Monday, February 28, 2011

Get 'cher own!

Want to win something really cool?

No, no. Not my baby.

Look closer.

See that really cool onesie she's sporting? That's an original by The Blissful Stitcher. Yes, you've heard of her before on this blog. Can I help it if I find her work too cute for words? Cute enough that I'm becoming slightly addicted to embroidered goodies for my littles?

Well, I do. And I have. And now you can, too.

The Blissful Stitcher is graciously offering a chance for Books and Bairns readers to win one of her fabulous creations. Trust me, you're going to love this:

The prize!
To win this adorable long-sleeved pink onesie (click here for size options and more info) all you have to do is head over to The Blissful Stitcher's Etsy shop and pick one thing that would most delight someone special in your life (yes, you're special in your life, too!), then head back here and leave a comment telling me what you chose. One additional entry available for each of the following:

Following this blog, or already being a follower
Following The Blissful Stitcher Blog
Liking The Blissful Stitcher on Facebook
Liking Books and Bairns on Facebook
Posting about this giveaway on your own blog

Leave a comment for each entry. Drawing March 15. Have fun!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sick day

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I grew up thinking that the term "junkie" was a bad thing. To be labelled a junkie implied a life spent aimlessly courting danger and illegal substances. It meant disconnect from reality. It meant an addiction that overshadowed relationships and productivity.

Today, in homeschool culture, it's a good thing to be called a junkie. Or at least, a perfectly acceptable thing. You know what I'm talking about: the curriculum junkie.

I admit that I've used the term in reference to myself on occasion. What I meant by it was that I enjoy perusing new stuff. I like to glean new ideas. And I get excited when I see the market's needs being met in such original and creative ways.

What I didn't mean is that I have shelves groaning under the weight of programs I had tried on for size for a month or two, then pushed aside in favor of the hot new thing. I didn't mean that something new caught my eye each and every year and distracted me from the success I was already enjoying with what I was already using. I didn't mean that I plan and buy and plan and buy, but tire of those plans and purchases by the time I actually getting around to the implementation phase.

I didn't mean that I wanted a sample of every single flavor on display at the buffet table of homeschooling.

But this is what I see, increasingly, around me: people who are unable or unwilling to self-discipline themselves enough to give their children stability and consistency in their homeschooling experience.

I'm not talking about people who change things in the name of meeting a learning style, igniting a love of learning in their children, or adapting to a new season of life. Personally, we've switched programs when the needs of our kids changed. That's the beauty of homeschooling, and that's not what I mean here. I'm talking about the real junkie among us: the folks who have stuck their finger in every homeschooling pie in a search for the one perfect thing that's going to make or break their year.

As if such a thing exists.

Luke from Sonlight started a discussion on this topic on his blog yesterday, cueing me into the fact that I'm not the only one noticing this trend. So what gives? Why are we being swayed and tossed like the wind? Are there simply too many options? Are we becoming gluttons? Are we buying into the lie that there's a "right" or "best" way?

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The unlikeliest of places

I've been in the market for some new duds. Because, you know ... I had a baby a few months back. And I managed to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight pretty quickly. And, well ... because I wanted new clothes. There. I've said it. No justification needed, right? I wanted some new clothes.

So, because I am a grown-up, I went and I bought some.

But of course, it wasn't that easy. See, apparently, my standards are just too high. Or too low. Or too something. Because really, finding clothes shouldn't be that much work.

I started in my normal places. I'm an Eddie Bauer, Land's End kind of gal for the most part. I also like J. Jill and Ann Taylor, but I have a hard time justifying some of those purchases because I really need fabrics that don't require someone to clean my clothes professionally, if you know what I mean.

Immediately post-partum, I had slipped into the habit of wearing jeans, jeans, and nothing but jeans. They were comfy and they got the job done, but when I looked in the mirror, I wasn't feeling inspired. I needed something to make me feel pretty, if you know what I mean. And for me, jeans are utilitarian. They're something to throw on quickly in the dark of the morning, but they're not a fashion statement.

