Children's Books, Uncategorized

Favorite Picture Books, September 2018

Hey friends! We’re battening down the hatches in the path of Hurricane Florence here, but we’re well inland and so our  concerns have more to do with adequate reading material and flashlight batteries. I hope any of you who are on the Atlantic coast are safe and sound at this point! Here’s some picture book ideas for you and the children in your life based on what my children are loving lately.

My kids and I have read Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still over and over since getting it from the library and we all love it. Gray’s succinct yet descriptive and exciting writing is perfect for telling this story to young audiences and Davenier’s whimsical illustrations put life and movement into the words on the page. Being a former gymnastics coach, I enthusiastically showed three of my children (ages 4, 7, 9) the videos of Comaneci’s perfect 10s in Montreal after reading the book, and even now with the heightened difficulty of today’s gymnastics, her routines are breathtaking. I’ve never done a study of Comaneci’s life as an adult, but now I am thoroughly interested! 

For preschool ages (and beyond, of course), Bear’s Bicycle is a hilarious picture book with very little text that had my four-year-old thoroughly amused. The illustrations of Bear’s expressions as he gets into increasingly bad biking situations are just perfect. We all give it two thumbs up.

For the board book readers, we recommend Bunny and Bee’s Favorite Colors this week and 18-month-old Lydia wants to read it over and over again. It’s one of those books that suspends reality entirely…why are two little toddlers dressed up in animal costumes, wandering the forest and living by themselves in a tree house?…but it’s cute and the illustrations are colorful and fun. There’s a fair amount of text on each page, but for Lydia there is enough to look at in the pictures for her to wait until I’m done reading each page before she eagerly turns to the next. We’ll be looking for more in the series on our next library trip!

Those are our recent fave picture books! Happy reading!


March Quick Lit 2018

Time for some Quick Lit reviews! I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and other book bloggers to talk about what we’ve read lately Hop on over and find more book recommendations than you’ll know what to do with (which in book-speak, is a very good thing)!

Winter has decided to stay forever. It did not ask our permission, because if it had, we would have said “No.” Emphatically, no. I’m attempting to embrace what will actually be the last few weeks of winter, whether that surly season likes it or not, but it’s similar to when you try to embrace those middle of the night feedings with your sweet newborn baby….you really just need to sleep, and we really just want spring. The silver lining is that winter weather keeps me under my favorite electric blanket with a book in hand. Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past month.


The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

I posted on Instagram that I am in love with all the characters from this book, and I really can’t give higher praise to a novel than that. The setting was pretty swell, too, aside from being central to the plot. This book is middle-grade novel perfection, and I would recommend it to anyone, young or old, but especially to people who enjoyed The Penderwicks, The Saturdays, All in a Family, and other family narratives. The theme of an older neighbor who is the grumpiest creature known to mankind is also here, so if you’re a fan of A Man Called Ove or any number of misanthropic character books, you might just love The Vanderbeekers, too.

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers – I’d put this at the top of my favorite adult fiction read in the past year list. Debut novelist Sara Ackerman tells a tender yet fascinating and page turning story that was not overly sweet (no pun on the title intended) or shockingly harsh. I have read a lot of books set in WWII Europe, but I know next to nothing about the Pacific battlefront, so this was a nice change. Set in Hawaii as soldiers are being sent there to prepare for the invasion of Japan, the plot centers on one family’s strange struggle to find their missing husband/father and to understand the many different kinds of love between family and friends. Could I have done without some of the romance? Yes, but I’m glad it stuck to a PG level. Highly recommend for fans of historical novels and especially fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (though it is not at all written in the same format).

Little Fires Everywhere – This book is well written literature, with all kinds of perfectly fine-tuned details, symbolism, foil characters, universal themes…the list could go on.  It’s got some pretty hard subject matters and adult content, so I wouldn’t turn to this one if you’re looking for a light, beachy read, but it is a great book club pick and will get you thinking from many different perspectives on parenthood, community, and friendship.

