Taking Stock, A List

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Making: inroads on a couple of passion projects.

Cooking: muffins every weekend. I have the cutest five year old helper around.

Drinking: lots of coffee with half n half. Even at Starbucks I can’t seem to stand flavored coffee any longer.

Reading: the new Robert Galbraith book, Career of Evil, and Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. I’m a complicated woman.

Wanting: this brow gel and this hat.

Watching: the Great British Baking Show. Similar to Top Chef, but with very little drama, no product placement, and utterly, utterly charming. (Streaming on Netflix and my heart)

Playing: doctor with London. She tucks me in, tells me “rest is best!” and then reads me books. That’s basically my dream day.

Eating: creamy corn and roasted pepper soup from Trader Joe’s.

Wishing: that I could easily paint our downstairs. Gimme all white everything.

Enjoying: running with friends on a regular basis. Feeling like a woman warrior because it’s so cold at 6am!

Loving: that our church is planting a church in London!! It’s exhilarating to pray big Kingdom prayers over a city I love so much.

Hoping: I can learn to keep my plants alive. I want to have a house full of live plants, not a graveyard to my green dreams.😉

Listening: to Cruz read his Bible out loud.

Needing: a way to get London to bed. Cruz falls asleep with no fuss, and always has. London is throwing every classic stalling technique at me. Drink. Extra snuggle. Incorrect tucking procedure.

Smelling: peppermint, lavender, and lemon essential oils in my diffuser.

Wearing: my new fall boots. Overnight we went from endless summer to fall perfection.

Feeling: hopeful about the future.

 

4 // Phrases I’m Overusing Right Now

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Daniel Tiger helps me parent better. I mean, seriously, that is one genius preschool feline. Those little phrase/songs get stuck in your head, they’re repeated twenty times an episode, and before you know it, your two year old is telling her brother, “if you feel mad and you’re going to roar…” It does the work for me.

It is also a good reminder that having a succinct phrase to help reset or refocus can be very powerful. Phrases don’t have to be perfect, and they might not work forever, but a wellworn phrase at the right time can cut your work in half. They help us know what to expect and get us where we need to be efficiently.

Here are four phrases I’ve got in rotation:

1// “Kindergarten is full of surprises!”

Cruz came home from school with that one. He and I were chatting one day about how the class had missed a minute of break time (or something… it’s sometimes hard to tell) because they had a hard time getting quiet. “How did you feel about that?” I asked. “Well,” he nodded sagely, “kindergarten is full of surprises.” That Mrs. Solodon is a genius! I thought to myself for the one hundredth time since September. I’m going to use that. You can use this phrase any old way you want. Bedtime is full of surprises! Afternoons are full of surprises! Birthday parties are full of surprises! This is much more cheerful than my exasperated, “I have NO IDEA of who is going to be at the park… if the lion will be out at the zoo… if we have any cookies at home.” The park is full of surprises!

2// “Let’s experiment.”

I grabbed this one from Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy. Like yours truly, she likes do things that she knows she’ll be good at. Ahem. Saying “let’s experiment” to myself takes the burden of success away. It’s just an experiment (and it’s full of surprises!): the only result needed is data. Was it good? Was it bad? I find out and then I know. As someone who does not like risks, I say this to myself a lot.

3// “If you have to go potty, stop and go right away.”

Of course we need a Daniel Tiger phrase! There is a child in this house who shall remain nameless that recently told me that their potty accident was caused by being “too busy.” Uh-uh. Too busy will not work. (And I sure hope I’m not overusing “I’m busy” but I think I am and I really hate that phrase) So we’ve busted out this magic phrase. Everyone knows it. Everyone uses it.

4// “Hey man, I’m just doing the best that I can!”

Stolen from… Brene Brown? Elizabeth Gilbert? I can’t remember where I first saw this, but it is a game changer. The other night I bought a pack of diapers. The checker (bless her heart) asked me if these diapers were for my current baby or my upcoming one. Uuugggghhhh. There is no one on earth that enjoys being mistaken for pregnant. I immediately felt embarrassed about my little tummy and took a mental inventory of whether or not I could fit in some extra runs or a new meal plan… shhhh. Hey man. I’m just doing the best that I can. End of story.

