Monday, February 27, 2017

Children are a Blessing

I've said it in faith for years.

"Children are a blessing."

I have a necklace with this phrase engraved on it, because I believe it.  I truly, truly do believe that children are a blessing... even when it's hard, I believe it.

Saturday is usually my day to tackle whatever I can't manage to accomplish during the week, so this past weekend, my to-do list was long.  However, my sister needed help getting her kitchen back in order as they near the much-anticipated end of a kitchen remodel.  Blossom1 and Blossom2 stayed home to muck out pens, which is their normal Saturday morning chore.  Daddy was changing brakes on the truck.  The little girlies and I took off to help my sister.  Blossom3 and Blossom4 were very "helpful" in playing with their cousin and spreading popcorn all over their living room.

It's always fun to work with family... to fellowship, to joke, to tease, to work.  Many hands make work light... and more enjoyable.  We got 'er done; getting my sister's kitchen much closer to livable while the last few remodeling tasks are finished.  Yay for food in the pantry and pans in the cupboard beside a sink with hot running water!

Late in the afternoon I headed home with my tired little girlies.  I knew that technically I was "behind," but it's rarely convenient to help someone, as my dad says.  I just took a deep breath and said to myself, "I'll just go to it when I get home.  I'll do the best I can and not worry about the rest."  That's me pep-talking myself and my attitude.  There's nothing stinkier than a mama attitude gone awry and everybody usually knows about it when it does.

Two big Blossoms excitedly met me in the garage.

"C'mon upstairs, Mama!"  Upstairs I trudged, with my dusty hair and achy feet.

My first glimpse was of tidy desks.  Then, a clean schoolroom.  I peeked into my bedroom to see all the clothes folded and mine delivered to my bed.  Another peek into their bedrooms, revealed neat beds and clean floors.  Blossom1 and Blossom2 triumphantly whipped open the doors to their closet to reveal a freshly organized closet.


I walked into the kitchen to find that sparkling clean and all the clean clothes (all four loads!) gone from the love seat.

And I just hugged them and said, "WOW.  Thanks.  You really blessed me!!!  WOW.  THANK YOU SO MUCH.  WOW, WOW, WOW."

All above photography credited to NaomiElle Photography

I hugged them again and again.  Later, I wrote a note on the board about how I have the best daughters in the world and that I'm so thankful God decided I could be their mama.

It took a long time to get here, friends.  I'm not bragging on myself, our daughters or our parenting. But I think this is one of the ways that children are a blessing.

Thanks for celebrating this blessing with me.  I'm just so grateful.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Slow Down and Sprint

My to-do list is growing faster than Jack's beanstalk.  

Slow down.

The wash gets dirty faster than I can wash it.

Slow down.

The ideas flit through my brain quicker than figure out how to execute them.

Slow down.

The day is sliding into nightfall and I am still hoping to finish or make progress on something.

Slow down.

Or, as in the below snapshot, to slow down with these treasures, is to sprint.  

A book, a sprint, a smile, a hike, a focused conversation...

No amount of hurry, busy or bustle will adequately take the place of being there for my family, 
so I'm reminding myself 
not to replace the important with the urgent.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Am I Doing Enough?

I was chatting with a friend the other day over the question, "Am I doing enough?"  

Moms apply the question to a number of situations, 
whether it's character training, manners practice, homeschooling, home organization or 
whatever else falls in the realm of a mama's daily job description.  

Later, I was standing at the stove, stirring the meatballs, 
mulling over what God would say when a mama asks, "Am I doing enough?"  

I don't want a pat answer from people 
because He will be the final Judge of my life, 
which is constituted of all I have done.  

Will I have poured out my life every day for meaningless and empty works? 

I want these daily things I do to be pleasing, to be meaningful, 
to work toward His vision of our life here in the Hollow.  

I stirred the meatballs and checked the potatoes 
and His voice came to me, loud and clear, 
"Do it well."  

Pausing, I stood transfixed.  Suddenly, the amount of what I'm doing mattered so very little.  
The nitty-gritty details disappeared into the background.  

The burden of never-attained perfection of my daily tasks faded.  

The surrender of my heart to what God wants me to do 
and giving my all each day to obey, 
to do it well, came to the forefront.  

