Friday, March 30, 2012

Best of Times, Worst of Times - Finance Friday

It is Finance Friday on my blog.
The day of the week we're I've gotten into the habit of letting my feelings about our finances (or lack there of) fly freely across the keyboard.
It's been very ... um ... therapeutic.

So as I sit down today to reflect I am reminded once again of seasons.
Even though I wrote about that in another way just earlier this week.

I want the world to know so badly that it is so true ... it is ALWAYS darkest before the dawn.

Just a year ago, I was at the end of myself, my mental capabilities frayed beyond recognition of myself. While I whole heartily supported the shift in our life plans
I simultaneously feared the consequences.

40. Unemployed.
5 kids.
Gas Prices.
Trudging forward.

Now I know, I KNOW what Charles Dickens meant when he wrote in A Tale of Two Cities:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

How can - even with the gift of hindsight - one thing be simultaneously terrible and beautiful?


As I reflect over the last year, it's been a very difficult and challenging time. Very. But that's just on the one hand. On the other hand, it's been a time of regrouping, resting and rebuilding with moments of utter refreshing.

Would we have had those moments, made those memories, if we weren't in the position we were in?
I think not.

Does that make it worth it?

It's been very dark. And a little lonely at times here at Sikorski Avenue but I've had my eye on the horizon and I think I see the dawn breaking.

And guess what?

I think it's going to be beautiful.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Did you see the Trees?

I just HAD to stop and take a picture of this gorgeous magnolia tree. I drive by it every morning on my way to school. One day out of nowhere, it seems, it was covered in blooms. Then before I knew it, the petals were dropping to the ground.
It's beauty is fleeting.
It made me feel kind of sad.

I also drive by this oak everyday.
Can you see it's still holding onto last year's leaves?
It never let go.
Spring is here but it has never let go of it's grungy, dead, brown leaves.

Doesn't this tree know Spring is here? It's time for new leaves!
I want to shake it's trunk and tell it now is not the time to hold on to the old.
I feel afraid this tree is going to miss out on the most beautiful time of the year.

This is the tree outside our home.
It's pretty isn't it?
It's a cherry tree that has never given fruit.
We planted it years ago and have yet to recieve one red, sweet cherry.

So for our anniversary last year we got a second cherry tree.
It's tiny, perhaps 3 feet tall. But maybe that's what we needed; a little cross pollination.
Will I get fruit this year?
I don't know but
I've been reminded of one very important lesson.
Look at the trees and see that
after the winter it's time to bloom,
(You know winter; the time of dark and barren coldness)
and turn green,
and drop old leaves.
Because there is a season to bear fruit.
And because I don't want my cherry trees to not fullfill their purpose.
Because I want fruit.
Cherry and otherwise.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dangerous Detours - A Message of Journey

Tallin, Estonia 2011
Last Wednesday evening I had the awesome opportunity to speak at the Faith United Methodist Church Mother Daughter Banquet. Their theme was "Journey with Christ" and I was thrilled to be asked to share a portion of my journey with them. Here is an excerpt of the evening's presentation.

Thank you for inviting me to be with you this evening. I didn't have to think long or hard about accepting your invitation to address you tonight as your theme, Journey with Christ, is a deep reality in my own life.  One that I am particularly and tenderly aware of, especially in the last few years. I whole heartily commit to the idea that my life is a journey and I am pleased and honored to be asked to share just a portion of my story with you tonight.

And that's of course what all speakers say, "I am pleased and humbled to be asked …. blah blah blah” but I want you to know that it is not a responsibility I take for granted. I am humbled, so very humbled to be able to be with you tonight. Because I believe the only thing I feel worthy of standing before you and telling you is my own story. I'm not special or schooled in public speaking, I simply am me.

