Summer Reads 2016

nature-grass-green-book-medium

We received shocking news last week.

The boy is officially too old for the summer reading program at our local library.

Sigh.

He was actually a bit happy about this because I think the idea of placing a sticker on a theme-oriented cutout marking how many books read loses the appeal as one nears the age of eleven. I, however, am sad because this aging out means two things:

  1. He is getting old. Not cool, kid.
  2. We get less of those “Kids Eat Free” coupons that accompany all reading success during the course of the program. (Super not cool, kid.)
All is not lost because he does get to enjoy the teen reading program, which carries with it the chance to win an iPad mini (Okay…that is kindof cool, kid.)
Our library also has an adult reading program, complete with prizes such as gift cards to local restaurants and attractions. In the past I have won a few of these trinkets. I do believe this was in the early years of the program before many adult library patrons realized they could even enter a contest. These days my competition is a bit more fierce but I am determined to prevail at some point over the next eight weeks.
Reading is a passion for me…especially in the summer. I *heart* a good book list so I thought I would share some of my upcoming summer reads with you.

Glory Over Everything

glory

This is the sequel to the amazing book, The Kitchen House, which I read in a little over 24 hours. It was phenomenal. I cannot wait to tear into the sequel.

Tip: If you are going to read The Kitchen House (and why would you not? Again..amazing.) DO NOT read the premise of Glory Over Everything. It can spoil a bit of the original story.

Here’s to Us

herestous

My family likes to joke about my love for the island of Nantucket, especially because I have never actually visited this little ocean paradise (yet…but next summer I am on my way!). I adore Elin Hilderbrand and the stories she crafts about this tiny little island. Her latest beach reads hits shelves mid-June. I cannot wait. I will drop everything and read this book as soon as it comes out.

The Island House

islandhouse

Remember how I just said I love Nantucket? Well, Nancy Thayer also happens to write about this piece of land. This book was just released yesterday and I am anxiously waiting for my library to call and say my copy is available (because I have had it on hold since February).

The Nest

nest

This book is on everyone’s “to read” list for the summer. I figure if it is making all the lists than it needs to make mine.

Truly Madly Guilty

trulymad

Liane Moriarty is a favorite author of mine. I have loved many of her past works, especially Big Little Lies (which Reese Whiterspoon is turning into a movie.). This comes out at the end of the summer and should be a great read.

The Year We Turned Forty

year40

The title of this hits a bit too close to home but I let it make the list anyway. Amazon reviews for this one are strong and it keeps coming up in my recommendation list.

Okay, Amazon. You win. I will give it a try.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

brave

Again, this is a book making all the lists. I figure I need something deep to balance out all the beach reads. I hear it is this year’s Nightengale (Is that even possible?)

Eligible

eligible

Who does not love a fun spin on Jane Austen? This is yet another title that is popping up on all the “must read” books of Summer 2016.

 

What is on your list for the summer? Do you splurge and buy them all or keep your fingers crossed and hope the local library comes through for you in a time of need?

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Summertime

summer

Last week I sat down to organize our family’s summer calendar. I mapped out potential camps, listed possible play date opportunities, and checked the church website for fun things that entertain the children and spread the word of Jesus (that is a winning combo, by the way).

I was feeling quite productive as I registered my kids for all the things, including their annual stint at Vacation Bible School.

It was not until I hit that cute little “submit” button that I realized I had registered them for VBS…

in Iowa.

In case you are a new reader here, we don’t live in Iowa.

In fact, we don’t really live anywhere near Iowa.

I then got to make that awkward call to a church office…in Iowa…and explain that I accidentially registered my children for their VBS and would like to cancel said registration.

I am betting by the secretary’s response that she does not receive calls of that nature very often.

So that is how my summer has started off.

What about yours?

As I continue to plan and organize our summer (Which I don’t really consider  as started until after dance recital season comes to an end), I always like to see what my fellow mamas are up to. In the past we have done several variations of the Super Summer Challenge (read about those here).  I have also spent countless hours scheduling technology time, refereeing sibling spats, and searching for the constantly missing bottle of sunscreen. My goal for this summer is to minimize the chaos while maximizing all the glory that is summer.

My question for you is what are you doing this summer to prevent your children from becoming television and technology zombies? How are you saving your sanity while savoring your summer?

Share, mamas (and dads and grandparents and the random nanny who reads here). I plan to totally borrow your ideas and compile them into something useful.

Check back next week to see how I utilize those ideas and what we are going to do to not only save but also savor our summer.

