Monday, June 30, 2014

Things I Love: the End

I love a good project.  You know why?  Because there is an END!  And, like any good project, this one is ending today.

Did I do all 30 days?  No.  I guess by that measurement, the project was a failure.

But, the purpose of this project was to make me focus on the things for which I am thankful, and to be mindful of showing love to those around me.  By that measurement, the project was a success.  Because I knew I would have to write about it, I was more mindful of things for which I am thankful.  And as I focused on some, I began to see more.

It also challenged me in ways that I did not foresee.  I realized how very blessed I am, and how very little I give in return.  That's a shameful admission, but there it is.

I need to be serving more.  I need to be giving of myself more.  I don't know HOW yet.  I don't know where, or to whom.  But I know there are plenty of people who need, who struggle for the basic needs.

In my day to day life, I am apt to focus on the short-comings, the things that nag at me, or needle me, or just bother me.  (That's a whole lotta "me" there!)  But, in truth, I have been blessed on this earth beyond what I deserve, beyond what I would have though possible just a few short years ago.  With these blessings is an expectation that I will share them with others.  But how?  That's a matter for prayer and consideration.  I am sure that as I seek His will, He will show me.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Things I Love: Facebook

There's been a lot said about Facebook on various blogs.  Posts about jealousy, and how people make things look "better" than they are, and how studies show links between time spent on FB and depression.  I'm not going to try and refute any of that.  I'm not going to defend it, either.

What I am going to say is this -- I love Facebook.  It keeps me up-to-date on what my cute nieces and nephews are doing; it helps me know how to pray for people that I would never see in person (I live 1500 miles away from where I grew up, remember); it helps me celebrate births, engagements, marriages, graduations, and so forth of those same people and their children. 

It allows me to request prayer from people all over the country, people who never see me in person.  It allows me to tell funny stories and share pictures of my children with people who love them most.  It allows me to publicly thank people for being so amazing, or to share stories of "over and above" service we receive. 

Sure, it can be a breeding ground of negatives.  You know what, though.  That just gives me insight into areas where I need to repent and allow God to work in my life.

FB also provides a place of encouragement.  I can see other parents' struggles.  I can gain insight into not being alone.  I can ask for advice, or just prayer as I struggle.  Mostly, it helps me know that I'm not alone in this, that other people are going through the same thing.

I guess, like most things, FB is what you make of it.  For me, with three youngish children, in my daily homeschooling journey, it's easy for me to hole up and "do my own thing."  FB provides a place of connection and encouragement.

OK, the daily "what I did."  Today, I thanked the parents on FB for sharing their children.  The silly, cute, and funny things.  It was just time that someone did.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Things I Love: Fidget

Today is Fidget's birthday!  She's so full of fun and life and energy.  She's loving and kind, and has never met a stranger.  We are so blessed to have her as our youngest, and I can't wait to see what the next year brings for her.

Showing love today was "all about Fidget."  Starting the morning was French toast.  After that we went to the local children's science museum, and ate at her choice of restaurant.  Well, her second choice.  The first one was too expensive!  Then on to Costco for groceries, and then home.  So very grateful for this little human who joined our family not so many years ago!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Things I Love: Roses

We bought our house in January, when roses are not blooming.  Basically, we had thorny sticks in the "flower bed" when we moved in.  And the Doctor and I had a conversation that went something like this:
Her: "Mama, wouldn't it be great if one of those bushes had pink roses for you and Sarah, one had yellow for Mary, and one had purple for me?"
Me: "That would be wonderful, but, doll baby, lavender is the closest to 'purple' in roses, and they are fairly uncommon.  Don't get your hopes up."  (I had never seen lavender roses on the bush, just infrequently in stores.)
Her: "Maybe one will be red, then."
Me: "Maybe so."

Well, wouldn't you know it?!  When the bushes started blooming, there are at least two pink with creamy centers (one light pink, one dark), one yellow and one LAVENDER!  At least two of the bushes have yet to bloom, so we'll see what they are (maybe soon!)  I cannot believe the gift God gave my girl.  She wanted lavender roses, and God gave her lavender roses.  And this morning she said to me, "I like these better than red."

Today, I cut the six roses that were in their "final days" and brought them inside.  Normally, I would leave them outside, but I thought we needed a "pick up" after all the party planning, cooking, and cleaning that went on before and after the party.  The girls love "their" roses, quickly claiming their favorite colors.  They are a spot of beauty, I must admit.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Things I Love: Boiled Peanuts

Every year about this time, a box arrives in the mail.  It's from my parents, and it includes about ten pounds of raw, green peanuts.  And I boil them.  And we eat them, loving every minute.

Boiled peanuts are a delicacy known only in the South.  And as a Southern Girl, I miss them.  So. Very. Much.

