May Minded (suggestions for easing an overwhelmed mind)

“Homeschooling Mom Brain”

This picture is a good representation of my “homeschooling mom brain” in May. Each rock stands for little bits of information, events to remember, things to get done, material that still needs to be taught, connections that still need to be made, library books that need to be returned, summer scheduling that still needs to happen. And let’s not forget the recitals, costumes, award ceremonies, and planning for next year. I think there are a lot of other teachers and parents who can relate to this post as well.

May is like August, but in reverse. It’s gearing down instead of gearing up. Time to get things finished rather than started. It’s a major month of transition and anticipation. As the kids get older, time flies by faster, and the quicker the month of May comes and goes. If your brain is feeling overwhelmed, fragmented and “May-bilized,” here are a few suggestions that may help:       

Do nothing!

This may seem like the worst advice with all the things that need to get done, but it’s actually good advice and will help you get more things done in the end. Often in the franticness and hurry, we forget (or more truthfully, we make excuses not to stop) to take breaks and rest. We wear ourselves down to nothing and expect to be able to keep up the ridiculous pace we set. That’s silly! Rest renews energy and refines clarity. Your to-do list, tasks and text replies can wait. It’s about priorities, and priority should be given to rest.  So, shut off your phone, find some time to stop, and give yourself permission to be still.     

Take a hike!

There are constant reminders around my house of the things I have to do or should be doing- schoolwork, cooking, cleaning, laundry. Very often I need a change of view- literally and emotionally. Sometimes, others realize I need some new scenery before I do. My husband is great at gently suggesting I would enjoy a walk to get out of the house and get some fresh air. A fifteen minute walk, by myself, can be rejuvenating. Switch up the scenery, get some exercise, and I think you may see the things you could be doing and the privilege of the things you get to do with more clarity.  

Do something scary!

Gaining confidence through conquered fear is great for personal growth and productivity. Fear is a chain that keeps us in familiar territory and wants us to function in the same old patterns. It also adds a level of stress that gives unnecessary weight to things we need to do. Often fear of inadequacy, failure, uncertainty, and change come with times of transitions. Doing something scary can break through chains of fear and set you free in confidence. The more fear broken, the more confidence gained, the more freedom acquired. Freedom opens up opportunities and new ways of doing things.     

Find new people.

Sometimes we are around our people so often we take them for granted. When we meet new people, we increase our sense of belonging and can be reminded of our purpose. Spending time with new people bring different perspectives, refreshment, and make us appreciate our “family tribe” with greater gratitude and satisfaction!  

Have fun!

There’s a place for fun on everyone’s to-do list. Add some fun back into your days with silly songs, funny YouTube videos, a good knock-knock joke, play with the kids. Learn to take yourself less seriously. And laugh often! Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. It also helps you release anger and forgive sooner. 1

Now for the truth disclaimer! Resting, stopping, and taking breaks is very hard for me to do, and it may be hard for you too. BUT I know it’s the best thing for me (and you) and it’s especially important during a busy time. I often have to coach myself to ignore my to-do list, give myself permission to sit down, and focus on quieting down.

I was reminded of these things this week when our family went away to family homeschool camp. I went to camp with an overwhelmed mind and it took time to wind down. But once I was able to unwind, we did nothing but rest, took hikes, did scary things, meet new people, and had fun! I left camp relaxed and my mind was free to think clearly.

Stepping away from everything gave me the perspective that some of those “rocks” I was dwelling on were not as important as I thought. And some of the “rocks” were things to be appreciated because we are blessed we get to do them. I realize not everyone has the luxury of taking a few days away, but just trying one of two of the suggestions above can really make a difference to be more relaxed, rested and ready to enjoy May and what’s to come.


Poetry Tea Time- Why and How?

Like so many other families, our family has a busy schedule. Our days are packed with schooling, activities, and ministry. We often have the next activity on our minds before we finish the task at hand. As the kids get older, it seems we only getting busier. And if we are not careful (and intentional), our family can easily become like ships passing in the night, each going his or her own way.

You may be thinking, “I know exactly what you mean! This is our family too!” Or maybe you are thinking, “Shanna, how is it possible for you to miss connection in your family when you live, school, and work at home? You see each other everyday, for like every minute of everyday!”

Well, it’s very possible, maybe even more possible. There is big a difference between being with people in a physical space versus connecting with people in a heart and mind space. When you see people often, there is a danger in taking their presence and their unique person for granted. Extra effort and intentionality are necessary to continue growing connections and relationships. Time is invaluable to check-in with each other to bust apart assumptions of how and what the other person may/may not have been feeling and the way they are experiencing life.

This is one of the reasons why I love Poetry Teatime. Teatime is an intentional, weekly break in our busy week to rest and reconnect with each other. It is a time to come to the table to enjoy. We set the table beautiful with “proper” tea cups and bring books to sit at our sides. We wait while the tea steeps and others speak, taking turns reading and listening to poems and plays. We slowly sip, nibble special treats, and relish the images that words and conversations bring to our minds.

