Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Color Coded Dishes

I’ve been a member of the MOMYS (Mothers of Many Young Siblings) email groups for many years. It has been a lifesaver for me many times. There are several very simple tips I have learned to help out with the everyday chaos of raising a big family.  One of those is color coded dishes. Back before I color coded my dishes, I often had the issue of kids leaving their dishes out on the table or counter, instead of putting them in the dishwasher. And, inevitably, no one knew whose dish it was. Or should I say the dishes belonged to the ever elusive Not Me.

For our dishes, we chose Fiesta ware. Since, this company has been around for a long time, I know that I can get replacement dishes, when necessary. Being a little OCD, I like to know I can get the same dishes, so my stack of dishes doesn’t look mismatched. Breakage is certain to happen, but even with tile floors, it doesn’t happen too often. When we had preschoolers, they used plastic plates. Now everyone has ceramic plates, but I do keep some plastic plates in stock for guests.

For a long time, we used plastic drinking cups – usually Tupperware, because, again, I knew I could replace the cups. But, we are using plastic less and less, so this is our new drinkware. I tried several things to distinguish one glass from another.  I used little stick on drink charms, but they didn’t stay well. Rubberbands were too hard to find in different colors. So, I ordered drink bands from  They work great. We just leave them on the glass and put it in the dishwasher at night, so everyone’s clean glass is ready to go in the morning. The glasses on the left are clean because those kids spent the night at Grammy's and haven't been home all day. The ones on the right are dirty, and I didn't feel like washing them for the picture. Just being real. :)

 With preschoolers, I used a silicone case for the small mouth 8 oz mason jar. These are made for baby bottles, but they fit great on those 8 oz jars.  And, they saved the jars from many a fall onto the ceramic tile in our great room.

So, now I know who left their dish on the table so they can take care of it. And, we know whose cup is whose, so we minimize the number of cups used each day.  Just one of the little things that makes my life easier.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Get the Leaven Out

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. (Exodus 12:14-15)

Today, we began preparations to have leavening out by Passover.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I don’t spend a lot of time cleaning. I like to plan in advance so we don’t have a lot of waste when it comes time to remove the leaven. I start by going through all of our cupboards and pulling out any items that have leavening in them.  I set them on the counter in a crate so everyone can be reminded that they need to be eaten by Passover.  This is the crate I set out today. We have a particularly large amount of goodies because we just went camping last weekend, so we have lots of leftovers.

Then, I go through the refrigerators and freezers. I make a list of leavened items that are in there. When preparing food, I refer to the list to get rid of these items by Passover.  This year, I happen to have a whole, unopened bag of yeast from Costco. Hmmm. Poor planning there. Oh well.

In the meantime, I minimize the leavened products that I buy. We can go through 2 loaves of bread in a couple of days, so I will buy bread up until a few days before. But, I won’t buy bread crumbs (or yeast) or anything that would take weeks or months to use.

Right before our Passover celebration, we throw out anything left in the crate and anything left on the list. I don’t store my leavening at someone else’s home or hang it on the other side of my fence and take it back after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I throw it away. I get rid of it. I remove it from my life. And, I try to plan it so that I’m not being wasteful. Financially, we have lived in plenty and we have lived in want. But, we have never had difficulty replacing the leavening that we need after the Feast of Unleavened Bread is over. 
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor 5:6-8)
A question I always have to ask is, “what is leaven”?  The answer is not so clear cut in today’s world. In Bible times, they made a sourdough type bread. They would save a bit of their leavened dough to use as leavening for the next batch they made.  They didn’t have instant yeast (So, they wouldn’t have to throw away a whole Costco sized bag.) or baking powder. 

So, what do I actually need to get rid of? I don’t get rid of flour or grain. I have no problem keeping rice or pasta. They don’t puff up. They swell up with the water they are cooked in. I had actually never even heard of getting rid of that for Unleavened Bread until the last several years. I used to get rid of cream of tartar (church rules), but since that does not leaven on it’s own, I don’t get rid of it anymore. I will make and eat angel food cake. That is just air whipped into eggs. If you leave it on the counter unbaked for long enough, the air bubbles will deflate. True leaven will puff up when left alone on the counter. So, I have wondered for years if I should get rid of baking soda and baking powder. I’m not sure that is a true leavening. If I make a cake batter and let it sit on the counter, the “leavening” action will dissipate. So, again, this is not a true leaven. For now, I still get rid of baking soda and powder and foods made with it. So far, I have erred on the side of caution for this one.

