What a day!

I think I first knew I was in trouble today, when my son woke from his nap at 1PM and I found myself counting the hours until bed time -- for all of us!  

Overall things have gone well -- ok, the baby screaming the whole time we went through the grocery store was a bit much -- yet, I am very thankful that the day is done and we are all in bed or on our way.  

As Lucy Montgomery said in her book, Anne of Green Gables; " . . . tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it . . ."

Merry Christmas

This Christmas, I wanted to wish you each a wonderful day!  
May laughter fill your home and may the day be full of treasured memories.

 1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
 8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke 2:1-20

My Breakfast Table

I am not sure why I felt compelled to take a picture before I sat down to breakfast yesterday morning.  As I review the picture there is even a story or stories to tell here. 

The cereal is my attempt to eat a bit healthier and easier.  Making a breakfast each morning, is just a lot of work.  On days, when I am not up before everyone else, as today was, I get my husband and girls out the door to work and school and then eat my breakfast.  This morning, the baby slept until everyone was gone, so he joined me.  The yogurt and apple help the cereal to last until lunch.  For whatever reason, I am always hungry in an hour or two when all I have is cereal.   Just peeking out from the behind the baby cereal box, you can see my "extra" treat.  Turkey bacon.   I just got it yesterday.  It is less expensive then regular bacon, and since we are watching our food budget, I thought I would give it a try.  (Side note:  it tastes OK.  Not the same as pork bacon, obviously, but an OK substitute.  It actually might help keep us from eating too much bacon, since it is not as yummy as the "real" stuff.)
I have my planner and Bible there for my daily reading and review of the coming day.  By the way, it took me until after lunch to complete those.  (The writing thoughts bouncing in my head combined with the baby who just did not want to play alone, kept from finishing that.)
I realized later as I ate that my tea was not at the table and hence not in the picture.  I am an avid warm fluid drinker.   Tea or coffee, not that picky most days.  Except, the coffee must have a good dose of creamer in it.  This morning, since we were almost out of creamer (and that is an extra in our food budget), I saved it for later when I could savor the cup of coffee a bit more.  

That is all of the snapshot of my breakfast yesterday.  The baby went down for his nap, and I went on with finishing my reading and day's preview.  Then showering and getting dressed (yes, I was still in my PJ's - see my comment earlier about not getting up before the kids), finding my kitchen under the dirty dishes, and getting through some of my To Do's before baby's morning nap is over.  
As I review this to post it, the last item listed there did not quite happen.  The morning flew, and I was busy doing stuff - just not things on my to do list.  It was a good morning, though.  Now, on with the weekend.

Gratitude Follow-up and the New Month

I am later getting this posted then I wanted, but here it is anyway:
Wow!  Is anyone else amazed by how quickly November seemed to pass?  As I review the habit for November, being thankful, seems that the habit was not necessarily something new that I did this past month.  It was simply an extension of what I seek to do anyway.

My thankfulness cards that I was to write in each day; well, did not get written in every day.  About half of them are used.  Rather than trying to finish it off the last week, I just let it be, continued on until the month end and now am tying it off and putting it my folder for review next year.

With all that is happening in our lives in December (well, it may not be that much, but as I stand looking ahead at it, it seems very mountainous), I am not seeking to establish a new habit.  Rather, perfect and hone the ones I have been working on this year.  Specifically, I am thinking of my follow through with projects and ideas and the act of completion in the task I undertake.

All in all, I am seeking to have a joyous, blessed and wonderous Christmas season and start of a great new year!

