Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Let's Talk- Give-Away!!

Hello!  Yes, I realize that I already told you that I am doing another give-away, but you'll have to wait until the end of this post to get to that!

So last week I talked about some of my favorite things that help me in my daily life, but this week I am going to talk about the things I have had that I found to be not worth the money.  Disclaimer: these are things that I personally did not feel a need for, but you may find the opposite so as always, I would say to do whatever works for you!

-Changing Table
This seems like a nice idea- a separate little table to change your baby, along with handy little shelves for your diapers, wipes, butt cream, etc.  I found this to be a kind of a waste.  First of all, I did not always feel like bringing baby to whatever room the changing table was in and second, kids learn to walk and climb before they learn to use the potty- that means that you are bound to find little Junior covered head to toe in that butt cream, and let me tell you, that stuff is a pain to clean off.  I prefer to change baby wherever I happen to be. If the thought of having your carpet double as a butt cleaning station bothers you, let me assure you that you will experience far more disgusting things with your kids than that.

Ok, I'm only shooting this out there to preggos...I just want you to know that you do not NEED a crib for quite some time.  Several of my kids spent their first couple months sleeping in their car seats, and then moving up to a pack-n-play.  Cribs are not really needed until they outgrow the pack-in-play, which can be as late as 2 years old.  I guess what I am saying is that pack-n-plays are smaller, cheaper, and more portable, so if money or space is an issue, you will be fine for quite a while with no crib.

I hate dressers for kids.  Maybe it's just because I have so many kids, or maybe my kids are just extra destructive, but I much prefer those plastic 3-drawer bins.  Not because they are more sturdy, but because they are more easy to replace then an actual dresser.  I have given dressers a go a couple of times, and each time they were climbed on or treated roughly and ended up breaking.  That said, if you can afford a really nice, solid wood dresser then maybe you will be better off than I was.  I finally gave my son a dresser just a week ago (he is almost 7) and I'm still up in the air if it was a good choice or not.  For the past many years I have used and loved those plastic bins for all my kids.  My philosophy on surviving these early kid years is to exert the least amount of time, money, and energy on things that don't really matter in the long run.

-Separate rooms
This is totally up to your living accommodations, so if you have the rooms then by all means feel free to divvy them up, but know that it's not necessary.  In the early years, it is very hard to have kids in the same room without waking each other up, so you may have to do some finagling in the beginning, but it really does work.  I have 4 boys in one room, ages 9 months-7 years old, and 2 girls in the other room, ages 2 and 4.  The baby sleeps in a pack-n-play and the other boys are on bunk beds.  Honestly, there is rarely ever an issue with someone waking someone else up and the main reason is that they get used to each other.  The kids are used to baby cries so it doesn't phase them, and the baby is used to hearing big kid noises, so he isn't disturbed by it.

-Kiddie potty
I have used a kiddie potty before and I hated it.  It was annoying to have to clean it out every time, and even more annoying to worry about little baby brother or sister getting into it or dismantling it.  I much prefer they just use the regular potty.  My 3 years old gets the step stool and sits right on the big potty seat.  I find that kids will adapt to whatever scenario you give them, so my theory is why not teach them from the beginning to do it in the most convenient way?  If your kid is scared, you can always use those little donut rings that they can just put right on the potty seat...they can put it on before they go and take it down when they're done.

-Little gadgets, tools, etc.
I just got so sick of having a house full of barely used crap!  You can have a baby right now and all you REALLY need to go and get is a car seat, pack-n-play and some diapers.  Then you're good for about 2 years.  Yes, there are some things that really help along the way (like bouncy seats and strollers), but for the most part companies are taking advantage of a HUGE market.  Like the baby bullet- yea, it's adorable, but it's just a mini food processor like the one you probably already have.

Again, I am not discouraging you from ANY of this...I only want to point out that if you are not into spending heaps of money or of having your house be taken over my itty-bitty everythings, then rest assured that you can raise your kids just fine by doing whatever works. :)

Ok, now on the the give-away...I am giving away a $25 gift card to Amazon!  Amazon is cool because you can buy anything from shoes to mp3 tracks, all without leaving your house.  I appreciate you all so much for your amazing feedback and support of this blog.  Last week you all made by blog far surpass the 10,000 hit mark, and I would like to say thank you!

Last time I did a give-away, I picked the winner out of all the people who commented on the blog post.  However, in order to comment, you need a Google plus account, which was annoying.  So this time, I will be picking the winner from the list of anyone who "shares" this blog on facebook.  The key is, you have to go on today's facebook post and then click "share" underneath it.  Facebook keeps track of all the "shares", so it will be very easy to pick a winner from that list...also, I think most of you have facebook, so there are no annoying accounts to create!

I will be announcing the winner next Tuesday, so you have today's post or Friday's post to share in order to be entered (you can share either today's post or Friday's post- or both, which will increase your odds of winning!).

Again, thank you all for your support and I look forward to seeing who the winner is!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ground Zero

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on September 11th.  I remember the moment I found out a plane had slammed into the tower.  I remember watching live as the second plane hit.

