Monday, March 10, 2014

My Amazing Mother's Kid Tips

Mom with Me - about 10 weeks before being Widowed

Three years ago this week, my Mother entered Heaven. I miss her, but mostly I am filled with joy when I think of her.

My Mother was nothing short of amazing! In the course of her life she raised 8 kids -4 Boys, 4 Girls - some Adopted, some Foster, some Birth, some Grandkids. Sure, lots of people have done that! (including many bloggers I read). But, Mom was different. She was different from most other Moms of large families because she was suddenly widowed in her prime - when she had several young children at home (including a newborn, me). She also had profound health problems. But, she managed, with God's help, to raise a bunch of us!

She was a living testimony to 2 Corinthians 12:9: God's strength IS made perfect in weakness!

Mom never kept a house that looked like a set on Martha Stewart, but she DID get the important things done.

Mom would have told you that her biggest priority was teaching her Children to be good Christians, and she spent countless hours obeying Deuteronomy 6:6-7, which she quoted frequently enough:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

As a devout Presbyterian, she also loved to quote the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
I doubt a day passed that she didn't read us some great passage she had found - frequently from the Bible, or a Christian reading of some kind. And, she sprinkled all her conversation with Spiritual insights. In addition to that, she was always willing to help others in need. She frequently would treat someone else to a dinner out (I suspect that often the "poor" she helped were better off than we were!), collected money for the disabled, or assisted someone in some way they needed.

It was before the days of homeschooling, but Mom had been a professional teacher, and many, many times took it upon herself to educate us in some way the schools did not. Truancy laws weren't as strict back then, and I remember her taking her kids from classes frequently to do things like: watching a court trial, helping a sick relative, hearing a presidential candidate's speech, or watching the elephants put up the tents when the circus came to town! 

Needless to say, this post doesn't cover all of Mom's amazing-ness, but a few of the many memories that come to mind are here. 

She also had a few everyday methods that made it possible to run a household without a spouse there to help:

Asking for help from the kids   

When Mom was first widowed, she called my older sisters together and asked them for their help in raising me. I was a newborn at that time. They all did - and did to a remarkable extent. I've always said that if there were two pieces of cake, any of my sisters would have given me the bigger piece! THANKS, SISTERS! : )

She trained us to help with many practical things that had to be done: laundry, vacuuming, food prep work, installing sump pumps, inflating tires on the car, scraping frost in winter, bringing in wood for the fire, taking out the trash, etc. Not only did that help her - it helped US! 

Packing for trips   

Mom very seldom planned a trip, she often spontaneously went on the same day she decided to go! Most of our trips were to visit our Grandparents, who lived a few hours away (and in times of illness sometimes needed us to get there quickly), but some of our trips were more exotic. This is how Mom did it: She gave each of us a carry-on sized suitcase, and told us to open it on our beds. Then, she would go open her suitcase on her bed. Her policy was that four outfits should go on a trip - period. No matter where we were going, or for how long - it was four outfits! One Church outfit, three everyday outfits. She told us to pack our clothes whether they were dirty or clean (with a preference for clean, of course!) - and if needed we'd do laundry at our destination. Then, as she packed her suitcase, she would call out to us to put the same items in our suitcases. "Everyone, put three everyday shirts in your suitcases!" "Put in one Church shirt" "Put in your Church shoes!" "Okay, now pack your toothbrush!" and so on. When everyone was done, she'd do a walk around and inspect, then we'd zip up and go! Not only did she save herself a lot of work that way, but she also apprenticed us to be good grown-ups. 

Color coding

Mom color-coded some of the things in our house. In the kitchen and in the bathroom, there was a row of drinking glasses, and we each had our own color. Any time we wanted a glass of water, we could help ourselves, then return the glass to its spot in the row. She also color coded things like photo albums - we each had our own. She didn't color-code towels, as she felt that was less efficient. In every color-coded system, we always had the same color. I was purple. 