And to show my love for others, I share them with my family. ;)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Things I Love: My Kids' Friends

We just had the birthday party for the Cowgirl and Fidget.  And I must say -- I LOVE their friends.  Those kids are amazing little people with amazing parents.  Young as they are (and there are some young ones!), they are just a joy to be around.  I am very thankful for them, and for their places in my girls' lives.

Showing love today was easy.  I worked in the church nursery, so that parents could worship without distraction from their babies.  Our church totally welcomes the tinies into service, but we also provide nursery for those who would prefer that time without distraction.  And I so enjoy that small act of service each month.  There truly is nothing quite like snuggling the littles for a couple hours.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Things I Love: My Kitchen

Tomorrow is the Cowgirl and Fidget's birthday party.  So I've been spending time in the kitchen today, baking goodies.  And I was struck by how much I love my kitchen.

I baked three cakes, a huge cookie (an entire batch in one giant cookie), and nineteen cupcakes all in one oven, all at the same time.  That makes me so very happy.

Though not large, my kitchen is a workhorse.  When we bought the house we're in, we decided I could get a couple new appliances for the kitchen.  So, I was able to get a double convection oven and an induction cooktop.  I am so very thankful for them both, and am constantly amazed at how well they work, how much they can do.  With counter space at a premium, having a smooth-topped stove has almost doubled the workable space.  It's not perfect, there are a few more changes I'd love to make, but I definitely love my kitchen.  And I will admit that's a first.  I've never had a kitchen I loved before.

Sooo, loving others.  Today, I am getting ready for the younger girls' party.  We are planning on nearly 50 people visiting us tomorrow late afternoon and staying through a cookout supper.  That means cooking and cleaning today.  Not because I feel the need to "impress" them -- they are our friends, after all, and all of them have children; but because I love them, and want to show them that.  One way is to make the house "nice" and have good food (and plenty of it, as there will be teen and near-teen boys there!)  They are taking time out of their busy lives to visit us and share our girls' birthdays with us, and the least I can do is make sure they are comfortable and welcome in our home.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Things I Love: the Cowgirl

Today is the Cowgirl's birthday!  I LOVE my Cowgirl.  I wish I could get "her" on paper.  Full of personality, she is fun, and fiery, and dramatic.  She knows what she likes, and doesn't care for surprises (or change).  She loves people and animals, and is amazing at finding ways to help without being asked.  She thrives on being with people.  At the same time, she is the quite one of our crew.  (Which by no means equates to "quiet" by a normal definition!)  But, unless she actually has something to say, she'll be pretty quiet.

Her brain works quickly, and uniquely.  Certainly not in the same direction as my brain!  As soon as you think you know where she's headed with something, she takes that "right turn at Albuquerque" that Bugs Bunny was so adept at missing.

So, Happy Birthday, Cowgirl!  The Engineer, the Doctor, Fidget, and I all love you more than you can imagine!

What are the ways we'll show the Cowgirl we love her?  Well, today will be packed!  We'll be eating meals she requested (pancakes for breakfast, tacos for supper).  Lunch will be PBJ at the zoo, where we will be meeting her best friend's family to spend the morning.  She already has her gifts from us (those chickens and their habitat are hers).  We do have one small surprise for her, but since it's Hello Kitty, I think it will be safe! ;)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Things I Love: Appliances and Two More

I'm a couple of days behind, but I have a good excuse reason.  My dryer blew up on Tuesday morning, which is laundry day around here.  With the way I have organized/decluttered the clothing (at least for the girls and me), that has made for an interesting week in our house!

So, first of all, I love modern appliances (when they work).  I mean, think about it -- our ancestors beat their dirty laundry out in a creek on a rock, then hung them out to dry.  They graduated to washboards and washtubs, then very dangerous washing machines.  Now, we have safe, effective machines.  We put in dirty clothes, and get back clean clothes.  They're wet, but most of the time, a dryer is available.  If we don't want the chore of carrying the heavy, wet clothes outside, then bending and hanging them, only to reverse the process when they're dry; we can plop them into a basket, scoot the basket over three feet (or so), and cram those heavy, wet, CLEAN clothes into a dryer, turn in on, then dry them.  The same is true for dishes.  Just plunk them in the magic box, add soap, press a button, and VIOLA, clean dishes!  It's really pretty amazing, if you take the time to think about it.  Vacuum cleaners, cars, refrigerators, freezers, ice makers, and so forth!  Some require more effort than others, but all the same, they free us up from much of the manual labor that our foremothers did.  And to be honest, many women around the world are still doing much of that manual labor.  It's an amazing blessing!  And yet, all too often, I complain about having to fold that laundry, or unload that dishwasher, or clean out the fridge.

