  They might cry for 5 or ten minutes here and there, but that is rare.  But, trust me, they will be asleep in minutes.  It.  Is.  Awesome.

The hard part, for new Moms especially, is the “nursing expert” that will visit you at the hospital.  She will tell you to be an on-demand feeding Momma.  Basically meaning, feed your baby whenever they cry.  This kills me.  I am always respectful and sweet to these well-meaning women.  But I basically disregard everything they tell me.  Again, please hear me—no judgment here if you are an on-demand feeding Momma.  This article isn’t meant for you.   I am still going to get backlash from this post I know it…but it’s ok with me.  If this helps just one Momma get precious sleep, it is worth it to me.  I wish I could hug and kiss the woman who helped me!

Here’s my story with sleep training my first child, Hannah.  I was super excited about nursing—could not wait to experience it.  But, after about 5 minutes, that good feeling was gone and I wanted NOTHING to do with it.  I thought she was going to suck my nipple clear off my boob she was sucking so hard.  I remember crying to Petersen in the hospital, telling him ‘If this is what nursing is about, I can’t do this!”  It was awful.  We had to give her some formula in the hospital because she wasn’t getting enough from me.  But, I kept trying and eventually we had success!!

So, we took this sweet baby home and for a week or two, getting up multiple times in the night was ok—I was just so excited to finally have her in my arms!  But, pretty soon the adrenaline wore off and she wanted to party at night—we are talking WIDE awake.  We started taking turns at night…who would feed her, rock her,  and try to get her into her crib to sleep.  I can still picture myself nursing her to sleep and moving like I had a pitcher of water on my head to get up and walk into her room; to then oh so carefully put her into her crib…and, ugh, FAIL.   She knew I wasn’t holding her any longer, and would wake up.  So, back to the rocking chair I went, trying to get her back to sleep.  Oh I did it all—nursed her in bed, let her fall asleep in the swing, etc.

At about month 2 and a half I was MISERABLE.  Miserable.  I was so tired and I felt irritable all the time.  I thought I was going to DIE.  No longer did the idea of a big family sound appealing to me.  I needed help; I needed to get out.  I signed up for Bible study at my church and I am convinced God sent an honest to goodness real life angel to help me.  I shared my sleep misery with the girls at my table and the next week, this veteran Mom did the best thing EVER.  She smiled and handed me a book.  She didn’t tell me what to do; just gave me the book.  I read that thing from cover to cover in a day.  Implemented everything it said to do the next day.  And, you know what?  I had a napping 3 times a day baby and a sleeping through the night baby in one week.  ONE WEEK.  And I’ve never looked back.  So, Hannah took 3 months to get on a schedule—only because I didn’t know what I was doing and the whole on-demand thing was NOT working for me.  But, Samuel, Bethany, Lucy and now Sarah were all sleep trained starting at about 4-6 weeks old and they all fell right into the schedule great and started sleeping through the night between 7-11 weeks old.  And THAT my friend is the gospel truth.

Now, let me say that sleep training a 4-6 week old is MUCH easier than a 3 month old.  My best friend April still remembers me calling her bawling that week I was sleep training Hannah.  I could hear Hannah crying—so hard, for sooooo long…we are talking 45 minutes, for every nap time, for a good 4-5 days.  Longest days ever.  I would call her and cry to her, hearing my precious baby crying.  And she would keep telling me that Hannah is ok, be tough, hang in there.  I did.  And, after probably day 5, training was over; she found out how to soothe herself to sleep.  How wonderful to put my baby down wherever at nap time, wide awake and walk out, knowing she will settle into sleep on her own.

I know there is so much out there about how this will cause havoc with your child’s inner being and blah, blah, blah.  I am sorry.  I don’t buy it.  My kids are awesome, happy, normal kids.  They are fresh, rested and full of energy.  They love nap time.  And so does Mommy.  You can do it!!

Any questions about sleep training?  Comment and I will give you my humble opinion.  Want to tell me about how awful I am to let my babies cry it out?  Umm, can I sweetly say, don’t waste your time.  You do what works for you.  And, we will have to just agree to disagree on this one.  This has worked for all five of my babies—all different personalities and temperaments, same results.  I just want my sweet pregnant Momma’s and Momma’s of newborns to know they can do this and feel gloriously rested.

*For more detailed information read: Babywise.  This is my short cut version of that book, with minor tweaking.   It was my sleep training go-to.  I am sure there are other great ones; this is just the one I read and love.

In other One Surrendered Mommy News!  I am hoping for big additions to my blog next week; adding a resource section, my favorite go-to recipe section and more!!  And can I say it again how much I love hearing from you?  I do!!  Please comment and share!!  Thanks!!  Blessings friends!!

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Judge away! I am good with it; like really I am. I am perfect and so are you.

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This is Lucy’s face while taking a breath from her screaming moment, before I put her in time-out. See the lady behind her! She was mortified for me! Ha!

My parents had just left town. It was time for my next prenatal visit. Fortunately, my two older children were at school. So, I only had two children in tow. Now, I’ve taken all four of them places and done just fine, so only having two should’ve been no problem. Well, it wasn’t. No, actually it was. But, had these been my first two children, this visit would have been horribly devastating, completely humiliating and I would have hung my head so low as a Mom, it would’ve taken a crane to lift it back up.

Buuuut, this time, I was magnificent. You might totally disagree. But I think I was nothing short of brilliant. Why? Because I had the know with all to pull out my phone and capture the awesomeness that was taking place. Whereas years prior, I would have wanted nothing more than to erase such a memory.

New Mommy listen close. I love you. I really do. I love the sparkles and twinkle in your eyes. You are completely adorable to me. Now please, do not misunderstand my tone; I am not patronizing you, I really mean all of that. I was just like you. And, in many ways we are still similar. I still teared up at every ultrasound, seeing this beautiful miracle of God happening inside me. I often wondered and asked, “Why me Lord? I am a wretch of a person. How can You be SO good to me?” I still loved washing new baby clothes in Dreft. And I too, waited excited and anxious to meet this new little life.

But, with all those sweet similarities; there was one thing that I hope we differ in. I was as judgmental as they come. I would see children crying, thrashing and having COMPLETE meltdowns at the grocery store…and I would look at the Mom–and she was COMPLETELY oblivious to the thrashing maniac that was in her cart. I almost wanted to ask the Mom if I could lay my hands on her child and pray for her kid—for clearly they were possessed. I am glad I didn’t, or that Mom most likely would’ve laid her hands on me…and not in prayer.

