Why I’ve been MIA… It’s a baby.

Hey there, remember me? I used to write in this space with frequency. Then we moved to Texas and health issues cropped up, leading to a year of rest… Little did I know that this time of rest was preparing us for a year of big ch-ch-changes!

I’m having a baby!!! I don’t know about you, but when I’m pregnant, the baby pretty much takes over my brain. And that is my explanation for why I haven’t been very active here. This baby is due to arrive next June. Are you confused yet? This little baby of mine was conceived last December, which means I’m already 11 months into this “pregnancy.”

As you can see, this is a very different kind of baby. While we wouldn’t mind adding another cuddly little person to our family, that door seems to be shut. This baby that I am growing right now is a book baby.
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Don’t I look excited, nervous, and maybe already a little bit sleep deprived? I’m signing my contract which means that I get to officially tell you all.

I’m working on a book about raising boys. It’s about the grand call and adventure of raising knights-in-training and what it means to raise chivalrous boys in a 21st century world! The official title will probably be Knights in Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honorable, Courageous, and Compassionate Boys.

I had no idea how much work it would take to write a book. It was my major focus this summer and why I turned down a few speaking engagements to do it. As much as I love to get out and encourage other families in person, I knew that this would take every extra bit of time outside of being wife and mom.

The Back Story

So this book baby… I guess you could say that it all started in May of 2015 when a reporter from the New York Times contacted me. She was writing an article on teaching manners and wanted to interview me about a post I had written years earlier on our chivalry challenge. I’ve done my share of media interviews, so I didn’t really think much about it.

Afterwards, when I didn’t hear back from the reporter, the interview faded from memory until December when she contacted me again. It was going to go live soon. A friend of mine had just had a really bad experience with a news interview and suddenly I was nervous. It’s been nearly 18 years since our last bad experience with a reporter. We still cringe when we think about it.

The day before we left for Arizona for the holidays, the reporter emailed me to inform me the article was live online that day and would come out in print the following day in the Times. When I hopped online to read the article, I noticed the hyperlink to my blog and frantically set about to freshen up that old blog post so people coming over could find it. I flung it out there the following morning before grabbing my keys and setting off on our 15 hour drive to AZ.

Like any blogger, I enjoyed my 15 minutes of “fame” as traffic exploded for a few days and then forgot about it as we enjoyed time with family and friends until a few days later when I received a strange email in my inbox.

Long story, short – an editor from Penguin Random House reached out to me about writing a book. After prayer, my family and I decided to make the leap, as my mind swirled with the possibilities and the vision for the book really took root! So it has been a crazy year over here. I found a wonderful agent, wrote my first book proposal, finished up our homeschool “year” and speaking commitments before settling down this summer to write in the margins of life.

It was a summer and early fall of 5am writing sessions at places as glamorous as my grocery store and McDonald’s because they were far less distracting than coffee shops with the loud music or home where I am always needed! Weekends were spent sequestered away in the library. We made a secret trip to AZ this summer so my kids could play with cousins while I hid away and thought and wrote and wrote and thought all day every day.

I’m so excited to share everything that is tucked away in this book. It is full of so many things that I am passionate about – the power of play and the imagination and the importance of good books. It is a book about embracing all that makes boys so incredible and about inspiring and equipping them to own who they will become. It’s coming next summer!

For now, I’m in a bit of a breather period for a couple of weeks and we are enjoying having weekends back as a family! I am not getting up as early and we are enjoying the rhythm of learning and living! Long walks, zoo trips, spelling lessons, grading copious amounts of math, and a return to more read-aloud time is the norm once again.  I’ll also be back in this space, writing once again.

Until then…

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Restoring Chivalry and Civility {free printable}

Chivalry is far more than merely how a man treats a woman. It is a whole code of conduct and it is inspiring! Free printable and training log for Knights-in-Training, a boys chivalry challenge!

My book, Knights in Training, inspired from this foray into the realm of chivalry comes out on May 30th, 2017! Find out more HERE

A couple of months ago, a reporter from the New York Times contacted me because of a free printable I offered. She wanted to interview me for a piece she was writing on chivalry.  That article finally came out today which of course had me thinking with fond memories again of that season nearly 5 years ago when we embarked on Knight-Training.  I’m thinking about pulling it out again, especially since Trey missed out on it last time around.

