Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Kindness of Neighbors

Dear friends,

My next door neighbor (and very dear friend) Donna called this morning from work, a hint of desperation in her voice. Her son had missed the school bus and all of their other family members who could have taken him were out of town or she couldn't get a hold of them. Would I be able to give him a ride to the local middle school? Sure! It only took 15 minutes, but I know it made a big difference to him and he thanked me as I dropped him off.  His mom has done just as many sweet things for me.  I can't count how many eggs and cups of sugar we've borrowed from her, or the happy afternoons my daughter has spent playing with her little girl.  My next door neighbor on the other side brings us bags of clothes and piles of vintage books that her housecleaning clients give to her, and brings us plates of homemade Christmas cookies each year. Both of my next door neighbors take the time to chat with me, and they put their heart into it and not just their words. All that adds up after 15 years or so!

As I drove Gabriel to school this morning, I was also reminded of when I was a little girl in San Carlos, California nearly 40 years ago. I got sick at school while Mom was at work.  She called the neighbor across the street, who brought me home to her house. I remember lying on Connie's couch and drinking ginger ale to make my tummy feel better. I have often thought of that with warm feelings. I felt cared for! The funny thing is that I have absolutely no other memories of this sweet lady. She's not someone our family did things with socially, to my knowledge, though maybe my mom had more contact with her than I did.  To me, it was just one simple little kindness from a neighbor, but I remember.  Another sweet lady, who lived a few blocks away from us then, holds a special place in my heart, too. You can read about her here: Hazel Waterman.

Small kindnesses count!


"Count that Day Lost"
by George Eliot

If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went --
Then you may count that day well spent.

But if, through all the livelong day,
You've cheered no heart, by yea or nay --
If, through it all
You've nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face--
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost --
Then count that day as worse than lost.

What neighbors do you remember from your childhood or your early motherhood years?  Who can you show kindness to this week?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. You might also like my poem Your Kindness Gave Me Courage.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The 12 P's of Stress Busting for Moms

The 12 P's of Stress Busting for Moms
by Virginia Knowles

A decade ago, when I presented these concepts in talks to moms, the leader of a local home school support group asked me how to list it in the church bulletin. She suggested “Stress-Free Home Schooling.” I had to laugh! In my mind, there IS no such thing as Stress-FREE Home Schooling or Stress-FREE Mothering -- at least not in my house with so many active and opinionated children! There were a few years in there when our family encountered several major stress factors at a time, including pregnancy, unemployment, serious illness and death of close family members, a change in churches, and more.

I can tell you that it has been a real struggle to deal with this extra stuff in life, but if we don’t learn how to handle stress wisely, it can destroy us. Some of the negative results of stress are health problems, relational conflicts, and a lack of productivity. Most importantly, it can rob us of the peace and joy that should be ours in Christ. But stress can have a positive effect too, if we use it as a motivation to change something that is wrong. It can spur us on to seek God for fresh strength and vision. It can cause us to evaluate and adjust our lifestyles. And it can drive us to mend and build our relationships. In my life, the extra stress factors have forced me to lean harder on God and look for ways to change our situation.

Let’s talk about some ways that we all can do this. For those of you who like alliteration, we will be taking a whirlwind tour through 12 Stress Busters that start with the letter P. 

(Note: I have also embedded links to several other related blog posts, but I recommend that you read the whole article before you go back and start clicking on the links.  Or, you can right click to open them in a separate window as you see one that interests you, and then read them when you are done with the original article.)

Are you ready?

PRAYER: Prayer is how we seek God’s strength and wisdom for mothering, and how we become equipped for spiritual warfare. Imagine with me.... You enter The Most Holy Place, the throne room of God, and bow before the King. Then after he embraces you and places a comforting hand on your head, he hands you this beautifully wrapped package. Inside are his gifts of Mercy and Grace. They aren’t generic brand either! They are specifically designed for your particular needs that very day. Whatever your problem is, there is the solution. Whatever your grief, there is a unique balm of comfort. What’s even better, his door is open whenever you choose to visit, and he has a different care package for you every time you come. All of these benefits come to you because of your relationship as his daughter through the sacrifice of Jesus. This is not a fantasy scene, ladies! This is what can really truly happen as we come to God in prayer!

