My Key for Calm (holiday season or not).

What I Learned and What I'm Into September 3

For me and my kids, music is in our bones. We can feel it in ways that are unexplainable. 

“Music is all around us, all you have to do is listen.”

August Rush. The storyline isn’t that great, even though it is very sweet and sentimental. I had to agree with the critics on this one. But the value for me in the film was in appreciating and feeling the music. The scene when the boy is talking with “Wizard” (Robin Williams) and they look up at the night sky, “Wizard” talks about how the whole universe is filled with music. It’s always around us, all we have to do is listen. Watch this little clip to see what I mean. 

For some of us, music is innate. It’s a power, a mood, an atmosphere. It reaches inside to grasp the spirit and has the ability to change the course of feelings and actions.

Knowing this to be true, I’m careful about the music I play in my home because music affects me so deeply. I almost hold it at bay not wanting to feel or get carried away by it; I don’t want to be driven by an outside force.

Also, I’m a highly-sensitive-person and the stimulation from a house full of kids plus music loud enough for everyone to hear equals one overwhelmed and frustrated me.

B2S Day 18 Chores grace and sale 3

But I turned on Eric Clapton during our chore time the other day. I had a high standard for my kids with regards to wiping down walls and cupboards. One child noted that he really liked the music, and I think we all did. It helped to boost our moods and busy our hands. The guitar and drums helped our minds to zone out as we stuck to the physical tasks, and it also shut our mouths because no one wanted to talk over the music.

Sometimes words fail me. They fail my feelings, my desires, my commands. They fail me in battles, in chores, and in bonds. So I’m learning to use music. It’s something that is a science and an art.

Figuring out the balance between the style, rhythm, instruments, energy level, and lyrics is difficult and I have definitely made wrong selections. I wish I had a guide for home school life with kids and music because when I make a bad selection, I end up feeling worse than if I had just kept the house silent.

Toddler Jamming on a Uke

I want to keep trying to figure out the role of music in our home. If I would have given up on using music, then I would have missed out on the magic of changing all our moods and the course of the entire day.

Music is my key for a calm home. For a calm heart. I must be willing to engage in the balance and willing to get some notes wrong because for my kids music holds a magical ability to guide their actions in ways that words cannot.

When I use music and what kind of music it is:

Chores: I pick music I like that is upbeat. This is not a time for silly kid music or chores will derail into a bigger disaster of brooms, wrestling, and rags – someone usually gets hurt. My current favorites are: Eric Clapton’s Greatest Hits, Lindsey Sterling, JJ Heller’s Loved, or anything else that sounds good to me in the moment. The key to using music for chores is to use music that the kids won’t be able to sing along to or music that has a driving beat that will get their little hands busy instinctively.

Quiet time: Instrumental or lullabies. I’m really picky when it comes to quiet time music. Not all lullabies or instrumental music are created equal. I can’t tell you how many times I tried a new lullaby CD from the library that had a weird song on it or a random upbeat song that threw the whole mood and atmosphere of “quiet” out the window. There’s nothing more disappointing for a mom (me) than a quiet time ruined by a kid who is over stimulated and jumping and/or shouting from their bed. My current favorites are: Hillsong Kids Jr. Piano Lullabies Vol. 1 This collection is the most beautiful and calming CD I think I have ever found. I simply cannot listen to it enough. When my toddler is in quiet time, I turn up the monitor so that I can enjoy the CD too. Other lullabies that I’ve loved are the Hidden in My Heart CDs. These are scripture based songs (some word for word scripture) that are sung in soft, calm tones. The music is straight truth for little hearts and soft like a blanket to listen to.

Get-the-wiggles-out: Music made for kids. My current favorites are all the Slugs and Bugs.  Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame have tapped in to the child-like spirit of fun and silly and have created songs that appeal to all ages. The melodies and lyrics get stuck in my brain and make me smile. Their music proves that you don’t have to write annoying lyrics or play bad music for it to be “fun” for kids. The Laurie Berkner Band has a great CD for getting wiggles out too. But one of my absolute favorites for getting the wiggles out, while at the same time getting classical music in their brains is: Say Hello to Classical Music. This CD came with our kindergarten curriculum package from My Father’s World – and it is by far the best part of the whole kit for us.

Morning Time: Worship Music. There are simply too many favorites to list here. Sometimes we listen to the radio, sometimes we listen to older CDs or Pandora. We love music that points to the glory of God; it starts our day with an upward focus and I notice that this helps everyone’s mood as well. It’s simply right to remember why we are here and to be thankful for a new day to be alive. The perspective of worship music helps us in the morning or all throughout the day. For an even more powerful worship focus, I love Michael W. Smith’s DVD New Hallelujah.

Kid-ucation Emmett

And The Piano Guys gets their own category of ANYTIME music. We all enjoy their music so much. Watch this video to see what I mean. The way they wove Amazing Grace into this Fight Song is brilliant.

