On Decorating With Photos


(This new metal print is so cool!  Thanks to Artsy Couture for sending me a metal photo print to review.)

Do you ever wonder if it's narcissistic that we decorate our houses with pictures of ourselves?

A few years ago I heard someone mention how it could be narcissistic to decorate with photos of yourself, and for a long time I wondered if maybe that was true.  I can certainly see how decorating with photos could become narcissistic, like those movie characters who live alone and have a huge canvas of themselves adorning the wall above the couch.  But still, I don't buy that decorating with photos has to be a narcissistic thing.

I've put more thought into it, and even read about it in recent years, and I personally think there are a few good reasons to decorate with photos of your own family.  This is what I think:

1.  Decorating with photos adds to a feeling of solidarity between family members.

I think about decorating with photos differently now that I have kids of my own.  I think that for kids, seeing pictures of themselves with their family on the wall reminds them that they aren't alone - they are part of a bigger unit, a family, and that means something.  They play an integral role in a family, they are woven through the collective family memories that photos represent.  They can look at the walls and visually see their place in the family. In my opinion, that can't help but add some security, knowing your place in the world by being able to see it on the walls.

2.  Photos are memories.

I went to my parents house for the 4th of July, and my sister and I stood looking at an old vacation photo from when we went river rafting.  I mentioned something specific that I remembered about that day, and she mentioned something she remembered, and there we were bonding over a shared memory because of a photo on my parents' wall. I'm the type of person who doesn't really remember things until I see a photo - and then a whole cascade of memories floods in.  Not everyone is like this, certain personality types are much better at remembering and honoring the past in their hearts without any external reminders, but personally, I need the photos around me to remind me.

3. Photos can be modern "remembrance stones".

Remember how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, and God told them to stack twelve stones from the river bed?  When their children asked about the stones, they could tell them of the Lord's faithfulness to Israel.  Well, to me, photos on my walls are something like a modern equivalent to that.  I want to work on this more in my home, by putting photos on the wall that are not only the perfect family photos, but photos that I can point to and say "Remember when God did that?"  He has been faithful to our family in many ways, and I want the photos on my wall to not just serve as an anchor for bonding and memories in my family, but also a way to point back to God's faithfulness.

Now, on to some practical things...

What is your favorite way to decorate with photos in your house?

Personally, I am constantly changing it up.

-I have small, square prints on a bulletin board above Derek's desk.  
-We have a wall collage of canvas prints.  Two of the pictures are of Derek and me from our 5th anniversary (they probably need updating since we just hit our 10th!), and there are smaller canvas prints of each of the kids' newborn pictures.
-I had pictures hanging along our stairwell, but I recently took those down because I want to re-do that wall.  I'll update when I figure it out.
-A metal print on my piano-top (which is basically my version of a mantel display, since I don't have a mantel).

The metal print is the newest addition to my photo decor - Artsy Couture recently asked if I'd like to check out one of their products and sent me this gorgeous metal print!  In case you haven't heard of metal prints, the photo is actually printed on a thin sheet of aluminum.  The colors are supposed to be brighter and sharper in printing with this method.



I ended up picking a beach photo from our vacation that I knew was not perfectly focused, but I was so impressed when the print came at how crisp it was anyway!  The colors really are gorgeous and vibrant, and it kind of has a certain glow about it that I am assuming is an effect of printing on aluminum.  I love the way it turned out, and it looks just as good as I thought it would on my piano-mantel.






Bonuses to printing on aluminum: it doesn't get retain dirt like textured canvas might, and there is no glass to break if it falls!

I poked around on the Artsy Couture website and they have a ton of options - not just for metal prints, but canvases, wood prints, traditional prints, cards, photo books, etc.  They also happen to be having a sale on large prints that ends tomorrow, so if you are interested, hop on over there and check it out!

What do you think?  Do you decorate with photos or not?  What are your reasons, if you have any?

That Time We Almost Moved (And Why I'm More Content Now)



Let's start from the very beginning, shall we?

A few months before Derek and I got married, we bought a house.  Derek lived in it while we were in engaged, and I moved in when we got married.  We searched high and low for a house that I felt good about.  Our budget was not big at all, and a lot of the houses we could afford were..."yucky" might be the right word.  Still we kept looking, and one day our realtor showed us this house.  It had an old, outdated kitchen without a dishwasher, a bathroom that can only be described as "blah", and a rough-hewn wood ceiling that aged into a yellow-y orange.  But the ceilings were vaulted, and there was an unfinished, walk-out basement.  We bought it.

