Recently a sweet friend from church shared with me what she does for her kids once school has let out for the summer. I thought it was so absolutely clever that I just had to share it with you. Like most of us, this particular friend does a lot of organizing during the year for other things, so once school is out, she takes the time to put on a special little party for her own kids celebrating them finishing another year of school. At this party they do some fun little things and eat treats, but the main goal is to make a list of all the fun things they want to do that summer. Here's the brilliancy of the whole thing-not only does it get the kids excited about doing different activities, but it also provides a plan for those days when you just don't know what to do!! Their list ranges from little things like going out for ice cream, going on bike rides, etc...to the bigger ones like camping in the backyard with Dad. Whenever they accomplish one of their list items, they check it off.
Seriously people, this is so incredibly fun, simple and helpful. And I loved it. So, if it sounds like it would work in with your summer and be helpful, then go to it. Sometimes the extra effort on the front-end saves so much stress on the other end. Your list doesn't need to be followed to the T. If you want to try it, just have fun with it.
Go eat ice cream.
Stick your toes in the sand.
Drag out the slip-n-slide (my kids have been begging for days now).
It takes effort to bless those little people but, that's a major part of our job. In whatever way you can, make sure they know that you're not just putting up with them while they're on summer break but that you love to be with them (I know, I know, harder than it sounds at times and I struggle here too because I'm plain selfish).
Remember what it's like to be their age and have fun yourself! I'm hoping that by having a plan to have fun, I'll be able to relax and enjoy the last couple weeks of pregnancy with a good attitude.
“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets,
labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing
toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners,
theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the
mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career
to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small
career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be
broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to
someone? …a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic,
not because it is minute.” ~G.K. Chesterton, Emphasis Mine
First of all, I have to make a disclaimer right off the bat because if I don't, I could be misunderstood. I still run the risk of being so for even writing about this topic but, I think it's important so, I'm going to take the plunge. Okay, just so we're clear here-I do not think all women (or men even) must go to college to be somebody. I think higher education is an amazing gift and that there is a reason many people aspire to it, but it's not necessarily for everyone nor does everyone get a chance at it even if they want one. If you didn't graduate from college, I'm not saying you're less-than. Please hear that! And my second point is this, I do not wish to go into the age old argument here either by making a statement about moms who work and those that don't. That isn't what I'm talking about. What I do wish to talk about though, is the common belief that women who have graduated from college who then choose to become stay-at-home moms have wasted their education because the full-time job of raising children is such a simple, mundane and thoughtless job. For that belief is totally erroneous and it's something that needs to be talked about.
Phew, I feel better now :)! Onto the show.
Growing up, I was always told I'd attend college someday. My parents just expected it and they actually were really good about it all. I never felt any undue pressure. However, they encouraged me in my strengths, expected a lot of me and I did well. I was encouraged to read, given as many opportunities as possible to excel in a lot of different activities and when I was a sophomore in high school, I decided I wanted to go to Cal Poly. Since Cal Poly was such a difficult school to get into, and in my humble, unbiased opinion the best school ever (Ha ha!) I worked even harder, got good grades and a decent SAT score. I was absolutely elated when I got in. It was a dream come true for me.
I didn't know at the time when I would marry or what I would do after college. I always thought I'd probably get a job someday after I graduated and I did. I never thought I'd marry young which would bring on children young, but I did. After graduating, I worked for a few years as a Writer/Editor for a non-profit foster care agency in our town doing all sorts of things from editing and marketing to writing grants, and I absolutely loved my job-hands down. But I also knew that I wanted to stay at home if I could when we had kids, and I was really okay with that too.
When Isaac was born we moved, so the decision was pretty much made for me anyway. And once at home, I was really thankful that I had been put in a spot to be there because it worked well for me as a mom and our family. As the years went on, I was asked on many occasions how I could still enjoy being home even though I was "educated". Wasn't I bored with the simplicity and monotony? Didn't I need something more? I was surprised to find that no, I wasn't bored, and in fact, I didn't feel like I was wasting my time everyday doing puzzles and writing letters with my kids. In fact I felt quite the opposite. I felt that I wasn't wasting my college education that I worked so hard for on my current "job", but rather that I was using it on a regular basis to teach my own children about life, how the world works and the very foundation our home is built on-our faith.
