I clearly remember the first time I realized that parenting was a competition.
It was at the Reunion Party for the members of our childbirth class. Our first baby, Lauren, was three months old, with just a wisp of strawberry hair and bright blue eyes, and she was just beginning to *think about* rolling over. All of us brand new parents sat around the rug with our little bundles, much the same way we'd sat around that rug practicing our breathing and relaxation techniques, which were entirely worthless, but that's beside the point.
One couple, who was the 80's version of today's hipsters, plopped their baby down next to ours and proudly announced, "Tennyson is already tri-podding!"
A collective gasp went up from the crowd. Nobody actually knew what tri-podding was, but it sounded so advanced.
Sure enough, baby Tennyson sat up with his legs splayed out and his little arms reaching the floor in front of him, balancing his wobbly head in clear superiority to the loser-babies who were only rolling over...or still *just thinking* about rolling over.
Tennyson's parents shared that he was in the top 5 percentile for motor skills. They said he loved jazz music. Flash cards were his favorite pastime. The pediatrician had noted that he was very advanced for his age.
Tom and I looked at each other, then down at our baby, who was laying there on the rug like a, well, baby, and knew we had some work to do. Just wait until our One Year Reunion, Tennyson. THEN we'll see who's advanced! Oh yeah, bring it.
But that was just the beginning.
In my little Mother's Day Out, I found out that some kids had really cool mats to nap on, not like the cheap blue one I got at Walmart. Parents discussed which strollers were best, which car seats were safest, and why they decided to go ahead and purchase a Volvo. For the kids' safety, or course.
By elementary school, I figured out that the cool moms were the same girls who were cool in high school. DANG IT! They pulled off the Humble Brag flawlessly: "Morgan hardly had time to finish his science project because we spent Spring Break in Vail." Their kids came by Cool naturally: they inherited it.
I didn't fit in with the Smart Moms who were hell-bent on collecting every possible UIL medal known to man....for their kids, I mean. Colleges look at that kind of stuff, so it's important to start early.
On and on. Inadvertently (or maybe blatantly) comparing, competing and trying to fit in. Trying to out-do.
Just like high school. Only now we'd added our kids' achievements into the competish.
Of course, no one can ever measure up to the others. No matter how "perfect" your kid is, there is always someone's kid with a higher GPA, someone who has first chair in band, someone who models part-time for JCPenney, someone who won a bake-off, someone who got a hefty scholarship....and sometimes we succumb to the pressure of adding more activities and pressure on ourselves (and kids) just to try and keep up. We don't want to be left out.
Today's Small Thing is to stop competing, and start enjoying.
I've found that when I don't worry about the Tennysons of this world, tri-podding a full three weeks ahead of the 95 percentiles, I can exult in my baby rolling over whenever she wants to. When I stop comparing myself to my homeschooling friends and their kids' amazing science projects, I can relax and enjoy where I'm at - today - with my kids and their school projects. Do you get what I'm saying?
We tell our kids not to compare themselves to their peers. We tell them to be their own persons and to do things their own way. And we should do the same for ourselves: stop comparing our parenting styles, our incomes, our kids' achievements and our own, to those of parents around us. Stop giving ourselves the short end of the stick. Stop thinking that we are behind, or less than, or failures as parents.
Let's simply enjoy the gifts we have, such as they are, and let the chips fall where they may.
High school was way over-rated.
How will you enjoy "where you're at" in your parenting journey today? What ideas can you share that might help someone else? I'd love to hear.
I'd love to connect with you.
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Most of you are aware that I am the reluctant owner of a stray donkey named Flash.
Don't ask, it's a long story. There are a bunch of tales about him here on my blog, and you can read them when you have some time to invest in a sweet, albeit stubborn, character. Make yourself a cup of coffee and get comfy.
Today, though, I want to tell you about what that donkey said.
Well, he said......nothing. Donkey's don't talk much.
But he communicated a lot.
Flash doesn't have to say a word, in order to get his message across.
Turning his rather large rump directly in my face means, "I'd like a butt scratch. Now." (I always oblige, because really, I have no choice.)
Both ears forward: "I'm interested in what's going on. Is there food involved?"
