Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Beauty We Sometimes Don't See...

On a typically hurried somewhat ordinary late afternoon, I was using my salad spinner while making dinner. My son, Adam, in his classic way of catching me off-guard asked me, "Mommy, can I please hold that beautiful thing over there?" Somewhat distracted and only half-listening, I had no clue what he was talking about. He went on to describe it: "That beautiful clear thing with stripes and diamonds that spins around making pretty patterns!" (A finger gesture helped me out a bit!) A-ha! The salad spinner! Mystery solved! And then it dawned on me. My amazingly think-outside-of-the-box 4-year old had given me yet another lightbulb moment. I stopped what I was doing and really looked at the salad spinner, perched near a sunny window, light filtering through.

It. was. beautiful.

The sun cast diamond shadows across the counter-top. My eyes got lost in the symmetry of opaque rectangles in spiral design, the view of the outdoors visible through its holes. I would even go so far as to say it was... breath-taking. Yes, my salad spinner was breath-taking.

Sometimes it takes a child to see the beauty we don't see. With eyes of innocence and wonder, everything around them is a feast for the senses. Unhurried by life's obligations and distractions, kids take the time to really see.

It reminded me of that old James Russell Lowell poem, To The Dandelion--the one where a simple dandelion was the surprising favorite:

"How like a prodigal doth nature seem,
When thou, for all thy gold, so common art!
Thou teachest me to deem
More sacredly of every human heart,
Since each reflects in joy its scanty gleam
Of heaven, and could some wondrous secret show,
Did we but pay the love we owe,
And with a child's undoubting wisdom look
On all these living pages of God's book."

Untainted by the the idea that this bright cheerful flower was a mere weed that chokes out pristine lawns, dandelions really are delightful. And so are salad spinners.

Take some time to really see the beauty all around you. Look with the wonder of a child's eyes at the way shadows dance, how sunlight makes dust sparkle. See the beauty in the simple, the mundane, the ordinary. You may be surprised at what pleasures await.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Countdown Calendar for Lent {free printable!}

As we're just about to begin Lent, I thought I'd share another idea that we're looking forward to doing at our house! It's a Lenten Countdown Calendar that you fill up with mini marshmallows. I was inspired by the great lenten lamb calendar using cotton balls over at Three Sided Wheel, and thought it'd be fun to try drawing my own mini version to use with marshmallows.

I thought I'd share it with you, in case you might want to do this at home with your children:

Feel free to print as many as you like to use this Lent! I designed mine to have 40 squares (not including Sundays). I purposely left most of the squares blank, so it can be printed and used year after year by filling in the dates yourself. You can write in the dates, days of the week, or even just number each square from 1-40. Each day simply affix a marshmallow and by Easter your lamb will look like this:

I hope your family enjoys this approach to Lent as we countdown to Easter! If you're looking for more Lenten ideas, you might want to check out our Lenten Family Prayer Jar as well as our Lenten Spiral. And also make sure to check out the Lenten link-up over at Catholic Icing for more great ideas!

Wishing you a wonderful and blessed 40 days.

Sharing With:

First Friday Link Up

Monday, February 20, 2012

Family Prayer Jar {an idea for Lent}

I've had been meaning to post about our family prayer jar for quite awhile but never got around to it. With Lent starting this week, I thought it would be the perfect time to share! If you've never heard of one, a prayer jar is simply a collection of prayers on slips of paper, placed in a jar as a way to augment your family prayer time. The prayers can be switched out by liturgical season (e.g. Advent prayers, Lent, Easter and so on). I originally put ours together just to add a little something and to our nighttime prayer routine last summer, but have been working on making sets for other liturgical seasons. It's really been a blessing to our family!