The Bookman’s Tale – Though the story has a fun National Treasure type twist to it, I wouldn’t recommend this book very highly. I finished it because it was a book club pick, but it was slow going through unbelievable characters and settings, with way too much detail about some things and far too little about other important components of the story.


Mom Set Free: Find Relief From the Pressure to Get it All Right – Though simplistic in writing style at times, the message of this book is something I desperately need in my parenting journey. Jeannie Cunnion points our parenting and our treatment of our own selves back to the gospel. I know this is going to be a slow conversion for me, a doer and an authority pleaser at heart, but I truly think it’s worth the trying. I really appreciate all the Bible verses Cunnion quotes throughout the book and the list she gives in the back of verses that she references.

If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free – I wasn’t planning on reading Jamie Ivey’s memoir, but a friend told me she really liked it and let me borrow it, and I’m seriously glad she did (thanks, Erica!). Yes, Ivey tells a story that is messy and vulnerable, but she doesn’t tell it because she feels like spilling her guts – there is an intense purpose to her writing and she constantly points her readers back to the cross and Jesus’ love for us. There’s a chapter at the end called “Sin-shame” about how we treat others who are vulnerable in what they share with us that really convicted me. I was surprised by how great this book was. It was easy to get into, but it was also deep; I was expecting something a lot lighter from the host of a podcast titled The Happy Hour. =)

Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time – Can you tell I’m pretty gospel-focused these days? It’s incredible that I’ve been following Christ since I was an itty-bitty five-year-old yet I can’t seem to accept or give grace and free, unconditional love in my daily thoughts and actions. This devotional has been awesome, even though it has a Chicken Soup for the Soul type title that makes me cringe a little. I’m finding it a great follow up to the devotional Gracelaced, which adored last summer. That’s two more devotionals than I’ve ever enjoyed before, so maybe my feelings on devotionals in general are turning.

Girl, Wash Your Face – I’m listening to this one on audio and still have about 25% left. Having no familiarity with Rachel Hollis before reading this book, I didn’t know what to expect. It has a lot of “own your life” themes. The central idea is we shouldn’t believe lies about ourselves. Sometimes it feels too much like a “girl power” memoir and sometimes I’m left breathless at the insights from this down-to-earth lady who has done a lot and seems pretty different from me but maybe really isn’t. It’s a good treadmill audiobook, if you’re in the market for one of those. I admit, I was mostly grabbed by the title.

That rounds out what Quick Lit for this month. Happy reading, everyone!


Summer 2017 Quick Lit

Welcome to my summer edition of Quick Lit!  This is when readers across the blogosphere give short reviews of the books they’ve read in the last month or so. See what other bloggers are reading here.

Our slow summer has continued, and it has become rather glorious, minus the interruption of a family stomach bug for the last week. (Oh summer, you bring us many things, but a stomach bug is usually somewhere in the mix…). But! We’ve got grass in our backyard, our swing set is up again, and the kids and I are luxuriating in unscheduled days (though it’s kind of driving my husband a little crazy). As far as reading goes, though, I told my dad recently it’s probably been the worst reading summer of my life. For a good month, I couldn’t find any books to get into. Everything I picked up made me think “blah.” But then had a sale and I bought some older books on my to-read list, and suddenly this summer’s reading was totally redeemed. Lesson: older books are always the answer to my reading ruts. But there is one new-release on my list that was just what the reading doctor would have ordered if there was such a thing. I’ll start with that one:

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowden would be a great beach read. It is not serious historical fiction by any means, but it combines a British country manor with some World War II spies and code breakers — a combination that is just right for a lighthearted but adventurous book. Similar in setting to The Summer Before the War and The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir but completely different in tone with more likable characters. Maybe it’s a little predictable, but I still enjoyed it. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris – I requested this one from the library because after reading My Mrs. Brown, I suspected the original story published in 1952 would be more to my liking than the new rendition. I liked the character of Mrs. Brown but I loooved Mrs. ‘Arris. Besides loving the main characters, the cast of characters around her, the length of the novel (shorter), and the subtle meanings laced in an out of the novel were on point. If you’re into vintage novels (and maybe even if you’re not), check this one out.

