Tag Archives: Lent

More “staycation” photos

Still catching up on the last few months!

We stayed home over spring break this year and simply enjoyed a week without a schedule.  I can’t tell you how much we appreciated just being in our hometown, taking advantage of some down time in the house with one another, enjoying some local outings with friends, and visiting a few nearby attractions that we had never made time to see.  My husband even took two days off work to make it a true “staycation” and a family affair.

The only time I felt a slight twinge about our lack of solid plans was when E was assigned to write about what she was looking forward to over spring break.  After hearing what her classmates planned to write, she came home and said “I think we are the only ones not going somewhere”.  However, my perspective was set right again when S responded, “Didn’t you hear?!  We’re going to my friend’s house…they’re petsitting chickens and we get to visit and touch them!”  Well, by golly, the kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement about that!   (Thank you, friends, for letting us visit, and for serving as the entire topic of E’s spring break essay!)

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E holding the chicken in our friend’s living room : )

In addition to that highlight, we spent the rest of break doing (to quote an elderly gentleman I met once) “a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing”.

We…

(1) played the first ever family game of T-ball in the back yard (called on account of hail after 4 innings, if you can believe that)…backyard T-ball has now become a favorite family activity, by the way.  One of my favorite moments was when – in our game of kids vs. grown ups – all three older kids were on base, leaving six month old H as the only available kid, which meant he had to bat.  We helped him earn his first RBI  (reported here mainly because I know you would be proud, uncle B!)

(2) traveled to the local transportation museum

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A real train shed, with a real turntable! The kids got to sit on the turntable while it moved and also got to see a milk truck (a concept we had to explain : )  We really made this trip for T and he loved it.  However, as a note to anyone who might find themselves at a train museum with a youngster, if I could do one thing differently, I would bring his toy train shed and turntable with us, so he could see that this was the same thing, only bigger.  The scale almost made some of the things we love seem unfamiliar.  It also makes my family seem tiny in this photo.  Can you even see us?!

The transportation museum was 5 miles from a park that had a kiddie-train and a carousel and the loudest donkey on earth (seriously, the thing “Hee-Hawed” so loudly and unexpectedly that we all jumped and H started to cry).  Of course, that will be the part of the day all the kids remember! : )

(3) hit our favorite local frozen yogurt shop

(4) concluded our Lenten project (I’ll update this later) and celebrated a wonderful Easter with some wonderful friends

(5) hunted some Easter eggs at home and at our church egg hunt

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If you can see past those faces that I love so much, I would like to point out the orange Christmas ornament on the table behind them. Did I mention that we’re a little behind on the housework around here?

The Easter bunny scaled back on the candy this year and brought each of the kids a small surprise.  The girls each found a small lego set in their basket, T discovered a new addition to his train set (Butch, the Sodor tow truck), and H is enjoying a new sleep wrap since the velcro on his old one, well…let me see if I have a photo…

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H stands for Houdini

(6) The big finale to the “staycation” was a pony ride.  We went to a local farm that, as it turned out, had “lost” our reservation.  It actually turned out to be lucky that we caught them at a time they could do it, and even luckier that the lack of preparedness in the stable meant we were able to help get the ponies ready.  The kids helped brush the animals and saw them being saddled and bridled.  Then each girl got her own turn while T watched and learned.  After he was ready, they doubled up while he got his own ride.

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And here’s T feeding the ponies afterwards…

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It was disconcerting that the petite carrots we fed them were exactly the size and shape of T’s fingers. Fortunately, the ponies have discerning palates.

Of course, the best part of the week was being together, and having extra time to just let a relaxing week feed our imaginations.  For example…

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That place where we spilled the water looks like a hippo!

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I could put pennies there to make the eyes!

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Check me out; I’m riding the hippo!

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My hippo is shrinking in the sun Mom!  What the heck?!

