Tinsel, Truth, and a Real Live Manger {How the Kids are Celebrating Advent}

I’m in the mood to give y’all a glimpse of how we’re celebrating Christmas around here with a 2, 4, and 6 year old. Do you mind? Great…here we go.

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Our new tradition this year is doing the Truth in the Tinsel Advent activity eBook. (affliate link–woot!) The kids adore their daily Christmas craft, and I appreciate something that reminds me to slow down and focus on the kids in an otherwise busy day. Here’s Claire painting a crown ornament that represents Christ’s kingship.

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I’m delighted that the crafts are so simply even Seth has been able to be involved. He loves hanging his ornament on the tree each evening.

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I’m also loving the maturity of my eldest, allowing us to do some more involved projects together. Here we trimmed the front bushes….

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…and turned the trimmings into window wreaths. This is Jesse’s first wreath, people! He made three–I’m so proud.

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More truth in the Tinsel crafts..this time they were making a Mary ornament. Can you tell Claire is delighted?

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Claire drew Mary’s face herself!

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And finally this year, we hung Christmas lights outside. It was sunny that day, so the kids bundled up and went out to help Daddy. Seth saw it as a wonderful opportunity to do some climbing!

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Claire says, “I think he’s going to fall, so I am going to stand here to catch him!”

So helpful. Thank you, Claire.

I don’t have pictures yet of the lights actually on, because we still had to find some extension cords….

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The other day, during Seth’s nap, I took the eldest outside for some wood crafting. (look! even their playhouse has lights!)

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Everyone helped….

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And we made this simple manner (tutorial here) out of some wood scraps. Now Claire can stop asking what a manger is every.single. time. we sing Away in a Manger!

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And then Jeremy calls me from washing dinner dishes last night–”bring the camera!” There was a monkey in the manger! The tutorial warned me about how appealing the finished product was for two year olds….

I’m really loving how an advent countdown (anything that has us doing or reading something related to the Christmas story every day) keeps my kids focused on the true meaning of Christmas. I love this conversation between Jesse and Claire the other day….

Jesse: “Three weeks till Christmas!!!”
Claire: “It’s already Christmas!
Jesse: “No, Claire–it’s not Christmas yet!
Claire: “Yes it is! Today is Christmas!
Mommy: “Claire is right, Jess–we’re celebrating Christmas all month!”

I just loved this glimpse into how Claire views Christmas. This whole month is Christmas–the presents on the 25th are only a small part of the celebration in her mind. When you celebrate Christmas every day of December, your getting into a habit of Celebrating Christ every day, which could easily be carried into the New Year, dontcha think?

What do you do for advent? Do share–I’m already collecting ideas for next year!

 

 

A Perfect Script for Authentic Introductions

Jesse has become fond of getting to know other children, though we discovered that he often claims a new friend without even knowing their name.

We were at the Chic-fil-A playground the other night where he would have a chance to practice making new friends. I gave him a simple script for exchanging names, and he was all for it. (Where has my shy little boy gone?)

The other mom in the playground overheard his first attempts and informed me in her delicate drawl, “They’ been introducin’ themselves.”

“Who started it?” I just had to know.

“Your son—he said, ‘my name is Jesse, what’s your’s?’”

I gratefully told her what exciting progress this was for Jesse. Then she told me that Claire had chimed in with,

“I’m just Claire. And–God made me.”

Wasn’t that a great way to introduce herself? She just cut to the chase and told her new friend the most important thing about her identity. She is a child of God.

Wouldn’t it be great if we started every new relationship with that focus? Instead of worrying about outward appearance, cultural credentials, or networking potential, what if we just told people who we really are, and let them form their impression of us based on God’s perspective?

  • Hi, I’m Trina. God made me. This way. On purpose. I’m learning to be ok with that.
  • Hi, I’m Trina. I was bought with a price. And I’m daily being redeemed.
  • Hi, I’m Trina, and I love because He first loved me. How can I love you?

Let’s just be ourselves, the one God made, not the one we think we have to look like or act like. It’s the simply elegant way to make friends.

I’ve been thinking about identity and how it plays into one’s personal brand as a blogger. You can read my thoughts over on Allume today, The Best Personal Branding Advice I Ever Got {Or Gave}.

What’s the first thing you like to tell people about yourself? Where you’re from? Your relationship status? Where you’re going? All these things are an important part of who we are, but they aren’t the most important thing, right? Thoughts?