One Fine Day – I’ve had the author Mollie Panter-Downes on my to-read list for a long time. Her book that walks through the full summer day in the life of an English woman shortly after World War II did not disappoint. It’s not a plot-driven book, but a piece of art in that Panter-Downes manages to create a complete life-story of a woman based on what she thinks and does in one day. I loved the main character, the setting, and the reminder that our every days can add up to beautiful life times.

Nancy and Plum – Think A Little Princess meets The Boxcar Children. I don’t know why this book isn’t more famous. I adored it.

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown and Betsy and Tacy Go Over The Big Hill – I didn’t read this series as a girl, I guess they just slipped through the cracks because I read lots of similar books, but I’m thoroughly enjoying them now. I love some old fashioned goodness. A full review of my take-aways from the series will be published soon!

Penny From Heaven – This was on my list of Newbery Medal winners and runners up to read. It was a little disappointing–very much a memoir of a child and not at all what I would have liked to read when I was a child myself. Still, if you like memoirs, you will probably enjoy this one. It certainly had a unique set of characters.

Love Lives Here –  Maria Goff wrote this book sort of as a “here’s what I’ve learned in life so far.” It’s a great companion to Love Does by her husband Bob Goff, since they are opposite personalities with the same goal in life – to love others well. I wouldn’t call either book great literature – neither of them are really writers – but the wisdom and the genuineness that exudes from them the Goffs makes it well worth the read. I would call them some of my faith heroes.

Atlas Girl – I’m in the middle of this one by Emily Wierenga. She writes beautifully, but I’m having a hard time getting to the reason behind the memoir. Do you ever do that? Read a memoir that’s so personal and raw and wonder why the writer felt that a journal-like account of her life and thoughts needed to be published? Probably it’s just the frame of mind I’m in that’s throwing me off. I should probably finish it before I give a final verdict.

What have you been reading this summer?


Five Fall 2016 Read-Alouds

As promised last week, today’s post features the books we’ve read aloud as part of our home school curriculum or just for fun in the past two months. Before I get any further, I have to say a giant, gargantuan “Thank you!” to Julie H. Ross for her curriculum A Gentle Feast.  It lines up with my teaching style perfectly and gives me direction for adding richness to our daily school life. Several of our Fall 2016 read-alouds came from her reading list. The others are just-for-fun reads that we’ve enjoyed.

  1. Homer Price

Robert McCloskey is famous for his picture books, such as Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal. I’d never picked up any of his chapter book, but now I’m so glad I did. Homer is a boy growing up in a small town in the 50s, with an eye for inventions and figuring problems out. Often, though, he simply enjoys the escapades of the grown ups around him. It’s a great book, full of illustrations, a funny cast of characters, and not too many big words for small ears. It was a big hit with both my seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son. I was so glad to start the school year off with a chapter book that appealed to both of them, because sometimes they seem more geared toward middle grade girls.

2. Swallows and Amazons

Swallows And AmazonsMy husband read this book to the kids at bedtime for a couple of months through the summer. They all liked it (though one pretended he didn’t just because he was being obstinant), and really, what’s not to like? Four kids living on their own island with their own boat for a whole summer? Battles with other boats and an imaginary pirate? Real life thieves? If your children are old enough to put up with some sailing lingo, this book is an excellent adventure story. It is a bit on the long side for very young children, probably best suited for 2nd-5th grade. Apparently, it’s been made into a movie this year, too, though I’m not sure how available it is in the U.S. and I highly doubt it will compare to the book.

