New Year // New Look!

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On a hike with my family in Buellton, CA, on our friends’ ranch this past weekend. It was so beautiful!

I kept talking about giving this ol’ blog a facelift, and then finally last night it actually happened! I’ve been working on this site redesign since… June? That’s when I first found that purple flower image for the header. A lot of other things, though, came together yesterday (like the profile picture to your left which was snapped outside on Elliott’s lunch break, so maybe a better one will come along in… a couple years?!).

And now here it is. The new and improved Making Room blog! What do you think?

There’s more big news today: I wrote a guest post for one of my favorite blogs, Modern Mrs. Darcy. My post is called “How reading is saving this mom’s life (or at least her sanity).” So if you’ve ever wondered how or why I read so much, look no further! The answers are all here today, from my introverted need for quiet to my craving for a sense of accomplishment as a young mother. Can you relate to this?

One last thing: do you have a favorite planner? Like a day planner, or a notebook calendar, or a personal organizer, or whatever you call it? I heard a talk at MOPS the other day about “organizing you” and decided it’s finally time to invest in a planner I can take everywhere with me: one location for all my notes, lists, goals, appointments, and even meal plans. I’ve had my eye on this one (so classic!) and this one (with rave reviews). Any suggestions for me?

31 :: in guest post

All I Didn’t Do in 2014 {aka My Goals in Review}

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I’ve been procrastinating about this post because it’s going to be depressing! I set some lofty goals and did not achieve very many. Here’s how it all panned out:

Goal 1: Love Elliott, Lena, and Gil.

Elliott: Encourage him to write. He’s writing a book and wants to have it completely finished by the time we leave Sicily in July 2014.

We did this! I invested in his writing and progress by checking in with him, helping him carve out blocks of time, and motivating him to get started. He gets the real glory, though: he finished his book before we left Sicily! He’s waiting to hear back from editors now.

Lena: Establish a morning “school” period with Lena for 1 hour at least 2xs/wk when at home.

I worked on this goal sporadically at best until about June/July, when we moved from Sicily to the States. I haven’t come back to it, unfortunately. I did manage to write a blog post about 37 Ways to Stay Sane at Home with Your Preschooler, though. I thought Lena might be reading by the end of 2014, but her skill level (ie. she knows her letter sounds and might be able to figure out “cat” and “Bob,” etc.) has not changed all year.

Gil: Read one book with Gil every day.

We did this! Gil loves books now, and we really enjoy reading to him. He is a very interactive reader and loves to comment on everything on every page…

Goal 2: Read, Read, Read

This I did achieve, at the detriment of other writing goals, unfortunately. (See below.) I read 72 books in 2014, and you can see the full list here.

Part 1: Read five classics.

I read five: The Pilgrim’s Progress, Never Let Me Go, Parnassus on Wheels, The Screwtape Letters, and The Giver. Not quite the classics I was aiming for. But I did manage a few “modern” classics-slash-books I have been meaning to read forever, like Unbroken, The History of Love, and The Book Thief.

Part 2: Finish War and Peace!

NOPE. I think I read about five pages? Out of 1300? So yeah…

Part 3: Read five parenting books.

I read six: Mommy, Teach Me!, Honey for a Child’s Heart, The Whole-Brained Child, Grace-Based Parenting, Steady Days, and Playful Learning.

Part 4: Read 3 books about Italy.

I read three: A House in Sicily, Mattanza, and La Bella Figura.

Goal 3: Make contact with my siblings (Eric and Emily) once per week via email, phone call, letter, package, or a visit.

I didn’t do this. I started off strong, but by March or so, I wasn’t making regular contact anymore. I’m sorry, Eric and Emily. :(

Thankfully we were together this summer for awhile, and we have been in a lot more contact since I moved back to the States. I feel closer to them than I did in Sicily. I still need to work on this goal, though!

Goal 4: Write daily in my One Line a Day Journal.

Nope. I think I recorded about 20 days the whole year.

Goal 5: Learn more about and practice the manual settings on my camera.

Nope. Still no clue and so I’m still shooting on my DSLR camera with just the automatic settings. Sigh.

Goal 6: Publish a piece of writing (fiction or non-fiction) in a non-blog setting.

I did get a piece published in a small magazine that you’ve all never heard of called Among Worlds, so that was cool!

Goal 7: Write 12 guest posts for other blogs (average of one per month).