Claire’s Big Day

It all started with a haircut.

Mommy couldn’t ignore it any longer – her dream of long hair for her little girl was gonna have to wait a bit. Claire needed a trim, and bad. Truth be told, Mommy liked a cute bob for a little girl nearly as much as long hair, so she sat down on the couch after breakfast and watched YouTube videos for an hour until she felt sufficiently pumped up with confidence, then she called her little girl over for her first real hair cut (she’d only had it trimmed before).

She wanted it to be special for Claire (and, she admits, for herself) so she did her best to recreate a salon experience. First, she washed and conditioned her hair. Then she fixed the blue plastic cape in place. Claire was loving it already.

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Mommy snipped and trimmed and crossed her fingers and got pretty close to what she thought she wanted. Then they went in the bathroom and to blow dry it and curl the ends under, and and that’s when she realized with relief that it was not a botch job. It actually looked adorable. She held Claire up for her first peek. Claire said, “Mom, I look silly!” But Mommy could tell her girl loved it – ‘silly’ was the only adjective she could come up.

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Claire had now had enough of the salon experience, but Mommy’s fun had just begun. She struggled to get a decent picture (remember, her main camera is an old-style cell phone) while the little girl played. Soon Claire tired of being shadowed by the camera and went outside to play with brother.

Mommy finally turned her attention to the kitchen and the breakfast dishes, keeping an eye on the kids as they played under the tree she could see from the sink window. Suddenly she heard screaming and looked up to see Claire running toward the house, rubbing the back of her head.

Her first thought was, “Aww! She’s messing up her hair!”

Then she saw the blood.

Claire and Brother had been arguing about something they were playing with, and she had got hit over the head. Anguish, grief, anger, but mostly mortification coursed through Mommy as she cleaned the wound and spread it with ointment. If this was the best she could do teaching her children to share, she felt like a complete failure as a mother.

The bleeding stopped. Claire took her afternoon nap laying on the couch next to Mommy. Daddy got home from work and immediately said she should have stitches. Now Mommy felt even worse—letting this happen, then misjudging the seriousness of the wound.

{Now, before we all ooze into puddles of guilt over our failures as mothers, this is where the story begins to look up.}

They announced to the kids they were going to drop the boys off at Grandma’s after dinner and that Claire was going on a special date with Mommy and Daddy. Claire was tickled pink. Her head didn’t hurt anymore, and she was going out with just her and Mommy and Daddy, which may have never happened before in her entire life. She had been the center of attention all day, and the evening promised more of the same.

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Upon being introduced, the friendly male nurse asked Claire what her favorite color was. On his next round he brought her a purple lollipop. Her smile could not get any bigger. The doctor prescribed two staples, which delighted Mommy ‘cause it meant they wouldn’t have to shave her daughter’s precious hair. The staples went in so quickly, Claire did not have time to begin crying, and then it was all over and they were off to the ice cream store. Here Claire had a pink ice cream cone (her second favorite color) and then they headed home.

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Mommy was feeling much better now, realizing accidents like these are a common part of childhood, though she knew things would be different in the coming days. Knowing their immaturity, she resolved to keep her little chicks closer to under her protective wings, so she train them more effectively and {hopefully} catch sibling rivalry before her chicks resorted to violence. Now, when the children play outside, she makes sure that’s gardening time for her, and her little chicks are delighted at the new chores and routines around the house that keep them out of trouble and give them plenty of quality time with Mommy.

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Claire’s head has healed nicely – Daddy took the staples out this week with the pliers the doctor provided. She has retains fond memories of her date with Mommy and Daddy to the ‘Docker’s’ and Brother is actually making progress in using words instead of force to make a point. We have learned much from Claire’s Big Day.

This was our first trip to the ER with one of our kids – what was yours?

The Art of The Family Portrait

Family Photo Shoot
First, find a nice background and gather a few props. Insert human into frame to get the focus and settings right.


Summon more humans.

Family Photo Shoot
Encourage young humans to smile at small, flashing light…

…then wait, and wait, and wait for self timer to work…

Holden Family, May 2012
Jeremy, Trina, Jesse (5 1/2), Claire (3 1/2) and Seth (22 months)

While We Wait for Life to ‘Load’

I watch the blue, pixel stream surge along its banks as my email loads, and remember the days of dial up. Back then I’d set the computer to do a task and go off and busy myself so I didn’t waste precious moments waiting for the page to load. Sometimes it was 3 paragraphs in a book, or one shirt ironed, or a phone call made–I couldn’t stand to just sit there so I chose to fill those waiting moments.

