Showing posts with label 31 Days Of Writing Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 31 Days Of Writing Challenge. Show all posts

My Morning Routine (As A Homeschool Mom Of Five)


For years I dragged myself out of the bed in the mornings, and I internally cringed any time I heard a blogger talk about the importance of "getting up before your kids".  All I could think was "how?".  How did all these moms manage to get up that early! I couldn't figure it out, and I resented the suggestion a little bit.  

Today I wanted to talk about my current morning routine, but before I do that, I just want to say that if you have kids under the age of 2, just forget about it.   Your sleep is more important right now than figuring out how to have the perfect morning routine.  You just focus on staying perky through those baby years any way you need to, okay?

Sometime after Georgie turned one, and I found myself NOT pregnant with a new baby as I had been when the last several kids turned one, I decided to slowly figure out a morning routine that worked for me. 

Full disclosure - it's still not a perfect morning routine.  I barely manage to get up before my early-bird kids, and there are weeks (like this week) when I don't get up before them at all.  It's still a work in progress, but I wanted to share how our mornings usually go.  On the days when I do manage to follow our routine, it feels like the whole day goes smoother. Developing a routine is a little thing that has made a big difference for my productivity and state of mind!  So here we go.


Between 6:15-6:45 - The sun starts to peek over the hills, and my internal alarm clock sounds!  I leave the curtains open in the room in the spring and summer so the sun will wake me up, but I'll probably start setting an alarm clock in the winter months. I quickly wash my face and brush my teeth, get dressed, and head downstairs.  I can usually squeeze in at least 15 minutes of golden coffee-and-Bible time before I start to hear the singsong voices coming from their rooms.  I'm still a little too sleep deprived to get up earlier than this, but 15 minutes ahead I can manage. 

7:00-7:30 - The kids are awake, and I have them make their beds and get dressed before they come downstairs.  Sometimes I'll let them watch a show while I make breakfast, which is usually some variation of oatmeal (cheapest breakfast I can find, so we have it often). I empty the dishwasher while the water is boiling.

7:30-8:00 - Once breakfast is ready, they will eat while I read to the kids or do our "morning time", which includes Bible memory, catechism, and a hymn. I usually try to read from one of our Bible resources or devotions too.

8:00-8:30 - I clean up the table after breakfast, and I'll get Wyatt (4th grade) and Gwen (2nd grade) started on language arts.  The big kids work on independent work and the little kids play while I go finish fixing my hair and makeup for the day.

8:30-9:00 - I come back downstairs and start Clyde's math and reading (1st grade), which usually takes 30-45 minutes.  If the big kids finish language arts, I'll have them start handwriting practice or Bible workbooks until I finish with Clyde's lessons. 

9:00-10:30 - Once I'm finished with Clyde's work, I'll get Wyatt started on his math since his level includes more independent work (after I explain the new concept).  Then while he's doing his worksheets, I'll get Gwen started on her math.  After that I'll do her phonics lesson while Wyatt moves on to his history curriculum. The little girls usually play in their rooms or outside all morning, but if I get desperate I'll put on a video for them.  

10:30-11:30 - If all goes well, the kids are finished with all their individual work by 10:30 or so, and we can squeeze in reading our science book or a history read-aloud all together. The little girls join us for this too.  If it's science, I usually have the kids do some sort of notebooking activity as well.

11:30 - 12:00 - Make and eat lunch!  I usually either read them another book while they eat, or if I need a break from reading aloud I might clean up the house a bit before our afternoon quiet time.


And that's our weekday morning routine. The first month of the school year this was working particularly well, but the last two or three weeks our routine has been a little messier than this, and sometimes we'll need to finish up some work in the afternoon.  October is a very busy time of year for us, and especially this year it has been a little crazy because of our car breaking down multiple times. But by November things should be quieter and we'll get back to a little more consistency.



My Thoughts About Morning Routines:

If you have young kids who don't sleep well, don't worry about it.  Like I said above, it took me years to even feel like I could manage getting up before my kids, even for 15 minutes.  The day will come when things will click and it'll work.  If that's not right now, that's okay.  

If you have slow mornings and like it that way, keep them! I look back in fondness now on our slow, unstructured mornings when all my kids were tiny.  It was nice to wake up slowly, and meander a bit in the morning before getting our day started. We need our mornings to be structured now with more kids doing schoolwork, but if you can make your mornings slow and you're enjoying it, don't succumb to the get-up-before-your-kids pressure.  Just enjoy it.

Coffee is a lifesaver.  You know what really gets me up and out of bed in the morning?  Coffee.  Derek makes a pot in the morning, and I smell it all the way up the stairs.  Just the thought of curling into my chair for a few minutes of quiet with my Bible and coffee...it's what get's me moving, honestly.  I think it's perfectly acceptable to let a hot beverage be your morning motivator.

If you are feeling like your mornings aren't structured enough for your liking, start small.  You don't need to be superwoman and get up an hour before daylight.  Like I said, I barely make it out of bed 15 minutes before my kids a lot of days.  But even that tiny little bit of time has been a game changer for me.  It allows me to get my mind right before our morning really starts, and I don't feel like I'm starting the day already behind.  And saving just a few minutes to pray for my kids before they come running downstairs helps me a lot in remembering my goal as a mom - to teach my kids about Jesus and lead them to Him.  Having those few minutes to put that in the forefront of my mind has been wonderful for shifting my perspective and keeping me calmer when the morning craziness starts!


Do you have a regular morning routine, or are you in a slow-morning stage of life?  


A Fresh Start

 


This post is brought to you by my brand new computer! 

It has been seven years since we bought my last laptop.  It had a good long run, before yesterday when it started taking 10 minutes to do whatever I asked it to do.  So we went out yesterday afternoon and picked up a new computer for me.

I still had to do school with the kids this morning, so I'm just now sitting down and getting it set up.  

I had a bit of a decision to make when the Mac guy asked if I wanted to transfer my data from my old laptop to my new one.  On the one hand, doing a transfer is the only way to make sure I don't lose anything.  On the other hand, there seemed to be something really nice about leaving all that "old" on the old laptop, and starting completely new.  Kind of like a drastic digital declutter, all at once.

I decided not to transfer anything.  I put some files that I thought I'd want to keep on my external hard-drive, and I'll keep them on there. I'm getting a completely fresh start with this new laptop.

