Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Favorite Books of 2014

I'm not sure whether to call 2014 a good reading year for me. I did a quick tally this morning and in the last twelve months I tackled 79 books ... that came as a shock to me! Granted that number was padded by a reread of the Harry Potter series late summer / early fall, but there were lots of books on my list that I had forgotten I had read. It was definitely a fiction (primarily juvenile/young adult) heavy year, but since pre-reading books for my girls is one of my favorite things ever, it was a task I happily take on. All for the children.

Of the batch, these are the favorites that stuck with me. The ones I still think about and / or the ones that made it hard to pick up the next book because I needed to mull this one over for a while. I didn't put them in any particular order but if I needed to make a book recommendation to someone, these would most definitely make the list.

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry

I've read the Hunger Games trilogy and the first book in the Divergent series, and The Giver is an entirely different type of dystopian book. For one, it's not violent. (How refreshing!) It is a book I had to think through as I read as they deal with issues such as memory and emotion and whether or not you are protecting someone by withholding those things from them. There is a reason the author won a Newberry medal for this book. And, in my opinion, the movie is a poor substitution so if you are interested, read the book.

Ignoring the fact that there's something I should probably be doing.

2. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

I actually just finished this book a few days ago so with a little more time, it might not make my "favorites" list. (But it probably would). This one popped up on my radar after Sarah Clarkson highlighted it on Facebook. After realizing that this author is associated with Andrew Peterson, author of one of my favorite series (The Wingfeather saga), I snatched it up. I have a weakness for stories about small talking animals and this story about rabbits fighting for their territory against wolves and birds of prey was so good - the adventure was fast paced and I was rooting for the characters the whole way through. And - BONUS - it left me with the impression that there will be a sequel. I'm pretty sure this will be a fun read-aloud for us in the coming months.

To my friend Amy who told me ages ago to read this book, I am so grateful. This will go down as one of the best books I have read in my life (and I have read a LOT of books). An amazing, amazing man who served our country and Jesus. I will look forward to

3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Amy told me to read this and she was right. I started it on the drive home from our summer trip to visit Travis' family and about six hours in the car later (thank goodness I didn't get carsick!) I had made a serious dent in the book. This has probably been my most recommended book of this year and while I admit the first part of the book has a lot of military details that might be easy to get bogged down in, the second half of the book was impossible to put down as we followed Louis Zamperini's journey through concentration camps and his life after imprisonment. So, so good. If you are curious, I haven't seen the movie (yet). I'm going to wait until it's a rental, and even then, I'm not sure if I want to see some of the scenes from the booked acted out. This will be required reading for my kids when they are in high school.


4. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

(Blogged here). Somehow this book escaped my radar as a child even though The Secret Garden is one of my favorite books ever. What a delightful book! My girls had watched the movie with their dad some time ago so they were somewhat familiar with the story, but I had missed out on that and was the one dying to find out how the book ended! (FYI, I was absolutely satisfied with the ending. Just perfect).


5. Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore

I blogged this one here and still stand by my review. This is another that I hope to read this spring to tie in with some of our history studies as it gives a great kid's-eye view of what life would have been like in small town in America during the Cold War (with a little bit of a Nancy Drew twist to it). Of note, I also read this author's other children's book The Water Castle, and it was another excellent juvenile mystery story (ooh, it's super cheap on Kindle right now, too!) Her next book is already on my to-read list for 2015.

6. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

I was encouraged and inspired by this book on community, specifically fellowship surrounding food and the dinner table. I loved this food based memoir and devoured (see what I did there?) this one. : )

Sometimes there is a reason you're behind on your #shereadstruth study - because you need to hear the lesson on a certain day. "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to

7. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

Carrie (I think is where I heard of this book first ... or maybe a random photo on Instagram?) tipped me off to this book and it was a short, encouraging, kick in the pants read and reminder of the importance of knowing the Word, being in the Word, and studying the Word. One of the few non-fictions I read this year, and I'm glad I made time for it. This book + combined with the She Reads Truth studies that I have participated in this year made for a wonderful summer and fall of scripture study this year. So thankful for these two resources that crossed my path this year!

