Monday, July 25, 2011

Weary & Worthless

I seem to be in a funk right now. My messy house mocks me. I'm lacking motivation. Time with my kids seems more difficult than joy-filled and life-giving. The budget is really tight. I'm so not ready to be starting back to schooling in just a few short weeks and fearing that I don't measure up as a teacher. I am fat and feel ugly and I am discouraged that I have always struggled with my weight. I'm really tired. I'm feeling like what is wrong with me that I just can't get it together?! Then I wonder if I'm the only one who feels this way because everyone else seems to be doing fine. And for some reason when all these feelings and circumstances are present I.just.feel.worthless. I've talked with my husband lately about this and he simply said to me, "It sounds like you're not believing the truth." The truth that God loves me. That He sent his own son for me to rescue me from sin and death. That He loves me even when I can't get my act together. Thank you, God, for love and acceptance that is not based on my performance! for some courage to hit "publish".

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Busyness is Not a Virtue! {a little rant}

We hear it so often when we ask another how they are doing. "Oh, we've been so busy!" While sometimes this truly describes their life, it is beginning to rub me the wrong way.

Why has busy come to be equated with good and presented as some kind of statement of self worth?

Hard work is virtuous.
Serving others is virtuous.
Caring for the needs of your family is virtuous.
"Busy" on its own is not what I see as virtuous.

You can be fully engaged with worthwhile pursuits, consumed with the present workload, enduring great trials or pouring ourselves out in service to others, but the value is in the activity and our faith and character in those moments, not in giving ourselves credit because of all we are doing.

Do you ever want to just shake people who are lamenting that they are too busy? Look, we all have choices! There are times that we all have obligations that can not and should not be avoided, so I'm not saying we should shirk responsibility. There are seasons that are truly demanding. But there are many times we willingly choose to get caught up in running the rat race a little faster by refusing to say "no" to another request for our time that doesn't really work for ourselves or our families (yes, even good things), going with the flow and putting our kids or ourselves into XYZ activities just because that is what everyone else is doing, and working harder to earn enough to keep up with the Joneses, whoever they are.

I want to be engaged in life. I desire to work hard and serve well. But I don't just want to be busy!

Summer to Simplify

The "Summer to Simplify" is in process at our house, a good time to catch my breath after the homeschooling year and go through the house top to bottom to get rid of the excess and give some thought to how to make things more manageable. With a family of 6, there just tends to be a lot of stuff....books, clothes, shoes, toys, craft supplies, sporting goods and the list goes on.

I want to make the most of what we have been given, including our possessions. What we do own I want to tend well and use and enjoy fully. If we have too much, we don't seem to manage much of it well, so this is my motivation as we make choices about what stays and what goes.

So how are we doing?

On the "stuff" front, I'm about halfway through the house and things are feeling better. I still need to tackle the garage, the basement desk areas and the kitchen. The kitchen is always a challenge with papers and random bits of the comings and goings of life. Our cupboards are quite full which makes putting things away more of a chore than it needs to be. But I do cook a lot so we need the equipment to be able to do that. So I'll tackle the kitchen next and try to find a balance. As we've gone through the rooms, we are selling what we can and donating lots because when I decide I'd like something to leave the house, I want it gone today, not being stored for months to sell for a couple bucks at a garage sale that consumes our family life for the better part of a weekend. Every time we drop a load at Goodwill, return things we've borrowed from others for a season, or sell something on Craigslist it just feels good to have a lighter load of stuff around to manage.

As far as summer activities go, we've also stepped back from activities for the most part. No organized sports this summer. No swimming lessons. No weekly commitments. No big garden. And it has been good. The kids have played and read and been outdoors a lot. We've enjoyed some outings in our area and hope to hit more of the things on our summer fun list before school is in full swing again. We've simply enjoyed a slower pace, with weekends where we are blissfully uncommitted to being at any specific location for any specific activity at any specific time. feels good.

Cooking has been rather basic, but we haven't gone hungry. I'm shopping far less and using things from the cupboards and freezer. No chasing down all the deals this summer. Frugality and simplicity seem to collide on the grocery shopping front. While I want to make my pennies scream for the way I stretch them, it requires a ton of effort to buy every single item for life at the lowest possible price. So I've found my happy medium with being content to pay good, not best, prices on basic foods and spend far less time bringing home the goods. I'm hoping we'll have some garden produce to use soon, too. I planted rhubarb, a few tomatoes and a pepper plant and we seem to have some volunteer plants growing, too, potatoes?, zucchini and watermelon. I'm evaluating whether I really plan to go back to the level of couponing I was doing a few years ago. For now, hitting Costco once every couple weeks and a grocery store about every week seems to be working out for us.

