pep talk

March 8

March 8

March 8

March 8

I was feeling pretty bad a couple of days ago, looking around at my messy house, wondering how in the world I am supposed to manage everything.  Somewhere between dinner and cake, I actually ended up in a crying heap on my bed on Larkspur’s birthday.  I am feeling better now.  But, I thought I might take time to write myself out a little pep talk.  Maybe next time I find myself in tears because I just can’t seem to cut it, I can revisit these words, and remember to go easy on myself.  Obviously none of us can “have it all” nor can we do it all.  I want to be able to live my convictions with confidence, not apology.  I’m getting there.

A friend who visits us regularly and knows what our everyday life really looks like recently mentioned a conversation he and his wife had about us.  They were discussing our lifestyle in general, and the fact that our children “run wild” (translation=they play outdoors a lot and are free to build, create, explore…and they often look disheveled and dirty.) He noted that they are really happy kids, and we are clearly a happy family.  Yes, we are.

But sometimes, I find myself falling into a trap.  I start focusing on the mess that our lifestyle creates, rather than the joy.  Rather than noticing all that we accomplish, I notice all that I fail to do.  Quite simply, I forget my priorities.

Our girls drag blankets, pillows, and dolls outside and they don’t always make it back in for a few days. Last week we spread a quilt in the backyard for a picnic, forgot about it, and then it rained for a couple of days.  Yesterday I remembered to shake it out, bring it inside, and wash it.

Our boys hunt the woods and old homesites for treasure and bring it all home.  In other words, most of their toys don’t come from Toys R Us, they come from ancient trash piles.  They combine their “treasure” with bricks, rocks, and wood to make elaborate outdoor kitchens, pretend stores, and houses.  Sometimes they use cardboard boxes in the front yard and then it rains and then the cardboard is left in a soggy heap until someone gets around to dragging it to the recycling bin.  We live in the country; there’s not a neighborhood association.  There’s no one to peek over the fence, so to speak.  Recently we were visited by some people wanting to share their faith with us.  I answered the door in pajamas covered with bits of fabric and thread.  We were getting ready for Larkspur’s birthday and I just couldn’t invite them in.  I explained that our day was full, but didn’t make any excuses about the mess.  Our front porch was covered in bikes, shoes, and even a dishwasher, as we just replaced ours and the boys want to take apart the old one.  Our kids were playing outside, messy haired and muddy. I laughed as the people drove away, wondering what they must be thinking.

The front porch is still covered in bikes, shoes, and treasures, but Jonny did move the dishwasher to the back of his truck today.  The back porch is host to what may appear to be a crazy big mess, but is really a carefully crafted manifestation of my children’s imagination.

We are building and maintaining relationships here.  We are creating.  We are learning.  We are growing.  We are celebrating LIFE.  We are loving.

And honestly, I am doing a good bit of cleaning as well.  These little people are just really good at erasing my tracks.

My mom sent me this quote in an email today:

“Sometimes what may seem like failure to succeed is the greatest of successes.

It just may not feel like success while it’s happening or while we are recovering.”

*End of pep talk*


  1. This sounds like my life! Thank you for sharing. I may come back and read it again when I need a pep talk too. 🙂

  2. I think as long as our houses don’t turn into the nasty trash bins that some hoarders houses do and you keep the basics clean we shouldn’t be obsessive. From your photos your children are happy, healthy, learning and living the way they should. I love to see them surrounded by their toys and books and making fun messes. Sometimes we worry too much about being perfectly clean. As long as we aren’t nasty and filthy then it’s fine. We can’t live in magazines. I try to keep the kitchen reasonable clean and the bathroom clean but there are always piles of clothes that need to be folded. I just don’t want to waste my time on them. With fibromyalgia I have to pick what I can do. Life is too short so I pick fun more than cleaning. Don’t worry and stress. As long as you teach each child to do their fare share and contribute to the household everything will be fine. Your photos inspire me so much and make me happy. You are doing a great job.

  3. Love you, Ginny! And miss you and your crew! 🙂

  4. I needed a pep talk this week! My husband had to pick me up from a similar crying moment several times this week. Thanks for helping me put things into perspective!