Another birthday has come and gone here at casa de phillips.

gift

A few weeks ago the girl turned nine.

Just in case you have been a long time reader, this is the same girl whose birth we live blogged right here on this very platform. How on earth could the child possibly be nine years old? Next year there will not be one child living in my home in the single digits.

Were we not just running from mad ducks who used to chase us as I pushed those babies in their double jogging stroller?

Nine, y’all.

I cannot even.

Birthdays are a big deal at casa de phillips. My birthday has always held a bit of magic for me partly because I have the type of personality that loves to be celebrated (Yes..I embrace that. Some may call it a character flaw. Rather I see it as a love of a good party.) and partly because of being adopted and knowing a lot of people did a lot of things to make my existence even possible.

Over the years, I have settled down a bit when in comes to the actual birthday party for my children. I still love to let the creative juices flow and our credit card bills still show a few extra charges to Michaels craft store during that time, but things have been toned down quite the bit. In fact, the boy has had the same birthday party the past two years in a row. As the children grow older I find they have an actual opinion about how they want their party to be and what the theme should entail. This has been a learning curve for all of us, but I am happy to report that I am embracing it gracefully.

In fact this year when my daughter suggested that I meld the orginal party theme of “Jump Ropes and Hula Hoop Extravaganza” with Power Puff girls, I did not flinch. I took a deep breath and said “That sounds perfect.”

(I also did a silent cheer when we realized that Power Puff girls party merchandise does not exist yet and we could only get old school PPG supplies off of Ebay. The girl was not a fan of the old school merch and so she scrapped the plan. Insert praise hands here.)

As the children begin to own their party ideas, I still own cake decorating.

For whatever reason, the year the boy turned one I decieded to make his cake. This involved a trip to Michaels (duh) and the purchase of a “fancy” cake pan in the shape of a lion. I then proceeded to make two cakes (a test one and the real deal), complete with puffy colored icing to fill in the lion’s features.

A tradition (and a slightly deranged lion) was born that day.

Since then I have made each of the children’s cake (and a few for the husband) for their birthday. It is always a fun treat for them (and usually for me) to see what I come up with.

Before you name me “Crafty Mom of the Year” let me be very clear: typically these cakes are only something a child could love.

For example, there was the year I created Rocket from the Little Einsteins. This cake had TOOTHPICKS inserted in it to keep it together.

And I fed it to three year olds.

Bless.

I have made a flower pot cake and a French fry cake. A super Mario cake and a hot wheels track cake. There has been a Harry Potter and a d0-it-yourself art canvas. We have had a rose cake and a multitude of rainbow cakes.

Not one of these have exactly been pinterest-worthy.

However, each one of them is a gift of love to my kids. Just a few weeks ago, the girl gathered all her friends around to admire the cake I had crafted for her.

Did it look remotely like the picture from the Internet that I attempted to copy?

Not in the least.

But it was beautiful in my child’s eyes).

Making birthday cakes is a relatively easy way to show my kids that I find them to be pretty awesome.

What little traditions do you create for your family that serves as a reminder of your love for them?

 

Homeschool Hack #2: End of the Year Project Based Learning

In the fall of last year, I attended my 20 year high school reunion. I would like to say this was made possible by the fact that I graduated at the  mere age of 14 years old but alas that simply is not true.

Rather the glaring truth is that I indeed finished high school 21 years ago at the typical age of 18.

Despite the two decades that have passed since that time, I vividly remember those months at school leading up to graduation. Class placement was not an issue for me since I had already been accepted to college and my GPA stopped counting in December. This story was true for the majority of my class and so we all entered that final semester of school with a “who cares” attitude.

It was a lot of fun and many nights were spent goofing off since homework no longer mattered (Did we even have homework?). Probably not the best recipe to set us all up for success as we all would soon be staring our freshman year of college dead in the eyes, but it worked in the moment.

About April 12th of this year, I hit a “who cares” attitude with our homeschool for the year. In the past, this has not really occurred. Typically I set out a path to wind down all the subjects and we are finished and ready for summer by memorial day.

Not this year.

This year I was ready to shut it down in mid-April and call in sick for the remaining weeks.

Not a great plan when you are the one in charge.

Part of this attitude steams from a school year that has felt very disjointed to the children and myself. We opted for a new type of schooling in the fall. It did not work for our family so we switched back to that which we were familiar with in the Spring. Although it felt good to “be home” per say we all still felt a bit lost this semester.

