Friday, December 11, 2015

Helping Kids Remember the Reason for the Season

To You:

I absolutely love this time of year!  As the lights go up around town and the radio plays Christmas music nonstop, there are so many reasons to rejoice.  Yesterday I drove by our little village square and loved the fact that displayed side by side were a nativity scene and a Chanukah menorah.  I am grateful to live in a place where cultural diversity is embraced.  I know not everyone feels it, but it is such a worthy goal to love and be loved regardless of religion or lack of it.  That love is what this season is really all about.  Whatever its origins, Christmas for me today stands for Christ, the ultimate example of pure love.  Christ said, "Love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34).  As He spent His life in service and then gave His life as a sacrifice, Jesus Christ truly showed what it means to really love.  What a perfect time of year to focus on Him and and help our children have opportunities to feel the Lord's love and share it.

It can be easy to get caught up in shopping, get-togethers, Santa lists, and travel plans, so I have compiled a list of ideas to help our kids remember the true reason for the season.  Much thanks goes to my parents who started many of these traditions with us when we were kids.  Thank you for making the season magical in all the right ways...

Ideas for Helping Kids Remember the Reason for the Season

  • Participate in a Community Donation or Secret Santa
    • Options are plentiful this time of year!  Involve the kids as you choose a donation to support.  I never feel like I need to participate in all of them obviously, but let the kids think about what a child like them would want for Christmas, and then give it away.
  • Make a Blanket

    • This year we encouraged the kids to save some of their birthday money to buy fleece to make blankets.  The kids loved it!!!  They each chose fleece, cut it, and tied it.  Our four-year-old needed help, but my six and eight-year-old surprised me with their focus and interest. We donated to Project Linus who has chapters nationwide that provide blankets for kids in local hospitals.  You can also contact a hospital or homeless shelter directly about donations.
    They all got pretty snuggly with their blankets!
  • Christ-Centered Advent Calendar
    • The advent calendar is a tradition dating back to the 19th century.  The countdown to Christmas is fun for children as well as adults.  You can use this free printable to make your own Christ-centered advent calendar.  Enjoying growing together as you read scriptures, discuss the reason for the season, and apply Christ's teachings.  It's no problem to start late, just choose your favorites for the remainder of the season.
  • Narrated Nativity
    • Instead of just putting up your nativity decoration, read the story of the nativity found in Luke Chapter 2 and Matthew Chapter 2.  As you read about the different events and people of the nativity story, take turns placing the corresponding decorative piece into the nativity scene.
  • Sing
    • Sing, sing, sing!  Christmas carols bring cheer.  Use Sunday to especially listen to soft versions of the carols and Christ-centered hymns, like this incredible song.  Sing one of these Christ-focused carols before bed each night.
  • Nativity Play
    • Read the story of the nativity from the Bible as you act it out.  This is a favorite family tradition that we have always done on Christmas Eve.
  • Secret Service Ornaments
    • Make several small ornaments or use red and green craft fuzzy balls.  When someone does a service for another person, they can put an ornament on the tree or a fuzzy ball in the jar.  See how many you can do before Christmas.
  • Carol
    • "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!"  Yes, we love Elf, and we love caroling!  I don't think growing up we ever missed a year of piling into the minivan, driving around town, dropping off goodies, and singing to our friends of all faiths.  It may be a lost tradition, but in my experience, even out-of-tune voices are appreciated.  Avoid "To-Do List Overload" by starting early and keeping gifts simple.  Consider caroling at a nursing home or hospital–another childhood Christmas Eve tradition.  (It's a good idea to contact the location before going and see what their guidelines and schedules are.)  Kids can make cards or simple ornaments to give away, but their smiles are always enough!
  • Read
  • Talk about Symbols
    • The Christmas lights around town can remind us that Christ is the Light of the World (John 8:12).  Candy canes can remind us of the shepherds' crooks of those that visited the baby Jesus and that Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).  This site has a cute free small printable booklet for kids about Christmas symbols.  This site has a simple list for reference.  When it comes to symbols there is no right or wrong of course.  (The candy cane upside down can also be a J for Jesus!)  Talking about these symbols can help us each learn and turn our minds more frequently to the things that matter most.
  • Wise Men Give Gifts
    • Read Matthew 2:1-12.  Discuss what it means to be wise and how these men displayed wisdom as they knew the signs of the coming of the Savior, travelled to see Him, and brought Him gifts.  Talk about what gold, frankincense, and myrrh are and how they were valuable treasures.  Discuss what kinds of gifts Christ would like today.  Each person write down one gift he or she can give to the Savior.  Put it in the package and place the wrapped package under the tree.  Open the gift on Christmas and see how well you've each done giving your gift to Christ.
  • Play Nativity Set
    • Have a nativity scene that the kids can play with.  My mom always had a soft set, and we have the Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Playset.  Pull this out at Christmastime, and be amazed by how much the kids love to imagine and play with it.
  • Write a Letter
    • Write letters or make cards for homebound friends, servicemen (can check with local Red Cross chapter about if they participate in "Holiday Mail for Heroes"), local hospitals, missionaries, or anyone you feel would appreciate the thought.  Keep it simple with crayons or mix it up with paints, glitter glue, stickers, or stamps.
  • Family Gift Exchange
    • Get the kids thinking about other people's presents.  :)  Large families can draw names and exchange gifts with one sibling or cousin to cut down on costs yet make sure everyone is included.  
  • Remember What's Important
    • This is for me!  We can plan and plan activities to help our kids remember the reason for the season, but if we ourselves are distracted by shopping, to-do lists, and the chaos of the times, if we haven't really internalized that meaning, the Spirit of Christmas will not pervade our homes as deeply.  If we ensure that our personal thoughts, prayers, scripture reading, and motives are focused on Christ, this will have a greater impact on our children than anything we can plan.  As I read tonight, I was struck by Christ calling out those "which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Matthew 23:24).  As we try to help our kids remember, let's avoid hypocrisy and focus ourselves on those things that really do matter.  Are our children feeling Christ's love for them?  Are we showing forth Christ's love for others?  
    • The best Christmas is a Simple Christmas.
    • What matters most to you?  What makes your Christmas meaningful?

We just received a Christmas card from some of our dear friends.  He has been fighting cancer, and they have been a tremendous example to us of living with faith.  I was struck as I read a line on their card: "We count it a blessing to be together for Christmas and enjoy sweet moments with our children."  Surely those are not empty words. 