    Also, most days the kids and I don’t get dressed unless we are going somewhere (and with 3 under 4 we don’t leave the house except to go to the grocery or the doctor). At night we take off the dirty PJs and put a fresh pair on.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this, Ginny…honestly, I come back to read your blog because it is encouraging to me. We don’t buy tons of toys…my kids’ favorite thing to do is to play with “trash treasure” and create in the yard or in the huge dirt pit they’ve elaborately dug into roads and cities…its not a cute little sandbox- its a huge, dirty pit they’ve dug. The create people and toys with sweet gum seed balls and bring me amazing animal bones from the yard. And our porch is a mess, too 🙂 Thank you for encouraging me that I’m not crazy to live this way. And for keeping my priorities as well 🙂
    Blessings to you and your beautifully real and good life,

  6. Thanks so much. A very good friend of mine is undergoing a traumatic time and. I think your post is exactly what she needs. Thanks for posting your pep talk.

  7. I think so many of us feel this way, just from reading the comments, and you voice so often what I can’t put into words. I go to your blog for encouragement, that spot of light in all the seeming darkness of life. I’m so thankful for the light you share.

  8. WOW! this post really hit home with me! Thanks so much for the pep talk! I needed it <3

  9. Honestly, you turn around and the kids are grown with families of their own. (I KNOW you don’t believe me, but trust me—it happens)–and there you are with a quiet house—wishing more than anything that a bit of the turmoil lingered. I’m there. Make those memories while you can.

  10. Oh, that was a good pep talk!! Thank you for that. Can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve felt “caught with my pants down” when people come to the door and I answer in my pjs (usually in my case, I’ve been writing while the kids are at school…maybe a worse look, maybe not) and the house inside and out is a total wreck. Our kiddos too drag up toys/treasure washed up from the beach and leave all manner of play stuff lying around the yard. Inside is not always in much better shape (I like your two-hour visiting rule!). And, on occation we’ve had old broken dryers, washing machines, pickup trucks, car parts and abandoned office chairs in our yard for heaven sake! But my babies are happy and soooo lucky to grow up in this way, and you’re right that’s what is most important…not looking a certain way to outsiders. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  11. Here’s to living in the country!

  12. i do believe we would be friends in the real world… hugs to you!

  13. I’m glad I’m not the only one!
    I’m constantly trying to make our yard and house look less like a junk pile. My kids are also junk collectors, and my son loves making all kinds of inventions from weird things. His latest project, which I shuddered to see by the front door, was a “dragon” he was making out of tinfoil, green play dough and an old animal skull he found in the woods. It looked incredibly grizzly. We also have a mud pit, a mulch pile and lots of scooters and bikes lying around. We live in a student neighborhood, so no one seems to care too much, but I always wonder what the neighbors must think.

  14. Oh Ginny, you are not alone. Our dishwasher spent a long time in various states in our yard and the cardboard boxes dot the landscape in various states of mush. This is life, from chaos from the much rises new life and creation. Hope you found some pep for yourself in your lovely poetic pep talk! You are not alone if that brings you any comfort. Warm regards, Lisa

  15. Hi,
    I don’t think that I have commented before on your blog…but feel compelled to do so today. I have looked at your kids pictures and thought …What lucky kids! Wouldn’t we all have liked to grow up that way able to explore, pretend, and use our imaginations?
    Years ago my SIL and BIL raised their boys in Colorado. The kids attended a “free school” where they could have freedom to do what they were interested in doing. If they didn’t want to study…they could go to another room and do something else. Back in Illinois, our family worried and worried about those boys. “Were they getting an education? Were they learning manners? and so on and so on. Today those boys are college graduates and we needn’t have worried.
    I think that they most important thing in raising kids is love…and spending time with each one. You will be able to see what your kids are truly interested in and they will be able to follow their dreams. A friend said once when her kids were being rambunctious…”They are spirited today.” I’ve always remembered that. You’re doing a great job!

  16. Ginny,
    From what you share on your blog, it looks like you’re doing a great job at nurturing joy and creativity. I feel a little crazy sometimes because I want that for my family too, but I also crave order and a place for my eyes to rest. It’s a difficult balance – especially in our prim suburban neighborhood . AND especially because we’re trying to sell the house so we can move to a place that is not in a suburban neighborhood so we can have this kind of life more freely. Where the mud pit my boys created won’t interfere with a “lawn.”

  17. You know what…I want your lifestyle. This year we got too busy ‘going’. Before, we spent a lot of time outside. The girls dressing up in pioneer dresses and playing, going for boat rides or in the kayaks. Oh and get this-one day my youngest left her violin outside. When I saw it the next morning it was covered in dew! The violin teacher kept wondering why that E string wouldn’t stay in tune! LOL! You’re providing the most wonderful childhood for your children. Never forget that!