Now, I get it! How many times I have had that kid in my cart, and you know what? I keep my eyes focused on my task at hand –get what we need, and get out. Keep your head down, ignore the noise and the stares; get the milk, the eggs, the cereal—no, not the cereal, we can live without that for a day or two. And, I completely disregard the possessed child in my cart. Because chances are; this is one of those times where I know there is NOTHING that can be done to console my kid. They need to be disciplined and put in line. But, I also need food; and we are here now, so we are getting said food. Sometimes I wish I could have a digital sign that flashed what I was thinking, “I am sorry Publix shoppers, my child is having a meltdown; but I need food, so you are going to have to deal with it for few more minutes. But, have no fear! I will be addressing this issue at home. Thank you and enjoy the rest of your trip here at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.”

Oh, there are so many things my child would never do; watch more than a half an hour of television, eat crap food, get their way from whining, and be awarded candy for obedience. They would never hit, speak disrespectfully to me—or anyone for that matter. And I, as a Mom would never yell, never be sarcastic, never look like a haggard mess out of the house, lose my temper, especially with a two-year old, um, no never. I am an adult after all. They are two. Please, I got this. I am sorry all you Moms who can’t control your children. So sorry.

I wish I was kidding. I’m not. I actually thought ALL of those things. But, as God would have it, my first-born helped in removing the scales from my oh so covered eyes.  And my fourth child, Lucy added the exclamation point!

My Hannah. My strong-willed child. Actually, I like to refer to her as “passionate.” That sounds better, yes, passionate. Woe to the Mom who has a Samuel or Bethany like child first. You might just think you are the best Mom ever and look down your nose at every Mom who has an unruly kid. My only son, Samuel and my third child, Bethany are the types of kids that you sometimes want to ask “Um, hi, I am your Mom, and if you need any parenting, I’ll be over here.” Seriously, they are just something special. Thank God, I didn’t have them first. I probably would’ve had my first parenting book written before they were three.

And everything was going according to plan, until Hannah turned two. I can actually recall a conversation Petersen and I had regarding parenting. It was something along the lines of “If we do everything right, follow the suggestions of all these parenting books, discipline our kids, etc., they are not going to have all those “kid issues” other kids have, like the terrible two’s with tantrums and all…” Oh, how we laugh about that conversation now.

I don’t say this to make you feel bad about judging like we did.  I want you to know I welcome it. I really do. And, I won’t waste my breath like so many did to me…telling me, “just wait, just wait until they turn two. You’ll think twice about wanting so many kids.” I want you to enjoy ignorant bliss. Truly. Look at all us crazy Moms with crying, thrashing kids and look away, embarrassed for us, thinking to yourself, “whew, I feel bad for that lady! My kid will never do that!” And, then rub your sweet pregnant belly or look back at your sweet UNDER TWO year old child and look at us with pity. And, I will give you the biggest, most sincere smile. Enjoy it. Enjoy your baby, enjoy looking on at us with sweet pity. Because one day, you too will laugh at yourself. I promise.

So, as I sat at the doctor’s office that day with Bethany and Lucy in a very tight waiting room; Lucy lost it. And, it was over a life-changing event of course. She wanted to look at my phone and I said no. The NERVE!!! So, being another “passionate” child like Hannah, she screamed. I mean SCREAMED–like her leg had just been amputated with no anesthesia. I am convinced the ENTIRE building heard my child. And what did I do? I made her sit down in time-out; right there in the waiting room. And, did she sit sweetly in time-out? Ah, no. She layed herself on the floor crying, completely distraught. The two pregnant moms in there with me felt so uncomfortable, I felt bad for them. They had judgment and pity written all over their faces. They couldn’t look at me, let alone make eye contact. I wanted to say “It’s ok, judge away. Really. I get it. I did it too. I am totally ok with it. Now, excuse me while I take pictures of my kid and text them to my husband.  He has a stressful job you know, and this will make him laugh.”  No doubt they thought I was totally cruel.

Lucy, sitting so sweetly in time-out…

There comes a point as a Mom, when you just let go and surrender to the truth about children and about who you are as a Mom; finally comfortable in your own skin. I pray it doesn’t take you as long as it took me. They are human; therefore they are imperfect. They will have melt downs over the DUMBEST things, they will embarrass you, throw up on you, poop on you, spit up on every nice top you have – sparing only the tops that you don’t care about. And you, you will lose your cool faster than you ever thought possible, you will cry and want to quit more often than you’d like to admit. You will wonder if you have caused permanent damage to your child’s well being from things you’ve said in anger and you’ll question your decisions about almost everything.

But, you know what? You are perfect. You were the perfect Mom before you became pregnant; you are the perfect Mom while raising an unruly toddler or a passionate youth. You are the perfect Mom when you blow it again and yell at your kid. And you are the perfect Mom when you go to your child in love and apologize; they get it. They see it. They know. Only you can love your child as fiercely as you do. Only you can make boo-boos or owies feel better with just a kiss, only you can say I love you to your child in a glance, and they know what you are saying. Only your voice will do at bedtime, even if you can’t sing—like me, it is your voice they want. You are the one they will search for at performances; and nothing will fill your heart like watching your child’s face BEAM when they finally spot you, Mom.

So, as we end this week, which was a bit trying for me, and head into the weekend, remember that God made you— specifically you for your child. And no matter how many times you *think* you’ve blown it. You haven’t. I haven’t. You, we, are perfect. Perfect parents? No. Perfect for our children? Yes. So, bring on the judgment new Mommy’s, I am totally ok with it. I still think you are precious.

Our sweet Lucy. She’s a passionate one, but oh how we adore this sweet thing!

I’m the perfect wife. Just not according to my husband.

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My whole world out enjoying our rare snow here in north Georgia.

 

This has been on my mind to write for days.  But, being snowed in with my husband and five little people has made it a little tough to get my fingers to keys.  I still have five little people around me, but thanks to the Olympics I recorded and still being wiped out from the snow yesterday, I think I have a few moments.  Maybe…

Oswald Chamber’s devotion could not have been more fitting for what is on my heart.  Forgive me, but I must share the whole section from today.  It is worth writing.

February 14

THE DISCIPLINE OF HEARING

“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27)

Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him.  Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and God puts us into “the shadow of His hand” until we learn to hear Him (Isaiah 49:2).  “Whatever I tell you in the dark…”–pay attention when God puts you into darkness, and keep your mouth closed while you are there.  Are you in the dark right now in your circumstances, or in your life with God?  If so, then remain quiet.  If you open your mouth in the dark, you will speak while in the wrong mood–darkness is the time to listen.  Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason for the darkness; just listen and obey.  If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying.  When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else once you are back in the light.

