Archive for September, 2014

Helpful Hints for Showing Hospitality WITH Young Kids

Monday, September 29th, 2014

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t looking to be impressed. They’re longing to feel like they’re at home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd.” –Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

hospitality

 

If you don’t remember anything from this hospitality series, memorize the above quote. The same exact thought rolls around in my mind often, but she communicates it more eloquently than I ever could (which is why she wrote a book and I write on this self-published blog).

I really think that is why so many of us are afraid of hospitality, especially once kids arrive on the scene.  We realize that it’s hard to juggle  time between kids and creating a Pinterest-worthy dinner party, so we settle for nothing.

After I wrote the first post for this series, a good friend of mine reminded me that she wishes her friends with kids would let go of worrying about hoy many toys are put away or baking the best apple pie; she just wants to be with them, to be seen and known.

We all want the same, deep down. But we’re surrounded by sleek images of dinner parties for 15, with decorative name cards, two kinds of glasses, matching plates filled with roasted parsnips and beets, prepared with goat cheese and arugula,  then drizzled with honey, and we think: “If that’s hospitality, I don’t have  time for it.” So we settle for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong: I kinda love a cooking challenge and I like to serve things that are  outside of the box.  There’s nothing wrong with that. But, there have been plenty of times when I’ve served scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls or a big pot of chili.

I’ll tell you another secret.  I have a small house and 4 kids. I don’t have a dining room and we call our fenced-in front yard the bonus room. It can be frustrating at times to have guests over, especially in the winter when we can’t rely on the “bonus room.”

But we’re committed to a life of hospitality with the resources we’ve been given. You probably won’t get filet mignon at my house, and you certainly won’t get name cards, but you will be fed and we hope you’ll laugh (or cry) while you’re here, too.

So, with that in mind, let’s get to the main point: Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Young Children.

#1 Lay a foundation.  Kids, even as young as two,  can help around the house.  Get them started with easy chores while they still think it’s fun. My two-year-old is actually quite proud of himself when he hands me the clean silverware from the dishwasher to be put away in the drawer.

If they start helping now, it becomes part of a normal routine. Then, when the time comes to have people over, they’re already used to helping out.

#2 Keep things accessible. For young kids, it’s important that you keep some things on their level. At our house, we have an entire lower cabinet dedicated to kids’ dishes, cups, snack bowls, etc. That way it’s easy for them to serve themselves, but also to access meal necessities when other kids come over.

#3 Prep, prep, prep. This might be a no-brainer, but do everything you can before your guests arrive. It’s really hard to fuss with cooking as your guests arrive while you’re shouting at your 2-year-old to get out of the trash.

Crock pot meals are great way to prepare in advance. Plus, your house smells good all day long. Often, if I’m making a dessert, too, I’ll make it the day before so I don’t have too much to do in one day.

#4 Let the kids help in the kitchen.  Speaking of dessert, baking is one of the best ways to introduce young children to cooking. They love to  scoop, pour, and sprinkle (with a little help, of course).  You’ll have a little extra clean-up, but again, if you start them early, they’ll think it’s fun, not a burden.

Abby is now at an age where she can make cookies totally on her own, and that’s a sweet reward (literally) as a mom.

#5 Plan ahead. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” (C’mon, you know THAT movie.) Sometimes we have the best intentions, but if we don’t put it on the calendar, it won’t happen. Take a few minutes each month to schedule hospitality  into your life. You’ll make somebody else’s day in the process. Don’t you like getting invited over places, especially after you’ve had kids?!

#6 Embrace the chaos. It’s not always pretty. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a Pinterest-worthy dinner party, but serve some grilled cheeses once in a while, too. The most important thing is to have people over (homework: memorize top quote).

Also, if you have kids, chances are you’re having other kids over, too (though I suggest inviting over all different kinds of people in different stages of life). It can be loud and chaotic. I used to dream of having a playroom, one where I  could shut the door and talk to our guests uninterrupted. It never happened. But the guests at some of our most chaotic dinner parties have become some of our best friends.

It just takes time. Hang in there. Don’t settle for nothing.

We have, each one of us, been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes.  We’re spending them according to our values, whether or not we admit it.” -Bread and Wine

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Disclaimer: I like Pinterest. I think it’s a great digital filing system. I actually find and file most of my recipes there. Cookbooks are virtually obsolete in my house (that’s another subject). BUt I do think there’s a negative side to Pinterest. It’s so darn pretty that I do think it creates pressure to be extraordinary, when ordinary would be just fine. Glennon Melton from the blog, Momastery,  wrote a GREAT article about this idea called Pinsanity. Read now! It’s hilarious.

