The UN-crafty Mom

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My idea of craft time = free play with glitter glue. Yikes!

A mom like me can start to feel pretty inadequate if she spends much time at all browsing homeschool mom blogs. Crafty moms are flooding Pinterest with their latest creations for little ones’ birthday parties and posting tutorials on how to make butterflies and rainbows out of toilet paper rolls, pipe cleaners, and glitter. Lovely as they are, I am learning to be okay with the reality that I am not that mom. My kids’ birthday parties are decorated with Dollar Tree streamers and pink plates with a few balloons scattered around. And the one Christmas ‘craft’ I did with the girls was decorating sugar cookies.

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I have a degree in Elementary Education. Fortunately my first job was teaching fifth grade so I didn’t feel too much pressure to be overly crafty, but I definitely had the lamest bulletin boards around. Some teachers get all giddy when it’s time to design and decorate their classroom. Me, not so much. I strongly disliked that part of teaching. Even as a student in school I was much happier to do a worksheet, read a book, write a paper, or work on a group project than if I had to cut and paste anything. Blech.

Fast forward to my life as a mother now. I have three little girls. Perfect little subjects for oodles of crafts, right? So, we’ve got the play-doh, stickers, felt, beads, glitter, construction paper, pipe cleaners, and paints. Heck, I even have a glue gun. Our daily routine rarely involves the use of any of the aforementioned supplies. Once in a while I get a burst of inspiration and we might attempt a craft of sorts, but it’s not the norm. And that’s okay.

Sometimes when I start to compare myself to the crafty moms I see all over the blogosphere, the Lord will remind me that he made me unique. I should not hold myself up to another mom for comparison. Inspiration, perhaps, but not as a measuring stick. I may not be artsy, but I love to get my hands dirty in the garden. I enjoy cooking. I love to read and learn and ask questions and solve problems and talk about life and politics and science and God and history and food and sports. Now, whenever I start to worry that my girls are missing out on something by not having craft time every day, I just look at all the things I CAN  teach them. And I have a feeling that if I am teaching out of a passion inside me then they will learn far more than if I am trying to be someone I’m not.

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My oldest two girls have both learned the alphabet by 18 months and all the letter sounds well before age two, so do I really need to do a letter of the week activity every day with noodles or shaving cream in a ziploc bag? My oldest started reading short words at 3.5 years old and can write many words completely on her own. Clearly God has enabled her to learn even *despite* my lack of craftiness. When he made me the mother of our girls, he knew what he was doing. My strengths are what they are for a reason, and the same is true for my weaknesses.

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If you are a crafty mom, bless your heart. 🙂 Your children will benefit from that. After all, God made you the mother of the child(ren) you have for a reason! Your talents, quirks, temperaments, and passions are all a part of the beauty of God’s plan for your family. But if you are like me, a bit deficient in the craft department, don’t look at someone else’s gifts with envy and fail to see the *gifts* that lie within you and can be used to bless others, especially your children! After all, parents have been their children’s main educators for thousands of years – and they did it without Pinterest, blogs, JoAnn Fabrics, or Hobby Lobby. You can too.
-Brit
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Conquering the Beast (a.k.a. disastrously messy van!)

Okay, I will give all of you neat-freaks (or just ordinary people) fair warning. What you are about to see may be appalling to you. Personally, I don’t enjoy our van being this messy…but I can be known to put up with it for a wee bit too long. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am sort of a messy person. You couldn’t tell that by the picture below, right? Believe it or not, I have come a long way in the neatness/organization department. Clearly, I have a ways to go yet.

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You see, with a 3.5 year old, 2 year old, and 6 month old, every time we come in the house I have to unbuckle two big girl car seats, carry the baby in her car seat while managing to keep kids headed in the general direction of the front door and dig for the house key that I put in my pocket (yes the one that I can’t reach since it’s on the side I’m holding the car seat). That leaves me without any free arms to carry in junk that accumulates in the van. You know, extra gloves and hats, dirty diapers that were changed in the van, and all the remnants of my coupon cutting that took place while sitting in the grocery store parking lot. Oh, and can’t forget the coffee cups and apple cores that remain from my breakfast on the go. You mamas know the feeling of making meals for everyone else (and dressing them, changing, diapers, packing bags, brushing teeth…)then realizing you have no time to eat your own food before you need to leave for church, right?