We live in a day and age where our culture is anything but civil.  It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes on Facebook or even less time at a school recess yard to recognize that.  As parents, however, we have the power to shape the culture of our home.  We can set an example in how to show care and respect for others.

Years ago, when we were learning about the Middle Ages, I read up on chivalry.  What I learned surprised me.  I had always thought of chivalry as merely how a man treats a women.  But it is far more than that.  It was an entire code of conduct.  As my boys waged imaginary battles all around me, I read and was filled with renewed vision.  I desired to raise these three boys to treat others with respect, to fight for what is right and good, to stand against injustice and evil, to defend those that are weak and protect them.  When the culture at large proceeds to demean women, I wanted to raise strong sons who would show thoughtfulness and care, not only for the women that they encounter each day, but EVERYONE.  I saw an opportunity to inspire my boys to seek to build one another up instead of tearing others down.  In a ME-focused culture, we desired to focus on loving God first and then others.  So as we learned about the history of the middle ages, we delved into character development too.

The deeper we delved, the more inspired they became. They wanted to emulate knights in every way…  So I decided to have them ‘train’ to become knights.  The training was rigorous (for little boys), including daily running, archery practice, sword fights, stick horse rides to the park (in full armor – you should have seen the curious looks of our neighbors!) to stage mock battles and learn the art of warfare (high ground is a plus), jousting practice, shining my silver (since their armor consists of cardboard, foam and paper mache), etc.
But we didn’t stop there…  No, I decided in the name of seeking to raise modern-day knights, that I would introduce them to the idea of chivalry!  As I expected, my boys were drawn to this too and so we decided to take some extra time in their knighthood training to include talking about, practicing and rewarding chivalrous behavior!  I was amazed at all of the opportunities they had, even as young boys to implement the code in their own lives.
Knights-in-Training - inspiration to train your young knights in chivalry {free printable}
I printed off the list on paper, burned the edges to give it an ‘authentic flair’ and posted it up so we could review it daily!
Chivalry code of conduct and Knights Training Log {free printable}
My boys were also big chart kids.  They just loved to chart progress and see it visually, so we printed off charts for the two older boys.  Stars were bequeathed when I spotted heroic feats of chivalry!  It was fun to watch them step in and defend their baby brother against ‘injustice’ (warring other brother), see my boys race out to open the car doors for Aunt B, see the son who has been struggling with lying, fess up and speak the truth (even though it meant facing consequences – a true sign of bravery and strength I told him.), and have boys eager to carry groceries to the car and then into the house!
Even after we moved on from that unit on the middle ages, they were still eager to grow in strength and valor on these areas.
Knights-in-Training - inspiration to train your young knights in chivalry {free printable}

At the end of our unit, we had a dubbing ceremony where the boys were each knighted by the ‘king of the house.’  They were quite serious about it all, preparing the throne room and kneeling so reverently.  Even the three year old slowed down from his frenzied running (that is the norm at the end of the day) to watch and participate.

I’ve come to realize that this training in chivalry is only the beginning.  I pray they will continue to grow in strength, love for the King of kings, defending the weak and taking stands for what is right and true!

If you would like to engage in some Knights Training of your own, I’ve included the printable Knights Code of Conduct as well as a Chart to mark your progress.  Now that I have a little girl in the picture, I’m going to have to give some thought to how I want to do this with her.

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Related Post: Knights-in-the Making
King Focus

Day1-Medieval Castle Comparisons

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Intentional Living Means Setting Goals…

Intentional parenting means setting goals. Pray, plan and then act intentionally. {free printable semester goal sheets}

I still remember those first moments holding my oldest son. Awe mingled with wonder and just a little bit of panic. I knew right then and there that I wanted to be intentional with how I raised him and any future children that came alone. But where do you even start?

God was quick to tell me two things: seek Him first for direction and take it step by step.

There are so many things to focus on – good things. But in this day and age, we are inundated with messages, recommendations, advice, great ideas, etc… If we want to avoid falling into the trap of pursuing everything and accomplishing NOTHING, we need to hone our focus.

How? Pray and decide what is needed for this child, right now.