I hope that each of you will have reason to rejoice this holiday season as we help our children, and ourselves, remember the true reason for the season.

Love, Marielle

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

What Island Life Taught Me About Keeping a Tidy House: Secrets to a Tidy (Enough) House Part I

To You:

Housekeeping is a necessary part of life.  Sometimes, especially with kids, it seems like an endless array of laundry, dishes, spills, and clutter.  Counteract that with the fact that it is enjoyable to live in a space that feels organized.  It is rewarding to see the floor after a full day of toys, and it is reassuring to know that toilet is clean when you sit on it.  I believe we function and feel better when we are in an appropriately tidy space.  (For an interesting discussion on some of the possible science behind this, check out this blog with its related article.)  The constancy of necessary cleaning and the benefits of being clean may lead to a lot of time spent cleaning!

However, I am here to tell us all that housekeeping doesn't need to take over our lives.  In my home, housekeeping is important, but not a priority...meaning it is not where I want to spend the majority of my time.  I am the first to admit that there are many homes much cleaner than ours.  When you come to my house,  you may find a messy corner or a dirty floor now and then, but you will also find a woman content in her station and spending time doing what she loves (things like being with my family, exercising, reading, and continuing to learn).  As with a majority of activities in life, housekeeping becomes a balancing act.   I love a clean and tidy home and there are some tips and ideas that I have learned to help me balance a clean home with a full life.  In other words, how can we keep a clean house in minimal time?  I've broken these tips into several posts, and here is the first.

I would briefly add here that I am grateful to be able to afford a home and "stuff" and to have kids and all that comes along with them.  There are so many who would love the "problem" of how to keep a home clean.  Thus, I guess the beginning of balance (or peace about tidiness) comes from "gratitude in all things."  :)  Now on with the story...

Secret #1 to a Tidy (Enough) House and How I Really Learned It

We had the opportunity to live on a Caribbean Island for a year and a half.  Yes, it was beautiful!  Magnificent snorkeling and kind, friendly people.  I would definitely recommend a vacation.  Our life there was life though, not just a vacation.  We were on a student budget with three kids rather than a tourist budget.  When we moved to the island, we took the equivalent of five suitcases and a few carry-ons.  What would you pack in your five suitcases for a year and a half in an unknown place, realizing you were going to spend as little money as possible once you got there?  No really, what would you pack?  Here is Secret #1:

SIMPLIFY by thinking VARIETY and limiting QUANTITY.   

I realized pretty quickly that the kids didn't need quite as many clothes as they had in their closets.  (Neither did I!)  I didn't need as many pots as I had, and they definitely didn't need as many toys.  I looked through my pictures to find one of our toy basket on the island...
Yep...That's It!  The white one back there.

This was the full extent of our toy storage for a year and a half and three children.  The kids each had a few special things in their bedroom, like a stuffed animal or book.  We also had one cupboard with puzzles, games, and craft supplies.  The cupboard right behind the white toy basket held books.  Guess how quickly we could pick-up the entire house?  :) 

Having lived this way, I realized we REALLY don't need as much "stuff" in life as we either think we do or accidentally accumulate.  Kids CAN play with the same toys over and over again.  How often has a birthday gift been enjoyed and then forgotten because a new toy came along?  When that new one doesn't come along, kids often get more creative with the old toys in finding new ways to use them.  Kids can imagine and create without any toys at all.  Kids can spend more time outside–yes, having lived in both Buffalo and Chicago–even in the winter there are some outdoor opportunities!  Kids can spend more time in books and conversation.  I can wear the same dress every three weeks.  I'm not suggesting that we all give away everything and go live in a van down by the river (although some days that's tempting), but if the stuff in our lives is making life harder rather than better, it's time to cut back.  Simplify.  The old adage, "Less is more," definitely applies here.  Not only is less stuff insanely easier to keep tidy, it also, in my experience, is better for the kids and us.

For our family, the island was a unique and wonderful period of life.  We enjoyed nature, people, creativity, and especially each other to a new extent.  A wonderful side-product of that life was a home that was easy and quick to keep tidy.

You Can Do It Too...Here's How

Here are some questions and tips to help you both limit and make the most of the "stuff" in your own home.


Think variety in your home.  When tidying (aka decluttering), eliminate your least favorites when multiple things serve the same purpose.  For example...

Do you have toy(s) or activities that encourage: 

-Pretend grown-up play like dress-up, kitchen sets, doctor bag, or dolls?  (Think other occupations: a box, a bag, and some paper can make for a great post-office.)
-Imaginative interaction like small dinosaurs, cars, or figurines?
-Creativity like a variety of craft supplies or a building set?
-Large muscle movement like bikes, jump ropes, or sports equipment?
-Small muscle movement like blocks or legos?
-Problem solving like games or puzzles?
-Team work like games or sports equipment?
-Musical interest like CDs or instruments?
-Reading readiness or knowledge acquisition like magnetic letters, foam bath letters, and books of all kinds?

*Choosing one or two quality toys or activities from each of these areas of growth is healthy and sufficient for kids.  

One way to add variety to play without having so much stuff available to make a mess is to use some kind of toy rotation.  I do this with my baby toys.  I have a small basket of baby toys out and available and a small box in the closet.  Periodically I rotate the toys, giving a sense of newness and variety without actually adding to the amount in the basket.  You could try this with craft supplies or by having some special toys that only come out periodically say at holidays.  However, beware of keeping too much stuff in storage that doesn't get used or enjoyed!

The same idea applies to our own closets and family spaces.  

Do you have a variety of clothes you really like, rather than just a lot of clothes?  Do you really need four ladles or would two in different sizes suffice?  Got three flathead screwdrivers?  Maybe one flathead and one Phillips would get the job done.


There is a Frugal Force inside me.  Usually she's my Friend, but I am learning that sometimes in my quest to limit quantity, she can be my Foe.  This frugality encourages getting cheap things because they are cheap and keeping things because I might need them someday, even if they don't bring me joy.  How can I overcome this Frugal Foe when necessary and keep life simple?

Realize it is harder to get rid of stuff once I already have it, so try to limit the accumulation.

