May 21, 2015

Book love: Motherhood and Parenting

Here's a compilation of recommended books on mothering. Some I've read and some are on my list of would-like-to-read. (I'm currently trying to earn swagbuck points towards an amazon giftcard so I can indulge my book-buying temptations!)

A couple are not specific or exclusive to this topic but they have been an inspiration and encouragement to me as a mother. If you've enjoyed some of these or have other suggestions let me know in the comments! I love talking books!

Books I've Read:

1. The Shaping of a Christian Family: How My Parents Nurtured My Faith  - Elisabeth Elliot feels more like a close mentor to me than an author I've never met - basically I would recommend anything she has written! In this book she tells the story of her family and the home she grew up in - it's an interesting read and full of wise advice and encouragement for raising children and establishing a christian home.
2. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus - There were some points I didn't agree with or find helpful but the overall message of the book was refreshing and thought-provoking for me: that our goal as parents isn't to produce "good kids" but rather to point them to the Savior. Some other take-aways: the importance of cultivating a culture of grace in the home - asking forgiveness when we as parents sin and keeping our focus on the good news of the gospel.

3.  Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches - This book reads like an informal collection of blog posts but it's packed with wise advice. I actually read it the first time as a new mom...I enjoyed it but was recently reading it again and laughed and cried my way through parts. Probably because I can better identify with many of the stories now! The author is honest and funny and applies biblical wisdom to a wide range of "issues" we have to deal with as moms to little ones.

4.  Stepping Heavenward - The fictional journal of a girl in the 1800's, moving from girlhood to later adulthood. The emphasis is on her growth and pursuit of Christ as she journeys along life's path. So much wisdom to be gleaned! I did a post with some quotes here.

5. The Hidden Art of Homemaking  - This is a bit of an old-fashioned read but inspiring - the author (wife of the late theologian Francis Schaeffer) writes about the many creative opportunities that exist in the home, encouraging her readers that beauty and creativity are worthwhile pursuits because God is a God of beauty and creativity. She writes, "I would define 'hidden art' as the art found in the ordinary areas of everyday life. Each person has, I believe, some talent which is unfulfilled in some hidden area of his being - a talent which could be expressed and developed." Each chapter focuses on a specific area of creativity, providing ideas and inspiration.

6. Steady Days: A Journey Towards Intentional, Professional Motherhood - While not having a christian focus, I found this book helpful in casting a vision for the opportunities of motherhood and helping me to think practically about planning and guiding our days in a purposeful way. An easy and fun read.

Books I want to read:

As I haven't had a chance to get my hands on copies yet I can't offer comment but these recommendations have come from trusted or respected sources so I'm sure they're good. If you've read them let me know what you think!

7. The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity

8. For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School 

9. A Mother's Heart: A Look at Values, Vision, and Character for the Christian Mother

10. Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother's Heart and Hope

May 18, 2015

Plans to blog more, enjoying the season, and 28 weeks pregnant.

The other day I read through some old posts and thought, I'm glad I recorded these things. Even though writing on here has happened so infrequently, I like that I can come back when I want to, even if only saving these thoughts and memories for myself.

I wonder if I would blog more often if I felt good about just posting pictures or little thoughts. I really enjoy reading these sorts of simple, personal blogs and yet I admire people who have a talent for writing and produce wise, thought provoking posts every time. Is there value in small musings? I do think so, so I will try not to compare or hold myself to high expectations every time I get the urge to sit down and write! Just maybe I'll set as a summer goal for myself posting more often!

Just now my two little ones are resisting their naps, choosing instead to babble on in conversations with themselves as I sit here thinking some quiet would be nice! We were outside after lunch, trying to stay in the shade as it's suddenly very warm and humid. Spring hasn't lasted long! I have flowers planted in our front beds and some seeds and vegetable plants ready to go in the back little garden, hopefully tonight when it cools off. I love growing things, and having Joshua tag along as I've done some weeding and planting has been fun....although he would rather put on his super exciting bike helmet and go in circles on his tricycle in our driveway as I work. Sometimes he yells, "Bye, see ya! Goin' fishing mommy....going to go walmart!" and I have to pull my pregnant self off the grass in record speed and chase him down the driveway before he rolls out into the street. We are working on boundaries!

Speaking of pregnancy, I'll be 28 weeks this coming Thursday, officially in the third trimester. I'm glad I don't seem to carry very big but I'm still starting to feel clumsy and sluggish - a combination of my growing size and the heat I guess!

This little guy is pretty active - not as active as Joshua if I recall but much more so than our laid-back Miriam was in the womb. Lately I'm starting to feel excitement to see his face and discover who this small person is.

At the same time I'm content with having a few more months with just our first two. I can start to wonder if I'll have what it takes to mother three under the age of three well but I remind myself of God's promised grace for the work He calls us to do.

