Books just in

Have any of you read any of these?


We wrapped up Ella's first season of dance with a weekend of performances.

She danced with her beautiful smile shining from that face I love so much and I sat in the audience, proud of the girl she is.

I am relieved that it's over, these weekly trips to the dance studio with my five. This was our first foray into the extra-curricular and truth be told: I dreaded it, every week. It was taxing on all of us, but me especially.

Mark and I weigh these two things, now: Ella loves to dance. (Maybe all little girls do, I don't know.) But: it took a lot out of the rest of us.

Maybe if it had been at a different time of the day? -4:00? Never again.
Maybe if we were in a different season of our lives? -And the girls weren't still so little.
Maybe if it was not so expensive...

Ah, but she loves it so much.

We're praying about it, Mark and I. We'll see.

Homeschooling: why we do it

A young woman approached me recently and asked me why we decided to homeschool. She is newly pregnant with her first child and she explained that her and her husband are just beginning to think about such things.

There are many reasons we school at home, and there are so many benefits to it, but this is the main thing:
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
~ Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Homeschooling provides us with more opportunites, more time- simply by nature of the fact that they are at home for those daytime hours- to impress God's commandments on our children's hearts.

I am so thankful for the privilege to do it!

Father's Day

He tells our girls he loves them.

He tells them how beautiful they are.

He leaves notes on the dry erase board to be discovered at breakfast.

He sits on the floor and plays LEGOS with the boys, for long stretches of time.

He gently pushes them to try new things.

He encourages them.

He puts the kids to bed, singing to them and praying for them.

He gets up in the middle of the night with our babies.

He is a loving, patient, wise disciplinarian.

He reads the Bible to the kids every single night, and has for as long as I can remember.

He puts on crazy music and dances silly and spins the kids around.

He wrestles with the boys.

He gives just the right compliments when the girls are all dressed up and go to "show daddy".

He takes advantage of teachable moments.

He praises their work.

He is creative [box creations and animal pancakes]

He serves tirelessly and without complaint.

He praises their character.

He has God-given discernment.

He works hard to provide for his children.

He reads them great stories.

He makes up great stories.

He delights in each of them.

He is firm but unfailingly kind.

He loves their mommy well.

Happy Father's Day, honey. I am so glad to be paired up with *you* for this parenting adventure!

We love you!

What Mark is doing on his day off

(He's been reading for a couple of hours, now. And I'm trying very hard not to ask him every five minutes: "What part are you on now?" If the guy would just hurry up and finish already, we could discuss it!)

Ella has said, twice this morning: "It's kind of funny to see daddy laying around reading."

I told you: get this book. It's that good.

Or, hey- if your husband or brother or dad likes to read? Get it for Father's Day. It's a good guy book. [Think: boy scout out in the mountains, trying to stay alive.]

In case you missed it, this is the post where I last raved about Charles Martin and his new book: Another must-read

Birthday traditions

{I wrote this a few months ago but never posted it. Why let a complete post go to waste, I say?}

I am happy to say that we are through the season of birthdays for our family. We have a couple more months before we have another birthday, and then we get to wait until Fall before we fire up all of our birthday traditions again.

I've learned a few things about myself over the years of birthday celebrations. Here is my (short) list:

-I like to celebrate whoever's birthday it is ON THE ACTUAL DAY of their birthday. I don't know why that's important to me, it just is.

For awhile we tried to find the closest possible weekend for which to celebrate- to make things easier for extended family- but then I found that we always ended up celebrating on the weekend and then ON THEIR ACTUAL DAY, because I just couldn't NOT celebrate them on their birthDAY. So a couple of years ago we just decided to simplify things by having birthday parties on their birthDAY. Whoever can come, great. Whoever can't make it, that's fine, too!

-I am not the type of mom who has themed parties with a pretty cake and decor. I love you if you're that mom. Most everyone I know is that kind of mom. (And, actually, now that I think of it, I was that mom with my first two children, but... no longer.) Now I bake enough cake for everyone, frost that cake, stick some candles in it, and call it good. Ice cream on the side. If you're lucky, I remembered to pick up some sprinkles at the grocery store and those are on the cake, too. I discovered that I did not like the pressure of coming up with a theme each year, not to mention the matchy napkins and paper plates and all that. So I stopped.

-We don't do a "friends party" and a "family party". We just do a family party. (Which includes extended family (grandpas and grandmas and aunts and uncles and cousins, along with our dearest friend-family.) Thankfully, our children have lots of cousins so every family party is naturally a friends party, too, so that's a perk. :)

We DO do birthdays up big, though, around here. Here's what we do:

*Birthday chain: approximately a month leading up to their birthday, we put together a little birthday chain. Each night before bed they take off a link and get to anticipate The Big Day as it gets closer and closer and closer!

*Birthday banner: all of us get in on this and it's a blast. We hang it up on the mantel or wall the night before and it hangs there for about a week.

*Birthday balloons: in the living room to greet you on your birthday morn: as many as how old you are.

*Birthday gifts: duh. Wrapped and sitting out in the living room, amongst those birthday balloons, to be spotted right away!

*Birthday book: one of our gifts is a book (of our child's choice) on their birthday. This involves a trip to the bookstore and lots of time spent poring over those favorite titles and choosing which one will be the birthday book!

*Birthday dinner: they get to choose their own meal for dinner! This tradition is carried over from my family, growing up. Mom always let us choose our birthday meal. (I almost always chose burritos. I'll bet she loved it when it was my birthday! My little brother, on the other hand, chooses steak every year.)

*Birthday cake and ice cream: They get to choose what kind of cake and ice cream.

*Birthday party: with extended family and friends.

