So, we debated long and hard over getting a pet. We made a lot of Pro and Cons lists, did some research and at last decided to rescue a pet from the local shelter. I will admit I am NOT a big animal person, mostly because my three children make enough messes for me to clean up. Plus, I am realistic with the fact that the responsibility often falls to me. Thankfully as the kids get older it is mostly me reminding them to take care of their pet. ;)
I had several pets as a child, but never had one for more than a few years at a time due to moving or short lifespan; Hamsters don't live long. Our dog we ended up giving to a farmer when we moved who had big open fields and truck she could ride around in. Our cat was an outdoor cat that wandered the 14 acres. One day it just didn't come around for food. No doubt a sweet old woman fed him better food than we did. At least that is what I like to think rather than any negative alternative.
Now that I have a family of my own and we live in the south where it is too hot for animals to live primarily outdoors, I knew we would be more impacted by having a pet sharing our square footage. We contemplated a bird, but I thought the bird's squawking on top of the children's squawking might push me over the edge. Snakes and lizards give me the creeps, so I put my foot down on those. Fish and cleaning aquariums seemed too much work for too little return. We all agreed we primarily wanted a fur ball to cuddle. My kids are sensitive, so a hamster with a short lifespan seemed impractical. We visited with several types of dogs, but due to our middle child having some kind of phobia of even the tiniest dog, we decided to just let the idea go for a while. A cat never really crossed my mind since I thought my dad was allergic and didn't want to choose an animal over time with grandparents. Then we found out he had somehow outgrown that allergy and the search recommenced.
The cat chose us by putting up his paw on the glass and being so chill when we handled him. We looked at another that wouldn't retract the claws for even a moment and knew she wouldn't survive our three young children. The cat we chose, or who chose us like I said, ended up being the perfect fit for our family. He puts up with a lot, but is very clever in finding spots to escape the toddler when needed.
We named him Clue because he was so curious about everything. He has turned into a big cat (not fat just long) that loves to roll on his back like a dog to get his belly rubbed. The hair started to be an issue this summer when the weather turned hot, but we have found a few things that have really helped him fit seamlessly into our family with little fuss.
I love to read! I normally have a stack of books beside my bed, a packed kindle list, and my Overdrive account has a holds list that is maxed out. Overdrive links to your local library and allows you to read digital copies. Kindle offers weekly deals that keep me well stocked with digital books. I confess I don't go anywhere without a book of some sort! While my husband pumps gas I am getting a quick chapter in. I will sneak away to the bathroom to get a page or two read. I am occasionally up to 2 AM with my screen dimmed to finish the end of a book. The addiction is real people!
I like to read a bit of everything. I try to balance out my fiction and non-fiction. I am not against audibles, podcasts, documentaries and Youtube clips added into the mix, but books are my favorite. With three young kids, it is easiest to read off my phone, but my purse often contains at least one paperback. At night I try to read a book on paper, so I am not delaying my sleep until 2 AM. I couldn't even begin to list all the great books I have read recently, but I picked a few of my favorites to share below:
Share with me your recent reads!
I am always looking for the next good book.
Why is it so much easier to help others find their boundary line than it is to find your own? When I talk on the phone with a friend, it is often clear as day where they should draw a line in the sand. Things sneak up on you and creep in without always asking for permission or consent. In my own life I can feel the line, but not necessarily always see it. I string along countless excuses why I allow my boundaries to be crossed, stretched or moved altogether. More often than not, it is guilt or people-pleasing that account for my loss of decisiveness and muddled thinking. The older I get the less it is people-pleasing. See, I am getting wiser. ;) I might even throw worry in there too as a factor for crossing boundaries, but that isn't as high up on the list as the others.
I am a lot bolder on behalf of other people than I ever am on my own behalf. I love being able to encourage others to rest and feel peaceful. I abhor watching family or friends pushed into exhaustion by other demanding people or life's crazy pressures. I am quick to remind others to take time for themselves and set healthy boundaries in place to allow for recharge. It seems the moment I make space in my own life to breath that something comes out of the woodwork to steal back that room or time. It is such a battle! I know this life is a journey, but I don't think it is meant to be an all-out sprint to the finish. To make it the end, I know the tortoise approach is wiser and healthier. Stop and smell the roses; take time to enjoy the life you have been given. Intellectually, spiritually and emotionally I know what is best, but I allow the roar of life to drown out common sense and what I know to be right for me.