1.)  I love your junk, but...
             Just because something is a good deal, or even free, it does not mean you need it!  Beware of Craigslist and friendly looking garage sales that easily heap upon us cheep things we don't really need!  :)  I was thinking about this post when I drove by the above sign.  It was so perfect I turned around, pulled over, and took a picture.  Let us learn how to say, "I love your junk, but no thank you!"  I have worn hand-me-down clothes my entire life and am thankful for those who have shared with me.  However, getting things free can also mean getting too many things!  I am now comfortable only keeping those things I really like or that fill a need.  I had a friend who would giggle at my "minimalist" ways.  She would offer me a stack of books her kids had grown out of and I would look through for 1-3 that I really liked.  She always knew that we really appreciated and enjoyed the things we accepted from them.  To this day, I recognize which books and toys came from this family and am grateful for them!

2.)  Make getting new things a special occasion rather than the norm.  
            This hit home again on the island when new things came very scarcely.  Kids appreciate toys more when they've had to wait for them (i.e. for a birthday or after saving some of their own money).  The same goes for clothes or kitchen items we may want for ourselves.  If you just can't pass up that great deal, go ahead and get it now but consider putting it up in your closet until the occasion comes along to pull it out.

3.)  Try "one in, one out."  
            This is especially helpful for clothes.  If you go shopping and buy new clothes, pull out a few old ones that the new ones can replace.  If you get a new toy, find one to pass on.  If you get a new vase you love, pull out your least favorite.

Once in a while, go through and find some things to pass on to others.

Returning to the States also meant returning to our storage stuff!

1.)  Involve the kids.
           There are always other people who would appreciate a toy rotation or addition to their collection.  There are school garage sales, Salvation Army, and other worthy donation centers.  Tell the kids about the need and let them choose some things to give away.  It is a good way to help kids not be too attached to "things" rather than people and also to allow them to help others.  

2.)  A Picture is Worth a Thousand...
           ...Shelves.  If you have something that is sentimental but never used or admired, take a picture of it.  Think about all those trophies on the shelf or the kids' old art work.  Taking a picture allows the memory to live on without taking up space or cluttering closets.  Pictures can be printed and slipped into picture protectors in binders, or in today's world, digital books are easy to make and enjoy.

3.)  Find a "Half-way House" for things.
          I am very frugal and tend to keep things because "I might need this someday, and I don't want to have to spend money again to get it!"  You never know, a fourth hammer might come in handy if someone wants to help with my DIY project!  That ginormous stack of old magazines might be perfect for a future art project!  So, I use a Half-way House.  Go through and pull out things you may be okay giving away.  Without the definite "this is gone" feeling, more items end up in this stack.  Put them in a box in an out of the way place like the garage, closet, or under the bed.  Add to the box as needed.  Periodically go through the box.  Anything you haven't missed or wanted is now much easier to give away.  (Turns out a third of those magazines was sufficient after all!)  I especially use this with my own clothes.  

Good luck with your clean-outs and clean-ups!  Let me know how it goes!  Do you have any other tips regarding thinking Variety and limiting Quantity?  How do you Simplify in your life?  As we simplify in our homes and closets, tidiness will be a natural reward.  I hope as you are able to spend less time cleaning up, you will be able to spend more quality time doing what you love with those you love.

Love, Marielle

Stay tuned for future Secrets to a Tidy (Enough) House!

Shared at some or all of these link parties.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mountain Moving Principles to Help People Change

To You:

I remember it clearly.  The summer sun shown down on me, drying my wet hair from our recent excursion to the neighborhood pool.  I peddled my bike down the middle of our quiet street, but my mind wasn't on the pool or the bike:  it was on my upcoming seventh grade.  I always loved school.  I loved learning and felt confident in my abilities there.  I had friends.  Those weren't the problem.  As I envisioned my problem, the quintessential image is me during a break in 6th grade Social Studies class, and instead of going out with the other kids, I sit at my desk reading a book.  Maybe it was only my perception, maybe I wasn't really shy, but that day I realized that I wanted to be more outgoing; I wanted to be more comfortable in conversation.  So, I went about trying to change.

Fast forward a couple decades, and I have an incredible daughter.  I love this girl.  She is one of my dearest friends.  Much of my central purpose is helping her learn everything I am possibly able to teach her.  Some of those lessons are deep:  You are a beautiful Daughter of God with infinite worth.  Some of those lessons are shallow:  Clothes go in your drawer.  Whatever it is, whatever our age, we are all trying to learn, and real learning is changing.

Change can be hard, really hard.  It may feel like we are being asked to move a mountain.  However, the overarching truth is that we are all capable of change.  Yep, I have zero tolerance for, "That's just the way I am."  I believe we are living this life in order to change.  We are here precisely so that we can utilize our God-given ability to act and to become something better than we were yesterday.  If there is a desire to change, be it in our own lives or to help our children change, there are some principles that will help us eventually move that mountain.   Let's look at those principles with real-life applications.  The purpose of this free printable worksheet and blog post is to help you answer a question:  How can I apply these principles to effect meaningful change in my own life?

Aim to Replace, Not Just Remove

If I really asked you to move a mountain and you started at the bottom, pulling out boulders, that mountain would eventually lose balance and topple, crushing everything below it.  When we are trying to change habits, we cannot leave a void or our efforts will topple.  We need to replace the undesired habit with a good one.  Another common analogy is that we cannot remove darkness; we can only replace it with light.


  • Me:  Instead of "Don't be shy," I strove for new habits like, "Look for someone to meet." "Practice asking people about their lives."  "Be willing to sound foolish sometimes."  (I've gotten really good at that willingness!)
  • Daughter:  Instead of "Don't be messy," think "Put clothes in drawer when I take them off."  "Keep floor clean."

Select Small Rocks

If in the end we want to move a mountain, we have to start with little rocks.  Over time our muscles will be conditioned and we will be able to lift heavier and heavier boulders, but to begin we need to make it manageable.  Start with goals to change that are small.  Progress upon those goals.


  • Me:  Mountain = Be outgoing.  Small Rocks = Before a social situation, brainstorm questions you can ask people.  Do homework at home instead of during breaks.  Talk to one new person each week. 
  • Daughter:  Mountain = Be Neat and Tidy.  Small Rocks =  Clean my bedroom floor when I go to bed with a reminder from Mom.  Clean my floor when I go to bed without a reminder.  Keep my floor clean all the time.

Evaluate, Congratulate, and Reassess

Once in a while, step back and see how things are going.  Are you still working on the same mountain?  Are you making progress?  If you are a visual person, you may want to use a checklist, calendar, or a chart (like the free printable found here) to help track progress.  Congratulate success.  Reassess if things need to change.  Sometimes we realize we really don't want to make the change.  That's okay.  Just be honest with yourself.  Don't say you are going to eat healthy if you really don't want to and you really are not going to do it.  That only leads to a cycle of disappointment and feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you can make the end goal smaller or put it on hold.  Remember: today's goal is progress, not perfection.