My dad remodeled the kitchen as our wedding present (for which I am eternally grateful, especially for the dishwasher).  When Wyatt was on the way, we finished the basement.  I painted and decorated, and while it was far from what I wanted it to be, it was cozy.

One day when I was pregnant with Clarice (4th baby) my mom and I drove by a house that was for sale, and I immediately fell in love with it.  Of course it was a house that was just outside of the price range that we could afford.  I schemed about how we could make it work, dreamed of all the space we would have in that new house, and checked every couple of days to see if it had sold.  It eventually did, and not to us.

The seeds of discontent were planted.   Everything we hadn't updated in our home was starting to look particularly old and grubby.  Already, with only three kids on the outside and one on the way, our 2000 square feet was starting to feel small.

The next year, after keeping an eye to see if anything we liked as well as that dream house would come on the market, we decided to stay put and update ours.  We updated almost everything in the house, and it felt brand-new.  But every now and then, when we had a particularly grumpy day in our tiny house (tiny for 7 people and a dog, anyway), I'd check the market to see if anything else looked interesting.

That's how we came across a house we liked last week.

It was bigger.  It had more land around it.  It had a hot tub.  It had a formal dining room.  It had a partially finished basement that might allow for more bedrooms and a playroom.  I dreamed of sending the kids downstairs to play in their perfectly decorated space on days when the noise got to be too much.  I dreamed of how I'd turn the dining room into a homeschool nook, a place to organize all our books and supplies.  I dreamed of finding toys in the living room and being able to just through them into a play room.

This house had been on the market for five months, an eternity in an area where things are getting snatched up in days.  Though most contingent offers are being rejected right now, our realtor thought that probably wouldn't be the case with a house that had been on the market so long.  We made an offer on it.

Derek started scrambling to replace old doorknobs we never got to during our remodel, to paint the trim.  I started making a mental checklist of what would need to be done before we could list our house for sale, and I bought boxes from Walmart since our agent thought we should list it in a mere four days.  I spent an entire day cleaning and organizing and making the house look perfect, ready to be listed as soon as we heard the word.

They counter-offered.  We counter-offered, pretty generously, sent a nice letter - but we needed the deal to be contingent.  We have five kids, we need to have somewhere to live, after all.

They rejected all contingencies.  Even though the house has been on the market for five months, with no other current offers.  "Why can't they just sell their house first, and then maybe...?" said the selling agent.

Why couldn't we sell our house first? 

The thing is, through this whole thing, I've figured out that somewhere along the way, I kind of fell in love with the house we have.  After 10 years, I have the right furniture figured out to make it feel functional and not cluttered.  I have the walls decorated the way I want them.  We've put in blood, sweat, and tears (literally), to make the whole thing comfortable and functional for our family.  I can see us here in five years.  There aren't very many houses that come on the market that make me feel the same way.

Somewhere along the way, I accidentally became content with where I am, and what I have.

After struggling so long with comparison and discontentment, I have finally realized what is special about what we have, and learned to be thankful for it.

This house is small, yes, but it is customized to our family.  We made it what we want, working with what we had.  As our family has grown and our house has not, I've learned how to choose between what can stay and what has to go, to learn how to be more organized and less of a hoarder.  We've stretched our living space to the outside, with a large porch and deck furniture that makes me feel like we're on vacation.  We have songbirds in the pine tree outside the window, and hummingbirds that count on us to feed them in the summer.  We have neighbors that don't mind our dog roaming around on their property, because we don't mind when their dogs roam on ours.  We have a sunny, wooded lot.  We have firewood stacked next to the shed, and a wood stove that keeps us warm and lets us cook when the power goes out.  It's painted the perfect color to be a backdrop for my Instagram photos (Le Luxe by Behr, in case you were wondering).  It's got a huge paved area where the kids ride bikes, and practice fledgling basketball skills.  It's where we brought all our babies home.  It has our memories.

I'm not going to put all that at risk for a maybe.

So we're staying put, and right after we made that decision yesterday, I crawled into bed after snuggling on the couch and watching the Bachelorette with Derek.  I opened my Bible app, and it was still on the chapter I flipped to when looking up a reference for Bible time with the kids that morning.  I was tired, and couldn't remember where in Leviticus I've been reading, and 1 Timothy seemed a little easier on my brain.  I scrolled up and read these words:

"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and darkness.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

But as for you, O man of God, flee from these things.  Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called...I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus...to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ...To Him be honor and eternal dominion.  Amen."

