You Don’t Have to Do It All

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image credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1302426

You may remember that this past summer, I taught my daughters to sew. Around the same time, I helped my boys learn more about woodworking by doing a few projects. In both cases, I was rather inexperienced myself, but I felt it important to give the kids some experience with different potential hobbies, and some rudimentary skill. The summer before, I taught them to cook, because that is, in my opinion, an essential life skill.

In the case of cooking, my son tolerated and did well with it, and my daughters took off with it. The girls now love cooking and continue to cook often for our family, purely because they enjoy it. The boys have a similar enjoyment of woodworking, and continue to build new creations weekly in the garage.

But the sewing? That’s a different story. My daughters did well with their projects and gained some valuable skills, but they weren’t feeling the love for sewing. One of my daughters in particular seemed bothered by her own lack of enthusiasm for sewing, worried about letting me down.

Of course, she does not have to worry about letting me down. I’m super proud of her. She’s an amazing girl with many skills and passions. If she chooses not to make sewing a regular pastime, that’s okay! I am simply glad that she knows how, she can do it if she needs to, and if she ever decides to take further interest in the future, she can.

But this experience made me think:

How often and how easily we can feel pressured to do it all…

and how unnecessary that is…

and how sad that is…

for us and for our families.

Mom, you don’t have to do it all.

Your life, your passions, your energy, your time, your gifts… you are different than anyone else. The way you spend your time serving your family and serving others will reflect this, as well it should.

Your life is different than mine. You may be in a different season of life, busy with young children and no help, and have less time than me… Or maybe the opposite. Your circumstances may give you more time and energy to expend. You may love to do things that I dislike doing, and you may dislike things I enjoy. Don’t compare your own life to mine. I promise I’m not comparing either!

You don’t have to be the family hairdresser. I cut my family’s hair. I do it because I enjoy cutting hair. I like watching YouTube videos to learn new techniques, and I can imitate those techniques pretty well. In some ways cutting hair is an expression of my enjoyment of art. I have trouble trusting hair salons with my family’s hair, especially my own! For me, cutting hair is enjoyable, and saves my family a lot of money.

I use disposable diapers. I do use cloth swim diapers and training pants, but otherwise we are a disposable diapering family. Maybe cloth diapers are your thing, but they are not for me. I know they are the more ecologically responsible thing to do, and over time, less expensive… I get it, and I admire cloth diapering families, but I don’t feel guilty.

You don’t have to grind your own wheat, or make your own bread. We actually started grinding out own wheat a couple of months ago, and we have lots of reasons why this is a good idea for us. First of all, my daughters love to bake. Seriously, they used to ask me three times a week if they could make cookies, cake or brownies. Not because they wanted sweets, but because they simply love baking. The sweets were getting to be bad for my figure (!) so I taught them to bake bread instead. They now bake six loaves at a time, once a week. A few months ago we added to the nutritional value of the homemade bread by investing in a wheat grinder. Grinding wheat has added very little time to the bread making process, and has been a worthwhile way to add to our family’s nutrition.

But understand this: Five or ten years ago, I thought about buying a wheat grinder, and at that time, it would have been a bad decision. When all my kids were younger, life was kind of chaotic. Hard to believe, right? (Joking!) Life was joyful too, but yes, chaotic at times! If I had started grinding my own wheat back then, I would have done it out of guilt.

You see, I would read how Mrs. A, B and C ground their own wheat and provided wholesome bread for their families, and I felt as though I was a bad, lazy mother for doing less for my own kids. It didn’t occur to me that maybe Mrs. A, B, and C enjoyed grinding wheat and baking bread. My motivations would have been born from guilt and comparisons, not from a genuine desire, need, or calling. I’m glad we waited until now, when we can truly enjoy the labor and fruits of our labor, to add bread making and wheat grinding to our regular homemaking schedule.

Decisions made from guilt or fear are rarely good decisions.

Do the things you enjoy, or provide a great benefit to your family, that you have time for.
Cut your family’s hair. Grind your own wheat. Sew all your family’s clothes. Cloth diaper your babies. Be the family photographer. Scrapbook. Blog. Wash the windows every month. Iron the clothes. Write your own homeschool curriculum. Make your own hand soap, deodorant or sun block. Lead a women’s bible study. Grow all your own organic veggies and herbs. Start a community play group. Go on a missions trip. Teach a co-op class. Run the homeschool newsletter. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Sew baby booties for a crisis pregnancy center.