Those are my overused phrases right now. I can’t wait to hear your overused phrases below!

Worksheets

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We have a new afternoon routine, Cruz and I. While London finishes her nap, we find ourselves at the kitchen table. I’m playing music in the background, a candle is burning, and he’s eating a snack. “May I have a piece of paper?” he asks in between bites, cracker crumbs spreading around the table, “another one?”

Our table is covered in papers. He draws maps, startlingly accurate maps of where we live or how we get to school. If it’s not maps, it’s road signs, and lately charts of the planets. He draws quickly and with concentration. Today we worked on his homework together and out of nowhere, he pulled a new piece of paper out of his pile. “This is a worksheet for you, mommy!” I smooth the paper down in front of me. NAME, it says in all caps at the top. MRS MOMMY. He’s drawn letters for me to trace and balloons to color in, just like his homework from earlier in the week. As I start my homework, Cruz bends his head back over his own paper, and I can see the slight blush on his cheeks, his little hidden smile.

So far, we are loving kindergarten. It’s helping my son soar.

The day before Cruz started school, I saw an article posted on Facebook about when boys should start kindergarten. “Boys should never start kindergarten before age 6,” the bold my own addition. “They’re too wild. They need to run. They need to jump. No one could expect them to sit still! They’re being stifled!

I started to panic. It’s too early for him to go to school! He needs to run and go wild! Even as I was packing his backpack for the first day of school, I pictured him squirming in his seat, his spirit getting squashed by the soul-crushing expectations of raising his hand when he had something to say. Cruz turning on me because I had committed the ultimate mother-of-boys sin by sending him to kindergarten before he turned six.

It gets worse. He wasn’t even five.

My four year old started kindergarten. He’s the smallest one in the class. His backpack is a turtle shell on him, practically bouncing down to his knees as he walks down the ramp. I’ve worried about him being little. I’ve worried about him making friends. I’ve worried that we’ve not given him long enough to be a child and that we’ve rushed him into school. We walk down to the playground together every morning, and he leans on me while we wait for the bell to ring. It’s in that moment that I doubt; my hands rest on his head, I pray over him quietly, and he looks so small.

But then the bell rings and he runs toward his class. It’s already a warm day and I stand outside the classroom with the other kindergarten moms and watch as he puts away his homework and snack and lines up for chapel. That’s when I remember that he loves this, the schedule, the routine, the learning.

There is so much in motherhood that is about risk-management. Car seats, vaccine schedule, swaddlers, BPA-free sippy cups for the babies, and now that they’re older, it’s more about their souls. Which shows to watch, which books and shows make them sassy (goodbye forever, Captain Hook!), time-out strategies. As my husband started to ask, “what if we did kindergarten…?” I chalked up a bunch of reasons why kindergarten was the wrong choice for us. I needed to manage the risk. And every single reason was based on fear, based on what everyone else was doing.  

It was a joy to start peeling back the layers of fear and notice that we were – so gently- pushing our son out of the nest, letting him stretch his wings. I found freedom in remembering that we are parenting our own child, our own boy, not every boy in the world. I love that boys can thrive on running wild, and I love that my own, special boy thrives in the classroom. As the weeks went by, I started to ask myself in disbelief, “what if we hadn’t taken this risk?” There’s so much of him that we would have missed! I would have missed him growing in obedience. I would have missed him realizing that he can be a leader. I would have missed him figuring out that he can read his own Bible. I would have missed being MRS MOMMY. I would have missed these moments at the kitchen table where he bends his head over his work, so proud. I am seeing him soar over kindergarten. And it feels like freedom for both of us.

