life during Lent: week 1

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Monday

It seemed like a bad thing that the beginning of Lent coincided with daylight savings time, but it worked out well this morning since the kids slept in an hour. Besides doing the prayer of St. Ephrim with our morning prayers, and the food restrictions, it has felt like a normal day so far. A good day in fact.

We are off school for the week. It’s a lot going to church each evening and do the full load of school. So we are doing Morning Time, but not the rest. Hopefully this will keep things sane(r)!

Lunch was pb & js and veggies since we didn’t have leftovers. I had a big salad and a small sandwich. (Tip: Put hummus in your salad along with your dressing. Adds protein and creaminess! Sounds strange, but it’s yummy!) As I was making the sandwiches, I could smell the herb bread I made last night to go along with our lasagna. It made me think about pizza, but I’d been so gluttonous leading up to Lent that it didn’t really tempt me. I’m still ready for a cleanse. Wonder how long that will last. I also remembered how my husband, a friend from church, and I were talking about amazing food last night after Forgiveness Vespers. How ironic. So much of our thoughts center around food. I don’t think that’s fully wrong because food is a blessing from God. However, it needs to not become an idol. Definitely something to think about.

I had some extra quiet today. The kids were playing in another room as I was fixing the sandwiches. I felt pulled to put on a podcast or music. I wished someone would text me. I realized this happens all the time. I want a distraction. If I’m doing something mundane, I want something exciting to think about or listen to. This is exactly why I limited my podcasts. I need to get acclimated to less input and use that space for prayer and reflection. And today I did, a little, but I felt annoyed as well.

Tuesday

morning

I only made it through 45 minutes of church. Will is out of town and, while Ella was very good for that time, sitting with my mom and sister, Theo was challenging. When Ella started to get squirrely and it was inching toward bedtime, I asked my sister-in-law to bring home the older two. I knew I needed to leave before I got frustrated and lost my peace. I’m past trying to prove anything to anyone or myself. I’m past thinking it’s not “good enough” to leave early, or just not go. In fact, I’m not going tonight. What worth is it to go to church if I’m frustrated, angry, and resentful inside about it, and taking that out on my kids? No worth.

evening

It would be easy to feel like today was as much a failure as yesterday felt like a success, but it wouldn’t be true. Really, most of the day was really good. But the day also included two snacks, music to avoid silence, and yelling at my kids. Sigh.

I started to feel poor physically in the late afternoon because of low blood sugar. I had some trail mix, and it helped some, but I started to feel a quick dizzy feeling when I moved too quickly. I tried to slow down and just do one thing at a time and that helped. But then it was that crazy hour – everyone’s hungry, the last few things need to be done for supper and it felt like a zoo. Hence, some yelling. And after as well while trying to hurry up the kids to clean before they left for church. But, apologizes were given before they left and things turned around again, except I still wasn’t feeling well. Which is where the second snack came in and I felt better. Now the littles are in bed and I’m waiting for the big kids to come home.

Thursday

In retrospect, yesterday feels like a crash and burn. The day’s events were fine, really, but by late morning I was dragging. It started with an adorable stray dog hanging out all morning. I ran to the store with the kids and it was still here. So I decided to post something on our neighborhood social media platform, something I’ve only done one other time – because of a stray dog. And I chose the worst time to be on my phone – while trying to put together lunch for the littles and put groceries away. I felt fragmented and scattered the rest of the day.

Speaking of social media, I haven’t really missed Instagram. Or rather, I certainly don’t miss being on my phone more. I don’t miss that, and yet I feel myself wanting something exciting from my phone. It’s weird. But I have felt lonely. I’ve been day dreaming of sitting on a deck, sipping wine will catching up with friends while the kids run around – every evening. Like, my friends just walking over for a quick evening chat. But no friends are in walking distance. Still, why don’t we (er, I) make more time for this? Oh yeah, because I get so stressed out about routines, messes, and bedtimes.

Friday

I had one on one time with a dear friend last night and I feel so rejuvenated! So much better than hours on Instagram. Which by the way, I was starting to miss. I miss sharing, and I think of those I “know” and wonder how they are doing. And so I feel torn. But I wonder what the cost is to “connect” through virtual reality.

