What I’ve been Reading and Listening to Lately: Recommendations for You!

Summer is about half over. HALF over. It’s not over yet! Target dollar section, I’m looking at you… (There’s a sad story there about a girl in search of swim goggles only to find school supplies. At the end of July. Sigh.)

There is still plenty of time to enjoy a good read or podcast on the lake, beach, or by the pool on a lazy day. I am finding so much encouragement and soul-feeding in my podcasts and books lately and I wanted to pass on the goodness, so here goes…

If you’re looking for one last book to read to complete your summer…

  1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I read this one to the kids in the beginning of the summer (and we finished it on Audible when we were driving to and from VBS one week) and had my mom and sister-in-law read it, too, and we had “book club” while on vacation! It’s an easy read, which is great for summer and the theme of “coming alive” and being surrounded by beautiful things couldn’t be more perfect for the season.
  2. The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie. I listened to this on Audible, also, and loved it! Not only does it have so many great ideas for how, when, and what to read aloud to your kids, it’s filled with helpful information about the importance and impact of reading for everyone. This is one I’ll be revisiting often.
  3. Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown. This was recommended by a friend and I ended up having a small group book club with it. Very thought-provoking and spiritually stirring, you could honestly do a whole study group on the book and stretch it out over several weeks. You will find yourself closely identifying with one or more of the main characters and will undoubtedly do a lot of spiritual self-reflection.
  4. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. A middle-grade novel series, I read the first one to the kids, and Abby and I are reading the rest on our own but at the same time. We’re having our own “book club” and our first meeting is this Saturday to talk about the second book! This is such a sweet series and super fun to read. Might be my favorite pick. Think “Little Women” but in modern times, with charm and humor.
  5. Currently, I am listening to A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle, but I haven’t finished it yet. It’s great to listen to on a long walk and full of poignant quotes like this one:

“We can surely no longer pretend that our children are growing up into a peaceful, secure, and civilized world. We’ve come to the point where it’s irresponsible to try to protect them from the irrational world they will have to live in when they grow up. The children themselves haven’t yet isolated themselves by selfishness and indifference; they do not fall easily into the error of despair; they are considerably braver than most grownups. Our responsibility to them is not to pretend that if we don’t look, evil will go away, but to give them weapons against it.” 
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

This made me think of homeschooling and the false judgment that we are attempting to shelter our children from the world. I do not wish to shelter them (fully) from the world as they grow, but I want to properly equip them to deal with it. And that is something I can do much better at home.

Looking for a good listen while you wash the dishes, go for a walk/run, or while on a road trip? Here are the podcasts I have stored up on my phone…

  1. Risen Motherhood*. This is my favorite podcast and my number one recommendation! I’ve been an R/M listener for over a year and I can’t get enough. They take a break in the summer so I used this as an opportunity to get caught up on episodes I hadn’t heard before. This is a podcast that is full of love, laughter, encouragement, and Gospel-truth for the weary mama! Topics range from sleep-deprivation and mom-bods to education choices, screen time, etc. I’m so in love.
  2. The Read-Aloud Revival. This is Sarah Mackenzie’s podcast and it is delightful. Author interviews, book recommendations, and tips and tricks for home education, though even if you don’t homeschool, you can benefit from this podcast!
  3. Wild + Free*. This podcast for homeschoolers refreshes my mama soul and reminds me of the importance of letting children be wild and free and unstructured at times. It reminds me that homeschooling is NOT about recreating public school at home but about creating relationship, love of learning, and family memories to last a lifetime.
  4. Heidi St. John. Heidi’s podcast is a Bible study, poignant political discussion, interesting interviews and Q&A all rolled into one. I don’t always agree with her politics 100%, but I love her Bible studies and she is grounded in Biblical truth which I appreciate.

*These podcasts (Risen Motherhood and Wild + Free) both have books coming out this fall! I have pre-ordered them on Amazon already! If you give them a listen and like what you hear, I encourage you to do the same… click on the links above. 🙂

This Summer Doesn’t Look Like It Was Supposed To

Miracle of all miracles, my husband just fit ALL of our vacation luggage into ONE vehicle!!! We thought it was going to have to be two and I prayed it wasn’t so. Not only am I thoroughly exhausted from all the packing and preparing and stressing over how much work the vacation itself will actually be, but the thought that I might not even be able to nod off on the ride up was almost more than I could bear… But now I can rejoice about that one thing! And that one thing matters as I am learning to appreciate all little things that can be considered a positive for my sanity.