After every time of darkness, we should experience a mixture of delight and humiliation.  If there is only delight, I question whether we have really heard God at all.  We should experience delight for having heard God speak, but mostly humiliation for having taken so long to hear Him!  Then we will exclaim, “How slow I have been to listen and understand what God has been telling me!”  And yet God has been saying it for days and even weeks.  But once you hear Him, He gives you the gift of humiliation, which brings a softness of heart–a gift that will always cause you to listen to God now.”

From Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest

There are many relationships in my life that I wish were better.  I continue to pray about them, hoping that in time they will become better.   But, I cannot afford to dwell on them–it affects me too much.  Which, in turn affects how I am around my family.  So, I am ok with them not being where I want them to be right now–because I know that  I am seeking His guidance and wisdom through it, and when He wants things to change they will–so long as I keep my eyes fixed on Him–not on the other person.

But, there is one relationship that I cannot look past, hope to fix with time, or put on the back burner.  And that’s the relationship with my beloved; my husband.  If your relationship started like mine, I knew I loved this man fairly quickly after meeting him.  I always wanted to be with him, we talked for hours, behaved recklessly at times, were spontaneous and already knew the name of our first son before we were even engaged.  We were in love. 

I remember hearing older couples telling us how things would change, you will go through tough times, blah, blah, blah.  We were two crazy fools, ignoring the warnings of the wise–thinking our relationship was something special–untouchable.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there is something magical about newly married couples.  They have sparkles in their eyes instead of bloodshot tired eyes.  They wake up to a real alarm clock instead of little human ones.  They can do WHATEVER they want–ALL the time!!  They can spoil each other with their time and money, instead of using every ounce of time, energy and resource on the little people God has blessed them with.  Again, as life goes on, these changes happen.  They are wonderful changes; changes I wouldn’t trade for any amount of money and time.  But, if we aren’t careful, the very person we love more than anything, might just be left…empty.

Pride is a big issue for me.  God has dealt me some pretty good blows to reveal that to me.  I pray there have been enough that He doesn’t have to teach me anymore about the dangers of pride. I love His refinement of me, but can we be all done with the pride issue?  Haven’t we conquered that one?  The jury is still deliberating…

When I look at myself as a wife, I can be puffed up.  I plan yummy meals, do the cleaning, the laundry, keep five little people fed and alive everyday, organize birthday parties, keep up with their school work/activities, make doctor and dentist appointments, bring five people to said places for cleanings, check-ups, shots, etc. Throw in the occasional ER trip, being either pregnant or with a newborn, work out with my girl Jillian a few times a week AND potty training a strong willed two year old and I feel like a full fledged Olympian!  I don’t say this to impress you, because really, I just want to impress my husband, and I know you all do these same things too. Every.  Day.  And many of you get to add working and going to school to that awesome list.  Yet I still want my husband to read my thoughts: “Look at all I am doing around here!  Aren’t you so lucky to have a wife like me?  You know, not all women can do this Bub.”  Excuse me while I go vomit at my own words.  Completely embarrassing.  But I would be a big fat liar if I said I thought otherwise at times.  Don’t judge me too harshly.  Haven’t  I mentioned that I am still a work in progress? 

God has been dealing with this whole pride thing since about year two of our marriage.  There was a point when I looked at him and really wondered if we had made a terrible mistake.  We got through it of course, and time went on.  Children started to enter our life, and things got harder.  But, we were still great, so I thought.  And, most of the time we were.  We kept plowing through the insanity of raising lots of little people.  And then it happened.  A devastating blow.  The darkness.  It rocked our marriage to the CORE.  I was heart broken, afraid, alone and hopeless.  But I knew our marriage was worth fighting for.  Or, was it?  Yes, it was because I knew God had confirmed this man to be my husband when I was 21 years old–He told me through His word.  And, I proclaimed those confirmation verses on our wedding day before God, family and friends.  So I clung to those verses and kept reminding myself of this truth : My God cannot lie.  It is impossible for Him.  So, we picked ourselves up, and started to sort through the rubble.  Piece by painful piece.  We dealt with it.  But as long as we are living for Christ, we have an enemy that is real; he’s a liar, a deceiver, a manipulator and knows our every weakness and he never tires.  He is constantly looking for an in…some way to create a wedge between husband and wife. 

In our first year of marriage, I remember a specific argument.  What it was about?  No idea, something dumb, no doubt.  But, as I sat in our room, puffed up with pride and he went to the guest bedroom, I thought.  “Well, I’ll show him.  I will read my Bible, and God will surely reveal something about his behavior and how horribly wrong he is and how holy I am to seek His Word during a fight.”  God did speak to me that night–just not as I thought. 

I was reading in Matthew when Jesus was in Gethsemane.  And, I will never forget the significance of that nights’ reprimand.  “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me.’  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed.  ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.’  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter.  ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  Matthew 26:36-41 There it is…the driving force behind every apology and admission of pride.  Pray.  Pray for my husband, my marriage and myself. I refuse to give the enemy a victory.  I am a selfish person by nature–as my former Pastor Bob Coy used to say when teaching on selfishness “I am always on my mind;” but Christ in me gives me hope to be as selfless as humanly possible.  But, it takes work.  A lot.  But, I am up for the challenge, I am a competitor at heart.  And I know who is at my aide at all times.  And though this was YEARS ago, there will always be a new darkness to walk through, a hurt feeling to talk about and a choice to make; either stay puffed up and prideful, or humble myself and be refined.

Just as recently as last week, we had another tough conversation.  I’ve been in survival mode these past two months having a newborn and four other children to care for; and with that, totally taking my husband for granted.  Appreciate him, you bet!  I tell him all the time how much I love him and do things to show him that.  BUT, you know what is even better than doing what I think shows him love?  Asking him about what I can do that tells him I love him.  Because what I thought was showing love, wasn’t.  It was maybe a little, but not what he needed.  How lucky I am that my husband is not a “needs lots of friends type guy.”  Never has been, according to him; totally comfortable in his own skin.  He loves, adores and cherishes me.  He wants to spend all his time with me and doesn’t want to share me with anyone; except five little people, of course.  I am his best friend, period. 

We are different a bit in this way.  Can anyone else relate?  I LOVE my girlfriends.  I need their ears to listen, their arms for hugs, their honesty to redirect, and their unconditional love to forgive.  And, being a stay-at-home Mommy leaves time (some brief moments between the madness) to chit-chat and meet that need for me.  Before moving to Georgia, I was blessed to be a part of a very special group of ladies.  It was a Bible study group like none other.  We met once a week over coffee and treats, and we listened, learned, cried, sobbed on occasion and prayed together.  It was real and it was safe.  I’m not sure I’ll experience anything like that again.  But I hope so.  Those Thursday mornings filled me up.  Now, I am pouring myself into His Word, and He’s keeping me filled.  But, what am I doing to ensure that my husband is being filled up?  Well, nothing. 