A moment from last summer captured and celebrated

 This week I found myself wishing my life had a status window like my inbox. I’d like to see if I’m 74% of the way there, or have only progressed 13%. As if that would help the waiting. But waiting is waiting. And I was reminded this week to make the most of waiting.

I’m talking about ‘Living like there’s no tomorrow’ but that phrase is a bit cliched for me, not to mention overwhelming. Today let’s ask ourselves,

  • What if I lost internet connection tomorrow? How would I use this connection/platform/window today?
  • What if I was moving out of state next month? Who would I spend one more afternoon with, or what spot would I take my kids to one more time?
  • What if I sprained my wrist tomorrow? What would I create today?
  • What if my camera broke this afternoon? What would I capture this morning?
  • What if I got laryngitis tonight? What would I declare today?

 

When we’re waiting–

for something to change…

for a mountain to move…

or a life event to ‘upload’…

…we need maximize this moment! If I lost my chance to blog tomorrow, today I want to say to you–Dance in this moment, Sister!

What did you decide to do with your waiting moments after reading this post? Let’s inspire each other in the comments…

P.S If you subscribe by RSS or email, you may want to come by and see the updates we’ve made to the blog! I’ve filled my sidebar with a few of my favorite things, and have updated my header and the “Inspired” page in my menu bar.

P.S.S. If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter yet, you may want to soon ’cause I just might be finally putting together my first one this week and I don’t want you to miss it…

In which we enjoy our spring bike rides…with a side of milk

I did a crazy thing the other day.

We were just getting the bikes hooked up for a family bike ride, when I remembered we were out of milk. I looked at the clock–there wouldn’t be time to fetch it before a ride, nor after. We would have to do both simultaneously.

Jeremy gave me that look that he does when he’s trying to figure out why he married such a crazy woman. I argued that I would be the one pulling the extra load so that gave me the final word in the debate. He willingly arranged the three one-gallon glass containers I had handed to him into the back of the bike trailer with a towel stuffed between for padding.

And we were off. Seth is always laughing with delight before we even get to the end of the driveway. We all love family bike rides.

Jesse pedaled along behind Jeremy, full of his usua, 5 year old, trying-to-figure-out-the-whole-world questions. “Which way are we going, Mamma?”

“Left!”

“Why?”

“We’re gonna get milk!”

We’re blessed to have an Amish farm with a Jersey herd just down the road that’s willing to sell us raw milk at milking time. Yeah, it’s a couple of miles, but we usually do 4-6 miles on our after-dinner family bike rides, so I thought it was doable.

We made it to the farm easily (it’s a slight incline most of the way…) and as I filled our jugs from the bulk tank, The Farmer came in from the barn. He glanced out the window.

“Ahh, so that’s why I didn’t here ye pull up! That’s quite a set up ya have there…I like it!”

“Yeah”, I replied, “It makes up for not having a horse and buggy.”

The Farmer laughed. He likes my jokes.

Pulling out of the driveway, I asked Jeremy how much a gallon weighs.

“Eight pounds.”

“Yikes – 24 Lbs! It’s like I added a third child to the load!”

He just smiled. He never has to say “I told you so.”

I will conclude this story with the simple statement--I got a good workout on the way home.

And the next bike ride we went on, we headed up-hill, so the ride home was down-hill all the way…

P.S. I have to say it was incredibly satisfying to go and fetch milk on my own pedal-power. I think I’ll do it again.

Looking for your own supply for raw milk?

The Birth of Claire Anneliese

Three years ago on Monday, we welcomed a little princess into our world. We celebrated with some new doll clothes, a pink and orange pennant banner, a trip to the zoo, and something chocolatey. And today on the blog, in honor of her birthday, I bring you her birth story, as recorded in my journal 4 days after she was born…

Claire mixing the crust for her birthday pie
Caution – this could possibly be the longest post I’ve ever put up on the blog! Read at your own risk! LOL


Thanksgiving Day I woke up just about as soon as you could call it Thursday – shortly after 1 am. The contractions I’d been having off and on for several weeks now had started up again. They always began at night and were just hard enough to keep me awake, but far enough apart that I knew it wasn’t labor beginning.