Do any of those things.

Do several if you like, if you have the time.

But please, please… don’t do them all.

You’ll burn yourself out, and you’ll have little of yourself left to give those who you love. Truly, being there and giving of YOU to your loved ones is so much better than any of the other stuff.

Pick those things you like best… which you have time for. For the rest, you can scale back, outsource, settle for a substitute, or skip all together.

Can’t quite grasp the hair cutting? Go to a hairdresser. If you have a small budget and a big family, try a place like Great Clips, or find a hairdressing mama who will cut your hair in exchange for free babysitting.

Don’t like photography? Try Sears.

Is window washing your biggest burden? Wipe the fingerprints off the messiest windows once a week, and do the outside of the windows once a year… or look for a window washing company that can help if you have the budget.

Hate ironing? Try hanging up the clothes straight out of the washer, and “iron” with your fingers, or look for “no iron” fabrics when you have to shop.

You don’t have to do it all, Mom!

Also…

Your kids don’t have to do it all.

Like you, kids have unique natural bents, and natural weaknesses. Be prayerful and wise in how you handle these.

Case in point: Myself as a kid.

I didn’t play ball.

I sang. I drew. I played piano.

No ball.

In fact, I still shudder to think of middle school gym class. No matter what the game, I couldn’t hit or catch a ball to save my life. The ball was pretty good at hitting me, though! (Ouch!) I remember practicing for hours in the back yard trying to master the art of hitting a volleyball. My gym teacher felt sorry for me and tried in vain to coach me through the process, but I was truly a hopeless case. I was always the last one picked on a team of any kind, and you could not have paid me or threatened me to get me to sign up for a team sport.

If your children have an interest in something, help them pursue it in a big way. Give them ample opportunity to become an expert, especially as they grow older. Their passion could be an indication that God has plans for them in that area.

If your children are uninterested in learning a particular skill that you believe to be essential in life, help them to achieve a moderate level of skill, and be satisfied with that. Don’t try to make them great at something they have no interest in. As much as possible, give them freedom to pursue skills they are passionate about.

Maybe your friend’s ten-year-old is winning contests for their essays and stories, while your teenager still makes capitalization and spelling mistakes sometimes. Maybe it seems your son is allergic to pencils. He’d much rather be reading books about engineering and how things work. Now, you know that writing skills are important in nearly every profession, and you’re wise not to ignore his writing struggles. Teach him to write, to express himself clearly, and to edit his work. Maybe even encourage him to study technical writing. But don’t try to make him the next Tolkien, if he’d rather be studying rocket science. Be happy for the success of your friend’s son, and appreciate your own for his  awesome, analytical intelligence.

Maybe your daughter’s friend has an Etsy store selling her handmade dresses, and yours (like mine) just hasn’t been bitten by the sewing bug. However, she may be a skillful musician, writer, or she may have the sweetest heart for babies. Encourage your girl to be happy for her friend’s creative gifts, and appreciate her own special ability to weave a story, bless others with her music, or make children feel loved.

Maybe your children aren’t interested in academics at all, but they have deep faith, compassionate hearts, and a unique ability to make deep and lasting friendships wherever they go. Teach them to be competent, and help them find books that will inspire interest in the world, by all means! You want them to love learning. I want that for my kids too, and we need to try to light that fire. But appreciate your child’s amazing character, because that is infinitely more important than book smarts.

Avoid comparing your kids to others. Yours have their own unique personalities and giftedness. Celebrate the special people God made your children to be.

No, Mom, your kids don’t have to do everything. And while we’re at it…

Your children don’t “need” to do everything.

Maybe your children want to do everything. They want to play soccer, baseball and basketball. They want to join a community chorus and join the traveling theater group. They want to join the debate team, participate in boy scouts, take gymnastics class, and learn to play the violin.

Looking at all the benefits of these activities, all the gifts they could hone, fun they could have, and friends they could make, the temptation is there to join them all. Those activities are all good things. But, is it really a good thing to do them ALL? What would that do to your family?

The above example is a bit extreme, but it really is easy to fall in the trap of overextending our children to their detriment and that of the family.