Deciding that shuttering school for the year so early was likely not the best idea, I opted to do something radically different.

I jumped in feet-first with the kids into a season of project-based learning.

(If you homeschool, head over to Amazon and grab this book really quick. You are welcome.)

First, we came to a clean stop on all of our basic subjects. I have never been one obsessed about finishing a textbook in a school year because years of public school teaching showed me that rarely is a text book finished. Rather, I always dig the last of the good meat out of a book and bid it farewell…even if we are only on page 241 of 307 pages. This was a bit tricky this year since we switched curriculum mid-year. However, I figured it out (I think. I guess those SAT scores in six years will tell me if I did or did not.). We finished up the basic subjects, put the books to the side, and began something new.

Also during this time our Classical Conversations year came to an end. CC always ends before we actually end at home. However, we tied up those loose ends as well and sent Cycle 1 packing.

I spent about half a morning after all these subjects were closed and shelved to form a plan. My original idea was that the kids would think up a topic, research it, create a project, and write a paper. I quickly decided that was not quite enough to fill our days and enrich their minds. Rather I expanded it to incorporate several subjects and for them to present all the assignments after a special family dinner.

The children were asked to do the following:

  • Research a topic of interests. Find books at the library about the topic. Read the books (such an important step! Those books do not magically read themselves while sitting unopened in our library basket.). Write a paper about what you learned. Design and make a project based on your topic. Present all the materials to an audience.
  • Choose three things that  were learned in math this year. Teach these three concepts to the audience.
  • Select a science experiment and demonstrate it for the audience. Walk them through the scientific method.
  • Choose a chapter from Story of the World (the children are actually on different volumes this year…a result of our fall semester of school. This has not been my favorite because I love doing history all together, but we have made it work). Reread that chapter (We do finish this book during the year) and write a report about this time in history. Develop a project to go along with the report.
  • Select a famous artist. Read up on the artist and write a report about his/her life. Create an original piece of art to display.
  • Choose one book from the literature basket that has yet to be read this year (Each child has a literature basket of books I select for the year for them to read through). Read the book. Write up a book report on the book. Create a project to go along with the report.

There it is: My solution for finishing out the school year strong.

This idea is based on the book “Project Based Homeschooling” which I encouraged you to purchase above (Have you done that yet??). I love what the author, Lori Pickert, says about having some project based learning in the homeschool. She says:

“It (PBL) is a way to learn that sets aside the importance of subject matter and focuses on what it means to be an accomplished thinker, learner, maker, and doer.”

If that does not sound like a successful way to end the school year, I am not sure what does.

I typed up everything I wanted my kids to know/understand about this project, printed it, and passed it off to them. We spent time brainstorming some ideas to ensure this project would not be plagued by “end of the year slackdom” and they were set free to begin however they saw fit.

pbl

Since the introduction to this project we have made several trips to the library, spent quite the few dollars at the local craft supply store, and managed to scorch a batch of crayons in the oven as one kid worked on his creative art project. Our mornings have been peaceful and the kids have readily embraced this style of learning. Their projects are creative (with the exception of that burned crayon fiasco that likely ruined a cookie sheet from William Sonoma) and quite different. They have big boards filled with notes and papers and researched thoughts. It is quite exciting to seem them embrace this idea that merely started as a way to salvage the year.

Could we do a whole year of this?

No. My Type A personality just could not jive with it.

But a season of it is working in the moment.

They are presenting everything to the family on Tuesday night.

We will not wrap up the year until the end of next week (I have a few field trips to toss in as well as our annual end-of-the-year quiz I make and give them) but I think we may just end this year on a positive note.

At the very least we have learned how to effectively burn crayons in one’s oven.

Guarding our Children’s Time

guardingtime

The glamour of summer camp has struck casa de phillips.

The children want to go to robotics camp, dance camp, theater camp, tennis camp, and any camp that promises a FULL DAY OF FUN!

The deal with summer camp is that camp is expensive…and exhausting.

I am quickly realizing that I am an active participant in rasing up a generation of children being trained to be busy.

“Hey, Kids! Let’s go from school to extracurricular activity A to Kids Eat Free night at our local burger place to Target and then back home for a quick rest before we do it all over again tomorrow! Doesn’t that sound ah-maz-ing and utterly exhausting all at the same time?”

I have noticed this phenomenon of constant busyness is creating a generation of children who do not have the ability to sit still and just be. For example, as I type this our neighborhood which is home a multitude of children is quiet. The park that sits diagonally across the street from our house is currently empty despite the fact that it is 67 degrees and breezy, a true delight here in Texas in April. School has been out for over an hour…so where are the children?