Something we talked about got me thinking about my miscarried son Elijah, and so many other miscarried babies. And it got me thinking how amazing it will be to meet them someday. I longed to be pure enough to meet them. In the Orthodox Church, there’s a concept that heaven isn’t some place in the sky, but all around us and we can enter in if we just have the heart, the eyes, the purity. And that when we die, we will all be in the presence of God, but it will feel like heaven to some, and hell to others. If I have trouble being present in my earthly reality, how will it be for me in the true reality of the presence of God? If being in “virtual reality” takes my focus off of this earthly reality, how much further does it take me from the true reality of God? My mind and heart feel so much clearer after not being on Instagram for two weeks. I know so much good can come from social media. I’ve found a lot of enjoyment from it, and have worked through some of the challenges it brings me, but it just doesn’t seem worth the cost of moving away from my present reality and the truest reality that I want to grow to be more aware of. Does it draw me into the presence of God, or further away?

Saturday

Overall, this first week was so blessed. Not because it was perfect (obviously!), but because it held both blessings and struggle. Wednesday was the hardest day, but most other days I felt very alive, more focused, and aware of areas I need to work on. Physically, I feel lighter, healthier and motivated to exercise more. As I expected, I didn’t have as much discussion with the kids about Sunday of Orthodoxy as I had wished, but there’s this afternoon right? And there are the church services, which are the best teachers of all.

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life during Lent: introduction and plan

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I’m reading a book now called “7” by Jen Hatmaker. It’s written in journal form. She’s experimenting with her life, and writes every few days to share about it. It’s inspired me to write in a similar format about life during Lent.

I’ve been thinking lately about how our culture seems to love a good challenge, especially if it’s dramatic, Whole 30 for example. Exercise challenges, decluttering challenges, detoxes, and cleanses are more examples.

Lent is a challenge. It’s not glamorous because it’s not new and flashy. It’s ancient, although some Protestant circles talk like they’ve rediscovered it. I too love a challenge, and as it approaches, I am getting excited. But I also dread it.

I know it will get hard after about Day 1.  I know my carefully planned plans will probably fall apart and I’ll feel like I’ve failed. I’ve been through it enough. No matter how it goes, I want to share it with you. Maybe it’ll give you some hope or a laugh or two. Mostly, I hope it’ll help you feel connected and not alone. We’re in this together!

The Plan

As always, I have big hopes for Lent: simplifying food, eating less, praying more, less distraction, more quiet.

Let me lay it out for you so that as we go along, you know what I’m talking about.

Food

We will be rotating through about fifteen of our fasting staples. (Yes, this is simplifying for me. I usually never repeat a meal in a month!) We will occasionally have fish or dairy, but mostly rice, beans, and veggies. For myself, I’m going to try to limit wheat as well. It our home, we also fast from sweets (baked goods or candy) unless it’s a birthday or some other occasion. I’m allowing myself dried cranberries on my salads (as I’m planning on eating many), honey here and there, granola and granola bars occasionally. I put this in writing because I can agonize over whether I should or shouldn’t, defeating the purpose of just not thinking about it much. So, once or twice a week is fine for the occasional “healthy” treat.

The kids will have eggs for breakfast a couple times a week, and baked oatmeal the others. I’ll be having smoothies (made with non-dairy milk), baked oatmeal, and my favorite, apple and nut bowl. What is that? Mix a variety of nuts with chopped apples. Melt peanut butter and some coconut oil and pour on top. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon. So good!

Snacks will be chips and hummus and/or salsa, nuts, granola, granola bars, graham crackers, fruit, and avocados. I’m mostly going to be avoiding snacks, as well as eating seconds, bits, and licks. If we don’t have leftovers for lunch, some options are hummus/chips/veggies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mac ‘n cheese, or tuna salad.

(I should admit that my real motivation for eating better is because I want to lose some weight – not necessarily a spiritual reason. Just being honest, and recognizing that I need to shift that thinking!)

