Sunday, January 8, 2012

One Little Phrase Broken Down - Part Three: Make Time to Play

The third part of my "One Little Phrase" for 2012 is Make Time to Play. 

Why? I am a worker bee. I never stop. Even when my body stops moving my mind never does. I am happy doing and always have been, even as a child. MTV aired when I was nine; as it grew in popularity I never understood how my friends could sit on the couch and just stare at a glowing box for hours on end. (Sidenote: Chris Van Allsburg's book, The Wretched Stone, is a must read if you want a fun way to help your kids see the value of art, music and story telling vs. looking at "the wretched stone". Don't tell them what the "wretched stone" is though. Let them guess!) I wanted to be doing something active, even if it was mental activity like reading, which it usually was. 

Parts of that are good. I love to learn and grow and create. I get a lot done by most people's standards. But there's a down side. 
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  ~ Genesis 2:2 
If we are created in His image, and we are, then we are created to rest. To have down time. To play. To sabbath.  I don't do that so well.  There is a time to work and a time to play and for me it's often out of proportion. I want to be intentional this year about playing and having a bit more fun. 

Fun, of course, can and does look different for each of us. Documentaries are fun for me (not scary and/or sad ones though). Sitting in a coffee shop reading a book by myself is fun - wild, hysterical fun depending on the week I have had sometimes! I am letting my inner geek pop out here, aren't I? But I am not (mainly) talking about this kind of fun. 

I want some frivolous fun, too.  I have a precious group of girlfriends with whom I laugh so hard my cheeks almost always hurt after an evening together. We get serious. We get silly. And sometimes we switch back and forth minute by minute. I want need regular time with these girls. They are so life-giving for me. 

I want to have silly fun more often with my boys. Our school days are typically so long; when we are not in school I am trying to clean or cook or plan for more school. We need trips to the park where there is no agenda. No spotting local birds or identifying flowers.  We just need time to sit and run and chase see how high they can swing to discover if their toes really can touch the sky. (A question my Beckett recently asked.) Trips to places they want to go, places I sometimes think are silly and a waste of money. Now I am letting my inner cheapskate show! 

And I want more time with dh. More dates. More time to chat and visit. He truly is my best friend, and I enjoy his company so very much. With our busy schedules and us being such independent people we have to work had to stay connected to each other...and not just talk about what needs to be done or the kids or schooling. We have done better in this area for sure but there is room for growth. 

To make this a reality I am going to need to let some things go. The house may not get picked up one night so we can go see a dollar movie after dinner. School may start late one day so we have a fun breakfast out.  I am okay with that; I really am. I just need to be intentional about setting times to play because it is so not my default and I will pack my days with projects and work and getting it all done. 

I have nothing official I have done towards this goal. I can tell you things I want to do. First I need to make a list of 25 silly things I can do with my boys and put it in my Home Manager Notebook. I can't think of this stuff on the fly (sad, I know). I need to think of some silly things I can do with girlfriends, too. Over the holidays I had a group of girls over to share munchies and watch a Christmas movie. That could be a monthly event possibly. I want to think of things that typically don't involve spending much money (sometimes that's okay) or eating out and high calorie foods. Any ideas you can share with me? I would love some help in this area! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Little Phrase Broken Down - Part Two: Beautify

In my ongoing posts about my "One Little Phrase" for 2012, the second word I chose for this year was Beautify. 

This has a two-fold application. First I want to make our home beautiful...or at least start the process. I have no illusions that it will be done in one year! Toward this end I have:

  • joined Pinterest and pinned tons of great, simple ideas I want to use in our home.
  • subscribed to two homey type magazines, House Beautiful and Country Living. It was my first Groupon and each was $5 for a full year of magazines. Yea! 
The second application of Beautify is to focus on my health. Healthy body = beautiful body. I am not talking about being a size 0, learning new ways to do my hair and buying cute clothes. I am talking about focusing on the inside as much as the outside.  I need to be working out every single day (40 is quickly approaching this summer - eek!), eating the way I feed my kids, sleeping more, drinking more water, taking my vitamins and taking time to make my health needs a priority in the day. It's not just about shedding pounds that have crept on, although I am committed to making that happen, it's about getting healthy so I can be the wife and mom I need to be and that God has called me to be. 

