Thoughts on Reading with Mommy Brain

I’ve always enjoyed reading. In elementary school, the librarian held books behind her desk for me that she knew I would like. I often read under my desk when I was bored in class. I stayed up late reading by the light of my night-light to finish books that I couldn’t put down.

As a newlywed with a busy working husband, I spent hours reading through many of the classics that I didn’t get to read in high school. I studied sewing, craft, and cooking books to develop my homemaking skills. I read a lot of books related to my psychology degree while I was finishing that. When I found out we were expecting, I read tons of parenting and nutrition books. And I have always enjoyed supplementing my Bible reading with theology and devotional books.

Thoughts on Reading with Mommy Brain | One Radiant Home

At some point during the last 2 pregnancies, my ability to read went away. It sounds strange, I know. You can’t explain it unless you’ve been there. I would read the same thing a dozen times and still walk away not knowing what I had read. In late pregnancy and the newborn days some of it may have been related to lack of sleep, but I know that wasn’t all of it. I had plenty of creative energy. I even started my sewing pattern business to keep myself challenged in other ways. But reading just seemed hard.

Even a year after the last baby was born and I was feeling mostly “normal” again, my ability to read anything more than a blog post was still gone. It’s not that I didn’t try to read books during that time, but I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t really process anything I read. A few months ago (at least 18 months removed from pregnancy), I decided that I had to do something. I missed reading.

My lack of reading was affecting my spiritual growth and my relationship with Shawn. We enjoy conversations about the books we are reading, the spiritual implications of the thoughts presented, and the assumptions that drive the authors. But we missed that intellectual aspect of our relationship too. We missed having more to talk about than what we did that day or what the kids were learning (and not learning!). We talked about circumstances, but not very much about ideas. For us, those conversations are essential. They build a closeness, a feeling of oneness, that is vital to the strength of our marriage.

My lack of reading was also effecting my writing. I wasn’t feeding my deeper thoughts and have struggled to write anything more than family updates. How can I share anything worth reading if I’m not feeding myself with thought-provoking material? How can I write what I’m learning if I walk away from my Bible reading grasping for just a tiny bit of understanding and application?

I needed to read again.

So, I came across an article, which I can’t even remember now. I know I’ve seen several similar articles though, talking about how technology and reading quickly on our phones and computers has affected our “deep reading” ability. Our brains need to practice deep reading skills or they begin to forget those pathways. I realized then that my “mommy brain” problem was probably gone, but that it had been replaced by the brain laziness that comes when it’s not challenged with deep reading.

I decided to try to reconnect those pathways by pushing myself to “read deeply,” but I chose a book that I knew I would enjoy. I love the BBC miniseries North & South, but I had never read the book. I thought it was a good choice because I was familiar with the story, but the writing was more complex and required some thought. I ended up finishing it in about a week.

I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but for me, that was all it took. My brain kicked back into to gear and I started devouring books again. When I did some planning for the new year, I made a long book list. (There are always tons of great “the best books I’ve read this year” blog posts at the end of the year, which are great for ideas and book reviews.) I wanted to be reading intentionally. I’m using the list as a guide, but I’m also reading other books that come up and seem helpful.

I’ve read around 15 books already this year on a variety of topics. For each book, I’ve written a few thoughts—sometimes just a few sentences and sometimes a lot more—about what I’ve learned and my general thoughts about the books. There are a couple that I really loved, books that will stick with me and give me much more to write about and think through.

I hope to share some of my thoughts about the best ones soon. In addition, I have some other thoughts to write again, so I’m thankful that the Lord has restored my “deep reading” ability and my desire to think hard and write more.

Praising the Lord for restoring my ability to read deeply, and praying that my thoughts will be an encouragement to those that read them!

I know from talking with other friends that I’m not the only one that has struggled with this after having babies. What about you? Are you feeling stuck like I was, or have you found a way to “snap out of it” somehow? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Linking to: Raising Homemakers, My Joy-Filled LifeLadies Collective, Women with Intention

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Park Trails

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

In the Summer we moved across town to be closer to our church. With a scarcity of rental choices, we gave up our larger yard to move to house that suited our needs better. Though our back fence is adjacent to a cow pasture making if feel more open and country-like, the kids have missed a yard with trees and dirt.

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

I really feel bad telling them not to dig in the yard when they have been able to do that for years. They pull pathetic little sticks off the bushes to “fight” with because we have no real trees in the yard. Sometimes kids just need to run in the woods, pull sticks off the trees, roll in the leaves, and climb trees.

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

Earlier this week I took them to run through some nature trails in the park. I haven’t seen them so happy in weeks. There was a playground right nearby, but not one of them was even disappointed that we didn’t play on it. They were so happy to walk on logs, fight with sticks, and throw leaves at each other that they didn’t care about the play equipment at all.

