Category: Daily Life

What We’re Up to This Summer {Parent’s Edition}

On Tuesday I shared about what the family is up to this summer— mostly the kids.

But, behind the scenes, Jake and I got all kinds of business going on.

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While finished with classes, Jake will be “independently studying” all summer and into next semester. Basically this means he’ll be reading at least 8 hours a day, getting ready for the exams that doctoral students take after they are finished with their coursework and ready to start their dissertation research. He’ll also be working on his dissertation proposal and then IRB approval, in hopes that he’ll be ready to start in the field researching come January 2016. I’m really proud of him. He’s pushing the pace and everyone is quite amazed that he’s been able to be a TA (50%), take 9-12 hours of doctoral classes each semester, and still be involved in our day-to-day family life.

IMG_4544As for me, other than running this summer ship, I have some fun projects I hope to work on:

  1. Learn the countries of the world with Asante. We tried it last summer, and got a good chunk of them. We need to revisit those and also learn the ones we haven’t done yet.
  2. Finish up Ada’s 0-1 year scrapbook, which is a physical scrapbook. After this, I’ll be caught up with all the kids’ scrapbooks. This is a big deal for me. Once upon a time, I considered this may not actually be a doable goal. 🙂
  3. Create our family’s 10 Year scrapbook, which will be digital. We’re thinking a coffee table type scrapbook with highlights from our first decade as a family. I have it generally mapped out, but the hard part will be digging and finding those digital photos from the first 5 years.
  4. Catch up on Journey through Scripture reading plan. I was doing so well, and then May came, and well, it all fell apart. It’s never too late to catch up. If I can read a 700 page Harry Potter book in a weekend, I can catch up on some Bible reading, yes?
  5. Running. Last year I was well into my half marathon training by now. I loved it. It was so good for me. I haven’t run since that half marathon, and I’ve been feeling the effects of it. I’d love to start running a few mornings a week, as would Jake. We have a plan ready, but we’ve been pushing back the start date. Next week.
  6. Summer Reading Programs. Here in Madison they do a couple summer reading programs for adults too, and I’m ALL INTO THIS. Last year I won a gift certificate to a chocolate store and Jake won an amazon gift card! I totally geek out on this.
  7. Finish up the Harry Potter series. I have 2 more books to go!
  8. Simplifying Around the House. I’ve been prayerfully simplifying our house. We have so much stuff. I keep on simplifying and it all still seems like too much. I’ve gone through my wardrobe quite a bit. When I realized I could wear a different outfit everyday for a month, I just felt like it was time to trim back. I’ll keep on it this summer, hitting other parts of the house.

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What are you up to this summer? Any summer goals or projects you’re excited about? 

What We’re Up to This Summer {Kids Edition}

While summer hasn’t actually yet started for us, I’m ready. The kids have 7 more days of school, which means I have 7 more days to finish getting things ready.

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While I hear the recommendations of having a “70’s summer”, filled with Kool-Aid, playing outside all day, and a general lack of parental involvement (what will you mommas do with your time?! I am a bit jealous….), we live squarely in 2015 up here.

Day and Sports Camps

For June and July, Asante and Ada will each be doing a couple hours of camp each day right here in the neighborhood. Lots of kids, running around outside, playing games, a little swimming, maybe a field trip here and there. Aly decided to forego the camp (she highly dislikes activities that include competition and if she suspects any amount of competition, she is so out of there) and instead will be doing a couple summer school enrichment classes in subjects she LOVES: art and science. A couple evenings a week, Asante will be doing a basketball camp and a flag football camp. We aren’t able to manage a busy sports schedule during the school year (he only does soccer in both the fall and spring), so we’re using this summer to let him try out some other sports.

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The schedules are all different, but everyone is within walking distance, so Anaya and I will spend a lot of time walking to and fro, eating picnic lunches, and playing on playgrounds.

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When the older kids aren’t in their camps/classes, we’ll have a general schedule that we create together each weekend. I asked the kids if they wanted me to schedule blocks of time to do various things, or if they just wanted to fill their days how they wanted, and everyone, hands-down, wanted the schedule.

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So, everyday we’ll have a devotional time in the mornings, and then when the kids aren’t in their daily camp, they will have some reading time, some artsy/crafty time for the girls (I think Asante will probably do chess during this time), a patch of screen time, a chunk of free time, and, a few times a week, some type of special project. The kids each have some things they’ve been wanting to learn or work on, so hopefully I can manage to learn some of those things along with them or at least get them the resources they need to teach themselves.