Creating Quiet

Cutting out: Instagram (my only form of social media), all podcasts but two short ones, less music, no YouTube

Adding: one Akathist a week, more writing, reading the Psalter with a church group, embroidery in the evening, and maybe get some drawing or coloring in with the kids. I want to build in the habit of taking a walk with the kids after quiet time, as well as by myself after supper, when my husband is home. I am hoping to do an activity or two with the kids each week, but that’s very wishful thinking. Mostly, I want to keep an open dialogue about what all this means and the focus of each Sunday.

(I do realize I want to add in more than I’m cutting out! I’m probably much too hopeful…)

My overall desire for Lent is to gain a lot of cleansing and clarity physically, spiritually, and mentally. That’s probably asking for a rough road, but I can feel I need this. All of February, I let things slide. Time to pull it back in.

I hope you’ll follow along this Lent as we journey toward Pascha.

What’s a goal you have for Lent?

practicals for everyday parenting

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Last time I talked about how it’s not our job as a parent to be fixing all the problems. So, if our job isn’t to give solutions, remove the struggle, or explain every reason they should or should not do something, what is it? I said in my last post, according to Dr. Mamalakis, it is to set firm limits, keep them, and guide the children with them. It is to draw close to the children, be with them in that struggle, and walk with them down the path toward the Kingdom of God.

So, what does that look like in everyday interactions? What do we DO when a child is being defiant or rude? Dr. Mamalakis gave a very helpful order of actions:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Draw near physically and emotionally.
  3. Don’t look for a solution, but a path to truth. Don’t judge.
  4. Empathize their feeling. (It’s hard to… Are you feeling…)
  5. Speak the truth no matter how you feel. (Restating the clear limit.)
  6. Walk with them in the difficulty. Be with them. Let them talk and you listen.

Doing these things does not mean to permit the wrong behavior. It’s setting a firm limit (the truth), ex. “You may not…” while acknowledging to them that what you expect of them IS hard or that they just may not want to. But regardless, it’s the right thing. It’s not brushing their feelings about it away, but showing them they can move past those feelings and that they are stronger than them. It’s showing them that the truth is more than how they feel about it. The truth is the truth no matter how we feel about it.

Feelings come and go and we can help our children realize that they do not need to be ruled by their feelings. We are stronger than them, and boy, am I still learning this myself! In acknowledging their feelings, we are respecting them as a person. And in expecting them to do the right thing anyway, is also respecting them as a person.

All this is not to say that we don’t give consequences for continual refusal or certain behaviors. That is a whole other subject that he addresses thoroughly in his book, but one I am not going to address here. The process I outlined is the first line of action before approaching consequences.

A few other pointers Dr. Mamalakis gave in going about this are:

  • Expect refusals or challenges, but don’t accept them
  • Set clear limits
  • Remember that they are learning

It is really hard to remember to do all these things and even harder to actually do them! I am so bad about letting my feelings get in the way of respecting my children and parenting well. I am learning oh so much. And failing even more. So I’m going to leave you with this quote that I find so much comfort in and am trying to remember above all else: “We don’t need to be perfect parents, we need to be repentant parents.” We will fail, and there is no way to be perfect. Let’s dust ourselves off after we fall, repent, and resume. Modeling that for our children is priceless.

takeaways from a parenting lecture

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Earlier this month, my husband and I had the blessing of hearing Dr. Mamalakis speak. He is the author of Parenting Toward the Kingdom, and if you’ve haven’t read it yet, I can’t recommend it enough. We read his book a couple years ago and have tried to parent accordingly and it has been such a huge help (though we still struggle and fail constantly!).

Dr. Mamalakis’ talk was so impactful and inspiring. It clarified things from the book, and gave us other wonderful information as well. I wanted to share my big takeaways with you.

He started his talk about by explaining how parenting is both beautiful and messy. We all know this, but the analogy he gave was helpful. He compared it to our feast days for the cross. We decorate and venerate the cross, but really, the cross is a painful and messy thing. Parenting is the same thing. It IS our cross. For so long, unknowingly, I believed that if I just did everything “right,” parenting would eventually be smooth and seamless. But, while doing things properly helps, my children are still individuals with their own minds and wills, and they are learning. It will always be hard. But it will always be beautiful. Now, every morning I try to prepare myself for the typical behaviors I get from my children, instead of hoping they’ll magically be better today.

