Patience…a little at a time

Patience plateWhen my son was 4, his definition of patience was “waiting my turn.” Kids get a lot of practice with this at school, at home, at church, and on the playground. The adults around them encourage and reinforce taking turns.

As adults we probably get more “practice opportunities” than we would like…waiting our turn in traffic or in the grocery store line, being on hold, listening to toddler-babble all day long, waiting for news of a loved one’s life event, or biding our time until it’s our turn for a promotion. Sometimes we even have designated places to practice patience: those chilly waiting rooms outside of surgical suites and doctors’ offices–where time becomes squishy with an unusual mixture of uncertainty and hope. All these practices without a designated coach…it can get a little tricky with all of us out there trying to make the big play yet committing countless fouls in the process. This road to Patience is bumpy.

I asked Siri for a definition of Patience. In her all-knowing tone, she told me that having patience is to “remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.” Geez! It’s probably good that we don’t have visible cartoon thought bubbles broadcasting how we reealllly feel in these daily situations of stress. Misplaced keys, a cracked phone screen, getting cut off in traffic…we face frustrations each and every day hour. How we respond to these hassles reflects upon how deep our level of patience is and how quickly we can tap into it. And all of us know that our darling children are watching, always watching.binoculars

Somehow the “big” trials seem to ramp up my patience and I churn out the calm vibes at warp speed. On the other hand, those little daily hassles can trip me up. Running late can zap my patience with my kids super fast. Those last five minutes exiting the house can be quite dicey as I’m calling out reminders in my not-so-calm voice: “grab-your-jacket! Got-your-water-bottle-for-practice?Remember-we-have-your-music-lesson-right-after-school-so-bring-your-instrument-now-so-it-will-be-in-the-car-later.Did-you-turn-off-the-lights?Your-shoes-are-in-the-family-room-where-you-left-them.Come-on-we’re-runninglate.Put-the-sword-down.Don’t-forget-your-backup-soccer-jersey.Get-out-of-the-fridge-we-don’t-have-time-for-a-snack.Oh-and-bring-out-the-trash-as-you-come-please“…[just insert all those “Mommy messages” here because it’s exhausting reliving those moments; oh, and remember to add “please” at the end of the monologue–gotta keep it “nice”–ha!] Needless to say, countless apologies have been made in the car as we’re scurrying to a soccer game, violin lesson, or (gasp!) even to church.

To get better at patience, we probably have to know our “buttons” – our stress points. If we aren’t sure, our spouse and/or children will be able to provide us with some quick insights. (ouch!) Patience can be quite a strength if we practice and build up our ability to use it consistently and effectively. Maybe one way to “bulk up” our patience is to spend a little time trying to deepen our sense of calm.

crayons

I have a friend that loves to color. It’s soothing and helps ground her. After a coloring session, she has more mental clarity and is more prepared to tackle her next challenge. Coloring books for adults are now marketed everywhere, so go for it! It’s not just for kindergarteners anymore; it’s “socially acceptable” for grownups!

Coffee cakesAnother friend of mine likes to bake.

I tend to find myself cleaning out closets or my car just to have a sense of control over something tangible when life circumstances are off-kilter.

For others, taking a walk to burn off nervous energy might help restore calmness.

one foot in front of the otherPerhaps in the heat of the moment, you’re a “count to 10” person…or a “3 deep breaths” type?

The beauty of being unique individuals is that we can each have a different arsenal of responses to any given situation. Whatever flavor of calmness technique you adopt, it probably works best if it “fits” and feels natural to you.



“A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” Proverb 19:11



 

Patience may be one of the Fruits of the Spirit that we need more time to develop. It’s about being patient, not doing patient. It’s not a one-time “I’ve got it!” experience either. It’s an on-going process that we continually have to reboot.  Patience is tough. It keeps us on our toes. As with many things that are difficult, though, it is so worth it. Just wait, and you’ll see.

Remembrance

We celebrate many anniversary events in our lives. Often what is unspoken are our anniversaries of loss. We all have them, yet we typically don’t collectively mark the occasion. Sometimes the emotional attachments are so poignant and intense it seems too difficult. Yet if we share just a bit, even a funny story…perhaps our grief feels a little lighter and our loved one is tucked into our heart memory just a little more snugly.

RemembranceToday we take a moment to remember our mother-in-law, Kitty. It’s been six years — a speck of time in the grand scheme of things yet so long in a family’s history.

Rather than dwell on all that she’s missed, we remember her spirit at family events. She was ALL IN. She loved the chaos of little boys running all over, digging in sandpiles and leaving their handprints all over her windows. She relished those grubby little bodies crawling into her lap and reading with her. She instilled a love of reading into all of her grandboys. I have fond memories of our firstborn backing up with an armload of books, landing topsy-turvy upon her and being caught with love. She’d exclaim, “Whew!” and they were off, diving into reading adventures together.

She loved well. We strive to pass on her legacy well.