So, I get rid of leavening agents – yeast, baking powder, baking soda – and any products made with those leavening agents. That’s pretty simple. Whatever you decide to get rid of, read the labels of the foods you have in your home. You would be surprised how many products contain leavening. Stuffed pasta usually contains bread crumbs. Grape Nuts, though hard as a rock, contain yeast. (At least they did 20 something years ago when we sat down to eat it for breakfast during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.) Don’t forget any candy you have with cookies in it, like Twix, Kit Kat or Ferrer Rocher. (When you buy a big box of this as Passover treat, you will need to eat it beforehand when your kids read the ingredients. Ask me how I know.)

Removing leaven is an object lesson, and a great one, at that. Leaven pictures sin. We want to get it out of our life – completely. We don’t want to tuck it away just to bring it back in later. We don’t want to hold onto it because it might cause financial hardship. It’s everywhere. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s well hidden.

We have found that when I stay home, I find it easy to avoid leaven. (Although, no matter how hard I try, I always find some leavened product or child's leftovers that I didn't get rid of.) We don’t have it in our house, so, I would have to make an effort to eat it. As my husband goes out in the world to earn a living, he has a much harder time remembering. It’s everywhere, and the world doesn’t think twice about partaking. When he goes to his supplier to get materials for a job, there are donuts sitting out. When I didn’t send breakfast and lunch with him, it was way too easy to stop and get a bagel or a sandwich without even thinking about it. Just a reminder that when we surround ourselves with righteousness it is easy to live in obedience, but, when we are in the world, we have to be on guard because it is always a battle.

So, when God asks us to remove the leavening from our home, it’s not a hardship. It’s a lesson. It is many lessons. Every year there is something new to be learned. And, we have the added bonus of having a clean pantry.

Monday, March 31, 2014

No Spring Cleaning

It’s Passover season! I mean, seriously Passover season. Not Passover is in 3 months season. But, Passover is really close season. HalleluYah! The new moon has come and we have less than 2 weeks. Passover has been on our mind for a couple of months. But, now we’re in the serious preparation phase. 

Since I’ve been blessed to celebrate Yah’s appointed times all my life, this will be my 49th Passover. We have been rehearsing this for a long time now.  And, over the years, we have done many different things. There were many years where we spent hours and days cleaning our house - Spring cleaning to remove the leaven.  It was a tradition of the church we grew up in. People even cleaned their windows and such preparing for Passover. Other than the natural yeast that is in the air, I’m not sure how much leaven I will find on the windows. I've even cleaned out my linen closets in preparation, but I’m pretty sure no one eats in the linen closet. At least I've never found any leaven in there.

So, we searched the scriptures for instruction on Passover preparation. There isn't a lot of instruction on preparing. Exodus 12:15 says: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses.” It doesn't say “you shall begin cleaning your house for weeks in advance to make sure every last crumb of leaven has been removed.” It doesn't say, “Clean all your walls and windows so the naturally occurring yeast from the air is disposed of.” Especially since it will come right back.

I've learned a couple of things about preparing for Passover. One is that, no matter how much I clean, I always forget something. It might be that rogue chunk of someone’s leftover toast that was hidden behind the school room organizer. Or it might be that box of leavened something or other that I somehow overlooked and it is right in front of my face. It might be that thing that you never would have guessed in a million years was leavened. I mean, Grape Nuts are way too rock hard to be leavened, right? Wrong. Or, it might be that we forgot to empty the vacuum cleaner bag. Or, maybe the bag of yeast in the freezer.

So, we use a different technique now. A couple of weeks before Passover, I go through our food and set aside leavened foods. I make a list of leavened foods that are in the refrigerator and freezer so we can make sure to use them, or throw them away when the time comes. Then, that’s it, until a day or two before Passover. At that point, we make sure every room has been swept. We don’t really eat much food upstairs, so this can be done a couple of days ahead of time. Then, the day of Passover, we make sure the downstairs floors, especially the kitchen/dining area are swept well. And, just before Passover, we throw away our leavened food. That’s it. Passover cleaning in a nutshell. That means the weeks before Passover I can focus on spiritual things instead of being distracted by physical things. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How Did I Manage Quiet Time in the Chaos of Small Children?

Sometimes I'm not even sure of the answer to that question. It's all kind of a blur. I read this blog post the other day and it really had me thinking.  She states the realities of mothering a newborn so well. I thought about how it’s not just newborns, It also applies to toddlers and preschoolers. Mothering young children is a tough job, yet, it’s also full of rewards.

