Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Thoughts on Work.

Lately I've been loving my work.*

Wanna know why?

It's because I've been doing it.

Funny thing. The more you do what is required of you, the more satisfied you feel at the end of the day. 

But let me back up.

As the summer has worn on, and really over the last year or so, I've been feeling more and more unmotivated. More and more like I just really didn't want to do anything, let alone the dishes. Or entertaining two preschoolers and a baby...or the laundry, the bathrooms and the floors. In fact, what I really wanted to do was go to the beach. By myself. To lay out and look at a magazine.

Here's the problem with not wanting to do anything. The problem is that I still had an entire day to fill and three kids something with. Something. And at the end of every day, days of not really doing what was required of me, I would feel sort of empty. Not to mention the house. I felt like I was being buried under the sheer magnitude of housework. And nothing ever felt clean. 

Not a good way to end the day. 

So I made some changes and it's been so, so good. I certainly don't have it all figured out. And there are plenty of days that the laundry doesn't get done, or the dishes sit in the sink until dinnertime. But I am making an effort to create habits that will help me run my house effectively. And truly, I've been happier. And I want to be happier. Not just for me, but for my husband and my kids. 

With that being said, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some work-related principles that have been swishing around my head lately.

1. First, let me define what I mean by work. This is my own personal definition, though I'm sure it's not original. When I talk about work, what I mean is the thing that God has given you to do right now. You might be getting paid in dollars for it, you might not. But if it's where you're supposed to be, doing what you're supposed to be doing, then it's your work. 

Morning dishes. I try to do the morning dishes right after breakfast. Every. single. day.

And then I can look at this the rest of the day. Ah....

2. Work gives your life meaning. It's true. I'm kind of hesitant to make this blanket statement because I'm afraid it will be misinterpreted, so let me explain what I mean. First of all, refer to thought #1, above. Work is not necessarily your current job, but rather, it's what God has given you to do right now. It can also be your current job. If God has given you some work to do (and, if you follow Him then I believe He has), then that work will bring meaning to your life. It's why you're here. It's what you're supposed to do. 

3. When you neglect your work, you begin to feel unmotivated. Speaking from personal experience, I know this to be true. Right now, my work is in my home. I'm raising three small children. I'm keeping up with the house. I'm running errands and coming up with learning activities for the kids and teaching them to relate to others in acceptable ways. 

And you know what? It's incredibly easy to neglect all of it. To not clean the bathrooms this week, or to turn on the TV for just a little while, or to ask my husband to pick up a few things from the grocery store on his way home. Because I didn't feel like going.

 And the more I neglect it, the less motivated I feel to start working again later. Truly. It's kind of a vicious cycle, because the less you work, the more of a mess everything gets - and then it becomes this monster of a chore on your back. Which makes you want to get to it even less... and so you turn on the TV for the kids and cruise Pinterest. 

4. On the other hand, when you fulfill your work, you feel fully satisfied at the end of the day. That is the best feeling - sitting down, knowing you've accomplished whatever it was you were supposed to do that day. It's so sweet. And so worth it.

I'm trying to fold it as soon as it comes out of the dryer - doesn't always happen, but it feels good when it does.

5. And then there's Sunday. I totally believe in the value of taking one day a week as a Sabbath. A day where you do no work. My husband and I are still working on this one, but we try to completely unplug on Sunday. I don't do any housework. He doesn't do any of the chores on his list. He doesn't take phone calls for his job. We give ourselves permission to nap. And it's nice. It's so nice. But you know what? When I was in that vicious cycle of neglecting my work during the week it felt kind of wrong to take a rest on Sunday. Rest? I'd been resting all week long. 

In order for the Sabbath day to be what it's supposed to be, you have to work the rest of the week. It doesn't make sense to rest on the Sabbath otherwise. Right?

Here's what I don't want to happen. I don't want you to read this post and suddenly feel overwhelmed that you're not doing enough, that you're falling short in some way. If the dishes didn't get done because you were spending time with your kids, then that's okay. Don't beat yourself up because there are crumbs on the counter (I have dry oatmeal on my kitchen counter right now). This post was written out of my own serious neglect of my work...which is something I am still learning not to do.

