What I Read in 2018 (Non-fiction)

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It was a good reading year for me! As I look over my list from the past year I see that in terms of non-fiction I read a lot of books with either a spiritual or educational/parenting focus. This was driven by my desire to particularly focus on helping my dyslexic kids in their educational journey. One thing that is missing is biographies and narrative history, which I love but just didn’t get to. Next year I hope to at least get one or two books of that genre into my rotation.

Books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system, five being excellent!

Different: The Story of an Outside-The-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson ****
Sally Clarkson’s books are always an encouragement and this one was unique because it was co-written by her son. The story shares what it was like to parent as well as to be a child who had learning differences, anxiety, and clinical OCD. The chapters alternated between Sally (the mother) and Nathan (the son) giving different perspectives to their experience and offering hope who might be walking a similar journey.

Founding Mothers: Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts*** (audio)
This was the only biography/narrative history I listened to in 2018. It was at times a highly editorialized history, with Roberts inserting herself rather frequently. That added to the "chatty" quality that wasn't terrible but sometimes seemed to lack professionally. I did love learning about some women I never had heard of: Mercy Otis Warren and Mary Katherine Goddard for instance. Goddard was the original printer of the Declaration of Independence right here in Baltimore! 

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot***
This one didn't speak to me as much as "A Lamp Unto My Feet" or "Be Still My Soul” which I thought were better compilations.

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields*****
Refreshing and encouraging! This should be the first parenting book anyone reads, by doing so it will lay a great foundation and help them weed out all the parenting books they DON'T need to read.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass*****
A MUST-READ for anyone interested in narration. She explains with clarity what it is and is not, how to use it in a classroom, how to use it with kids with learning difficulties, how to move from oral to written narrations from age 6 to high school.

Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures & Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson*****
With chapter titles like "Books Can Stir You to Action" and "Books Can Foster Community" Sarah Clarkson's Book Girl is a joyful manifesto of all the good that books bring to our lives. Almost every chapter has a booklist too, so lots more titles to consider adding to your reading list!

Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking By Faith by Jon Bloom*****
Gritty, earthy, imaginative while staying true to scripture. I read this as a devotional, reading the scripture each chapter was based on. So good!

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins*****
I read this for the second time. Written in a conversational—sometimes sarcastic style—I learned a lot from Cindy’s memoir on homeschooling.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Every Life by Tish Harrison Warren****
I enjoyed reading this thought-provoking book (with cool chapter titles) a little bit each morning.

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp*****
This is my favorite Ann Voskamp book and this is my third time reading it as my Advent devotional. Always speaks to me.

Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent with Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins****
I definitely enjoyed this more than my kids did! We listened our way through Handel’s Messiah for Advent this year. It was very easy to follow along with this book as a guide.

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide
A book every parent and educator must read about dyslexia. The first half of the book is dedicated to brain science while the second discusses more practical application in the skill work of reading and writing and how that applies to different ages. Focusing on the STRENGTHS of dyslexia is important too, because there are strengths as well as weaknesses. And the teacher/student/parent knows the weaknesses only too well, so it is equally important to tap into the strengths.

What was YOUR favorite non-fiction book this year?

5 Devotional Tools for Busy Moms

I creep down the stairs, careful to step over the squeaky step. It’s 6 a.m. and I head straight for the coffee pot. I choose my favorite green flowered mug from the cupboard and pour a fragrant cup of coffee. With any luck I’ll get a chance to sit down and enjoy my coffee in a quiet house while the kids still sleep. I love a little time just to myself to read scripture, journal, or read a book I’m in the midst of before the rush of the day begins. I reach for the sugar bowl and freeze.

A cry breaks the silent morning. My toddler is up.

It seems like no matter what time I choose, my little one makes that her time to rise as well. The time may even vary day to day, but it seems like she can sense the fact I opened my eyes and can’t wait to join her mama as the new day begins.

It’s morning like these—that happen more often than not—that I need an easy way to spend time with God. I usually spend time with him while my baby munches Cheerios or flips through board books by my side. For now, gone are the days of more extensive study. Sometimes I need an app on my phone to read scripture while holding a child who does not yet want to be put down. Or listen to an audio devotional while fixing breakfast. Or to read from a prayer book because I don’t have the quiet enough to form my own thoughts.

Today I'm sharing 5 favorite devotional tools for busy moms over at For the Family.

And don't forget to share some of your favorites too! 

Sing a New Song: Music for the Whole Family

We all jam ourselves into the car and buckle up. Windows down, I search for my keys while my daughter inevitably demands:

“Put the Jesus song on!”

I have to admit that I’m just a bit tired of it. After all, I have been listening to it for five plus years. But my daughter never gets tired of it.

“Again!” she often pleas. We have to put a limit on how many times it will repeat.

“After three times your brothers get to pick a song they want to listen to,” I’ll remind her.

But hey, at least she’s begging for a song about Jesus, right?

So what is this Jesus song that is in such high demand by my five year old?

Continue reading over at For the Family . . . 

The Supermom Myth

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I keep coming back to the theme of comparison and viewing it from various angles in my articles. That's because I see and hear it everywhere I go these days: in conversations with my friends and on social media. I touched on the topic from the creative mom viewpoint and as well in my article Guilt-Free Motherhood. And I love how my friend Amy Kannel got to the real root of comparison in her article Chasing a Standard We Can Meet.

