Hard choices that shouldn’t be hard: a tale of intentional parenting choices

I made a tough choice this morning. It really shouldn’t have been difficult, but it was. We were leaving for an international trip TODAY. I had a million things still to do (packing, final laundry, another blog post- yikes!, house cleaning, you know…). Plus, of course, I wanted to get in my daily bike-and-swim workout before being away for a week on vacation.

So when she came whimpering into my bed just before my 5:30 a.m. alarm went off, I was less than thrilled. She’d had a bad dream. AGAIN.

Intentional parenting choices: choosing to hold her

 

She was tired and needed to go back to sleep, but I knew she wouldn’t if I got up. I was tired, too, but I am a very task-driven person. My mind- and my body- felt compelled to get up and get GOING on the long list of required to dos. I couldn’t push things off for another day. There was a hard deadline of “necessities” before the plane took off that evening.

I had a real internal struggle. My instincts cried out to get up and seize the day! But my heart reminded me that I want to live intentionally. That I don’t want regrets. That she won’t always come running to cuddle with me in bed after a bad dream. That my mommy-daughter snuggle time is limited. That she is more important than anything on my list.

And I made an intentional decision to hold her. To hold my precious daughter and let her sleep, safe and secure in my arms. To just BE. I was not successful at shutting down my brain, which raced and raced… but I did hold my body still, arms wrapped tight around her.

I’m a little ashamed that it feels like a sacrifice. To give up making progress on task lists (even on a day that includes leaving the country) in favor of staying in bed. I didn’t want to “sleep” in. But she wanted me. She needed me.

And that’s what motherhood is about. Making those tough choices day after day. It won’t always be these same circumstances or a decision like this. And maybe it won’t always be possible to choose as I did today. But the choices will always be there. The choice to be strategic and intentional in how I spend my time. The opportunity to choose, each day, what and who I prioritize. To choose what is best over what is good.

Perhaps this one small victory will make next time easier.

How do you manage to be intentional and make the tough choices about how you spend your time? What’s your advice for enjoying the moment and avoiding the trap of nonstop busy-ness? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so comment below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share on Facebook!

 

No regrets… create the intentional and fulfilling family life you want!

It’s graduation season. Kindergarten graduation. High school graduation. College graduation.

Over and over, I hear my friends- parents like me- echo the same refrain:

Where did the time go?

It went by too fast!

I wish we would have done… [fill in the blank]

Some time ago, I determined not to have those regrets. I’m far enough along in the motherhood journey to know I will mess up (again and again!) and I won’t ever be able to accomplish all that I would like. But I CAN make sure I don’t stand idly by and let the years slip away. I can and will be

intentional

and deliberate

and conscious

and strategic

about parenting and family life.

I can plan with my family to prioritize those experiences, activities, and relationships that are most important. And I can take action on those priorities. I won’t wait for more time or money or whatever seems to stand in my way. I’m determined.

I’m determined that I won’t have those regrets of letting time slip by without making strategic use of every year.

That’s why we recently held a family planning retreat.

And why I’m so excited to offer tools and resources for Intentional Family Life here at House upon a Rock with my sister, Holly.

We have so much we’re working on and will be sharing in the coming weeks.

Look around the site for tools to begin your intentional family life today, and stay tuned for more!

How we are being intentional in building the family life and lifestyle we want OR Why you should have a family planning retreat OR How to use stickers and flip charts to plan your next family travel destination!

The last couple of years, as we have embarked on our entrepreneurial journey, we have become more intentional in all aspects of our lives, including parenting and family relationships. Quality family time has always been a priority for us, and frankly is one of the reasons we left the “9-5 gainfully employed” life! As we have continually defined and refined what “success” looks like for us, we have desired to not only spend quality time, but plan together as a family for what we want to do and become together. That led us to planning and holding a family planning retreat recently.

While it would have been fun to get away for a weekend and make our planning retreat a mini vacation, that didn’t work for us at this time and we didn’t want to delay our planning session. So we held it at home, in our dining room, on a Saturday. But we made arrangements to clear our calendars, scheduled and set up in advance, prepped the kids with teasers about how great it would be, and even splurged on store-bought sugar treats, which really shocked and pleased my kids.

Family planning retreat setup

With inspiration from several entrepreneurial families (thank you to Family Without Limits, EntreFamily, and Flipped Lifestyle) we decided as a couple what we wanted to accomplish in our planning session, including the key questions to discuss at this time. I drafted an agenda and we counseled about the roles we would play in the planning retreat. Because of my background in facilitation and strategic planning, this was really more my thing than Ben’s but he was very supportive.