Life shows us pretty quickly that there are seasons for everything. There are seasons when we need to keep our obligations low and our boundaries high for our sanity and/or health. We also need to take into account the health and care of those we share life with. There are rhythms that we need to adhere to if we are to make it without hurting ourselves or others. Doing for others at the expense of yourself and your loved ones is not called servanthood, but codependency. Getting the details is an important step before agreeing to take on anything new. Indefinite service will cause harm if not balance with rest. Don't give an answer! You don't have to make excuses or give an answer right in the moment. I heard someone say that they wanted to "fall exhausted into the arms of Jesus" and every part of my being cringed! God, the maker of heaven and earth, rested on the 7th Day, so I am a firm believer in following His example. I think we have forgotten what true rest looks like, however. If you have kids and a spouse it is harder to find true rest. Someone is always pulling at you. Keep in mind what season you are in!
We can't just wish our boundaries into place any more than a general can get his troops from point A to B without sending out the order. We can't reduce our obligations without saying the word - No. We can not rest without allowing space and time for it. Staying balanced is a constant ebb and flow of decisions and planning. It isn't a one-time deal and opportunities come and go, so it will never be flawless, but having some steps in place helps me retain my sanity.
My go to's:
1. Call a WISE friend - In this season of my life, I am blessed to have many friends who are also balancing the wife and mother roles. I am grateful for the telegram app that allows me to share a photo or a laugh, seek advice, empathy or sanity at the push of a button with my group of mom friends. It is good to have people who remind me of my limits and priorities. I am also blessed with a wise mother who walks a few seasons of life ahead of me and is gentle in her wisdom and nearly always available to encourage and/or listen when I call.
2. Just say NO - don't add excuses - So many times I have people approach with requests or opportunities that seem to need immediate answers. I love to help others and disappointing people is hard for me. I am still learning the art of saying NO! If it is at all feasible, I want to say yes, but that has bitten me one too many times! I tried to put things off by saying I would pray about it. Better, but not best! When I know in the moment that my answer should be no, but I feel like I need a "good excuse" I need to remember - no - is good enough.
3. WAIT & Pray & WAIT - When in doubt - Wait! Then pray specifically and give yourself time to wait for His answer. Not the answer that you feel guilted into or pressured into! A thing can be really good, but if it is not in it's proper time then it can turn bad and quick. I will make mistakes, but slowing down and waiting gives me the chance to make well thought out decisions about my boundaries and obligations. Time also allows me to ask wise people to weigh in on the examination process.
Tell me what are your some safeguards for balancing boundaries and obligations? I can use all the help I can get. ;)
We had such a fun year studying Zoology. Below you can get a glimpse of the Live Butterfly Project we did to celebrate the end of our official school year and welcome summer. (Thanks, Insect Lore!) We are now ready for some sunny beach days and lazy afternoons reading books in our hammocks.
Our school year consisted of making great use of our Family Zoo Pass (Thanks, Nini!) to the Sanford Zoo in Central Florida. We all enjoyed being able to meet up with family and friends countless times throughout the year to enjoy the splash pad, train, and carousel in addition to the animals. It was so nice to not rush and be able to take the time to observe so many different animals, knowing we didn't have to see it all in a day! The petting zoo was a favorite spot. Feeding the Giraffes was a special treat, but hearing the macaws screech my daughter's name was pretty neat too. One of my girls wants to be a vet, so this year of zoology has allowed her to really explore her interest.
I chose to be homeschooled, and really thrived under independent study. Facilitating my kids' curiosity, allows me to learn so much more by viewing it all through their eyes. They each learn differently and their unique observations make life and learning more interesting. Next year, we will be adding the little brother in on our studies, so our homeschool/family will be going through a slight metamorphosis of our own by adding a third student. We look forward to relaxed Summer learning.
Share with us your favorite hands-on learning activities!
Our education is never done!
I am a huge believer in life-long learning. I try to model this habit by signing up for lectures and classes, watching documentaries and researching my latest interests online or through the local library. So, needless to say, you will nearly always find me with a book in my possession. Learning is easier in certain seasons of life, but I think it is always advantageous in keeping a sense of self by pursuing your interests.