Oh, and there’s the whole “I don’t want to make an extra trip back out to the van to bring junk in because I live in the Midwest and it’s probably 20 degrees out with 25 mph winds and maybe ice on the ground, and I just cannot afford a broken tail bone right now, so I’ll just let the junk pile up until I get too sick of it, then I’ll go to the car vacuum place and clean it all out at once” thought. And sometimes, I am finally prompted to clean out the van because I can NOT find a single pair of matching mittens for the girls, or my debit card is missing and surely it’s in there somewhere, and we are running out of clean drinking glasses because half of them are in the car. So, here’s the equation.

I get really fed up with gross van + can’t find anything among the rubble + there is a random warm February day + my parents take the older two girls on a mini-vacation on President’s Day=a trip to car vacuum place and a clean(er) van!

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and little Karis came along for the ride!
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Unfortunately, I didn’t get the trunk swept out because this cute thing was getting fussy and the sweeper ran out of time and that would’ve been $.75 more to go with my crying baby, so I decided to quit for the day. I do feel much better now. And I’ll probably text my husband to tell him to look in the van before he comes inside when he gets home from work. I am kind of proud of myself. 🙂

Do you have any dirty secrets? I mean the kind where there is actual dirt and trash, and you’d be a bit embarrassed to let others in on it?

-Brit

When the Hard Choice is the Better Choice

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My last post, “Sometimes Easier is Harder,” centered on the idea that often when we take the path of least resistance we end up having to endure more difficulty in the end. Taking a shortcut and doing the convenient thing is not always the best way or the right way.

Today I want toss around some ideas about choosing the hard thing in order to make life easier and/or better in the end. In God’s upside down economy (no actually His is right side up and the ways of the world are upside down…but you catch my drift), trials are good. Hard things are good. Challenges are good.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Some hard things in life may be absolutely unavoidable: a health problem that is out of your control, a decision made by someone else that directly affects you, or enduring a natural disaster that results in loss of life or home. These are indeed trials, but have nothing to do with your choosing them. That is for another post.

Sometimes we are faced with choices that are entirely within our control. And often times doing the hard thing first will lead to a better or easier outcome.

  1. Like choosing to spend more time in the kitchen on food preparation in order to be healthier and/or be a better steward of your money.
  2. Like teaching, training, and disciplining your toddlers so you can enjoy peace in your home and share a close, loving relationship with them instead of spending all your energy trying to ‘control’ them in their tween and teen years.
  3. Like doing the dishes (or training your kids to!) right after dinner instead of plopping down in front of the TV or computer so you can start your morning with a clean kitchen.
  4. Like being the first one to say you’re sorry after an argument with your husband so you can reconcile quickly and enjoy each other instead of carrying resentment around for hours or days.
  5. Like holding your tongue when it would be so easy to gossip which allows  you to have a clear conscience and peaceful relationships with others in the long run.
  6. Like downsizing and simplifying so you can be more available to your children and other ministry opportunities rather than spending so much time taking care of your ‘stuff’ and working more so you can pay for all of it.
  7. Like running the first mile when you’d rather be sleeping so you can be in better physical shape which will allow you to enjoy life and help others more.
  8. Like saying “no” to a good opportunity so that you can say “YES” to the one God has called you to.
  9. Like saying “yes” to a speaking engagement (even though it scares you to death) so you can bless others and glorify God through your message.
  10. Like canceling your cable service so you can build a well for a community in a country you’ve never been to for people you’ve never met.

