Everyday Life

Balance is a Myth

Last week, I was sitting around the table with some ladies in a coffee house, talking about the thing all five of us want to do well more than any other thing: be excellent spouses and parents and friends. We talked about how important this is and how important that is, and it was so good to hear from real women whom I really admire as they honestly talked about our struggles and our triumphs. As we talked,  the word “balance” came up. I recoiled.

Balance.

It’s not a bad word. There was a time when I thought it was a great word and I used it a lot. My friends and I have been striving for “balance” for years, We want to balance time with close friends and time with new friends. We try (and mostly fail, on my part) to balance time focused on our husbands with time focused on our kids. We think longingly of a a time when we can  balance time spent on laundry and dishes with time spent pursuing our passions.

It’s just too bad we don’t live life in the middle of a scale. Jumping back and forth from one side of the scale to another to make it even out? We aren’t born to do that.

IMG_6096We are born with two hands. Two hands to pick something up, and two hands to put something down. It turns out, we have to put something down before we pick up something else. Our hands can only hold so much. If we try to pick up too much at once, we end up dropping things. We can’t afford to drop things, because what we hold is too important and precious. Our children’s upbringing. Our husbands’ love. Our friends’ trust. The care of our own souls. The world.

It turns out, there’s no such thing as balance. There is picking up one thing, and putting down another. There is holding close and there is dropping. I don’t know much about how to live well, but I’m learning that I have been given only two hands and I must decide what I can hold and what I cannot, when to put something down so I can pick up something else. I’m not worrying about walking on a wire in a balancing act anymore. That leads to frenzied unfocus, trying to figure out too many things at one time. With lots of prayer, lots of mistakes, I’m trying to live life with my hands holding what’s important and gently letting go of what is not for me at this time. A person can go through life putting down and picking up many things. There is no shame in not picking up everything at once. Figuring out what is for us and what is not is never a simple equation…but it may be simpler than we have been told thus far.

Because we only have two hands.

Children's Books, Three Book Thursday

Summer Reading – Favorite Books for Beginning Readers

girlreadingjwsmithWelcome to Three Book Thursday! This blog feature is all about our favorite children’s books of the week, and celebrating those moments when we can say, ‘Yes, just one more book.’ See all the posts in the category here. And check out our other series about children’s book’s, Friday Favorites, here

It’s mid-June and we have plunged into summer reading at our local library. Ah, the smell of books and air conditioning mixed together…let’s pause for a moment of summer reading nostalgia. Okay, moving on. Our summer reading program is entirely online this year, which I call a major bummer. I printed out my own lists for my kids to fill out by hand from this website.  They fill out their paper and I transfer it to the online junk. (Are you sensing some dissatisfaction with this system? Because I’m laying it on pretty thick). Anyway, my oldest has moved on from getting prizes for listening to books and now has to read the books to herself. This has started us on a search for some great easy readers. Because some of them? They are not so great. Here are some gems we’ve found so far.

Our new favorite this Summer is the Nate the Great series. My husband told me Nate the GreatI should get Nate the Great for my seven-year-old to read, and I said, “Who is Nate the Great?” Horrified look from my husband. And it was totally justified. How can I have not read these books before? I got the first one in the series that day, and he read the opening to Ella the next morning to get her hooked. We all laughed out loud. She took the book after breakfast and went straight to her favorite reading chair. Her younger brother followed her and they finished the book in fifteen minutes, laughing all the way. We’ve now read three Nate the Greats and I just checked a book about Olivia Sharp, Nate the Great’s cousin.

My son loves for my daughter to read the Elephant and Piggy books to him by Mo Willems. They are all pretty funny, but the We Are in a Book is hilarious. Willems’s illustrations of each character’s expressions really make the book great. In this case, simple really is wonderful.  There are only a few words on each page, so I would highly recommend these for easily discouraged readers.

Penny and Her MarblePenny and Her Marble and Penny and Her Doll are lovely easy readers. It’s amazing how Kevin Henkes can present situations in which his characters are experiencing some new emotion without overwhelming young readers. These books deal with stealing, guilt, love, waiting for inspiration, and probably some other issues I’m forgetting. The colors and illustrations are so soothing, too, which is nice for a change of pace sometimes. I like books that soothe my eyes.

Those are just a few of the easy reader favorites we’re enjoying this summer. If you’re looking for more in this category, check out these posts.

Friday Favorites, Frog and Toad Edition

The Good Knight Series (series includes some easy readers)

 

Children's Books, Three Book Thursday

Picture Books and Summer Desserts

Welcome to Three Book Thursday, a series all about the joy of sharing books with girlreadingjwsmithchildren. We’re kicking off our summer today and that means we’re all signed up for summer reading at our local library! So this week, I’m featuring picture books that highlight learning and include recipes for a summer dessert, because there’s no better way to kick off summer reading excitement than with a hands on opportunity!  (And as a homeschooled kid turned homeschooling mom, I can tell you that finding a good book with a recipe to go with is finding solid gold).

14823980A Fine Dessert is a fun history lesson about the centuries old dessert, Blackberry Fool. Starting with a mother and daughter in England in the 1700s, we see how the process of cooking changes a little bit but the basic concept of delicious food bringing families together stays the same. This book will make your kids appreciate grocery stores and electric mixers! We had opportunities to talk about all sorts of concepts, from colors of dishes to slavery in the 1800s to different kinds of grocery stores.  And if you make the very simple recipe at the end, you’ll also give your children an opportunity to get their hands really dirty and be proud of a new accomplishment. Our children gobbled up the Blackberry Fool. As a side note, no one really knows why it’s called “fool.” Of course, the kids sure do love an excuse to use an off limits word in a different context. (insert eye roll + amused smile).  Even if you don’t get to make the recipe, the illustrations are delicious in themselves and the book as a whole is one of our new favorites.

How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. has our mouths watering and our wanderlust screaming at us to take a road trip! (oh, maybe that’s just my wanderlust…. 3003976moving on). It’s such a great book to start your summer reading with. We loved following along with a map as the children in it start in New York City, travel down the Mississippi on a river boat, and hit up a few lesser talked of states for the necessary supplies to create a delicious cherry pie. I would even suggest starting with this book instead of its predecessor, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. We’re finding that it’s easier for young children to understand the geography of their own country than the starting off with the whole, unfamiliar world. Children are as curious as can be about geography, though, so whichever book you start with, I can almost guarantee the wonder of a map will draw them in and the promise of some pie making fun will seal the memory as one of the best geography lessons ever.

Thunder Cake is THE book to read in the late afternoon on a stormy summer’s day.  Patricia Polacco makes you feel like you’re right in the midst of the glowering clouds Thunder Cakeand yellow light of an approaching storm on the prairie. The narrative of the grandmother and her young granddaughter hurrying to beat the storm gives readers an exciting story to follow even as they’re learning how much work it was to cook before electricity was in our homes. The recipe at the end is a bit more complicated than the Blackberry Fool and Cherry Pie recipes, so we have yet to try it. Also, we’re all a bit wary of a cake recipe that includes tomatoes….but I’m planning to have an update on its outcome by the middle of the summer for you! Even if you never make the recipe, it’s a wonderful book.

 

 

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