Monday, 31 January 2011

A daily rhythm

The first month of the new year is ending. I find myself reflecting on our themes for the year - joy and rhythm - both of which have been daily on my mind this month. I learned to take joy in our quiet life, but rhythm - ah, rhythm. I have been asking myself the questions, but the answers are slow in coming. How can we best find routine in our days? How can we mark the passage of time throughout the year? What traditions can we bring into our home to bear witness to it? What are our priorities, and what can we prune to support them?

This weekend, we took our first steps toward a more intentional daily rhythm. Following the "My Day Timer" project in our Clubhouse Jr magazine (a Christmas gift from his Oma), we created a foam clock. The clock has one picture per hour; each picture corresponds to the hour's activity. We adjusted the original instructions to meet our typical day, starting with breakfast at 9:00am and ending with bedtime at 8:00pm. With lunch at 12:00pm and dinner at 6:00pm, we filled in the rest with our various activities - reading, playing, cleaning up, and so on.

9:00 Breakfast
10:00 Reading
11:00 Colouring
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Rest
2:00 Play
3:00 Outside
4:00 Snack
5:00 Play
6:00 Supper
7:00 Clean-up
8:00 Bedtime

The boy is enamored with his clock. He refers to it throughout the day, and this thing is pretty much gospel to him. When Mom says it's rest time? Whine protest whine. But when the clock says it's rest time? He's resting.

Man. I needed one of these things, like, a year ago.

So far so good, but it's only been a couple days. My concern is our (more specifically, his) flexibility on the days when our routine needs to be changed - our Thursday playgroup, weekends when Daddy is home, busy days or slow days when things just don't flow as they normally do. Still, it provides us with a starting point, and it provides my routine-loving preschooler with something tangible and interactive to refer to.

In the meantime, I'm already plotting an upgrade. Interchangeable options...velcro or magnets...weekly or monthly instead of (in addition to?) daily...we'll see.

But this? This is a good start. A movement towards rhythm. A comforting predictability.

One more step on our journey towards intentional living.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Weekend Reading

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Unreasoning Fear

"Things happen all the time."

This is the common sentiment used to justify a constant line-of-sight supervision of our children. Don't glance away, don't leave them alone, not even for a minute, because things happen all the time.

This is a challenging discussion to have because first, it is difficult to disagree with the overarching mentality in light of horrifying personal stories, and second, any attempts to do so leave you looking both thoughtless and careless.

Stranger abduction. None of us want our children to be that "one child" it happens to. The thought is beyond horrifying. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that:

  • 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied (1999) resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
  • 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
  • 58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.
  • 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. (These crimes involve someone the child does not know or someone of slight acquaintance, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.)
  • (source)

But when we step back and look at the risk of stranger abduction (less than one child per day in the entire United States), and then look at the very real risks to a child's development that come along with direct, constant, line-of-sight supervision at all times and in all places, the latter, I believe, has very far-reaching implications both to the individual and to society as a whole.

I am fully supportive of proactive parenting that teaches and empowers children to recognize and respond to danger. I am not comfortable with parenting that sees danger around every corner and insists on constant supervision at all times and in all places. Our fear of "stranger danger" has kept too many children indoors, in front of the television, playing video games, and surfing the web, rather than outdoors exploring, discovering, running, climbing, and building.

I also see a dangerous dichotomy in telling our children that all strangers are to be feared and yet that all adults should be automatically respected and obeyed - particularly because, statistically speaking, a child is at far greater risk from those placed in charge of them (teachers, leaders, caregivers, etc) than they are from strangers.

The very concept of "stranger danger" actually creates a more dangerous community for our children, because a) children become fearful of all strangers, including the vast majority who would help rather than harm them, and b) adults become fearful of all interactions with children, including any attempts to help them, for fear of being accused of nefarious motives (thinking, for example, of the tragic pond drowning of a two-year-old girl, because the man who saw her wandering down the street was too afraid to help her for fear of being accused of kidnapping). When all adults (particularly men) are automatically suspect, everyone loses. Community cannot bloom and thrive under these conditions.

I am in no way suggesting that we throw our children to the wolves, but I don't believe we can teach them to think for themselves, trust their own judgement, or make good decisions if they are under our constant supervision. How can they properly handle responsibility and freedom if we never give it to them nor expect it from them?