It's also about staying spiritually healthy as well. I want to continue being in the word regularly and deeply. 2011 was a wonderful year in that regard and I plan, by His grace, to continue. 
But let you adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.  ~1 Peter 3:4

Monday, January 2, 2012

One Little Phrase Broken Down - Part One: Simplify

Yesterday I shared my "One Little Phrase" for 2012:   

Simplify, Beautify, Make Time to Play, 
Laugh More, Cherish Every Moment

For the next few posts I wanted to "walk" through each part of my phrase. Mostly so I can better internalize these words and really own them. A bit for accountability. An even smaller bit that someone might even benefit from my journey.

First I chose Simplify. Why?

Because I need to prepare for this next 18 months to be demanding (mostly emotionally) as dh begins working on his dissertation. I will need to carry more at home to free him up to write in the evenings and on the weekends. I will be "single mom" a lot more. 

Because I still don't have a handle on what it looks like to homeschool all three of my boys and I haven't really dedicated the time necessary to do it well.  

Because I have come to believe that simplicity is a virtue in the increasingly busy world in which we live. The preceding two reasons are what started me thinking about how I needed to simplify my life; I needed to free up not only time but also emotional and mental energy. Yet it has become much more.  Life is complicated and often just plain messy. In my daily life I see how little boys fight and opposing personalities struggle to show love, sickness enters the picture, a misunderstanding happens in the family, someone needs support during a crisis, a friend needs a listening ear.  I cannot control all things (or even most things) but in what I do have control over I want to strive for simplicity. That way when the really important stuff comes along, like people and relationships, that by their very nature require time and often massive amounts of emotional energy, I have reserves available. I have found myself in the last few years too often letting the "tyranny of the urgent" rule my days. Too many things just slip in unnoticed and soon life again becomes overwhelming. For example I started Facebook years ago, next came my blog, then joining a homeschool message board, followed by Twitter and now Pinterest. How many social networking things do I really need in my life? 

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.   
~ Leonardo da Vinci 

Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.  
~ Plato 

  In character, in manner, in style, in all things, 
the supreme excellence is simplicity.         
          ~ Henry Wadsworth 

  Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, 
are not only not indispensable, 
but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. 
With respect to luxuries and comforts, 
the wisest have even lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.
~ Henry David Thoreau 

  Nothing is more simple than greatness; 
               indeed, to be simple is to be great.               
 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English 
Language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off 
from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society 
has made us feel that happiness lies in having things,
 and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.
~Elise Boulding 

I have already taken a few steps towards this goal. 

1. In regard too many online commitments (for ME and my time only), I closed my Facebook account. I  have trimmed down who I follow on Twitter. I have set limits on Pinterest; it will be my Friday night treat.

2. I have stepped down from serving in two ministries at our church. As I was reflecting with Dh about how challenging our school year has been, he asked me if I were still teaching public school and found a particular year/class exceedingly demanding would I take steps back in other areas to make sure I could give it 110 percent? Yikes! He is so good at asking just the right questions to make me really stop and think. It was a really hard decision because I adored what I was doing, where I was serving and those with whom I was serving. But this was an example for me of  the maxim, "The good is the enemy of the best." For a season "the best" is for me to focus most of my energies in and around our home and homeschooling. 

3. I have two books on my wishlist to help me further simplify what we are eating and how I am preparing it. Michael Pollan's new book, Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, and Year of Plenty by Craig Goodwin are both on the docket. 

4. I have created a Home Manager Notebook ala Tsh Oxenrider's wonderful book, Organized Simplicity. I read the book over a year ago but resisted creating the notebook because I wanted it to be perfect. Perfection paralyzes. A huge sigh and another quote: 
The perfect is the enemy of good. ~ Voltaire
So true. But I am happy to say that I finally pushed through it to create a fun and functional (yet imperfect) Home Manager Notebook. It already has been such a help to me in managing my time and our home more efficiently. 

5. I spent a bit of time each day over the holiday break to get rid of all sorts of junk in our home. I am not a pack rat of any sort but stuff just builds up and I am convinced paper is trying to take over my home! I threw out several bags of junk and set lots of other things aside for a spring garage sale. I also organized one drawer or cabinet each day for the past two weeks. Things look simpler from a purely aesthetic  point of view. feels good already. I am sure that lots of other things will come to mind as the year wears on and I will look forward to sharing more in the months to come. I would love to hear how others have simplified as well. Leave me a comment and share. I love learning from you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

Today, of course, marks the start of a new year. I love new beginnings. I really, really do. A new year means a chance to evaluate the old and start fresh with the new: new ideas, new goals, new inspiration. But what makes today different than yesterday? Nothing much, really. Still I love the chance to start over, even if today doesn't look much different than yesterday - except that little number "2" on the calendar. 