“Well, here we go again” I thought, “Another sleepless night”. I got up after a while, knowing I would be able to get a nap that day, it being a holiday. I headed out to the living room to find something to do – hoping that by moving around the contractions would stop and I could get back to sleep before dawn.

The house was already so clean, all I could find were a couple dirty dishes. After washing these, I sat down at the computer. Contractions had not stopped – only coming lighter when I was standing up. Wandering through Bloggyland, I came across a few mommy blogs that refreshed my perspective once again for this season of waiting. One mother had lots of pre-labor contractions and ended up with a very short labor. “That’s me!” I thought hopefully.

Finally at 4am I headed back to bed, still not able to sleep with contractions every 15 minutes. I got out my Bible and journal. I was still really struggling with choices we had made for our birth team – certain individuals were out of town, and as much as I wanted to just have this baby, I also wished to wait till everyone I had hoped to be at the birth were back in the area. Hopeful anticipation had been replaced with anxiety and resentment each time I felt a labor pain. I knew this was not a healthy attitude, so I read and prayed until this message came – I was to trust the Lord’s timing. It had been a complete lack of trust on my part — that God had a perfect plan for this birth and who was supposed to be there. Seeing my problem for what it was, I repented and asked for grace to trust. For the first time I felt a pervasive peace about the whole situation, and I praised the Lord.

But I didn’t’ get back to sleep.

Sunrise came, the Boy woke up, we at breakfast, and the contractions continued. Finally around 10am they slowed enough that I thought I could catch a nap. At this point I felt it was very important to get whatever rest I could, in case I would be up all night laboring or something. Again, sleep evaded me. (seeing a theme, here, people?)

At lunch we headed to the town fire hall for the first course of our big, Italian-Style family Thanksgiving Feast. (No, we are not Italian, but we often celebrate with close friends who are, which gives the day a decided Italian flair) This year we had 22 people, including 7 children under 5. The food was as awesome as always, a menu worth of tradition — Caesar Salad, egg bread, lasagna, and Oreo cookie salad.. I couldn’t help it — I stuffed myself, all the while wondering if this would be the meal I’d throw up in transition?

Thankfully, naps were scheduled after lunch for those would would need them. Jeremy took Jesse and me home an tucked us in bed and went back to participate in the games. Once again, I was unable to sleep, but glad for a  rest.

Around the time we sad down for turkey dinner, I began noticing the contractions again. Once again I threw caution to the wind and stuffed myself, while keeping a casual eye to the clock. By dessert I noticed the contractions (which were not painful, just ‘there’) were 10 min. apart. We continued to feast and visit and finally headed home around 8:30pm.

Bed sounded so good to me by this time, but once again I was unable to sleep. By this time I was almost positive I would be having this baby sooner than later — yet the peace about the timing of things remained. Before falling asleep Jeremy recommended I take a hot bath if I couldn’t settle down. The contractions were slowing down to 15 then almost 20 min. apart, but they were so hard I had to breath through them. Around 11:30 I decided on that bath, if just for some relief. 30 min. later, I called Jeremy until he shuffled into the bathroom, rubbing his eyes.

“Honey, they’re less than 5 min. apart now — shall I call the midwife?”

His response was something along the lines of “I gotta have some coffee” and he stumbled out again. I heard the beans spilling int to the grinder and then the motor whirring. Several moments later he was back with my phone dialed for the midwife. The contractions were shorter and less uncomfortable in the tub, but they were definitely coming faster, and she had said to call when they were at 5 in. My little sheet of paper on which I had been jotting down times showed 3, 4, 5, or 7 min. intervals. I hit the send button.

The Midwife answered promptly and agreed that it sounded like we were in business. She said that she had thought I would have my baby tonight and had prayed that direction when she’d gone to bed. She said she would collect her things and be on her way.

With reality setting in that it was actually happening now, I got out of the tub to make sure all was ready. Jeremy was fixing his first cup of coffee, and Jesse was sleeping soundly. The tub was already in the living room and all Jeremy had to do was run the hose down the hallway to hook up to the hot water faucet behind the washing machine. Contractions slowed down when I had got out of the tub, but were still there.