Moms, set limits. Your kids don’t need to do everything. There’s no magic formula for how many activities are ideal for everyone. We have our own limits, and yours may be different. That’s okay! Decide how much is truly good for your children, for your family, and choose wisely based upon their needs and interest.

Leave time open for service. Sometimes kids can be so busy with their own pursuits, there is little time left to serve others. Teach your kids to be givers and producers, not merely takers and consumers. A heart for service and love for others will serve your children more than any class or club they ever join.

Teach them to prayerfully prioritize, pick, and choose. Your kids don’t need to do everything.

Finally…

Your husband doesn’t have to do everything.

Comparisons, comparisons… How they hurt us, and our children! But they can also hurt our relationships with our husbands!

Maybe your friend’s husband teaches math and science to the kids, but you do all the homeschooling yourself. Someone else’s husband helps with cleaning and laundry, while yours leaves his socks on the floor. Someone else’s husband is an amazing handyman, while yours has trouble keeping the grass cut. Someone else’s husband frequently brings her flowers for no reason, while yours forgets your birthday.

Someone else’s husband teaches a Sunday school class… Someone else’s husband coaches the kids’ soccer team… Someone else’s husband takes the kids on weekly dates and reads to them every night…

Someone else’s husband is super funny, or super romantic, or super intelligent, or super handy, or super creative, or super something you wish yours was.

But you know, your husband is probably some kind of super!

Maybe your guy is the one who doesn’t cut the grass… because he’s working long hours every week to provide for your family.

Maybe he’s the guy who doesn’t help with the homeschooling or laundry… because he’s busy cutting the grass or coaching soccer.

Maybe he’s the guy who doesn’t remember birthdays, but he does read the bible to the kids every night.

Maybe he’s the guy who forgets to pick up his socks, but he’s the most kind-hearted, patient man you ever met in your life.

Ladies, don’t compare your husband to someone else’s husband. Appreciate him for who he is, and give him grace.

Give your kids grace too.

And while you’re at it, give yourself grace.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)



Circle Time

imageA new addition to our homeschool schedule this year is a delightful idea I read at Preschoolers and Peace, called “Circle Time.” I have implemented similar ideas in the past (this one from 2009, for example) to get some quality time in with my little ones and fill up their attention tank before moving on to the academics with the big kids. The name and structure of “Circle Time,” though, are new.

I need to take a moment to say something completely off-topic. As I looked through that link from 2009, I realized just how little my older kids were then! And I’m feeling a little sad at realizing that they are not little anymore. And thankful that they are becoming wonderful young adults. And equally thankful that I am blessed with a new supply of little ones to care for and share life with. And sad at thinking how big they’ll all be in five years…

Sigh.

(This is how my nutty, sentimental mind works.)

But back to circle time.

In a nutshell, circle time is an hour that I spend with all the youngest children for reading, singing, and learning. Just after our short family meeting and prayer time, the older kids go off to do their thing, and I keep the younger ones (4th grade and younger) for Circle Time.

The first half hour or so (we are time-flexible when we can) is really more for the 1st grade and younger set, but my 2nd and 4th graders stay and help by holding babies on laps, assist me in leading the little ones. Circle Time has been a little different each day, but so far the structure has been something like this…

  • We read a page from A Child’s Book of Character Building. I started with what I believe to be the three most important character qualities for toddlers and preschoolers: Attentiveness, Obedience, and Self-Control. (Self-Control is actually in book 2, which Amazon currently does not have at a reasonable price, so no link.)
  • We sing a few songs such as Jesus Loves Me and the Alphabet Song.
  • We read a book from our Five in a Row basket, look at the pictures and talk about the book. The basket includes a large number of wonderful books we’ve accumulated over the years from the Five in a Row book lists. While the basket does include other favorite children’s books, but it still gets its name from the beloved children’s curriculum. I no longer use Five in a Row guides, but years ago they had a great influence on teaching me how to maximize the learning opportunities from children’s books.
  • We learn a memory verse, or we may memorize something else such as the days of the week or our home phone number.
  • We do something active: stretch or exercise, or play a game like “Simon Says” or “Duck Duck Goose.”
  • We read a chapter from a children’s bible. Currently we are using the Catherine Vos Children’s Bible, but actually, our favorite for young children is the Jesus Storybook Bible.