Both ears back: "I'm not happy." (Always wise to stand back)
One ear forward, one ear back: "I'm an enigma, shrouded in donkey mystery." (OooKaaay)
Both ears drooped: "Time for my mid late-morning nap, which I must fit in before lunch and my early afternoon nap." (Don't interrupt)
Flash has taught me the value of what can be communicated without saying a word.
"You aren't that important," is easily communicated when I am too busy multi-tasking to stop and listen.
I know exactly how to communicate "not tonight, dear," by putting on my worst sweatpants and baggy shirt to sleep in. (Works like a charm!)
"I'm not that interested," can be said by pulling out my phone and scrolling through emails when my child is trying to tell me something.
Oh mercy, those examples were all so negative, Rachel. How 'bout some happy ones?
I can communicate "I love you," by baking my son's favorite cookies when he is home.
I say, "You are precious to me," by sitting on the floor and talking with my daughter about anything that comes to mind.
"I appreciate how hard you work," gets said when I take something off my husband's chore list.
Sometimes we think we are making ourselves clear by the words we use, when really, our actions are speaking louder than those words. My own biggest communication breakdowns happen when I am trying to do too many things at once. Sometimes, just slowing down long enough to make sure my actions match my words makes a world of difference.
Today's Small Thing (if you're new around here, welcome aboard my little assignments) is to communicate a positive message without saying a word.
Find a way to say "I love you," or "I value you," or "I'm available," with your actions. How creative can you be? Do you know your loved ones' love languages?
What is one thing you can do that will speak joy into someone's life?
I'd love to know what you're "speaking" today! Let me know in the comments below.
Love, Rachel Anne
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I recently heard a terrific quote:
"A good question is better than a good answer,
because a good answer means the end of the conversation."
I'll bet each of us knows someone who is so busy talking that they never pause to listen to what you have to say. It's so frustrating. And I find that I dread conversations with those people because I feel... superfluous. I've vowed to not be "that person," who is only interested in their own opinion, but to be a good listener instead.
Because listening makes people feel valued. Validated. Less lonely. These are good things, people. These are things I want the people around me to feel. Me talking and talking does not make this happen. I've got a long way to go, but I'm working on it.
I've vowed to ask good questions.
And I've found that two simple questions are transforming my conversations. They immediately put a sparkle into the other person's eye, and inspire thoughtful interaction.
Here they are:
1. "What do you think?"
How about, instead of blurting out your strong opinion about, say, the moral decay in our society, you ask what the other person thinks first? You might be surprised to learn a nuance or viewpoint that your monologue would have shut down, had you gone first.
The next time your child asks, "why is the sky blue?" try to turn it around.
"Why do YOU think it's blue?" You might be charmed by an answer that's way better than your technical explanation of the atmosphere, and be engaged in a memorable conversation you might have otherwise missed.
Save your opinion for after the other person has answered...and then cut it in half. Or maybe don't even give it. Sometimes your "right" opinion feels like you've "one upped" the other person, which is death to a relationship. Leave a conversation open ended, that you can come back to later to discuss.
2. "How do you feel about that?"
This is not the same question as #1, although they are similar. The first has to do with the mind: opinions, information, the exchange of ideas. This has to do with the heart.
Feelings are tender things. And they should be handled with the utmost care. Give time to listen and reflect on the priceless gift being given to you - a glimpse into a person's soul.
This is a question we don't really like to ask our husbands, because we don't always want to know the answer. We don't want to hear words like, "afraid, scared, hurt, anxious, doubting." But they are the very words he might need to say - without receiving judgment from you. And perhaps if you ask it, without judging the answer, you'll receive the same consideration in return.
Your children, your friends, your co-workers, everyone around you wants to be asked these two simple questions. In our own need to be seen and heard, we often plow right past people who have value, who need validation, who feel lonely. Simply being asked makes all the difference in the world.
And be sure to listen to the answers.
Today's Small Thing is to ask these two powerful questions.
They will transform your conversations and your relationships. I promise.
I'd LOVE to be a fly on the wall and hear what happens today. Will you please let us know??
I'm so grateful for my man, Tom. We've been through a whole lot....in a way, we grew up together, since we were practically children when we married. I was 19 and he was a dashing 22.
Quiet, sweet, understated and kind, this man is my best friend and I am so blessed. And now that our kids decided to leave us, we are enjoying a second honeymoon of sorts. Nobody told me about this part...it's been a terrific surprise. But that is a sidenote.