I think I'm going to stop with seven though there were several others that I could expound on and might make the list if I wanted to keep typing for days. Other that probably should make the list are:
All in all a good year of reading and reading-aloud. I am brainstorming what I want to read in 2015 - I'd like to see some more non-fiction make my list. I'd also like to make a serious dent to some of the books that are languishing on my kindle and my shelves that I'm constantly skimming over to read "someday." Thankfully, there is never any shortage of wonderful books to read!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

All the Merry Making

UntitledMyles: "Feliz Navidad is the best Christmas song ever." Christmas cookies and cousin bonding today. Not sure we are ready for this level of madness!UntitledUntitledShe's making me a secret popcorn recipe. It might be my new love language.

This Christmas season has been one where many normal things, those that I would have considered traditional, haven't happened. Though today was quite chaotic, it was important to me that we squeeze in one cousin day before Christmas on Thursday. There was mass cookie baking and decorating, some playing in our cul-de-sac in between the rain showers, and catching up over a cup of coffee (say what?) with my 17-year old niece.

The introvert in me is ready to curl up in a hole and hibernate for about 72 hours, but overall, the chaos of today was well worth it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Crockpot Potato Soup ... or What We are Eating on Christmas Eve


It's never too late to start a new tradition for your family ... last year marked the first year that we hosted my side of the family for Christmas Eve. For many, many years, we had spent the evening with friends and it was a much anticipated time of visiting and snacking. However, as children have grown and more and more grandchildren arrived (ourselves included!), the crowd got to be a bit much for a huge Christmas Eve get-together, and so we started our own tradition.


This recipe is courtesy of a fellow CC mom. She brought this to a recent potluck and it was delicious! Once she emailed us all the recipe, I knew this was going to be part of our Christmas dinner menu. My favorite potato soup of all is my mom's recipe which isn't quite so heavy; however, it isn't a crockpot recipe and since we'll be coming home to eat from the Christmas Eve service, I need something that doesn't take as much babying.

Kate's Crockpot Potato Soup

30 oz frozen hash brown potatoes (I diced up a bunch of potatoes since I didn't have hashbrowns and it worked just fine.)
32 oz chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz cream cheese
Bacon bits (or turkey bacon)
1 c. shredded cheese
Salt, Pepper, and Granulated Garlic to taste
In the crock pot, put the hash brown potatoes, broth, cream of chicken soup, half of the bacon bits and salt, pepper and garlic. Cook on low for 8 hours. One hour before serving, add the cream cheese and bacon bits. If you take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator earlier than that to warm up a little bit, it will incorporate better with the soup - I also gave it a whirl with an immersion blender to smooth it out some. Serve with cheddar cheese on top.
Again, the verdict by the six kids in our house was that it was GOOD. I was hoping for quite a bit leftover and I had to scrape out the crockpot to get enough for one more serving the following day.
Another crockpot potato soup we love is here which is quite a bit cheesier and super good as well.

Monday, December 15, 2014

In another life, I'd be a food blogger


I'm not going to lie - my kids think I'm weird when I take pictures of food. I do it anyway. I love looking at food blogs and cookbooks and making menu plans is one of my favorite things ever. Except when it's not ... and then I'm totally uninspired and don't want to cook anything and want to get take out all the time! Alas, the budget doesn't support that type of behavior.

This is a new recipe to us that we tried a few nights ago and was a hit with almost everyone. My child that doesn't like her food touching was not a fan, but the rest ate without complaint.


Chicken Enchilada Rice Casserole

3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded (leftover thanksgiving turkey from the freezer for the win!)
2 cups dry Basmati rice
2 cans (10 oz each) Enchilada sauce
1 can (16 oz) refried beans (I used fat free)
1 cup white cheddar, shredded (I used whatever was in the fridge!)
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 can (11 oz) corn kernels (I used a regular sized can because that's what I had)
cilantro for garnish (optional)
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cook the rice. While the rice is cooking preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Mix the 2 cheeses together. In a large bowl mix the shredded chicken with the enchilada sauce, refried beans and half of the cheese. Add rice, season with salt and pepper if needed, and mix well. Pour rice mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with corn then with remainder of cheese. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese melts and is bubbly. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm.

