A month of celebrations: July

I wanted to write a  monthly review last week, but I was eager to send out the book review of 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting.

Since I finished that one, I just started The Better Mom: Growing in Grace between Perfection and the Mess. 

Funny thing, it was a rough day the first day I opened this book so it seemed very fitting that this sentence was in the first chapter: “So what if being a mom who seriously wonders how she can handle the mess that is on her plate is exactly where God wants her to be?”  Well, sounds fitting!  I’m about chapters in and have not loved it as much as 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting. but I definitely have earmarked some pages in it. Stay tuned for a future review.

July started off with supper and fireworks at my brother’s house for July 4th, then a quick trip with my mom and sister for my cousin’s bridal shower. Both were great times of conversation with family!

One of the big highlights of the month was our (hopefully) annual sibling reunion in a restored 100 plus year old farm house with plenty of space!  Living 7 hours away from each other hinders the amount of get-togethers we’d love to have, so we try to meet half-way to even up the driving. We love doing AirBNB’s because they are so economical and spacious!  And this one provided us with a playset and trampoline for the cousins. 🙂

We had amazing sunsets with frogs croaking in the background!  I posted a video on Instagram of the frog pond. We stayed up way too late each night after the kids were in bed, trying to soak up needed conversation and board games. And most of us agreed….it was simply way too short of time.

 

We try texting, calling and using Marco Polo videos, but nothing compares to living life together for the weekend, and seeing each other’s parenting adventures, joy’s and challenges. It’s interesting to observe the similarities and differences we have, though growing up in the same family. Equally interesting is discussing our personal perceptions of our childhood, and how that affects who we are now.

The other big highlight was my birthday which involved LOTS of food and family time.  My husband surprised me by taking the day off so we got free birthday coffee, food at Culvers, Chevy’s, Slim Chickens, and Ruby Tuesday’s.  Like I said…..lots of birthday food!  The best part was the time together as a family at our favorite geese pond, and time out with my husband that night.

 

( a dear friend surprised me!)

Much blessings to you! Hope that your July had at least one happy adventure!

Felicia

Advertisements

936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting (a book review)

When you start a new book, it’s a risky relationship. I hesitantly turn the first couple pages as I decide if this is my new best friend or if I’m going to hurry through it just to mark it off my list.  Well 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting is my new best, best, best friend!

Look at that!  See all the dog-eared pages?  (PS. why is it called dog-eared?) There were literally tons of quotes and thoughts I wanted to remember and be able to come back to.  As I read through the pages, I got so excited about this vision of intentional parenting and really…intentional living. Parts of it I read aloud to my husband or simply gave him my summary of it.

Eryn Lynum writes 42 mini chapters revolving around a life event that showed her an eternal principle. She discusses topics such as spending time in nature, dealing with anger, having a house filled with laughter, helping kiddos learn to entertain themselves, setting boundaries between work time and play time, being mindful of what our kids observe us holding the most (our phone, a book or their hand), investing in a child’s dreams/interests, building memories, and many other topics.

The premise of the book is that with each child we are (ideally) given 936 weeks from birth to age 18, and our question is: “How will we spend them?”  I say ‘ideally’ as time is never guaranteed to us.  Some may only have one penny or 237 with which to invest. The author was given a jar of 936 pennies at her son’s dedication, which started her journey of being intentional as she transferred a penny each week from the future jar to the ‘time spent’ jar.

I love her perspective at the beginning of the book.

“As I counted them out, I placed them into the new jar, and this is when it hit me-we had not lost those weeks. We had used them We were using them for the creation of something beautiful. These pennies, and the weeks they represent, were not being cast to the wind. They were being invested. And we wanted to invest them wisely.” (Counting Time, pg. 18)

I haven’t been on this parenting journey very long, so I have much to learn. I’m thankful for books like this one that give me vision for how it could be. This book gives me goals and dreams for how I want to intentionally invest each one of my pennies. Things like listening carefully to my children’s dreams and taking steps to help them pursue them, recognizing the beauty in the simple moments such as our “Poetry Tea Times”, setting down my adult tasks or goals to enter into their world, and being careful what I communicate through actions, what’s constantly in my hands, and through my words so they hear my love for them loud and clear.

