Friday, February 26, 2016

Creativity Counts

There are a lot of unnecessary things in this world, including some toys, that any child could live their entire life without and be just fine.  Collecting things for things sake just isn't worthwhile.  And when you have kids, before you know it you have collected an army of things.  So raising little consumers is not on my list of to dos.  Our culture is doing a perfectly fine job already.  I am, however, in great support of creativity and imagination play.

As the picture suggests, my children are unnecessarily blessed by loving family members who will buy them things and these particular presents were met with much enthusiasm! After a long day of play away from home, they came back and seemed to be set on (creative) fire by these role play sets (a pilot and a chef).  They have since jumped into a  pretend play roller coaster full of ideas.

Buying something new in the name of creativity isn't necessary either, but when we do have the opportunities to purchase things, I say creativity counts.  Especially when well-meaning friends and grandparents are going to spend money anyway, items that encourage pretend play and imagination building are more worth the money than some options out there.

I might be a little hypocritical in this next statement, seeing as I haven't actually partaken in much creativity myself lately, but it's on my list.  Those coloring books for adults that is the latest trend in stress relief are something that I say is worth some money, at least.  Some people are blessed with really creative jobs.  Others haven't done a creative thing in several years.  Of course, being creative can look like a lot of different things, but the point is that we are missing it a lot as adults.  Telling someone you spent an hour coloring last night or doing a new dot-to-dot book probably sounds embarrassing or lazy, but we need creative outlets because we are creative beings.  Find yours and don't squelch your child's either!  Creativity sparks a better way of living.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Fun Night Out

One of my favorite qualities of Mr. Butler is his love of learning and new experiences.  Sometimes it drives me crazy when we're on vacation and I just want a normal, familiar place to eat, but for the most part he has widened my experience of the world in great ways like no one else has!  For my birthday, Mr. Butler bought mid-season tickets to our local Jewel Box Theatre and it was just as much a present to him as it was me.  Our first show, 'As Long As We Both Shall Live' was a couple of weekends ago and we had fun night out and so of course we had a built in date night.  The tickets were inexpensive as theater goes and Iron Star Urban BBQ was right around the corner, so we had to try it out.  

Dinner was yummy, the show was a lot of fun and the actors were quite impressive.  They all did a great job, but I have to especially make note of Alex Prather who played 4 different characters and did so with much hilarity.  The theater is a circle and not a bad seat in the house.  We had a lot of fun just being married for an evening.

Whenever I hear about men and women who just don't do right by their spouses, from all out cheating and abandonment to simply living a self-focused, unappreciative life next to a mate, it just convicts me further how careful and particular we should be when dating - and I'm thinking about my kids now.  A good mate is worth eternally more than we can know at the time.  But even more importantly, even when we BOTH start out as less than stellar mates, God can heal and beautify even the ugliest of circumstances.  

I guess my point in this is that dating - especially after marriage and kids - can be really fun and very important!  It's necessary for Mr. Butler and I to stay on a healthy path in our marriage, but just as important, our children need to see good examples of dating and marriage for their own futures.  In any relationship (romantic or otherwise), feeding it and showing it new experiences is mandatory for healthy growth.  So, what new experience have you tried lately?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Butler's Annual Valentine's Family Dinner

A couple of times over the course of our marriage, we have cooked a nice dinner, dressed up and used some fancy glassware for Valentine's Day.  After J was born, I decided I wanted to do it again, but it seemed silly to get a babysitter for us to stay home.  So, our annual family V-day dinner was born!  This year did not disappoint!  First, there was a bit lost in translation that had a fun result.
Me: "So for our special dinner tonight we're all going to get dressed up so you'll need to go pick out what you'd like to wear.
Miss Z's big eyes are getting bigger and she starts to squeal with excitement.
J: I don't know what I should wear. 
Me: You could wear a sweater or a nice shirt.  I can help you later, if I need to.
J: (His eyes start getting really happy all of a sudden.) I don't know if I should be a pirate or Woody (from Toy Story).
Me: No, I don't mean to dress up as a person.  I meant dress up in nice clothes.
J: But you said dress up!?

The definition of dress-up was left wide open this year and it worked out alright!

Miss Z chose a princess with boots and J opted for Woody.

We went with more traditional attire.

Then there is always a fun treat for dessert.  It was a little chilly but not too bad to use the fire pit and I thought I would give the healthier versions of 'Smores try.

I thought they were delicious!

And everyone else agreed!
 And of course once I ditched the heels, miss Z had to give them a try.  