As you’re going through it, you’re exhausted. Sometimes you’re tired beyond belief and you feel like you’re never going to get enough sleep again for as long as you live.  Sometimes, the thought of changing one more diaper is enough to push you over the edge. The thought of refereeing one more round of “she touched me” is enough to make you insane. Being on call 24/7 is overwhelming and exhausting. Even so, the joy of the little things they say or those chubby arms wrapped around your neck is all the payment you need.
 When you’re in the trenches it feels like you’ll never make it through. It’s only a season, but it’s a long season – longer for some, than for others. For me, it was about 20 years. Sure, I longed to go places and yearned to do things that just weren’t feasible with little ones in tow. Sometimes I was desperate for a moment to myself, but that wasn’t feasible, either. I mean, really, I’m just now getting to the point where I can go potty by myself; although, showering without interruption is still a few years off, it seems.
One thing that is difficult to figure out is how to have quiet time with God when there are little ones running you ragged. Having a half hour or more of quiet time with God is great, but, as babies came along, I started to wonder how on earth I would accomplish that. I know there are moms that wake up early to get that quiet time in. But, with my kids, it seems like no matter what time I woke up, someone woke up with me. I usually tried to stay up late, but often I was too exhausted after the little ones went to bed.

This was compounded by the fact that I could rarely listen to a sermon or teaching of any kind because I had little people to run after and mommy duties to take care of, whether I was at home or sitting in the wiggle room at congregation. This was my season for noise and interruptions, not for sitting and spending long hours studying the Bible. But, I also realized that God knows exactly what it’s like to take care of a baby. He is the one who created them, after all. So, He wasn’t surprised that I found it difficult to devote long periods of time to Him.

There were days that I wished to have hours for quiet time. The thought of sitting and listening to a sermon was just a dream. And, I’m sure there are many days that I complained to my friends that my husband didn’t cover my motherly duties enough. But, when it comes down to it, that’s not his job. If I have an infant or toddler, they basically are attached to me wherever I go. Daddy spent time with them and gave me a break now and then, but, the everyday responsibilities belonged to me. I didn’t expect him to take care of the baby after he came home from a long day’s work. I never thought he should be caring for baby while I did in-depth Bible study or listened to a sermon. It is better that he should be listening and learning and growing so he can lead the family.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean Dad’s should be hands off, by any means. It’s great when Daddy gives Mommy a much needed break. But, generally speaking, Mommy duties are mine. God equipped me to take care of baby - simple as that. This was not my season to dig deeper into scripture on a daily basis. It wasn’t my season to let Daddy hold the baby while I listened to a teaching or sat in on a sermon. God instituted the family. He made the man head over his wife. The husband is the spiritual leader. God put this in place so the man can lead his wife and children. I think God had it figured out pretty well by not putting the spiritual leader of the family in charge of baby duties. 

This is not to say I shouldn’t have my own quiet time. But, it looked different when I had a little one (or little ones). I prayed throughout the day whenever a prayer need popped into my head. I could certainly find a spare minute or 2 or 3 to talk to Him. Talking to him was often interrupted by littles, but the same was true of any conversation.  At night, when I woke up to nurse baby, I would talk with my Abba. When they got older, they could sit in on my prayer time and maybe add a prayer
of their own.

I could devote 5 minutes at a time to read a Bible passage. If the Bible was out and open, it was that much easier. And, usually in the evening, after they were all in bed, I spent some time studying a topic of interest or working on my Bible study lesson. Realistically, my lesson wasn’t always done when I went to Bible study, but it was done sometimes. And, if I prioritized properly, I managed to spend quality time with God, at least in small bits.

For me, that seemingly endless season is winding down. My baby is 6, and a mature 6, at that. She is mostly self-reliant. As I transition out of mothering little ones, my time with God changes, as well. It’s such a blessing that He knows our life and understands our limitations. And, He equips us to do what He has given us to do.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Conquering Mt. Washmore

Being a mom of many, I have definitely had my moments (OK, maybe years, not moments) of never being caught up on laundry; or, of having a permanent large pile of clean laundry on my bedroom floor. It never seemed to get folded and put away. We would just rummage through it when we needed something. But, the laundry was always out of control and it drove me nuts!! After much trial and error, I have come up with a solution that has been working well for over 10 years now.

Basically, I wash all the clothes twice a week. Monday and Thursday work best for me.  I don’t have kids wash their own clothes for a few reasons; although, they do help me when I need it. I don’t mind doing the laundry myself. As I do it, I can make sure the clothes are in good condition and pull out any torn or outgrown clothes, etc. I also don’t want to compete for time in the washing machine if others in the house are trying to do their own laundry. And, I don’t want people running tiny loads of laundry when I can fill up the washer.