How will you invest your 936 pennies?

I was given this book by Bethany House Publishing for review purposes as part of their blogger program. However, all of the opinions were completely mine.

All my friends are superheroes: the importance of being faithful today.

What if I told you I was friends with superheroes in real life?  They can’t shoot webs out of their fingers, nor do they wear red capes or battle aliens trying to take over our planet……though I’ve seen some children who strangely resemble aliens trying to take over our planet. No, my superheroes are a little more ‘normal’ looking.  They are the quiet unsung heroes who were just trying to survive and somehow did it marvelously.  And if I were to tell them that I have figured out their secret super hero identity, they would laugh it off and quickly list their personal faults.

They are the moms who managed to keep multiple children alive through the toddler tantrums and potty training years, and who are still smiling.

The friend who has four boys (3 running and climbing, and 1 baby), yet still manages to surprise me with flowers and chocolate for my birthday, and invite people over for supper.

The friend who welcomes and mothers four foster care children, pours out her life for them as if they had been hers since birth, and bravely raises them through the drama ridden preteen and teenage years.

The friend whose children receive complements from strangers at the zoo, because they treat the other children with such kindness.

The friend who tirelessly works to provide healthy food choices for her family, has has volunteered in the classroom/fieldtrips, and still has a heart for lifting the burdens of her neighbors.

The friend who graciously provides respite care for foster parents, dog sitting for people on vacation, and who is willing to help anyone out day or night.

The friend who raises a plethora of children, enough to fill her own sports team, yet her kiddos are know for their sweetness and obedience.

The friends who have spent years doing foster care or investing in area kids and teens through church ministry.

The friends who work full days, then come home and pick up a book, ball or start wrestling with their kiddos instead of picking up their phone or remote.

The friends who live with chronic or terminal illness/pain, yet still ask how you are doing.

They would all disagree, and probably point to someone else as the hero. But being a hero doesn’t mean you have some supernatural ability to go through tough things without being affected. Rather it’s continuing to choose what’s best, even when it’s hard. Simply put, it’s putting one foot in front of the other to keep walking even when the way is stormy.

It’s being faithful today.

Honestlyright now it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by a number of situations. I feel too weary to keep walking (both figuratively and literally). But I’m trying to remember that I don’t have to handle everything in front of me yet.  I just have to be faithful…today.

One day, all of the today’s we were faithful in will fulfill all of the tomorrow’s  that overwhelmed us.

Today, let’s do two things.  First, look around and notice how many of your friends or coworkers are ‘super-heros’, and sent them a note/text to let them know you notice.   Finally, let’s just put one foot in front of the other and be faithful in our current situation. For you never know when you may be someone’s super-hero.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Mat. 6:34

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”  

1 Thess. 5:11

Pace yourself: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’

I often get too impatient and feel like this exact moment determines my overall success or failure as a human being. Because I didn’t work on “_________” project today, then ‘I will never finish it’. Or because the dishes aren’t done, and the floor is not swept, then I’m a ‘failure’ as a homemaker.  I tend to jump to dramatic conclusions, and have to take a moment to step back and reevaluate my perception.

Take our road trip home on Sunday, for example. My children don’t nap much in cars on long road trips. It makes no sense!  Take them to the grocery store or zoo, and they will nap the 5 min drive home. But take a 4 hour road trip during normal nap hours, and they will cry, sing, whine, ask for snacks, ask for books, whine, play with a toy, ask for snacks…….and maybe nap 20 min. Meanwhile, I’m trying to stay awake (because I want to nap) and keep them calm enough to not bother my husband (so he can drive safely).  It would be easy to think in that 4 hour moment, that life stinks, that nothing we are doing as parents is making any difference, or that we should never make a trip again.

