Room for Learning

Our days are structured around learning, so it is no surprise that the #1 factor in choosing our new house was (for me anyway) the place where we would “do school.”  Now, to be fair, our work happens all over the house, and much of it doesn’t look like school at all.  However, when I saw this sunroom, I envisioned cups of tea, good books, finger paintings, and sunshine.  Here is how our “school room” looks when it is all tidied up and ready to go.

You pass through the French doors to enter the sunroom.  The sweet rocking horse was given to us by the house’s previous owner.  She said that it was enjoyed by her children and made by her sister.  I love having it in our school room.

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We already owned the loveseat, and it fits perfectly at one end of the room.  To give you a sense of the size of our room, it is only a little wider (maybe three feet) than the loveseat itself.

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The big school table is actually a “retired” library table with two big drawers at the front.  I love that it came from an honest-to-goodness library.  We adopted it from a friend, and it couldn’t be more perfect for our purposes.  Bins beneath the table hold our books and supplies.  The wool, braided tote on the radiator holds our percussion instruments.

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The flowered tin is my sticker box from when I was a child.  I still have stickers in it from when I was six or seven years old, plus many new additions.  The little metal buckets are from the Target dollar bin. 

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The wonderful owl puppet was a Christmas gift to our oldest son from my parents when he was four.  He adored it when he was little, and the owl still brings a bit of charming wisdom to our days.  The alphabet puzzle is a Melissa and Doug toy from Aunt Kristy and Uncle Jake.

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We love to use magazines in our homeschool.  We typically use National Geographic Kids and Highlights.  The microscope is a “talking microscope” that we really enjoy.  It was a gift from my in-laws, and it is used very frequently!  The books are ones that we are using currently.  We did a unit on the library.  We’re slowly reading through the Little House books, and you’ll notice our Story of the World (Volume 2) history book and the accompanying activity book, plus some fables and a collection of Beatrix Potter stories, perfect for spring.

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This board is the Everyday Display from Creative Memories.  Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I’ve seen them on Ebay for good prices.  The board is magnetic.  We made the rainbows  for a unit on refraction and shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.

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I hope you enjoyed your tour of our sunroom.  We love it!

The Life I Want

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life I really want and the life that I can too easily substitute.  I can easily become enthusiastic about new and exciting possibilities.  And then I have to make myself ask, “Do I really want this?”

Obviously, life is sometimes made up of things that we don’t want, and we do not have the possibility to choose otherwise.  Sickness, job loss, death, house repairs, broken cars, and natural disasters aren’t things that we choose to have in our lives, but they are there.

No, I’m talking about knowing what kind of life I want and taking steps to make it happen.  I want a life that is joyful.  I want a life that is simple.  I want a life that is quiet, yet I am drawn to activity and learning and doing new things.  How do I keep a balance between simple/quiet and new/exciting?  How do I manage to not have clutter in my home or in my heart?  THESE are my struggles.

I was drafting this blog post two days ago, and then yesterday, I saw this post at simplemom.net.  The author (Tsh) defines simple living as “living holistically with your life’s purpose.”  In other words, you understand the life you were built to have.  Then all the things and activities in your life work toward that purpose.  Tsh says it this way, “all the parts of your life are pointing in the same direction.”  I like that.  For us the direction is Christ, but there is a lot of room in that for figuring out a way to live.  Check out the article.  I think you’ll like it.  And I’ll let you know how I do in figuring all this out!

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A Special Find

A few housekeeping items before the post:

  1. My Lenten Tree post was mentioned on another blog!  How exciting.  Please take a look at “A Time to Take Root” over at Christian Ed. at Holy Family.  The post title is hyperlinked (This new font doesn’t seem to show the links very well.).  The blog has a number of great resources for Lent.
  2. I loved the feedback I received on Monday’s post.  I heard from a number of you on Facebook, here on the blog, and even in person.  Thanks!  I feel I need to clarify a few of things.  First, I’m not running off to Uganda or some other far off place!  Not any time soon.  My home is my mission field.  I remind myself of that frequently, and I take joy in it.  I’ve been given this time and this place to use my skills and my energy to glorify God here–right where I am planted.   I mean to focus on study, prayer, and advocacy in quiet ways–not some dramatic mission!  Secondly, I did write a note of encouragement to the mom that I mentioned.  Monday’s post kind of sounds like I stopped myself from encouraging her when I actually did write the message.  Finally, whether my post said it or not, I do believe that God gives us different seasons for different actions.  I, in no way, meant to imply that a person who doesn’t serve outside of the home or the mom who feels too overwhelmed to put on matching socks let alone head a committee or fly to Africa is wrong or bad or missing God’s call.  Nope.  Not at all.  We are each given different, worthy tasks, and I feel called to greater study and prayer at this time.  Maybe that seems selfish.  After all, it’s not very outwardly focused.  I just know that I’ve been ignoring it for far too long.