None of this is helped by media hype (sensational news sells), nor by the many organizations and individuals who stand to profit by elevating public anxiety (buy our gadget, it will help keep your child safe!). It is in many ways like our fear of germs, egged on in order to sell to the public that which was originally intended for medical professionals. Take, for example, Purrell's "imagine a touchable world" slogan, with its implication that the world is untouchable without their products, or Lysol's "Mission for Health" and "Healthy Babies" programs. But how do you make a case against these profit-driven tactics when the certain response is, "are you really willing to risk your child's life? Isn't it worth it if it might protect them?"

And yet...don't nearly all of us frequently take our children in the car? The rates of child death due to vehicular accidents is approximately twenty times greater than the rates of stranger abduction (2,863 child passengers died in 1999, to contrast the stats above, and 2,270 in 2007, to give a more recent figure (source)). But we accept that everyday risk because we believe the benefit of driving in the car is greater than the risk of our children dying in a car crash (while, of course, doing what we can to make that car trip as safe as possible, including seatbelts and extended rear-facing carseats and so on - all of which still don't bring down the death rates to anywhere near the rates of stranger abduction). Likewise, I believe the benefit of a child-appropriate "free-range childhood" is greater than the risk of stranger abduction - and I, too, will do what I can do make that free-range childhood as safe as possible by arming my children with knowledge and confidence.

Even so, nothing I could possibly do will make this life entirely safe for my children. I will pray (and pray and pray and pray) for their safety - mind, body, and soul - but I cannot eliminate all risks. To believe I can is to place undue guilt on myself while creating a false sense of security for my family.

Being aware of the real dangers is more productive than adopting a worst-case scenario mentality. Family abductions, for example, are several hundred times more common than stranger abductions. If I had an unstable ex, I would absolutely take greater precautions with my child. Likewise with child molestation - frighteningly common, especially by family members and friends.

This failure to differentiate between "things that happen all the time" and "worst-case scenarios" is highlighted, I think, in the argument that "you wouldn't leave your purse unattended, would you?" No, typically I wouldn't - because it is (relatively speaking) no big deal to snatch a purse. Snatching a child, on the other hand, takes a very rare type of person. I am reminded of the story of a man who stole a car, not realizing there was a child strapped in the back - and upon discovering the child, immediately turned the car around and returned the child to his mother. That is the very real difference I am speaking of - people will steal things, but very very few will steal a child.

At some point, my children are likely to encounter someone unsafe. I cannot remove that possibility from their lives. I can, however, give them the tools they need to avoid dangerous situations when possible, live through it if they have to, and process it in a healthy manner when it is over. As such, these are my primary goals:

  • provide skills and knowledge
  • encourage them to trust their intuition and avoid general fear
  • respect their body and teach them to do the same
  • emphasize the importance of honesty
  • remove any aura of shame from the topic
  • build a strong community in our neighbourhood

I am still working on how best to accomplish these goals, but they give me something to work towards and, ideally, prevent me from falling into a fear-based approach to parenting. I'd love to hear how you balance avoiding the irrational "stranger danger" fear/mentality while also providing your children with the tools they need to keep themselves safe.

Recommended Reading:
Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy
The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Christmas crafting

Here we are, one month after Christmas, and I'm finally getting caught up on pictures!

Once upon a shiny time, I had visions of entirely handmade Christmas gifts - the kids, relatives, the works. Since then, I've modified my ideal. Crafting, for me, is a joy, an expression of praise in acknowledgement of our Creator God, love and prayers woven in with each stitch. I will neither make it a chore nor craft for those who equate handmade with cheap (particularly since I rarely find homemade projects to be much, if any, cheaper than store-bought gifts).

With that in mind, aside from a couple fabric bird stocking stuffers, I took on only three major Christmas crafts this year: a scrapbook album for my mom, Christmas pajamas for the boys, and a tin of cookies and recipe cards for the landlord upstairs (this barely slips in as a "craft", but you'll get a couple bonus cookie recipes out of it at the end of this post, so indulge me).

First up, the castle scrapbook. I designed and made this album for my mom. The idea was inspired by a local scrapbooking shop, which I wandered into for no particular reason one evening while having a little me-time. The album practically leapt out at me, screaming "here I am, your mom's Christmas gift!!" My mom is very Disney/princess/castle obsessed, and last year they went on a(nother) Disney Cruise that took them, among other places, to Russia where they visited a castle. It was one of the highlights of their trip. The album is half-filled with the few pictures my mom had sent me, with space for her to add in a few more.