We are homeschooling right now, and I like to live out what I teach. They need to see that they are not alone in their thirst for knowledge. I want to create and keep an environment that encourages not only my children but everyone, myself included, to ask questions, pursue interests or at least test out things to ascertain what makes us come alive. This is the age of information and I am determined that we all take advantage of it before the grid goes dark and all these amazing resources vanish. ;)
Let's enjoy discussing all kinds of topics whether we have a firm stance or knowledge of them or not. There are stacks of books by my bed, as well as a full kindle app on multiple devices in my home. Even when a topic seems outrageous, or maybe especially when it seems outrageous, I believe we should dialogue about it. When we have fear or anger towards a certain topic or theory, then it is time to dig in and shed a little light on it. The world won't fall apart if we entertain a false theory.
Questions shouldn't create fear. Fear often comes from the unknown, so let's ask some questions and set ourselves free. Being wrong or ignorant is just a part of the journey, but it is more fun when we don't stay there.
I love that even the library has online catalog apps such as OverDrive with downloadable books on almost every topic you can think of, and if it is missing from their catalog there is a neat little recommend feature, which I take full advantage of. There are so many tools available to us from Google to Kindle and did I mention that I love free!! There are emails and blogs highlighting free e-book deals on all kinds of topics and in different genres. Maybe reading isn't your thing? I hear you! Sometimes, with kids underfoot and laundry to fold, I don't have the luxury to prop my feet up in the hammock to get lost in a chapter or two of my current read. But....
...I can pop my earbuds in and listen to a podcast or watch a short video on anything and everything from baking sourdough from a starter (my current obsession) to hunting (one of my husband's favorites) and back again. I am thankful for Youtube and Youtube kids which allows the entire household to watch and learn about countless topics. Sometimes though your brain needs a little break and then we switch to music.
Pandora allows us to put in our favorite artists and not only can we enjoy our favorite song, but the app also plays similar artists and helps us find new favorites.
Thank you to all those people who write informative blogs and vlogs to share their hobbies, interests, and expertise with us!! You make life rich and full for so many. Have a favorite app or blog? Comment below and share some of your favorite resources for learning!
January always gets me thinking...
We are at the start of a new year, which is full of promise and potential dreams. We may make resolutions or goals. There is a sense of hopeful expectation of what might come to pass. We can choose to look into the future with hope or fear. We can look at anything or anyone with hope or disappointment. I always seem to have increased optimism and patience in January because it feels like a new beginning. I think hope is easier when you are younger. The older I get and the more knocked around I've become, fear and doubt often sneak in to try and ride shotgun.
Will this bring me more joy or sadness?
Will I gain new friends or lose someone?
Will I experience new freedom or become more enslaved by life?
This is the year for...
February hits and my focus switches to romance....
My healthy resolutions get pushed aside by chocolates, fudge, and other various sweets. I find myself starting to examine my relationships. Am I the best mom, wife, daughter, employee I can be? Or dangerously, are they the best husband, father, parent, or boss they can be? The marketing ads remind of the promise of happily ever after and falling in love. These reminders to follow your bliss, find your calling or restore passion seem to surround. Love seems to permeate the masses and its hard not to be swept up in an ideal, slogan or feeling. The message to love your neighbor, but more importantly to love yourself comes across loud an clear.
Will he remember Valentine's day?
Will she remember to buy me... , razors, or that a watch?
Will he buy me flowers, chocolates or jewlery?
Will she make me my favorite dinner/dessert?
Will he/she ever learn to speak my love language?
Will he romance me at all?
Goals and plans turn to questions and longings...
March fades into April and the somehow the rest of the year speeds by in a blur, but no matter what the season or the time of year, we all reach points of personal decision. Our emotions can bring us to our breaking point, or a loss can help put things into perspective or knock us out of perspective. No matter how bad things are, they could always be worse. No matter how good they are, they could be better. Striving can exhaust you, but giving up isn't necessarily a good option either. We each reach moments when we choose to reset or change aspects of our life. We are ever changing, growing, evaluating...