As a mother of 5 children, a nontraditional missionary & employed outside the home I am often asked, "How do you do it?"
So tonight, here, I am going to reveal my big secret:
I have no idea! I never know what to say to that question because I’m really not trying to impress others with my high capacity for activity. Truth is I don’t even love all the work and chaos and exhaustion that comes with being me.
I’m just trying to survive and God willing thrive a little.
But whether or not this is the life I planned for me is irrelevant because this is the life I have. This is my journey. There is no other for me. This is it. I believe that my journey is mine. It’s unique. It’s different that yours. Your journey is unique. And I wouldn’t dare stand before you today with instruction as to how you should walk your journey or what your journey should look like.  That would be sinfully assumptive of me.
So while each journey is unique, I do recognize that our journey’s can often overlap. One of my favorite phrases is this: “I’m so happy that our paths have crossed.” I often use it instead of “It’s nice to have met you” or “I am glad to have known you” because I celebrate the times that my journey and your journey has intersected.
But not every intersection is a good one is it? Our journey’s are not always full of wonderful experiences.  Journey’s are filled with friendships, and play dates and warm fuzzy memories. But, chance are, our journey’s also have stories of heartbreak and betrayal and sicknesses and loneliness.

I know these things to be true as well.  And that is where I’d like to offer you encouragement this evening. In my 20 years in the ministry both as a pastor’s wife and now a nontraditional missionary, I’ve encountered 5 beliefs that I’ve identified as potentially dangerous detours that we should be able to recognize as we journey through life.

1. It's not fair!

I will admit to you that I have spent a lot of mental energy in my life believing that I got the short end of the stick. I could tell you how I didn’t intend to drop out of school, or how I didn’t feel called into a ministry I found myself immersed in, how I didn’t want to move to a rural community, or plant a new church or have so many kids or….
I’ll never forget the evening, not too long ago, I laid in bed, tears rolling down my cheeks as I prayed before the Lord, “Lord I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this. I did everything I could and here we are in a terrible mess. It’s so unfair!”
And I sat perfectly still. I honestly believed I would be able to hear His voice. I didn’t pray a verse (not that there's anything wrong with that). I didn’t have any supplications to make I simply, heart-fully and in all the brutal honesty I could muster wanted to let God know I had done my part and He neglected to do His. And I wanted to know what He was going to do about this terrible injustice. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What Not to Say to New Moms

me expecting the twins 7/04
Never, under any circumstances, should you give a parent unsolicited advice. It's one of the quickest ways to lose friends. Unfortunately I speak from experience.
It's a fine line for a Parent Educator like me. I have access to a wealth of information about parenting and instead of being a perceived as a helpful characteristic it often offends new moms who tend to steer clear of me. Which is sad because I like babies and their new mommies.
Instead, what I've learned is that parents really like to hear how cute their baby is. Often mom will put more time and consideration into what baby will wear to the grocery store than she will with her own outfit. So admiring a baby's cute cheeks, hat or shoes is a very acceptable and desirable form of attention.
Any other observations, especially if they even hint of a condescending nature, are highly offensive to the new parent. One should avoid passive aggressive comments at all costs (unless of course you are trying to be obnoxious) because moms can smell a judgmental rat a mile away. She doesn’t want you to tell her how your baby slept all through the night from the first day you brought him home, which infers she must be doing something wrong if her baby is not.
You need to know this should you insist on striking up a conversation with a new mother. She is probably hoping you’ll just keep walking on by. Instead she’ll brace herself for the unwarranted barrage of opinions she expects you’re about to drop on her.
After all, new mothers work very hard at making sure they never appear as inadequate as they most certainly feel.
As if struggling as a new parent is news to any of us who have been-there-done-that.
Right? Every parent at some point in his or her child’s life, and to some degree, has experienced a complete and utter feeling of helplessness. They have no idea what to do. They have no idea if what they're doing is right and they wonder if they are royally screwing up their kid for life.
This is parenting; a fly by the night, hoping you get it right while bracing yourself for inevitable seismic shifts that leave you feeling inept, exhausted and discouraged.
Most of us have no one to turn to during this dark night of the soul and we end up feeling very alone in the journey.
And that is where my heart breaks. I believe we would find the uniting bonds of motherhood are deep and significant if we could ever get past our disposition to judge.
As I've gathered women together for over thirteen years in playgroups, lapsits and parenting classes I've witnessed every single mother perform a silent evaluation. That’s the moment when moms do a quick assessment of the room and judge how they’re doing based on what they see. Is there another woman thinner than us? Does her baby talk more? Is her child potty trained? Does she have to read 5 books and dance a jig in order to get her child in bed?
In an instant we will rank ourselves based on what we observe. How dangerous! Oh how I could I wish I could host blindfolded playgroups. I imagine without our sight, using only our voice and our stories, we'd be able to unite and form an army of women who would rally around the exhausted, lift up the overwhelmed and support the hurting.
This, I believe, is the lost treasure of the parenthood. So if I’ve ever offered unsolicited advice or appeared superior-ly knowledgeable with my words, it's only because my experience convinces me that deep down mothers need each other more than they need to appear that they don't.
Remember the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”? We've often believed that to mean that the child needs the community to grow up well but what if it’s the mother that needs a tribe too? Imagine if a village supported the mother how strong and equipped she would be as a parent, in turn raising a wonderfully, vibrant, thriving child!
I believe if we mothers could come together, rather than judge others away, we could build a safe place where the joys and challenges of parenting are equally celebrated and alleviated. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!
(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Daily Review Atlas) Stephanie is a mother of 5 children and a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District. She is now taking appointments for a Preschool Screening this Friday, March 30, 2012 at Lincoln Early Childhood School for all parents who are interested in sending their 3 or 4 year old to preschool next fall. Call 734-2222 or email ssikorski@mr238.orgfor information.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

