What I'm Into Right Now (October 2018)

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It’s been a CRAZY few weeks here for us! From an emergency gallbladder removal to ultrasounds on lymph nodes, we’ve been making lots of trips to the doctor's office. I’m really hoping it will calm down now that everyone is alright and on the mend. So now that I’ve had a chance to breath I’ve put together what I’ve actually enjoyed from the month of October (and doctor visits definitely wasn’t one of them—although I’m well aware of my thankfulness for them!).

Watching:
In one of Over at Alicia’s podcast episodes she mentioned that as a family they were watching I Love Lucy episodes on Amazon prime. Well, I decided to give it a try with my clan. At first there was some complaining—as I expected. As soon as they saw it was black and white—THE HORROR—they started saying how they didn’t want to watch it.

“Look, just try one episode. That’s all I ask,” I told them. “It’s really funny. If you watch one episode and hate it, I won’t try to get you to watch anymore.”

We were about ten minutes in and everyone was roaring with laughter! And the main complainer was begging for “just one more” by the time it was over. ;)

It’s really fun to be sharing a show that’s funny but clean enough for the whole family to watch down to Ava. And the episodes are really short too, which is also nice.

Listening:
I am listening to The Daily Poem podcast by Circe, which is just lovely. It’s a wonderfully simple way to get a little poetry into your life. David Kern’s voice is soothing and I love how he give a little background and context with a few observations without going overboard. He mostly lets the poems speak for themselves. Which also lends itself to being easy to listen to because they are only a few minutes long.

When we’re driving around in the car we are listening to the third Penderwick book The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, which I don’t like quite as much as the last one. And at lunch we just started Caddie Woodlawn, a favorite from my childhood. I’ve not read it since my mom read it to me, so I hope it stands the test of time.

Actually, it was Caddie who gave me faith that there were more great books in the world than I thought. You see, when we finished reading the entire Little House series as a kid, I cried my eyes out. I was sure there would be no more good books. None wonderful and captivating as Little House. I was sure of it. But then, thankfully, I met Caddie. And I realized there WERE more great books out there!

Reading:
I’m reading The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. I was so excited to get my hands on it, but I’ve really struggled getting into it. It’s been the hardest of all her novels for me to be captured by. It seems a bit wordy and there are so many characters! I will suspend my final thoughts for when I’ve completed it, however.

I also just started Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. So far it’s a unique book, with chapters like “Brushing Teeth” and “Eating Leftovers” that have some surprising spiritual insights. I’m reading a few pages every morning and am finding it an encouragement to remember everyday matter.

Eating:
Now that soccer is over dinner time is a little easier to manage. These Sloppy Joes were a huge hit with all the kids. Which when you have four kids and a few are picky eaters, that’s saying something. We also loved these Roasted Veggie & Sausage Penne Bowls and I’m looking forward to making this Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale.

What are YOU into right now?

Discovering the Strengths of Dyslexia

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I stood in the hallway of our local school and listened while the psychologist explained terms to me like auditory processing, visual processing, and working memory. My head spun as I sought to understand these new phrases and their implications. My eyes filled with tears as I fought to keep my emotions in check and a million questions exploded in my mind. A strange mixture of grief and relief threatened to overwhelm me.

We finally had a word for what described my twin boys’ struggle with reading, writing, and math. Dyslexia.

I am privileged to share that journey today in honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month for the subscribers of the Wild and Free monthly bundles. I’ve come to see dyslexia as not only a weakness but also a strength. Dyslexic learners are often entrepreneurial thinkers, good at recognizing patterns, can expertly manipulate 3D objects in their mind, and think in pictures instead of words. My own boys are excellent visual problem solvers and artistic. As Brock L. Eide writes in this book The Dyslexic Advantage, “Dyslexic brains have their own kinds of strengths and benefits, and these advantages should be recognized and enjoyed. Our goal is to help individuals with dyslexia recognize these many wonderful advantages, so they can enjoy the full range of benefits that can come from having a dyslexic brain.” In this article I share our story as well as some practical resources that have benefitted our family.

Once again my friend Molly Balint of The Farmhouse Creative photographed my boys as they drilled sight words while playing Connect Four, did some phonics play, and practiced their writing.

If you are interested in subscribing to the bundle (which is basically a digital magazine), check out the details here. You can even try one for FREE!