The Midwife arrived around 1:30 with her bright smile and a hug for me. soon after her assistant came and together they began setting up. I was pretty decided I would labor in the tub, but they made up a bed on the couch for afterward.

I had gotten in the tub as soon as it was full, embracing the relaxing effect it had on the contractions. But now, when I got in the water, the contractions would slow, and when I was up and around, they were more frequent and stronger. Considering I had not slept in over 24 hours. I discussed it with the Midwife and decided I’d rather get this done. So I got out of the tube and began pacing. The RN that assisted my midwife had arrived by this time, and all three of the ladies were settled comfortable in the living room. The Midwife told Assistant #1 it was her watch, and The Midwife and Assistant #2 curled up for naps. Jeremy kept monitoring the tub temperature, and I kept pacing. I had tried to lay down to rest fora while, but found the contractions were most uncomfortable when I was horizontal. I found I really preferred laboring on my feet, leaning on the counter during the hard ones. It seemed easier to relax while standing. With Jesse’s labor I remembered laying on the bed working so hard on keeping my whole body relaxed. But this time around I felt a little more free and confident in my ability to explore various birthing positions on my own, and I found that when I was standing, there were some muscles being used purposefully, and it wasn’t so hard to relax the others.

Every once in a while I got back in the tub for a few contractions just for the break it gave me. This system seemed to work really well. Every 1/2 hour Assistant #1 checked my blood pressure and listened to the baby with the doppler. The Midwife didn’t check dilation routinely like my previous midwife. She said, “It’s just numbers – you will have this baby when you are ready!” (Such a midwife-ish response!:)) But around 4am I found myself really wishing to have a little indication of how far I had come, or how much I had to go. 7cm was the answer. “Wow!” I thought – “just 3 to go, and it hasn’t been too bad so far!”

At 4:30 I was in the tub again for a breather and ti was time to call the rest of our birth team, Cheerleader. She said she wasn’t surprised to get the call, and had not been able to sleep at all, thinking of me. She told me later that usually, when she couldn’t sleep, she would use her insomnia as an opportunity to pray for good rest for me – but that night she had the distinct impression she was not supposed to pray for sleep for me! Cheerleader arrived 10 min. after we called. I was delighted to have her as I knew she’d be great labor support.

At 5 I was sitting on the couch, having had my blood pressure taken, and Assistant #1 was listening to the baby’s heart beat when  loud “pop!” came through the speaker. I heart it and felt it – it was so jarring, it felt like a chiropractor’s adjustment in my abdomen. “What was that!?” I cried, at the same time realizing it was my water breaking. Hooray! Now That meant progress! Now The Midwife said I could get in the tub and stay in the tub, for there would be nothing that could slow things down from here. I happily climbed into the tub and relaxed just in time fora  good, hard contraction. Yep, things were moving now! In between contractions I was chatting cheerfully with the Birth Team, leaning my arms over the top of the tub. Jeremy  took a picture of me, smiling wide before another contraction They were several minutes apart still, but strong enough that I had to focus during them, and I was starting to moan a little But the was a nice time to recover after each one and the hot water helped so much.

“Not much longer now, huh?” I asked the Midwife hopefully.

Oh, maybe 20 more minutes – maybe more, maybe less.” was her non-committal answer.

Twenty minutes later our baby was born.

Somewhere around this time, I think as I was getting back in teh tob, I hit transition. I did get the urge to vomit, but I guess all my Thanksgiving Day feasting was far enough down my digestive tract that it couldn’t’ reverse directions. Someone held out a bowl for me, and someone else wiped my forehead with a cold cloth – ahh, the perfect sensation for that moment.

Around 5:15 I shifted int eh tube to have my back against the wall and my legs and pelvis floating free. near the end of the next contraction I began to feel the urge to push! I could feel the burning stretch as the baby moved down the birth canal. Despite the pressure right there at the end, I was soooo excited to be aware of what was going on, to be feeling the sensation that meant I was nearing the end of this race. I had no idea, though, just how close I was to the finish line!