Friends, they are busy.

Busy attempting to make it from one activity to the next. Busy attempting to become the best at a sport in which they most likely will never revisit after the age of 18. Busy DOING because sitting seems like a waste of time and a chance to be surpassed.

I say all of this because my kids are busy (How do you think I am able to type this at the moment?). Sometimes I claim to others that I let my kids be so involved in extracurricular activites because we homeschool. They are home all day so what does it matter if one is at dance for three hours and the other is shuttled between karate and basketball practice in the same night? It’s all good, right?

Wrong.

Because there have been days in which we have loaded up in the family station wagon and set our sails for the a full night of activities only to pass the neighbhorhood children at the park. My children comment on how they wish they could just play at the park rather than attend said scheduled extracurricular activity.

It is hard to find the balance between activity and rest. I am one of the first to stand up and say that children indeed need to be involved in something and that something is not Minecraft or constant mind-numbing cartoons. However children also need to be involved in their childhood, to have a moment to breathe and run and play.

As parents, we are placed in charge of guarding a great deal of things when in comes to our children. We are told to guard their hearts, their minds, their diets, and their relationships.

I am going to add one more thing to that list: we need to guard their time as well.

Like I said, my children would sign up to do all the things if allowed. They would also become big ol couch potatoes if allowed.

As a parent, I get to guard their time and show them how to manage business and idleness in a responsible manner.

Just this school year we made a decision for our daughter on guarding her time. Due to a variety of circumstances, we opted for her to turn down her invitation to be part of a dance company. She has been part of a dance company since beginning dance at the age of five and that title means so very much to her. Yet one of the reasons why we decided to politely say “no thank you” this year was due to time. We asked ourselves if our child spending an insane amount of hours at the dance studio at the age of eight was worth it for our family. We decided it was not and we declined.

There were many tears about this decision (hers and mine) and a lot of character building that had to occur on behalf of our child.

Yet we survived.

Recently she and I began having the conversation about next year’s dance schedule and what she wanted to achieve from it.

Her response: “I just want to be eight.”

That was my answer, folks.

So next year we will let the girl be eight (technically she will be nine but in the heat of our conversation I did not want to point that out to her). She will still attend dance at a studio that she loves with friends that she loves.

Will others who dance double the hours she does surpass her?

Most likely.

Will it matter to our family in that moment?

No.

I hope to teach my children that doing all the things or none of the things is not guarding one’s time efficiently. I hope to show them time is precious and needs to be treated as such.

How do you guard your family’s time?

#39inmy39th

It does not feel like too long ago that my parents and all their friends experienced the life stage of turning 40. I can remember the parties, the “Over the Hill” paraphernalia , and the occasions when my dad would snag a wheelchair from his office to use as a fun party prop. Somehow I have found myself at this same life stage in which those around me are turning 40. Gone are the days of wedding and baby showers. Now we all gather at the latest birthday bash as a fellow friend enters a new decade. Thank goodness Hallmark has decided to phase out the “Over the Hill” black party favors and fortunately “wheelchair” humor is a dying breed.

Today I find myself beginning the year of facing down 40.

Today I turn 39.

Approaching 40 does not create fear in me or casue me to bemoan my age. Rather I embrace it. What a blessing to have been gifted 39 years with a promise of possibly more to come. Sure I recently saw a picture of myself which sent me straight to the skin care aisle of my local department store in search of miracle eye cream. Yes, my back and my knees hurt..especially when the weather changes. I have had the moment of horror when I glanced in the rearview mirror at a stoplight and wondered who in the world planted those gray hairs springing up from the top of my head? Signs of aging are making themselves known.

But guess what those signs mean: I have spent 39 years walking around this earth. Those lines under my eyes that were not there even 6 or 7 years ago? Well those lines are signs of happiness and joy…not signs of a body failing or of youth lost. That back and those knees may ache a bit, but they still keep me going on a daily basis.

Rather than fearing these signs or attempting to radically reverse them, I celebrate them. My wrinkles are not caused by a lifetime of sorrow or of heavy labor, unlike other women in this world. That thought humbles me. My legs still keep trucking despite others with the same diagnosis as me who lost mobility years ago. Again, what is an achy back compared to lack of independent movement? I can run and buy expensive eye cream, text my hair dresser when those pesky grays (who am I kidding? I am a redhead. There are no grays. We skip over that and go straight to white.) pop up, and I can get in quickly to my chiropractor  when the aches start to get the best of me. I have no complaints with my aging, but rather wear it as a sort of badge of honor and embrace it with humility.