This task of motherhood is difficult at times, of course! But it holds more joy than I ever imagined.

Mar 24, 2015

Home life (with a baby and toddler).

I've thought for a while that it would be fun to do a post that shows what our at-home days are like. I know I've gathered tips or benefited from seeing how other moms structure their days or manage life with little ones at home so this is my attempt to document what is working well for us at this stage (with a 2 year old and 12 month old). Plus, I enjoy keeping a record of these little things to remember later and if it doesn't get written here it will probably be forgotten (as I don't tend to record lists or little details like these in my journal)!

So welcome to a peek inside our home - this is a typical day if we don't have guests or an outing or errands planned.

6:30am - Miriam wakes up and nurses and then goes back to bed - she is almost one and since she wants to go back to sleep I know she doesn't need this nurse but for now it's working. I normally go back to sleep for a few minutes afterwards too.

7:15 Up for the day - breakfast with my husband and I try to pack his lunch and he's off to work by 7:40. Joshua normally is up for breakfast by 7:30 and he eats his oatmeal while I putter around or look at facebook. (Hmm, perhaps I should stop ignoring my child first thing in the morning and actually sit with him at the table?)

8 - 8:30 Miriam is awake or if she's still sleeping I wake her up and feed her breakfast. I normally change both kids for the day at this point but to be honest if I know we're staying in they might get fresh diapers but stay in their p.j's. The next hour and a half is spent as playtime - Joshua picks out a bucket or two of toys to bring out from his room and they play in the dining area or living room together (I sometimes have to play referee) as I wash up the breakfast and snack-from-the-night-before dishes and try to do a general tidy-up. If I'm ambitious I try to tackle one thing like cleaning a bathroom or vacuuming.
A note on cleaning: Some days I am busy or preoccupied with other things and our house quickly becomes cluttered and messy with laundry and dishes and toys and mail and books and who knows what else. This is normal when you're at home with kids right? Everyone is different in their approach and preference to this, but I try to make it a priority to keep on top of things since having constant mess or clutter around me (in our own home) can stress me out after a while! I enjoy having a peaceful and lovely environment as much as possible so I'm slowly learning how to be more organized and minimalistic as well as forming habits of routinely doing chores so procrastination doesn't cause everything to build up!
So continuing on with our day - we normally have some time reading on the couch or if Joshua wants to we might do an art activity or look at some flashcards. I don't believe in pushing academics too early on kids and my main goal educationally at this age is to encourage creativity and curiosity and hopefully to foster a love of books!

10:00 Independent play-time/nap-time/my break time! Miriam goes down for a nap and Joshua goes to his room for play time on his own. I started this a few months back since Joshua hadn't been going for a morning nap in quite a while. I felt like we both needed a reset mid-morning and it occurred to me to try to encourage him to play quietly on his own. Good for him, good for me! I put the baby-gate up in his doorway so he knows he has to stay in but I can still hear him. The first few times he resisted a bit and we kept it short, maybe ten to fifteen minutes? Now he actually looks forward to this time and happily plays by himself for an hour, talking away to his stuffed animals as he builds towers with blocks or pulls books into his bed to look at or plays with legos. A word of caution - if toddlers are going to be put in a room alone to entertain themselves you must first survey the room and think like a toddler! In Joshua's room we have a high shelf where I keep all his art supplies. One day I thought he was being so quiet he must have fallen, he hadn't. He had climbed up onto a small table and pulled markers down and decorated the entire back of his door as well as a ton of wall space!

During this time I make coffee and try to resist other distractions so I can sit and have some time in the Word and to pray. With a newborn or with older children I know this scheduled quiet hour won't necessarily be feasible so I am grateful for the season we're currently in and am trying to be faithful in seeking the Lord when He provides the time.

11:15 Joshua is allowed out after tidying up what he's played with. We go wake Miriam and I take a minute to make our bed and pick up a few things upstairs. I also shower or get ready for the day while they play in the hallway (it's almost a small room so I keep a few toys there for this purpose).

12:00 Lunch. I often put on a podcast or radio program while I make our lunch and then we sit at the table and eat together. They play some more afterwards and I might go on the computer for a bit to read some blogs or browse pinterest. Once the weather is warmer (this has been the snowiest and coldest winter on record for a while) we will probably try and do a walk or outside time after lunch but for now we just mill about indoors! Sometime before nap we usually find our way to the couch for a library book or two.

1:30 Naptime for both kids. Joshua only seems to fall asleep during this time a few days out of the week but it's still a rest for him at least. I pull the curtains in his room so it's darker and if he doesn't sleep I normally find him in his bed with books or just talking to his stuffed dog. Sometimes I hear a crash as he's brought the lego box from the shelf and emptied it into his bed but as long as he's playing quietly I leave him alone. If he complained I would let him out earlier but he seems to like this second quiet time so I'm happy to leave it in the schedule for the time being!