Okay!  On with the post…

I bought a little bag of bouncy balls at Target.  I am sharing this fact with you at great risk of public embarrassment.  My hubby really made fun of me–in the kindest of ways, of course.

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When I saw this little bag with its cheerful colors peeking through the mesh, I was hit by a wave of happy nostalgia.  I grabbed them immediately and tossed them in the cart, hoping the kids wouldn’t notice.

“What’s that,” F immediately asked.  So much for my stealthy moves.

“They’re for me,” I replied with an unintended territorial edge.

Not giving up, he asked, “Well, what are they?”

“Just some bouncy balls,” I said.

But they aren’t just some bouncy balls.  They are a fun, sweet part of my childhood–a part that I hadn’t thought about in a long time.  I guess you could say that my sister and I had imagination to spare.  We collected rubber balls and played with them like someone might care for pet rocks.  We actually gave them names.  I kept mine in a coffee can under my bed.  I know how silly this sounds, but it is a warm memory for me (and probably my sister if she isn’t ready to kill me for posting this! :) ).  I’ve come across bouncy balls many times in the last decade, but I think I had an immediate emotional reaction to the bouncy ball sighting at Target because these were THEE balls.  The world is full of little rubber balls, but these ones are sort of translucent.  Their color is half-half like the “fancy” Easter eggs we try to dye each year.  They have a slightly rough exterior unlike glossy jacks balls.  They are smaller than most super balls, and they feel great in my hand.  Rolling them around in my palm, even making a mental note of their particular smell and weight, I feel like my old self.  Making my way to the check-out line, I smiled inside and out–even as I missed my sister almost too much to bear.

Where have I been?

(Don’t forget my book review and giveaway on Tuesday, May 15.)

My blog has been really lagging lately.  I struggle to get a food budget post up each week, and I don’t want Warm As Pie to be a blog only about grocery shopping.  I find that I’ve been terribly distracted.

My attention has been pulled to finances, car issues, and mysterious leaking.  We got those things cleared up, and then I was distracted by the birth of my precious new nephew (yay!).

I’ve been going to t-ball games and practices.

I’ve been making library trips and reading the books that we choose.

I’ve been helping with homework and reading logs and wonderful projects of the imagination that require cardboard.  Lots of cardboard.

I’ve been stressing about this organizing project that is definitely losing momentum–more about that later.

I’ve been daydreaming about a real, functioning back porch and even hunting for some low cost furniture.

I’ve been beating myself up about all the things I don’t get done and at the same time trying to pull myself out of that funk so that I can see the light of my children’s faces and hear their joy and watch their growing little selves.

I’ve been feeling down.  I’ve been turning to the internet for a little inspiration, a little pick-me-up, and instead, what I find there is a cycle of discontent–not a place I want to be.

So where I am I now?

I’m reflecting on Zephaniah 3:17.  “The Lord your God is with you,  the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love He will no longer rebuke you,  but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I’m telling myself that if the big Lord of the Universe can rejoice over me, maybe I can decide that I’m alright after all.

I’m watching my baby drum on the fireplace with a crayon and a ball point pen.  I’m delighting in her joy and her enthusiasm.

I’m listening to my preschooler giggle to himself as he plays in the livingroom.

I’m waiting for my hubby to return so that we can pick up a cute little table for the back porch and maybe buy some sunny yellow paint for it.  We’ll see.

I’m making plans.  I’m giving thanks.  I’m zooming in on the important stuff.

Let’s Get Organized!

As I typed the title of this post, I started singing Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and I have a feeling that it is going to be running through my head all day.

I could write a book (well, a really, really long blog post) about my organizational history.  Here’s the quickie version:

I have always been really good at organizing my professional space but not my personal space.  As a kid, my pattern meant a tidy desk and backpack but a semi-messy room.  As a teenager, I had obsessively neat school notes.  I loved color-coding with cool pens (Jessi?  Are you reading this?).  I loved binders and folders and paper clips.  Staples was my retail heaven!  But as my life got busier and my pace got faster, my room got messier.  And messier.  I seemed to be always cleaning it, but it didn’t get better.  I would spend an entire Saturday “cleaning,” but I spent most of my time gazing at old photographs, art work from junior high, and other memorabilia.  The state of my bedroom was always a battleground between me and my mom (in an otherwise wonderful mother-daughter relationship).  College and grad school were about the same.  Organized work and schedule.  Semi-messy room/apartment/house.