Today I'm writing about The Supermom Myth. If you are striving after supermom status or instead view a friend as a supermom and think you could never compete, this article is for you.

Because the fact is Supermom doesn’t exist. And never has.

Check out The Supermom Myth over at For the Family.

How to Have Fun with Your Kids

“Did you have a fun vacation?” I asked. My girlfriend had just gotten back from a week in the mountains.

She looked at me quizzically.

“Fun?” she questioned. “A relaxing, restorative time, perhaps, but not fun. I don’t really have fun with my kids, do you?” It was an honest question she was asking.

I thought for a minute. “Yes, I do,” I answered. My kids have thrown their share of tantrums and bicker with each other like the next set of siblings, but generally, I do have fun with my kids.

The conversation got me thinking; do most parents have fun with their children? Although my response to my friend’s question is true, I’ve certainly gone through seasons when fun has been harder to come by. We parents teach our kids table manners, interrupt sibling squabbles, pray for them, help them with homework, but do we actually have fun with them? Do we enjoy our kids for who they are, with their own quirks, sense of humor, and interests? And if not, is there a way to intentionally pursue more fun with our kids?

Join me over at For the Family for some ways to cultivate FUN with your kids this summer.

Cultivating Family Culture

I slice the earth with the blade of the shovel, digging carefully around the roots of the peony bush. For two years, the bush had not thrived. It had not bloomed well and had gotten powdery mildew on the leaves. It did not get enough sun in its current location. I placed the uprooted plant into the wheel barrel and pushed it around the house and to the front garden, which gets more consistent full sun. I transplanted it next to the arbor that guards the entrance to the vegetable garden. Now it has a spot to flourish.

Cultivating family culture is a lot like gardening. It sometimes takes some transplanting, pruning, and watering to make your family culture really flourish.

Writing today over at For the Family. Join me there.

Creating in the Midst

I can't remember how exactly I came across Corinne's blog. I think I may have met her in the comment section of The Habit of Being's blog. I enjoy Corinne's thoughtful writing and following her lovely Instagram feed. Corinne has been doing an interview series called Creating in the Midst, where she features various women who homeschool but also pursue creativity in some way. It's been interesting to find out how other homeschool moms seek to find time to be creative themselves in the midst of educating their children.

Yesterday, she featured my own thoughts on creating in the midst. Read my thoughts over at Corrine's blog.

Guilt-Free Motherhood

May is the month for Mother’s Day. A day to celebrate the hard work of motherhood and show our appreciation to mothers everywhere.

Or, it’s a day to feel guilty.

I’ve known women who’d rather skip celebrating Mother’s Day due to babies that have died, strained relationships with their own mothers, or because they suffer from an acute feeling of failure in their own mothering.

Mother-guilt can come in many forms. Do I breast feed or bottle feed? Continue to work my full-time job or stay home? Parenting choices and options are endless. Add to that the constant stream of social media that can lead me to compare my lifestyle choices to those of others and I can soon be questioning if my choices are the “right” ones.

Thankfully, there’s a way to be set free from guilt-induced motherhood.

Continue reading over at For the Family

Cultivating Creative Motherhood

“I don’t know how you do it,” she said as I walked my friend towards the door. “Homeschooling, four kids, writing…” her voice trailed away.

I didn’t know what to say. Instead I felt uncomfortable and said lamely, “Well, it keeps me busy!”

But that was the third time someone had said something similar to me in a month. I’m not wonder woman. I don’t have amazing multitasking skills. I don’t want people to think I do. I don’t do more or better than any other woman who juggles children, work, home, and extra-curricular activities.

But I have made creativity a priority, even after I became a mother. I don’t want to look back over my life and say, “I wish I made more time for _______ instead of washing dishes and doing laundry.”

Whether you identify yourself as a “creative type” or not, everyone is creative in some aspect of their life. As a Christian I believe God made us in His image. He is the ultimate Creator. When we use our creative talents for expression and problem solving we are imaging God, and so it is little wonder we find the act of creating so satisfying. When we create, we image God by crafting beauty, displaying truth, fulfilling a service, or doing good in the world on behalf of others.

But not everyone feels the need to be creative. I’m not writing this article to make you feel guilty if you aren’t a person who desires to have a creative outlet. I’m not advocating adding one more thing to your to-do list or for you to get less sleep than you already do. But if you identify yourself as someone yearns to express yourself creatively but struggle to find time or make time for it in your life, I’m writing this to encourage you.

Continue reading over at Ungrind.

How do you cultivate creativity for yourself in your home?

(Image from Ungrind.org)

Newborn Lessons

Last Christmas we received the best present we could ask for: the birth of our daughter.

Although she is not our first child and I knew what to expect when it comes to having a newborn in the house, each child is different and has their own personality. It takes some time to get to know this tiny new person who has just arrived into our home and family. And even though I’ve had other children, it’s easy to forget just how draining a sleepless night can be or the challenge of getting dinner on the table in-between feedings and diaper changes.

With each new baby we’ve brought home, they have gently taught me some valuable lessons. Lessons I hope to keep with me even after this stage is over and gone.

Join me over at For the Family to keep reading.