3. Ramona and Beezus and Ramona and Her Father

When faced with a three-hour car drive with my three children seven and under without my husband, I impulsively/desperately snatched these audio books up at the library. We listened all the way there and all the way back. We laughed and laughed at Ramona and Beezus. Ramona is only four-years-old in this story and her mischief knows no bounds. Ramona and Her Father was enjoyable, too, but the subject matter was a little on the serious side for my kids. Still, listening together sparked a lot of good discussions about the story. Sometimes I look to fictional parents to inspire me to greatness, but in the Ramona books, I just enjoy how flawed yet loving her parents are. I feel you, Mr. and Mrs. Quimby. You shouldn’t call your daughter “a naughty girl” so often, but I feel you. These are books that I don’t think we would have enjoyed half as much if we hadn’t listened to a professional reader (Stockard Channing) doing all the voices.

4. The Burgess Bird Book for Children

We’re making our way through this book as part of our science curriculum this year. It is delightful. I know I use that word overmuch, but it really is. Peter Rabbit hops through The Old Orchard, conversing with the different birds and casually learning their habits, likes, and dislikes, as well as a bit of their personalities. There are black and white sketches of the birds throughout. This is my first exposure to Thornton Burgess’s nature books written for children. The fact that they are about one-hundred-years old (published in 1919) only adds to their charm. I’m happy to discover I have several Burgess animal books on my shelf that I didn’t even realize I had collected over the years! These are the kind of discoveries that make my week.

5. The Five Little Peppers
3981348We just started this one last week.  Isaac (5) has already lost interest, so I’m guessing it’s going to end up being one I read mostly to Ella (7). However, the cookies and books technique might drawn him back in. =) The Peppers are a poor, fatherless family who all have to pitch in and “make do,” but they do so with cheer and love and that’s why I think generations keep coming back to read about them.  I only read the abridged, illustrated edition as a child, so I’m thoroughly enjoying this read-aloud myself. I love the character of Polly Pepper, who is both admirable and likable. I’m hoping the future chapters will feature Ben and the other boys a bit more so we can get to know them, too.

That’s it for our chapter book read-alouds so far this fall! Stay tuned for an update on the picture books we’ve been enjoying lately, coming soon. Happy reading!


Books I’ve Read in 2016

Whew! It’s March. We’ve moved. We’ve lost a lot of sleep. We’ve eaten pizza for what feels like sixty days. There is still a ton of work to be done on this fixer upper, but both my brain and my body have needed a vacation. Bermuda? Not quite. But books. Books are almost as good. (Just don’t argue with me about this, it’s all I’ve got right now).

Books I’ve Read in 2016

A Share in Death – The best way to totally get outside of your own head is to get into a detective novel.  This is the first in the long series of Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mysteries by Deborah Crombie. I am a fan! Maybe it’s not quite as clever and twisty at the end as an Agatha Christie novel, but it’s almost as enjoyable. I’m now in the middle of the second book in the series, All Shall Be Well.

My Name Is Lucy BartonMy Name is Lucy Barton – If you’re a mom, this book is a little shattering but kind of encouraging at the same time. It’s mostly told from the hospital room of Lucy Barton, and centers on her relationship with her mother. Her mom comes to stay for a while with her while Lucy has a prolonged illness, but their relationship has been strained, to say the least, for a long time. The sweetness and strength of a child’s deep longing for her mother, no matter the age or how well her mother parented her, is still stuck in my mind. The books is sad, but there is hope in it and the artistry of Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is stunning. She is one of those authors whose every word is pointed and not one line is wasted.

Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse – If you are expecting anything at all Jeeve-ish or Wooster-ish when you pick this book, you will be very surprised. It has some good Good Night, Mr. Wodehousequalities despite its misleading title, though. The book follows the adult life of Nell Stillman, who lives in a small town in Minnesota. Set in 1900s-1960s, her life is harsh, as most midwestern lives seem to be in books set during this time period, but Nell finds solace in an unlikely place – a small shelf of books in the town’s power company office. Nell gains strength and understanding from her reading to endure well in her hard years. She is a delightful character, but it’s not until she discovers P.G. Wodehouse’s books that we see her love of humor come out. In the category of books for book lovers, I’d rate this one higher than either The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry or The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, for its highly developed and real characters and just right pace. I think fans of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Willa Cather would enjoy this book!