We may have also watched a movie or two…with a horse we rediscovered in the toy bin after our  trip to the farm.  (I played with this horse when I was a little girl and have vivid memories of building a fence for her with Lincoln Logs under Nana’s ping pong table…thanks for bringing up the old toys, Nana!)

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Love the staycation idea.  Now if I could just get the kids to stay little so we could savor more of those “at-home” moments.  I know that I’ll blink and they’ll be asking me if they can go on a spring break trip with their friends.  And that will be fun too, as long as I know where they’re going, that it’s a safe environment, that chaperones are present, that they know how to make good choices, that…

Well, let’s just say again that I’m savoring these moments.  Sit there and snuggle that pony as long as you want, T.  I’m coming over to sit next to you…

More updates to come!

Encouraging generosity, global awareness and perspective in kids

During our engagement, my husband and I read an article about a family that encouraged generosity and global awareness in their children by involving them in decisions about charitable giving.  We knew we wanted to adapt their method for our own kids, but 9 years – and 4 children – later, we were still talking about our plan to do that someday.

Well, for Lent this year, we decided to stop waiting until we had time to really come up with a perfected system for our family and just dive in now.  I feel a little weird writing about this, but I’m sharing what we are doing for 2 reasons: (1) we benefit so much when others share their ideas and (2) we know we could be doing it a lot better and are open to suggestions.

Here are the basics:

(1)   We told the kids that every Sunday during Lent this year, they are going to learn about one problem in the world and one organization that is trying to help address that problem.

(2)   Each week, we are going to pray for the people affected by the problem and the organization trying to help them.

(3)   At the end of Lent, we’ll review the different organizations (and problems they address) and the kids can decide which organization will receive some money from our family.

So far, we’ve focused on organizations that have short video clips on their websites, but we’re hoping to expand to other mediums this week.  So far, with the videos, we have been very careful about what we show and we talk to the kids about what they’re going to see in advance.  Only one of our kids can read, so we read the captions for them during the video.  And I talk over parts of the videos as I offer explanations for what the kids are seeing.  (The explanations are important as these videos aren’t made for the purpose of easy understanding by young kids, but they are powerful if shown in conjunction with explanation.)

Here are the videos we’ve shown so far.

(1)   From “Project Night Night” (http://projectnightnight.org)…We  summarized their efforts (detailed on the homepage) for our kids, then showed them the video.  The organization basically makes sure that kids in shelters receive a bag that contains a security blanket, a stuffed animal and a book.  A $20 donation buys a bag.   The video is a simple photo montage of kids who give, and receive, bags. We also suggested to them that one of the places that currently needs bags is located in their Nana’s hometown, and we could actually buy the objects to put in the bag and send it with Nana if they chose that organization (and if Nana was willing to do the delivery…what do you say, Nana?!).  Here’s the video…

Project Night Night Video/Photo Montage

(2)   From “Charity: Water” (http://www.charitywater.org/)… I was initially nervous about showing this video due to the soundtrack and some hard images (our oldest is 6), but I’m so glad we did.  Our kids’ reaction was amazing.  As they were watching, we emphasized that some people had to drink that dirty water and that helping build a well would mean clean water for everyone in a village.  Almost 2 weeks later, S pointed at a ditch full of dirty rainwater beside the road and said, “There are people in the world that have to drink water like that, but I’m sending pennies to help them.”  Another powerful thing about this video is that is says the average lifespan in this part of the world is 39.  We told our kids that dad and mom would both be 39 this year and aren’t we lucky that we live in a place with peace and clean water so that moms and dads live so much longer.  That really made an impression on them (but was a risk, as we don’t want them thinking about the possibility of us dying!)  Anyway, this video really made our kids think – in a good way.

(3)   From the Make a Wish foundation (www.wish.org).  We chose a video about a girl who wished to meet a real ballerina (1) because our girls totally related to that and (2) because the girl in the video gets better.  To introduce this, we emphasized that some kids are very sick and that Make a Wish offers them something fun to think about instead of thinking about being in the hospital.  (Like being able to focus on the sucker, instead of the shot sort of thing.)  Our kids still talk about the girl in this video too.