Finally, we used the dinner as an opportunity to tell everyone why we loved each other. With a 5 year old and a 2 1/2 year old parrot, things were pretty interesting!

In some ways I guess it is a fluff tradition to keep, but I have 3 reasons I plan to continue it.

1) It's FUN! Getting dressed (however you define it) is fun! Using fancy dishes is fun! And special treats are fun!

2) Special dinners and intentional family time is important.  Life is busy and will only become more so.  Now is the time to invest in our family identity, our memories and appreciation of each other.

3) Valentine's Day is saturated with romance and not enough real love.  I fully support romance and celebrating your valentine (mine's pretty great), but everyone will not always have a romantic valentine every year.  Learning to love and celebrate others on this 'hallmark holiday' is something we could use more of rather than more pressure to meet expectations.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Taking Pride In Your Home: The Double-Edged Sword

Home.  When we are blessed with the responsibility of making a home out of walls and doors, if you're anything like me, things can get a little...complicated.  I come from a line of sensitive pack-rats who find it hard to let go of things - things that I could use one day, things that remind me of a special time, things someone gave me, things I never got around to doing but wish I did - and that makes things like decorating or spring cleaning...interesting.  Finding a balance in things is always my goal - mostly because our human nature is to rush the extremes - and taking an appropriate amount of pride in a home is an area I need a lot of balance in.

There's one extreme where you take no pride in your home.  That might look like never cleaning ever or doing nothing to make your family or guests feel comfortable in your home.  Sometimes this extreme comes from pure ignorance.  If things like decorating or housekeeping don't come naturally or weren't taught, sometimes you just don't know any better.  Other times it could be perfectionism gone wrong.  Since I can't have X (a bigger house, newer things, more things, not have to work, etc.), then I'm just not going to mess with any of it. I am guilty of that one a lot.  And it could be the sincere belief that due to some issue like the size or condition of a house that there really isn't anything that can be done to make a house more comfortable or welcoming.  Whatever the case, it is an extreme that isn't healthy.

The other extreme is taking so much pride in your home that you forget what is important and what the home is there for: people.  This might look like spending all your time cleaning and neglecting other responsibilities like playing with your kids or cultivating other relationships.  Or your clean house is so important that you can't allow kids or unruly guests into your home because they will tarnish it.  It could also look like spending a considerable amount of money on furniture and decorations when you can't really afford to or refuse to be generous in other areas.  This extreme is typically characterized by a huge lack of contentment.  Contentment with our spaces, contentment with what others think of us and contentment with our own realities.  This is really the crux of most issues when it comes to our homes.

As a sensitive girl who is largely motivated by relationships and a desire to do the right thing, what you think of me matters a whole lot more than it should.  So then what you think of anything I do, say or OWN instantly comes into play as well.  To that end, especially at our previous house, I struggled to make homemaking decisions (especially decor) within the constrains of feasibility, what I actually liked, and what I felt compelled to do.  It's the last one that always messed everything up.  With the blank canvas of our new space, I've been forcing myself to not hang much on the walls or buy new anything.  And the struggle is real.  We don't need to spend the money and I want to fill my corners and walls the way I really like, not just to fill space.  But I have to regularly squelch the little monster that says, "What will people think, Amy?  You're so lazy that you STILL haven't gotten anything on the walls?  What's the matter with you!?!"  See, I know it doesn't matter.  My family is comfortable and happy, to my knowledge guests in my home are not grossed out or hurt in any way because there isn't a great picture wall or gigantic mantel piece.  But that comparison bug is constantly pushing for me to be discontent, regardless of the issue.  I had a smaller, less updated home and I struggled with being content.  I now have a larger, updated home and being content is still a struggle.

So, what then?  Contentment - like self-control or healthy eating - takes intentional work. And homemaking, entertaining, decorating and creating a home takes a balanced effort.  How we feel in our home, as residents or guests, matters toward our relationships and our service to God so it is important to work at it.  But that home - be it on a mountaintop or in a bunker deep below - should never take priority over the people it houses or the God who provides it.  When we obsess over filling space, squander savings over feelings of self-worth or idolize our every room, we are missing the point completely.  Of course, I'm still figuring all of this out myself, but it seems like there are a few guidelines that can help us stay balanced.

-Make homemaking and entertaining a priority some of the time.

-Insist on living within your means and circumstances. 

-Always, always ask yourself if the people (including you) in your life are getting what they need out of your relationship.  If not, then all the things in the world don't matter.

-When you are making choices about your living space, focus on what brings you and your family joy.  Most everything else is probably just an attempt to please some ambiguous 'them' and shouldn't matter anyway.