Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Family / Home / Life & Faith

Rhythms

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 31/52

A wind blows through and turns the house upside down. It’s the wind of youthful energy, and it comes with sparks, wonder, quarrels, questions, messes, attitudes…and so much more. Not long ago, I would easily be swept into the wind, tossed all about with anxiety and stress, wanting so much to do it all perfectly, to manage chaos and make space for good things, but unable to get my hands on the reins to steer the wild horses.

I did not wake up one day with a lightbulb over my head and a perfect solution to my troubles, but I have slowly, over time, grown to understand that I can have peace, purpose, and direction no matter what is going on around me.

It comes down to rhythm. Or rhythms, plural.

My twenties proved to be a decade-long struggle to find any sense of rhythm to life, and it started with my inability to recognize that I needed some rhythms if I also wanted peace. I was on an epic thrill-ride, throwing my heart into everything with gusto, sometimes without thought as to how one choice might affect another. Having no order to the day, the week, the month, and no vision for peace throughout the various facets of my life often left me with heartaches, frustration, wasted energy, wasted time, and wasted opportunities.

Suffice it to say, I have struggled for a long time to establish healthy rhythms.

When it comes to music, some people think you either have rhythm or you don’t. We’ve all seen the one person in a group that is clapping opposite all the others, either striking the wrong beats or struggling to clap where there is a beat at all. We have seen people on TV who are learning to dance, but instead of gracefully moving with skill and precision, they awkwardly wobble through the unfamiliar steps. I relate, in many ways.

But rhythm-in-life is not something that we just have or don’t have. It is something that we thoughtfully and intentionally establish, as we learn more about what rhythms look like and what they can offer us.

As defined, rhythm is a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound, or a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions, or processes. That’s it. Just a pattern. Habits. The big rocks you put in your jar before filling the cracks in with sand and smaller pebbles. I think rhythms are especially important for mothers, and for their families. At least that has been my recent experience.

I don’t think every family would jive with the same rhythms, but I do think every family can benefit from establishing ones that uniquely fit them. That said, I’ll share some of what that looks like for me, in case it helps to spark some ideas that might help you identify some rhythms you already have or want to establish.

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**Feel free to skip the rest of this entry if you like. It’s a peek into what works for us, but may not work for everyone. It is meant to be descriptive of our normal, not prescriptive of what anyone else should do. I tried to make it concise, but….that didn’t happen. Read on at your own risk!

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Morning Rhythms – Admittedly mornings have gotten easier as my children have grown a bit, but I try to let the kids know what to expect for morning while I’m putting them to bed the night before. If we’re planning to have a home day, I encourage them to stay quietly reading or playing in their beds until a specific time so I can have a more leisurely wake-up. If we’re planning to be out during the morning, I will tell them that when they wake up (either on their own or when I wake them), they need to be dressed and ready to head out the door without being prompted by me. Once they’re ready, they are to put their energy toward anything they can find around the house that needs to be done, which are typically things like: reorganize the shoe-cubby that is constantly destroyed anytime someone retrieves their shoes, pick up stray laundry from around the house and put it in the right place, put any toys away that might have been left out, get their water-bottles filled up and sitting on the table so they’re ready for when we leave.

Mealtime Rhythms – Whatever the first meal of the day that we’re home for, I set a timer for myself to spend one hour in the kitchen. This is most often breakfast, but some days it is lunch, if we’ve had an early activity to be at that sends us out the door with granola bars & bananas. I know that probably seems like a long time to be in the kitchen, but I have found that it works for me to just set the timer and commit to it. At night, after I put the kids to bed, I do not spend time in the kitchen finishing up dishes, or around the house putting everything back in order. I like the quiet of the late evenings, so I spend that time writing or doing other creative things I’m not able to do when the troops are awake. Instead, I do this morning routine: wash and load dishes, make breakfast, set out meal items for the day that need to be defrosted, prep meal elements for dinner that I can stash away in the fridge, clean out the fridge and pantry and take stock of what I need from the store that week. I put on some music or listen to the audio option on YouVersion, delegate other tasks to kids who wander in and need something to do, and put in the time. I feel like it gives me a return all day long, when I come back to rinse just a few dishes after lunch, or start dinner with everything half-done for me already when we get to 5pm.