The Dot System

I've heard two ideas for laundry identification repeatedly: 1) Write the size inside the item - which is fine as long as you have the constantly changing chart of everyone's sizes memorized. and 2) Write the name of the owner in the item - which is fine till you have a hand-me-down. What do you do then, cross out one name, and write in another? Then, the third time the same thing is passed down, what do you do? Mom's system was much better. She used a system of dots written on with a laundry marker pen. Each family member was assigned a number in order of age - oldest to youngest. Mom was 1, Oldest child was 2, Second child was 3, etc. Then, you could expect to find a configuration of dots inside each clothing item, by the tag (or on the sole of socks). As the item was passed down each time, one more dot was added. I was 6 - my configuration of dots looked like the "6" on dominoes :::

The Towel System

Mom didn't color-code our towels, instead, she installed enough towel bars that we each had an official, labeled spot for our towel. She also installed bedroom towel rods, so that we could wrap up in our bath towel and walk to our room to dress, hanging our towel in our room. (We had one bathroom for a moderately large family - dressing in the bathroom was not practical. Also, for many years we were an all-girl household, so modesty inside the house was less of an issue than it might have otherwise been) 

The Voting System

Mom cared about our opinions! She let each one of us vote, and have our say frequently on things like what restaurant to go to when we went out, or what T.V. show to watch (we had to agree on 2 hours total screen time per week when I was little!) But, she always had the majority vote (rather like a majority stock holder in a corporation). We could all vote first - we each got one vote - and she'd see what our preference was - then she'd cast her VOTES - all of them - and determine the outcome. That way, she knew what we felt and took it into consideration - but she wasn't ruled by it.

Hairbrushing Chain  

When you're raising 4 little girls - that's a lot of hair to get done to leave the house! Mom would put us in a line, oldest to youngest, and have us each do the hair of the person in front of us. In the time she could do my oldest sister's hair, we were all done. She said she had read the trick in a book somewhere : ) (I don't think this works with teen girls, only younger ones)

She DIDN'T "Choose her Battles" 

Mom believed that the parents should lead the family. If she said it, it was law. She thought that anarchy was a dangerous slippery slope with children - and that failing to enforce her own rules would weaken her authority, making it even more difficult to manage children by herself. There was never a "Well, it's not important if you're disobedient, as long as the rule I made isn't that important to me." (how does a kid figure that out - except by breaking all the rules?) Obedience was important, and not negotiable. But, she was also amazingly permissive about some things - she often quoted a friend who said, "You should always say "yes" to your children unless there's some good reason to say no." So, our freedom came in not having as many frivolous rules to obey, rather than in being allowed to disobey on "small battles."

The Lord's Day

My Grandparents had always strictly observed the Lord's Day. Not only did they not work on that day, but they would not engage in business that required others to work (except for acts of necessity or mercy). They did not go to restaurants, listen to the radio, shop, or get the newspaper on the Lord's Day. Mom was not as strict as her parents had been, but she still rested and insisted that we all rest on Sunday. After Church and lunch, we all lay down on Sunday afternoons to rest. Mom slept, and those of us who could sleep would also nap. If we were unable to sleep, we were to stay in our beds doing some sort of Christian reading. During the rest of the day, we were forbidden to use the day inappropriately. That meant no homework on Sunday evenings! We had to learn to plan our work do be done during the week, and not procrastinate till Sunday night. No sports in any organization that played or practiced on Sunday. No playing outdoors or doing yardwork on Sundays, either. I really think that this weekly habit of rest, in obedience to the 4th Commandment, is what saved my Mother's health & sanity when she had such a huge burden on her shoulders - and it was tremendously beneficial for us kids, too. When you have to "do it all yourself" it is SO easy to think that you have to work 24/7. But, she believed that Scriptures mandated rest as an act of Faith - that God WOULD help us if we didn't insist on being the powerful one and acting as if the world was on our shoulders. She rested in her demonstration of her dependence upon God.

May Her Memory Be Eternal!


