Showing posts with label Blogtober. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blogtober. Show all posts

Are Social Media Breaks Effective?

I am a big advocate of taking a break from social media.  As in, deleting the app from your phone for a set period of time.

Every December for the last couple years I have taken a break from social media.  Both times it has been a great reset, and I return refreshed and ready to set some boundaries.  However, if I’m honest, the effectiveness of those boundaries has varied.  Sometimes I set a rule or limit for myself that ends up being way too easy for me to cheat on, and I fall right back into old habits.  Sometimes my willpower lasts for a a couple months before those old, well-worn patterns start to re-emerge.  

It’s easy to dismiss slightly unhealthy social media habits as if they don’t matter - but they do matter.  Why else do we even feel a need to take social media breaks?  We know that social media can suck away at our time, at our lives.  That’s not really a small thing, is it?  It’s well worth the time to figure out how to combat the pull toward wasting time on social media.

Social media breaks can be so useful for clearing your mind.  There is a sense in which social media acts on our brains like a drug - we get a little dopamine hit every time we get a new notification on social media, and it keeps us coming back for more.  Social media breaks allow your brain to…for lack of a better word…detox from that loop, so that you can make decisions about your social media use with a clear head.

Did you get that last bit?  

You detox so you can make decisions.

Social media breaks by themselves are limited in their usefulness, in my opinion.  You might gain a little space during a period where you want that time back (new baby, the holiday season).  You might feel refreshed while you are off it - you lose that “yucky” feeling, you waste less time, you realize how nice it is to not have that opportunity for comparison constantly within reach.  But the second you upload that “I’m back!” post, you’ll be right back where you started.  UNLESS, you use your break to come up with a plan.  

This is how I handled my social media break last year.  I didn’t just take a break to get back a little time and attention for my family during Christmas (though that was a nice perk).  I read books about social media and found resources for creating digital boundaries.  I sat around and thought a lot about what I liked about social media, particularly Facebook, and what I didn’t like.  I made some really hard decisions and developed a plan, and when it was time to get back on, I followed through on those hard choices.

And I have to say, I’ve never been so satisfied with my Facebook use as I have been this past year.  I don’t feel sucked in by it like I used to, and the thought of giving it up for good isn’t even so crazy.  

But…that’s because I made some actual changes to my Facebook account that allowed me to be successful, and I kept the Facebook app off my phone.  If you take a social media break, but don’t use your break to be 100% honest with yourself about your social media use, how it’s negatively affecting your life, and how to change it - your break, in the long term, is probably going to get you exactly nowhere.

I know this because that’s what happened last year with Instagram and me.  With Facebook, I emerged from my break with some really clear ideas about what I wanted out of Facebook, and what specific steps I needed to take to make it what I wanted it to be.  I did not take the time to be so self-reflective about Instagram, and I have to say that this fall, I find myself right back where I was last year - hating how Instagram is sucking so much of my time, but unsure how to fix it.

You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to make some obvious adjustments right now (why wait until December?), and then I may very well take another social media break, this time focusing my attention on Instagram.  I need a game plan, and I need time to sort it out.  That’s the key to having an effective social media break - coming up with a plan while you’re away.

Have you taken breaks from social media?  How long were your breaks?  Were they useful for your habits longterm?

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'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?  

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 


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.


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

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.


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).


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!

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