After this video, we also emphasized to the kids that giving money is not the only way to help.  If the girl had wished for a chance to play at our house, would we have let her?  Of course.  The dancers in the video gave their time, etc.  My husband works for UNC and we talked about how if someone’s wish was to do something there, would they help dad arrange it?  In short, making the point that giving time, energy, etc. is very important.

Here’s the video:

(4)   Not sure what we’re showing the kids tomorrow, but may read them part of a letter about a family in our town who just lost their home to a fire and ask if they would like to contribute to a community effort to assist them.

What has amazed me so far about this:

(1)   I needed to be reminded that the blessing comes back 10-fold.  Since watching these videos, my own perspective has received a wonderful adjustment.  Instead of feeling like money is tight, I am overwhelmed by how rich I feel simply having a bed, clean water, healthy kids… I need that perspective and so do my kids.

(2)   The kids’ generosity.  At random points, they say “I want you to send our family money to that one when it’s time, mom”, but in the meantime, they have each individually come up to us and said “please send some of my pennies to all of them”.  One night, S disappeared after the video and we thought she was playing her Dora tamborine in her room.   Turns out she was shaking pennies out of her piggie bank so we could send them for her.  And she was very thoughtful about it.  6 pennies to this place, 6 pennies to that place, and 13 to the other…

(3)   The kids’ attention.  Several times this week, they have asked me if we’ll see another video on Sunday and if there’ any way they could watch it early.  And they are totally focused when the videos are on.  We’ll see how they do if tomorrow is me reading part of a letter.

What we still need to work on :

(1)   I need ideas for organizations and materials to introduce those organizations to our kids.  This is my real Lenten sacrifice…the time to search to find the right images and words to talk to our kids about this.

(2)   Our kids don’t get allowances and we haven’t talked to them much about money.  I would love to use some kind of system (they get 10 dimes, one goes to charity, one to savings, etc.) but we haven’t figured that out yet.  This would be a better project if they had some an understanding of money and some of their own money to give.

(3)   As kids get older, there are deeper conversations to have about all of this.  The point for our crew now is: (1) There are problems and good people working to fix them. (2) Our family helps.  You can help, and we’re so proud when you do. (3) We are blessed.  Appreciate what we have.

(4)   The prayer part.  I think the prayer for the people should be a bigger part of what we’re doing, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.

Again, I feel a little weird writing this.  I don’t want to make it seem like we’re giving a lot.  And I don’t want to come across as anything other than someone who has procrastinated too long on an idea we learned about 9 years ago.  But I did want to share in case anyone else has ideas about how this can work, what resources we could use, or if anyone has been looking for an idea for their own kids.  So far, this has sparked some good conversations in our house and given me a reminder about the perspective I need to keep.

Hugs,

K

Year in Review via a belated Christmas letter

So I am clearly a little behind on blogging!  We’ve been busy with good things!  The summary is in our belated Christmas letter, which is included below.  (And yes, I acknowledge that it’s probably in bad form to post a Christmas letter during Lent…but we did manage to get our Christmas tree down by early February, and taking down the last of the Christmas decorations is on my “to do” list for this week.  In other words, I’m behind on everything!)  Here’s the letter.  I’ve missed blogging and interacting via comments.  I’ll try to post more when I can!  In the meantime, this is a sort-of update : )

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Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!  We hope you had a great 2012!  Here are a few notes from our year, starting with the introduction of…

H.D. Smith!  Born on October 24, H has charmed the entire family with his sweet nature, soft hair, kissable cheeks, and precious newborn snuggles.  In addition to capturing our hearts, he has impressed us with his ability to make an entrance (six days late!), establish a presence (over 9 lbs!) and sleep anywhere (except, of course, in his own bed…)  The joy felt by his parents is matched only by the enthusiasm expressed by his siblings who want to hold him at home, accessorize him before every outing, and introduce him during show-and-tell at school.