I'm reminded almost daily that life isn't the fairytale, no matter how hard social media may try to convince us it should be. We may have fairytale moments, but life, in general, is hard. Yes, it can be filled with incredible beauty if we remember to look for it. The beauty of redemption can definitely be found if we reach for it. Marriage isn't the picture of perfect love, but redeeming love. Any relationship worth having is hard work, that is why there are countless books on communication, dating, and marriage. The perfect person, career, hobby, passion, body, etc will not fulfill us and make life perfect. We create our own happiness! Choice! It all came down to where I found my source for joy. Anytime I allow anyone or anything to try to fulfill me I am sorely disappointed. Relationships change because we change. Careers come and go. Hobbies morph as time or interests change. Passions may fade but time continues on...
The only constant, that hasn't changed or let me down is Jesus. He enables me to see the beauty around me and to restore that beauty when it has faded. He has shown me people in a new light, enabled me to forgive when I couldn't on my own. He has filled me with new dreams, passions, and goals in new seasons. The source of my joy, happiness, contentment, peace and all beauty I see, is the faithful Jesus Christ. He can empower us to see beauty when he redeems our perspective. Keeping him in the forefront is key for me! What are some ways you keep your joy?
He gives us the power to choose love and to see beauty!
The time has finally come to slow down, turn inward, and find me again. But, as with everything, there is a pendulum swing and I can take it too far. I start focusing on what I want, need, am entitled to and end up being unhappy, whiny and no one I want to be around. Focusing on what I don't have instead of counting my blessings slowly turns me sour - every time! Instead of balancing life with God's perspective I swing from not caring for myself enough to demanding too much for myself. I am learning (oh so slowly) that I need the Spirit's help to stop the swing from going too far one way or the other on any given day in every area of life.
Dynamic tension takes focus and intention!
It is a struggle to retain some healthy boundaries and a sense of identity in this rat race. Keeping who I am with God is vital because when I start to let my kids, husband, role, passions or job define me I am in trouble. One-on-one my kids can be amazing or moody tyrants and together, mostly they are a cute and noisy circus. My husband is sweet and seemingly perfect one moment and the next I think about hopping on a plane and traveling the world solo. Being a wife can be absolutely maddening, but thank God for those sweet happily ever after moments that keep you hoping to grow old together.
Motherhood is fulfilling sometimes and draining others. My passions can seem fulfilling but can place my priorities in jeopardy. One day work is fulfilling and the next I want to quit. My identity needs to be firmly in Christ so I quit returning to life in my own power. When will I learn that I need Him every hour - every moment to get the fullness that I am craving and the sustenance I need?!
Nothing and no one is important enough to allow crowding Him out!
Yes, He created me with strength and ability, but I have yet to learn which battle hill is worth dying on and which ones I should let Him conquer.
Just because I can, doesn't mean I should!
I am afraid I have been a poor example in strategic warfare to those around me. I have heard His voice in some matters and have been so blessed through obeying His call to drop certain balls so I can do what He is calling me to do better. I took my sweet time getting the message though, and it makes me wonder what I may have missed out on in my delay. I have battled so hard in one area and totally lost sight of others that were way more important! My days always have adequate time when He is in charge. On days I take control I scramble. He is sovereign and that I can rest in. My journey, though bumpy, will be a part of refining me through His grace and for His glory.
Why I am still amazed that on those days when I take my time to invite Him to lead, that things go not perfectly, but way more smoothly? I get, for those type-A peeps like me, way more accomplished! My eyes are opened to those special God appointments with my kids, the neighbor or my spouse. How great to feel that high of being a part of God's work! Let's make that happen more! I get peace even in the busyness and confidence in the turbulence. I know it is because I was fortified against the devil and remembering to be in tune with the Spirit that I can do all things through Him.
It is not more important to be right, fair, or honest than it is to love.
And to love right, you need Him! Simple morning devotions are good by keeping me connected, but now I know there are ways to turn up the juice! So here are a few of my go-to Jesus Strategies:
Anyone one of these is great but when I regularly do them all I can understand why Peter got out of that boat. Want to feel the power? Share with me some ways you connect in with the source of all power!
All that other stuff has a season but it will fade and then what will I be left with?
