A new year = a new adventure!!

We just finished our second week of homeschooling. Yipes! It has been great so far & we're excited to see where it takes us!

Happiness is a Skill

I have been reading a book by Christine Carter called Raising Happiness, and it is so interesting! Christine is a scientist who studies what makes people happy.

Right now I am reading a chapter on mindfulness--which is basically being attentive and aware of what is happening right now. It is sort of the opposite of being on autopilot. Being on autopilot is like when you drive home from somewhere, and all of a sudden you are home & you don't really remember the actual drive, where as mindfulness is when you actually experience the drive--you noticed the landscape and the houses, and thought about where you were going and how you were going to get there, etc.

I have a really hard time being mindful it turns out! I don't know when it started, or if I've always been like this, but it has definitely gotten worse since I've had kids. I have the hardest time just sitting down and playing legos for mind wanders and I think about the dishes that need to be done, or a conversation that I had with someone, or what all I need to do still for a project that I am working on. So much is going on in my mind that I am not even paying attention to the legos or what the kids are talking about, or anything like that. And I think I'm missing out on a lot that way.

Christine says that, "Practicing mindfulness doesn't just lead to decreased stress and increased pleasure in parenting, it brings profound benefits to kids. Parents who practiced mindful parenting for a year were dramatically more satisfied with their parenting skills and their interactions with their children, even though no new parenting practices beyond just being mindful had been taught to them."

So...that's really neat! That is something I can work on, I think!

Girly-ness and Princesses

You have to check out this excerpt from the book Bittersweet, written by Shauna Niequist.

She brings up her friends who have a baby girl and have declared their house a "princess free zone." This made me laugh a little--because I hate princesses so much.

I think the thing that I don't like about princesses is the same thing that Shauna doesn't like about princesses--just the image of a girl sitting around being beautiful waiting for a brave knight in shining armor to slay the dragon and rescue the girl and live happily ever after just really makes me want to barf. I am not a girly girl (that's obvious, probably.) I feel like it is important for me to encourage the girls to slay their own dragons. To rely on God and the abilities that He has given them, and not wait around for prince charming to overcome the obstacles for them.

Now, I realize that this is just my own personality & my own preference. I have gone through a phase of relying on Shawn too much and expecting him to rescue me from my trials and it really made us both miserable. Now I have come out of that, and I can see that my relying on Shawn was getting in the way of relying on God. And waiting around for someone else to overcome my obstacles for me takes a lot of the joy out of life.

I also realize that it is totally okay for others to like princesses. And that not all princesses are vain helpless dopes. Ruby, for example, wants to be a princess when she grows up. Okay, okay--that may not be a realistic goal, but if she did somehow end up being a princess--I think she would be a loving, thoughtful one who always defends the fatherless and the widow. And I guarantee that Lucy would be out there slaying the dragons...or at least taming them & making them her pets. =) So--I am okay with them playing princesses, because their character is what is important. That they grow up to be loving, courageous, joyful girls who love God and take care of others.

so--what are your thoughts on princesses? Or, what does being a princess mean to you? Does it have positive or negative connotations?

love ya,

We Shall Overcome

I feel like I've been distracted lately. Or--actually I think I'm becoming aware of how distracted I've always been. Sometimes I feel like just doing *life* is more than I can handle. Paying the bills, taking care of the kids, buying the groceries, cleaning the house, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, getting a little sleep--most days just keeping up with these basic things is so overwhelming. So I crave the occasional distraction to keep me from going crazy. A favorite tv show, a favorite ice cream, a game, an outing, a shopping trip...lots of shopping trips, actually.. I feel like I'm always kind of consoling myself with comforts.

I want to be an overcomer. I don't want to spend my time distracting myself from my troubles, or wallowing in them--life is just so much bigger than that, I think. I am not staying focused on my goals and who God created me to be.

Don Miller has been talking about the importance of your story lately and he says that "A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it." After reading a couple of his blogs it just really hit me that I haven't overcome *any* conflict. Not any. I think that I have been too naive maybe, or maybe I had an idea about God--that if He wanted me to do something that everything would magically fall into place and it would be easy. But that's not how it has turned out. Everything has been hard. But you know what--I guess God didn't say it would be easy. And maybe that's even part of the beauty of life--a person who has overcome challenges to reach their goals is a better person because of what they have been through. Maybe God gives us these opportunities to be overcomers.

I have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia to the girls and it has been so amazing to share that with them. Besides the Bible, I think The Chronicles of Narnia taught me more about God than any other book, honestly. Right now we are on The Silver Chair. At the beginning of this one Aslan (who parallels Jesus) gives Jill some signs that she needs to follow in order to rescue Prince Rillian. What he says to her really kind of struck a chord with me:

"Remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters. And now, daughter of Eve, farewell--"

I don't know--I kind of feel like the air here is thick and my mind is confused and I am forgetting my purpose. Everything looks different than I expected and my mind is kind of cluttered with distractions and routines and obstacles I wasn't expecting and it is just hard to stay focused.

So--I don't know what that means for me exactly, but I think I really need to look at my life differently and think about stress and hard times and challenges as obstacles to overcome--and not hide from them or mope about them, etc.

Empathy, Part 2

So I'm still thinking a lot about empathy with the kids and trying to put it into practice every day. I'm also thinking about how I can do a better job of empathizing with people outside of my family. It turns out that I am not very good at this! Yikes!