This summer looks different than I expected it to look. But really, it looks strikingly familiar. This was supposed to be the first summer in seven summers (yes, SEVEN!) that I wasn’t pregnant or nursing. It is now the eighth summer in a row that my body is serving another human being. We weren’t supposed to have to pack baby items for vacation anymore. I wasn’t supposed to be lugging around an infant carrier. I was supposed to be wearing trendy tops and cute bathing suits instead of nursing camis and flowing shirts that attempt to hide my 2-month post-partum pudge. (Okay, so that one might not be totally dependent on a baby. I can admit that my body might not have been where I wanted it to be, baby or not, but it could have!) I was supposed to be relaxing and just enjoying my kids without timing feedings or trying to snag a nap whenever possible. I was supposed to be happy. Well, more happy. (Post-partum hormones can be a real kill-joy. It’s not something I’ve needed to manage with medication, but there’s absolutely no shame in that and it has been something my husband and I have considered.) Once I identified my emotions as more of an anxiety rather than depression and a desire to meet my own (unreasonable) expectations, they’ve been way easier to manage.*

We always planned to have four children, with the possibility of adoption down the road. And after having four unpleasant pregnancies, I was more than happy to announce to everyone that we were D-O-N-E. Done! “Fourth and final!” “Four, no more!” “If we do have any more children, they won’t be coming out of me, that’s for sure!”

You’ve heard the saying, “We plan, God laughs.” I always thought I was very aware that God’s plan for my life might not be my plan. I never planned to marry the “type” of man I married, but am everyday more grateful that I did! I never planned to live where I live or own a multi-family house. I never planned to homeschool. And when people ask me how long I plan to do it, I’m more than comfortable to answer, “However long God wants me to!” So why did I think my family plan was any different? Perhaps because we never struggled with infertility it never crossed my mind that God might have a different number of children in mind for us. I’m sure I would’ve been more aware of that if getting pregnant was difficult. I certainly didn’t think it would happen when it wasn’t “supposed to.”

But there it was, that “positive” pink stick. And one of the first things I thought was that my summer of 2019 was ruined. “My beach days are gone!” “Will I ever be able to leave the house with my kids again?!” And I grieved. It might seem crazy, insane, and unnatural to grieve something gained–we were gaining another child! Praise the Lord! But I had lost my plan. My grand plan. How I had looked forward to my first “free” summer. How I relished the idea that homeschooling would soon be just about my child students and not about coordinating nap schedules and interrupting toddlers. I couldn’t wait to have all my kids potty trained, to take all the cool field trips without babies in tow, and to lose the diaper bag (and replace it with an awesome purse). And though those things aren’t gone, they’re further away. And our idea of adoption some day was now in question. We used to use our van to give rides to people–I could bring a single mom and her son to church every Sunday and we did for a time. Now every. single. seat. is full.

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions to one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life–the life God is sending one day by day.” – C.S. Lewis

I happened upon this quote in a book, Teaching from Rest, after I discovered I was pregnant and it resonated with me. I don’t mean to say that my baby is an “unpleasant thing”, (seriously, I can’t imagine my life without Logan now–he is the sweetest thing!) but the news of my pregnancy and the loss of my own plans was unpleasant for me, to say the least. But this helped me realize that though I had my own plans, God clearly never intended me to be a mother of four (not counting a previous miscarriage). He was not surprised at all about my positive pregnancy test. His plans were not my plans. He sent us Logan. Little, wonderful, adorable Logan. Even up until the last week of my pregnancy I struggled with wondering if I’d even want to hold him. I had to sort through some tough emotions. And now, I don’t like putting him down. He’s a part of our family, where he belongs.