Habit of Gratitude

This month with Thanksgiving coming here in the US, this month's habit is sort of by default.   With our focus starting to turn to the Christmas Holidays, and not wanting to overshadow Thanksgiving, ideas of how to streamline our Thanksgiving focus are plentiful.  A simple online search will reveal more suggestions then one could ever hope to implement.  
For me, I have chosen to use the Gratitude Journal developed by Jason and Jennifer Bruce and found on Motherhood . . . Your Way.  (On a side note: Life . . . Your Way collection of sites is definitely worth checking out.  There is almost something for everyone there.)  
My dear husband printed the beautiful color cards for me, and they sit on my desk.  When I am working there, if there is something that I have been especially thankful for that day, I write it on a card.  Though, I may not think to write one each day (for there are days that are not "leisurely" enough to allow me to sit at my desk), I have already had a few days were more than one card was filled.  I plan to have them all filled by Thanksgiving.  At the end of month, I'll read them through and stash them way in my Holiday Journal to pull out and look at next year.  
In thinking of how I can help my family focus on being thankful each day, not just in this time of year, and it has been impressed on me that I need to be thankful!  I think of myself as a thankful person, but I more often than I want to admit I have found myself complaining or "sporting" a bad attitude.  That is harder to do when you are truly thankful.  So this year, rather than trying to drag my family into thankfulness mode, I am seeking to guide by example.  A wife and mom with a thankful attitude will most likely cultivate a family with a thankful attitude.  

Completion Habit

As October has marched by in all the beauty of fall, we in our home are focusing more on the habit of completion*.  When finishing with an activity or task completely finish it.  This could be putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher  when done eating, cleaning up the game pieces and putting them away when a game is over, folding the blanket when you are done with it, placing the dirty clothes in the hamper not just near it, or hanging up your sweater when you come in from outside. 

Most completion tasks are simple tasks, yet the impact is amazing.  Not only is clean up easy (it is mostly all done already), but the overall effect is a hidden, or not so hidden, neatness to stuff of your home.  A more subtle effect is the development and strengthening of character: of being someone who completes what one does.  That effect has lifetime impact!  
*This habit is taken from Regina Leeds's, One Year To An Organized Life.  

Decluttering recommendation

I read a post today from Unclutterer.com on Three Organizing Essentials. It's simplicity struck me. I just wanted to share what I have found, and I hope it helps encourage you to keep it simple as you seek to organize, manage, or declutter your life. 

Do Nothing Weekend

OK - this post was to occur Sunday morning.  This morning as I reviewed the blogging sites I read regularly, I saw it had not posted.  In reviewing the details, I realized I had mistyped the date for it to post.  So, here is my Sunday morning post . . . 
At the beginning of the year, I had, mostly by accident, a do nothing weekend.  There was nothing scheduled on our calendar.  My family was enjoying some down time after the holidays.  I had no big plans or ideas of projects to be accomplished - I just lived the weekend doing whatever it was that our family wanted.  I did a lot of playing games and reading those few days.  It was nice, not something that I would want to do all the time (for I love schedules and projects and marking tasks off a to do list), but a very nice change of pace. 

So, my planning brain decided that I should "plan" a do nothing weekend periodically.  Then the question became "When?".  The logic in me looked at the calendar and realized that the way January dates fell this year there were five weekends in January.  What if every month there were five weekends, I chose the first weekend of that month as my "off" days?  The idea sounded good to me, so I marked the weekend for April. 

As April came and things were crazy with work and home life, the "off" weekend was pushed to the end of the month.  Then we had a family celebration scheduled that weekend, so it was pushed out one more weekend.  And here we are . . . my scheduled do nothing days are here, just in time for Mother's Day.  :)

So as I write this Friday morning, I am starting my do nothing weekend.  I know I will be plenty busy, after all food and laundry and demands of children and picking up the house don't wait; however, I have no specific expectations of what I "must" get done.  I hope to relax and play and read more often than usual, and I am sure that there are a few projects that will get worked on along the way.  It has become more of a mental break for me, than a physical one. 

All in all - I am looking forward to a weekend filled with whatever is choosen to fill the moment. 

Trimming The Fat

Most all of us eat fat in our diet in one form or another.  Some of us eat alot of it, and some of us eat very little.  Fat adds flavor and aids in our cooking.  Too much of it can lead so some serious dietary problems.  

So it is with the activities we do . . . may they be considered "fat"?  Are they are the extras?  Some of the activities we may dedicate our time to are good - they add flavor to our days and help to keep things running smoothly - however, when done in excess they add challenges to our schedules.

Is there something you do that might be considered fat?  Maybe it might be time to trim some of the fat - not necessilary eliminate it all together, just trim it down. 

