The Secret to Finding Peace in Your Day

The Secret to Finding Peace in Your Day

seeds that you plantI don’t know about you, but I think I need to tattoo this quote on my forehead! I get so caught up in judging my days by what I accomplished, what I checked off my to-do list, what I have harvested. I often forget that the value of my day is not measured by how many tasks I managed to rush through. The seeds that I plant for myself and my family are far more important than the number of check marks I accrue.

I often feel inadequate to the task of raising these 6 kiddos. Do you ever feel that way? Ever wonder how it is that you were chosen for such an awesome responsibility as being a parent? I do. Almost every day! But then I come across quotes like this one and heave a sigh of relief. It really isn’t about pouring knowledge or virtue into them, but lighting a fire within them that they seek it on their own.

This got me to thinking. What seeds am I sowing? How can I be more intentional with the hours of the day so that when the harvest does come I can be sure it sprang from good seeds? Basically, what are my priorities?

Here’s what I’ve come up with…

  1. Close Relationships
  2. Caring for the Body: Exercise, Time Outside, Healthy Eating, Sleep & Rest
  3. Caring for the Mind: Reading, Thinking, Communicating, Problem Solving
  4. Caring for the Soul: Prayer, Meditation, Music, Art, Play

This is not a definitive list by far. It is more like a work-in-progress, but I share it because, as parents, we often carry too much guilt over what we feel we aren’t doing well enough. Shifting our perspective to the planting of seeds rather than the harvest reminds us that it is the daily, small ways that we tend to our children that make the most difference. The harvest will come, but it takes time.  Can you hear me sighing with relief?  Knowing that I don’t have to do it all or be it all brings me so much peace.  Instead, I can rest in the assurance that seeds well planted will reap a beautiful harvest.

So what would be on your list? What seeds do you want to sow? Will you leave a note in the comments and so that we can encourage each other to look not only to the harvest but to the quality of our seeds?  Or you can pop on over to Facebook and join the conversation there.  Can’t wait to hear from you!

Advice to My Younger Self

Advice to My Younger Self

I’ve been participating in a 500 Words a Day Writing Challenge and today’s challenge is to write a list! That’s one long list! So instead of boring you with listing all 500 things I need to get done today, I’m going to get creative. Hey, look at that! I’m already at word fifty-three! J So here goes….

Five Things I’d Tell my Younger Self About Homeschooling

1. Don’t waste your money! There are so many resources available and marketed to homeschoolers, and many of them are really, really great! But the truth is, many of them are not needed. Don’t rush into any purchase of homeschool materials. Look closely at them. Talk to others who have used them. Look at them for yourself. Let it rest and then decide. If it still looks good a few months from now, chances are it will be a good fit. Discern wisely.

2. Home is a great place to learn. Sounds silly even saying that since home is part of the word homeschooling. But the thing is, oftentimes we feel like we need to get out, do something, take a class, sign up for this or that. These are all good but there is something to be said for time spent at home. Uninterrupted time to get bored and find a way out of that boredom. Kids (and parents) need this time. Every family has a different balance for time home and away. Each member of a family may have a different need. Honor those differences and our children learn to honor them as well. They also learn that home is a wonderful place to be.

3. Trust. Trust yourself. Trust your child. There is no magic formula that when applied will ensure that our children turn out ok (whatever that means anyway). And if there was, how boring this journey would be. Every child and parent is different. And when we allow for those differences and tune into the cues our children give us about their boundaries and interests, we teach our children to do the same. We show that we trust in them and they in turn can trust in us. Then we trust more in ourselves to parent from a place of authenticity rather than fear and control. This deserves 500 words all to itself, but in the interest of today’s writing challenge, I will move on.

4. Be yourself. This probably sounds trite but hear me out. In the homeschooling world, there is a lot of discussion about which method you use, and which curriculum, and what your daily schedule and academic year look like. These discussions are good to have as long as you never try to homeschool in a way that doesn’t work for you and your family. Whatever method you use or don’t use, own it. Be authentic. When you look back at the end of your homeschooling road, you are the only one who will have regrets if you aren’t.

5. It’s all about relationships. This whole thing, books and pencils aside, is about how you connect with your child. There are things that books can’t teach like empathy and compassion. A good story can certainly start a discussion about it, but our actions as parents tell far more than the words in a book. Have fun together. Learn. Laugh. Cry. Together.