It was such a numb, surreal moment in time.  I remember being glued to the news for quite a while, and then walking outside and using my cell phone to call all of my family and friends that lived or may have been in the city.  While very close to home, I did not lose any loved ones that day.  The same cannot be said for many, many others.  I remember the piles of twisted, smoldering metal at the base of what used to be the Twin Towers.  It used to be a sight to see.

Now, it's known as Ground Zero.

Where there once stood not one, but two towers, there now stands nothing but the memory of them.  There is a whole generation of young teenagers who never even knew what they looked like.  Who don't remember what the skyline looked with them standing- who do not understand the pain in looking at the skyline without them.  They do not remember where they were or what they were doing on September 11th.  They were too young to remember.

What happens when everything you have built and worked for comes crashing down?  What happens when one moment your life represents hard work, financial prosperity, and the very investment of your soul- and the next moment it is simply ground zero.  I think about the changes in my life.  The things I have built and the things I have lost.  Trying to sift through the debris and find some remnants to help me remember what it used to look like.  Trying to decide if I should rebuild or create a memorial to the things that used to be.

I'm not sure I want to do either of those things.  I don't want to rebuild, at least not on top of the old foundation.  That was made for a time and a place and a purpose- it was for then.  It is not for now.  However, I also do not want to set up a memorial- I don't want to idolize what used to be, nor do I want to be chained to the things that were, unable to move forward.

But we have to move forward in our lives.  Ground zero is not the only ground on which to build.  It held my hard work and my dreams, and when it came down on me it became just a pile of ground- lifeless; inanimate.  What made the structure of my life so great was not the actual materials or the beauty of it's appearance...what made it great was character used in building it.  The effect it had on the lives around me.  The God who worked on my behalf to have it built.

I realize that I write coming from a perspective of sudden tragedy- that is a little dramatic, but I think you know what I mean.  Maybe there are some of you whose buildings are standing tall.  Maybe your life has been going by wonderfully and the things you have build are still a sight to see...but perhaps you are feeling restless.  There may come a time where your work is finished.  You will stand at your ground zero and look up and see a beautiful building- and then wonder why you suddenly don't feel as excited inside as you once did.

Rebuilding comes in many forms.  Sometimes your world comes crashing down and you must find new ground, and other times the building stands tall but your work is simply done.  It's ok to move on.  It's ok to finish your work, enjoy the view your life has created, and them go and find out what ground God wants to use you to build next.  In the same way, it's ok to grieve the loss of everything you built...but you too also have to move on.  Ground zero does not have to be a bad memory.  Remember, before anything was ever built you stood on ground zero, planning and dreaming about all the things you would do.  You still did those things.  You still worked and prayed, bled and cried, dreamed and inspired.  Take a piece of what once was, or what is finished, and keep it with you as you move on.

Find a new ground zero.  Find new ground and new land to build on.  Find the new dreams and passions he is awakening in your soul.  Find out that God has foreseen the events in your life and is inviting you to join Him in living the next chapter.

Go ahead and find out.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Let's Talk- Survival Gear

I had a hunch that you all would love an inspirational story!  My last post about Chris Niles shot right up to the top 4 most viewed blog posts I have written.  I am not surprised in the least- they are an incredible family and I was honored to write about them.

This past weekend I was feeling really wiped- more so than usual.   Everything hurts, I was having chills and fevers, and my throat was killing me!  Went to the doctor and it turns out I have strep.  I am not surprised- I have become very aware of my body over the years, and I knew something was wrong.  Common sicknesses tend to be a little more intense for me than for some others, mainly because my body and immune system is very weak to being with, so what little strength I have left just disappears.  But Jeff has taken off of work and is helping me with the kids until I regain some strength.

I decided to do something fun today to take my mind off of feeling yucky!  I get a lot of questions asking what things I "cannot live without".  There are some things that really make my life a lot easier, and I have decided to share some of those things with you.  I think next week I am going to do the opposite of this post, and make a list of things that have not really been a necessity for me.  (Maybe I can save some of you the time and money of buying things you may never use!)

So for today...here are some things that help me keep my crazy life somewhat in line:

My quad stroller.  I realize many of you do not need this, but it has been a Godsend for me!  I found this on craig's list and paid about half the retail value.  It is the only way I can go out with all the kids- whether it's grocery shopping or to the doctor.  When you have several little ones, it is imperative that you are able to keep them "contained" when you go out.

Found this little gem at Walmart one day and snatched it right up!  It is a toothpaste dispenser- no batteries needed, you simply stick your toothbrush in and it hits a little button and squeezes a small blob of toothpaste out.  Perfect for kids- no more toothpaste covered counters!

"Life Skills" charts- Believe it or not the kids actually look forward to getting one of these on their 3rd birthday.  No, I am not trying to trick them by calling it Life Skills instead of chores- I am calling it what it is.  Making your bed, putting away your laundry- those are all things they need to learn to do for themselves.  The ones who cannot read have little pictures drawn next to them- it's just a great reminder for them about what they need to get done.  I don't have to nag them, they just know that after breakfast and dinner they have things to do.  This will definitly evolve and change as they grow, but for now at their ages it's where we start.  And remember parent's, chores are a great thing for kids!  Teaches them ownership of their home and things, teaches them responsibility, and teaches them the importance of contribution (and it helps you out as well!))