When it was time to push, I remembered my lesson from the assistant at my first labor (“Push like you’re ANGRY!”) and put every bit of force I had into an angry sounding grunt and pushed for all I was worth. I was amazed to feel the little body sliding right down the birth canal and heard everyone say they could suddenly see the head! Really? I felt for myself — sure enough — I had crowned already! At this point they told me just to breath and let everything else catch up! And that’s how the baby’s head was born – without me even pushing! The Midwife said her eyes were open as she came out — Claire was bright-eyed from the start. With the next contraction I again gave it all I had, and whoosh — my baby was born — after only 2 contractions and 7 min. of pushing. Astounding. They lifted the baby out of the water up on to my tummy, but the chord was short, and they couldn’t get her higher than my navel. I was so anxious to hold her to me and at this point I checked to see that – yes! – I had got my girl. Now I was practically crying – the combination of relief and joy and excitement was just as wonderful as I remembered it from Jesse’s birth. It was over! I had a girl!

Jeremy was taking pictures, Cheerleader was at my head, giving me sips of chlorophyll water, and the midwives were supporting baby Claire above the water while they made sure everything was ok. Claire gave her first cry and I was talking to her – “Oh, honey, if you only new how much I loved you – you wouldn’t cry, sweet girl!”

As soon as possible they carefully got me out of the tub and onto the couch. The chord stopped beating very quickly so they were able to clamp it an cut it so I could at last hold my baby to my breast (the chord was only 14 inches long!)

Birthing the placenta, learning I had a small tear, after birth cramps — all of this was insignificant next to the fact that I was holding my baby girl and it was all over. In fact, I was in shock for several hours that I was, indeed, through with labor! I kept asking the Birthing Team – “Am I done? Is it all over? Is that it?”

Jeremy got Jesse up within minutes of the birth – I was surprised, but then delighted that he was here and able to participate in bonding with little Claire form the start. He was sleepy eyed, but aware and pleased with what he saw. He cuddled with Daddy and baby on the couch and then helped with the newborn exam, holding the end of the tape while they measured her.

181/2 in. long. 7 Lbs. 7 oz.

She was 20% smaller than Jess and such a perfect little head, no wonder I got her out in two pushes! Soon Daddy put The Boy back in bed, but an hour later he called to get up, and then he was wide awake, and so excited about the baby. he just kept reaching out a single finger to tightly touch her face or her blankets as if to make sure she was real, and not a dream. So gentle, so careful, so in love already.

By 7 am I was settled in my bed, encouraged to take a good long nap. Jesse went down to Grandma’s house, The Midwife and Assistant #1 left, and finally, after getting the last load of laundry in the washing machine and making sure mom and baby were well, Assistant #2 was on her way by 8:30. Jeremy, baby, and I all comfy in bed, and they slept, but I didn’t feel tired, too excited to sleep, despite having been awake for over 30 hours at this point!

The rest of the day is rather a blur now. I know Jeremy made me a delicious omelet for breakfast when we got up at 11am. We made phone calls to friends and family gradually through the day. One of the best phone calls was to my Grandfather, to tell him his first great-grandaughter had been born on his birthday!

It was after midnight when I finally got to sleep, as Claire had some mucus to work up and was a bit restless her first night. So, after being awake for 48 hours, I finally lost consciousness, the best day of my life complete, and the first day of my daughter’s life a sweet memory.

On Top Of the World

 

Six Years ago today, Jeremy and I tied the knot…

 

(no, I did not scrape my name into the seat of the ferris wheel with my diamond – I just found my name and posed next to it!)

 

These photos of our family riding a ferris wheel last month aptly describe how I feel today.


We have so much to celebrate.
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Letters From Home, Volume 1

Letters from Home is my new format to stay personally connected with my readers even as I endeavor to fulfill my vision of maturing my blog into a resource for a growing audience. So, whenever I have home news to share, I’ll do it under that heading, kind of like the letters I wrote my brother while he was in boot camp.

The kiddos with Uncle Jordan

Speaking of Jordan…
My Marine brother graduated right up near the top of his class and went on to get into just the specialized military he had his sights on  (something to do with bombs and tanks and such). He is now continuing his training and half the time I don’t know what state he’s in. But he did get a chance to visit over Labor Day. He adores the kids and the feeling is mutual.