No Use Crying Over Spilled Wine

"I once read that 'the best hostess is the first to spill the wine,' the idea being if you make a mistake, your guests won’t feel so bad if they do later."   (quote from Kelly Adkins )

I couldn't concentrate on my dinner last night. My stomach was sick and my heart was heavy. The chatter and conversation carried on all around amongst my kids and hubby. I faked a smile and nodded when someone drew me but I wasn't engaged. My mind was elsewhere. I had had a terribly busy day at work.

Like, if you picture busy in your mind  ... go ahead, picture it, I'll wait ......

got it?

I was twelve times busier than that.
I was insanely busy.
I was multi-tasking as if I had 2 brains and 8 arms.
If I was in a cartoon my arms would have been animated like spinning helicopter blades.

And whenever I move that fast for that long I crash and burn.
I do it every time.
And when I can, I act preemptive-ly and to avoid the fall out but
on this day there was nothing I could do about the uber-busyness.
I had to keep working.

All my efforts weren't flawless either!
Oh no! I had already screwed up earlier in the day.
I did my best but it wasn't enough.
And it made a mess of things.

So I was frazzled later when another task came up that I couldn't figure out.
I did what I knew to do;
I asked for help but that person didn't know what I should do either and she suggested I look up an answer.
I did but I still couldn't find any information about how I was to proceed.
That's when I made a decision.
I told our client that I was sorry but we couldn't help them here.

I wish that was the end of it.

Later, thinking it would be good for future reference, I sought out and asked the next person up the chain of command (who was now available but wasn't when I needed him) how to deal with that situation should it ever come up again.

Turns out I told the client "No" prematurely and
my boss asked me to correct the situation.
And instead of saying, "I can't"
I choose to say "I will"
when I knew I couldn't.

I could not undo what I had done or said and I gave my boss the impression that I could.
In other words, in an effort to save face, I actually made it more difficult on myself.
So I could look good.
So I didn't look like I screwed up.
So he would like my work and thereby like me.

How many times have I told my children that it may be hard but it always goes easier for you if you would just simply tell the truth?

I didn't even take my own advice.
I didn't even do what I preach.
I am a hypocrite.
When pressed against the wall of my own inadequacies I caved and lied and misrepresented myself.

I am human.

It so very easy in life to portray an image of our self that we believe -and want- the world to like. We, through update statuses, tweets and personal interactions can make our friends, family members, coworkers or online 'friends' think we are cool/funny/clever/smart/spiritual or ______________ (fill in the blank).

Then, watch this .... then it's not hard for us to believe that we are (_____) if the people around us think we are - even though we've presented a false and/or inaccurate representation of ourselves.

Why didn't I just admit to my boss that I did my best and I was sorry it was not good enough?

Because we so often easily forget that our worth is not hinged upon the acceptance of others.
I am not good because you think I'm good.
I am good because He calls me good.

Genesis 1:36 "And God saw everything He had made and it was good."

This entry today is an honest one. It's not intended to make me look ... like anything ... except for the perfectly imperfect human that I am.

This is me spilling the wine first.

Right here, all over my blog.

Now you know
I'm not the perfect hostess
or mother
or daughter
or sister
or wife
or worker
or blogger
or writer
or speaker
or minister
or friend.

I spill wine.

