Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Slowing Down and Teaching From Rest

"last day of school" 2016

We "officially" ended our first "official" year of homeschooling a couple weeks ago.  It went well, overall, and gave me a good - though small - taste of what I've actually gotten myself into here.  Overall verdict: this is going to require a ton of self-discipline, on my part, to make time for what's important each day....and not using homeschooling as an excuse to laze around the house all morning.

It seems that in the weeks before our school year came to an end, all the dozens of other activities and groups the kids and myself were involved in had ended as well.  I didn't realize how busy we had been until suddenly I saw myself looking at a full week on the calendar with nothing planned. It's forced us to slow down our usual pace, and find new ways to occupy ourselves.  

picking black raspberries
I'm trying to seize this opportunity to teach myself to slow down and just live - with intentionality - in the moment.  To pause and allow myself to take delight in my children and (perhaps even tougher) my husband.  It's really hard.  And I've failed at it more often than I've succeeded.  I am definitely a "Martha" and not a "Mary" - always wanting to keep busy, getting things done, and nagging everyone around me to make sure they are doing their fair share of keeping busy in the exact way I've determined they should!

I just finished reading Teaching From Rest, and what an inspiring read that was!  A short little book, but such a breath of fresh air.  I'd been spending the weeks since we ended our school year doing endless research and stressing over what the heck we should do next year for Sly's education, as he'll be starting first grade.  If I could sum up the book very briefly, the message is "Chill the heck out, Mama.  All those things you're worried about aren't actually a big deal.  Here's how you should be living your life.  Here's what your vocation is requiring of you."  I would not be surprised if I end up re-reading the book maybe every six months or so.  I know I'll probably need it!

Stella, loving a bit too tightly on a "baby caterpiller" she caught

The other day, I was washing the dishes.  Stella was in the kitchen with me, and began crying about something.  I can't remember what it was, but it was something I determined to be completely ridiculous.  As she usually does when her emotions get the best of her, she was asking me to hold her - "I want you, Mommy!" is how she says it.  And as usual, I was brushing off her feelings, and telling her there was nothing to cry about and if she wanted to be held, she'd have to wait until I was done with what I was doing.  Telling her, in other words, that she was less important to me than a few dishes sitting in the sink.

But I remembered some of what I'd been reading in the book, and realized that - unnecessary as her tears might be - she truly needed me to respond to her and love her at that moment.  And I knew that this need which was presenting itself to me was what God was asking me to do at that moment.  To tend to the soul of my child, instead of some stupid dishes - that was what was most important.  So I turned off the faucet, and picked her up.  I gave her a hug and some tender words, and in just a short time, she was all better.  And we were both left feeling love for one another - rather than rejection on her part, and annoyance on mine, as has too often been the case in the past.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

LuLaRoe - More Than Just Leggings

For about a year now, I've been hearing people raving about a company called LuLaRoe, and their "amazing" leggings.  Some women I know especially seem to go nuts over the ones that come in crazy and bold patterns.  Not really being a legging girl myself, I never saw a reason to look into the craze.

But I was recently contacted by a reader, Courtney, who is a consultant for LuLaRoe.  What she told me about the company was intriguing.  It is a Christian company that strives to make modest clothing for women - especially moms - that's both comfortable and fashionable.   I poked around the internet a bit, and learned that they in fact have much more than just leggings!  They also make dresses, skirts, and tops, as well as clothing for girls and juniors.

So I took Courtney up on her offer to test out a few of their items to see what I thought.  The following is my honest review, so you can see if you too would be interested in giving some of their clothing a try.


LuLaRoe has an interesting business model.  They only create about 2000 pieces of clothing in each of their (many) specific prints/fabrics.  And the consultants are not able to choose the exact prints they receive for their inventory.  This means that each of them end up with a totally unique collection of items.  So if you're hunting for an exact style and print, it may take you quite a while to track down!