Scriptures: Philippians 4:6-7, Ephesians 6, Hebrews 4:15-16
More Reading:

PRIORITIES: Are your priorities out of whack? Are the urgent things crowding out the important? The most important priority is to love God with all our hearts, and love others as ourselves. We must teach our children to do the same, while we lavish on them our motherly affection, time, supervision, and help. Remember that EFFICIENCY is doing things the RIGHT WAY, but EFFECTIVENESS is doing the RIGHT THING! It doesn’t really matter how much you can cram into your schedule, or how fancy or how cheaply you can do it if what you are doing is not WORTHWHILE. What is the RIGHT THING for your family?  If you are a home schooling mom, in academic subjects, you need to focus on the basics first: reading, speaking & writing, and math. Then you can add in science, social studies and electives.

Scriptures: Deuteronomy 6:5-7, Titus 2:4-5
More Reading:  

PLANNING: We plan to make sure that our priorities are accomplished. If we rush into the tasks of mothering, home making or home schooling without careful thought to what we want to do and how we want to do it, we can expect to FAIL! Planning includes daily schedule, menu planning, shopping lists, long term goals, detailed step-by-step subgoals, home school lesson plans or curriculum purchase lists, etc.

Scriptures: Isaiah 32:8, Proverbs 21:5

More Reading:

PREPARATION: Preparation is the natural extension of planning, putting it into action. You can talk all you want about what you want to do, but until you start to do it, you won’t get anywhere at all. Get your supplies ready ahead of time, learn the material that you want your children to learn, and teach and demonstrate skills for your children (academic and household) instead of expecting them to know how to do them instinctively.

Scriptures: Proverbs 14:23

More Reading:

PROBLEM SOLVING: It’s time to look for practical solutions to recurring problems. What is it that bugs you and your family day in and day out? What is it that drives you to tears of frustration or starts fights? Find it and FIX IT! A small change can make a big difference! Research answers to your problems through reading Scripture and other books, and talking with others (including your husband and children). Learn to brainstorm: List all of the possible options, evaluate which ones would be best, and give them a try! If it doesn’t work, try something else! If your home school curriculum is not working right, should you try to make the child work harder at it, modify the curriculum, switch curriculums, or just give it some time? I can't answer that for you!

Scriptures: 1 Peter 5:7, James 1:5
More Reading:

PARTNERSHIP: Many times the problem that needs to be solved is that we are trying to be SuperMom and do everything by ourselves! We need to expect, accept and ask for help from others: 

  • Husband: leads family, is partner for decision making, can help teach and train children

  • Children: learn to work independently, take initiative, help around house

  • Willing relatives: help chauffeur, babysit younger children during field trips, take children to cultural events, give educational materials as gifts

  • Friends and support groups: offer fellowship and encouragement, give creative ideas and advice, plan group events, provide social opportunities for children

  • Teachers and mentors: provide instruction in areas where we are weak, generate enthusiasm for their topics

Scriptures: Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, Proverbs 19:20

More Reading: 

PEACEMAKING: Mom, you set the atmosphere in your home. The kind of interactions that you allow will determine whether your home is filled with peace or strife. Model peacemaking with your husband. Insist on respect from your children. Coach children (especially younger ones) through their conflicts, how to avoid a quarrel, how to overlook offenses, how to sincerely apologize, etc. Ask them to think about the quality of their relationships. They are going to be living with their brothers and sisters for several years. Do they really want to live in hostility, or wouldn’t it be more fun to be friends? Do arguing and complaining really make them feel good?

Scriptures: James 3:17-18

More reading:

PLEASURE: One way that we can reduce stress is to have fun together! We can do things that make us feel happy. When many children think of entertainment, they automatically think of something passive, like television. That’s really limiting our options! Think of all the things you can do as a family without a TV!

