Monday, December 3, 2018

A Mindful December: Day 3

Tonight Mr. Butler and the kids made snowflakes as a part of our mindfulness activity.  We talked about how unique and special each snowflake is and then used our journals to talk about what makes us special.

There are many occasions when we assume someone knows something (especially about themselves), but never say it out loud or confirm that they know it.  What if people were walking around unaware of their value and importance?  That could certainly change their entire attitude towards life.   The next time someone difficult or strange crosses your path, consider the possibility that they are hurting far more than you realize.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A Mindful December: Day 2

One of the troubles with trying to carve out new habits is the notorious life that tries to get in the way.  Today was Sunday and full of church-related activities.  This meant that I was preparing food for potluck in between services and it also meant that my kids would likely drag their feet about anything related to getting ready on time.  Rushing around doesn't exactly feel very mindful to me, but I did feel relatively calm despite the hurry-up mode we were in.  

We didn't find the time for our mindfulness activity until after dinner tonight, but it worked well just the same.  Everyone got their journals out and we copied down Philippians 4:6-7.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It was a lot of words that they had to double and triple check for spelling help and it ended up taking them a long time.  Honestly, though, I didn't feel bad or mind it taking so long.  For my kids, just taking that time focusing on one thing until it is completed is a mindfulness exercise all by itself.  After it was finished, we talked a little bit about the verse and then about finding ways to calm ourselves when there is life around us is upsetting or overwhelming.  In addition to prayer, we practiced slow breathing and listening to our breathing.  It made me feel better, but I kind of wondered if it made any kind of impression at all on the kids.  

As the kids were getting in bed, miss Z was starting to get really excited about getting to sleep in J's room and without skipping a beat J says, "Remember Zoey, calm down.  Practice your breathing. Like this."  She immediately stops, saying "Oh, yeah!" and proceeds to breathe a few calmer breaths and jump in bed.  It was amazing.  

To be honest sometimes I feel compelled to concoct really big gestures when really small ones might work even better.  Tonight was a great example of that!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Mindful December: Day 1

I don't know about you, but the Butlers here lately have had a hard time being joyful about our life.  With so much to be thankful for and blessings we can't deny, bad attitudes and bad habits should not be the theme.  And yet, I feel like we have been fighting off satan right and left.  From anxiety to unhealthy eating and complaining to outbursts, we just need help.  

This week I have started taking a more aggressive approach to my weight-loss (cutting sugar and bread most of the time and increased workouts) and after the first 36 hours or so, I noticed a difference right away.  The momentum I've felt in years past just fell into place.  The wedding cake last night was almost easy to refuse because the clear mind and motivation it brings is just so addicting!  That being said, it is more than just my eating and bodily health that needs reviving.  And I'm not the only one.  The saying, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" is true in more ways than one.  If Mom has a bad attitude or is in a constant state of feeling overwhelmed or stress - you better believe it is going to influence everyone around her, from Dad all the way down to the dog.

One of the biggest struggles we are all having is paying attention to the things we are supposed to.  It's not new, but it is still a problem, the distraction of our 'modern' world.  Comparison, avoidance, addiction, apathy, there is just so much that we can get sucked into.  And we have given in to a lot more the past few years largely because the worries and troubles have just been a lot.  A lot more than we were prepared for.  But the big storm has passed and the trauma of it all has faded, so there's really no excuses anymore.  It's time to act and choose purposefully rather than reactionary.  

  1. 1.
    the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    "their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition"
  2. 2.
    a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

When I am floundering, I just need hope.  And a plan.  A Mindful December is part of that plan.  This month we are taking some time every day to focus on mindfulness. Day 1, we started with a Mindfulness Journal with these cute journals from Sam's that I had bought a while back and the verse below.

Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The natural question that arose was how do I need to be transformed?  In discussion and in our journals we talked about our weaknesses and how we need to improve.  It was a good thing.  There is still mounds of laundry and a very neglected kitchen floor, but we're setting our gaze in a better spot.  December is one of the best and hardest months depending on the year and who you are.  It is just so full and that fullness - even when it is full of joy - can quickly suck our spirits dry.  I really want my spirit - and my family's spirit - to be full of THE Spirit.  But wanting and accomplishing is not the same and it does not happen over night.  So, one day at a time we're practicing mindfulness in hopes of building our fences in the Spirit.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Baking Butler

Currently, I'm sitting at the bar in my kitchen while Mr. Butler throws together some gingerbread dough while he waits on his butter to soften for the puff pastry he's making for honey poached pears.  The pears are something he wanted to try for Thanksgiving and the gingerbread is largely something to pass the time.  I don't know about you, but baking to pass the time between other baking has never been something I have done. Ever.  He still amazes me at his drive and ability to do anything he decides to.  

A couple of months ago, I stumbled onto The British Baking Show on Netflix and mentioned to him that he would probably like it.  Not easily invested in a television show, I expected him to dismiss me, again.  But a week or so later, after the kids went to bed he sat down and said, "Let's watch that show of yours."  After that he was hooked and had the itch to bake.  I'll have to admit that I get the itch watching it myself and I'm not much of a baker myself.  Since he started, we've had cinnamon rolls, sour dough bread, shortbread, jam, crackers, and today rough puff pastry and gingerbread.

 We honestly do try to limit our break intake as a family, but we have been a little lax lately, especially with Daddy and all his homemade goodies.  It certainly is a wonderful blessing for these homeschool kiddos to learn how to cook all kinds of things.  We've always made a point to include them and give them skills in the kitchen, but this has really taken things to another level.  They love watching the show with us too which seems to have given them a vocabulary boost as well as a lesson in European cultures.

 My nature is far more skiddish and apprehensive about things I don't 'have a lot of experience with, but Mr. Butler just takes care of business when it comes to trying new things.  My children are so blessed to have him, especially to fill in the gaps that I usually leave.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

J and My Motherhood Turn 8

Being the emotional creature that I am, J's pregnancy and first days are seared into my brain.  I knew how fleeting the days were and I just didn't want to miss anything so I wrote and I observed as much as I could.  To this day I can still see the leaves in the yard and the sun streaming into our living room at the time.  We had placed his bed in front of the window to help with a little bit of jaundice.  It wasn't perfect - breastfeeding was way harder than I ever dreamed - but life with him was so exciting and beautiful.

I've told people that I'm just not sad that he's turning 8 because the Race Car looks exactly like him so it's like living it all over again, only easier!  That being said, I do feel like this year has been a turning point.  All of our weaknesses have shown a lot more and we've had to really struggle on some points.  There are times in life when so much is going on or certain big things help you ignore the small issues that are growing larger. When it all calms down, then the real work begins.  That's what 7 to 8 has been for us.

I absolutely love this kid so much because his heart is big.  When he was born, I felt like he immediately hopped to my side and said, "Let's do this, Mom!"  I know and love him because he shares my emotion for things, but that also means I know the dangers set in front of him.  This year, both of us have had to come to terms with who we are and what that might mean for the future.  Avoiding the hard things is an easy choice that becomes a habit when we're not careful.

I'm learning what it means to know your child, even when it tells you more than you're ready to hear about yourself.  Celebrating birthdays are still just as much about the parents as it is the child.  Bringing this child into the world and sustaining life is a big deal and a luxury some don't have.  On Saturday, we'll be celebrating Magic Tree house style, which only makes me love him more.  The adventures of motherhood are continuing to evolve, but a couple of things stay the same.  He has made me grow, he has taught me love and he has brought me joy!