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Summer Reading Programs

We’re doing a ton of different reading programs this summer. The kids are huge readers, and are typically finished with one reading program after a couple weeks :). So, this year we’ll be doing 3 different library’s reading programs, the Barnes and Nobles summer reading program, and also the one at Half Price Books. Two we’ll be doing simultaneously, but most will just be back to back. Really, the kids will read no matter what; they need no incentive, but they think it’s super fun to earn free books and tickets to baseball games, butterfly gardens, local farms and stuff like that. Of course Jake and I like them to do that too– because going anywhere with a family of 6 gets expensive fast!

Family Field Trips

Each week I have a family field trip planned. They are all places that we’ve wanted to go, but just don’t have the margin to do during the school year (do you see a theme? basically we’re really lame during the school year. The zoo is about as crazy as we get). Hopefully we’ll be headed to a small kid-oriented amusement park, a local cave, the butterfly gardens, a few splash pads, a pool, some beaches, the movies and a few outdoor hiking areas. Because the kids will be passing each other during the day, it’ll be fun to have some family time too.

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August

August will feel more like summer vacation for us. We’ll go see the grandparents, have a week of vacation Bible school (3 of the 4 get to go this year!), a trip to the Dells, and a week to get our self organized for everyone to start the school year!

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This summer really is going to fly by. I think we’re all looking forward to these 3 months off, and while we still have things going on, it’ll be so nice to have the kids around more often. Sure, they fight a lot more and that’s stressful to me, but really, I know these summers are numbered. When the kids are all in school (which will be in just a few short years), I’ll probably be going back to work outside the home and won’t have summers like this with them. I’m excited to spend it having fun and making memories!

 

When God meets you while reading your child a book about monsters

We read hundreds of picture books in a month. I pay attention the first 20 or 30 times that I read, but then after that, I tend to zone out and think about other things (please tell me I’m not the only one!). When I reach the end of the book, I have the same feeling that I get when I drive home on autopilot, surprised to see that I’m puling into our parking spot.

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So, a few days ago Ada and I snuggled up on the couch, and I began to read a book called Marilyn’s Monster. I began reading, knowing nothing about the book and wasn’t really expecting much.

Some of at the kids in Marilyn’s class had monsters. It was the latest thing. Marilyn didn’t have a monster. Not yet. You couldn’t just go out and get one. Your monster had to find you. That’s just the way it worked.

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Some of the kids woke up to have their monsters beside them, others on the playground or in the middle of class. One by one, her classmates got their monsters.

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Marilyn began to get a bit restless and kinda-sorta began looking for hers, while trying to act as if she absolutely was not looking. Her friends were having so much fun with their monsters, and she wanted to experience that same thing.

Her parents tried to assure her that the monster would come, just to give it time.

Marilyn wondered if the monster got lost. Or saw her from afar and decided he didn’t want to be her monster after all. That was definitely it, she thought, so she began to do and be exactly what she thought a monster would want in a playmate. Neat, proper, kind… perfect.

After waiting and waiting and waiting, one day she got angry and decided she didn’t want to be  perfect and she wouldnt wait a second longer! Instead, she would just go look for him, even though that’s not how it was supposed to be. She looked for him at the library, under the bridge in the park, and in the woods, but no sign of her monster. She finally ended up in a big field and screamed at the top of her lungs:

where are you

And then, very softly, she heard a voice say,

here.

She followed that small, quiet, but awfully clear, voice and she found her monster, up in a tree.

As I was reading, I was overcome with emotion, because I thought to myself- I can relate to her. Off and on over the past several years, I’ve felt that way about God. I see the happy clappy, I love Jesus, He gives me big wet kisses Christians, and I feel myself waiting. Waiting to feel that way again. Waiting to hear His voice clearly. Waiting to have the warm snuggly easy relationship with him, free of cares and full of presence. Waiting for my monster.

I keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

Then I try to make myself better and more “presentable” to Him, thinking if I can do more good things, then maybe I’ll get those fuzzies back. More Bible studies. more worship songs, more giving, more serving.

Then I get angry and say, forget it. You can take me as me or don’t take me at all! I try and go find Him underneath new prayer techniques, refreshed journaling resolve, in the pages of my Bible reading plan, or on a jog through a scenic path. And then, still with that ache in my heart, I go to that huge, empty field, look up at the sky and yell,

WHERE ARE YOU??????

And then, very softly, I sometimes hear a small quiet, and oddly clear voice say,

here.

The journey of the soul is much messier than I ever imagined it would be.

Great Books when Traveling with Young Kids

Our family loves to get lost in books, but sometimes its hard to decide what to do with the non-independent readers of the group when we want to read on our own. We could always read to them, which we do a lot, or they could listen to a story on the iPod, which is also great, but only if you can manage to tune out the noise so that you can enjoy your own.

There are also those times when your readers don’t really FEEL like reading, but you’re all stuck in the car and they just need something to do to distract themselves while having fun.

