Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Living: Those were the days, And so are these.

Something about summer makes my soul come alive.
 I love summer, I always have. I appreciate the coziness and holidays of fall and winter, the freshness of spring. But the world just feels different in summer, more vibrant and engaging. As a kid, summer was like a little taste of heaven, I think. Most all of my favorite childhood memories are set in summer time sunshine. I loved super long days and eventful nights. All the camp fires and afternoons spent swimming at the river. The quintessential farm kid summer activities- driving tractor and participating in the county fair. I lived for fair each year. Those were the days.
 But so are these! I am so crazy blessed to be able to raise my little men up on the farm I called home as a child. They get to adventure on and explore the same hay fields I did. They get the joy of seeing seedlings sprout up out of the same tilled up soil I planted in.
 They get to learn to swim in the same river I loved. Their childhood memories are being shaped against the exact same background as mine and I think that is an amazing bond to have. In so many ways, farm living shaped who I am and it's a gift I am beyond glad to give to my boys.
  Growing up on a farm, I've always had to laugh to myself a little bit when people talk about their "lazy summer" plans. Summer on the farm means the pace of life goes into overdrive rather than slowing down.
 It means long, hot days of hard work- in the hay field and in the garden.
 It means cranky kids from late or some days all out missed naps and "summer hours" late bed times, aka too much fun.
It means not getting to see too much of my husband as he works his "second job" of foreman of the hay crew. The workload doubles but so does the fun.
  The benefits of summer, much outweigh the downsides. Sunshine that doesn't end until well after 9 pm.
 Many a dinner eat down on the gravel bar by the river. The smell of fresh cut, sun cured hay. The satisfaction of dishes made from produce harvested from your own garden.
 Messy snacks times made up of watermelon on the front porch. A fresh, summer breeze blowing thru wide open windows during a quiet, napping house.
 So many play dates spent splashing in the warm river waters and wiggling toes in the sand. All the delicious berries you can eat.
 Savoring a late afternoon nap, every once in awhile, knowing you still have plenty of evening ahead of you.
Summer time seems to somehow be a part of me- a version of myself that I like best.
Content in my own skin and having a little more clarity of focus, in purpose and projects.
 It's a season with so much to keep my hands and mind occupied within my own little world, I seem to know a confidence in who I am a little better than the rest of the year.
 So, here's to welcoming another summer of finding myself, yet again. Another summer of days full of hard work and satisfaction. Another summer of the memories I live to make. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Making life a little Better Than Before

I have always been a sucker for a good self help book. The idea of being my best at whatever stage of life I'm in as always been a natural draw for me. Whether its because I am a firstborn or just how I'm wired I have read a lot of self help books! Books on how to be the best student I could be while in school. Relationship books while dating and then on to marriage books after the wedding. I own LOTS of parenting books with three young boys in the house. Currently, I am at a stage where I want to focus on just being a better "me." I want to find the best routines and rhythms for my daily life to bring out the most productivity and the most joy.
   A couple weeks back I had started "Habits: The Mother's Secret to Success" by Charlotte Mason, as I have loved the concepts she had for early education. This volume stresses how important is for mothers to intentionally and as naturally as possible instill good habits in her children's every day lives. Mason asks you to think back on the habits your parents lived out in front of you and what you were taught was normal, expected behavior as a child. She reminds you that so much of who you are and what you do each day, without even thinking bout it, are habits engrained from you in childhood. It is so much easier for a parent to put a little work in at the beginning to teach your child the proper way to act, then to have to try and correct bad behavior later on. So, I got to thinking about the power of habits and my children-how I needed to be more intentional about teaching them good habits and how I needed to be more aware of the habits I was living out in front of them.