1 Timothy 6:6-14

It seems right to me somehow that I would just happen upon that chapter after we let go of the idea of a bigger house.  Because the key to contentment is right there - did you catch it?

Pursue righteousness.  Godliness.  Faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Fight the good fight of the faith.

Take hold of eternal life to which you were called.

Keep the commandment free from reproach.

To Him be honor and eternal dominion.

Could I do all that if/when we get a bigger house?  Sure.  But I also can do all that just as well here.  Maybe I'll even learn to do it better, within the limitations of the walls of this small house.  Because when we learn to take our focus off the temporary and onto the things that will last forever...well there you go.  That's the secret to contentment.

And that's when you learn to be thankful for the good things you do have too, because a too-cramped house all of a sudden feels like a bonus when you have your life in focus, on the things that matter eternally.  On Christ.

So there you go.  The time we almost moved, and why it's overall really not that big of a deal after all.

(Also, I'm not going to lie, it's a huge relief that my house can be messy again!)

(Also again, I never did share the pictures of our home after the last major remodel a couple years ago.  Methinks it's time for a house tour.  Stay tuned!)


What I Learned In Our First (Real) Year Of Homeschooling




This past week we finished up our homeschool year.  I have to say, I was a homeschooled student, but coming from the mom side is a whole different thing.  There are a lot of advantages I have as a homeschool mom from being a homeschool student myself, but there are also a lot of things that you can't learn until you are on the teaching side of it.  I thought I'd take a little time today to reflect on what I've learned over this first year of homeschooling (first real year anyway - in my book, kindergarten doesn't count).


Homeschooling Is Great For Developing Patience

I would in no way consider myself a patient person.  Patience is something that I've struggled with over the years - I get impatient when things don't go smoothly, when I have to repeat myself, when things don't go my way.  Getting married cured me of some of that.  Having kids has grown me even more.  But having my kids with me 24/7 and teaching them myself at home is a whole other ball game when it comes to patience.

When I mention that I am homeschooling my kids, I've had lots of moms say to me "Oh, I wouldn't have the patience for that."  This year I learned that I don't have the patience for homeschooling either.  The secret is, a lot of moms who choose to homeschool don't have the patience for it.  But homeschooling is an excellent facilitator for sanctification.

I know you've heard it said that if you ask God for more patience, He'll give you opportunities to practice it, and that's exactly what homeschooling has done for me.  It hasn't always been pretty, and my deep-seated impatience has never been more obvious to me, but I can honestly say that at the end of this year that I am more patient then I was at the beginning of the year.  And that's purely through God enabling me and giving me practice at developing patience through this thing called homeschooling.  It's hard, but I know this is exactly why I should be doing it.

It's Okay To Change Curricula In The Middle Of The Year

I mentioned in a recent post that we ended up changing curricula in the middle of the year.  A lot of homeschool posts will advise you against switching your curriculum, will tell you to give it a really good chance before you drop it.  And there's some wisdom in that.  You obviously can't be switching curricula constantly - it would waste a lot of money and stunt your child's learning.  But this year I learned that when something just isn't working, you should find something else that will.  I'm so glad we didn't muddle through the whole year with the curriculum I had originally bought for reading - finding a curriculum that fit was so life-giving to our homeschool days!  Switching curricula mid-year does not mean you are a failure for starting with the wrong one.  When you are in the early homeschooling years with any kid, it's going to take a little trial and error to figure out what will work best with your unique blend of personalities.  I imagine we might have to switch curricula mid-year again at some point since I have five different kids with unique learning needs, and that's okay!

You Will Be Miserable If You Don't Learn To Stop Comparing

I remember seven years ago, as a brand-new mom, I struggled constantly with comparing my baby to all my friends' babies.  I doubted myself whenever another child started rolling over, walking, talking before my own baby.  Every new mom has to learn not to compare her baby to others, because every child learns and develops at their own pace.  I eventually became secure as a mom as I learned those things.  What I didn't expect was for all those insecurities to come roaring back as soon as my oldest hit school age.  This year I had to re-learn all over again that kids' learn and grow at their own pace, and that this will necessarily affect the way we homeschool.  While kids' need to be challenged to grow, there are also times when they are just not ready for a certain academic skill and you have to sit back and wait until they are.  Learning when to challenge your child with a new skill and when to wait a bit - and learning to stop comparing your child to other children - is part of becoming a good homeschool teacher.  