It might seem very “Mary Poppins-like,” it kind of is. In a world that is increasingly becoming more confusing, dark and scary, these “Mary Poppins-like” moments are increasingly more precious to help celebrate the good and keep cheerful and magical moments alive. There are plenty of other moments in our week when the reality of the world comes crushing through our door with hard to answer questions. We don’t shy away from these things or from topics of current world issues. When these discussions and questions come, I often find myself leading a quick ground training of how to react and respond to these issues in love and according to our beliefs. Poetry Tea Time is a chance to for all of us to take a break, to refreshed and revived from our schedule and these heavy things.

So how? How does Teatime work? How can you start a time like this in your home? Teatime in your family doesn’t have to look exactly like ours. You can find some helpful tips from Julie Bogart, the creator of Poetry Tea Time here, http://poetryteatime.com. There are several components that make teatime special and enjoyable.

THE TABLE

On our table is always set with a table cloth and ceramic cups. I like to use my grandmother’s blue and white set, but we use other sets too. The Goodwill and Salvation Army are great places to find and purchase tea sets and cups. I always add fresh flowers or plants to the table. It is especially special to use something we found in our backyard- like pine boughs in the winter or daffodils in the spring. We always have at least one candle lit and sometimes my daughters will make a special table place card for each setting.

THE TREAT

Sometimes we bake our treats (or more accurately my daughter bakes them.) Sometimes we buy them. It’s fun to try cookies and treats we haven’t tried before. Then there are sometimes we use what we have in our pantry- like granola bars or crackers with peanut butter. Everything can be special and look differently when plated creatively. 🙂

THE TEA

I keep a collection of herbal and caffeine-free teas on hand and set them out on the table with sugar, milk and honey in ceramics. Sugar cubes are always fun to have. I buy them on Amazon as I haven’t had much luck finding them in my local grocery store.

THE WORDS

There are several books that always seem to make their way to the table. I encourage my kids to bring a poem, verse or short story they like to share. Sometimes the poems comes from our specific poetry books, and sometimes from unexpected places (like finding a poem in my daughter’s weekly reading assignment.) I’ve recently been encouraging all of us write our own poetry, but we are still working on that.

Sometimes, we have a Readers Theater during Teatime. We ALL love that! Here are some scripts we have used and enjoyed.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Fractured-Fairy-Tale-Readers-Theater-Scripts-Writing-Activities-Grade-3456-3560643

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-True-Story-of-the-Three-Little-Pigs-Readers-Theater-Script-and-Craftivity-1125274

And sometimes, I bring our current read alouds to the table. Here are some suggestions:

https://embraceenthusiasm.net/bookshelf/


During readings, we listen to the reader and usually clap when he/she is finished. Sometimes we ask questions. Sometimes we share why we picked the poem. Sometimes we share our favorite parts. Sometimes the poem leads us into other conversations. Our Teatime lasts an hour long, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. There is a lot of “sometimes” in all of it because I feel like this is a time to just flow without an agenda.

There are many ways to set aside time and connect with family. Poetry Tea Time is just one way we do it in our family. There are other ways we connect that have nothing to do with tea or books. The important thing is making sure we are using our time wisely and and be intentional about creating spaces of connection.

How about you? How are you intentional in creating spaces to rest and reconnect as a family?

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To Oz and Back

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On Sunday, I was joking with a friend about how crazy and busy last week was. There were church meetings to attend, our last MOPS meeting to run, a local MOPS Leadership Training to facilitate. Add those things to the regular housework, homeschooling, and everyday tasks and I felt like Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz. Picked up by a tornado on Monday, whipped and whirled through the week, crash landing in the weekend, and wondering how I got there. But instead of Dorothy’s wide-eyed wonder as she explored the beauty and splendor of the new place she had just arrived, I felt more like the Wicked Witch of the East, flattened and lifeless by a week of events the size of a house.

After these big weeks and big events, I can get really good at self-criticizing and critiquing all the things that did not go as I had expected, analyzing things I said or didn’t say, and overthinking people’s reactions. Over the years, I have been able to recognize these tendencies in myself and have tried to implement a few ways to guard my heart and my mind. Like the water splashed on the Wicked Witch of the West, I have learned to throw “water” onto my own negative thoughts, insecurities, and doubts to shrink them down to a nonthreatening size.

When I find myself on the other side of the “rainbow,”  I……

Celebrate:  

I treat myself to a cup of coffee and a sweet treat and celebrate what has just happened. I think about all the good work that was accomplished, the people who came alongside to help get it done, and the strength and energy that God gave me to finish what needed to be completed. Instead of thinking about all the things that did not go as expected, I celebrate the unexpected things, the surprises along the way and the opportunities I was given to love and serve others. Leading up to an event, I spend hours in prayer. An equal amount of time should be spent devoted to praise and with a posture of gratitude when the event is over.

