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Children Don't Keep

Today a friend and I took our boys to the lake to visit a newer playground and dig in the sand. I almost considered not going. I have been working on several projects that seem to be taking up way more time than I planned, and let's not even talk about how messy my kitchen is. There definitely would have plenty to keep me busy had I stayed home. However, instead of cancelling, I got as much done as I could this morning and then decided to leave the rest. I knew Aiden was excited, and I really didn't want to cancel yet another activity this week.

As we were driving to our destination, my friend explained that she also had a lot of things that she needed to catch up on at home. And yet, she decided that all of the chores could wait but an afternoon of memory-making could not. She is so very right. I am really pretty proud of us both for letting the messes and stresses of everyday life be put on hold so we could sit on towels in the sand and talk about fish skeletons and laugh about bug phobias while our boys managed to get just as wet as they would have if they had been swimming. It isn't really swimming weather yet (not that crazy almost-five-year-old boys care about things like weather) so we had told them they could go 2 steps into the water... and no further. Well, after running with buckets full of water combined with my particularly graceful son doing an unexpected belly flop from tripping they managed to enjoy the water plenty.

Next year the boys will be five, and Aiden's buddy will be in kindergarten, so days like this are numbered. With us homeschooling there will be lots of time to go do stuff, but it won't be the same without our favorite adventure companions. I am hoping that this is a summer full of messy houses and unfolded laundry if it means we spend as much time as possible enjoying the remaining days of having preschoolers. What a blessing it has been to watch these two grow up together over the past couple of years! Life is certainly better when you can go through it with wonderful friends!

Linking up with Feature Fridays

The Most Important Thing

This morning I was getting ready to take my mom for a PET scan to find out if her cancer has returned. I have been a little  really worried, and I hadn't slept well. So, when this sweet little boy said to me (while still half-asleep) "Jesus loves you, mama. That is the most important thing," you can bet that my heart just plain melted. This kid... he teaches me about faith and love every single day. I am overwhelmed by the blessing of getting to be his mama...

Friendship is Hard (But God is Good)

Lately I have been seeing posts left and right about how friendship is hard. I don't necessarily think that there have been more written lately... I think that they have just been thrown my way (launched at me with a social media slingshot??) because God knew I needed a reminder. And, of course, He knew before I did. Because I have been struggling again... a lot.

This post about When Making Friends Feels More Like Work Than a Party suggested that we plan a "girlfriend gathering" this past weekend. I thought about it for a moment... pictured pretty vases of flowers and tasty treats and lots of laughter. But then... I am going to be brutally honest here... I thought about the possible hurt of everyone being too busy and I let that potential discomfort discouraging me from trying. I have amazing friends. We always have a wonderful time when we gather. It is just so darn hard to make that happen sometimes. Lately, with my social anxiety running high, I am having a hard time putting myself out there. However, I was blessed to be invited to breakfast with a friend on Sunday morning and it reminded me how much I love the amazing women in my life. 

I remember those first couple of years after Aiden was born when I would beg God for local relationships to ease my incredible loneliness. And it literally took years. Now, I am thankful for those lonely months as a stay-at-home mama with a heart that was desperate for fellowship... because it was in those months that I truly learned to study God's Word and let Him fill the empty space in my life. I still wanted friends. Still longed for face-to-face connection. Yet I grew so much in my relationship with my Heavenly Father that I would not trade a moment of that earthly loneliness for anything. I also would not trade the amazing relationships I formed online with other women around the world during this time. God provided in His own way, as He always does. 

Back to my current struggles, though. I have spent the past couple of years making efforts to put myself out there. I have been the one to approach (semi-stalk) women who I thought could be potential friends. I have been blessed by the women who have shared their hearts and lives with me. This time has been mostly about building new relationships, which has its own set of challenges. But in the past few months, there has been a beautiful addition to the building phase, which is that some of these women are now friends who I feel like I really know and can count on. There is comfort that comes with an established friendship that is priceless. 

And yet... with real relationships comes hurt. It is inevitable. Even as I sat in a local cafe with one of my dearest friends, I was reminded of the harder part of friendship. We shared a mutual hurt, and I was hurt by news about a mutual acquaintance... hurt happens when people open their hearts. Even friendships centered in Christ are friendships built by sinful people. And sinful people hurt each other. It was while I was thinking back about some of these recent challenges that I realized God had been preparing me for this stage of relationship building... through posts like this one that shares Five Reasons to Fight for Sisterhood

I need these reminders to forgive. I need to be reminded (probably even more so) that I have surely hurt others as well. I would not want to intentionally hurt any of my amazing girlfriends, and so I try to focus on that and assume that the hurts that have come my way were unintentional as well. I need the push to keep building, and keep opening my heart... because I am someone whose first instinct is to clam up. I have a lifetime of hurt and trust issues fighting my every effort to make real connections now. Yet I fully believe that in Christ I am a new creation, and He will continue to help me move past those old wounds to embrace the good things He is pouring into my life. This is my desire, and my constant prayer. 