  • Me:  This process was entirely mental for me.  I didn't have a chart, but assessed myself by how I felt about myself.  When I realized at the end of 7th grade that I had made a completely new group of friends in addition to my previous ones, I felt that my efforts were working.
  • Daughter:  We have "reminder chats" (aka lectures:) when needed.  After she did a good job cleaning up with reminders, we moved to no reminders.  I remember to give her sincere words of praise for her clean room.  Many kids appreciate stickers or smiley faces on their checklist.

Choose Meaningful Incentives

Sometimes seeing the mountain move is all the incentive we need.  This may be the case if the motivation to change is deep or if the natural negative results are quickly and clearly evident.  However, other times the mountain's movement is so small or the way so difficult that an imposed motivation is helpful.  This may happen if we are trying to change because we know we should rather than because we really want to.  Maybe we know our children need to change even if they don't want to at all.  (That pretty much sums up parenting of some children. :)  In this case, we need to understand what kind of "imposed" incentives are most helpful.

Consequences are results of our actions.  They are both good and bad.  Imposed incentives or consequences that are directly connected to the habit we are trying to change, teach us and our children the true nature of life's consequences.  That true nature is that all actions have consequences: we get to choose our actions, but cannot change the consequences, we can only deal with them.  Choose consequences that are connected to the habit or area of desired change.

Additionally, follow-through is paramount to any successful incentive.  Do not say a consequence either good or bad if you are not prepared to follow-through.  Lack of follow-through in imposed consequences teaches us and our children the opposite lesson of natural consequences (that we can pick and choose the consequences we'll face from our actions), and eventually we will all have to deal with the fall out from that misconception.

For example, if 3-year-old Timmy is refusing to leave the playground, do not threaten him with, "Well, we will just leave without you then!"  Um, really?  You both know you will never leave your young, innocent, beautiful child in a big, public place alone to be ravaged by the scary strangers we hear about in the late night news.  Why say it then?  Choose consequences for which you are both willing and able to follow-through.

In the playground case, the incentive our family has chosen is, "However long it takes you to obey is how long you will miss out on playing the next time we come."  Then look at the watch and follow through.  It only takes one or two times of the child sitting out while everyone else plays for him to remember to leave when asked.  Another option we have used is to ask the kids to leave about five minutes before we really need to go.  If there is no arguing or asking for more, then we praise them and extend the time.


  • Me: All I needed was to feel better about it!  No ulterior incentive needed.
  • Daughter: "All the clothes you put away, you get to keep!"  This child loves clothes!  After bedtime, I collect everything left on the floor and keep it for two weeks.  I am always sure to check-in the next morning.  Depending on the mood:  "I am so excited that I got a new pair of jeans last night!" with a teasing tickle.  OR "What a bummer you won't get to wear that new pair of jeans for a couple weeks," with an understanding hug. OR "Your bedroom was perfectly clean last night.  Great job!"

Keep Eyes on the Peak

I'd like to draw another mountain parallel.  I had the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro several years ago.  It was a thrilling and beautiful experience for my sister and me.  Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world with an elevation of over 19,000 feet at it's highest, Uhuru Peak.  The climb was 6 days long through an incredible array of climates.  One day we were in the rainforest, the next the desert.  Glaciers cap the mountain.

Each day we strategically increased our elevation and then descended part way to allow our bodies to acclimate to the altitude.  I remember descending one night into camp and seeing the peak that had been hidden from view all day.  Even with this judicious planning, I had a pretty intense headache and nausea one day.  Finally on the way to dinner, I lost it.  I have never been more grateful to vomit: it was sudden relief.  However, one member of our group got extreme altitude sickness and didn't feel better until our final descent.  If we had attempted to hike straight up the mountain, each of us could have been afflicted with headaches, dizziness, confusion, no energy, difficulty breathing, and in severe cases, death.  The gradual increase and decrease of elevation on a steady path forward is what allowed us to summit that great mountain.

Perhaps this life-saving ascending-descending pattern parallels the way we can look at our ability to change.  Uhuru Peak is our goal of how we want to change or what we want to become.  We make a plan shooting for the peak and work hard to get there.  At times, we may feel that we are descending though.  Maybe after working so hard for it, we don't get that new job.  Maybe we forget and yell at the kids again.  Maybe the way forward seems harder than ever.  At these times, we would do well to be kind with ourselves.  We are still on the way; we can still see that beautiful peak looming in the distance.  This may just be the path to get there.  Do not expect yourself to be able to ascend 19,000 feet overnight.  Do not get discouraged and turn around if partial descent occurs.  Keep eyes on the peak and keep progressing.

A Summit-Reaching Truth

We cannot move mountains, or climb them, on our own.  We had an amazing team of local guides and porters on our way up Kilimanjaro.  In fact, the fourth day hiking we came across a dropped and splattered watermelon on the path...someone, in order to feed us, had been carrying a watermelon for four days!  Our friend who suffered pretty severe altitude sickness believes she would not have made it without the guide who diligently stayed with her and assisted her along the way.

In my own efforts to make mountainous changes throughout life, my parents, siblings, closest friends, and husband have been powerful influences for good.  I hope I am the same for my daughter and other kids.

As we we strive to grow and change, we ought to surround ourselves with people who will help us.  These people are uplifting and understanding.  We can turn to them for accountability, encouragement, or an example to follow.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has helped millions overcome addiction.  One of the most basic tenets of AA is that one must come "to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."  It is also my experience that if we include God, our Greater Power, in our efforts to change, our ability to change will increase and that change will be more lasting.

I hope these principles encourage and aid you in the ways you desire to change.  I stand as one willing to be your porter...I will help you carry that watermelon!  Or listen to your challenges, or encourage you, or celebrate your successes.  Thank you to those who are mine!

Love, Marielle
PS-  I am really proud of the positive changes my daughter is making!  Her floor has been clean every night for over three weeks!  When I told her what I was blogging about today and showed her the messy picture I took when she was at school just over a month ago, she laughed and said, "You've got to post that!"  She's proud of her own progress too.  Now we just have to get little brother in on the "no reminder" plan!