The slower pace is also allowing us to work on some things with our kids, namely training them to work diligently and cheerfully. Unfortunately I haven't been very good and patient about involving the kids in everyday household duties, but that is changing for the better. It is a process, but we'll get there. Just today I was encouraged by this post on children and chores and hope to implement many of the ideas. And even with all the unstructured time for play, I am finding a peaceful hour every afternoon when we all retire to our own spots for some quiet times while our little guy is napping. They balked at first, but it really seems to refresh us all.

So, while we may not be experiencing the "lazy days of summer" we are, in fact, enjoying the simple days of summer.

How do you like to spend your summers? What are you working on in this season?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Upcycled Pillow Cover

Start with a button-up shirt. Use your former pillow cover as a guide for how big you'll need to cut the new pieces. Cut through both layers of the shirt. An Olfa ruler and cutter makes it easy to get things nice and straight, but scissors will do. With wrong sides together, sew your pieces together. Turn, push out corners, iron. Sew around your shape again using a bigger seam allowance this time. Turn and push out your corners again and you have a nice French seam. Stuff with your pillow form.

And there you go, a pillow refreshed with a shirt saved from the Goodwill pile.

No cost + 10 minutes of work = my kind of project!
Bonus! I still have enough fabric from the sleeves for another little project.

Yep, I know it is a little too snug on the pillow form. The shirt I was working with was a tad bit small and I only had this big pillow form, but I'll take done over perfect any day.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation...or How to Stay Sane with Your Family in the Car for 53 hours

We decided on a whim to visit my husband's family in British Columbia earlier this summer. While we love to visit and the destination is gorgeous, getting there is not for the faint of heart. It is about 27 hours of driving each way. Here are some tips for a successful trip.

1. Pack your own food. Having food with you in the car allows you to stop whenever the mood or opportunity strikes rather than waiting for an exit with something you'd like to eat. Instead of spending time trying to find a place to eat and sitting down to eat the meal, we're able to let our kids get out and run and play and then before we buckle up again everyone gets their plate of food to eat while the wheels are rolling to the next stop. For us, this also means that we eat much healthier than eating fast food and we save a ton of money. On the way out, we were able to just clear out a lot of things from our fridge at home and we had a good variety of food to eat along the way. Snacking also provides a little something to do along the way and a motivation for kids to sit tight.

2. Know your travel style and goals. In this season it is actually easier for us to put in really long days and stop overnight fewer times. It is a challenge to get the kids really settled in a hotel room and is actually not all the much fun to stay in hotels right now. As our kids get older we look forward to making stops to see things along the way, but for now putting the pedal to metal just works out better for us.

3. Consider entertainment. We don't want our kids zoned out to videos for hours on end, but keeping them engaged with something is helpful. Our kids love to listen to Adventures in Odyssey and Radio Theatre. They also had books to read and notebooks to draw and color in. And yes, they watched a handful of videos along the way, too. And the grown-ups enjoyed some podcasts also.

4. Pack for your stops. I packed just what we needed for the hotel in a laundry basket so we were not hauling everything in and out of the car for each stop. So helpful!

5. Let them run! Since we try to eat while driving we really encourage active play during our stops. We brought a ball to throw around during stops and did some laps of rest areas and some races. If we are able to tire them out a bit, our kids ride better.

6. Allow for some splurges. Starbucks coffee, Krispy Kreme donuts, and some road trip candy. Why not? :)

7. Travel different routes coming and going. We love the variety and seeing more of the country. And taking a road trip reminds you just how big this country is!

8. Make the most of the miles. In our case, we were able to stop at Wheat Montana to get a couple hundred pounds of wheat that is very reasonably priced and far more difficult for me to source here. What do the areas you are traveling to or through offer uniquely?

9. Leave early. For us the hours before noon are really easy in the car. Some may be able to pull the through the night drives, but that just isn't the way we roll. Use your good times of day to your advantage.

10. Enjoy the ride! Seriously, these moments in family life fly by and before we know it we'll be the empty nesters that can spread the journey out over several days, making many interesting stops along the way. I so enjoyed the time, too, to talk with my husband about our life and goals and plans for the coming months and years. The time in the car certainly was not wasted.

Considering a long trip with your family? Go for it!

Stanley Park 2011

On our recent trip to British Columbia we took a day to enjoy Stanley Park. It is truly a must-see if you are in Vancouver! We hadn't visited since our oldest was 1, almost 8 years ago. We took a walk around part of the sea wall, had a picnic and took in a playground. A delightful day, despite children being disappointed that the splash park wasn't open for the season yet and hearing many complaints from children that they were too tired to walk anymore.

the totem poles

playing on the same fire engine that Grandpa played on when we was a boy

hooray for a moment of brotherly love!

you're never to old to play

so many things to look at!

the mermaid wearing a Canucks jersey....the Canucks being in the Stanley Cup final did, indeed, have something to do with the timing of our visit

this sweet girl loves to explore

a happy photo of us taken after we put our grumpy kids back in the van
...real life still happens on vacation