Friendship really is hard. It is messy and crazy and full of uncertainty. More than anything, though, it is a gift. God created us to live in fellowship while here on earth. We were not created to walk alone or hide ourselves away. Every time I step out of my comfort zone I am forced to rely on God for strength... and He wants us to rely on Him. Social anxiety may be the thorn in my flesh, but it is also a gift in that it keeps me leaning on the One who can use it for good. 

So today's goal is this... forgive and move forward and go ahead and plan a girlfriend gathering. Because the only way I get to enjoy that time of renewal that comes from fellowship with a group of wonderful women is if I put myself out there and keep trying. It is so very worth it. I know this is true.

Linking up with Titus 2 Tuesday this week.

Priorities: Bloom Where You Are Planted


Just the word makes me tense up. I am not sure this has always been the case, but as a current stay-at-home mama this is a tricky topic for me. I often find myself thinking I need to be superwoman to make up for the fact that I don't have a job... at least not one outside the home. I feel pressure (probably self-induced more often than not) on a regular basis to make sure I am busy enough to justify staying home. So very often this leads to me completely ignoring my priorities during this season of life, and piling on things that leave me lacking in resources to really excel at what is most important. But wait... doesn't the term "most important" indicate that I do indeed know what my priorities should be? Knowing and acting on what I know are often two very different things for me.

When I stop to really consider the work that God has assigned me during this particular season, I usually begin in Titus 2:4-5, which reads:

Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

First of all, I like that this verse calls me a "younger woman." Gotta throw that out there. But really, it is pretty clear about my role. It is also incredibly challenging in its simplicity. According to this verse, my daily to-do list would read:

1. Love my husband and child
2. Be self-controlled and pure
3. Be busy at home
4. Be kind
5. Be subject to my husband

Simple, right? Really? If I am being honest I am totally intimidated by that list. I would much rather have a big old list of errands to check off, because being self-controlled and pure is a lofty goal. And kind? How can a lovely little word like that be so hard? Yet when I am dealing with the messes and stresses of daily life kindness is not always my forte. 

When I read this list, and acknowledge my weakness, I have to ask tough questions... How often am I lacking in self-control and kindness because I have added things to my list that don't belong there? Am I ignoring my priorities to try to make myself more important? Am I seeking my own glory, instead of working to bring glory to God? And by doing both of these things, am I undermining the importance of my calling as a wife and mother? 

Tough stuff, right? Clearly I don't have it all figured out. I continue to need constant reminders to stop and look at how my resources of time, energy and finances are being used. It is that frequent need to evaluate things that makes it really helpful for me to have a list to look at. After all, I love lists. This particular list hangs on my refrigerator:

Most days I don't even see it. I look right past this little gem hidden in the midst of a fridge door full of stuff. But then there are days when it jumps out at me. On those days it is like God is reminding me that it is time to stop and do a quick mental inventory of what I am spending my God-given resources on.  Some days, realigning my tasks with my priorities is an easy fix. Other days? Well, those are the days when I have to stop and really confess how distracted I have become and start some serious clean-up work. 

I am in one of those clean-up phases again right now. I shared the other day how I am identifying some things that need cut so that I can focus more on what I really need to be doing during this precious season of life. It is tough stuff... because like any woman, I want to be able to do it all. I hate saying no, and I am quick to justify things that I know in my heart I shouldn't be doing. And yet, if I am honest in my self-examination, what a relief it is to know that God has given me a clear vocation at this point in my life. 

It is good, and very pleasing to my Creator, when I focus my time and energy on my husband and child. It is important for me to be busy at home. It is His desire that I look to Him for my importance and worth, instead of being fooled by the worldly view of my current vocation. It is also absolutely possible for me to do all of this and also have time to serve outside the home. I know that my work at the church and my time spent leading women in online Bible study is well within the resources God has provided. I just have to take great care to not let other things start crowding out the space He has carved for this important work, and also not let this work outside the home displace the important work I have to do inside the home. It happens so easily. 