Inch by inch it's a cinch. The key to intentional living and setting appropriate goals!

 A dream becomes a goal when action is taken towards achieving it – even tiny actions..

Setting goals is a powerful way to tune into the needs for each member of your family and connect your long-term goals for them with tangible short-term goals. As I’ve said before, I love setting goals and casting vision. It really helps to keep me focused!

Continuing in the tradition of my mother, I’ve been in the habit of making ‘semester’ evaluations since I was in college. It is nice to take some time to sit back, pray and take stock of where I am at and what direction I feel the Lord is leading me towards in many different areas of my life. Now that I have children, I’ve taken to setting semester goals for them as well.

Because we seek to live integrated and holistic lives, our goals for the kids encompass far more than just academics. We write down our priorities and goals for each of our children in the following areas:

• Spiritual – I pray about how to reach each child and help them draw closer to Jesus. In this section, I outline areas that I would like to see them grow or things I would like to relay to them. You can’t make a goal of ‘___ decides to follow Jesus’, because God is the one who opens the heart, but one semester I did make it my goal to clearly present the gospel or being intentional to weave prayer into individual practice…

• Character – It is tempting to me to work on character development in a variety of areas, but that can easily get overwhelming and the impact is lessened if we are not focused. So I try to pick one character trait per child to focus on specifically while allowing for life circumstances to certainly give clues to needed adjustments. Self-control with emotions for one child and attentiveness for another are making our summer list!

• Academic – While there are many things that we learn and explore at any given time, I’ve found it helpful – especially with core academic subjects, to have a special focus. I try to always be mindful to make sure that goals and expectations are attainable and age-appropriate. It is easy to get ambitious in these areas and set goals that our kids brains simply aren’t wired to do yet. Doing flashcards with your 3 or 4 year old in an attempt to get them reading early and reducing them to tears is one example that comes to mind…

• Chores – With the arrival of our chore chart, this has become so much easier to keep up on. I try and pick a new chore skill that I want my children to learn how to do per semester.

• Physical – Especially since I know how much movement and exercise play into other aspects of their lives – like neurological development and future academic success, not to mention burning off an abundance of energy allowing everyone to stay sane, I like to set goals for this area as well.

Of course, I don’t leave myself out of the equation. At the bottom of this sheet, I have a section for myself with areas to write goals for my roles as a child of God (spiritual), as a wife, as a mom, for my home and physical.

As I look back at last semester’s goals I’m quite pleased, overall, with progress made and aware that some of our goals I failed to work on or are ones that are simply still in process. But it sure is nice to have a general game plan.

I reworked our goal sheets and wanted to make them available to you too! As you pray and plan for next year, this can come in handy to help you focus your efforts for each child. I’ve included a one page goal sheet for 2,3 or 4 kids + mom as well as a sheet with more room to write if you want a separate sheet per child. I prefer to keep one sheet with all of us on it and place it at the beginning of my lesson plan notebook so I can reference it often!

SEMESTER GOAL SHEET download!

Free for subscribers!  If you already subscribe to Cultivated Lives, simply enter the same email address again to get an immediate download link to this file!

Semester Goals Chart
*Subscriber FREEBIE* Download and get started making intentional goals for your family today!

{Feel free to share! I only ask that you please share a link to this blog post instead of forwarding the file alone.  Thanks!}

bestbuds

Related Posts: Mission-Minded Motherhood{Forming a Mission Statement}

New Traditions: A Family Birthday Party

7 ideas for celebrating a Family BIRTHday Party! {aka: a family anniversary celebration}

Birth stories are a big deal over here.  As each of our children celebrate a birthday, there is always a sweet moment where they snuggle close and want to hear about the excitement and adventure surrounding their birth.  They never tire of hearing about our anticipation of their arrival and the aspects that make their birth so unique and special.  We pull out the pictures and reminisce.  Birthdays are such a wonderful time to celebrate as a family.

So why don’t we celebrate our “family birthday” the same way – as a family, reminiscing?  On our anniversary, my hubby and I usually go out for a fancy dinner and the kids go to my parents.  We actually did that this year, but celebrated the night before since Keegan had a Kindermusik performance on our actual anniversary.  We had a beautiful dinner at Searsucker.  Who knew that tumbleweed could look beautiful and hip…  We learned our lesson though on ordering unfamiliar items without asking questions first.  Word to the wise: Beef Tartare isn’t for everyone.