In crystal clear focus is the call 
to obey in what He's revealed for me to do 
and to do it well.

These snapshots are from our recent spring-like Sunday afternoon. 
I was soaking in the joy of Blossom childhood wonder, endeavoring to just be there.  


Saturday, February 18, 2017

What It Says

The invigorating air streaming in the schoolroom windows is unseasonably warm and bursting with the promise of spring. I'm finally grabbing a minute to share my thoughts with you.  These days are full of history lessons, cleaning up the kitchen, errands to Walmart, reading Beatrix Potter, googling little girl questions (like what does a bear's den look like?) and cleaning mud up off the floor.  Did I mention the spring-like temps?  We're just off the Valentine's holiday and I feel like chatting about sisterly love - the love of Christ to each other.

As a teen, I was a "hugger" (to my girlfriends).  You know the type.  Some of us are and some of us just aren't.  I understand why, as everyone has different personal space comfort levels.  For a while, I backed off and only offered hugs to my family members and to people I really thought were comfortable with hugs or personal displays of sisterly type affection.  "I don't want to push," I thought.

I've come to the realization that some of the folks who need a hug the most, are the ones who may normally be the least comfortable receiving a hug from a girlfriend.

Don't forget that this life is a vapor.  Daily I observe the blossoming of our Blossoms and I remember how short our time is here on Earth.  Additionally, our society is a busy one; the time for nurturing deep friendships often starved out by running, running, running.  I've found myself moving away from the promise to pray for someone and asking them, then and there, "Do you mind if I pray for you?"  A touch on the hand or shoulder and a heartfelt prayer lifted to God and your friend knows you're on this journey through life with them.  They are no longer alone.

I once found myself in a situation where a girlfriend was going through some major stressful times, feeling completely and totally alone.  She couldn't take it any more and answered honestly when someone asked, "How are you?"  And I reached out.  I was second-guessing myself later, feeling I'd invaded her personal space.  I simply had nothing else to offer, aside from a prayer and hug.  No words could comfort like the comfort Almighty God could give.

Sometimes being a friend is really just being there.  

Later, I discovered, that had been her lifeline from Heaven.

So maybe I'm coming into focus.  I'm my hugger teenage self, now in my thirties, understanding why a hug is such a big, big deal.  I don't mean to get in your space, girl.  I may just be saying, "Hello."  I may just be saying, "Til we meet again."  I might just be saying, "I'm in the trenches with you."  But my hug says it all.

God loves you and I love helping to communicate that to you today,

Monday, February 13, 2017

Best Budget Valentine Candy

After a fun and busy weekend that involved long-neglected house-cleaning tasks, cross-country skiing, a date night and my entire side of the family over for lunch, I'm checking in to give a shout out to the mamas who may still be scrambling to pull together Valentine details.  The girls' party was last Wednesday, where 40+ students gathered to exchange Valentines.  There were auditions for an upcoming drama production, so many tasty Valentine snacks, gleeful groups of kids everywhere and happy mamas fellowshipping all around.

(You should know that she purposely picked her favorite plaid shirt with her beloved flowered tutu skirt and a pair of black heart leggings when getting dressed this morning.  It was a painstaking, thoughtful process.)

I love to put some sort of little gift or candy with the girls' Valentines, but I like to keep it inexpensive, since there are four Blossoms.  These are the areas I'm careful in our spending.  The little things add up.  After wandering the aisles of the Dollar Tree, behold, the most inexpensive Valentine treat I've ever discovered:

Wonka Pixy Stix, 3.2-oz. Bags
photo credit: Dollar Tree (where you can order them in bulk, if desired)

Move over Dum-Dums, here come the Pixy Stix!!!!

With about 35 stix per package, I bought two packages and had enough candy, with leftovers, for all the girls' Valentines.  That's TWO DOLLARS for Valentine's candy.  The girlies were thrilled.  Their pals were tickled.  And, hey, I even snagged a blue Maui Punch stix the other day.  Yummmmmm. 

Ya'll know I consider "classy penny-pinching" part of my job description here at home.  It makes some of our bigger dreams possible, while not coming off as cheap suckers.  There's nothing wrong with sticking to a budget, but being a cheap sucker leaves a bad taste in others' mouths.  Hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's day tomorrow.  