So, my next love for the last three days is understanding (and insanely generous) friends.  Two lovely women, when hearing of my misfortune, offered me their dryers.  Wow!  Both have homes-full of children of their own, with their own laundry to tackle, housework to do, and they offered to let me take up their dryers!  I mean, how amazingly generous!

Third, I love parts stores.  I called the local appliance parts store on Tuesday afternoon, gave them the model number of my dryer, told them what part I needed (without a part number), and they shipped it out to me.  It should be here today.  I called the next day, with another broken part, and they had it in stock. The Engineer picked it up yesterday morning.  It's entirely possible that this will be a memory by this evening.

OK, so with all this love, how am I going to turn that around and love those around me?  I am going to try to be more mindful of things around me.  I'm going to try to remember these things are blessings, and that there are those who are (still) doing things "the hard way."  After all, that's really the point of this series anyway...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Things I Love: the Engineer's Job

My list of 30 things I love is really an exercise in gratitude.  I tend to see the "downside" of everything.  I tend to focus on what's wrong, what I would change, what "makes" me unhappy.  I decided this month to focus on the things that, instead, are the lovely things in my life, the things I am happy are here, the things (and people) I love.

Today, I love my husband's job.  First, I am grateful he has a job.  That's one of those things that really, truly, should not be taken for granted.  Especially right now.  I am also loving the fact that his job (along with lifestyle choices we've made) enables me to be home.  Sure, if I worked, we'd be able to do more, buy more, give more, etc., but we believe my being home is truly the best thing for the family.

I also love how the Engineer's company views family time.  Generally speaking, once he's off, he's off.  Phone calls (a rare occurrence) nearly always begin with, "I'm sorry to bother him and you on his day off, but is the Engineer home?"  It's a lovely thing, that acknowledgement.  In a sentence, it's an admission that they do not own him, that he is a whole person, not simply an employee; that they pay him for the time he's there, not all 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week.  (Yes, there are quite a few companies that do not know the difference!)

So, how do I love with this in mind?  Well, I try not to bother the Engineer while he's at work.  Generally, I keep phone calls to less than 5 minutes total per work week.  Also, I do not gripe at him when he works late.  He's a man of integrity, one driven to complete his job well and thoroughly.  He's also a man who loves his family.  He knows the needs of both, and I trust him to make wise decisions.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Things I Love: the Engineer

        I love my husband.  Today being Father's Day, I know it's cliché to say it, but I do.  He's incredibly talented at so many things.  He's conscientious, intelligent, and has a high degree of integrity.
        He excels at more things than any one human being has a right to.  I am blessed to be his wife, and our children are blessed to be his daughters.
        I'm not entirely sure how to sum up one person in a post like this, so I won't even try.  Just suffice it to say that the Engineer is a man among men.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Things I Love: The Right Tool for the Job

          One of the benefits of marriage is what you learn from your spouse.  Today's "love" is something the Engineer taught me early in our marriage.  I love the right tool for the job.  Now, this does not mean I am willing to have 975 gadgets laying around, each one doing only one or two "jobs," particularly in the kitchen or sewing room.  No, the majority of my tools must do double duty, or their function must be worth their limitations (think, vacuum cleaner, mop, duster, etc.)
          Early in our marriage, my husband told me, "A bad tool is worse than no tool."  You know what, he's right!  I have invested in higher quality "gadgets" (and fewer of them), and a very few "specialty" items that fit a unique purpose.  Rarely have I regretted my decision.

          How do I use this to love others?  Well, mainly by not nitpicking the cost of the right tool for my husband.  He knows what he needs, and he's not prone to waste money.  It just isn't in him.  So, I don't balk when the wrench he needs costs two or three times as much for a quality one, or that very specialized tool he needs just for this application that (in his words), "I may only use it once a decade, but when I need it, I will NEED it."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Clarification on the Last Post!

It occurred to me that the last post might sound as though I think I have it "all together."  I don't.  I know I don't.  Soooooo, in the spirit of honesty, let me share something we DON'T do well, the girls and I -- we don't get out of the house well.

Y'all, getting out the door should be a major sporting event the way my girls and I do it.  And it's not a short one, like the 100 meter.  It's more like a marathon, or maybe the Iron Man Tri-athalon.  Seriously.  There's, at minimum, getting shoes on and toilet time.  We have a shoe shelf at the door to the garage.  Generally, each girl has at least one pair of shoes on that shelf.  Sometimes, we have to add teeth and hair brushing, sunscreen application, random book/instrument/toy/purse/backpack finding and procuring.  It really shouldn't take that long.

So, why the trouble?  Because it's out of routine.  We don't ROUTINELY leave the house.  As in, many days, we stay home.  And that's an intentional decision.  But, because our routine is to stay home, leaving home lacks routine.  And it's a mess.  Usually, I am worn out before we make it out the door!