I thought I'd share some of the prayers we have in our jar. Below are our "Lenten Prayers." There are 40 of them. (As I complete the sets for future seasons I will happily share them, so come back for Easter prayers!) Please feel free to print and use the prayers below. If you want to get fancy, you can even add images to your prayer slips or print them on pretty scrapbook paper (purple would be fitting!):

Lenten Prayer Jar

I've kept the wording and font simple so our littles can easily read and comprehend them. You can use the jar in a couple of different ways: either pull out one prayer per day so the jar is empty by Easter, or you can use more than one a day and just drop them back in to be re-used all throughout Lent. (We've done it both ways!) This year we are planning on using one a day along with our Lenten Prayer Spiral:

(click link above for tutorial, if you want to make a spiral like this)

If you decide to make a jar for your family I'd love to hear about it! Also, if you have any prayer suggestions you'd like to share, please do so! I'd love to keep adding to our jar! :)

If you're looking for more ideas to do this Lent, you can check out the Lenten Link-Up courtesy of Lacy from Catholic Icing. There are a ton of great ideas over there as well as at Catholicmom.com.

Wishing you a truly blessed Lenten season!

Sharing With:

First Friday Link Up

Raising Homemakers

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Ira for winning the Blogiversary Smashbook Giveaway! I hope you're able to record lots of wonderful pregnancy memories to treasure for years to come! I'll be emailing you to get your details, so I can ship it off to you soon. :) And thank you to everyone else who participated--I loved reading all of your ideas for how to use a smashbook! I encourage you all to give them a try sometime--they're so much fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On the Nightstand {10 books I'm reading!}

Just thought I'd share some of the books I'm reading. There are a lot--I'm one of those people who reads a gazillion books at the same time depending on my mood (and on how tired and brain-dead I'm feeling!). My mom was the same way and I used to think it was so strange to read several at once. Fast forward 20 years and now I do the exact same thing! Ha! I love books. And I love hearing about what other people have their noses into. So, if you're one of those people, too, here's what my nose has been in:

This one is a bit dense (as in it's hard to try to read first thing in the morning before that first cup of coffee, which I try to do anyway!) but there's a ton of great stuff about prayer. I *heart* Robert Morneau. It's out of print but you can get a used copy online.

2) Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of Mother Teresa
I am amazed and humbled by the inspired writings of Mother Teresa. Her desire to live a life entirely for Christ leaps of every page. The revelation of her private struggles with faith amaze me. What a truly remarkable woman. Amazing book that easily pulls you out of whatever petty worries might be on your mind.

3) A Million Miles in a Thousand Years-Donald Miller
Love this book. It's a quick read (even though it's taken me MONTHS to get through it because I book hop so much!) and very inspiring. Makes you think about how you can make your "life a better story."

4) Organized Simplicity -Tsh Oxenreider
I'm not very far into this one yet, but so far I've loved thinking about the goals of the home, and also love the idea of simplifying.

5)Seasons of a Mother's Heart--Sally Clarkson
This book is like a salve to a homeschooler's weary heart. I love how it breaks homeschooling down by seasons, which is just how living through the years of homeschooling feels; the slow times of winter, the "autumn" that brings change. Wonderful stuff. I read it over the summer and am now re-reading it as part of a homeschooling mother's book club that will be starting up this week. If you're a homeschooler you will LOVE this book.

6) The Husband Project--Kathi Lipp
My MOPS group is reading through this one together as a February...well, project! It has nice practical ideas in it that make you put some thought and effort into your relationship. I'm on week 2 of the projects right now, and so far Kevin hasn't had any complaints lol! :)

7)Grace for the Good Girl--Emily Freeman
This book is wonderful. I can relate to so much of it--Wearing the proverbial "mask" of everything's fine, the battles with imperfection. Emily's heart radiates in this book, and makes you feel less alone with your struggles, both past and present.

8)Writing Motherhood-Lisa Garrigues
I'm not very far into this one yet, but so far I've loved the inspiration to...well, write motherhood (appropriately titled book lol!). It makes me really want to capture the moments of our family life, and helps me pay attention more.