When not entertaining (or being entertained by!) his new brother, T (age 2) has been busy with his sisters, preschool, playgroup and an ever-increasing obsession with trains.  A highlight of his year was a whole-family trip to “Tweetsie”, a train-themed amusement park where locomotives provided both a wonderful weekend and a new lens on the world.  Since that trip, T has become a “conductor”, his dad’s legs are a “tunnel”, the garage is a “shed”, and that pile of goose poop he collected while mom wasn’t looking?  Well, obviously “it’s coal for my trains!”  We do love that imagination! We also love T’s happy nature, boyish energy and tender heart.

Speaking of heart, S (age 4) is heartily impassioned about everything that grabs her attention.  This year that has included the local pond (fishing & tadpoles), our kitchen (chopping veggies with her pink plastic knife), and our backyard (her own garden, which – during 40+ hours of labor – produced countless smiles & exactly one edible item: a carrot the whole family shared).  We love her eclectic nature (pairing sparkly shoes with soccer shin guards, her gymnastics leotard & a tackle box), her generous spirit (asking mom to take four crayons she “doesn’t really need” to Goodwill) and her unique perspective (e.g.  “Can everyone name one type of ball?” elicits “basketball” from most of the audience, while S yells “EYEBALL!” at the unsuspecting crowd…)  In addition to appreciating the way she informs (and entertains!) the masses, we love the way S embodies both a will of steel and a soft, beautiful heart.

E (age 6) embraces her role as the biggest kid of the bunch, playing with and helping her siblings, while also finding time to explore the world on her own.  Currently, she finds inspiration in anything that challenges her as a designer.  Basically, that means that when she is not putting together an outfit, finding a new way to display her dolls, or decorating a box to house (yet another!) collection, she is working out a master plan to get the whole family involved in a skit, song or game.  Her energy is endless, contagious, and can overcome any obstacle.  (Beach buckets not unpacked yet?  No worries!  E will sprint from the car to the surf, remove all footwear, and collect shells in her sock!)  Bedtime remains her great nemesis, as we find her rearranging her room into the late hours and have to insist that she turn off both her creative instincts and her bedroom light.  This year, she has enjoyed favorite activities (gymnastics & soccer), new skills (swimming & biking), and loves to lose herself in a story.  Our favorite reader review so far?  E declaring that her book – about a magic tree house that transports kids through time to ride on winged lions & rescue a wizard – “must be fiction because in real life, kids aren’t allowed to stay up all night…”  Gotta love it!  We also love the exuberant, joyful way E embraces life.

As for the parents…K continues to love her role as a homemaker, has given up on ever getting a full-night’s sleep, and sees her main job as making sure everyone gets the cuddles, confirmations, challenges, corrections, celebrations, and comforts they need.  (Chauffeuring should probably be listed in there too!) T also assumes these roles, while enjoying his job and working with our contractor to plan two new bedrooms & a mudroom for our house.  In their spare time (& during 3am feedings) T & K ponder deep life questions posed by the children (such as “Do germs go to heaven after the soap kills them?”) and reflect on favorite memories from this year, which included trips to both Alabama (where the kids played cards with their Great Grandma & went on boat rides with Nana) & New York (where Grammy’s cooking was complemented by candy Grandpa helped collect at the July 4th parade).

During this season, our entire family is reflecting on the joys of the past 12 months, the birth of a Savior, and the friendships that enhance our lives immeasurably.  Thank you for honoring us with those friendships, and accept these warm holiday (and happy new year!) wishes from our family to yours!

Love,

T, K, E, S, T & newborn H!

Tiny Souls; Big Responsibility

Rev. Dr. John Westerhoff, author of “Will Our Children Have Faith?” (full disclosure: I have never read the book), hosted a Q&A in our Christian Parenting Sunday School class this weekend.