…because really, when you look at the end results, the hard thing doesn’t seem so hard after all. It just seems worth it.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

And for the sake of clarification, the list above is simply a starting point to get us thinking- not a black and white standard that will fit everyone’s circumstances. Some of your “choices” will no doubt be different than others’ because God has made us all unique and called us to different things. So no, I am not saying you are doing the wrong thing if you ever choose to skip doing the dishes right after dinner. You might be a clean-freak who actually should make the ‘hard’ choice to play with your kids instead of doing the dishes first. Just in case you were wondering. And also, (#7) it has been years since I ran a mile. And I don’t feel too guilty about it. But if it resonates with you, go run a mile. 🙂

-Brit

Sometimes Easier is Harder

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  1. Like having smart phones that supposedly save you money and time, yet cost hundreds each month, steal hours from your day, and give you less real face time with your family.
  2. Like having a television that will mesmerize your children so you can have a break, but having to re-train them for attentiveness and respect and appreciation for true art and beauty that the TV stole from them.
  3. Like blog hopping instead of doing the dishes, but then you end up with a mountain of dishes and no plates to use for dinner and you’re crabby because your kitchen is a mess.
  4. Like buying the big house with the custom cabinets and walk in closets, but then you have children and wish you could stay home to see them grow up but you can’t afford to.
  5. Like financing the new car because it tells the world you’ve arrived, but then you’re fighting with your husband about where all the money’s going and why can’t we just keep up with the Joneses?
  6. Like pushing “send” on a text or email with words you would never say face-to-face, then wishing you could find the “un-send” button.
  7. Like indulging in the extra (dozen) cookies, then stressing about why you just can’t shed those last 10 pounds.
  8. Like staying up late because you’re a “night owl,” but in the morning you pull the covers over your head and feel defeated before the day’s even begun.
  9. Like not taming your tongue and getting in the easy criticism, then having to repent and reconcile what should have never been broken in the first place.
  10. Like dismissing the possibility of adopting an orphan or supporting a missionary, then wondering why you can’t seem to find a useful purpose in God’s work on earth.

A few of these I’ve managed to avoid doing, but most of them I’ve learned (am learning) the hard way. Because sometimes taking the easy road in the beginning turns out to be the hard road in the end. But, praise God, he is full of mercy and grace to hold us on this journey.

-Brit

Laughing with My Girls

Sometimes I really need some ‘silly’ knocked into me. I like to think I have a good sense of humor, but truth be told, most people who know me would classify me as a typically “serious” person. Serious can be good – after all, this being a wife and mommy thing is serious business. But silly can be good too. Seriously good.

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 Tonight I got down on the floor and acted silly with Halle for the first time in too long. I laughed so hard!

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As I watched her squeal and giggle in classic 3 year-old girl fashion, I felt sorry for all the times I’ve missed this same opportunity. Too many times I’ve said “no” to laughing with my girls because I had something more less important to do.

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Lately, we’ve noticed Halle being in a very disagreeable mood more frequently. I think I found out the root cause of that tonight. She needs to see more joy in her mama.

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Oh, I absolutely do feel joy inside – every day, but regrettably I’m not communicating that to my girls in a language they can understand. My little girls don’t need to hear me talk more about being thankful and full of joy, they need to see me laugh. That is the language of joy to a 3 year old.

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  Monkey see, monkey do, right? Okay, or in human terms, more is caught than taught.

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I’m praying for the Lord to remind me every day, all day that these girls need a joyful mama and home filled with laughter. This is not a burden, but a lovely gift. What better job could I ask for?

What things do you do with your kids that gets everyone belly-laughing? Aren’t these the memories we want to be making?

-Brit

A Time for Everything :: Part 2 :: A Homesteading Dream

This series, “A Time for Everything,” will focus on the changes happening in my life, how the Lord has prepared me, and is continuing to do so, and what I’m learning about Ecclesiastes 3. If you missed Part 1, read it here.

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the log cabin I grew up in (recently painted white)

I grew up in the woods. My parents dreamed of a log cabin in the woods, and before they were 30 they made that dream a reality. They built our home on 9 acres of land with the help of family and friends, and a little bit of hired help to make sure it was strong and square and up to code. I turned four the summer they built it. That place – those woods – defined my childhood. My dad split all our firewood for the stove, and my brother (3 years older than me) and I would help load it into little wagon hooked up to back of the riding lawn mower and stack it in the garage. My brother and I played baseball in the yard (I may or may not have insisted on always being the batter and never the pitcher), we built ‘forts’ in the woods, enjoyed hotdogs over campfires, heard owls hooting, coyotes howling, and saw deer gracefully bound over the fence across the road.