The keys feel different, and the screen doesn't have any dust on it, and it feels nice just to type and have nothing freeze up on me.  I hope you'll allow me a chatty, nothing sort of post today.  I feel like I'm still running to catch up with the week, and I don't have anything good to say surrounding my theme for the month.  So let's just chat.

A Crazy Few Days

The last few days have been crazy.  Our car broke down recently, so we have been driving everywhere in two cars, and we checked out a couple new car options to see if we can find another car that we can afford that will also carry us all.  So it's been a lot of driving, and a lot of late nights driving all over the place, and picking up our car from the mechanic, and running out yesterday to buy me a new laptop.  To make a long story short, we are sleep-deprived and tired of driving.  But we're headed out to AWANA tonight anyway, and I think I need an afternoon cup of coffee to keep me awake for it.  It's that kind of week.

On the plus side, we did go to a pumpkin patch in the middle of driving all over creation, so I have some cute pictures to share whenever I get set up to edit photos on here!

A Little Library Trip

Last week we finally took a walk to our little local library, which we haven't visited since everything shut down in March.  I love that tiny little library. It smells a little musty, like old paper and glue.  There is a tree with pretty leaves right outside, and it blankets the ground every October.  For some reason when I rent books from that library, I actually end up reading them, unlike the books I get from big library in town.  The little library books just feel more worthy of being read for some reason.  Anyway, I picked up The Grapes Of Wrath and a story collection from an author I've never heard of, but the first story already made me cry.  I'll do a book roundup soon and share more.  But I've finally given up on forcing myself to read from a list, and I'm just reading whatever strikes me fancy.  I'm a chronic reader of many books at once.  It's incurable.

A Trip To Montana

This weekend I am flying to Montana with my mom for my cousin's wedding.  I've never flown out of state for a wedding before, so it will be an adventure. The wedding is another reason why it feels like I can't catch up this week.  I haven't even had a chance to do a test-pack (necessary since I'm trying to pack everything in my "personal item" so we don't have to pay for luggage).  I haven't even decided what to wear.  Our flight was pushed back by a couple hours, so my mom and I have to wear our wedding outfits on the plane, because we'll basically be driving from the airport to the venue.  What does one wear to be comfortable on an airplane and look good at a wedding? It's a conundrum.

It's going to be a whirlwind trip, and I wish we had a little more margin to check out Montana.  But I'll probably get to sit next to my mom on the plane, and that will hopefully be a nice time to visit with her.  So it'll still be good I think.  

A Hairdo Dilemma

Those of you who have been around a while know that I usually have short hair, but I've been letting it grow out some this year.  It's now shoulder-length, and I like that I can pull it up when I want to, though the length is still slightly awkward and not quite long enough for a bun.  But I kind of hate it down right now.  It just feels like so much hair.  I think I'll get a trim before I decide whether to chop it or give it another few months to get a little longer.

And I think when you start rambling about whether to get a haircut, it's time to bring the post to a close.  I'm sorry this doesn't quite fit with my 31 Days theme.  Let's just call this is a collection of "small things", the kinds of things you might ramble about to a friend over coffee.  An afternoon coffee.  Because it's been that kind of week.

How's your week going?





Social Media And Me: An Update

 


Last year I unfriended half of my Facebook friends. 

It seemed like a drastic move, but it was the culmination of months of evaluation of social media and how I was using it.  I hated how my first instinct in the morning had become checking my phone.  I hated how I would randomly find myself with my phone in my hand and social media open, without actually remembering reaching for my phone.  I hated how social media had affected some of my friendships, and how it was affecting my own attitude toward the world.  I hated that it was stealing my time.


At the time, Facebook was my biggest struggle, so that is where I put all my thought and effort.  What were the things I liked about Facebook?  What were the things I didn’t like?  How could I make adjustments to keep the aspects that were useful to me and discard the rest?  What was making me waste so much time on Facebook, and how could I eliminate those factors?


After a lot of thought and even prayer about the subject, I decided the only thing that would help would be to drastically cut my friends list, unfollow a bunch of pages, and keep my Facebook use to the function that was most useful to me - which was sharing photos with my close family and friends who appreciated seeing them.  I wrote a whole post about my unfriending process here.  I think it even shocked some of you!  But I knew in my heart it had to be done.


Since I took the steps I outlined in that post, I have felt so much more free in regards to Facebook.  It’s not the time suck for me that it used to be.  I might check it once a day, but since I cracked down on my notifications and the people I follow, there is rarely something new.  I hop on and I hop off.  I’ll occasionally share albums so my grandparents can see my photos, and occasionally I’ll share an article that I find interesting, but that is rare.  My Facebook use overall has probably declined by 70%, and it feels great!


However, Instagram is a different story.





Is it possible that all my bad social media habits just switched over to Instagram?  Did the pandemic throw me off, since social media was the only way to connect with my friends for a while? I don’t know what went wrong, but Instagram has been slowly taking over my life this year, and I’ve realized that it’s time for me to re-evaluate that platform now.  I’m hoping I can make a similar transformation to my relationship with Facebook, because once again I find myself with my phone in my hand and Instagram open, without knowing how I got there.


I hate how social media (Instagram) steals all the free moments in my day.  Yes, they are small moments, times when I’m waiting for a child to finish a worksheet so we can move on to the next subject, or waiting in the line at the grocery store.  The ten minutes after my Bible reading in the morning, when I type out a quick Instagram post.  A half hour after my workout when I post a short video.  


But all those “small moments” add up to a lot of time, time that could be better spent on other things.  I could read a book while waiting for that worksheet.  I could shoot a quick text to a real-life friend in the grocery store line.  I could spend ten minutes memorizing Scripture.  I could take some time to just be still and think.


Those things are all worth so much more, in the long run, than a few hearts on Instagram.


So it’s time to evaluate Instagram.  Usually I would wait for my annual social media break, but after having a chat with Derek, I think I’m going to try a different approach to making Instagram adjustments.  More on that coming up this month.


Do you have any boundaries in place for yourself in regards to your time on social media? Or have you taken any measures to make it easier?

Sunday Quotes | Vol. 1



 

 "The voices of children echo throughout life.  The first thing learned is generally the last thing forgotten."