Unfortunately I only did five guest posts, but each one of them was a great privilege, and I have more lined up for 2015! Here are the guest posts I wrote in 2014:

Thank you for featuring my writing, Marilyn, Alica, Gabrielle, and Courtney!

Goal 8: Study Italian: finish Italian Made Simple before we leave Italy in July 2014.

Noooooope. Did a couple pages, and then sold the book when we moved. I will probably never speak fluent Italian, and I can blame myself for that. Whomp whomp.

——–

So there it is… my half-achieved goals of 2014. Clearly I like to read novels but not camera manuals or Italian primers, and I like to dream big but have trouble making the nitty gritty happen!

Should I try this again in 2015? Still deciding… I might take a different approach this year.

What about you? Did you accomplish any or all of the goals you set for yourself in 2014? Inspire us!

14 :: in goals

The Prayer I Pray for My Children Every Day

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When Elliott and I were newlyweds, we attended an Anglican church in Washington, D.C. Many of the traditions of that church were a mystery to me, and they still are. (I can tell you about my church roots some other time.)

But during that year and a half, I came to deeply appreciate the Anglican church liturgy.

At first it seemed funny to repeat the same prayers every week – the same one for confession, the same one for communion, the same creed sandwiched between the two – but eventually I came to savor those prayers. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like my soul sank into them. Like into a soft bed or a couch.

During most of the service, my brain was humming: lifting up and soaring during the hymns and songs, focusing and thinking during the sermon, flitting from people watching to worship to people watching and back again.

But during the liturgical repetitions — during those prayers — my mouth and my heart and my brain all connected as I said those same familiar words again, forming them like pearls in my mouth, pondering and polishing them like rosary beads. Each week every word made more sense, and then became more precious, and then became the song of my heart. By comparison, I’ve felt this way about some popular songs that I’ve heard over and over on the radio until they worked their way into my brain and became my song and defined a certain period of my life. You know what I mean?

Anyway, back to the prayer I pray for my children, not the liturgy in general. Here is the prayer we learned in that church:

Almighty God, heavenly Father,
you have blessed our congregation with the joy and care of children.
Give us courage, patience, and wisdom
as we bring them up in the faith
that they might never know a day apart from you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I love those words:

  • Blessed our congregation – Raising these children is corporate work, ie. it takes a village to raise a child
  • The joy and care of children – A blessing and a responsibility
  • Courage, patience, and wisdom – What a powerful trifecta. How many thousands of times a day do I need courage, or find myself horribly lacking in patience, or grapple for wisdom?
  • As we bring them up in the faith – This hearkens back to a commitment that began with the congregation’s and parents’ pledge to the children at their baptism, that they would teach them about their faith and how it applies to their life and work.
  • That they might never know a day apart from you – The cry of my heart! Elliott and I were both born into homes where Jesus was loved and followed by “clay-footed” but faithful parents. Over the years we came to make that faith our own, and we are grateful that God has held us in his hand throughout our journeys. I hope and pray that our children have this same testimony.
  • Through Jesus Christ our Lord — all things are possible through him!

I remember the first Sunday after we found out we were pregnant with Lena. I was so lonely and sad, because Elliott had just deployed for a year and Lena was totally unexpected and I was overwhelmed and so discouraged. And there I was, standing alone in church, our first child being knit together inside me, praying aloud with the congregation this beautiful, rich, deep, true prayer, and I was praying it for our own child, and I just cried and cried. There was such longing in those tears for so many things.

After repeating it a hundred times over a hundred Sundays, I memorized this prayer. I began to pray it at home whenever I prayed for our children. In Italy, with our old church far away, we prayed. And now we pray in California, years after we began, longing together for courage and patience and wisdom to bring our children up in the faith, longing that they might never know a day apart from Jesus.

———

There are so many ways to pray for those we love. I remember my mom said she prayed for me and my future husband every day of my life. Well, I’ve already failed at that for my own kids… but I guess doing starts with trying! (And I can imagine it feels more relevant as they get older.)

Do you have any prayers that you particularly love and repeat often, whether about children or not?

17 :: in faith, motherhood, thoughts

28 Things I’ve Learned in 28 Years

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Once upon a time, way back in November, I had a birthday. I turned 28, but I was sick that day, and so not much happened besides staying in bed and reading an entire book. (Thank you again, Elliott!) I had planned, though, to post a list of “28 things I’ve learned in 28 years” that day, as inspired by my friend and blogger Mary.

