Showing posts with label Motherhood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Motherhood. Show all posts

For When You Feel Insignificant



I typed out these words on my phone this morning, intending to post them to Instagram - but they ended up being more blog-length, so I wanted to share here.  I hope you'll forgive this slight bit of blogging cheating this morning - I am still recovering from a successful hunting trip over the weekend!  more on that later in the week.  Happy Monday, friends!

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 “Whence, as I said before, the Word, since it was not possible for Him to die, as He was immortal, took to Himself a body such as could die, that He might offer it as His own in the stead of all, and as suffering, through His union with it, on behalf of all, bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”


-Athanasius, On The Incarnation


“There is a pattern and a lesson here. As we read the lives of men and women who have been strategically used by Christ in building His kingdom, we note that the names of those through whom they were brought to faith in Jesus Christ are often forgotten or lost. But their significance is in calculable. God delights to use the hidden and the forgotten.”

-Sinclair Ferguson, In The Year Of Our Lord


This morning I read these beautiful words from Athanasius about Jesus’s sacrifice to save us from our sin and give us life - followed by these poignant thoughts from Sinclair Ferguson. Do you know the names of the people who brought some of the church fathers to faith in Jesus? I don’t.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the impact of our work, whether we are doing any good. Most of us will never be well-known outside our circle of friends and family. We make meals, we give our best effort at work, we keep our houses clean and comfortable. We smile at the grocery store clerk, we encourage a friend, we serve at church. We pray for the salvation of our children, we try to point them to Christ, we try to witness to others of His goodness when we can. But it can still at times all feel a little insignificant.

My grandma and grandpa were brought to faith by a door-to-door salesman who saw my grandma was searching and started a conversation. I don’t know his name. I’m pretty sure he isn’t in any history books. But a whole family came to faith in Christ because he was faithful.  Generations will be affected for Christ because of someone whose name is now lost to us.

It may be that no one ever knows your name. We’ll live in this little blip of history, and then fade away and be forgotten. But that doesn’t mean our work for the Lord is insignificant. He is using us greatly, though we may not always see it. 



Our Cleaning Routines And Habits

 

Someone once asked me how I "do it all".  Five young kids seems like a lot, and I think they were wondering how I keep the house running, homeschool the kids, and still find time to blog and read and all that.

My answer to the "how do you do it all" question is the same now as it was then - I don't.

At that time especially, I let certain things around the house slide in order to fit everything all in.  But the other day someone made a comment about how I manage to keep my house so clean, and I realized that somewhere along the way I got back on top of the housekeeping. For the most part.  I still feel like I don't keep the house as clean as I would like it to be, but for having five kids it's not too shabby.



(I would show you better pictures, but the thing that has to slide now is this blog - taking pictures takes time!  Maybe I'll do a quick house tour on Instagram later this week.)

Anyway, I thought I would share a few of my (very basic) cleaning routines and habits that have helped our house not be the disaster you might expect it to be with five little kids!  


Sweep the floor and do the dishes every day.

For me, I feel pretty good about the state of my house if there isn't visible dirt on my wood floors, and if the kitchen sink and counters are reasonably clear.  After every meal I wash the pots and pans immediately  and clean out the sink, and I think that helps me never have too much of a disaster in the kitchen.  I usually end up sweeping once a day, usually sometime in the morning while the kids are doing bookwork.  There is a lot of dirt in the mountains!  These two things are the bare necessities of cleaning for me.


Have the kids pick up their toys at set times during the day.

Every morning before breakfast I ask the kids if their rooms are cleaned up and if their beds are made.  I also ask them to clean up toys before lunch and/or nap time (I only have one kid who still naps, but nap time is still clean up time).And then I'll have the kids pick up before dinner so everything is reasonably clean before bed.


Straighten up clutter before bed.

Before Derek and I head up to bed each night, we usually start the dishwasher, pick up any toys that were missed, and straighten up the living room.  I'll straighten up the books in the school room, put any stray dishes I find in the kitchen, and just generally do a quick declutter.  Since we do this every day it usually doesn't get too bad, so this takes us maybe 5-10 minutes.