Not necessarily in that order.

The second half hour is for group learning, geared specifically for the 1st through 4th graders, but we keep the little ones around for it. Primarily, we use this time for Science or Writing, each having it’s focused time on specific days of the week. On science days, I read one or two Let’s Read and Find Out science books, and/or do an experiment from our Home Science Adventures kit (Astronomy, Birds and Magnetism). Both the books and experiments are fun and engaging even for the youngest children. On writing instruction days, we are using Here to Help Learning. The writing lessons are not at all directed toward the preschoolers, although the videos are entertaining. However, we keep the littles around. The preschoolers sit nearby and play with quiet toys, and the baby is typically on my hip.

Circle Time is truly a blessing to our whole family. The older kids can work independently without any loud distractions for an hour, I get quality relational time with my younger kids, and they all get to have some fun group learning time on their own levels. Win/Win! I highly recommend implementing a circle time in your own homeschool. Your circle time may look very different from mine, but I can almost promise that this little addition will provide benefits for you as well!

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August

The last month of our summer vacation was lovely. The highlight for us was visiting with some friends who we had not seen for a while. One of the families has lived in Texas (not near us) for almost two years, and the other family flew in from our old home town for a vacation. Seeing all of them together was too great a chance to miss out on, so we drove out for a day of fun. We met for lunch, and then went to a nearby park for a few hours. The kids had a great time playing together, and the adults had a great time catching up. We’ve missed everyone so much, and this visit was wonderful!

friends

thank God for good friends!

Between all three families, there are seventeen children! And you know, they were all so delightful. I think a number like seventeen could strike fear into the hearts of many people, but it wasn’t at all the way lots of folks might imagine. These kids aren’t just numbers. They are sweet and precious children, and they all played beautifully together.

Children

we love every single one of these young blessings!

In case you are counting, there are only fifteen in the photo. Two little ones had gone home for naps. :)

A few more pictures of our day…

guys

two of the men

gals

the ladies

We celebrated two birthdays this month!

The young man with the Lego cake was very happy to turn seven.

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Happy Birthday to Conductor!

His daddy, on the other hand, wasn’t too happy to turn… not seven.

birthdaydad

happy birthday to Daddy! or not…

Since we decided not to go away on a vacation this year, my husband took three days off work and so we could have some local family fun.

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getting ready for a swim

We swam every day.

I’m continually amazed at how far the children have come in their swimming skills. When we moved into our house less than three months ago, we had only four strong swimmers. Now, we have six! Strawberry and Conductor no longer need the help of flotation devices at all.

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vest-free boy on the left

swim

super swimming girl

Although the two youngest boys still need to wear vests, they have become much more brave and skillful in the water.

Our baby girl, however, believes she is a fish!

swimminggirl

our fish

Seriously. This baby wants so much to be independent in the water. She hates the restraint of parental arms holding her back. She’s been fighting for freedom almost since her first swim! A few weeks ago, we invested in a Puddle Jumper, with the hopes that it would allow us to give her a little more freedom of movement. It is a little big for her, as it is made for children at least 30 pounds, but it does the job pretty well. She can stay afloat, mostly with her face above water, but we keep our eyes constantly on her and our arms ready to grab her at any second. Although we are still very cautious with her in water, she is so pleased with her newfound feeling of independence. Wearing her puddle jumper, she kicks, swims, and gets around really well… all under Mommy or Daddy’s watchful eye and ready hands!

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little miss independence

The bad news for August was a head injury for Happy. The guys were tearing down a wall in the play room, and a two-by-four fell on our young man’s head. No concussion, but the crown of his head was cut pretty badly. Lots of blood… boy oh boy, do heads ever bleed! We took him to the ER, and he was a tough guy. Three staples, and he didn’t flinch. The staples were removed after a week, and his head is healing perfectly.

happy

feeling better

Also in August, we:

  • took a ride on a homemade train…
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creativity with boxes

  • did some cooking…
waiting

what’s that about a watched pot? or a watched baking sheet?

  • played with Conductor’s super-cool helicopter that he got for his birthday…
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look up!

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Looking ahead…

We also started school in the very last week of August, but that will be a post for another time. We are excited to see what September, and our school year, will hold!