Nicole Dress

This is a pretty simply-constructed piece.  I love the longer length of the sleeves.  It comes about to the knees, and has a nice drape to it.  And lucky for me, Courtney even had one in stock in my favorite color!

My only complaint is that the material felt a bit thin.  With such a light color, I was worried if the dress may be slightly see-through (my husband assured me it wasn't).

Lola Skirt

I tried a black lace version of this skirt.

I like that a section of the lace hangs down below the liner of the skirt.  I think it adds some visual interest, and also ensures that you notice the lace detailing.  If the whole skirt were lined, the lace may well get swallowed up in the sea of black.

This skirt has an elastic waist, so I know I can wear it anytime - pregnant, post-partum, etc.  And I think it could work as part of either a casual or dressy outfit.  No complaints about this one - I like it!

Amelia Dress

This style is definitely more elaborate and structured than the Nicole dress.  The skirt is pleated, the arms have a bit of gathering at the top, and the material is more substantial.

Oh, and it has pockets!

I had heard that a lot of ladies like to wear this one backwards, with the zipper in the front, so that they're able to nurse a baby in it.  In case you're curious about that, here's what that would look like.

Tom was taking the photos and kept saying "elongate your neck!"
ummm....I'm not sure what I think.  It might look a little funny this way?  But maybe if you didn't know it was "backwards," you wouldn't be able to tell?

I insisted to Tom that it would look stupid if I untucked the top part, and he didn't believe me until I showed him.


The funny thing is, when I first tried everything on in the mirror, I really preferred the Amelia dress.  But looking at the photos, I actually think the Nicole dress suits me better.  Tom is always telling me I don't have a great sense of what looks good on me!  Perhaps I should start photographing my outfits each morning :-P


And lastly, Courtney surprised me by throwing in a pair of LuLaRoe's famous leggings.  These ones were just plain black, which is perfect actually, because the only time I wear leggings is to add some extra warmth underneath a skirt.  I don't need the fun patterns, because no one would really see them anyways!

I have to say - these leggings are every bit as comfortable as people say they are!  They are somewhat high-waisted, which means they stay up really well, and you don't have to keep hiking them back up your hips all day.  But they aren't so tight that they create bulges around your middle.  I was impressed with these leggings, and will definitely be getting a lot of use out of them.


If you want to learn more about LuLaRoe, or order anything for yourself, please check out Courtney's Facebook page.

You can also contact her at llrcourtney@gmail.com or by phone at (724)317-8469 if you live within 2.5 hours of her house in Dunbar, PA and might be interested in hosting an online or in-person LuLaRoe party.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

{p,h,f,r} Homeschool Method Research and Other Stuff


No commentary needed :-)


Tom recently wired up some extra speakers in our house.  Now we basically have surround-sound on the whole bottom floor!  There are wall-mounted speakers in the corners of the living room, dining room, and kitchen - and Tom fished the wires through the walls so everything's nice and tidy.  They all hook up to our stereo, so I can play listen to anything I like, and actually hear it as I travel through the house cleaning up during the kids' naptime.  It truly does "spark joy" for me, to use a term from the Kon Mari method (which I've been loosely following for the past year to tidy my house).

Recently, I've been listening to this podcast about the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling: A Delectable Education.

There are a lot of great ideas here, and now I plan to take a Charlotte Mason inspired approach to homeschooling next year.  Sly will be in "first grade," so it's starting to get real!


We're big thrift shoppers, and one of our favorite things to do when we just need to get out of the house is to check out a thrift store.  The other day, before going to Goodwill, we allowed the kids to open their piggy banks to get out a few dollars - in case they wanted to buy something for themselves (but only if Tom and I approved it first!).

Linus found his item right away:

haha!  We ended up telling him he wasn't allowed to buy it, though.

But then when we were up at the register paying for things, Linus reached into the pocket of his little 2T shorts, and whipped out a crisp $100 bill!!  Everyone of us - including the cashier and the people in line - gasped.  It was so incongruous to see a toddler holding that much money, as if it were nothing.  Sly explained that he had helped Linus pick out his money, and thought he'd given him a $1 bill!