If you throw in “Mega Meltdown Wednesday” (that’s what I’m going to call last Wednesday at our house with a 3 year old), then you especially feel that nothing you are doing is making a difference.  But then I would be forgetting all the progress like her helping little man with his shoes, making sure brother has enough food, cleaning up her toys for papa, and helping to clean the table after supper.

You can’t compare how much water is in the bucket compared to the ocean, but rather how much water is in the bucket compared to the water the bucket held before. 

 

Being prego, energy and stamina are two longed for friends that I hope return someday. Even after just climbing our stairs at home (albeit they are steep), I have to sit and rest a minute. It’s easy to see all that is lacking in homemaking, instead of all that has been accomplished that week.

I’m not sure how the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day’ came about, but it’s true. They didn’t just build Rome on Monday and move in on Tuesday. Rather each day they went out and laid another brick or poured another layer of concrete.

Remember one of my favorite phrases “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  If we don’t take that first bite, we’ll have just as many the next day. But if we keep taking a bite each day, or laying a brick each day, eventually we’ll reach our goal.

Masterpieces are painted one stroke at a time. 

One of the main lessons I learned as a teacher, is the importance of celebrating any progress no matter how small.  I (or the student) may not be who I want to be, but I’m not who I was.  Progress is made in the every day action of taking bites and laying bricks.

Let’s encourage each other when it seems overwhelming, when we come to drastic conclusions about our success/failure in a certain area, and when everything that is yet to be done clouds our vision of all that has been accomplished already.

Let’s lay another brick, eat another bite, teach another lesson. Let’s remember today is not the finish line, but just another step in the race.   Some chapters may be frustrating or overwhelming, but the book is not complete yet.

I’ll remind you if you remind me. 🙂

Remember the goal, hold on to your dream!

12 weeks. Just 12 more weeks. But honestly I’ve been counting down since I still had over 20 weeks to go. Today I’m sick again. My husband told me he understands if I don’t want any more, since pregnancy is so rough on me. But I would do it all over again……

Some goals are so valuable, that we press forward no matter the struggle.
I’m part of the lucky few who get to be sick all nine months, whose toddler gets accustomed to praying for “mama not be sick” and who has googled all the remedies. I don’t enjoy the pregnancy process……but I would do it all over again.
Some goals are worth any struggle.
My dear friends who foster parent, don’t do it because they love the hard conversations about birth families, the tears or anger the kids feel, or the stress of bringing someone new into their home.  Rather they see the potential to provide those children with a safe and loving home, to help them learn boundaries, morals, good decision making, responsibility, to succeed in school, etc.
Some goals are worth sacrifices.
Most teachers don’t work long hours because they love sharpening pencils, correcting papers, writing behavior plans, or typing up one more lesson.  They do it for that look in a child’s eye when they accomplish a personal goal, or for that squeal when kids get excited about a topic.
Some goals require you to wait for them.
The other night I told my husband that “I missed my chickens”. He looked at me funny, and said “you don’t have any chickens.”  I shared how I was tossing out bad lettuce in the trashcan earlier, and thinking if I just had my dream chickens all this old food wouldn’t have to go to waste. So I ‘missed my future chickens’……my dream that is yet to come.
Some goals may make you feel like they will never happen.
Remember my garden pictures? How all the bare dirt and scrawny plants made me discouraged, and wondering if they would grow?

 

Some goals feel like they will never happen, they require sacrifices, struggles, and waiting. But those are the goals that are worth it! They are worth waiting and struggling for!

 

 

 

 

Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before him (Jesus) he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  He pressed forward no matter the struggle.  He decided his goal was worth any struggle, any sacrifice, any wait time, and that He would do whatever it took to accomplish it even if it looked hopeless. His goal was ….us. We were and are the joy set before Him.

May that give us courage and strength, to remember that Jesus pressed on to accomplish His goal in us! So we can likewise persevere in our goals to serve others.