As this day has approached, I have thought about what I want to do with this year leading up to 40. 38 taught me a lot of things: one of those being that my days are so very numbered. How am I spending those days and what am I doing with what I have been given? So often I just flitter about, with little detail to how I am spending my overall time and where I am pouring my efforts. I get caught up in the little picture of get up, workout, feed the family, educate the family, socialize with friends that I lose track of the dreams and desires of my heart. The dreams and desires of God’s heart.

This stirred in me a desire to make a list of things to accomplish this year. This list has some big things on it. It has a lot of small things on it. Some are important while others are frivolous . However, they all mean something to me.

Here, my friends, is my little yearlong project I like to call “#39inmy39th.” I plan to blog this journey as I travel down this path for the next 365 days. A few things will remain private, however most of them will be shared.

Without further rambling, here is the list:

39

  1. Attend 20 yoga classes this year.
  2. Complete a 1/2 marathon
  3. Complete the Whole30 at least once
  4. Climb a (small) mountain
  5. Read a previously unread classic novel
  6. Read a total of 39 books this year
  7. Memorize: The Lord’s Prayer, The Apostle’s Creed, The Great Commission, and The Beatitudes
  8. Finish my book proposal
  9. Attend She Speaks conference in July
  10. Speak at a conference/event
  11. Create an online master class (Don’t you wanna sign up for this???)
  12. Complete the book 52 Lists
  13. Take a class
  14. Publish something
  15. 1017 roomie reunion
  16. *****
  17. Have an Evelyn Day
  18. Have an Isaac Day
  19. Have a Tobe Day
  20. Create vision boards with the family
  21. Cook recipes from both my Grandmother and Grandma’s recipe collection (I have both stored at my house…and never look at them)
  22. Write regular letters to my grandmother
  23. Plan a surprise weekend roadtrip for my family
  24. Have family pictures made
  25. Be intentional about not hurrying the children (this is the only non-tangible thing on my list…but such a big issue for me)
  26. Take Isaac to see a Shakespeare play
  27. Take Evelyn to the ballet
  28. Donate time/efforts to a local organization that empowers women in my community
  29. Donate and raise money for the OM Foundation
  30. Have four families over for dinner (Who wants to come? I am so bad about hosting dinner parties.)
  31. ***
  32. Dine at five local restaurants in which we have never eaten
  33. Paint our master bathroom
  34. Zipline
  35. Finish an incomplete project around the house (ie the large bulletin board that has lived in my garage for two years)
  36. Keep a Gratitude Journal for the year
  37. Watch a classic film never seen before
  38. See a favorite band live
  39. Plan a trip to Nantucket (This is actually a present given to me by my husband. He knew about this list and asked for me to leave one space open. He told me for my 40th I get a trip to Nantucket…a place I am slightly obsessed with and have wanted to visit forever. This year I get to plan the trip and next summer I will go!)

There you have it: 39 in my 39th.

Hello, 39.

I am excited to get to know you.

Eager to see where you will take me.

Prayerful that you will lead me somewhere new.

And eternally grateful to get to experience you.

Homeschool Hacks: The Morning Basket

Do you ever ask yourself how Ma Ingells actually made life work out on the praire?

Because I am pretty sure I would have been out on the whole “little life on the praire” gig when I had to tap a tree for molasses, boil said molasses, and then pour it on the 12 feet of snow outside of my log cabin just to make a treat for my children.

(Who are we kidding…I would have been out when the whole “outhouse” aspect came into play.)

For example, when Ma Ingells found herself with a log cabin full of slightly-sick, ever-so grumpy children what were her options? Letting them stir the big pot of lye soap cooking on the back porch to entertain themselves? Darn the socks?

Things are a bit of a hot mess over here at casa de phillips at the moment and I am thankful that watching lye soap boil is not on my list of ways to save the day. Both kids have a cold that is leaving them beyond pleasant and I am running on just a few hours of sleep (I *may* have been at concerts the last two nights. The life of an almost-forty year old minivan driving mama is exhausting some times.). No one wants to do anything other than whine. Amazon Prime Now just saved my bacon with a delivery of iboprohen and Gatorade. Netflix may just be my saving grace for this afternoon.

