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Valentine’s Day is a fun day to show our families a little love. I asked Jennifer to write a post with me sharing our ideas and traditions. As you’ll see, we’re all for keeping it simple!

We don’t know about you, but in our homes, December through March is a blur.  It seems that Christmas is barely put away before we are smack in the middle of birthdays, anniversaries, new commitments, old commitments, and the added challenge of cold temperatures and deep snows – not to mention the sniffly noses and sick days those often bring.

We’re not ashamed to admit that neither of us have plans to make dozens of Pinterest-worthy valentines for our children’s many different classrooms this year!

But as mothers, we also realize how important family traditions are – that even the smallest memories will be held in our children’s hearts for many years ahead.  So we’ve gathered a few of our very easiest family Valentine traditions (for time-crunched moms)!

MLC - offering choices to children

Making choices is a challenge for many children, and offering choices is often inconvenient for parents. That being said, we also know that being offered choices gives children voice, which they often need. Here is a tip I use for helping children make choices.

When I present my kids with two options, I touch first one palm and say the first option…

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…and then the other as I say the second option.

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Let me introduce you to my friend, Jennifer. She is going to share her thoughts and experiences here at One Thankful Mom from time to time. You will be so blessed to know her! If only we could all have coffee together in my kitchen, or maybe go snowshoeing in her Rocky Mountains.

What an honor to be invited to contribute here at One Thankful Mom!  I have known Lisa for about eight years now, having adopted our son from AHOPE just a few months after Kalkidan came home.  Not long after that, I had the honor of serving alongside her in a small non-profit, resourcing and educating families for medical needs adoptions. And over the years, I’ve been grateful for each bit of time I’ve been able to spend with her.

Those of you who know Lisa in real life and here through her blog know that she exudes welcome, warmth, and real.  I have met very few people who are able to share so deeply and honestly about the hard things and yet still carry in their words and their actions true hope and gratitude. Lisa does this.

I have told my husband many, many times that I would move to Idaho just to be able to learn more from her.  Because this is what I want too. I want to learn to live out the hard things with hope and gratitude.

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In the wake of our accident and losing Kalkidan, my sweet friend, Sarah, wanted to do something as a gift for me. She is very talented and loves to decorate, paint, and build. She even makes excellent kombucha, which I find impressive.

Sarah asked if there was a project in my house that she could tackle for me. The first thing I thought of was the horrid wallpaper in the upstairs, kids bathroom. Could it be stripped and could the walls be painted?

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As I turned on my computer this morning, I asked myself, “Does this feel like work, or does this feel like joy?” If it’s work, then I need to turn my computer off and walk away. This is a day of rest, a gift from our Father.

If it feels like joy, then it’s just the right thing to write this post. Today it feels like joy, so here it is, just a few things I’m thankful for on this cool, and still dark, morning.

giving thanks #1741 – 1760

Beza’s wisdom teeth gone, and with very little difficulty

sunshine, rain, hail, and even a little snow, all watched through my windows this week

good report cards for the kids – and one of my sons being just “a little less chatty”

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I was looking through our new family calendar, the one my sisters and I create each year. The top page of each month has a picture of everyone who has a birthday; this month there is a special square for my mom, my brother in law, Isaiah, and one for me.

As I flipped the pages, I came to October, and it hit me that Kalkidan will never have a birthday again. Never again will I choose a new picture of her for her special page. I know I should be getting used to this, but I’m not.

For 2016 we chose a picture of me with the three youngest kids dressed in orange on Kalkidan’s birthday. We haven’t forgotten her, but it’s not the same.

It’s hard for me to acknowledge that one day, the pictures we have of her will appear dated and obviously old. Right now, her picture is on the wall with all the others, and, if I wanted to, I could pretend it was taken last month. If a stranger came to my home, they would not realize she was gone.

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I’m back from Seattle and Sisters Weekend, a weekend my sisters and I set aside each year to spend with our parents and each other. We don’t have any brothers, and we don’t bring our husbands or kids; it’s just the girls and our mom and dad.

We do this because relationships with family matter. How often do we say we’ll make that call to a sibling, or go on a short visit to see a parent, but our lives are busy, and it’s easy to think we’ll do it in a few months, or even next year.

I’ve been reflecting on how short life is. We truly don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I never, in a million years, would have dreamed that we would get in the car and have an accident, losing Kalkidan only 45 minutes later.

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I don’t read as much as I used to, but I’m changing that. Hours spent on the computer, smart phones, and the busy lives we lead, keep us from reading books. With some planning and new routines I’m correcting this in my life and I invite you to join me.

Here are twelve ways you can read more this year.

1. Carry a book everywhere you go.

Seriously – everywhere you go. You never know when you’ll be stuck in a line, or sitting in the car waiting for a child. Piano lessons may run five minutes long, a coach may keep the team a few extra minutes, that time doesn’t need to be wasted.

2. Read a little non-fiction each morning.

I start my morning with the Bible, followed by a devotional, New Morning Mercies. Then, if I’ve planned well, I read for fifteen minutes. I don’t turn on my computer until I’ve completed those things.

I was with a group of women who all sheepishly admitted to checking Facebook while sitting on the toilet in the morning. Rather than our phones, why not keep a book with short essays or devotional passages near the toilet. Just a thought.

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instant pot

Last November we had a discussion on my One Thankful Mom Facebook page about the Instant Pot.  The Instant Pot users raved about it and said they use it multiple times each week. They claimed it was fast, easy, and the food was delicious. I figured I’d better do a little research!

The Instant Pot is a 7 in 1 appliance that can be used for all sorts of things, but the big deal is that it is a modern pressure cooker. It’s not like the ones I used to fear, this is computerized, and just about as fancy as you can get.