My beloved menu!  Keeps me sane and keeps me from stressing out over what's for dinner (and breakfast, snack, etc.)...also helps the older kids know what to expect.  

Special, no-spill cups for the older kids.  My older ones are too old for sippy cups, but the little ones would always grab and spill a normal cup.  So I found older kid type cups that do not easily spill, and each kid has their own.  No forgetting whose cup is whose, or wasting drinks.  They are responsible for their cups- no cup, no drink.  We have a spot on the counter for them to put the cups.

Mason jars!  I just love mason jars or other cute glass jars.  They are so pretty and make storing things so much cuter!  I keep candy on mason jars, and I also keep recipe ingredients in mason jars.  For example, the jar on the left is scones- I take a bunch of mason jars and put in all the dry ingredients, then I write on top what wet ingredients need to be added- poof! Quick, easy, ready to go homemade pancakes, scones, cookies- whatever.

Bliss!  Love my stand mixer.  I have wanted one for so long, and now that I have one it did not disappoint!  Makes baking SO much easier!  Just keep adding ingredients while it mixes it all up for me.  It kneads bread dough which is really annoying to do by hand.  A little tip- buy used.  I know the new colored ones are pretty, but of you don't have a left arm to give up to buy one, then check out Craig's list or e-bay.  I got this bad boy for less than $100 on ebay- and it's one of the old models with a large bowl, all metal parts and crazy strong motor.  Well worth the money I spent on it!

We call these "cubbies" in our house.  Once you turn 4, you get to have your own cubby.  This is good for people with several little kids, or if your kids do not have their own rooms.  It is their own personal space that nobody is allowed to enter.  It is kept in a room that little ones cannot go (for us it is the school room, and it used to be our room).  This gives the kids a place to keep their special papers or toys- really anything they don't want to share or have other's hands' on.  I promote a lot of sharing and a lot of being together with my kids, but I do feel it is important for each child to have their own personal space that they can call their own and do not have to share.

This is in our mud room, but it used to just be in the house- each kid gets their own shoe cubby.  I got so sick of shoes being all over the place or lost, that they each have their own cubby and all shoes must be kept there.  No more lost shoes. 

I'm sure you all have seen this before- it's an apple corer and cutter.  Takes an apple and removes the core and cuts it into 8 pieces, all with one quick motion.  Brilliant.

Yea, I know this is a pizza cutter- but I use it for cutting a lot of things.  Waffles, pancakes, sandwiches, quesadillas- whatever.  For some reason I find it faster and easier than a knife for most things.

This is kind of hard to see, but it is a kid proof latch for glass sliding doors.  It has a really strong adhesive, and you stick it way up high right where the door is about to slide open- when the flap it up, the door cannot move or it hits the flap.  When you push the flap down, it is flush against the glass and the door can slide right over it.  I am terrified of the thought that one of my little ones will open the door and walk out, so this is a must for me.  Those wooden posts you stick in the bottom on the runner are no good ebcause the kids can just pick them right up- and even locks on the handle can be figured out.  This gives me peace of mind- I found it online.

My handy dandy marker board.  I love this thing- I keep it right in the most central location in our house, which is the dining room.  I use it for lessons, Bible time, or if the kids need to share something and I need to write their names in a list so they know what order to go in, lol.  It's just great to have where everyone can see it.  Good for messages, displaying artwork- really anything.  I love my board.

This is right up there with the apple cutter- it is a hot dog cutter!  Put the hot dog in the bottom part, then press the dog piece on top and push down- and there you have a bunch of little hot dog pieces.  Yes, I realize it is not that hard to cut up a hot dog- but seriously, I have 5 kids who eat table food and it gets really tedious and time consuming to cut up 10 hot dogs!

This is where I keep toys organized that have a lot of pieces.  I do have a toy bin, but that is only for large toys that are only one piece.  Each color bin is for a different category (brown is for balls and mitts, purple is for people and army men, blue is for baby toys, etc.)  I really hate little pieces of toys all over the place or worse, at the bottom of the toy bin never to be played with because the kids can never find all the pieces!  Trust me when I say you can train your kids to clean up according to category- my 3 year old knows exactly what toys go in which bins.

Hope this helps a little!  Bottom line is that you need to find your groove and what works best for you.  Not all things work for everyone, so you need to try things out and see what you like and what you don't like- and remember the ultimate goal is making your life work for YOU.  If your life works great with no schedules, menus, or toy organizers, then please don't feel like you have to fit into some kind of "this is what mommies do" role.  I do these things because it keeps me sane, not because I feel like I "should".  It's your life and family...find out what works for you!  

Be blessed!  See you Friday. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Meeting Chris Niles

It is so nice to back behind the computer!  While I missed writing, I am so glad my husband wrote the last 2 posts- I enjoy reading what he had to say, and I know you all enjoyed it as well!  I am back from my trip to my parents house and will be leaving in a few minutes to pick up my boys from the airport.  It was a very nice break, but I am more than ready to have my family under one roof!  