Some days, mom just doesn't feel like being a short-order cook for lunchtime.  So I put together what the kids excitedly call "making a platter."  Basically, a hodge-podge of whatever's in the fridge and pantry.  The kids love it, and actually....I'm starting to think I should just do this every day!  SO much easier on me.

And lastly, If you have any stained wood in your house, and don't already use stain markers, you have to get some!  I use these everywhere - on our trim, floors, and  furniture.  As long as you use a stain color that's pretty close, they work wonders at hiding scratches.

Check out this before-and-after I took the other day


Monday, May 16, 2016

Those Rude Comments at the Supermarket

I've always hoped to have a large family.  So for years now, my ears have perked up whenever someone was discussing life in a large family, in hopes that I might pick up some tips.

One aspect of large family life I've tried to really prepare myself for is all the rude comments you get when you're out in public, especially - for some reason - at the grocery store.  We've all probably heard the stories of having to fend off endless questions such as "Are they all yours?", "So are you done now?" and "You know what causes that, right?".  I've read all the articles and blog posts about other mothers' frustrating experiences with strangers in the supermarket, and tried to memorize each of their suggested responses - the ones for days when I'm feeling charitable, as well as the ones for the days when I'm feeling snarky ;-)

But the strange thing I've come to realize is that the more children I have, the less comments I hear from strangers out in public.  Occasionally, I run out to a store with just Flora while Tom watches the big kids.  I feel like I can't walk down an aisle without at least one person telling me how cute and sweet the baby is.  During the past schoolyear, Sly and Stella were both in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class one morning a week.  While they were in class, I'd often take the opportunity to run some errands with only half  of my kids.  I would still get quite a few comments about the two of them, and lots of people would ask Linus if he liked being a big brother, whether he loved his little sister, etc.

But most of the time, I have to take all four of them with me, subjecting ourselves to the possible scorn of whoever happens to be at the store that day...And I get nothing!  I feel like people don't even look at us!  It's like when you're out somewhere and notice a person who is somehow well outside the norm, and you try really hard not to look at them because you don't want to seem like you're staring....but then you're not natural at all, and it just makes things more awkward.

So I haven't really had the chance to be "tested" in the moment by a rude comment*, and see what sort of response - whether a snarky quip, sweet correction, or fumbling mumble - I might give.

I've pondered about this, wondering why no one has said anything rude about my family size yet.  The positive way of looking at it is that perhaps I just give off an "air of confidence," and look like I know what I'm doing, so people don't feel the need to tell me how to live my life.  A more negative way of looking at it is that perhaps my RBF ("resting bitch face," in case the term is unfamiliar.) deters them, because it gives off an air of "don't mess with me."  Or maybe they do think my kids are cute and great, but are afraid to say so, because they don't want to encourage me to keep going :-P

*A I do, on occasion, hear the popular line, "you have your hands full!", but I don't think this is rude at all - it's quite true, actually.  So I smile and reply, "yep, I do!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Our Mother's Day Tradition (Revisited)

[Note: This post is largely recycled from two years ago, with some updated photos/info]

Mothers Day (or is it Mothers' Day?) just passed last Sunday, so I thought I'd share one of the ways our family observes it each year.

When Sly was a baby, Tom told me about a nice tradition from his family.  His paternal grandparents had fourteen children (!).  Every year, the family all gathered out on the front porch, and had a photo taken.  Tom remembers visiting his grandparents' home as a young child, and seeing years' worth of those yearly family photos, all framed and lined up on the wall chronologically.  He talked about how neat it was to see the family grow and change each year.  We immediately decided that we should start up the same tradition ourselves.

We put our camera on the tripod, set the timer, and snapped our first photo right then.


We realized that we'd have a better chance of remembering to take the picture each year if we associated it with a specific date.  Since Mother's Day had occurred a few days earlier, that became our official family photo day.






