We’re starting school today, which basically means my girls roll out of bed and grab their new math books. So in the spirit of learning, I thought I’d make a list of what I learned this summer.
It was a really good summer, with just enough hard stuff thrown in to make me have to work at figuring some things out, which isn’t enjoyable in the moment, but satisfying to look back on later!
Here’s my list:
1) Story Pirates is the best entertainment ever.
Have you heard of this podcast? It is so much fun, and my youngest two love it. 🙂 Plus, it’s not annoying for me to have to listen too, if I’m in the same room, because it’s really actually funny. Another plus: it’s gotten Kaylia and Everett excited about writing stories themselves, which is great!
They’ve listened to it for hours this summer. We bought this cute little mp3 player for Everett’s room, and now everybody wants one!
2) Zucchini soup tastes best when I grew all the ingredients myself.
This was my first summer growing zucchini. I always thought I didn’t have enough room to grow it in my garden, but then a wise friend encouraged me to do it, and I’m so glad I did, because we got so much zucchini! I’ve made a few batches of soup, which is my favourite, although roasted zucchini is also fantastic. It’s very exciting to discover a huge one hidden under the leaves in the garden – it makes my kids shriek with delight. 🙂
It gave me this strange, new pride/living off the land/homesteader kind of feeling when I would use my own onions + parsley + zucchini to make soup!
3) Buy the parchment paper. Seriously.
Same wise friend asked if I ever used parchment paper from Costco, and I had to admit I was too cheap to buy it. She said it changed everything, so I put it on the shopping list, and she was right. WHAT HAVE I BEEN WAITING FOR??!! Vigorously scrubbing pans is a thing of the past, and now my life is easy.
4) It doesn’t have to be perfect in order to get started.
Our family spent a week at Red Rock Bible Camp a few weeks ago, and Ben and I led seven chapel sessions. I had no idea how much work it would be to prepare that many sessions! It took a big chunk of my summer to prepare for it, and I became very aware of something: I wanted to be perfectly prepared before we left for camp. I didn’t want prep hanging over me while we were out there, I wanted everything to be finished and ready to go.
But at one point during the summer, I listened to a Personality Hacker podcast about starting and finishing projects, and what holds different personality types back from accomplishing things. Guess what my hold up is?! Not wanting to get going on something until everything is perfectly planned and ready!!! Big surprise. But the problem with this is that once you get rolling with something, a different kind of energy takes over, and projects can take different directions that can actually be exciting and unexpectedly good. Needing to have everything perfectly in place before starting means missing out on all that great energy and unforseen awesomeness.
So I kept this in mind. I chose to purposely leave things unfinished until we were actually doing our sessions, so that I could respond to the emotions of the experience. And it worked, and it was great, and now I can look back on that experience and know that sometimes you just have to get moving before things can fall into place.
5) Biographies are amazing, gentle teachers.
I’ve been reading Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place this summer, and it’s so, so good. If you haven’t read that book, you really need to. I had a huge lump in my throat as I read sometimes, because it’s the most beautiful story about faith and forgiveness and courage.
As Anika gets older, I’m trying to become more aware of avoiding lecturing, but I want her to continue to grow in character. A friend told me about how they read biographies to their girls every night, and I love this idea. Ben and I read to our kids every night, taking turns with who reads to who, and we’ve read a ton of great fiction to them, but this idea of reading biographies is a winner.
It’s such a beautiful way to take in amazing stories together, and hear from someone else about God’s faithfulness and provision. I’ve been a fan of sharing our stories for a long time, because the power of testimony is real, so biographies make sense. The teaching happens in the most natural, gentle way, and it’s so enjoyable.
Next up is The Heavenly Man (the story of Brother Yun and persecution in China), or maybe No Compromise (the story of singer/song writer Keith Green who was killed in a plane crash). It’s hard to choose when there are so many inspiring stories to read!
6) Life is easier if I can be okay with sitting in the discomfort.
I hit my head really, really hard at the beginning of August and got a concussion. I’ve been dizzy ever since, although it is slowly improving, and it’s been crazy annoying. I am not good at dealing with stuff like this. I want it to go away NOW, and I get pretty obsessive about finding a way to avoid the discomfort.
But doing a little research made two things clear: 1) It could take a couple of months for this to go away, and 2) It could be much, much worse. My symptoms were pretty minor, compared to what some people experience, and I realized that my consuming need for comfort was actually adding to my discomfort. I felt a total inability to just accept what had happened, and slow down to accommodate the inconvenience of it all.
I know that it will go away, so in the meantime, I’ve been praying that God will grow my ability to remain in the tension, and just trust that He will provide for me. I’m learning to have peace in the midst of the discomfort, instead of frantically searching for a way out.
7) Make a standard packing list.
This is one of those things that I knew I should do, but just didn’t get around to doing for the longest time. We go to the lake a few times during the spring and summer, and every single time, I was making a new packing list, or just going off the top of my head. It made packing SO HARD!! If Ben or the kids were trying to help me, I’d have to tell everyone what to do, as well as keep track of what I was doing myself. It was the worst.
And I didn’t even have a good reason for not making a master list – just something lame like our printer ran out of ink. But one day I’d had enough and I just wrote it out by hand, which is totally good enough, and suddenly packing was about 10 times easier.
So now I’m on the lookout for anything in my life that I can do the work once and reap the benefits forever after. I’m very open to suggestions!!
8) Let them display all the strong emotions.
Janet Lansbury has my heart when it comes to parenting advice. I love, love, love her podcast, and desperately want to read one of her books. Myviews on parenting are changing because of her stuff. It’s just so good. Very gentle and respectful, and I’ve seen such great responses from our kids when I use her approach to things.
My recent favourite is to become more accepting of all the big tantrums/freakouts/explosive bad attitudes. Obviously, I don’t enjoy it when my children are like that, but there seems to be this idea that well behaved children shouldn’t react that way. But Janet Lansbury comes at it with the approach that it’s better out than in, and as a parent, we have the opportunity to provide a safe place for all the big emotions to come out. Often, all my kids need is a listening ear, and some understanding that life can be hard, and then they’re on their way again.
I do try to promote the idea of “right time and place” – we go to their room to get away from everyone else, and get it all out in there, but I don’t send them off by themselves anymore for a time out. It never really helped anything, but this new strategy seems much more effective. It gives me a chance to help them work through stuff, lets them know they’re not alone and that big emotions are normal and okay. We all have things we need to get out of our system, and there’s no shame in that.
There is still part of me that wants perfectly behaved children, 100% of the time, but I am not actually perfectly behaved myself 100% of the time, so I’d rather leave room for the big emotions that are there anyway, and focus on what we do with them, rather than trying to teach my kids to bottle them up and hide them.
9) Ditch the shoes as often as possible.
With decks and patios and shoes, I realized this summer that it’s completely possible to avoid actually touching the ground, ever. But it’s so healthy to go barefoot and touch the ground as much as possible (look up the benefits of earthing or grounding, if you haven’t heard of it before!!), so this summer, I went barefoot as often as I could.
It was amazing how much I grew to love the feeling of grass on my feet, and every time I’d go outside to check my garden, or to do yoga in the evening, it felt so relaxing to be barefoot.
I’d love to hear what you learned this summer!