Interactive books are a great way for kids to read in a different kind of way.

Interactive Books

Flap Books

For the youngest, flap books are the best. Kids have to find the flaps, of course look under each one a million times, and then turn the page again only to find a gazillion more flaps. In my opinion, the more flaps, the merrier.

Our favorites over the years have included Dragons (Usborne), The Seven Continents of the World, Little Pear TreeElmo’s Big Lift-And-look Book, Dora’s Lift and Look Book, and the whole set of Little People Life the Flap books.

Look & Find

A wide variety of these Look and Find books exist: easy, hard, and everywhere in-between. Some tell you what to find specifically, and others allow you to look and find things that are interesting to you! We even use the Mamoko one (below) to tell our own stories.

Our favorites include Littleland and Littleland Around the World, Where’s Waldo?, and The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000.

Magnetic

Magnetic books have hard pages that magnets can stick to. Many books have magnets that kids can use to “fill-in” missing pictures in the book.

Mostly we’ve used the Magnetic Learn and Play Counting book on road trips with all four kids! Their 2 year old selves have gotten the most fun out of it.

Doodle Books

Who says you can’t write in books?! Doodle books come in all kinds of themes. Some books are actually stories where kids can just fill in missing parts of the pictures. Other times, the pages are independent of one another and challenge the reader to use their imagination to make different animals, scenes, foods, etc.

We really like the The Bible Doodle Book, Charlie and Lola’s I Absolutely Must Do Coloring Now or Painting or Drawing , Mega Mash-Ups, Magical Mix-Ups,

You can find most of these in local libraries!

What are your kids’ favorite interactive books?  

20+ Great Audiobooks for Kids

Many people are surprised when they hear how early our kids go to bed. While Asante just got a promotion to 7:30, Aly and Ada are generally in bed no later than 7:00– and sometimes they are even asking to go to bed at 6:45.

While some of you may be a little jealous…. it’s not really what you think. One, our kids get up EARLY (no matter what time they go to bed), so by 7:00p, if they’ve had a nice active day, they are exhausted and are dragging themselves into bed. But, it’s also because they LOVE to listen to stories before falling asleep. While Jake and I used to tell them stories (Adventures of Asante, Aly, and Ada), we mostly rely on audiobooks loaded on our iPod, connected to our iHome so that the kids can all hear it well.

We also listen to audiobooks while in the car, whether it be on the way to our church gathering on Sundays (it is a bit of drive), or on a road trip to grandmas. If the kids are cranky and fighting with each other in the backseat, we’ll sometimes ask them if they’d like to listen to a story and PEACE falls over the car. Thank you Jesus for audiobooks. 🙂

In case you’re interested, here are some of our favorites!

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Short Books (Under 15 minutes)

Skippyjon Jones: A funny short story of a Siamese cat who pretends to be a Chihuahua. He goes on some great adventures! 🙂 Every hardback book that we have checked out from the library has a audio cd inside of it, so that’s a great way to listen!

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! Hungry bunnies are trying to get into Mr. McGreely’s yard, and he goes to great lengths to keep them out.

The Uglified Ducky and Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs by Willy Claflin: Super silly retellings of common tales. It takes awhile for me, as an adult, to get used to his voice, but the kids think it’s great. 🙂

medium audiobooks

Middle-sized Books (15-60 minutes)

The Bippolo Seed and other Lost Stories: These are a set of Dr. Suess stories that are read by some really famous people- Neil Patrick Harris, Anjelica Houston, and Joan Cusack, to name a few. Neil Patrick Harris HITS IT OUT OF THE PARK. It’s a really fun group of stories to listen to.

Mercy Watson: Mercy Watson is a pig who knows how to get into trouble. Each story is about 20 minutes long. These books in general are REALLY good starter chapter books for young readers because they include a lot of colored pictures to go along with the text. As of right now, I think there are 6 books in the series.

Leroy Nicker Saddles Up: This is also by Katie DiCamillo, and it’s a spin-off of the Mercy Watson series. The kids like it less than Mercy Watson, but they still enjoy it every now and then.

Where the Wild Things Are and other stories: We have a set of stories that include Where the Wild Things, In the Night Kitchen, Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup with Rice, etc. He’s a strange fella, but the kids love his lyrical books.

Magic School Bus: Normally between 20 and 30 minutes, these audio books are great for kids who already love the books and/or cartoons.

A to Z Mysteries– Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose come across a lot of mysteries in their small little town of Green Lawn! The characters are 9 years old, making it a pretty perfect book for a Kindergarten-2nd grader. These mysteries are fun, interesting, and the characters are really good kids. Each book comes in at right under an hour.

Calendar Mysteries– These mysteries star the younger siblings of Dink, Josh and Ruth Rose and are just as fun as the Calendar Mysteries.