And here's why...instead of feeling like my life was so lame and boring just changing diapers and wiping snotty noses (although that monotony was a small part of it), I felt like things were always exciting-and truthfully chaotic at times too. Here's a small window into how I've utilized what I learned in college either through life experience or in the classroom. I've been able to be a huge part of my children's education by teaching the two older ones how to read, to write, to look for patterns and the littler ones to count. I've also been able to be one of the sole educators of them in their faith, along with their Dad of course, with them as my little pupils. Knowing what I believe and why has been crucial to this part of their education.
We've also been able to talk about how the world works and everyday my little five-year-old Caleb asks at least five Physics questions regarding motion, light, or some other "why does it do that?" question, that I'm starting to be afraid I won't be able to answer him soon, but will have to send him off to Daddy for answers. Every single day my mind is stimulated as I talk about literature with them, tell good stories, explain history over lunch, marvel over God's wonders while on a drive and drill them in their math skills. And I don't even homeschool!! All the time I'm thankful that I have such a rich background to draw upon making it easier to answer their questions and satisfy their curiosities.
No, being a mother hasn't squelched my education, motherhood has markedly broadened it giving it a depth it would not have had before.
It has also given me something to aspire to-the deep desire to see all of my children understand the benefits of a beautiful and life-long education in the amazing world God has created.
So what has inspired all this talk here huh? Why even write about this and ruffle some feathers? Well, I've been thinking about it because of an encounter I had just the other day at the Cookie Stand. A beautiful, accomplished and popular graduating senior came to buy a brownie and as she reached for her prize, she asked me one of the most difficult questions I've ever been asked before by a student at the stand (surprisingly, I get asked quite a few too). She said, as she pointed to my belly, "What number is that for you?" I smiled and answered, "Number five." She then said, "How do you do all of this? How do you balance everything? Do you enjoy being a mom?"
I knew what she was saying. She was saying, "Why do you keep having kids? Is it at all rewarding for you?"
My mind raced because it was such a big question and I wished I could just take her out to coffee and tell her everything I've learned so far and how much I LOVE being a mom. But I knew, I only had her ears for two minutes. If I only had two minutes, what should I say that will impact her the most? I quickly asked God in my mind, "What do I do? What does she need to hear?"
And He brought this very issue to mind. As I stared at her beautiful face, all aglow with promise and on the brink of her college career, I knew I had to tell her that it was worth it to go to school. To get the best grades she could. To aim as high as she could and to be determined in whatever tasks came her way but that if she became a mother someday, it wouldn't be a waste to be at home while raising her children.
So that's what I did.
I started by telling her that I graduated from Cal Poly in 2003 (which shocked her off the bat...her look said, "You graduated from college?"). I told her that I never regretted going away to school but looked at that time as a very important and beneficial shaping of who I am today. And that every single day I used my education in the raising of my children. At the time I thought, "She probably thinks this response is crazy as I'm about to have number five and she sees me running around with goldfish crackers and sippy cups constantly asking my nearly two-year-old if she needs to go to the bathroom. How could my life be seen as anything but mundane, chaotic, and what some women would think is the worst of all-simple?" Nevertheless, even in the monotony, the everyday simplicity, is so beautiful to me, and rewarding and very, very stimulating. But instead of scoffing, she smiled as she walked away and then went on with her day. And I felt I had at least said my piece. That took place a couple of weeks ago.
Then last Friday night we took our kids to the school's music concert. They all loved it, especially Joshua, and since we had seats in the back, they were able to make some noise and pretend to be conducting the band while the students were playing. It was a blast. At one point, Elliana had to go to the bathroom and so we went. On our way back in a woman stopped me and said, "You're Mrs. Dauphin aren't you? You know, you really inspired my daughter." Aghast I quickly asked, "Who is your daughter?" trying to understand what she was even talking about. She gave me the girl's name and immediately the whole encounter flooded back to me. And I was humbled because evidently my "two minutes" had gotten through. Those two minutes were enough to get her to go home and talk extensively with her own mom about why it's not a waste to be a woman, go to school and then become a stay-at-home mom, if that's what she chose. And her mom had affirmed what I said. I was speechless...stunned.
And I went home after the concert and cried. Seriously. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones. I don't know. But I felt so hopeful that she had listened and that maybe it might make a difference with someone...just maybe.
