the right instructions.

Wendell Berry once said, “You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.’ I am not all the way capable of so much. But those are the right instructions.”

I don’t know about you, but there are some days that I just love where I’m at and what I’m doing. The moments seem light and joyful, and I feel perfectly placed in my life.

And there are days I don’t.

I can blame it on a lot of things: the news. My lists. The worries on my shoulders. Grief. Extra fighting from the kids. Exchanged sarcasm. The toddler climbing into bed because a storm ignited her fears… making us all restless. And squished. And sleep deprived.

But the fact of the matter is: the biggest hinderance to my own happiness is my disconnect to the command to give thanks.

You know the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” We just like to slap those words on anything tricky that we need some extra diligence for… but what, specifically, is it referring to? Paul is referring to being content— in every circumstance. He says that he has learned to do it, no matter what. How? He can do it “through Christ,” who gave him strength *to give this thanks.*

What do you need to give thanks for? What gives your heart pause, just thinking about hoisting it to heaven with gratitude on your lips? I can think of a few things that I feel are just too hard, too sad, too hurtful for me to be thankful for… but fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. We have a Helper to lift our offering high, and intercede with perfect words we have an impossible time finding.

Christ.

He will give us strength.

Strength enough to offer gratitude…

and in the doing, we are placed in the perfect position to receive His grace.

And isn’t that something we can be oh so thankful for? 💛

embracing grace in the grind.

For those of you who grow weary in well-doing sometimes– or easily get overwhelmed with the task of doing tasks without seeing the list grow smaller… this is a reminder:

It’s okay to let things go sometimes.

If there are certain things that you can’t *stand* being messy– as in, it wears on your mental or physical well-being– then by all means, keep doing those things. But others? It might just be okay to give them… space.

This quotation by Emily P. Freeman is talking about spiritual practices, but I’m going to apply it to the here and now…

“It’s not about what items on a [cleaning] checklist that we need to check off. In fact, if a [task] is causing you to experience shame, anxiety, tension, or overwhelm, I’d say that’s a practice you don’t need to be doing right now. It doesn’t mean the practice itself is bad or that you’ll never engage with it again, but anxiety in a practice is your body trying to tell you something. It could be an arrow to a wound. It may also be, and often is evidence of a season of growth or change, even though it probably doesn’t feel that way, but that could be what it is…

There is a true narrative and that is the stunning and relentless love God has for you. If a practice runs counter to that narrative, take a pause, take a break, take a breath and find a practice that reminds you of the love of God instead.”

For me, this means I can’t ignore my kitchen forever (nor do I want to)… but it does mean that it is better for me to ignore it until my soul is restored and I can clean it in a healthier space, instead of one of shame (“if you don’t clean this right away, you are lazy”) or anxiety (“I don’t want it to be a mess in case someone stops by”) or overwhelm (when I look around and let simple kitchen clutter upset me in ways that it shouldn’t). THAT is a sign: if the kitchen overwhelms me, that is because I am already overwhelmed, and I need to sit and deal with that before the dishes.

It’s hard for me to do… but I feel like it will lead to a much happier, healthier me, and actually give me the capacity to love my home better overall. ❤️




If you are looking for a place to get ideas about how to love your home while still embracing grace in the grind, please head over to the FB group, Gathering Wellness. We choose a new topic each month to explore and right now we are in the middle of encouragement, conversations, etc., that are all about making our home a loving place for everyone to thrive in. 🙂

examening your home

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and it was talking about the Daily Examen– what’s typically considered a spiritual practice of reflection by asking & answering a pattern of questions at the end of the day.

As I was listening, my thoughts connected that idea to my goal for the month of February– loving my home and making it easier for my family and I to love being in it. I’ll be honest; I am so thankful for my home… but the daily-ness of all the daily tasks that are also housed here overwhelm me at times. I like to do things and then move on the next thing and for projects to be “done…” but there’s nothing done about the bits of food that reemerge on the floor, or the dishes that reappear in the sink, or the laundry that regrows in our hampers. And sometimes, those things make me feel like I can’t actually do what I WANT to do in my home and with the people in it.

So this month, I’m reshaping my thoughts around my home, and finding better tools for me to love it better.

As I listened to the 5 steps of the Examen, my mind tweaked the points a bit… and I wanted to share them. You know, just in case someone else needs to regroup and offer a reminder of a bigger, lovelier picture.

1) Think back to your day and find the love that you had while at home. Was it something specific about a space? An item? A moment you had there? The people in it? Find a moment at home that brought you joy, for whatever reason.

2) Show gratitude for that moment. Offer thanks for it.

3) Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings arise after that. It “makes sense” that offering thanks would/”should” bring a positive emotion, but that might not always be the case. I can be thankful for a moment, and still feel a shadow that someone or something wasn’t in it. That’s okay to feel and to acknowledge.