The structure of the castle was made from chipboard covered in cardstock-weight scrapbook paper. The insides are cardstock-weight scrapbook paper stuck together and embellished with regular scrapbook paper. I used double-sided tape throughout. It was a satisfying project to work on in the evenings, and I'm reasonably happy with how it turned out.

Next, the boys' Christmas pajamas. These were so much fun to make and I am very happy with the final result.

The baby's shirt was made following the 90 minute shirt tutorial. The pants were made using a basic pajama pattern I always use for them (McCall's M4643).

The boy's shirt was made with a more grown-up neckline, while the pants were made with the same pattern as the baby's were.

I tried to take action shots, but, well, most of them turned out pretty similar to this (that would be the boy pretending to eat the baby's head, while the baby ignored both of us in favour of the book I'd given him to try to bribe him into not crawling away):

It's hard to take pictures of two boys at the same time.

Finally, the tin of cookies with recipe cards. I made my specialty, spicy gingerbread cookies adapted from this recipe, as well as lemon thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam filling, adapted from this recipe. Wow, should I have ever made a second batch for us. Those were delicious. The recipe cards were downloaded from Shabby Princess' Holiday Recipe Collection and printed on cardstock.

And here's your bonus recipes!


Sunday, 23 January 2011

The value of a life

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, a day set aside to focus on the sanctity, dignity, and intrinsic value of all human life.

This is a most worthy and important topic, and yet there too often exists a tragic incongruence even among the most staunch pro-lifers: a failure to recognize the intrinsic value of human life both before and after birth.

How can you say you're pro-life if you're also pro-death penalty? Especially considering the suggested correlation between legalized abortion and crime rates, you'll be pushing for their life at one moment, and 20 or 30 years down the road be screaming for their death.

How can you say you're pro-life while cheering on an illegal war? Those men, mothers, children, and babies don't deserve death any more than those in your own country do.

How can you say you're pro-life while failing to acknowledge children as persons worthy of respect? Where is their dignity if your desire right from birth is to dominate them and break their spirit, forcing them into a sad reflection of submission?

How can you say you're pro-life as your elderly parents sit neglected in a nursing home, with only the occasional phone call or holiday visit to look forward to? Life does not cease to be sacred as the body begins to wear out.

Don't say you're pro-life if all you really mean is anti-abortion. Today, let's truly recognize the intrinsic value of all human life - from conception until death.

"The sanctity of life doesn't end when a child is born. Life should be valued not only in the unborn child, but in babies, children, adults, and the elderly. This should give us pause to consider not only the travesty of abortion, but that of child abuse, inadequate health care, domestic abuse, elder abuse, and euthanasia. It should be reflected in the way we care for orphans and widows, for our children and our aging parents, for the homeless and victimized. It should affect our buying practices and the use of our money, time, and skills. It should be blind to borders, race, gender, age, religion, health, incomes, and lifestyle.

Our respect for the value of a life should show in the way we treat others, extending love and charity to all."

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (from the archives)

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Weekend Reading

Friday, 21 January 2011

Making memories

The boys (and I include my husband here) have been making quite the forts this week. No blanket has been forgotten, no chair left neglected. As soon as a new fort is constructed, they all pile inside, giggling away. The baby especially finds the whole thing quite hysterical, which further sets off the boy, which then sets off the daddy, resulting in an endless loop of gleeful giggles.

So when dinnertime rolled around yesterday, it was no surprise to find a distinct lack of chairs at the kitchen table. Tray of baked nachos and cheese in one hand and bowl of guacamole in the other, I caught my husband's eye and we had one of those quick silent conversations that married couples so often have.

I tossed down a couple towels to protect the carpet. He transferred the nachos to a plate.

"Supper time!"

Oh, the squeals, laughter, and delighted exclamations! Supper in the fort? All of us?? Their joy is contagious; I do believe that was the most fun we've had eating supper in a long time.

These are gifts, such as they are, that I offer my children and pray they carry with them as they grow: moments that strengthen family relationships and memories of unexpected delight.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A quiet life

"Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others."
1 Thessalonians 4: 11-12

Words leap off the page. I read again: Aim for a quiet life. Mind your own business. Work with your hands.