I’m now in the middle of El Dorado: The Further Adventures of The Scarlet Pimpernel and I am so ready to end this blog post and get back to it! The Scarlet Pimpernel was and remains one of my favorite books since I read it three times in my teen years. It’s one of the few books I forced my husband to read after we got married. He would probably admit that it was pretty good, although he doesn’t understand why I think it’s one of the best books ever. How I spent the next half of my life totally unaware that there were sequels about The Scarlet Pimpernel is a mystery, but I’m so thankful someone opened my eyes to the light (thanks, Hannah!).

Happy reading!


Favorite Reads of Autumn and Winter 2015/16

As I mentioned yesterday, things have been busy here lately. It has been a shockingly long time since I posted about actual books on this bookish blog. So without further ado, here are some books I’ve read in the past few months:

The Favorites

The Lake HouseThe Lake House – Kate Morton is masterful. The Secret Keeper is still my favorite of hers, but The Lake House is everything a Morton fan would hope for. The characters were likable, the setting was stunning as usual, and the ability she has to seamlessly weave past and present is unparalleled. Seriously, I wish everyone else would stop doing the whole back and forth from past to present thing except for Kate Morton.

Emily of Deep Valley – This book deserves a blog post all its Emily of Deep Valley: A Deep Valley Bookown but suffice it to say I loooved it. If you’re a fan of orphan stories like Anne of Green Gables, this lesser known book could be just the cozy, light read you’re looking for this Winter.

Spring Harvest – Reminiscent of Heat Lightning and Winter Wheat, Gladys Taber’s novels are mid-century, mid-Western stories about a slew of characters all connected by the community they live in. It’s amazing how Taber can explain how the community sees a person and then a few paragraphs later explain what’s really going on inside the person. I love a character-driven novel, but I know they’re not for everyone.


Blackmoore – Eh. I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you just like reading romance Blackmoorenovels that are completely clean. The characters are interesting but not very real or believable. Edenbrooke by this author was better, though still on the “fluff” side of literature. But hey, reading a bit of fluff is not a crime. Let’s be clear, though: if it claims to be “adored by Jane Austen fans,” be very wary. =)

Far From the Madding Crowd – This is a classic and I cannot argue with how great Thomas Hardy was at rural England and tragic love. I also cannot get over how I loathe the main character Bathsheba and so I simply do not like this book. Gabriel is a great character and almost makes up for her, but she is such a heartless fool. Just once, I wish Hardy would have written a book about a smart woman who doesn’t get herself into worlds of trouble.

Books from my to-read list that I didn’t finish:

The Daughter’s Walk – There was simply too much drama for no apparent reason in this book.

The Lost Heiress – The plot sounded good, but the writing of the main character didn’t really draw me in.

I am really excited about a few new releases for this year, including a new one by Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect. 2016 promises to be a busy year, but I hope to find lots of great books to share on the blog just the same!

As always, please share books you’re enjoying in the comments!


Home Renovation #5 – A Very Good Excuse for Not Blogging

It has been a while…let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

(Long live The Princess Bride, most quotable movie ever).

You know what the internet really doesn’t need? Another home renovation blog. However. Since I am writing this blog, whatever my life features a lot of tends to be what ends up here. That’s always, always books and reading, and it also includes parenting, meal planning, friendship, and lots and lots of coffee. Lately, we’ve thrown another plot twist into our journey and, you guessed it, it’s a home renovation. A big one.

Picture this: a tall brown house on a hill, surrounded by tall trees, just a short walk from a beautiful river, with a nice wooded back yard and visions of wreaths on the windows at Christmas dancing in its head.