Another thing he said that has given me a big mind shift is that it is not our job to tell our kids what to think or believe. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to provide the proper environment to foster that work. We do that in three ways: through the life of the parent, the parent /child relationship, and the home and church connection. He called this the three-legged stool of parenting. The parent must be living an authentic Christian life and being the example, the parent child relationship needs to have respect and connection, and church needs to brought to the home and lived throughout the week.

For us, the parent/child relationship is weakest.  I tend to be critical and corrective. I love my children, but I let these things get in the way. I mistakenly think of them as small adults, instead of developing children who don’t think like I do! I take on the role of explaining and debating when there’s push back.

In his book, Dr. Mamalakis explains that when you’re dealing with a refusal to comply, the first step is to empathize: “I know it’s hard to go to bed.” And then stay firm: “But this is your bedtime.” I was turning that into full on explanations, resulting in their counter arguments, until it got heated and I got mad. My husband asked him to clarify this, and it has been so helpful. He said that explaining is a trap. He might give one reason, but not respond to any more counter reasoning from the child. He said to do so is actually disrespectful for the child. Also, that the child is not being rational and truly seeking to understand why you want them to do the thing. They are just trying to stall and distract us. (Obviously, as the child gets closer to adulthood, they can rationalize more and things do need to be discussed more.)

What I was trying to do with all my explaining was to make the children comfortable and happy with doing what I said. I wanted to remove the struggle they were having. But Dr. Mamalakis said that our job as parents is not to remove the struggle. It is to set firm limits, keep them, and guide them. It is to draw close to them, be with them in that struggle, and walk with them down the path toward the Kingdom of God. This is mind blowing to me. I am constantly trying to fix problems – it’s just the way I think. So I’ve been thinking about this concept so much, trying to soak it in and absorb it.

One thing that helps me is to remember that I myself still struggle. I am not perfect – not even close! But, my old way of parenting was trying to make my children perfect, to give them all the right answers and actions so they won’t ever hurt or struggle. This is not the way. Thank God, I still have my faith despite all the bad choices I made and still make. My children will have their own bad choices and struggles. It is not my job to save them. It’s God’s. I must remember to place them in His hands daily, every moment. My job is to be their guide and companion. To hold their hand and be near when they fall and when they pick themselves up.

Since the talk, I have been more mindful of drawing close to my children, saying less, and listening more. I have tried to trust God more with them, and myself less. It has helped, but I have still failed. I know it’s a lifelong process – one I’ll never perfect. But I try to give myself grace because perfection is not the goal. Love, repentance, and connection is.

In my next post, I’ll share a breakdown of Dr. Mamalakis’ advice on dealing with refusals!

on being brave

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Today I went to the dentist. Anyone else consider that a brave act?
 
 
I’ve been thinking about bravery this week. I’m anticipating the need for it in my future, and so it’s been on my mind.
 
 
It started with feeling the urge to introduce myself to someone, but not doing it out of fear. I realized later how much that urge was correct when I met her after my husband introduced himself to her husband.
 
 
That’s when I realized I need to be practice my courage muscle. And I said a brief prayer and made a mental note to pray for that more.
 
 
Since then I have complimented a lady on her sweater when I checked out books at the library. I asked the hygienist about herself today. I started reading Let’s All Be Brave by Annie Downs. Key lesson so far:  Every person and opportunity allows us to prepare for what is next even when we don’t know what it is.
 
 
For me, my biggest challenge is initiating conversations with new people. It’s mostly about self-preservation. I don’t want to get embarrassed or rejected. Some of it is simply not knowing what to say. Or also, feeling so mentally drained from mothering, etc.
 
 
With the first, I need to just get over  myself. So what if someone snubs me. At least I tried. As for not knowing what to say, it’s a matter of being prepared. People love to talk about themselves, so I just need to have a few generic questions up my sleeve, at be prepared to use them. After those questions, I just keep asking more. My husband is a great example of this. And when I feel drained… really, I just need to stretch and access a different part of my brain – the part that craves talking to another adult!
 