So on Monday morning while we were reading together a thought struck me.  I bolted upright and asked the boys if they wanted to help me plan a birthday party.  Three faces turned towards me with a mix of excitement and confusion.  I told them that we were going to celebrate the birth of our family with a Family Birthday Party!

party-prep for a family birthday partycelebrating your anniversary as a family with a family birthday party! party5Celebrate your anniversary, 'family-style' with a family birth-day party and looking at wedding pictures!party8 Making thumb print art to celebrate our family birth-day, aka anniversary! Making a thumb print family to commemorate an anniversary, aka family birthday! Celebrating the birth-day of our famliy! Celebrating the birth-day of our famliy by creating art!

A Family Birthday Party!

We didn’t have a whole lot of time and I didn’t feel like making any fancy trips, but here is what we pulled together for our Family Birthday Party!

We made a cake!  What is a party without cake?  The boys were so eager to help.  Keegan in his eagerness decimated the egg and it went squirting out everywhere which typified some of the mess that ensued.  But they were so proud of the fact that THEY made it…

I pulled out wedding décor.  I still have our cake topper – a fairy-tale castle to represent our happily ever after.  And yes, 13 years later we still have wedding napkins, so those were pulled out too!  I’m excited that we now have a special way to use them so I can stop hoarding…

♥ Special occasions call for fine china!  This is a treat and the boys treated them with utmost reverence.

We kept dinner simple.  Since we didn’t get back from his Kindermusik performance until 5:30, we kept dinner simple.

Pulled out the wedding photos and/or video – I get dreamy and wistful.  The boys get excited.  It is like “Where’s Waldo” to them.  Have we really changed that much in 13 years?  They scour photographs looking for familiar faces.

We paint and draw and celebrate! – The boys are enthralled with water-coloring letters after they see me give it a whirl.  Our getaway jeep with packing peanuts pouring out and my dress practically spilling out too was another favorite thing to draw!  We plan to make a collage to hang next to the kitchen table!

We sing, would have blown out candles {we’re currently running really low} and EAT CAKE!

Oh yes, Rich and I will still go out and celebrate privately, but we plan on making this family celebration of our family birthday a tradition too!

If you were to have a family birth-day celebration, what would you include?

 Celebrating the birth-day of our famliy!

Related Posts: Speaking of birth stories ~ Treyton’s and Greta’s. :sigh: This makes me want to write up the other two birth stories as well as our love story…

How to Waste Brain-Boosting Opportunities

How to waste brain-boosting opportunities?  Reasons why we should limit screentime.  {Day 6 of Boosting Brain Power}

So we’ve been talking for the last week about boosting brain-power.  Water, nutrition, sleep and exercise are foundational.  When it comes to our educational environment, movement is the key to turning our children ON to learning.  Friday, I wrote about how active, rough and tumble play contributes to wiring the brain to learn.

As much as movement turns the brain ON to learning, today I’m tackling the unpopular topic of how we turn their brains OFF to learning and rob them of the time needed for all of these brain-boosting opportunities…

Screen Time

Yes, the biggest culprit that kills active play and learning is screen time – and by this I include TV, movies, netflix, computer and touchscreens (like the ipad and iphone).

I think deep down, we all know screens are time-suckers and should have strong limits.  But in today’s culture that is very hard to put into practice, isn’t it?  So, let’s start with a fresh reminder of why we should limit screen time…

Why is Screen-Time So Bad?