In a happy coincidence, I was offered the chance to review
I had heard great things about Gretchen's first book, The Happiness Project and was actually partially done reading her second book, Happier at Home. I love her writing style-very well researched and thoroughly informative while somehow still presenting her subject in a warm, engaging tone. Since I was already on the trail of thought on habits, this was the perfect book to come along!
  I really enjoyed reading this book-it was very relevant to what I am trying to work towards in my life right now and it was a fun read! The problem I have with many self help type books is that the author finds a method that works well for them for whatever the "issue" of said book is about and then proceeds to tell you how if you do exactly what they did, you'll be set. It seems a lot of times, these books don't take into account different personality types and lifestyle differences and how that affects the "issue" and the motivation and method the reader needs to apply. I really appreciated Gretchen's researched and balanced approach to the topic of "habits". She begins the book by informing the reader the first thing that is needed is to self evaluate and decided which of four tendencies do you naturally fall into-Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel. She then goes on to explain how each of these "type casts" affects how a person reacts to habits. I think I found I am high percentage "Obliger"-someone who easily meets others expectations but can have a hard time living up to your own expectations. Gretchen then expounds some more on personality attribute differences-such as morning bird or night owl, overspender or underspender, etc. I found the helpful information in identifying and capitalizing on your specific personality traits very handy.

   The next section of the book Gretchen entitles "Pillars of Habits."  We learn how by being aware and tracking our natural tendencies in something we want to make a "better habit" helps us pinpoint our weakness and see our progress. I appreciated the personal examples given and was even able to relate directly to one. Gretchen explained how most the time, we are told to use cash rather than cards when it comes to spend, so that we can easily track where are money goes and will be less likely to overspend. I have found that to not be true in my life. I do better to do my spending on a debit card and be able to track my purchases on my bank statement. Despite popular wisdom, this method works better for me and it was reassuring to be told I wasn't necessarily making a bad choice by doing what worked well for me personally.
 How to best go about starting a desired habit is covered next in the book. Basically, do it now! Don't wait until tomorrow or it may never happen. Though, Gretchen does give examples of "natural" turning points in life that make for good launching pads, such as a move, a new job, etc. She then gives ideas for how to best schedule good habits into our lives so they are actually made into reality. I liked the type she gave on scheduling your least favorite task for early in the day so you can get it out of the way and have the most will power to tackle it. Gretchen also explains how accountability is a great help in making sure your habits actually materialize. She reminds us that depending on which of the four tendencies we fall into, we will probably have a different level of need for accountability.

 The next section of the book does a great job covering more of the "nitty gritty" details of making good habits happen long term. More extensive advice on when and how to go about taking the baby steps needed to get a habit off the ground. Hashing out whether or not you should abstain all together or moderately indulge in a "bad habit." The power of convenience and how it influences our habit follow through. Realistic safeguards to brainstorm to protect your new habits from crumbling. And my favorite point of this section, the idea that we should give ourselves permission for daily "treats"-little things that bring personal joy, just because!

   To tie the book up, Gretchen explains how we need to really make a habit our own if it's going to stick. We need to be able to clarify our motivation and not get stuck in bad habits because it's "who we are" or what someone else wants for us. Being aware of our personal tendencies and motivational factors will greatly bolster the success of our forming new habits.

 I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review, but I for sure would have picked this book up off the shelf as a personal pick! After reading it, I came away with a much more informed, effective approach to actually making my life more efficient and more enjoyable! I loved that this book wasn't just about making me "better", but rather making a better ME. I am excited to instill this ideas and make my life Better Than Before.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