  18. Oh Ginny you are so not alone! We had a dishwasher outside in various states of being for longer than I dare tell and we have those cardboard boxes outdoors too, snowed on, rained on all the time, in different states of mush. And yes muddy feet and dirty clothes. It is all a sign of life. Isn’t life, creation born in chaos and messiness? It’s all good and beautiful. Thank you for you lovely post. Hope you found some pep in it. Warm regards, Lisa

  19. I think you just spoke for many many moms and families out here in blog land. During Erin Goodman’s 10-Day Family Re-charge, we started with the concept of appreciating where we are right now and celebrating the messes. Someone shared the idea that your kids aren’t making messes, they are making memories.

  20. My mum was always so obsessive about having things clean and ‘done right’ that she never taught us to do things for ourselves in case we messed them up. I remember our house being so perfect I was scared to touch half the things in it but I don’t really remember my parents playing with us or letting us get muddy.

    I’d rather see kids like yours that are a little untidy sometimes but happy and self sufficient than spend time around a kid who won’t do anything but watch tv and gossip.

  21. Isn’t it funny when you think you are going through these emotional times all by yourself you turn on the computer and find a soul as frustrated as yourself! Thank you for being so honest-it has made my day. Just when this being everything and doing everything gig was getting me down I read your post. My sister told me to remember when I was a kid. Did it matter that you were in a neat and tidy house? Is that what you remember?It was the people and the feeling they were making that I remember not the state of their homes.

  22. You are so right…. one day they will be grown and the house will be clean and quiet. (altho I am praying that grandbabies will start coming and the house will never be quiet of laughter and little voices. After all these years my father actually told me the other day that he was thankful I homeschooled my children. It still moves me to think about it. I wish he would have been involved and supportive in the midst of the mess and mayhem. But, we dont always get what we want do we? I am choosing to be oh so thankful that I was able to hear these words even now……

  23. And even though your girls’ hair is often kinda wild, I see that you have Bea’s hair in neat little braids in one photo. Hair-doing is kind of like cleaning…you do it, and then the children cover your tracks quite nicely!

    I have three girls, and I struggle to keep their hair looking cute and neat…some days, it just doesn’t get done.

  24. My daughter just posted this on facebook and I loved it!
    Then I read your post. LOL
    Here it is:

    Please excuse the mess
    the children are making

    A picture of the real sign is much cuter, the memories part is in a cursive font and twice as large as the printing.

  25. Thank you for this! I love the honesty.
    I hope you know you are not alone.

    The last time I was in a crying heap was during one of our rare visits with our youngest son who lives a half a day away from us. I felt so selfish and silly. I wanted things to be perfect for his visit.

    I have to say that I’ve learned a lot from these moments though. I’ve learned to let go of a lot and embrace even more.

    Much respect and patience to you.
    Sometimes you just got to let it out!

  26. thats the way kids used to play back when you could let your kids play outside without someone kidnapping them

  27. Loved the “we ARE” affirmations so much I copied them down and hung them in the kitchen. Much joy to you and your dirt!

  28. …reminds me of Roxaboxen (Barbara Cooney). My kids are in love with that book – now, to find some dirt. 🙂

  29. Sounds like a beautiful life to me way down here in NZ. Birthdays tend to be intense times. I too struggle to see through the mess that this love, creativity, inquiry, imaginative expression is exactly what we are striving for. For me it’s a balance of individual expression and my need for pockets of peaceful order.

  30. Exactly.

  31. “I want to be able to live my convictions with confidence, not apology. ” – A Manifesto for a thoughtful Mama. Thank you for the pep talk.

  32. i love that your mom sent you encouragement. this all feels so familiar, i do understand. emotions always ran high at my kids birthdays, how could they not? i know you are grateful beyond measure for the life you lead, but comparisons (and the wants or wishes) are inescapable. especially today with the internet. everything we see out there on a daily basis. hold your head up sweet girl, you are doing well. yup. xxx

  33. True story…for Christmas my girls received a “mud-pie” kitchen set that was solely based on ideas and pictures from your blog. It is, without a doubt, the most used gift they received. It was a sacrifice for me b/c I don’t like dirt in the house (we have enough food on the floor to feed a small family!), but nothing has given them more day-to-day joy…and they actually all play (relatively) nicely together when outside, in the dirt & mud, using their new tools. And I keep thinking that one day I will cry b/c there is no dirt in the house, mess in the yard, and piles of stuff EVERYWHERE. Nor will there be dirty little girls giggling and making surprises for mommy. Your life, even from afar, inspires true and simple pleasures, dirt and all 🙂 Thank you!!