I have always loved how Heidi at Mt. Hope Chronicles chooses "One Little Word" word to define her upcoming year. This word sets the tone for your year; a word to act as a filter to the goals we set, the decisions we make and the ways we choose to spend our time and energies. Ali Edwards started "One Little Word" and she says:
In 2006, I began a tradition of choosing one word for myself each January - a word that I can focus on, meditate on, and reflect upon as I go about my daily life. My words have included play, peace, vitality, nurture, light, and story. These words have each become a part of my life in one way or another. They've been imbedded into who I am, and into who I'm becoming. They've been what I've needed (and didn't know I needed). They've helped me to breathe deeper, to see clearer, and to grow. 
This year I wanted to do something similar, but I couldn't select just one word.  Before I tell you what I chose, let me give some context since I have not been blogging regularly. In preparing for 2012 there were a few things to factor into my thinking. First, dh has been working on his doctorate, and this month begins an 18 month season when he will be writing his thesis. I need to be available to carry a heavier load at home during this upcoming time. Second, I mentioned a few posts back that this year is the year I want to start decorating my home.  I am so excited about this and already have my first few projects lined up. Third, I shared that I recently came out of a pity party I had been having. Several of you asked me to share what snapped me out of it, and there were several factors: nudgings from the Holy Spirit, a life-giving conversation with dh, and an article at Desiring God I found through a link on my friend Melissa's blog (A Time for Everything) called "Motherhood as a Mission". I was absolutely re-inspired to focus on my home as my mission field. Fourth, I recently had an amazing conversation with a mom who reached out to me via email about raising a child with Asperger's. As I wrote to her I had some revelations (that I will write more about soon) that also factored into my choosing of my "One Little Word" which has become "One Little Phrase"! 

So what did I choose? 

Simplify, Beautify, Make Time to Play, 
Laugh More, Cherish Every Moment

Yep, that pretty much sums it up. This phrase will be my "filter" for the upcoming year. I will refer to it regularly and have even typed it at the top of my Daily Docket to keep it before me each and every day. What are your goals for 2012? Do you have "One Little Word" or "One Little (or not so little) Phrase"? 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas 
from Smooth Stones Academy 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Version of "52 in 52"

On the WTM message boards there are a group of moms who took a challenge to read 52 books in 52 weeks in 2011. Well, I am a reader no doubt yet the thought of reading that many books at this stage in life just didn't seem doable. (I started reading WEM three years ago and I have only read the first two suggested books: Don Quixote and The Pilgrim's Progress.) Still the idea intrigued me. I love projects, deadlines and the accountability of doing it with a group.

I am jumping topics here, but I promise to tie it together in the end. We have lived in our current house for eight years. Eight years and we still have white bare walls. There is very little in our house that reflects who we are as a family - our loves, our history, our heritage and values. Just white bare walls. Blech!

Now for the past few years I have been saying that there just has not been time. And there is truth in that. One house. Eight years. Four pregnancies. Two babies. Two losses. Lots of therapy for Thatcher. One Asperger diagnosis. Six and one-half years homeschooling. One doctorate (for dh) now half finished. And I could go on and on. But honestly, who couldn't? Life is busy...for everyone. The reality is that now I can carve a little more time now that the boys are older. The key word is *little*. I am certainly not swimming in time here. I posted recently about how busy I feel my days are. Yet it's a different kind of busy than when the boys were little.

I am ready to begin doing some things around the house. I spend 90% of my time inside these walls and I want what surrounds me to be beautiful. It doesn't have to be designer or expensive, just a home that reflects our family. Warm colors. Family pictures. Simple decorations (I am not fussy about decor and certainly don't want clutter that just requires more time to dust and/or clean).

But here's the deal - I am an organizer, not a decorator. Organizing comes naturally. Systems and plans and linear thinking are almost effortless and energize me. Being creative and artistic...not so much. That's not to say that I do not enjoy it. I do...when I do it...and it's been a vvveeerrrry long time since I've done any of it. I am rusty. I am not sure how to create the look I really want in my home: collected over time, a bit worn, casual with touches of elegance (out of reach of busy boys ;). I took this quiz at Real Simple to find out my "decorating personality." And the result was...
Cozy Casual: You’re about comfort and warmth, favoring warm, traditional rooms made for relaxing with family and friends. Your ideal decor draws on English and early-American furniture designs, as well as laid-back country, cottage, and farmhouse styles. Weathered, low-maintenance furnishings are easy, inviting, and built for daily life. Think golden retrievers, fuzzy slippers, and just about any movie by Nancy Meyers.
Yep, that sounds about right. Unfortunately, my organized left brain gravitates towards living room sets where all the pieces match and fireplace mantle decor that is perfectly symmetrical. Sigh, I know what feels like home to me; I just don't know how to create that look in my home.

