Category Archives: Tips, Tricks, or Treats

Dutch Men Experience Labor Contractions

Two things I knew nothing about until my adulthood:  Having babies and Dutch people.  I am now well acquainted with both.  Which may be why I think this little video is so absolutely hilarious (especially after about the 4.5 min mark):

Getting Excited To Meet The New Girl

emandtwinsBy number 7, you’d think I could care for newborns in my sleep.  (Come to think of it,  that would be a pretty sweet skill.)  But the tiny phase  is short and my memory even shorter so that I need a refresher every time around.  It usually starts with some sort of midnight panic at the thought that I am responsible for keeping yet another person alive and a  helpless one at that.   Chris reminds me of my own helpless dependency on the One who created both me and the baby He’s blessed us with.   We pray.  Then I go through a little mental dry-run of my plan based on what has worked and failed in the past, and fall asleep to have weird pregnancy dreams about being a 6-foot tall volleyball player with a flat tummy that can jump really high.

There are about as many methods to caring for babies as there are mothers to care for them.  These tips are just a few that I’ve found helpful:

1. I’m in charge of the routine.  I’m all about flexible schedules for my babies.  When every sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound  is brand new to a person, routine is very comforting.  That said, I don’t really worry myself about it for the first few weeks.  I nurse on demand and basically practice reactionary parenting for a very short amount of time.  This little allowance has helped me to calm way down in those first few postpartumjack weeks.

2. “Self-regard is not always the same as selfishness.”  Wise word from my pastor’s wife that I’ve held on to over the years.  This topic could be it’s own post sometime.  For now, suffice it to say that the world’s push for moms’ me-time is not the same as recognizing your created status and resting when it is appropriate.  I came across a great blog post from a mom of 9: Postpartum Rest and Recovery Tips (from a mom who learned the hard way).   I plan to rest this time around.

3. The new person is part of a whole family.  There are times when different members of the family need more attention.  Being brand new is one of those times, but even then we make try to make decisions with everyone in mind.   When optimizing a baby’s schedule, we take into account someone’s violin lessons, another person’s co-op,  date nights, an early morning meeting, and bottle feeding.   We are all serving each other, even the new guy has a part to play.

4. Plan ahead.  So far I’ve pre-cooked and frozen meat for 14 dinners.  Yes, it was a bit of extra work on a Saturday, but the pay-off will be worth it.  I’ve avoided committing to any events several weeks on either side of my due date.  Currently I’m working on some activity packets for the little people to pull out when everyone is desperate for a change up.  And I’m changing chores around to work better with our lowered standards.  I don’t do the same things every time, instead I try to think about what preparations will help most in the current climate.

magandbethany5. Enjoy this time!  Ugh. I hate to think back about all the time I wasted with my first kids worrying, fretting, angry, and selfish.  But the Lord is faithful to forgive and change our hearts.  Babies are amazing!  Marvel at their little tiny hands and feet, at their first smiles, at their coos and cries.  Be amazed at how fast they grow and change and learn.  Be perplexed at how food comes out of the ground, into your body, is made into food perfect for them, they get fat, and you get skinny.  Think about it! It’s crazy!    Give praise to the Lord for his wondrously bizarre works to the children of man.

A Blog About My Blog


I’m on an organizing push around my house.  Call it nesting if you like, but I’ve always liked things to have homes.  Are there really people out there who don’t?  I know not all of us are always organized or sometimes we are too overwhelmed to get there; but really who doesn’t like the finished product?  So along with closets, toys, schedules, and meals, I thought I’d add a little organization to my blog.  It’s still a “get to” not a “have to”; but without some planning in my life, I’d never” get to” do anything but the things that I “have to,” (which actually through sanctification are becoming the things that I “get to” do.  Oh dear. )

I’m thinking something like:

Monday: Tips, Tricks, or Treats

Wednesday: Encouragements, Meditations, or Thought Ramblings

Friday: Assorted Content- Q and A (feel free to send me your questions!),  Guest Posts,  General Silliness, Anything Else that Sounds Fun to Pass On

As with all of my organizing attempts, I’m sure this will be tweaked and there will always be that one thing that doesn’t fit neatly in the box with the other like items, but it’s a start.  I love to write, to organize my thoughts, and I’m especially blessed whenever along the way, I can be used as a stepping stone to see the Savior.  Thanks for reading!