9) The Glass Castle--Jeannette Walls
Wow, an amazing life story captured here. A song of survival, and a celebration of her parents, despite their brokenness. I can very much relate, having grown up in a family with dysfunction--the beautiful mingling with the horrific. And the way it's told as if its all just normal, because that's how children experience it. A must-read if you enjoy memoirs.

10) The Help--Kathryn Sockett
I haven't actually started this one yet, but it's been begging me to finish my other books so I can! I also want to see the movie, but I've promised myself I must read the book first, so I have added incentive to finish up the others and dive in!

That's what I've been reading lately (which is probably plenty!). How about you? I'm always looking for more book recommendations to ensure that my night stand will never actually see the light of day! ;) (Hey, less to dust, right?!)

Sharing With:

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Friday, February 10, 2012

Our Week in Homeschool {in which we all had colds!}

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In My Life This Week:

It was a slower-than-usual week for us with sniffles and sneezes abounding. So, we spent less time on our usual lessons and more time being spontaneous. It's on those "looser" weeks that I tend to really notice the kids more. You know, all those little sweet things like how their hands have grown a bit, and being awed by the imagination that knows-no-bounds.

In Our Homeschool This Week:

The boys spent a lot of time inventing--inventing a money game, a Zhu-Zhu pet obstacle course from blocks, a detective game in which they tried to crack the case of "The Mysterious Sound in Megan's Bedroom" complete with boobie traps, an observation notebook and even outdoor investigating (which, by-the-way, they never did solve! Hmmm...maybe it's better to not know that one?!). And we read. Lots and lots of books.

Luke making his way through another Nate the Great book-his favorite series of the moment!

We pulled out several of my old favorite childhood classics:


We also perused the bookshelves and re-discovered others including:

...which led to some seriously fun googling on the subject of microphotography including this picture of sand:

photo source

Who knew how stunningly beautiful sand could be under a microscope?!

We read some old issues of children's magazines we'd fallen behind on. An article from Spider on the Terracotta Army led to all kinds of fun readings on ancient China.

And we got our hands dirty with arts & crafts including heart etchings, thanks to a set of rubbing plates from Oriental Trading:

The boys also made "Knot Valentines" (courtesy of the February issue of Spider!):

they were all over anything involving secret messages!

This one made my heart melt--misspelling and all!

And paper chocolate heart boxes:

They also did a little excavating, thanks to the Dino Fossil Kits they bought from the craft store (with their own money!). It was way messy and loads of fun:

Adam. was. covered. in. dust.


Just so I didn't feel too badly for somewhat slacking in other subjects, we did manage to get through some math lessons!

Adam working on identifying 2-digit numbers:

It was a really fun week! I have to make sure we have more spontaneous "loose" days in the future!

My favorite thing this week was:

All of the cuddles on the couch under blankets reading stacks of books. Sometimes I realize those cuddles won't last forever, which reminds me to cherish them all the more. :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What is Love?

They say love makes the world go round. As the Beatles once crooned, "All you need is love." The familiar childhood poem comes to mind, "Roses are red, violets are blue..." But really, what is love? It's the age-old question that poets, philosophers, musicians and scholars alike have pondered for centuries. It's something you might be lucky enough to have experienced in your life, but can you really put it into words? It's the subject of countless movies and studies...it's that thing that makes your heart go "boom-boom-boom." We might spend our entire lives chasing this crazy little thing called love, yet often we have trouble defining it. Well, I'm not here to say that I have definitively solved this mystery once and for all. Sorry to disappoint. ;) But, I would however, like to share a few insights on the subject.

I'm reading a book right now that explores the subject of love (among other things): A New Heart by Robert Morneau. The type of love the author writes about is not the romantic smooshy-gushy stuff that is the subject of romance novels and chick-flicks. (And don't get me wrong, I do like a good chick-flick every now and then!) With this type of love there's no chase-scene, no knight-in-shining-armor, no fair maiden in distress, no orchestral swelling at the movie's close. Nope, this type of love is more of a giving type of love. Selfless love. Sacrificial love.