  • Robs Time ~ Watching TV (movies, etc) is a deprivational activity.  It deprives us of the time and opportunity to do something more productive.  For children – especially young children this critically inhibits the development of language and listening skills, imagination and various problem-solving processes that are essential in learning how to read.  It robs all of us of opportunity for real-life hands-on exploration, creativity building and time spent exploring, talking (to real people) and real rather than virtual experiences.  Time spent in front of a screen is time NOT spent doing something that builds the brain, builds relationships and builds a healthy, whole person.
  • Slows Brain Activity ~ Remember when we talked about the cerebellum last week?  Computer imaging of the brain has revealed that the cerebellum is almost entirely inactive during the passive activity of watching a screen.
  • Lacks a hands-on, multi-sensory component that is critical to learning.  When a person moves and interacts it fires up the cerebellum and speeds up the learning process.
  • Lacks verbal, personal interaction.  Children need to communicate WITH someone, not just having an impersonal ‘machine’ talking at them.
  • Highly Addictive ~  A recent study came out that reveals that screen time produces a chemical response with dopamine in the brain similar to the affect of other addictive substances (drugs, sugar, cigarettes, etc).   If you don’t think you or your children are addicted to your screen of choice, try taking it away for a day or even a week.  It’s hard to do.  Oftentimes, you’ll even notice withdrawal symptoms.
  • Rewires the Brain ~ As scary as this sounds, researchers are finding this to be very true.  Even actively engaging with screens when we are on computers and touch screens is having a rapid and profound affect on how our brain is wired. Researcher Gary Small said,  “The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate, but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.”   The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains explains that the very act of how we read and process information is changing when more time is spent learning ‘online.’  For instance, we lose the ability to focus and and read long articles.  We develop what’s been coined “popcorn brain” where we are constantly hopping around from topic to topic without the ability to delve deep.  For children in this season of intense learning the affects can be devastating.

The New Nanny

In this digital age, it is vital for us as parents to constantly be assessing where our families are spending time plugged-in and whether or not this is beneficial.  TV or video game consoles were the default ‘babysitter’ of choice when we were kids, but now with the technology boon, we have the opportunity to keep our kids plugged in at the park, in the car, at the store, the waiting room.  It’s as easy as handing over our smart phones or a tablet.  But should we be handing over these devices every time we want to keep them quiet?  Are we abdicating our responsibility to parent and to teach self-control?

But Aren’t Touch Screens Different?

With the explosion of smart phones and tablets, many schools are rushing to embrace a tech-centric approach to education and marketers are quickly saturating the market with all kinds of ‘educational aps’.  Since they are ‘educational’ does this make them good?  Well, the truth of the matter is that there is NO real research on this.  The ap makers themselves assert the benefits, but this is not true research.  It reminds me of the whole ‘Baby Einstein’ craze and then subsequent recall when complaints were filed stating that parking kids in front of educational DVD’s didn’t actually make them smarter, but harmed them.

A rationale for why we should limit screentime for our children! {Day 6 of Boosting Brain Power series}

So What to Do?  Some Thoughts…

Take Stock ~ Take time to record how much screen time your family is getting.  It is helpful to see how much and when you are using screens.

Assess ~ Decide what amount of screen time you want for your family. Each family is going to be different. For instance, we are a football family. We watch almost every NFL game that is aired on ‘regular’ TV (we don’t have cable). But the kids don’t watch any other TV, we don’t have Netflix and they only watch an occasional movie, maybe twice a month or so. In our family, we utilize a portable DVD player on the airplane. Being trapped in a metal tube 30,000 feet in the air with a hundred other people made plugging my kids into a movie sound like a great idea. When we drive however, I have the ability to pull over and address temper tantrums and help my children learn how to occupy themselves in the car without the need to plug in. Car time, provides us wonderful opportunity to talk and for them to observe the world flashing by them… So we keep our car screen free.

Cut BackJust do it!  We’re going screen-free next week.  Want to join us? {This mama needs it just as bad as the kids!}

Constantly Reassess ~ Last week, I had to take all four kids with me while I had my teeth cleaned.  I strapped Greta into the umbrella stroller and had snacks for her and then let the boys take turns playing Angry Birds.  In hindsight, I realized that they are old enough now that I could have had them bring a book to read.  We’ve trained them enough on how to sit still and behave that I didn’t NEED to use the screen.

Let us encourage one another in purposeful parenting – to minimize screen-time and maximize relationships and learning!

 10 Days of Boosting Brain Power series {Day 6: How to Waste Brain-Boosting Opportunity}

Day 1: Boosting Brain Power Starts with Food and Water

Day 2: How Sleep Makes Us Smarter

Day 3: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Day 4: Why Movement Matters

Day 5: Active Play Boosts Brain Power

Day 6: How to Waste Brain Boosting Opportunity

Day 7: Brain Breaks: An Important Tool in Your Homeschool

Hopscotch with the iHomeschool Network

When Your Homeschool Day Gets Hijacked

Finding perspective when your homeschool day gets hijacked...