Monday, October 5, 2015

15 Fun Fall Activities for Kids

To You:

The wind is blowing, the leaves are changing color, the kids are asking for their warmer coats, and I am loving it!  Fall officially arrived this week.  We have been busy doing and planning some fun activities as I relish in the awesomeness that is Fall.  I thought I'd share some of our favorite ideas, printables, and links to make the most of the season.

  1. Pine Cone Bird Feeder
    1. Find a pine cone.  Smother it with peanut butter.  Cover with nuts/seeds/dried fruit/etc.  Hang on a branch to make a backyard bird feeder.
  2. Leaf Rubbing
    • Collect leaves of various shapes and sizes.  Place a leaf under a piece of paper.  Use the side of an unwrapped crayon to rub over the area where the leaf is hidden.  Watch the leaf image magically appear.
  3. Celebrate Squirrels!
    • Click Here for a day's worth of ideas to celebrate these little critters.  Includes a free Squirrel Puppet Printable.
  4. Paint
    • What does fall look like to you?
  5. Leaf Pile Extravaganza
    • Gather leaves.  Play in leaves.  Throw leaves.  It's pretty much the quintessential Autumn activity.
  6. Make a Scarf or Hat
    • Get ready to bundle up!  Children can easily learn to "knit" with a round loom.  If you are a beginner knitter or want to learn, This is my favorite helper.  Consider making one to donate to a Service Member.
  7. Bake
    • Pull out the canned pumpkin my friends!  It is time for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies!  And the kids thought they didn't like pumpkin!  Experiment with the fun squashes found at the grocery store.  Dig into all that comfort food.
  8. Wind Dance with Ribbons or Scarves
    • Try Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2.  You can feel the wind swirling, a storm coming, rain falling, gentle breezes, etc.  Kids LOVE moving to any music while twirling a ribbon or scarf.  Look here for ideas on making and using a windwand.
  9. Make a Gratitude Tree
    • Paint a tree trunk and cut out leaves of various colors.  Every Sunday until Thanksgiving, each family member writes something he or she is grateful for on a leaf and glues it to the tree.  We don't have to wait for turkey to be thankful!
  10. Autumn Scavenger Hunt
    • Go in the backyard, to a park, or on a nature walk.  Use this Printable attached to a paper sack to collect the items.
  11. Playground!
    • It won't be too long until sub-freezing temperatures and heavy snow prohibit extended playground time.  Enjoy it while it lasts!
  12. Provide a Meal
    • As the temperatures drop, it is a good time to discuss those who will do without this season.  Find a food bank or shelter and donate.
  13. Make a Family Tree
    • With all this talk of trees, make a family tree.  Tell the kids stories about you and their grandparents when they were young.  Here is the tree we used.
  14. Apple Day
    • Pick apples, bake with apples, sing about apples, color pictures of apples...
  15. Make a Scarecrow
    • Check out these paper mache scarecrow heads! :)  This is our current project.  Check back later for a picture of our finished scarecrows!

I hope these ideas help you and your little ones enjoy time together in this beautiful world!

Love, Marielle

Shared at A Little Bird Told Me.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Every Dad and Mom Should Know

To You:
I just watched the lunar eclipse.  I sat out on my porch, listened to the crickets, and watched the moon change colors.  It was pretty incredible.  I came inside and was elated to see the family messages start rolling in.  We just welcomed a new nephew into the world today!  And we are getting our first pictures right now!  There is a pair of hands over this little bundle; I recognize them as my brother's.  The new family.  The first bath.  The tininess nestled into his daddy's chest.  There is nothing better!  It's exciting and fun and real.

Do you ever feel like the space inside your chest has grown bigger?  Like you've been enlightened or filled up?  It's hard to describe, but I think it's what people mean when they say, "My heart is full."
Full of gratitude, full of love, and full of awe.  There is so much that is good around us.

So with a full heart, I'd say to the new parents, I don't know anything you don't know, so just keep in mind
What Every Dad and Mom Should Know:

  • You are the most important people in your child's life.  Live worthy of that role.
  • You have the ability to give to your child what you can't really give to anyone else–you have complete stewardship over this baby.  Now is your chance to put all your learning and talents and all that you have become to good in this new baby's life.
  • You did it!  You birthed a baby!  Woohoo!!!  It's pretty amazing that you grew a person inside of you and then got that person out!  You ought to take a bow.
  • Snuggle.  Then snuggle some more for me.  Snuggling a baby is good for the soul: yours and theirs.
  • Life is about to change...roll with it.  As much as you can, laugh at the splattered poop, the sleepless nights, and the "I don't know what to do!!!!" moments.
  • You don't have as much control as you want at times, but you have more than you think at other times.  Figure that one out.  :)
  • Ask for everyone's advice and then take what you feel good about.
  • In the end, I believe the best thing anyone can do for a child is help them know that they are supremely, unconditionally loved, not just by you, but also by the Creator of all.

I can't wait to watch these two incredible people parent.  I can't wait to see this little one grow into a big one.  To see him develop and discover.  To watch his personality unfold. To watch him build relationships and find joy in life.  Love you little man!

Love, Marielle

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Best Moms are Helicopters

To You:

This morning I was trying to exercise.  The three kids were busting some awesome kickboxing moves with me when the littlest one disappeared.  Apparently, he wanted to match his big sister's shirt...that's his new thing...matching.  He and I have been twins for the last couple weeks.  It's pretty endearing.  Anyway, soon enough he was sitting on the top step shirtless and a bit frustrated telling me something.  Truthfully, sadly, I'm not really sure what he was telling me.  I've been getting into exercise choreography and the other two kids were following along beautifully.  Between counting, cuing, punching, and kicking, with music playing, I really didn't hear what my youngest said.  I replied with one of those "usually cuts it" broad comments like, "Ok buddy.  Come on down."  Well, this time it didn't cut it.  He tried again and so did I.  "You're fine.  Come on."  "But MOM!"  "Come here kiddo.  I can't hear what you're telling me."  Now he was crying.  He stomped down the stairs. I leaned over with my feet still moving to the beat as he hollered.  I couldn't understand him.  Finally, it hit me.  I wasn't paying attention to him.  I stopped moving and listened.  "My drawer is stuck Mom!!!"  I took him by the hand, and he led me upstairs.  I fixed his drawer in about 20 seconds, and we looked through it for his matching gray shirt.  No more tears; no more frustration.  We went back downstairs and joined the other two, who were now having a fine time making up their own moves.