I’d like to say I enjoyed all the work that comes with country living, but I suppose I should tell the truth. I often tried every possible tactic to get out of chores, to no avail usually. I enjoyed the quiet of our little refuge in the woods, but sometimes I resented being a 20 minute drive from my friends’ houses in town. I did love our home, but didn’t fully appreciate the gift that it was to live between the trees, where the sound of a truck kicking up gravel was a familiar but not frequent sound, where the songs of birds were carried into my bedroom on a breeze through the open window, where we looked forward to wading in creeks and hunting (morel) mushrooms, where our Beagle, “Opie,” could run free and howl at the moon without a complaint from a disgruntled neighbor, where I could know a little bit more about God because I could step out the back door and see the beauty of His Creation everywhere.

OUR DREAM

I left for college nearly 11 years ago, only living at home during the summer for the next four years. I moved away entirely the summer I turned 22 for a job in the big city. Josh and I were married the following summer, and we stayed in the city a year more. I have always known the city is not my home. Too much busy, too much noise, too much commercialism. Not enough peace, trees, clean air, or space. The next two years were spent living with my uncle, who graciously gave us a place to stay so we could move back home, in his beautiful house in the woods. But it wasn’t our home, so after Halle was born and Josh got a new job, we felt the Lord’s blessing to buy our own place. We looked at many houses, but we both knew when we found the one we were supposed to buy. We knew it was God’s hand leading us because how else could we look past the cigarette smoke stained walls and decades old carpet and wallpaper and did I mention the cigarette smoke smell that permeated everything? We got the house for way less than asking price, got a tax credit to help with the renovation, and had the wonderful help of family and friends to whip this place into shape. We have truly loved being here. It was perfect for this time in our lives.

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Slowly but surely, though, that dream of a home in the woods has been slipping into our hearts and minds. With three growing girls – and possibly more children someday – we long for a place where they, too, can experience all the joys of a quiet place to rest, a vibrant place to explore, a space budding with possibilities of a garden, an orchard, and maybe some chickens even. I’m getting a head start on homesteading practices now through learning many new techniques of food preparation for Josh’s new diet, and we’ve had a garden for the last four years.

For us as a homeschooling family, country living is ideal for learning and growing together as a family and a wonderful place to prepare our girls to wives, mothers, homemakers, gardeners, caretakers of the land and home. The details of how this might happen aren’t all clear yet, but possibilities are coming into view. I feel like we are in a pretty balanced place right now – very grateful and content in our current home but feeling the pull in a new direction. This is very much a matter of prayer and thoughtful consideration for us. I am certain the Lord will guide us now as He always has.

Have you made a significant move or lifestyle change? Was it a welcome change or a time of uncertainty? Was it by choice or by necessity? Do you have a dream that the Lord is asking you to put on hold? Or a dream that He is leading you through now? I’d love to hear about it!

-Brit

A Time for Everything :: part 1 :: New Diet

This series, “A Time for Everything,” will focus on the changes happening in my life, how the Lord has prepared me, and is continuing to do so, and what I’m learning about Ecclesiastes 3.

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There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Sometimes it feels as though you are just sailing along peacefully in life, feeling perfectly content with where you are and what is happening in your family, work, home, marriage, and health. Now, the likelihood of all those areas in your life moving along without interruption all at the same time is not great. But we have probably all experienced seasons of rest in our lives where not much change is taking place (nor required).

We have been in this stage for the last 2.5 years or so. Granted, I gave birth twice in that time and there has certainly been a great deal of change in the dynamic or our household because of that. But those were expected changes. Challenging, but wanted and cherished changes.