Reading this over, it’s pretty clear that these principles are more about being present and intentional in our parenting, regardless of our choices in how we educate our children. But rather than edit this whole post, which is against the rules of the writing challenge, I will leave it as it is, and open the discussion up to you. What is the one thing you would tell your younger self about being a parent?

Reading Aloud: Comfort in a Crazy Day

Reading Aloud: Comfort in a Crazy Day

The thing that I love about books is their ability to calm a stormy day. The mesmerizing language of authors who have mastered their craft pulls in even the most reluctant listener. Even as I open a picture book that I intend to read to my littles, once I begin, it is inevitable that my biggest boy will curl up nearby to soak up the story. Maybe it is the closeness that sharing a book brings. We sit close. We share space. We snuggle. We listen. We laugh. We hold our breath waiting to find out if Marty will get to keep Shiloh.

On the days when I feel like nothing is going as planned and everything is going awry, the one thing I know that can bring us back to our center is reading together. If the toddler is too fidgety, we listen to an audiobook, but we still share a story. We immerse ourselves in another world and somehow our brains and our bodies relax, our breathing slows and we are there. Present. Together.

When the days turn into weeks of chaos and questioning just how I can keep up with this crazy, grace-filled life, we return to the basics. It always includes lots of story-time, often only leaving home for a library visit, filling the bags to overflowing. It is a common occurrence for all eight of us to leave the library with 50 or so books. All to be savored in the week ahead. Some have been chosen by me with the idea of sparking some interest in a topic, but most of them are chosen “just” for the sake of reading. Everyone has their favorite authors, even the little girl who’s not yet two. They find them on the shelves and peruse the books on display, always willing to hear something new.

So when I question myself…Am I giving them enough? Educating them well? I just step back and look at what we have built together: a family culture around books. When I set out on this parenting gig, the one thing that I was absolutely clear on was that I wanted my children to love books, not reading, but books. I have a few who are definitely capable of reading books independently, but they still prefer to be read to. When any one of them is sick, forget movies or tv shows. Give them a great audiobook and a warm bed. They’ll be there all day long. And even if they’re not sick, sometimes I have to remind them that the CD player has a pause button:)

Reading together is not just a single thread in our family tapestry. It is the weft and warp, the threads that intertwine with each other to create the beauty that is the tapestry.

The benefits of reading together are greater even than the quality time we share as a family. Hearing the language as fashoined by professional writers, our minds and our own language are permeated with it loveliness. We begin to articulate ourselves with greater clarity and grace.

Just the other day, my oldest two children were having a discussion about which would sound better when asking a question about the price of an event. “Will it cost money?” or “Will there be a cost?” We ended up having an interesting discussion about how there are many ways to say the same thing, but the words we choose can affect how they are perceived. I think that the fact that they were able to appreciate the subtlety of these differences is due in large part to the countless hours that we have spent reading together.

So I leave you with this. Reading together is a gift. Where in your day can carve out even 15 minutes to be together? It will be worth every second, and you may find that 15 minutes just isn’t enough:)

If you need more inspiration, check out The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma, and the series of podcasts, The Read Aloud Revival, by Sarah Mackenzie. They are all worth the time, but even if you can only listen to just one podcast, I bet you’ll be inspired to get reading!

I Hate October

I Hate October

I hate October. Ok, maybe I don’t hate it. There are the leaves dripping with their colored gems, and the crispness of the air, that reminder of summer’s warmth mixed with a hint of winter’s chill. There is a freshness, even as the natural world prepares to slumber. And on most days the sunshine still shines bright enough for us to dance with our shadows on our daily walks.

But in October’s past, I was not able to see the sun or the colors or appreciate the uniqueness of the autumn air. Sure, my eyes could see them but my heart could not. I was too focused on the rainy days and on the leaves that lay brown and dingy on the ground and on the nights. The longer, darker nights and shorter, rainier days.

October really isn’t to blame but it just happened to be the month that everything always seemed to fall apart. It took me many years of watching my typically positive attitude reduce itself to nothing more than the muddy leaves trampled outside my door. This is what October did to me, or more accurately, what I allowed October to do to me. It took me many years of watching the re-run of the show I call October for me to begin to put the pieces together. Shorter days, less sunshine, smiles turning into grimaces, exhaustion turning into depression (or maybe it is the other way around, I’m still not sure), happy, patient mommy turning into snappy, critical, definitely-not-fun-to-be-around mommy.