It took us years to get to the point where we are now; able to speak freely.  Like really.  Oh it is HARD to get this honest with anyone, but is it ever worth it!  But what is even harder is having these conversations with out being defensive.  We’ve had hard conversations our whole marriage, but we used to be so prideful that when we shared what was hurting our feelings, we would defend our actions and justify our words.  Don’t do that.  Learn from us.  Remember that the person you are arguing with would die for you.  I know that is a bit heavy; but it helps me when pride wants to creep in.  I take a long moment, think about who is in front of me; think about what he has done and what he would do for me and remember that the argument — or “heated fellowship” as Pastor Bob would say, is not with him.  It is the enemy who is at work; who would love nothing more than to make our marriage another statistic.  Don’t let him.  It is worth the fight.

So, what can I do, we do, as wives to foster this thing called marriage?  Especially when life is pulling us in every direction?  I often think about something Priscilla Shirer once said.  She reminded us that although there are TONS of good things to do; give here, volunteer there, serve over here, etc.  Not all of it is God ordained.  Is it good to volunteer at your child’s school?  Yes.  Is it wonderful to serve at your church?  Yes.  Is it a blessing to sponsor a Compassion child, visit the elderly, foster children, go on mission trips, lead a Bible study and put on a roof with Habitat for Humanity?  Yes, yes and YES!  But, be careful!  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, keep your lines of communication open with Him, and let Him lead you to what you should say yes to, and what you should leave for another sister or brother to do.  Do not spread yourself too thin.  Remember, it is ok to say no, I’m sorry I just can’t.

Here are the top 8 things that can honor your husband right now, today in my humble opinion:

1. Sleep train your child!  How in the world can you be intimate with your spouse if you have a little one in bed with you?  Now, any husband reading this; don’t think a sleep trained child will guarantee you more action; I’m just suggesting your chances are better.  So make a plan together and reclaim your bedroom!  I have no problem promoting sex with your husband–just ask Kay Arthur!  One of the most beloved and respected Bible teachers of all time will go on and on about this, while we all blush…

2.  Make the awful phone calls/tasks that he can’t do at work that he’s asked you to do.  Like calling the insurance company about billing questions.  I am in the midst of these right now after having Sarah.  Don’t wait.  Make them a priority.  It will mean the world to him.  I used to put these off as long as possible…

3.  Don’t dump kid drama on him when he walks through the door.  Sure, you were pooped on, spit up on twenty times, had to stick your two year old in time-out all day, cleaned up spilled milk, sat with said two year old over and over again while they are trying to go potty, hid in the closet while making those awful phone calls just so you can hear the person speaking broken English about your insurance deductible, and thought about running away too many times to count.  But, wait.  Please wait until the kids are in bed and you’ve had a chance to breathe.  Chances are, by the time they are in bed, the things that made you want to quit being a Mommy will make you both laugh as you’re retelling your adventuresome day.  But if you dump it on him as he walks through the door, he might just want to go back to work.  There are those days though where it can’t wait, and I just give him the “look” when he walks in; hand him the baby, kiss him and excuse myself to our bedroom for a quick Mommy time-out.  He gets it.  And after a few days home in a row with everyone, he really gets it.  Nothing to put your nerves on edge like a whiney six year old and a two year old that has a voice that we are convinced can shatter glass.  Seriously, we are just waiting for it to happen at dinner.  “Booooom!”  Water and glass flying everywhere as a result of Lucy talking.  Not screaming people, talking.  My head is twitching just thinking about her voice…oh wait, she’s right there, talking…

4.  You plan a date.  Sure, having your hubby plan a date is wonderful.  But, usually, we women are the planners.  Line up a babysitter and plan something you used to do before kids.  Or just drive around.  In complete silence and relish the awesomeness of it. 

5.  Set him up for success with the kids.  If your husband is like mine, they are awesome.  And they want to be everything for their kids.  But, they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.  Look at your calendar, see when they could take each child on a date.  Talk to him about it and make it happen.  The more kids you have, the harder this gets, but it can be done.

6.  Before you say “yes”, say “Let me talk to my husband about it and I’ll let you know.”  I STILL work hard at this; and often fail.   I am a yes girl.  If something sounds great to me, I am the first to say “sure, yes, we will be there!”  But, I’ve learned that often times, the *idea* of something is much better than the actual thing.  I’m an idealist, he’s a realist.  Once he walks me through exactly what I *think* will be so fun, I quickly rethink it, and usually agree with him.  This has been huge for us.

7.  Don’t ask for forgiveness, don’t do it!  God has recently convicted me of these last two things.  If you give me long enough, I am pretty sure I could justify just about anything.  And there’s a saying that goes around, “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  How do I know when this is bordering manipulation?  When I am already thinking about how to justify my purchase before I’ve even bought it!  Because nine times out of ten, it is a selfish purchase.  I feel I deserve it, whether I should buy it or not doesn’t matter; I think I deserve it.  And, my husband, wanting to provide my every need, want and desire doesn’t want to disappoint me–even if we really can’t afford what I just bought.  We are a single income family with five children that already eat like teenagers.  We are on an extremely tight budget.  I know what I should or should not be buying.  But, do you know how many times Petersen has made me take back an item because it wasn’t in the budget?  Never, not once.  He works his financial magic and I get to keep my selfish goodie.  Shame on me.  I refuse to dishonor him that way again.

8.  Don’t casually comment about things you don’t have/wish you had that you know you can’t have right now.  We need a new car.  And, when I say new, I mean gently used.  Our family is bigger; we flat out need more room to fit.  I know that, he knows that.  But, it is not in the budget right now.  And, after I made a remark last week about how frustrating it is fitting in this car, not having room for a stroller in the back, etc.  I saw it.  He didn’t need to say anything.  There was no anger or frustration with me for what I said–it was true, we need a bigger car.  But reminding him of that fact was so not necessary.  I immediately apologized and raved about how much I love our 2002 Yukon and started reminiscing about how we’ve brought home our babies in that car.  How awful of me.  What did that do, really?  Besides remind him of that need, among many, that he wishes he could meet.  Again, shame on me.  And, just in case you think I stopped there and learned from that, I didn’t.  The words flew out of my mouth faster than I could catch them and I complained about how small our house is.  Ahhhhh!!!  Shut it Lori!  This house is wonderful, we are just a LOT of people!   And, I am not sure any house comes ready with a padded room…or at least until we design one ourselves.