I will be posting daily over on Facebook this week about Dyslexia, so if you are interested in finding out more, follow me there.

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Favorite Autumn Quick Breads

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After the heat of summer I usually get the itch to start baking again in the autumn. I reach for recipes that are full of autumn flavors: pumpkin, cinnamon, and apple.

Pumpkin Bread

I love this Pumpkin Bread recipe given to me by my friend Briana, especially because the recipe makes TWO loaves. One to eat and another to give away or tuck into the freezer.

3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup pecans or walnuts

Mix altogether and divide into two regular loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, although I usually start checking on it after an hour. It seems to take more like 1 hour and 15 minutes for me. The smell in your house will be divine!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

These Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins are SO good. I mean the flavor combination is just amazing! I made them every year, several times a year. Again, this recipe like the one above makes more than just 12 muffins, it makes about 20-24 muffins, so plenty to share or once again pop into the freezer for later. You see a theme here, right? ;)

Check out Edie Wadsworth’s blog right here for the recipe.

Apple Muffins

These apple muffins are delicious and pretty healthy too. I tend to sub out the raisins for dried cranberries instead, though.

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 cup raisins
1 chopped apple
1/2 cup oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Beat the egg; stir in remaining ingredients, mixing just to moisten. Pour into 12 greased muffin cups until 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve cool or piping hot with butter.

I hope you make some of these delicious breads. What is your favorite thing to bake during the autumn season?

Emerald Isle, NC | 2018

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A few weeks ago we spent our fifth vacation in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The weather ended up being PERFECT! It was actually less humid in North Carolina than it was back at home in Maryland. The sun shown everyday, the breezes were strong, and the waves were delightful.

This year Ava really came into her own at the beach. She screamed with delight with every wave she jumped and loved going out past the waves with Josh where it was calmer--she wasn't scared at all!

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We spent everyday out on the beach. Other years we've needed a mid-week break or there's been at least one rainy day, so we've visited the aquarium or something like that. This year it was beach time all the time. We also had movie nights, went to Beaufort for ice cream and to look at the boats, got seafood takeout, and did LOTS of bike riding.

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We also did our annual family photoshoot on the beach the last evening we were there. It's so neat to have these picture to put in our Blurb books every year and see how the kids have grown and changed.

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There was a sea turtle clutch on the beach and the sea turtle volunteers had roped off the area to protect the site. They were having a "sea turtle party" to watch for the turtles to emerge. The eggs would have already have hatched and the turtles were building up strength to dig out of the sand and make their long trek to ocean. Our last evening there they hadn't yet emmerged but they were hopeful that night would be the one!

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Emerald Isle, thanks for another great year!

What I'm Into Right Now (August 2018)

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I'm a bit late with my monthly "what I'm into" post because of vacation but here we are, in the midst of September already! I'm so ready for cooler weather, apples picking, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin baked goods of all sorts!

Watching:
While on vacation we watched Jumanji: Welcome to the Junglewhich was quite fun! Otherwise, we've just been watching Parks and Recreation on Netflix because it's short and funny (and we love Ron Swanson).

Listening:
I just finished my latest Flavia de Luce novel on audio and the kids and I are listening to The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings together for our homeschool bookclub. I remember absolutely loving that book when I was younger.

Reading:
I just finished Sarah Clarkson's delightful and inspiring Book Girl and added some good books on my to-read list for fall. Most of them are older books, as opposed to newer, and I can't wait to dive into some Elizabeth Goudge and Rumer Godden. Over vacation I was looking for a fast-paced thriller and really loved The Likeness by Tana French. The premise was on the unbelievable side, but I could suspend belief because the story was so intriguing.

I’m also reading Not By Sight by Jon Bloom. I’m reading it as a devotional—reading the scripture he notes at the beginning, then reading the short chapter that corresponds each morning. The writing is fresh and vivid, breathing life into familiar stories.

Eating:
These Smashed Sweet Potatoes were so delicious as were a batch of Pumpkin Spice Granola. I also made a batch of our favorite Quinoa Muffins (I use cranberries) for breakfast/snacks this week. They are tasty with a hint of sweetness and so filling!

What are YOU into right now?