A Lesson in Aviation

I love airplanes.  I remember the first time I flew in one.  There was nothing as exciting as taking off.  I looked out the window and saw the clouds below me!  It was beautiful!  It was incredible to me that the airplane could get so many people over the water and so far away in so short a time.

While the airplane powers from Point A to Point B, who do we send for rescue missions?  Who do we send to help the sick, the drowning, and the fire victim?  Helicopters.  Why?  Helicopters hover.  Helicopters can stop where they are, hover, and drop down anywhere.  The world needs airplanes, but the world also needs helicopters.

In our own lives, sometimes we are and need to be airplanes.  We need to power through the to-do list.  We need to get to places and get stuff done.  However, if we are constantly in this mindset, we are missing out.  We are missing out on opportunities to connect with our kids and people around us.  I often remember the quote which reads, "God does notice us, and he watches over us.  But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.  Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other."  When we see a need, we have to be willing to stop going forward with our own plans, learn how we can help, and do it.  We have to be willing to push pause on the music, listen to the need, and help the little boy with his drawer.  We have to be willing to be a helicopter.

Like helicopters, we are often on rescue missions to help the sick, the drowning, and the fire victim.  Although, usually these victims are sick with heartache, drowning in stress, or burning with inward pains.  We may be called to rescue a soul who has lost his or her way in the world and isn't sure where to turn for help.  This past weekend I watched a great movie highlighting the lives of several individuals.  One of the segments showed how a teenage mother was overcome with the stress and frustration of raising her child on her own and losing a second baby right after his birth.  She went into a convenience store and broke down.  The cashier at work noticed this young woman crying and went over to console her.  The cashier offered assistance and this became a turning point in this young mother's life.  What if the cashier had been like me this morning, too busy working to stop and help?

"A Desert Place Apart"

As a Christian, I try to learn from the life of Jesus Christ.  After Christ heard that His cousin and dear friend John had been killed, He sought seclusion with some of the apostles in a "desert place apart" across the water.  John's life was foretold by prophets as one who would prepare the people for the Messiah.  John knew of Christ's mission from the womb and bore testimony of Christ's divinity.  John was worthy to baptize the Son of God.  John was imprisoned prior to his death and then brutally beheaded to satisfy the selfishness and iniquity of a family.  We can only guess what Christ's emotions and thoughts may have been as He learned of the death of this loyal and righteous man.  Christ departed with His apostles for some rest and time apart.  As Christ tried to privately leave the city, many people saw and followed on foot.  The scripture says, "And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14), "And he began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34).  Christ hovered.  He was trying to get from A to B, but en route saw a need.  He stopped, assessed the needs, touched down, and met the needs.  What followed was the great miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fishes.  It appears that Jesus and the apostles did eventually have their needed respite, as Jesus sent the apostles off in a ship and He went into "a mountain apart to pray" (Matthew 14:23).

Helicopters Today

For us, hovering might look like taking an extra minute to talk to someone in the grocery store or pick up dropped items.  It might be stopping to repair a flat tire or locating a parent of a lost child.  Maybe it is moving the garbage can that blew into the road or shoveling a car out of the snow.  It could be hefting luggage for that crazy lady traveling by herself with three kids under the age of six, (thank you kind man!) or taking kids for said crazy lady when she needs to work (thank you dear friends!).  It is usually a small act, but it often encourages others to do likewise.  Sometimes it is not so much an act of service as it is an act of being, being present for the people around you and relishing in that relationship.

The other day, my daughter had a friend over to play.  When the friend's mom came to pick-up, we all went out to say goodbye.  The kids had been playing with their Hoppity Hops.  (I don't know the official name of them, but they are super fun...great gift Grandma!)  As the car drove away, my boys ran down the sidewalk waving.  My daughter asked if we could play a game.  "No," I replied.  We had homework and a piano lesson and clean-up to do.  Meanwhile, the boys at the end of the sidewalk sat on those balls and started hopping back home.  They looked so cute bobbing up and down that I ran in to get my camera.  I filmed them coming in and then took a quick interview about how school was going.  As I filmed, my five-year-old bopped me with his ball.  I put the camera down, and what ensued was an epic battle.  Imagine a boxing match with giant balls on your hands instead of punching gloves.  It was awesome.  The kids were in tears laughing.  Afterward, we laid on the grass and looked for shapes in the clouds.  The boys crunched the first of the fallen leaves.  We jump-roped and practiced roller skating.  It was a beautiful evening.  A memorable evening.  If I had insisted on my plan, I would have missed out.  Usually we do need to get the homework, piano, and cleaning done, but sometimes, sometimes we just need to hover.  We need to stop and enjoy the people around us.  The results of our hovering may not always be life-changing exchanges or miracles, but they will always be sweet.

The more we look for these opportunities to hover, the more we will notice them everywhere:  on the road, at the store, in the office, and in our own homes.  Let us examine our lives.  Are we entirely tied up in our to-do lists and plans for the day?  Or, are we looking for opportunities to help others?  When we see a need, are we willing to put aside our own plans and stop to help?  Are we trying to be rock awesome helicopters?  Because everyone knows, the best moms are helicopters.  Scratch that.  Everyone knows, the best people are helicopters.

Love, Marielle

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Running on Empty?

To You:

We've all been there.  You are sure you love your life, but you just don't know if you can take another day of this. You feel like you are running a marathon that never ends and never awards a winner.  The laundry is not done, the dishes are in the sink, your To-Do list is long and getting longer, the school Halloween party you're supposed to plan is quickly approaching, and wait, did the kids even eat dinner tonight?  You are sure your doctor would cringe at your blood pressure.  You are a manic stress case.

We've also all been here.  For some reason, everything is harder than it should be.  You go to work or get through the day and at the end wonder, "What have I accomplished today?"  Life seems dull, like an old faded newspaper rather than the adventure magazine you thought you signed up for.  You know you chose your life, but you think, "Did I really?  Why again?"  You are in a funk.