The Instant Pot went on sale during the Black Friday madness, and quite a few of us bought them. Once again we chatted it up on my Facebook page. Mine arrived, and I was so busy, that it sat in the garage, still in the box, until after the holidays.

Each year I keep a list of the books I’ve read. I don’t let myself write the title in my journal until I’ve actually finished the book, which is good motivation if I’m puttering along. I love lists and checking things off.

This year I completed 37 books, which is more than I have in a long time. I had more time, since I was recovering from the accident, and for many months I couldn’t drive. The first few months I couldn’t concentrate well enough to read, but that improved as time passed.  In contrast, I listed 20 books in 2014, which is a reflection of how much busier life was.

Below are ten of my favorites for 2015. I’ve included the Amazon description followed by a few of my thoughts on each one.

 

81HyjrK4Q3L Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Diebler Rose

“The True Story of One Woman’s Triumph of Faith

Newlywed American missionary Darlene Deibler Rose survived four years in a notorious Japanese prison camp set deep in the jungles of New Guinea. Thinking she was never to see her husband again, Darlene Rose was forced to sign a false confession and face the executioner’s sword, only to be miraculously spared.”

 

 

 

My thoughts: This book was given to me by a friend just two months after the accident. At that time, I wasn’t ready to read books on grief – I just couldn’t. But reading a true account of the faith of Darlene Rose encouraged my spirit, gave me hope, and was exactly what I needed.

51+UtMMPNsL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_ The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

“Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.”

My thoughts: This year I needed a break from the deep weight of sorrow and physical pain. Fiction was a healthy escape and gave me relief when I needed it. This story pulled me in, giving me a glimpse into a unique time in history. It wasn’t until the end that I realized the book is based on real people and true events.

418Cuu5QbNL A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller

“Author Paul Miller shares his insights and conclusions about how to connect the broken pieces of your life and allow prayer—even poorly delivered—to fill the gaps with meaning and substance.

Miller’s down-to-earth approach and practical nature will help you see that your relationship with God can grow and your communication with Him can get better.

Parents will find Miller’s family-life experiences especially helpful.”

 

 

My thoughts: Amazon’s description doesn’t begin to touch on the depth of this book or the encouragement I found in it. I read non-fiction with a pencil in my hand in order to underline, make notes, etc. I borrowed a copy from a friend and found myself constantly wishing I could mark up the book. As soon as I finished the book, I ordered my own copy and plan to read it again this year.

81TRTuHJSnL All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

“From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

 

 

 

 

 

My thoughts: The Audible version of this book was a gift from a friend.  I listened as I drove, took walks, and worked in the house. A great, engrossing story and another experience of learning about historical events. This is a beautiful book written by an Idaho author – and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

 

 

51BSmWLWbZL Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin de Becker

“All parents face the same challenges when it comes to their children’s safety: whom to trust, whom to distrust, what to believe, what to doubt, what to fear, and what not to fear. In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker, the nation’s leading expert on predicting violent behavior and author of the monumental bestseller The Gift of Fear, offers practical new steps to enhance children’s safety at every age level, giving you the tools you need to allow your kids freedom without losing sleep yourself. With daring and compassion, he shatters the widely held myths about danger and safety and helps parents find some certainty about life’s highest-stakes questions.”

 

My Thoughts: This book grabbed me and didn’t let go. After 28 years of parenting, I learned that I’ve been giving my children the wrong instructions about how to find help when lost in a store. I also gained helpful information for teaching my children to be safe in relationships with friends, and with adults. Great stuff. I plan to read The Gift of Fear next.

711WBU9Yz1L Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

“Young Reuben Land has little doubt that miracles happen all around us, suspecting that his own father is touched by God. When his older brother flees a controversial murder charge, Reuben, along with his older sister and father, set off on a journey that will take them to the Badlands and through a landscape more extraordinary than they could have anticipated. Enger’s novel is at once a heroic quest and a haunting meditation on the possibility of magic in the everyday world.”

 

 

 

My Thoughts: It’s a rare book that I love enough to read more than once. Years ago, Russ and I read this aloud and we still remember particular descriptions and phrases. My book group read it this year, and once again, I loved it.

51zfCkoz+2L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming

“Do you ever wonder what your future holds? As ministry leader Jean Fleming began pondering how she could serve God with more purpose, she created Pursue the Intentional Life, a book that will help you discover how God’s promises and instructions contain just what you need for the unknown days ahead. Whether you are facing the end of something in your life, or embarking on a new beginning, this book will help you live meaningfully and intentionally in the present while preparing well for the future.”

 

 

My Thoughts: Another gift from a friend, this book made me consider my life and how to best use it for God. Our years on this earth are a gift, and they are limited. How do we want to spend them?

 

51Yej2RGbIL Still Alice by Lisa Genova

“Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever.”

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts: Once again, fiction gave me a glimpse into the mind of another person, this time a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Initially I feared the book would be too unsettling, especially given the year I was having, but that wasn’t the case. This is a very interesting and insightful book.

51F8CUfhimL Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

“The Pevensie siblings travel back to Narnia to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.”

 

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts: This is one of the best books I read to the kids last year; I’m resisting the urge to list more since this is really about my books and not theirs. I am thoroughly enjoying reading the Narnia series aloud again and finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader before Christmas.

 

51H8x07Fd7L The Life-Changing  Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

“Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever…

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.”

 

My Thoughts: While some of her ideas are a bit kooky, I gained new tools for decluttering and organizing that are proving to be helpful. I have some serious decluttering goals for the year and I am glad to have a little push in the right direction.

 

2016 is beginning with books on grief, spiritual growth, productivity, and more fiction. I’ll be sure to share favorites with you.

What were your favorite books of 2015? Please share with us; I always want recommendations!

Lisa

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