*Birthday letters: Mark and I each write a letter to the birthday child, to be filed away in an album that we'll give to them someday. [~Ahem~. This is something we used to do very faithfully, but truth be told: I haven't written a single birthday letter for over a year. I have jotted down notes, though, and have every intention of putting those into letter form. Someday. But I'm holding onto this tradition because I love it. I love being able to look back at them, and someday I think they'll appreciate it, too. (At least my girls will!)

What are your birthday traditions?

PRE-planning for next year

I love this time of year. Not just the sunny days and all the time we're getting outside, but I really enjoy planning for our next school year. And not doing school suddenly frees up some time for me to be doing just that!

Before I delve into any planning for school, I make a point to begin by asking God to lead me; to give me wisdom, discernment, and guidance.

Recently I followed a link to this post on homeschooling. [Thank you, Sandi, for linking me there!]

I liked the entire post, and was really encouraged after reading it to step back and take a look at the big picture. I specifically appreciated the following question to ponder as I begin planning for school next year:

What are the areas of your life as a homeschooling family that are the most important to you? Brainstorm, making a list and narrowing it down to your top five priorities. Consider how the curriculum, programs, activities, and learning methods you now enjoy either enhance or detract from these goals.

At this point of the year, it was really good for me to reflect on that question: What are the things we value as a homeschooling family? What do we value most? And is what we're doing in our day-to-day routine reflecting those values?

I also asked Mark to come up with his "top five" and then we talked through our lists together.

I'm still praying, thinking, making notes, and looking at what we might tweak, purchase, or implement. I have all sorts of fun ideas and am making a running list of things I want to accomplish before we start up again in the fall. I am truly excited about the possibilities. But now I'm doing all of this with those values that Mark and I narrowed down, for our family, in the forefront of my mind.

Three things I love... and want to remember

one. Every day, several times a day, Audra walks over to me, leans against my legs, and says, "Up boo". "Up boo" is her way of saying that she wants me to pick her up, but none of us are sure what, exactly, she is saying. Up please? Up to you? Not sure. But it's something I want to remember because it's cute and endearing and just so Audra.

two. When I'm in the kitchen and my hands are full, I'll often shut a cupboard or a drawer with the back of my arm- or, heck, whatever is handy- be it my foot, leg or knee. The thing is, I didn't realize I even did this until we started seeing Adelia do it. Example: She'll be standing near an open drawer, which, height-wise, reaches her waist. Then she'll hike up her knee to close the drawer. Or she'll turn around and shove it closed using her hip. It's hilarious to watch, since her hands are right there and would be MUCH easier to close the drawer with!

three. Adelia's latest phrase is: "I never". Mark will say, "Adelia, I'm going to put underpants on you before you go outside to play, but I don't want you to put any pee in them, okay?" Adelia will say, very earnestly, "Daddy, I never. I never put pee in it." She says this very earnestly, shaking her little head with her eyes very wide and serious. It's quite cute. Another example: I asked her yesterday to go sit on the couch and read a book, and then found her a few minutes later with Mark's Bible pulled onto her lap, flipping the pages. I said, "Mama doesn't want you reading Daddy's Bible, honey. Those pages are really thin and rip easily. Okay? Let me get you another book." To which she says, clutching the Bible: "Mama, I never. I never rip daddy's Bible."

Choosing books for Ella

Now that school has ended and summer is here, I must find some books for Ella to read. I handed her a 200-page book yesterday and by this afternoon she was done with it. Sheesh. I can't keep up.

I've been more than a little lax in this department of late. These days, our trips to the library are rare. What I often do is put books on hold (from my computer) and Mark picks them up and brings them home. What I sometimes do is take all five kids to the library, and we end up with a stack of random books and a frazzled mama. What I infrequently (but oh-so-delightfully) do is sneak away with just Ella or the older three and sit amongst the books and take our time, finding just the right books.

What happens in that sometimes category is that Ella ends up pulling what I would consider twaddle off the shelves. [Lately, that's been a lot of Boxcar Children, American Girl series, and Mandie books.] While those books are fine, there are just too many other truly good books out there that I don't want her to miss out on. I really want her reading good literature.

What that requires is some forethought from me, and so tonight I've been perusing some of my go-to books full of book lists and trying to come up with a summer reading list for her.

Here are those above-mentioned go-to books:

Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Nathaniel Bluedorn

Read for the Heart, Sarah Clarkson

Honey for a Child's Heart, Gladys Hunt

Just because a book is listed in one of these three books doesn't automatically mean we'll bring it home from library. What I generally do is this:
1) peruse the lists in these books
2) put a bunch of books on hold at the library (maybe 8-10 books at a time)
3) bring them home, skim through them
4) then choose the ones I approve of, or think Ella will be interested in, and/or are age and subject appropriate.

I completed step 2 tonight, and will await the verdict when the holds are ready for me at the library. :)

Some previous posts containing lists of books we've read and loved:
Reading list
Book list for a seven year-old girl
School after breakfast: Books we've read aloud

Another must-read!

It's 9:35 on a Friday morning and Adelia just told me she's hungry.

I told her to pick up a cracker from the living room floor.

Not my usual response, no.

The crackers came out about an hour and a half ago, after I walked into the kitchen, nose in a book, to get them. Then I sat on the front couch, snuggled up under a blanket while the rain poured outside, and kept reading.

I read until I made it to the very last page. And then even skimmed back through the pages to re-read certain passages over again. The book? Charles Martin's newest book, The Mountain Between Us.

I love that satisfying feeling of finishing a good-- no, great-- book. Now I'm sad it's over.

Get the book. Martin is the best author I love to read.

Everyone is still in their pajamas. They're ready to move on from crackers to our usual Friday morning fare of pancakes. And they're ready for me to say something to them other than the Sh!'s and Just a minute's they've been hearing all morning.

So I'd best get to it.