In fact, you should know, I often spill wine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An Ineffective Stink Eye

As far as parenting goes I consider myself to be above average. Not because I’m awesome--it’s more out of necessity. Seeing as how I have 5 kids I either had to rise to the occasion or risk being outnumbered and hogtied up by a most unruly bunch.
In fact, I’m pretty sure whatever parenting skills I have acquired are more an indication of my willpower than my actual ability. You see, I’m relentlessly determined to keep my position of authority in our home. Even if it’s simply by the skin of my teeth, these kids of mine are not going to run me down.

Ok, so maybe it’s a pride issue too.
All that being said, there is one parenting technique I have not been able to master in my 16 years on the job. No matter how hard I try I have yet to master ‘the look’.

When I was a child my father and mother could look at me with a combination of squinty-eyes and a raised eyebrow and I would cave. No matter what I was doing, no matter where I was or who I was with if they gave me ‘the look’ I immediately stopped in my tracks and sat stick straight still with my hands in my lap.
My parents used this technique with such fluid precision I was certain it would be a genetic inheritance on my part but alas, I cannot effectively employ the stink eye.

I’ve raised my eye brow at my son when he used a questionable adjective to describe his teacher.  He looked right back at me, raised his own eyebrow and said “What?” in that golly-your-annoying-me-preteen-tone.

I've tried squinting one eye down to the tiniest slit when my twins came tearing through the house with their muddy shoes on.  They stopped only long enough to ask me “What’s wrong with your face mom?”
I most recently tried combining the single raised eyebrow/squinty eye look while taking my index finger and pointing at my face (as if adding a little hand gesture to my nonverbal exclamation would make ‘the look’ more obvious).  It was not effective at all. It only prompted my teenager to say, “No Mom, you don’t have anything on your face.”
Clearly something is missing.
Not one to give up, I remembered that on occasion, my mother or father would add a snap to ‘the look’. If we kids didn’t see my parents give the look they would draw attention with a stiff, quick, angry snap. I was certain given the next available opportunity I would instill a look, raise my eyebrow and a quickly snap. “That’ll teach my kids,” I thought with absolute certainty.

I was absolutely wrong. I just looked a little deranged and completely rhythm-less.
All of this leads me to one sad conclusion: my kids are not very bright. Obviously they lack the ability to read nonverbal cues which is very frustrating as I would like to ideally raise my children with as little verbal communication as possible. I mean seriously, put yourself in my shoes. With 5 kids can you even comprehend how much talking I do? For example, I must remind each child to wash his or her face at least twice a day. Twice a day times five kids is ten statements. And you know no child washes their face when they are asked on the first time. Therefore we can conclude I probably say “Wash your face!” at least twenty times a day. That’s a lot. It would really be helpful if there was a ‘go-wash-your-face look’. If such a look existed I imagine I could shave at least 10 minutes off every day.

Alas, ‘the look’ continues to elude me. Someday perhaps I can sit down with my parents and ask them to critique my technique but until then I will have to work on my verbal clarity. I guess I will have to resort to giving my children proper, clear and age appropriate instructions. I imagine I’ll be forced to engage them in meaningful conversations and I’ll have to refrain from yelling empty threats from the opposite room. Instead, and most importantly, I’ll have to remember that disciplining my children is not about punishing them with my ugly face it’s about teaching them the right way of behaving. Besides, my parents might be right. If I keep making that face it just might stick that way! Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

(This article appears in the Monmouth Daily Review Atlas every Tuesday as a part of my Practical Parenting series.) Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District. She blogs at and can be reached for comment or consultation at 

If you found me via the yeah write community I thank you! This is my 3rd link up and I am excited about the community of bloggers and writers I've found! Thanks for visiting today!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Menu Monday - Dear Working Mom

this is not me but it could be!
Dear Working Mom,
I don't know you or your situation, I only know mine, but I feel incredibly bonded to you today. No one really, I mean really, gets all that we go through to take care of our family... except us.

Or maybe you have it all under control and I'm the only one drowning this week. And by drowning I mean head-under-water-gasping-for-air-drowning. I'm not able to keep anything a float. I've dropped the ball so many times with the important things that I've completely lost my ability to keep a handle on the little things.

And with that truth I struggle. I struggle because I never wanted to be that mom that had too many kids to keep an effective eye on each of them, to not know where my kids were, or where they needed to be ...

My humongous calender on the wall is of no use if I can't even find the time to write our commitments on it.