Why had I never noticed them before?

The words are balm to my soul, healing wounds, releasing expectations, bringing reassurance. Live a quiet life.

My quiet life can bring glory.

More than that, my quiet life can be my offering, my worship. Hours spent washing dishes, sweeping floors, scrubbing the bathtub, these everyday acts of service offer themselves up as worship.

My life may not be grand, my service may not seem to be much, but this simple quiet life is enough. It is enough. I'm not caring for sick children overseas, but I spent last night caring for my sick three year old. I'm not building houses, but I am building a home right here. I'm not spreading the Good News to the ends of earth, but I am whispering it into the hearts of my precious little boys. I'm not doing great things...but these unexpected words tell me that maybe I am.

For what does God require of me? Simply that I act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God, that I love God with everything and my neighbour as myself.

I feel the weight of expectations begin to lift. The pressure to do "big things for God!", the call to live radically, the encouragement to do more, be more, take on more. But this Christian life does not have to be complex. I need not make it bigger than it is. A quiet life, a simple life, one of love and service - this is a good offering, a pleasing offering.

Perhaps it is, in its own way, radical. To simply love, simply serve.

The more I come to know Jesus, the more I find it true that His yoke is indeed easy; His burden is indeed light. Only Jesus - a quiet journey of coming to know Him, free from all the man-made trappings of religion and Christian culture in all of its various manifestations. Daily I fall deeper in love with Him, learning to die to self and take up the cross instead.

Today, soothed by the unexpected and joyous Word, I will take joy in this quiet life.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Old/new

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Probably a hint

After the boy and I had been browsing the flea market for a while this weekend, he informed me he was done and asked if we could go home now. Not quite finished myself, I assured him I'd be ready to leave soon. A few minutes later, he started to quietly sing to himself:

"Be patient (be patient) with everyone.
Be patient (be patient) with everyone.
Be patient with everyone,
First Thessalonians,
five, verse fourteen."

Hint taken, mister!

(By the way, can I just take this opportunity to once again recommend Songs for Saplings? Two years later and it's still one of our favourites!)

Monday, 17 January 2011

The magic of time

It just keeps happening, these moments when it strikes me that teaching does not have to be an active and deliberate thing. Learning just happens as we go about our daily lives. It is not forced, not contrived, not confined to "school time", but rather natural and spontaneous.

I know these things, and yet too often I fall into the trap of thinking I need to teach him these skills. I need to teach him his letters. I need to teach him how to use scissors. I need to teach him this, that, and the other.

I don't. He keeps proving this to me time and time again, and I keep forgetting just as often.

I've found it to be true with reading and writing. Every time I think I should start working with him on a new skill - counting, number recognition, letter recognition, writing, phonics, spelling - he preempts me by learning them all on his own. Sometimes he observes, sometimes he asks me questions, sometimes he practices on his own, and suddenly he just knows the very skill I was planning to introduce and teach to him.

I think I've finally got the message though. Sometime last fall, I bought him a cutting book so that he could "practice" his scissor skills. He was enthusiastic and eager, but many days ended up frustrated when he couldn't do what the page wanted him to do. He was far more interested in just cutting the pages into little bits. Finally, I put the book away, and the scissors sat mostly ignored for the next couple months.

Recently, he rediscovered the book in his small stack of generally neglected "I'm a homeschooling mom and I should get these materials so he can practice practice practice!" workbooks. He took a page out, grabbed his scissors, and effortlessly cut out the picture. Proud, he brought it over to show me. He'd done it. He hadn't needed to practice his scissor skills. He just needed to wait a couple extra months until he was physically ready to use them.

Foolish, foolish me. I say these things, I believe these things, and yet I keep on forgetting. If we provide a learning rich environment, our children will learn. They will learn in their own time and in their own way. Yes, there are certain things that require practice to master; yes, there will come a time when teaching is more active and deliberate. But for now and for most things, time and life will provide them with exactly the skills they need. Children have both the desire and the ability to learn - sometimes all they need is for us to step out of their way and let them.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Thursday, 13 January 2011

A Christmas people

Halfway through this first month, there aren't many signs of Christmas left. Most of the trees have been taken down, the malls are quiet and unadorned, no bells are being rung on street corners, and few houses still turn on their Christmas lights each evening. Another "season of giving" has passed.