Babies Come Out One Way or Another

Warning: This post will probably be of little interest to some maybe even gross (I’ve lost my ability to assess that category from a normal perspective).  But some of you may find it helpful and it’s on my mind, so take it or leave it.

I’m actually considering (gulp) going without an epidural, on purpose this time.  Last time the anesthesiologist was delayed; and by the time she arrived I couldn’t hold still long enough for her to stick a needle in my spine.  She only needed “3 minutes,” that’s when Chris looked at my face and the 3 sterile kits I’d already knocked on the floor, and asserted for me that it was not going to happen.  To make matters worse, Jack turned out to be sunny-side-up, which increased the length and intensity of my labor significantly.  I really thought I was going to die.  The nurse was nice enough to lie and told me that everyone says that.

After it was all over, and I was still alive, the little twist I didn’t anticipate was that I only took a few Motrin afterward and felt back to normal very quickly.  My blood pressure didn’t plummet and I ate a cheeseburger while I was still in the delivery room.  I’ve been induced, had a spontaneous preemie, a c-section, a vbac, and gone completely without drugs (though unanticipated).  In my limited, yet diverse experiences, I have to say the recovery was by far the best with the drug free labor.  All this history to explain why I’ve been peeking around on the web to learn if there really are any helpful tips to coping with the curse besides the blessed gift of the epidural.

While I have run across a few helpful tidbits, I’m mostly impressed by the passionate defensiveness of Mommy’s right to her birth plan.  To be honest, it gives me the giggles.  I picture women pulling up to the hospital drive-thru with their order, “I’ll take a 2 hour latent phase with a Popsicle, an epidural while contractions are slightly painful but 5 minutes apart, I’d like some soothing music just before it’s time to push, oh and no tearing because I’ve been massaging for 5 weeks, and last I’d like to keep my placenta for the scrapbook.”

Obviously I’m exaggerating (and amusing myself).  I really don’t have a problem with planning ahead and imagining an ideal.  The problem I see, from personal experience, is that unprioritized ideals can quickly become idols.  And idols will rob you of joy and purpose.  Unlike McDonald’s, if you’re order doesn’t come out how you wanted, you can’t take it back.  The joy of having the baby is not primarily to have a wonderful birthing experience.  It is the privilege of raising another human being to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  As surely as that baby will come out, that baby will depend on you for life, authority, love, and learning until death parts you.  It seems to me that planning for the greater task at hand would be a better use of our time and energy and in the end a far more fruitful endeavor.

Abundance Overload

Pastor Ben mentioned this scene tonight in his sermon to illustrate the abundance God has planned for us in Christ (minus the grumpy boss).  I got the giggles in church just thinking about it.  Hope your next few days are this stuffed with blessing 🙂

Days Like This

Crocheting turned Ninja training camp…

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A Salla Story

A Salla Story
by Beppie Spencer (age 3)

Once upon a time there lived 3 little penguins.  Then there was a shark floating in the water and tried to eat them, but a fish  cameand fighted with the shark and tried to eat the penguins, but they got away.

Then a nice polar bear helped them cross the sticky river.  He likes sticky.  An alligator ate their boat.  So they couldn’t live on the boat anymore and they had to build another one.  But first they had to go across a bubble gum river.  There were some sticky fishes in it and sticky sharks in it and sticky alligators in it.

They heard a little girl say “Help! Help!”  Then there was a princess named, Me.  The princess saved the little girl with a rope and then went across the sticky sticks.  And then the sticky bubble gum.   And then my story’s over.

Good Clean Fun

As I’m sure you can imagine, 8 people living and working in one house all day everyday can lead to some pretty big messes.  Even with regular chores and clean-up times, there are just days that the fort building encroaches beyond friendly borders or  the “toy store” is looted and vandalized by munchkins.  Over the years we’ve developed a few strategic “games” to lessen the resistance of the people:

1.  Assign everyone a color to clean up.  The efficient mom will also count this as “school time” for the toddlers.

2.  Shout out random numbers of items to put away;  keep them small and varied.  For my kids who are particularly overwhelmed easily, it really helps to break it in to small chunks.  They report for their next number as soon as they’ve completed their mission.  Again, “school time” it’s counting, isn’t it?

3. Play secret spy clean-up.  Have people try to put certain items away without being seen by someone else.

4. Give them grown up tools to “play” with.  Our little $9 stick vac is a favorite and it’s only sucking up dirt, not spreading it around.  Kids can do a lot with wipes, sponges,  mini-brooms, and dusters.

