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There’s been an unplanned, obvious lull in this space the last two months, and I’ll admit on certain days, I’ve been frustrated by it. In short, there are simply too many things that I want to do in a day, and not enough time or enough of me to do it all. I started April intending to write about the importance of self-care in motherhood, and well, it turns out, taking care of myself actually trumped writing about it. Go figure. As I shared on Instagram the other day, 2016 is teaching me deep lessons in self-care and gentleness toward myself in this mothering journey, and I do plan to begin unfolding some of those lessons beginning next week. May, a month set apart for celebrating mothers, seems perfect for this topic.

In the meantime, I wanted to end April with something nourishing for the weekend: two favorite juice recipes and a quote from Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism, “Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” Give yourself permission to say no to something this weekend, to rest fully for some bit of time in a way that fills your soul. Maybe it’s watching a film or reading a book. Maybe it’s going for a walk or having a night out. Whatever it is, make some time for it. Happy weekend to you. x


 

WEEKEND GREEN JUICE

1/2 lemon, chopped

1 English cucumber, chopped

2 tart apples, chopped + cored

a small nub of ginger (optional)

pinch of cayenne

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WEEKEND RED JUICE

1 beet, chopped

1 grapefruit, peeled+chopped

2 oranges, peeled+chopped

1 lemon, peeled

1 nob of ginger

 

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Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe. ―Susan Cain, Quiet

It feels redundant to mention the messy and loud work of motherhood, let alone with the homeschool. Whether by the practical work of our hands or the soulful work of the heart, it is simultaneously the most beautiful and depleting work, requiring  every bit of our reserves, regardless of educational choices or occupations outside of the home. Parenthood will turn our hearts inside-out in the best of ways, and while it is inherently about our children, parenthood is also a journey of self. I encourage you, dearest readers, do pay attention to this less obvious part too.

On a recent weekend, I spent the afternoon in the kitchen on my own, listening to music and working with my hands. At the end of the evening as the kids were bathing and sliding into bedtime routine, I recognized an internal energy that typically isn’t there at this point in the day. I’m more likely in these hours to fall asleep during read-a-loud or slip into my own sheets just after the kids. Our children had played or worked outside all day, taking full advantage of our unseasonable warm weather. The overflow of energy, I realized, came from quiet, from spending a few hours working with my hands, listening to music, and simply allowing my thoughts to drift without the need to talk or explain a process. I had simply worked.

Knowing how much solitude or quiet activity fuels me as an introvert, the choice to live and learn with my four children all the time may seem funny to others. For years I have wrestled with guilt about this personal need. Taking time for the self can often feel secondary and selfish in the wake of all that can be (or should be) done for our children, and we mothers can be hard on ourselves in the process. After reading Quiet several years ago, I realized this need of mine is as much a gift to my children as any other. I can only say it this way:

The point of solitude is not merely to be filled but to be filled often enough to overflow into something or someone else.

Motherhood is not a life of solitude (even though a mother with a newborn or young toddlers might feel differently). It is a conscious practice of living out-loud, of talking through actions and patterns of thought in order to teach our children. This is a tree. This is a book. This is a bed. This is food. We teach them how to handle anger and happiness, how to talk through hurt feelings and where to look up answers to practical questions. This is anger. This joy. This is laughter. This is hurt. Here is how we speak, how we use our bodies to share our emotion. Here is how we ask for help. We show them the paradoxes and contexts for living. This is a stranger. This is a new friend. Here is how and when you greet them.  We teach practical skills in self-care. Here is a toilet. Here is a bath. Here is a toothbrush. We also teach them about boundaries, about the connection between self and others. This is yours. This is mine. This is sharing. This is fun. This is tired. This is a tantrum. This is the need for rest.  Homeschooling simply adds the layer of academics. The same lessons spiral over and over in a new context. Here is frustration. Here is joy. Here is perseverance. Here is respect for others. Here is a need for rest.

