4 // Books We’re Loving

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The older I get, the pickier I am about books. If it doesn’t hold my attention or I can’t get sucked in, I don’t often have the patience to finish reading. I want to cradle these books in my arms and gently ask, “have you ever seen an editor?” The same goes for the kids’ books. I have a tendency to pull the same books out for them because… some kids books hold up and some do not.

Let’s celebrate the books that do! Reading is such a precious thing and we should read excellent books. Two for you and two for your kids, from our recent reads.

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Emma. Well, I will try my hardest not to be a cliche, but when I’ve found myself with too many unreadable books, I quickly switch back to Jane Austen. Like a palette cleanser for my mind. Emma cracks me up. (I’ve also read Pride and Prejudice this month, but that really would be cliche).

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Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever. This collection of 82 stories, rhymes, pieces is kind of old fashioned bonkers. But as long as my kids keep asking to read “Polite Elephant” I will comply. The illustrations are a mix of the traditional Richard Scarry animals (think, Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm) and gorgeous illustrations of animals and flowers. We checked this out from the library and I would love to have it for our family.

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The Thirteenth Tale. This gothic mystery is perfect for fall and winter (presumably. At this point I firmly believe that we are in permanent summer). I like my books to have crackerjack storytelling, beautiful prose, and a juicy mystery. The Thirteenth Tale had plenty to keep me satisfied.

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Ladybug Girl. We love the Ladybug Girl books! I love that she’s powerful and girly and still sees the world as a child. The plot twists make sense and the illustrations are out of this world. I love reading these books over and over.

I’m also partway through The Rosie Effect and For the Love-both excellent choices so far. The kids have been listing to Encyclopedia Brown in the car, which has been enjoyable for them (and usually makes me chuckle because my-oh-my culture has changed. And lots of it for the better. So many problems were solved with punching back in Encyclopedia’s world. If you think I’m making this up, wait until you hear London holler, “I’ll bash you good and proper!”). Audio books have been an excellent way to start chapter books before my kids are ready to sit and listen to them at home (and a great way to practice listening!)

You can always find our favorite books here. What are you reading right now? What books are capturing your kids’ imaginations?

 

 

Good Soil

 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” [Mark 4:3-8]
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My grandma has a thirst for beauty and a real gift for creating it in any space. She is one of the most creative people I’ve ever had in my life. Wherever she goes, she’s using her hands to make the world a more beautiful place. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. Whenever I think of her house, I picture it simply lush with trailing green plants, large ferns, and towers of African violets. Even in the middle of a cold Indiana winter, her home felt warm and alive. She and my grandpa recently moved into a new condo, and her letters (yes, letters! She is the most precious grandma one could ever wish for) describe their patio garden and the new plants she’s putting in. It’s inspired me to try my best to turn my brown thumb into a slightly greener one. I’ve been looking up information online and trying my best to check my plants’ soil on a regular basis. This has been filled with a lot of trial and error, and I’ve lost a plant or two, but the other day I was rewarded by my first African violet bloom in a year!

This is what good soil and tending can do for plants. And it’s what they can do for the human heart.

Providing good soil for my children is the best work I can do in their lives, and it is the part of parenting that I take most seriously. Over the last few years, I’ve been asked by a lot of moms what we do in our house to provide a good soil for the Gospel to take root, and I have three suggestions below, based on what’s worked well for our family. I am always interested in how other families are teaching the Gospel at home, so please leave your sweet practices in the comments! Some of these things may seem obvious, some may seem like something you’d like to try, and others may not fit your family at all! The important thing is to cheer each other on as we share Good News with our sweet babies.

+ I’m in the Word. This has looked different at different seasons and I expect it to keep changing and that’s fine. Grace, not legalism, right? I get a daily email from She Reads Truth that contains a Bible passage and a devotional. These are really manageable, yet meaty, for a mom of two who has lost a significant amount of brain power in the last three years. I want the Word of God to be written on my kids’ hearts, so I absolutely need it to be written on mine. I want wisdom from the Bible to flow as naturally out of my mouth as a little ditty from Daniel Tiger. And it really works. Cruz was feeling nervous about a slide at the playground and I got to tell him, “remember when the disciples felt nervous about the Big Storm?” Be in the Word.

