Thursday, August 10

Our Souls are Happy in the Woods

I'm not the kind of mom who likes to get away from the house everyday. I enjoy being home, and I've always been an indoor girl. I was the girl who sat in her bedroom playing school during summer vacation. So I thank God for giving me boys. Messy, loud, busy boys. I hope to grow an appreciation for the outdoors as I strive to let them be boys. And that means getting them (and myself!) outside more often. 

If there's one thing I've learned this summer, it's the importance of spending time in nature. It's where we've made our best memories so far. Nature feeds your soul. You can literally feel it once you're there. We've found our favorite places this summer, and they are the woods, the creeks, and bike paths with plenty of wildlife surrounding them. My mama heart feels at ease when I can take them somewhere and let them be boys!

Since our house is in the city, with a fairly busy street near our front door, we have no choice but to keep them within the boundaries of their backyard. And there is so much to explore back there in that small space alone! I just ordered a nature book called, "100 Backyard Activities: That are the Dirtiest, Coolest, Creepy-Crawliest Ever!" by Colleen Kessler, and it's great for exploring and learning in the backyard, but we've been exploring nature away from home once or twice a week. 

It takes my mind off the messy house, and that alone is like therapy. Running down a hill with the boys, getting my hands dirty, observing and smelling flowers, collecting leaves and sticks, laughing, -- they all play a huge part in helping me relax and forget about the petty little things that felt huge within the four walls of our little home. 

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be." -- Anne Frank

It has a way of turning a weary day around. Stepping away from the busyness of life to enjoy what God made for us. Life should be about slowing down to enjoy God's creation with our children. All things we see in nature point back to Him.

We cannot visit the woods without bringing something home for their nature box. Last week it was a handful of walnuts, and each boy took turns breaking them open with a meat tenderizer and butter knife on our back steps. It was quite an adventure as they saw more and more of the walnut's insides as pieces broke off! How easy it is to learn new things every day when you're willing to explore. 

Each time we visit the woods, there are always new things to see. The vast tree heights and depths keep it feeling adventurous each time. With so much to see and explore, I cannot help but think of its Creator. 

"Then God said, 'Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.' And that is what happened. The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:11-12)

"Then God said, 'Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.' And that is what happened. The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:11-12)

Our souls are happy in the woods. 

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

Tuesday, August 8

Morning Routine

One thing I've learned at the beginning of this year is that children thrive on routine! Writing our list of things to do on the chalkboard each morning gives my 5- and 3-year-old a guideline for what happens next. It keeps them moving onto each task pretty smoothly when they know what to expect. My oldest really enjoys crossing each task off after finishing them!

Since January, our morning routine has looked like this: 

1. Change diapers/pull-up
2. Eat breakfast 
3. Clear the table 
4. Get dressed
5. Make beds
6. Bible time 
7. Memory verse
8. Pray 

This basic routine has worked wonders for our mornings. It has given me a sense of accomplishment just knowing we've spent our time with God together, because bible time can easily be forgotten once the day gets going! Being intentional and including it in our routine is key.  

Now that they're old enough to get in and out of their chairs at the table (and feed themselves!), I know they can handle the task of taking their dishes to the sink when they're done. So far, it's worked well. I usually have to remind them to set the dishes down gently, but it's nice to have that little bit of extra help with clearing the table :)

I've also come to find that my boys love labels! I have their clothes drawers labeled so they can easily find the clothing they need to put on. It's also useful for their help in putting clean clothes into the drawers. Three small drawers for each boy simply hold: pajamas, shirts, pants/shorts. I like allowing them to pick out their own clothes.

I was impressed when I asked them to go make their beds on day one of this routine. They went and figured it all out on their own! I honestly expected them to ask for help, but they didn't! That's when I realized how capable they are to be introduced to basic responsibilities.

Mornings work best for us to do "bible time" while the boys are more calm and willing to sit still for a little while on the couch (about 15 minutes). I like to give my one-year-old a quiet toy to play with nearby since he usually doesn't last through the entire reading.

Memorizing one verse each month is a great way to get scripture into their hearts (and my own!). Our church supplies us with a verse to memorize each month, but verses can easily be chosen on your own as well. If there are days I haven't had a chance to read the bible, just seeing the memory verse on the chalkboard and meditating on it for a couple minutes is beneficial.

Praying together with my boys before starting our days truly is a sweet time, and they have come to desire their own turn to pray. My 3-year-old usually likes praying a few memory verses :) Praying before we begin the day helps remind me to take comfort in whatever God's plans are for the hours ahead of us (despite what I may have already planned).

Mama's Morning Bible Time

I'm not a morning person, and I never have been. I like sleep and would prefer to wake when my body feels like it. But in these last few months, I've come to appreciate the beauty and stillness each morning offers before the little boys have awakened.

The first thing I like to do is put on my robe. It's just cozy and keeps me warm as I enter the coolness of our home. Then I like to open all the curtains in the kitchen to let in the morning light. Just so beautiful that is! Even on a cloudy day, it shows God's grace for a new day.

Turn on the coffee maker, make some coffee. Pick up my bible and sit at the kitchen table. I try my best to clean the kitchen before bed so that the kitchen is clean and ready for the day. It's welcoming to wake up to a clean kitchen table, plus it just gives the morning a good head start!