In January of 2010, we bought our first home – a real  fixer-upper. It took us (and by us, I mean my husband and lots of help from family and friends with a little help from me, being that I was pregnant during this whole renovation) five months to make it livable for us, and moved in the evening of July 4. We’ve enjoyed this season of making this house our home, learning how to parent these girls (this one is ongoing, of course), soaking up the fleeting moments of these days with little ones (also plenty of times of frustration, how-in-the-world-am-i-supposed-to-do-this moments, exhaustion, impatience, and the like). We have both been sensing that the winds of change are blowing our direction though. Part one of this “A Time for Everything” series will focus on the major diet change in our home starting TODAY!

NEW DIET = NEW GROCERY SHOPPING/FOOD PREP PLAN

I know that little by little, God has been working on me (and my husband) in preparation for what lies ahead. On Monday, Josh will be starting the GAPS diet in hopes to heal ulcerative colitis, which he was diagnosed with this past August. The most basic summary of the diet is that it’s grain-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free (in the beginning), and soy-free. I won’t get into all the details and stages, but suffice it to say that it is a major change that will require a great deal of learning on my part as the primary cook of the house, and his part, as he will be taking on a bigger role in that regard since the food preparation that is required will likely be more than I can handle by myself while taking care of three little ones as well.

The GAPS diet requires eliminating all toxins that enter the body, so our grocery budget will need to expanded significantly to allow us to purchase all organic produce and meats without additives/hormones/antibiotics. I have always been frugal, but took it to another level when I started couponing a year and a half ago. I have spent a lot of time and energy into saving money on our grocery budget, so I felt a bit defeated when learning that all my efforts would seem to be for naught now that we aren’t able to eat anything that I can find coupons for! However, I soon realized that all of the other money-saving techniques I’ve learned (buying in bulk, advance food prep/freezing in bulk, learning to find and compare the best price/oz or lb) would indeed be very valuable to us now. God has been so graciously teaching us and making a way for us before we even knew that we would need it.

NEW JOB

Being the wonderful provider that He is, the Lord had already taken it upon Himself to make a way for us to afford this increase in food budget. After being at the same company for the last 3.5 years (seeing countless others laid off in the departments around him and seemingly no hope for a promotion), Josh learned of an unexpected opening in his department that would result in a fairly substantial pay raise. He applied for the position, and was encouraged by nearly all of his co-workers that he was the obvious choice for the job — and he got it! We have just been so thankful for the Lord’s *perfect* timing in this.

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

One thing that is really helping us face this adjustment is the fact that we have prepared ourselves for this learning curve. I have admitted that it’s likely we’ll have some less-than-delicious meals as I try out new recipes every single day, and Josh has graciously assured me that we’ll work together and do the best we can – and just learn as we go. Of course I want him to like every meal I make, but by pretty much starting from scratch building a repertoire of “GAPS legal” recipes, there are bound to be some flops…especially when sugar (other than natural fruit and raw honey) is not allowed! We are okay with that.

I am also anticipating multiple runs to the grocery store for a while until we get used to this diet. It’s hard to know exactly how much we’ll need of any certain food – even if I plan ahead – I know there will be missteps and forgotten ingredients or spoiled produce from time to time. For the past year and a half, I have typically gone to the store once a week or less. But I know I can’t realistically expect that in this season. Once we get a good system down for meal planning and know what recipes we like, we can probably get back to once-a-week shopping.

I’ve also prepared myself for the additional time I will need to spend preparing food each day. On an average day I probably spend an hour or less in the kitchen. It’s likely I’ll be in the kitchen closer to two hours per day for a while until I learn more efficient methods for everything. We’ll have to make practically ALL our food from scratch – no bottled condiments, canned foods, store bought yogurt, cereals, lunch meat, etc. This will take time. I really enjoy cooking, but the challenge for me will be managing the girls during the day and balancing my time with them when I also need to be in the kitchen frequently. I do look forward to the day when they are all old enough to cook with me!

All-in-all, I am ready for this challenge – thankful for God’s provision thus far, and hopeful that Josh will find healing as we enter this new season of life.

-Brit