I wish I could say that I was one of those moms who prayed constantly for their children, or at least nightly. I like to think that I at least pray regularly. Sometimes I feel my prayers for them have become rote and repetitive. You have all kinds of plans and ideals with the first child, but somehow after the third things start to slip. After a long day, I'll admit, I tuck them into bed and then go fall in mine often without more than a "Night Lord."
Years ago, I found a sheet listing ways to pray specifically for your children which even included scripture to back up each point. I have held onto this for years, but rarely got past the first few sections. It was too wordy and it seemed I was always interrupted. Good intentions are all well and good, but carrying around a nice but essentially useless (for me) paper had to come to an end.
Above, I have recreated the heart of it combined and shortened into prayer topics. I have successfully been able to pray my way through this one. Yay! I am a busy mom so it probably will still not happen daily, but God knows my heart and He will grow my prayer warrior skills yet. I have this on the front of my homeschooling binder in hopes of furthering my skills. I will also put the plain pdf below if it would be of use to anyone else.
Motherhood, we know, is a season of long and short.
Long days and short years.
I am a mother of three; seven, five and a two-year-old. I see videos of my firstborn as an infant and honestly wonder where the time has gone. Almost in the same moment, I am tracking down the toddler's next mess and wishing for the day when the accidents are no longer so frequent. The two extreme emotions of motherhood - trying to hold onto them and keep them little or hurry them up to independence. Who can decide when they can change in an instant!
Now, knowing there will be no more babies thanks to the hubby taking one for the team, I am finally attempting to find my pre-baby self. This season is very demanding and yes, rewarding. I know many wish back the days of when their kids were young and I am sure I will have that fleeting thought as well someday. But my hope, is to remind myself, as well as anyone reading, to not wish time forward or backward but be in the moment as best as you can.
The overwhelming amount of home videos and photos available now can trap you in a place of nostalgia. Looking back on baby photos or other childhood memories either of yours or your children easily bring tears or laughter. I think the occasional trip down memory lane can be healthy, but too much looking back can steal the joy of the moment.
Same way too much dreaming of the future can rob you of the joy of today.
Daily, I am trying to find the right balance of devotions, chocolate, coffee, wine, exercise and creativeness that allows me to keep some shadow of sanity and self in this busy season. I understand that by focusing on the long list of things that wear me out... sleepless nights, crying toddlers, whining, tantrums. I am wishing away this season. When I have this kind of mantra I find myself worn out, bitter about what independence I have lost, and whiny just like them! If I start wishing for an empty nest so I can't travel and do what I want I lose focus on the importance of this season and forget that the next is not even guaranteed. Wish I could say I don't think that way anymore, but that would be a lie.
I am learning to take better care of myself, make wiser decisions and embrace imperfection. I know my body and how many hours of sleep I need. So taking that "me time" at the expense of quality sleep is no longer a wise decision three children into this decade. I have learned to allow the house to be messy and unorganized for certain times and degrees that allow me to keep my sanity. Turn a blind eye for a time, if you will. My children are brought in to help straighten the main areas before dad gets home so he can enter a peaceful place and so mom is not doing all the cleaning up by herself after they are in bed. They also are required to have a clean room for certain privileges to be honored or granted. I have cut back on obligations that split my time.
I have also retained with a desperate grasp a night out each week, either with my husband or with girlfriends. If I am lucky I get both! It is hard to keep other obligations from pushing that off the calendar. It is a struggle to leave the husband, my best friend, behind since those days of when it was just the two of us float nostalgically in my mind. It helps to have girlfriends that will remind you that getting out is not a luxury but a necessity when you have a weak moment! I prefer doing new things and so I look for seminars, painting classes, or hiking a new trail with friends rather than the spa or shopping like some women, but you have to find your personal recharge.
I believe life, faith, love and so much more all have a semblance of dynamic tension, so I am very skeptical of anyone who appears to have it all together. Sure we might all have a day or two where we feel like we nailed this parenting thing, but I have yet to meet anyone who has it all together on a regular basis. I know I am a work in progress and God is using my children to teach me great lessons!
So, I would love to hear how other you find your recharge so you can continue to live and thrive in this moment. Let's be real with one another on this journey of motherhood!
