Friday, October 30, 2015

children's books

our family goes to the library about once a week. now that the boys are in school all day, sometimes i'll go and pick up a bag full of books for them on my own. we keep them on a shelf in the living room where they are easily accessible.

this summer the boys tended to bring home short chapter books. --of the spongebob or goosebumps variety. i don't like either of those, but since they are put at eye-level with a bunch of bright colors, the kids are prone to get them. but we have a few rules: one, it needs to be appropriate (this varies house to house).  i do not read comic books to them. they are annoying. comic books are not intended to be read aloud, so after years of not enjoying myself, i finally told them i wouldn't do it anymore but they are more than welcome to bring them home. second, we can read a book or two you like, but then it's my turn to share something i like. this opened the door for them to pick out whatever books they enjoy (they pick the same types of books over and over) and still be introduced to something new. i mean, a mom can only endure so many captain underpants or george brown class clown books before i just need someone to wear all their clothes and have a nice adventure. please. so this meeting half-way business has been good!

i'm an avid reader, but what i've noticed is that books i know are delightful tend to be books that my children don't enjoy so much.

i figured i'd share a few lovely gems that we all like. this is by no means any sort of comprehensive list of wonderful children's books, but i thought if there's one in there that you haven't read, you could give it a try! 

for littler ones:
make way for ducklings (there is actually a tour in Boston related to this book)
kristina caterina and the box (out of print, but it's worth the buy on amazon)
elephant and piggy books (the boys have learned to read with feeling when they read these aloud)
the monster at the end of this book (the kids used to giggle through this)

for a little bit older:
the billy and blaze series (love the illustrations!)
alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (quotable)
i need my monster (voices are fun to do on this one)
the day the crayons quit (i laugh out loud every time. who knew crayons could be so emotional?)
virginia lee burton books (classic! and lovely illustrations)

and two novels we've enjoyed: 
almost super (novel) (the boys liked it when i did the voices of the weird family members)
wonder (novel) (teaches a lot about compassion)

one of my most favorite moments EVER is the drive home from the library. the boys beg to hold and look at the books they've picked and the ride home is filled with blissful silence while all their heads are down, silently reading their new finds. it's pretty stinking amazing. truly.
enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

easily brainwashed, coming of age stories, and dense bread

i think i might be brain-washable. truly. or at least very impressionable.
i read books or see inspiring movies and for a brief moment, i'm totally sold.
sign me up! i'm in! what are we doing again?

i've been reading the harry potter series and in between each book, i'm reading a totally different type of book. a palate cleanser, if you will.

this last book was called "little beach street bakery," and i thoroughly enjoyed it. it is not deep. it does not have some political agenda. it is simply a nice book. i find that my favorite types of books tend to be ones where people find their niche. it doesn't have to be a coming of age story, but they usually are in some sense. in this book, the woman enjoys baking bread. the book includes several recipes in the back.

well, i decided after reading a few hundred pages about a try to be a baker. just for fun.
to be honest, though, i think this new season of our lives has thrown me for a loop. having a bit of free time and not having every second tied up with cps and visits and court dates and sweet kids needing me's made me a bit...unsure. outside forces seemed to dictate our lives for so long, it's weird and a bit unsettling to be able to decide how i think my time should be spent. apparently i'm trying to fill  up that time with hobbies of fictional characters.

i used to bake with my mom on lazy saturdays. the house would smell amazing. the kneading was fun and messy. and in the end, you had this awesome product that you made...with your bare hands!

so this weekend i baked some bread.
it was not the best bread you have ever tasted, but i enjoyed doing it.
before i started, i told my husband i wanted to do it because i was reading a book about it, and he was awesome.
he didn't laugh out loud at me wanting to try something new.
he didn't roll his eyes at the newest hobby i am taking on that will probably die out in a few weeks.
he offered to go to the store and get what i needed to start.
stand-up guy, huh! love that kid.

and i enjoyed myself.
in the end, we had two loaves of kinda dense bread. the boys were so excited.
"you made this?! how?!" (apparently i have failed them in some way because they can't believe someone can make something from scratch. surprise, kids! food doesn't have to come from containers!)
i told them i wanted to try something new.
so even if i stink at it, at least i'm trying, right?
and that's half the fun.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

how to get all the stuff done...wait...nope that's not it

i seriously am getting nothing done, y'all.
for reals.

i started out this academic year with four kids going into school and myself only having a tiny job.
--that's what i call it. because it's tiny.

and what did i think would happen?
clean bathrooms
clean house in general
folded laundry
a tidy yard
birds would sing and butterflies would dance and all would be peaceful and well

these dreams have all been ripped to shreds. and i'm trying to figure out what actually matters.
does it matter that all the clothes are folded all the time?
probably not.
(it never really has...shhh... don't say anything.)

but does it matter that my rose bush is getting so large it's warping our fence that we share with a neighbor? um yeah. i should really get on that.

do y'all ever feel this way? --like the list is too long and your productivity level is too small?
and all i really want to do is drink a yummy fancy coffee and take a nap.
can i get a hallelujah!?