Pretty sure Ma Ingels had neither Amazon Prime Now or Netflix out there on the praire…

It is times like these that can really test the fortitude of our homeschool. Let’s be honest, no one really wants to pull out the Shurley Grammar book and diagram sentences when they feel crummy. The deal with these colds is that the kids simply have the common cold. They are sick enough to feel (and act) like big blobs of mess but they have the ability to actually do some school.

This is where our homeschool basket really can save the day.

morningbasket

I have been doing the homeschool basket for years. It is simply a basket that holds a variety of teaching tools that we use everyday. For example, our basket holds the following:

*Everything You Need to Know About Science Homework (*)

*Everything You Need to Know About History Homework (*)

*our current read aloud book

*Math Flashcards

*Life of Fred Book

*One Minute Science Mysteries

*A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

*Maps and dry erase markers

*Devotional books for the kids

 

(*We use these books as extra information in regards to our Classical Conversations New Grammar material. We have a chart that allows us to dig deeper into the science and history New Grammar sentences using these books.)

All of these supplies live in cute little basket that sits by our piano. The cute basket is essential to making this formula work because the basket needs to be accessible at all times. It just does not work for my personality to have a big ugly tub sitting in my front room. (We shall not mention the big ugly cardboard box holding old photo albums that has been sitting in there for a month now). Because the basket is easily accessible at all times, one of the kids can fetch it and we can get some serious learning done.

How do we use the basket?

Well, friends, we simply read the books that reside inside of it. For example, each week we read more about our Classical Conversations New Grammar science and history sentences. We read daily from a Life of Fred book. We always make time for our read aloud. Devotionals are read while the kids eat a morning snack. And everyone loves a good science mystery.

Flashcards really only speak to the heart of one of my children but they are good for the brain so everyone gets a turn.

In 45 minutes (ish) we can cover a lot of learning ground and have some quality discussions. Perfect for those days when learning was low on some people’s list due to the fact they wanted to prioritize “whining”, “arguing”, and “temperature taking” as their top goals for the day.

Bonus: no one had to research “How to make lye soap.”

Do you have a homeschool basket? If so, what lives inside of it?

 

Radio Nowhere

Mamas with older kids, remember the witching hour when they were little?

That time between the hours of 4-6pm when nothing seemed to make their little minds happy and you could not wait to hear the sound of the garage door opening, signaling that backup had finally arrived home from work?

Those were tricky times, friends. I remember on the best of days when my two were littles and I would have a cute little craft and snack on hand to combat the witching hours. I also remember the days when they were crying and whining while I attempted to cook and clean and use the restroom in peace. Those were the days that even the lure of Disney Jr. would not settle their spirits.

We are past the days of the witching hour (although yesterday I swear both kids were a hot mess at 6pm. I blame playing outside for three hours straight and low blood sugar). Rather the witching hour has been replaced with mama’s taxi hour(s).

Now I spend the hours of 4-6pm (and typically up to 8pm) running mom’s taxi service.

Karate? Check.

Dance? Check.

Basketball? Check.

Back to dance? Check.

I drive one road in our suburbia multiple times a day in a span of 2-3 hours. I have threatened to become an uber driver just to make some money to pay for all these extracirriular activities to which I drive my kids to and from.

Recently I realized I was not making the most of this time. Sure I have conversations with my kids. Please remember that we homeschool and so we talk ALL DAY LONG.

That can be a bit much for the part of my spirit that craves quiet and alone.

So there are times that I say “Yes, you can flip on a movie.” or “Please listen to your music” so I can have my own time in the car. Also, I have learned that one is not too chatty after being in dance class for three hours. No need to force conversation. It will come when desired.

My answer to all this quality time spent in the car is podcasts. The great thing about podcasts is that 1. I can learn something. 2. The children can listen (at times). 3. It makes passing the same Chipotle four times in one hour a bit more bearable.

I know I am not the only parent blazing up the roads as I take my kids back and forth from various practices or rehearsals. For those other extracurricular activity road warriors (or perhaps for those who commute daily like my husband, bless his heart..and his car’s mileage), below are some of my favorite podcasts.

 

Serial

I cannot consider myself part of Genearation X unless I say I listen to Serial. I loved the first one. The husband and I are slowly making our way through the second.

For the sake of being truly transparent, I will admit that I thought it was a fake scenario the entire time we listened to the first episode of Season One (think Soap Opera on the radio back in the day). Fortunately my husband did not pack his bags right there and leave over that moment of airheadishness. Just in case you did not know, Serial is 100% based on real events. It is not child-friendly.

