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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Supermom: The Impossible Dream?




Recently, I've noticed a trend in my conversations with and observations of the modern mom.  Between the kids, the house, the hubby, the school stuff, the church stuff, and work (outside of the home, inside of the home, or anywhere in between!)--it seems everyone I know is being pulled in several different directions.

As a work at home mom, I often struggle with feeling like a failure in various aspects of my life:  my house is a wreck, I'm not paying enough attention to my husband, I'm impatient with my kids, I'm not devoting enough time to my work, I forgot to sign the supply list for the preschool Valentine's Day party until only one slot was left and I just didn't feel like coming up a craft idea so I didn't sign up for anything and now everyone probably thinks I'm a slacker... 
I think we can all relate!  If I feel guilty that my house is a mess, I spend more time cleaning and less time with the kids.  Now I feel guilty that my kids aren't getting enough attention.  If I play with the kids more, I spend less time cleaning or working. I now feel guilty for not getting all of my work done.  Does this sound familiar?!
So...is it really possible to be a "supermom" who can manage all of this and still be a real, living, human being? 

No.  Well, yes.  Kind of? 

First of all, it is logistically impossible to give 100% of myself to everything I have been entrusted with.  I have learned to make peace with this fact.  Add to it that even when I do give the ol' heart and soul to something, I still end up disappointing someone!  I can't win! 

My solution to this problem--of being stretched in so many different directions--has become to prayerfully and carefully select the things that I allow into my life.  As the mom, nearly everything I do has an impact on my family.  I am dealing with this in two ways:

1.  Do I really need to do this?!


I have several things on my proverbial "plate". At times, I find them difficult to manage; however I am learning to carefully select the items that I heap onto my plate and how to leave everything else out there on the buffet (yeah...I'm taking this a bit too far!). You won't find my kids enrolled in gymnastics, ballet, soccer, rockabye reader, brainy baby, or musical munchkin. I'm not against those cute activities--I just know me and my family. I know that my kids get cranky when they're being transported too much. I know that I need to have time each week when I can stay home to clean and catch up on laundry and let the kids play--or else I get cranky!  I know that when I over commit myself or my family, we ALL suffer. So I prioritize. For us, it is important that my 5 year old go to preschool and my 6 year old take piano lessons once a week. If any additional activities will cause a financial strain or a scheduling stress, count us OUT! You might think it is terrible or even selfish that I don't consider it a priority to cultivate my 3-year-old son's inner athletic genius (if you know him, you'll get that joke!)...but I know better. I know that right now, in this moment of our family's timeline, he will benefit most from a semi-sane mom and a relatively consistent and relaxed schedule.  As the kids grow, I'm sure our priorities will shift in some areas, and I pray that we choose wisely.


2.  Yes, I really DO need to do this...NOW! 
(But more importantly, HOW?)

There are times when one of my responsibilities begs 100% (or more!) of my attention.  For example, the beginning and end of the semester requires that more of my time and attention be put on work.  You might walk into my house around the first week of May to find dirty counters, a sink full of dishes, kids parked in front of the TV (or running wild.  Or both.), and me in the midst of the chaos trying to grade papers with a dirty kid loosely mounted to my hip.  I'm okay with that!  I know that this is not a pattern and that this too shall pass.  I understand that after I've given my students a little extra heap of me, my kids will be right next in line (and my house eventually).  I'm learning not to stress about these occasional imbalances.
My 1-year-old Assistant


God has entrusted me with 4 little kiddies, a great husband, a ton of students, and a huge extended family.  I am sad to admit that I have, at times, let all of these people down.  Yet even those times of failure can be a blessing because they cause me to rely more on God's help and understand that I cannot do it alone...and that I need to redirect my focus on God and not on impressing the world with my supermom superpowers.  (That ship has sailed!)  I need to trust that He can help me manage it all, but understand that He never expected me to do it perfectly.  He does expect me to try my best, and to give Him the load when I can't carry it.   

I am so grateful for the many blessings and responsibilities that God has given to me, and so thankful that He forgives me when I don't handle everything the way I wish I could. In the end, as I've mentioned in a previous post, it isn't about what anyone else thinks of me.  It's whether or not my actions are pleasing to God.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Let Your Inner Elf Hustle On Out!

If you know my family, it's no secret that we are Christmas fanatics.  What's not to love about the most wonderful time of the year?  Ok, there ARE some things that aren't too loveable.  Pageants, presents, parties... how can you get everything done and still actually enjoy it? 

First of all...

You DON'T have to do everything!  Can you believe it??

If you find that your commitments or expectations are robbing you of your holiday spirit, start trimming the fat.  What can go?  What can't go?  Does everyone and their boyfriend really need a present from you?  Can you opt out of signing up to cater, decorate, and play Santa at your kid's classroom party?  Have you convinced yourself that everyone on your street simply MUST have a gift-wrapped selection of your most delicious, baked-from-scratch Christmas cookies?  If you enjoy these things, then go for it.  But, if you are starting to feel overwhelmed or resentful because of all of the extras, do yourself (and your family) a favor and just DON'T.  Oddly enough, my hubsters prefers a sane wife as opposed to frazzled-flour-covered-frosting-stained-sleep-deprived-shopped-to-death Martha Stewart any day.  I have had days (or years) when I just didn't feel like going above and beyond and to my surprise the holiday was still fun and memorable.

On the other hand...

Something about Christmas just makes me want to throw a coat of sugar and wrapping paper on just about EVERYTHING.  Any time I have a free minute, I want to cram it with something festive.  If that sounds like you this year, I hope some of my ideas (or the ideas I've copied from others) will help make this Christmas a memorable one for you.


Decking the Halls!

  • One cheap, whimsical way to add some Christmas magic to your home is to hang ornaments from ceiling.  Chances are you have plenty to spare, so the only thing you have to buy are those Command hooks (you know, they are removed by pulling a tab) and maybe the string.  I use a combination of fishing wire and/or silver or red gift wrapping rope...whatever I had laying around. Don't forget to use shatter-proof ornaments!  (Ummm...found that one out the hard way!)

  • You might also notice in this picture the Christmas tree art on the wall.  I bought the canvases from Michael's, some craft paint, and put my artistic sister to work.  Three very simple tree-shapes, all different colors, add an elegant touch to the room.



  • Another cute and cheap (picking up on the theme here?!) idea is to add "shelf-cicles" to your shelves.  Using felt (showed in the picture from FamilyFun.com) or posterboard (what I have used in the past), cut out icicle-shapes the length of each side of your shelf.  You can also buy sparkly felt or glue glitter onto the posterboard for more wintery sparkle.  Tape the icicle shapes onto a strip of paper that is a few inches wide and the same length of your shelf.  Place decorations on top of the paper to secure.  If you use felt these are easily reusable year after year.

  • Wrap bedroom doors with Christmas wrapping paper...just be prepared that it might not last too long! 

Make the Season Bright..

  • Advent Coloring:  This year, I wanted to celebrate and honor Christmas each morning with my kids by using an Advent calendar.  Normally, I tuck a little note in each pocket with fun and/or silly instructions ("Eat one candy cane after breakfast", "Bring a cookie to your teacher", "Dance like a reindeer").  I still plan to do this little tradition, but I wanted to incorporate some of the real Christmas story into our daily routine as well.  After looking around, I found the perfect idea!  http://www.dltk-bible.com/advent/index.htm has a coloring page for each day of Advent.  Beginning with the angel coming to Mary, each day builds up to the good news of Christmas.  You can save each page to create a family book to read on Christmas day.  What a great idea!
*note:  one reason I've always been a bit leery of an advent or countdown calendar is because it just seems like I'm doomed from the start.  Don't worry if you miss a day or two...or ten!  (We haven't even started ours yet and it's almost a week into December!)  The point isn't perfection, it's to focus on the
meaning of Christmas and to make memories.


  • I love to infuse just about everything with a little Christmas magic.  Some cute ideas:
    • If the kids go to bed without any trouble, an "elf" leaves a mini candy cane on their pillow during the night.
    • Festive mini-marshmallows (star or tree shaped for example) or sprinkles are cute to throw in the lunch box, a trail mix, hot chocolate, on top of yogurt, etc.
    • Check out the dollar section of Target or any dollar store for fun pencils, erasers, cups, fingertip towels, etc. to add more flare around the house (or school!).

  • Cookie Decorating or Gingerbread Houses:  DON'T set high expectations for these types of activities.  The goal is FUN...not perfection!  Some tips for making these types of activities a little more enjoyable for moms:
    • Give each kid a large plastic or paper plate with their own "palette" of decorating stuff (different colored frosting, sprinkles, marshmallows, etc.).  This way, you don't have to worry about kids fighting over one type of candy, mixing/spilling toppings, and all that junk.
    • Pull hair back and sleeves up!
    • Don't try to make everything from scratch!  Use a sugar cookie mix or a gingerbread kit instead of wasting so much time just preparing for the big event.  Graham cracker houses are also an easy alternative to baking.
    • Let them make a mess (within reason, of course) and try not to fuss about it.  It can be cleaned up later...just let them have fun and enjoy the activity without seeing mom hyperventilate.


Make Christmas Morning Magic



  • Wrap gag gifts for your kids:  I love to wrap up Daddy's funky socks, a diaper, or something else gross just to make the day a little sillier.

  • Emphasize GIVING: probably my favorite Christmas tradition is from my own childhood.  We would wake up on Christmas morning to 6 piles of presents, labeled for each kid.  The catch was that our own piles contained NONE of our presents.  We would take turns giving a present from our pile to another kid.  How neat is it that we would argue over who's turn it was to give a present?  We continue this tradition with our own kids, and I love taking the emphasis off of "me me ME" and more on sharing and enjoying each other's joy.

  • Santa's Trail:  use marshmallows, sparkles, etc., to make a trail that Santa left behind.  The kids love to follow the trail down the stairs and to their presents. 


Have a blessed and merry Christmas!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer: How to Beat the Heat!


Ahh, Summer...
The kids are home, the days are l o n g, and I am faced with the task of entertaining my 4 little peeps without going stir crazy.  Yes...I have to admit that spending time outside is not always appealing to me.  The heat burns, the humidity is oppressive, and the bugs...
oh, the bugs
As my poor little two-year-old (not known for being a tough guy) always says, "bugs are bothewin' me"! 

So, for those times when you just don't feel like braving the sizzling sun, I have compiled a few entertaining activities from my bag of tricks to keep the lil' ones happy and their mommy sane.  Since we are often spur-of-the-moment type people, I like to have activities that require little to no preparation and everyday materials that are on easily on hand.  I hope you find something you can use to make your summer more enjoyable!



1.  Cheerios Jewelry
What mom doesn't have stale Cheerios in her pantry?  Dump some in a bowl, dig around for some pipe cleaners or yarn, and have your kids make edible bracelets or necklaces.


2. Rock Painting

Yup.  Paint rocks.  Or sticks.  Or anything that you can find outside that's paintable.  We have huge, smooth rocks in our landscaping that provide a perfect canvas for my budding artists.  I love to decorate our gardens, sidewalks, deck...whatever...with the finished products.



Tip- I have a vinyl St. Patrick's Day tablecloth that I use only for messy projects. I just throw it over the table and the kids can go crazy without making me crazy.  Sometimes I wipe it off, sometimes I just fold the nasty thing right up and tuck it away for next time.
Tip- Nudify your kids!  I strip my precious Picassos of at least their shirts before paintbrush hits hand.
Tip- I use the small, cheapie bottles of paint (Plaid brand?) that are *not* washable so that their work can stay outside in the elements.  To make them a little more durable, I finish with a spray of clear glossy spray paint.


3.  Pillow Diving
What's more fun than leaping into a sea of pillows?  Round up all the pillows and cushions you can find (just make sure they're not your good pillows!).  Throw them on the floor in front of your couch and let those monkeys jump away.  Of course, constant supervision goes without saying! 

4.  Movie Party
Yeah, I said it.  Turn on the TV.  Pop some popcorn, grab the blankets, and pile up on the floor with a good flick. 
Tip- to make it extra special, grab a piece of construction paper, shape into a cone (think dunce cap style), staple in place, and pour popcorn into the cones.  I've been known to hide a little treat in the bottom.  The kids love it!  Just keep a vacuum handy...


5.  Tea Party

If you have a tea set, great!  If not, no biggie.  Brew some decaf tea (or use juice), add a few little cookies or crackers, & throw in a corny accent.  And don't just think this is for girls only-- I know several cool little dudes who enjoy a good old-fashioned tea partay.



6. Play Dough
I know, I know!!! We moms HATE that nasty, messy stuff that the kids love to eat, mix, and crumble.  But with a few tips, it can be less destructive AND provide your cherubs with a looong and creative activity.

Tip- once again, break out that cheap vinyl tablecloth reserved JUST for mess-making.  Set your kids at a table on a HARD SURFACE floor (NO carpets!) and make the environment fun and relaxing so they will stay put for a while.
Tip- make an iTunes playlist just for the kids (I even taught my daughter how to turn it on for us) and let fun kid music play while they're playing and doughing.
Tip- I set my laptop somewhere near the table (lock the keyboard!) and pull up http://www.hasbro.com/playdoh/en_US/FreshIdeas.cfm, Play Doh's awesome website.  My kids love looking at all of the different creations and are inspired to make their own.
Tip- Don't worry if they mix colors or make a mess.  The stuff is cheap.  Let it dry for a little bit and it'll sweep right up.  Don't forget to employ your little ones to help clean up when they're done!


7.  Swimming Tub
Can't stand the idea of dragging out the kiddie pool, filling it with water, lathering up squirming bodies, slipping on the wet floors, peeling off grassy clothes, dumping out 9 tons of water, cleaning up all the pool accessories, and collapsing in a heap of exhaustion after the kids enjoyed exactly 2 1/2 minutes of active "swimming"?  Try an indoor swim.  Let your kids don their cute new suits from Target, coat the floor with towels, and take a deep breath. 
***inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale****
Now, let them go crazy!  Give 'em a beach ball and some pool toys, and maybe even squirt in some soap just to kill two birds with one stone.  But try not to do too much so that they think they are really breaking the rules and swimming, not bathing.


8.  Mommy Daycare

Turn your everyday activities into Preschool-themed events and your kids are instantly having fun.  We have snacks in the "cafeteria", enjoy a song or two at "circle time", and compose a morning message.  After taking a few minutes to download free printable worksheets or coloring pages...voila!...you have your very own classroom.



9.  Question Box
Take a tip from Sid the Science Kid and keep a Question Box (or notebook) for all of those crazy questions your kids ask. 

Are robots real?  Are carrots real?  What's the biggest planet and why can't we live there? 

Shrug and pop it in your question box.  Then, when you're particularly void of activities, snuggle up with your inquizzative one and let the research begin!  My kids love seeing videos of how cars are made, pictures of where their food comes from, and so on.

 

10.  PLAY DATE!
Finally, if all else fails: find another stir-crazy mom, call her ASAP, brew a pot of coffee, and let your kids come up with their own creative entertainment. 



.

Friday, June 24, 2011

God the Parent

Well, here I am once again after another late-night coffee indulgence left with nothing but "That 70's Show" on Nick at Nite and my own musings.  Unfortunately (OK, fortunately!), my exaggerated sighs, tosses, and turns failed to wake up my poor sleeping husband and I am reduced to sharing my thoughts with a machine.

Last week, my oldest daughter (who happens to be my most challenging) had a good week.  She was pleasant, obedient, and non-combative.  During that week I praised and thanked God for this because I desperately needed some encouragement and proof that she wasn't going to grow up to become a delinquent.  Sometimes, it just feels like nothing is sinking in!

This week, much to my disappointment, she went right back to her usual ways.  Seeing her make the wrong choices, lose control of her temper, etc., is always frustrating and exhausting for me.  But I recently realized it is more than that--it is heartbreaking.  Last week, I noticed that her good choices and behavior made her so happy.  Her life in general was easier when she wasn't fighting with her own "demons" and--of course--with me.  :)  This week, I noticed how angry, sad, and frustrated she got.  I can plainly see that it is the direct result of her sins that is making her so miserable, but no matter what we do she just can't seem to make this connection.

Then I thought about ME.  I thought about how I lost my temper.  How I snapped at one of the kids for asking a harmless question. How I yelled when I should have taught.  How miserable, anxious, and guilt-ridden these actions left me.  I so desperately want to set an example for these kids yet every single day I fail!

This got me thinking (and believe me, I spend countless hours thinking and fretting about this) about how heartbreaking it must be for God when I sin.  I guess I think that God is angry, disappointed, or ashamed of me when I sin; but I never thought about how sad it must make Him.  God wants us to be happy and delight in Him, but sin destroys that.  It is a state of misery!  I can see it in my relationship with my daughter.  Yes, I am ashamed of and frustrated with her; but I am also saddened at the happiness she is refusing.   

I think that being a parent has allowed me to see God in a whole new light-- as a fellow parent.  I cannot even begin to imagine how much He loves His children and how much He desires the very best for us.  So often we absolutely refuse to accept it!  It seems so ridiculous that my kids choose to resist the path that they know leads to a joyful life, but I am doing the exact same thing with my own behavior.

Being a parent is teaching me that I am in desperate need of God's grace and assistance in every moment of this wild ride.  He knows what I am going through, because He is experiencing it with me!  He can help me choose obedience and model it for my kids. It isn't easy, but maybe someday, I will be a good girl and make my Father proud.  :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Ultimate Goal of Parenting


Recently, I found myself in the middle of a trivial but all-too-familiar situation.  I was chatting with a friend after church while my oldest daughter waited (impatiently) beside me.  The friend said hi to Gracie and complimented her pretty dress.  As usual, Gracie looked down and hid behind me, as though the personal attention and compliment was just too painful to address (eye roll!). After barely muttering a prompted "thank you" she was quickly ushered to the car, accompanied by my typical lecture on being polite and answering people.  I was so frustrated...but why?

Ok, so there's nothing new or even that upsetting about this minor incident, because anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes around our family knows that we are always good for at least one meltdown, two whines, and three tattle-tales.  Still, I couldn't help but wonder why it bothers me so much when my kids don't act "right". 

This prompted me for whatever reason (too much coffee too late at night?) to a lot of reflection about what motivates me as a parent.  So often, my parenting is driven by what others think or how they will perceive my kids and ultimately ME as their mom.  If my kids are well-dressed, polite, cute, smart, and/or friendly; then I am a "good" mom.  I've done my job well. If they have a fit in public, look messy, don't appropriately thank someone, or cry on the way to the nursery; then I feel like everyone will think (know?) I've "failed". 

Before I had kids, I had ALL the answers.  I just knew my kids would be the nicest, most respectful kids around!  WOW does God have a sense of humor.  I have been served more than my share of humble pie.  But I am actually thankful for the experience of having imperfect, strong-willed, yes--even sometimes "bad" kids.  I am learning that my goal in raising them cannot be driven by others.  It has to be motivated by glorifying God and teaching them to do the same.  They are kids!  They will never and can never act the way I want them to all of the time.  I can't act the way I want to all the time!  I hold them to such a high standard and it is for such a selfish reason.

I am NOT saying that kids shouldn't be polite or held to high standards; not by a long shot.  I just think that it's worth evaluating and re-evaluating our motivation every now and then.  When I do my best to honor God through my job as a mom, I can rest in the comfort that He knows my heart and motivation and I will be judged and held accountable fairly.  Sometimes my kids make poor choices despite my best efforts.  If my success or failure as a parent is contingent upon my kids' behavior then I need to just cut my losses now and stop wasting my time on all of this work!  I am learning--albeit SLOWLY--that my goal is to do everything that I know and believe is right and leave the results in God's hands.  What peace and relief that brings a weary mom!

I have to credit my own Mom and Dad (parents of 6) with this "epiphany", as they have both encouraged me with this wisdom and scripture in my past meltdowns.  Still, it is very hard to remember in the daily trenches of parenting. 

"And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17.

This is the ULTIMATE goal of parenting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Baby is One!

Ok, I am such a novice to this blogging thing.  In fact, I have never even followed a blog before!  I recently viewed a few posts on some friends' blogs and realized mine is REEEALLLY lame.  Someday I'll figure it out, but for now it is just going to be the Bloring Bleveridge Blog.

So, my littlest baby turned one today!  Here he is, Mr. Luke, waking up as a ripe ol' one-year-old. 






Eager to greet the birthday boy are his 3 older sibs. Round one of the obligitory 100 birthday song versions commences...





I copied the little baby from a google image search.  This cake was really fun and simple to make!  I used to dabble in cake decorating but got burnt out primarily because my fondant recipe was soo hard to work with.  I found a great recipe and tutorial on this blog:  http://www.thepolhamusfamily.com/2010/04/marshmallow-fondant-recipe.html.
I worked on it during naptime, but my 2 older girls (age 4 and almost 6) don't nap and wanted to help.  One of my big struggles as a mom is how impatient I can be and how I get frustrated at the drop of a hat.  I wish I could just let them help and patiently guide them and accept their mistakes.  No.... instead I get aggravated and short with them in what is supposed to be a fun activity.  Mercifully, God has instilled in all of my kids an intense love and devotion that seems to trump my not-so-perfect moments.  They manage to maintain good memories of our times and are very loving.  Still, I am a work in progress. 


In other news...
my sister just got engaged!  I am SO happy for her.  This is going to be a whirlwind summer though, because the wedding is less than 3 1/2 months away!  I'd better get working on my tummy.  Eva, my 4 y/o, informed me today that I look like I have a baby in my tummy.  KIDS! Speaking of baby tummies, this is the FIRST first birthday I have celebrated of one of my babies that I was not pregnant again.  I love babies and all, but YAHOO!  I officially took precautions thanks to the miracle of Mirena so no new babies in the near future.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I really don't take myself too seriously

For as long as I can remember I have spent the last hours of my day decompressing mentally.  I sort thoughts, make plans, talk to God...usually all at the same time.  I decided to start a blog not because I think I have some amazing insight, wit, or interest to add to society; but rather as a kind of tool to organize my thoughts in a different way.  I also enjoy the thought of looking back on how life was at this particular stage.  I often forget that the rest of my life will not be spent changing diapers and cleaning food from the wall.  Bottom line, I am writing this mostly to myself and for my kids to pick apart someday in the future (and most likely make fun of). 

I am Ruth, I'm 31.   My hubby is Dan and we've been married almost 11 years.  Together, we have spawned 4 very strong-willed but very remarkable little people.  Gracie is all but 6, Eva is 4 1/2, Jake is 2 1/2, and Luke will be 1 in 3 days.  As parents, we are still a little bit stunned that a) we actually have 4 kids and b) that they're not the perfect little angels we always assumed they would be!

We love God, each other, and our 4 cuties fiercely and passionately.  We (ok, mostly I) make mistakes every day and are grateful for God's forgiveness--not to mention our kids' forgiveness.  Our deepest hope and prayer is that we raise kind, fun, thoughtful, decent people who love God and desire to serve Him.

Ok, so that's us!