I used to nap a bit during the first trimester of this pregnancy - I could barely keep my eyes open to do anything else and would often be hit with queasiness as well. Thankfully now that I'm nearly 20 weeks along I'm feeling pretty great and try to use my afternoon free time productively. Well - after a brief unproductive part where I aimlessly browse things online! The internet is good but also offers easy temptation to waste too much time! Normally after this I'll settle in with some reading or listen to a podcast. I might catch up a bit on the kids in their "Letters to ___" that I keep for them in a computer document. Sometimes I'm working on a decor project or I'll go through receipts or bills and update our budget program. There is always something to be done! I also start thinking about what to make for dinner. I've loved having a menu plan in the past but lately that hasn't happened so I'm usually scrambling for ideas!

3-:3:30 Both kids are up. Joshua is sometimes in a mood and I find this is a great time to offer specific activities - playdough at the table or playing with a set I keep in bins out of reach (like a small wooden train track set). Eventually I start dinner and both kids seem to find their way to my feet to play and I try not to trip or step on someone as I move about our small kitchen. (Why do kids do this!)

4:35 Loris is home (unless he's had to work a bit later)! He works only five minutes away which I love since no commute time means our days alone feel like just the right length.  He plays with the kids while I finish dinner and we usually sit down to eat pretty early, by 5:00.

 And that's our day!

Everyone has a preference when it comes to the topic of scheduling or routines. Personally I can't imagine not having a basic plan in mind for the majority of days that we are at home. If we want to go out or do something different then we do, throwing regular naptimes or planning to the wind. But when we are at home I find that having several set things in our schedule guides us through the day nicely.

Feb 6, 2015

Headlines on gender and sanctity of life issues: what's our response?

An online conversation with an acquaintance last week and two headlines I came across this morning brought hazy remembrances of two quotes to mind that I had to go look up:

“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.” - Commonly attributed to Martin Luther
"Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years." - Francis Schaeffer

The conversation I had (that began with a short comment I made on a friend's facebook post) turned into a debate over the merit (or lack thereof) of a proposed updated sex education curriculum for Ontario schools. (If you do some reading on this, you'll find out the updated curriculum could include such things as having kindergartners question their gender.)

The first headline I came across this morning announced an Ontario school board's aim to "eliminate non-inclusive terms - like 'husband and wife' or 'mother and father'."

The second headline announced Canada's supreme court ruling to allow physician-assisted suicide. From the article: "The court has given federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling; the ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands until then. If the government doesn't write a new law, the court's exemption for physicians will stand."

What do the opinions expressed in the first conversation (in support of the proposed curriculum changes) and these two news headlines share in common?  As I washed dishes after lunch and thought about it, I realized the connecting underlying root: each decision or belief represents a questioning or denial of who, and what, our Creator has made us to be.

Although it's true that many in our culture deny the very existence of a Creator and therefore dismiss any discussion of how He has created us to function and why, we still have a crucial responsibility as believers to be able to address these issues and be prepared to answer the questions being asked. Through Scripture, we've been entrusted with truth - how well do we know it? How clearly can we articulate it? 

As a mother, my immediate concern is to be able to share this truth with my children as they grow (and then to others around me as I have opportunity). I need to consider: what questions is the world asking, and what truth is it attacking? What might my kids question as they grow and interact with the world around them?

In relation to our personhood, there are questions about gender (does it matter, and why?) and sexuality (why does God place limitations and what is His good and intended purpose?) and the sanctity of human life (whether in the womb or on the deathbed).

I know what I believe Scripture teaches on these topics, but I feel the weight (with a little anxiety) of my inadequacies in being able to communicate well why I believe what I do at times.

The quote above from Francis Shaeffer  is, I believe, a wise warning to us all. Perhaps it doesn't precisely apply in that the church is headed towards accepting such clearly anti-biblical thinking - but still, there is a tendency to a slow and steady drift towards worldliness and a secular world view in both our individual lives and the life of the church if we are not watchful.

What do we do? How do we fight? I'm impressed with the need to study, to make good use of the sound teaching and helpful resources so easily available to us today. (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is one ministry that addresses many issues related to gender.)

But above all, may we be faithful in prayerfully turning to the Lord and His word, having our minds renewed as we seek to know Him and the truth He's revealed to us. He is wise, He has the answers, He delights in giving wisdom and ability to those who humbly ask and lean on Him.

This world will continue to surprise or dismay us with news headlines that oppose Who and what we stand for - but instead of being fearful or discouraged, let's see them as opportunities to better know our culture and prayerfully seek to be light in a dark world.