I kind of feel like it would be neat if churches could give classes on things like empathy and other communication/relationship skills. Trying to understand others and how they are feeling and where they are coming from seems like the first step towards loving them, to me. Or am I way off base? Sometimes I get the impression that Christians don't like the idea of empathy...or that people think it's scary to try to understand where people with other viewpoints or emotional reactions are coming from. There just seems to be such a focus on being right and proving how right we are, as opposed to loving others despite differences.

Or maybe we have a misconception of what love is. Like--we know that we are supposed to love one another--so we pray for others when they are sick, or donate clothes or old toys to charity organizations, or act friendly when we see each other at the grocery store. And we kind of think that these are loving things to do--they are nice things to do, but I don't know about loving. I guess it's possible that we do these things out of love--but I also thinks it's possible that we are just checking things that we *should* do off of our list.

I'm going to say that I think love is more than a verb. I think love is a deep, strong, lasting connection with someone that spurs us into action. I don't really think that we can skip the connection part and go straight to the action. That just seems empty to me--it doesn't seem like love. What do you think? Do we *really* love one another? It kind of seems like empathy (understanding the other person's story and where they are coming from, or at least trying to understand them)--is the starting point for love.

I don't know. It's kind of something that just clicked with me recently, that I was really missing in my interactions with others. I've been too worried about coming up with *my* response, and how I was going to explain *my* ideas, or how to get *my* kids to act the way *I* want them to that I haven't been focusing on others and what they need. Empathizing with others who make me cranky or annoy me or hurt my feelings or whose beliefs I just don't get helps me to remember that every person was created in the image of God and every person has value. And that every person's thoughts and beliefs and values are the result of what they have been through. It doesn't mean that I have to agree with them, it just frees me up to love them more.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. --John 13:35


I've really been struggling lately with church and what role it needs to play in my life, etc. I had an incident a week or two ago that really shook my confidence in what I thought that church was and I've really been trying to examine what I need, what my expectations are, and if church is really what I need to fulfill what I am missing--if that makes sense. I still love Jesus (maybe more than ever) and I want to serve God and serve others, but now I'm not so sure that church is a good starting point for that.

I feel like I can narrow down what I need to 2 things:

1. I need an opportunity to serve the community.

2. I need some sort of support group, I think. Like--a group of people who get together for the purpose of talking about life's joys and struggles and encouraging each other in building relationships, handling conflict, etc.

I have thought for a long time that this is what church is for. And last week's incident really made me realize how disappointed and upset I've been that church isn't meeting my needs. And I never thought of myself as one of those people who goes to church to have their needs met--I just didn't realize they were needs, I guess. I think I've just had this romantic view of what church should be like--where we are always serving the community and helping to meet other people's needs, and where we love each other, and trust each other and are totally open with our struggles etc.

I had a great discussion with some friends recently, and it was brought up that church is for worshiping God and sending us out to minister to others, where we kind of take what we learn and go out with it and use it in our everyday lives. I had heard this before, but this was the first time I really heard it as being in conflict with how I understood church.

I have really kind of been mourning that this week, I guess--Just the thought that church isn't even for what I thought it was for. I've been pretty emotional about it, but I think this is really good for me to deal with. I am realizing that I really do need some sort of support group and I really do need to help the community and I'm not going to be able to do that through church. So now I kind of feel free to look for that elsewhere. And maybe this will help me to feel free to just enjoy church as a way to worship God, and not worry about if I'm involved enough or connecting with people there in a meaningful way.

I guess it might sound like I'm giving up on church, but I'm not. I'm letting go of my expectations, which I think is a good thing. And if things change at church, that would be great--and maybe I can help by being more open--but in the mean time, I think I need to just accept it for what it is.

On My Own

Shawn left today for Las Vegas & will be gone for the week at a hardware convention. I miss him already!!

I think I am up to the challenge, though. Here are some of my goals for the week:

--Get the dishes done every night. Shawn does this a lot of nights for me--so it might be hard for me to get into the routine. But I HATE waking up to a kitchen full of dirty dishes.

--Get lucy's lunch made every night! Shawn usually does this in the mornings, but I am not sure I'll have time so I'm going to try to do it the night before.

--Remember to take the trash out tomorrow night!

--Go on some sort of adventure with the kids. Going on an adventure always helps our moods, and I'm going to plan it in advance, because I know that we have the potential to be super cranky by Wednesday afternoon. We'll probably go on a nature hike or to the mall if the weather is not good. =)

--Get the lawn mowed. I know I can do this! And it really needs to be done!

--Ask for help when I need help. wow, i have a hard time with this one! so--i asked my mom to come over tomorrow afternoon to help before I REALLY need it. =) hopefully that's when I'll mow the lawn. =)

--Start reading a book I got for my birthday, watch a few episodes of my favorite TV show, and blog at least once. Because if I don't get any Val time, I probably won't make it until Saturday!

--Keep the house moderately clean and do at least a couple loads of laundry.

--Get Lucy to school on time every day! And pick her up on time! This might be the most challenging thing on my list. I'll have to get 3 kids ready in the morning instead of just 1, and without Shawn to help! It'll be fun to try to beat the clock. =)

So--yeah. That's all. Anything else that I accomplish will just be a bonus, I guess. =)

I know that Shawn is going to have a much worse time than we are--he says that Las Vegas is kind of a sad town if you're there alone--so I'm trying to have a good attitude about the whole thing & keep up with all the work while he's gone.