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*At the beginning of this post, I told you that I have been loving work. I feel that I need to take a moment to clarify. It doesn't light up my world to scrub the toilet bowl. I hate it. It's gross. But I do love when it's clean. And what I love even more is doing what I'm supposed to be doing throughout the day. That's a fantastic feeling. For real.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

A Little Florida Fishing

I didn't grow up fishing. Taking my own children to the lake to catch a few small fish doesn't bring back any nostalgic memories from my childhood, but I bet it does for my husband. He and his brother love fishing and grew up fishing from the time they could hold a rod and reel. 

It makes me happy to take them to the lake, all of us together. There's something special about passing on a skill from generation to generation. And so, for that reason, we fish. ...and also because my husband loves it. And the kids are beginning to love it, too.

We went to a little lake on the outskirts of town, one that we had never been to before. It was quiet and still, and the fish were biting. And boy, were there a lot of little fish! They were everywhere. 

Still, it was a lesson in patience. It's terribly hard for a 3 and 4 year old to sit still for very long. 

But if you sit still long enough (and if you throw a handful of worms into the water), something happens!


Silas had a good time exploring while his big brother and sister caught some fish.

He crawled down the boardwalk.

Threw pine needles in the water and watched them swirl around.

And tried to grab some lake water out of the bucket.

The older kids caught two small fish each. Perch, I think.

Their expressions were absolutely priceless.

If joy had a face...

And I loved being out there, too. I spent more time looking at the trees than catching fish, though. 

Wild Florida. Truly beautiful.

Sometimes it's the simplest, cheapest activities that keep kids entertained for hours. 

What are you doing to explore your backyard?

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday's Art Smarts: Creating a Still Life Painting

I love the stage that Natalie is in right now. I've talked before about how she is just now able to make recognizable drawings, drawings which actually look like what they're supposed to be. It's so exciting to watch that skill develop and grow, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities as far as art education. 

I've been thinking about helping the kids paint a still life. Is there any better way to help develop that skill? The kids completed a similar project when they tried painting in the style of Monet and it was such a success. So this week, we went for it again.

What surprised me - in a good way - was how well Daniel was able to complete this project. Sometimes I don't think I give him enough art credit, so to speak. I was impressed with his own growing ability to recreate a still life on paper.

With that said, I'd say that this project is appropriate starting at about age 3, or whenever your child is beginning to make recognizable drawings, however simplistic. 


computer to access the internet, or still life paintings at home to look at
still life objects
painting paper
Sharpie marker
watercolors (or whichever paint you prefer) and water
paint brush
sheet and art mat (to protect your work space!)


I started by sitting the kids down to look at several examples of still life paintings. We talked about what "still life" means and observed that most of the paintings were pictures of still objects and that it was all real-life stuff (no fantasy or pretend pictures). We also observed that most of them were pictures of fruit, bowls, vases, and other small objects that would fit on a table. Then we brainstormed other objects that one could include in a still life painting.

Time to try it ourselves! I set up a couple of objects on a table in our reading room. At first, I was going to have both children paint a picture of this plant:

But Natalie really wanted to paint these jars of shells:

 Who am I to stand in the way of artistic inspiration? So they each painted something different.

The drawing part of this process was the most difficult for the children (as I expected).

I guided Natalie with questions like, "Which bottle is the tallest?" "Look how small that bowl is in comparison with the glass bottles." "Is the bowl clear like the bottles?"

And for Daniel, I asked things like, "Which direction are the lines of the leaves going - side to side or up and down?" "Are there a lot of leaves or just a few leaves?" "What about the lines on the pot - which direction are those going?"

As I mentioned above, I was so impressed with how well they did! I really think that since I've been working with them on an art project every week, their skills are growing by leaps and bounds. I'm not sure that - a year ago - Natalie could have done as well as Daniel did today. Not because she's less talented, but because he's had more practice than she had at that age. I guess practice really does make perfect ;)

Here are their finished pencil drawings:

Then I outlined them in Sharpie (older kids could complete this step themselves). I love how Natalie really captured the size and shape of the different containers and that Daniel's is filled with lines, much like the real life objects they were looking at.

Then we broke out the watercolors and went to town.

This is where things became less life-like. I really encouraged them to look at the colors of the objects and use those colors in their paintings. But, let's face it, brown is boring when you're 4 years old. Purple is much more exciting.

So I gave up after a few minutes and just sat back and watched them fill in their pictures.