Because our children are old enough (11 and almost 8) to be active participants and we are quite transparent with them about our work and plans, this was designed to truly be a group effort. We absolutely want our children to be involved in designing what we do and are as a family, but as parents we also always reserve the right to make final decisions. Part of our family culture (we hope at least!) is that our children are top priority and what they think and how they feel matters. And frankly, part of the context for our family planning retreat centered around the idea that our time with our children living at home is limited. With the years remaining before they leave the nest, we want to make sure we focus on what matters now. On what matters most.

Our goal is to be deliberate and intentional in building the family life we choose. We don’t want to look back in 7 years as our oldest leaves home and wish we had thought about what we wanted to do and be together.  So that was the intent of our family planning retreat.

We started with a prayer and ended with specific next steps and assignments. In between, we worked on developing our family vision, and beginning to outline a plan for how to achieve it. Separately, we as Dad and Mom have the responsibility for the companion piece of financing and supporting the family lifestyle we desire, and we’re working on that. But that’s a separate process. J In our family planning session, we discussed questions like:

  • What do we need or want to know and believe?
  • What do we need or want to do?
  • What do we need or want to become?

And I used a technique I’d learned years ago in my former life that worked well with the kids too: everyone puts their ideas on individual sticky notes, up where they fit on large flip chart papers.

Brainstorming family vision and plan

Because the store-bought animal cookies ran out and energy waned after a couple of hours, we had to take a break. While it did end up being a little difficult to corral everyone back together, the break ended up being necessary as well as helpful, because it allowed me time to process what we had already discussed and use that to tweak the final part of our planning session.

As we had talked about learning and doing and becoming (before the break), there was definitely a recurring theme of wanting to travel more together as a family. This surfaced not just as an end in itself, but over and over as a means to accomplish other desired outcomes, such as gratitude and humility through service and diverse experiences, and gaining rich educational experiences onsite in places that strengthen faith and teach timeless truths. (The kids were amazed when I told them that history repeats itself!)

I had anticipated there would be some interest around travel, so before the planning retreat I had even made a rough calendar outline of the next ten years with known milestones marked, and space to sketch in travel opportunities and priorities. During the break, I was able to do an impromptu preparation for a prioritization exercise (how’s that for alliteration… and can you tell I’ve facilitated meetings and planning sessions a few times?)

prioritizing family travel destinations

Everyone brainstormed places they want to visit, and in most cases shared why (though we were sold already, having spent time studying history together and dreaming of being there in person). Then I gave each of us six color-coded dots (Ryan had 6 blue ones, Dad had 6 brown ones, etc.) that we could place on the destinations to show our personal priorities. The dots could be distributed however each person wished- one on each of six destinations, all six on one destination, or any combination in between.  It was fun… and revealed an amazing unanimity. Five destinations received 21 of the 24 possible dots. So we know how to prioritize for major travel in the next few years- hooray! And we’re all super excited and united in those priorities.

Of course, travel is just one piece of the family plan we are developing, and I may share more as it progresses. As we used to say in the corporate world, I’m sure it will be a “living document” that evolves as we do. But for now, this session helped us identify some priorities for our family, and was a uniting and validating experience in and of itself. Frankly, some concerns our children had prior to the planning session were dispelled by the things we discussed and decided together that day. Win!

Intentional time together as a family is never wasted. And that was certainly evidenced for us in our family planning retreat. We have a lot t work on to execute the plan, and we may repeat this process every 6-12 months. It was a great kickoff to being really deliberate about what we want to accomplish and become as a family, driven by our values and priorities. We recommend it!

How do you plan together as a family? I’d love to hear your processes and ideas, so please comment below. Was this useful? If so, I’d really appreciate you sharing on Facebook.

Why I’m living deliberately by spending money and making memories now, not waiting for tomorrow

Are you ever surprised when you look back and realize how you’ve completely shifted your mindset on something? Did you used to have a stronghold on one position and somehow, remarkably, over time did an “about-face?”

That has happened with me, and, interestingly, it’s because of my work with Legacy Tale.

Now I spend money. Shocker, huh?!?

I used to be a saver. Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in saving money for a variety of reasons. However, I’ve decided it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. And when it means delaying making memories with loved ones, I’ve changed my tune.