So, there it is.  Honesty.  We can't seem to get out the door in a decent amount of time, or without much "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Things I Love: Homeschooling

          Day 13 -- I love homeschooling.  And the time when I love it most is summer time.  I know this sounds odd, because, well, school's out!  Even for us.  We don't do year-round school, so we are off.
          I love it because I am with my kids all the time.  Yes, I do get worn out.  Yes, I do have days where I want to be alone.  But here's the thing -- I like who my girls are.  I like who they are becoming.  No, they aren't perfect, they aren't always on their best behavior.  They break things, they disobey, they fight, they have bad attitudes.  They also apologize, cry with me and each other, clean, obey with good attitudes, encourage each other and me, and generally work together.  I get to see generosity, forgiveness, grace, and trust building day by day, moment by moment.  I get to watch them learn.  I am generally the one the Doctor comes running to when she  has read something new that fascinates her.  I am the one Fidget asks to help almost daily.  I am the one the who sees the Cowgirl giving of her money and time and help so generously.  I have the honor of seeing them at their best, as well as their worst.
          Why do I love it most in summer?  It's when all the work pays off!  Because they are a part of my daily routines, summer is a time of relaxation -- for them AND for me.  Without the pressure of "schooling," we can have fun!  We have already done two projects that really wouldn't have met my educational standards for the school year.  We can go to the movies (and eat popcorn for lunch!), or just laze around the house for the day in our PJs and do our nails.  We can get the basics out of the way without a bunch of drama (most days!) because they are used to them.  I don't have to spend the summer teaching (or re-teaching) them how to make a bed or clean their room or wipe down a bathroom or unload the dishwasher or, or, or.  They know that certain things need to happen before we go anywhere, so they don't fight me on that, no matter how much they are looking forward to something.  They know how to amuse themselves if left "to their own devices" so I can get something done.
          Overall, I love homeschooling.  Is it for everyone?  No.  There are plenty of excellent, loving, intentional parents who have made a deliberate decision to put their children in school -- both public and private.  Parents who love their children no less than I love mine.  Parents who are at least as good at this parenting thing as the Engineer and I are (many who are better).  I reject the idea that how you school your children is an indicator of how "good" a parent you are.  For us, it's a great fit.
          OK, for loving others.  Today, I grocery shop.  Ugh.  How I loathe grocery shopping.  But, the family must eat, and I must behave like a grown-up.  So it's off to the stores I go.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Things I Love: Two Websites that Have Made an Enormous Difference in my Life

        Yesterday, I mentioned FLYLady.  I love her.  I don't follow her methodically, because her brain works differently than mine.  However, she was the first one who gave me hope for housekeeping.
        I don't remember how I stumbled upon her.  I also don't really know why I continued reading after I realized her starting place was clutter.  Because I am the "throw it away" queen around here.  I despise clutter.  My motto could easily be "when in doubt, throw it out."
        For whatever reason, I kept reading.  And I am so glad I did.  She resonated with me.  I remember crying the first time I read her.
        I, too, am a frustrated perfectionist.  All-or-nothing.  And when I stumbled upon her, I bawled like a baby.  Because she understood.  And I (of course), revamped my schedule around her methods.  Or tried to.  I still did not understand how to turn housework into projects, or that I needed to.  So I failed miserably.  But there were several key things I took from her for which I am grateful beyond words.  Mainly, timers, and habit forming.  If you're unfamiliar with this lady, go to her site.  It's so worth the time you'll spend there.
        The other website that gave me hope (and has caused more than one tearful evening for me) is A Slob Comes Clean.  Nony is AMAZING.  She taught me that laundry can be done in one day, instead of strung out over the whole week.  That revelation clicked something in my brain.  That something lead me to the thought that each day could be a "project."  As I write this, the old song "This is the day we (wash the clothes, bake the bread, etc.)" comes to mind.  (If you're unfamiliar with her, please check her out!  She's incredible.)
        Nony also helped me see the power of "non-negotiables" and writing them down.  I now have them framed in my cabinet.  When I add a new one, I print out a new sheet and replace the old with the new.
        Without these two women, I am pretty sure that I would still be spinning my wheels with housekeeping.  I was failing miserably.  You have NO idea how bad it was.  But these two, with their honesty, humor, and humility, helped me see what could be done.  They encouraged me, and though I'll probably never meet either of them, I'll always be thankful to them for their insight and honesty.

         Today we're planning to go visit friends.  No necessary "reason," just because.  And that's really the best reason, isn't it?
           Plans changed.  We're going to visit different friends, for the most wonderful reason of all!  But that's not my story to share...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Let me Introduce my Family

It occurred to me that I probably should document who all lives in this house.  That way, if someone other than me (or a very few close friends) ever stumbles upon this blog, there won't be confusion...