Tuesday, February 7, 2017


You all should stop by M is for Mama.  She's got 7 kiddos, she's funny and you can tell she just loves Jesus.  I appreciate her wisdom and transparency as she walks out her daily life.  Her #mamalifehacks posts are practical and helpful, so I thought I'd share some good mama life info with you too.

#1 - Flashlights
Ok, so that's not earth-shattering... but remembering to throw them in your duffel bag when you're planning on sleeping in anyone's house but your own, that's big.  Why?  Because you don't know where the light switches are, where the obstacles are and you don't want to wake up the whole household, right?  So, FLASHLIGHTS!  Anytime I'd spend the night at my parents' house after the girlies were born, Dad would always hand me a flashlight at bedtime.  Huh?  Well, it always came in handy.  I got hooked and then, I took it a step further.

(Note the Paw Patrol temporary tattoo.  
Just this morning, poor little Blossom4 was wailing because it was... wait for it... temporary.) 

I discovered that whenever the girlies are sick and we're already running kinda short on sleep, I keep a flashlight near my bed.  (In the case of Blossom4 puking the other night, I slept with it in my hand.)  You don't want to keep flicking on the lights to check on them.  You may not have time to get to the light.  You might need to locate miscellaneous items without waking the whole house or you might want to get around the house to find whatever it is you need to make them comfortable, but you do need some light, so the handy flashlight comes through for us again!  Get the small ones and stash them here and there (and away from the Littles who adore running down the batteries) to make night time parenting way easier!

#2 - Stuff Basket
I've seen these things all over Pinterest, but I can attest that it's a system that works.  The stuff basket.  In our case, it's a dollar store laundry basket at a central location - the dining room - in our house.  Any item found on the floor, that can't be left to be picked up later, is thrown in the basket.  It isn't my job to put it away, but it can't continue to be a danger to all who wander through the kitchen, so I take a second and pitch it into the stuff basket.  Yes, I do mean "pitch" and yes, I have startling accuracy, even left-handed.  Maybe I should try out for the 76ers.  Later, I assign somebody to put everything in that basket away, so the stuff eventually makes it back to its home.  I didn't have to clean everything up AND I got the clutter-danger out of the way.  Since Blossom2 has taken to practicing sprints in the stretch between the piano in the schoolroom and the island in the kitchen, this  "stuff basket" habit is a very good practice.  #sprintsinthehouseareabadidea

(Obviously my experimental will-this-work Dollar Store version has seen much use... 
perhaps we'll go with something classier and  more durable since this is a system that definitely works for us.)

#3 - Pantry Moth Traps
Ya'll.  We deal with an unfathomable about of animal feed on a daily/weekly basis.  About two years ago, I declared war on the pantry moths.  We were having ebbs and flows of pantry moth hatches.  We'd see a few moths.  We'd dustbust (again) really well and then, AGAIN...  Then, nothing and then a few moths.  I was frustrated, embarrassed and grossed out.  The best advice I found on the internet was to "clean my house."  Are you kidding me?  My house IS clean.  If this current state of clean isn't good enough, I was gonna need a 24 hr maid service.  I found out that these moths love grain and feeds (and wool - GAH!).  And, you could have your house completely moth free and one teeny, tiny egg can come in the house with a fresh bag of dog food.  I was even more determined to find a solution after I witnessed a moth flying around in Walmart.  Additionally, the girls could track a moth egg in on their boots after they were done feeding.  I felt like the moth odds were completely against me.  I had to realize that it wasn't a lack of cleanliness in our house, it was just a constant moth pilgrimage to our micro farm.

Out of sheer desperation, I found these.

Problem solved.  These wonderful little traps last a LONG time.  I now hang one near the (huge) dog food container, bird seed container and in the pantry.  And it baits them in with pheromones and then, they stick.  Genius.  I'd hug the person that invented them if I could.

Gotta love #mamalifehacks!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Snippets from Lately

Some ninjas stopped by to do a show for us.

I thought the "ninja-in-training" in the pink was adorable!  They put the "spice" in "sugar and spice..."

I really do watch my children.

I'm glad introverts put up with extroverts.  Just sayin.

And apparently the rabbits have "preferences" on the songs being sung.  Who knew?

Have a terrific weekend, friends!