Are you seeing this in your mind? Hello, Orchard House and all that is beautiful in Little Women (1994)

Except for the beautiful snow, and the candlelight…oh yeah, and the fact that it actually looked like this:


With crumbling cedar siding, a smell inside that makes you wish smelling salts were still a thing, holes in some of the walls, and a built in skateboarding ramp in the front entry way due to foundation issues. And that’s just for starters. I’d also like to mention that this house was practically a 1990s Wallpaper Museum. It’s just too bad I ruined it all before I thought about all the money we could make off of people who are dying to see room after jaw dropping room of floral wallpaper. It’s too late now…I only have one room left to strip of its wall paper. One room! This is our fifth house my husband and I have renovated as a couple,  and I’ve got to say, wallpaper should be illegal. Eeee-leee-gal. 

My husband has worked tirelessly at patching walls, ripping out old floors, researching contractors for vinyl siding and other jobs beyond our expertise, and now we’re about one month away from living in this house. It’s hard to believe, and I’m trying to keep all my thoughts about it on the light side because the truth is, I wasn’t expecting to move so soon out of the cozy cape cod we’re in now. We bought it when we realized we didn’t want to live beyond our means and downsized. That was four years ago, when we had just two tiny tots. Now we have three and a work-from-home husband/father. I know we’re outgrowing what most would consider a starter home, but I had fully embraced the Small House Love ideas. It’s all been a lot to work through in my overworked brain. That’s not to say I’m unexcited about gaining more square footage in a quaint neighborhood in the kind of house I’ve wanted since I was a little girl. Not at all! I’m pretty excited.  Especially since my awesome husband let me pick white vinyl siding. I’ve always wanted a white house! Here it is currently, after new vinyl but before new trim paint on the porches:


So! I’m excited, I’m busy, I’m juggling two houses, and I’m not reading a whole lot. But I have to be perfectly honest. I’m not reading partly because I bought a fixer upper and partly because of Fixer Upper. No, I’d never seen that show before a few weeks ago. I finally caved and watched it because I got tired of saying, “We bought a fixer upper” and then having people say, “Oh, I love that show!” and having to say, “No, I’ve never seen that show, I’m just talking about buying a house that needs fixing up.” TV is not my thing, but now I have to admit that I love that show. And every time I mention I have a fixer upper I also have to say that I just do the boring stuff like take out all the wallpaper and redo tile. I still desperately need Joanna Gaines to come to my home and decorate for me. Also, why is all this decor and furniture not in the home’s renovation budget? Anyway! I have a fixer upper, I’m watching Fixer Upper, and I’m trying not to think too deeply about the fact that we’re going to be moving across town in just a few weeks.

Oy vey.

I have been reading books, though, and I’m hoping tomorrow to post a quick list of my favorite reads of the past few months. And maybe I’ll even get a Three Book Thursday up this week! But I’m only on Season Two of Fixer Upper, so we’ll have to see about that.


It’s Not Too Late For Christmas

December 17th comes. I wake to find an unwelcome cold settling into my chest, but I also wake to feel something else settling in me– the softening joy and light finally taking hold in my mind and heart that tells me: It’s Christmas. I was supposed to feel like this on December 1st. Or was it November 28th? That day when Americans decide the Christmas season can start, when the attics are thrown open and red bows and colorful lights descend into our midst. That day when we are supposed to flip a switch and bring Christmas spirit in full to our homes and our families. But…what about when we can’t find the switch? Where is the On button for Christmas in ourselves?

I’ve never found it. Every year this happens. I’ve been doing all the right things…the advent studies, the decorating, the shopping (if Amazon counts), the driving around looking at lights, the Christmas movies and hot chocolate….but I have never been able IMG_4804[1]to manufacture the sense that a special time has begun. The warmth and joy in the Christmas season doesn’t come when I tell it to. It crawls into my consciousness slowly. Maybe Little Drummer Boy has to play at least twenty times. Maybe the smell of the Christmas tree has to permeate the living room completely for two weeks. Maybe I have to have eighty percent of my shopping done. I haven’t figured out the formula, but I do know that I am not into Christmas starting on December 1st. I do not dig that rule. Sure, I’ll start preparing, because that’s what it takes to make Christmas happen in a family. But when I start to get a certain panicky feeling nine days before Christmas Day because we haven’t yet made Christmas cookies or put the new bows on the porch or made any cool Christmas crafts, I have to remind myself: it’s not too late.