Maybe we are the only ones.  Maybe I am the only wife who struggles with these things.  I hope so!  Maybe you have already dealt with them.  But, if you haven’t, I pray He leads you to a richer relationship with your best friend, as He’s leading me.  I need to let God work on my husband, and allow God to work on me.  I am trusting Him to bring me into the darkness of the refinery to come out the other side letting His light shine through me.  Though I am not a perfect wife; I am perfect for my husband.  Blessings friends.

 

 

Crack the Whip! Because it is so much more than chores.

“Your kids do that many chores everyday?”  I get this response quite a bit when I answer questions about chores.  Besides responding with my usual “Yep, we are a  family and everyone helps.”  I often ask, “Yours don’t?”  This really, like really truly amazes me.  When kids are little they want to help.  Awww, isn’t that cute, little Johnny wants to help vacuum.  Yes, adorable.  But, pretty soon they learn that real chores aren’t fun.  But, they are necessary.  I actually wish I could do it all–for everyone.  But with 5 children, I simply cannot.  Sure, I do a ton, so does my husband, but our children do quite a bit too.  And why shouldn’t they?  They are a part of this family too.  And you know what is really neat?  Once they get over the initial shock of being forced to pitch in, they realize how important they are to our family.  And I love to remind them of that.  Family is such a safe place for our children.  And when they understand that each member of the family is oh so important they hold their heads a little higher and have this self-assurance of where they belong; where they are loved unconditionally and where they are needed.  And, I don’t think they would understand that as well without being a real helper around here.

The other part that is beautiful about chores is that there’s always a ministry opportunity.  Just last week Hannah had a play date planned with a neighborhood friend for Thursday.  And our rule is that you need to have the homework for that day done BEFORE the day of the play date.  This way, they can enjoy their time, without having homework hanging over their heads.  Well, it just so happens Hannah had a bad dream the night before and didn’t sleep well.  And, of all our kids, little sleep really makes this girl, um, shall we say, a bit grumpy?  That’s being very nice :/  So, homework that should have taken her forty-five minutes, took her two HOURS!  It was one of those times where I wanted to run out the door and never look back.  Just kidding…no, not kidding.  Not kidding at all actually.  Seeing that Hannah was not going to be helping with too many chores that day, the rest of us had to pick up the slack for her.  But, can I tell you the really beautiful part of this story?  It was the look on her face when we told her that we had done all of her chores for her (despite her being grumpy to all of us while laboring through her homework).  I wish I would’ve captured it on camera.  Her frustration melted away, she cried a little, hugged me tight and whispered “Thank you Mommy and I’m sorry.”  We all learned a little about grace that day, especially my Hannah.

When we had our first child, I had time, glorious time, to read.  I read every parenting book I could get my hands on.  This was before Pinterest, blogs, etc.  If you are like me, you have seen countless ideas for chores; chore charts is the most common I see. I love the idea of it, and if a chore chart works for you and your family—AWESOME!  Seriously, awesome.  But, it wasn’t working for me. I didn’t have time to make the thing and then keep up with it.  I needed something quick and easy that WORKED, everyday.  Also, I wanted something that the kids were in charge of, not me.  Oh, and did I say this needs to be easy?  Then, I found it.  I read it somewhere; it sounded brilliant, tried it and ahhhhhhhh (harmonious angels singing) it is STILL what we use.

Now keep in mind that my children are still fairly young, age 7 and under, so most morning “chores” are no-duh type chores.  They are the kind that little people need to do, but don’t know it yet.  Here are the kids’ morning chores:

  1. Go potty/wash hands
  2. Get dressed
  3. Make bed
  4. Brush teeth
  5. Brush hair
  6. Lunch/snack/water packed in backpack (lunch is made night before)
  7. Backpack by the door
  8. Shoes BY THE DOOR.

Much more about morning chores in my previous post “Conquer the Morning Rush.”  But, here’s a quick run down…

I wake the kids up at 6 am (because we need to leave our house at 7:20 the latest to catch the bus), so adding any other chores to the morning rush is not a priority for me, yet.  They help with family chores in the afternoon.

Since these were the first chores I tried, I went all out (for me, that is), pulled out my scrapbook stuff, used stickers and made fancy chore cards.

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Hannah’s Morning Chore Cards

I use different colors for each child, lay them on the kitchen island each morning, and as they complete each chore they TURN THEM OVER.  There is something magical about that turning over moment that just WORKS.  And, can I say how lovely it is NOT to have to ask each child over and over “Hannah, did you brush your hair?  Bethany, did you go potty yet this morning?  Samuel, dressed yet?”  Or, have to answer the repeated questions of “Mommy, what do I have to do next, what else do I have to do?”  It is awesome.  Best advice I can give about this; do it and be consistent.  Give them 2 weeks, and they will start laying out their chore cards before you.  Now, do my children pop up out of bed and sing zippity do-dah as they start their morning chores? Um, no.  Not at all.  We usually start with a little groaning and telling me they do not want to go to school.  I’ll try to cheer them up with a song or two…but if that doesn’t work.  Mom gets serious:  “Hannah, Samuel, Bethany and Lucy:  Get up and get busy, now.”  I work VERY hard not to yell, but firm voice, you bet.  I have got that one down.  Just ask any former student or player of mine.  But, if they are 3 jewels away from filling up their treasure chest, they have their chores done in record time.  Those days are always my favorite.  I never have to say a single word.

To keep them into it, I reward them with “special jewels” if they complete their chores with happy hearts and in a timely manner.   I also throw in once in a while a surprise candy treat day.  After they do their chores beautifully, I will give them a piece of candy on the way out the door to enjoy at lunch (or right then).

Once I saw how lovely this made our mornings, I decided to add this to our afternoon routine as well.  These chore cards are not as fancy (like, at all!), but they work the same, and I keep telling myself that I am going to make them prettier and laminate them.  Sure, I’ll let you know when that happens.

Our afternoon chores are more about being a helpful part of the family.  Yes, I like that.  Here’s our afternoon chores:

1.  Make lunch/pack snack – The kids started making their own lunches when they entered their last year of pre-school.  They are typically doing this while I am starting on dinner, so if they need help with washing fruit or making a sandwich, I help.  But, they get the stuff out, bag it, put it in their lunch box, put everything away, and their lunch box goes in the fridge.  In the morning, they just add their ice pack and they are ready to go!

2.  Fill water bottle/in fridge – Most teachers ask for the kids to have this and it is great.  As my kids are always thirsty!!