-Charles Spurgeon, Come Ye Children 

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It's going to be tricky to get a post up on Sundays during my 31 Days of blogging, so I am keeping it simple with Sunday quotes.  Every week I'll share a quote that stood out to me from one of the books I'm reading.  This one stopped me in my tracks because it's so true, and I want to take care to teach my children to look to Christ always.  I hope that's one of the things they learn first in our house, and I need to take care not to neglect this in favor of meaningless distractions.

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On Sundays I'll also try to give a peek at the week ahead!  Here's my tentative schedule (keep in mind that this may change, but if one topic sounds particularly interesting to you, let me know and I'll prioritize it).


Monday: Social Media And Me: An Update

Tuesday: My Morning Routine

Wednesday: A Few Thoughts On Habits

Thursday: An Argument For Creating Tangible Things 

Friday: To be determined

Saturday: To be determined


A Worthy Way To Spend A Life




"Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here...
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear."

We sang the words, surrounded by faces that will forever be seared into my memory.  As we sat, I looked down at the program for the memorial.  The face of a dear lady, one of my many "church grandmas" from my childhood, smiled up at me.


"Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land."

Another dear face, a pastor I haven't seen since I was 12 years old, stood behind the pulpit etched with the words "Jesus Is Lord".  He spoke about how Jesus could return at any moment, and how we all long for the day when we can see His face, as the woman we had all gathered to remember is looking upon Him now.  And my eyes filled with tears, my heart filled with something bittersweet.  She led a life well lived for Christ, and unlike some memorials, I knew the kind words about her were not exaggerated in the wake of her death.  I knew all the words about her faithful service were true.

I hugged her husband, a white-haired "church grandpa", and choked up a little again.

We gathered downstairs for refreshments, and I looked at the quilted wall hangings she had made, photographs of her in her wedding dress. Her name will not be in a headline or a history book.  But there is nothing small about quietly serving others, and faithfully encouraging them to know and love Jesus more.  This is a truly worthy way to spend a life.  And the One who matters most, He sees and rewards His faithful servants. 

I looked around at all the people she had made an impact on, people who still are such a dear part of my own story.  And I realized, this lump in my throat wasn't just sadness for a lady a wouldn't see again, and a time that has passed.  I realized it was also joy.  Because no matter where life takes us, I know someday I'll gather with all these dear people again, around His throne, and there will be joy untainted by sorrow forevermore. And this all because of our precious Savior.  

This wasn't a funeral to grieve; this was a memorial to celebrate what Christ has done to save us, and to look forward to the time when we will see her again.  What a beautiful thing to be able to say.  What a wonderful way to remember one who has entered His glory.  And what a Savior, who takes away the sting even from death.  


 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”...But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  

1 Corinthians 15:55,57



 

Read all my 31 Days Of Small Things posts here.

The Art Of Coziness: Analyzing My Favorite Fall Show

 


As I type, I'm sipping on a warm chai.  I hear the kids laughing and chanting a rhyme outside the window as warm beams of sunlight angle across the grass.  I'm in my cozy pajamas, and the twinkle lights are on.

I figured if I'm going to write about coziness, I might as well get in a cozy mood.

This sudden inspiration for coziness actually came at the end of a pretty rotten day.  I checked, and there is a full moon right around the corner, so that might explain it (there is something to that).  Everything was a struggle all day, and I quickly found myself retreating into "hide" mode - meaning I locked myself in the closet a couple times to calm myself.  Let's just say the atmosphere of the home was not what I wanted it to be yesterday.

After working out and taking a shower, I put on an episode of Gilmore Girls while I fixed my hair.  I'm rewatching the show this fall - the last time I watched it all the way through, Wyatt was a baby, so it's been a while.  And I started thinking about how many times I've referred to Gilmore Girls as a "cozy fall show".  What exactly made it so cozy anyway?  And could I replicate that for my kids?  A little coziness would be a nice reset for everyone.

After careful analysis (ahem), I pinpointed all the elements that make Gilmore Girls so cozy to me.


Warm Lighting 

If you pay attention, you'll notice there is so much warm light in the show - everywhere you look there are twinkle lights or lamps lit - and I think that's a big part of what makes it cozy.  It gives you the feeling of being tucked inside a warm house.  Whether it's candles, lamps (of which I want to buy more), or twinkle lights, I think that aspect would be really easy to replicate daily in our home.  I already do this somewhat with candles, but I want to get a couple more good lamps to illuminate the dark corners.

Good Books 

Is there anything more cozy than curling up with a good book?  If you are a reader, you can't help but love all the references to books in Gilmore Girls - I don't know if all the books mentioned are actually good, but you know the characters think they are good, and that's what counts.  We've been adding more just-for-fun read-aloud time to our homeschool, and it's something I want to remember as a cozy way to reset.

Seasonal Decorations 

They really go all out on the seasonal decorations in Stars Hollow, don't they?  I'd love to know if any real-life town is like that.  All I know is that my kids are always excited when I pull out the the fabric pumpkins and faux foliage that I keep in the box under my bed.  When things are starting to get stale around the house, some seasonal decorations are a nice touch to make everyone feel like staying home!

Warm Drinks 

Chai, cider, hot chocolate, and of course, coffee. Are the characters in that show ever not drinking something warm? I am blessed to be able to say that every morning I'm awakened by the smell of coffee, thanks to Derek, and it's glorious!  But since I don't let my kids drink the stuff yet, I've been buying extra jugs of apple juice at the store lately, so I can periodically make hot cider in the crockpot.  It makes the whole house smell good, and it's perfect for keeping everyone happy while we read aloud.

Music 

There is so much music mentioned in Gilmore Girls, not to mention the town minstrel, and it sets the mood for the whole show. This is something I'm terrible at, but I would really like to get better at remembering to add some music into our day.  I could start something in the morning while we do our Bible time, or I could play soft music over nap/quiet time.  I think music would be a really great way to calm the house a bit and boost some moods.

A Busy Kitchen 

This is one I never thought about before, but as I was watching the show last night, it struck me that in so many of the episodes, there is a busy kitchen scene (usually with Suki).  Even if we don't see Suki, Lorelei and Rory are always ordering in good food.  There is something about just knowing that there is something good to eat in the kitchen, or something bubbling on the stove, that makes the whole thing that much more comforting - like virtual comfort food. 