Nate the Great: Short detective stories. I TOTALLY DISLIKE these stories. I refuse to listen to them with the kids, but again, the kids love them. 🙂 They are each about 15-20 minutes long, so perfect for a going to bed listen!

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Long Books (60+ minutes)

Charlotte’s Web: This childhood classic comes in at about 3.5 hours, so definitely one that will have to be broken up into pieces!

The Tale of Desperaux: Asante read this one last year in school, and he was eager to listen to it afterwards. The tale of a young mouse who is rejected by his family and falls in love with a Princess. This brings up some heavy topics, but it’s a beautifully told story. Asante didn’t have any trouble emotionally with this book, but there are some kids who may have a harder time dealing with some of the scenes.

Fudge series: These Judy Blume classics will be different than you remember them. I loved Judy Blume growing up, and it’s really funny to hear them again as an adult. It’s fun to pick up on the things that you wouldn’t pick up on as a child. Jake doesn’t enjoy these as much as I do, but these are fun ones for the car.

Then Underland Chronicles: This series, written by Suzanne Collins, shares how one boy who falls through a hole in his apt’s laundry room ends up trying to save a whole world underground. This tale is incredible. The whole series is about 37 hours long. We listened to this one last summer: in the evenings after dinner, on lazy rainy afternoons, and in the car traveling to and from the grandparents’ houses. Our kids really enjoyed this series, but it does certainly have some violence. You may want to look it up on commonsense media before deciding to listen to this one if you have young kids.

Magic Tree House: The well-loved books can not only be read, but listened to as well. We originally listened to each book after the kids finished reading it as a celebration, but now it’s fun to just listen anytime. Jack and Annie are fun characters who go on many magical, historically-themed adventures together! Each of these books are really close to being about an hour long.

James and the Giant Peach: Robert Dahl is fantastic, and his books have been capturing kids’ attention for years. This one is around 3 hours long and I found that my kids enjoyed this one more after watching the movie, perhaps because the movie helped them visually create a framework for what’s going on?

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Another good one by Ronald Dahl. You’ll have fun listening to this childhood classic with your kids!

 

 

 

 

 

Rocking the Consignment Sale: Seller Edition

I LOVE CONSIGNMENT SALES.

Perhaps you’ve shopped the sales…. but have you ever sold at them?

I used to think that selling at the sales was laborious and a waste of time… because would I really make that much money? Wouldn’t it take a super long time to price all my items? And I don’t even know where to start!

(Please note: This has been my consigning experience. Since all consignment sales are different, please be sure to carefully read your own consignment sale restrictions and guidelines. Some people only allow certain kind of hangers or certain kind of tags, etc.)

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So okay, it does take some time to price everything, but I’ve found a few tricks that have really helped me streamline the process.

1. Collect items over time.

Over the course of several months, set aside clothes, toys, etc. that you no longer need/want. When you change the kids’ clothes from summer to winter or winter to summer, put the outgrown clothes in a box. When kids outgrow their shoes, pop those in the box too. Kids are always outgrowing toys– after your youngest kiddo moves on from soft blocks to duplos, put the soft blocks in the box. Hair accessories, swings, high chairs, cloth diapers, craft supplies, outdoor equipment, puzzles, games, etc.– you can sell it!

If you’re constantly adding to your box, then when the time for consigning comes around, you already have your stuff ready! Taking the “figure out what I’m going to sell” step out of the immediate process is HUGE and saves a ton of time.

My advice is to keep the box accessible enough that you can easily put things in it here and there, but also not in such a trafficked place that you get tired of seeing it and just give it to goodwill because YOU CAN’T STAND SEEING IT ANYMORE!

2. Sign up for the sale.

What sales are in your area? Get on their email list so that you know when it’s time for consigners to sign up! Take note of any consigner fees– factor that into whether or not you want to sell. I tend to only sign up for sales that are free, especially at first when I was trying to get a feel for how much money I’d make (it’s gotta be worth my time!).

3. Gather your supplies

You’ll want:
  • a TON of plastic hangers (if your consignment sale doesn’t provide these, you can visit kid stores for their plastic hangers. Or, if all else, Dollar Store sells kid hangers, 10 for $1). You can also ask friends and family! Most people have some plastic hangers they are looking to get rid of.
  • a box of gallon-size ziplock bags.
  • a roll of clear packing tape
  • a package of colored cardstock paper
  • a pack or two of safety pins

4. Organize your stuff and get it all ready.

Bring all of your stuff (boxed) out into a well-trafficked area. This is key, because you want to get so annoyed by it at this point that you just get it priced already! Ideally, this process should be contained to a weekYou’ll want it contained in boxes for a few reasons: 1.) So your kids don’t see things they “really love” and can’t possibly get rid of. “Wow mom, this is my favorite thing ever! Why are you selling it?!” and 2.) You’ll do this next part one box at a time.