Karl Rahner says that, "Love alone makes man forget himself, and it would indeed be hell if self-oblivion could never be achieved. Without love, man, anxiously guarding his finite Ego, would husband his future and yield it but grudgingly. " So, according to Rahner love is actually a type of self-death. Love is not about how it makes us feel, but rather about forgetting ourselves altogether. But that's not what's portrayed in the movies, is it? "True love" according to popular culture is all about making us feel special and valued, about receiving scores of flowers and candy, about being serenaded by moonlight. And we eat this stuff up, don't we? I mean, what girl doesn't fantasize about the famed balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet? So then, who is this crazy guy who's telling us to forget about ourselves? I mean, how could love not be all about us?!

Let's see what someone else has to say on this subject. Here is what Pope Paul VI offers about love:

"Love those near by and those afar. Love our friends and enemies; love Catholics, schismatics, Protestants, Anglicans, the indifferent, love Muslims, pagans, atheists, love members of all social classes, love children, love the old, the poor and the sick, love those who deride or despise us, obstruct or persecute us; love those who deserve love and those who do not; love our adversaries. Let us love and try to understand, esteem, appreciate, serve it and suffer for it. Let us love with the heart of Christ."

Here again we see love offered as a gift to others--deserved or not. It is not about what we get out of the deal, but rather loving for the virtue of love itself. Even suffering for it. But this is in such stark contrast to our desires! Sure, it's easy to love people who seem nice enough, when it feels easy or when we encounter those whose values align with our own. But to love our enemies? Love those who persecute us? Well, that's just crazy talk, isn't it? It sounds good in the bible, but...really?!

Let's turn then to a less academic, more experiential type of love; parental love. The role of a parent is at time fraught with peril. Let's face it, parenting can be a rough gig. Sleepless nights with a screaming newborn, toddler tantrums (seemingly!) by the hundreds, defiant teens pushing our buttons, stomach bugs (we just went through the stomach bug thing in our house this past week, so this one is fresh on my mind!). The list goes on and on. But ask any parent whether or not all of the dedication, devotion and giving is worth it, and you'd be loathe to find one suggesting the contrary. So then...there might just be something to this giving of love after all...

Ok then, so to love is to give. But one might refute this by saying that all of this giving, this selfless love is really just about the getting; that love is not so altruistic after all. One might say that we are only giving in order to receive something for ourselves. And in a way this is true. But what we get isn't some giddy high or fluttering in our stomachs. What we get is...a glimpse of God. It is in all of that giving of our love that we experience God's enormous love for us. With the swipe of a child's feverish brow, the tender embrace we lend to one who mourns, the hospitality we offer to a stranger in need, we get a tiny glimpse of God's love for us. Sacrificial love. Agony in the garden at love. Dying on the cross love. Love that makes us forget ourselves completely, love that fills our souls, love that quiets out hurts and makes us complete. Love that transports us from our petty worries, our childhood wounds, our materialistic desires. So, what we get is something great indeed. Paradoxically, in dying to self--in loving others with our whole hearts we are made complete. We experience love the way God gives it to us--freely, perfectly.

This calls to mind for me the famous tag line from the movie Jerry McGuire, "You complete me." And while this is a very beautiful and romantic thing to say to someone, it's...well, incomplete (how's that for irony!). I would like to rephrase it as: "Giving my love to you completes me--through God's love." Of course this just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? But really, what more could we possibly need? All we need is love, right?

And so, the romance movie ends, the credits roll, the popcorn has been consumed, and we are left...wanting. Wanting more, wanting that something missing. But the next time that feeling bubbles up inside of us, if only we can remind ourselves to give love. Give love more, give love freely, give love openly, give love with reckless abandon. And we might end up getting more love in return than we ever thought possible.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
John 15:13

** edited and re-posted from the archives, photos added.

shared with:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...