My husband asked him if he had one piece of advice for the parents of young children, what it would be.

He responded by saying he would say three things:

 

(1)  Relax.

(2)  Be yourselves, and

(3)  Do things with your children, instead of for them or to them.

 

That’s pretty good advice, in my opinion.

He also answered lots of questions about how to teach children about spirituality.  The questions approached the issue from a variety of angles: how to help a child sort out real vs. not real (e.g. Bible stories, childhood characters, etc.), how to help children pray and understand prayers that seem to have gone unanswered, etc.

His answers had one basic theme. That theme was, work on your own faith, and you will more naturally become an example for – and understand how to help – your children.  From a slightly different angle, instead of trying to figure out what to teach your kids about a particular topic, figure out what you really believe and tell them that.

That seems like such a simple principle, but I will admit that it had eluded me until Dr. Westerhoff said it so plainly.  Before we struggle with how to convey our beliefs to our children, we have to know what we believe.

Maybe the kids are struggling with the reality of some Old Testament stories as they learn that their favorite Disney characters are make-believe.  Well, before answering their questions, we need to ask ourselves, “What do we really believe about the Bible?”

Before dealing with a child’s frustrations over prayers for a grandparent who is still sick, we need to ask ourselves “Well, what do we really believe about prayer?”

The shift in thinking struck a particular chord with me because my husband and I have been trying to figure out how to expose the kids to two different strands of the Christian tradition (My husband is Catholic; I considered myself a non-denominational Protestant until joining a Methodist Church several years ago and still prefer to be simply identified as “Christian”).

As we do this, I have been constantly asking myself, “What parts of each of our traditions would be important for the kids to experience?”

After hearing Dr. Westerhoff, I now believe I’ve been asking the wrong question. Instead of making the primary inquiry, “What would be good for the kids?”, my husband and I should be asking each other, “What parts of your faith background are important for you to experience as a part of your spiritual journey and commitments?”    If we both (1) carefully consider that question, (2) answer it honestly, (3) commit to experiencing those essential elements as a family (when it is age-appropriate for the kids to be involved and church-sanctioned to have a non-member spouse participate), and then (4) really think about all of it in terms of what overall experience that creates from the perspective of the kids, then we have our family’s spiritual roadmap.

I was greatly relieved to have a new framework, until I realized how much thoughtful work was going to be involved in this new approach.  So I leave you with this question:

Does anyone have any advice on how to answer such big questions relatively quickly while spending the bulk of our days chasing young children?  Because it would be nice to figure out what we believe and how to teach that before our kids are completely grown!

(I say this somewhat facetiously, because honestly, one of my key beliefs is that there are a few BIG TRUTHS we need to affirm over-and-over with our children (this is important), but the rest of the kids’ questions are ok for me to answer with, “Different people believe different things about that”, then ask the kids what they think, and admit that aside from those BIG TRUTHS, there are a lot of things I just really don’t know…”)

 

P.S.   I am still sorting all this out in my head and have mixed in my thoughts about specific issues (like beliefs about scripture and prayer) with my thoughts about an overall approach for choosing our family’s spiritual path.  That may mean this post comes across as confusing…My apologies if any part of it doesn’t make sense.

Update re: Lent

If you read the post about our preparations for Lent, then you know we had three family goals:

(1)  a devotional with the kids every day

(2)  a better bedtime prayer and routine

(3)  40 bags in 40 days (decluttering and donating)

Here’s the update:

(1)  The devotional: We’ve done the devotional almost every day (not perfect, I know, but a big improvement for us.)  The key was switching from evening to afternoon (a more relaxed time at our house, in contrast to a busy bedtime routine with a tired mom and dad).  It has also helped that I made two rules: (1) only one devotional is allowed a day (the kids like the book, so before this rule, they would ask for several one day then want to read something else the next), and (2) we have to read them in order (i.e. no flipping through, looking at pictures and arguing about whether we’ve read one before or who gets to pick).  We sit down, pick up the book, and read the next one.  What a relief to have a simple process at a time of day when we can really enjoy it.

