This Girl of Mine

This girl of mine is four years old.  Charlotte is such a fun little girl.  She is a wonderful mix of tough and tender.  She loves being girly with me, but she naturally enjoys the things that her brothers do and love.  I took these pictures at her oldest brother’s playoff baseball game earlier this month.  She wanted to wear eye black like the guys, but she loved twirling in her pony dress along the sidelines.  These photographs reminded me so much of this blog post from 2013:  Funny Girl.

Happy fourth birthday, my love.

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Teacup Tuesday: Camera Crisis

Hi, friends.

I haven’t done a Teacup Tuesday in awhile.  Fortunately, I took this picture last Tuesday.  Why is that fortunate?  Well, my dear camera is broken.  As I haven’t been to a camera professional to discuss the problem yet, I don’t know just HOW broken it is.  I’m really, really hoping that it is fixable and an inexpensive fix at that.  I use my DSLR camera so much that it feels like an extra limb.  I take photographs almost every day.  In fact, I celebrated my birthday last week, and I had decided to do a photo-a-day project for all of the next year.  Sadly, my camera broke on day 3.  Sad.

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This is my newest teacup, and I adore it!  I love the clean, whiteness of it–the silver edges, the soft pastel flowers.  The tea is Salted Caramel!  Oh yum.  My mom sent me the tea bag in the mail, and now I can’t remember the brand.  It was such a welcome change to my usual tea choices.  Thanks, Mom!

Summer School

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Summer school is in session!  We wrapped up our regular school year on June 5, and we took last week off completely.  We had long, lazy mornings.  We made pancakes.  We went swimming.  Basically, we had a little stay-cation, and yesterday, we got back to work–summer style.

(I saw the idea of the summer school bucket on a homeschooling blog, and now I can’t find the post!  So…if this looks familiar to you, please share the name of the blog in the comments.  I certainly want to give credit for this cute idea.)

In our summer school bucket, I included a new pencil for each student, a bunch of fun erasers from the Dollar Tree, a new notebook for each student, some math flash cards, and a new set of double-tipped markers.  I had the bucket and the summer school sign on the dining room table when everyone woke up.  It helped set the tone for our day and hopefully our whole summer.

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For my little preschooler, I made this “Summer Fun Book.”  I’ve been collecting links on Pinterest for a few weeks, and I printed coloring pages and activities for Charlotte to enjoy while her brothers do their summer school lessons.

All of this makes me think of The Sound of Music.  Maybe you’ll remember the scene, too.  The housekeeper tells Maria, “The Von Traap children don’t play.  They march.”  Well, don’t worry!  We aren’t missing the joys of summer.  Our summer school is going to take 1 to 1.5 hours per morning, Monday through Thursday, and we have some projects (and books!) in progress for the afternoons.  We have a lot of fun things planned for the season.  I think I’ll do another post about our Summer Bucket List.  There is much fun to be had!

Thanks and Summertime

Dear Readers,

Wow!  Your response to my last post (June 6th) blew my socks off!  Thank you.  Your comments here on my blog, on my Facebook page, and in conversations elsewhere on the web showed me that I am not alone in my feelings, and they served as evidence that sometimes a little inspiration from others can be the catalyst for positive change.  I am humbled and delighted to have been a tiny spark of inspiration for some of you.  Other comments in the places mentioned above, as well as in private conversations and correspondence, pushed me to think and to further analyze my words and my situation.  Being pushed isn’t comfortable, but it can be useful.  So thank you, sincerely, for reading and for considering.  The huge increase in readership over the last week has astounded me and certainly made me smile.  I hope some of my new readers will stick around.

So…summer has come!

Sure, the calendar hasn’t given us official summertime yet, but the weather certainly has.  We are on our second day in the 90s, and it is gorgeous out there.  Our family made our first trip to the community pool.  I have never been a public pool kinda gal, but nothing lights up my children’s faces like the sight of a big, blue swimming pool sparkling in the sun.  We’ve been driving past this pool in the park for weeks, waiting for it to finally open.  With no vacation plans this year, we felt that the rather affordable family pass was a worthwhile investment.  The anticipation of today’s outing was monumental!  You would have thought we had arrived at Disney World as we entered the pool grounds, marveling at the patchwork of brightly colored beach towel.  Let the fun begin!