Nonetheless, despite all the times I've blown it this week, we still had to eat. My tribe began their daily ritual of pestering me at 4 o'clock waiting for the food to appear on their plates. I had to feed my family.
 So here's what we had this week. It's short and sweet and to the point. The only thing quicker than this week's menu would have been to order pizza or hit a drive-thru but since our budget can't accommodate that here's how we got by. It's Menu Monday on To Write a Better Story. I wish you quick healthy meals that despite however you busy you are, you find the time to gather your team around the table for an imperative time of connectivity!

SUNDAY Brunch Apple French Toast

MONDAY Chicken 'Sketti
(recipe doubles easily and freezes well!)

TUESDAY Popcorn Chicken Wraps

(Your On Your Own)

THURSDAY Ruebens & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Pioneer Woman's Perfect French Fries (ok! fine! the fries aren't super quick but I made them the night before and lemme tell you ... it beats frozen fries ... hands down!)


SATURDAY Super Nachos
(use leftover taco meat)

We also had Sugar Cookies decorated like Shamrocks for St. Patty's Day and when cleaning out the pantry I found 2 neglected boxes of Rice Krispies and marshmallow fluff....viola! Rice Krispie Treates!

If you love recipe hunting online like I do check out the Organized Junkie's website. She has a wonderful Menu Plan Monday link-up!

Baked Apple French Toast

I've saved this recipe for over 20 years. It was served to me at a women's brunch when I was newly married and still finding my way around the kitchen!

image from
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 c butter
2 Tablespoon corn syrup
2 large Granny Smith apples peeled & sliced
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
9 slices of French Bread

In a small saucepan cook brown sugar, butter & syrup till thick - about 5 - 7 minutes. Pour into an ungreased 13x9 pan and arrange apples on top. In mixing bowl beat eggs, milk & vanilla. Dip bread into egg mixture for 1 minute. Place over apples. Cover and refrigerate over night. Remove 30 minutes before baking. Bake uncovered at 350 for 35-40 minutes.


Chicken Spaghetti

Bake a Chicken and de bone it. Or buy a Rotisserie Chicken and de bone it. Or buy any chicken and put it in a pot, cover it with water and boil it. Then de bone it. Either way I think you have the idea.

Then cut celery, onion, green pepper, red pepper and a clove or 2 or 3 of garlic. (all the veggies and how much of them you want is optional, of course) in a sauce pan with 1 stick of butter.

Cook 2 large boxes of spaghetti (use a huge pan) and rinse with cold water.
Mix noodles, sauteed veggies, chicken and
6 cups chicken broth
4 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans of tomato soup
Worcestershire sauce and salt & pepper.
Divide the creation in half I used two 9x13 pans
Freeze if you wish.
Bake defrosted 350 for an hour or so.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The 7th Year - Week 2

Sometimes you gotta go back before you can go forward.
Which really makes no sense.
I want to move forward.
I need to develop some momentum.
Instead in Week 2 of The 7th Year study, by Alicia Britt Chole, the exercise prompted us to follow up the Life Timeline we created last week with a more in depth look at the most formative moments in our lives.
At 40 years of age I've accumulated quite a few -
too many for this mom-of-5 with 3 jobs to properly sit down and give my full attention to - however it doesn't take a large amount of time to discover one important truth:

In everything I've written down
it's been clear to me
that the whole of my experiences
form together to make up the dimensions of my life.

A life I love.
A life I'm so thankful for.
A life worth living.

Adding a layer of critical, pivotal moments to my timeline was very emotional for me. For example, when I decided to marry Aaron I had no idea how wonderful that decision was. I could have never fathomed the life we'd build and how wonderful it would be.
Am I lucky?
Was it ordained?
But the biggest question that looms for me is this: how can I help my children find their mate so they can experience the joy and love and friendship that we have?
Do they need luck?
Will there be a sign for them?
Can God/will God orchestrate it for them?

But it's not all been Happily Ever After ... of course right?

Despite a wonderful marriage I've suffered from bouts of extremely loneliness, have been scarred by betrayal and been embattled with fear almost my whole life. Those too are pivotal moments for my timeline if I'm completely honest with myself (it's easy, at least for me, to only focus on the good times). But that wouldn't be accurate would it?
And I'd miss the chance to see how those valleys were precursors to mountain tops experiences.
I'd miss it.
I'd miss how:
-that betrayal led me to a new precious friendship
-how that goodbye introduced me to an entirely new opportunity or
-how that exposed lie led me to a deeper personal transformation.