 

// Let me know if you have any more helpful hints to add to this list in the comment below. //

 

Friday Favorites: September 19

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Good morning, Friday. You’ve come again so fast.

That’s okay. We’ll keep you. Why don’t you just stay forever?

 

 

friday

 

 

Here they are, in no particular order:

 

book thief

 

You guys. This book. It’s so good. We actually started listening to the audio version on our road trip to the beach in August.  The only reason we haven’t finished it yet is because we’re committed to  listening to it–Allan Corduner is a fantastic narrator. It’s been hard to carve out time since school has started, but at least once a week you can find our whole family listening to it upstairs in the boys’ room before bedtime. It’s captivating. I can’t wait to finish so I can watch the movie.

 

pandora, music

 

 

state fair, carnival, fair

 

 

// What have been your favorites this week? Let me know what you’re listening to, reading, watching, eating, capturing, etc., in the comments below. //

 

Happy Friday.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Showing Hospitality WITH Your Kids

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

hospitality

We moved around the kitchen together, putting away, picking up, drying, washing. I noticed her sighs become heavier along the way, no longer muffled but full-blown. The knot of anxiety tightened in my chest; the forceful whisper of her sigh was louder than a freight train in my ear. At that moment, I just wanted someone–anyone–to help without sighing.

I also wanted to give her a piece of my mind.

“DO you know how much I do around here? DO you understand that you have free food everyday and a roof over your head because of what other people do for you? So, can you P L E A S E put away a few dishes WITHOUT sighing?”

Okay, that’s happened. More times than I’d like to admit. I like a quick fix, especially when we’re getting ready for company. But this time, I paused before I reacted (key) and thought before I spoke (really KEY).

I took her face in my hands and said: “Part of the joy of having company is the preparation. It doesn’t have to be a drag. We get to anticipate the arrival of our guests all day and work together to create an inviting space.”

She softened a little after these words and replied, “Yeah, you’re right.” Her eyes began to twinkle with the same anticipation that I had. Then, guess what? The sighing stopped. Really.

We continued our work, but with a new willingness to enjoy the work together.

Oh, this scenario is rife with parenting lessons like:

#1 “A fool (me) shows his annoyance (at sighing) at once, but the prudent overlook an insult (Proverbs 12:16).”

If I just take a few second to collect myself, things usually go a lot better and the situation doesn’t escalate.

#2 Kids love to have things spelled out for them. Sometimes a plan comes together perfectly in my mind, but if I haven’t communicated that vision to my kids, it flops. It’s always helpful for them if I explain what’s happening for the day and what I expect from them before the day begins. There’s usually less groaning and sighing because they know what to expect.

#3 The real reason for this post: You can be hospitable, even if you have kids, even WITH your kids.

Honestly, I often get incredulous responses when people find out I’m hosting a dinner party. I guess it’s the whole 4-kids-thing (including an almost 2-year-old toddler). I agree, partly, with their responses. Sometimes I think I AM crazy for adding extra mouths to the table when I already feed 6 people EVERY day.

But the truth is: I’d go crazy if I didn’t invite people into our home.

I’ll let you in on a Davis family secret: one of the best ways to get over the aggravations that rumble under the surface of everyday life is to have other people over. (Stop laughing; I’m serious.)

It’s a chance for us as a family to stop navel-gazing and begin thinking about the needs of others. It’s amazing how many tensions have melted away when our attention turns away from ourselves toward others.

I’ve seen it happen countless times, and I’ve been doing this gig for over 13 years.

One more thing: Life doesn’t have to stop when you have kids. A slower pace sets in, for sure, but it’s also an opportunity for your kids to GO with you and TAKE PART in the things you value.

Okay, so now that the pep talk is over, here’s the breakdown of the next 3 posts:

#1 Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Young Kids 

#2 Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Older Kids

#3 Hospitality Stories

I really hope this series is helpful for you. Please feel free to shoot me any questions during the hospitality series in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

I’ll sign off with these two L O V E L Y quotes about hospitality. (And really, who doesn’t want to entertain angels?!)

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

Body Image and Our Daughters

Monday, September 8th, 2014

A new Human Barbie has been crowned. I’m not kidding.

I never knew this category existed, but apparently the newly crowned Barbie is the second Human Barbie.  Sheesh.

 

Meet the newest Human Barbie; she’s a 16-year-old from Ukraine:

 

Human Barbie

eOnline

 

This picture disturbed me on multiple levels.

First, I had to look at this photo several times to determine if she was real or not. (She is.)