I did enjoy my trip to my parent's once I got there.  Just in case you haven't heard, I am willing to re-tell this story despite how stupid it makes me look!  I am notoriously bad with directions- I am confident I would not be able to navigate out of a paper bag if it came down to that (thanks Bill).  But in the wonderful age of the GPS, it doesn't matter if you know where to go, because the handy little computer just tells you.  I live 4 hours from my parents, so when I put in their address on the GPS I already knew what time it would tell me I would be arriving...no surprise there.  So off I went...now let me just say that the weather was horrible...very literally the worst conditions I have ever driven in.  I counted more than 10 cars off the road, 2 ambulances at 2 different scenes, and nobody on the thruway was doing more than 40mph.  But after a couple of hours, the weather let up.  When I was about a half hour from my parents’ house, the GPS told me to take 495 south....no problem.  But wait- 495 only runs east or west on long island.  And why haven't I gone over any bridges?  It was then- after 4 hours of driving- that I realized something was terribly wrong.  Turns out I was in Massachusetts- and still 4 hours away from my parents house!  I was a hot mess of tears and it took me a solid 20 minutes to calm down long enough to figure out what the heck I was going to do!  At that point, the easiest thing to do was to go straight to my sister's house in CT.  We were going to go to her house that night anyway to see her in a play, so it wasn’t a real big game changer.  So after 8 hours of driving, I arrived at my sister's house, which is only 3 hours away from my original starting point.  Nice.

Yes, I realize I am a loser, but oh well...we went to her play, went out to eat after and then back to my parent's house to officially begin my "vacation".  As per doctors orders, I basically did nothing.  My parents bought me snacks and candy and set me up like a queen on the couch.  It was so nice to just sit and not have to get up!  But something happened the night before I left for my trip, which gave me some much needed encouragement.

I was up at 2am the night before I left, which is not really a new thing for me.  Sometimes the pain keeps me from falling asleep at night.  I took some medication but was waiting for it to kick in.  While I was laying there, I was playing Ruzzle on my phone.  It's a word game, kind of like Boggle.  You can challenge people you know or you can play random people from all around the world.  When you find someone who you are evenly matched with, you tend to keep playing with that person a lot because it makes it more fun.  So I was playing one such person when I noticed that he was up and playing at the same time as me.  Curious, I asked him what time zone he was in...and from there we started small talk, which resulted in me "meeting" Chris Niles.  I needed to meet him...and I am going to see to it that you meet him to.

I have been tired lately.  Tired of being in pain every moment of every day.  Tired of losing the ability to perform basic functions.  Tired of the doctors appointments and medications.  Tired of watching my world change and slip out of my control.  I have just been so physically and mentally tired.  A sick body is nothing- but a sick spirit can be fatal.  I started this blog to document my spiritual journey, but when my illness degenerated this blog turned in to so much more.  I deal with a myriad of feelings and emotions- this is not the path I foresaw for my life, but it did not take God by surprise.  I need to say that- sometimes I need to say it over and over and over.  Maybe this blog gets redundant to you, but to me it's a necessity of the soul.  

Courage and perseverance have always been important to me. That's why I need you to meet Chris Niles.  On Chris's profile picture there is a picture of him in what appeared to be a wrestling match.  When I asked him if he wrestles, he told me that he used to do Ju Jitzu but that two years ago he had an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.


Just like that.

Of course there is more too it.  In fact, he has quite a story which I will link you to at the end of this post.  I was supposed to meet Chris...whether it was to pray for him, for him to encourage me, or for me to share his story on this blog- I don't really know.  I just know that Chris reminded me of why I have a blog named "Let's Roll."  He reminded me that it doesn't matter whether or not you win the fight- what matters is that you FIGHT.  

I cannot express just how much I needed to meet him.  He is so normal...he was an active guy with a wife and two sons and now he is in a wheelchair.  There are things he may never get to do with his kids that he always thought he would.  His dreams and ideas the rest of his life were changed in an instant- but it did not change who he is inside.  He is witty, funny, and from what I can tell a bit sarcastic.  He has mentally adjusted to his new life, and that is where I am struggling.  Instead of accepting reality and moving forward on a new path, I find myself unable to adjust.  I am in denial about what I am no longer physically able to do, and that is keeping me from moving on.  I am standing here banging my head on the wall over and over and over, trying to find a way around my reality.  Unless you have faced something like this you cannot truly understand just how hard this fight really is.  But Chris understands...and has fought through it.

I have no idea what comes next.  You are catching me on a very raw day- and one thing I promised from the start was that I would never put on a mask for you.  And maybe that means I am still here.  You know, I was excited all week to write this blog today.  A spark was lit inside me when I watched Chris’ story, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you.  But as I was typing, some other stuff has come out as well. I think before I can dig in and start moving forward I first needed to acknowledge where I am coming from. Chris may never do some things with his kids, but there are far more important things he will get to do with them.  Not many kids get to see their fathers live out strength and integrity day after day.  Not many kids see their fathers work, sweat, and bleed out of sheer love and devotion to them.  Not many kids have Superman as their dad.  When life hits you hard you really only have two choices- you can fall down or you can stay down.  