One Mama living in a Boys' world

There is one of me. There is four of them.
We are way past the point of being out numbered.
I wake up to a baby boy letting me know that he is famished after a full nights sleep. His two big brothers aren't far behind, bursting through the door to let me know that "the sun came up!" Half the time they have already helped them self to a bowl of cereal or container of yogurt and left the mess all over the dining room table to prove it. 
But I always have the hardest time, getting up and leaving and not just staying in bed-just a little longer,to snuggle my smallest boy, just a little bit more. There's something about the fresh morning light streaming in onto his soft, baby face. There's a beauty to it that strikes me every time and I try and catalog it away in my memory.
  Some days, I can convince the big boys to come cuddle with their mama-usually it's more like the idea of snuggling with baby brother that does it. On those rare days, the cuddling lasts maybe 2 1/2 minutes, at the most. Too much raw potential for mischief and adventure awaits a little boy outside of that bedroom door. 
From the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning, it is non stop commotion.The only quiet, still moments of the day come with a brief break for naps. There is utter dismay and shock at the idea of nap time-each and every day. Even though we consistently take naps- each and every day.
The activity of choice around this house is battling with some sort of weapon, wether it be a foam sword or a stick "gun." There is always a bad guy to be fought- sometimes he's imaginary, but
most of the time he's your brother. Casualities are taken from either side about every 5 minutes. Battle wounds mean a tear blurred run to Mama for a validation of the injury before rushing back to the fight the good fight.
"Battle" seems to just be hard wired in to how boys contend with life. "A battle of the wills" could be the name of the game a fair amount of days in our house. It feels like, as a mom of boys, most days I have to fight hard to reaffirm my authority and gain their respect. That battle, day in and day out, is exhausting work for an introverted Mama like myself. I've had to toughen up and learn to assert myself in ways I never had a need to before these strong willed boys came into my life. 
They have led me on a new journey and I am not the same person I was before them. Sometimes it scares me a little, the idea that I've changed. I worry that I've lost my self and some of my femininity in this house of masculinity. I fear that I've become a bit callused and left behind my more winsome self. I wonder if my role as a mother will resound little in the lives of these stout hearted boys who all but worship their father. 
But then I have the joy of getting a glimpse of the little snippets of "Me" that are woven into each of them. 
My rough and tumble Oldest will see something from a perspective that he could have only picked up from his Mama. He sees the beauty in a robin's egg and so badly wants to reunite it with it's mother bird. Because every body needs a mama. 
   My Little/Big One will go "fly hunting" with an avengeness because his Mama hates, hates flies in her house. He will diligently help mom with her kitchen chores and loves to help cook dinner.
And the Baby One, where ever Mama is, that's where he wants to be. He just loves to take in all life has to offer, from the security of Mama's arms. Going to bed at night isn't his idea of fun, but let him curl up in Mama's bed during the early morning and he is content there for hours. 
Those times when my husband turns to me with a gleam in his eye and a chuckle in his voice and says, "They didn't get that from me!" That's when I realize they may be all boy, abut parts of their mama lives behind those little eyes too. 
And as much as their whole day seems to revolve around "when is Daddy going to be home?", Mama provides a comfort zone for their little lives. It makes my heart glad when tired little boys come busting thru the front door from a fishing trip with Daddy and I'm greeted with, "I missed you, Mama." When I hear that my Little/Big One got worn out and just wanted to go to back to "Mama's House.
The Oldest feels it's completely unacceptable for anyone but his Mama to take him to bed. He will throw a genuine fit if Dad "has" to do it. It's our routine- Little/Big One prays, the Oldest prays, Mama prays and then lots of kisses and hugs good night. That is the habit that lulls him to sleep each night. 
I may not always be the excitement, but I bring the stability. And I'm ok with that.
  In all the everyday ins and outs that all blur together, these little boys and I have created a world all our own. I have 3 small friends to explore with, laugh with, eat with.
 Each day that starts with "So what do you want to do today, Mom?" is a new adventure. And we do have some, maybe ordinary, but always fun advenures. 
I love that they each have big appetites for learning and discovery. 
They are always finding new treasures and making up new games.
I really love that all three of my boys enjoy a good book. We can sit on the couch with a huge stack of books, read thru all of them and they will still be begging for "just one more!" That makes this book loving Mama awful proud. 

 So ya, being outnumbered by all these boys has changed me. I have lost myself a bit in them. They try me and they challenge me. But, with God's grace, I think I'm slowly finding a better me. A more flexible and less serious self. A stronger and more confident femininity.    When my oldest son tells me, "You look pretty, Mama. You always look pretty," I believe him and I'm made thankful to be a mama to boys. 
 This isn't how I think I would have pictured motherhood looking like for me. It is so more messy and so much more beautiful.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The book that inspired it all- The Fringe Hours

I am the Mama to 3 boys. That means a lot of laundry to do, a lot of food to cook, and a lot of energy drained (for me, not the boys it seems!) Life is very busy around these parts. My boys are rambunctious and always up to something; which means Mama is always having to try and keep on top of what exactly that something is! Needless to say, my time is pretty well full time devoted to being "Mom". There isn't a lot of excess hours in the day for my own personal pursuits and,for the most part, I'm ok with that.