This morning, Tom brought me coffee. It is a simple gesture that means a lot to me because he doesn't touch the stuff himself. He never thinks about going to Starbucks, or having a cup of coffee with a friend, or waking up with a hot cup of joe. That's why, when he goes downstairs and pours just the right amount of cream and adds the coffee and brings it upstairs to me, I feel loved.
Love happens in little ways.
During Valentines week, we tend to think of the big moments: the flowers, candy, fireworks, romantic dinners.....all very grand, but they often have little to do with what a lasting relationship is made of.
A lasting relationship - in marriage and friendship - is about the kindnesses. The small acts of thoughtfulness that go into each day.
Today's Small Thing is to do a special act of kindness.
Sometimes, simply asking, "Can I get you anything?" can make someone's day. How often my husband has looked at me with appreciation for a glass of water, or a second helping of mashed potatoes, or the remote control.
Maybe you could ask, "Is there anything I can do for you today?" My husband always has a mile-long To Do list and loves it when I take something off of it.
Some people call an act of kindness "paying it forward," and I like that saying. Maybe that's what we are doing today. It's just that we usually think of paying it forward to a stranger, when there are people right under our noses who could use a small pick-me-up.
Children are often the most excited about being the recipients of an act of kindness, because even they can sense when someone is going out of their way to do something nice. And they love to be part of a secret plan to make someone else happy - just ask them!
Today, take a moment to perform a small act of kindness toward a family member, co-worker, husband or friend. Bring Sanctuary to another person by making them feel loved.
What small thing can you do for someone? What speaks love to them?
Sometimes, like when I'm folding stretched-out underwear (I won't say whose) or washing greasy spaghetti dishes, or cleaning around the back of the toilet, my life feels very small. I find myself sighing over making another sandwich and taking another load of stuff upstairs. I particularly find that cleaning the bathroom mirror after someone has flossed makes me re-think my life choices.
I should be wealthy and successful enough to hire others to do these tasks. Or, my life should be so filled with such noteworthy causes as bringing clean water to the African bush, or teaching underprivileged children or feeding the hungry, that I wouldn't have to be troubled with the everydayness of these menial home tasks.
And then I remember that the work I do here at home is important.
I've been called to love and give my life away each day - and whether that means living in a grass hut somewhere, or in Suburbia USA, the heart issue is the same. It's about faithfulness and obedience and serving. And sometimes the hardest people to serve are the people under your own roof. There isn't a lot of glory in it. Probably no one will ask you to share your laundry story at church on Sunday morning.
I love that God meets us where we are at, even when it's under a pile of laundry. He calls us to radically love the people who are entrusted into our care - by being there every day, by sticking it out in the ordinary, boring days, by learning self-sacrifice and by finding joy in our circumstances. He calls us to be faithful and to look for His hand in the everyday moments and to raise our children to love Him.
There is no such thing as a small life, and I need to remember that. God is with us, using us, molding us into His vessels as we wash dishes and fix sandwiches and diaper babies. His purposes are eternal and He sees what we cannot: that our stories are part of a much bigger story, and that faithfulness - everyday courage - is at the heart of what He loves.
Today's Small Thing is a simple one: let's have the courage to do one task we don't want to do.
The one that's been skulking around making you feel bad for not doing it. That one.
Choose faithfulness in the little things.
Whittling away at a basket of laundry or a pile of dishes or a stack of papers takes bravery. It takes courage to look at the mountain and not walk away from it.
So take a deep breath, say a prayer, and knock it out. You can do it.
Be faithful in the little today...and know that God is with you. He loves a heart that is dedicated to Him and that looks for ways to worship Him in the everyday moments.
How will you be courageous today? What will faithfulness look like in your life?
(Cue pretty music)
Ah, Pinterest. Ah, HGTV. Ah Internet.
I love how you bring images of lovely things to my sight. How you make my heart beat with desire over DIY projects and new decor. I love how my head spins with ideas and dreams for my home.
(Kill pretty music)
Bvvvvvvt. I don't love how depressed I feel later, when I see my same, tired junk. Staring me in the face, mocking my decorating dreams. I see you, dust. I see you, faded couch and sad little pillow. I'm talking to you, broken lamp and faded silk flowers. You make me feel sad and deprived. And slightly angry. My countenance falleth.