Dear Sugar

This is an advice podcast by Cheryl Strayed, of Wild fame. It is a fun one to listen to and I can often walk away (aka climb out of the family station wagon) with a nugget of truth for my life. Again, not child-friendly.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

Oh my goodness: I feel like if I bumped into Jamie Ivey in my local mall that I would speak to her like she is one of my closest friends.

Let it be known that I almost spoke to someone I did not know once in a creepy familiar way because I stalked her blog back in the day. So obviously I can have boundary issues with people I don’t know.

Jamie Ivey is from Austin and has this great podcast in which she chats with influential women. Because she is in the hip Austin scene she happens to know a lot of women. Jen Hatmaker fans will be happy to know that there are at least 4 episodes featuring Jen. This is a great, inspiring podcast for women. Typically it is child-friendly but one sometimes has to censor.

Also..if your kids are familiar at all with Pine Cove, they will flip out when the Pine Cove commercial pops on in the middle of the podcast. You will then have to pause the podcast to hear them regale all sorts of Pine Cove stories. See! Podcasts bring families together!

Read Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackenzie

If you are a homeschooler and have yet to read the book Teaching from Rest, open up a new browser right this instant and order if from Amazon. It will refresh the remaining school months left in this year and get you focused for the upcoming year.

After ordering the book, be sure to listen to the author’s (Sarah Mackenzie) podcast. It is simply delightful.

In all honesty, there is a podcast by a blogger who I adore that I simply cannot listen to due to her voice.  (No worries…I won’t divulge this blogger’s identity). It simply does not work with my delicate ears. However, Sarah Mackenzie has a delightful, soothing voice that is super easy to listen to and your children will enjoy it as well. She has managed to snag some excellent guests (Andrew Pudeaw is her first guest…in fact, the podcast origins are all because she asked him to be on her show that was non-existent when she made the request to his company.). This podcast is excellent for those times when you are making supper and the kids are playing and you need a few moments of encouragement while you stir the spaghetti sauce. Most likely you will want a piece of paper and a pen nearby while you listen: there are some great nuggets of wisdom tucked into each episode.

The PopCast

I love some good pop news/trivia and this podcast never fails me. Beware: If you happen to be listening to this while running on the treadmill, you most likely will laugh out loud at 5am and cause those near you to stare uncomfortably.

The Big Boo Cast

This, dear reader, is the first podcast to which I ever listened. It has gotten me through many a solo-parent Texas/Arkansas road trip. The great thing about the Big Boo Cast (hosted by mommy bloggers Boo Mama and Big Mama) is that one feels like they are simply listening to two friends chat on the phone.

And that phone conversation covers things such as the perfect mascara to writing tips to celebrity gossip, all with a touch of Jesus sprinkled all over it.

Again, delightful for the ears (Although the southern accents may be a bit too much for some, I find it to be a taste of home.)

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Do you have a favorite podcast that helps you make it through a portion of your day? If so share so we can all make that one more trip to karate just a bit more manageable.

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Also…I may have checked out tons of books on podcasting because I have this dream to create my own podcast. Stay tuned!

 

 

Daily Truths

What’s wrong?”

Why are you still in bed? Are you sick? Did the gym close? Is there snow on the ground?”

These are the questions I am peppered with if my children happen to stumble across me still in bed at six o’clock in the morning.

(I know…we are a “special” kind of family in which everyone in our house is typically awake by 6am. Bless us all.)

Their daily reality is that mama is up early and typically at the gym when they rise. I do not do this because I have some sort of sick personality that likes to be tortured in the wee hours of the morn.

Nope. I do this because I know what simple rituals make a day better for me.

In my case, I really need to be the first one up.

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Blame this on my introverted personality, but I do not want to talk to anyone or see anyone when I get up in the morning. I relish the quiet and stillness of our home in the early morning. It allows me to deal with the chatter and business of the day later on as the house becomes alive again.

Early morning rising while everyone else snoozes is a daily truth for me.

Daily truths are things that I know to be true that make a day better for myself.

They are not flashy (i.e. having someone hand deliver a cup of coffee and a NY Times best seller to my bedside every morning) and hopefully do not impose on others (my children will tell you there are days when it is *painful* to wait until that clock reads 6:00 am to jump out of bed and start talking).

Rather daily truths are the things I recognize that need to happen (fingers crossed) to feel like I can take on the day.

That sounds rather dramatic, considering I lead a lifestyle in which I never fear for the nourishment or safety of my family, I do not work outside of the home, and I live on the border of one of America’s plushest suburbs. Middle class America is quite nauseating at times, is it not? Anyway, I regress.