First up, my husband.  I'll call him The Engineer, as that is who he is.  It's not "just" what he does.  It's who he is.  How he thinks.  How great is it that he picked his ideal career right from the get-go?!  Definitely a blessing.

Then there's me.  I plan to refer to myself as me, I, myself, as I am not royalty. ;)  I'm a full-time homemaker and homeschooling mom.  The Engineer and I have three girls.

The oldest girl wants to "do something medical with people."  So I'll call her the Doctor.  (Maybe "doc" for short sometimes.)  She's currently 8, and has known this was her career path since before her 2nd birthday.

The middle girl currently wants to be a rancher.  She wants to raise cattle, chickens, goats, and horses.  So, I call her the Cowgirl.  At least for now.  It wouldn't surprise me if this ends up being her career, as it suits her well.  She'll be 7 soon.

The youngest I'll call Fidget.  It's what I call her in real life, anyway.  She has no idea what she wants to do, which is perfectly fine for an almost-4-year-old.  If she still hasn't decided when she's almost 24, we'll be having a different discussion.  The reason for her name is simple -- when in utero, she was the "busiest" of the three girls.  She moved all the time!  She's still this way.  Constant motion.

Finally, there's the animals.  We have an English mastiff (Stonewall), several goldfish (the Fish) in a fluctuating number, and 8 chickens (the Chickens).  The chickens are still getting their feathers.  They spend the days outside in their fence, but we bring them in the house at night.  (In a dog kennel in the laundry room.)  Stonewall is an indoor dog, and is as lazy as they come.  Unless a "stranger" comes to the door.  Then, he's wide awake and on high alert.

Things I Love: Mondays

          I didn't always love Mondays.  Not that long ago, Mondays were a source of frustration, the beginning of a week of frustrating days.           Before I knew that my mind worked best with projects, I had set my days up all wrong.  My week was structured in the worst possible way for my brain.  I had, with the best of intentions, set myself up for failure.  Week after week.  And it all started with Monday.
          My plan before had been to do a load of laundry each day, and clean one room per day.  That plan might work beautifully for many people.  But not for me.  It made laundry and housework a never-ending drudgery.  I FELT it all the time.  On top of that, I had to dig out of the weekend on Mondays.  I don't do much housework on the weekends.  This is an intentional decision on my part.  I want the weekends to be free for us to do stuff as a family, whether that's here or out and about.  Come Monday, though, I was resentful of the fact that nothing got done all weekend!  (I know, it's insanity!)
          Then we moved.  And something clicked.  Mondays, I set aside for "Reclaiming the house."  Meaning, all we do is straighten the house, put the weekend "back in the box," the way you would a card game once it was over.  It sets us up for success for the rest of the week.  It means that those "room rescues" that FLYLady is so fond of actually maintain the order.  (If you've stumbled on this blog, and are not familiar with FLYLady, go check her out.)
          And so I love Mondays.  I see results over the whole house, and I'm not stressed about "cleaning" yet, as that happens (most) Wednesdays.  I'm still learning, still figuring things out.  But I cannot tell you how much better life is now that I've reworked the schedule to make each day a project.  I can now say that I love Mondays.

          As for loving people today, I'm working on a gift for someone.  I love making gifts for people dear to my heart.  I especially love making practical gifts.  So, this gift is imminently practical, for a very dear friend.  It will take a few days to finish, but I'm only going to write about it today.  Unless I write about it again when I finally give them to my friend. ;)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Things I Love: Family Meal Time

We eat supper together as a family each evening.  And I love it.  Maybe it's because it's all I've really known.  Growing up, my parents, siblings, and I ate together nearly every evening.

Now my husband and I do the same with our children.  I cook 6 or 7 evenings out of each week.  Generally the other evening is take-out, and my husband picks it up on his way home from work.

I know that as the children get older and more "involved," this may change.  But for now, this is one way we can enjoy time together each day.

As for loving people today, I've not planned anything specific.  Today is laundry day for us, and just getting the job done will feel like an accomplishment.  After that, I may play a game with the girls... we'll see!

I'm updating this to add --
I went out shopping for birthday party supplies right after supper.  As I generally dislike shopping, and am D.O.N.E. by supper-time, this was definitely an act of love!  I got most of the rest of the supplies for the upcoming birthday party, and made my (hopefully) last Amazon order.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Things I Love: True Friends

          Friends.  I love my friends.  There is nothing better than a good, true friend.
          Now, let me be really honest, and admit that I don't need -- or want -- 973 "friends."  Give me one or two (or maybe three) true, tested-and-tried, transparent friends.  That's truly all I need.  All I have ever needed.  I can't keep up with more than that.
          I realize that I'm an oddity in this.  I know most people take a "more is better" attitude when it comes to friends.  I find that, for me, that's just too much.  So give me a very few quality friends, and I am golden!