My severe attitude to frugality and saving money meant that I was always waiting for a future day to do the things I want to with my family… to go on vacations, to make memories, to do the activities we’ve dreamed together. I thought we had to wait until we had “enough” money or had reached a certain milestone, or met some other defined or undefined arbitrary rule.

But my work with Legacy Tale- helping good people recall the past and reflect on the present- has taught me many things, not the least of which is that NOW is the time to make memories. And if that means spending money, I’m all for it. To be clear, I’m NOT talking about going into debt. But, for my family at least, I am talking about significantly re- prioritizing and rethinking what’s important.

Fun at the beach... argh! Make memories now. You make memories. We make them last.

Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.

~Chinese Proverb

We never know when the time will be past. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We do know that the people we love are here with us now. So now is the time to make time for them. I’ve battled with enough regrets in my life to know I don’t want to lose opportunities with my loved ones that will have lasting value… even eternal impact.

I realize, of course, that grand memories can be and are made without spending a dime, and I’m absolutely in favor of that, too. But sometimes we have to travel to be with loved ones that live far away. Or choosing to experience a new place together opens our eyes to experience each other in new and better ways. And getting away from routine on a vacation large or small can be the recipe for truly quality time without everyday demands and distractions. So go. Do. Enjoy. Live!

That’s how I’ve been changed by Legacy Tale.

My family will only be at this stage and these ages for a short time. I want to drink in every experience and every moment of this while I can. Maybe in the future I won’t have to pinch pennies when I grocery shop and it will be more comfortable to spend money. And I’ll be able to reach some of the “bigger” dreams that practicality still puts out of reach even with my shifted mindset.

But regardless, I am confident I will never regret a penny- or a moment- I spend making memories with those I love more than life itself.

I may always wish I had more money in my bank account. But I’m determined I won’t wish away this precious time with my family. I will seize every opportunity to spend time with them in ways that strengthen our relationships, that build our faith and love, and help us craft our family legacy. And if that means spending money even when finances are tight, then so be it.

Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t put off experiences and opportunities for another day when some arbitrary goal or milestone of income or savings has been reached.

Live deliberately. Live now.

Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely.

~Thomas P. Murphy

“She counts not the cost of nights without sleep and days full of giving…” Mother’s Day tribute and FREE printable!

Motherhood with a 3 year old and 5 month old
She counts not the cost of nights without sleep and days full of giving…

In honor of Mother’s Day, I am sharing a tribute I wrote in 2007, inspired by the amazing young mothers surrounding me at that time. Visit us over at our Legacy Tale site to read the story and download this free printable poem. It just might work for that Mother’s Day gift still on your to do list!

Keep up the great work, Moms, and Happy Mother’s Day!

(Don’t forget to grab your free printable via this link!)

Photos only tell part of the story

 

We’ve recently learned through personal experience that if you rely only on photos and photo books, you can lose a lot of the memories and emotion from your stories.

Hilarie occasionally guest blogs on savefamilyphotos.com, and her latest article was just published. In it, she talks about this problem and what we are doing about it.  Click here to read it! While you’re there check out the other posts and family stories.  It’s a great site to read short family and personal history stories that people from all over the world have shared.  You can also get those stories by following savefamilyphotos on Instagram or Facebook.

Enjoy life- and your children- right now!

I found a new blog I love: The Things I Love Most!

This post is such a sweet reminder of what’s truly important.

Enjoy Life With Your Children - "The Last Time" Printable

Ironically, I found and read this post early one morning with my sleeping 7-year-old snuggled up tight against me in bed; she had come in (again) sometime in the night. Pain was shooting through my arm from another night of holding her tight.

When the interrupted sleep gets “old,” I try to remember these days are numbered and enjoy the cuddles! Someday I may not miss the sleepless nights of motherhood, but I absolutely will miss the thrill of small arms holding me tight, coming to me for security and love.

How do you choose to enjoy life now? What do you do- in the midst of motherhood or other challenges- to remember to savor the moments and find joy?

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences!

Remember the Alamo!

Remember the Alamo!

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We will. We absolutely will. It was a solemn, almost sacred experience, made more so by our study that helped us feel personally connected to real characters who fought and died… and to a mother and baby who lived.

“I can’t believe we’re on an airplane!”

We will also always remember this first airplane ride for Ryan & Rebecca (at least the first one they remember). She earned beaming smiles from all the passengers with a delighted squeal as the plane took off: “We’re flying!!!”