Let’s press on with our most important goals.  Keeping our eyes on that target.  Reminding ourselves of what’s at stake, and what’s in store for us if we persevere.

Some goals are worth everything.

PS. What are some of your goals that you are working hard towards?  Leave a comment, I’d love to hear!

Tea Parties and the power of words

It was just a simple tea party…with milk and cookies for all. We sat around, drank our milk and marveled at the beautiful birds in our poetry book. Yet, that moment stood out in my dear daughter’s heart as the moment Mama invested in her.

It was just a simple comment, made by a mother of eight, who looked at me with my baby and toddler and said, “you are in the hardest season right now”. Yet, that comment has stuck with me and given me courage to press on for there is hope in future seasons.

It was just a simple statement, when another mom friend called me a “super mom” (only because they don’t see the inside story). Yet, that statement was food for my soul, words to affirm that I wasn’t as messy as I thought in this new mom job.

Simple gestures, simple words that we casually express, with no thought of what a difference they would make. How many comments, or kind acts that inspired you, can you remember over the years? Little things forgotten by the giver, but to you they became a lifeline, a moment that gave you courage.

It wasn’t my simple cookies that made that moment special, nor the candle burning for ambiance. Nor was it the beautiful poetry book filled with gorgeous pictures of birds in flight. Though, Sweep up the SunAmong a Thousand FirefliesStep Gently Out, and Wake Up! are among our favorites!

When she is older, she won’t remember all the books we read or what we ate. But she will remember that ……we were.  It is the sitting, the being, the shared moment that makes all the difference. No one asks for our most clean house, or eloquent speeches with perfect grammar, or a polished gift. Rather people just want to be noticed, to be recognized, to be affirmed that they are not as much of a mess as they think. They just want….us.  That shared moment where one soul affirms another.  Where a person’s simple presence or words can breath enough courage to withstand the day or season.  Where words become food for the soul.

They just want us to invite them to tea. 

June….where did you go?

When I received a message from my sister that she was looking forward to seeing me in a week, I stopped to ponder…’wait, why will I see her that soon?’  Then it hit me….June was over. It was already July and all the events I had pushed into my ‘middle of summer’ box were suddenly here.  Does anyone else feel like that?  I think it’s partially due to all the rain and chilly weather we’ve been having, that makes it feel like summer is just starting.  Summers here are way too short! I was just reminded this week that school starts for many people next month…only a matter of weeks.

This post is kinda different from my usual. If you all hate it, then I shall never write this kind again. (well, no promises).  🙂  I just feel reflective today. June had a couple of monumental firsts: our first family vacation with littles, and our first ‘stay-cation’ for our anniversary.  We weren’t sure how traveling with 2 littles and the family dog for a week would go. Would we all hate each other or bond? Would this open the door to future family vacations or make us want to wait until the littles are older? Thankfully, it went fairly smooth! We visited some lovely nature parks, a huge zoo, went hiking at a wildlife safari place and state park, and made lots of memories. The most exhausting part was our drive home when the kids DID NOT NAP! They talked for hours and begged for food FOR HOURS!  We were ready to be home after that drive. 🙂

We also had our first ‘stay-cation’ for our anniversary. My parents took care of the kiddos for the weekend, and we stayed home!  It was MUCH cheaper than booking a place to stay, and we got to do the main things we love: board games, sit-down dinners, nature walks and a movie. It was soooo quiet here, it was weird. But we were thankful for the time to chat without multitasking toddlers.  The little ones definitely missed us and kept close by our sides when we met up again!

Our games:

Freedom: loved it!  Great strategy and great theme!

Freedom

Space Base: It was well put together, and definitely requires a replay.

 Space Base

Space Base

Our Movie:

Paul the Apostle:  loved it!  Well done, accurate, and thought provoking!