I'm thankful for The 7th Year. It is giving me occasion to go to the deep places that I often don't have (or make the time) to examine with a healthy, prayerful attitude. The points on my life's timeline are mine.
Mine to examine, celebrate and share.
And God willing I can get to the point where I can appreciate the culmination of them.
I can look back and expect to move forward.

To learn more about The 7th Year study visit them on Facebook

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Forward Makes Parents Fall Back - Practical Parenting

Spring forward is such a good idea on paper. In reality it is a mind numbing, eyes burning, cruel joke designed to play havoc in the lives of parents with young children.
Seriously, it’s cruel.

Just because the clock on the wall changes doesn’t mean our body clocks can adjust as easily. And if you got kids, forget about it! It’s amazing to me how one little hour of the day can feel like an entire time zone shift for young children.

Thanks to spring forward kids don’t want to go to sleep at night and don’t want to rise in the morning. It’s like the perfect storm of parenting since parents are bone weary anyway. Getting a child to bed on a “normal” day can be extensive. Throw in some extra sunshine and it is darn near impossible.

Of course, parents have been known to go to exhausting lengths to outsmart Mother Nature. Some families plan ahead and hang room darkening drapes every spring. Which is brilliant until your child is in school and the teacher insists on teaching them how to tell time. 

But you can use this to your advantage. You might be able to convince your child that it’s the sun that’s confused. Shrug your shoulders and feign ignorance. “See”, you can say, “it’s weird I know but the clock says its 7:00. So you hafta go to bed now.”

Wait! What? you ask... Yes! I put my little people to bed at 7:00 p.m. so what? Cut me some slack. Without an early bedtime I would never get a moment to myself.

However the tradeoff is that I have early risers. This is, of course, a huge price to pay but don’t worry about me. I invested in a fancy coffee pot with a delay brew feature. I can pound the caffeine as soon as the alarm goes off.

So here we are in the early days of spring forward and my kids have noticed it is as black as night when I wake them. Now they don’t believe me when I tell them it’s time to rise and shine. They pull the covers over their head and ignore me (which is really annoying because nobody wanted to stay in bed more than me). I’m barely awake and functioning myself. How can I be expected to effectively be in charge of getting other people up and moving?

When children grow up and get wise to the time change, the clock is no longer your ally. You can tell them it’s bedtime but they understand, due to their now enhanced brain development and critical thinking, that just exactly 24 hours ago it was not time for bed. You can say, “Look the clock says bedtime!” But they’re too smart and will say “Not really. Really it’s 6:00.”

What? You make your older kids go to bed at 7:00? No, I just wish I could make them.

I’m often asked by parents for tips on how to best survive the time change and I always offer the same advice; good luck. Other than sheer dumb luck there’s not much you can do. This is a point of contention for some parents as they just desperately want to find a fix for this frustrating season.
But sometimes that’s not possible.

You can try to outsmart the sun, adjust the light in your child’s room and even manipulate the clocks in your house but the bottom line is you cannot set, trick or control your child’s internal rhythms.

My best advice? Survive. Survive with coffee, naps, power drinks or whatever it is that you need to do stay in touch with your inner patience reservoir. Then rest assured knowing that if you can get by for a few days (or weeks if you’re unlucky) that your child will, at some point, adjust to the time change. Even if it’s about the time the school year is ending and summer looms on the horizon.

You know summer: long days poolside and Bar-B-Qs, after dinner walks and catching fireflies in the yard, washing your feet in the tub before you crawl into bed and sun-kissed noses.

You see turning the clocks forward an hour may be taxing on your weary soul today but it is a sign that warmer, longer days are ahead. And that’s a change worth looking forward to. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and a mother to five children. She has effectively tricked each one of them into believing that early bedtimes are required of all the children of the world. She can be reached at by email at ssikorski(at) This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for the Daily Review Atlas.

Monday, March 12, 2012


February gave me an extra day...
March took an hour...
I'm a little weary about looking forward to April.

Keeps moving with or without me.

I'm not ready for Menu Monday today...
heck, I'm barely awake enough to slug back my morning cup of coffee.

Seriously, my eyes are burning right now.