Weekend Links

Dear Stressed Out Mama: Words For Your Life

You don’t have to iron so much, or hardly at all. If you hang clothes up out of the dryer (or off the line) most are not too wrinkled to wear. There are the occasional pieces that will need ironed for church or other nice events, but for most things, non-ironed clothes will suffice, especially for young children. Cherish a neat appearance without obsessing about perfection. And really, ironing is just an example of all the ways we feel pressured to be perfect. Give your best, but know that your best will vary in different seasons of life. If your best, with a house full of little people, is getting them out the door with matching shoes (or shoes at all), exhale and accept it. In a different season, your best may look…better.

Read more here.

Fundamentally Afraid

Parents, are your children cowered into becoming frightened poster-boys of your ideology? Know this: fear eventually wears off. And when it does, they will search for sure footing and find none. They’ll wish you had been honest, upfront and gracious about truth, instead of focusing so much on fear.

Read more here.

When You Want to Know How to Get It All Done

How do I teach each child their lessons AND cook 3 nutritious meals a day AND nurse the baby AND keep everyone in clean clothes AND keep the dust bunnies at bay, all on very little sleep?! Did I mention that right now I’m only teaching 3 out of my 6 and we are focusing just on phonics and math?

Read more here.

Ladies Still Exist

There are many virtuous women left in this dark world, candles burning brightly, fighting their own quiet “culture war” by making their homes havens, appreciating and cultivating beauty, and being chaste, loyal, and others-centered.

Read more here.

Lead Like a Boss, Dad

A Canadian ad agency has just broken every politically correct rule of TV fatherhood. General Mills Canada hired the Toronto firm to pitch a product that’s “awesome and responsible”: Peanut Butter Cheerios. The commercial’s Creative Director Josh Stein did something truly creative. He associated the two words with fatherhood. The result: a two minute tour of family life narrated by a young middle class dad who isn’t dopey, clueless, cowardly, or detached from reality. And get this: he comes with a wife and children who respond to him in the home with affection and respect.

Read more here.

How to Study the World

Everyone loves a good story, and history is just that; a continuous string of narratives of human beings and their trials and triumphs. Studying these stories as simply events and dates is like stripping a scrumptious chicken of its flesh and leaving only the bones–nothing much left in the way of soul-nourishing food.

It is the storytellers that bring history alive to us, that make it accessible, that bring us into contact with places, ideas, and experiences that can become as fresh in our minds as in the days they occurred.

Read more here.

Reading in the House of Busirane 

(Reading advice for girls)

When it comes to unrealistic expectations about men, it can be very healthy for a girl to read plenty of books by men, especially if she doesn’t have brothers to relate to. Books by women tend to cater to feminine weaknesses, and reading books by men is a fantastic way for a girl to see the world through another point of view. I can never help comparing two pot-boiler swashbucklers on this point. In Mary Johnston’s fun To Have and To Hold, the life of the hero revolves around the heroine. But in Anthony Hope’s exciting The Prisoner of Zenda, the hero remarks at one fraught moment that he was not thinking of the heroine, but of how much he’d like to smoke a pipe. Because I had read The Prisoner of Zenda and other books by men, I knew that To Have and To Hold was being a little unrealistic on this point.

Read more here.

Which Jane Austen Character Are You, Really?

Just for fun… Did you ever take one of those Jane Austen quizzes? Let me guess… you were Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse, or Elinor Dashwood, right? This quiz is quite different from any of the others. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, this will make you smile!

Take the quiz here.



New Flexi Clips on Sale!

Heads up, ladies! Lilla Rose is having a three-day sale on certain flexi clips and other hair accessories, beginning today! Several new styles, shown below, are 10% off! Additionally, some retiring styles (not shown below) are on sale for 20% off. Check them out!

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FYI, the sale will not apply to backorders, so if you find something you love, don’t wait!

For more information about Lilla Rose and why you need a flexi clip (or if you’re like me, a dozen flexi clips!) click here to read the review I wrote upon discovering them three years ago. I loved them so much I signed up to be a consultant. I confess I did this mainly so that I could buy them at a discount for my daughters and myself!

If you have fallen in love with flexi clips and are interested in feeding your addiction, or if you’d like to make some extra money, consider becoming a Lilla Rose consultant! If you are interested, you can learn more here.

Visit Lilla Rose here!