i keep rewriting lists and making new sets of priorities and then nothing sticks.
on paper a schedule of cleaning and kicking booty looks easy-peasy. in reality, small daily tasks add up quickly and my bigger goals get left by the wayside. i plan like one thing a day to get done so i can feel like a successful contributor of society.
--i fed the dogs today. they will live!
--i returned that thing from target from like a month ago that didn't fit you. you're welcome.
--didn't i do these dishes yesterday? you mean we use them daily?

these blogs where people renovate their children's bedrooms and write biographies about christian poets and lead conferences about effective prayer and are president of the PTA and look good while doing it? dang. if they make you feel bad, come sit by me. we have a play house that we half-constructed months ago with a 2x4 holding it together since we haven't put a roof on it. bam. there's productivity for you. --making things safe enough not to physically harm children until we can actually get our act together and finish a pretty simple project.

but can i find time to read the entire harry potter series in a month? yes.
or watch tv on hulu plus in my pajamas? most definitely.
--what are you trying to say?

...if by your silence you are saying that if these things were truly a priority, i would make time for them. and that the truly important things will work themselves out. and there's only 24 hours in a day. and in three men walking there surely is my teacher. and there's no "i" in team. and absence makes the heart grow fonder. and one in the hand is worth two in the bush... then i say you are wise beyond your years.
thanks for all the wisdom and i'm gonna take all that advice to heart.
--just as soon as i watch this next episode of brooklyn 99.

Friday, October 2, 2015

sweet reminders

tonight was cozy. pandora played the passion pit station. and i made a chicken and pepper stir-fry, affectionately referred to in our house as "amanda's chicken." (thanks, college roommate and dear friend!)

tonight a candle was lit on the table and a kid played piano (banged out random notes i should say) while i cooked in an apron, partly because i love aprons and partly because i am quite the clumsy chef. 

there was screaming and some harsh words between brothers and even a child leaving in a huff to go outside and calm down. there was speech therapy and too much homework and too many tears. it was a bit crazy, i'm not gonna lie, but most days are like that here.

but i have to say it... it was lovely. 
having some time in our home in the afternoon after a long week has been a sweet blessing. 
having time to let a kid throw a fit and not rush off to another activity only to arrive late, to have a relaxed evening where everybody gets their reading minutes done (miracle of miracles)...this is rare. 

there's really no point to this post except that as i was cooking and washing dishes and calming kids down, i was suddenly struck with how thankful i am for my blessings. 
in a season where it's been easy to look at what we've lost, God sweetly reminds me of a million ways He has blessed me.

how has He blessed you?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

lofty goals for fall

i've been thinking about those evenings when you're outside well after it gets dark. the kids are running around and yet the pace of the night is slow and easy. when funky music spills out the windows while the grill sizzles and the screen door slams with kids helping to set the table outside. 
and all of a sudden it gets chilly and you need a sweater to stay comfy? 
in commercials, these things happen in the summer.
in commercials, people don't live here. 

something the media calls "fall" or what i call "finally tolerable weather" waits to make its appearance here until late october. but now that we're finding our groove with school, i like to start setting more realistic goals...because the ones i set at the beginning of the school year... yeah, let's not talk about it.
(instead of making new year's goals, i like to make goals according to the season on the calendar and our season of life.)

these are super lofty goals, people. 
be dumbstruck by my loftiness.

work out and spend less...
weeks of catching up with friends after busy summers means i'm spending and eating out too much. i need to trim the fat a bit. pun intended. my work out plan never consists of running, weights, yada yada yada. it usually is made up of: eat more green things, drink less dr pepper, walk instead of take the car a few times a week. like i said...lofty. 

pick flowers...
the people who lived in this house before us had some green thumbs. the yard was beautiful when we moved in, and i have tried pretty dang hard to not kill everything. so far it's going ok. the fruit of this is that we usually have some lovely things growing around our place. few things make me happier than bright colors popping out from a mason jar above my sink. 

open some windows and eat outside...
my goal with this? do it as much as possible. 

allow for time at home...
i really love evenings at home. and i really enjoy having people over for dinner. when i plan too many activities, we're all rushed, over-tired, and seem to enjoy everything a bit less. by making sure we spend a bit of time at home, i'm trying to ensure a certain amount of rest and relaxation.

ride my bike...
this summer i wanted a cruiser bike so badly i could hardly stand it. and then i bought one. and then i remembered that it is summer and way too stinking hot to ride it anywhere. so i've been biding my time for cooler weather when i can ride it to the boys' school or to my job. i can't wait!

what are your lofty goals for this upcoming season? 
eat a caramel apple? 
bake a pie? 
buy a fall-scented candle? 