For more information on highly sensitive people check out Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child. This post may be helpful in determining what music should and shouldn’t be in your home.

Also consider reading more:

What helps keep your home calm? Do you use music to balance the ups and downs in your day too? I’d love to hear recommendations in the comments!

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Intentional Summer: December is coming.

What a dooms day, Debbie-downer title. Right?

I don’t mean to rain snow on anyone’s summer parade, but being helpful is what I do – encouraging change and growth. So, as I write the winter portion of the seasonal planner I’m working on (mentioned here, your continued patience in the publishing of said resource is appreciated) I want to share some of the thoughts with you now – while you can still use them.

As a parent, sometimes December takes me off guard.

Usually, I have established a big “Back to School” ideal. We prioritize, plan, prepare, and purchase everything we need to set up a learning environment that suites our needs.

Kids thrive with a balance of healthy change and routinesLife feels like it could go on like this forever. We have had our fill of summer and September has brought a fresh change.

Fall arrives, the plan goes into motion and I coast. It feels right for a few weeks, but then the texts, emails, church bulletins, and family engagements start filling up the calendar.

October has slowed our pace and by November my kids are sick of the routine, they are in great need of physical exercise, and I am in need of tasting some good fruit from all my effort.

December isn’t a time for tasting fresh fruit (at least not in Michigan and not in the symbolic way either), but winter’s atmosphere can still be sweet.

I have to intentionally create an anchor atmosphere for every season, or my mindset will be carried with the wind.

Two things I need for my intentionality to continue to thrive (and for my sanity):

  1. Planning ahead
  2. Preserving
Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Planning ahead: the rebel in me doesn’t like to see “Back to School” displays in July, but that is when stores start to promote it. Sure, they are motivated by profit, but the reminder is free.

Procrastination hurts intention every-single-time. Don’t be a fool for the lie again – that you can do the work later. This is the lie that says that July is too soon for planning to change the routine. Planning ahead does require work, but a little bit of it today will go a long way when it comes time for the routine to change.

Taking time to consider the winter months today will smooth the transition. You will have already done some of the work which builds momentum.

Planning ahead allows for a different perspective. Sometimes it feels impossible to change a season’s atmosphere. So it’s important to learn from the past seasons and begin to apply the changes you’d like to see.

To do this: look at a calendar for the whole year – and next to each of the winter months, jot a single word that usually summarizes your feelings in that month. Then write one word that summarizes the deeper purpose you commit to prioritize.

For example, my December would look like this:

Feeling: Overwhelmed
Purpose: Family Time

Now, when those months start to approach begin to plan your weeks holding the second word close.

If it’s “family time” then start crossing out blocks of time that will be reserved for family – making those urgent requests for more of your time an easy “no, I already have plans.”

Or if it is, “rest” then you can start listing activities that help you relax and start penciling them into your weeks. Also, begin to take note of things that make you feel overwhelmed – try to eliminate those activities during this month by taking the time to plan to accomplish some of the important tasks now. (Like ordering Christmas cards.)

Trust me, even if you’re thinking – I have small kids, so they would be written on my list of things that are overwhelming and I can’t cross them off my list. I know it’s hard to manage self-care and child-care. But habit training is possible, and you can teach your children to be calm. It is possible for them to honor your need for rest.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Preservation: just as canning fruits means I can enjoy them year round, so living well in every season preserves my spirit.

A misconception of planning ahead is that one is always looking forward and not fully enjoying the present. Not if you can balance it with preservation.

The amount of time it takes to be intentional pails in comparison to the amount of time I’ve wasted on living week-to-week. What I’ve gained from discipline and follow through is a full well of memories that I can draw from when I’m feeling drained.

Preservation is another means of self-control.

If I want to have blueberry smoothies in December, then I can’t gorge on the berries that I pick in July. I have to weigh the joy these berries will give me in December as heavier than the fleeting pleasure of eating one more handful now.

Preservation is also a way of respect. I honor the choices I make today and live fully within them. Not looking back in regret, nor forward in fantasy. I measure my days, make the most of them, and save them as proof of fruit from a life lived with much sowing.

Respect has a way of balancing by setting limits.

Write a letter to your winter-self from your summer-self. No, I’m not into predicting the future – that isn’t the purpose for this. Set aside a list of things you accomplished with the time you were given in the summer. Be honest about the trials you endured – great and small. Give credit to the lessons you faced that are unique to this time of year. Preserve a little bit of the feeling of the summer months to compare and contrast the atmospheres.

Then when winter comes, make a second list of things that anchor you to this season.

No season is “perfect,” but every season has purpose. With these suggestions, I hope you can see what atmosphere you are able to create within each month and enjoy the benefits of living with satisfaction in every season.

Some resources for further reading:

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