Months later, and now it’s January. However, it’s sort of nice to edit and add to this list at the beginning of a brand new year. Lessons learned, wisdom gleaned, and advice taken to heart are all a part of growing older, and they are inspiration to take some of them even more to heart in 2015.

Out of all of these bits and pieces of learning, though, I do see the outline of a girl/woman who is unique and distinct, who has learned some of what works for her and what doesn’t, who has learned what she wants to give her whole life to and what she loves most of all.

I know we’re all like that, a beautiful mosaic combining our grandparents’ wisdom and our parents’ support and our spouse’s love and our children’s lives and our God’s mercy. What little bits of life have you learned? I’d love to learn from you!

So anyway… without further ado, here are 28 things I’ve learned in 28 years.

1. Take time to read. (You knew I’d say this!) It’s life-sustaining to make others’ stories part of our own.

2. If possible, let your children grow up with animals, including with animals that have babies. Raising dozens of birds and rabbits, having a dog and cat, and being around horses were all rich gifts to my childhood. These animals helped me see the world and even myself as part of a natural cycle of birth, life, and death in a way that is healthy, messy, and realistic.

3. When you and your friends’ husbands are out of town, have a friend and her kids over for dinner. Make something simple, pour a little wine, and let the kids play. At the end of the night you’ll both definitely be tired, but you’ll also be refreshed.

4. Keep an eye out for cute used clothes for your friends’ babies. There is something profoundly sweet about getting a little consignment or hand-me-down outfit in the mail that says, “I think your child is beautiful, too!”

5. Learn what matters to your husband — really good curry, toys put away at night, your natural hair when you skip the blow dryer — and make it matter to you too.

6. A spoon of Nutella straight out of the jar is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

7. Find your favorite crowd-pleasing, affordable wine and keep a good stash.

8. After three years in Italy of washing dishes by hand, I found the perfect dish soap. It smells incredible and leaves my dishes as well as my hands clean and happy. I buy it in bulk on Amazon.

9. When your husband tells you something, listen the first time. Often men don’t talk too much, and they feel respected and loved when you listen and remember.

10. If you don’t have a TV, you don’t miss much.

11. Try to only bring things into your home that your whole family will love: toys, food, books, furniture, cleaning products, etc. It keeps it simple.

12. On a hot summer afternoon, a can of sparkling flavored water can taste so, so good!

13. Make annual goals, not resolutions. You have the whole year to work on them, and they give you a way to track your progress.

14. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise.” Or at least makes him or her a better parent!

15. Take care of your computer. Let it sleep and restart it regularly. Do the updates it tells you to do. Back it up onto an external hard drive or something similar. Keep it clean and tidy inside and out. You’ll both be so much happier.

16. I’ve tried many, many tools and products to keep my floor clean and the only thing that has worked is just cleaning it more often.

17. Go to the library with a list of good children’s books, like Scholastic’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids or Sonlight’s Read-Aloud book lists. Let your kids grab some things off the shelves, but try to choose a few of the classics each visit, too. There’s a reason they’ve stood the test of time. A few books might even make you cry!

18. (This one is tongue in cheek and with a twinkle in my eye, not meant to offend anyone.) After two babies, my opinion is that cloth diapers weren’t worth it for us due to the cost of electricity and water required to get them clean. Also no one should have to have that much contact with anyone’s poop! (And I’m a nurse!)

19. If someone you know dies, please please please say something to his or her family. Send a card, send an email, send a Facebook message, say something in person. Even if you only work up your courage years later, it doesn’t matter. That acknowledgment and that love means more than you can ever possibly imagine.

20. Try to always keep at least a quarter tank of gas in your car.

21. Buy a pretty notepad, stick it on your fridge, and keep a running grocery list all week. Better yet, make a grocery list and meal plan at the same time!

22. They make alarm clocks that turn green at the time you want your child to get up. They are wonderful.

23. Set up automatic monthly withdrawals from your bank or credit card to support your missionary friends or ministries you love. You’ll probably never miss the extra $50, but your choice to give and live with less will change the world.

24. Hospitality is an art, but it’s also a way of life. Make it your way of life right now and worry about the art later. There are lonely friends and family out there who would love a meal at your table.