           Loving people.  Today, we had loads of fun!  The girls and I decided to test homemade bubble stuff recipes.  We made them Saturday night, and today, we had friends over and tested them.  The kids ran and played in the backyard, we tested bubble recipes (and I'll admit the winner surprised me!).
          We got to have lunch together, and they had to go home.  It was fun, and we were so happy to get to see dear friends.  I love having true friends over.  It gives me the opportunity to let people see us as we really are, not all polished up for company.  And if you can't let true friends see how you really are, can you truly call them friends?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Things I Love: Small Changes

         I love small changes.  This is something I've only recently begun to grasp.  See, I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person.  I want to do it all NOW!  And for years (too many to mention), that's precisely what I tried to do.  I tried to make big, sweeping, monumental, change.  Change it all right now.  Turn-myself-into-an-entirely-different-person change.  Knuckle down and add instant discipline.
          Only, my brain doesn't work like that.  I love the planning, the goal-setting, the making stuff to go with the plan.  When it comes to executing the plan, I overdose on change, and usually by Wednesday (if I start the New Plan on Monday), I am done.  D.O.N.E.  I hate the new plan, and myself for failing.
          So, this time, I am doing small changes.  Changes that I can live with.
          Picture it like this...  Have you ever watched an artist paint a picture?  I look at it, think it's beautiful as-is, but the artist adds highlights to the water, making it sparkle; or shadows, highlights, and tiny lines to the trees, making them look real; or impossibly fine lines to a bird, giving it amazing feathers.  This is what I'm talking about -- the seemingly small changes that add so very much.

           How am I loving my family through this?  I am making those small changes, one each week or so, and focusing on that going forward.  I've read that it takes between 21 and 30 days to make a new habit.  I don't know  much truth there is in that, but it makes sense.
           I am also being intentional about which habits I choose.  For far too long, I chose poorly.  I focused on housekeeping solely.  I did not focus on the people in the house I'm keeping.  And my efforts were too large.  I wanted to change my whole routine quickly, and only where the house was concerned.  This time, I have made my first habit something for my husband, the second one has been a housekeeping habit, the third one (which I am starting today) will be focused on my children.  Yes, it means that the housework changes aren't happening as fast as they "could," BUT I have learned that I cannot make too many changes at once, and I am not a compartmentalizing person.  My whole life is integrated, and I must make my habits this way.
          We are also heading to church today, to worship, learn, and fellowship with other believers.  This is a very loving thing, also.  And frequently challenging!
            I ended up staying home with a sick kiddo.  Our oldest ("the doctor") came down with a stomach bug last night.  So I kept her home.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Things I Love: Good Neighbors

          Can I just say, we hit the neighbor jackpot with our backyard neighbors?  Seriously, they are wonderful people.  They brought us homemade brownies the first night we were here.  Their youngest plays with all three of mine.  They have given us advice on our chickens, shared eggs with us, and generally just made us feel welcome.  I know if I have a problem, I can call her.  My children have a friend close by.  They don't mind our large (and at times loud! dog).  They look out for us, and we look out for them.  It's wonderful!  And I am thankful.  So very thankful.

          We've had something come up in our church family.  So, my husband will be doing some auto repairs today.  Don't know what today will look like, but sometimes that's the best way to express love -- being willing to NOT plan things so that we can behave as the Body of Christ ought.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Things I Love: My Backyard

            Today's love is -- my backyard.  It's big, flat, and fenced-in.  I can see it from the big windows in my living room, kitchen and eating area.  I don't really have much to say about it, other than I love being able to allow my children to safely play outside, under supervision, but still with "independence."  Fresh air, sunshine, and active play are very important to growing minds and bodies.  Independence is as well, and supervision is an absolute MUST!  A big, flat, fenced back yard is as close to perfect as any mama could ask for.

          So, loving my family today...  we'll probably have dinner and a movie together as a family tonight.  This is generally our "Friday night" routine.  Either tacos or pizza, and some sort of movie.  The girls aren't allowed a lot of "screen time," so this is a big deal to them.  My husband and I may even allow them to have a "sister sleepover" in one of their rooms.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Things I Love: Books

            Day 5's thing -- books.  I am so very thankful for books.

        There are so many things I want to know.  Yet I don't have time to attend classes on all my interests.  In fact, there's probably not enough years in my lifetime for me to attend all those classes.

        But do you know what I can do?  Read a book.  At least then, I will have an idea of whether or not I am interested in pursuing this further.  I can learn at the feet of people I'll never meet -- some of whom died decades or even centuries before me.