My Favorite Homeschool Books

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I must confess I've not read many books on homeschooling, partially because I was homeschooled myself, loved it, and had a great experience, so I never went through a "research" phase to determine if it was something I wanted to do or not. 

But this time of year I am deeply thinking and planning about our upcoming academic year, and I find myself returning to some books again and again, as well as discovering some new favorites.

One book that I read almost annually is Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace. This is a slim volume that is full of wisdom, encouragement, and practical suggestions. This book introduced me to loop scheduling, using a "time budget," and choosing a literary mentor to guide my reading through the year.

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I'm currently really loving the influence of Cindy Rollins. First, I read her book Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Towards SanctificationIt's really more of a memoir than anything else, but filled with so much goodness that includes what she did right--and wrong--told in a conversational way with a side of sarcasm. I've also become a Patron of her podcast, and am literally sitting down and taking notes of the exclusive content I've received by joining here.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass is a book I wish had been written several years ago when I was just starting this homeschool journey. It has cleared up all my questions having children narrate ("tell back") the material that is read to them (or they read) either orally or in written form. Since my boys struggled so much with reading/writing due to dyslexia we have not been consistent in this area, but this book has helped me as I plan for this year. There is even a chapter on narrations and learning challenges, so there is much to consider in this wonderful book. I will also be implementing some of the content from the "narration in the classroom" chapter in my co-op class this year.

What is your favorite homeschooling book? Or, if you don't homeschool, a book that has impacted your educational philosophy or parenting style?

The Power of the Voice

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I'm very excited to share that an essay I wrote about my life as a homeschooled student has been featured in Wild + Free's most recent subscriber bundle, Wander. Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community. I have benefitted from their conferences, digital bundles, Instagram, and podcast.

I was thrilled to write about one of the most treasured memories from my days as a homeschooled student when my mom read to my siblings and me after lunch. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to my favorite character, while being transported to another time or place by the power of Mom’s voice. These books were dubbed 'family books,' and we continued to read aloud together even long after I was old enough to read on my own. The power of the audible voice captured any wanderings of my mind, making the stories dance off the page and into my imagination.

To illustrate this article, my friend Molly Balint of The Farmhouse Creative photographed our own read-aloud moments. It's so special to have these images, not just for the article, but to treasure and document our days.

I also got to chat with Jennifer Pepito about reading aloud as a family and how to know whether we're doing too much or enough in the podcast portion of the bundle.

If you are interested in subscribing to the bundle (which is basically a digital magazine), check out the details here. You can even try one for FREE!

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What I'm Into Right Now (July 2018)

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July is almost over (can you believe it!) and since I wasn't able to post in June I have a nice round up of favorite things for you this month.

Watching:

We've been watching When Calls the Heart for all five seasons as a family because it's a clean show the kids enjoy. Kind of reminds me of Christy or Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, remember those? Season five, however, ended in a very un-Hallmark manner with a shocker that left the kids in tears! What!?! Definitely will be interested in what plays out next season!

I still am enjoying Father Brown on Netflix. It's my laundry-folding show and it's a comfort that the bad guys are always caught and the mysteries are tidily solved each episode.

Listening:

I've become a Patron of Cindy Rollins' podcast, The Mason Jar and am enjoying the exclusive content from her site. I am literally taking notes, the content is just that good.

Also, I just finished the fourth book in Alan Bradley's charming Flavia de Luce series. I adore them on audio. I don't know anyone else personally who has read them, however Cindy Rollins and Jen Hatmaker are fans. I was really happy to hear Jen rave about them on a recent episode of What Should I Read Next. These books really need more people to discover them!

Reading:

I've read some good books lately, one of my favorites was this psychological thriller I Found You. Caveats include strong language and an especially icky assault scene, but overall I just couldn't put it down. Can't wait to try more of her books. A Murder for the Books has been a fun cozy type of mystery. Think a Hallmark movie in book form, so at times, it verges on cheesy, but a nice summer-type of read.

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt was one of the best parenting books I've ever read. Seriously, there's not many more books you need to read besides this one. It was my first introduction to Leslie Leyland Fields, but I definitely plan to read more of her work!