Then in 2005, while still studying in grad school and working in various capacities at a university, we added a baby boy to our family.  Suddenly, I could not tolerate our messiness.  I wanted a cozy, clean place to raise our little family.  I tried hard.  I felt like I was cleaning all the time, but the house didn’t get better.  The baby’s room was the single spotless place.  The nursery was super organized and always tidy.  I was frustrated.  Then, in April 2006 when F was 9 months old, my mom and I attended a La Leche League conference.  One of the speakers taught us about home organizing, and for the first time, I learned about the FlyLady.  Now, the FlyLady might not be for everyone, and her methods might seem silly or extreme, but she changed my life!  At least for a little while.

By June, I had my home organized and clean, and I was maintaining the routines that are essential to the FlyLady program.  I felt AWESOME!  On the evening before my baby’s first birthday in August, I was ready for the party.  The house looked good.  The cake was ready.  The food was ready.  That never happens.  On the morning of the party, I was able to attend church, do some final party prep, and just enjoy my birthday boy without the usual frantic race before guests arrived.

My home organization lasted until baby #2 arrived (about two years), and I’ve never returned to that delightful state again.  We live in a state of semi-organization. Thankfully, our summer move left us without much of our old clutter.  I’m great at crisis cleaning.  I can pull together a clean, pretty house without much trouble, but it’s not truly organized.  My closets make no sense at all.  I’m often losing things or frantically hunting for things as we head out the door.  Our second floor has tons of storage near the bathroom and bedrooms, but the drawers and closets are almost empty while our belongs are still in boxes or stacked in corners. Our car is always full of stuff, leaving it unsightly but also unsafe.

On Thursday, I attended a MOPS meeting on the subject of organization, and I’m feeling very motivated.  I also have a sense of community support, and that accountability means a lot to me!

Project: Food Budget has been so helpful, so I decided to do a similar thing with organization.  I will report once per week on my progress in getting organized.  Here is the plan of attack:

Week #1:  (April 16-April 22)  Downstairs closets and begin family paperwork

Week #2: (April 23-April 29)  Master bedroom and upstairs closets

Week #3: (April 30-May 6)  Boys’ room and paperwork

Week #4: (May 7-May 13)  Leftover unpacked boxes, back porch, and paperwork

Week #5: (May 14-May 20)  Home library

Week #6: (May 21-May 27)  Kids’ papers and crafts

Week #7: (May 28-June 3)  Car, kitchen, and finish family paperwork

Notes:  The kitchen is thrown in at the end because it is fairly well organized.  I want to tackle only two spots:  the very junkie junk drawer and the top of the fridge.  Otherwise, I’m happy with the order of my kitchen.  Paperwork is spread out through the seven week project because as I organize each space, I will have more paper to manage.  There are other areas that I could add such as the garage and bathrooms, but those areas are functioning pretty well.  Our bathrooms are basically empty, so no trouble there.  My laundry area is really just a big closet, so I’m including it in Week #1.

Anyone want to join me?

A Different Kind of Advent

Advent is the beautiful season of getting ready.  Every year at this time the preparations begin. Lists and trips and evening obligations fill the days leading up to Christmas.  Growing up in a Christian home, I’ve always known that Chistmas means more than the stuff of the secular celebration, but I still hurry around checking off a to-do list like the rest of the world.  I know that when we “get ready” during Advent we are preparing in a way that is far more significant than finding the right gift, the perfect poinsettia, or an unforgettable dessert recipe for the big day, but I get caught up in the hunt!  The Advent, this waiting, is even bigger than the best Advent calendar, the most stirring devotional booklet, and the sweetest rendition of “Silent Night.”  These are good things, meaningful things, but I often see Advent and Christmas pass without the encounter that I want and need.

This year is different.  Yes, we’re getting ready in practical ways for the upcoming celebrations.  Gifts are being planned and purchased, eventually wrapped.  Travel plans are being made, maps selected, reservations obtained.  Our celebration of Advent–a season that I love for its opportunity to tell and retell the most glorious story of all–is necessarily pared down.  We are just starting to unearth cookie sheets, special ornaments, and other pieces of our Christmas stash from dusty boxes.  There won’t be much time for baking and gift-making as we stumble through new routines in a brand-new-to-us house.

But this sense of difference is more than the fact that so many of our belongings will stay in boxes until well into the winter months.  This year, more than ever before, I have a sense of expectancy, a readiness to encounter the living Christ in a profound, yet quiet way.  My soul is in need of the deep Peace that He represents.  My insides have been tossed like a little ship on a stormy sea, and I am so longing to return to familiar waters where I can settle my heart and mind in the assurance of God’s love and His promises.  Aside from the fact that we have to drive about 1000 miles to celebrate with our families, this Christmas season is going to be exactly what I need it to be: simple.  I don’t have time to be engrossed in many of the traditional activities, and this year, that’s just fine.

Rest

Have a beautiful Sunday!

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” Exodus 34:21

Have a great Labor Day!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~John Lubbock

 

 

Success!