3.  Set table – Each child helps with getting plates out, cups out, silverware on the table, napkins at each place, and glasses with water for Mommy and Daddy.  We dish up our food buffet style, so we keep the plates on the island so they are ready for food.  I love the idea of eating family style” someday and having a beautifully set table before each meal.  But, we are not there yet.  We also keep the cups on the island until dinner time, as they do these chores well before we eat, and warm milk is gross.  This may sound extremely detailed.  But, with each child, I’ve had to become more and more detail oriented.  Every little thing adds up when you have a large family.  And I’m always looking to improve my efficiency.  Why?  Because I want more time.  I want more time to play, read and laugh with my kids.  But, there are things that just HAVE to get done.  So, the more efficient I can do those things, the more time I have to BE with my kids.  And THAT is the good stuff.  That is my goal.

4.  Clean up everywhere (playroom, bedrooms, and family room) – By this time, they’ve had their after school snack and down time.  So, now it is time to clean up, everywhere.

5.  Take a shower/get pj’s on – Yep, my kids are in pajamas before dinner; unless it is a night where we are at church or sports practice.  If you still have little ones, take heart!!  They will be able to clean themselves one day!  Now, if you have one or two children, giving baths is still a sweet time that you may never want to end.  I get that.  I still love bathing my newborn, two and four-year old.  BUT, on the days where my four-year old Bethany wants to take a shower and get dressed with big sister Hannah, it is awesome.  But, regardless if she does or not, my oldest two Hannah (2nd grade) and Samuel (Kindergarten) take their own showers on school nights.  Also, we are trying to train/raise independent little people; so to help them, we have towel hooks that they can reach so it is easy for them.  No excuses for wet towels left on the floor!  Make it easy for them to have success.

6.  And my personal favorite—Mommy’s choice!!  There are lots of chores that little people CAN do, but it changes daily for us.  Some days it is empty the dishwasher, empty/collect trash, put laundry away, vacuum the kitchen, clean the kitchen table chairs, etc.  So, depending on the day, I choose whichever chore I need done that day to help our family.  And, if there happens to be a day where all those needs are already met, I have them grab a disinfectant wipe and clean baseboards, doors, etc.  “Just get it dirty I tell them!”  It is music to my ears when I hear them ask each afternoon, “Mommy, what’s your choice?”  Ahhhh, lovely.

And, just in case you are wondering when/what ages children can do what.  Everyone can help with the dishwasher.  Sure, my 2-year-old Lucy does the least amount of work—I actually would rather just have her out of the kitchen entirely!  But, she wants to be like the big kids.  They are all doing chores, so she wants to do “shores” too.  For her, that means handing fragile stuff to an older sibling or putting kids’ dishes away.  We keep all our “kid” plates, cups, etc. in a bottom cabinet, so they can get them out easily and put them away easily.  “Mommy, can I have some water?”  “Sure Honey, get a glass and go get some.”  Yes.  Please don’t get me wrong, I love to serve my children.  But, I need them to do some things themselves when they are old enough to do it.  I flat-out cannot do it all.  I wish I could; but I can’t.  And, I am glad.  I love seeing these kids already doing so much for themselves.

If you do not have a cordless vacuum, GET ONE!  Like yesterday.  If I didn’t have my Swivel Sweep, I might just go bananas!  I have to vacuum my floor after EVERY meal!  I swear we teach them how to eat over the table, etc.  It doesn’t matter.  My floor gets covered with crumbs after. every. meal.  But!  On the bright side–the Swivel Sweep is light, cordless and just stinkin’ AWESOME.  They are about $40.  And I go though one just about every year.  But it is well with my soul.  We get our moneys worth out of that thing every week!  And even my four-year old Bethany can use that thing like a champ!

Putting clothes away is another one of my “Mommy’s Choice” options.  Now, Hannah and Samuel can do this with zero help.  I did have to let go a little…as they do not put clothes away exactly like I do.  But, as long as their drawers are not stuffed, they do a pretty good job.  Bethany (4) is getting better at it, but often times Hannah wants to earn extra jewels, so she will help her.  Beautiful.  And I still put the little girls clothes away…or I leave it in the basket and work out of that until I finally get to it…whatever; she has clean clothes.

I reward the same way for our afternoon chores, with “special jewels” for a job well done.  My husband is rarely home before 6 pm, and we try our hardest to eat together.  For a while, we would do baths after dinner, but this lead to later bed times and less quality time with Daddy.  And, just adjusting bath time to BEFORE dinner has made our evenings together much better.  Sometimes I can’t get to it, and he baths them after dinner while I clean up the kitchen (I have the better end of the deal on this one…as I am all ALONE in the kitchen…ahhhh).  But, I prefer pre-dinner baths if I can muster the energy for it.

The kids have the opportunity to earn up to 6 jewels a day; 3 for morning chores and 3 for afternoon chores.  IF they want to earn more jewels, I’ll create more opportunities to help.  Mommy is never short on chores. Here’s a picture of their treasure chests and the jewel stickers we use.  I buy them at a teacher supply store.

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Our Treasure Box

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The kids’ treasure chests.

What do we do once they fill up their treasure chest?  This is ever-changing with so many kids at different ages.  Here are the things I’ve done.  Love them all; circumstances have changed them over time.

When we had only one or two kids, once they filled up their treasure chest, I’d take them to the dollar store and let them pick out ANYTHING in the store that their little heart desired!  Oh how they thought this was amazing.  Anything?  Yes darling, Mommy will buy you anything; you’ve earned it.  Hehe.

Well, this was great for a while.  But as our numbers grew, it was getting harder and harder to get to the dollar store.  To load everyone up, and keep everyone happy while one child searches the entire store for their one item to purchase was no longer fun for Mommy.  Plan B.

So, we moved to having a treasure chest.  In my perfect world, I would have this really cool chest; we’re talking hand painted, sanded to look old, etc.  Buuuuuut, I found a great one at Hobby Lobby instead.  So, I head to the dollar store or the dollar spot at Target and buy a bunch of goodies to fill the chest.  So when they fill it up, they can go straight to the chest to cash in.

Time goes by.  And this is still great for my littler kiddos.  But, my bigger kids are no longer thrilled with dollar store items.  Bummer.  Plan C.  OK, now what we do in addition to still having a treasure chest for the littles is: we buy something they really want.  Like a Lego set, a new dolly, etc.  Ranging somewhere between $5-$20.  So, depending on how expensive or not the item is they have to fill up multiple treasure chests.  Here’s my Samuel with his Lego kit.  It took him over a month to earn this.  Boy was this kid excited to fill that last treasure chest.  And, it had taken him so long, I was just as thrilled for him!

Samuel finally earned his Legos from the treasure box.

And, just in case this isn’t enough, we have an audible.  If there’s something else they want or nothing suits their fancy in the treasure chest, they always have the option to get cold hard cash.  $1!  I am sure this will have to be adjusted over time.  But, for now, this still is working great for us!