 
Of course, there are other ways to be brave. These days it can be ignoring the mess and being present with my children. The mess waits patiently until my kids are ready to play independently. In the past it was going through births, a procedure, and a c-section. It was starting a business. Today it’s actually posting these words, when so many words I’ve written I’ve left unpublished after feeling they weren’t worth sharing.
 
 
I know many people must do much braver things. These are my humble tries. I don’t know all that God has planned for me. I can just do what’s right in front of me. My challenge to myself is to do it, even if I’m scared.

Advent 2017

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Our Advent wreath alternative.

Being two months postpartum is a good time for a new season. I feel like I can think clearly and I’ve been able to find the time to plan accordingly. Life is just getting filled back up to our normal activities, and I feel prepared for a shift in focus.

Spiritually I am ready too. I am actually ready to fast, in my own small way, which will be no sugar and no cheese.  I’m tired of just eating whatever and how ever much I want, which I’ve been doing the whole year now. It’s time for me to take back control of my appetite. I know that even though I feel up to the challenge, it will be hard and frustrating.

I’m also looking planning on reading “The Winter Pascha” by Fr. Thomas Hopko, of blessed memory. It’s also been a while since I’ve read a spiritual book (unless you count the Bible and “Parenting Toward the Kingdom…). I want to add in an akathist a week as well.

For alms, I’m hoping to set up a times to sing at nursing homes. Or rather, I’m hoping my dad will and we can go along. He has the connections, and there’s no way I’m comfortable going without him. Not a strength of mine, for sure. My hope, though, is that over the years, it will be familiar to my children (and me!) and something we do year round, not just at Christmas. But, we’ll start at Christmas.

Another thing I want to do is use more of our gift money for charities. Instead of buying gifts (that I’m not even sure people like or want!), I want to make gifts. Some will still take money, maybe just as much, but others I can use things I have, or will cost less. Along with the homemade gift, I want to give a donation to a charity in honor of that person, even if it’s just $5. We all have so much stuff, and so few needs. Plus, just buying something doesn’t seem to really express my love for someone. I’m going to be helping and encouraging the kids to do the same. I’m really excited about this, but it’s still to be seen how it works out.

I’m trying a new way of planning for Advent. I made a chart for each week, with different categories. Each week I’ll have tasks related to gift making/buying, decorating, and food. I knew I’d have to break up all the tasks for gifts and food, but I also wanted to gradually decorate. I envision the anticipation and festivity building up each week as we add more and more decorations to our home. One example is that one week we will buy our tree and set it up, but only add a string of lights. The next week we’ll add ornaments, the next we’ll make ornaments, etc. Again, we’ll see how it all works out!

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This is only partially filled in! There’s more planning to do. 

This first week, or few days rather, I’ve kept it very simple. We will start Jesse Tree and the readings for our Advent “wreath.” I’m going to keep planning the gifts we’ll make and buy, as well as food for the fasting and the feasting.

With all these thoughts and plans, I’m hoping to create an atmosphere of simplicity, love, and joyful anticipation. I want there to be activities, but not so much that we don’t enjoy them, but rather they point us toward the joy of the birth of Christ our Savior.

blessing the grave

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On Pascha we blessed the graves in the cemetery attached to our church, which includes our baby Elijah’s. Due to various circumstances, I had never done this before. I wasn’t prepared and in my tired, hormone filled state, I simply wanted to weep. It was hard and right, painful and healing, tragic and beautiful.

We went to each grave, singing “Christ is Risen,” the priest blessing it with holy water. If a family member of the person buried was present, the priest (my father) would exchange a greeting with them. If non-Orthodox, “Glory to Jesus Christ”. If Orthodox, Christ is Risen three times, the response being “Indeed He is Risen!” There are few graves in our young cemetery, and there were only two to bless before we got to Elijah’s. My husband and I were both crying before we even got there. My father faced us, with tears in his eyes and said, “Christ is Risen.” As best we could, we sputtered out the response each time. 

Although I always remember him, I don’t often go down that road in my heart. It’s a road with much healing, but one that is still tender and painful if I walk down far enough. On Pascha I was transplanted quickly to the raw part of the road. It’s a place I haven’t been to in quite some time. And yet, as I said, it was right and good and healing. 