Listen friends, things happen.  Sometimes people let you down. Sometimes you get stuck in a rut.  Sometimes you get sick.  Sometimes trees fall down right on top of you and paralyze you.  

So what do you do?  That part is entirely up to you.  But I will say this- Chris is popping wheelies in his wheelchair.  He is working his butt off day after day after day in therapy to try and regain the use of his body.  He even occasionally beats me in Ruzzle.  He inspires anyone who meets him- not with his words, but with his life.  It doesn't matter if he ever walks again- he is already running.  

"The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?" Proverbs 18:14

This is what is comes down to.  I spend a lot of time and energy beating my head against the wall, trying to find some way around my reality.  But it is not the condition of my body that determines what kind of life I will have- it is the condition of my spirit.  I am not going to be able to be sustained on catchy phrases, positive thinking, or even sheer will- and neither will you.  A house will only stand on a firm foundation, and in the same way, a man can only truly stand on the Rock.  
It always comes down to Jesus, doesn't it?  I write post after post, but the day it stops coming down to Him is the day this blog is done.  I need to stop trying to figure out how this is all going to work and start praying and reading the Bible.  I need to stop trying to take my future out of His hands, and start learning how to rest in the fact that He saw my life before the foundations of the Earth were laid and He still has a plan for me and my life.  

So what about you?  Are you banging your head against the wall?  Please know that He loves you.  He truly loves you and while it sounds corny, He does have a plan and a purpose for your life.  You were not created in vain nor is there anything you can do to separate yourself from the love of God.  He is always only a whisper away if you would but call on Him.  You passion and your purpose is not measured by human standards- they are measured by God's, and He looks at things much different than man does.  He looks at the heart.

Listen, this thing is far from over.  I’m only just starting, and you better believe I intend on finishing.  Life may knock you down, but for the man who spends his life on his knees, it's not a far fall.  Just gotta keep getting up.

Let's roll, Chris.

*Here is the site where you can watch Chris' full story: http://vimeo.com/m/50347850
You can also find him on facebook, and if you google Chris Niles New Castle, PA you will see many articles and updates on Chris and his family.  Thank you Chris and Jennifer for letting me talk about you today...and even more so, thank you for never giving up.  We are all praying for you and cheering you on.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Let's Talk...Interview with my Husband

Good morning!  As you know, my husband Jeff wrote on my blog this past Friday.  I was so thrilled to have him write something, as you only ever get my words and my perspective.  I love my husband so much and I eagerly anticipated reading his post...and as usual, his words grounded me and reminded me to keep my eyes on the Lord.  
Today is Tuesday which is the day for chit-chatting on my blog, and I am excited that Jeff agreed to be interviewed!  I compiled the questions as well as I could, and I think they are a pretty good bunch of questions.  Some are funny, and while I told him to go ahead and please be honest, he was still (mostly) gracious when answering questions about me!  
So...here is everything you wanted to know about a father of 6!

  1. What’s it like having 6 young kids?
I would describe it as a beautiful mess.  It is exhausting and yet extremely rewarding.  I see each of my kids as a blessing from God.  On a practical note, my favorite time of the day is bedtime, lol.  

  1. What was your wife like when she was pregnant?
I would say there were many moments that I feared for my life.  Pregnant wives are scary- they are like an emotional barracuda.  I tried to survive by running out for food orders whenever requested, and sometimes even if it wasn’t requested just to cover my bases.  The last 2 pregnancies, when she was going for a drug free birth, she nearly bored me to death watching birthing videos and documentaries.  As the man, you are pretty much just trying to get through it as quickly as possible.  The sooner it’s over the better it is for the both of us!

  1. Did you watch the births of your kids?  What did you think about labor and delivery?
I wasn’t sure with my first that I was going to want to watch any of it, but it was the most amazing day if my life and I ended up watched the whole thing.  It was a miracle.  The next five, I didn’t really have any interest in watching.  I just wanted to see them once they were out, not so much the actual “birth moment”, lol.  But I always had tears for every single one of their births.  There is nothing quite like it.  As far as labor goes, a lot of our kids came at tough times of the day- I usually had little to no sleep right when she went into labor, so I was always exhausted.  All labors are nerve wracking for the husband because you are worried about your wife and the baby.  But the last 2 births- the drug free ones- I was very excited watching because I knew how hard my wife worked and how much she wanted a natural birth, so it was great to watch her achieve her goal.  I personally like to sit back and watch the midwives, nurses and doulas be the main people- I prefer to be a quiet support (aka, sleep in the chair until baby comes out).

