Making Things Pretty

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Jonny and I oftentimes plan to watch a program (usually something on PBS Masterpiece) at night after the kids are in bed. Some nights though, we end up in conversation with our three older boys, and plans change. They may not always want to talk with us like this, or better yet, if we always welcome conversation, maybe…hopefully, they will. On a recent night when this happened, Gabe asked Keats, “What are your three favorite things to do?” He was echoing the same question that I had asked him earlier in the day. I like to keep my older kids thinking about what their interests are, encouraging answers outside of the realm of say, watching movies or going swimming at the lake.

Anyway, Keats threw out three things and then the question was turned on me. What are my three favorite things to do? My three big boys started answering for me, saying that this was easy. “Knitting, Cross-stitching, gardening, dyeing yarn…” they all took turns naming what were surely my favorites, and the list went on. Actually, I wasn’t sure at the time what my top three things were, and I’m still not. After thinking hard for a minute or so I gave my number one as, “Making things pretty.” Keats covered his face in his hands while exclaiming, “Mommy!” As in, “Mommy, that’s a ridiculous answer.” I answered back, “Hey, you named eating cookies  as one of your top three! Give me a break!”

I eventually came up with a proper answer: spending time in nature, making things (including knitting here), and of course, making things pretty. But honestly, I felt a little stumped. I’m not exactly sure what my three favorite things to do are. While I like to have my kids think about this sort of thing because I want them thinking towards careers eventually, as far as I go, I guess I don’t think often enough about what I want to be doing. Life is more often about what I ought to be doing. But the more I think about it, what I ought to be doing is often what I want to be doing if I look at the big picture. And maybe that’s the lesson I most want to teach my children. What you think you want to do with your life might not end up lining up with your actual vocation, in other words, what God wants you to do with your life. But, if you base your life choices on what you believe God is directing you towards, you will likely find that you enjoy doing what you ought to be doing, even if it ends up involving something quite different than what you originally envisioned.

Beatrix complained about doing something or other yesterday, and I told her just to do the work and she might end up liking it. I said, “I didn’t want to scrub all the toilets on Saturday, but once I got going I didn’t mind at all. And I was real pleased once I got all those toilets clean.” (I use the example of scrubbing toilets far too often with my kids!) Bea started dancing at this point, singing, or maybe rapping? “Who cleaned those toilets? Yeah, I did! I did!” I’ll probably hear her little voice in my head when I’m cleaning toilets from now on. I may even start rapping.

I hope I’m making sense here. I’ve been interrupted no less than a dozen times in writing these few paragraphs…such is my life these days.  Bottom line, I have certainly found ways to do what I ought to alongside things that I enjoy, and in doing so, some of the drudgery has become less so. And so much of it has to do with attitude, anyway. Of course I still stay up too late sometimes to knit and make things pretty when I ought to be sleeping. That’s how Mabel got that sweet little hat. And as her mother, I think I ought to do all I can to keep her sweet little head warm.

p.s. The pattern is called, Doe Cap, and it is in the latest Making magazine.


  1. Valéria Maciel Costa says:

    Que lindo! amei quando falou sobre gostarmos de fazer o que devemos fazer, se estamos na Vontade de Deus.

    Deus lhes abençoe!!!! :*

  2. Absolutely lovely post! And you’re so right, it really is about our attitude and perspective.

    Love the little hat, too. And yes, anything to keep the Babe’s head warm should be done, no matter how late into the night that task might take us 😉

    Hope you have a lovely week!

  3. Mabel is a sweetie and that sister love is even better!

  4. I most certainly agree! I also think there are different callings for different stages of life. With limited space (aka no where to keep it up) a toddler, and twin boys due this spring, I know I may not get to sew and make as many pretty things as I would like for awhile. But God’s calling for me will be to hold close and love those around me.