Vacuum and clean bathrooms around once a week (or as necessary).

Over the course of a whole week, I'll usually do a quick vacuum job and rotate through cleaning all three bathrooms.  Sometimes these things need to be done more often, but I get to these chores at least once a week.


Dust and wash windows every 2-3 weeks as part of a whole-house cleaning day.  

These chores are usually part of a whole-house cleaning day every 2-3 weeks.  Some people rotate through different types of chores each week on a looping basis, but I like to have the whole house clean at once in a while.  So every few weeks I'll do a good declutter and try to clean as much of the house in one day as I can.  I try to do this before we have guests over for dinners too (though that doesn't always happen).



Do a little bit of laundry every day.

Laundry is the one chore that never ends.  I usually throw a load in at least once a day, and then the clean/dry clothes sit in baskets until I get a chance to fold them.  I hate folding laundry, so I'll usually save it up and do it all once a week, when I have a mountain to deal with and it's very overwhelming (but at least I can do it while listening to an audiobook, right?).  Thankfully Derek helps me so much with the laundry though - when he has time he will fold a bit of laundry each night, so sometimes I don't have to tackle my weekly mountain of laundry!

And one final thought that helped me a lot...


Realize that real people live here.

When I was first married, I used to get very uptight about keeping the house looking good all the time, until I realized that I do not live in a show home.  A real family lives in this house, real people.  Real children eat at that table and spill their food sometimes, those real books stacked in the corner are really being read, a real dog leaves his hair all over everything, a real toddler is potty-training.  Though I still breathe easier in a tidy house, and I try my best to make sure our home environment is generally clean and comfortable, I've loosened up my standards somewhat.  Better a happy family in a messy house than a stressed-out family in a show home.  There is a little made-up proverb for ya.



How do you handle housekeeping routines?





Books That Help Me Find Joy In The Small


 

This whole week has been a difficult one for me - nothing big, just a lot of little struggles and failures that have thrown off my whole mood.  

As I was sitting in my room this afternoon, trying to decide whether to write anything today, or what I could write, or whether to scrap this whole project, I was reminded of a book I read once that encouraged me to see the small things in life that truly matter.  And when I started to think about that book, and a few others, I was also convicted again of my rotten attitude that has been adding to my troubles this week.  

The attitude of the heart - such a small thing, it seems, but it really is everything.  I can do the "right" things, the things I am supposed to do as a wife and mom for my family, but if my attitude is terrible that will sour everything.  And is my service to my family really of value in God's sight if I do it with a grumbling heart?  I can say with confidence that's a hard no.

Anyway, as I work on an attitude adjustment, I think the first book I need to go to to refocus is God's Word - verses and principles I've learned from my Bible is what the Holy Spirit was using to convict me this afternoon.  

Maybe I need to read the story of the Israelites grumbling in the wilderness again, or just remember that in everything I am supposed to give thanks - especially in those moments when I am tempted to grumble instead of recognizing the blessing it is to have a family to take care of, a house to clean, children to teach. And I know I need to remember to turn to Jesus with my struggles and sinful heart attitudes, because He is the one who saved me and can help me overcome those sins now.

As I am working on an attitude adjustment today though, I thought I'd also share a few of those other books that I remembered, the ones that have made me appreciate the value of small things - especially the small thing of choosing to serve my family with love and joy and gratitude, with my eyes fixed on the glory of God.  Have you read any of these?



936 Pennies: Discovering The Joy Of Intentional Parenting by Erin Lynum – This book is all about how the author filled a jar with 936 pennies to remind her how quickly the weeks with her children were going by. This book was a good reminder to make the most of every little moment that you have with your kids. 

Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jancovic – I read this book when my kids were babies, and it was very impactful on me at the time. It has been years since I read it, but I know it made me appreciate those small years so much more. I think it’s time for re-read! 