(2)  The bedtime prayer: I have found a prayer that works better for us.  Our new prayer (which is still a little long, I think…I may take a stanza out soon…) is based on one I found online, then adjusted to fit our kids vocabularies and the things I wanted to emphasize.  The original is the fourth one down at this link.

And here’s our version…

 

Jesus, help my eyes to see

All the good you’ve done for me.

 

Jesus, help my ears to hear

How I can help others far and near.

 

Jesus, help my hands to do

Things that are good, like you taught me to.

 

I love you God.  Thanks for loving me.

Help me be the best person I can be.

 

Since having the kids add items to the end of the prayer was creating issues for us, we have stopped doing that for now, but plan to pick it back up once we’ve established a better rhythm.  We have remembered to do this almost every night, but have been a little thrown by some sleep schedule adjustments this week.  Again, not perfect…

(3)  40 bags in 40 days: I have to confess that we started this a little before Lent and are approaching it in spurts.  So far, we have tackled the following areas:

  • my closet (seemed like a fair place to start, before hitting everyone else’s…I want some credit for getting rid of my softest T-shirt, even if it did have about 8 holes in it)
  • the garage, including the collection of small appliances we “might be able to get fixed someday” (goodbye, rice cooker that has been broken for over a year!)
  • the attic, including lots of furnishings we used in old apartments and just don’t fit our current place
  • part of the kitchen (I had replaced all our kids’ plates with BPA free versions several years ago, so why had I stored all the old plastic plates on a high shelf?  I honestly have no idea…)
  • my computer (so far I have unsubscribed from 7 e-mail lists that were cluttering my inbox on a daily basis…I end up on these lists when we need to make a large purchase and sign up to receive e-mails and a one-time huge discount…I am tired of deleting the daily mailings and have decided clicking “unsubscribe” that many times counts as at least part of a “bag”.)

Anyway, I have read that the best way to do this challenge well is to commit to touching every item in the house.  I won’t hit this mark, but I like having the idea in my head.  I have also read that you cannot count a bag until it is out of your house, which means our current total tally is five.  However, we just received a mailing from an organization that will be visiting our neighborhood mid-March to collect used clothing and household items, and we do have six more bags ready for them.  I just need to commit to not looking in those bags again!  And of course, we still have many more areas around the house to tackle.

The bottom line is that our efforts have been imperfect, but I hope as the season goes on those efforts will become routines and then eventually habits.  (And there has to be some sort of recognition that Easter is being about grace, rather than perfection, right?!  I mean, we are trying, but I recognize that I am certainly relying on grace, all the way around…)

Blessings and God’s grace to you and yours too this Lenten season!

Preparing for Lent

Lent is coming, and with it our family goal of growing closer to God through prayer, fasting and giving.

With the Lenten season approaching, I have really been thinking about what obstacles create distance between us and God, and how a focus on these three areas could help us remove those obstacles.

Here are my thoughts about our family commitments, arranged by element.

(1)  prayer: We’ve had problems with family prayer time this year.  The kids used to do a rhyming type of prayer at bedtime, then pray for family members at the end (i.e. God Bless Grammy and Grandpa, Aunt A, etc…).  It was good in theory, but  honestly, the whole prayer became a lyric the kids didn’t really understand followed by an exercise in remembering family names, and then an argument over who would say the girls’ names vs. the boys’.  At some point, all meaning was lost and I threw up my hands in frustration.  This Lent, I am committed to finding a format for kids bedtime prayers that works better for us.  I am begging for suggestions!  Particularly for a prayer that kids can really understand (or I can explain)…  I also need to get better at my own, grown-up prayer life, but that is a whole ‘nother blog post.