4) Take that moment and pray from it, journal about it, process it.

5) Look ahead towards tomorrow. That might mean just having hope that tomorrow can offer the same experience… or it might mean making a mental action step about how to encourage the same type of moment. (For instance, if you realized that your morning was super peaceful because of waking up to clean surfaces and no dishes, maybe resolve to do that more often. No guilt or commitment attached– just an observation and maybe a thought to try it again.)

Anyhoo, taking time to think big picture and reflecting is huge for me– especially when I sometimes tend to make lists that feel too large and daunting OR even make it a measurement of my worth. Here’s to noting the love for and in our homes, offering gratitude for it, and believing that we can have more of it in our moments. ❤

of mugs and memories and becoming.

This mug.

It’s from my college-teaching, single, pre-kid days.

It’s held countless cups of morning coffee, winter-day soups, and even a summer evening bowl of ice cream or two. (Or five. Or more. Ahem.)

It’s held pens and pencils and markers and a plant.

It was gingerly tucked away and packed as I moved offices and apartments and then houses, and came through them all— but not without a chip or two.

Gracious, isn’t this mug a symbol of life? Time passes, we hold things in and let things go. Our roles change. We move. We get chipped along the way. (Maybe even broken.)

We lose a bit of our shine, even. We get worn through the washing and handling of decades.

But there’s still beauty and worth in the worn— the gift of having memories, becoming memories, and showing up for so many kinds of moments.

Shiny and new might be nice… but there is nothing like having something faithful and familiar, that effortlessly provides comfort that only time and experience can bring.

Here’s to mugs, and memories, and sitting well with how time changes us into more comfortable, comforting versions of ourselves. 💛

L is for the way…

January is fading fast, friends.

It’s super crazy how fast the month has gone. The stores went straight from Christmas to Valentines two weeks ago, bless it!

And even though I’m not going to buy the pink-iced cupcakes on the endcaps at the store, I can still take a hint: it’s time to start preparing.

I’ll admit: we do like to stretch our holidays a little bit over here– even more so with this one, since we felt like Christmas fun was cut short. (Thanks, Covid.)

Anyhoo, I’ve gone ahead and compiled a week’s worth of activities and ideas. Use one or use them all– totally up to you! The underlines link up to videos, recipes, and suggested items to check out, in case you don’t have random craft stuff jammed in drawers like we do. Ha!

Want the actual links to work? Ha! Here’s a pdf download with all the clickables!

I’ll be bluntly honest; we might not do every thing I have on this little weekly calendar, but I do plan on doing several. A sure-thing though, is our “I love you” fondue. We have done that every Valentine’s Day for 3 years now, and we are keeping that for, oh, forever. (My husband and I don’t actually like to go out on the actual date because it’s just too crowded and all of that. Instead, we celebrate love together as a family on the 14th– and the hubs and I head out the weekend after, when it is a bit easier to find a sitter and a seat at a restaurant. 😉 #worksmarternotharder)

Here’s wishing you a day, a week, a whole month full of sweet moments and memories of loving well. ❤

memories > dreams

“It’s realizing that a great dream is not as good as a great memory. The dream can be had by anyone. The memory – must be made.” Eric Thomas

I will admit to the past couple of years being one of waving grief. With so much changing, and with the promise of normalcy being pushed back further and further, I’ve lamented the fact that maybe I won’t get to make the memories I want with my family the way that I dreamed. The Swiss Alps will be my own experience, and not a shared one. Florence, Italy will be my own words, and something I can share in snapshots and story snippets… not hand-in-hand. The Black Forest is some place I can tell my kids I’ve been, and the trees won’t be something we will see together.

It makes the world a bit sadder, and heaven a bit sweeter.

And it’s true— that my grief might all be for nothing and the cloud of COVID and all the junk surrounding it will lift, and we will have the most amazing field trip in the world when they are older.

But the point of this post isn’t really a lament… so let me get back on task.

The point of the post is exactly what the quotation says in the beginning… that memories made are more valuable, precious, deserving because they have existed beyond the walls of our imagination. We have made something real and weaved it in the fabric of our lives and our story— and the stories of the people that were with us.

Our little family was late to the mountains this year— we couldn’t escape earlier for several reasons. We bought apples in bags instead of picking them off trees. But that didn’t damper the beauty of the leaves around us, and the wonder of a random bamboo forest, the sweetness of fall treats, and the laughs over goofy pictures with street bear statues.

(On a side note, how are my children growing so fast?! I’m afraid to blink and breathe anymore.)

Here’s to dreams: that they become memories. But here’s to memories: that we make them in our backyards and slightly beyond… and delight in the simplicity and joy they bring to our moments.