There were also the very cool geology and history lessons at Longhorn Cavern. And fun memIMG_20160108_094948671ories with our Camelbak water bottle and a new dog friend at Barton Creek. Then we were awed by the magnificence and history of the Texas Capitol Building. Plus delectable dining and our first food truck experience in Austin. We are really missing Torchy’s Tacos. (I’m drooling thinking about it… seriously.)

 

NASA was the place to be to aid Rebecca in her longtime quest to go to the moon. (She considered being the first person on Mars, but decided that six months of travel just to get there, and a total mission time of three years, was too long to be away from family. Good call, my dear.) Wow, there is so much to learn there. Talk about STEM education! The only problem is that I may need to adjust my planned curriculum for the next several weeks to incorporate more time for the study of space!

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We stayed busy with more fun and outdoor education in The Woodlands and George Mitchell Nature Preserve outside of Houston. Did you know a bayou is a creek?!? Unfortunately, the alligators didn’t want to show themselves in this weather, so we’ll have to go back for another visit. Darn. 😉

Then of course, time with two of our siblings and their families was so delightful. When they come to visit out west, all of the family is together and we don’t really connect directly. So this was absolutely wonderful to spend one-on-one time with them.

This trip was chock-full of good things. I posted many of them on Instagram, so follow along for lots of pictures.

What an amazing time we had in Texas, with hands-on, personalized learning experiences we could never get in a classroom or at home. We made wonderful memories, learned a ton, and had priceless time with far-away family. This trip absolutely reinforced my love of this entrepreneurial family lifestyle. Work anywhere. School everywhere. Play and learn and live life together! Hooray for Texas!

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I think traveling suits me. I feel energized and refreshed and ready to plan the next trip. Here’s to entrepreneurial family life!

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock.

2016- and Texas- here we come!

I just finished the syllabus for January 2016- whew!! It’s always such a relief to get that ready for our next session of school. I plan one month at a time, doing a separate syllabus for my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. When I first started almost a year ago, the hours it took me were counted in the dozens.

I take this teaching job very seriously, by the way… 🙂

This time, I spent less than 10 hours- woohoo!! I am getting faster! And I’m building systems and processes that work, thank goodness.

It might have helped, too, that this coming month includes a week of hands-on-learning in… Texas! Yep, we get to learn about U.S. and Texas history, Davy Crockett, and visit the Alamo in person. And we get one step closer to Rebecca’s longtime dream of going to the moon with lots of amazing education experiences at NASA’s Houston Space Center. Plus we’re having lunch and doing science with the alligators. Not to mention that we will be with family in Houston and Austin. History, culture, science, technology, engineering, and quality family time all wrapped together… sounds good to me.

One of the things we’re doing to prepare is reading this awesome book. I love reading aloud to my children! And thankfully, even though they are both fantastic readers who devour books on their own, they still love cuddling up with me and a good book. Historical fiction may just be my favorite. Life is good.

We are – and try to be- House Upon a Rock!

Letting go…

I do love the Frozen song, “Let It Go,” and by the way, Rebecca does a pretty amazing version. But no, that’s not what this is about. At least, not directly.

I am learning to let go. It’s hard. When we made the decision to educate our children at home, it became- and still is- pretty all-consuming. With 8-10 hours on most days directly or indirectly tied to school, I have had to let some things go.

One of those is dinner.

I used to pride myself on daily making from-scratch, balanced, wholesome dinners for my family. But I simply don’t have the hours required for that every day anymore. Don’t worry, we haven’t resorted to convenience foods (I’m too budget- and health-conscious for that 🙂 .) We still sit down and eat together every evening, but often it’s leftovers, or a simpler version of dinner. Ben can make some amazing dishes and is super-helpful to take over at dinnertime now, but he’s an on-the-fly cook, making it up as he goes along and not planning ahead or worrying about a well-rounded meal.

And last night (gasp!), I was on a long blogging streak so Ben took charge of “dinner” and served us all fresh cookies, warm from the oven. Nice. Well, it is Christmas break. I guess we can call that the excuse.

I haven’t given up making whole-grain breads from scratch. That’s important to me, and I can squeeze it in a few times a week. And I still make dinner some nights.

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In fact, one night I helped Ryan multi-task making dinner AND Christmas cookies!

But, at least for now, daily, complicated cooking from scratch isn’t the top priority. If that’s the hardest thing I have to let go, I’m pretty sure I’ll be just fine.

We are- and try to be- House Upon a Rock.