Roots And Sky by Christie Purifoy – This book made me appreciate little things in my life because the writing in it was just so beautiful! That’s the main thing I remember about this book. I don’t remember the points the author made so much, and it’s been a few years since I read it so I don’t know if I would still think the same way about it.  But I still recall the gratitude I felt when I first read her beautiful words.

You Who? by Rachel Jancovic - This book was a case of reading the right book at the right time for me. At a time when I felt very discouraged, this book made me think about my work in the home in a new way, and the value of serving others, even when it’s not something the world tells you is important.

Beyond Bathtime by Erin Davis - I read this book when I had just one very little baby, but I still remember how this book elevates motherhood.  I need to re-read this one too, because I'm sure it would still have encouragement on the importance of the work of raising kids.

Teaching From Rest by Sarah McKenzie - This is actually a homeschool book, but I am 90% sure this is where I first read the cathedral illustration that I mention in this post I wrote about when wiping faces doesn't feel satisfying (maybe I need to re-read my own words here).  McKenzie has a way of making you realize how the things that seem small can make a big impact.

Glory In The Ordinary by Courtney Reissig - I read this book in the year or two after I quit working as a hygienist, and I love how Reissig emphasizes the ways in which work of all kinds is glorifying to the Lord!  This is on my re-read list too.


If you have any good book recommendations along the same vein, send them my way!

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?


Most Days You Have To Choose

If there's one thing I've learned in life so far, it's that you rarely can have everything you want all at the same time. Each day is filled with so many choices.  And these choices, though they might seem small, really aren't - they lead to habits, they are the sorts of thing that make memories, they create the whole environment of the home.  

All these little choices.  Will I wake up early to read my Bible before the kids get up, or will I get extra sleep and read later?  Will I let everyone sleep longer, or get them up to start school sooner? Will I clean the house or make a fancier dinner?  Will I read a book or watch a movie? 

My motherhood experience from the beginning has also thrummed with the tension of sanctification. Will I read our science book with the kids over lunch or escape to eat my lunch in quiet for a minute?  Will I hurry the kids through their schoolwork so I can check some items off my to do list, or will I exercise patience even if it's taking longer than I wanted?  Will I sacrifice that last cookie and split it with the kids? Will I hoard my spare time to myself or put some aside to give my full attention to the story my girl is telling me about the exploits of her stuffed animal?  

Will I hide away in my room to type up the pre-planned blog post for today, or will I settle on the couch to watch a show with my nine year old who is skipping Awana tonight because he thinks he might be getting sick?

So many choices.  You can't have everything you want all at once.  You must choose.  

Some golden days, or even seasons, when everything goes smoothly, I might briefly experience what it's like to have it all, to do everything I planned to do.  I think I've learned that these days are so rare as to be almost mythical, and I'm starting to accept it.  Most days I have to choose.  Am I going to lay down my life - my wants, my schedule, my plans, my feelings - in order to consider others, my family, as better than myself?  Am I going to follow the example of my Savior, or go my own way?

I don't always choose right.  Maybe it'll take my whole life to truly learn how to die to myself.  But tonight, I'm going to go rub my sick boy's feet.


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?  


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


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?



To My Golden-Haired Child, On Her Fifth Birthday

 


My Sweet Clarice,

Today is your fifth birthday, and as the sun was peeking up over the hill, I peeked into your room to see if you were awake.  As soon as my eyes met yours, you popped up in bed, and your face broke into a grin when I started singing you happy birthday.  This is your day, and you are bouncing and grinning as you take it all in.

This year with you has been a good one.  You have always been my quiet, introspective girl, but this year you started telling me more and more of what you are thinking behind those pretty blue eyes.  You have such an imagination,  and you are always coming up with funny stories to tell me and your dad.  We love hearing your imaginations!  You are also a little artist, always coloring and drawing pictures to mail to your friends and family.  Often in the last few months you'll present me with an envelope and a name of who the envelope should be mailed to.   I love how you've been thinking about others that we haven't seen often enough for your liking.

