Friday, October 26, 2012

A Patchwork of Pleasant Words

A Patchwork of Pleasant Words

     This post is decorated with my progress in patchwork pillow making, photographs of the Petersheim’s quilts in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania and two sleepy grandchildren.

  Piecing fabric together for pillows made me think of piecing together pleasant words at bedtime.  

     It was four o’clock in the afternoon. Soon super needed to be on the table and I was frazzled. My husband, Dean, was away for the week, out-of-state on business. My children were all very young, the youngest was six weeks old, and I was still relatively new to this thing called home education.

     “Mommy, what are you doing,” my child asked.
     “I’m sitting on the calm-down-stair,” I said. The woe-is-me look on my face softened to a smile when I saw her quizzical brow.
     She smiled too and said, “Oh.”  Then she flitted off to find (or instigate) her little sister.

     This fidgety, curious daughter, who was learning self-control, knew where I was sitting. She must have thought it odd that Mommy should be there, not her. She, of all the children, was the one most familiar with that spot – where we had our little conversations. It occurred to me that I could try using the time-out tactics on myself – for a few purposeful minutes of calm reflection.

     Reading Miss Charlotte Mason’s advice I had learned to keep my verbal commands of dos and don’ts to a minimum. My authority was “felt” by my children while we, together, followed a rhythm of activity. Lessons were accomplished in far less time than in a classroom. Therefore the children enjoyed the freedom to be playful and child-like at a short distance from me – more freedom than classroom children have – while I used the eyes in the back of my head when working in the kitchen, or taking care of the baby.  

     I sought to meet the needs of my children. At the same time, by gentle discipline, I sought to establish good habits baby step by baby step – so that they would follow my lead in what was expected of them. 

     Still, some days were especially humbling. These were days of interruptions. Some days seemed too busy, too demanding of my care and attention. “This is too hard for me,” I prayed on the calm-down-stair. Dear Lord Jesus, I want to be a good mother but I can only do this with your help – please.” 

     And He did help. I would recall something I had read in His word or some lines I had memorized from a beloved hymn or an idea out of a trusted book. When the words came to mind so did the impressions and encouragement of the ideas behind them. With thankfulness I arose and faced what was left of the day with renewed courage, and renewed humor.

     When a child is naughty or forgetful, when admonishments are given, when its been “that-sort-of-day” where a child sits on the calm-down stair, if the day has brought disappointment or a small privilege withheld from a child’s enjoyment, bedtime should not reflect a parent’s exasperation. Let corrections be dealt with at the time of the misdeed. The longer a correction is put off  “until Father gets home” or later, the greater a mother’s fatigue and the less likely she is to discipline and “restore such a one gently” and with clear-headedness.

     If ever good habits are needed to help carry the day they are those of the bedtime routine. This is when a parent’s “stock of patience is at its lowest,” says Henry Clay Trumble in Hints on Child Training. He adds, “If the children are not as quiet and orderly and prompt as they should be, the parents rebuke them more sharply than they would for similar offenses earlier in the day.” 

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower.
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.
   (There are further stanzas to the poem.)

     Bedtime or the “Children’s Hour” -  as it is so sweetly referred to in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s playful poem written about his own energetic little girls - requires just that – the space of a patient hour.

     After the supper dishes are washed, teeth are brushed directly and the day winds down. Baths are taken, PJ’s go on, rooms are straightened, a picture book or two or three is read aloud, earnest prayers are offered. Now is the time that a patchwork of pleasant words are readily absorbed by the children – perhaps never more closely attended to than at this dark and lonely parting hour – as the light is turned off and the child receives his good-night kiss.

     No one ever outgrows an affectionate good-night however grown-up he is. 

     I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

     Bedtime should never be a time to remind a child (or teen) of his shortcomings and misdeeds or critique them. We may, instead, hold up a standard by showing appreciation for good attitudes or good deeds. Or share “whatsoever things” are lovely or of good report.

     “What were you and your brother making with those shoe boxes? I liked seeing you play together and share the boxes so nicely today,” I might say - while silently thinking, “even if it did mean using up every roll of tape in the house.”

     “The sky was as blue as blue can be today while we raked the leaves wasn’t it? Thanks for your help. Oh, there’s a piece of a leaf in your hair.”

     “Dad liked the birthday card you made him. Did you see his face when he bit into the delicious cake we iced?

     “Tomorrow is a new day,” is something I would say brightly when I could think of nothing else.  

     Doesn’t Mr. Trumble, father of ten, say it beautifully?

     “A wise parent will prize and will rightly use the hour of the children’s bedtime. That is the golden hour for good impressions on the children’s hearts. That is the parent’s choicest opportunity of holy influence. . . . every word spoken should be a word of gentleness and affection. The words which are most likely to be borne in the mind by the children, in all their later years, as best illustrating the spirit and influence of their parents, are the good-night words of those parents."

     Karen Andreola

          A quotation sent to me from a reader:
 “No pillow so soft as a divine promise, no coverlet so warm as an assured interest in Christ.”  Charles Spurgeon

     Passages are borrowed from the chapter, “Good-night Words” in Hints on Child Training  by Henry Clay Trumble, originally published in 1890. I linked the book title to Amazon.  