This post was featured on 

Pioneer Momma

  What'd You Do this Weekend

This is being shared on
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The Chicken Chick
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  1. I really enjoyed your post about your mom. Lots of great tips to, like with the laundry and hair. I have just 2 boys, and they are about 7 years apart, so I don't think I will need those tips but I still enjoyed them. Your mother sounds like she was a very loving and strong women, with lots of patients. I host a weekly linky party, If you ever care to join. My blog Bacon Time with the Hungry Hypo, don't let the name fool you, it's not about eating bacon, rather bacon is a metaphor for all the things that bring me joy, crafting, cooking, decorating, fashion, etc. Hope to see you soon.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words & for the invitation. I linked up! Looks like a lovely party!

  2. I love this! It's an honor to your mother that you shared all these "tips" in the context of her personality and situation in life. I am so impressed with her, and also with you, for being able to distill what you learned from her into something so positive and readable. I wish I had read this about 30 years ago ;-) Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your exceedingly kind words - I'm very touched. Glad you liked it : )

  3. What a beautiful post. Sounds like she sure had a hard life but didn't dwell in misery but made the most of it. So glad you have wonderful memories of her and lessons learned from her :-)

    1. Thanks so much. Mom did have a hard life in many ways - and it did get her down - life was a great struggle for her in many ways. But, she persevered, and loved us, and never gave up. Thanks so much for your kind words : )

  4. WOW! You're mom sounded like an amazing woman - for sure! I enjoy this post - hearing about her - and your family! So sorry to hear that she passed away 3 years ago. But it is true we will always have our memories of our loved ones and you are doing a great job of keeping those memories alive! HUGS!

    1. Thank you so much, Jennifer - that means a lot to me : )

  5. What a beautiful way to remember your mother. I'm sure everything she has taught all of you will be passed down for generations. Your post is so heartfelt, I was widowed with 6 kids young kids and I don't think I have handled things with the grace and beauty your mother did. Thank you for sharing your mom's parenting tips with us at The MaMade Blog Hop

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind words. From looking at your blog, I can see you're pretty amazing, too! You know, some days if you just breathe & show up for the job - you're overcoming great odds. You've probably noticed, as I have, that families with a great loss like this gravitate to each other, which means I have had a lot of friends who lost parents. In so many of those cases, the living parent then was unable to continue parenting, too, because of grief. If you hold on to your Faith, are faithful to your kids & keep up the good work as a parent who has lost a spouse, you are *amazing!*

  6. What an amazing tribute to a wonderful woman. The way you wrote about her, shared how she managed your home, made me feel as if I knew her. You have had so much blessing in your life to have had her as a Mom.

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words. Yes, I was AMAZINGLY Blessed to have her for a Mom! : )

  7. I'm going to try that dot system -- with three boys, two of them only fifteen months apart, keeping track of who fits into what is a struggle.

    1. Thanks so much for visiting Michelle! Hope you find it helpful : )

  8. Love the Towel System idea!! Great read - Thanks!!

    1. Thanks so much for visiting - glad you enjoyed it : )

  9. Wow, I'm so glad I am sitting next to you over at Missional Women linkup today! I love all these ideas. I have twin boys, so I need to be more creative in parenting. Also, I found a children's Catechism which I'm excited to start with them. Thanks again! Melissa

    1. So glad you liked the post - I'm delighted to have you here! Hope you enjoy the Catechism - the great missionary, John G. Paton reflected that the happiest times of his childhood were the times he spent with his parents learning the Catechism!

  10. Wow, what an amazing woman of faith! Thanks for sharing :)

    found you at the Missional Woman Hop, Rachael @ Diamonds in the Rough

    1. Thanks so much for visiting - glad you liked reading about my Mom : )

  11. I'm sorry for your loss of your mom, but how nice that you have such good memories of her. Thank you for posting this. Gentle Joy

  12. What great tips your mother had. I love the packing for vacation and the towel tip.
    Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  13. How beautiful! Your mom sounds like she was a wonderful woman. I love that she had VOTES, not just one lol. Thanks for sharing, and I featured this for this week's What'd You Do This Weekend! Pinning :-)

    Ashley @

  14. What a wonderful legacy your mom has shared. And I know she's brilliant because I use the same dot system to identify my children's cloths and so that I can hand them down. :) Thanks for sharing at Inspire Us Thursday on Organized 31.

  15. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss...but I'm happy that you grew up knowing how much your Mother loved you! Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope you have time to share again today!


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