Scriptures: Proverbs 17:22

More Reading:

PRAISE: A sincere word of encouragement can keep everyone moving toward success. It is a law of human nature that people tend to continue doing the things that earn them affirmation and praise. I’m not saying we should flatter our husbands or children or make them think they should only do something good if someone will notice, but we can’t neglect this powerful motivational tool that God has given us. If you praise your children more than you criticize them, it changes the atmosphere in the home. They are more likely to offer a word of encouragement to a brother or sister. What a stress-buster! Some children need extra praise when it comes to academics! The opportunity to give a child instant positive feedback on their efforts is one of the great benefits of home schooling!

Scriptures: 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Proverbs 16:21

More Reading:

PERSONAL CARE: To keep our bodies and spirits from becoming worn down from the constant demands we face, we must do what it takes to tend to our health. The four main things that usually affect my own health and energy level are: the amount of sleep I get, what I eat and when I eat it, what kind of exercise I am doing, and what my hormones are doing with either my monthly cycles or a childbearing. Most of those health factors are a matter of choices that I make each day. Besides your physical health, you need to pay attention to your mental health, especially if you are prone to depression. You may occasionally enjoy getting away from the house for a few hours in order to think straight or to get together with friends. A hobby can be good for your emotional well-being health, too. Do what it takes to keep your body, mind and spirit in good running order! You need them for the rest of your life! 

Scriptures: Daniel 1:8-14, Psalm 127:2

More reading:

PRACTICAL HOMEMAKING: Make your home a haven of rest, not a cesspool of stress. A cluttered room raises irritation and distraction levels, while a tidy one helps you to concentrate and/or relax. Another problem that clutter creates is that we can’t find the supplies that we know we have SOMEWHERE! We need to organize our school rooms so we can locate our materials quickly, and so that things don’t fall off the shelves. The best recommendation I can give you is to buy lots of plastic bins and organize your things into logical categories, such as pencils, stencils, game pieces, rubber stamps, bottles of glue, etc. You may not have a lot of money to decorate your home, but even touching up the paint or hanging a few family photos can perk up a room. We can make our homes pleasant to look at, even on a tight budget!

Scriptures: Proverbs 14:1, Titus 2:5, Proverbs 31

More reading:

PERSISTENCE: “Try, try, try again!” I know it’s tempting to throw in the towel when the times get tough, but now is not the time to quit on what God has called you to do! There is a blessing he holds in store for those who stick with their commitments! What an example this is to our children when they see us persevere on their behalf! It will help teach them to be faithful in what God has called them to do! Ladies, your labor in the Lord is not in vain. What you are doing in your own homes with your own children will someday affect nations and generations as they go forth from a strong foundation.

Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:58

More Reading:

May God bless you richly in this grand and noble adventure!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vintage Quotes and Cozy Thoughts from Lessons at Blackberry Inn

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it." John Ruskin

"Give me a stout heart to bear my own burdens. Give me a willing heart to bear the burdens of others. Give me a believing heart to cast all burdens upon Thee, O Lord." John Baillie

"How else but through a broken heart may Lord Christ enter in?" Oscar Wilde

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." Corrie tenBoom

"Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth." Benjamin Disraeli

"Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not." Samuel Johnson

I found these quotes at the beginning of chapters in the book Lessons at Blackberry Inn, a novel by Karen Andreola about a New England family who started home schooling in the 1930's. I borrowed this sweet book from my friend Debbie, who loves Charlotte Mason style home schooling, and jotted down my favorite tidbits in my notebook, where I can browse through them every now and then.

Sit yourself down for a spell, and restore your soul! Infused with Charlotte Mason's gentle art of learning, this calming book follows Carol, a 1930s homemaker, as she adjusts to her first year living at Blackberry Inn. Refresh yourself as you drop into her idyllic world of canning, cleaning, homeschooling, baking, and other scenes of faith, hope, hospitality, love, and the lost art of homemaking! Written as a sequel to Pocketful of Pinecones, Lessons at Blackberry Inn may also be read as a stand-alone novel. A delightful treat for the homeschool mother.