        Whole worlds of imagination open up before me, helping me see things in a new way, or maybe an old way that I had never heard of before.  Ideas to challenge my brain and my complacency spring out of the pages as I sit comfortably at home, or less comfortably in a doctor's waiting room, or mostly uncomfortably in the van as we drive across country to visit.

        So I teach my children to read.  I let them see me read in down times.  I buy them books, and request books as gifts from friends and family.  I take them to the library (though not as often as I ought.)  I encourage them to read, to find their interests.

        I also incorporate what I have read into my marriage.  I read books about men in general, and husbands in specific.  I weed through and read books that encourage me to be a better wife, to respect my husband, and to love him.  Not in order to manipulate him (though there was a time I thought that way, much to my shame), but so that I can obey God, and because my husband deserves respect and love from me.  Speaking of which, it's time for me to pick up a marriage book.  I'm overdue for one!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Things I Love: Home

          Home.  Just the say the word and most people get some kind of image.  Good or bad, comforting or anxiety-ridden.

          Me?  I love home.  But I don't necessarily define "home" the way most people do.  I moved a whole lot as a child, and the longest I ever lived in one place growing up was 6 years.  There was a time when we moved about once every year to year and a half.  For me, home isn't a place, really.  Or at least not one individual place.  For me, it's where I find those l love the most -- my husband and children.

          My husband and I are from the South.  And we started our marriage in SC.  And I loved it there.  I still do.  I miss things about SC, about the small town where we spent the first bit of our marriage.  The people there, the church we attended and served in, the friends we made, our neighborhood.

          Now, we live in the Southwest.  And I love NM.  I love the weather.  (Who can complain about brilliant blue skies approximately 360 days each year?  I love our church, the people, our neighborhood, and our small town.

          People here always ask if we miss the South, if we'd like to move back.  The answer is yes. When we go back to see family, people there ask us if we like NM, if we like living here.  And the answer is yes.  See, for me, "home" is not a house, but the family IN the house.  It's not about where we do life, but with whom we do life.

          So, how do I love people?  I make a home wherever I find myself.  I don't spend my time looking back, wishing for somewhere I don't live any more.  I miss the people, and feel the sorrow of friendships that aren't the same as they once were.  But I make new friendships. 
          I don't discourage my husband by whining about before, and what I miss.  I focus on what we have, and the good I find where I am.  If there are things to be fixed, I look to fix them, or ask him to help me fix them.  I look forward to the future.  Not a future that is really the past, but a future where we are now, or wherever the Lord will take us next.
          I encourage my children to be kind and friendly wherever they are, be it in the check-out line of the grocery store, or with the neighbor child. 
          The length of the contact should not change how we treat people.  Everyone deserves kindness.  And that is like bringing a little bit of home with you wherever you go.  Graciousness isn't that hard to extend to a total stranger.  And you never know when you're the only kind person they'll deal with all day.  Or when your kindness to a stranger will turn into something much larger, for you or for them.

          Home -- it should be a place of safety and kindness, grace extended and humbly received.  That's why I love home.  Because, truly, you can take home anywhere you go.  And give a bit of home to those around you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Things I Love: Surprises

          Two of my girls have birthdays coming up.  This, of course, means gifts.  Which brings me to today's "love."

          I love surprises.  Gifts, extra cash to spend, a haircut at my favorite place, an unexpected date night, kitchen gadgets.  I love the unexpected, no matter how "small" it might seem.  I just love surprises.

          Now, the loving others part.  I love to give gifts and surprise others.  My husbands and kids in particular.  I often bring home a small "surprise" for them when I go grocery shopping.

          My husband isn't really much of a "surprise" person.  He doesn't hate them, but he doesn't love them either.  He prefers to be allowed to choose his own gifts, as he has decided opinions on tools and such.  (His standard saying is, "A bad tool is worse than no tool.")  A few times, I've managed to surprise him and have it go well, but mostly I go along with what he has already chosen.  It's better that way for the both of us.  In this way, I show him respect.  And by respecting him, I am loving him well.

          Two of my children love surprises.  My oldest and youngest are very much like me in this regard.  They love to receive things they didn't ask for, largely because they don't even know it exists.  These two are easy to give to, and a joy to do it for because they are usually insanely joyful.  Seriously.  I wish I could show you my oldest child's reaction to almost any surprise, even if it's just, "let's go out to breakfast, just you and me."  She makes you want to do more, just to see her react.  I have to work hard and restrain myself so I don't spoil her too much.  The youngest is very similar, but not to the same extreme.

          My middle child, not so much.  She generally doesn't like surprises.  Her first answer to any question is generally "no," even if the question is "do you want ice cream?"  She takes time to think it through, and then changes her mind.  She has a very few things (usually one or two) things that she really, really wants for gift giving occasions.  And she prefers to be allowed to pick it out.  In the end, she mostly knows what she's getting (or has a pretty good idea.)  And that makes her happy.