We ate it for dinner with tortilla chips to scoop it up - basically it very hearty and filling dip. I ate leftovers the next day on top of some lettuce and it was just as good. I imagine it would make a great taco/soft taco filling as well.

Original recipe was here, and the version I made was from here. My edits are noted above.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Christmas Books Under the Tree

Several of my favorite blogs have been publishing their suggestions of books for Christmas gift giving. I LOVE looking at these. Since I've done a little of our shopping, many that I spot don't make it under our personal tree, but there is a more than likely chance that they will end up on an Amazon wishlist to peruse later or to try out from the library before purchasing. I'm always up for good book recommendations! I thought I would list here for my own sake the books that we (or other family members) are putting under the tree for our crew this year - to jog my memory for future years and there is the off-chance that someone out there might be looking for an idea or two.

For N1 (age 11, a fairly voracious reader):

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Deedy and Randall Wright
Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink
Hatchet by Gary Paulson

For N2 (age 8, just a few weeks short of 9):

She is enamored with Shakespeare right now so I've scrounged up some used copies of several different Young Reader's Shakespeare versions for her. (We already own A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo & Juliet which she's recently reread on her own).

The Young Reader's Shakespeare: Hamlet
The Young Reader's Shakespeare: MacBeth
Poetry for Young People: William Shakespeare

B (age 7, just starting to really take off independently with her reading):

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond - how do we not have this book?!
Katie's London Christmas by James Mayhew - we love all of his picture books

E (age 4):

Waiting is Not Easy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems
Eli by Bill Peet

For our fosters:

Mercy Watson Boxed Set by Kate DiCamillo
Jesus Storybook Bible

For our neice, age 2:

Pride and Prejudice: A BabyLit Counting Primer
Alice in Wonderland: A BabyLit Numbers Primer

What books are you looking at for Christmas? There is always next year's list to start working on. : )

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Winter Comfort Food :: Crockpot Chicken & Dumplins

I have been thinking about these leftover chicken and dumplings for two days and have been very thankful no one got to them before now.

This week has been crazy. I have had appointment after appointment after appointment on the calendar and I'll be honest ... I'm tired. Thankfully I went into the week with a pretty decent meal plan and there were several crockpot recipes on the menu to make the evenings a little less hectic. This is the first of two new ones that I've tried this week and it was a keeper. I cooked a whole chicken in the crockpot on Monday and the leftovers were reinvented into chicken and dumplins on Tuesday. It's been years since I've had chicken and dumplins and I'm pretty sure that it's going to go into the rotation for the rest of the winter.

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplins (recipe origin unknown)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used leftover chicken, precooked, but you could dump frozen chicken breasts in as well)
2 Tablespoons of Butter
2 cans of Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup (I added a 3rd can near the end to thicken it b/c I added too much water)
1 Onion, finely diced

1 Package of refrigerated biscuit dough
Sea Salt and Ground Pepper to Taste

1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables (optional)


Place the chicken in the slow cooker and top each breast with butter, then sprinkle sea salt and ground pepper on each breast. In a separate bowl, mix together well the cream of chicken soup and onion and frozen mixed vegetables (optional), then pour this mixture over top of the chicken, spreading to cover each. Next add just enough water to cover the chicken. 
Cover and cook for 4-5 hours on high or all day on low.

During the last hour of cooking: Take one can of the biscuits and cut each biscuit into 4 pieces and place in the mixture and stir well to distribute the biscuit pieces (these are the dumplings).

All six kids here ate this (for the most part) without complaint. I did have a couple that were not crazy about the dumplins, but they ate the chicken and veggies so I consider that a win.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Tea and Being Thankful


I've been working through the #shereadstruth study on thanksgiving the last few weeks and it has been good. In years' past, I haven't spend as much time really thinking on what it means to be thankful during the month of November. Of course, you can't help but think about it some - it's everywhere from listing your daily gratitudes on Facebook to hundreds of crafts and ideas on Pinterest to inspire you to list your blessings. I've read Ann Voskamp's book. I have a thankful journal. I'm good on what it means to be thankful and just going through November without a pause to really reflect on it.