Second, her measurements. You can read about those here. Apparently, she hasn’t had surgery or photoshop to help out with those pesky problem spots. She inherited this body (minus the colored contacts) and she’s proud of it:

“If I can become famous for my appearance in some other way, I will be extremely happy,” she told the Daily Mail. “I think I’ve achieved this image better than anyone else. I’m the ultimate vamp woman.”

(By the way, what’s a vamp woman?)

Third, this information is apparently newsworthy in our culture.

All this got me thinking about body image and appearance and especially about our daughters.

 

daughter, golden-hour, light, dusk

 

 

How do we talk to our daughters, in this self-obsessed culture, about their bodies?

How do we alleviate  anxiety about their appearance when the Human Barbie makes international news?

This is what I’ve come up with (so far):

I think it starts with how we treat our own bodies and how we talk about them in front of our daughters.

How would you answer the following questions?

1. What are you saying about yourself in front of your daughter?

  -Are you (still) vocally obsessing about those extra pounds you gained at Christmas?

  -Do you talk negatively about yourself because of your appearance?

2. What are you saying to other women around your daughter?

  -Are you rating yourself and/or other women based on weight?

  -How often is the first thing you say to someone else: “You look so cute, great, skinny, etc.”

3.  Does the need to exercise control your schedule?

– Are your relationships/home life suffering because you’re exercising obsessively?

4. What kinds of activities are you pursuing with your daughter?

– Do you choose activities that engage your/her whole person, not just the ones  that cater to you/her appearance (shopping, manicures, makeovers, etc)?

IMG_6650

Ok, I know what you’re thinking–Wow, who just showed up and ruined the party?

But, just hang with me for a second.

My point is that our daughters SEE. They observe how we spend our time and take note of what’s important to us. They HEAR how we talk about ourselves and others. They UNDERSTAND what we value based on our choices.

Ann Voskamp uses a stunning, two word phrase in her book One Thousand Gifts: All eye. It’s a reminder to be on the lookout  for God’s story in our lives and others’ lives, and to be thankful for His gifts. All eye.

Our daughters are all eye, too. They see and absorb the things that we do, the way that we treat people, the way we relate to our “selves” .

I don’t say this from on high; I struggle with these things, too. Isn’t it sad to think that since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to be thinner?  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish it was so. I suspect it might be the same for you, too.

But I have a choice whether this THING–this aspiration that our culture hands down to us that drives girls and women to NOT eat, binge exercise, or vomit– will control the choices I make for myself and my daughter. (For some, I realize it doesn’t feel like a choice, that it’s taking over your life and you want it to stop, but you can’t. Please tell someone you trust TODAY.)

I strive to pass down to my daughter the value of  things in moderation–to really enjoy good things like food and exercise, but not to the point of worshipping them or letting them control her. That’s a problem for all of us as humans, not just women. We elevate the good things around us to a place of ultimate satisfaction, a place that they were never meant to hold. They cannot ultimately satisfy the deepest longings, but we want them to so badly that we  easily spin into a cycle of addiction.

So, what does it look like to enjoy good things in moderation with our  daughters? Well, I’m a work in progress, but here’s what it looks like in my house.

1.Abby and I enjoy going shopping together occasionally. But, we also bake together, go to coffee shops, and sometimes read together.

2. I  like to exercise, and I carve out time when I can. It clears my mind and the endorphins are pretty nice, too. But sometimes, I have to say no to the inner drive for MORE, MORE, MORE, because…well, I have a family to take care of.

3.  I made a pact with a friend recently to just STOP commenting on other women’s appearances so much, even when it’s complimentary. (It’s harder than I thought.)

Disclaimer: I think  there’s something really breathtaking about a beautiful woman. And that’s okay. God created ALL women beautifully. But again, we have a tendency to take the good things that God gives us and elevate them to a dangerous place. Furthermore, have you ever stopped to think about what our compliments to the extraordinarily beautiful and thin women do to the women who aren’t? 

4. The person in #1 still obsessing about those extra Christmas pounds in September?  Yep, me. But I don’t share that with my daughter. Every now and then, I talk about it with my husband (his favorite conversation!), but mostly I mull it over in my own mind, constantly reminding myself that the value of my life  is not found in my dress size. Or being crowned the next Human Barbie.

daughter, sun-flare

Isn’t she lovely?

So, what do you think? What are some ways you tackle body image with the girls in your house? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo Feature Wednesday: Life’s a Beach

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Photo Feature graphic, PicMonkey

Good Wednesday morning!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a photo gallery on Photo Feature Wednesday.

In honor of the end of summer (sniffle, sniffle), I’m posting the pictures of our beach vacation with Duane’s family in Oak Island, NC.

 

I hope you enjoy, and let me know in the comments below what your favorite summer activity, vacation, experience, etc. was this year.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life

onNeutralGround