God is teaching me so much through becoming a family of seven. And that C.S. Lewis quote becomes especially applicable when one of my little cherubs (the fussy one-year-old who is struggling with the “loss” of some mommy-time and less sleep now that he’s in a big-boy bed, the strong-willed three-year-old who is ever trying my patience, the curious 6-year-old who has too many questions than I know how to answer, the helpful, responsible, yet comes-with-an-attitude-of-a-teenager almost 8-year-old, or the newborn: our newest and very sweet family member who truly needs Mommy 24/7) “interrupts” what I thought my day would look like. My days are not well-planned right now. We’re in, what I call, “survival mode” and I am just passing the time, or “running out the clock” in some ways until the end of the day. But this is where God meets me.

This summer does not look like I thought it would, but there have already been many moments to treasure. This summer looks drastically different from what I hoped it would, but it also looks the same as always. We went out to dinner at a casual-dining restaurant tonight, all seven of us, and it was a fun time, just like always. And we’re taking one vehicle on vacation this year, just like always.

Daddy always says Logan’s number one job is to snuggle Mommy. She needs it. And he does a fine job of it!
I mean… Don’t you just wanna squish him?!
I can’t even imagine our family without him!!!

Getting quality time with the other four… pictured here is mini-golf with the older two and playground time with the younger ones… is something I cherish!

*If you have struggled or are struggling with PPD, I have a great resource and counselor to recommend! Please reach out!

10 Essentials to Keep in your Minivan this Summer!

IMG_9829Summer is finally here and most schools are getting out this week if they haven’t already. And even though we’ve been done with school for a few weeks, now, I still feel underprepared when that first full week of real summer weather hits us. (Wait, I’m going to be in a swimsuit this week?! Am I ready for this?? Have I shaved?! Do I even have time to shave?!?!) Not to mention, I still don’t have swim diapers for the 18-month old. Time to stock up on our summer gear and load up the van so we’re always prepared. Last year, I had our tailgate stocked with a bunch of “just in case” items that proved to be super helpful in getting us out of the house quickly and whenever we were staying somewhere longer than expected.

So, what should you have in your minivan or car this summer so you’re always prepared? I load up a big Thirty-One utility tote and keep it in the back. Here’s my list:

  1. A ziplock bag with sunscreen and bug spray. I don’t think an explanation is necessary, here. Common sense summer items you never want to be caught without!
  2. A ziplock bag with baby powder. This is a miracle-worker at getting wet sand off sticky little bodies/feet! I keep it in a bag so I don’t get powder all over the van.
  3. A gallon of water. Helpful in cleaning off dirty hands and feet, and in case of other emergencies. 🙂
  4. A bag of swim diapers & regular diapers–obviously only necessary if you have a child in diapers. Keeping an extra bag in the car is helpful to ensure you won’t run out. 😉
  5. An extra container of wet wipes. It doesn’t matter if you have kids in diapers or not, I think we all know that wet wipes are great for a number of reasons! Cleaning sticky hands, faces, water bottles, or the inside of the car itself!
  6. A bag of sweatshirts–one for each family member. You know the drill–you go somewhere during the day and it’s hot so everyone is in shorts and a T-shirt. But then you stay into the late evening and it cools down and you’re outside and now you’re chilly. Run to the van and grab a sweatshirt for those cooler summer nights!
  7. Kids’ beach toys & beach towels. I just keep these in the car so that when we do go to the lake or beach, it’s one less thing I have to pack that morning. I keep my kids’ beach toys in a large mesh laundry bag. This way I can easily shake all the sand out of everything before it goes back in the van, and the toys dry quickly. And yes, wash the towels between beach visits! 😉
  8. Umbrella stroller. Again, only if you have a child young enough for one. During spring and fall, I keep our jogging stroller in the van for those long walks and hikes, but during beach season it no longer fits so the umbrella stroller is perfect to always have on hand!
  9. Extra empty plastic bags. They act as extra trash bags for the “carry in/carry out” state parks, and laundry bags for those wet swimsuits that come off before the kids hop in their car seats. You can store a bunch in an old cylinder wet wipe container, too!
  10. Picnic blanket. I pretty much have this in my van all year ’round, but it’s worth mentioning.

Now you’re ready for whatever this summer has in store for you!