We pray and hope that each of you are able to reflect and share special moments of your loved ones with those around you. Relive a funny story together. Look through old vacation albums or family reunion pictures. Remembrance is an honor and weaves a deeper texture to your family tapestry.

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” — remember that moment in Steel Magnolias? It’s such a great example of the tenacity of the human spirit.

When we come together, we are stronger.

(…and surely that increases the odds someone has Kleenex!)Kitty's beloved dogs


“a time to weep and a time to laugh…” Ecclesiastes 3:4



 

Hot Cocoa Station

hot cocoa timeAs soon as Thanksgiving is tucked away and Holiday decorations are bursting out of our attics ready for display, we set up a Hot Cocoa Station in our homes that our families always enjoys year after year. The beauty of this little spot is that we tend to leave it up past Christmas and New Year’s and let it linger until the winter weather begins to warm up. As a mom, it frees me up from all the prep of making cups and cups of chocolate. And as a kid, it enables them to make something without assistance. (I will step in with younger ones and help with hot water prep). We sometimes throw in some hot apple cider and tea options too. It is fun to have friends and family come over and feel able to” help themselves” to a warm beverage!

cocoa station

Another trick we find MOST handy in both of our kitchens is a Drink Station. Our families have been using this tool for several years now. When you have multiple kids in your home, the last thing you want during “germ” seasons is for them to drink after one another!! And inevitably, as much as I used to try to catch them before their lips hit a cup that was not theirs…the germs had already been shared. YUCK!

Sooooooo, if you feel me on this one, then you might want to set up one of these in your kitchen:drink stationA long tray works perfectly for defining the space. We have been using this drink station in both of our homes for several years now. It has been great for cutting down all those loads of dishes. I was constantly collecting cups from all over the place and decided enough was enough! By defining the spot in your kitchen, all cups are corralled, and I wash them every day or so now because I know whose they are. This is a simple but very effective way to manage your family’s beverages.

Lately, my boys have been using these mason jars that have a number on them. I found them on a clearance rack and assigned each boy a number (birth order is easy to remember), and they look at it as some form of “secret code”! Win! Win! For All!! kids drinks

You can be as creative/practical as you want on your drink station. You match it to the style of your kitchen and make it personal for your family.  Hope this helps the traffic of cups in your kitchen!

“My cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

Patience

A couple weeks ago I found a small pathetic-looking amaryllis bulb planter waiting to be claimed in the clearance aisle. The earthy bulb was trapped inside its packaging, yet trying to grow anyway. It had pushed against the paper sack so hard the stalk was bent and forlorn. I adopted it out of a mixture of pity and curiosity. My son helped me plant it when we got home, both of us a bit skeptical when we saw how bent and stunted the stalk was.

“Will it straighten up?” became a common dinner conversation. There were bets on when the stalk would straighten up strong and tall so that it could support its notoriously large bloom. We were all wrong: the stalk remained firmly bent over and remained height-challenged. The bloom, however, was determined.

Amaryllis bent, but starting to bloomAmaryllis ready to bloomamaryllis bloomingAmaryllis full bloom

What had been a dilapidated little plant the week before, turned into a gorgeous bloom…or dare I admit three blooms all squished into one beautiful burst of color. Quite lovely. We just had to wait for it to blossom in its own way.

Similarly, God waits for us to grow in Him and blossom in our own unique way.



“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18



Patience plate

Life is indeed a waiting game. Our patience is tested with our growth process. Some of us are early bloomers while others are late bloomers.  We may have to wait a little longer than we’d like for an answer to prayer or a specific direction for our lives. We are not alone; God is waiting with us.

Many of the Fruits of the Spirit seem to be qualities we get to experience or savor. Patience is more like a discipline. It requires some intention, having a “game plan” when something goes awry. Many things push at us and box us in. We bend under the weight of all types of stress, but do not break. We often grow in unexpected ways. God is betting on us to be strong and tall in the face of our challenges. 

 

What’s for Dinner??

Every single day we are faced with the dilemma:

“What’s for Dinner??

We’ve each triSlow cooker mealed different menu plans over the years. We’d like to share what works for us…most of the time. I know for me personally that the days I have “a dinner plan” go more smoothly because I can focus my energies elsewhere and tackle the dinner preparations with my designated helper when it’s time to hit the kitchen in the evening.

Menu board ideas are all over Pinterest. I adapted my own a few years ago by combining what appealed to me: flexibility, easy-to-use, and able to be quickly updated for the season.

What's for dinner??

 I used a 12 x 12 scrapbook frame that holds up to 25 pages of paper:

Menu board frame

I loaded it up with scrapbook paper for seasonal background color.seasonal scrapbook paper

I used glue dots to affix tabs for days of the week and mini clothespins to hold menu items. This could be simplified further by using clothespins or mini chalkboards that have days of the week already labeled.

— alphabet stickers for the title: What’s for Dinner??

