Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reading through the summer

This summer has flown by (as it seems to every year)!  I had hoped to blog more, organize more, travel more...  oh well!  But one thing we did do was read more.  We didn't tour as many libraries & bookstores as I had hoped, but our weekly visits to our local libraries brought a lot of good books home, thanks to some great resources and reading guides.

This reading guide & excellent resource is simple, yet eye opening. Families are encouraged to read just one book from a certain area of the world each week.  The book gives a plethora of books to choose from and reserve from your local library, as well as printable maps, videos to watch, etc.  Some of our favorite books have been The Journey that Saved Curious George, One Hen, My Librarian is a Camel, and Adele & Simon in America.

Another incentive to encourage my growing readers was the easy summer reading program though Barnes & Nobles.  Just walking in the store gives me thrill, not sure if it's the smell of books and coffee or the memories of the many dates with Marty before kids. Only 4 books are required to be read in order for them to get a free book!  (It's not too late.  The program ends September 6th.)

A great blog that I've mentioned before is Modern Mrs. Darcy.  She puts together a great summer reading guide (for adults).  It has helped me branch back a little more into fiction as that's something I rarely read just for myself.

In the past, I've mentioned our family's love of audio books, especially in the car.  We have enjoyed almost the entire Little House series, listened to new books that I've never even heard of, laughed hysterically over Ramona the Brave, and wistfully imagined ourselves on the shores of Prince Edwards Island with Anne Shirley.  Below is a great blog post concerning audio books.

For the Love of Audio Books by Greta Eskridge

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bring on the Bucket List

Every year (especially since we started homeschooling) we plan out a bucket list for the summer.  Not sure if it's the need for change, excitement, or just the thrill of checking things off a list. Regardless of whether we accomplish everything or not, I pray for rest, for new memories, for rekindling summer traditions, and to look back with no regrets.  

Here's our 2016 Summer Bucket List!

Go:  To the Soda Shop in Pittsboro

Try:  Drive-in movie theater and $1 summer movies

Read:  At a different library or bookstore each week
Play:  At a pool or park that we've never been to
Eat:  Smores a lot!
Explore:  Two museums

Make:  Mini Water blobs
Ride:  Kayaks with Daddy

Send:  Watercolor postcards

Cook:  Healthy recipes on Thursdays 

See:  Baseball game (Mudcats or Bulls)
Create:  Canvas Art
Do:  More rollerskating and bowling (on Mondays)
Give Back:  Donate & sort books for WLFJ or Dorcas Ministries
Grow:  Flowers or herbs from seeds
Travel:  To Williamsburg & Charlotte 
Watch:  And learn about the Olympics

Even though this list was made over a month ago and it's fun to check things off, doing the impromptu or someday's nothing at all is ok too.  Water balloons & ice cream with Daddy, picking blueberries at a local farm, and day trips to the beach have already filled our summer days with memories 


Friday, June 3, 2016

What I've Learned from Ma, Mary Poppins, and Marmee

Reading aloud with my girls is probably one of my favorite aspects of homeschooling.  Over the last several months, we have been reading Little Women (very slowly... it's deep!), Mary Poppins, Paddington Bear, listening to the Little House series in the car, with a sprinkling of poetry in the midst of all that.  Within these books are lessons galore!  But this post is focused on the three main women in these books and what I've learned from Ma, Mary Poppins, and Marmee.  

In boarding school, we were only allowed to watch one hour of television a week and that usually consisted of an episode of Little House on the Prairie.  It was during this weekly hour that my admiration for Ma began.  She reminded me so much of my own mother.  Ma always seemed so patient, desiring the best for her girls, rarely raising her voice, fully supportive of Pa and affirming him as the head of the family.  She was resourceful, knowing how to make or use items found with the little they had, always willing to learn new things, and thoughtful of family and neighbors.  I honestly can’t remember if I ever read the books as a child.  But when my girls were really little we read through the series in the evenings and I think I loved the books more than they did.  Now as we listen to them in the car, the wisdom and courage that flows from Caroline Ingalls amazes me! 

Mary Poppins… It’s a name that has always brought a smile to my face, not sure if it was the British accent or the disciplined way of doing things.  But I realized this year that it stems from my view of the movie and not from the book.  I have always thought that the book is better than the movie, except in this case.  I read Mary Poppins (for the first time) to my girls last month and was truly disappointed.  I hope this is not a spoiler for others, but Mary Poppins taught me all the things that I desire not to be:  prideful, quick tempered, arrogant, distant, and unapproachable.  She would care for the children only as a job, not with a sincere desire for them to grow.  There was very little grace within her.  I find myself often acting a lot like Mary Poppins: always wanting to be right in the eyes of my children, impatient, and unkind.  Oh, how I wish to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger... 

Marmee...  Once again, I realized that I had never read the entire unabridged version of Little Women.  I have always loved the movie, but in this case, the book is even better!  We are still not finished with the book, mainly because it is 777 pages long (seriously!) and is not an easy read.  The tears that have been shed (from an unnamed mother) from reading the wisdom of Marmee who was such a strong and independent woman.  She learned the gift of having an even stronger husband, one who could be her team mate, friend, and protector.  She was honest, yet kind to her little women.  She gave correction, but not without examples and transparency of her own previous struggles.