Loop scheduling: how we ensure family culture and our “gentle feast”

Each day, we spend a chunk of time learning together. Our mornings always include Bible time, hymn/folk/foreign song singing, and Bible memory… and we loop through other subjects. Right now, we loop through habit training, poet/poetry study, etiquette, fables, composer/music study, and art/artist study.

Yesterday morning, we talked about the etiquette of making others feel welcome— through simple acts like smiling, waving, saying hello, and introducing ourselves well to new people we meet.

We practiced hellos and introductions… and then made tasty smiles, just to be funny. 😂

Days don’t hold enough time to do all.the.things. Incorporating a loop schedule in our morning together time gives me the assurance that we will slowly and surely cover things that are important to the “gentle feast” I want to offer to my children, as well as foster a family culture that (I hope 🙏🏻) will have a lasting impact.

What’s important to you and your family culture that you weave into your days?

A Handicraft Halloween Guide

With October in full force, Halloween will be here before you know it! We typically do more fall-themed things in general vs. “Halloween specific,” but it is fun to pull out a couple of specifically themed things for this month.

If you have it, that is…

The only Halloween decor we have is the leftover spider rings and webs from my son’s arachnid-themed party last week, ha!

Instead of going out and buying things, it is a perfect time to apply those handicraft skills, both in ourselves (hi there, Mother Culture, looking at you!) and for our kids.

I wanted to take a moment to compile some themed ideas for the 31st that– in my opinion– harken to some of the “authentic” handicrafts that most Charlotte Masony people recognize… versus toilet paper holder Frankenstein construction paper projects. (Note: if you like those, do those! No judgement here, I promise!)

Anyhoo, let’s get started!

Cross Stitch

I love several of the different cross stitch ideas that open when you click the pic below! What’s great is there are several simpler ideas for those kiddos, like mine, who are still learning the basics of stitching.

Origami/Paper folding

If you are familiar with tradition Charlotte Mason handicrafts, you know that she advocated teaching/learning “paper sloyd.” Paper sloyd uses simple tools to measure, cut, and construct things from paper and cardboard.

Origami captures the same spirit without the cutting… and if you currently have several books going at once, you will need just as many bookmarks. These cut little bats are just the thing to add some enchantment in an unexpected place— your page corners.

Click the image to snag the instructions. (This instruction will be true for each handicraft, btw.)

Sewing

Isn’t this garland just so cute?! The Etsy shop that offers the patterns for this banner has so many other cute ideas for decor, too. The best thing for me is that you don’t have to use them on a garland if you don’t want to. They can act as little ornaments, or can simply be made into palm sized toys for play. So fun!

Carving

When most Mason families talk about carving and handicrafts, they mean wood… but aren’t pumpkin just perfect for practicing these basics? I think so! Tackle a big pumpkin or lots of small ones!

Painting

Just like pumpkins are great to carve, they can also make pretty awesome canvases to practice painting skills on. In fact, I have fond memories of my living room when I was little, being covered in painted pumpkins. My grandfather had a fruit and vegetable stand, and during this season, my parents would hand paint hundreds of pumpkins for people to buy from him at his stand! It’s one of those things that you didn’t realize at the time would be one of those nostalgic memories that would make you smile in remembrance decades later.

I’ve included a dual carved/painted idea here, but the sky is the limit: characters, landscapes… whatever floats your boat! (I think an Edgar Allan Poe pumpkin would be fun, surrounded by smaller raven and black cat pumpkins!)

Crochet

For those kiddos (or mommas!) learning and practicing the skill of crochet, these little imaginative play puppets looks so cute! They would be fantastic to pull in for narration after some seasonal read alouds! The best part is, the pattern for these puppets are free! Just access by clicking the photo below.

Baking & Decorating

Obviously baking and decorating are two different skills, but I’m lumping them together here because they cross apply so often. For beginning bakers who might not be ready for piping, etc., this pumpkin sheet cake is easy to make and would make a fun addition to any poetry tea time!

The recipe linked below is all about making this cake from scratch… but I’m assuming that if you are more of the pre-fab boxed cake type, you can simplify it a smidgen. However, I think this cake offers perfect practice for more advanced/fine piping! Check out the intricacy of the spider web! So cool!

Other options (aka Non-handicraft, ha!)

As much as I love handicrafts, I will fully admit to not having them work so well for younger kiddos. I have a 3 year old that doesn’t have the fine motor skills to truly attempt to decorate cakes or sew a stuffie… but she simply loves to color and hang up her pictures on the string on the wall down our hall.

If you can’t quite squeeze a new handicraft in before Halloween (or simply like to color during read alouds), no worries! Click on the button below to download and print 2 free Halloween pictures for those in your house to color.

If you are wanting even more sheets, or even want to print your own coloring book, head over to my Etsy shop and snag 50 pages of print outs for you to use! It’s normally $2.50, but use this coupon code and get another 15% off. 🙂

Here’s to weaving in imagination and enjoyment into all of the education and encouragement we plan and do with our families this month!