Something Beautiful

A friend recently asked me, "What is something beautiful you have experienced today?"  The question struck me because of the wording.  The idea is often expressed in, "How was your day?" or "Did something exciting happen today?", etc.; but the way she phrased the question stuck with me and prompted thinking.

Beautiful things are all around us.  The sun, the fresh air, laughter, smiles, quiet moments, the joy of peace - we each have those wonderful things in our lives that are beautiful.  My beautiful moment - the joy and love coming from seeing my children run to greet me and each other after a day of being separated from each other.  What is yours?  It could be something you see, hear, or experience - something beautiful.


We are teaching

"When we confront sadness, misfortune, and defeat with a gallant spirit, our children will learn to live bravely."

I recently read this quote, and almost immediately put it in my inspiration file hoping that is would prompt some great thoughts.  Nothing fantastic has arisen, but this truth - what our children learn, they often learn from us - keeps coming to mind.  

As I see character traits good and bad in my children, I wonder, "Where did they learn this?"  Do they see those characteristics, the good and the bad, in me and are imitating me?  Are they learning how to deal with life and the many emotions and circumstances of life by how I act and react?  OK, so it is really not a question . . . they ARE learning by observing me.  But, what are they learning? 

So often I am finding the character traits I see in my family around me that irritate and bother me the most - the ones, I would most like to see change - are the ones that I struggle with on a regular basis.  Those around me, especially my children but I think everyone who observes my life, learns a bit more on how to deal with all the wonderful and challenging things to come by how I respond and react to them all.   What are they seeing/learning?  Is it worth imitating?  

Change in the routine

In honor of taking a break from the rountine tasks of each week, I am forgoing my normal blog writing for simply making a few suggestions on blogs to check out.  Sites I read regularly are listed on my main blog page.  I don't read them every day, but enjoy reviewing them regularly and reading the posts that catch my interest.

Just one more way to get information and learn about the things that interest you.  In my mind blogs are no substitute for reading books, but they certainly are good addition. 

Hurry up messes in relationships

A couple of weeks ago, I commented how "hurry-up" messes can effect the organization and neatness level in our homes.  Messes created just  because we do not take the time to clean up or pick up after a job or task. 

With those thoughts in my mind, I wondered how many times in life are the relational messes we find ourselves in due to just plain hurrying?  Not taking or allowing the time to converse politely, being so busy we do not take time to really listen to what another is saying, brushing someone off because we do not want to take the time to interact with them, etc.  Our continually hurrying through life can leave a wake of hurt and broken relationships scattered in our wake simply because we did not take time to consider another more highly than ourself.

Scriptural Encouragement

 6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
 7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
 8We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
 9Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

 15For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
 16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
 17For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
 18While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 5

Hurry Up Messes

A friend of mine recently used the phrase, "hurry-up messes" in a note she wrote me.  Whether those were her exact words, or whether that was the idea of what she said I don't recall, but as I have been thinking about what to write this week this phrase has jumped out in my mind.

How many times do we create a mess simply because we are in a hurry.   The socks on the floor because we were searching for the pair we wanted and did not take the time to put the others away; the bed unmade because we did not allow the extra two minutes to straighten the sheets and covers; the papers on the desk we did not put away because we worked too late -- messes that are left because we did not allow or take the time to put them away or clean them up.

Maybe allowing margins in our day and schedule is not a bad idea.  Leave a bit of extra time, so when a mess is created (and they will be, for that is part of life) you have the time to put it away/clean it up.  Doing so creates the opportunity to come back to a clean space rather than one that is full of hurry up messes. 

Beliefs affect everything!

What one believes affects everything!  Does it really?!?  Yes, it does!  Whether it is what you believe the weather will be like for the day, or what you think of God and the Bible, or what you believe will happen when you sit in a chair.  What we believe or think about something or someone does have an effect on our life.   

What we believe about God and what the Bible has to teach us affects more than just some areas of life.  It does, or should, affect everything!  If I believe God exists and is interested in my life and has a design for me to live in a specific way, I will live in such a way so that my thoughts and actions reflect or are in line with that plan. 