I would like my house to feel like that for my kids, like anytime they walk in the kitchen there might be something good to eat waiting for them.  I've never been good about meal planning, and even baking (something I love to do) has fallen off in recent months.  I'd like to put a little more attention back into the kitchen this winter.

A Close-Knit Community 

It's sad that so many Americans have never really experienced a close-knit community, isn't it?  Stars Hollow, with it's host of eccentric characters that care about each other despite their oddities, is not exactly the norm anymore.  We've lost something.  

I think 50-100 years ago, more people knew what a small community felt like.  But if you are lucky, you've been part of a close-knit community at some point in your life.  When I was growing up, we went to a really small, close-knit church that almost felt like family,  Even today, my own family has enough roots in the town where I live that occasionally someone I don't recognize will ask how a family member is.  There are remnants here and there.  

Even as it's harder to find a close-knit community for my children to grow up within, I am trying to build our own, with family, friends, and our church family.  Even if we didn't have an option for those things, there is a sense in which a family is it's own little community, and if it's a Christian family, it is by nature a small cell of a larger community that stretches around the world - the church, the body of Christ.  A family can support and love each other despite oddities, and even host their own "community events" in the form of traditions - and we can connect ourselves to the larger context of the church through learning about church history and heroes of the faith.  So even as Stars Hollow towns are more rare, I think there are ways to still give our families that sense of belonging to something bigger.  We just have to keep your eyes out for opportunities.


Is it worth all this effort to add some coziness to our life?  Does this really matter?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, about how we as moms can help set a good atmosphere for our home.  I sincerely think it's something that is worth pouring into.  For me, chaotic days like yesterday happen too often for my liking. But my hope is that, overall, when my children grow up, they'll hear the word "home" and think of a cozy, safe place, with parents, family, and friends who love them.  

In a sense, a person's idea of home can even shape their idea of Heaven, and the God who reigns over all.  I don't always reflect Him to my kids as well as I want to, within the atmosphere of our home (or in general, honestly).  But in these small ways, I'm trying, and I'm praying the Lord will use my sometimes pitiful efforts and make something beautiful out of it by His grace.  


What do you do to make your home cozy for the fall or winter?  Do you feel like you are part of a close-knit community?  And, most pertinently, what other cozy fall shows should I check out?



A Write 31 Day Project: Small Things




Remember how the last couple years I’ve done a Write 31 Days project?

For those of you who may have no idea what I’m talking about, Write 31 Days used to be an event that bloggers participated in every October.  The challenge was to write around a certain topic every day for the entire month.  A pretty big blogger used to host it, there was a linkup so you could find other bloggers who were participating, it was a whole thing.  


I, as per usual, was late to the party.  


I first participated in Write 31 Days in 2018, right as the project was passed off to a new host and the whole thing was winding down.  I participated again last year, even though there was no longer an official event, and there were maybe a few other people participating.  Now this year, the official website appears to be down.


Even though Write 31 Days is no longer a “thing”, I still like the idea of it, and I like what it does for my blogging. Sometimes I forget that it’s okay for blog posts to not be a huge production, and Write 31 Days tends to break me out of that mindset and just get me writing again.  Personally, I like to read blogs that aren’t so polished, that are honest and personal and not done for any other reason than to just write and possibly connect with other real human beings.  Writing every day forces me to get back to that a little bit.


The last couple weeks I was putting more effort than usual into my blog Instagram account, just to see if I really gave Instagram a good go, if I could make genuine connections there.  If it could give me the same feeling that blogging did for so many years in it’s hey-day, where there was reciprocity and you felt like you were making friends, not just gaining followers.


Spoiler Alert: No, Instagram is still not like blogging, even when I give it my best effort.  It seems the focus of Instagram will always largely be about obtaining the largest number of followers. Even when you do make Instagram friends, it’s hard not to get sucked into the numbers game.


Blogging, the way I’ve always done it, is smaller.  It’s cozy.  It’s inviting someone into your living room to chat, instead of shouting at them from the sidewalk. Maybe more people can hear you on the sidewalk.  But in the living room you can look into a friend’s eyes and just be still for a minute.  


And what’s so wrong with small things anyway?  So many of the small things in life, or the things most of the world would consider small, are the most meaningful.  



So, my topic for this year’s Write 31 Days project (maybe I should call it something else since that’s no longer a thing?  Suggestions welcome): 


31 Days Of Small Things.


Over the next 31 days, I’m hoping to refocus on the things that are small.  Small ways I’m spending my time, good and bad.  Small habits, successes, and failures.  Small things that add up to something bigger, until you realize the small things were really the big things all along.


Here is my tentative list of sub-topics:


Social Media - I want to spend some time discussing social media because this is a big huge thing in our world, and my personal choices on it seem so small - but they make more of an impact than I know.  Not always in a good way.


Habits - Sharing some general thoughts on habits, some good habits that have worked out well for me, and some areas that I want to work on.


Hobbies - Whatever happened to hobbies anyway?  Why does everything have to be so… professional all the time?  I think hobbies are still worthwhile, and I want to talk about that a bit this week. (Would it be cheating if I included a "recent reads" post under this topics?)


Small Things That Really Matter - You are not going to get worldly accolades for reading your Bible or raising children or making dinner every night - but small doesn’t equal insignificant. So many things that are small in the sight of the world are really the things that really matter.


I hope you’ll stick around the blog this month as I ramble about some of these topics!  And if you have any input about something you want to read about related to any of the above, I’m all ears (or eyes…since this is written communication…you know what I mean).


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P.S. My long-time blog friend Brittney is also participating in the Write 31 project!  Check out her blog for daily-sh posts this month too! Also, I declare that Bekah is honorarily participating because she blogs every day anyway.  And if you have a blog and want to join in, it's not too late!  Please do!

For Celebrating Reformation Day



This morning I was still laying in bed when I heard my kids shouting from their rooms.

"It's Reformation Day!"

Last year we played up Reformation Day quite a bit, but I wasn't feeling very organized this year, so I didn't plan anything.

"Mom, it's Reformation Day!  Did you make us new shirts?  Can we have chocolate pudding with worms in it again?"

So I guess it's a tradition now.

