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Get in the Messy

 

boywithgrandpaIt’s ok to do the messy things.  Life is messy.  family is messy.  Last week we wrapped up a family reunion for my immediate family.  I am one of eight children and my parents have 26 grandchildren with 2 more on the way.  The family reunion was big and messy and tiring and hard work.  By messy I mean that it took a ton of coordination and flexibility and paper plates and dishes and candy wrappers and trash bags and dirty socks and dirty swim towels and over-tired, crabby children.  We used band aids and brought junk back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house from Garage Sale Wars that they did not want or need.  {Like this bucket of golf balls}

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It was also one of the best experiences my family will have this entire year.  We made irreplacable memories, we laughed, we cried, we gave each other grace, we had a visit from a storm trooper, and we loved each other.  It was AWESOME!familureuniongroup2016

I know when you mention the words ‘ family reunion’ a lot of people get the idea that you are in for a miserable experience.  When we were at costco buying all the food we had some comments about that.  The thing is, if you approach it with the understanding that the entire reason we are getting together is to create good memories and because we LOVE each other it makes a big difference!  We are not getting together to compare, show off, or tell each other how to live.  Is it a huge, tiring effort by all involved?  Yes.  Is there a cost involved?  Yes, there always is with everything in life.  Is it worth it?  YES.

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I see it a lot like doing paint, glitter, and play dough with your children.  Sure, life can be “easier” if you ban those things from your house because they make life messy.  But LOOK WHAT YOU WOULD BE MISSING OUT ON if you banned those things from your life!

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Messy is ok.  Messy is real and it is fun and we learn from it.  It takes effort and it is supposed to, that’s the way it was designed.  It’s also beautiful, fun, colorful, exploratory, creative, exciting, and creates great memories.  When life is in the messy parts let’s try to enoy what comes out of it istead of worrying so much about what we might have to clean up.  Families make messes, art makes messes, and living life full makes messes.  But I’m going to be ok with the messy because I love families, art and living life on purpose.  I hope you do too!

E

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Summertime Peace for Mothers… 10 Suggestions

woman resting on shoulder of  horse lying outdoors under  tree in sunset

As a homeschooling mother I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what it is like to have children at home when you are still trying to accomplish daily life requirements and take care of yourself as a mother.  With the exception of my oldest who chose to attend an early college high school this year my other six children are home with me all the time.  I love my lifestyle and I choose it again every day.  I also know what it feels like to need some time to myself and I understand that children sometimes need to be directed into positive activities that I fully support.

I wanted to share a few tips for others who may be wondering how they can get through summer feeling calm and peaceful and having your children home.