It’s not too late for Christmas.

We are not running behind just because we’ve pinned more than we can ever bake. We are not missing the boat when our wreaths are not made yet. Guess what? Christmas is a day. It’s one day when we welcome our Savior anew and when we gather our loved ones and offer gifts to them because we ourselves have been given so much. I like the idea of celebrating a whole season with beauty and happiness just as much as the next girl. But it’s high time we all refuse to believe that if we don’t start early, we don’t start at all. We have not missed Christmas. Put up those lights you meant to put up two weeks ago. Begin an advent activity on Day 17. Finish the craft you started. So we didn’t start reading Christmas books until yesterday. So you won’t get a tree up until tomorrow. So you can’t feel like it’s Christmas until you’re home the day before Christmas. You’re grieving someone who won’t be here this Christmas for the first time ever? Me, too. Cry on, and as Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail, put up more twinkle lights. You don’t have a Christmas photo this year? Me, neither. You’re in the middle of moving? I’ve been there, and I’m drinking a cup of coffee in honor of you right now. Put on some Christmas music, and soak up what’s there, but banish the guilt.

There’s this day we get to celebrate, and what a privilege it is if we get to stretch it out into more days of celebration. But it’s not a rule and it doesn’t have to be a burden. It’s all supposed to be a gift.  

It’s December 17th.  I’m going to bake some cookies. I’m going to fold some laundry. I’m going to wrap some presents. I’m going to wash the dishes. And in it all, I’m going to remember, it’s not too late for Christmas.


A Classic Re-Read, A New Release, and A Nonfiction Book

It’s been so long since I posted an actual book review! My reading has slowed down over the last month or so for three reasons.

Reason #1: The Classic Re-read.

The beauty of classic literature is that it so full of nuance, well chosen words, and fully Great Expectationsdeveloped characters and plot, you get sucked in heart and mind. You feel stretched and grown when you’re done. The fact that goes along with all that beauty: reading a classic takes longer than reading most current fiction! Even for the fastest readers, or for those who feel right at home in 19th century English lit, Great Expectations is going to take a while! That is the classic I decided to re-read this fall. I love using the back-to-school vibe to get me back into a classic frame of mind. This is the fourth time I’ve read Great Expectations, but it’s been about ten years. I can honestly say it is still one of my favorite books. It’s amazing how my thoughts changed on the characters. Suddenly Pip seems so emotionally unstable and self-conscious and paranoid! Maybe for good reason, though… but I totally like Herbert better than any of the other characters now. He’s like the Ronald Weasley to Harry Potter, except for Herbert is good and noble through and through. My overriding conclusion after re-reading Great Expectations: Dickens is the man.

Reason #2: The New Release

This new release slowed my reading down so much! It’s called The Race for Paris, and it The Race for Parisis wonderful. Why is it so slow, then? Well, I feel compelled by overwhelming curiosity to stop and research the real people and situations included in this novel about female photographers fighting against all odds to be the first photojournalists on the scene at the liberation of Paris in 1945. Meg Waite Clayton has done an incredible job of mixing true history and new characters. This book is as good as a history lesson, if not better. I haven’t reached the end of it yet, so I can’t speak for how much I love the whole plot, but the setting alone has me won over as a fan. If you liked Code Name Verity, you’ll probably like this one as well (and so far it’s not as brutal in war crime content).  (Also, speaking of Meg Waite Clayton, I am a big fan of her book The Wednesday Sisters).