 

The Smallness and the Quiet

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There is so much noise in my life. It’s not loud, necessarily, but there’s noise. We live in a crowded subdivision near the airport, so the noise of UPS trucks and dogs and bikes and airplanes is constantly in the background. During this endless summer, our backdoor is permanently open and neighbors’ conversations float over our fence and into my ears (both ways I’m sure, and I’m sorry about that!). My kids are “out-loud processors” and I am all day every day the sounding board for their precious thoughts and questions. When I get time to myself, I tend to fill the silence with more words. I turn on Netflix, I turn on a podcast. I give myself something to laugh about and I am hardly ever alone because Liz Lemon or Sarah Koenig are my constant companions. It’s easy and a habit and while it’s not the worst, it’s not the best. I take the easy way too often and forget about the gift of a hard space. 

The other week, I gave myself a little silence, by accident, and now I give myself that gift every day. After Cruz and London lay down for their naps, I set the timer on my phone for fifteen minutes and clean in silence. I pick up their toys, match their shoes. I corrall, I sweep, I rinse lunch dishes. In silence. I hear the gentle trickle of our oil diffuser. I hear the sweep of my broom. And after a few minutes I start to hear myself. I think thoughts and plan my writing. I pray as I wash dishes. My mind travels from our cul de sac and our homegroup to our church, to our country, to Syria. I want this time of silence to grow my heart and to allow me to trust the Lord more and more. I love the miracle of prayer– that my hands can be busy with the smallest, dirtiest, most mundane of this world while my heart and my mind and my soul are waging war for good and light. I can carry out the trash while I intercede for refugee children and for the children in our neighborhood. I am not trapped by the smallness and the quiet moment– I am liberated.

An Interview with a Five Year Old

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The other day a friend asked if I was emotional about having a five year old, you know, real kid status. It was a good question and I told her that having my kid turn five kind of felt like myself turning thirty– a big milestone birthday that is slightly dreaded but feels really comfortable once it arrives. So far so good on five.

Last year Cruz and I did a little interview when he turned four. It was so fun that I wanted to do it again! Cruz was excited, but thought he would like it better if he were the one asking questions. #leadershipskillz

What is your name?

Cruz

How old are you?

Five!

What is your favorite thing to do?

Make up new planets. I come up with new names.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A builder that builds houses and makes new streets. I can even name the roads that you go on. I want to be a builder so I can make new things.

Who do you like to spend time with?

My grandma. That’s it. Ok, also friends at school.

What are you good at?

Drawing maps.

 What makes you laugh?

[Reading over my shoulder. “That word doesn’t look like ‘laugh.’ ‘GH’ should say ‘ie.’ Discussion about /igh/ and /augh/ follows.]

Well, funniness. Like silly things. Mrs. Solodon! One time in chapel she was acting like a parrot and said, “put that away!”

[This really must have been hilarious because he dissolved into giggles for quite awhile. That Mrs. Solodon and her chapel humor!]

What’s your favorite time of day?

School time!

What’s a scary thing?

Really, really dark caves. Predators. [Totally legit, buddy.]

Who is your best friend?

My classmates.

What do you like to do with your family?

Play. It’s great when we go get ice cream.

What do you like to learn about?

Planets and dinosaurs.

 

4 // Books We’re Loving

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The older I get, the pickier I am about books. If it doesn’t hold my attention or I can’t get sucked in, I don’t often have the patience to finish reading. I want to cradle these books in my arms and gently ask, “have you ever seen an editor?” The same goes for the kids’ books. I have a tendency to pull the same books out for them because… some kids books hold up and some do not.

Let’s celebrate the books that do! Reading is such a precious thing and we should read excellent books. Two for you and two for your kids, from our recent reads.

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Emma. Well, I will try my hardest not to be a cliche, but when I’ve found myself with too many unreadable books, I quickly switch back to Jane Austen. Like a palette cleanser for my mind. Emma cracks me up. (I’ve also read Pride and Prejudice this month, but that really would be cliche).

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Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever. This collection of 82 stories, rhymes, pieces is kind of old fashioned bonkers. But as long as my kids keep asking to read “Polite Elephant” I will comply. The illustrations are a mix of the traditional Richard Scarry animals (think, Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm) and gorgeous illustrations of animals and flowers. We checked this out from the library and I would love to have it for our family.