(These might look familiar to the five or so people who have been following this little blog since its inception, since these are all my past header images.)

Side note: I think it's funny that you can tell what the weather was like that day based on whether I have bare feet or tights!

love that we're taking these pictures each year.  And I think there's something appealing to the "homemade" aspect of them - we don't have to worry about dressing up or hiring a professional photographer each year.  We just set up the tripod and go - come-as-you-are.  And having my family indulge me once a year and sit down for this photo (okay, I won't lie, we take about ten shots, and I choose the one I like best!) is truly one of the greatest Mothers Day gifts I can think of.

My only wish is that we had thought to start it our first year together, when it was just Tom and I.  That would really kick off the photo series well.  So instead, I put one of our wedding photos on the wall above my growing line of photos.

Lined up in our hallway

If anyone likes this idea, feel free to steal it and start the tradition in your own families.  It's never too late!  And I'd love to see how your picture turns out :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Simple Pleasure of Fitting Three Car Seats in a Row

We finally broke down and got some Diono Radian carseats!

I'd been hearing about these for awhile now from other moms.  Not only are they known as a particularly "safe" seat (which, frankly, I'm  not as concerned with as I probably should be), but - best of all - they are ultra slim, so you can actually fit three in a row in a car!

Since Flora was born, our minivan was basically at capacity.  We had the two big kids in the back row, and the two little kids in the middle bucket seats.  But now we're able to put three in the back, and take out one of the buckets to free up a big space for groceries, strollers, or whatever else we want to haul around.  Plus, it's a very convenient spot to kneel when buckling people in.  And if we are blessed with a fifth child in the future, we will not have to worry quite yet about upgrading  to a huge 12-passenger van!

Ahh, it's truly a thing of beauty!

Annoying coffee stain, courtesy of Tom's long-lost travel mug that we discovered under the seat when we removed it


I've written before about how unfortunate it is that something like "how many kids can we fit in our car" ends up determining ultimate family size for some people.  And truly, in this day and age, that can be a very legitimate concern.  Very few parts of the country are still built on a "human scale," and most of us are dependent on cars to get around and do our daily activities.  While taking public transportation everywhere might be an option in some places for a single person, it's a much different matter if you're trying to haul around four little kids and all their paraphernalia.

But really, how sad is it that a piece of technology that humans didn't have/need for most of their history, has now re-shaped our world so much that it prevents some families from having more children?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

{p,h,f,r} Our Never-Ending Renovation Project


The kids have been bringing me lots of weeds beautiful flowers from around the yard recently


I caught the boys enjoying some quality literature together on the couch.  Actually, Waldo is veritably enjoyable.  But the highlights magazine?....ugh.  Why did I like Highlights so much as a kid?  We currently get all three Highlights iterations (Hello, High Five, and Highlights) in the mail as gift subscriptions for the kids.  I don't like any of them.  The stories and the art are just *not* that great.


Flora's second-ever smile, caught on camera!  Also, I love love love little girls' vintage clothing.  I have lots of great outfits like this from our local flea market.


We have been working FOREVER on Stella's bedroom.  We started last May, expecting to be done by the end of the summer....not realizing that Tom's job would become incredibly demanding this past year, leaving us very little time or energy to spend on the room.  So for almost a year now, Linus has been sleeping in the playroom, and Stella in the spare room.  I'm SO ready for this project to be done so I can turn it into the girls' room, and we can finally move onto something new.

The to-do list for the room
Remove old shellac from trim and doors
Stain the trim and doors
Poly the trim and doors
Remove gross carpet
Sand floors
Stain floors
Poly floors
Replace lighting
Replace outlets
Repair wall around heating vent
Paint ceiling white
Choose wall color
Paint walls
Find dresser - Stella
Re-finish dresser - Stella
Find dresser - Flora
Re-finish dresser - Flora
Find nightstand - Stella
Paint nightstand - Stella
Find headboard - Stella
Paint headboard - Stella
Find area rug
Make curtains

Still a lot of work to do!