Or not.

I've been reminded about so many things that I know about God, but it was time to hear them in fresh ways.
  • God is good all the time. Even when things look unjust from my earthly point of view. Or, ahem, when I act unjustly towards others and need God's abundant grace.
  • Even in our sorrow there can be thanksgiving. When we are struggling we can still acknowledge there is a glory that will one day devour our sorrow and take it from us.
  • When I am in times of searching for answers and/or reminders that God is with me, sometimes I need to non insist on finding the answer. I can rest in the certainty of the one who IS the answer. In the face of situations I can't understand, he is a God that I can fully trust.
  • When I'm in a season that I am ready to be done with, I need to stop looking to the next season of life and imagining it will all be better once I have ________ (fill in the blank with whatever I think will fix the current season). Stop looking ahead and remember to look to Jesus. Sometimes waiting is the season I'm in and endurance is the lesson I'm learning.
My life is far from awful ... so far, it's almost comical when I worry about different things. I am so blessed, but yet I struggle when I feel like our days are uncertain with extra little people in our home through foster care, doctor appointments on the horizon, and a dear friend struggling with a serious medical need. A reminder of what it means to be thankful as a believer was what I needed this year and I'm so very ... thankful. : )

And to share, a recipe. I'm thankful for my friend who shared her recipe for spice tea with me. I remember this recipe from when I was a girl in Pioneer Girls, but I hadn't made it in years. I mixed up a double batch this weekend and just enjoyed my first cup while typing this post. I'm sure another cup will be enjoyed as I tackle Christmas cards and post Thanksgiving laundry and all the other things that will go into this weekend.

Spiced Tea

1 1/4 cup Tang (yes, the powdered orange drink)
2/3 cup instant iced tea with sugar and lemon
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground allspice
(The recipe also calls for 1/4 t. of grated lemon and orange rind, each, but I never add it).

Mix together. Add a heaping spoonful to a mug of hot water and enjoy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Recent Read-Aloud : James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

My favorite part of the day. After lunch read-aloud. #weekinthelife

We recently finished our latest read-aloud, James and the Giant Peach. This was in anticipation of attending the play at our local children's theater and we all declared the book a great success. Our girls had seen the movie of James, but we hadn't read the book yet, so itneeded to be rectified for that reason alone!

James is the story of an orphan who's parents were tragically killed by a rampaging rhinocerous. James was sent to live with his aunts Sponge and Spiker who were less than caring in their treatment of him. One day while out in their garden, James comes upon a strange man who offers him some magic "seeds" made from crocodile tongue. These special seeds, of course, have magical properties, but they have one use so it's IMPERATIVE that James is extremely careful with them. As expected, he drops them in the garden where they are swallowed into the ground, and coincidentally, near a sad peach tree in the yard that doesn't produce fruit.

The next morning, the aunts and James awake and to their amazement there is a giant (and I mean GIANT) peach on the tree. Large enough that the aunts are able to sell tickets for viewing the peach and have quite the productive first day raking in money to curious onlookers. Unfortunately, this prosperity last one day as the aunts reach a tragic end, at the hand of the peach, no less, and James is off on an exciting adventure inside the peach with a motley crew of supersized insects.

Confusing? You'll just have to read the book. : )

Roald Dahl manages to pull all this craziness into a likeable story and tie it up somewhat neatly at the end. I came across the following quote and thought it so appropriately describes James, as well as Dahl's writing style, that I couldn't help but share it:
... there was just something about Roald Dahl books that made everything seem like a dream. The vivid colors, the underlying darkness that sometimes hinted at despair. The ending seemed just a bit too happy to fit the rest of the book, but I wasn't one to complain about a happy ending.