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The Thirteenth Tale. This gothic mystery is perfect for fall and winter (presumably. At this point I firmly believe that we are in permanent summer). I like my books to have crackerjack storytelling, beautiful prose, and a juicy mystery. The Thirteenth Tale had plenty to keep me satisfied.

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Ladybug Girl. We love the Ladybug Girl books! I love that she’s powerful and girly and still sees the world as a child. The plot twists make sense and the illustrations are out of this world. I love reading these books over and over.

I’m also partway through The Rosie Effect and For the Love-both excellent choices so far. The kids have been listing to Encyclopedia Brown in the car, which has been enjoyable for them (and usually makes me chuckle because my-oh-my culture has changed. And lots of it for the better. So many problems were solved with punching back in Encyclopedia’s world. If you think I’m making this up, wait until you hear London holler, “I’ll bash you good and proper!”). Audio books have been an excellent way to start chapter books before my kids are ready to sit and listen to them at home (and a great way to practice listening!)

You can always find our favorite books here. What are you reading right now? What books are capturing your kids’ imaginations?

 

 

In the Morning

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Every time I post about my morning routine, I get two types of follow-up emails. The first kind asks how I do my devotions and how I stay on track with them. The second seems to be more along the lines of, “that sounds great, but I could never do it!” I thought maybe it was time to do a post about my morning time.

If you’re thinking about starting an early morning devotion time, it’s good to remember why you’re doing it. Real talk– I’m not winning any awards by getting out of bed at 5:30am. But I am spending time with my Creator, my Father, my Savior. I have seen with straight up trial and error that when I give the day to the Lord by spending time in the Word and in prayer, I am better equipped for what the day holds. I can feel God near me, bringing me peace and comfort, and I believe that He deserves my time and energy.

But it’s still hard.

+ The first key to making this work is get everything you need in one spot. For me, every night I make a stack of my Bible, a good journal, my favorite pen, and any other spiritual books I’m reading. Even if they get scattered throughout the day, I remake that stack every night before I go to sleep. It’s all about preparation!

+ When it comes to what you should read out of your Bible, it is entirely up to you. I’ve followed Bible in a year reading plans, online plans that covered a topic or a few verses each day, and right now I’m just old fashioned reading one chapter of the New Testament each day (I’m halfway through Acts). The key is to find a plan that fits your time but also gives you enough teaching. It is also nice to have a Bible translation that fits you. For my personal Bible reading time, I read from the NLT. At church I usually read along in the ESV. There are many great options to try out. I always have my journal open while I read and I jot down anything interesting, what I learn about God’s character, questions, quotes… there’s no right or wrong thing to write down during journal time.

+ Once I’m done reading, I start journaling my prayers. Real talk– if I just sit down to pray, it takes about ten seconds before I’m making a mental grocery list or thinking about Instagram or something silly. My prayers actually make sense when I write them down and follow a rhythm. Here’s my pattern:

  • Declare God’s goodness, holiness, righteous. I usually open up the Psalms and write some declarative truths about God. {I will praise You as long as I live, lifting up my hands to You in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise You with songs of joy}
  • Confession. God wants us to come to Him to be made whole. I confess all the stuff that keeps my heart from being wholly His.
  • Prayer for others. I pray over Tovi. I pray over my kids. I pray over my friends and the hurting parts of the world.
  • Prayer for myself. I stand on the promise that God hears my prayers. I stand on the promise that what God wills for my life is for my joy and His glory.

+ And then! If I’m lucky and by some crazy miracle the kids are still sleeping, I’ll read a book on Christian spirituality or Christian living (two recs: So Long, Insecurity and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality).

That’s it. My morning routine. If a morning devotional time is something you’re hungry for, I hope this will give you some inspiration or encouragement. Once I learned how to get up early and how to best structure my devotional time, I have found so much joy and freedom in my relationship with the Lord. And that’s my hope for you– not that getting up early would be a drag, but that you would learn to look forward to that sweet, sweet time with your Father.

Have you ever switched up your devotional time? What worked for you?