It is hard to remember that scrubbing the kitchen sink can be more important than teaching a Sunday school class. Yet when I focus on my duties by their importance according to these priorities I see how it all works together. I realize that by creating a place of rest for my husband to come home to, I am supporting his calling as a provider while also giving him the space needed to serve in the ways God asks him to. I realize that by devoting time to raising my child intentionally I am preparing him for a lifetime of serving God. This is the season of life I am in right now. I remind myself that there will come a time when the season changes... probably far sooner than I want it to. So it is so very important for me to be intentional about the time I have right now. This is my desire, and I know that it is possible with the help of God. I pray I would continue to seek Him first, and trust in His plan... it is always so much better than my own! 

p.s. you can download a copy of this list of priorities without the watermark here

Linking up with Titus 2 Tuesday this week.

Earth Day Muffin Tin Crayons - Reuse those old crayon pieces!!

I have always wanted to make some muffin tin crayons, but for some reason I never actually did it. Until today! I decided that it would be fun to make some little Earth crayons for our friends on Earth Day!

The process was pretty simple...

1. Peel and break crayons until your fingers ache (I actually chopped the white with a knife so that we would have a cloud effect without big white spots)

2. Let Aiden put some of each color family in each muffin tin and then add a "sprinkle of white"

3. Bake at 300 degrees for about 8 minutes. (***I will say that because we were using our old hodgepodge crayon assortment there were lots of brands and qualities and some melted SUPER fast!!) Then let them cool - I put them in the freezer for a while after the pan cooled.

4. Pop out your beautiful crayons!

5. Attach them to a quick little card using the free image found here.

Why I am NOT planting a vegetable garden this year...

I really should have gotten up to blog when I couldn't sleep last night. Instead, I just blogged in my head and watched the clock. Now I am probably more exhausted than I would have been if I had just gotten up, but also trying to remember what I was thinking last night, ha! I am in one of those places where life is not making sense to me. I feel frustrated and aimless, and for lack of better words I would call it a funk. So, I have been doing what I do when I hit these rough spots... making lists.

I always find myself thinking that if I make enough lists something will eventually happen and life will start making sense on paper. It never actually does... but I do get some fabulous lists out of the process, ha! These efforts are never completely fruitless, though. I often figure out where to begin reworking things by stopping to put pen to paper. 

My first step is always the same... I list out my priorities. I think about what I really want, and what God really wants from me. Then, I think about how my use of time and financial resources compares to what I have as my top priorities. And then I spend a while amazed at how far off course I usually am at this point. It is so frustrating to once again be in this place. Sometimes I feel like if my life were mapped out it would be a picture of someone who constantly strays from the good path and into the rough places that are much harder to travel... not because I don't have a path marked on the map to keep me on track, but because I refuse to follow what IS marked out. I am so easily distracted. 

Like right now, for instance... what does any of this have to do with why I am not planting a vegetable garden this year? Well, one of my lists this week has been a "NO" list. I have been reading The Best Yes, and one of the things that she reminds her readers is that sometimes you have to say "no" to something good to say "yes" to something better. This is not a new concept for me, It is, however, one I tend to easily overlook when putting things into practice. Right now I am overwhelmed with everything, and so I desperately need to look for some things to let go of. Like having a vegetable garden. 

It is funny how something that is mostly for enjoyment can so easily become a source of stress. I have loved growing vegetables the past couple of years. So has Aiden. And yet, this year whenever I started thinking about what I needed to do to prepare for our gardening all I felt was frazzled. Instead of seeing that perhaps this was an indicator that a garden isn't a "best yes" this summer, I decided to stubbornly continue my plans to make it happen. After all, gardening is great! It is educational, fresh veggies are awesome, it is (supposedly) good for the food budget to grow your own produce (although I am pretty sure I always spend more than I save)... there are plenty of reasons why a vegetable garden is a good and worthwhile use of time. It fits right in to my priorities because it is a quality time and educational opportunity for Aiden, it provides for my family, and it makes our yard lovely which creates a happy home. However, this year gardening is a good thing I now know I need to say no to so that I can focus on better things. 

Now, let me be honest... there is this one thing in my life right now that I desperately want to say NO to. It is something that I would very happily give up so that I could have a vegetable garden instead. My first instinct when making my "no" list was to write this activity in capital letters across the top of the paper. But... instead I have been praying about it. And I have asked some wonderful prayer warrior friends to pray as well. And the more I pray, the more I realize that this is something I need to keep on my "best yes" list. Oh how being obedient is unpleasant sometimes...