25. Make your prayers more about praising God for what he’s already done and less about asking for things. Practice this by choosing one verse and making your whole prayer about adoring, confessing, thanking, and asking God all from the context of that one verse.

26. Our children are watching us. I started running sporadically in the morning and now Lena loves running and putting on her sneakers and “exhersizing.” I am still amazed that such a little, positive choice on my behalf can quite possibly have a significant, positive impact on her whole life.

27. Learn what genre of books you like and don’t be ashamed about it. Just dive in and read. Good books lead to more good books, and some reading leads to lots of reading. You just have to find your own delightfully slippery slope.

28. Speak gently. Be kind. So incredibly difficult, and yet so supremely important.
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What about you? What are some snippets of wisdom or lessons you’ve learned in your years of life? We’d all love to hear them!
23 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, motherhood, thoughts

On Becca’s Bookshelf // December Edition

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Well, my Decembers reads were… meh. I made some hasty choices before leaving for vacation AND I read several dry-ish parenting books. But ya win some, ya lose some, right? Here’s the scoop on what to read and what to avoid!

  • That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay. “When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food.” What… that sounds delightful! And the cover has the Eiffel Tower on it! Letters and Paris and books and cookery? As Amy Poehler would say, “Yes, please!” But unfortunately the book touched only lightly on all these themes while focusing much more heavily on the absurdly wealthy characters, predatory divorcée neighbors, stressful family relationships, and — the greatest disappointment of all — emails (not a single letter!). For those who like love and letters, try 84, Charing Cross Rd or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society instead. — 2 stars
  • The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. This book promises “12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive.” Despite such a promise, I didn’t find anything revolutionary about the book; it seemed to mostly be scientific explanations for well-known life issues. Example: you should help your child connect his feelings (right brain) with logic (left brain) to effectively work through frustration. Great info, but not  profound. I would recommend NutureShock or Simplicity Parenting for truly revolutionary parenting research. — 3 stars
  • Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. As you all know by now, I love cross-cultural memoirs, especially when they involve France! The author describes her rather fairytale life — meet a cute French PhD student, move to Paris, get married, visit lovely in-laws on the Brittany coast, puh-lease you’re killing me — and then describes the real life side, too, like buying an apartment in Paris, making real friends with Europeans, and watching her father-in-law being treated for cancer in the French medical system. She is an opinionated woman from a small slice of upper class American politics and privilege, though, and her narrative voice is heavy-handed at times. For all this… — 3 stars
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I loved Bossypants and really enjoyed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, so the natural next step is to read the next comedienne‘s memoir, right? Well, not quite. Turns out it helps if you actually watch her on TV. I’ve seen Baby Mama and a few YouTube videos of her SNL skits, but otherwise I mostly love Amy by osmosis… because everyone else loves Parks & Rec and because of Tina. I felt like I couldn’t appreciate a lot of the humor and anecdotes because of this, and thus I missed the point of the memoir. Also I thought she complained a lot about writing a memoir when… wasn’t it your decision to write it, Amy? — 2 stars
  • I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum. I grabbed this one at the library quickly before leaving for Christmas, but maybe I should have thought through the premise more. A husband cheats on his wife, his wife finds out, and then he decides to win his wife back again. The book would have been better if it focused less on the former (too much flashback about his affair) and a lot more on the latter (in which he proved himself a very clumsy and selfish husband, and I’m not sure I would take him back either). It earns a half-hearted third star for the final redemption. — 3 stars
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. Ahh, at last, something good! Something pure, golden, and enduring! This book (first published in 1969) is a priceless resource for any book lover who wants to pass on the wisdom and delight of a good story to their children. The first 1/3 is an engaging treatise on reading together as a family and building a foundation of good books; the second 2/3 contains lists of wonderful children’s books for age 0 to adult. Highly recommended! 5 stars
  • Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis. Another incredible resource to add to your parenting library. The first half of the book is an apologetic for preschool at home with a Montessori and Christian approach, a combination which is unusual and inspiring. The second half is a manual of practical activities you can do with your child with bowls, buttons, pitchers, marbles, and other everyday objects in your home. — 4 stars

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Did you set reading goals for 2015? Here’s an amazing reading goal list from one of my favorite blogs. I read a lot of books in 2014, but I am wondering about slowing down in 2015 in order to write more… hmm…

What did you read in December? Any recommendations for all of us?

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14 :: in book reviews, On Becca’s Bookshelf

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