Organizing means:
  1. Placing all of your clothes on plastic hangers.
  2. Placing all of your shoes into plastic ziplock bags.
  3. Organizing books into small sets that “make sense”. Place in ziplock bags or with strong rubber bands.
  4. Wrap any board puzzles in plastic wrap or ziplock bags.
  5. Make sure everything has working batteries. It will help your items to sell better if the buyer can know for sure that it works.

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5. Start Pricing!

I’ve done this several different ways, and found that this way was the fastest:

  • Go through each item in ONE BOX and enter it online into whatever database your sale uses. Print out the tag on colored cardstock (colors catch people’s eyes! cardstock holds up really well!).
  • Cut the tags out and then attach them onto the items. For the clothes, you’ll want to pin the tags with safety pins, and other items, packing tape on top and bottom works out well. (but be sure to check your sale for any requirements– a couple are weird about what you can use).
  • Put everything back in the box and then put it out of sight!
  • Repeat with each box.

You may be thinking– wouldn’t it be easiest just to do alllll the entering, then alllll of the printing, then allllll of the attaching? It wasn’t for me. I found that searching for the “brown pants” is much easier when I have 40 items I’m searching through then when I have 120 items I’m searching through. This simple strategy cut my time almost in half!

As for pricing strategies, I’ve found that people go wrong when they get a little greedy. For consignment sales, think of a glorified yard sale. For clothes especially, don’t overcharge. For clothes 0-3T, I would suggest very little should be above $3.00 or $4.00 (for an outfit). 4T+ you can begin to price higher because there will be fewer items at the sale to choose from. ESPECIALLY for nice boys clothes, people will pay a lot more (up to 50% of the original price). I happen to have a boy that isn’t very hard on his clothes, which works out great for us!

Many of my items range from $1-$4 each, and I’ve made well over $100 (sometimes $200-$300) each sale with just a bunch of small items. I have really normal kid clothes- not a lot of name brands– many of them I’ve bought at kid consignment sales– so I pretty much get my money back when I sell them!

Typically I’m able to buy the kids’ next seasons’ clothes with the money I’ve made at each sale. For that, it makes it all worth it!

Next up- how to be a smart consignment sale buyer! 

photo credit: AL.com

My Epic Birthday Date

On Friday, Jake surprised me with an EPIC 11 hour date and it was FANTASTIC. I told him at one point that if we weren’t already married, I would have expected a marriage proposal by the end :).

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Because I turned 32, Jake planned 5 dates for just the two of us (us being math geeks, 2^5=32).

Date One

Jake took the little kids to the library as he normally does on Friday mornings (giving me the morning “off” to do whatever I want: writing, reading, crafting, etc.). At 11:00a I got a text from him, telling me that he was almost home and could I run up and get a paper by his bed. It was  an invitation to a date.

Put on your comfy clothes and join me for a party of two lunch at the official birthday place, followed by a fun board game.

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We ate at Nitty Gritty which is THE birthday restaurant here in Madison (balloons, free drink, free desert) and then played a board game at I’m Board (our favorite board game store where you can hang out in their back room and test out board games). We played Villagers and Villains, which was pretty fun– we tied!

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Date Two

Get your work clothes on, get hydrated, and create at a Walk in, Make art studio with me.

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Afterwards, I found ANOTHER birthday invitation, this time inviting me to Sonic (yesssssss) and then to Fired Up Pottery, a make your own art store. We designed a glass piece (a swoop bowl) to be fused, and I just picked it up today. It turned out SO WELL, don’t you think?!

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Date Three

Bundle up for the cold and put on your hiking boots. Let’s walk on water together and view the 1753 sunset from Lake Mendota.

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I’ve been wanting to walk on the lake all winter, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Jake made it happen! We had so much fun hiking out from picnic point so we could sit on a sleeping bag and watch the sunset from the middle of the lake. So romantic and fun!

 

Date Four

Time to get fancy. We’ll explore narrative in the Storybook exhibition.

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We headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown, and it was a great time. My favorite part was viewing a collection of art work done by art teachers of the Madison School District. Their work was INCREDIBLE. I’ve decided that my current favorite kind of artwork is mixed media.

 

Date Five

Dinner for two downtown, then home for the afterparty.

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We ended up going to an Indian and Nepali restaurant. We ate the most delicious garlic naan with our main courses (I can’t even remember what I ordered but it was really good too). By the time we got home it was nearly 10:00p and we were EXHAUSTED. Jake had arranged for the kids to be at various houses for the day/night, so we had a kid-free house (which, by the way, was incredibly weird and fantastically relaxing). The next morning we woke to an alarm so that we could pick up all the kiddos by 9:00a, also unusual and I must admit I prefer being awoken by a child :).