  1. Beautiful post...wisely chosen words! :) We are guilty of having a frazzled attitude at bedtime. You have challenged me to change that! Thank you!

    Love your pillows!

    Shannon in Texas

  2. What a delightful post Karen :) I just returned from Lancaster County and the Autumn splendor, which I think is what the block from the quilt you shared in the first picture, was everywhere there. In fact, I have become quite enamored with this block, that I had to purchase the only souvenir from Amish country :)

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful words today Karen.


  3. What a lovely gentle reminder and encouragement to use the bedtime hr as a time of encouragement for our dear children who more than anyone need our support, encouragement and wisdom as they face this big world.

  4. Hello, Karen,

    I accidentally globbed butter all over the stove the other morning while my husband and I were making breakfast. As a child, I would have been fussed at for the mishap. My husband shook his head, looked at me sideways, and said, "That didn't go quite like you planned it, I assume?" It was so wonderful to be spoken to with love and humor.

    Thank you for encouraging us to the goal of having a home filled with the expectation of gentle, careful words.


  5. This mommy has needed the calm-down stair a lot lately. That's a good thought. Thank you for the exhortation of keeping bedtime pleasant and speaking a sweet word. My kids always seem to be at their rowdiest then, so it's an extra challenge.

  6. Beautiful! This reminded me of when my daughter was a child and I always said goodnight to her and we would chat for awhile each night.

    She does the same for her children. :)

    As for my son? By the time he went to bed each night, we were both too exhausted to talk! He was so hyperactive.

    But we made up for it during his college years when he was still living at home. I would wait up for him, often after midnight, and we would talk about the day's events.

    I love it that he still calls me at times when he needs encouragement, especially if it is when his wife is at work and can't talk right then (for I do understand priorities, you know). ;)

  7. Karen,

    Thank you for sharing about when your children were little and how you dealt with situations at hand. I will have to put them into practice.

    What sweet pictures of your grandsons.

  8. This was lovely, Karen. Thank you.

    PS I was just in Bird in Hand on Monday and Thursday of last week while traveling on vacation. I was thinking of you.... :)2

  9. What a lovely title for a lovely article. I admire your wisdom and your gentle way of putting already known truths in words - a great reminder for everyone of us, I guess, for almost every day... Thank you!
    Your sofa looks so peaceful. Sometimes, it's good to have a picture of calm and peace where my mind can wander to when everything gets too busy!

  10. This is an area that I need to take care. How wise of Mr. Trumbull to recognize this and the fact that Mothers are tired and it is easy to get snappish then.

    Those William and Joseph are beautiful, like their mother.

    Miss you, Karen.


  11. This was absolutely lovely to read this morning!

    My children are mostly grown, but it reminds me of when they were little. It also gives me ideas of things to do with the older ones, while they are still in our home.

    Mrs. White
    The Legacy of Home

  12. That was beautiful and just what I needed to hear today. I could use that idea of the calm down stair in our home with 2 boys that are special needs "sensory seekers". I can model the calming behavior for them, while getting a chance to regroup myself. :)

    It's truly always a pleasure to read your posts, and to be reminded as we are in the trenches that "this too shall pass"

    In Him, Nanci

  13. Hoping your parents have made it through the storm okay. Praying for quick recovery.

  14. Karen,
    I hope you did well through the storm! Thinking of you.

  15. Dear Ladies,
    How fun to find out that two of my blog friends visited Lancaster and were quite close. I've always liked maple leaf quilts. This one has leaves of a natural palate.

    Thank you for your prayers. Although I was writing about calm - a few days after this post I was far from calm. It was a test of my nerves preparing for the big storm and then trying to sleep through wind that roared in our tall swaying trees all night. My parents are here with us and safe. A helicopter picture shows their NJ beach house is intact, too, of which they are very thankful. They don't know when they will be permitted to return but hope they can in time to vote.

    I am happy that you found the ideas of this post to be a helpful reminder. I once read that if you ask a young child at bedtime to do a chore he will be more willing at that hour to perform it than at any other time of the day. This made me think of a certain bright and energetic grandson who can be a connoisseur of postponing bedtime at grandma's house - in so charming a manner - that it requires much firmness on the part of grandma to stick to her word, "one more story" - much firmness indeed.

    Good to hear from you, Ladies,
    Karen A.

  16. I am glad to see that someone else has used the phrase, "Tomorrow is a new day." It gives all of us hope.

  17. What a beautiful post and such a lovely gentle reminder Karen! Thank you so much. Even though my 'little ones' are growing up and entering their teen years, I feel that it is as relevant for them as it would be for younger children. Your patchwork is beautiful and cushions gorgeous!

    Shirley Ann

  18. I simply love the "good night words" quote. How precious are the years in which our children want us to linger at their bedsides -- whispering one more story, prayer, or encouraging word. What a sweet reminder to not squander the time we've been given. Thank you, Karen. :)

    Blessings, ~Lisa

  19. Thank you for your wise words, I needed to hear this so much today, and the way you put it makes me want to get up and keep on walking. Thank you again.