Instead of actually getting up to blog last night, instead I turned on some music and one of the songs on the playlist I chose was Something Heavenly by Sanctus Real. I come back to this song over and over. It is definitely a favorite, and yet last night I found myself hearing something I hadn't heard before in this song. I heard a reminder that what God is doing is so much bigger than me. It is more important than me being comfortable or having fun. The very fact that I am being pushed to limits is a great indicator that this is a time of growth for me. Yes, what God is doing inside of me feels like chaos... but I trust completely that there is good that will come from this discomfort. I know from experience that when God pushes me to do things that make me uncomfortable it changes me in real ways. 

So, instead of planting that garden this summer, I will push on towards what God has laid out for me in areas that are a bit harder but will surely be worth it. There are other things on my "no" list... and it continues to grow. I think this is the first time I have really seen something "good" than needed to be given up for something "better" jump out at me this clearly, though. So, maybe the constant cycle of setting a course and then wandering so far off of it is actually leading to progress. Remember that map of my life that I drew in my head where I am constantly going off course? Maybe if I looked closely I would notice that my straying still happens but doesn't take me quite as far off course. I will probably never be someone who can actually stay on the path, but if I can at least stick closer to the general area that is progress, right?

Linking up with Titus 2 Tuesday this week.


Merrill Homeschool: 2015-16 Curriculum Choices

I mentioned in my last post that I have ordered our kindergarten curriculum and am currently in a kind of in-between phase. I don't want to start using it until we are "official" but it also calls to me from the shelf, just begging me to dive in. I have been asked on occasion what we will be using, and it is hard for m to give an answer because I have chosen to go with a pieced together collection instead of a boxed curriculum. One of the benefits of having done learning activities with Aiden for a few years already is that by now I am pretty comfortable with what our general style is. Not that I can put it into words... but at very least I can get a sense of whether different options would work for us. I have also been reading a lot about the Charlotte Mason approach to education, and so that was another thing that I kind of looked for as I compared the endless options out there.

Now, before I share what I have chosen, I will ask that you refrain from judging me for ordering first grade curriculum in many cases. I feel like I have to defend myself when I share that, because my goal is NOT to push Aiden to learn faster. When I looked into the choices for some of these programs, I looked at placement tests and considered overall value (we are a single-income family, so that is important) and in many cases I chose to order the year that would fit where we are and give us lots of room to work through things. I imagine some of these will take us longer than a year to work through, especially because a big part of kindergarten will still be play-based and interest-driven. I love that homeschool means being able to let kids work at their own pace, but they still label things by grade in many cases and more than once I have been criticized for moving too fast with Aiden. This is what works for our family, and I am excited to be the one who gets to teach my son and follow his lead in many areas. 

So anyway, here is what we will be using:

Math: Saxon Math 1 (home study kit)
Reading: Explode the Code Book 1 (teacher guide/workbook)
Writing: Handwriting Without Tears 1st Grade (teacher guide/workbook/journal) and Draw Write Now
Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy (textbook/junior notebooking journal)
Social Studies: The Story of the World Book One (text and activity book)
Nature Studies: The Nature Connection (workbook)
Bible Studies: The Story Bible
Memory Work: Raising Lil Rockstars
Art: Preschool Art - It's the Process, Not the Product!
Interest-Driven Studies: Pinterest, YouTube, the library and our Learning Journal
Character: Laying Down the Rails for Children (not yet purchased)
Music: TBD

We will also continue to use Reading Eggs, Math Seeds, Cosmic Kids Yoga, and Adventures in Odyssey in addition to various educational apps.

Phew! That sounds like a lot when I list it out!! I am excited about all of it, and loving this homeschool journey we are on! Sometimes I still can't believe we are actually doing it, but I have learned many times over since becoming a parent that life rarely goes the direction you thought it would when dreaming during those months of waiting for a child. I am definitely learning to go with the flow... or at least more than I was able to before!

Life Lately...

Being out of the habit of blogging makes it hard for me to figure out what to post here. So, just a little random rambling for today...

Aiden has mastered his scooter, at least as much as he can in our back yard. It is pretty amazing to watch him. He has figured out not only how to ride it "traditionally" but also how to make it do cool thing like move with the shifting of his weight while he sits on it. He still has no interest in figuring out his bike, but that is fine. At this point I think we will have to buy him a bigger one before he really learns, so I am in no hurry.

Last month Aiden got to take another art class on campus. It is always fun to take him to the college where Matt and I met. He hasn't been quite as interested in art lately, but I also haven't been quite as creative myself. If he asks for art I am always quick to provide the materials, but sometimes I forget to offer. It is one of those things where it will be important for me to plan it into our days instead of assuming it will naturally happen. I don't want him to lose his excitement for it!