Pascha of 2015, not quite a year after we had lost him, I wept also. As soon as the priest proclaimed “Christ is Risen!” I broke down. All I could think was, “Christ is risen, but my baby is still dead.” A weak, worldly thought, I know. My baby is dead, here on earth, yes, but alive in Christ, forever. My blind heart fails to see the reality of this. And the joy. 

Since losing him, I’ve been blessed with another child. Now another is on the way, but I will never feel complete without him in my life. And yet, none of us are complete, until we are truly united to Christ in the life to come. It’s such a reminder to me to seek Christ, not my child. To find my fullness in Him, not another person. To find my joy in the truth of the Resurrection of Christ. 

four

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Daily I struggle in the high calling of being a mother. Rarely I feel I am getting it right. Still, God has chosen to bless us (surprise us!) with another child due late September. I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready. But I accept with a humbled and grateful heart. There is a lot of growing to do on my part, and growth is never easy. But it is always good. 

I cannot say I am disappointed. To get pregnant without trying? I never thought it would happen to me. After plenty of waiting that followed a miscarriage, I’m thankful there wasn’t an issue this time around, at least with the getting pregnant part. I simply mean it was not my timing. I wanted more time to myself first. I wanted to be “ready”. I had a “perfect” plan in my head. 

God has been changing my plans a lot lately. Mostly I’ve been okay with that. I learned a few years ago that I cannot plan out – control, rather – my life. But, my life is in Gods hands which is even better. And the less I struggle against my plans being changed, the transition is easier and I have more peace. 

I have accepted the changes pregnancy has brought with relative ease, but I can’t say it’s been easy. My life of homeschooling, having an older baby, a puppy, and being in the first trimester has busted my abilities to the seams. I simply have not been able to fill all my roles and have had to do my best in the few most, most important roles. 

But I don’t lose faith. I know it’s a season. I’m being stretched; it hurts, but when things ease up (and they will, I know they will!), I will be stronger have more capacity than before, through Christ. I foresee the next couple years of being a time of intense stretching with breaks here and there. But, who knows, I can’t plan or predict my life right? But one thing I do know, whatever life is like, whatever happens, I will always have Christ my Savior to lean on. In the end, that all I really, really, really need. 

“Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.” – Phillips

priorities to realities

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On New Year’s Eve, I left the house at 7:00 am and headed to our one local coffee shop. I spent the next six hours organizing all the ideas that had trickled in as 2016 came to a close. I had lists and lists. I did a massive brain dump, and then slowly organized ideas onto lists until all the lists made sense.

We are only three weeks into the new year, but it feels like forever to me. And indeed, so far the year has not gone how I envisioned. (Imagine that!) For one, getting sick after a trip was not in my plans. (Although, I should have expected it!)

It’s easy to look at my grand plans and feel a little defeated that I haven’t gotten more done. But in reality, for the most part, I have stuck to the priorities I laid out, and that is what is important. Two priorities in particular have been getting ingrained in our every day: keep the home tidy and clean (clean being my current standard, which is not the highest, but realistic) and have more together time. I’ve accomplished that by tweaking our routines and adding some things here and there.

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Morning

I’ve given up trying to start school as quickly as possible, or by a certain time. It’s simply a part of our day now and so it still happens, even if it’s not the first thing. Instead, after breakfast we do what I call “Daily Tasks.” For me this is cleaning up after breakfast, wiping the table, putting away any laundry that hung to dry that night, take care of the chickens, get Ella ready, start laundry, and direct the kids with their morning tasks. For them this is getting dressed, making their bed, tidying their room, emptying the dishwasher, and wiping the bathroom (Mia) and sweeping under the table (Michael). Also, one of them will help prep food for supper while the other plays with (or keeps and eye on) Ella. Sometimes this is putting a crock pot together, sometimes it is just chopping veggies. In a way, I prioritize these things over the school lessons. These are life lessons. They are learning to care for a home and contribute as a member of the family. Once these things are done, we start school.