This is such a short summary of my opinion of these women. Others may view them differently.  So often I feel that I have to read the self-help books to challenge myself, but there is so much to learn through the classics, children's literature, and even poetry. But none of this can happen unless we read.  Read aloud with delicious food near by, read in different places, read books that inspire and encourage, and try to focus on quality literature.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

When Your Baby is no Longer a Baby...

I write this a week after my littlest's 6th birthday.  With each new season, I give up a past one.  A few years ago, I no longer had toddlers, then the preschool years were gone, and now as she turns 6, my baby is no longer a baby and my heart hurts.  

I write this with less raw and much more peace.  When we first started our little family almost twelve years ago, I thought we would have four children (all boys!) and even after my third little girl was born, I constantly had this feeling that someone was still missing. But God has not allowed us to have another one and for years, it has left an ache within me. Month after month of "no." Yet, how can I complain with three beautiful, healthy children?  I must daily choose joy and count His blessings.  How blessed I am!

So I write this as a tribute to my baby who will always be my baby and to other mamas out there who may struggle too.

To the mama who has yet to hold her first baby...
The desire is so strong, so consuming.  Don't stop holding on to hope and to His promises.  Remember the man beside you may be hurting too.  Let nothing cause a wedge to come between you. When the words and pictures of others hurt, try to remember it's not their intent to rub it in, they simply don't know, nor understand.  I can say this because I once was one of them and may still fall short.

To the new mama...
I know it's tough, it's lonely at times, and you think this season will never end.  I know you're tired of hearing the wiser ones tell you to cling to the moments, that the days are long and the years are short. It's true.  But my advice is to see that baby you hold in your arms, the one that wakes you countless times in the night, that exhausts you beyond anything you could have imagined... see that little one as your first blessing and possibly your last.  Don't just assume you'll have another baby and you can enjoy cuddles more with the next one.  Savor every moment you can.  

To the mama of preschoolers...
They will learn it all eventually.  Every color will become its own one day and not always blue.  The ABC's and 123's will sound less jibberish and they will graduate from kindergarten without pacifiers.  Let them play, really play!  Read good books, even when there is laundry to fold and dishes to wash.  They'll one day stop asking and that to-do list won't seem as important.  

To mamas like me!
Let's give some grace.  Let's encourage each other when we are discouraged.  Let's stop competing and start completing each other. Let's find ways to be inspired and challenged (especially in God's Word), but not at the expense of our families.  Let's look for the fringe hours to fill up our tanks so the primary hours of our day can overflow with goodness to those we love and are surrounded by.

To the mamas with children all grown up & to women who are like mothers to us...
You are so important!  Us mamas in the thick of motherhood still need you.  We need your wisdom and your advice, even if you think we have it all together.  Google and YouTube can't teach us everything.  How blessed I am to have a mother who continually invests in the lives of me and my sisters!  But there are many who still need such motherly figures to speak the truth in love. 

To all the mamas...
Take notice of the little things.  Count the freckles and capture the quiet moments in your mind (and on camera), so you'll remember them when life seems chaotic.  Praise that man of yours every single time he steps up and leads your family as God has called him to do.  And if he doesn't, then just keep on praying.  

"If I cannot give my children a perfect mother I can at least give them more of the one they've got - and make that one more loving. I will be available.  I will take time to listen, time to play, time to be home, and time to counsel and encourage." - Ruth Bell Graham

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Things that saved me in February...

February was a difficult month for many of us.  The weather was cold, school work seemed tedious, the schedule refused to stop, and sickness seems to be around every corner.  Finding things that made life a little more livable helped me to get through this season. March is now here and we are enjoying the outside with more walks, porch sitting, and open windows.  But here are just a few of the things that got me through the last couple months...


Running outside has not been an option recently due to the weather, Marty's schedule, and let's be honest, I simply haven't felt like it.  So bundled in Marty's old sweatshirt, hoodie in place, I pump a good 20 minutes out in our garage while catching up on some reading.  I just finished my second book this year, thanks to my elliptical!  Win, win!


I love almond butter!  As a vegetarian, I'm always looking for protein options and something to satisfy my sweet tooth.


Judge away if you must, but Sunday's are one of our most stressful days of the week.  Thinking of what to fix for Sunday lunch could easily send me over the edge, so discovering "Kids Eat Free" at Tijuana Flats on Sundays has helped us spend time together as a family and hang out with other families.


Getting away for just an hour or two makes such a difference in my week.  As an introvert that is surrounded by people 24/7, taking some time to refocus really helps me keep going.

There are gobs of other things that I'm loving right now... JJ Heller's newest music, feta cheese, essential oils, my Bible study on Thursday mornings, the list could go on.  

But as my small frame beside my kitchen sink constantly reminds me, I need to choose joy, whether there is feta cheese in my fridge or not, I must choose joy.  The key word is "choose."  There will always be someone who seems to have it better and others to have it worse, so instead of living the comparison trap or floating the waves of guilt, I pray to choose joy, to find the glorious in the mundane.