I love the flow of the church's liturgical calendar. The yearly walk through the Story draws everything together, ensures we do not pick and choose our favourite focal points. And yet...perhaps, at Christmas especially, we leave too much behind. We pack away Jesus with the nativity, leave our giving spirit on the curb with the tree, and allow generosity to retreat to the back of our mind without the constant holiday reminders. We've tossed a few coins into the Salvation Army buckets, written a cheque to our charity of choice, and sent out cards with our well-wishes to friends and family. We've given our token nod to the birth of Jesus. Too often, that's it for the next ten or eleven months.

Is this really enough for us? An annual burst of generosity, of giving, of well-wishes, of time with family, of celebration of Christ's birth?

What would it look like if we wanted more, if we were to be a Christmas people?

I consider this, wonder what it would mean and what it would lead to, jump from meaning to meaning, deeper and deeper.

Christmas, "Christ's Mass", a celebration of Christ.

Mass, from the Late Latin missa, "dismissal", a dismissal from a church service and an entrance into our mission - a sending out! A celebration of the Eucharist.

Eucharist, from the Greek eukharistia, meaning "gratitude, giving of thanks". The sacrament of Holy Communion.

Finally, Christmas with its modern meaning, watered down to a "season of giving" - noble, yes, but missing the fullness and richness of all it truly is!

In all these ways and more, we can be a Christmas people.

We can be a people who celebrate Christ all year long.

We can be a people who recognized and daily strive to carry out our mission, both as the collective Body of Christ and as individuals in our particular God-given circumstances.

We can be a people who give thanks, as Jesus did.

We can be a people who give generously, caring for the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed year-round.

For which of these should be relegated to a once-yearly celebration? Which of these should not be part of the daily clothes of a Christian? Celebrate the gift of Christ, carry out His mission, give thanks, and consider the needs of others...none of these should be relegated to a mere holiday. If we were to truly be a Christmas people, to truly celebrate Christ and hold firm to all that entails throughout the year, what a joy that would be!

And so I begin, considering ways in which our family can enter into this continual Christ-celebration. Will you join us?

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around their hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There's a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


A week before the baby turned one, I had a sudden moment of clarity. I turned to my half-asleep husband and said, "oh! That explains it!"

"What explains what?" he mumbled.

"It's almost the baby's first birthday! That explains why I've been so aware of my empty womb lately!"

(He groaned in response.)

It was true, though. I had, for the past couple of weeks, been very aware of the fact that a) I had a uterus, and b) it was currently empty.

It wasn't that I actively desired to have another baby right away. I have a baby, and I take care of a second one part time. I'm good in the baby department. If God chooses to bless us with another baby so soon, I will be thrilled, but I'm not currently longing for one.

I am simply very aware of my womb's presence and its current vacancy. It feels very...odd, I think, to have this womb just sitting there, taking up space, not doing anything. Just hanging out in there, vacancy sign flashing.

I can only assume that it was the baby's upcoming birthday that had pushed said vacancy so suddenly to the forefront of my mind. It was when my oldest son turned one that my husband and I started "trying" for a second child. Because I continued to breastfeed our son, however, lactational amenorrhea meant it would be nearly another year before we received our much-coveted positive pregnancy test.

This time, I do not feel the same sense of urgency. My baby is only a year old. My husband and I have chosen, for a number of reasons (physical, emotional, and spiritual) not to use birth control, and breastfeeding allows our children to be naturally spaced, God's perfect design to give a mother's body time to rest between pregnancies. I feel calm this time, content to accept and appreciate that spacing, looking forward to having life fill this vacant womb again but not yearning for it to happen now, on my timing. Instead, I will enjoy and rejoice in my little one's babyhood, being fully present in each moment, not rushing this season away prematurely.

My womb may be vacant, but my heart and my life are so beautifully full.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


After a total of:
25 days away from home,
30 hours travelling by car,
9 hours travelling by bus, and
6 hours travelling by plane,
we are finally back home.

Oh, how happy I am to be here again!

My introversion is squirming with joy right now. Nobody is talking to me. I'm not participating in family activities, answering questions, holding up my end of a conversation. My husband is out grocery shopping with the older boy while the younger one and our little childcare baby are napping. Nobody is requesting anything of me for these next precious moments. Bliss.