Although these two descriptions seem to be on opposite ends of a spectrum, I have come to see them both as results of emotionally running on empty.  I have found that in my life, when I enter these realms of stress or discontent it is either the cause or the effect of my forgetting what life is really all about.  I am disconnected from what really matters.  That disconnect makes life's tasks seem overwhelming or unimportant.  Some of us feel like we spend the majority of our lives feeling either stressed or down.  Others tend to go there once in a while, but like the Hotel California, once we are there, feel that we can never leave.  The state of our lives is a result of our upbringing, our personality, our life choices, our genetics, our breakfast choice, our local weather, our...
 Regardless, I believe that wherever we stand now, we have choices to make and those choices can help bring us to a better place.  A place of a little bit more calm, peace, and contentment.  I have seen people raise 8 active children and seem to remain calm–at least a lot of the time.  :)  I have seen others meet life's deepest difficulties with a smile.  It is possible.  In various circles this way of living is called centered, grounded, resilient, or close to the Spirit.  There are some tips (dare I say habits?) that I have learned from people I admire that live this way and from my own life.  There is no one magic bullet, so here is an arsenal of ideas, in no particular order, to help relieve stress and reconnect.

20 Tips to Refill Emotional Reserves in a Busy Life 

  1. Exercise
    • Run, swim, walk, bike, play badminton, sweat with Richard Simmons: it doesn't matter what it is, the positive effects of exercise are indisputable.  Moving releases chemicals in your body that are helpful for mood, brain function, and overall health.  Some of my very best thinking time is running time.  You don't have to be an Olympic athlete either.  I shoot for at least 20 minutes three times a week with an active lifestyle...this balance means it actually happens in my busy life!
  2. Laugh
    • You can watch a favorite comedy, but better yet, find the comedy in your own life.  Angry lecture is always an option, but laughing at the applesauce that was squirted everywhere while your back was turned certainly eases the tension.  One of my kids will instantly snap out of a rage if somebody makes him laugh.
  3. Exercise while you laugh
    • This is one of my favorites.  Try doing push-ups or lunges to the likes of Jim Gaffigan or Brian Regan.  It's hard to find a better use of time.  :)
  4. Eat a Nutritious Meal
    • Maybe it's a smoothie, a salad, or a gourmet sandwich.  Make something you can feel good about eating and feel good after eating.  Try my kids' favorite "Cheater Green Drink" compliments of my aunt.
      • Blend 2 cups cold water and a couple handfuls of greens (kale, spinach, anything). Add about a cup of frozen fruit (strawberries, mixed berries), and a squeeze of lemon or a scoop of vanilla yogurt.  Blend well.  Kids always like to drink it with a straw!
  5. Find something beautiful in the world
    • Take a moment and find it.  A facial expression, a flower, the sun streaming through the clouds.  Just stop and take it in.  A wise 90-year-old friend told me yesterday that his mom used to tell him, "The world is really a beautiful place.  People just don't realize it."
  6. Unplug
    • It is wonderful to be connected via social media and there is a lot of good entertainment out there.  Sometimes though, all that "connectedness" keeps us from really connecting with the people and beauties around us.  Unplug for an hour or two or a day.  How long can you hack it?
  7. Get up early
    • I'm a night person.  Getting up early is not easy, yet when I do it is amazing how much gets done.  Sometimes an early start is all I need to feel on top of life again.  That early morning quiet time is also incredibly enlightening time.  Many of the most inspired people I know regularly get up early.  
  8. Go to bed early
    • Repeat:  I am a night person.  However, I usually feel like I can do anything if I am well rested.  If going to bed early is not a habit (yet–me), try going to bed early once in a while.  Drop it all and just go to sleep.  Most everything really can wait for tomorrow believe it or not.
  9. Meditate
    • Pray, do yoga, reflect in bed before you go to sleep.  Quiet pondering can work wonders.
  10. Read something inspirational
  11. Visit your checklist
    • I remember talking with my mom on the phone after my third child was born.  In jest, I remarked how I could do it all and felt like the best mom...when my checklist was short.  Eureka!  Remember there is a season for everything.  You really do not have to do it all.
  12. Breathe!
    • Stop.  Breathe.  Breathe deeper.  Now repeat.  Aaaahh. 
  13. Have a real conversation
    • Get beyond the weather.  Ask about childhood memories, what the other person is learning in life, what they wish they'd done differently.  Really connect through meaningful conversation.
  14. Write in your journal
    • Writing is therapeutic.  (Sorry for inviting all of you to my therapy sessions.)  You learn a lot when you have to put thoughts, emotions, or experiences into words.
  15. Read your journal
    • You are amazing.  Step back and learn something from yourself.  Remember what you once knew.
  16. Refuse to multitask
    • Our kids and spouses probably get it the worst, but anyone can fall prey to our multitasking.  Simply refuse to do it.  If you need to work, help the kids be busy with a puzzle and tell them you'll play when the timer rings.  That is infinitely better than pretending to listen.  If you are with someone else, don't check your phone every five minutes.  Put it down and be there.
  17. Hug someone
    • Yep.  Just hug them.  Quick or long, hugging is healthy.
  18. Serve someone
    • There is no greater way to connect with people and remember what is most important than through service.  Whether it is in your family or your community, give something of yourself.  Write a card, cook a meal, make a visit, listen to a co-worker or go to Africa.  Be purposeful in the things you already do that are service.
  19. Garden
    • Get your hands dirty.  Connect with nature.  Weeding is one of those beautiful tasks that allows you to see the results immediately!  If gardening isn't your thing, scrub a floor.  
  20. Watch the sky
    • Being emotionally stable requires a balance of knowing how amazing you are and also having the humility to recognize you can't do it all alone.  Watch a thunderstorm.  Examine the stars.  Find shapes in the clouds.  Feeling of the expanse above engenders an awe that is both humbling and inspiring.
What else do you do to relieve stress, reconnect, and refill emotional reserves?  We all have our moments of unrest and truthfully life might be boring without them.  But to whatever extent you want to be more calm and more connected, I hope these ideas help.

Love, Marielle

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Breaking My Two Feet Was the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to Me."

To You:

I was recently listening to an acquaintance recount her experiences of the past year.  She was chronicling some pretty difficult times, beginning with breaking both of her feet.  At one point, in tears, she said, "Breaking my two feet was the best thing that could have happened to me."  That's not exactly what one would expect to hear.

The Girl Who Said It

This comment has been stuck in my head, and a few thoughts keep recurring.  First, I am struck by the maturity of this young college-aged friend.  She is contemplating her own life and the path it is taking.  She is recognizing causes and effects and taking ownership of where her life is heading.  She is moving forward in life with intention and gratitude, rather than a "poor me" outlook.  The way she freely contributes her experiences and the lessons she is learning shows great humility and honesty.  I am grateful for her willingness to share that with others.  I'd like to be like that.