Bible Study Rhythms – I love the Bible, but I will not read it if I don’t have structure and accountability to do it. I accomplish this by participating in CBS (Community Bible Study) during the school year, and by hosting independent studies with a friend during the summer. I like listening to the Bible on YouVersion’s iPhone app, and as I mentioned above, do that most often when I’m cleaning the kitchen or driving somewhere. I don’t study the Bible because I ‘should’, and I don’t think anyone should ever feel guilty for not studying it. I study it because it gives me strength, grows my understanding, challenges me, and helps me through days in ways I can’t fully articulate…so in that way I totally recommend it, but it should never be something done just to check it off the list.

Fitness Rhythms – I have never been into fitness. In fact, I avoided it like the plague for a good 12-15 years until it was clear that I needed to make some changes. It’s not that I didn’t know exercise would be good for me, its that I didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t really think it was necessary or feasible for me as I started adding more babies to my life. Something about bumping into my 30’s woke me up to the need for me to care for myself, especially in this area. I have seen my greatest successes this year in setting a goal to run or walk a minimum of 10 miles per week. Then I told all my friends about it so I could have their encouragement and accountability (which several have been outstanding about making sure I have both), and now I’ve run/walked almost 350 miles in 2015. This is huge for me! I accomplish this by going to the YMCA several days a week, where I can check my kids into a class for a bit while I use the treadmill, by walking with friends in the early morning (6 or 7am) or late evenings (8pm – when the kids have gone to bed). I probably go 6 days a week, consistently, and I can’t begin to say how life-giving it has been for me. I feel strong, energetic, clear-minded, not stressed all the time. Highly recommend finding your own groove.

Chore Rhythms – I’ve tried lots of different approaches to kids and chores over the years. Charts don’t work for me. Assigning the same chore to a kid for a week or more doesn’t work for me. We do chores on the fly 1) whenever we’re preparing to leave the house (whoever is already ready gets assigned one or two), 2) before any meal time – If I’m in the kitchen preparing food, they are elsewhere in the house tending to a job they can complete in 5-10 minutes, and 3) whenever I get a wind to put everything in order. We start some hoppin’ music, I sometimes assign certain tasks, and everyone works together until the work is done, looking for things that can be done whether or not it has been asked of them. It’s not perfect, but I have seen improvement over time in the kids’ ability to recognize what needs to be done and their follow-through in getting it done without me nagging them to do it. Win all around.

Homeschool Rhythms – This should have its own post one day, but for now, I’ll just say that I have a handful of things that the kids know need to be done every single day before they can do other fun things. School tasks may happen at different times on different days, but the rhythm for the kids is knowing the list of items they need accomplish before there will be any TV time or computer time. They will often bring a reading lesson to me because they’re ready to do it for the day, knowing that it will happen sometime anyway. I like that this approach makes them take initiative some of the time. There are some days we do things that are not on this list, but as a baseline, this keeps us moving through the week without me having to be the steam engine that makes it happen.

Bedtime Rhythms – I already mentioned a little about these above, but I try to keep the order of bedtime the same, even for the older kids. At the end of the day, I’m spent and have very little left to offer, but I have committed to being as present with them as I can for at least a short time. Some nights everyone gets ready without a lot of drama, and those nights, I’ll sit with them to read or have discussions about all kinds of things they have questions about. We sing songs and pray. On nights, when they are not as cooperative, I shorten the story/question time, and have them fall asleep more independently. I rarely stay until everyone is asleep, but I do try to get them through the transition zone, where they have calmed down and are quiet in their beds. Because this takes my last bit of energy for the day, most days, that’s why I push all remaining chores left to do until the morning.

Anyway…that ended up being way longer than I anticipated, but I hope you found some value in it. I feel like all of these things contribute to having a sense of order, peace, and harmony in our house.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

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Update on goals for week 31:

1) Run/walk at least 10 miles per week. Week 31 ~ 18 Run/Walk miles traveled, 347.5mi in 2015
2) Write 10,000 words weekly. Week 31 ~ 2600 words completed, 91,000 words in 2015

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941. childcare trade and time with a sweet little guy, 942. brainstorming awesomeness with a friend, 943. a favorable read on the scale,  944. new phone and fitness tracker app, 945. wading pool time with friends, 946. calendaring dates for the upcoming months and plans in the works, 947. friends over for a steak dinner (and mad husband skills to cook the steak), 948. meeting a friend’s new little one and hearing her amazing home-birth story, 949. peanut butter cookies, 950. new book in the mail