But there is no rest for the weary.
I have no time for writing a menu this week (or last week, if you happened to notice).
I'll admit I'm a little behind on my obligations
(18 hours at the store this weekend and no Internet connection will do that to ya er, me!).

So thanks for visiting today but I got nothin' for ya.
Come back soon though, as I have plans to be incredibly efficient today.
Ha! "plans"

I'll close with this ... I dreamt last night that I was making a delivery for a friend. When I made the drop I met a doctor who asked "How I was doing" I said, "Fine except that I'm so tired all the time" the doctor proceeded to give me a brief examination. Her diagnosis? I needed more rest. So she put an oxygen mask on my face and told me to lay down. I did and fell asleep. In my dream.

What the heck does that mean? If you dream you sleep?
Do you get twice the rest?
Did I enter an extreme realm of sleep?
Do I need to leave work early and go home to take a nap?

I hope your season - whether busy like mine - or a time of peace, allows you to connect with your family. I may have no Menu Monday to inspire your cooking this week, but I can leave you wishes for time well spent together. Happy Monday readers! Thanks for visiting today!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The 7th Year - Week 1

The number 7 is quite signficant;
it's literally a prime number,
there are 7 days in a week,
a gazillion bible references to the number

it's the number of my family.
Me+Hubby+our Tribe of 5 kids = 7

I am thrilled to blog through The 7th Year by Alica Britt Chole. I have a handful of dear friends who are on this journey with me and I am stoked about this "52 week path that cultivates intentional (as opposed to accidental) and sustainable (as opposed to event-dependent) intimacy with God."

I love this. Intentional. Sustainable.

The first assignment? Map my life.
So I can see it.
Think about it.

So I did. I started with the facts. Added the events.
And ended up with a flurry of random, swirling thoughts.

But then I sat back, dropped the marker and became completely overwhelmed as I know deep in the core of my soul that
there is a God.
He loves me.
And He "forsaw and was present for every single moment" I described.

My God. That's incredible!

What about you? Have you ever drawn a timeline of your life? What would you see? What wouldn't you see? How does it feel to see the culmination of a life lived in black and white in front of you?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mamma got Mittens - Finance Friday

I haven't been excited about mittens since I was like .... 5 years old.
But these ...

these I am in love with.
See the price?

I love the price
but hate that I hafta wait till next winter to wear them.

I've had my eye on these gloves for 6 months. No joke! I work part-time retail and spotted these at my store last fall. I knew they would be perfect for all those soccer-football games I have to get to go to.
So I watched.
And I waited.
And I watched and waited.
Until the clearance signs went up.
And then I watched some more.
And the prices dropped even lower.
And I waited
and it about killed me
but I was patient until I was certain they would not drop any lower in price.
And so I snagged 'em!

It's March. I've been waiting for months. And I just bought these gloves this week.
Now, to make sure that I remember where I put them so that I can find them when I need them in October.

*Budget Tip: $hop off $ea$on $ale$! Seriously you should do it! Whatever size your kid is in now, you can buy at least one size bigger for future wear for 80% (sometimes more!!) off! The down side is obvious, you can't wear today what you bought today. But the payoff is so rewarding when you pull a new shirt out of the back of the closet next year knowing you paid significantly less then if you would have bought it when you needed it!

It's Finance Friday here at To Write A Better Story. I dedicate Friday's to discussing finances seeing as how I don't have any. Well, I have some but ... It's been a super duper challenge for me mentally, physically and yes, even emotionally. It's been a constant wrestle in my life the last year because while it often feels like the worst thing to happen to a 40 year old mother of 5, it's been hands down one of the most gratifying times. If you're not familiar with my Finance Friday entries, I encourage you to catch up starting here or here are 2 of my favorites:
Blog-therapy and Do We Look Poor?

Side Note: I got my first negative comment on my blog this week and it was surprisingly stingy. A perfect stranger didn't agree with me. Why am I struggling with that? And have you? Do all bloggers go through this?

Double Side Note: can't somebody help me? here my blog sits on Blogger and I can't figure out for the life of me how to get Ads posted even though I signed up and was approved to have them. argh!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Passive Aggressive No More! (Guest Post)

When you come across wise words you cheerish them. The following blog from a good friend of mine is not only wise but it is absolutely worth sharing. I hope you enjoy her latest blog. Be sure to visit her site Gabriele Rienas for more insight and encouragment on relationships.