  1. Do you help out with the kids a lot at home?
Oh, this question feels like a trap.  My wife can write her rebuttal next week, lol.  From my perspective, we have fairly well defined roles.  As long as the kids are awake and I am home, I know that I need to parent with my wife and I try to stay active in that.  That being said, Ashley does almost all the dishes, cooking and laundry- sometimes to my shame, lol.  I tend to help a lot with diapers, changing the kids clothes, clearing the table, and taking care of a chore or two that my wife doesn’t like to do (garbage, recyclables, some light house cleaning).  I try to be involved in my kids lives as much as possible- I always kiss them goodbye before I leave, I tuck them in bed and pray for them.  One of my main goals that I am working on is to establish a consistent time of family worship and prayer.  

  1. What’s your wife like in real life?  Is she the same as she seems on her blog?
I think my wife is very “what you see is what you get”, which is why I think it’s a great blog and why I think it is such a well received blog- because it’s pretty much unfiltered.  One of my wife’s old bosses once described her as “sugar and spice”- very accurate.  She is sincerely sweet and can also be spicy, and I think that comes out in her blog.  If she’s ticked off, you’ll hear it in her writing.  I am a much more private person than my wife, but she is very transparent and people respond to that.  She is passionate for God, has spiritual depth, strong convictions, and is a real fighter.  She inspires me in my life and her writing is just a natural extension of who she is.

  1. What’s your best piece of advice to husbands?
Honestly the best advice I have for husbands is to be willing to say you’re sorry- a lot, lol.  I work very hard to maintain a strong friendship with my wife.  We don’t ever let fights linger- I forgive and ask for forgiveness quite a bit.  I need to always check myself- it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, I need to make sure I am treating my wife right.  If you are willing to do those things it allows you to properly lead in the marriage.  It really is laying your life down and loving your wife like Christ loves the church. You have to model that behavior if you want a good marriage and it takes a lot of patience on both sides. Each person has to give 100%. Ultimately if you are always working on yourself as man and also working on your relationship with God, then some of these things will fall into place a little more naturally.  But it is a lot of work personally and relationally.  You have to really be willing to sacrifice- you can’t be afraid of that.  But it should be- and it is- the most rewarding relationship we can have on this earth.  My wife and I say all the time how amazed we are at how great our marriage is- I am very thankful for it.  

  1. What’s your best piece of advice to fathers?
I feel like I am still learning on this one.  One of my biggest prayers to God is that He would help me to be an incredible father to my kids.  A fear of mine is allowing the busyness of work and the home become an excuse to not put in the effort it takes to be a father who is truly present in my kids lives.  I want to know my kids individually and I want them to know me.  As much work as it seems like it is right now whie they are little, I lnow I am going to blink and they are going to leaving the house.  I don’t really know how to accomplish this, but I know it needs to be at the top of my prayer list.  Several years ago a good friend of mine passed away.  Landen was a really great guy who truly loved and served the Lord.  After he passed, I sat with his father and asked him if he had any advice- I wanted to know how he raised such a great man.  His answer has always stuck with me and is what I strive to do with my kids.  
He said he did these three things:
-We always kept the Word of God before them
-We let our kids see us make mistakes and just be real people
-We let them see the power of the Holy Spirit

  1. What is the funniest incident you have had as a father?
I think the big red clown van I have to drive around is pretty funny.  This proves that a father of 6 young kids needs to have a sense of humor!

I hope you enjoyed hearing from my husband this week!  He is not only my best friend and love of my life, but he is the man whose example I strive to follow as I watch him follow Christ.  I am so thankful to have him in my life, and I think he was a great sport to participate in this!!

On a separate note, I had an incredible experience this past weekend and I am really looking forward to talking about it with you on Friday.  Until then, I hope you have a wonderful week!