If I believe the sun will shine all day, and warm the air, I will not wear my heavy coat.  If I believe the bridge I am going to drove over is not safe, I will choose a different way to go home.  Whether big or small, what I believe does affect what I think and ultimately what I do. 

Valentine Wishes

As Valentine's Day dawns, I wish you a day full of the reminders of those you love and that love you.  May you be blessed by the family and friends around you who love you, and may you in turn seek to bless them.  May you pass love on to those around you whether family, friends, aquaintances or strangers.  May God's great love shine in your life on this day and every day.

Parents, children and boundaries

God gives parents such great treasures in our children, and with those treasures such tremendous responsibility to raise and teach them - to help them become individuals who are joyful and purpose driven to glorify God and bless the lives of those around them. 

As my children are getting older, I am realizing more each day the delicate balance between being a mom who does things for her children, who does things with her children, and who allows her children to do for themselves.  The boundary expansion from an infant or toodler who needs supervision and guidance in everything to more individual freedoms as they get older and more mature is challenging for parent and child.

A parenting class my husband and I took once used the term, parenting inside the funnel.  The concept is that each child lives in a funnel of boundaries.  As a toddler they are at the bottom of the funnel where the boundaries are very restricted.  As they grow in age and maturity, they move up the funnel and the boundaries are expanded.  If you allow freedoms outside the funnel wall your child does not have the ability or maturity to appropriately handle those freedoms and the result is poor behavior or frustration for the child, and unnecessary challenges for the parent. 

I appreciated the following post I read this week.  As I seek to "parent in the funnel", I hope to develop a home life free of the frustration for myself and my children that comes by placing too many restrictions or allowing too much freedom. 


You may be familiar with the phrase, "What a difference a day makes."  Well, I propose a slight revision. "What a difference a smile makes."  It can transform a day from dreary to joyful, and the lack of it can easy drain the most overflowing heart. 

How quickly my heart is lifted when I peek over the edge of the crib at my infant son to see him throw out a big toothless grin at seeing Mommy.   On the other hand, my spirit can be just as easy pulled down by a grumpy growl from my precious preschool-age little girl as I seek to rouse her for a new day.  It is a conscience choice to not allow the "crabbies" to darken the light of happiness I seek to shine into my family.

When you see others, or even when alone, practice the art of smiling.  "Fish hook therapy" as my mother often says.  Imagine a piece of string with a fish hook attached to each end.  Hook one fish hook on one corner of your mouth, wrap the string around the top back of your head, and attach the other hook to the other corner of your mouth.  You will find you are forced into a smile. 

Though this may sound silly or even hypocritical to force a smile when the motivation for it is lacking.  I have found often when I smile, even when the joy that usually prompts one is lacking, suddenly the world does seem a bit better, and I find that the happiness I am forcing to show on my face is suddenly filling my heart.  Of course, nothing replaces a smile that is brought on by true joy, happiness, or enjoyment. 

May your day today be filled with all the things that bring you joy, and when that joy may seem a bit low, encourage it along by simply smiling.


A little family history and background to this story:  When my husband and I were first married, we purchased an old sewing machine from an elderly lady who was moving.   The machine though older than me, came with a very nice end table.  It was designed to fold down into the table and be a very functional piece of furniture when not in use - and that is how it has sat in our home for several years. 

Through a move, the birth of three children, and the many adventures we have lived over the last several years; my visions of mending and sewing clothes to stretch our clothing budget or making quilts for my kids have remained that visions.  Any sewing activity has been pushed lower on the priority list as we have lived our life.  Several times I have suggested letting the machine go to a better home with the justification that when I have the time to sew we would be able to find another machine.  My dear husband has resisted my every effort to release it and tenaciously found a place for the table and its hidden machine in the many furniture rearranges we have done. 

Earlier this month, when the Christmas tree came down, the sewing machine was moved into it's place in our living room.  With the machine out in the living area of our home, the questions about how it worked and requests to use it began from my budding homemaker daughter.  So, when she was home from school the other day, we opened it up, examined it, and tested how it worked.  We threaded the machine, put in a new bobbin, and mended a few items that needed a straight stitch. 