I’m on a “Let’s-stamp-out-passive-aggressiveness ” kick.    Why can’t we just say what we mean, ask for what we want and be honest when we don’t want something?   Let me be the first to say that I resort to these “avoid the tension” tactics at times.  If you know me, you know that I am verbally more direct than most although I can do the “nice girl” thing with the best of the them.  I’m well trained – I was raised in church.
OK – let’s back up.  What is passive aggressive behavior?  At the risk of over-simplifying the definition, it is appearing to go along with something outwardly, while inwardly resisting.
  • It’s showing up significantly late (or not at all) for a party that I didn’t want to attend in the first place.
  • It’s not being able to “find” that receipt that you have asked me for 10 times…because I think you’re unreasonable in asking for it.
  • It’s smiling and nodding in agreement in spite of inward bells and whistles to the contrary…and then gossiping about you to a mutual friend.
  • It is acting like my feelings aren’t hurt when they really are…and distancing myself from you ever so slightly.
Get the picture?  Passive aggressiveness is the false outward appearance of cooperation designed to keep the peace while inwardly disagreeing and resisting.  We resort to it for one of two reasons:  1.   Because it allows us to appear cooperative, agreeable and helpful.  That is, we want to look good;  or 2. We fear the consequences if disagree.   In other words…..pride or fear.
Sound harsh?   Maybe…….

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Bet My Bag is Bigger than Your Bag

Some women spend their money on jewelry. Others shoes. But there is a distinct group of women who collect purses - name brand, expensive purses. And by expensive I mean ‘you could dig a well in Africa and feed an entire tribe with the money you spent on that purse’ expensive.

But to each their own.

I am not a part of the name brand purse touting army of women. Not that I don't admire the supple Italian leather, the sleek embroidered canvas or the hand stitched trim. I can appreciate good quality when I see it.

I don't carry those bags because I am a mother. Of five children. Two of which are twins. In my opinion, my purse needs to be a functional, not stylish, piece of my artillery. 

Primarily, I need a big bag. Not a large bag. A very big bag. It must be big enough to hold books, diapers, wipes, bottles, tissues, Band-Aids, batteries, antibacterial hand gel, chap stick, snacks, pens, drawing paper, gum, medicine, cough drops, permission slips, water bottles, watch batteries and toys of every variety. And that's just for the kids. I need: a camera, an energy bar, packets of instant coffee and sweetener, wallet, lipstick, makeup, coupons, the grocery list, to do list, prescriptions, business cards, reading material, keys, mini sewing kit, spare change, my phone, lotion, comb, dental floss and a flask (just kidding) (sorta).

In other words, if you need something just ask me.

Because I carry everything but the kitchen sink in my purse and because my children are always digging inside my bag with their grubby little hands on the hunt for spare change for the concession stand, why in the world would I ever invest in an expensive leather purse? That would be just be a cruel reason for a leather-donating cow to die. 

No, the kind of bag I need is more liken to a military grade duffle bag. Which I would consider carrying except I don't have a single thing in my closet to match army green. Because while I recognize I don’t have a lot of control over much in my environment, I can at least color coordinate to the best of my ability.

Which brings me to the final component of my purse dilemma. I can barely get my teeth brushed every morning. How could I ever expect to find the time to match the color of my bag to my outfit? In fact, for years I carried one purse that had both brown and black coloring because I imagined it looked somewhat respectable with whatever I wore. 

But recently I put all my purse anxieties aside because I have found the perfect purse for me. It's large. It's durable. It's semi stylish, relatively reasonable and, here's the best part, it has an interchangeable cover. It has the magical ability to carry everything a mother needs while masquerading as a trendy bag.

Which pretty much sums up what I imagine my reputation to be. While I might look as if I have it all together, semi-stylish and arguably up-to-date on the outside, I am quite loaded down on the inside with odd and end randomness.

But what mother isn’t?

I don’t need an expensive purse to prove my social status to the world. Nor do I wish to spend an entire month’s wages on a bag that carries my kids’ crap.  What I really need is a waterproof, stain resistant, durable, attractive and inexpensive small suitcase that can do all the cooking and cleaning. Now that would be a purse I would pay an arm and a leg for! Or I could just get rid of the kids. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!
Stephanie Sikorski is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and can be reached for comment at To date she has collected five covers for her interchangeable bag.

(this article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series in the Daily Review Atlas, a GateHouse Media Company)


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