Reveling in the glory and beauty of everyday life... all the mess and chaos of raising five little girls!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Longing for Paris: A Book Review and An Invitation

One of the fun “pre-baby” projects I have been excited about is getting to preview (and review) Sarah Mae’s new book: Longing for Paris.  Do you know Sarah Mae? If you haven’t acquainted yourself with her writing, allow me to introduce you! I first discovered Sarah Mae when I read Desperate, which she co-authored with Sally Clarkson (one of my favorite authors). I was touched by her heart, by her honesty, and by her whole-hearted mothering of her three kiddos – even as she waded through challenging seasons and the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and weariness that all of us mamas sometimes struggle with. I have since found, through Sarah Mae’s blog posts and video seminars, a true kindred spirit – an open-hearted mom who loves Jesus, loves her children, and is refreshingly “real” about life in the trenches. I love the way she leans fully into her role – rising above the chaos to nurture her family with deep love and faithful intentionality. Her insights on parenting a “wild one” with love and grace have served to encourage and inspire me.  So – I have been so excited about her new book, and I am thrilled that I was given the chance to read it before it hit the bookstore shelves! 

Longing for Paris is Sarah Mae’s story of reconciling the deep longings in her soul to experience beauty and wonder with the reality of each day’s often monotonous motherhood grind.  It’s the story of how she bravely set out to find contentment and joy in the here and now, to live un-regrettably, to embrace all the sweetness of life… while untangling the desires of her heart for something “more.”  And it’s the story of how, as she purposed her way through the untangling and the searching, she met God in a deeper way, discovered who she is in Him, found fresh meaning and beauty in daily living, learned how to abandon herself to the roles He has fashioned her for, and realized that the longing for Paris is ultimately a longing for the perfect beauty of Heaven.  Earth is not our forever home; Heaven is. But when we live our lives with purpose, for His glory, we see glimpses of His beauty all around us! 

I loved this book.  Sarah Mae is tender and real, and her insights into the heart of women are profound.  She encourages us to find pieces of “Paris” all around us – whether through savoring an exquisite meal (or just a flaky croissant), experiencing beauty in art and music, or making memories by sharing adventures with our loved ones.  Our world is broken, but beauty rises from the dust all around us, and as we savor that beauty, we truly “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  As we receive the Lord’s goodness and seek to know Him, He equips us to sparkle! We see His goodness, and we bestow His goodness in the ways we love, serve, and create.  Sarah’s call to live well is not one of ethereal, flimsy, Peter Pan-ish good thoughts, though. The book is replete with Scripture and biblical wisdom.  It’s a book of tender theology for those of us who revel in poetry and prose.

Every chapter of this lovely book is plump with sweet morsels to chew on – and ends with an invitation to join Sarah in savoring a Paris sort of moment.   If you feel stuck in the mundane – like life is just chores and work and struggle… then pick up this book!  You will be so encouraged!  

The book actually does not release until August! But – pre-order it! You won’t be disappointed when it shows up on your doorstep.  I am going to host a month long book study here on my blog in August (I’ll be pre-writing my posts since we will have a brand-new baby by then!), so if you decide to order and are interested in having some accountability, would you let me know in the comments?  Order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book, or anywhere you shop for books. Better yet, order directly from Sarah Mae, here! I think the price is actually lower than Amazon's!  Plus, she has a few fun giveaways (like signed copies, and journals from Dayspring) on her blog right now, so check it out!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Schedule

Several of you sweet mamas have asked where I landed on the scheduling continuum for our summer break - after I posted about our easy default to chaos during Spring Break.  The truth is - our summer is broken into two halves: the before Baby half and the after Baby half. So, I made a schedule, and we plan, and we play, but I know that things will look different when our little one arrives.  We will not be going on bike rides with a newborn, or taking all-day adventures.  We'll be enjoying sprinklers, and building forts in the yard, and having picnics on our porch. So... the schedule I created is really only for the next five weeks - and one of those weeks is VBS at church. 

Basically, I wanted to balance outdoor family adventure days with quieter home days where reading and rest were paramount.  The kids have swimming Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and Elisa and Sadie can also go on Fridays (we're holding Fridays as optional).  Mondays are our "long bike ride day," and Wednesdays are "adventure in the park" day. On those days, I expect that Hope will take a short nap either in the chariot, the backpack or the car, so we are not rushing to be home for rest time.  Our "home" days hold lots of outdoor play, Bible time, quiet rest, a reading time with Mom for the big kids while Hope is still napping, and a few extra chores. I am trying to relax a bit on some of the chores I do daily during the school year - 'cause, ya know, life is short. 

Our priorities? Outdoor Play, Exercise, Reading, Discipleship, and Responsibility.  I want to capture my kiddos' hearts as we make memories, get wet, and eat ice cream together.  I want to read with them, pray with them, and just snuggle them til they squeal. 