  5. mary aldrich says:

    Funny, I’ve been wondering about what i want to do lately. Of our 4 children, 2 are in college and away from home, 1 will be leaving for a gap year, leaving us with 1 at home come September. I am now in the very new place of knowing there will be time for me coming up and I am really struggling with how to spend it – I want to be ready when it comes. Parenting, working, trying to keep it balanced has been quite the trip and after all those years of instinctual decisions and guidance giving on choices and careers, I am at a bit of a loss for my own plans…don’t tell my kids:)

  6. Yes, that totally made sense. And why is it cleaning the toilet that always springs to mind for parents when explaining to kids about doing unappealing chores 😀
    I hope you take this in the right spirit because I think it’s adorable – Mabel reminds me of Piglet from Winnie the Pooh in that hat!

  7. Dear Ginny, I love this post of yours! Probably because it’s funny AND serious at the same time. And the serious stuff touches up on something I have been pondering on lots lately…

    Thank you for brightening my Sunday morning 🙂
    Antonia – Prague, Czech Republic

    PS. I love everything about these pictures of yours – the cute “bunny” hat, the radiating relationship between the older and younger daughter, the grass… You ARE making things pretty 🙂

  8. We just recently had this conversation with our oldest. We also use moments like this to prepare him. Lovely post.

  9. “Attitude Changes Everything” 😉

    Gorgeous girls, gorgeous photos.

  10. You have the most beautiful children!! Also, that doe cap has to be the sweetest baby hat I’ve seen. Definitely adding that one to my queue for our next baby!

  11. Mabel looks like babies from all,the old golden books. I don’t honk I’ve seen such beautiful rosy cheeks on a baby in real life! She is a painter’s dream!

  12. Beautiful pictures, happy sisters! Love the toilet-cleaning song! I will try harder to reconcile what I want to do with what I ought to do; I am afraid I am not good at that at all…

  13. I just finished the short book Quotidian Mysteries and the author ponders the topic of housework, and she shows support for how housework can enrich community, connection, and serving God and our families. That’s what Bea’s cleaning the toilet comment made me think of.

    • I have that book, but haven’t read it yet! Did you like it? I thought it would be pretty relevant for me!

    • I found this book was very helpful and beautiful too. Perfect for a mother since so often our days are spent doing quotidian things. Your post was also an encouraging read!
      P.S. I think making things pretty would be my answer too 🙂

  14. Making things pretty! Perfect answer. Me, too.

    Somehow I’ve nearly given up doing that at home.

    Working at the parish that used to mean Liturgy. Our new pastor, however, is NOT into making things pretty. He craves minimalism. So, I have to turn to powerpoints, emails and things like that. Not as soul-fulfilling, to say the least.

  15. Such a precious little bunny hat!

  16. You make things beautiful Ginny. I love your thoughts here too. I love watching your beautiful family grow. You are an inspiration.

  17. Great post! And it is hard to answer that question… I’m still thinking on it!

  18. Thank you for sharing photos of your children! I love to see them all as they change over tie, and that Mabel is a doll! Her smiles make my day!

  19. Love this post. Also I have to note that when you spoke of making “pretty things” my first thought was of your beautiful children. You do make pretty people. 🙂

  20. Great post! I totally agree about the attitude. It is difficult to get children to understand this and as I think back, it’s something I didn’t grasp until well into adulthood. But if you plant those seeds now, it will come back to them. So you can add tending your gardens to your list. They aren’t all in soil.

  21. Emmaline E says:

    I needed this post; thank you! Particularly the idea that what I think I ought to do with my life may not be what God wants me to pursue. So very timely… Your words are so often a blessing to me. I hope you have a peaceful weekend, with time to make things beautiful.

  22. Ginny,

    I loved this post! We recently (and unexpectedly) brought 3 children into our home after being empty nesters for a few years. It has been an adjustment for all of us. One of the biggest struggles for the kids is our routine of cleaning up after ourselves (constantly) and a list of chores to accomplish daily and weekly. Some of those chores are not fun. The oldest cleans a bathroom each week and vacuums the wood floors daily. The other two clean up the dog poo from the back yard daily, take out the trash daily, and roll the canisters to the curb for trash and recycling pick up each week. Of course, there are other chores along the way that they help with and they all make their beds and keep dirty clothes in the hamper and clean clothes put away. This is all quite a change from their former chaotic environment. I am going to visit with them this weekend using your idea. I also need an attitude adjustment. Thank you for the reminder to keep a positive spin on life.
    Love, love, love your photos! You are quite an inspiration to me with your beautiful home full of children, and love!