You Actually Can Have A Baby In The Middle Of A Homeschool Year

I have to admit, I was nervous about how having a new baby in the house would affect our homeschool year.  This is the first year we have had a legal requirement on the amount of days we needed to do school, and I was really worried that having a baby would make it hard to hit our target. But I learned that having a baby in the middle of a school year is not really a big deal.  The great part of homeschooling is that it is so flexible!

I tried to get ahead a bit by schooling a few days here and there over last summer, but we only accumulated 20 extra days.  When Georgie was born at the end of October, I took the entire months of November and December off, and we didn't do a single thing (aside from some field trips).  But we still finished up our school year before June!  Our school days after Georgie arrived were laid-back and simple - we did practically no school work in the mornings.  When the little ones were down for a nap in the afternoon, then we would work on our reading, language arts, and math.  When the younger ones got up, we'd read our history and science books together.

I was surprised and encouraged to see that homeschooling fit easily into our new life stage - and the key was letting our days be flexible.  I'm actually glad I didn't have to deal with getting my kids out the door in the morning and picking them up by a certain time every day, not to mention all the extra preparation for lunches and school events - it might actually be easier to have a baby without sending my kids' to a school building!

Learn To Love What Must Be Done

I am admittedly an academia-loving person.  I get excited by school supplies.  I love studying and learning new things myself.  I actually love the idea of teaching my kids history and science!  But there are some areas of being a homeschool teacher that I was not as excited about.  I've had multiple friends make comments to me too about not looking forward to homeschooling, not feeling excited or passionate about it.  However, through this first year of homeschooling I've learned that it is possible to learn to love what must be done.

I can't remember where I first heard this phrase, but it has become a constant refrain for me this year, as we pushed through our lessons on days when I was just not feeling it.  It's impossible to be passionate and excited about something all the time, and I think to be successful at homeschooling you have to realize that. You can push through and learn to love what you are doing anyway.

It's the difference between the newly-married, heart-pounding love, and the steady deeper love that you have when you've been married for years.  As the fresh excitement of the school year faded, and the seeming drudgery of daily work took over, I learned that there is a deeper satisfaction and passion that develops when you push through, as you find the meaningful in the midst of the everyday, as you learn to shake things up and give yourself a fresh perspective throughout the journey.

That's how you learn to love what must be done, by sticking with a commitment even when you don't feel a superficial excitement about it - there's a deeper accomplishment, and yes, even a love, that comes with the commitment.

Next year is my first year homeschooling two kids in two different grades, so the learning has just begun!  Stay tuned.

Homeschool friends, what was the biggest thing you learned in your first year of homeschooling?


A Little Sunshine (Award)



When I was a kid, Focus On The Family had a pen pal program.  You sent in a card with your name and address, and they paired you up with another kid who also hoped to receive some happy mail.  By the time I reached junior high, I had ten different pen pals going.  I still have a bunch of letters from those girls filed away in my closet.  

Sadly, I lost contact with the majority of my pen pals, but there are still a couple that I am in contact with today, and one of them is Bethany from Waves And Lilacs!  Pen pals that also turn into blog buddies!?  It doesn't get much better than that.  

Anyway, Bethany tagged me for the Sunshine Blog Award a couple months ago.  I am pleasantly surprised that these awards are still around!  If you've never seen one of these posts before, I answer the questions that Bethany sent me, and then award some of my favorite bloggers and pose some questions to them.  It's a fun getting-to-know-you opportunity!