You have such a sweet, sensitive heart, and when something is bothering you, you get very quiet.  Sometimes I just pull you onto my lap for a hug until you are ready to tell me what's wrong.  I've especially loved seeing some of our Bible verses and catechism questions stick in your mind.  Hearing your sweet little voice reciting Scripture is one of my favorite things.

You're interested in all things princesses, and you color your princess pictures so carefully (you're really quite a good colorer).  You relate most to Rapunzel because you both have "golden hair" (when someone says your hair is brown, you sweetly correct them).  Your curly hair is beautiful, and you always make note when I wear mine curly, declaring that my hair is just like yours. Your big blue eyes are constantly twinkling with excitement or humor, and you have a bubbly and fun little personality.  Even when you don't say much, you win everyone over with your big smile.  

Your favorite color is pink, and when I asked you said your favorite food is "toast!".  Your favorite dessert is ice cream, which I could have guessed because on one of our days together this year, you thoughtfully announced to me that you wondered what mint chocolate chip ice cream tasted like.  We promptly got you some, and you were in heaven as you dug into your dish, occasionally sharing a bite with me.  Your favorite book is Cinderella, your favorite movie Strawberry Shortcake, but I suspect those answers would change depending on the day.  You asked for an Ariel birthday party this year.  

You respond "I don't know," with a grin when I ask you what you want to be when you grow up.  In fact, you frequently declare to me that you don't want to grow up at all.  When I ask you why not, you think for a little bit, and then it comes out.  "I don't want to leave you."  And it swells and breaks my heart a little every time, because way down I kind of wish you could stay little and stay here with me forever too.  

I love you my sunshine girl.  No matter how big you get, or where you go, I will always be here for you.  I'll always be your mama.  And even when you're grown, I think I'll look at you and still see you as you are now - my happy, blue-eyed girl, hopping around on the morning of her birthday, with the sun shining in her curly, golden hair.

I'll love you forever, my darling.  Happiest of birthdays to you, today and every year!

Love,

Mama





Wednesday Five | Vol. 14

 


A Quote 


I think this quote section is going to be where I dump my World War 1 thoughts on you for the next few Wednesday Five posts. I’m reading so many interesting books about WW1 right now.

What has struck me most in learning about WW1 is how much most of the leaders of the countries involved did not want war. There were a couple people in Austria-Hungary who wanted retribution on Serbia, but all the allies involved seemed to try their hardest not to let a war start. It was like a very tragic “comedy of errors“, riddled with miscommunication and mistrust. 

This part of the book A World Undone by G. J. Meyer, really got to me. A double ultimatum was issued by Germany to Russia and France, and the German ambassador went to meet with Sazonov, Russia’s Foreign Minister. The last ditch effort at avoiding a war fell apart. 

“In his hands he had two messages, both of them declarations of war. One was for use if Russia gave no answer to the ultimatum, the other a reply to a negative answer. In his distress and confusion he pressed both on Sazanov and burst into tears.

 Or so Sazanov wrote years later in his memoirs. Pourtales’s recollection was that Sazonov wept first.  Whatever the sequence, apparently both men cried. They embraced, then pulled apart and began to exchange accusations.

 ‘This was a criminal act of yours,’ said Sazonov. ‘The curses of the nations will be upon you.’ 

‘We were defending our honor.’

‘Your honor was not involved.’

Finally, they parted forever, Sazonov helping the distraught Pourtales to the door.

When I was reading this, it struck me how the Fall and sin’s curse didn’t just affect mankind, and our relationship to God, and creation, and interpersonal relationships - it affects relationships between nations too. Peace is so tenuous, and war has been a part of the story of humanity ever since Adam fell. 

As I write this, I’m also thinking about someday, when every knee shall bow before Christ, and He will reign for a thousand years and then create a new Heaven and Earth where sin and death are no more. Then we will have peace forever, and people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, even people who fought and killed each other in wars like WW1, will wipe their tears and sing praise to the Lord together. That will be a glorious thing to see.