Here they are, all finished:

Daniel, age 3

Natalie, age 4

All in all, a pretty simple project! 

I'd love to hear from you if you try this yourself - and as always, if you blog about it, send me a link! It's so nice to know that the things we do in this house inspire creativity in another house!

Happy Friday, everyone - have a safe weekend :)

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Five-Door Saga

How does one design a laundry room - top contender for one of the smallest rooms in my home - to include no less than five doors which lead into it? Yes, five. Three of them are full size doors.

It was a design flaw, and lately, it's been bugging me. The five-door saga begins.

There's just no room to turn around in there, let alone do laundry or get to the pantry. I definitely fold everything on the kitchen table. And I'm totally okay with that. But I am not okay with zig-zagging through pointless doors. It was like a maze in there.

And then one night a few months back, I mentioned to my husband how much I hated one of those doors in particular, and without a word he went out the garage and came back with a screwdriver. In 5 minutes that door was gone.

My world was opened. Who knew that you could just remove all those excess doors? Hello!

So, last weekend I was maneuvering around some louvered doors that open up to our pantry and feeling pretty annoyed. We still had four doors leading into that tiny room. I glanced up and down at the mechanism that held those louvered doors in place and decided that they had to go. And I mean, right now. Both of them.

My awesome husband agreed that they were kind of awful and had them down in no time. Yay!

And I was left with this:

Yikes. not attractive.

I decided that we just needed to hide the junk at the bottom and then we'd be golden. 

I went through my fabric scraps box and found a few pieces that I liked. None of them were large enough to cover the entire bottom portion of the pantry though, so I had to piece a few together.

I loved this green striped fabric, so that became the largest piece, right in the middle. Then, in order to make the whole curtain large enough, I decided to frame it out with plain utility fabric. I cut the utility fabric wide enough to add 6 inches to every side. You can see in the picture that since I was working with scraps, I had to piece together even the sides in order to get pieces that were long enough.

 After I had all the pieces cut, I just sewed it all together...

...making sure I pressed each seam flat before sewing on the next piece.

I was going to hem all the sides at the end, but I was ready to throw my machine across the room by then. It had given me a lot of problems. (I think I need to have it serviced, maybe? It's several years old and isn't working as smoothly as it once did. I don't know. I'm completely self-taught, so I don't know how to troubleshoot as much as I should.) So I just hung the curtain up, all unfinished. Maybe I'll finish it at a later date...maybe I won't.

Ah, so much better. It's amazing what a little curtain can hide.

From this:

Would you want to look at a training potty every time you go to open a new jar of mayonnaise? No?

Me neither.

One of the best things about this project as far as I'm concerned is how little time it actually took. I'm all over those projects that can be completed during one nap time. 

Seriously, if you weren't piecing together fabric, the only step is clipping unfinished fabric to the curtain clips (I purchased the clips you see here and the curtain rod from Target). Of course, the more time you put into it, the more polished it'll look in the end, but as a quick fix? You can't beat it. 

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Good Enough

Being a girl is hard. 

I should know. I've been one for 32 years. 

I don't know why, but I have always felt this unspoken pressure to be good enough. To fit in. To be wanted enough to hang out with. Maybe it's normal? 

I don't really know for sure of course, what's going on internally with other girls (well, women. I guess I can call myself a woman, now), but I believe that my insecurities in the girl department are pretty widespread. 

It's a struggle to grow up.

And it starts so early. My heart aches for my little daughter, only 4 years old, and she's already feeling it - that same pressure to be good enough. Sometimes I watch her and her little friends play, and I just want to step in and remind them all to love each other, to value each other. To not be so concerned with whether or not others like you, and instead concern yourself with liking others. 

But I'm afraid that it doesn't work that way. Everybody has to figure it out for themselves. In fact, I'm still figuring it out. 

Oh, how I want to protect her! To keep her from feeling left out, singled out, pushed out. I had such a hard time with all of that growing up...and I don't want to watch Natalie go through the same stuff.

I can't. Quite simply - I can't. 

But you know what I can do? I can teach her two very important things.

1. She is special, and she is loved. It is so important for all of us to know, beyond any doubt, that we are, in fact, good enough

Tell them in a million different ways, speaking whatever love language they hear, that they are good enough. Remind them daily that they are special. Give them every reason to believe that they belong, and that they are wanted, and that they didn't get here by accident - they were meant to be here. 