***

For more Halloween-inspired fun, including school day plans, check out the links below!

The gift of handicrafts. Literally.

Charlotte Mason once said, “The child is only truly educated who can use his hands as truly as his head.”

I will admit: as an adult, there have been many times that I have felt handicapped… not by my lack of knowledge (because I know how to get more of it if I need it), but my lack of skills. I wish I was more “handy,” and find the learning curve a bit harsh at times. (Leaky roof and broken fence, looking at you.)

Right now, I feel it’s so important to teach my children 1) handicrafts (skills that merge both beauty and usefulness) and 2) that generosity and gift giving isn’t just about using money to buy stuff.

When E (my 8yo girlie) began talking about Christmas, we sat down and talked about the gift of creating… and she has decided to put her growing skills in hand sewing and loom knitting to work to make things for her brother and sister (like we read about in Elin’s America).

And together, we are learning the process of scenting and designing goat milk soap with essential oils, mica powders, and flowers.

One day, I’d love to actually learn the processing of making and curing soap from scratch, but the chemicals and storing for the entire process isn’t something we can do right now.

So here is to learning and creating what we can, without waiting for all.the.things to be perfect to do so.

(What do you know… another life lesson. 😉)

Here is the Orange Juniper Goat milk soap we made!

(To see what we used for the soaps, go here, here, and here. 😀 I’m obligated to say that these are referral links, which means our family gets a small smidgen of a boost to our budget if you use them. There is no additional cost to you at all, though. So yay!

Note: the mica powders and essential oils I already had on hand from other projects and needs. Also note… we got the 2lb soap base because I didn’t know how much each bar would make, and how much we would want to do it. We will probably order a 5lb bulk next, to reduce the cost of making it per bar and to give more as gifts this Christmas.)

A glance through our Pioneer/Homesteading Summer

This summer, we had a fabulous time incorporating all kinds of homesteading and pioneering fun!

I will be honest— we didn’t get to all the things my brain had planned. But we enjoyed the slower pace and worked with the realization that learning comes in all shapes and forms and in moments not jammed full of all the things.

I am sometimes better documenting the day-to-day on Instagram; so you’ll find this post to be a one-stop-shop on the smatterings of homesteading moments I have shared over there.

Here we go!

Cheesemaking

Although they made a version of a hard cheese in The Little House in the Big Woods, we did an easy, faster version at home!

Listening Ears and Busy Hands

We did a lot of reading aloud this summer, learning all about the Big Woods and then how life looked on the Prairie before packing up and moving again. Here’s how we spent a good chunk of time: making fun messes on the patio while joining the Ingalls on their journey.

Tracking our Travels

Because we embrace a Charlotte Mason approach to literature, we want to fill our time and minds with living books. Although “school” wasn’t happening in “full,” we liked to narrate the chapters as we read them and write our progress down on our chalkboard.

Life skills

A large chunk of our activities focused on life skills: we learned how to wash and hang clothes by hand. We made cheese, sourdough bread, and cookies. We used our Daybook to track meal planning, planting, and other skills. And although I doubt Ma Ingalls ever made this simple version of oatmeal cookies, she definitely used the few ingredients she had to make something delicious and filling.

Science

After reading about the prairie fire, the kids had a lot of questions about how starting a fire actually helped keep their home safe from fire. (Good question, huh?!) So we chatted and did a little experiment, learning about what fire needs to actually stay a fire. Once we learned those few little things, the kids could figure out the answer to their own question! Learning at work!

The Highlight Reel

To see the highlights of our summer, check out our InstaStory HERE. You’ll find cross stitch, life skills, snack ideas, cabin building, cornbread making, and more! We actually didn’t document a lot this summer because we were in the middle of doing… but that’s okay. 🙂 Just because no one sees it doesn’t mean we didn’t have a lot of fun doing it.

Resources

If you are interested in Little House Copywork that we did (print & cursive), the Daybook that was designed and used and/or the beginning piano book that my husband arranged… check out the freebies and links by clicking on the image below!

Because so much of our summer was developing good habits surrounding life skills, I decided to help my kiddos visualize some of their tasks and organize how they want to structure their time and plan their work. My kids– especially my oldest– really like working with these care task cards!

Home Care Cards

Homesteading Cards

Homelearning Cards

(Also, as a thank you for reading and checking out the resources, click HERE for 15% off the resources mentioned in this post. 😉 )

Since the summer, our schedule has started picking up… as it always does. Music lessons and kindermusik are back. I began teaching debate for our homeschool community again, and coaching our communication club. Our birthday season is in high gear.

I’ll be honest; I do love fall. Autumn has, and probably always will be, my favorite season. But I’m so glad that our days were spent in the Woods and on the Prairie during our warmest season… and I look forward to next summer of learning and doing and going a step further in our small version of homesteading. ❤