What We Can All Learn From Her

Secondly, haven't we all looked back on hard times and realized we learned a great deal from them?  When we look back, aren't those challenges meaningful in a previously unforeseen way?  Perhaps the difficulty was unemployment or financial hardship.  It may have been sickness or the death of a loved one.  Maybe loneliness or low self esteem have taken their toll in life.  The list is endless.  I have contemplated how this scenario has played out many times in my own life.  Many of these trials don't have definite ends; we are all probably in a hardship of one kind or another right now.  Wouldn't it be helpful during these difficult times, if we could see the purpose now, rather than having to wait to look back?  Usually we are unable to see the entirety of what good will come from present difficulty, but finding at least some of the purpose in the moment (and recognizing that it really is serving a purpose in our life) can bring a measure of comfort and often-needed direction.  Knowing that our struggles are truly not in vain helps us get through them.

Getting There

So how can we find that lesson or purpose in the midst of these hard times, thus making our struggles more purposeful and therefore, just a little easier to manage?  One idea is to be intentional about our lives.  Spend time in meditation, prayer, quiet thinking, or whatever form that self-reflection takes for you.  Ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?"  Pat yourself on the back when you recognize what one of those lessons might be, and then try to learn that lesson well.  See how your mastery of that life lesson may allow you to help others.  When our struggles lead us to better serve those around us, we are surely finding Divinity in our suffering.

Another idea to help us find purpose in difficult times is to choose gratitude.  As put in one of my favorite talks on the subject of gratitude, "It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God.  But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding...Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation?  In other words, I'm suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances–whatever they may be...This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul.  It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind."  This gratitude will lighten our loads and enlighten our understanding.  We will be better able to see how our current hardship fits into the grand perspective of our lives.

My Own Two Feet Tale

This summer we took an epic road trip.  The three kids and I drove over 75 hours through 13 different states!  At one rare moment, the car was quiet as the older kids looked at books and the youngest slept.  My mind drifted to life, real life.  Things had not been going as planned for me.  For over a year, we had been waiting and working toward several desired goals, and for reasons beyond our control, things were not working out.  I was overcome with a heaviness and deep disappointment.  There I sat in the front seat, throwing myself my own little pity party.  After some tears, I chided myself for focusing on the negative and thought how much was going so very wonderfully in my life.  I should be more grateful.  One of the kids interrupted my thoughts and the moment passed.

The trip was incredible as we got to see so much family.  It ended with a Family Reunion, bringing nearly 100 of my relatives together for an extended weekend.  One highlight of the reunion was an adult devotional directed by my cousin and his wife.  Their chosen topic...gratitude.  "This was meant for me," I thought instantly, remembering my earlier notion.  As I sat and listened, it hit me.  It wasn't a new thought, but a profound realization of something I already "knew."  Here were some of the people I love and admire most in this world.  They shared their challenges freely, some of the hardest challenges this life has to offer.  Here they talked about dealing with cancer, disabilities, and death, all from a place of gratitude.  Sure, my problems are "small," but that is not the point.  There is no competition to see who can endure the hardest problems, a problem is a problem.  Instead, the truth that hit me so strongly was simple:  Gratitude is a Choice.

My situation has not changed, nothing has suddenly fallen into place for me.  Instead, as I have consciously chosen gratitude, I have changed.  I had asked myself before, "What can I learn from this difficulty?"  My list was meaningful.  However, as I have looked at my situation through grateful eyes, my mind has been enlightened, and my list is expanded.  I am learning those lessons more profoundly.  I am learning a new kind of patience.  I am learning a new kind of compassion.  I am learning a new kind of gratitude.  My priorities, while not really different, are more pronounced.  I think, I hope, I believe that I am becoming a little bit better person.  And that makes things a little bit easier to handle.

As you continue to traverse the difficulties of life, I hope you will be able to do so with intention and gratitude, helping you find purpose for your suffering and relief for your burdens.  I hope you don't break two feet, but if you do, I hope it serves you well.

Love, Marielle

What is your Two Feet Tale?  What have you learned from your difficulties?  How has gratitude changed your perspective?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Welcome to the World Blog!!!

To You:

I want to Welcome You to this blog, and Welcome this Blog to the World!  

Happy BIRTHDAY Blog!

As I begin this endeavor, I am so excited!  Recent events in my own life have made me want to share the things I am learning, as well as the lessons of the past.  When I was little, I never wanted to go to bed and miss out on a big party, or a game, or a conversation, or...
I haven't outgrown that.  I like to think I've just been paying attention for a long time.  :)  I do try to live consciously; I'm always trying to learn from my own experiences and those around me.  For me, life is a fulfilling and enriching adventure with its necessary peaks and valleys.   

I once heard a person describe their CD collection as eclectic.  I loved that word!  It was so ME!  A quick mac dictionary reference says eclectic means, "deriving ideas, style or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources."  Webster defines eclectic in terms which I am trying to fulfill in life: "Selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles."  My interests are diverse and so is my experience; thus, my blog will be as well.  I love reading and history, music and math.  I love nature and all things athletic.  I love conversations with random people and dear friends.  I thought I was a homebody, but after six moves in ten years of marriage (no, we're not military), I've realized that while I always cry to leave and hate being far from family, I also love getting to know new people and places and having friends around the world.  We have had varied opportunities living in places ranging from small town Idaho, to a Caribbean Island, to big city Chicago.  I love my ginormous family.  I love my kids.  I love my husband.  I love what my religion teaches me to be.  While we're on the subject, I love chocolate chip mint ice cream, puzzles, and my toilet paper to roll from the top.  I love Living

I'm excited to share with you tips for household management, healthy living, and navigating parenthood.  Ultimately though, the most profound lessons I've learned are the ones centered on our relationships: our relationships with our parents and siblings, our friends and neighbors, our spouses and kids, and our God.  You will probably notice a theme emerge here (if you haven't already!)...Love.  When it comes to surviving sleepless nights, serving aging parents, giving our all to our spouses, embracing the prickly personality, and the all encompassing "just trying to be a good person," I am continually learning that it all comes down to love.  How can we increase our capacity to love and feel loved?  These are life's most important questions.  For truly, "The greatest of these is charity" (1 Corinthians 13:13).  Drawing on my experiences as a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, wife, mother, and friend, I look forward to sharing with you all things Living and Loving!

I look forward to interacting with you and hope the things I post will help you and your loved ones.  Thanks for stopping by!

Love, Marielle