I'm not the most educated woman on the planet. I'm not even nearly as smart or accomplished as some of the women I know and am surrounded with. And some of the women I know, who didn't go to college, are also some of the smartest and most gifted women around me too. I know some seriously accomplished ladies and they amaze me. But that's not even what I'm writing about. What I'm trying to express is that it doesn't have to be one or the other. You don't have to have a career just because you went to college. Your life will not be marked by drudgery just because you choose to stay home. You can choose to be at home and your education will not be squandered. I am also not attacking the women who do stay in the workforce. I have friends who do that out of choice and at times necessity, and I respect them too. I'm simply talking about the idea that's being fed to our young women that the job of motherhood at home is simple, boring, and unrewarding, culminating in the waste of an educated mind.
We HAVE to tell our daughters this. I want Elliana to grow up just as educated as her brothers with the same opportunities. But I want her to understand the value of being a mother and to be willing to be interrupted in her pursuits for a husband someday, and if God will allow, for her own children.
It's never a waste.
It's a gift.
This gift is worth preparing for in school while growing up and in college if the opportunity allows. I'm just thankful I had the chance to go to a university and I pray that God will use my education to shape the lives of my children and their children and the many that will follow.
Okay...I'm done. You can send me your hate mail now :).
Recently I ran across an incredibly encouraging and solid sermon series on fatherhood. Because I've loved it so much, I thought I'd pass it on to you readers for your pleasure and edification. I've learned so much already, been challenged in my parenting and have understood a bit more about my husband, his hopes as a man/father himself, and what an amazing Father we have in Christ.
If you need something to do while folding clothes, look it up here. Or go to canonwired.com and look under sermons for Father Hunger, scroll to the bottom and start with sermon 1.
Americans are a bunch of fickle people. On the one hand, individualism is supreme. We don't want to be told what to do and the very idea of independence is stamped on every single individual that calls himself a citizen of the good 'ole USA. Yet, everywhere you look, there is some sort of version of self help being preached that promises to yield a better life if the instructions are followed carefully. "Lose inches off your waist in just five weeks!" "How to get along with your husband!" And one of my "favorites"..."Hot sex tips!" Does it get anymore awkward or invasive than that? Yet these sorts of magazines, books and media are gobbled up like hotcakes because despite our attempt to be individuals, we really do just want to be told what to do.
I don't know all of the reasons why this dichotomy exists is but I do have some theories. One of them, in my opinion, is that we seek happiness rather than wholeness. When we're not happy, as we're bound to be at many points in our lives, we think there must be something majorly wrong. For it even says in our Declaration of Independence that we have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This American Dream is foundational to the soul of every American. So when we aren't happy, we need to find a way to fix it-fast. Hence the self help.
Except self help isn't the answer. Christ is and thus His wisdom is. For self help can only go so far and so deep. Godly discernment is what helps us sift through the difficult things in our lives and make decisions about them. Self help only gives a mass formula that may or may not apply depending on who we are. We're all different. We are all individuals made in God's image and we have different personalities. One diet might work splendidly for someone while another person might find that anytime they try that method, they gain weight instead of lose. We're all people with thoughts, feelings, weaknesses and passions. No two of us are the same. That's why self help just doesn't cut it. Simply following the rules doesn't help us wade through all the muck out there. We need wisdom to help us discern the wheat from the chaff before we can start sifting. Once we've got that down, we can start weeding out the actual food-the wheat.
Now before you all start calling me a relativist, let me explain something about the difference between principles and methods. This teaching is not my own but it has revolutionized my thinking in this area. There are things called principles. These are standards that must be adhered to because they are either God's laws or man's laws (sometimes there is a difference between man's laws and God's laws in which God's laws must be followed above man's laws). Do not kill might be one of them. Raising our children to love the Lord is another. These are basic principles that we are expected to follow no matter who we are. God has laid them out and we are to walk in them, period. God has also told us to listen to those in authority over us so we must obey the laws of the land. These are principles and we build our lives around them taking their instruction at face value.
Nevertheless, how we carry those principles out varies according to family culture, personality and circumstance and that is where methods come in. We know the principle, we apply wisdom and out pops a method. My method probably won't look like yours in every way because I'm different than you. But the spirit is the same.