They say that timing is everything. Push too early and you 'have to wait even longer'. Too late and you 'miss the window'. Teaching a new skill is tricky. If you allow your child to develop at their own pace you worry that they will never graduate and leave home. If you push them you worry about turning them into narcissistic, type-A, perfectionist overachievers with a God complex. Which one of those is worse I will leave you to decide. Oh, and who are they?!?
Now, what if there was a way we can find that happy medium. I think that is the only way people who have children can survive - hoping to find the balance/ the line between too much and too little. Will you always find it? No, but you keep on trying.
This week I was encouraging my daughter to stick her face in the water. I had been really frustrated with the regression she had made from the previous summer where she was diving under the water in the kiddie pool to this summer not liking any water on her face. We live in Florida and summers here are either inside with AC or by a body of water by necessity. So I am sure you can understand my frustration as she fearfully repeated, "I can't." I started to insist and suggest things and inside my head, I started wondering, "Have I been too soft on her? Or should I be harder?" I didn't want her to regress further because I was being a harsh parent who demands their kids try to do things. But I don't want pansy-kids who are afraid of everything either! Where is the line of how hard to push?"
Back when our grandparents had children there was less information and advice coming at them. So as a parent then, you were trusting doctors advice or relying on generational example for your 'parenting style'. You either did the same or the exact opposite depending on what home life you had as a child. For most, it was probably that twilight zone of a little of this and definitely not that! So, I start to research how to teach a reluctant child to swim. I love to research! I admit I was confused because her sister is a fish and was swimming early.
Now, in our generation, we have an overwhelming, limitless amount of information from Grandma, the neighbor, strangers in line, the pediatrician, the internet, countless books and I am sure you can rely on opinions from your dearest friend who is a little too comfortable sharing sometimes. From diaper brands, potty training, timeouts, grounding, spanking, sports, education, yelling, silent treatment to cell phones, driving and dating; everyone has a theory on the best way to do it or not do it.
I am happy to report that my daughter took my few suggestions and then pretty much convinced herself with a little nudging and encouragement from those gathered poolside to push herself further. By the end of our time at the pool, she was jumping in the deep end with her swimmies! I didn't push too hard this time and she was all smiles and even took off her swimmies for a bit to try swimming without mommy holding her belly in the shallow end.
I think we can all agree that we all want what's best for our child. I think we can all agree we don't have it all together all the time. I think there are glimpses that something we have said or done to or for our child has worked and in our eagerness and excitement we overshare or advise friends that they should do or try such and such. I think it is important in these moments to remember grace even when you disagree or don't want the implied advice given through 'this little story' of when their kid did such and such. Finding the way to share without pressure or implying judgment is difficult so props to them for trying. Again - GRACE - Use it!
There are methods and theories out the wazoo! Why? I think we all have heard by now that there are different strokes for different folks. Your right way of doing something may be absolutely wrong for me. Even if our children were identical, you and I, aren't. You may be able to have the patience for teaching your child math for instance and it is just better for all involved that I get a tutor for my child. Or maybe I could say the exact same thing as you but your child receives it way better than mine does. A three-day potty training method might have worked for your son, but my son, who is yes older than yours, isn't buying into it. You may think my methods of watching my children are way overprotective but maybe I think you are way too lax. You may think I am too soft and am creating 'the problem' in the first place. I may think you are pushing your kid too hard to be a world changer and the pressure is unfair. Again - Grace!
My goal, in this whole parenting thing, is to do as little damage to my children as possible. I have, yes, accepted the fact that I will damage my children (definitely to the oldest trial child) to some degree and probably down to the youngest child (most likely spoiled baby). I think the important thing to remember is that no matter how confident we seem about our method or choice there is always some little part of us that wonders if what worked with the first child will work for the others. So, if we can stay open to hearing others' ideas (yes with a grain of salt) and remain teachable and humble we will be way better examples to our children of how to put up with 'difficult people' or 'judgemental' people.
At the end of the day, it comes down to trusting that we are only in charge of doing our best and encouraging our kids to do the same in the best way we know how.
And the rest....
NOT MY CIRCUS NOT MY MONKEYS
The line between too much and too little is lost in the haze,
These are the guys I will keep teaching to the best of my ability and trust that the Lord will use my successes and my mistakes to shape them into the people He wants them to be. May I have the grace to make it through rougher stuff than swim lessons. ;)
G R A C E 4 U & 4 ME
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....