- The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
I actually have very limited experience reading Dahl's works; I think we have only read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox besides this book. His quirky style as well as his poems scattered throughout his stories are worth the read though I wouldn't want a steady diet of his works. Eventually I need something with a little more meat and a little less nonsense. : )

I'll end with one of my favorite conversations in the book between James and the Ladybug, my favorite of the fantastical insects that James travels with:
"I think you're wonderful," James told her. "Can I ask you one special question?"

"Please do."

"Well, is it really true that I can tell how old a Ladybug is by counting her spots?"

"Oh no, that's just a children's story," the Ladybug said. We never change our spots. Some of us, of course, are born with more spots than others, but we never change them. The number of spots that a Ladybug has is simply a way of showing which branch of the family she belongs to. I, for example, as you can see for yourself, am a Nine-Spotted Ladybug. I am very lucky. It is a fine thing to be."

"It is indeed," said James, gazing at the beautiful scarlet shell with the nine black spots on it.

"On the other hand," the Ladybug went on, "some of my less fortunate relatives have no more than two spots atogether on their shells! Can you imagine that? They are called Two-Spotted Ladybugs, and very common and ill-mannered they are, I regret to say. And then, of course, you have the Five-Spotted Ladybugs as well. They are much nicer than the Two-Spotted ones, although I myself find them a trifle too saucy for my taste."

"But they are all of them loved?" said James.

"Yes," the Ladybug answered quietly. "They are all of them loved."

"It seems that almost everyone around here is loved!" said James. "How nice this is!" 
I'll be linking up with Amy's Read Aloud Thursday at the end of the month; it's a great place to find recommendations for books to read with your kids. I'd also recommend the Read Aloud Revivial podcast, one of my favorite finds this year and full of fantastic books to discover as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Continuous Line Art Drawing ::: Owls

I've been trying to make more time for art around here. Last year (or was it the year before?) we had a great system of pulling something out on Fridays after Bible study and doing a project together. My girls are getting old enough now that they do a lot of crafting on their own without assistance - which is great! - but I missed planning out little projects so that we could do something together. Any truthfully, if I didn't plan something, then *I* don't get a chance to sit down and create either!

I found this idea on Meg Deurksen's Whatever blog this summer and loved it. We visited her post first and watched the video she did on how to do a continuous line drawing of an owl. Before I watched that, I would have said, of course I couldn't draw an owl, that would be too hard! But the fact that the continuous line drawing isn't perfect, and you want it to be a little off for interest, helped with that fear.

Continuous line drawing for art Friday today. Idea from @megduerksen blog and seemed appropriate for this last rainy day of October. #weekinthelife

This was my owl that I drew after watching her video. I wish I had though to get photos of the girls' owls before, but I didn't. (N1 and N2 did this craft with me. B started out drawing owls and then moved on to hearts and pictures of her family. : ))


Progress. #weekinthelife


The finished product! #weekinthelife

My finished owl. I'm almost wishing I had left him uncolored because he looked super cool in black and white, but I like him colored as well.

Big girls' finished owls. #weekinthelife

N1's is on the left; N2 on the right. Both of these girls even took paper and markers to our last Classical Conversations and for their presentations did a demonstration of how to do a continuous line drawing of an owl. I have an idea percolating for Thanksgiving to do a drawing of a turkey along these lines - wouldn't that be fun to draw and color while watching holiday movies. : )

A fun return to crafting for us and the owl seemed particularly appropriate for a fall project.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Soccer Summary


Another season of fall soccer is under our belts and this was a good one. We tried a few new things this year - some that were good and some that were amazing growing experiences for our girls.

For the first time, our little girls (who are only 15 months apart in age) played on the same team. We were able to age B (who turned 7 in May) up to play on the same team as N2 (who will be 9 in January). There were a couple reasons that we decided to do this. One, as any parent with multiple kids playing multiple sports on multiple teams knows, there are a lot of games and practices to juggle. Now we were down to one team to keep up with - so much better. Two, B is a good soccer player. Really good. She did great with the team for her age group, but could definitely stand to be challenged a bit more and we though would do well with a more aggressive coach (which N2's coach was).  