I'm spending the morning perusing my bookshelves, digging out that video about Martin Luther that we rented from the library, and trying to think of other last-minute things we can do to celebrate.  I'm not mad about this last-minute scramble though.  We don't celebrate Halloween, but last year I decided there is no reason we can't celebrate Reformation Day instead, and I love that my kids have latched onto it.

We dug out our shirts from last year, and they still fit, so we're all good.  Well, except for Georgie, but she doesn't know any different this year.



Protestants are notorious for knowing so little about their own history, and it's a pity because there are so many inspiring men and women who worked to spread God's Word and the truth of the Gospel!  Many gave their lives so others could know that they could be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

I want my kids to know that history, to be inspired by those men and women who were willing to give everything - their reputations, their livelihood, their lives - for their faith.  My tagline for this blog (back when people were really into taglines) used to be about living each day with eternity in mind.  Well, I can't think of any better example of that than these martyrs, and I'm glad that we have this day each year to remember the truth of the Gospel and be strengthened by the faith of those who have come before us.

So, anyway, if you are a Protestant family that would also like your children to have some grounding in church history, I've got a few resources for you.  Some to strengthen you, and some fun ones just for kids.  You don't have to start teaching kids about their Protestant heritage just on Reformation Day, you can start any time!



Also, throwing together some chocolate pudding with gummy worms definitely helps with the retention, in my experience.

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For Kids:

The Life Of Martin Luther - A fun pop-up book about Martin Luther's life!  I wrote about this last year too, you can read more here.

Reformation ABC's - This would honestly be a good resource to learn more about the Reformation for adults as well as kids.  Fun illustrations, and lots of great history.

Church History ABC's - I just ordered this one, and I haven't received it yet, but I think it is similar to the Reformation ABC's.  Basically, I think anything by Stephen J. Nichols is going to be good for church history.

Torchlighters: The Martin Luther Story - I'm not quite sure if my kids are ready for this one yet, so I'm holding off until I can watch it first, but this movie or something similar will definitely be in our Reformation Day celebrations in the future.

Tiny Theologians - If you haven't heard of this website, you need to go check it out!  Lots of colorful and fun tools for teaching kids theology and church history!

Sola Gratia Co - Last year I bought a couple of our Reformation Day shirts from Diet Of Worms Apparel - sadly the business closed, but Sola Gratia Co has some fun shirts that could also do the trick!  I really like the "soli deo gloria" ones.  Or you could make your own like I did, it wasn't that hard.  Maybe I'll do a how-to post one of these days.



For Adults:

The Reformation by Stephen J. Nichols - This is my go-to recommendation for a book to read about the Reformation. It's a short, readable book, with lots of information about the Reformers that I found so fascinating and inspiring!

Why The Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester - If you need some clarification about what the big deal even was about the Reformation, this book goes into the specific doctrines and differences between Protestants and Catholics.  Really informative and helpful.

Wretched Reformation Celebration - You can watch this video on Youtube - I haven't had a chance to sit and watch it yet, but Todd Friel puts out some great resources for Reformation Day each year, sharing stories of martyrs, etc.  There are some short video clips on this channel about the stories of some of the reformers too: here, here, and here, for example.

Five Minutes In Church History - A great podcast about church history!  I was searching through their archives this morning and specifically liked hearing R.C. Sproul talk about the Reformation here.

Foxe's Book Of Martyrs - I have never read this book, because I know it's obviously going to be hard to read.  But I need to just buckle down and start.  I know there are stories of martyrs from the Reformation period in here as well, and I think it's important to remember their stories.

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Even though I dropped the ball on Reformation Day this year, I am going to make sure I put some effort into it next year.  It's obviously become a fun memory for my kids.  Fond memories surrounding learning about church history?  Yes, please.

Have you ever done anything to celebrate or remember Reformation Day?




The Day I Became Pro-Life

(My precious Georgie, inside and outside the womb.)

I don't remember ever not being pro-life, but I do remember the day that term came to mean something to me.

In the early 2000's, the deabte was raging about whether partial birth abortion should be allowed.  For those who do not know, this is a procedure where a baby is partially delivered and the child is brutally killed in the process of birth, right before the baby is fully delivered.  I won't go into any more detail here, you can look it up if you need to know, but the fact that there was even a debate about whether to ban such a barbaric procedure is still shocking to me.

In the early 2000's, I did not know about the debate or the procedure.  I was 12 years old, and I knew about abortion but didn't think about it that much.

Around this time, Focus On The Family bought ad space in a newspaper to run comic strip in an attempt to clarify and impact the debate.  I'm sure it did have an impact too, because I know how it impacted me.

On the bulletin board at our Bible study, someone had pinned that comic strip.  One day, bored as I was waiting for my mom, it caught my eye.

I couldn't find the comic strip online to show you now, but the strip portrayed a baby in his mother's womb, learning new skills, growing and thriving.  Finally the time comes for the baby to be born, but right before he's about to enter the world...it's all over.  Nothing but darkness.

In the moment I really understood what happens in an abortion.  I knew about it before, but I didn't really know.  I thought about that comic all the way home and couldn't shake it the rest of the night.  And as I thought about it that night laying in my bed, tears ran down the sides of my face.

That was the day I truly became pro-life.

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From that day forward, the abortion issue was something I cared deeply about, but when I finally got pregnant with my first baby, it became all the more poignant.  I read the books about each stage of development, looked up pictures on the internet.  I felt his first little kicks at 16 weeks.  I cried when I thought that other babies the same age as my son, who might have been his friends someday, who were guilty of nothing except existing at the wrong time in the wrong place, who could acceptably be torn apart.

And I know I might be losing some of you with this post.  "It's more complicated than that," you might say.  "What about what the mother is going through?"  And I agree with that, it is rather complicated, but also kind of not.  Because a baby is a baby.  We, especially the church, need to offer more support to empower mothers to choose life for their children.  I love being involved with a pregnancy center that is trying to do just that, while also making sure every woman who comes through their doors hears the Gospel.

Partial birth abortion became illegal nationally in 2003, but Illinois recently re-allowed it in their state.  I live in a state that allows a baby in utero to be killed at any time, up until birth, for any reason.  This just blows my mind.  But I'm encouraged that in other areas of the country, many pro-life laws are being passed.  The current generation is more pro-life than the one before it, and I think that's because we can see inside the womb better now than ever before.  And it's harder to pretend that abortion is something other than what it is.