I picked two books this summer to be my "professional development" to help me become a better homeschool parent to my kids. The first title, The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain has been hugely helpful and encouraging as I look to more year helping the boys thrive not only in spite of, but because of, their dyslexia. The other is Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass which I'm busy highlighting. It will be helpful in not only our narrations at home, but as I teach a Writing and Rhetoric class at our local co-op.

Eating:

I made these Stuffed Sweet Peppers (by one of my favorite Instagrammers) for a party and man, were they delish! Also easy, which is always a plus. The other night we also tried these Korean BBQ Burritos which were quite tasty and had a unique blend of flavors.

What are YOU into right now?

Literary Ladies: A Picture Booklist

My daughter is my mini-me. She spends her days drawing and writing books. When I say she writes books, I means she truly is crafting books just like I did when I used to create slightly plagiarized versions of Beatrix Potter's stories. She folds and staples the pages together to make the cover and pages for the inside of her latest title. Maybe "Fitz Learns to Swim" or "The Lost Tea Cup," which have been two of her latest endeavors. You can imagine her excitement when I bought her these.

And so, I think it's important to encourage her imagination not just with quality art products and quality literature, but also the stories of women who've gone on before her. Women who were once girls and were equally enchanted by stories and scribbled away with ink and feathered pens.

So today, I'm rounding up some of my favorite picture books about literary ladies to share with you, just in case you have your own authoress in the making.

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Agatha Christie (Little People Big Dreams series) by Isabel Sanchez Vegara

The Little People, Big Dreams series is delightful and I was so pleased to find Agatha Christie's biography included. We discover how she became something of an expert at poisons (as a nurse during W.W. I) and how she came to develop her famous sleuths, Poirot and Miss Marple.

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Lucy Maud Montgomery by Alexandra Wallner

When Montgomery rediscovers an old manuscript that she had tucked into a hatbox, little does she know it will be the making of her career. Anne of Green Gables is such a favorite book and TV series it's wonderful for kids to find out the "story behind the story" and where the idea came from, as well as more about Montgomery's life.

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Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus

Harper Lee is somewhat of a literary mystery. She withdrew from any sort of publicity after To Kill A Mockingbird and kept to herself the rest of her life. I really enjoyed this picture book and the wonderful illustrations. I didn't realize how much the characters mirrored her own life. My favorite little tidbit the book shares is that Lee and Truman Capote, as children, took turns dictating stories to each other while the other typed them out.

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Ordinary Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the queen of biographical picture books, so you will find more than one title by her on this list. This new book about the life of Jane Austen is made even more charming by the ink and watercolor illustrations of Qin Leng.

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Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker

My boys loved all of Virginia Lee Burton's books when they were little. Anything that had big machines in it inspired interest. Also, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was one of the first books we bought them, because it was also one of the few picture book my husband remembers and loved. This a lovely whimsical story that shares how Burton's two boys inspired her interest in picture book writing. I had no idea she was already an accomplished artist and dancer too!

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of the Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson (Not pictured)

Before Beatrix was a famous children's book author she was just a girl who loved to draw animals. Charmingly told, this is the mostly true story of how she borrowed an guinea pig and it all went terribly wrong.

May Garden

Our garden, both floral and vegetable, has gotten off to a great start this year. The roses are cascading in abundance. We have four pink roses that I've planted. One is a knock-out rose that I no longer know the name of. The other is a delicate David Austin called Queen of Sweden.

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Then of course there's my own cute little rosebud, who likes me to take pictures of her. She's always out in the garden too. She loves to dig!

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I transplanted the peonies last year to give them more sun, room, and put them in a row, instead of randomly placed around the yard so that they would have more visual impact.

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I planted some wildflowers last year and while they are doing well, I've realized they probably are not in the right place. They are at the entrance of our drive and are ending up looking messy. We will enjoy them this year, but I think next year we will sow with grass since the rest of the area is just a lawn. I really don't need more flower bed to manage, and this particular one has been a headache since we moved in. I have other beds that need attention so I think the kids won't complain to have a little more room for soccer!

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Every year I tweak things. I transplant or add something. I've definitely had to learn I don't get gardening right the first time. It can be hard to imagine just how it all will turn out. But each year gets a little easier and a little less work as we add perennials to our beds. Also, last year our vegetable bed had depleted soil, and this year, after a good autumn dose of manure, they are thriving! Our lettuces are almost ready to begin harvesting and we can't wait for sugar snap peas!