 The career of full time motherhood is the one I have always wanted and find great fulfillment in. Sometimes though, I do miss losing myself in a good book or creating something. Before kids, I enjoyed many creative ventures and relaxing habits to clear my mind. I loved cooking gourmet meals and kept stacks of books beside my bed (and actually got thru them!). I am a natural introvert and function best when I can have some time doing something for "myself". With the demands of a full life, taking time to do something not on the to do list feels frivolous and a little selfish even.
Enter, The Fringe Hours by Jessica N Turner. This book was like a breathe of fresh air for semi-frazzled, harried mama like myself. I am so glad I happened upon this book and have a new outlook on priorities because of it.
I really appreciate how Jessica starts her book by identifying that none of us are alone in having a lot on our plates and are striving to find the ever allusive "balance" in life. We all have good intentions and we all have finite time to work with. We have multiple roles and responsibilities in life and we don't want to fail in those. But we also are more than just the many different hats we wear. We have a unique "self" who is sparked to life by passions and pursuits that aren't exactly "necessary" to life. Jessica argues that, in fact, investing in our creative soul is necessary for us to live the fullest life.
This somewhat novel idea started to resound with me when I thought of how there have been times when stepping away from the demands of my hectic day and doing something "for me"(taking a bath, a nap, reading a little) really energized me to finish out the rest of my days work on a much better note. Taking it a step beyond that, I thought of seasons when I have felt restless and discontent and how dropping my household duties for a day to work on a home d├ęcor project or crafting something really resettled me. Those instances always felt like "fails"-times when I just couldn't keep up with the demands of life and was a little "selfish". I began to see how those times where actually gifts- to myself and those around me-by infusing myself with zeal and joy for life.
Jessica goes on to explain that we should make time for ourselves and that there is a even natural pauses in our days we can utilize as a start. Thus the phrase, "fringe hours"- snippets of time between other commitments that could be used to feed our souls, even on a daily basis. I like how Jessica describes this time as "fringe"-they may be small threads of time woven thru our day, but they embellish and enhance. This time is worth identifying or carving out for ourselves.
The book then goes on to get into the "nitty gritty" details of actually making this happen. Identifying general times of day that work well and how to prioritize your activities towards that goal. Jessica explains it's ok to say no to things and even gives some suggestions on ways to do it graciously. She addresses how to be more efficient with your time to make way for more "free" time. From intentionally multitasking and limiting tech time to asking for help when it comes to household chores, the book gives lots of very practical ideas.
I already see and appreciate little changes in my life because of this book and anticipate to reap more rewards from it in the future. In fact, I started this blog after reading this book, convinced me I did have time to do it! I think I may just start carrying a book in my purse and finally get a start on my project life scrapbook!
Also, Dayspring has an adorable collection of products designed to coordinate with "The Fringe Hours" book! I love the navy and white striped canvas pouch with the golden zipper for accent. I'm excited to throw it in my purse this summer. I am using my fun, little floral notebook as a garden notebook :)

Documenting the world behind my eyes

I have a deep desire, a desperate hunger to capture the mundane glories that are found in the every day moments of my life.
The occupation of a stay at home mama is a hidden one. You live and work,day in and day out, in your own little corner of the world. Your accomplishments and struggles, the outside world is almost completely oblivious to.
No one sees the striving and tenacity it takes to keep a home running in good order. The required diligence needed to keep on with the unrelenting tasks of the everyday.
No one really sees the tears and sorely tested patience of shaping little souls and all that entails.
But there is also no one really there to bear witness to the myriads of blessings that come with the hidden life of Motherhood either.
The friendships being forged between a Mama and the little people that share her home, her space and pretty much her every waking moment.
The memories made during the every day chores and meals, but also the intentional projects and crafts.
To see the spark ignite in young eyes as they encounter a new idea or acquire a new skill.
The joy of watching a baby change and grow every single day. The chance to soak in all the baby smiles and tickle baby fat rolls.
If this is all I get, this more than enough.
 I want to take it all in and siphon out the beautiful parts- the parts that made me feel alive and fed my soul. I want to cling to these fleeting days and remember what it felt like to be right here, right in this moment.
So I will document,for my own sake, this life I get to live; with all its rough edges and shining moments. I will record the days,not thru rose colored lenses,but just how they look behind these eyes.