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Oh my goodness!  Look at that!  A rare image of Mom in the pool.  Wonders never cease!  :)

In Focus — 5 steps I took to Zoom into Better Living

Have you ever simply known that your life had gone a little out of focus?

You are still doing the same basic things, the same routine that has been keeping you going for years.

Yet, something is off.

You find yourself holding your breath, waiting for normal to arrive.  Hello, Normal?  Where are you?

You don’t seem to have time for the things that you once did simply for pleasure.  Tea from the kettle–not the microwave.  An impromptu photo shoot simply because you’ve got cute kids and a perfect patch of sunlight coming in the window.  A game of UNO.  Popcorn and a movie after the kids fall asleep.  Falling asleep yourself next to your dearest love (even though that kind of irritates him).

Where did those joyful little moments go?  When did every day become decidedly less fun?

That’s where I’ve been lately.  I’ve been restless and lacking contentment.  Late 2014 and all of 2015 so far have brought in new challenges that I had never faced before.  There have been many joys and amazing days, but illness and losses in my life and in the lives of people I love put things into a new perspective.  I expected those painful events to fill me with an urgency to LIVE–really live deeply and abundantly–but instead, I felt stuck, disappointed, angry, and frustrated.  Instead of turning to sources of encouragement that I could count on–God, family, the Scripture, dear friends–I turned inward and to technology.  Have you ever drowned your sorrows in Facebook?  Have you numbed the here and now with a hefty dose of daydreaming while reading about other people’s lives on other people’s blogs?  That’s been me.

And then my nine-year-old was working on a family crest.  He worked hard. Markers everywhere!  He drew a shield, divided it to represent each family member, and then he came up with an icon to represent each of us.  Cory was a weight because Daddy is strong.  I was a little laptop–because Mommy loves the computer.

Wait, did you hear something?  Oh, yeah.  That was my heart shattering.

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A number of things–the laptop drawing near the top of the list–helped me to finally see that I needed to take some concrete steps to turn things around–to pull things back into focus.  These are the steps I took, and I’m still working!

  1. I prayed.  I confessed that I been focusing on me and my shortcomings instead of the larger picture of the life God wanted me to live.  I confessed that I had not been living with gratitude.  I confessed that I had not been using my resources (including time!) with intention and intelligence.  I thanked God for loving me anyway!  I thanked Him for my children, my husband, my parents, and the rest of my big, wonderful family.  I thanked Him for friends at our church, in our community, in our past and our present.  I asked for focus, for patience, and for the grace to approach my family and MYSELF with gentleness.  I asked for contentment and peace.
  2. I reached out.  One of the biggest sources of my frustrations and disappointment is the lack of organization in our home.  This has been a problem forever.  I could blame having four children.  I could blame homeschooling.  But I would be pretending!  Let’s be real here.  I have struggled with messes since I was a kid, seemingly cleaning my room every single day but always living in a disaster.  My mom keeps a beautiful home.  I had plenty of positive examples, but I fail regularly.  So…I reached out to an old friend who is an organizer.  We are just figuring out what working together will look like, but it feels wonderful to feel like I have a teammate!
  3. I returned to activities that matter to me.  It might seem crazy to add MORE when my plate is already pretty full.  However, I did some real soul-searching, and I realized that I had dropped a few things that were true treasures in my life.  So in April, I returned to a La Leche League group.  I’ve been an accredited Leader with LLL since 2008, but I have not been affiliated with a group since we moved in 2013.  It was time.  I always thought of LLL as my “positive peer pressure.”  The meetings lift my spirits, confirm my parenting choices, and connect me with like-minded mothers.  Serving mothers and babies in the Leader role always does something good in my heart.  In addition to La Leche League, I added a little crafting and remade my old homemaking binder.
  4. I set some healthy boundaries.  That sounds all psychological and sophisticated, but it is actually code for “got my lazy bum off the computer.”  I use the computer for good things–researching homeschool ideas, looking up recipes, connecting with friends and family–but I get sucked in.  I get wrapped up in things of no importance.  I’ve been feeling like I had way too many voices in my life.  Articles, comments on articles, opinions upon opinions upon opinions!  I needed some mental quiet.  I so easily allow time to slip by, and I’m often left with a lingering feeling of disquiet after I’ve read something controversial.  I’ve strictly limited Facebook to Saturdays, and in general, I’m keeping my computer time quick and on task.  This is a hard one for me.  I asked Cory to make up a new password for Facebook, and he is under strict orders to never tell me!
  5. I surrounded myself with inspiration!  I visited a long-time friend who always inspires me with her amazing work ethic and her fun sense of humor.  I also found two quotations that spoke to my situation and made me feel motivated to create change.  I printed them on pretty paper and taped them on the wall.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~Psalm 16:11