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By honestly sharing my own boundaries and limitations, I am likewise teaching my children to recognize their own. I am also teaching them it is okay to say remove myself from people or activities I love in a healthy way. Here are a few ways that I’ve learned to find quiet during my homeschool days and in motherhood in general over the years:

rest time | Take an hour in the afternoon for rest time. This is a time of quiet, where littles can nap and non-napping children can listen to audiobooks or play independently. Quiet is the emphasis for our home during this hour, and the rule is you must choose an activity that won’t disrupt someone else. This last bit gets easier as they grow older, although sharply protecting this time is more difficult. During this time, I typically take care of online work. On the best days, I just grab a book and a cozy spot on my bed.

go outside | Anytime I’m feeling overwhelmed by the noise in my head or environment, I step outside. When my children were young, I would load them in a stroller or wrap them to my body somehow for a journey to the park. Now as my children are a little older, we may take our work outdoors or I may just go and sit in a sunny spot in the backyard for a few minutes. Sometimes emotion and thought need to be free of the physical home.

take a time-out for yourself | Time-out has such a negative connotation, as it feels equated with toddler tantrums or other misbehavior. I realized during those early mother years, that sometimes I was the one who needed a time-out. Some moments I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, or like I might lose patience, I learned it was better to take a ten minute break for myself before addressing them. I might put the baby in the crib or the toddler in a high-chair with a snack or on their bed with a book. I might send pre-schoolers outside for a bit to swing or play. I still do this, no longer because of tantrums, but because some days the work at hand does feel overwhelming. It’s always good for me to find a quiet spot in the home or yard, take a few slow, deep breaths. These moments feel almost trite, but they work wonders for finding perspective.

offer screen time | Let me pause here and say there’s no shame in using a screen for help. Most modern parents are aware it’s best for children to learn with our hands and by human interaction. And yes, make that type of experience the bulk of your day together, but remember to show compassion to yourself, too. Are you dressed or needing a shower? Are you feeling emotionally anxious or stressed? Have you spent more time playing the sibling referee or working through toddler tantrums than normal? Take 30 minutes. When my children were little, they had a daily 30-60 minutes of screen time. They watched (and loved ) the BBC’s Planet Earth, which we still own and watch, and several documentaries on Netflix. They also watched PBS shows or Leap Frog Letter Factory or Math to the Moon.

send the kids outside | As my children have grown older, I often send them outside. I may give them a specific task or the simple imperative to play and enjoy fresh air. As our studies grow more complex and difficult, they need the balance, too.

Also: Rest Time in Our Home

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  — Ecclesiastes 3:1 

After our trip alone to Taos this summer, my husband and I realized we needed more boundaries between work and rest. Our current season of life doesn’t naturally afford stops (apart from night sleeps), so we needed to intentionally carve out time to restore spiritually, physically, and relationally. We have always been intrigued by the idea of Shabbat (Sabbath), a traditional Jewish practice of rest, family togetherness, and spiritual attention, but with our Protestant backgrounds, this concept was intimidating and foreign. Over the last couple of years, we have talked with several friends about the ways they practice rest within their homes, and this summer, we took more to read and learn about importance of Shabbat.

I’ve always thought about time in terms of utility, something used for something else entirely. In his book, The SabbathRabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel describes time not as a commodity, but as something holy in itself. He refers to Sabbath days as cathedrals of time which create a sense of longing within us, and poetically notes, “[Shabbat] is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.” Sabbath is the enjoyment of time itself and the weekly recognition that time is a gift from God.

Last month, we began our own formal practice of Shabbat in hope of living deeper in Jesus together and not allowing our lives to be ruled by work. In just a few weeks of practice, already the Sabbath, especially the Sabbath meal, has become a place of longing and expectation for all of us, even the children. My husband let go of his Saturday work, and I have limited the amount of my own. It is helping us create the boundaries we have longed for, but more importantly, it is teaching how to trust God with our time, to know when to stop working and to celebrate. We are building the habit of saying enough to our work and the “acquisition of the things of space.” We are obviously still learning, but this is a good beginning. Below I have shared a little bit about how we prepare for this time as a family. Naturally, it will look a little different for everyone, but I hope there will be something to glean for you, something to help you treasure the holiness in time.

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PREPARATION

On Thursday each week, the children and I write out our weekly meal plan and shop for groceries after school work is finished. On Friday mornings, we work through whatever schoolwork we can complete, and we stop at lunch time. Friday afternoon is for deep cleaning our home: putting things away, but also larger jobs like washing floors and scrubbing down the bathrooms. It’s shocking how dirty our home can become during the week. I often turn on loud, upbeat music for us to enjoy and we pause for an afternoon snack somewhere along the way. This cleaning period requires most of the afternoon, and then we transition to preparation for our Shabbat meal.

I begin by making our weekend cake, a rotating baked dessert we can enjoy all weekend. The children begin by setting the table with a large, white linen tablecloth; our china that we picked up at an antique store in Kansas City ages ago; cloth napkins; candles; and fresh flowers. They often make name cards, practicing their cursive on nice white paper, and position silverware and glasses near each place setting. We fill bottles with water to refrigerate for dinner and begin chopping vegetables or preparing meat. Since it’s still quite warm here, we’ve mainly prepared fish that we can grill for these dinners, although I look forward to oven roasts for colder days in upcoming months. We often roast some vegetables and make a complimentary salad. Although we’re hoping to make our own challah bread at some point, right now, we pick up a couple of loaves of baked bread from the grocery bakery for ease.