A Book

Aside from my collection of WW1 nonfiction, I’m reading a book on prayer by John MacArthur called Alone With God (the Kindle version is only $2!). Prayer is always something that I wish I was better at, and I’m getting a lot of good thoughts out of this one. What specifically stuck out to me was how MacArthur says the focus of prayer needs to be God, and too often we act like we’re talking to God when really we’re just focusing on ourselves. That is so true.

A Bit Of Nature

Before it snowed two weeks ago...yes, it snowed! Not a little bit either, it snowed a few inches. But before it snowed I was worried it would kill all the leaves and I wouldn’t be able to get any good fall pictures of the kids. So I took them outside by our long, pretty mountain grass, and we had a little impromptu fall photo shoot. The pictures turned out really cute (I'll put more on Instagram). 

I love long grass like this. You know, we learned that those little bunches at the end of a piece of grass are actually technically a flower.





A Recommendation

I've mentioned these about a million times, but I wanted to recommend (again) the Rush Revere: Time Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans book series. We like them on audio.  My kids were SO EXCITED when I told them I got the next book, Rush Revere And The Presidency, at the library.  Wyatt asked if he could listen to it today, and he and Gwen have their chairs pulled up to the CD player so they can listen to the story.  They think Liberty (the time-traveling horse) is hilarious, and I love the strong American values and history in the stories.  This one that we're listening to is also great if you are trying to teach your kids about the election.  I'm planning on adding it to my election resources blog post.


A Moment Of Happiness

It's hard for me to isolate just one moment right now, because I've been feeling generally happy and content for the last several weeks.  That's odd for 2020, isn't it?  I just have this peace that no matter what happens, the Lord is sovereign and it's all going to be okay.  I love my country and am so proud to be an American, and it kills me to see the turmoil. I also believe strongly in caring about the wellbeing of the nation, continuing to fight for our freedoms, and being an active citizen as a Christian.  But this world was never meant to be my home.  

Maybe it took a year like 2020 to make that extra clear.  

We're just passing through, and if you believe in Christ's sacrifice to save you from your sin - well, the place we're going is promised to be so much better.  I've always wanted to live my life with eternity in mind, there was always a part of me that knew how important that was - that's part of why I named my blog Through Clouded Glass all those years ago (based on 1 Corinthians 13:  ).  When you keep your eyes on Jesus and live with eternity in mind, the world can't touch you the same way. That's where I'm trying to keep focus, and nothing else in the world is as calming as resting in Him.  

I wish that for all of you this Wednesday. 

What We Did This Summer


Remember that summer to-do list I posted back in June?  Well, we ended up crossing quite a few things off my unreasonably long list.  We squeezed a lot of fun into summer, and as we are turning toward fall now, I wanted to record how we made the most of this summer, all the unusual circumstances notwithstanding!

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Trampoline Games - Check!  I taught the kids "pop the popcorn", and they had so much fun when I joined them on the trampoline!

Catch - Derek bought the boys some gloves, and he's been practicing catch with them this summer.  We never signed either of them up for baseball, but it's one of my favorite sports, and I'm glad they are getting some practice in!

Spray Bottle Sidewalk Paint - Check! We did squirt bottles instead of spray bottles, and it was a hit! But they used it up way too quickly.



Ice Cream Playdough - Check!  We used this recipe, and it was interesting - not much different than regular play dough, except it smelled like frosting.  I think this is basically the same way you would make fondant.  It's a fun recipe to try if the cooked-playdough recipes scare you!



Homemade Bubbles - We did try this!  It looked cute, but it wasn't my favorite because the cornstarch kept separating from the mixture.  But it did work!

Glow Sticks In Kiddie Pool - The weekend that we went porch camping, I also let the kids play in the kiddie pool.  I threw a few glow sticks in it that night so they could see it from the tent!  It wasn't as glow-y as I wanted it to be, but still fun.



Treasure Hunt - I put together a scavenger hunt for the kids to find some candy, using some free printables!  The prize wasn't anything super special, but they still loved it.  Clyde asked to do it again the next day, so I guess it was a success!

Reading Challenge - We did participate in our library's reading challenge!  I took the kids a couple weeks ago to get their prizes, which included a book, a journal or bookmark, and coupons for a free entree at Noodles and Co.