+ Our kids listen to exclusively Christian music (also, a tremendous amount of the Frozen soundtrack, so let me keep it real). I love pop music and hip hop music and we used to listen to that, so please don’t think this about me being on any kind of high horse about morality in music. However, one morning I drove Cruz to daycare at 7:50am and our local hip hop station was playing some song that blasted out “sprayin’ honeys with champaaaagne.” Too early! I thought, and just like that, I was done. Cruz and London love music, so the music they listen to might as well have some redeeming qualities. When Cruz is supposed to be napping, he’s often jumping around his room belting out “Come Thou Fount” or “Silent Night” instead. I feel great that those words are written on his heart. I love that I can ask him, “what do you think this song is about?” and we can talk about why there are so many songs about God as a foundation (I mean, really, there are a lot).

+ We pray with our kids and in front of our kids. Pre-dinner and pre-bedtime prayers are so sweet to do with our kids, but I want my children to see how rich and real prayer life can be. Tovi and I often set aside time while we’re driving (and the kids are essentially our captive “audience”) to praise God and pray for each other, our family, our church… anything that’s on our hearts. I hope that this practice demonstrates our dependence on God, thanksgiving for the things He’s provided, thanksgiving for salvation, and the truth that we can bring anything to Him in prayer.

+ We talk about salvation. This is not a talk that we save just for Easter. We pray very simple prayers over our kids that they would know Christ as their Lord and Savior, and talk to them about how grateful we are that Jesus rescues us and cleans our hearts of the icky things so that we can be united with God. It is simple and every day and again, I want that knowledge of salvation to be part of the fabric of their lives.

If you’re looking for more ways to help your children develop an awesome faith life, here are some additional suggestions. And leave your’s in the comments below! I would love to keep updating this list with your ideas!

The Jesus Storybook Bible 

The Power of a Praying Parent 

Homelife Magazine 

+ Hello, Darling

A Twitterature Linkup: What I’ve Been Reading Lately

today i’m linking up with modern mrs. darcy’s monthly twitterature. these are my short reviews of recent reads.

reading is one of my absolute favorite activities. thank goodness i’m a fast reader, because i really only read at night before i go to bed! because of that, i have no problem stopping books that i don’t feel connected to. this month i stopped reading three books: still life with breadcrumbs (anna quindlen), the headmaster’s wife (thomas christopher greene), and doctor sleep (stephen king). i am also making my way through the luminaries, but i’m no where close to the end (or middle. this book is long!)

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code name verity. this is billed as young adult fiction, but plucky young brits during world war ii might be my love language. #crackingstory #goodtwists

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the invention of wings. beautifully and painfully told story of abolitionist sarah grimke and hetty, a slave gifted to sarah on her birthday. sarah is a real american hero. there are some graphic scenes of slavery, but that’s a part of our history we should understand. #absolutelyrecommend

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the dinner. this one is… weird. i liked it, though. for fans of we need to talk about kevin and defending jacob (i liked both of those books better). herman koch does a great job of building tension. couldn’t put it down. #badkids

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the elite and the one. books two and three of the selection trilogy. essentially, the bachelor meets divergent (i would say hunger games, but that would really be a stretch). this is just fun, popcorn reading if you’re into young adult fiction. it’s a fun love story, and someone actually calls out the heroine for always (thoughtlessly) taking matters into her own hands. #readin24hours

and you, dear friend? what have you been reading lately?

All the Beauty

my amazing mom came to visit us last week, and because it was a short visit, we had to make every single minute count. once the babes were up from their naps, we headed out to ellwood mesa, which is just a few minutes from our house and one of the most magical places on earth.

once you convince your three year old to walk up the hill, you’re rewarded with huge fields of wildflowers, gorgeous views on the mountains, the pacific ocean, and if you’re really lucky, a pod of dolphins leaping through the waves (we were lucky). we wandered and talked. cruz sang to himself as he walked slower and slower behind, trailing sticks by his side.
i stretch my arms out, throw my head back, and sometimes i simply can’t get over what a beautiful world God created.