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  1.  Ask your children for a top 10 list of what would make their summer great.  Really listen to what they want to do and try to put aside what YOU want to do for a few minutes.  You may be surprised.  Often the activities that my family loves most and has the best memories of are simple activities that don’t take a lot of time, money, or planning to do.  Maybe several of the activities suggested are desired by all family members.  For example, in the summer we love to attend local, small town rodeos.  We go to the parade in the morning and make an entire day of it, packing lunch and staying for the late afternoon rodeo.  By the end of the day we have spent about $100 total for my family of 9 (including tickets that we purchased before the event) and have had such a great time together.  My children prefer this type of activity to time at the local trampoline park or other crowded location where many parents are looking for entertainment.  Another favorite is a fireside night of making smores and singing songs.  Children LOVE this and it is simple to do.boywalkinguphill
  2. Turn off screens and get outside.  I can guarantee you that children today need more outside play.  They need time to lie in the grass and look for recognizable shapes in the clouds.  They need time to run and jump and pick flowers and get dirty.  Set a timer for 2 hours and give them some ideas and let them go.  At first maybe they will feel like they don’t know what to do, but if they know you are serious about being outdoors they will begin coming up with their own play.  This past week my children had cousins over and came up with an intense set up for cowboys and indians.  They did a lot more dressing up to play than play and the dressing up became part of the play.  It was delightful to watch and amazing to see the age span that came together for at least 4 hours of play.kidsplaycowboysandindians
  3. Remain firm on a regular bedtime.  This is a sanity saver for parents.  With warmer temperatures and more time outside in sun and swimming pools your children will be exhausted by the end of the day!  The times when I see poor behavior in my children are most often connected with being sleep deprived.  Play hard all day, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and then wake up for another day of play and fun.  It is important for you as a mother to have this time at night to enjoy the quiet house and to take time to listen to your own soul and get the rest you need as well.  You need to get your sleep too!  The rule over here is 8pm for the kiddos and 10pm for the parents.  Of course their are exceptions when we do an outside movie night with the projector, fireworks and things like that.  Those events end up being just that, exceptions, but regular bed time is always the rule.  I need time to unwind and read a little in bed before I am ready to sleep and this gives me a chance to do some evening work on the computer as well.
  4. Stock up on some basic supplies that will always be available to fight boredom.  My short list includes sidewalk chalk, a big jug of water that is filled up outside (or cases of water), water balloons, a good sprinkler, bubbles, crayons, markers, watercolors, construction paper and glue sticks.  Gather the outdoor items into a bucket that you keep in the garage or back yard and then another bucket that you keep inside.  If you begin to hear about boredom give them the option of either creating from one of the buckets, reading a good book, or helping with a chore:).  Given that list they will most likely get busy with an activity bucket.babywithbubbles
  5. Keep the morning routine consistent.  No matter what time of year it is, my children know that I expect them to brush their teeth and hair, make their bed, say prayers, tidy their bedroom and put clean laundry away.  They know they should not even ask me about another activity unless the basics are done.  We all feel happy when we accomplish things and take care of our own spaces.  This gives children the ability to learn to care for themselves while also lightening your load in the mornings.  It is important to make sure that everyone knows what their basics are and that they stay consistent.  Don’t add extra things on each day or give a super long list that can be discouraging.  This list should be able to be accomplished in 20 minutes and should be 5 or 6 things maximum.  Try not to ‘stack’ on their list, either.  My children do well with specific, single items they can accomplish.  When I say things like ‘take out the garbage, then clean up the front yard and sweep the porch’ they feel overwhelmed by the stack of things to accomplish.  Instead I can say ‘here is your daily morning list.  On Thursday morning part of that list is taking out the trash’.  Then later in the day when we are getting ready for dinner and bedtime I ask for specific things like ‘please spend 5 mintues sweeping the porch’.
  6. “Close” the kitchen in between meal times.  Often when children are not sure what to do next or when they are thirsty they go looking for food.  Serve your meals and then make an announcment that the kitchen is closed until the next meal.  In the mean time let them know where they can have plenty of water and a snack if they need it.  I leave a bowl of carrots or fruit on the counter that is always available but the fridge and pantry are off limits.  I leave a water jug outside and I have a low cupboard with plastic cups easily accessible for drinks of water and ice from the fridge dispenser.  Some afternoons I will offer a popsicle or ice cream cone but again this is an exception and not the rule.
  7. Establish an afternoon ‘Quiet Time’.  This is a life saver for mothers.  Between the hours of 2 and 4 pm our bodies need a little boost to get through the rest of the day.  This is a great time for me to lie in ‘corpse pose’ for 10 minutes and replenish my adrenals while my children are quietly playing.  They know that I am not to be disturbed during this time (ours is an hour long).  This may be time you use returning some emails or reading or resting yourself.  Set the peramaters that you are comfortable with.  The rule at our home is that they can be playing with each other in their bedrooms as long as it is quiet and everyone is speaking kindly to each other.  When we are struggling with kindness then people need to split to their own spaces and read a book.  All of my children share bedrooms so the home is open to other areas where they can seek quiet space as long as it does not interfere with me or someone else.
  8. Put the house to bed each night.  Let the House go a little bit during the day.  I know, you may already hate me for even suggesting it.  All I’m saying is that how immaculate your home is has NOTHING to do with your value as a human being or as a mother.  It is ok if you don’t get to all of the sorting and deep cleaning for a month or two while you are enjoying summer.  Those things are not going anywhere and when your children head back to school and your schedule gets in a new groove you can address them.  Don’t run around all day cleaning up everything that has happened during the day.  Allow the day to unfold and the play to happen.  Then, after your evening meal, everyone has a responsibility to help until the house is back in order.  No one is finished until it is acceptable to mom.  The way we do this is that one person is the ‘Boss’ each night.  On their night of the week their responsibility is to load the dishwasher and wash the pots and pans.  All other jobs they get to assign to others.  The big perk for the Boss is that they get the music remote in their pocket and they get to pick the play list we listen to as we clean up.  For me I feel so great having help putting things back in order and I love seeing everyone help.  I love knowing that the kitchen is ready to start fresh the next morning and that the house is vaccuumed and in order.  This is a huge piece of CALM and PEACE for me!
  9. Make good friends with your local library.  There is a difference between children reading for school and summer reading.  Summer is a time for them to explore new books, silly books, maybe even books well below their reading level that are just for fun.  Summer is a time to read just for the pure love of reading.  This is a perfect time to check out those ‘how to’ books or for them to try learning to sketch from books or trying other new things.  Set a regular libaray trip and try some new books.  This is another way to help with the ‘I’m bored’ chant.  If there is always a supply on hand of new material to discover or read you can always have that as a go to for an activity.  Your local library may also offer awesome summer reading programs with great prizes like ours does.  We love our local libraries and the friendly librarians who help my children find just what they are looking for.girlreading
  10. Remember that LOVE IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER.  Give yourself some grace.  Remember that you are the mother for your children because you were specifically hand picked by an all-knowing, all loving God who knows your special set of strengths and abilities.  Quite possibly the most important thing you will do for your children this summer is to love them for who they are, where they are, and for all the little moments of joy they bring to your life.  Take time to love yourself and acknowledge that every day you get up, show up, and do you best. I believe in you.  You are loved.
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Don’t look for the Easy Button