5.  Clean up train.  Follow Dad around in a line and pick up items as you go delivering them to their proper places.

6. Clean up musical.  Another Chris invention.  Pretend you’re in a musical, singing and dancing to made up songs while you clean.

7. This last one is my favorite.  It’s for the older kids (readers) and takes a little more time to set up; but the pay off is excellent and a lot of fun.  Write out several jobs on separate pieces of paper and write out several surprises on separate pieces of paper, one set for each kid.  Fold the papers and put each set in a separate bowl.  Have them draw one paper at a time and do what it says until the papers are all out.    For example, one kid’s bowl might have:  Put away 20 shirts.   Eat a marshmallow.  Clean trash out of the van.  Pick up 13 toys in the basement.  Kiss Mommy.  Jump on the bed 6 times.  Sweep the schoolroom.  Tell all of your siblings you love them.

Best Chicken Noodle Soup

My mom has had to deal with some of the pickiest eaters on the planet.  Who doesn’t like chicken noodle soup?  Well, me for one.  Until, she developed a few little tricks for her texture sensitive oldest child.   Now it is a family favorite, even for Chris since it’s onion free.

Chicken Stock: I usually use a deli rotisserie chicken, pull the meat off and boil the bones, strain, then add a little soup base.

Simmer in the stock:   Celery Leaves – a handful
Chopped Carrots  – 3 or 4 whole
Garlic – as much as you like, I use tons
Herbs of choice – I use rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, a bay leaf (remove after simmering)

Once Veggies are soft, strain out and puree in a food processor, then add back to the stock.

Bring to a boil.  Boil homemade egg noodles (find in the freezer section) for 20 mins.  Add back the cooked chicken at some point.

Serve with crusty bread.

It’s not an exact recipe, you can substitute until your heart’s content.  The make or break part of this recipe is to puree the veggies and use the homemade egg noodles.  So yummy.

Will Work for Marshmallows

Christmas cards are around the corner, which means it’s time for family pictures.  Once upon a time, long ago, in a far away land,  when I was a photographer, I took a lot of those family pictures.  Between that experience and my own family’s aversion to sitting still, I have developed a few helpful tips to a successful family portrait shoot.

1. Choose clothing that people like.  I still choose what my kids will wear for a picture, I just try to choose things that coordinate that they will be comfortable in.  I mean, do you really want to smile when your wearing  itchy tights and a tickley collar?  Skip busy patterns and my personal pet peeve, the matchy-matchy, but if you love 6 different shades of denim in a row that’s your prerogative.   Oh, and one more p.s., I know dresses on little girls are super cute, but if you have a lot of people to keep track of and you don’t want her underwear as the focal point, might I suggest leggings or pants, the embellishments can go elsewhere.

2. Choose a familiar location or get there early to get the exploring out of the way.  Getting to a brand new park with all sorts of entertaining enticements and then saying ” now sit still and smile,” is not setting small people up to succeed.  Location is not as important as you might think.  Your backyard will probably work just fine.  The less distractions the better.

3.  Early morning or late afternoon are the best lighting times.  Lighting is the art of photography, don’t try to get that warm glow and soft skin tones at high noon, God didn’t make the world that way, fighting against it is vanity.

4.  Start with the group photos while everyone is freshly prepped and excited about the experience.  It doesn’t take long to lose the attention of children and the more people in a picture the more focused cooperation you will need.

5.  Let them play and  follow them around.  Anticipate the smiles and the laughing.  Good candids are not accidental; it takes experience and time to capture the smile that you enjoy everyday.

6. Involve them in the creative process.  Kids have some really great ideas and ownership usually aids excellence.  Even if their ideas bomb, they will be having fun which will create more smiles.

7. Remember kids smell stress like dogs smell fear.  If you are uptight about perfectly ironed skirts or every hair in place you will have to trade that for natural smiles and a fun experience.  Your goal here is not to fabricate memories but to capture them.  If you’re not a formal perfectly posed family in real life you won’t be one in pixels.

8.  Lastly,  in general, rewards are better in this situation than disciplinary action.  Some may call it bribery, I call it “for the joy set before them.”  Our last family session, we set before them a bonfire and s’mores if only they would endure the sitting.  “Reasonable discipline” doesn’t always produce instant smiles (though it should produce lasting ones), but all of my children will smile on command for a roasted marshmallow.