Obviously, I am a little Type A, but my kiddos also seem to thrive where routine reigns. If they know Monday is bike day, they don't balk.  I also want my kids to have time with friends, but, to be honest, I am limiting that a little. I can't reach their hearts if we spend every day at the park with a gazillion other moms and kids - where they run wild and I chit-chat.  I want to do some adventures with buddies, and some adventures where it is just me and the girls, sharing time and crafting memories.  And, I don't love dropping them off for playdates; I would much rather do things all together, with the other family. Is it just our family, or do playdates always seem to backfire into bad attitudes? We do them occasionally, but it is definitely not my preference, unless it is for a specific babysitting need. I feel like my kids are still young, and they need some level of supervision and guidance as they navigate friendships - not unlimited freedom.  I may be a bit on the protective side. :) It's all a balance. 

 And, just for fun. Cause we all like to stand on our heads, apparently. :) 34.5 weeks pregnant. This headstand lasted all of 1.5 seconds. :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Green Eggs and Ham

I wish I would have taken a photo of our lunch today. I thought of it too late - when the eggs were half eaten and the plates were messy with pancake debris. But, just for fun, I thought I'd share it with you, because it was quick, easy, and yummy. Most importantly, it was fun. 

My new favorite pancake recipe is from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook. My kids love it too! Basically, it is equal parts oats, cottage cheese, and egg whites, with a touch of baking powder, all pureed in the blender.  It makes a tasty, thin pancake that can also double as a high protein bread option. Yum! I quickly blended the pancake mix, and while the first batch sizzled on the griddle, I rinsed the blender before filling it with eggs and several cups of fresh spinach. The result of that high-speed mix was a very green, frothy sort of muck that I then scrambled.  At this point, Raina was going, "Mom? What are you feeding me??" But I diced some ham, threw it in with the eggs on the stove, and then wrapped the green egg mixture in the pancakes. 

When the kids balked, I said, "Wait. Remember Sam I Am?" I ran upstairs for the Dr. Seuss anthology, and, while the girls erupted in high pitched giggles, I started to read. Raina took one bite every time she saw the picture of green eggs and ham in the book. And soon, she was spooning eggs off my plate, 'cause she wanted more. :) 

And, when the doctor asked, at their afternoon check-ups, if they eat a good variety of grain, protein, and veggies, I could say an emphatic and honest "yes."  Spinach served with a story. What could be better?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What is Sacred?

The other day, I was watching my little munchkins shove Lego people inside of old collectible model cars that once decorated my grandpa's bookshelves.  As they rammed the cars into walls and shot them fast and furious across the carpet, I chuckled a little. 'Cause, clearly, I wasn't keeping those heirloom collectibles as sacred possessions. They are memories of my grandpa, to be sure, but, since I don't fancy keeping cars on my own bookshelves as untouchable decorations, I figure they might as well be enjoyed as toys.  They can be special reminders - and they can also be used.

It made me wonder, what do I hold sacred in our home? I can be pretty relaxed about a lot of things. Like - when we have a fancy tea party, I let the two year old have a fine china cup. And if it breaks, I don't stress about that small loss. I let my kids play outdoors in whatever clothes they want. If Grandma just bought a flouncy satin Christmas dress and they want to wear it all day, every day, that is fine with me. They don't have to save it for a special occasion. I also let them wear my clothes, tightened with safety pins, if they are in the mood. Mama's closet isn't sacred. :) Those art supplies I bought specifically for Raina's kindergarten art program? They are mostly used up. I couldn't say no! Art supplies didn't seem like sacred ground, and I can always buy more.  The baby items we have begun to store up for our new little one? They're not sacred either. Baby dolls can be wrapped in swaddle blankets and if Hope wants to swing her stuffies for hours in the hand-me-down swing, that's fine! Do my kids want to jump in the pond wearing their clothes - just because it's 75-degrees out? Okay. We'll do some more laundry. I don't fret about stains, or dents, or broken dishes. I throw away a lot of school projects and little girl art because I don't like to store it. I save "special" projects and pictures, but I don't hold every creation as sacred. But, there are lots of things I do hold sacred in our home. 

Like family meals. 

And bedtime stories. There are nights when we don't do stories - like when we have AWANA and don't get home until past bedtime. Or, when we choose to stay up late playing Settlers of Cataan instead.  Or on our once-a-month or so family movie nights. But, most nights, story hour is truly sacred ground. It might just be a Bible story from a picture Bible, or it might be a few chapters of a cherished read-aloud, or it might be a stack of picture books. But, we read. 

Outdoor play. That's pretty important around here. 

Afternoon rest. Even the big girls, when home on off-days or weekends, know that 1:00 is quiet time. It's been tradition for so long, they just do it - even though I don't ask or require it. They find a snuggle spot and a book and spend 45 minutes or an hour in quiet.  This is our anchor - our reset button. And it is sacred. 

Praying before school. I forget occasionally, and someone usually pipes up, just as I am turning into the parking lot, "Pray, Mommy!" You know it's a sacred family habit when they call you out on it. 

Having the dishes done before I go to bed. That is a sacred habit I can't break.  I think I wouldn't sleep if I knew my sink was full of dirty dishes. :) 

What is sacred in your home? What specific traditions, habits, or rules tether your family? I know some of ours are silly and personal and not necessarily universal. Like, it's really OK if you leave the dinner dishes to just do with the breakfast ones.  But we all have our negotiables and our non-negotiables. Our sacred and our common.  Folded laundry on the back of the couch? Sure, all the time.  But, dishes? Never. :)