1. How do you balance motherhood and blogging?
Well, I've managed to balance being a mom with keeping this blog running since the beginning, so I've been asked this a few times.  As far as the practical nuts and bolts go, I sit down and type during nap/quiet time, occasionally get away on a Saturday morning to write, and I take pictures randomly wherever I go, just so I have a few images to slap onto a post when I need them.  I make notes in my phone when an idea strikes so I can remember what I want to write about later.  
Especially as my kids have grown, I rarely work on my blog when they are awake, which means I've had to learn to prioritize and scale back where necessary.  I love to blog as a hobby, but my kids are way more important than my blog!  I don't want to let it take my attention away from them, and I find that when I keep that in mind I still find ways to squeeze it in.
I've had people ask me how I find the time, and all I can ever say is that you find time for the things that are important to you.  So sometimes instead of reading a book or binging on a TV show, I spend my spare time writing a post or editing pictures.  I think we often have a lot more time than we think we do, if we just learned to utilize it better (that goes for me too!).
2.What is your dream vacation spot?
Italy.  Derek and I have been wanting to go to Italy since we got married.  Our original goal was for our 10th anniversary trip, but since that is this year, it's obviously not going to happen.  Maybe our 20th?
3.What is one item you would need if left stranded on a deserted island?
That depends, how long am I going to be stranded?  Did I get shipwrecked, or am I just being left there temporarily while the boat fills up with gas or something?  If we're talking temporary - my phone.  I'd have plenty of books to read on my Kindle app.  If I have been shipwrecked...my Bible and some flint (don't make me choose).
Maybe this question was supposed to be more fun, but what can I say, I'm practical.
 4.What is your top goal for the year?
I didn't really make goals for the year this time around, but I'd say for the rest of the year my goal is to get organized and into a good daily homeschool routine.  Last year we got our work done but we mostly flew by the seat of our pants, so I'm hoping to form more lasting habits and rhythms this year.
5. What’s your favorite romantic memory with your spouse?
Oo, good question!  The easy answer would be our engagement or any of the trips we've done together.  But my favorite more normal memory is probably our 6th anniversary. My cousin got married on our anniversary, and we had a fun time at the reception.  The kids were running around and dancing, and it was so cute.  But then our song came on, so I handed the baby off to relatives, and Derek and I danced to the same song we danced to on our wedding day.  It was a sweet flashback, and in that moment I just was so happy to be married to him all over again.
5. How did you pick your kiddos’ names?
I have a system.  First we print off the baby name list from 100 years ago from the social security website (we like old name).  Then we go through and cross off anything we hate to narrow it down.  Then we pick our top 10 names or so from what's left.  Then we look up name meanings, because that's important to us.  We narrow it down to 2-3 name possibilities.  With the first few we would pick the final name when we saw our baby's face (to make sure the name fit), but with the last couple we just had one choice and knew our baby's name before they were born!
6. You can only watch one show for the rest of your life. What is it?
Ugh.  Hmm.  I'm going to say Survivor or The Middle.  Survivor would be great because it has 36 seasons or something ridiculous like that (and counting), so we'd be busy for a while.  And we love to analyze that show!  The Middle would be great because it's so funny!  (Have you watched The Middle?  I haven't met too many people who've seen it.  If you watch it, you HAVE to start from the beginning, you won't get half the jokes if you don't.)
7. What is the anthem of your blog?
Hmm, "anthem" feels so high pressure, haha!  I think my hope for this blog is that someday my kids will read it, and will be able to see God's faithfulness in our lives, even when it was hard.  I've been singing the kids a new hymn lately as I put them to bed, and the words kind of encapsulate what I hope the overall trajectory of this blog (and my life) will be.  
"To God be the glory, great things He has done."
8. What is one blog post you are MOST proud of?
I've got over a thousand posts on this blog now, so this is a hard question. Skip?  I guess most recently I like my "Things I Regret (And Don't) From My First 30 Years" post.  It's a nice summary of my life and this blog thus far.
9. What do you shoot your pictures with?
I either use a Nikon D5200 with a 50 mm 1.5 f/stop lens, or I use my iPhone 7+.
10. What is your favorite recipe?
Oh, I found this great recipe that we've been loving lately!  It's in a cookbook called One Pot Wonders, and it's the "spicy beef and sweet potato braise".  So good!
11. Who/what inspired you to begin blogging?
I started blogging almost ten years ago now!  Back then, blogs were more like public diaries where you also made friends.  I started to blog for a couple reasons.  First, I loved writing down my thoughts about different things, and for me, it's a whole lot more fun to write if I have somewhere to share it.  Second, I was a young newlywed, and none of my friends were married yet, so blogging was a great way to make friends with other girls close to my age who were also married.  The internet has a lot of problems, but one of the great things about it is how it lets you connect with like-minded people from around the world!  I have friends from all over the country and overseas, all because of this little blog.

My Nominees

For those I tag, if your blog is in my sidebar - I tag you!

Michelle, Angi, Rachel, Heather, Brittney, Emily
Amanda, Bekah, Meghan, Laura, Leslie, Rachel

My Questions 
1. What is a favorite childhood memory?
2.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
3. What was the last book you read?
4.  When you have some spare time, what do you do with it (besides blogging, of course).
5. With whom is your longest friendship?
6. Favorite summer beverage?
7. If you had the opportunity to attend your own funeral, what would you hope to hear people say about you?
8. All you ladies are married - how did you meet your spouse?
9.  Finish the sentence: "In high school I could have been voted most likely to..."
10.  Tell us something that we don't already know and wouldn't think to ask you.