You know what I’m talking about, right?  That EASY button we’ve all seen on ads that sounds deceptively dreamy.  The one that promises that if you just had a magic button so that someone else could do all of the work for you that life would be all grand parties, ice cream cones, no exercise, no dirty laundry, and endless bliss.

The more I work through the daily tasks of life that take time, energy, money the more I realize that indeed there is much we learn in the doing.  I’ll give you an example.  This week I have spent time pulling the grass out of my flower beds and restoring them back to flower beds.  While I was pulling up the plants that I do want to keep there and sifting through the root balls to get the grass roots out and then re-planting the flowers that I do love I began thinking about all of it a little bit more.

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Isn’t this how life is?  It would have been a lot easier for me to dig the entire section out with a skid steere, remove everything and start from the beginning.  It would also cost me a small fourtune which I do not have to spend on flower beds ( or any other project I dream of when on pinterest for that matter).  And the plants that I already have are mature plants that produce A LOT of beautiful blooms.  I have spent years collecting the diverse plants and some are quite hard to find.  So I’ve been sitting out there digging through, sorting out what needs to go so that what stays is unencumbered by something competing for light and water and care.

I’m wanting to be consistently mindful about sorting myself.  What if we all spent time each day, week, month, year sorting out what has somehow taken root in us that doesn’t have a place there?  Are there things in your life that are competing with your soul for light, nourishment, and love?  I’m not suggesting that you call it all a loss and start over – there is too much invested and so much value.  I am suggesting some weeding out.  Maybe all you can do is pull one things at a time that doesn’t fit there.  Each time you remove something that dosen’t belong you make more room for your soul to bloom and grow.