Happy 8th Birthday J!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Master Kitz The Starry Night: A Review

One of the biggest things my years in education has taught me is that with a desire to learn, anyone can learn anything.  Art is one of those subjects that can often get cast aside by people who didn't naturally love it or somehow got the idea that they "aren't good at it."  We do so much disservice when we eliminate a subject because we aren't naturally talented at it.  There is just as much (and sometimes more) educational and developmental value to artistic pursuits as math or science. It seems to me that we just need more opportunity to develop artistic skills.  My kids are all expected to sing, read music, learn instruments, and draw/paint regularly - not because I knew from the womb they would be gifted at it, but I know that with repetition their educational development will be enhanced and they will obtain some kind of proficiency in those skills.  Like learning to use a knife or greeting people, I believe equipping our kids with all kinds of knowledge (not just the kind they are naturally gifted at) is a vital part of education.  Today we're reviewing an art kit from that helps students create projects that resemble the masters and teaches important elements about that artist.   Master Kitz The Starry Night, available on Amazon and on their website here, equips students to create their own version of Vincent Van Gogh's famous painting.

In our kit we received 2 pieces of sturdy paper, 1 stencil, 1 page of stickers, 3 bottles of paint, 1 sponge roller, 1 patterned roller, 4 oil pastels, 1 page of instructions and 1 booklet of information on Vincent Van Gogh.

This photo was after we had used it so the paper is missing.

Since there were two pieces of paper, we planned from the start for J (almost 8) and miss Z (5) to each make one.  One of the first things I would note is that the stencil comes rolled up in the box.  When we set out to paint, I hadn't thought about that and the stencil was very difficult to keep flat.  We ended up having to tape it, but it wasn't ideal.  In the future, I would recommend flattening it out with a heavy book on top of it to make it more usable.

The second challenge was using the stickers the second time.  They did not come off of J's page very easily (some of them ripped) and then didn't stick to miss Z's very well. However, they were essentially just circle stickers of varying sizes that could be bought in any office or craft department. 

Other than that, the instructions were clear and the rest of the elements were easy to use.  After being introduced to this process, it can now be easily repeated with the addition of more paper and paint. 

Are you afraid of diving into art projects like this?  The kits from make it easy and guide you step by step.  If you want to take it further, you have been beautifully set up.  If you're just looking for an introduction, this fits the bill! They also have sculpting kits that look super interesting!  Check out on social media and find out what kind of an experience other families had by reading the Crew Reviews. on Social Media:

Master Kitz The Starry Night { Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Lester Dougherty: A Joyful Spirit

As we move through life, there are certain places and people that serve as beautiful background music that weaves in and out of our focus.  After my parents sold my childhood home, it took a few years but I eventually grieved over that house - imperfections and all.  I didn't appreciate all that it was until it was long gone.  Other times you know the value of something - or someone - and dread a day in the future when they won't be around.  This week a very special man, Lester Dougherty, died and has since changed the soundtrack of the lives who knew him with his leaving. 

One of the most memorable things about growing up in the church of Christ is the singing.  I have been blessed to be part of congregations who could sing and sing well!   But that doesn't happen by accident.  It happens because of people who not only love singing, but they pursue it in worship and outside it.  Lester has always been one of those people.  With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, I have witnessed him lead songs over a thousand times in my lifetime.  Even with illness here and there over the last few years, that has remained a constant image.  Since I've never been without that image for very long, it just doesn't compute that the song is really over.

In our very technology and media heavy world, you see skills being passed down from generation to generation less and less.  I'm so proud and thankful to have witnessed Lester's sharing of music with so many, including my children.  Just watching him lead songs and sing in their few years has begun the groundwork for many years to come.  Sometimes I think it was even without trying.  He had an enthusiasm and joy that can't be taught and you just don't see very often.  

I was telling J good night and he told me - without me even asking him - what his favorite memory of Lester was.  "I remember that time he taught me that great trick.  He would put a quarter on his elbow and then catch it.  But he would tell me to close my eyes and he would put it in my pocket!  I loved that!"  His song-leading is iconic in my mind, but even more he was a very good man.

There is so much power in your influence.  I have been so blessed by Lester's.  Don't waste yours on things that don't matter.  Use it for good.