By the way, how generous are those families who watched our kiddos and kept them overnight? I feel SO LOVED that people would say yes to that! They made our day/evening so wonderful!!! It takes a village, people, especially when family is a day’s drive away!

Thanks to my love for planning a great day and night!!

The Enneagram: What Number Are You?

One of my current interests is learning about the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is a typology. You’ve probably heard of other typologies: Myers-Briggs, temperament tests (sanguine, melancholy, choleric, phlegmatic), as well as the zodiac. While all these typologies have been derived in different ways, they all share one thing: they simplify human behaviors into a limited number of character types. I think we’d all agree that some of these are more helpful than others for one reason or another.

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The Enneagram is an ancient typology that boils all of humanity down to 9 character types. These character types are based around a deep-seated sin (the seven deadly sins + 2 more), which often plays a big role in how we hide from God and hide from ourselves. We learn the “life-lie” from which we operate.

The starting point of the Enneagram is the blind alleys into which we stumble in our attempt to protect our life from internal and external threats (p. 4).

The NINE Types

Type ONE: The Need to Be Perfect

Type TWO: The Need to be Needed

Type THREE: The Need to Succeed

Type FOUR: The Need to be Special

Type FIVE: The Need to Perceive

Type SIX: The Need for Securitiy

Type SEVEN: The Need to Avoid Pain

Type EIGHT: The Need to be Against

Type NINE: The Need to Avoid

The beauty of the Enneagram is that this is not another tool that tries to box us in and help us only to know ourselves better. Instead, this tool helps us to understand ourselves better so that we’re able to recognize our own voice and hence be able to recognize God’s voice all the more. 

For an example. I’m a 1, which means I see what’s wrong with the world. I’m a perfectionist who has high expectations for others and even higher expectations for myself. So, when I “hear God” saying, “Try harder. You should probably add on another project. If you loved me, you would _________. Are you accomplishing all you can for my kingdom?  Oh wow I’m disappointed that you couldn’t make that all happen”, then I can take a pause. Is this God speaking to me? Or is this my voice talking to me? Am I attempting to hide behind all this “stuff” I’m doing for him and not really allow Him full access to my heart? I’m beginning to hear God’s voice more distinctly as I begin to recognize my own that I thought was God’s.

Understanding myself in this way is transforming my inner life. 

In addition, this tool allows us not to stay “stuck”. Even though I’m a 1 and can recognize what I easily fall into, I also can start doing some serious heart work in that area and allow God to transform me. The Truth, my friend, can really set us free.

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So, as per recommendation of my spiritual director, I’ve been working through the book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert. In it, Rohr and Ebert share the many twists and turns of how the Enneagram as we know it came about. Many think that a form of the Enneagram originated with the Desert Fathers.Then, they explain a little bit more about what the Enneagram is and isn’t, and finally the good part– they dive into each “number”, dedicating a chapter to each.

The Enneagram is intended as an oral tradition and not really to be learned from a book. The reason being is that spiritual directors throughout history have used the Enneagram to help people along in their spiritual journey with God. It’s never to be used as a way to peg people or manipulate people (wahaha, I know YOUR NUMBER!), but to help individuals understand themselves, their “modes of operation” and how that affects/hinders/enhances their relationship with God and others.

If you’re interested in learning more, it may be helpful to check with your pastor to see if he or she knows of anyone trained to teach it. It’s best to learn from a real life person who has been trained in walking people through this. But, if that doesn’t work out, it may not be bad to read the one I”m reading by Rohr (if you’re interested in the Christian perspective). The Enneagram has been adjusted away from its original purposes and is now often used in the secular world of psychology, which is fine and all, but it’s not the same as the original. Also, it’s not without controversy, so be aware of that too. However, there are many solid churches, both Catholic and Evangelical, who use this tool as a way of personal/spiritual development. For a quick guestimation of what your number may be, this free test is decent (but not perfect).

My thoughts: the Enneagram is a tool just like any other type of typology. Some people are all into temperament typing. Others Myers-Briggs. Others Strengthsfinder. This is not some magic ball that will solve all problems or a “cure all” for sin (we know that there is only one way for that to happen!). It’s simply a really helpful tool to understand yourself better.

So, if you decide to look into it, have fun and may God use it as a transformational tool in your life!