The party was fun! The weather was gorgeous. The birthday boy was his charming little self. The details of our bird themed party came together with the help of a few early party guests (thank you!!!). As with any family gathering, I was overwhelmed by the blessing of being surrounded by the people who love us most during an important milestone.

For very little money, the bird theme came to life! The decorations pictured above couldn’t have been any simpler. A trip to the library provided lots of “bird books” for decorating the tables, and my sister read a few to the kids.

Too bad I forgot the party favors at home. Bummer…

I don’t want to be melodramatic, but the very act of blogging seems to bring the drama out in me. Something about stopping, reflecting, and distilling a memory or thought into words heightens every emotion and romanticizes every experience. That’s exactly what I love about writing, but at the same time, it’s also what I want to subdue at times. So I offer this little prelude as I talk to you about simplicity…a concept that I know I romanticize.

I would call simplicity my Number Two goal. My first goal is to follow God, but secondly, I want to lead a simple life (I find these two goals to be significantly linked.). Oddly, my “simplicity” goal is pretty complex. Don’t you just love those pesky contradictions? I want simplicity to be the timbre of all aspects of my life: family, food, housekeeping, community activities, social life, faith. I look at magazines and fall in love with pictures of sparse living rooms, tidy nightstands, and bookshelves that have room for things other than books. I turn the page in my calendar and marvel at a clean-as-a-whistle month. BUT…contradiction coming…I also derive a sense of importance and value when I look back at a heavily graffiti’d calendar, layered with multi-colored notes about appointments, meetings, and deadlines. Look, I think to myself, I must really matter. Look how busy I’ve been. Of course, these thoughts are ridiculous. My worth doesn’t come from how many appointments I can squeeze in a day; yet, I would be foolish to brush aside those thoughts without a bit of introspection. How should I define success? Now that I’m not working toward a specific academic goal, what does it mean to have a successful day? How can I embrace the simplicity I crave but maintain characteristics of solid work ethic, perseverance, motivation, and industriousness? I look to my children, and as I watch them fall asleep, I realize that they feel no pressures to complete something specific in a day. They build block towers and stop on a whim to make a collage of purple circles and later a Batman mask tied with yarn. What do they know of success? They ask for food and drink when they need nourishment. They call to Mommy when they need comfort. They look to Daddy for silliness and laughter. They look inward for playful imagination and problem-solving. They measure the completion of the day by heavy eyelids and a feeling of contentment.

As I work toward a simpler life, one centered upon God and family, I’m trying to embrace the things that I love to do and grant them the same (if not greater) value than the things that I do “professionally.” Over the last year, I’ve been drawing great inspiration from a little prayer that our church’s Sunday School students say each Sunday morning. They recite: Father, give us every day work to do and time for play. Help us to be kind and good, and treat others as thy children should. Amen.” Initially, I was struck by the thought that small children are asking God for work to do. They don’t work, I thought to myself. But then I considered the work of childhood. The work of growing, discovering, learning to share and compromise, learning to take care of possessions, cleaning one’s own spaces in the world, learning to form friendships and maintain them.  These are important tasks, simple steps of growth toward a fulfilling life.  I can learn so much from that model.

Inspiration…

I’m feeling inspired. We went on a little road trip a couple of weeks ago to a small community where farming, crafting, home-cooking, cheese-making, gardening, thrifting, and the throwing of pottery (in the artistic sense) are very much alive. This little town is everything I want my life (and my blog!) to be. It’s quiet. It’s colorful. It simply feels genuine. When we walked into the small restaurant where we always go for lunch on these outings, the waitress rushed over to give my mom and I hugs and kisses on our cheeks. She gushed over how big our baby has grown and claimed that she had been thinking of us. What a welcome (the theme song of Cheers was playing in my head).
After lunch we went into a tiny—and I mean tiny—yarn shop. I picked up two cozy, wonderful yarn remnants. I have no idea what they will become, but I enjoy imaging the possibilities. One is a khaki green cotton, and the other is a plum-colored wool/alpaca blend. And the price! Both pieces were ½ off of almost nothing.
We ventured over to the cutest little school house that is kind of year-round yard sale. Lots of funny odds and ends. Vintage and antique this-and-that mixed with…well, junk. But fun junk. I picked up a stack of ten white cloth napkins. My mom found additional settings to her grandmother’s China set. What a find!
So why am I feeling inspired? An Amish farm is for sale out there. Of course, we are not in the market for a new home…certainly not a farm, but the place left me daydreaming all the way home. The basic white house with simple cotton curtains drawn to the sides, the clothes line across the yard, the big barn, the chickens and little kids running in the yard. The farm and our whole trip reminded me of the life I crave: simplicity and family.

A miniature farm at the conservatory. You gotta love the pig on the roof!