Claire helped drop (clean, decorative) rocks into the water

We started school this month – even before I’d done the laundry from our trip!! I was determined to get a good start with our first official year of school, and new that if I stuck to my routine I’d make steady progress on all the other things we had to do. Sure enough, we now have 3 weeks of school under our belt, and the house is beginning to feel organized again. (The photos are from hands-on learning about Aesop’s Fable, the Crow and the Pitcher)

Jesse uses a straw ‘beak’ to reach the water

I wanted to use 31 Days To Clean for the month of September, but found I was going to be stressed try to match the exact pattern of the book, so I’m gleaning from the wonderful perspective and advice throughout the book, but doing my own list of daily tasks. Jesse, Claire and I do an hour of chores each morning after breakfast and before school, and that is helping me make steady progress – even to organizing long-jumbled shelves and cupboards. No, the kids don’t work a whole hour – they have specific chores to do along side me, then they get some play time in before school. I took a bunch of photos during chore time the other day so I could make them picture chore cards like Lindsay – I know they’ll enjoy the clear, visual reminder of their responsibilities, and the satisfaction of transfering the cards to the ‘done’ envelope.

Seth climbs to see what’s going on!

In blog news, we’ve had constant computer issues since the spring. We had carbonite keep our data safe, but I was having to do all my writing and internet stuff on this tiny little netbook we have, and had no access to my archives of photos and my beloved bookmarks. At last, this week, we have a new desktop up and running, which means I will be able to resume work on formatting my book for kindle and nook, and finally including photos in my posts with more regularity. (remember the days of show-and-tell blogging? They’re coming back, friends!) Also, I’m really looking forward to getting into vlogging more!

While the computer was out of commission, I got in the habit of taking photos on my phone and emailing them to All That Is Good’s Facebook page just so I felt like I was staying current. My new thing is to take a quick photo of dinner each night and send it to the Real Fast Food page – this helps keep me motivated to create real, nutritious meals for my family, and also hopefully inspire you to do the same! (I just have to mention, that was my first ever screen shot – and I did it by myself using this easy tutorial and just one phonecall to my husband! LOL)

Jesse’s drawing is really starting to develop! He loves art time.

The apple harvest from our orchard was dissapointingly small – we usually have to press 3 or 4 times to use all the apples and make 80-100 gallons of cider. This year we only pressed once and got 17 gallons, which didn’t go very far, considering we love to bless all our friends and neighbors with a gallon or two when it’s fresh. But we have a busy fall and don’t really have time for more pressing and our large freezer in which we would have stored the bounty is broken – the Lord knew! I did make more of an effort toward applesauce this year, and ended up canning about 30 jars (mostly quarts!) so we have sweet, pink applesauce for the whole winter!

Claire had help with her Crow :)

The Lord has been faithfully working in my life and heart, despite my own unfaithfulness in letting so many other things take priority over time with Him. He is showing me how it IS possible to cultivate and grow my relationship with Him in this season of motherhood IF I will make the effort. I have taken to staying off the computer completely on Tuesdays – it’s amazing how much those little moments add up and usually by bedtime I have been able to spend some good time in the Word and have been able to hear from Him because the other voices are quieted. I’d encourage you to try this yourself!

Seth joins in the fun (and poses for the camera)

I’m very inspired and encouraged by these books – if you’re in the same season as me – a busy mother of little ones, sobered by the tremendous responsibility of training and teaching them, these titles will bring hope to your heart…

Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids.

These are affiliate links – if you click through and make a purchase from the links in this post, you support All That Is Good – thank you!

Go jump in a lake!

 If it seems a bit quiet on the blog, it’s ’cause we’re out on the lake and you can’t hear us yelling from where you are!
We’ve gone into summertime mode – making the most out of the few weeks out of the year that the lakes are actually warm enough to swim in – Whoop! We’ve really enjoyed boating as a family this month (many thanks to my brother-in-law who got the family’s fixer-upper boat running for the first time in two years!) At least once a week (and three times during the last heat wave) we pack up a simple dinner and head to the lake as soon as Jeremy gets off work.(Lots of quick meals and packable dinners in the lunch section of my book)

 We like boating ’cause we can wear whatever we want to be comfortable (even mismatched flip flops!). This week I’m enjoying my new bathing suit (post about making your own bathing suit is simmering, simmering…)

Jeremy and I both had lots of water and lake memories in our childhood, so we are savoring the opportunity to pass a love of water on to our kids. Jesse and Claire have both been brave enough to get in the tube, and jump off the back of the boat to swim in the middle of the lake – not a small thing when you are jumping into 400-600 foot deep water. Even some grown ups quake at the thought. I still have to block my mind to all that water beneath me, especially after reading Unbroken!

Seth is very at home on the water, too.

We just love the boat. :)