When dinner prep is complete, I fill two more glass carafes, one with red wine and another with Italian soda for the children. We quickly wipe down counters and wash the dirty prep dishes, although some weeks we run too close to dinner-time for this and clean-up happens afterward. We all get dressed for dinner, freshening up and putting on something nicer than our ordinary daily clothes. This dinner is special for us, and we want to dress accordingly. Our home is generally very casual and our family dining out is as well, so our Sabbath meal is also a great way to teach our children simple rules of dinner etiquette, such as placing a napkin in your lap, keeping your elbows off of the table, or requesting/waiting for someone to pass food to you.

My younger sister, Kristen, is married to my husband’s younger brother–I know, crazy! Brothers married to sisters. Since traditionally the Shabbat meal is intended to be a family event and they live nearby, each week, we all share this meal together.  Before grocery shopping, Kristen and I talk about which meal we want to make and divide up the dishes. Sharing the meal preparation is such a gift! They arrive to our home, dressed, and we all sit down in our named places. Everyone has a place at the table, toddlers included.The baby might be playing in her infant seat or on a palette of blankets on the floor near the table. When she’s restless, we all take turns holding her.

 

THE MEAL

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The first part of our meal time is quite formal. My husband wrote down several Messianic Jewish prayers on a notecard that we use, including a blessing of the meal, lighting the candles, sharing of communion, a formal hand washing as a posture of our hearts, and a formal blessing of sons, daughter, mothers, and fathers. Communion and the blessing of the family parts is by far my favorite portion of this time in our meal. Although brief, it celebrates and recognizes each family member and declares noble truths over each person.

After the blessing and prayer time, we pour drinks, serve plates, and eat. This part has been the greatest surprise for me. The adults and children slowly enjoy a nice meal and conversation together, even the youngest ones. It is not rigid or dogmatic but a natural enjoyment of all of our work and effort. As the children finish their meals, they head off to play, while the adults linger and talk together.

After the mealtime when Kristen and Tim leave with their family, our own family piles on the couch for a movie night together. Bedtime is pushed back due to our movie night, a pleasure for all the children, with the intention that everyone can sleep-in the next morning. From the moment the Shabbat meal begins, work ceases. We do not check emails or any other work related thing (unless an emergency) until after sundown on Saturday. This can be the most challenging part, especially since I work from home, So I usually tuck my planner and notepad away and stay clear of the computer during those hours. Although difficult at times, this has been the most restorative practice for me.

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The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. — Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

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THE SABBATH DAY

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Sleeping-in on Saturday morning is highly respected by everyone in our home (a perk of older children). Our youngest child is six (and often one of the last to wake up), so everyone is old enough to entertain themselves quietly until everyone is awake. During the Sabbath day, our routine is not open and flexible. We usually begin with fresh fruit pancakes my husband and Burke make together, and after that we relax as it seems fit for the day.

As the weather cools more in the next few months, we hope to make day-trips to hike, but until then and while we’re indoors more, we tend to read or play games with sporadic walks or trips to the park during cooler parts of the day. I often let the kids have time playing video games (since we rigidly limit this during the week).  Whatever we do, the point is to do it together and enjoy time without the obstacles of home projects or work.

I hope to have more to share about this part the longer we celebrate this day.  I’m curious, do you practice the Sabbath or another time period of regular rest in your home?

Recommended readings on Sabbath: || 1 | 2 | 3

 

 

 

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The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word . . . .
Where is the Life we have lost in living?

– T.S. Eliot, The Rock

We will be unplugging this weekend to camp in a small part of the Texas wilderness to celebrate our Burke’s ninth year of life. Although we’ve had this planned for months, it now seems hardly the right time–mid-semester, mid-move, mid-everything–or perhaps, it’s exactly the right time. The time for us to pause our endless cycle of ideas and action and invention and talk to remember the beauty of simple and stillness and one another and, of course, the One who is the source of it all. Happy weekend to you all.