Reason #3: The Whole30

I’m blaming The Whole30 for all kinds of things this month. I got the book from the library out of curiosity in September because I knew our eating habits had been sliding down a hill that only leads to pancakes for dinner two times in one week,  and a sugar addiction as deep and as wide as the river of maple syrup my son leaves on his plate after said pancake dinners.  After trying all summer to right the eating habits by gradual, subtle changes, I declared myself beat. I needed a plan. The Whole30 made sense because it’s only for 30 days and it doesn’t claim that all the good stuff in life is bad for you, necessarily, but that it’s a good idea to cut some things out and see for yourself what makes you feel well and what doesn’t. I’ll write a whole review of the experience later, but right now what you need to know is that I’ve been poring over this book more than any other book this month.

Other books I’ve picked up this Fall:

The Royal We – Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance, but the first two chapters felt too much like chick lit. Status: abandoned.

Far from the Madding Crowd Far From The Madding Crowd – I intend to finish this one, but right now I’m having trouble getting into it. I’m on chapter four, and I adore Hardy’s ability to paint a picturesque landscape of rural England, but I am greatly fearful that I already know how it’s going to end and Tess of the D’Urbervilles ruined me for that sort of thing. <sob>

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – I listened to about a quarter of this audiobook while getting a cavity filled last week, and I keep trying to squeeze in time to finish the rest, but it’s proving difficult. I’ll probably just have to check out the paper book and finish it up, but I’d rather hear the rest of the narration by Kathleen Wilhoite, who does a fabulous job.

I’m looking forward to all the other books on my to-be-read list this fall. A tall stack of books on my bedside table is one of life’s simplest pleasures.  Happy reading!


Fall 2015: What Autumn Looks Like Around Here

Fact: activities with children never go like you think they will. This statement sums up Autumn with my children thus far. My only comfort is this phrase: “I tried.” Here is a foray into our Fall-ish activities.

First, we went apple picking. It was a gorgeous, September day in the Carolinas, which means it was almost 90 degrees. We picked apples in shorts and t-shirts, and it was a glorious experience.


It’s too bad the actual apple picking only takes about 30 minutes. Here’s how everyone looked on the walk back from the orchard.


They perked up when they saw the play area. I had to laugh when they spent the majority of their time playing in the massive sand box.


What can I say? The kids and I are beach people, much to my husband’s chagrin. (We like the mountains, too! But we loooove the beach). We bought our apples, ate delicious apple donuts, and took the wrong road home that added thirty minutes extra to our trip.

On to more fall fun! We live near a zoo, and fall is always a great time to make a visit. It’s awesome that we have such a wonderful zoo. It’s sad that I hate going there. I love the first ten minutes when we look at the actual animals. But after that…oh, after that…all the kids want to do is CLIMB. ON. EVERYTHING. Rocks, fences, statues, everything. For the love of all that is educational, can we please show some interest in these incredible animals? I mean, there is a real live tiger right on the other side of this ditch! But, no. We’re just looking for the next “pay all your money for this awesome ride” carousel or tiny train. This must be simply the way it goes when children go to the zoo twelve times by the time they’re three years old. So. The zoo was delightful in and of itself, and yet no fun at all. Except for our toddler actually enjoyed watching the animals. Therefore, she gets to be in the zoo picture.


On to the next fall activity! I decided to do this craft because the end result looked pretty cool and I knew Ella would love it because glitter. This one actually turned out be a fairly sweet experience with the children. Maybe because it was only twenty minutes long? We painted some fabric leaves with craft glue, sprinkled it with different colors of glitter, and it was done. Their enthusiasm was catching. Each child became quite industrious and quiet for the duration of this craft. It was miraculous. Also, the fact that nothing picks glitter up off of a hardwood floor is rather miraculous. We had glitter in our dinner that night. It was delicious.


This week, we’re going to the park with our MOPS group to paint pumpkins. Let’s hope the experience is on the “meets expectations” side of the spectrum instead of “total disaster.” Either way, one thing is sure. Fall with children is always an adventure!

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