^^This passage from the Psalms helped me remember that as long as I am in God’s presence, I have what I need to be content and joyful.  Everything else is bonus!

“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” ~Kevin Ngo

^^This quotation by Kevin Ngo helped me to think about where I do want to place my focus, and it made me realize that the time I spend planning and strategizing is valuable–not just silly day dreaming.

Nearly a year ago, the auto-focus on my camera’s basic lens stopped functioning.  I was struggling with the manual setting.  My brother-in-law who is a photographer and film-maker gave me some good advice.  He told me to take my time.  He said to slowly move the lens back and forth between the extremes on both sides until I find the sharpest focus in the middle–even though the people around me (including those in the picture!) seem to want me to hurry.  The clear image and perfect light are the reward for taking the time to find that sweet spot.

I’m feeling good these days.  I think I am back in focus, but I’m not afraid to put in the time and effort to live life beautifully.

 

Farmers in the Dell

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I love farms.  I often daydream about being a farmer–although my visions are probably completely romantic, unrealistic notions.  But nonetheless, I like to get a little touch of farm life any time that I can.

I belong to an amazing attachment parenting meet-up group.  I adore many of these families, and I enjoy meeting new AP parents as often as possible.  I was excited for our long-awaited tour at a local dairy farm this week.  We’ve been to this particular spot a few times, and it is always a fun event.

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The morning started out with some drizzle.  Thankfully, the rain stopped just in time for our tour to begin.  We saw the mamas-to-be in the maternity pen, fed handfuls of grass to the other ladies, and explored their fuzzy heads, moist noses, and sandpaper tongues.  Dairy cows are gentle and shy, yet curious.  They didn’t seem to mind our visit at all, and they were eager to welcome lots of little hands and the grass they offered.  We hand milked a very patient gal named Gloria.  Imagine more than a dozen farmers coming to milk one cow.

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The dairy farm has about 100 cows and a handful of pigs, a goat or two, and a farm dog named Moose .  Each grandchild in the family picks a baby cow and names her!   In the store, you can buy milk, butter, cheese, a wide variety of homemade foods, glorious baked goods from the on-site bakery, and the most heavenly chocolate milk you could imagine.  To me, it tastes like a melted milkshake.  How could I forget!  Ice cream!  The dairy makes its own ice cream, and we were each treated to a free cone after the tour.  We had a beautiful day as “farmers in the dell.”

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Memorial Day 2015

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It’s the morning of Memorial Day.  We don’t have big plans today, but that’s exactly the kind of holiday we need.  We made pancakes.  We hung a flag.  Cory will be finishing up our porch, and we’ll hit the good playground after dinner.

I have complicated feelings surrounding military action.  It’s a somber sort of thing.  I hate the thought of war, of combat, of families separated–sometimes forever.  Yet, I feel thankful for men and women who are willing to give their lives if necessary.  I respect them even when I hesitate to celebrate the work that they must do.  I pray that God’s will washes over our nation, makes our missions pure, and our actions selfless.  To that, I can raise my flag and give thanks for the men and women who died in service and those who are still willing to serve today.

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