Whew!  So, THAT is how I survive the afternoon and we get through the daily grind.

Does this make sense or help you at all?  Leave a comment!  I LOVE hearing from you!!

Conquer the Morning Rush!

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The Morning Rush—Conquer it!

There are plenty of things that can cause this Mommy to stress out and become not so graceful, and the one I’ve recently tackled and held down for a pin (mostly, please let’s be real here), is the morning rush.  Being a former collegiate athlete helps sometimes I think—see the adversary: 5 little people, the challenge: all 5 dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, beds made, lunch/snack in backpack, socks on, shoes at the door (I mean actually VISIBLE at the door—BOTH of them), homework IN tow, morning devotions done and Scripture verses read over them AND on time to make the bus stop!  I’m sorry, did I just say on time?  Worst two words for me…I have to be there on time?!?!  Do you have any idea what that means??  Serious  pressure.

But, I was all done with the chaotic mornings, frustrating rants of little people—and sadly, Mommy too.  Nothing like having everyone ready and then we cannot find a shoe….talk about unraveling in a hurry.  And, what’s that?  You have to poop?  Right now, really?  Can’t you hold it?  Right, you are pressing your hand on your bottom with “the look”, no, Mom it CANNOT wait.  Awesome.

Then, try and regroup my attitude to read God’s precious Word over them?  Yeah, that goes real well…

I cannot tell you how many times I have had to apologize to all of them for getting so frustrated, when really, they are all under the age of 8, and they need a leader who is organized.  So get real Mom, make a plan and do it.  Really do it.  So I did, we did, and I am happy to say that our mornings are now beautiful, truly.  Here’s what we implemented in our home:

1.  Pre-Planning Outfits. The Sunday before the week starts get with your kids and get their outfits ready for the week.  We bought those closet hanger things from Target or Wal-Mart and put an outfit for each day in there, including socks.  Look at your weather and plan accordingly.  This may sound obvious, but this lady neglected that a few times and had to adjust outfits due to a cold snap that I was unaware of.  Thank you Weather Channel app.

2.  Lunches/Snacks/Water bottles being ready the day before.  As part of the kids’ afternoon chores, one of them is to make their own lunch.  So, have this done the day before, so in the morning all they have to do is grab their lunch, add an ice pack and put it in their backpacks.  Beautiful.  More on afternoon chores later.  (I heart chores).

3.  Get up first.  I get up before anyone else, (well, not before my husband, but before the little people) and have a huge, no, GIGANTIC cup of coffee, read my devotional, my Bible and journal/pray.  More on that later.

4.  Get yourself ready, and while you’re doing that, wake the little people.  If your kids are like mine, they are not what you’d call speedy, so in order to get everything done without a frantic Mommy constantly asking them how they are doing,  wake them an hour+ before you need to leave.  So for us, that’s 6 am.  If you have extra time, adjust as needed, but we rarely do.

5.  Morning Chores.  We have actual chore cards that they turn over when completed.  There is something magical about getting to turn the card over that works for them.  Kind of like how I adore lists, and I will write down a chore/task already completed JUST so I can cross it off.  We have 8 morning chores.  1. Go potty/wash hands 2. Get dressed 3. Make bed 4. Brush hair 5. Lunch/snack/water in backpack 6.  Backpack by the door 7. Shoes by the door and 8. Brush teeth. They have to do 1-4 before breakfast and coming downstairs.  Something about wanting to eat helps motivate.  And, I have a “candy treat” card that I put out once in a while, just to keep them into it.  We are a low sugar family, so I have no issue rewarding them with a little sweet treat here and there.

6.  Create a breakfast schedule.  We are implementing this brilliant idea (my husband’s idea, actually) this year.  Why I didn’t think of it, I don’t know.  After all, we have a dinner schedule…duh!?!  No matter, he is the brilliant one around here, let it go woman.  Fixing cereal for Hannah, eggs and toast for Bethany, scrambled eggs and a bagel for Samuel and pancakes for Lucy was really not too bad until that wasn’t enough, and they wanted seconds!! And what they wanted changed daily…are you kidding me?  Seriously, these kids can eat!  And this is why I coupon!

So, every morning we are all having the same thing.  Be it oatmeal, pancakes, eggs and toast/bagel, bagel sandwiches, waffles, cereal, whatever!  But I make a LOT of ONE thing.  Yes!  This I can do.  Then, they clear their plates and cups and put them in the dishwasher!  This is a recent step for us, so I am still quite excited about it.  Yes, Hannah has to help reach to turn on the water for the more vertically challenged ones, but she rinses, they load.  *Side note* We strongly encourage chivalry in our house, and clearing dishes for the ladies is something Samuel has to do.  However, being that he has 4 sisters and a Mommy to clear for–and that I am quite certain that my girls would love nothing more than to have Samuel be their little man slave, he is only required to do this at dinner time.  And during breakfast, I read our morning devotion, write down prayer requests, and pray together.  Unless of course it is one of *those* mornings.  In which case I am usually wearing my slippers to the bus stop, reciting our daily verses as we drive and doing our devotion in the car while waiting for the bus.

7.  Finish chores.  They are to finish their remaining chores either while I’m finishing up breakfast, or once they are done eating and clearing their dishes.

8.  Reward time/read Scripture verses and off we go!  IF they do all their chores in a timely manner, limited goofing off—(there will be some, they are kids for crying out loud!), and with a happy heart, they earn 3 special jewels for their treasure chests.  This is our reward system.

I read the same Scripture verses over them every morning.  I fell in love with this idea as soon as I heard it!  One of my favorite Bible teachers is Priscilla Shirer and a few summers ago, my church hosted a simulcast teaching of hers.  In it she shared with us the verses she reads over her boys every morning.  So I ripped it out of my booklet, laminated it and used Velcro to attach it to my back door.  So it stares at us and I love it.  Sure, it is the same verses being read every morning, but you know what?  We all know them now.  I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  And, if I am even tempted to skip it in the morning, the kids quickly grab it and hand it to me to read.

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9.  Out the door in peace and ON TIME!  Check!  And, pat yourself on the back.  Well done Mom.

*Note:  The picture at the top are Hannah’s chore cards.  And let me also add that before I made them look like that, I ripped notebook paper into little squares and wrote their chores on those.  No sense spending the time on something that I am not sure will work!  Well, then I saw how GREAT it worked, so we have afternoon chore cards too.  Those do not have pretty stickers.  They are hand written, but on different colored cards.  Each color for a different child.

*Below is my favorite devotional for this age that I’ve seen.  And, I like writing their prayer requests down, so we can go back (when we remember) and write when God answered.  We might go to a prayer journal with our devotional because our book pages are running out of room!!