Afternoon

One thing that was lacking in our days was time for me to be with the kids that wasn’t school. Fun time. I’m a firm believer in having a Quiet Time, but I used to let it linger on and on (at least for me) until I’d finally come out and start supper. This meant they’d eventually be playing together and I’d just keep doing “my thing,” be it Quiet Time or cooking, and we didn’t spend time together. I wasn’t reading anything fun to the kids and I missed that. I realized I just needed to buckle down and stop Quiet Time when the time was up. The hour after Quiet Time is now “Together Time.” The kids put their Legos away, we all have a snack together, and I’ll read. If we have time, we’ll do a craft, play a game, or make art. Most days, it’s just the snack and reading, but it’s leisurely and not rushed.

The hour after Together Time, is EHAP. This stands for Everything Has A Place, and I got it from Mystie Winckler, who is my current mama/homeschool/organizing inspiration. This is when we put the house back together. It’s also a time for vacuuming, as needed, watering the plants (a little every day), folding laundry, gathering the eggs, and general straightening up. The kids actually (usually) enjoy it and are excited about it. After it’s done, it’s time to finish up supper and then Papi’s home.

It feels so good to have these structures in our day. It enables me to make my priorities a reality. I feel our days are more about being a family together and less of me doing the homemaker things, and them just playing all day. Of course, they do play, and I do some of my own things too. But there is much more togetherness, and that is one thing I really want more of this year.

I share all this because maybe there is something important to you, that is not happening in your day to day. Take some time to think about what it is you want to happen, what that would look like in your day (when, how long,etc.), and then what you can do to make it happen. For most of us, we determine how our days go. Be intentional and make that priority a reality!

What is something you would add or have added to your days?

Books We Enjoyed in 2016

Recently Mia, our oldest, said at supper, “I don’t want to grow up.” I immediately asked why, this question both making me sad and glad at the same time. But, I had nothing to worry about because her reply was simply, “I want to read.” I chuckled.

I’m sure to young ones it may appear that adults don’t get to read. I rarely read while they are around because my reading time is while I’m alone, by design. But, I assured her that she would have time to read as an adult, if she really wanted it.

I love knowing what other people are reading or have read, and I’m pretty excited by some of the books I read this year, so I wanted to sharing with you all! These were my favorites this year.

Fiction

  Anne of Green Gables Series

I started this series while I was still pregnant, read some in the hospital, and finished the last few books in the wee hours of the night while nursing my babe. Such a lovely series!

  All the Light We Cannot See

This is a big book and I had to practically binge read it because the library needed it back for the many other people who had requested it! I was disappointed with the ending, but the writing is phenomenal.

  Middlemarch

I have to include this one even though I haven’t finished it yet because I read 700 of the 800 pages (!) in 2016. It was hard to get into, but then hard to forget about. The story line isn’t adventurous, but the characters lives are so intriguingly interwoven. I know there’s a lot of depth I’m not even grasping this time around. It will definitely be a re-read in in the future.

Non-Fiction

  The Opposite of Spoiled

I listened to this on audio. The author takes a practical approach to teaching kids about money.

  The Power of Habit

This was a fascinating read about how our minds work in regards to decisions and habits.

 Better than Before

The author takes you on her personal journey through improving her habits and explains what she discovers along the way. Very interesting and rich, but also easy reading.

 The Lifegiving Home

I used our digital library to listen on audio, then took notes from the ebook, but I want to own a hard copy eventually! I know this book will shape my mothering and homemaking for years to come.

 The Nourishing Homestead

This is another book on my to-buy list as it defined many of my dreams and philosophy about homesteading and has inspired Will and I further in the direction of homesteading.

 Design Mom

This book completely shifted the way I looked at setting up and decorating our home. It is full of practical advice, no matter what your style is – even if you don’t know your style!

Read Aloud

 The Black Star of Kingston

This the prequel to the amazing The Green Ember. Shorter, but fills in a lot of the blanks from its sequel.

 Aesop’s Fables

This is the version I bought for us to read in school. The kids really enjoyed the stories – and it came with a CD to listen to in the car as well!

 Benjamin Franklin

This is another one for school that the kids just loved! Full of Benjamin Franklin’s quips and progresses through his whole life.

 

What was a book you really enjoyed in 2016?