Nature Hikes - We took several nature hikes this summer, and it was so nice to get outside so much.



Play In A Creek - Check!  We found a creek in June, and the kids splashed around while I read.  It was lovely, and the kids begged me to go back.  Unfortunately the next time we went the creek was dry!  We'll have to remember that it dries up by mid-summer next year.


Swimming - We managed to go swimming twice!  My kids are finally getting to the age where taking them to the pool is less stressful and more fun.  The big kids do pretty well in the deeper parts of the pool, and the little three are great with their floaties on.  Wyatt and Gwen were even big enough to go on the slide this year!



Park Days - We visited several parks, including one where splash fountains were on, and the normalcy of just going to the park this summer was so good for all of us!  My kids desperately missed the park when they were all closed during the spring.



Historical Sites - We had to delay one of our historical site plans until September, just because of finances and weather. But we did add in a more local historical site, and I am totally counting it as a school field trip!  We also visited some local fossil beds one weekend.



Fishing - We went fishing twice, with plans to go more this fall!  We went to a lake near our church on my birthday, and we also fished in ponds that are very near our house.  The ponds looked really promising, but the fish didn't like our bait, so we are going to try live worms and go again soon!








Stargazing - We went stargazing in Arches National Park!  It was the perfect place to stargaze as an International Dark Sky site.  We found an empty parking lot, and laid on the pavement for about an hour, just staring at the stars with the kids and talking.  The boys also saw their "first meteor", which they were super excited about!  It was a good one too, with a long tail streaking across the sky.



Porch Camping - We try to do this every summer, and it's a big highlight for our kids!  There is just something special about sleeping in a tent.  And a bonus is that they spend alot of time playing in the tent the next day as well!



Campfire - The burn ban was lifted for a couple glorious weeks, and we snuck in a campfire a few days before the re-instated the ban.  It was lovely, and even Georgie got into the marshmallow roasting this year!



Regular Movie Nights - We tried to have a movie night with the kids every Friday this summer, with pizza and dessert!  We are definitely going to continue this tradition.  It's fun to introduce the kids to some of our childhood favorites!

Firework Fruit Kabobs - I did make these for the 4th of July!  They were so pretty.




Special Kid Drinks - At the beginning of the summer, I froze a bunch of kool-aid ice cubes.  When we were having a boring day, I'd just pour Sprite over them for the kids - it's sweet how something so simple can make you "the best mom ever", ha!


Popsicles - I didn't do great at serving up the popsicles this summer, but I redeemed myself in these last few weeks!  Popsicles all around.

Spaghetti Salad and Broccoli Salad - These are our favorite summer foods, and I made a batch of each to take on our end-of-summer trip a couple weeks ago.

Circus And County Fair - We visited our county fair for the first time as a family this year!  I was really happy they went ahead with it.  There was also a free circus at the fair, and the performers were great!


Dates - Derek and I were able to go on a date night this summer (rare occurrence)!  We went mini-golfing and had a take-out picnic in the park.  We also had a whole weekend away at the Gaylord hotel!  It was beautiful, and we had a great time.







Boys' Birthday Party - We threw a joint birthday party for the boys!  We did a party for the girls last fall, and had plans for a boys' party in April.  We ended up doing it in June instead!



End Of Summer Trip To Arches - We ended up taking a weekend trip out to Arches before we started the school year!  It was a really lovely trip, and I'm going to share more in another post soon.  I have too many pictures to share here!



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Stuff We Didn't Get To:

Regular Game Nights
Trampoline Sleepover
Drive-in Movie
Bible Verse Memory Challenge
Make Bird Feeders
Origami "Fortune Teller" with Boredom Busters
Puffy Paint Ice Cream Cones
Hand-clapping Games
H.O.R.S.E.
Tic Tac Toe rocks
Homemade Bouncy Balls

I am hoping to add some of these into our fall plans, and if not, I'll just tack the rest onto next summer's bucket list!

Did you all do anything out of the ordinary this summer?


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