 

If:Gathering Reflections from Madison West

This past weekend, myself and 190ish other women spent Friday afternoon through Saturday evening in a gymnasium at the If:Madison West gathering. In addition to listening to gifted women speak from the If:Gathering stage, there was a lot of laughing, some crying, lots of singing, and a good amount of discussions and prayer. I was SO GLAD to have a few of my good friends with me (thanks for coming, Jackie, Debbie, and Deborah!). We had some great discussion processing and praying through what we heard.

blessed
photo credit: Lisa Wilcox Photography

 

The If team walked us through the story of Joshua and the theme surrounding BELIEF. We looked at with faith is (and is not), explored reasons we have a hard time believing, heard ways on how we can believe, and dreamed of what could happen if we lived out our faith more courageously in our everyday lives.

Lots and lots of great things came out of this gathering, but I’m gonna give you my TOP FIVE. 

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photo credit: Lisa Wilcox Photography

 

#5 Rest. I sat in a room for a day and a half, full of other women, talking, listening and resting. We were catered a delicious meal (thanks to Bunky’s Cafe!) and I ate the most delicious chocolate cake. No one asked me for a bite of my food, to wipe their bottoms, get them a snack, put their robe on, or pick out every black bean out of their soup. No miniature child but her sweet chubby hand over my mouth so I would stop talking and pay attention to only her.  I just sat and listened and shared what was on my heart. And before you judge, let me tell you, I was not the only one sitting around my table who were thinking the exact things :). A true gift of rest!

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hey that’s me! photo credit: Lisa Wilcox Photography

 

#4 Be courageous. Christine Caine spoke on Saturday afternoon on Joshua 1. First, she talked about how when the Lord came to Joshua, He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then….” He was calling Joshua to move forward. The days of Moses were over, but He was moving the Israelites forward. How many times do we look back to the past and think, “If I could only get back to that place, then …” We longingly remember sweet periods of our life when we felt like God was really working in our lives and through our lives. But now? Well, we’re still trying to get back to that. We’re hanging onto things that are dead. God’s saying to us, “yes, yes, I was working in that way or in that relationship or in that ministry. But come on, I’m moving on to something else. Please come with me– I’m working over here now– come on and join me.”

She also really encouraged us to not be afraid to be uncomfortable. We are created to be dangerous to the dark places of the world. The call of God is nearly always inconvenient.

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photo credit: Lisa Wilcox Photography

 

#3 Hearing from local women who are changing their part of the world. Several people in our gathering shared parts of their journey of faith, but one woman in particular really impacted me. She’s the founder of Lilada’s Living Room, an organization that creates safe, healing spaces for female survivors of sexual abuse here in Madison. Lilada shared a little bit about how she got where she is today, and encouraged us to look at our places of pain when asking God to show us “our place” of calling or ministry. For many of us, it’s our places of pain that we think hold us back from taking that next step of faith. But in reality, God is inviting us to share with others the same comfort that He has ministered to us (2 Corinthians 1.3-7).

I just love hearing how God is working in our specific community. It’s really easy to not know what’s going on and believe that kingdom work is only trudging along. But hearing the stories of God healing, comforting, and saving women and men here in Madison- it’s encouraging and inspiring to say the least.

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photo credit: Lisa Wilcox Photograpy

 

#2 Worshiping God through some AWESOME music! We had a fantastic team of musicians to lead us in singing worship to our God. To worship with women from all walks of life, from different churches around the city, in different styles– it was just beautiful.

#1 Lynne Hybels. Shauna Niequist sat with her momma (Lynne Hybels) on stage and together they told a beautiful story of a momma who wasn’t living into her own gifts, passions, and dreams for far too long, and how a resurrection of faith, hope, and healing at just the right time allowed a daughter to see exactly what she needed to see- a woman of faith, fully unleashed, living into a call that God had on her life. I had read part of the story before on Shauna’s blog, but to see Shauna and Lynne talk together on that stage– I wept. Daughters need their mommas to show them what it looks like to follow God and live into their giftings, not afraid of what others are going to do or say. It made me think of how much I want to set a good example for all my kids of what it looks like to follow God, even when it means doing life  little untraditionally. As much as I want to be there for my kids as much as I can, I also want my kids to know that they are not the center of my world. Our God is. Lynne writes this on Shauna’s blog (I didnt take a single note from the actual If talk because I was giving 100% of my attention to the stage):

Most women I know are really good at giving. And we should be good at giving. We follow in the way of a Savior who gave himself for the world. But Jesus didn’t give himself indiscriminately; he didn’t give people everything they wanted. Jesus knew his calling from the Father; he knew the unique shape of the redemptive gift he was to give to the world. I believe that too many women give bits and pieces of themselves away, indiscriminately, for years and years, and never have the time or energy to discern their unique calling from God, never have the time or energy to play the redemptive role they are gifted and impassioned to play. The result is a lot of good-hearted, devout Christian women who are exhausted and depressed.”

Whew. Good stuff. Stuff I’m glad I hear now instead of 20 years down the road.