The last few weeks have been going so much better as we’ve finally hit our stride and slipped into a rhythm that works well for this season, only to get hijacked…

…by the teething toddler.  Poor thing has been miserable as sharp bits of enamel and dentin make their steady outward push.  She has wanted to be held, rocked, comforted, nursed and fed on a rapidly repeating cycle…  She has desired 100% of my attention.  And that has rocked my precariously positioned rhythm.

Fickle-being that I am, I started to melt down inside.  The boys did too.  It is hard to focus on things like math when there is crying and mom is pacing around, only half-focused on the lesson…  Read-aloud time, my normal go-to during times like this, didn’t even work.  Frustration grew – not at her, poor thing, but at the situation.  I found myself starting to grumble and looking for an escape.  Mercifully, the computer was not an option as she won’t tolerate my attention being diverted to that bright beast.  In fact, she handles spelling lessons while I juggle her in my lap far better.

Have any of you ever felt like your day was hijacked? I know for me it can sometimes happen when a child repeatedly melts down in frustration, sibling bickering seems unending, we find ourselves in an unexpected financial situation with extra bills to pay or some situation crops up with a friend that deserves my prayer, but not my focused thoughts all day…

When any of these things interfere with what I need to be doing I sometimes flail about feeling defeated, but sometimes I listen to that little Holy Spirit nudge and seek to refresh my perspective.

He usually nudges me to do this:

Pray and release my concerns and circumstances to the Lord.

Pray for perspective.  It is a short, short season.  We have an opportunity to grow in compassion.

Pray for fresh eyes.  Life is beautiful, even in its mess and even in the midst of challenge. Necessity is the mother of invention. Focus in the midst of new challenges helps us find creative solutions!

Pray for renewed focus.  What COULD we get done that day?  How could we better capitalize on naptime?

On this particular day, I grabbed my camera and searched for beauty.  I searched for tiny remnants of progress.  I looked to see where God was at work in our lives…

I calmed down, held my baby girl and focused on what could be done instead of what we could not accomplish…  And this turned around our entire day!  Everyone, even poor little Greta, felt better.

And I’m reminded yet again how much influence I have on the culture and atmosphere of our home.

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{spider diagrams for a writing assignment can be done while pacing!}

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 {Auntie, Opa and a little cousin arriving for lunch help us relax and see the beauty as well!}teething9

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

When introducing our children to new foods it is good to remember: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!

Memories are still quite vivid of my mom repeating this mantra to me over and over again during my homeschool journey as a child.  Whenever I would be tempted to give up or frustrated, she would start reciting this little poem until I found myself doing it without her prompting.

That habit still remains.  Thanks mom, although back then I never imagined I would be saying it…

I’ve found it more than applicable during these motherhood years which makes me wonder if she spoke that poem as much to herself as she did trying to help us embrace that mindset.  Because much of motherhood, for me at least, is trying to wrap my brain around each of my beautifully unique children.  Which boils down to a whole lot of try, try agains… It would be far easier if they were all the same.  But I guess it is a lot more exciting this way, right?

Today, I thought about this poem as it applies to the area of shaping our children’s tastes for good, nourishing food.

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Last year, my sister shared this A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Kale/Butternut Squash/Pomegranate salad.  It quickly vaulted to the top of my most favorite salads.  It tastes like candy – except in a good for you, salad kind of way.  It makes a huge batch (partially because I triple the amount of kale and double the dressing).  The true beauty of this salad is that it is tasty with the warm, roasted butternut, but it also is great eaten as leftovers over the next several days. A salad that gets better with age? Why yes, it does!  This is perfect for my busy mom life because oftentimes, I tend to take care of myself last.

My boys aren’t crazy about kale, or butternut squash.  They eat it because we expect them to.  But although the pomegranate really weirded them out the first couple of times I offered it to them, they grew to love it! I have a hard time keeping little fingers out of the bowl as I get it ready!