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There is not an ‘easy’ button for this type of sorting in life.  No one else can do it in your life because they have their life to sort.  And even if you could use the easy button and have someone else do it they would remove things that you still need or want becuase they don’t know your heart and soul inside deep down like you do.  Or maybe they would leave too much.

sheffie water

When you get to the end you spent some time in the sun, remembered again the beauty around you, and had a chance to reminisce on all the time, seasons, and experiences that led you to this point.  It feels good to have the dirt on your hands, knowing that you nurtured and restored things back to where they can again grow with their full potential.

No easy button needed, after all.

E

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What I’ve learned about Bravely Asking

Have you ever wanted to ask for something so badly but you were afraid to?  Did you wish later that you would have asked?

I’m probably that type of person that is ALWAYS asking.  Sometimes I’ve wondered if I ask for too much.   I always say  ‘Well, you never know unless you ask’.

I’ll tell you about some of the amazing experiences that have come from asking.  3 May - 21 May 2014 6101 3 May - 21 May 2014 6147 2014-10-27 10.03.33

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My children have been learning about and riding horses and ponies for almost two years now because I had the crazy idea to stop at a local barn and see if we could do a homeschool program with them.  A kind man took a chance on us and allowed us to start showing up to muck stalls and volunteer in exchange for a barn education.  It has been such a wonderful experience and has brought some great people in  our life.

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This past year two of my daughters pitched a program to local floral departments to donate to their flower shop at our Thomas Jefferson Commonwealth School.  It was a pretty bold thing to ask for; weekly flower donations for an entire school year.

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We talked to 4 stores and one of them loved the idea of community outreach.  This program has been life altering for my daughters and  a growing experience for all of us.  We have forged friendships with people we would have never known.  So many beautiful things have happened through the continued giving of the flowers throughout the year.   They had the opportunity to arrange flowers for a funeral that would have otherwise had none due to lack of funds, and so many more miracles have happened.

DSC_0126So many impactful experiences have happened in my life because I dared to ask for them.   What will you dare to ask for ?

DSC_0502I hope you will ask for what your heart desires; opportunities that will lift you up and make you want to rise even higher.  Ask for love and kindness and the chance to learn something new.  Ask someone to take a chance on you because you are worth it!

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Be Real

Hello my brave friends.  Today I’m here to tell you how much people love you when you show up real.

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I mean very real.  A woman I had only met a few times before in passing came to my home a few months ago.  This was a visit to talk about each of our homeschooling experiences and for our children to play.  Now I should tell you that at my house we are in it ALL DAY LONG and we really LIVE here.  We clean once a day, after dinner and put the house to bed in good shape.  If you catch us in the afternoon, though, that is NOT what you will see.  That is what is was like when this friend of mine came by.  We were in the midst of a very active day of shcool and home play.  There was a very large crate of blocks scattered on the floor right in front of the entry way.   What I did not know that day but have since learned is that for her to come to my home and walk in and see it the way it really is in the middle of a real day made her feel like she could be herself with me.

Isn’t that amazing?  I could have been shamed to have her see my home for the first time in a less than pinterest worthy way.  But I just said  ‘Hello, come on it, we are having a really fun day’!  And she knew I was being real and honest and open and that she could be that way with me too.  She knew that I wasn’t expecting perfection from her because I know we aren’t perfect and that life is a work in progress.  Something beautiful happened that first time we got to sit and talk.  We talked about real things and our real struggles and victories and the result?  We have become real friends.

Don’t misunderstand me here… I’m not saying that we shouldn’t put forth our best efforts and take care of our homes and spaces.  What I am saying is that we all have homes because we LIVE in them and it’s ok to use them as a tool to live in like they were made for.  Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that our homes have to be magazine worthy at all times in order for us to be worthy and that is just not true.

I promise you that when you are that wonderful, loving, real, fun person that you truly are people will love you for it.  Not all people, but the right people.   And it will feel so good.