It went great for the first few practices until B had to get out onto the field for the first time. All of a sudden she was out there with girls that were quite a bit bigger than her and it was very intimidating for her. She was overwhelmed. For at least the first three games (maybe 4?) she wouldn't go in at all. She would be fine up until she was standing on the side line and then as she waited for the whistle to blow so she could sub in, she would just crumble. It was heartbreaking to watch. This was the kid that smiled constantly when she played soccer in previous years and to not see her out there enjoying what she loved was hard.


Her coach was so patient with her. She worked her hard in practice, and soon figured out where B's strength were now that she was playing with the bigger girls / older team. When B played with her own age group, she was a great offensive played and usually one of the top scorers on the team. However, running with the ball all the way down the field (which doubled in size for her this year) and with girls a lot bigger charging at her, was a bit more than she could process.


It finally just came down to getting her over the hurdle of getting in the game. She was psyching herself out of playing and working herself up when she would sit on the sidelines. It came down to a bribe - a trip to the dollar store if she could get in the game and stay in for ten minutes. I guess that was enough incentive. Her coach put her in at half-time and she ended up playing the entire half without ever stopping. Her grin was back on her face and she didn't let any balls get past her, even with those big 9 year olds running full steam towards her. Her confidence was back and she remembered that she really did know how to play. She finished the final half of her season strong and owning defense for her team. Nothing gets past her!


It's been such a blessing to watch her overcome this hurdle and fear and realize the she can do hard things. She is my one that has her own struggles in learning in school, but sports has been her thing to shine in. To have that be a struggle for her this fall has been hard to watch, but to see her succeed has been that much more sweet.

PS. And not to leave out the other girl ... N2 had a great, GREAT season as well. She is so consistent out there on the field. She runs and runs and plays steady and constant. She even scored the final goal for her team's season in their last game yesterday which was a super fun way to end her season. So proud of her as well for how she put 110% into this fall season.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Because it's Friday

Because the sun is shining...

Because a girl dusted the family room...

Because the kitchen table was almost completely cleared off...

Because there is only one girl that is sick at the moment as opposed to multiple sicklings...

There were oatmeal-on-the-go bars baked...

And enjoyed ...


And photographed.

Because that's what mama's do when they get a little stir-crazy after a couple weeks taking care of sick little people and the sun is shining in so beautifully.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

It's a New Month


I am excited that November is here. Cooler temps. Falling leaves. Hot tea and pumpkin everything. It looks to be a good month.

We have had a good groove going on the last couple of weeks as we were able to have a couple solid weeks of school without interruption. Amazing what that can do for moral and the ever-present checklist of what needs to be accomplished. On the other hand, we have also been fighting several various and sundry bugs that we've been passing around the house. Two of the girls had horrible coughs and congestion last week leaving us with a couple nights of very little sleep for the sickies. We stayed home from CBS last Friday and just rested. I don't think anyone was contagious but they sounded awful. We had one day of all being well on Saturday and squeezed in a soccer game and church bonfire and then we jumped into round two of germs keeping me and the boy home from church on Sunday and CC on Tuesday as well as a sick day today now that two of the girls are down with high fevers and upset tummies. While I'm sad my munchkins have been sick, I can't help but think that God knew we needed our own respite from the busy schedule we've been keeping. We've been staying home from events left and right just to rest and get well and although I'm missing our activities, I can't help but say it's been delightful to just be home. Books have been read. Laundry has been caught up. Movies have been watched. I'll take more of that, please.

However, over the next month, we do have some neat plans for school. For the first time, we are going to dive into the Civil War and learn what we can about it during the month of November. I've been reserved books at the library like crazy, along with a few Amazon purchases and we've got quite a selection of books to pick from over the next 3+ weeks. Lots of picture books (because we all still love picture books in this house) as well as a few age appropriate chapter(ish) books for the girls at their different ages and stages.

Picture books for all of us.

N1's (age 11) pile, to start with. I've not read Freedom Train so we may read that together. If you have any suggestions for great Civil War / age appropriate read alouds I'd love to hear them in the comments!

N2's (age 8 1/2) pile. She has recently discovered the "who was" series and has already read the one that I bought on Harriet Tubman which is why you don't see it in the picture. She had already taken it off to her room. 