Image taken in Mesa Verde, Colorado, June 2013. 

be-still.jpgMy life doesn’t naturally provide space for stillness, physically, mentally, or spiritually. It’s strange to think of stillness as a discipline, but as a young mother, it is. In stillness (without my phone or computer), I can listen. Really listen. I can listen to my thoughts, to my dreams. I can hear my husband and my children–really hear them, really see them. In stillness, I can hear God speak; I can hear promise and hope. In stillness, I receive life. Every. Time. I realized this morning I haven’t been very protective of this sort of stillness. So many TO DOs regularly compete for that place, convincing me to keep moving in the name of productivity. Although producing anything feels good in a different way, it doesn’t restore me like stillness. So these are the words I want to share with you also: be still. Put aside productivity and TO DOs and your phone,  even for ten minutes

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Rest and be thankful. ― William Wordsworth

Sometimes I think about the early days of our family, when we’d harness babies to our bodies and walk without aim, just to be together. To be. Sometimes we used words and held hands. Sometimes we walked in silence, our footsteps in sync. Although our walks have since become louder, I love them just the same. Walking aimlessly, together.

fall berries / Saturday morning crafts / studying leaves / shadow play / afternoon light / reading / a football and a walking stick / Sunday morning bike ride / something new / weekend walking / outdoor dinner with friends / a hot chocolate picnic

Wow. It’s July. I know, technically it’s time for another {this moment} but I’ve noticed myself succumbing to the ease of photo blogging and failing to actually retrieve the thoughts and words filling our life right now. And as you’ve probably noticed, words are long overdue here. I blame the lethargy of summer, that heat-hammock enclosing me, rocking worries and ideas to slumber. I’ve attempted to muster them, blank paper and pen in hand, but like a child in a wakeful dream, my letters seem to slur together, non-sensical. And maybe, that’s exactly what I’ve needed. What we’ve needed. Summer this year has been breath for us. I mean it, a true revitalization. We finished the school year — albeit crawling and tasting dirt — exhausted in every faculty. The point being: we finished. Mark enrolled in an online summer school class so we could be more transient, and I essentially halted all formal school time, minus reading. Although we didn’t finish everything I intended, we’ll pick up again in a few weeks right where we left off. For now, the summer break wins, a prioritized time for us to connect again as a family without the weight of routine mandates. So last month, to jumpstart our break, we packed our bags to head up to see both sets of grandparents (and their pools) and long-time friends of ours (Badrinas and Carruths) for a couple of weeks. We swam, feasted with our families and friends (always raucous and entertaining), celebrated birthdays, read books, watched movies, ate our breakfasts by the pool — it was delightful. Thank you Mom, Dad, Sam, Joanne, Aina, and Caleb, for helping us to enter into a season of rest.

 


Olive’s crying right now. For the second time, I’ve returned her to her bed for rest, a quiet both of us need. I’ve seen this phase out of daytime sleep on the horizon for a while; she is three after all. Although the boys had long given up naps at her age, they quickly adapted to quieting themselves during rest time, happy to spend 1-2 hours in their beds studying the images in books they couldn’t yet read and wielding their own tales through pictures. Blythe took a little longer, but now also has learned to enjoy this peaceful part of our early to mid-afternoon. Olive, my busy toddler (is that even an adequate description?) has been harder, naturally. At this point, I can tell this “rest” feels withholding and prohibitive to her; I offer her reassurance of our need of rest and solicit her trust. Although my words often fall dead, she usually concedes, slowing down enough to either fall asleep or find her slower rhythm. We’re working on it.

When the older kids were younger (toddlers and preschoolers) it was easy to prioritize this restorative part of the day; plus we always had a baby around forcing us to slow down for naps. But as they’ve gotten older and days and school-work seem more demanding, I’ve noticed myself letting this quiet slip away, burned up in the bright, needy day. Of course the five of us spend a lot of time together and for the most part enjoy our together-ness, but we require rest from each other, space for ourselves individually, to go inside ourselves without having to answer to the other or worry about sharing space or things. Ok. My kids would never articulate this, but I notice on days we don’t separate, more bickering and whining ensues, and I’m more irritable too. Honestly, as much as I want for my children to understand words, numbers, and various forms of beauty and nature, I want them to learn to enter quiet, to practice muffling the noise — people, work, media– demanding us. To hear themselves. To hear God. What does this look like? For our family right now, it means at least an hour a day: 30 minutes of reading quietly, 30 minutes of quiet activity (Legos, painting, drawing, puzzles, writing, being outdoors, etc.). The only guidelines: you cannot interrupt another. To some of you this may seem ridiculous or strict, but the goal is to teach them the value of quiet, something I’m still learning myself, to give space to the thoughts, creations, sounds often lost to day. And so I also practice quieting my soul right alongside them, leaving my TO DOs (and various medias) in order to find rest.

How do you and/or your family find quiet and rest?