Holidays are always the hardest on this introverted soul, those rare opportunities to spend time with family, both wanting to and being expected to make the most of the visit. With so few opportunities to recharge in solitude, I always return home worn out - happy to have had the chance to spend time with loved ones, yes, but worn out nonetheless.

And then there are the simple comforts of being in one's own home. My own bed. My own food. My children's toys. Our routines. Our home.

The first half of our visit was spent with my in-laws, while the second half was spent with my parents and sisters. The two visits were as opposite as day and night, and one was certainly more challenging and less relaxing than the other. With the visits still fresh in my mind, there are a few things I want to remember for when my own grown children and grandchildren come to visit:

  • Make the house as grandchild-friendly as possible. Clear away any clutter, move the breakables out of reach, and limit the things they can get into. And for goodness' sake, don't hand a small child something with the admonishment to be very careful now, that's very special and irreplaceable! Just put it away.
  • Have on hand some things to make the visit easier. A highchair, some special "grandma's house" toys, some books, and so on. For families travelling with young children, the less they need to bring along, the better.
  • Make the spouse and grandchildren feel welcome, with their presence being an enjoyable blessing rather than an inconvenient burden. Make it clear that you consider your child's spouse to be part of your family. Expect and encourage the noise and movement of young children.
  • Approach young children the way you would a dog (pardon the analogy). When you first approach a dog, you offer your hand for it to sniff. You don't pounce on it and expect it to submit to your enthusiastic petting. Likewise with children. Give them space and let them come to you rather than demanding their immediate unbridled enthusiasm and joy at your presence. If you do choose to take the latter approach, don't be surprised or offended when they shy away from you for the rest of the visit.
  • Don't undermine the parents by deliberately attempting to introduce ideas that you know the parents have avoided. Don't act innocent and get offended when the parents call you on it.
  • Treat them like family, not guests. Having everyone pitch in with meal prep and kitchen clean up means more time to spend together, both while cleaning and after. Many hands make light work, and that work can be fun when everyone's talking and laughing together.
  • Offer to babysit so the parents can go out alone for a while. Don't insist on it.
  • Do insist that they take the gas money, and refuse to let them pay for the diapers you picked up in preparation for their arrival.
  • Relax, talk, and have fun!

What about you? What made your holiday travels and family visits easier or harder?

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Welcome 2011!

A new year. A fresh start. A renewed hope.

If 2010 had any themes for us, they were grace and intention. It was a calm year, a quiet year, settling into our new home with our new baby, and the perfect year to allow those two themes to flourish in our lives. I learned better how to extend grace to my children, extend grace to others, extend grace to myself, and receive grace myself. I practiced intentional living, making our choices with purpose and deliberation. It was a good year. I leave it feeling satisfied.

As we enter into 2011, I feel our themes shifting. Building on grace, I want this to be a year of enjoying and rejoicing in that grace. Building on intention, I want this to be the year we build a comforting rhythm into our lives. I am excited for this year, for these new themes.

Enjoying and Rejoicing
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Philippians 4:4
This year, I will seek to enjoy God and to rejoice in all things. I want the root of both, joy, to overflow in our lives through our gratitude, our thanks, and our praise. I want our joy - our light! - to bring glory to God. I want to tell of the good He has done in our lives! I want to delight in Him and be content in every circumstance, ever praising Him and singing of His Glory. I want to enjoy and rejoice.

“The go-with-the-flow infant days are over; my antsy preschooler and his distractable mama need a rhythm we can flow with through the days. A predictable beginning, middle, and end, with room to wander as life leads us, will lend stability and peace to our lives.”
The Quiet Place
A challenge for my distractable and disorganized self, I will work this year towards building an intentional rhythm into our lives. I want to mark the rhythm of our days, our weeks, our seasons, our years. I want the comfort and security of routines for my preschooler. I want to strengthen my marriage with time set aside just for us. I want more (computer-)screen-free time that we can all count on and benefit from. I want to continue our journey towards intentional living, ensuring that the things we value are not forgotten as our time idly slips away from us. I want an ever-evolving framework our family can grow up in. I want rhythm.

Grace leading to joy. Intention leading to rhythm. A new year building on the work of the last. I feel content today, hopeful for what this new year will hold.

Wishing you all a joyful new year!