Answer the questions on your blog, and then pass the award along (to however many people you want)!



Lots Of Firsts - Georgie At Seven Months


Georgie Bea is seven months old, and this post is late!  Whoops.  I'm blaming vacation (even though it was a month ago).

Growth And Eating

We are solidly into size 2 diapers and 6-9 month clothes, though I still make some smaller sizes work as well.  Her feet are big enough for shoes now, but since it's summer I rarely put shoes on her.  She looks adorable in her baby swimsuit (I will share pictures on Instagram soon).

Georgie has really filled out over the last couple months, and I love her chubby little cheeks!  We started food purees this month, and she loves them.  She often lurches toward the spoon if I don't bring it to her mouth fast enough.

She is still cuddly and sweet when I feed her a bottle, and she snuggles into my and reaches up to touch my face.  I love that she still does this, even though we are no longer nursing.  She can almost hold her own bottle now, but I try not to let her too often when we are at home, because I want to enjoy her baby snuggles.



Sleeping

No change, she's still amazing.  She does have a harder time when I first lay her down lately, but she's usually still asleep within 15 minutes.

Firsts

We went on Georgie's first family vacation this month!  Maybe I'll get around to posting about it before the summer is over.  She had her first plane flight, and did wonderfully on the plane.  She met her Uncle Jeff and Aunt Rae for the first time.  She saw the ocean for the first time (even though she won't remember it).

We also started solids for the first time (which she loved)!



Personality

Georgie hates water, and always gives me this desperate, betrayed look when I put her in the bathtub.  She hates getting sprayed with the sunscreen.  Aside from those two things she has generally been an abnormally happy baby.  It's not hard to get her to smile!  She also has the cutest little baby laugh (I know, I say that about all my babies).

Of course, as we've passed the 7 month mark her teething has gotten a little more aggressive, and she has had some days where she just gets upset whenever I put her down and wants to be held all day.  Whenever I pick her up she immediately gives this triumphant grin and pats my shoulder, and I have a vague feeling that I've just been played.  Still, I usually just try to accommodate - she'll be crawling soon, and then who knows if she'll want me to hold her?



---

Georgie Bea, 

How you've grown this month!  You are starting to look like an "older" baby.  The happiest place for you to be is resting on my hip, and you grin at everyone who looks at you.  I love your sweet smile and dimples, you charm people wherever we go!  Even the people on the plane couldn't get irritated that they were sitting by a baby because you were so darn cute.  I love how your eyes follow me around when I'm not holding you, and you lean toward me with your little raised eyebrows whenever you catch my eye.  I'm still your favorite, and you can be attached to my hip for as long as you want, Baby Girl.  I love you more than all the stars in the sky.

Love Always,

Mama


Things I Regret (And Don't) From My First 30 Years



It's here! This week the third decade of my life is coming to a close.  There is something more significant about those decade increments, and I wanted to mark it here on the blog in some way.

I've been toying with different blog post ideas.  I've seen some people doing "30 Things I Learned Before 30", but I couldn't bring myself to write a post like that.  Most 30 year olds are still in the I think-I-know-so-much-but-I-don't-realize-I-really-don't stage, and that includes me.  When I reflect back over the last 30 years, I don't think I'm qualified to offer anyone advice.  I know less now than I thought I knew at 20 years old!  I've spent too much time with people further down the road and much wiser than myself to offer anyone life lessons from a still relatively shallow well of experience.

What I can do though, is look back over these first decades of my life and say what I've regretted, and what I never will, so here we go.

What I Regret From My First 30 Years

Caring Too Much About What People Thought In My Teens

Doesn't every teen care too much about what their peer group thinks?  Yes.  Does every adult wish they had cared a little less about what their teenage peer group thought?  Probably also a yes.  I was so insecure as a teenager, and I can't say that I could have really done anything differently to change that - confidence must be earned in some way, must be grown into.  But I still wish teenage Callie could have had a little more spunk and individuality.

Going On The Birth Control Pill

This one is a bit of a mixed bag, because I am obviously so thankful to have the children I have, and our rather frustrating journey to parenthood brought them to me.  God is sovereign and always had a plan.  But I went on the pill unquestioningly right before I got married, and I didn't know about it's potential abortifacient effect, which conflicts with my pro-life beliefs.  I didn't know it would seriously mess up my hormones so that when we were ready to start trying for a baby, things wouldn't work right.  I'll always wonder if there could have been another child, I'll always wish I did a little more research about birth control before succumbing to that cultural norm.  I just didn't know.