(2)  fasting: One of the barriers between our family and Christ is the way my general level of business and fatigue distracts/prevents me from spiritual time with the kids.  This year, to the best of my ability, I am going to empty our minds of everything for 5-10 minutes a day except a focus on a family devotional.

Here’s my confession:  Last year, I had a Lenten goal of doing one devotional a day with the kids, in hopes that 40 days would be long enough to make it a real family habit.  Although I managed to purchase the devotional book I wanted to use, I absolutely failed at making it part of our daily routine.  I think part of the problem was that I envisioned doing it at night, but it required enthusiasm and energy I just didn’t always have at that time of day.  This year, with my husband’s support, I am going to do it during our after school story time.  He will still be at work, but I think it will work better for the kids and me, and we can reinforce the devotional message by taking turns telling dad about it over dinner.  This may seem like an odd form of “fasting”, but the reality is that our afternoon quiet time begins right after stories, and prioritizing a devotional will delay or cut into that quiet time on some days.  The kids and I both need that time, but we need this devotional to become a part of “what we do” more.  So we’re going to*try* to alter or give up whatever we need to make a family devotional happen during this Lenten season.

(3)  giving: We are embracing the 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  The basic idea is to move 40 bags out of your house, whether it is to a good will, a dump, or wherever else.  For me, this challenge is important for three reasons:

  1. I feel at peace and free (and believe I will be better able to focus on the two Lenten elements above) when the house is decluttered and organized.  This is just an element of my personality, I think.  I don’t care if a surface is mopped, dusted, etc. but if it’s covered in stuff, I feel like I’m suffocating, and it’s hard for me to focus on anything.
  2. Decluttering is a great way to think about “want vs. need”.  Not that we will get rid of everything that’s a want (or even close), but we will get rid of some, and it will put the “wants” we keep in the proper perspective and us in the right frame of mind: gratitude for what we have instead of stinginess about the things we need to let go of.
  3. This exercise is going to challenge me to truly live in the present, which requires perspective and faith.  I think we currently have too many things that are about the past (some nostalgia is great, but we don’t need to hang onto everything…I am planning to take photos of some items then let them go), or things that are “stored up in barns” for the future (to cover all those “but what if this happens?”).  There are plenty of people who could – in this present moment – be served by the things we are hanging onto because of a past attachment or a possible future need.   And we would be well served by (a) a less cluttered environment, (b) the reduction in effort needed to care for or clean those things, and (c) the peace of mind (i.e. sane mama) that results when the house has less stuff and more empty space.

I am still working on all the details, but these are the general thoughts at this point.  I also have one other Lenten goal that is less about the family and more about me (at least at this point), but it’s private…I will likely share at some point, but need to think more about what it means.

Finally, I want to share some of the ideas that my friend Queen B posted last year that I find absolutely inspirational.  I’m not sure if we’ll get to these this year or not, but they are on my mind for future years, and definitely worth passing along in case anyone else is looking for ideas.

(1)  prayer: having the kids add a link to a prayer chain each day during Lent

(2)  fasting: in addition to abstaining from meat on Fridays, the kids would select one item from the pantry to be placed in a box that would go to a food pantry

(3)  giving: a jar of dried beans placed next to a small empty easter basket, and each time a family member does a good deed or something especially nice, they move a bean into the basket.  She then explained to the kids that “on Easter morning, when Jesus Is Risen, the dried beans will be replaced with jellybeans, representing the new creation we become through Christ: the old is gone and the new has come!  (2 Cor 5:17)”.  I must also say that Queen B has one of the best posts about love and justice I have ever read, and she credits reflecting on this jellybean activity with providing those insights.  Inspirational, especially since I can imagine this activity is somewhat difficult to manage with kids.

I’ll end by reminding you that we are struggling with regards to kids’ bedtime prayers, and would love suggestions via e-mail or comments.  Is there a childhood prayer that is particularly meaningful for you?

Here’s wishing you a meaningful Lenten season that brings you and yours closer to God.