We have several spots where we collect dirty clothes – one in the garage, where we keep all the younger kids’ clothes, one in the master bedroom and one in the kids’ bathroom upstairs. In the morning, I have the kids round up the dirty clothes and take them to the garage.  I sort them into piles by color. I know many people that don’t separate their colors, but I like to do my best to keep the colors from becoming muddy, hoping to be a good steward of the clothing God has given us. In the picture below, I have 5 piles of regular laundry. Behind those, I have a basket of cold water wash, which I usually only do once a week.

My laundry room isn’t very large and it has 2 doors and cupboards that open onto it, so keeping  anything on the floor in the laundry room doesn’t work well. Since my garage is just outside the laundry room, it’s a good place to sort the clothes. When a load comes out of the dryer, I take it back to the garage where I have an area set up for laundry.  The setup has varied over the years, depending on the space in the garage and on how many kids I am doing laundry for. This is our basic setup now. Each kid has a basket of their own, and I use one basket for my husband and me.

I set the basket of freshly cleaned clothes on the table and start sorting.  The upper shelf is for the older kids. The basket on the far left of that shelf is giveaways. So, when things are outgrown, they go into that basket. (I used to have a whole system for storing outgrown clothes to save them for the next child, but we don’t need that anymore.) My basket is on the left of the table. And, the younger kids’ baskets are under the table. I simply pull a piece of clothing out of basket and put it in the basket of the person who owns that item. If it goes in my basket, I fold it first. The blue basket on the floor in the picture is socks. I throw all socks in there and everyone finds their own. (Although, last week I did attempt sorting socks into each basket again. We’ll see if that lasts.)

Simple as that – as each basket comes from the laundry room, I sort it. I rarely let the baskets of clean clothes pile up. This way, when the kids say “Mom, have you seen my (insert specific item of clothing here)” I can either tell them I remember washing it and it’s in their clean clothes basket. Or, I might tell them it’s in a certain dirty clothes pile. And, of course, there are those times when I don’t know where their missing clothing is. (As a matter of fact, right now, two kids are looking for their rock climbing shirts in the dirty clothes pile.)

To help me sort clean clothes, each child is assigned a certain number of dots. For instance, my oldest daughter gets one dot put on the tag of her clothing. My second daughter gets two dots, and so on. One thing I would change to this system is that I would not do a 1, 2, 3 dot for the boys and a 1,2,3 dot for the girls, basically because, in my case, a boy/girl of similar size ends up with the same number of dots. Usually that’s not a problem, but when we get matching shirts from Sukkot or theater, it’s hard to tell whose is whose. But, we’re too far into the dot system to change it now.

As we get new clothes, we put on the dots before they enter the clothing collection. When clothing gets handed down from one child to the next, we just add a dot. Simple as that. And, it makes sorting laundry so much easier for me!

After the laundry is sorted, each person is in charge of putting away their own laundry. When my children were smaller, and we used the big kid/little kid buddy system, big kids were in charge of putting away their little buddy’s laundry or helping them put it away, depending on the age of the little buddy. But, since my littlest is 6, she is old enough to put away her own laundry. So, everyone does their own. This way, even when clean clothes haven’t been put away in a timely manner, we can still find what we need pretty easily.
In between clothes washing days, I wash towels, sheets and any other miscellaneous stuff that needs to be washed. And, I usually take the weekend off from laundry.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The School of Messi Antics

Those of us in the Torah observant/Messianic/Hebrew roots movement - it goes by many names, but you get the idea – we’re all disciples, disciples at the same school. We’re all students. We’re just at different levels of education. And, on top of that, we have different interests. We have our core curriculum, which is the Bible and more specifically, the Torah. But, we have different electives. Some focus on temple rituals, others on Hebrew language, the names, calendar issues, extra-Biblical books, new moon, when the Sabbath starts, Shavuot timing, Passover timing, certain terminology, etc. The list goes on and on.

The thing is, with our main textbook, there is no way we’re ever going to know all there is to know about it. We can study and study and study and still be a novice. This isn’t the type of school where you learn the majority of what you need to know and graduate in 4 years. No, this is a lifetime school. So, we have plenty of time to explore electives. But, we need a good enough foundation in the basics to ensure that those electives don’t lead us away from the core curriculum.

Some of us have been attending this school longer than others, so it’s important to remember that we’re all at a different level of education. Those that have been at the school a shorter amount of time might very well know more about some of the electives than students that have been here much longer. And, students that have been here a lot longer might have a lot more education than the new students think. It appears to me that the new students start getting a little more education and begin to think that the long-time students don’t know about this information because they disagree with their conclusion.