B's (age 7) pile. We'll be reading most of these together, and probably with the other girls as well.

The other night at dinner we also made up a list of questions that we want to answer about the Civil War. I had them come up with the list for the most part and we have some good starting off points for our digging in our books. These, our library books, plus some unit study materials on the Civil War from Homeschool Share, and our next few weeks will be full of historical exploration. I'm looking forward to it immensely.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Currently :: October 2014

Eating ... pimento cheese and crackers. One of my favorite comfort foods of all time (and something that I don't let into the house very often at all ... no willpower!)

Drinking ... at this moment, an evening cup of coffee with a little sugar free pumpkin cream in it. Tasty.

Dealing with ... yes, that picture is what you think it is. Super annoying and so. much. laundry. but at the same time I'm thankful we don't have chicken pox or the flu or something!

Studying ... 2 Peter (with She Reads Truth) and Romans (with Community Bible Study). I'm not always up to speed on either of them, but just get what I can done in my early morning alone time. I'm loving Romans (but it's very thinkerly for early in the morning), and 2 Peter has been so good as well.

Reading ... maybe a separate blog posts for books? I'll come back to this question.

Reading Aloud ... unusually for us, we have several read-alouds going right now. We're reading Little House in the Big Woods. A re-read for us; N2 and B are working through a lapbook on this story and, naturally, I don't need a excuse to read Laura and Mary. : ) We're also reading James and the Giant Peach in anticipation of seeing the play at the local children's theater next month. The boy and I are reading A Mouse Called Wolf together as well.


Making ... butter! To go along with our Little House reading, the girls and I made real butter out of whipping cream on Sunday night! It took about 20 minutes of mama shaking a jar (the girls pooped out on their jar well before then) but we got butter!


Celebrating ... a new library card owner in the house. The boy thought he was BIG STUFF getting his own card at the library this week.

Plotting ... the next eight weeks of school. With paper and pencil, I counted out and we only have EIGHT weeks until our Christmas break. That's crazy! The last eight weeks have not been our smoothest in the homeschool department by a long shot so I've got some plans to redeem the rest of 2014 and get us back on track. Thankfully, we're not behind; our days have just been so fractured and fragmented that some days we spend more time fussing instead of focusing. (Alliteration! I've been paying attention in N1's Essentials class at least.) : ) I've been thoroughly enjoying this 31 days series by Alicia over at Investing Love on simplifying homeschooling. Many of her suggestions I already implement, but a fresh voice can be nice and encouraging and her series has been that for me.

Sharing ... that our period of fostering a 14 year old girl has ended. Again, too many details to share online, but those of you that have sent notes and encouragement via emails and comments have been so appreciated. The last eight weeks have been some of the hardest weeks of my life, and I'm leaving them so thankful that God has foreknowledge of the events in our lives before we do. I'm resting in that.

Quoting ... this girl. Upon showing her a new book, she asks: "Is that book full of adventure? I don't like books that aren't adventure-y." She rocks.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bedtime Reading :: Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne


Sometimes it's hard to capture a serious picture when you are reading aloud to Spiderman.

Ethan and I finished our first chapter-book-at-bedtime read-aloud this week. A few weeks ago he asked if I would read Winnie-the-Pooh to him and, when looking around our bookshelves, it seemed that we no longer had any WtP picture books to speak of. Remembering that the chapter book has little illustrations scattered throughout, I picked that up and over the course of 2-3 weeks, on nights that he and I had the stamina to stay awake, we read about a half a chapter. Bedtime with this boy has always been my most consistent (and sacred!) time to read to him - we usually have a good 15 minutes of picture books that we roll through most nights - and this was our first attempt at something that continued. While we definitely aren't abandoning picture books, I think this is the start of something new for his bedtime routine. He is ready for a shorter chapter book and, of course, what mama turns down snuggling with her boy at bedtime to read. Not me. : )

He's already picked out that next one that we're going to read together: Dick King Smith's A Mouse Called Wolf. I'm pretty sure he's picked it solely based on the cover picture, but that's okay. I've been known to do that myself sometimes. : )
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne