Dear Mama, You can Conquer this Mountain 

Laundry. Mount Washmore. The never-ending chore.

Laundry! Once so clean in the moonlight!

Folded neatly and stacked tight;

It was beautiful then.

But the family must work and play and soil it and then,

I do the laundry, Yet again! 

(Set to the tune of “Memory” by Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Did you know that there is a hidden joy to laundry? Did you know that you can look in your hamper and smile? Did you know that it is possible to stroll through your house and not find a chair heaped with clean clothes? Did you know that you can go weeks without hearing your husband say that he’s out of clean socks? That all of this can be accomplished on autopilot? And even a toddler can help?

A load a day keeps Mt. Washmore away.

That’s it. Only handle one load of laundry every day. Sort, wash, dry, fold, iron, and put away one load – and stop.

Starting this method is the hardest part, but once you have managed to keep it up almost every day for two weeks, the clothes begin to behave themselves.

What does this even look like? FlyLady and Diane taught me how. Especially if you are a visual learner like myself, I recommend looking through Diane’s “Morning Routine.”

As for my own laundry routine, I try to avoid this chore on Sabbath, and I try not to start until I have fed the infants and gotten dressed for the day. Only then do I grab the dirty clothes basket in my bedroom and take it to the laundry room. There, I sort clothes into my lovely set of hampers that we received as a baby shower gift.


The bags are removable. So, if someone is taking my laundry to wash whilst I recover from illness or  childbirth, they can simply grab a bag on their way out. If my own machines are being repaired, the bags are easier to transport to the laundromat than baskets. Yes, I love this thing!

 

By “laundromat” I mean the closest neighbor who will permit my use of their equipment.

Anyways. I am the only one in the house who sorts things into the proper hamper, but that’s okay. Daughter throws her clothes into the hamper closest to the door, so I made that bag the children’s hamper. Husband throws one outfit at a time on top of my sorting system, so that takes maybe three seconds to sort out every day. No sweat. Whichever hamper is fullest I dump into the washer, start it, and then I get on with my morning.

Sometime before lunch, I have Daughter help me switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. The most fun part for her is in the afternoon. My toddler loves shoving the clean basket into the laundry room, dragging out the clean clothes, cleaning out the lint, fishing out the wool balls (fabric softener), shutting the door by herself, and shoving the clean clothes away to be folded.

Then, Daughter can put some of the little items away for me as I’m folding. Once everything is folded, I finish putting away the laundry that Daughter is still too short to manage. Nearly anything I can put on a hanger, goes on a hanger, so all the shirts, skirts, nice pants, and onesies fall to me. Since it’s only one load, though, a little effort gets it done easy. “All done!” we say. “Let’s have a chocolate!”

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I am paranoid about dressers toppling on my adventurous climbers, and I like the ability to find clothes quickly. So, I keep a hanger on the child’s closet door for all the onsies, shirts, or dresses. Pants and socks fit into a light storage basket with the diapers and wipes.

 

Grab an oblong hanger off one of those gift blankets from Baby’s shower, and snap the onesies on it in plain sight. 

Keep an empty diaper box by the crib. Once you realize your child has outgrown a garment, throw it in the box. When it gets full, tape the box shut, label it, then stow it away or give it away.

Helping me with chores has given my daughter a good sense of accomplishment, and I enjoy having her company. I also notice our communication skills get stronger as we work together. Her help certainly saved me a great deal of teeth-grinding agony when I was pregnant with twins and unable to bend or twist.

Our little balls of energy are ready to play games with us to learn how to run their own lives one day. Age appropriate responsibility can help tone down sour attitudes, believe it or not. Have fun teaching them early, while the mundane chores are still fun for them to master.
There you go. That’s the way I keep the laundromonster in check and have some fun teaching my little one while we do it together. Check out those links above. This method is adaptable to people who work outside the home, or work odd shifts, too. With a little change in attitude, you can do this!

How I fold and put away sheets. Disclaimer: This method has not been approved by anyone’s Aunt Mirna. My camera’s microphone is defective, so please bear with the audio quality.

Dear Mama, Learning to Feed the Family 

 

Our daily priority is to feed our children, from proper diet during pregnancy, to keeping the pantry stocked for teenagers.  My family is currently feeding children aged three and under, but I have already found some “life hacks” that can make mother’s task less daunting.  To the mothers just a step behind me, here are my tips and tricks.

From an experienced mother living on the other end of No Man’s Land, here are some ideas for simple, convenient, yet healthy eating posted on Prairie Dust Trail.

Freeze Ahead

To begin with, cooking is an impossible task with a newborn in the house.  Babies require so much attention that nothing else will be accomplished for several weeks.  That’s okay.  Accept that life will become slow and basic, and plan accordingly.  First time around, my dear “Mother by Love” sent quite a few meals for us to subsist upon (along with her RICH, milk-boosting, hot chocolate.)  The next time around, I got ready.  Any leftovers large enough, I froze.  Sometimes I had the energy to double recipes so I could save the extra food for what was to come.  Even though the twins came two months early, I still had two weeks’ worth of meals in the freezer by the time we brought them home.  There I was, with a toddler, new twins, an abdominal incision, and much of the familiar help I was counting on was tied up with another new mother’s health crises – but I had my freezer full of food.  Adjusting to home life was much easier with that convenience.  Especially to the first-time mom, I recommend this preparation.

Mix Formula Once a Day

With the help of some haywire hormones, a mom’s instincts scream at her to care for the little one.  There is a mad dash in mother’s mind to feed baby IMMEDIATELY once he is hungry.  It’s one of those feelings you must experience to understand.  What can be done to ease the urgency and stress?

If you are not exclusively breastfeeding, you must take the time to fill a bottle with water, measure scoops of formula in your sleep-deprived state, and hope that you didn’t lose count while a baby wails that special manner that tugs at your very soul.  Thankfully, you only have to do this once a day, not at every feeding.  To keep from taxing the twins’ immature immune systems, I had to use boiling water to sterilize the formula.  So, I poured enough boiling water to a day’s feedings into a Mason jar, added the formula, and mixed it with a whisk.  The formula was good for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Make Pumping Easier on Yourself

If you pump milk for your little one, you have even less time to spare.  Pumping takes extra effort, and then the parts and bottles require cleaning.  A time-saving hack I found is to throw those pump parts into a Ziploc bag and into the refrigerator.  The milk on that parts can’t go bad, so you can wait a few sessions before completely dismantling and scrubbing each valve and shield.

Rabbit Trail for First Time Expectant Mothers:  If there is any chance that your may need to use a breast pump, GET THE RIGHT SIZE SHIELDS NOW.   Pumping is a rough experience, and in the post-partum phase, you may feel very emotional and perhaps inadequate. Often, women believe that their bodies are incapable of nourishing their children, when it is the equipment that is causing problems.  So before you even give birth, familiarize yourself with the equipment and the concepts that make it work, even if with a cheap hand pump.  Make sure the shields are not too large or too small. (Standard sizes were too large and could have torn me up. I am positive that a majority of negative pumping experiences are due to improper sizing.)  Check those valves for pin holes and tears.  Overall, take a look over the instructions and practice assembling a pump.  Your future self will appreciate it.

Cube and Freeze

My twins are eating solids!  It’s great to start moving away from formula, but it can be troublesome, as well.  Store-bought baby food gets expensive (and the popular brand seems to be in bed with the abortion industry.)  Blending a portion of your meals means you must detail-clean the blender parts multiple times a day.  Also, keeping small portions in the refrigerator doesn’t seem to keep well.  If you cook a fresh meal for baby alongside every family meal, you’ll surely lose what was left of your mind.

My solution?  Ice cube trays.

I cook an adult serving or more of cereal, boil and mash a whole potato, mash a couple of avocados or bananas, or strain out some bone broth from a leftover roast.  Then, I use each batch of baby food to fill an ice cube tray and flash freeze it.  Once the food is solid, I dump the cubes out of the tray and into a freezer bag, and throw them back into the freezer.  When it’s feeding time, I grab a couple of cubes, add a bit of water, and thaw it in a custard bowl or a mug over our bottle warmer.  I only have to cook, blend, and mash baby food once every few weeks!

Though I haven’t had a chance to try it, I’ve read of using ice cube trays and regular freezer bags to store breast milk.  That sounds simple and economical compared to pricey milk storage bags.  If a baby’s immune system were compromised, though, the specialty bags might be safer.

Utilize Those Machines

We go through a lot of bread.  My husband uses it for grab-and-go meals.  The toddler and I eat quite a bit of it for meals and snacks, too.  I acquired my first breadmaker and love it.  It saves us money, trips into town, and helps us avoid some unwanted preservatives.  Not to mention, a slice of warm, fresh bread dobbed with butter or honey is a delight to have with a cup of tea.  If we begin to run low on bread, I can dump ingredients into a pan, click it into the machine, push some buttons, and have a loaf just the way I like it in four hours.  There is no need to stop my chores to knead or bake the bread.  It requires just five minutes of effort on my part.

Crock pot recipes are popular, according to my social media, but we don’t have to have precise recipes or cream-of-something to fix up an easy, tasty meal.  Look through the pantry.  Check the freezer.  You need meat, vegetables, and maybe a starch.  Steak and roast are nice to brown over the stove before setting into the crock pot.  Throw veggies, and rice, potatoes, or noodles in with the meat, and cover everything with a liquid, be it broth, tomato sauce, milk, cream, or water.  My rule of thumb is to cook on low for up to eight hours, or on high for three hours. With a few basics, you can easily throw together a meal at the beginning of the day and forget about it until the family asks, “what’s for supper?”

 

For now, that’s all the family feeding hacks I have been utilizing, and I hope these tips can be helpful for you as well.  Keep taking care of yourself, and keep an eye out for the next installment.  Happy eating!

Dear Mama, There is No Room for Fear

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“There are 365 times in the Bible where it says to not fear, once for each day of the year,” so they say.  Do we realize that this is not merely a phrase meant to make us feel better?  Do we understand that “Fear not.” is a command?

This new life of motherhood changes the dimensions of our existence, particularly our weaknesses. As mothers, new fears assail us, stronger than we could have imagined before. Struggles we were unaware of now fill our minds. Then the fears work us over. 

“Fear not” is a strict command, especially for those of us in charge of other souls, because fear is a strong weapon that effectively prevents us from accomplishing The Master’s will.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear holds punishment, and he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

‭‭Yoḥanan Aleph (1 John)‬ ‭4:18

The fears of motherhood are few, yet strong in the beginning. Then fear breeds upon fear in the false guise of love. Eventually, we find that we are constantly yelling at loved ones, and lashing out over little things. The unloving behavior towards our families is not rooted in hate. We may be frustrated, but hate? No, the root is fear. Once we identify the fear the Enemy is using against us, the tide of the battle has turned. From there we can fight with the Word, prayer, love, taking captive every thought.

When you find yourself enraged, ask, “What am I afraid of?” 

  • Being a bad mom?
  • Not being enough?
  • Going unnoticed?
  • Doing the wrong thing that propels your children into self-destruction?
  • Angering your community with your parenting choices?
  • Inability to get on the same page with your husband about your concerns?
  • Judgement from your family?
  • No one caring about your efforts?
  • Disaster taking your children from you?
  • Alienating your kids from you, yourself?
  • Causing unnecessary grief to your family?
  • Cursing them with your mistakes or evil past?
  • Burning up your life for nothing?
  • Exposing your children to family battle crossfire?
  • That if things don’t go your way, they can never come out right?
  • Never getting anything perfect?

 We mothers do have a responsibility for our children’s safety. Go set the boundaries. Teach the rules. Encourage good connections. Discourage bad company. Take precautions around that person who gives you a bad gut feeling. Become the repetitive voice of good sense that your kids will hear wherever they go. 

Beyond the practical action, though, our concerns turn into fear and have no benefit for our families nor ourselves. Ruminating on fears winds us up tightly, makes us irritable (fruit of the Spirit is patience) and causes us to make stupid decisions. Our words cut. Our tempers flare. Our impulses inflict chaos. Our families hide.

Fear destroys.

The above bullet points of fears may seem to come from a place of love, but they don’t. It is a distrust of the One Who is Love. The King of the Universe came up with the idea of our children. He created them and knows their every detail, down to each hair on their heads. Jehovah loves them, more than even a mother. He gave up his only perfect child to secure our babies’ eternal lives. Our children may get hurt, we may fail them, they may choose their destruction, or tragedy may take them from us; but The One Who created all things is doing everything, even delaying the Kingdom of Heaven, to ensure that these precious children will have every opportunity to choose an eternity of His goodness. We must assist Him and drop the fears that have held us back from being the mothers God intended us to be.

Seek Him out, and let YHWH flood you with His love. Keep your eyes on the eternal. Let yourself love God first, and He will guide your every step in His grace.


We are women, mothers, warriors, guardians and caretakers of the weak, servants of the Most High. The battle is on. There is no room for fear. 

This post is one of a series titled, “Dear Mama.”

Dear Mama, Who Thinks I Don’t See


You stride over in the midst of a public event to get a peek. My twin car seats and cute toddler dancing around command a lot of attention like that. You ooh and ah, asking about age, gender, giving a compliment or two. As we talk, you learn that all my children were premature but turned out fine. I am blessed, they grow so fast, enjoy it while I can, you advise me. 

You think I don’t see the quiet pain under your smile. There’s a sad soreness on your shoulders, like your arms ache for someone. Horrific memories flash over your eyes. Your ears still strain to hear a voice that never was. This sort of grief feels isolated from the rest of reality, but I see. It’s the same for me.

As full as my arms are now, they still ache for the one I couldn’t keep. I still fight the flashbacks when I smell the sterile odor of a hospital. It is now easier to cope with the shrieking silence of cries that should have been there, now I have three other voices in my house. Still, there are moments when I struggle to breathe. Then there are the questions when I see that another baby with the same condition, same weight, or same gestation was able to survive. Why not mine?

I wish I could hug you, tell my story, listen to yours, and cry a while. What was his name? How old? Did he look like you? What do you treasure most of his memory? I want to know. 

Time and place do not permit such interaction. I go on tending to my blessings. You dab your eyes in a corner across the room and move on. We may never meet again. 

All I can do is pray for you and hope for the days when our grief ends. You may believe that I don’t know how good I’ve got it.

But I see.

This post is one of a series titled, “Dear Mama.”

Dear Mama, Who is Going on a Trip

Panic! Anger! Frustration!

And you STILL forgot something important!

Yelling! Whining? Moping.

Does this sound like the morning of your departure when you pack up the family to go on a trip? The chaos tends to make the whole house dread going anywhere. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can keep your cool and settle into the front seat with a smile as you begin your adventure. Since I’m not sure precisely how to best adapt my preparation methods to your needs, I’ll just give you the rundown. You can figure out what works for you.

With three 3×5 cards, I have learned to avoid the travel frenzy. We may still be 25 minutes behind our plans, because I’m still learning how long it takes to load three little ones. However, we still have everything we need when we stay overnight six hours from home. Best of all, I can avoid that out-of-control frustration that can bring a cranky mama to a full, roiling boil.

Like most simple techniques that make my life easier, this is a method taken from the FlyLady. I have a notebook with addresses, basic routines, encouraging words, and a few recipes slapped together. In the midst of my book, there are my Travel Prep cards. The cards are basically my packing checklists. One is for arrangements, one is for my husband and me, and one is for the babies.

On the first card I have written:

  • Clothes cleaned and put away
  • House in order
  • Groceries to take along (to save a little money and health usually blown on gas station snacks and fast food.)
  • Maps printed
  • Hotel confirmation number
  • Check vehicle tires, filters, oil, fuel, wash, wipe interior
  • Polish/brush shoes
  • Wash sheets/fresh linens on the bed
  • Wash dishes

Having things in order helps make our “landing” at our destination and our “landing” back home much smoother! Obviously, I don’t always get it all down pat. I do, however, consider each chore and choose what I will leave undone. That way, things are not neglected from forgetfulness, but the least necessary tasks for this particular trip will be moved to the bottom of my “triage” on purpose. Already been to this destination? Skip printing the map. One basket of towels on the couch needs folded but there’s little time to do it? Okay. A formal event calls for nice shoes? Polish them. Really want clean sheets to collapse into when you get back home? Strip and make that bed to have it ready for you!

On the next card are the items that we need to pack for my husband and myself. These are items we usually need when we stay someplace overnight. For me, I have listed:

  • Pajamas
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Number X of complete outfits
  • Stockings
  • Dress shoes
  • Swim suit
  • Phone
  • Wallet
  • Charger
  • Earbuds
  • Lip balm
  • Oils
  • Brush & Paste
  • Hairbrush
  • Pins/hair bands
  • Deodorant

Again, I read through and decide what is necessary. No pool? Skip the suit. Going to church with the friends you’re visiting? Grab the dress shoes and stockings.

Extra things to be sure my husband remembers to take include:

  • Deck of Cards
  • Dress hat
  • Dress boots
  • Radios

Now for the babies. This list I made when the eldest was a year old. For now, this works for all three kids. As they mature, I’ll make a new card.

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Formula
  • Bottles
  • Bottle warmer (Rabbit Trail: I thought this thing was ridiculous before we had twins and were spoiled with the $2,000 Medela bottle warmers at the hospital. Our own $20 warmer makes feeding two babies within one hour an attainable goal wherever we go.)
  • Sippy cup
  • Bowl/spoon
  • Cereal/food cartons
  • Bibs/burp cloths
  • Number X of outfits
  • Sleepers
  • Blankets
  • Socks
  • Dress shoes
  • Diaper cream
  • Oils!
  • Jerky (No Man’s Land Beef Jerky is a teething lifesaver!)
  • Toys
  • Jacket & Hat
  • Pack ‘N Play or portable bassinet
  • Car seat (This can be forgotten if we’re rushing next door to borrow a vehicle. Then it is wasted time running back to our house for the car seat!)
  • Stroller
  • Wrap/carrier

Again, these are things I need to consider every time we leave overnight. These cards help me make decisions about what is left undone or left at home, instead of running crazy and forgetting to grab something vital for our trip.

About three days out from departure, I begin skimming the Travel Prep cards. I consider who will wear what and when. We make reservations. When I make my usual grocery run, I get the extras we will need. Between regular chores and feedings those three days, I can get everything packed and ready by the night before we leave.

Another thing I love to do for travel is to pack small. I grew up watching Rick Steves’ travel shows and enjoyed the easy mobility of his simplicstic  approach. Some like to take the kitchen sink for security, but I like the security of being able to move swiftly. Now we are a family of five, compact travel makes an even greater difference!

For a weekend venture, I can fit my husband’s things, my stuff, and the babies’ outfits into one duffle bag. We all have clothes for each day and an emergency outfit in case of a horrendous spill. I keep a toiletry bag packed at all times, so I can throw it in the duffle and be done with it – no time wondering where to fit the toothpaste. The babies’ essentials are in their diaper bag, as usual. The toddler’s clothes fill the empty spot in her diaper bag. Then I have my catch-all bag for my purse, books, electronics, or whatever I’ll need while riding shotgun. This comes out to four bags, four big things we need to remember to grab in the morning. There is very little scrambling for odds and ends.

Most importantly, I must pray. It is easy to center these lists on myself, my plans, my perfectionism, and my pride. Despite the best travel methods, focus on the flesh like this can still destroy peace for the whole family and cause unnecessary grief. Instead, I must focus on using these tools to facilitate my service to the rest of the family. I must pray and remain in the presence of  The Perfect One, who extends grace to the tarnished. From there, He can empower me to extend His grace to my family, regardless of how well they “get with the program.”

Well, fellow Traveling Mama, I hope this spiel can provide you with some handy ideas. If the details are overwhelming, just pick five to-dos for your next trip and see how that works. With some forethought and attitude adjustment, packing up the family can be a peaceful affair, after all!

This post is one of a series titled, “Dear Mama.”

Dear Mama, Who Wonders why Kids are like This

Always. Kids seem to need to talk and cuddle the most when you are just trying to get something simple accomplished. When you’re trying to get them dressed, get them out the door, or into and out of the car, they seem to think it’s family time. If they aren’t directly asking for a hug, they’re asking for the attentions that require the most effort. They melt down when your limited time clashes with their emotions of the moment. Trying to get them to eat or get ready for bed feels like paddling upstream (up-river, at times) when they chatter for eons and beg for little nothings. Why do these little people have to be so difficult?!

I think they are designed for it.

 “Hear, O Yisra’ĕl: יהוה our Elohim, יהוה is one! “And you shall love יהוה your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your might. “And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be in your heart, and you shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up,”

‭‭Deḇarim (Deuteronomy)‬ ‭6:4-7‬ ‭

Though selfishness might need discipline according to their age in these moments, children are designed to draw closer to you at these times. When you’re waking, going to sleep, coming and going, or sitting to eat, I believe these are the perfect times to instruct our children in the ways of our Creator. It’s actually a blessing, when you think about it.

I haven’t mastered the practical applications as of yet. So far, I am making a point to remember these words when I feel rushed, and making time to communicate at these junctures. If this is the time I am supposed to teach my children about our Heavenly Father, do I have the proper attitude to facilitate that responsibility? I wonder if the children are seeing the Fruits of the Spirit in me, or just another grumpy whiner. Am I behaving as a leader, or as a fellow tantrum thrower? This frame of mind can cool my temper in a hurry. Currently, I am making habits to communicate love first thing in the morning and at bedtime. I pray blessings over each child, give a hug and greeting just for them, and ask questions.

One night, the toddler couldn’t get to sleep. Frustrating as it was at first, I took a moment to hold her and wondered how to tell her about the One Who loves her most and never leaves her alone. A star glittered outside her window, so I showed it to her and told her about the One Who put it there. She may be too young to grasp my meaning, but she calmed down in response to my attitude as I spoke of something reverent, loving, and secure. Kids pick up on our words faster than we can realize, so I think it will be good to practice conversations like this beforehand.

So that is my thought. Why do kids demand attention at these times? It’s by design, and for good reason. So let’s take advantage of this stage while we can, Dear Mama.

This post is one in a series titled, “Dear Mama.”