I often get the feeling that newer students think I’m ignorant or complacent if I’m not excited about the elective course they’re taking. As I look at the younger students, I realize that I’ve taken many of the courses they’re taking. What I’ve done with that knowledge might vary from what they’re taught. Different understanding on a subject leads to the idea that I’ve never looked into it before, but different understanding is not necessarily because I have no knowledge or interest in the subject. Just because young students haven’t seen me study certain topics or don’t see me living out what that teacher says should be lived out, doesn’t mean I haven’t studied it.

In the decades that I have been at this school, I have done plenty of unlearning. I’ve taken some courses many times. Sometimes, I end up believing the same as I did when I started. Sometimes, I realize that I had things really wrong, or that something isn’t as important as I originally thought. Sometimes when the course is over, I realize that my conclusion is different from someone else’s, and their conclusion is just as valid.

I’ve attended this school my whole life. I’ve taken lots of and lots of electives. Some, I’ve taken many times. Some I’ve just taken once. Some, I didn’t even take the whole class. The overview was enough for me. I find it best to keep reviewing the core curriculum. That doesn’t mean I never take electives. It means that I spend much of my time focusing on the core – the basics, arithmetic, if you will. I can’t do well in algebra if I haven’t mastered addition and subtraction. So, I often go back and review the basics. Then I study other subjects that require a good foundation in the basics. And, with a foundation in the basics, I am more able to discern wrong teachings, wrong attitudes, wrong actions – in myself and in others.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time sharing with students that think I’m uneducated or apathetic; or with students that think they know it all or have all truth in any one (or more than one) topic. I don’t want to discuss my viewpoints with those that say they’re respectful of others’ viewpoints when their words and actions clearly show they aren’t. I want to spend time with students that realize they don’t know it all, are respectful of other students’ beliefs and are striving to be better educated and, most importantly, live out that education in all areas of life.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Musings on the Sabbath

I’ve kept the Sabbath all my life. And, I’ve done many different things while keeping the Sabbath. I’ve followed man made rules and I’ve ignored manmade rules. I’ve bought and not bought. I’ve gone swimming on a hot day and not gone swimming. I’ve gone for hikes and not gone for hikes. I’ve used the computer and not used the computer. I’ve done homework and not done homework. I’ve gone out with friends and not gone out with friends.  I’ve watched movies and not watched movies.  I’ve made it special and not made it special. I’ve put my whole heart into it and I’ve made it mundane. I’ve washed dishes and I’ve used paper plates. . I’ve set aside extra time for God and I’ve not set aside extra time for God.

There are so many grey areas when it comes to keeping the Sabbath.  God didn’t give us a long list of do’s and don’ts. He didn’t specify every little thing we should or shouldn’t do. Basically, what He told us to do is not work – you and your entire household. (Ex 20:8-11)

So, the main thing that I, and we as a family, have always done is not work on the Sabbath.  When we interview(ed) for a job, we say we don’t work from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Because of that, we might not get the job. But, if that’s the case, then it’s not the job for us. When contractors ask Jim to work on Saturday, he declines. The kids’ chore charts are noticeably blank on the Sabbath – except for grooming themselves and feeding the pets.

There aren’t very many things we can DO that are a sign between us and God. He says in Exodus 31:13, 17 and Ezekiel 20:19-20 – “they will be a sign between Me and you”. I find that pretty exciting!  I can follow His laws and keep His Sabbath.  And, the Sabbath is specified in addition to statutes, judgments and laws. I see that as significant. If there is something that is a sign between me and Him, I want to do it!! I want to give it my all.

I don’t always accomplish this perfectly, or even as well as I’d like to. I’ve had times when it would be more convenient to keep working as the sun set. I’ve had times when I haven’t finished my chores or my work. I’ve had times when I didn’t get all the cleaning done or when I didn’t pay that bill I meant to pay.
I’ve had times when the dust on top of that eye-level cupboard top in the kitchen or the bay window is screaming out to me after sunset. But, when I ignore it, I know the dust will still be waiting for me after Sabbath is over, the laundry will wait patiently, anything that needs to be done will still be waiting. And, that’s OK.

Understand, that even though there are times when I might be inconvenienced or I might want to do something else, I LOVE the Sabbath. We LOVE the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not a burden. We look forward to it all week. The little kids count down the days. We enjoy setting aside that time.

If we make it a point to set aside the time God has put in His calendar for us, we will be blessed. Simple as that. He doesn’t ask much of us. Just as the kids know that Daddy will be home for the Sabbath, I know that my Abba will be ready to meet with me as I set the Sabbath day apart and obey Him. We stop our work as He commanded. We dance, sing, pray, study, worship, laugh, eat, enjoy.  We delight in His Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13). We make it a set apart time – a restful time, a holy time, a kadosh time, a peaceful time.

Shabbat shalom!