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Word From My Husband

        Let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Jeff Tyler, Ashley’s husband and the father to the six children you hear so much about on this blog.  I’m 33 years old and I currently work as a staff pastor in the city that I was born in, Amsterdam, NY.  I also work in a warehouse about 30 hours a week to support my family.  Many of you have been reading my wife’s blog this past year, so you know that she is an amazing woman and a gifted writer.  I am an avid follower of her writing as well and often find strength and inspiration in her words, even though they are often about me and our family. I will not pretend to be a writer like she is but I do hope to add something with my words today as I contribute to her blog with something personal and from the heart.
As I have thought and even prayed for a word to share with this audience I have thought about the many things that Ashley has shared about our personal journey of faith and trials.  Most of you know that she is battling a chronic and painful physical ailment that affects her every day.  You may know that after moving from downtown Albany after 5 years of pastoral ministry, we have had to walk through an often dark season here, seemingly filled with more questions than answers for us as to “where God is” in all of this.  You know that we’ve had 6 children in the last 6 years and spend a lot of our time juggling diapers and bottles as we drive around in our infamous red 12 passenger van.  I’ve worked countless 16 hour days since we moved to Amsterdam between pastoral work, cleaning the building, and then going into my second job at the Walmart Distribution Center.  I’ve kissed my wife and kids goodbye at breakfast saying “see you tomorrow morning” many times.  In all honesty I have worked some late nights of hard manual labor in the warehouse in tears, later driving home at 2am with my eyes literally crossing from exhaustion.  All of this while trying to honestly and sincerely follow the call of God on our lives.  We are here because we feel God has asked us to come.  These moments can bring you to a real point of breaking.  You start having some honest times of prayer with your Heavenly Father.   Conversations with God begin to take place that aren’t often uttered from behind a pulpit or in front of a group of people.  I have come to know what the silence of God sounds like.  It can be one of the hardest things we face- at least it has been for me.  These paths that life leads us on are rarely what we envisioned when God put His hand on our lives and put dreams in our hearts.  
Yet even having said all that, and thinking about some of the things we have experienced, that is not my focus.  I’m not whining or looking for sympathy. If the truth be told, I think my heart is changing in my view of these things.  I have no brilliant quote or a cute cliche to add at the end of my lament to tell you that “it all works for the good”.  No, these things, when allowed to bring you to your knees before the One who authored your very existence, tend to leave you wanting to say less.  I am humbled.  
But this isn’t a humbled because of a hard situation or a station in life.  This is the humbled that comes because your starting to see that God is bigger than you thought.  I am humbled because this Jesus is bigger than the silence.  The God who saved me as a 21 year old drug addict and put His grace upon my life is still faithfully guiding me in my today.  He’s still calling me to follow Him and though the path seems to have gotten harder, He is still calling.  I am humbled because the silence of God will always turn into intimacy with Him.  I’m humbled because I strive when I am tested and I complain when its not my will.  I’m humbled that He loves me enough to continually bless me in spite of all that.  I’m humbled that I need the test.
I’ll close my time with you with this thought- I heard a man of God say once, “Could it be that we are asking God to deliver us from the very things He is using to make us like Him?” I am in awe of the faithfulness of Jesus.  His Word is true, His voice is strong, His ways are perfect, and with His help, I will trust Him with all that I have and all that I am. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Let's Talk- Meet the Family

Hello!  Yesterday I dropped my two oldest kids off at the airport and sent them to Florida!  I am very excited for them, as I know they will have a wonderful time, but I also am going to miss them so much!  

Today's blog I am going to introduce you to my family and tell you a little bit about each of us.  I figured this would help put some faces to the people in my life I am always blogging about, and it also will keep me from missing my boys if I am looking at their pictures and talking about them!

Allow me to introduce my family:

This little cutie pie is David.  He is 9 months old and has big blue eyes.  He is a very sweet, easy baby but he also is very focused.  He is always ready to go go go, and seems to have a very decisive personality.  Everyone loves holding him and kissing him.

This little peanut is Ryza, and she is almost 2 years old.  She is very tiny and petite, but what she lacks in size she makes up for in personality.  She is incredibly social once she decides she likes you.  She is fun-loving, active, smart, and can fill the whole day with her personality.  She is the family pet- everyone dotes on her!

This little clown is Johnny.  He is a blonde hair, blue-eyed 3 year old.  He is very affectionate and very emotional.  He feels life to the fullest, and loves to laugh and make others laugh.  He is a true clown.  He also has a strong sense of justice, and comes in to cuddle with me every single night.

This little princess is Natalie.  She is a very quiet 4 year old, but once she is comfortable with you she will talk your ear off.  She is quiet and sedate, but very clever.  She watches and listens, and makes her moves in a very calculated way.  She loves to sing and be a princess.  She does things in her own time, and will not be rushed...and as such, she gives her affection sparingly, making all the sweeter when she does.

This is my special Joey.  He is 5 years old and an absolute joy, and I am better for knowing him.  He is unique, and everything he does is done his own way.  Nothing he does makes sense until you enter his world- and then you realize that he is incredibly smart and thinks of things that most don't.  He is fair and compassionate, and only needs to be told something one time before it's locked into his brain forever.  He is silly and serious, and everyone who meets him feels instantly drawn to him.

This is Anthony.  He is almost 7 years old and is my first born.  He is a model in all things.  He is smart, funny, kind, and out-going.  He loves people, reading, and is always trying to improve himself.  He is incredibly smart, and is currently using a 3rd grade curriculum.  He loves to read his Bible and has a simple love and devotion to the Lord and his family.  He is a great athlete and excels at everything he sets his mind to.  He parents the other kids, both disciplining and teaching them all the while showing them the utmost love and care.  He is a wonderful boy.

This is Jeff, the love of my life.  He is 33 and is my best friend.  He is incredibly smart, and never stops working to be a better man.  He reads his Bible every single day, no matter how busy or tired he is.  His prayer life astounds me, and he practices what he preaches whether or not anyone is there to see it.  He loves Jesus more than anything, and serves Him wholeheartedly.  He is an amazing husband who looks out for my needs above his own, and who is active in the raising and caring for our kids.  Despite his stoic demeanor, he is actually quite funny.  I have grown and become a better Christian, wife, and mother because of his love and example in my life.  He is a man worth following.

And this is me.  But we have already met. ;)

So this is my amazing family.  I cannot believe how blessed I am.  The goodness of the Lord astounds me every day.  Thank you for letting me introduce you to my family- they are an incredible bunch.

I hope you have a great week, and remember- this Friday my husband will be sharing from his heart.  I am so looking forward to it, and I know I will be both challenged and encouraged by whatever he has to say.  And then on Tuesday, I will be sharing the interview with Jeff- all the things you want to know about a man with 6 kids!