Then, maybe she'll remember that when the world will try to tell her otherwise. Maybe she'll listen the truth when her heart wants to lie to her.

2.  And then...teach her to pass on that truth. Tell others that they are good enough. As much as I don't want to see her get beat up emotionally, I don't want to watch her do it to others. 

I read a book back when Natalie was a baby called The First 3 Years of Life, by Burton L. White. One of the things he said in that book that has stuck with me ever since is that it's important for us to teach our kids that they are incredibly special...but no more special than anyone else. 

They need to come to terms with the fact that they are not the center of the universe and that they have a responsibility to be careful with others. 

I love that - be careful with others. They can break. And it's really hard to put them back together when they do.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday's Art Smarts: Magazine Strips Collage for Kids

Like Mother, like daughter.

Sometimes I forget just how much our kids want to be like us. And sometimes I get reminded of that when my daughter begged me to help her make a magazine collage - flowers, just like the one I made.

And it feels so good to be a mom in those moments. So I began wondering if there was a way that the kiddos could do this project themselves (because they would not be able to complete it using the steps that I went through...that was tedious and long even for me).

Turns out, there is. We did this project yesterday and it was so quick and simple - and I absolutely love the result! Definitely frame-worthy, I think.


Old magazine
cardstock (or other art paper)
Mod Podge
paint brush (for the Mod Podge)


Prepare for the project by cutting a few of the magazine pages into quarter or 1/2 inch strips. I used several strips leftover from the project I completed last week, and cut up a few other colorful pages for this project to round out our supply.

I started by giving each child a stripe of Mod Podge on their paper and told them to just start pressing on strips of paper.

After they filled up the area of Mod Podge, I brushed on a little more. We continued that way until the entire paper was filled.

Natalie kept her strips pretty vertical, as I instructed.

Daniel's were crazy-town, going here and there and everywhere. At first, I told him to stay vertical, and then I decided that it really didn't matter which way they faced and just followed him around the paper brushing on Mod Podge underneath strips he'd already put down.

Projects are never as orderly with Daniel. ;)

Here are the projects after step 1 was complete. Time to let them dry (it only takes 10 or 15 minutes or so).

Aaaand my favorite part. Really, guys, this next step was so much fun.

As I mentioned above, Natalie wanted flowers. So I got out a scrap piece of paper and drew a few ideas for her. She really liked the tulips, so I asked her if she could draw one herself...turns out, she could! So we flipped over her magazine collage and she drew three very nice tulips.

I added the stem and leaves at the bottom.

Daniel really wanted a moon picture, so we drew a crescent moon and several stars on the back of his magazine collage. I did all of his drawing. 

I also cut out the shapes for them, but while I was cutting, I gave them each some scrap pieces of the collage to practice cutting as well.

Step 2, complete!

Next, placement. 

Unfortunately, I didn't have colored cardstock on hand, and - in Natalie's words - the shapes were a little camouflaged against the white paper. So we ended up gluing some colored art paper scraps (a smaller piece for Daniel's and a larger piece for Natalie's) to the cardstock so that the shapes would show up better. And - bonus - now we have a little art mat!

I brushed on a thin layer of Mod Podge and told the kiddos to arrange their shapes in whatever way pleased them on their final piece of art paper. Then we worked on pressing firmly all around the shapes to get them to stick down. 

Natalie brushed on her final layer of Mod Podge, and I helped with Daniel's.

Three Tulips
Natalie, age 4

Moon and Stars
Daniel. age 3

Final thoughts. I absolutely love the way this project turned out! And I really do want to put them in frames and hang them in their bedrooms. I just think they're so cool looking.

As we worked, however, I realized that the skill level for this project is more elementary age than preschool age. There're just so many steps - brushing, drawing, cutting. If you want your children to complete this project all on their own...wait until they're a bit older to try it. 

We had fun with it, either way, though. And the kids were pretty excited and proud of the end result. Success!

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Let's Go Fly A Kite - An Instagram Essay

 Today the beach was beautiful.

 But I always think it's beautiful.

We headed down right after breakfast.

And played. And played. 

And played.

We brought a kite with us. 

The kids had never flown a kite before.

One, Two, Three, and up!

Hold the string!

Run with it!

Watch it fly!

It's so pretty!

Lovely morning at the beach. Makes me want to do it all over again 


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