Then a few days later my daughter requested we sew something, and so out came the material that has been packed away for years.  After the last couple of days of familiarizing myself with the machine and recalling how it all works, and a couple days of mending things here and there between other life responsibilities; we were ready to make the book bag she had requested. 

I made a pattern from tissue paper and my "assistant" found a cute teddy bear print material in our stash.  The bag was to be for her teacher who loves teddy bears.  We designed the bag to be large enough to carry some books, for "she has a lot of reading books" was the reasoning, but not so large as to overwhelm me in my new endeavor.   Three hours later (with a few interruptions along the way) we had a very nice bag! 

I don't know what gave me more joy: the sense of accomplishment from designing and completing the project or the wonder in my daughter's eyes as she saw the bag take shape and her excitment as it became a reality. 

On Homemaking Beauty

A dear friend recently shared this with me, and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to share it with all the other homemakers out there who find joy in making masterpieces.  

{Written for a friend who shared how her newly-cleaned bathroom was glisteningly inspirational and motivated her to do more housework.}

Your Bathroom Blessing is inspiring . . . 

Beauty is always inspirational, whether it is expressed as a tidy, clean bathroom; a calm, orderly, inviting bedroom; an organized, welcoming, functional kitchen;  a Renoir painting;  the Nutcracker ballet;  a symphony;  or a child's first-grade art project.

I think that sometimes as homemakers, we're so "task-oriented" on our 1,587 things that Need To Be Done Yesterday or Today that we neglect the fact that when we clean and de-clutter and tidy and organize, we're creating areas of beauty.

We aren't just maids cleaning and scrubbing and organizing endlessly.

We're artists, like a carver of marble who chips away at the unessential and ugly to reveal the elegance and strength of the final art hidden within the marble . . .

When we do homemaking duties, we're chipping away at the nonessentials and ugliness of laziness, disorganization, procrastination, whining, past failures, depression, despondency, hopelessness, clutter, neglect, oversight, forgetfulness, bad habits ~~ to reveal the exquisiteness of carved marble in our homes ~ the deliberately carved exquisiteness of being able to find things when they're needed, of functioning in peace, of enjoying the beautiful assortment and abundance of things with which God has blessed us, being able to use our talents to bless others (cooking in a tidy and clean kitchen is blessing others), enabling and empowering others to be their best, and discovering and developing those virtues of discipline, self-control, honor, action, achievement, and consistency.

Let us then continue with our cleaning, scrubbing, organizing, cooking and those endless myriad of tasks that homemakers must manage daily . . . and in so doing, let us create beauty so we can experience beauty daily, in our homes, and ultimately, in our hearts.

You are beautiful, and what you do is beautiful and inspiring.
Karen Thomas
(C) 2011. Karen Thomas.  All Rights Reserved.

Magic of Thinking Simply

As I contemplate what to say this week, my thoughts are filled with ideas about making life easier.  Not more efficient, but simplier. 
  • Don't make it too complicated. 
  • Take it easy. 
  • Less is more. 
  • Remove what you don't want to make room for what you do. 
The list could go on of sayings and ideas about making our lives more enjoyable, simple.  After all who really loves the complicated mess that can become our days? the chaos and hetic pace we tend to think is normal?  Some have convinced themselves this busyness is a must to enjoy life, to be sucessful in whatever undertaking they find themselves doing, to get the most of life. 

Is all really necessary?  I hold that it is not.  Life is best enjoyed simply.  Take a moment, or better yet, a day. 
  • Breathe deeply. 
  • Take a walk. 
  • Slow your pace a bit. 
  • Enjoy the moments as they come.
Find that things more complicated, busy, full are not always better. 
Plan, prepare, live - but leave some margin for just being.

Resolving to Bless

With a new year, thoughts frequently turn to improving oneself or the way one lives life.  I propose in the midst of seeking to better ourselves, we also seek to better the life of someone around us.  What if I sought to help those around me?  Not focus so much on myself or my life, but on the lives of those around me?  Would life not be richer, more satisfying, if I gave of myself to others?  For as I give away, I am blessed in return.