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The Great Surrender

Copy (1) of IMG_2082One Surrendered Mommy…

Hi there! My name is Lori Benjamin—better known as Mommy, Mom, or Hannah’s Mom, Samuel’s Mom, Bethany’s Mom, Lucy’s Mom or Sarah Noelle’s Mom. It used to be Lori, Mrs. Benjamin, Coach Lori or Coach Benjamin. When did it all change? 7+ years ago when we had our first child, Hannah. I don’t think, no, I know I didn’t think it would change quite so fast, but it did. And, it has taken me a while to surrender to my new title.

I knew I always wanted to be a Mommy, but that was going to happen later, so was marriage for that matter. I was going to travel to Florence to start work on my Masters Degree in Art History, work towards my Doctorate to teach Art History in college, specializing in American Art. And marriage? Yeah, that wasn’t happening until my thirties, no doubt. Huh, NONE of those things happened. Instead I met this baseball player, who defied all the adjectives associated with collegiate baseball players. Fast forward quite a few years and here I am; married to said baseball player for over 11 years, with a house full of five beautiful children. And, oh yeah, I am a stay at home Mommy, not a professor of Art History. So, yes, I am “just a Mom.” (Oh how that used to sting.)

I was not that girl growing up dreaming about being a stay at home Mommy. My parents worked, both of them, so that was normal for me. They were teachers, which was awesome. We had tons of time together and I never felt as though I missed anything. However, once my life was radically changed in college when I accepted Jesus Christ as My Savior…everything shifted, especially my priorities. But, this relationship is called “a walk.” And, I think for me, it has been more like “a crawl.” At least in the beginning. Maybe that’s why we, as new believers are supposed to be fed milk, not solids yet, because we aren’t even walking yet!

The Great Surrender. There are countless areas in my life that I have finally surrendered to. Here are just a few…my life to Christ, my role vs. my husbands, my need to be perfect, my need to keep up with other Mommy’s, my role as Mommy, my need to make everyone happy, and I could go on and on. About two years ago, I finally surrendered, to ALL of it.

Prior to my great surrender, I had my quiet times, but they were inconsistent at best. I need Him, His grace, His mercy, His love, His wisdom, everyday. I surrender.

More than a few years ago, I still was trying to be equal in leadership with my husband—meaning, if we were at a stalemate in a matter, I wanted to win. What a joy it is to be surrendered to his leadership. Granted, he is an amazing leader, so that makes the whole submission thing beautiful. You lead, I will follow. I surrender.

I am, nor will I EVER be perfect, neither will my kids for crying out loud. I am counting on the fact that He’s not done with me yet and I will get better, but perfect—ha! Fat chance. And, you know what else was so freeing to REALLY discover? Not another person in this world is perfect, no one, not one, so why was I trying so hard to keep up with someone/thing that didn’t even exist? Lord only knows. Maybe because in the early years of parenting (and as far as I can tell, it is going to continue throughout parenting), we never really know if we are doing a good job, making the right choices, etc. But, The Lord chose ME to be Hannah, Samuel, Bethany, Lucy and Sarah Noelle’s Mommy, so that makes me a perfect fit, for them. I’m not perfect. I surrender.

My role as Mommy. Good grief where do I begin!?! To say I was overwhelmed is like saying the Titanic was like a dingy. Oh, and I was completely overwhelmed when Hannah was 2 months old. Yes, that’s right, only one child, hardly 2 months old, and I thought I was going to DIE—literally. Now I have 5, and sure, there are times when I still get overwhelmed. Not sure I’d be human if I didn’t. But, those times are few and far between, thank heavens. Why? I FINALLY surrendered. I took a hard look around and realized that these children needed a leader, and after looking at what I was doing to be a good leader, it was clear MAJOR adjustments needed to be made. So, I pulled up my big girl Mommy panties and am now leading my children, as a Mommy with a plan. Hallelujah! I surrender.

The final major surrender was trying to make everyone happy. I am a people pleaser—to the core! I am hyper sensitive. I want everyone to like me and think the best in me. Guess what chick, it ain’t happening. No matter how hard I tried, I still let people down; still offended unintentionally and NEVER could I make everyone happy. And it HURT! I hated feeling as though I wasn’t good enough, doing enough, saying enough, etc. This was probably the hardest one to surrender to, but I did. My job is to love The Lord with my whole heart, mind and soul and to love others. I do the best I can and surrender all the rest. I surrender.

I have such a love of family and especially Mommy’s. Oh how I LOVE family and I LOVE Mommy’s. I think Mommy’s are amazing. Period. Just amazing. And I want Mommy’s to thrive!! I have learned so much over the past 7 years, that I WISH I knew early on, oh the pits I could have avoided. My hope is to add value to your life and your family’s life in some way. DISCLAIMER: Not many—if any for that matter are my ideas!! I am going to gladly give credit to every person that I have learned from. If it is one of those rare ideas that did develop in my brain, I might just write it in all caps, as I get pretty excited to have an original idea that actually works! Ha! But, really, if it is any good at all, I’m sure The Lord gave it to me as a “Here you go my sweet child, try this, it might help.” So, never mind, none of these things are mine. But, I will gladly share!!

So, why blog? Good question. Well, for starters, I love to talk. And, being a stay at home Mommy, leaves me with little faces to talk to. Love it, yes. But, oh how I enjoy adult conversation!! Even if through comments and discussions. Also, and I say this with complete humility and thankfulness…I have had many friends encouraging me to do this for a long time now. Pretty sure that is the best compliment ever—“please start a blog to tell me what you are doing, learning, and teaching your kids!” One of my biggest hold ups as to why I haven’t started one yet is FEAR. And the biggest fear: people thinking that I am claiming to be super Mom or the “best” mom, or that I have all my junk together. I DON’T. I DO have a lot together and I feel like we are on the right track, but I have much to learn…everyday.

So, here it is. My blog. Lori Benjamin’s guide to Motherhood. Lessons learned through horrible failures, great triumphs and the grace of Jesus Christ. I think I will start with the beginning…for the new Mommy’s or the future Mommy’s. Things like: “What you really need to buy for this baby” and “How do I get this baby to sleep so I can sleep!” I am a FIRM believer in sleep!! Both for Mommy and child. It can happen, I promise. I’ve done it five times now—with 5 very different personalities…

And, on top of my love of being a Mommy, I love art, home decorating, photography, eating healthy, exercising, fashion, scrapbooking, being outdoors and all things old…in hopes to do something creative with it…when time permits of course…

I sure hope you’ll join me on this journey…and pass along your Mommy wisdom too. We are in this together.