Can't wait!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Things To Come...

Hello!  I have been very busy this past week, and I am not really going to blog today...but I know you will forgive me when you hear what I have in store for you!

My 2 oldest boys are flying to Florida on Monday!!  My in-laws have a condo in Florida and are taking the boys for 10 days to visit and go to Disney World!  I am so excited that the boys are going to have this wonderful opportunity, because I know they are going to have an incredible time and have memories for life- but I am still nervous and sad!  I will miss them so very much, and of course as a mom I will be worried about all kinds of nonsense.  But as a mother, I need to learn when to shelter and when to let them experience.  My kids are very close with their grandparents, and I know that this is something that will be great for them, and so I must put aside my desire to hold them and never let go.  So I have been very busy getting stuff they need, pulling out all their summer clothes, and packing their suitcases.

I also have a trip coming up myself.  I made a plan to have a mini vacation- I am going to be going to visit my parents on Long Island for about 5 days.  AND I AM GOING ALONE!  I coordinated the boy's trip so that while I am gone the boys will be gone, and this way Jeff will only be home alone with 4 kids as opposed to all 6.  He is more than able to handle all of them, but it will be much easier for him to have less.  I have grand plans of putting on my jammies and not leaving the couch for 5 straight days.  My parents are going to spoil me and my mom already started stocking up on my favorite candy.  As much as I will miss my kids and Jeff, I am looking forward to a much needed few days of rest and visiting with my parents.

I have made some plans for this blog over the next week, and I think you will like it.  I really want to completely rest while I am away, so I will not be blogging- but my husband will!  So here's how it is going to go down: I will be doing my normal Let's Talk blog this Tuesday, and then my husband will be guest blogging on Friday, followed by my interview with him on that next Tuesday.  I think you will REALLY enjoy both his personal writing and his interview.  You have been following my journey through this time in our lives, and now you will get a chance to hear it from my husband's perspective.  I told him to just pray and share whatever is on his heart.  He is an amazing husband, father, and man of God, so I know you will be ministered to by what he shares.

I hope this all makes sense.  I am so excited for my boy's trip and for my own trip.  It will be a very strange feeling to have my family scattered from each other, but it is not long and I will be anticipating when we are all home together again.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I will see you Tuesday!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Let's Talk- Week to Week

Whenever I take all the kids grocery shopping with me, I always get stares and comments.  Usually, they are on the positive side- old ladies will smile and say "God bless you!", while others will say "Are they all yours?! Wow, that wonderful!".  Every so often, the tone, comments, and vibes are negative.  Today was one of those days.  I don't expect a parade or to have flowers thrown at my feet, but do you really need to ask me if I'm crazy right in front of my kids??  Arg.

So anyway, that really has nothing to do with anything, but today I am going to give you a list of all the things I go through/how much we use in a week.  I've been keeping a mental tally in my head the past could of weeks, because I get asked a lot about how much milk, diapers, etc. I go through in a week.  So here it is!  This is what my family of 2 adults and 6 kids goes through in one week:

Milk- About 4 gallons

Toilet Paper- about 2/3 rolls (the potty trained kids are mostly boys)

Diapers (including pull-ups)- about 80

Apples & bananas- between 30 and 35

Bottles of juice- One big one (128oz or something)  We only go through one because they drink water
                          all day.  They only get a beverage at dinnertime.

Cereal- I used to only do cereal 2/3 times a week, but with my health I have gone to maybe 5 or 6 times
            a week.  So now we go though about 4 or 5 boxes of regular size cereal per week.

Bread- about 3-4 loaves of bread

Cheese- Maybe a pound/pound and a half of american cheese and a couple bags of shredded cheese

Laundry- I do about 10 loads a week

Ok, here is a list of how much we use/make at a time:

Grilled Cheese- I need to make about 10/12 grilled cheeses for one meal

Bread- Whether it's toast or sandwiches, I use almost a whole loaf for one meal- maybe 4/5th of the loaf

Eggs- I use at least a dozen eggs when making scrambled eggs, more if Jeff is eating too

Pizza- My kids can polish off a whole large pie themselves, so we need to get 2 pies if me and Jeff
           want to eat too

My oldest (who turns 7 in June) has been eating way more lately- maybe it's a growth spurt or something, but I just know he keeps asking for more food at every meal!  I can't even imagine what this list will look like 5 years from now when they are all older...or when they are teenagers!!!  Just reading this may seem crazy, but remember this didn't happen over night.  It was a slow progression over the last 6 years, so it's normal to me and not as crazy as it would be if one day you just had to make this much food.

Stay tuned, because in 2 weeks I am going to have a guest interview...my husband!  I will ask him any questions you want to know about a father of 6.  So if you have something you would like me to ask him, please send your questions to my e-mail artyler@mail.com or facebook message me.  I have a few questions I want to ask him, and I am very curious to see what his answers will be!  It will be fun to get a man's perspective on life with a lot of little ones, so I think it will be a fun week.

Hope you had a wonderful Easter, and I will see you Friday!