When it comes down to it, once you know, you can't not know.  That's what happened to me all those years ago.

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There is a church in our area that fills its lawn with small blue and pink flags every October.  It looks like there are thousands of them out there.

There are signs as you drive past that say: "These flags represent the babies who have been lost to abortion, and the men and women who mourn that decision.  Jesus, Divine Healer."

Jesus, Divine Healer.

I'd just like to finish this post by saying that if any of you have had an abortion that you regret, I'm so sorry.  I am not judging you, my heart is just shattered for you.  Please know that I am praying for any who might be reading this who have gone through an abortion in the past, that you would know the healing and forgiveness that can be found in Christ.

And for anyone in my state, I'm working on a petition to get a measure on the ballot to limit abortions after 22 weeks, so if you are interested in signing and helping to stop late-term abortion in our state, send me an email!

The Happiest Place On Earth



We decide to skip the trolley.  After waiting in line for the ferry to leave Disney World for over an hour, I do not want to wait in another line.  "Let's just walk," I suggest, and I hope the parking lot is as close as I think it is.

We trudge across a nearly empty parking lot to a bridge that crosses over one of the many channels of water in Orlando.  Clouds cover the stars, but we can see the moon peeking out on the edges, a handbreadth up from the horizon.  We cross the bridge and I notice how the moonlight shines across the water through the trees.  The sound of junebugs are everywhere, and birds that are strange to our ears call from these little patches of nature in the middle of all the cement.

"Let's pretend we are explorers, and we just landed in the New World," I say as I push the stroller, trying to distract the big kids from their aching feet.  "See that little water channel, and those trees?  It would be like that everywhere.  And there would be birds calling, and crocodiles in the water, and maybe a panther in the trees!  Can you imagine what it would have been like to be here then?  Would you be scared?"

My oldest son's eyes light up as he considers the possibility, while my daughter looks happy that this is just a pretend game.  Up ahead I hear laughter, and I glance up to see Derek with our preschooler in one arm, and our near-kindergartner in the other.  They grin at me over his shoulders, and I grin back, listening as my oldest two beside me discuss how they would protect themselves in the jungle.  

And that's when I finally feel it.



We've been in the "happiest place on earth" all day, but here in this moment, walking on aching feet through a dark parking lot as if we are conquering explorers, this is when I feel the most magical.

And I realize now that we don't have to travel across the country and have "magic" manufactured for us.  We had tried that all day, and it was a failed attempt.  No, those blessed, happy, magic-filled moments can happen anywhere with a little imagination and gratitude, whenever I open my eyes to them.  They can happen with sore feet and damp hair, they can happen at home or far away, when we are doing something exciting or when we are so tired we are merely longing to be tucked under cool sheets.  

Just being with the people I love most in the world, laughing and walking along together, that is the happiest place on earth.  That is a beautiful blessing given to me by God Himself.



That is magical all by itself.

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I wrote this after our trip to Florida in August, and now seemed like a good time to share it, since my month of memory-keeping is almost over!  You can read all my posts in this series by clicking on the picture below.


Nuts And Bolts Of Memory-Keeping







Now that my month of memory-keeping is nearing an end, let's discuss that actual nuts and bolts of memory-keeping, specifically as moms, shall we?  I am still trying to figure out the best way to keep memories for my kids.  It's hard for me to find something that I can consistently do for each kid individually and our family as a whole, at least without letting it take over my life.

These are a few of the things I've tried so far.  As you'll see, many of my attempts have been less than stellar.  I'd love to hear any tips you all have in any of these sections!

(Note: This post contains an affiliate link.)

Baby Books

I got each of my kids a baby book and was relatively good about filling them out - but to be honest, I totally dropped the ball for my last two kids.  I was not going to be that mom that keeps meticulous records for her first child and then doesn't do anything for subsequent kids.  I made a valiant effort, and yet, here we are.

In my defense, I did keep meticulous records for all of my kids here on this blog, which serves in the function of a baby book as well.  I just need to sit down and transfer the information I typed up here into my kids' actual baby books.  I still have my baby book that my mom filled out for me, and I think there is something special about seeing her words about me as a baby, written in her own handwriting.

Photo Albums

Once upon a time, before my third child, I printed up pictures from the first two years of my first baby's life.

And that's it.

I have alot of guilt related photo albums.  There are just so many pictures, I finally realized I can't possibly print them all.  Not only would it cost a fortune, but I don't have enough room in my house for that many photo albums. In addition, it's a huge chore choosing which pictures to print, and I just haven't made time for it yet.

However, currently the only child who has baby pictures to look through is Wyatt, and this is also unacceptable to me.  I remember loving to look through my baby pictures when I was a kid, and hearing my mom tell me stories about each photo.  So a big priority for the next few months is getting some pictures printed up!

More on my strategy in another post soon maybe, but I'd love to hear if you print pictures, and if so, how you choose and organize them.

This Blog

One reason I'm glad this blog never grew too much and I never tried to go too professional with it is that it not only serves as an outlet for my thoughts, but also as a record of our family's lives.  I recorded the kids' birth stories, month-by-month updates for the first year, yearly birthday letters, and a bunch of other random memories on here.

I would like to get caught up on printing my blog into a book.  There used to be a service for this (a very basic service called Blog2Print) which I used for the first few years, but I discovered a couple years ago that they raised their prices to ridiculous levels.  So I'm on the hunt for a better way to print everything here into a book, but at the very least I can print the posts I wrote for each kid and stick them in their baby books, like I mentioned above.  That gives me alot of comfort when I'm feeling like a memory-keeping failure.  The blog is the one area in which I haven't yet dropped the ball.

(If you've printed up blog posts recently and bound them in any way, I'd love to hear what you did!)

A Memory-Keeper Book





This is my latest endeavor.  Several months ago I realized that I would really like to have a better system for writing down cute things the kids say or do.  I have been recording things in my bullet journal off and on, but I wanted something a little more polished that my kids could also look through when they get older.

I purchased a Happy Memory-Keeper on sale, and I'm giving it a try.  The pages are pretty all by themselves and rather inspiring.  The boxes make me feel organized, and I can also easily add pictures or stickers to dress it up a little.