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

I took my camera to burn off some creative energy. In between taking pictures, I grabbed Charlie and ran through the woods with the kids to help him “catch up”. It was refreshing and fun to actually play with the kids. Nothing was off limits and no one was around to “bother”. We just needed some time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation without the limits of a space that doesn’t belong to us. I’m hoping a playtime at the park trails can become a weekly routine to help us cope with the lack of space in the yard!

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

Park Trail | One Radiant Home

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Around the House

Our good friend Janet just took some family pictures for us. I’ve updated my about page picture with this fun picture that really captures a lot of the personality we see from the kids. You can see a few more here.

Photo by Janet Phillips for One Radiant Home

These are just a few recent pictures from around the house.

Around the House | One Radiant Home

If you can’t read, he’s looking at a card about “orderliness” which is ironic because…

Around the House | One Radiant Home

and…

Around the House | One Radiant Home

This is the normal state of the house. Though it’s getting better, we still have more mess makers than cleaner-uppers.

Around the House | One Radiant Home

Around the House | One Radiant Home

Around the House | One Radiant Home

Around the House | One Radiant Home

Curious? They are watching the neighbor’s little barky dog.

Around the House | One Radiant Home

Around the House | One Radiant Home

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Recently…

Look at our cute cow! Ok, it’s not ours…but they live on the other side of the fence in our backyard. The little ones are curious and seem to enjoy watching the children play. Sometimes, I’m sure the cows are watching them with as much interest as we are watching them.

Recently, a Baby Cow | One Radiant Home

Recently, a Baby Cow | One Radiant Home

A few weeks ago, we had a fun family day at the zoo. This is the best we can do getting 6 kids to look at the camera when they are excited to keep moving.

Recently, at the Zoo |One Radiant Home

Recently at the Zoo | One Radiant Home

The binoculars didn’t work, but my zoom lens did! This is what they were trying to see…

Recently, at the Zoo | One Radiant Home

The kids have spent many hours outside enjoying the cooler weather. They’ve taken the opportunity to eat their lunch outside several times. This little cutie has gotten big enough to join the big kids.

My favorite is when he plays tag and racing games with them. He runs his fastest, giggling all the way, with no idea that he’s not actually playing.

Recently, We ate Outside | One Radiant Home

We are enjoying all of the crunchy leaves and acorns. I think the kids miss the acorns in our old yard. Whenever we go to a park, they start filling their pockets with acorns to take home. They like to use them for “food” when they play in the backyard.

Recently, there were Acorns | One Radiant Home

Last night, we were talking about how much the kids play outside compared to the other kids in the neighborhood. (I rarely see other kids outside, except for the immediate neighbors that are friends with the kids.) Why? Because I read this once…and took it to heart.

Children should never be within doors, when they can rightly be withoutCharlotte Mason.

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Trials, Broken Arms, and God’s Grace

A couple of months ago, Lydia fell off the neighbor’s swing and broke both wrists. It’s the kind of thing every mother dreads. But in that moment the Lord gave me peace and grace to comfort and care for her without fear.

two broken arms painting

One of the most helpful things I have ever read (outside of scripture, of course) is a quote by Elisabeth Eliot. She said, “There is no grace in your imagination.” Meaning, God gives grace in the moment we need it, and not before. As mothers, we imagine all of these terrible things happening to our children, but we cannot adequately imagine the grace of God in those circumstances. He provides in ways we don’t expect and could never think of.

While Lydia was healing, people kept saying how sorry they were and how hard it must be for me. But it wasn’t. God gave grace…to me, to Lydia, and to the other kids. I know other believers say the same thing after trials. They wouldn’t trade the suffering for the lessons learned and faith gained. I know Lydia’s broken arms were painful, but I also know she learned a lot more from that experience than from anything I could ever say to her. God had a plan and the grace to go with it.

two broken arms

One of my dearest friends lost a child several years ago. People said things like “I don’t know how they keep getting up in the morning…” I do! It was the grace of God, that they were experiencing because they needed it and we didn’t. Not for that circumstance. And they wouldn’t trade their suffering either.

I want to challenge us to think about the things we say when people are suffering. Let’s not feed the pity party, but encourage our friends to think on the ways God is pouring out his grace on them. Let’s help them to see the small mercies and God’s provision in their trials.

Broken Arms and God's Grace | One Radiant Home

Instead of “Oh Honey, this must be so hard…I don’t know how you are managing…You must be so worn out…”

What if we said, “The Lord must pouring out his grace on you in this time. Isn’t it wonderful to feel God’s comfort in suffering?” or “Tell me about how God is encouraging you in this trial.” Tell them about a time God gave grace to you during your own times of suffering. Let’s not focus on the suffering, but build hope and faith in our friends by drawing their attention to the grace of God!

Praising the Lord who heals broken arms and provides comfort in trials. 

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