— a line of ribbon for color

— two mesh index card holders with small chalkboards labeled Entrees and Sides

— cork board attached by spray adhesive; this area gives you a place for extra food cards or new recipe ideas

I made pockets out of folded index cards to hold individual menu items, loosely organized by food group categories. **Adding the page number and name of cookbook for specific recipes is helpful to you later!Menu pockets - entreesMenu pockets - sides

In each category pocket, there is a card with a specific food item. Some have been personalized by the family member that made the card or who is the “author” of the dish.

Menu pockets - fruits

Menu pockets - veggies

My kids take turns being my dinner helper. When we are discussing the menu plan for the week, they each get to pick what they would like to help make for dinner on their helper night. This helps their motivation tremendously!

Menu planning - kid helping

I encourage them to choose an entree and two sides. Since there is only one card for each item, this is an easy way to get a variety of fruits and veggies throughout the week.

When I began this project I used paint chips to add a splash of color. I now have blank index cards pre-cut into strips to make additional labels as needed.

Start with your favorite foods and add as you go.

Although I’ve been using this system for years and making a grocery list each week, I just recently had the insight to keep track of weekly menus that have worked for us to use again in the future. #duh!

It takes a bit more time to make a menu plan and coordinated grocery list, but I think it will be worth it next month when I can pull out a weekly menu and head right to the store!  I even did myself a favor and grouped the shopping list according to sections of the grocery store (produce, meat, dairy, frozen, canned/dry goods) and made a copy to use as a checklist, keeping the original in a menu planning binder.

You can personalize your menu board however you like. Pick the basic elements and streamline to your family’s needs. You can make it as simple or sophisticated as you want.

Menu planning - grocery list
Menu planning & shopping listGive yourself a break and include cards for “Take out,” “Dinner Out” and “Scrap Night” (aka: Leftovers) as well as some simple themes such as “Soup & Sandwich Night” and “Pizza Night.” Adapt what works for you and your family now. You can always tweak it later.

I’m off to “test” my shopping list with 3 boys…I may rip my list in sections and challenge them to see who can locate all their items first. Since I’ve drug them to the store provided them with ample shopping opportunities before, they know to search for store brands and sales items first. They may grumble a bit now, but their future college roommates will be impressed with their grocery skills, right?

apples and pears

fun veggie display



So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” I Timothy 6:8



Yes, menu planning is a chore. It does take time and effort. Every once in a while I need a reboot. When I freshen things up, I get a little more enthusiasm behind the process. 

What's for dinner - Jan
January menu board, prepped for the week
What's for dinner - Feb
February menu board ready to prep

Ready, set, go!     Let us hear how YOU are doing!

What's for dinner?? menu board update
February menu board, prepped for the week

 

Marshmallow Tag

Dinner is over. Boys are in the kitchen messing around doing dishes. Dad and I sneak out calmly walk out of the kitchen and down the hall. The boys’  voices escalate to fever pitch blend in cheerful unison to their blaring peppy playlist. We look at each other knowingly: it’s time.

We kick off our shoes and I toss off my hoodie.

Taking a deep breath, we rip open two bags of large marshmallows and load up. Armed with handfuls of sugary fluffballs, we are ready

Marshmallows

We pad in our socks stealthily approach the boys unaware and we begin to bombard them with marshmallows. Shrieking erupts as boys duck behind counters and hide behind each other.

We fire off as many marshmallows as we can before they have time to retrieve them and return a barrage at us. Soon they are pelting each other with marshmallows, then ganging up on us. Giggles break out between shrieks of delight and whispers of strategy.

I get a brief reprieve as I corral our golden retriever to put her outside; she’s enthusiastically smacking her lips from the mouthful of marshmallows she’s already snagged.

White blobs blur by my head and soft splats echo as marshmallows find their wriggling targets.

Marshmallow tag

Alliances form and my husband guards my back as I gather up more soft ammo, now sticky from all those sweaty hands. We emerge back-to-back and throw jet-puffed balls at whatever moving targets we can see. The tide turns quickly as our conniving loving offspring smush the marshmallows into large balls and throw at us rapid-fire.

We duck, breathing heavily gazing at each other with laughter…and my husband eventually calls a truce the finale when he sees that more marshmallows are sticking to cabinets than bouncing off the floors.

During arsenal reloading clean-up, the boys swap stories and exclaim excitedly as they find marshmallows in curious places.

indoor snowball fightIt’s a wrap: another no tears and nobody got hurt successful indoor snowball fight is in the books.

It’s cheap inexpensive family fun that allows parents to act silly crazy  wild like kids and to bring a little outdoor experience inside when winter days are stretching long.



Marshmallow tag is a win-win!!



Dare to ambush surprise your kiddos with some spontaneous fun. If you’re feeling especially naughty brave, go for the jumbo-sized marshmallows snowballs!

 

 

 

daily life transformed by God into extraordinary tapestries

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