Paul the Apostle

Lessons I’ve been trying to learn this last month include ‘Finish and Focus’ (from the last blog post) and limits. Note to self, don’t encourage your husband to read your blog posts, for then he’ll hold you accountable for the lessons you publicly stated you were learning and remind you of them as often as he sees fit. (which is more often than I see fit). 🙂 I mentioned limits, for I tend to have superhero size dreams for what I can do, but as the months progress toward my due date my stamina has definitely decreased.  Case in point: Monday our hike included a hill and it was hot. The rest of the day, I was wiped out.  Proper limits are definitely a life lesson. Knowing how much you can say ‘yes’ to before you need to say ‘no’. Or a better question: What do I need to say ‘no’ to in order to say ‘yes’ to the most important things?

The main book I’m reading and loving is:

936 Pennies

This book is sooo good!  I’ve earmarked a lot of pages to come back to!  One of these days, I’ll write a review of it to share some of the main points. The premise is that we are each given 936 weeks with our child from birth to 18, and the question is ‘How will we spend them?’.

What have you been reading, watching, and learning over the last month?

It may be ‘good’, but is it ‘best’?

This year of gardening, I’ve done some weird things. I’ve been pulling out the sunflowers, morning glories, and broccoli raab like weeds and leaving them to die. I know….sounds awful and drastic. And totally goes against my normal nature of cherishing and protecting every form of plant and bug life, even to the point where I can’t throw out a house plant till it’s good and dried up, with no hope of recovery. So, why this drastic action?

Because the ‘good’ had taken the place of the ‘best’. 

Morning glories, sunflowers, and broccoli raab are all wonderful plants! The picture above is from my garden last year. They are gorgeous! But they also self-seed very well, which means they like to come back…..everywhere!  The morning glories were planted three years ago, the sunflowers were planted by the birds or some unknown person, and the broccoli raab was added last year. Someday, I dream of having a fence line covered in morning glories, and a field of sunflowers.  They could grow to their full potential…..because they would be in their proper place.

Proper place…..I started thinking about that as I was pulling up all the little seedlings this year. A sunflower in it’s proper place is a thing of beauty, gathering all the butterflies and honeybees to itself. But those same sunflowers also have the power to choke out cucumbers, green beans, summer squash and the things that are ‘best’. They also are not a good choice for when I’m nine months pregnant trying to clean out my garden, and I have to pull out those stalks by hand.  So they may be ‘good’, but they are not the ‘best’ for me.

How many other things in my life are ‘good’, but not ‘best’?  I thought about that this morning as my scattered brain was in the middle of trying to get soapy water to wash the floor, the littles were hungry and required food, I found a bag of potatoes going bad that needed me to cut them up, and my flower vase was asking for more water. Truely, for a moment, I tried to do all of them at once. (clearly that didn’t work)  They were all ‘good’. But then I had to step back and decide what was most important for me to finish…what was ‘best’.  Feeding the children obviously took first place, then cleaning the floor since that was the job I had first initiated before everything else called my attention.

I’ve been trying to apply the mantra of “Focus and finish”, something my husband has been trying to remind me of and also something I picked up from Crystal Paine in her post, “My New Mantra: Focus & Finish”.  My scatter-brained way of doing things, running around trying to keep up with everything ‘good’ leads to me not getting the ‘best’ things done and leaves a trail of half-done projects behind me.

Here’s a list of questions I ask myself:

1. What must be done today? (a similar question: If I get nothing else done today, I will feel successful if _______ is completed.)

2. What must be done now (the kids’ nap schedules often dictate my list)

3. What have I already started, but not finished? (Focus and finish)

4. What one thing will make the biggest difference in our home, life, etc today? (example: clearing off the table makes a much bigger difference than going through one box from the closet)

5. What will make a lifetime impact? (usually soaking up extra snuggles from the littles outranks most things)

You don’t have to learn from my example, like I said…I’m working on this. Just offering the things I’m learning, and in turn I’d love to hear from you what you find that works.

We all hope for ‘fruit’, the accomplishment of what is ‘best’. But it will require us to narrow our focus, not getting caught up in the million ‘good’ things calling to us.  But instead to focus on what we most want and need to cultivate/grow/accomplish/do.