Speaking of planning... homeschool continues to go well, although we are in a bit of an in-between place right now. When I researched curriculum and looked at placement tests for different things I was amazed at how much Aiden actually already knows. So, as I prepare for officially beginning Kindergarten in July (we will do school year-round) I have tapered off how much I am focusing on things before then. I plan to always include child-led learning in our lesson plans, which will make it necessary for me to be ready to research whatever topic he is currently interested in (right now it is butterflies) but I am also hoping to be fairly consistent with curriculum-driven work. Finding that balance will be my primary goal as we figure things out for next year. So, until then I am just following his lead... and thanking God that I have a pretty self-motivated boy when it comes to learning. I hope that continues! 

I find myself thinking a lot lately about what it will be like when Aiden's friends head to kindergarten. I also think sometimes about the fact that he would be in the same class as his two best buddies, who will both attend the Lutheran school I grew up attending. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a traitor not sending Aiden to that school. While I have complete confidence that homeschooling is right for our family (and Matt does too!) it doesn't mean I don't question myself... a lot. I have decided that parenting probably never gets t a point when you can make a decision and never question it. I realize too, though, that when his best buddy and his cousin both start school it will make it easier in some ways for us to integrate ourselves more into the homeschool community. Right now I enjoy spending time with other homeschoolers but I also feel like I kind of have one foot in two different worlds. 

I guess that kind of wraps up the family side of things for right now. We are definitely enjoying the spring weather after what seemed like the longest winter ever, and I am excited to see what these warm seasons have in store for us! I want to get back to writing about what God is teaching me through my Bible study, but those posts usually need to be written at 2:30 am... that is just my process, ha! Overall, it just feels good to be blogging a bit again. Some hobbies never die... they just fade in and out. ;) 

Peanut Butter Breakfast Muffins

peanut butter breakfast muffins PBJ

Sometimes great recipes come about simply because ingredients need to be used up. That was the case with these Peanut Butter Breakfast Muffins. I had bought the peanut butter I used from Trader Joe's, thinking I would like it... but I really did not. However, I knew it would probably make delicious muffins. I was right!

peanut butter breakfast muffins PBJ

I had considered going for a PB&J muffin, and briefly thought about adding a bit of jam in the centers, but decided to go with the craisins instead. So they are more like Peanut Butter and (almost) Jelly Muffins... I think Peanut Butter Breakfast Muffins is probably a better name, though. They are not too sweet, and with 5g of protein and 4g of fiber they are a decent way to start the day. With coffee, of course... lots of coffee! (And perhaps some green juice. But I am drifting off topic here... how about the recipe?!)

peanut butter breakfast muffins PBJ

Peanut Butter Breakfast Muffins

yield: 29 muffins (I never bake anything without making enough to share!)

2.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups whole grain oats
1 cup brown sugar
2 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
2.5 cups almond milk
1 cup trader joes crunchy peanut butter with flax and chia seeds
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
5oz blueberry craisins (or any flavor, this is what I used)

Now here is where a real food blogger or recipe author would share proper instructions. This is the main reason I am not a food blogger or recipe author (well... at least one of the many reasons!) I pretty much just mixed it all in a bowl. I used silicone baking cups lightly sprayed with coconut oil cooking spray, and put approximately 1/4 cup of batter in each. I baked them in my truly wacky oven for 14 minutes at 325 degrees. In a normal oven I would *guess* that is something like 350 degrees for 18(ish) minutes. I am not kidding about my oven being wacky... another good reason I am not a food blogger. I was really pleased with how they turned out, and Aiden has been gobbling up, so I feel free calling them preschooler-approved! (FYI... see the nutrition information below? There is a disclaimer there... I used myfitnesspal to calculate it. I am no nutrition expert so it is only as accurate as anything on the internet ever is, ha!)

peanut butter breakfast muffins PBJ

A Blogger without a Blog...

Why, oh why, must I always delete my blogs when I want to take a break? I should know by now that I am always going to want to blog again someday. Today it was simply wanting to share a new recipe that had me itching to post something. So, just out of curiosity, I thought I would see which of my blogs still existed. I miss the blogger days most of all. Wordpress was great, but it was just too involved for my lackadaisical posting habits. Oh, and I can no longer justify paying to host a blog that is rarely used. So... here I am. This was once my blog for my Project 365, back in the golden days of blogging that brought about many amazing relationships. So, it only seems fitting that I share a few photos of how much Aiden has changed since then. He is getting so big, I can hardly believe it. That is part of why I want to blog a bit again. Even if I only blog for a few months out of each year, I will have quite a collection of memories to look back on and share with him someday. Plus, it will help my overactive brain calm down a bit. That is why I really keep coming back here to find a place to write. I need to work some things out, and writing is my therapy. But for now, how about those photos...