  23. Becky - TN says:

    “Life is more often about what I ought to be doing. But the more I think about it, what I want to be doing is often what I ought to be doing if I look at the big picture. And maybe that’s the lesson I most want to teach my children. What you think you want to do with your life might not end up lining up with your actual vocation, in other words, what God wants you to do with your life. But, if you base your life choices on what you believe God is directing you towards, you will likely find that you enjoy doing what you ought to be doing, even if it ends up involving something quite different than what you originally envisioned.”

    Beautiful, Ginny!!

  24. Love your thoughts and pictures. We get to do things we like in life as well as some drudgery, and it is our attitude that makes the difference. And I am with you. I use cleaning the toilet as an example to my kids way to often, probably because it is one of those things I hate to do so much, but feel good when it is done. Your love for making things pretty is evident in your pictures and blog. Isn’t it wonderful to have a top trait you can apply to just about all tasks or things you do?

  25. I love this post! I don’t really even have words to say why this morning, but your thoughts here are so very good. Thanks for writing this post!

  26. A heart- and soulwarming post and pictures that make my heart melt…

  27. This is so great! I need to use those words with my kids. I could *certainly* be better at it but I feel like I also have done this a lot without really identifying it as such. My kids, however, could use it laid out for them like that! I think they just assume I really enjoy cleaning :/

  28. That is a brilliant question. I’m going to adopt it for my children. Along with the way to deal with jobs you just don’t want to do. The ones which you’d like to avoid, and break out the yarn or fabric instead. I love Bea’s solution. We’ll all be rapping in time with the cleaning.

  29. Dearest Ginny,
    I know exactly what you mean! So often when my mom calls and wants to know what I have been up to… I am at a loss in some respects because each day is full of small mundane tasks that all blend into one another. When someone at church asks me how my week was, I usually answer – wonderful – but can’t really list any thing specific. I love our little life, though, where I serve my family – take moments to all do the things I enjoy of course too. You are a wonderful example and thank you for sharing your family with us!

  30. You do make things pretty! Those photos of your baby are breathtaking. Children need beauty in their lives…keep up the good work!

  31. Mabel’s hat is just the sweetest and I love the photos of her laughing and loving life. I was truly touched by your story of things you like to do. I am going to be 69 in two months and that was a question I could never answer in my life. When I asked myself what would I like to do – I drew a blank. However, in reading your piece I realized that I always thought it should be something more grand and meaningful. This made me realize that making things pretty, comfortable and cozy is as important as liking neurophysics. You’ve taught me a lesson tonight – just being is enough. Thank you 😊

  32. Love this!

  33. I thought this all made perfect sense! well done! 🙂 I think about this too… and I do agree that attitude makes a huge difference in such things!!! So cute about the rap! I don’t have kids, but I teach Sunday School and often tell the kids about temptation and how to understand it. I always use the example of ‘you really want the cookie that your Mom baked but she said you could not have one until after dinner. If you sneak a cookie that means you not only stole it/were dishonest but also did not obey etc etc. They ALWAYS perk up about the COOKIE. It’s really cute. But it has led to some good discussions that happen spontaneously and an easy way to talk about such things. I think cleaning a toilet is a good example of a chore that needs doing but perhaps one could shirk from. Love the hat, the pictures and your family!

  34. Ginny, you are so lovely!

    I’m so grateful that you share all your abundant talents here with us.

    What a wonderful question to get teens talking. Mine are still little but I love the idea of late night talks.

    And I Love Mabel’s hat. You inspire me to learn to knit.

  35. “But, if you base your life choices on what you believe God is directing you towards, you will likely find that you enjoy doing what you ought to be doing, even if it ends up involving something quite different than what you originally envisioned.” Perfect!

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