In the years before I saw the pattern, I played the “if-only game.” If only {insert any worldly desire}, things would be better. I reasoned that a bigger house, more money, less rowdy kids, a second car, and a million other things would make me feel better. Of course, they wouldn’t and didn’t even if a wish did happen to come true. I still felt lousy and would much rather have stayed in bed all day than do just about anything else. Fortunately, a power higher than myself worked wonders and I managed never to fall into a place where I couldn’t care for my kids. I may not have been doing it to my standards but at least I was caring for them.

It got so I was afraid of October. I felt like I was an innocent bystander just waiting for the storm to sweep me away and praying that I wouldn’t do too much damage with my harsh words and frustrated scowls until I recovered myself sometime a few months later. I did try not to get swept away, but nothing I did seemed to help.

Looking back, I can see that what I did try; the occasional walk, remembering to take my vitamins a few days a week, stealing ten minutes here or there to read a book, these were all good but not enough. I was sabotaging myself by not being consistent with my self-care. Until rather recently, I still held the misguided notion that self-care was treating myself once in a while to something out of the ordinary. It’s not! Self-care, really effective self-care, is caring for myself, mind, body, and spirit, with the same tenacity and diligence with which I care for every other member of my family. I am, after all, a member of my family.

So now, instead of the occasional walk, I am making it a priority to be active every day and to run at least 3 times a week. I am being attentive to my need for sleep, even if it means heading to bed with the littlest one. I am more conscientious than ever about fueling my body and my mind with the nutrition it needs and that includes many B-vitamins, magnesium, and St. John’s Wort, just to name a few. I am reading to myself and my kids every day. And I am writing! Nothing nourishes me more than putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and letting my thoughts flow free with the words that are bottled up in my mind all day long. Somehow, the paper and ink mix together and transform my jumbled thoughts into something beautiful. Something that lays my soul bare, emptying and filling me at the same time. Sometimes I keep the words to myself and sometimes I bring them here, hoping that they will bless someone else just as I am continually surprised by how much they have blessed me.

So here, now, I am unapologetically caring for myself. The combination of ordinary ways varies a little from day to day and certainly takes some creativity, but the important thing is that it happens. Every. Day. I find it ironic that now, when my life is the busiest it has ever been with raising six kiddos, I am finally making time to really care for myself. But it is because of them that I am inspired to be the most loving, caring version of myself. And to do that, to show them the love that overflows, I must first shower it upon myself. As I do, I might just learn to love October too.

Stubborn Joy

Stubborn Joy

All through December, I contemplated the idea of choosing a word to describe my hopes for the upcoming year.  A word to guide me, to anchor me.  A word with which to bring intentionality to my days.

This was a great exercise because it allowed me to re-focus on my priorities.  Choosing just one word though proved to be a challenge.  I finally settled on JOY, with the idea of purposely choosing joy and happiness in the midst of daily trials.  Looking always for the good, the blessings in the hard lessons learned and the wisdom to be gained.  Trying always to be mindful that how I choose to view a situation will create its truth for me.

So I had the word JOY in mind as I meandered through the first day of 2014.  I quickly realized that choosing to be joyful, when children argue incessantly and my last frayed nerves creep up on me more quickly after a wakeful night with the little one, will definitely be a challenge.  When the mundane tasks of laundry and dishes threaten my inner joy because They. Just. Never. End.  (Writing that makes me laugh out loud.  It sounds so trivial.  But if you’ve ever been there, you know what I mean.)

I must admit I began second guessing myself.  Did I choose the right word?  Should I pick a different word?  Absolutely not!  The very fact that I am challenged by choosing JOY means I need this practice all the more.  Then, as so often happens, I found wisdom in a children’s book.

My favorite 6 year old asked to snuggle up and read together.  So even though I felt like I was getting it all wrong on this first day of the New Year, snuggle we did.  He chose one of our favorites, Amber on the Mountain.  And it was there in those pages that I have read countless times that I found my answer.  “…You can do almost anything you fix your mind on…Just pretend you are old Rockhead [the stubborn mule].  Set your whole self to the task.”  Sounds simple, but there in that moment it was what I needed to hear.

I can choose JOY.  I will choose JOY.  I will refuse to let the negative permeate me.  I will choose to smile when little hands make messes.  I will choose to keep folding laundry and washing dishes even when I don’t feel like it.  I have faith that the joy will be there.  It’s already there.  Waiting for me.  I just have to be stubborn enough to see it.