Not Getting Serious About Budgeting Sooner

This year I finally realized that grown-ups should have budgets.  I feel stupid even typing that.  It's not that I had no budget at all through my 20's, I knew what I had to spend each month and I had varying success at staying within that limit.  I didn't really overspend (except for one dark period between 2014-2015), but I didn't think enough about future goals and plans.  I didn't "give every dollar a job".  When I think of all the dollars I have wasted by allowing them to slip away without a plan every month, it makes me kind of sick.  I wish I had taken one of those financial peace classes or read more about making and managing a budget before I got my first grown-up paycheck.

Not Witnessing To My Coworkers

I got a job at a great dental office the year after we got married, and I worked there until I got pregnant with Clarice.  My sister even worked there for a while, which was so fun.  That office saw me through the birth of three of my babies, and I so appreciated the people there.  I worked there for almost 7 years.  And in all that time, I was too chicken to witness to my coworkers.  I was a good employee, and I know some will say that you should "preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words", but let's be honest, that's a cop-out.  No one ever got saved without the use of words.  I should have loved them enough to be vocal.  I kind of wonder if the Lord took me out of that job because I was blowing my chances to tell them about Jesus.  To me, this will always be one of my biggest failures.  From an eternal perspective, it feels like a waste.

Not Filming My Kids More

Not to toot my own horn, but I have kind of knocked it out of the park when it comes to taking pictures of my kids and documenting their babyhood.  But I've also had a video camera in my back pocket for years now, and I'm such a slacker on filming them!  In "my next 30 years" (you know I couldn't resist that country song reference!), I want to get better at filming their childhoods, before they slip away.



What I'll Never Regret

Putting My Trust In Jesus For My Salvation

Let's start with the most obvious one!  When I was four years old I asked Jesus "into my heart", and over the next years I learned and grew into my faith, made it my own.  I will never, ever regret asking Jesus to save me from my sin, turning to Him alone to save my soul.  It was the best decision I ever made, no matter how long I live.  I am so thankful for my Savior.

Being Homeschooled

When I was 8 years old, my mom made the decision to pull me out of public school.  She did this at a time when homeschooling was not common, and looking back at it now, I so admire her bravery.  I am thankful every day for her decision. Being homeschooled allowed me space to stop thinking so much about what other kids thought, and start caring a little more about what God thought.  That first regret in the list above could have been so much bigger.  That decision by my mom to homeschool me became a major part of my testimony - without it, I don't know if I would have grown in my faith or walked with the Lord through high school at all.  It's a big reason why I always knew I'd homeschool my kids.  I wouldn't be who I was today without it, and I never look back at homeschooling and feel that I missed out on anything.  Instead, I gained something precious from it.

Getting Married Young

When I was still in hygiene school, I remember walking into the office one day with a sparkly ring on my finger.  I was so happy and excited.  I remember one of the front office ladies looking at me with concern.  "Are you sure?  You are so young.  What is the rush?"  She didn't get it, and a lot of people didn't get it.  They didn't understand that I was committed to not sleeping with anyone before marriage, so living together was not an option.  They didn't get why I didn't care to "have some fun" first (marriage is fun, people!).  They didn't recognize that when you already know you're going to marry this person, there is really no point in waiting just for the sake of waiting.  They didn't think a 20 year old was mature enough to make that kind of decision.  But we were absolutely committed to each other, and we got over every rough spot together.  I love him more now than I did then.  Did I have growing up to do?  Yes, but I got to grow up with my husband next to me, my best friend.  I'll never regret marrying him young.

Not Drinking

That whole "drink a little more lemonade, and not so many beers" (you know, from the song?) does not apply to me!  There are a multitude of reasons why I don't drink, and I won't get into it here.  That could be a whole other post, and it is a post I've attempted to tackle several times but was never satisfied enough with the result to share.  I think there is liberty here for Christians, so I'm not going to judge you if you do have a drink (without getting drunk, of course, see Ephesians 5:18).  But I absolutely think it was a great decision for me to never open that door.  I don't want it or need it to relax (a bubble bath and chocolate does the trick), I don't need it to have fun (I honestly feel sorry for people that do), and let's just think for a minute about the money I've saved over the years by not creating that (potentially addictive and risky) habit.  I don't imagine I'll regret not having a drink in my next 30 years either.