Which reminds me of the poem.  If at first you don’t succeed; try, try again.   It is a great mantra to use when introducing and re-introducing new foods to our kids.  Just as in marketing where it takes, on average, 7 contacts between a buyer and seller before the buyer feels comfortable enough to do business with the seller {The Rule of 7}, we need to be offering good food to our kids over and over and over again.  Low and behold, chances are they might just learn to like it.  And even if they don’t learn to like it during childhood, there’s still a good chance they’ll grow into it come adulthood.  My mom told me that would happen with bell peppers, mushrooms and onions.  Despite my vehement childhood denials, her predictions came true.  Now beets.  blech.  still.

So take heart and be sure to try, try again!

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Finding Beauty in the Chaos

Some days the messiness of life starts to overwhelm me…  But then sometimes, God gives me eyes to see the beauty, the creation, the memories that are made in the midst of the mess, in the midst of the clutter.Finding beauty in the chaos... a motherhood essential

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I’m thankful for the ability to recognize the door of opportunity.  I’m thankful for fresh eyes and a heart that sings at the sight God’s goodness.  As I focus on the beauty the clutter tends to fall to the periphery.  And bit by bit, the boys are learning how to faithfully and consistently tidy up {as long as I consistently encourage them to do so…}

In the meantime, I’m soaking it up.

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{poor guy had a run-in with the sidewalk after trying out his brothers new skateboard.}
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Focus: First Things First and an Invitation

Good Morning Girls
I woke up this morning with a song on my heart and craving Scripture like I crave chocolate mid-afternoon! {Am I the only one who dips into the chocolate stash mid-afternoon???}  I’m filled with anticipation for the coming weeks and the special time I get to spend just with Him in the morning and then delving into the very same Bible passages with my kids after breakfast!

With my goal this year to continue to hone my ‘focus’.  There are so many things vying for my attention.  Many of them good things.  But I’m finding that to each there is a proper time and during that time I need to focus.

One aspect that is deserving of my primary focus is my relationship with Jesus because out of that flows meaning, purpose and provision for everything else. And I mean  everything.

I don’t know about you, but when I sit down and ask God to speak to me through His Word, He never ceases to amaze and delight me.  Now I’m not saying that I’ve never had dry spells, but He is always faithful to lead me out of them.  In my experience dry spells are usually a result of not spending time soaking up the Word on a daily basis and time spent just being with Him.

The danger is falling into the trap of blaming the dry times for not having a desire to get into the Word or talk to God.  Why?  Because the only way out is to invest in the relationship.  The only way for that to happen is when we decide to spend time in the Word, in prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to lead all of our daily interactions. And that, my friends, is the best part.  This is where your relationship with God literally spills out and flows into all of life.

At the crux of it all is pursuing Him.  I tend to thrive when I pursue God within the context of community.  That is why I’ve always enjoyed women’s Bible studies.  I wake up each most mornings filled with anticipation to see how He will speak to me.  It is always exciting to gather together and be encouraged by how God is speaking to each of us.

Over the last two years, God asked me to lay aside my ladies Bible study and focus on our family devotional times at home.  It has been special and yet I’ve found that I’m not as consistent with daily time spent reading my Bible.  I brought this to the Lord in the last few weeks.  You see, despite having two wonderful family/children’s devotions that I want to do this semester:The Dig for Kids {a study in the book of Luke} and God Said So! 31 Truths Every Kids Should Know. I find myself still craving structure and accountability with my own time with the Lord.

So when I saw that Good Morning Girls is hosting an online Bible study that could coincide with the children’s devotional on the same subject my heart leapt and I just KNEW that I wanted to do it this semester.

I will be studying Luke 1-8 with the Good Morning Girls.  They provide a free pdf study guide with a simple guide to drawing you into the Word and helping you meditate on it each day.  It won’t take long, but it will be just what I need to start each morning with my focus where it it should be.  Plus, I’ll get a second dose later that morning when the boys and I explore The Dig for Kids together!

Here’s what it will look like:

LivingLikeJesus

The structure for for each day follows S.O.A.P.
S ~ Write out the Scripture passage for the day.
O ~ Write down 1 or 2 Observation about the passage.
A ~ Write down 1-2 Applications from the passage.
PPray over what you learned from today’s passage.

That doesn’t sound too hard, does it?  I am just giddy with anticipation to dive in.