I had a great time at the If:Gathering– connecting with other local women, reflecting on great speakers’ messages, figuring out what faithfulness and belief and calling look like in our lives. Thanks to the If:Team for spearheading this event!

Also big shoutout to Zion City Church and Blackhawk Church for co-hosting this great event! It was so much fun and I think we should partner on more events like this in the future!

[Sidenote: I also really loved Jen Hatmaker’s talk on the topic of “what keeps us from believing?” I also didn’t take very good notes (I have a hard time keeping good notes while listening. Apparently I need to go back to college), so I didn’t list it above. The one thing I remember besides “The parent is in the elevator” situation is that she said that we live out God’s Kingdom to the same measure we really believe it. Bazinga.]

 

How to Find Time to Read

We all have the same amount of time in a day, but that doesn’t mean we can all use our time in the same way. I’m continually amazed at women like Modern Mrs. Darcy and Money Saving Momma who reads TONS of books in the midst of having children and managing a successful blog. For me, tackling ONE a week was a true challenge. Nevertheless, the question I most often get concerning my love for reading is-

“But when do you have time to read?!” 

howtofindtimetoread

1. After kids to get bed

This is where 80% of my reading happens. Kids go to bed between 7:00 and 8:00 and I go to bed around 11:00 (well, that’s my goal, often it ends up pushing midnight). That leaves a lot to time to do whatever my little heart desires! I have some general guidelines for my evenings:

  • No chores. We try to make sure that the necessary chores (dishes, sweeping, tidying) are done right after dinner with everyone helping out. The day-to-day chores happen during the day, sometimes with kids helping me, sometimes not. Chores are not for nighttime. Rejuvenation and personal hobbies/writing is for nighttime.
  • I have a plan BEFORE the night begins. This is huge. I can’t take 30 minutes figuring out what I want to do. Time is too short for that. Instead, I know what I want to do as soon as I turn on the music and shut the kids’ bedroom door. Ready, Set, Go.
  • I try to read at least 30 minutes before falling asleep. But sometimes my whole night will be earmarked as “reading” and that’s 3 hours logged!

2. During naptime/rest time.

From 1:00-2:30 I can almost guarantee time to read, if I so choose. At 1:00 Anaya goes down for her nap, and Ada has a quiet time in her room. She’s a rockstar quiet-timer, so I can generally count on her being in her room for almost that whole time. Admittingly, I mostly use this section of the day for emails, blog writing, planning kid activities for the week, household management stuff, or even a nap, but occasionally I’ll read too. So, I’d say I fit 10% in here.

3. With my kids

Somewhere along the way, our family started listening to books, and it’s a favorite pastime of ours. We will often listen to books that are for kids (A to Z Mysteries, Calendar Mysteries, Mercy Watson, Fudge series, and Nate the Great are some of our families’ “go-to”), but we’ve started venturing out into books that Jake and I actually really like too. We’re on the 5th book of the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins (it’s FANTASTIC), and so those are books I would read even if the kids weren’t around. I look forward to doing this more with the kids as they get older– just think about all the good stuff we’ll be able to listen to and discuss!

4. Listening by Myself

This past year I listened to a couple books (from the library) and this was pretty great for me! I would download the books on my phone and then listen while I was folding laundry, doing dishes, taking a walk, and grocery shopping (with headphones, of course).

5. In the Midst of Everyday Life

I’ve just begun to read in the midst of the chaos of life. I read somewhere that it’s important for kids to see their parents read and love books in order to keep their love for reading strong, and this made total sense to me. Do my kids know I like to read since they never see me do it? Do my kids know how much I LOVE to read? Or do they think that I LOVE to clean/Facebook/etc.? I’m sure there is no question in my kids’ minds (books are littered all over our house), but I decided to use this excuse to read a chapter here and there while my kids are reading their books, or even during a time when the kids are playing kindly with each other. I just plop myself on the couch or in the playroom and read while they play around me. I’ve discovered they often really desire my presence with them in the room, but they don’t necessarily need me interacting with them the whole time.

A few more “tips” that I find useful:

  • Always have a book with you. Even if you think you won’t have time to read it, bring it anyway.
  • Have a stack of books ready. Use your local library. Borrow all kinds of books that you think you might like. Don’t be afraid to have 5, 10, 20, 100 books checked out at one time (or whatever your library’s limit is). I typically read about 25% of what I check out and return the rest unread. I like to have a variety of books available, depending on what mood I’m in (fiction, christian living, comedy, memoir, biography, parenting, etc.).
  • Have a pen and paper ready at all times for recommendations. Or your phone (or both). I love getting book recommendations from people. Sure, I might not actually read them, but I can at least check them out online to see if it’s something I’d be interested in.

If reading is something you love and want to make more time for it, I’m convinced there is a way!