We ought not to leap in prayer and limp in praise. -Charles Spurgeon  

 

Rest:

To be honest, this is probably the most difficult of the three things for me to do. It takes time for my adrenaline infused body time to calm down, be at peace, and rest without movement. I usually have to push away feeling of guiltiness that come around to remind me about the laundry needing folding or the dishes needing to be washed and put away. But here is the thing, there will always be a thousand things to do.

Rest is not selfish but it is necessary and especially vital after a busy week. Rest is needed to restore and refresh our hearts, minds and spirits. The Bible speaks of rest in many places and God’s gift of Sabbath gives us permission to rest, even when all of our work is still unfinished.

“It’s best to give myself a few days to rest and replenish emotionally and spiritually before I delve into reviewing a ministry event I just led or a speaking engagement I’ve just completed”

Jodi Detrick, The Jesus-Hearted Woman

Notice Goodness: 

There is always good to be found. Always.

Only after I have celebrated and rested, I feel as if my emotions and thoughts are clear enough to start to evaluate and review the busy week or big event. I ask myself: What went well? What needs to change? How can I do things more effectively? Who can I bring in to help?

I have some very special people in my life who I trust wholeheartedly and know they have my best interests at heart. I will often debrief my week/event and share with them my thoughts and perceptions. I trust them to give me honest feedback and advice.. Sometimes,  what I hear is not all rosy and a pat on the back. I appreciate the constructive criticism my people offer because I know that they want to see me grow in my faith, leadership, and as a person. In her book, The Jesus-Hearted Woman, Jodi Detrick says, “There are times when we need a rebuke even more than we need a compliment.”

Goodness makes greatness truly valuable, and greatness makes goodness much more serviceable.- Matthew Henry

Whether you find yourself in Kansas or in Oz, walking the yellow brick road or the halls of a church, falling asleep in a field of poppies or on the living room couch, know that you are enough. Keep going, step by step, and allow friends to come alongside you on what every journey you find yourself on. Rest when you can and know that you can always go “home” when ever you want. There is no better place then home. Well, expect maybe home with a short list of things to do. 🙂

 

 


Resting Snowflakes

Resting Snowflakes

All snowflakes begin the same way. High in the sky, a tiny piece of dust collides with a cold droplet of water creating an ice crystal. As the ice crystal descends to earth, it moves through changing atmospheric conditions and responds in the creation of a snowflake. A beautiful and uniquely formed snowflake complete with exquisite patterns and plates. Not one snowflake is the same.

Children are like snowflakes. They start as a miracle, grow and form in the belly of a woman, and then are birthed into this world. Each child enters the world unique and beautifully made. Innocent and new, they do not know who they are or how to navigate the unfamiliar world they have come into.

Children depend on their parents for love and their basic needs. As children grow, parents help guide their children on the path of discovering their gifts, talents, and passions. We want our children to thrive physically, mentally, and spiritually as they grow into the exquisitely designed, healthy adults who they were created to be.

Sometimes, in our zeal to “help” our children discover who they are we often over look important things. Things like our children’s different personalities, priorities, hectic schedules, and most importantly the basic human need of rest. We are an overcommitted society. With good intentions, we end up creating and modeling a hurried, busy lifestyle rather than an atmosphere of rest and value on relationships. If we want our children to flourish in their unique person, we must learn to reevaluate our priorities and work to add rest back into our family’s schedule.

The following are ideas to implement rest back into everyday life. Some might be easier to add into your lifestyle than others. Some might require work, priority, scheduling, and practice. The work will pay off with positive results for all family members. Just as a snowflake is formed by the atmosphere around them, so will your children be formed by the environment you foster around them. Make their ascent into adulthood an atmosphere focused on relationships and with a priority to rest.

  • Be “interruptible.” Life happens at unpredictable moments. Be mentally prepared to be interrupted when your kids need to talk or want to show you something. Listening to them now will create a habit and desire to talk to you later as young adults.
  • Schedule downtime on your family’s calendar! Include your children in scheduling activities on the calendar. Schedule “rest” first and then everything else next. This will show your children that your family makes rest an important priority.
  • Make it a date! Give each of your children the gift of quality time with just you. Find care for your other children so that you can focus on one child at a time. You might be surprise at what you learn during your time together.
  • Share a family meal together! Research shows that sharing a meal is good for a family’s health and member’s self esteem. Check out the Family Dinner Project for recipes and conversation starters
  • Get into a good book! Cuddle on the couch and read together. Reading aloud has many benefits including increasing attention span, building vocabulary and creating lifelong readers. Reading aloud also opens the doors for discussion about life and difficult issues.
  • Go take a hike! Get outside and get moving. You may not think of exercise as rest but the benefits of exercise promotes good health, boost energy levels, improve moods, and helps with sleep. It is a great way to spend time together.