Having Children In My 20's

I started having babies in my early 20's, and had my last baby in my late 20's.  People are always surprised at how young I am, considering I have five kiddos, and sometimes they're even a little judgey about it.  But I'm quite happy with how it turned out.  I'll graduate my first child at 40, and probably my last before I hit 50.  When you are young you have more energy, and I'll hopefully be a younger grandma, which will be fun.  I might even get to see my great grandchildren, like my grandparents have.  Having babies young isn't always possible, and I want you all to know that my heart aches for every woman who wants to be a mama, and for whatever reason she can't.  I know young motherhood isn't possible for everyone.  But I don't regret it a bit.  I personally don't see anything but positives attached to becoming a mom when I was young. I'm glad we didn't wait too long.

Having A Big Family

I've written about this at length, so I'll keep it short here, but goodness, I'm so thankful for my five kids.  Our house is loud and chaotic and full to the brim with joy, and I wouldn't change a single thing.  I'm so proud of my big family.

Quitting My Job To Stay Home Full-Time

There was a crossroads in my life a few years ago.  When my first three kids were little, I was able to work just one day a week.  I didn't have to be away from them very much, and was still able to supplement our income.  It was a blessing.  Then things started shifting, becoming a little more stressful at work, and they told me they needed me to work more days per week.  I hated the thought of giving up that job at the time.  But I didn't want to spend more time away from my kids, especially with another baby on the way and kindergarten looming (I wanted to homeschool).  After I quit, I felt so free (and also a little guilty and insecure about no longer contributing my "extra" to our income, but that was silly and I got over it).  I don't think I ever realized how much even just one day a week was taking from my energy, and now I have it back to give at home.  If you are a working mom, I'm not trying to send you a message, so don't read this section that way, please.  But for me, I'm so glad I let that job go and came home full-time.

Starting This Blog

If I'm totally honest, I struggle with this little online space sometimes.  Blogging has changed so much, and I've changed so much too.  There are times I still love having a place to share my thoughts, and times when I am afraid the whole thing is pointless.  But as I write this today, I'm glad I've documented the last decade here.  Would I remember so much of my 20's if I hadn't taken time to write about it?  Without this space, would I have slowed down, formed my thoughts enough to be able to look back now and see God's hand in the journey from 20 to 30?  I don't really think so.  I don't know what the future holds for this blog.  My children are growing, and life keeps speeding up.  I imagine it will look different in another 10 years than it does today.  But I'm so glad I take some time to write about my life here, and God's hand in it all, if for no one else than for me, to stand as my "ebenezer".  It's a reminder of God's goodness to me.  I don't regret writing here.  And thanks to all of you who have read my posts and stuck with me through the years.  Without you, I don't know if I'd have this record at all.

And just for fun, remember that unofficial 30-year-old beach shoot from my vacation?  Here are the outtakes.  The tide was coming in, and the waves just kept coming in higher, and that water was cold!













Here's to the next 30 years!



936 Pennies Review - Recommended!



I somehow found Erin Lynum on Twitter a few years ago, and I specifically remember clicking through to her blog and reading her post about receiving a jar of 936 pennies as she dedicated her baby at her church.  The 936 pennies represented the weeks she would have with her baby from birth until their 18th birthday.  In that post she challenged moms to make sure they were spending their 936 pennies well.  That idea stuck with me, so when I saw this book, I knew exactly who had written it and I snagged it!

I would classify 936 Pennies: Discovering The Joy Of Intentional Parenting as memoir/encouragement for moms.  Erin shares a lot of her own mothering journey and ways she has learned to "spend her pennies well" over the years.  She doesn't get preachy or tell you what you "should" do, but instead presents her personal experiences as an encouragement and challenge to parent intentionally, with the passing of time in the forefront of our minds.  Her kids are about the same age or perhaps slightly younger than mine, so while there were certain sections that I no longer struggle with as much, I could deeply relate to 95% of the book.

There were a couple little quibbles I had here and there with how she worded certain things, but I can definitely say this book is solid doctrinally and is thoroughly grounded by biblical truth and the gospel.  She doesn't just focus on superficial suggestions to make our days smoother or more fun, but she digs down deep into what it means to parent our children with not just 936 pennies but eternity in mind.  I especially enjoyed the chapters toward the end about memory-making and keeping (something I spent some time writing about last fall), and about how we can gain some time back by using technology well.

I highly, highly recommend this book!  I found myself so encouraged to invest in my kids and put some of my own strategies in place to use my time with them in a way that will matter for eternity.  I also think this would make an excellent baby shower or first birthday party gift, along with a jar of 936 pennies, of course.  If you are a mom, check this one out!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.
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