So I looked online to see what the styles were this season at my usual haunts. I was categorically unimpressed. For the money, I felt like I could do better. The clothes just didn't say, "Mom of seven trying to look like she's somewhat put together." Instead, they said things like, "I've got a fabulous, high-paying job and my kid is in daycare!" or "I'm going home right now to seduce my husband!"

You get the picture.

Anyhow, I decided to broaden my horizons. Think outside the box. Go shopping somewhere completely new. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know how un-MG-like that is.

But I did it. I was brave. I went shopping. And I came home with not one, but four new skirts from--are you ready for this?


Yep. A fly-fishing shop.

Because you know, nothing says pretty like a fly rod and a long, flowing patchwork skirt, apparently.

The good news is that I now have a volunteer to go shopping with me again come summer, if I feel the need. Mr. Blandings says he won't mind escorting me to the mall one little bit. What a dear!

So there you have it. New clothes and a date to boot. Guess I ought to go shopping more often.

Monday, February 7, 2011


My life's theme right now is "surrender." The season I find myself in has little room for much outside of the very real, very present, very pressing priorities of my home and family.

Raising six children takes up a lot of time. Being a good wife requires concentrated attention. Keeping a house clean doesn't happen unless you work at it. Homeschooling is no "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" endeavor.

So I'm feeling a little stretched. That's where surrender comes in. I've opened my heart before God, prayed, talked with my husband, searched Scripture, waited for answers. I promised myself that when they came, I'd listen. Not in that "looking in the mirror and then forgetting your own face" kind of way ... but in the real hearing variety of listening. Tuning in. Taking it to heart. Doing it.

Then the truth started rolling in, and the "Yes, I Can!" part of me kind of wished I had never asked in the first place.

Truth: There is only so much Mary Grace ... and there are so many good thing vying for a piece of what I have available. My husband, my children, my friends, my church, the stories that clatter through my head, the reviews, the extended family, the laundry, the projects I want to complete.

Truth: The world may want me to believe that I can have it all, but I'm wise enough to know that I can't. Or am I?

So, quietly, humbled, I listened. I started shedding the weight that I was no longer meant to bear. I scaled back. Resigned from this and that. Cancelled get togethers. Informed folks that my phone time has been pared to virtually zero. Let my husband pick up the library books.

I felt free.

It lasted about three days before a well-meaning acquaintance cornered me in the grocery store and invited me--relentlessly--to her Bible study.

"I'm not committing to anything right now," I smiled, trying to back away.

"But this isn't a commitment. It's fellowship. Besides, it's imperative to be in the Word," she continued.

"I am," I assured her, "with my husband. Daily."

"But you need the mentoring of other women. It's Biblical."

"I'm fine right now," I answered.

"The only way you can contribute to other believers is by being in community."

Clearly, she didn't realize that my family's Bible studies involve more than the required two or more. She implored me to reconsider, yet again, before I lost her near the orange juice.

I returned home to an emailed invitation from a fellow mother at my church, asking me to come to a fundraiser highlighting the evils of human trafficking. It was, the email promised, a chance for us moms to "do something of value for the Kingdom." I was instantly offended ... and saddened. I realized that several of the things I had just let go were probably, in the eyes of many, of more "value for the Kingdom" than what I had held on to. What good is changing diapers? Where is the glory in teaching math? Who will remember that I pack my husband's lunch each day?

Who, indeed.

In this season, I am doing Kingdom work with every lesson I plan, every nose I wipe, every dish I wash.  Keeping my eyes centered on my home allows me the freedom of not rushing, not overextending, and not burning out. The days will come again when I have more time to dedicate to outside pursuits. But not now. Right now I'm just too busy. Too busy adding value to my own family.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Joy {revisited}

Every once in a while, I go back and read this post. And I laugh. Because as sure as I was at that time that a door had been closed, little did I know that it was only truly being opened. My painful journey through infertility and loss had brought me to a place where I could finally embrace joy. Soon enough, I'd be embracing Seven.

God is funny like that.

Surrender always brings peace. But sometimes, it brings more.