Then I read this inspiring article at Femina that further motivated me. Just about every single point made in this post struck a cord with me. Here is a bit of a teaser:
A homemaker needs to be a great many things on a shallow level, but if she wants to get deep in some area or another, that simply adds richness to the home. It adds life. It adds love. Think of a few ideas here with me. Interior design, Cooking, Baking , Pastry Chef, Landscape Architecture, Musician, Artist, Event Coordinating, Educator, Accountant, Tailor, Farmer. A woman at home can dabble in almost anything – not wasting her time, but learning her craft
So I am finally going to tie this all together. This year in 2012 I am going to do my own 52 in 52 -52 home projects in 52 weeks. I am going to hone a bit of my homemaking craft by using 2012 as the year that I begin turning our lovely house into an even lovelier home. I joined Pinterest and have already started pinning some simple DIY home decor projects and decorating ideas. This will need to be mostly low budget for me as we have not won the lottery or anything.

Would anyone like to join me for this challenge? Each week you can choose any home project you wish. Make candles. Paint a room or a piece of furniture. Fill picture frames with new pictures. Create a homemade wreath . Fill a bare spot on a wall with a bargain (or otherwise) find. Design a new centerpiece for a table in your home.

I know that 52 small projects (and maybe a few not so small ones sprinkled in here and wallpaper, say bye-bye) will not make a decorated home by the end of 2012 but it's a start. It feels challenging yet doable. And I am ready to get started right now!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Today I spent some time updating my sidebar to reflect what curricula the boys are each currently using. We are using a few new programs this year for the first time: Tapestry of Grace (TOG), Growing with Grammar (GWG), Elemental Science (ES) and Writing with Ease (WWE) being the main ones.

Tapestry has me still in what I have heard called "The Tapestry Fog" and I have not managed to navigate my way out just yet. One of the many strengths of TOG is that it's a buffet. One of its weaknesses is that it's a buffet. ;) It takes time to figure out just how to use this program and for each family it looks a bit different. I have developed a Weekly Planning Page which I am hoping will help me use TOG more effectively. Tomorrow we begin week 16 of school but only week 6 of TOG. Clearly we need to do better here.

Growing With Grammar has been a hit with Haddon. I.just.couldn' ;) I don't know what it is, but FLL wasn't a good fit for us. GWG has been a breath of fresh air. I am more CM in my approach to grammar (delayed start to formal lessons) and have loved JAG and JAG: Mechanics with Thatcher. I plan on taking the same path with Haddon when he gets to 4th and 5th grade, but in the meantime GWG takes five minutes a day or less, is painless and very gentle. Haddon is a workbook kid and loves the satisfaction of a completed page in front of him and I like knowing I am not leaving grammar out completely. With Thatch I had more time to discuss his readings and roll more "informal" or "incidental" grammar into our daily lessons across all subjects. Now that I am schooling all three GWG helps me know I am covering the basics until we get to JAG in a few years.

Writing With Ease has been great. I really wanted a program I could stick with from start to finish and Susan Wise-Bauer has really filled a hole in the world of homeschool curricula in that respect. Haddon has done beautifully in Level 1 and truly enjoys writing each day. Yes, a first grader, not to mention a boy, who adores writing! Wohoo!!! At the start of the year, I put Thatcher in Writing with Skill, Level 1 (SWB's next level in her program designed to be started around 5th grade). Even though we completed Writing Tales 1 and lots of outlining in SOTW 4 last yearWWS was still just too much. I spent a few weeks trying to build some skills that would help him be more successful but in the end decided to back up a full level to WWE 4. It was a rough start. But we are about to begin week 10, and Thatcher is showing solid growth. I couldn't be more pleased and look forward to using this program for years to come.

I hope to post great things about Elemental Science soon, but we have not started it yet this year (a huge blushing face would really come in handy here ;) Thatcher's ADHD has been especially challenging this year as his core subjects have really ramped up and he has struggled academically for the first time since we started homeschooling seven years ago. We have always struggled to be consistent in history and especially in science and this year has proved no different. This coming week we are trying a new schedule where we do history and science FIRST thing in the morning. It is already stressing me out just to think about not jumping straight into math and writing (Thatcher's subjects that require the most concentration out of him) but we are going to try it. I reserve the right to change my mind though! :)

Well, just a few new things around SSA. Hope your week gets off to a great start tomorrow.