  34. Hello! I found your blog today through the Lion Brand page on Facebook. Thank you for that post. I have had a hard week feeling down on myself, too. Your post reminded me that all Moms experience this to a certain degree and I am not alone. God bless you!

  35. Good pep talk, Ginny. I needed it as well! I am so there right with you.

  36. Much better to have happy kids/ messy life than two giant SUV’s parked in the driveway of a perfectly manicured home and lawn with no outside use at all. Sticky furniture and dirty kids are all a good sign.

    My kids are grown and gone and I look back to those days and would do it all over again- frustrations and all! Nothing makes me happer than seeing a yard with evidence of kids and pets and LIFE.

    Carry on~ Take time for Mom sometimes too~

  37. cassandraelaine says:

    Ginny- Thank you so much! I have been reading your blog for two years now and I so appreciate your honesty. My goals for my family are similar and while I love reading about sewing and knitting and a life lived fully, I am nourished by posts like this. I have a new baby here right now and his constant need for love and attention can be exhausting for all of us. Yet we are so thankful to have him. What a blessing are the words of men like Carol’s Fr. Lasance: “It is a blessed secret, this, of living by the day.” Anyone CAN carry their burden until nightfall and I think of this often as I hold a screaming infant and a crying toddler and try to read Fox in Socks above the din. God has given me these children. What a privilege.

  38. Gosh, I needed to read this. One thing that always seems like you have a handle on is extraneous clutter. That’s something I have a plenty. And I’m finally getting it all together and I’m getting rid of things that don’t work for my family.

    But when I walk into my girls room (it’s full on winter here – most creating is done indoors), it’s a disaster. But using your way of looking at it, there’s a HUGE box filled with rocks and shells that the girls love to put there snake and lizard in as a home. There are pretty rocks and crystals laid out deliberately for fairies. And there is a new fairy home made from a smaller box on end with floors cut and taped in for the different levels, beds made from pieces of the box and a curtain made from some packing material they found. The scarves draped everywhere make forts. And I can’t walk through the room for the dirty clothes and forgotten projects. But you’re right, they are happy, creating new and exciting things and doing so much more than you can do sitting in front of a TV.

    I love that you make the time to blog and take photos just about every other day. I found your blog searching for “dying yarn with larkspur” 🙂 (and I found it, but not what I was expecting! LOL!) and have enjoyed it ever since! Thank you…

  39. Ginny…Love your pep talk…I hope I can use it, too:) Actually, how you describe your living is what I strive for ~ can you believe it? The happy factor, despite the dirt, is all I care about! I sometimes need to remind myself “think big picture, here, Jules” and let go of being uptight about the mud or crayons or food globs. So, thanks Ginny…you are doing so much Goodness, in your home and mine:)
    xo Jules

  40. The way I judge how good of a day my children have had is by how muddy they are by the end of it. Excellent pep talk!

  41. Thank you so much for reminding us all of the better things in life!

  42. THANK YOU for this, just what I needed for today

  43. Elizabeth says:

    Oh how I needed this today, Thank you x

  44. Coming from a retired, homeschooling mom, “Just begin again. Tomorrow is another day. On those hard days, I remember Fr. Lasance. “One secret of a sweet and happy Christian Life is learning to live by the day. It is the long stretches that tire us. We think of life as a whole, running on for us. We can not carry this load until we are three score and ten. We can not fight this battle continually for half a century. But really there is no long stretches. Life does not come to us all at one time; it comes only a day at a time. Even to-morrow is never ours until it becomes to-day, and we have nothing whatever to do with it but to pass down to it a fair and good inheritance in today’s work well done, and today’s life well lived. It is a blessed secret this, of living by the day. Any one can carry his burden, however heavy, till nightfall. Any one can carry do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly,patiently,lovingly,purely,until the sun goes down. And this is all life ever means to us– just one little day. “Do to-day’s duty; fight to-day’s temptations, and do not weaken or distract yourself by looking forward to things you can not see, and could not understand if you saw them.”God gives us nights to shut down upon our little days. We can not see beyond. Short horizons make life easier and give us one of the blessed secrets of brave, true,holy living.” P.S. Remember the golden rule of homeschooling is every family is different and God has a different plan for each one. Don’t compare. You have alot on your plate. Look at all you do…your blessings…your beautiful family,(they look great!)homeschooling, adoption, knitting, blogging, gardening, etc…. You and your family bring many people such joy!!!

  45. Live your best life dear Ginny! You inspire me. On that note, I’m gonna let me kids go dirty this weekend. Happy Friday!

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