Monday, September 21, 2015

awesome seasonal movies

as the seasons pretend to change here in south texas, i start getting ready to decorate. and i love movies that reflect the season as well.
my sister-in-law and i have discussed several movies that are just better when the season is right.
this is by no means a comprehensive list, but i thought it would be fun to share our favorite seasonal movies in case we stumble upon a great one we didn't previously know about. i'd also like to state for the record that if you find any of these movies offensive due to content, i apologize. each of these movies is listed because i, myself, have enjoyed them. you have probably watched every single one of them but sometimes i read a list like this and go, "oh my gosh! i loved that movie and haven't seen it in forever! i need to get that one!" and maybe this list will do the same for you. 

great fall movies:
you've got mail ("bouquet of sharpened pencils")
dan in real life
mona lisa smile

great winter movies:
you've got mail ("the horn...the sounds so forlorn")
the family stone
while you were sleeping
sleepless in seattle
*i did not list all the famous Christmas movies on this, like "elf," "white Christmas," "muppet Christmas carol" or "home alone," because we watch those on repeat all Christmas season long.

great spring movies:
you've got mail (are you noticing a theme here? it's basically the best movie ever)
under the tuscan sun
calendar girls
must love dogs

great summer movies:
the way, way back
away we go (note: language and some other inappropriate stuff but there is something about the ambience of this movie that is special)
the secret life of walter mitty

my sister in law recommended "lars and the real girl" but i have not seen it yet. and i'd just like to give a shout-out to "date night," "miss pettigrew lives for a day," and "crazy stupid love" because i really enjoy those movies any old time. and i must also add that if you own "just like heaven," you are in for a real treat. the bloopers are hysterical. yes, there are some that make no sense and are kinda stupid, but then there's like two that make my sister and i laugh so hard that we cry and rewind over and over again. we're cool like that.

what are your favorite movies for every season?

Friday, September 18, 2015

fearfully and wonderfully made: a child's unique gifts

so this lady right here talks a lot on her blog about how each of her children is uniquely gifted. she does a lovely job of nurturing each child and what they delight in. i really dig it. she also uses washi tape a lot. and who doesn't love that? i mean, c'mon.

with four boys, i feel like there's not enough time for everything. with one boy i felt that way, though, so not much has changed, i guess. once upon a time, though, i read a book called "loving the little years" and in it, the author mentioned that her kids would kinda barge in to the kitchen to help cook. and she herself felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of "helpers" but the kids themselves, they are individuals...and they don't see themselves as a group. i thought this was such a simple idea but i needed the reminder. my kids are individuals. and while we do things as a group, each boy is different.

i was always a bit nervous to focus on the boys' strengths or interests too much because i didn't want to pigeon-hole them. "i'm the academic one." "i'm the athletic one." "i'm the artist."
my mom was the youngest of three girls and i heard her remark more than once that one sister was really good at one thing, another sister was really good at something else. so my mom chose something altogether different so she wouldn't be compared. as the youngest of three myself, i get that.
but everyone does have strengths and it's great to delve a little deeper into them. i tell the boys daily, "nobody is just one thing." we are all multi-faceted, ornately complicated people. (i don't say that last part. they would give me blank stares and say "whatever, mom" or something like that.)

as i was thinking more about this, a few things i've been reading lately have talked about how we are uniquely gifted, and when i reflect on how awesome my parents were (are) to really come alongside me in my various passions and encourage me in them, i thought i might need to be more intentional about my boys and their uniqueness.

gabe loves to build and invent. he loves to push himself physically. he's pretty hard core.
he tells stories that last awhile. he gets pretty excited about them.
he's also the most serious of the bunch. 
and he's probably the most like me. 
he is really social when he needs to be, but totally an introvert at heart.
and when we feel overwhelmed, we are pretty much mirror images of each other.

judah loves to create. and dance. 
he's straight up gangsta.
he recently created a hot rod out of a cardboard box, toilet paper rolls, and red tissue paper...just because.
 he's also super passionate. about anything.
and everything.
he wears his feelings WAY OUT HERE and you never have to question what he thinks about stuff.

elijah is a lover, not a fighter. but if you push him, he will eventually push back.
he loves to cook.
and write.
this evening he wrote a "constitution," which to him apparently means a list of our family's traits and hobbies. 
he voluntarily writes letters to family members and teachers to say nice things. 
he loves connecting with people and helping. 
and he LOVES babies. 

asher tends to be pretty silly.
and he loves to be out in nature. 
worms, horses, gardening.
he'll do it all.

at this point in time, he doesn't care a lick about school.
art or writing or reading or homework? 
not his thing.
but if you need anybody to spin on their belly like a top or touch a gross bug, 
he's your guy.

so i think i'm going to try to be more intentional about finding activities that give focus to each kid's talents and interests. 
nothing dramatic or expensive. 
we have been setting aside cardboard boxes for judah to build something fantastic with them.
i think i might get out some old pots and plant something with asher.
i've been trying to more actively listen to gabe when he tells stories.
tonight i baked cookies with elijah. partly because i wanted to encourage him and spend time with him, and partly because...i wanted cookies.

 we'll have fun diving into things that challenge them and grow them.
their passions and feelings about things might change, but a person is more than what they are good at or interested in.

what i'd like to instill in my children is that we are each uniquely gifted. 
we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.