 

 

A Twitterature Linkup: What I’ve Been Reading Lately

oday i’m linking up with modern mrs. darcy’s monthly twitterature. these are my short reviews of recent reads.

love does lately, i have felt the need to step away from “taking a stand” and instead a call to get back to the root of my faith: love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. and love your neighbor as yourself. so, among other things, i bought love does. bob goff is really good at loving others and writing about it enthusiastically. this books has inspired me to make some risky big acts of love. highly recommended. #extraordinaryeverydaylove

the unlikely pilgrimage of harold fry you know how netflix makes genre recommendations that are very specific? tovi and i always get “thrilling, emotional documentaries” and “workplace comedies” (#blackfish #parksandrec). if amazon did the same, my genre would be “old british people finding themselves, charmingly.” this book fits squarely inside that description, and i really enjoyed it. #oldbritsfindingthemselves #charmingly

mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore an author with a sense of humor, a mysterious cult, a love letter to books, san francisco. #winningcombination

reconstructing amelia this book had all of the ingredients for a winner– murder mystery, gossip girl-esque cliques, but the adult elements of the book (about teenagers) really threw it off for me. #saynotoprepschools

exceptional there are many great dystopian YA novels out there. this is not one of them. if you’re writing about an alternative future or universe, you need to build that universe. this book never got close. #skipit

after last month’s line-up of disappointing books, i am so happy to have a number of worthy choices to recommend! how about you? read anything good lately?

 

InstaJan

this is what we were up to in january… at least according to instagram

^^ while we haven’t had any real winter weather, we’ve been enjoying the most gorgeous winter skies. in a recent sermon, our pastor even talked about how every time there’s a pretty sunset, everyone in santa barbara runs outside with their iphones raised high. it’s true. and awesome.

^^ in january i was sorely in need of some refreshment (i’d say ‘self-care’ but i don’t really like that word… more on that to come…). refreshment. i needed refreshment. i needed time to sit in the sun. i needed coffee and a cupcake and a couple of episodes of ‘parenthood.’

^^ london looking pretty…

^^ and silly! she’s getting so big and independent. she sits like a dream, is starting to pull herself up, and wants to crawlbadly.

^^ apparently cruz only wants his picture taken while he’s eating? here he is learning about the c-train (thank goodness my years and years at lindamood-bell are paying off!), and also at one of our many, many lunchtime picnics. this little park is about three houses down from us, and we’ve been there almost every day lately. both the kids have been growing and changing at a rapid pace this month. every single day seems full to the brim.
here’s to more in february!

#2014MakeItWork

on new year’s day, after watching the parade and a hasty lunch, tovi and i threw the kids and the dog into the car and we drove up to the bay area. we’re here to visit family and tovi will be scouting a few soccer games before i head back home with the kids and he spends the week at a conference in sacramento. whew! just like 2013, the new year is already promising to be a busy one for our family.

we thought we had expertly timed our road trip for naptime, ensuring us a couple of hours of grown-up talk in the car. well, the best laid plans etc, and obviously the kids didn’t sleep. but they were fairly quiet, and we got to talk and dream and plan a little bit of our year anyhow.

i’ve loved setting goals over the past year. it’s kept me on track and growing, as a person and as a mom. especially in these years of raising young kids, i think it’s easy for some things to stay the same; easy to get caught up in survival mode. there aren’t very many natural rhythms for pause and reflection, and new year’s has been a welcome time for that.

so a few goals and resolutions for the coming year:

+ get up before the kids get up. this had been my regular practice before london was born, but i’ve slipped away from it. london is charming and delightful… and not a very good night sleeper. lately, i’ve been caught rolling over, stuffing the pillow over my head, and pretending that i can’t hear her over the monitor. this is not the mom i want to be, and it doesn’t set me up for a good day. my best days start when i am the first person up. it’s been a good reminder that more sleep does not always equal a better mommy.

+ drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. i mean, seriously. time to grow up and get hydrated. sometimes i make it to the end of the day and think, “oh my gosh! no water! i forgot to drink water!” my sister-in-law gave me a fruit-infusing water bottle of christmas, so that will help!

+ a place for everything and everything in it’s place. our house has seen a lot of transition this year. it’s my goal that by the end of january, london’s room will be her own (it was previously our guest room/home office), and that we will continue to figure out what we really need to have and how to organize it best in a small space.

+ travel. tovi and i love to travel. weekend trips, day trips, international… we love it all. we began planning for a few family trips and also a grown-ups-only trip this summer. aaaaah….

+ discipleship and encouragement. there are a few women that were brought into my life this fall that i have a particular heart to disciple and encourage. i am so thankful for this opportunity to speak some love and encouragement to these wonderful friends.

i know that 2014 will hold surprises; 2013 certainly did, but God is good and faithful, and i can’t wait to see how He molds us this year.