          In the end, loving her means not surprising her too much on the important things (like birthdays and Christmas), and selecting a few things she loves for everyday surprises (like doughnuts, or lollipops, or Hello Kitty anything, or hippo anything, or craft supplies).  Even though it goes against the grain for this surprise-loving mama, I do this mostly.

          As I am writing this, I realize that I also need to work with her on receiving graciously.  In the future, this will be something to work on.  Loving her well means also teaching her how to live in community, not simply giving in to her personal preferences.

          Ultimately, surprises are a personal preference.  And I need to remember that, and respect others' preferences in this area.  I admit, this is hard sometimes, as my emotions get ahead of my thoughts.  But I'm learning, and I'm working on it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why The June Posts?

        Why am I spending this time writing about things I love, and how I use that to show love to others (mostly)?  Why take a month?
        The answer is simple.  I see in myself an ugliness.  An unthankfulness, a lack of graciousness.  I find myself wrapped up in smallness, taking blessings for granted.
        So, I am hoping that by focusing on the blessings I have been given, and how I can -- or do -- turn those things around to those around me (mostly my family), that God can use this to retrain me to an attitude centered on thankfulness and humility.
        By focusing on the things for which I am thankful, I hope to stop focusing on what is "wrong" (or at least focus less on those things).
         By posting here, I hope to add some accountability.  I hope that this will encourage me to follow through.  (Which is something else I am poor at!)

Things I Love: Projects

        Projects!  Oh, how I love projects.  Give me a goal, with an end, and I am happy!  If that end is something tangible, so much better.  Cleaning the house, in one day, and ending with a house that looks fabulous and smells great is doable, even if it takes a couple hours.  Cleaning one room a day, even if it takes only ten minutes, isn't. going. to. happen.  Ever.

        Moving on.  :)

        Today, I have some fun planned to do with my children.  I have a project in mind.  We're going to make bouncy balls.  I bought the few necessary ingredients that we didn't already have on hand, and I am truly excited to try it out.

        If I'm feeling particularly inspired, I'll take pictures and share them here.

        I found the project while trolling Pinterest one day, and the directions are here: 

How to Make a Bouncy Ball

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Things I Love: Open Spaces

        Open spaces.  I L-O-V-E open spaces.  Cleared off tables, expanses of counter-top with nothing on them.  Unscheduled blocks of time with nowhere to run off.  A big back yard.  Uncluttered.  Unencumbered.

        I have to admit I haven't always known this about myself.  One year at the state homeschool convention,  I heard a wonderful speaker.  She had 10 children, and she was Organized.  (Yes, with a capital "O."  At least in my mind.)  She had this amazing schedule color-coded by child (I think), and in 15-minute increments.  15. minute. increments.  Seriously.

        I have always longed to be organized.  Even if it only has a lower-case "o."  So I tried her amazing system.  I had fun planning out the schedule, coming up with the spreadsheet, color-coded by child.

        Monday came, and I did OK.  Tuesday was not as OK.  By Wednesday, I was ready to burn the schedule, and hurt anyone who asked about it.  I loathed that thing.  It allowed no "life" to my way of thinking.  It was killing the joy of living for me.  And I felt guilty.  Like a failure.  Because I "had so little self-control" that I couldn't even abide by a schedule I had created myself!

        What I failed to realize is that I thrive on the open spaces.  The blank pages on a calendar are for me.  Some people need to know everything about every moment of every day.  Not me.  I have a more "creative" bent, one that requires allowances for "in the moment" moments.  It's not lack of discipline.  It's my bent.


        Now the part about loving others -- I love my family by using this bent to steward my children's childhood.  Because that's part of my job as their mother -- to steward their childhood.  So, we don't do sports teams and dance and various homeschool group classes/events.  These are all good things, all things that our girls might enjoy.  All things that our friends do with their children.  And things that we might do in limited quantities as our girls grow.  But for now, the girls need time to play, to pursue their own interests, to craft and create.  To experiment and grow.  Mostly, they need time to move.  And moving is hard to do if they are cooped up in a car all day, shuttled from one activity to another.  So, they have a big back yard, and a cleared-off table, and largely unscheduled days.

        I love my husband with this because I have meals ready when he gets home, and am not frustrated at my "lack of discipline" to get it all done.  I can enjoy our time as a family because I have not over-taxed myself by trying to live someone else's life.

        This free schedule also frees us to love others as a family.  The girls and I can say "yes" to helping out because so little of our time is already earmarked for other things.  And I can still minister to my family -- my husband and the girls because I am not beating myself up over not getting it "all done."

        Time, space, and energy are all finite resources.  The inability to "do it all" isn't a lack of self-discipline.  It's really just honesty.  With myself, with my family, and with others.  And who doesn't love honesty?