I loved the book because it is so full of beauty and warmth, cozy but with a strong dose of reality. It made me want to hunt down a copy of Keeper of the Bees by Jean Stratton Porter (author of The Girl of the Limberlost) which is set in roughly the same era with many similar themes of the beauty of nature, hard work, holistic health, and integrity.  Both of the books talk about bee keeping.  If you want to learn more about honey bees with your kids, click here: Links for Honey Bees.

I also found the country inn setting to be quaint, especially with little extras like a apple butter recipes tucked in. I'm not a big "tea time" mother, but my daughter Rachel, knowing my love for all things Scottish, bought me a package of imported Walkers Shortbread Petticoat Tails for my birthday last week. I shared the last wedges of them with my younger children as I as typed this. I just got up from the computer to make a big pitcher of lemonade. Just a little simple hospitality in the home...

What are your favorite quotes? Post them in a comment for me, please! I would love to make this blog a little more interactive!

Blessings and beauty,


Thursday, September 9, 2010

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Sweetie!

Dear friends,

It's hard to believe it's been one year (as of next week) that I started this Come Weary Moms blog!  My heart has always been to bring comfort and encouragement to moms, especially those who are struggling with fatigue, confusion, depression, and anxiety amidst the sometimes overwhelming demands of motherhood.  Sometimes the solutions to our problems are deeply spiritual -- and you will find many posts about such topics.  But sometimes they are just simple and practical.

I'm a busy home schooling mommy of 10 children, ages 5 to 23, with a baby grandson who often comes to visit us, too!  So I don't have the time or energy for anything terribly complicated.  This has been especially apparent since my sister brought up the strong possibility that I, like her, have adult ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).  You can read about that here: ADD and Me? We'll Manage!

Sometimes the key to making your day run smoother is to eliminate the many little hassles that add up to big frustration.  One of those things in my house is keeping my two little girls' hair combed!  Five year old Melody had really long hair which was so hard to detangle, even with the spray liquid, that some days I didn't bother at all.  Yep, negligent mommy!  Yep, guilt feelings, especially when I had to tote this scraggly orphan child off to the grocery store to pick up an emergency supply of whatever we just ran out of!  But, I would say in my defense, I don't like to hear her cry.   Poor child.  So my husband Thad suggested that I cut most of it off -- with a pixie cut!  Well, I didn't go quite that far, but let's see what I did do this afternoon. 

I didn't cut the bangs because we're hoping they grow out!  
Melody is happy with her new "do" as you can see!  She chortled with glee all the way through, taking several peeks in the mirror to check her progress.

It's already SO much easier to comb!  Happy mommy! 

I just have to tell a few other cute Melody stories while I'm writing this blog post. 

A few months ago she was in a really grumpy mood.  I was in the bathroom when, as kids will do when their mommies are finally in a quiet place for a few moments, Melody started banging loudly on the locked door.
"Can I TELL you something?" she yelled.

"Sure, Honey," I answered as I cracked open the door a bit.  "What do you want to say?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" she replied.  I giggled at her confusion, which only made matters worse.

"Stop LAUGHING at me!  Don't LOOK at me!" she roared.  So I dutifully turned the other way.  Then she marched over and planted herself directly in front of where I was facing. "Stop LOOKING at me!"  Well, what's a mommy supposed to do?  I have to confess that I laughed even harder!  Then I put her down for a nap.  Simple.  Practical.  Sanity.

Another time, one of her older sisters was trying to break Melody's habit of thumbsucking.  She found a little bottle of nasty tasting liquid that you're supposed to brush on the finger tips to deter a child from putting them in his or her mouth.  Lydia did this at bed time, telling Melody that is was a special kind of nail polish.  Early the next morning -- around 6, I think -- I could hear Melody wailing down the hallway, "I hate nail polish!  I HATE nail polish!"  Methinks the whole experience left a bad taste in her mouth.  But she still sucks her thumbs...

Come, weary moms!  Keep it simple!  And don't forget to laugh sometimes, even if you have to muffle it!

If you'd like to read other "Melody Moments" posts, click here.

If you want to see our "Home School Rules" that we're trying to work on each day to keep life simple, click here.

Or just poke around on this blog or my other ones listed below.  You never know what you might find!

Go in grace!

Virginia Knowles