But today I will love you. I will pretend you are new and pretty and shiny. I will dust you and plump you, and primp you. I will rearrange you so that your best side shows. I will take a photo of you and share it on Instagram because I'm proud of our history together.
How can I love what I have? Here are five ways:
1. I shall have less of it out. I shall clear the clutter so a few lovelies can have their moment to shine.
2. I shall clean it. Perhaps a soak in water or a wipe with a damp cloth will bring them back to life. I know they will breathe easier without an inch of dust on them.
3. I shall rearrange it. I shall group them in three's, and stagger their heights so that they look like a vignette. Just like the designers do on TV.
4. I shall repurpose it. I shall think of new ways to use old things. I shall see containers, wall art and tools where others see junk. I shall be inventive and creative.
5. I shall be grateful. My things are paid for, they are family heirlooms, they are memories. They remind me that I have more than I need, when others would love to have my old couch, or my ginormous television set, things I have disdained and said, "get thee from my sight." I shall now say, "Thou art beautiful in my sight, oh my stuff, for thou art paid for."
Do you feel unhappy with your home and decor? Do you wish for a fairy to come along and wave a magic wand? Are you in danger of running up your credit card bill at HomeGoods, in a desperate moment?
Today's Small Thing is to love what you have.
Take one (or all) of the five tips above and make them your own. Shop your house, rearrange, repurpose, re-do. Give thanks, for thou art blessed. Truly.
And hey, why not post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter? Please tag me so I can come and love your stuff right along with you! Tell me what you love!
January causes me to be reflective about many things, especially about the ways I use my time and energy.
For the past several years I've thought a lot about this blog and about why in the world someone like me would write daily about "mundane" things like laundry, dishes and vacuuming. I mean, I could see a more Martha Stewart-like person (highly organized and extremely creative) taking it on and showing the world how it should be done....but me?
I'm the one who naturally puts off all those things in favor of daydreaming and making up stories. Making piles, er "stacks" is my signature organizational style. Hardly something to emulate.
And yet, here I am. For the past six of my seven blogging years, I've posted daily Small Things - simple, easy tasks - that revolve around the home. Not because I'm passionate about cleaning, but because I'm passionate about sanctuary: the idea that my home should be a place of refuge and grace for the people I love. I want this place to feel good to come home to. Housekeeping is (unfortunately) a big part of creating that for my family, but really, it's just one piece of the puzzle.
You see, I've learned that a home sanctuary is a three-legged stool. It takes three things to make home feel like a place of belonging:
Peace, Order and Beauty.
I've written about them many times before, and I always seem to come back to this trio because they are so interwoven. When I have some semblance of order at home, there is a sense of peace that comes. Being able to find a matching pair of socks brings an incredible feeling of happiness to me. Seeing a sink, empty of dirty dishes, makes my heart soar. I've found amazing beauty in a coffee table devoid of candy wrappers and soda cans. And making small changes in my attitude has affected my family relationships in a big way. Every single task I do seems to fall into one of these three categories - and I find that just knowing THAT gives me a sense of purpose.
I've learned that Small Things matter.
I'm passionate about sharing that sanctuary is not just for the Martha Stewarts of this world. Tired women with too much on their plates can make it happen - in small ways every day.
You don't need to be able to reupholster a chair before breakfast to be a supermom. You don't have to create an amazing centerpiece out of fresh greenery you've cut from your backyard and then photograph it beautifully in order to be a successful homemaker. It really is OK to clutch your cup of coffee like a life raft in the morning and shuffle around until you are conscious. It's OK that the laundry is piled up and that your kids are having cold cereal for dinner again. Really, making a sanctuary is about so much more than that.
Sanctuary is about loving one another inside these four walls.
Sometimes loving someone means sorting socks for them. Sometimes it means planning a menu or setting up a housekeeping schedule so you can focus on other things. Sometimes it means locking the door and taking a long bubble bath without anyone bothering you. Sometimes is means that you rearrange a bookshelf or empty the dishwasher - tasks that are housekeeping in nature but are in fact, ways of loving yourself and your family. And when you see these mundane tasks for what they really are, suddenly you see sanctuary happening all around you.
Today's Small Thing is to commit yourself to creating a home sanctuary.