Simple truths in our daily life allows us to see the core of ourselves. I know as a believer I live by the idea that the “joy of the Lord is my strength.” I also know that the Lord created coffee and that gives me a whole lotta strength to tackle the day.

So what are my simple daily truths?

  1. Be up before anyone else. Yep..this means I typically set an alarm on the weekends.
  2. Coffee
  3. Time spent reading in the early, quiet hours.
  4. Exercise. My body and its special circumstances requires it to keep functioning. My mind requires it to be a nice person.
  5. Greeting my family on a positive note each morning…even in those moments when #1 does not occur. I cannot feel at peace with myself if I start off grumpy with my people.
  6. Some alone time in the afternoon. We are busy and some days this really may just be ten minutes in my room with the door closed. It is necessary.
  7. Did I mention coffee?

As you contemplate your daily truths, ask yourself these questions.

How do I want to feel on a daily basis?

Be realistic. We cannot feel super excited and terribly happy all the time. That is called a “Disney World vacation” and we eventually have to return home to real life at some point where work and bills and flower bed weeds await us.  The body cannot run on full steam ahead- mode 24/7. Rather, ask if  you want to feel content? Peaceful? Calm?

What is going to get me to the point of feeling that above feeling on a regular basis?

This is where you identify your truths. This is where I start perking the coffee. How can you feel a reasonable amount of calm on a regular basis?

How can I make decisions about my daily truths based on my current situations?

This is where I set the alarm clock on a Saturday because I know I want to read in peace before my offspring shoot out of bed and start asking me what is for breakfast and do we have a plan for the day. If you know your daily truths, examine your situation and see how those can become a fairly normal reality. This is the point where you also have to be realistic with yourself. Want to know how to completely fail at daily truths? Setting the bar too high or setting expectations for yourself that are not going to happen. Be kind to yourself..that is the whole basis behind acknowledging daily truths.

 

Recognizing your daily truths means going to the extra effort to make sure life is designed to incorporate little things that make you feel good so you can be the best version of yourself.

Not the perfect version of yourself…because that simply does not exist.

Rather work on shaping a pretty darn good version of yourself through the identification of your daily truths as you serve your family and others and reflect God’s love and blessings back on his people.

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Now it is your turn: What is your daily truth? Share…because I may want to steal it ;).

 

Library School: For those days when homeschool seems too much

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I recently stumbled across a notebook in my garage, its pages filled with an abundance of notes about effective homeschooling. Because college skills die hard, I had dated these notes carefully.

(Let us pause and remember college in the 90’s when students had to take page after page of notes during lectures. There were no MacBook’s taking up space in the classroom or virtual lectures one could attend in their PJs.

Let us also pause and reflect on the fact that the husband and I just tossed our hundreds of pages of college and grad school notes about five years ago when we realized they were obsolete and Google could tell us everything we would ever need to know.)

These notes I came across were dated July 2015. It was during that time I attended a homeschool convention and was inspired to have the best homeschool year EVER! We would do lapbooks and notebook every snippet of history we read. Science experiments would happen weekly and artists studies would be a routine part of our school.

Some of these things have occurred.

But LIFE has also occurred.

February also happened, which all seasoned homeschoolers know to be prime burnout month.

A great solution I found to this problem of stale homeschooling and abandoned science experiment dreams was to do library school.

Library school is where we keep the curriculum at home, grab the library card and some pencils, and head out to find some education among the shelves of our local establishment. Each child was given a handout that had various subjects printed on it. For example, there was history, science, religion, poetry, math, and grammar. I also included sections that said “Interesting fiction book” and “biography that caught my attention.” Each of these sections had their own box on the worksheet. After a quick refresher course on the Dewey Decimal System, the kids were set free into the library.

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Their instructions for the day: Find books for each of the categories. Read and examine the books (they were not expected to read the ENTIRE book…we had other things to do that day…but to read excerpts and sections that appealed to them). Then write down notes and/or illustrations from those books.

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Later that night the kids shared what they had learned. In the course of about two hours they had sought out information about foreign languages that appealed to them, had brushed up on pieces of history that struck their fancy, and had learned some really great things on their own.

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Library school cannot replace every day homeschooling but it can bring life back into home education. It shows children that learning and research is fun. Library school puts knowledge into the hands of the child. Rather than force feeding facts down a kid’s throat, the child is empowered to step out on his/her own and find knowledge for himself.

Another day of home education saved.

 

 

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