Even flowers can become ‘weeds’, if  not in their ‘best’ place.

100 Bible Stories for Children: a book review

We’ve loved the baby and toddler Bibles over the last couple years. You can tell by the broken covers, worn corners and loose binding that they have seen their share of action.  My little one can “read” them to you, telling you many people’s names and what happens in the story.

Packaging

I was excited when I saw this gem produced by Tyndale Publishing!  100 Bible Stories for Children is like the next step up from the toddler Bible. It is written for children ages 5-8, and has beautiful color illustrations.

 

It has an expanded collection of stories compared to a toddler Bible.  The 100 stories includes the Twelve Spies, Samson, Gideon, Job, Paul and Silas in Prison, Stephen, and John’s letters in the book of Revelation. Most toddler Bibles don’t include all of those, so this is a good ‘next step’ Bible for younger children.

When we first got it in the mail, my little one was so excited to ‘read’ it and look for familiar stories. She perused the pages like looking for old friends and excited to meet new ones. I totally recommend this version as the next step up from a toddler Bible.

I received 100 Stories for Children as a complimentary version part of the Tyndale Publishing Blogger review program, however all of the opinions and experiences are mine.

.

What other versions have you enjoyed? Let me know in the comments!

Being faithful in the small things sometimes means getting rid of your stuff.

Small things……small children, small projects, small books, small houses, small dreams, and small victories. There are many ‘small things’ in life that call for our attention, yet may not excite us. While we believe they are worthwhile, essential to life, enjoyable, and necessary, they may not feel as adventurous as the daring dreams we long for.

Today I’m thinking on this phrase ‘being faithful in the small things’ (taken from Luke 16:10).  It will look different to everyone. To someone learning to read, being faithful in small things will look like continuously practicing smaller books until they are equipped to pull out the larger ones. At times, small children may seem less exciting as we dream of future days of road trips, camping, and board-games with older kids. But unless we are faithful in those small projects, small people, and small dreams, we will never be ready for the big ones ahead of us.

This is my “small things”.  Simplifying, minimalizing, cleaning out…call it what you want. I call it ‘preparing for our next baby’, ‘minimizing what’s not important so I can maximize my home and time for what has value’, and ‘preparing for future adventures’.

If you dream of sailing to far off places, 

then you must ready your ship 

so you can pull up anchor at a moments notice. 

 

Athletes don’t just decide to run a marathon. They run around the block, lift the first five pound weight, kick the first ball….everything has a small beginning. One of my favorite phrases from a high school graduation card given to me, says “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

When I was venting my overwhelmed feelings to my husband and wondering how to tackle each thing on my heart, he reminded me of that phrase.  I can’t accomplish the big dreams today. But I can be faithful in the small things. Each day, I can take another ‘bite’. I can do this small project, small dream, small step that will eventually lead to the big things I hope for.

(see my decluttered and dusted shelves from today’s project?)

 

If my dreams of having a place where I can garden at my own house were to be fulfilled, then I must be faithful to be a good steward of my current home.  If my dreams of creative, thoughtful, and ‘self-motivated to learn’ children will happen, then I must invest the time now to cultivate those characteristics.

Do you ever have those ‘zinger’ conversations? Where you are talking with someone and ‘zing!’, their comment hit you right where you needed to hear it? Last night, my husband and I were discussing his methods of cleaning out the laundry room and what to do with the unneeded items in there. He wanted to get rid of a certain item and I said we had to keep it (though we have no current need for it) and then he said it…..’We have to be faithful in the small things. If you ever expect to get another place, then we need to be faithful with the house we have. There, that’s a word from God for you!”.  I couldn’t argue with that. Indeed, that very phrase ‘faithful in the small things’ had been whispered to my heart at least a month before.

How about you? What are your little things (that may not seem exciting) that you need to be faithful in? What ‘bites’ of the elephant do you need to take? Leave a comment to share! I’d be interested in hearing!