You are not committing to being a superwoman - we know we can't keep that up for more than a week, tops. What you ARE committing to is a deliberate choice to find beauty in each day, no matter how difficult your circumstances. It's there, and God will help you find it - I know he will. Commit to doing ONE thing - a Small Thing from here at Home Sanctuary or something of your own choosing - that brings a touch of peace, order or beauty into your home. I'm here to help you do that each day.
What we do here isn't hard. It's not rocket science. It's not revolutionary.
But it's powerful.
Small steps have the power to create sanctuary.
They have the power to change your life because big things happen in small, daily efforts. God takes the tiniest bit that we have and adds to it in a mighty way. If you have just a shred of faith and hope that he can make something good happen, then stay along with me this year, 2014. We'll do our little part....and then leave the rest to him. Watch a miracle take place in your home - one Small Thing at a time. I hope you'll subscribe to the daily blog feed via email or blog reader (link is at the top right corner of my blog) so you won't miss a thing. And then subscribe to my newsletter, which comes out only occasionally. These are easy ways to stay connected with me and the rest of the Company Girls as we create home sanctuaries together.
What is one thing you can do today to bring a bit of peace, order or beauty into your home?
The Big Purse via Diane Kruger for Chanel - Huffington Post
Remember that time when my purse started to fart? And it kept on farting?
True story. My purse had flatulence.
I was wandering aimlessly through Blockbuster (you know, where we used to rent movies?), hoping to find something suitably entertaining. And that's when the farts started.
That's right. My bag farted.
Again and again. Loud, juicy "phhhhhts" of extruded gas.
I looked down at the bloated handbag hanging from my shoulder, and knew immediately what had caused its gas.
One aisle over, doubled over in laughter, was Grayson (age 14 at the time). In his hand was a small remote with a button for activating a little portable machine which he had recently acquired at the church garage sale.
A remote-controlled Fart Machine.
Which he'd secretly placed in my purse. (What is it with boys and bodily function jokes?)
"It's going off by itself! I swear!" he said through his laughter. "Look!" He held out his palm and the fart sounds just kept on rolling from my purse without his thumb touching the button.
I couldn't help it....I started laughing with him and we had to hang on to the DVD racks to keep from falling over. With each new "phhhhhhht" we tried to suppress our giggles, which only made it funnier. We exited Blockbuster without a shred of dignity.
My purse lost a bit of weight when I took the guilty machine out, but even now it's far too overweight for its bone structure. It just keeps eating things like paper and receipts, and you KNOW what too much fiber will do. A slimmed-down purse is far more attractive and much less likely to have gas.
If you're feeling overwhelmed with life in general,
and you're gasping for some fresh air but don't know where to start....then start with your purse. Today.
Give it a detox, a "cleanse."
A flush, if you will.
Today's Small Thing is to help your purse shed some weight by cleaning it out.
Reduce the excess tonnage by removing everything but the bare essentials. Try using small ziplocks to contain things like cosmetics or other small items. I'd say it's time to let the receipts from Christmas go. I will remove the business cards I collected from a conference in October. That should help.
CONFESSION TIME! What is the oddest, oldest or most useless thing in your purse? GO!
I'm convinced that finding - and appreciating - the beauty around us brings us closer to God. His handiwork reveals so much about his care and love and attention to detail, and His creation shows His incredible glory.
His glory is seen in the sparkle of melting ice from winter berries, the clouds skittering across the sky, and the trees shaking the cold from their leaves. It is seen in the grasses, with their spun-glass coats of frost, the birds searching for seeds and the frozen puddles in the fields. Each day we are given the opportunity to look around and see, truly see, the hand of our Creator....and we often miss it in the hustle of our busy lives. Especially this time of year.
So much to do. So many lists. So many things to accomplish before Christmas arrives.
I feel it. Do you? I'm so behind. Not one gift purchased yet, no cards in the mail, no baking done. Just a work deadline and the knowledge that the clock is ticking.
I need to stop and simply see His beauty.
Today, take a moment to admire something in nature.
Take a deep breath and remember that the God of this amazing universe is actively at work in your life, whether you see it or not, and He cares for you. He has clothed the grasses and trees and flowers in such glory, how much more does he paint His glory into YOUR life?
I'd love to know what beauty you'll find today. How about leaving a comment with one thing you're admiring? Let the joy of finding it fill your heart and draw you to your Maker.