Now for the really cool part! Your kids can explore these same passages in the fun devotional, The Dig for Kids.

A typical Dig lesson consists of the following four components:

1. The Map: The Map tells you and your child where you’ll be going in each lesson. It is a short summary of the study ahead.
2. The Dig: The Dig is the main passage you will be studying. Following each passage will be several questions designed to help conversation and understanding. They are meant to be a guide. You can use them or tweak them to help you talk with your children.
3. The Treasure: The Treasure is the big idea of each lesson. In a short statement, it is what you want your child to remember from the passage you studied.
4. The Display: When an archaeologist finds a treasure, they will clean it up and put it on display for everyone to see. This is the basic idea of the Display. It is the application of the Treasure you have found!

If you want to get this it is available in several formats: PDF, KINDLE or paperback.

We are excited to dig in and focus on being with Jesus.  It all starts next Monday, January 14th!

Do any of you want to join me?  It would be so wonderful to share with one another how God is meeting us and our children through this journey?  I’m doing this with my mom and sister, but I’d love to join up online with some of you if anyone is interested.  

One Word: FOCUS

One-Word for 2013 - FOCUS
One-Word for 2013 - FOCUS

Have you seen people talking about their year in terms of ‘one-word?’  {My new blog-friend, Erica over at Spoonful of Imagination wrote about hers recently…} It is funny because I’ve found myself gravitating towards that for the last couple of weeks.  In fact, I had planned out a whole series that I wanted to share.  But I kept coming back to this ONE WORD.

I’m a verbose person.  Just ask my husband.  I think out-loud and I’m always thinking.  Rich tells me that he can actually think about nothing.  Nothing.  Can you imagine?  I can’t either.  It must be a guy-thing.

Anyways, my husband is constantly asking for the bottom line.  He wants me to sum it all up and get to the point.  While I find it aggravating at times since I’d  oftentimes much prefer to talk and talk until something makes sense to me, it is so good for me to stop and train my mind to sift through things faster and boil what I want to say down to a few power-packed sentences.  :sigh: I love him.

As I’ve been revisiting our mission and praying over goals we are setting for our homeschooling, family life, our new volunteer duties, and some of the big plans I have for the blog, I keep coming back to one word: FOCUS.

FOCUS is important in all areas of life.  It is vital in motherhood!

Because when I don’t, I miss out on too much.

When my toddler wants to bring me toys and play with me, I need to sit on the floor and give her some undivided attention.  I need to FOCUS.

When my four year old is repeatedly getting distracted and not doing what I ask, I need to follow through and let him know that I’m there to watch and help make sure he does what I expect.  I need to FOCUS.. {focus on helping him focus…}

When that same four year old comes to me with eyes sparkling and holding a preschool-in-a-bag activity, I need to make make time in our schedule for some special time with him.  I need to FOCUS.

When we are in the middle of reading aloud and the phone rings or a beep indicates a new text message, I need to realize that just about any call can wait until the proper time.  Cuddling with the kids, engrossed in a good book together takes precedence.  I need to FOCUS.

When sibling bickering escalates, I need to be prepared to drop whatever we are doing and attend to the heart lessons at hand.  I need to FOCUS.

Afternoons are no longer my own.  I’m REALLY a homeschool mama now.  In order to get everything done in a day, I need to block out distractions.  I need to FOCUS.

When housework, my nemesis, needs to be done, it is time to cast off distraction. I need to take the kids along, train them while we go and get our home pulled together.  I need to FOCUS.

When I’m on the computer, I need a game plan.  I have big plans, but checking facebook or email for the upteenth time or spontaneously doing some random and extensive internet search is a sure-fire way to derail getting what I really want done, done.  I need to FOCUS.

When my day has slipped away from me, I need to pray and prioritize, thanking God for fresh grace.  I need to re-FOCUS.

Life is too short to be lost in distraction.  There is too much at stake.  I want to live moment by moment in the midst of whatever God has for me.  I want to model this for my children.  What a gift to give them.

So I focus on my one-word.  I pull out my tried and true tricks that help in this area.  And I look to grow…

What about you?  Am I the only person that struggles sometimes with lack of focus? What do you do to help maintain your focus? 

Do YOU have one-word that describes your goals for this next year?