Most of the sections look like this:








I know myself, and I know I'm not going to write something down every day, so I'm just leaving the pages undated.  I'll fill in a box whenever something cute happens, and just make a note of the date until the whole page is full.  One page might last me a month this way, because I'm not going to slap stickers in all the spaces just to fill them up in a week.

The book also has some pages for special days:




So far I'm liking how it's going!  I make a note when something about our day stands out, and I will probably add pictures in some of the boxes eventually.



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As you can see, I have alot to figure out still when it comes to memory-keeping!  But I think the main thing is that I'm trying.  It may not be pretty or very organized, but I know eventually my kids will see the different way that I have tried to capture their growing-up years, and I hope when they do they can see how much I adored them.

How do you keep memories as a mom?

Stay tuned, I might do a more in-depth post about photo-keeping strategies I have tried! Some have worked, some not, but I'm slowly coming up with a plan.

A Typical Homeschool Week




I've thought for a while now of sharing one of our typical homeschool days.

The only problem is we don't really have "typical" homeschool days.

We don't do the same subjects every day.  Some days we might run errands or go on a nature hike, and school looks a little different.  Some weeks are lighter, and some weeks we really accomplish a lot.

What we do have is a typical homeschool week, so I thought I'd share a sample week for you to see how we fit everything in.  This is an actual week of school that I pulled right out of my record book.  I tried to pick a fairly average week.  Some weeks we squeeze in more (especially with science or history), some weeks we accomplish less.  This is just to give you an idea.

You might also notice that we don't necessarily do a math or reading lesson every day - that's because we are actually ahead of where I had scheduled us to be at this point in the year, so some days we skip.  I shared a video about how I planned out our school year, and as long as we are staying close to my goal points, I'm fine with giving us a break on certain subjects some weeks.

Okay, here we go!  I had to guess on some of the surrounding details since I don't remember exactly how the day went several weeks ago, but in general these kinds of days are pretty typical for us.


Monday

The kids wake up around the same time that I do, but I tell them to stay in their rooms until at least 7:00 while I try to squeeze my devotions in.  Some days I can do morning devotions before starting the day, some days I can't.

I get the kids eating breakfast, and fix my makeup.  Then they play while I eat my breakfast and watch the news.  We enjoy having slow mornings.

Sometime around 10:00 or 11:00, I get Wyatt started on doing his math on the computer.  We are supplementing with an online curriculum this year, so some days he does math on the computer, and some day we do one-on-one instruction.  

He finishes math, so I have him practice his cursive while I do a reading lesson with Gwen.  The reading lesson goes quick so we move right on to Gwen's math.

After Gwen is finished I switch back to Wyatt, and we do a reading lesson.  Then I take a break to start lunch.

After we eat, as I'm getting Georgie down for a nap, I have Wyatt start outlining his writing assignment for the week and cut out his "mini books" for his science notebook.  I settle Clyde in with his kindergarten workbook too.  Gwen reads or plays quietly.  I help Wyatt with writing after Georgie is settled, and then we enjoy what's left of the afternoon.

Tuesday

I decide to try to get an early start today, so I start working on reading and math lessons with Wyatt right after breakfast.  As he finishes worksheets or math problems, I start working on spelling with Gwen.  When Wyatt is finished, he takes a break while I move on to Gwen's math.  I want to get her ahead, and she's already got a handle on the concepts in these lessons, so we do three in a row before we quit.  The little kids interrupt us a few times, but mostly play together upstairs, and Wyatt reads a book in the play room.

I make lunch and have Wyatt do an extra computer math lesson while I put Georgie down for a nap.  In the afternoon I work with him on adjectives and verbs, and we start writing his story for the week.  Then he practices his Spanish lessons for co-op before we quit for the day.

Wednesday

It's a rough morning, and we get a late start.  An hour before lunch I get Wyatt started on a math lesson, and Gwen started on writing practice.  We're going to focus on science and history lessons today, so I read a chapter of our Astronomy textbook to all the kids as we eat lunch.  We're learning about Venus, and they are fascinated.  After I get Georgie down, we do our Bible lesson and read a little bit of a book about Lottie Moon, since we are studying China in our history/geography curriculum right now.

We don't have time for anything more since I have to leave around 4:00 to take Wyatt to his soccer practice.  But after dinner, Derek and I pack up pajama-clad kids in the car and take them as far from civilization as we can so we can stargaze.  We see a few planets and identify several constellations.  We give the kids cookies on the way home, and they ask to go stargazing again soon.

Thursday

We have errands to run this morning, so I have the kids take some of their work on the go.  Gwen does math practice in the car and works on handwriting (this is probably tricky to accomplish while we are driving, now that I'm thinking about it).  Wyatt does some cursive practice, and reads his current chapter book, a kids' version of Swiss Family Robinson.  When we get home, I feed everyone lunch and Wyatt does a computer math lesson while I get the littlest ones down for a nap.  We are all wiped out, so I help Wyatt finish his story before co-op tomorrow, and we call it a day.

Friday

Co-op this morning!  We run around like crazy people trying to get out the door, but we manage to get there in a reasonable amount of time.  We are all scattered on co-op mornings.  The kids go into their classes and learn some subjects together with other homeschoolers their age.  Gwen and Clyde hear a history lesson, do a science experiment, and do literature (which involves picture books and possibly a craft).  Clarice and Georgie are in the "preschool" class, so it's mostly playing, snacking, and crafts.  Wyatt has a spanish lesson, science experiments, and writing (which I help to teach).

I always have good intentions of doing some extra "fun stuff" when we get home from co-op - like music or art practice.  But honestly, we usually come home and just crash.

Weekend

Typically we do nothing on weekends, but this particular weekend we squeezed in a field trip to a "Living History Days" event after Wyatt's soccer game!  The kids got to see how people lived and worked in colonial times, which is very appropriate since that's what we're studying in our co-op history this year.



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And that's it guys!  A typical week in our homeschool.  Here is a breakdown of what we accomplished.

Wyatt (3rd Grade):

6 math lessons
2 reading lessons
3 days of writing work
2 days of cursive practice
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of free reading time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op

Gwen (1st Grade):

4 math lessons, and 1 day of practice pages
1 reading lesson (which is fine, because that's all I planned for the week since she is ahead of schedule)
1 spelling lesson (only one is planned per week)
2 days of writing work
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of free book and play time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op

Clyde (Kindergarten): 

Kindergarten workbook pages
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of play time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op


Clarice and Georgie (4 and almost-2 years old):

Lots of playing and books
Joining in on field trips, Bible lessons, etc.