And I will admit I've only actually experienced this special mama-morning-bible-time a handful of times, since I'm still in the season of nursing. I've preferred to just be woken by my youngest, as he asks for "sheesh" one last time around 6 am, which then leads to his little eyes opening and then the happy chattering :)

So we usually just get out of bed together; open the curtains, make some coffee and then save my bible reading for breakfast time with my three little boys. I've been reading a chapter out-loud each morning from the book of Proverbs, and my oldest has been willing to sit still and listen through an entire chapter! 

Since summer has begun, mornings have been more lazy and drawn out. I think it's good to appreciate summer for what it is, and enjoy heading straight outside after breakfast instead of worrying about chores or making the beds right away. The boys usually head right outside before getting dressed. Summer is a sweet, wild and free season to cherish :) 

Tuesday, August 1

Declutter Challenge!

I challenged myself to declutter our house in 100 days. At day 70, I'm so happy to see such an amazing difference. Night and day difference! Mostly in the way that doors and cabinets open without things falling out, or opening drawers with more available space (some empty!), and even the fact that it's been almost four months and the clutter isn't piling back up.

A few months ago, I felt worn out as a stay-at-home mom. Three active little boys says enough ;) I desired a creative outlet. Somewhere, somehow. So I spent a few days pondering the idea of beginning a challenge for myself. 100 days of...something! It had to be easy and obtainable. I've seen those 100-day challenges around Instagram for a while, and I love the idea of slowly working toward a goal.

I thought of several things I could do...painting, drawing, graphic design, photography...organizing. I'm pretty much always in the mood to organize, and it just sounded the most do-able in this season of motherhood. But then I looked over at our bedroom closet and thought, "I see nothing but clutter."

So...that's when I thought 100 days of decluttering! (I think I may have actually felt a lightbulb turn on in my head at that moment.) It sounded almost too good to be true. To just pick one small area to declutter each day for 100 days.

I did give myself grace ahead of time, knowing I may miss a day here and there because "those days" just happen. And that's ok. But even while missing days here and there, I do see results :) And am looking forward to the final 30 days of this challenge!

Our home has never felt so comfortable to live in. Less is more! -- or what my grandma always told me, "The more stuff you have, the more work you have."

So...100 Days of Decluttering!

These were my rules for this challenge:

1. Only keep things I truly love, find to be beautiful, or need
2. Don't keep anything I feel I might use or wear someday
3. Don't keep things we haven't used, or thought about, in over a year (food items, toys, clothes, home decor, holiday decorations, greeting cards, etc.)

Some days have been a challenge for me as far as getting rid of things I've held onto for years, fearing I may need them someday. I may eventually wish I had that extra fabric or those flower vases some day...

But is it worth holding onto things for the sake of "protecting" my future? Is it worth the extra work to store away that vase when I could easily spend $3 on another, if I suddenly need one?

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."  (Matthew 6:24-35)

I love when God reminds me to lean on him when my fears and anxiety start to set in. He knows my future and what I need. And He will provide.

Tuesday, July 25

Motherhood is Beautiful

So here I am, in a very new season of life. Where I'm up late at night while the three little boys sleep soundly in their beds. Actually boy three is asleep with his dad in our bedroom. He still nurses often enough to keep him close by! I've never done well with the get-up-and-nurse thing. It's more of a turn-over-latch-and-fall-back-asleep thing, and it's been great! I couldn't be happier than what we're doing in life right now. As challenging as three children has been, I see so much beauty in it. The beauty of three little boys running around the house like crazy, making a beautiful mess. And their own unique face shapes and eye colors. We call them ocean eyes and chocolate eyes. The beauty of postpartum "imperfections" and messy bun I wear most days. There is beauty in tomorrow. Almost every time we have "the hardest day ever," the following day brings us so much grace. And it helps me to remember my God. The ultimate artist, who created everything and made it all with such intricate design and purpose. There is so much beauty in motherhood, it can be ever so captivating. Utterly beautiful. Sometimes just the thought of it makes me breathless. Similar to the feelings I get when I see a pink sunset suddenly take over the west skies, which leads me to doing nothing but dwelling on God. Thanking him for his beauty, that he even desires to fill our eyes with his splendor. Because we don't deserve an ounce of his greatness. And motherhood is one of those treasures. Something I do not deserve, but have been given because he loves.

"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Monday, September 2

Vanessa & Sam

I'm super excited to have a new camera! I've had it for less than 48 hours, and I've already gotten a chance to take photographs for this cute engaged couple down by the lake. The sunset glowing among the wild grass and flowers was the most beautiful I'd ever seen it. I really thought my heart stopped. It was that beautiful! I'm sure I was just as captivated about the light and color as Sam and Vanessa were captivated about each other :)

Tuesday, August 27

Adelaide Rose

My very first niece was born this summer on June 12th, the day she was due. Her name is Adelaide Rose. As soon as she was born, all I could think was picture time! I hadn't picked up my broken camera in months, but I just had to try getting something out of it. With about 10 taken, a few good ones came out of it, and here she is! :)