Never has there been a better place to apply this teaching than to motherhood. Your neighbor might be a co-sleeping, demand feeding, eco-savvy mama to you (hypotheticals here) and every time she brings up cloth diapering you swoon. But you can still be friends. Because even though you're a structured, homeschooling, scheduled feeding mom, there can be a respect there that you're different and that methods don't matter all that much in the end. And you don't have to recycle your Pampers boxes in her recycling bins to make your point either. Some methods can be superior to others but most are just different. And they aren't any reason to get your panties in a wad. We're just people. If you know someone who doesn't like to feed their kids processed foods, you don't have to turn your nose down at them. You might not agree and think it's a bit snobbish. But it's a method. And you also don't have to feel less-than because you pull out the mac n' cheese sometimes.
Motherhood requires thinking, not formulas, and it requires grace. You have to take the principles God has given you and carry them out with the best methods you know how, keeping in mind your own preferences and personality. And then, when others do it differently than you, you have to have the maturity and grace to deal with it. Once you do, the world is before you and there is freedom...freedom to love those around you and freedom to make your own little domain what you want it to be without hostility, without fear and without doubt.
Sorry my friends but I've been quite the slacker this week. I've simply been trying to get back on track after last week and I've found myself quite tired. It's just the post-semester tiredness that always comes. After sprinting for awhile, the fatigue built up from the months of busyness is finally allowed to hit once there is a break. We all experience this in all sorts of phases of life. It's just the way life works I think. The kids and I have also been enjoying having Daddy home every night. And in all reality, I'm really trying to soak up the time before Steve starts again.
So forgive my laziness. I'll be back soon. I've already got some posts in progress but nothing has been finished yet.
Until then, I'm going to sleep a little extra, cuddle close to my husband every chance I can and enjoy the peace for a bit. You know, the good life.
Today I had the privilege of putting on the first annual Grandparents' Tea at the boys' school. It was actually a tea for any family that wanted to attend but the school especially wanted to honor the grandparents. I had some wonderful help and I must say it all went really well. There were some things we learned (as I knew would be the case) but there weren't any major issues so I can be happy about that! I didn't get many pictures since I was running around making sure things were going okay but I got a few. And I got to video the boys' performances so I was thankful for that.
All in all, it was a splendid day. And afterward my mom came home with me and forced me to take a nap. Good thing she did because it saved my life. Still a couple days left in the week of craziness, but all of us are going to make it. And come Monday, we'll be able to celebrate another Texas A & M semester done and done well. I'm truly thankful!
I am Nikki Dauphin, wife to Steve since July 2002, and mom to four boys and one little girl. Currently my husband is pursuing his PhD in mathematics, so as you can imagine, with five kids in tow, there are many adventures to behold! I'm learning how to raise a brood of boys and one precious princess, be a homemaker, how to be a lovely wife to my handsome and dashing husband and how to love those around me. Stop and stay awhile. Family stories, recipes, musings on life and lessons I'm learning are all a part of this blog. I love the life I've been given and thank God for His many blessings.
Steve-My amazing, fix-it, brilliant, math-loving, puzzle-solving husband is a Math PhD student pursuing his graduate degree through Colorado State University. He is also a Year Round Graduate Intern for Sandia National Labs researching and working on projects related to national security and preparing for his dissertation. We met at Cal Poly, SLO and were married in 2002. Seriously, he's my best friend.
Isaac-Laughter. My precious firstborn. Blue-eyed, blondie, logical, lefty. Particular, orderly, courageous, funny, and intelligent. Sees the world in patterns, numbers, colors and shapes. My first son. My joy.
Caleb-Brave. My mischevious secondborn. Brown-haired, coal-eyed, soldier. Needs explanations about how the world works. "Mathy", inquisitive, architectural and mechanical. Silly, passionate, tough, long-suffering and smart. My second son. My love.
Joshua-Saved by the Lord. My irreplaceable thirdborn. Bubbly, gregarious, social and playful. Loves to be surrounded by his family. Cuddly, kissable, chubby and charming. Life of the party, full of joy, overflowing with humor and laughter. My third son. My light.
Elliana-The Lord Has Heard. My long-awaited daughter. Petite, dark-eyed, beauty. Strong, coordinated, cheeky and spunky. Sharp as a tack and a flitting socialite. Loved by every member of her family. My fourth born. My only daughter. My treasure.
Nathan-God Has Given. My fourth son. Yet, it never gets old. My youngest little gift. Gentle, strong, sweet, angelic. Blonde and light-eyed. Littlest of them all but full of life and love. My fifth born. My littlest man. God's given. My gift.
Hot Providence (too bad it's out of print) America's Test Kitchen Anything Williams Sonoma King Arthur Flour