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Looking at the breakdown, I am pretty happy with the amount of work we accomplished in one week, even though a couple of the days felt like light days.  It just goes to show how things tend to even out over time.  

I will say that after typing this out here, I'm reminded that I need to spend a little more time with Clyde doing more one-on-one lessons.  He is mostly getting workbooks and the whole-family lessons right now, since I'm still trying to figure out what kind of work he is ready for and how to work it into my daily schedule.  So maybe I'll make that a goal for the next couple weeks.

It honestly feels a little vulnerable for me to share this with all of you.  I know some people will look at this sample week and think we are totally slacking, while other moms might look at it and focus in on the things that make them feel like they are slacking in their homeschool.  

But keep in mind that this is just one week of our homeschool.  This is how things are working for us right now.  Like every homeschool mom, I am always adjusting our methods and figuring out our schedule a little better with each passing month and year.  As I said, things tend to even out over time.  By the end of the school year, I'll look back and be amazed at how much we learned and how much my kids grew in their skills and knowledge  - and if you are a homeschool mom, I'm sure you will be able to say the same when May arrives!  

How is the school year going for all of you?

The Wednesday Five | Vol. 4


A Quote

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago,
And people who will see a world,
That I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door.
-Poem from The Fellowship Of The Ring
Maybe you are tired of Lord Of The Rings quotes, but this is the end of a really lovely poem in the Fellowship.  Part 2, Chapter 3, a few pages into the chapter titled "The Ring Goes South".  If you have a copy handy, you should go read the whole poem.  I'm not very good at poetry, but I really liked this one.


A Book

I was working on a new post for Rooted last week, and I raided my shelves for some inspiration.  Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall was the first book I grabbed.  I'm thinking it might be time for a re-read.  I remember how calming this book was for me the first time I read it, leading up to the holiday season.  If I remember right, it has lots of practical tips, but also great encouragement for reflecting on why we celebrate in the first place.


A Bit Of Nature



A photo from the nature hike with my sister last week!  The cousins loved crashing through the woods together.


A Recommendation

While I don't actually think I would do well as a business person, I have a little bit of a fascination regarding how businesses start, grow, or fail, and how that's so often tied in with cultural elements and trends.  Maybe my interest stems from the fact that I like to shop?  Anyway, I came across this channel on Youtube, and his videos are so interesting to me.  I especially like the "Bigger Than You Know" series, and the "Rise And Fall" series.  If you are interested in how and why brands appear on and disappear from the shelves, you might like this channel too.


A Moment Of Happiness

When I took Clarice on a day out with me the other week, I let her pick out a toy.  She picked out this play-cleaning set, with a broom, dustpan, pretend spray bottles, rags, etc.  Ever since she got this set, whenever I start to clean up the house or sweep the floor, she runs to grab her cleaning "supplies" and helps me.  It's so cute to see my little four year old diligently "sweeping" the floor or "wiping" the table.

The other day I was baking, and she ran for her broom, and then all I saw were two blue eyes peering up over the other side of the counter, and a tiny hand with a mini broom carefully sweeping away that flour I had spilled.  I walked into the pantry during nap time, and noticed that she had hung her little broom and dustpan on the spare hook right next to my broom and dustpan.  It melted my heart and brought a grin to my face.  I love this age.

The Memory Thief In My Pocket



I hate this picture.

Okay, hate is a strong word.  I don't hate it.  It's a picture of me and my son while we were fishing last week, so I can't hate that.

What I don't like about it though is that ugly square of a phone sticking out of my back pocket.

Just to clarify, I was NOT poking around on my phone during our fishing day.  The phone is in my pocket because I was using it as my camera.  Photos are a big part of remembering events for me, and  I never feel bad for keeping a camera on me to capture the moments before they slip away (within reason - it is possible to take TOO many pictures).  But looking at this picture yesterday, a thought came to me, and it was this: if there is one thing I won't remember and don't desire to keep memories of in my life, it's the times I am on my phone.  And maybe that should affect my priorities a little bit.



Social media has its place.  I don't think any modern tool like that is all good or bad, so this is not a post about deleting all your social media accounts so you can spend more time making memories.  I'm hoping this might just be a little reminder to you and me to keep some balance.  Because there are some things which are not worth giving up.

It's not worth it to miss real-life interaction in favor of virtual interaction.  Even if the virtual interaction sometimes feels more interesting.

It's not worth it to make your kid call you ten times while you need "just a minute" more to read about some obscure acquaintances' life on Facebook.  Because you probably won't remember or care about that acquaintance in ten years, and it's never "just a minute".

It's not worth it to spend so much time staging perfect photos to grow your Instagram following if it means you are missing real moments with your kids.  Instagram following numbers are sand castles, and your kids should have mostly memories of you without your phone in your face (or theirs).

It's not worth it to get a blog post up every day if you have to stress about cramming writing into a weekend that is going to be full of real-life friendships or put down your sick baby who just wants her mama.

In case it wasn't obvious, that last one was me this weekend.  I'm losing steam on this writing challenge this month, and I think maybe that's appropriate.  Because I'm writing about memory-keeping, which goes hand-in-hand with memory-making.

I had a wonderful Saturday watching my son play his last game of soccer for the year, and driving three hours while we listened to stories to see friends that have stayed some of my dearest friends for the last twenty-two years.  Waking up later than I wanted to the next morning because I was such a good kind of tired, but still making it to church on time, and snuggling my youngest down for her nap before putting together a dessert for a game night with friends who are newer, but still becoming dear too.

And then yesterday, snuggling a sick baby instead of writing up the post I had originally planned for this morning.  I am happy to have this space to record my memories, because I know they would be lost to me if I didn't write them down.  But I won't fondly remember the actual recording of them, and I certainly won't look back nostalgically on time spent poking around on my phone, even if it's for the purpose of recording my memories.

The thing that makes memory-keeping precious is not the keeping part, but the memory itself.  And I think that's just a good thing to keep in mind in our modern age.  Memories aren't worth sacrificing, and it's a noble effort to guard against lesser things that might steal or tarnish memories that could have been made.






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