Emerald Isle, NC | 2015

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The ocean. It makes me feel alive. It invites me to rest. It had been two years since our family had vacationed at the beach and in September we once again headed to Emerald Isle, NC to put our feet in the sand.

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We rested. We ate well. We read books and watched movies. We took walks and gathered shells. We battled waves and floated on our backs.

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We took the annual "last night on the beach pictures" that are always so fun to capture!

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Equal parts sweetness and sass, that's our Sophia.

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Gosh, I love these boys. We've made it so far! I remember thinking someday we were going to make it to age 8 and here we are! Crazy how far away these days feel.

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And now we have this little darling joining in with all the fun!

My mom joined us for vacation this year. I just adore this candid shot of her with Ava!

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The last days of summer come to a close.

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How to Stay Connected to Your Kids as They Grow Up

“Mom, pleeaasse read just one more chapter! Com’on, please,” I begged. And Mom would usually smile and read ten—or twenty minutes longer.

One of the most treasured and important memories from my childhood is my Mom reading to my siblings and me after lunch. Everyday I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to my favorite character, while I’d be transported to another time or place by the power of Mom’s voice, as it became that character. When the chapter or time was up for the day, my siblings and I would often beg for more.

We read the childhood classics. The Little House books were a family staple, and the Secret Garden was my first gothic suspense novel. Cheaper by the Dozen had us laughing until our sides ached, and The Yearling—with its lush descriptions and heart-wrenching story—made us cry. 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. Mom believed it was important to experience different language styles, even if it sometimes was a little challenging to comprehend. The power of the audible voice captured any wanderings of my mind, making the stories dance off the page and into my imagination.

The benefits from those cozy days curled up on the couch did not just result in better reading skills, lively imaginations, and a love literature and art. It also resulted in connected relationships.

Continue reading over at iBelieve.com

(Image Credit: iBelieve.com)

3 Sanity Savers for the School Year

It’s September and a new school year has begun. Every autumn I have mixed feelings about the close of summer’s picnics and late nights on the deck, but am excited for the routine of a new school year!

Around this time I also look at my calendar and see what I can streamline to make everyday tasks run smoother and take less time. Days are filled with school, work, and several evenings out during the week for soccer practice. Here’s some ways I’ve made tasks that are constantly on repeat a little easier for our family.

Join me over at For the Family to read more.

Five

This girl.

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I can't believe five years are behind us. It's cliche to say it, but time is flying by. I remember when she burst into the world so quickly and full of life. (Her birth story can be found here: Part 1 and Part 2). It has been fun to look back at the old blog posts of when she turned two, as well as her first birthday party.

She is so exuberant in personality. She admires her brothers and mothers her little sister. I adore her one dimple and her smattering of freckles across the nose. She is excited about Kindergarten and has an amazing memory. Currently, she can complete narrate Strega Nona and Tikki Tikki Tembo by memory! She loves stories, drawing, practicing writing, imaginary play, baby dolls, and dressing up.

This year was her first birthday party where little friends were invited over for a lemonade tea. We had so much fun!

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She also loves playing chef so this year she got an apron and chef hat for her birthday and my mom got her a play mixer.

I think a lot of imaginary baked goods are in her future!

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The Power of Empathy

I arrived at church for the Bible study frazzled. As we got out of the car I took my two-year-old twin boys’ hands, heading for the entrance. But one of them jerked away, my grip loosening. He raced pell-mell toward the landscaped flowerbed and plunged in, looking back to laugh at me.

“Come to Mommy!” I beckoned. He ignored me, climbing higher up the landscaped hill and laughing. I called to him several more times, but he continued to ignore me.

I handed off my other son to a friend who took him into childcare. Meanwhile, I climbed after the runaway and made a grab for him.

Once the boys were safely in their playgroup I headed toward the Bible study, frustrated and discouraged. I’d been dealing with my toddler’s love for running away for long enough, or so I felt. No matter what tactic of discipline I’d tried, nothing seemed to make a difference.

Continue reading over at For the Family.

A Day in the Life

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Back at the end of March I thought it would be fun to do a little "day in the life" post. I used to use my full frame DSLR to capture daily life so much more than I do now. I love my iphone and the ease of taking pictures and sharing them on social media, but this year I'd like to make an effort to use my camera a bit more. So, I kept my camera out all day to capture the daily moments of a run-of-the-mill day at home. Finally--almost a month and a half later--I'm sharing them with all of you.

First breakfast. Usually oatmeal or yogurt with fruit and granola. Ava hangs out in her bouncer while we eat and I read a chapter from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Singone of my favorite devotional books for children, ever.

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After breakfast it's time for school. Reading, writing, math, grammarspelling and memory work fill our mornings. The school room is bright and cheerful and one of my favorite rooms in the house.

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Sophia plays or hangs with us in the school room doing her own "school work" while we do ours. She draws, plays with her wiki stix alphabet, plays with her kitchen set, or practices writing numbers in her notebook. She joins in with memory work (songs to memorize history and science facts, among other things) and practices each weeks' presentation for our weekly class time at Classical Conversations.

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I can't get over how much bigger Ava has gotten since I've taken these pictures! In just a month and a half she looks so different already!

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I also can't get over how GREEN it's gotten over the month of April. Wow, what a difference a month makes. Winter hats and jackets are definitely packed away now! After a morning doing lessons we usually have lunch and head outside on days we're home. Time for fresh air and some exercise! Then after an hour or so it's back inside. That's when I read aloud to the kids. We read chapter books and picture books on all sorts of subjects: history, science, and fun stories.

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Then it's time for some quiet down. The kids go to their rooms for one hour of quiet play while the baby naps and I do my work. This is the time I write, blog, edit photos, and the like. The day I took these pictures it was very unexciting. I worked on backing up all the pictures from 2014 both onto my external hard drive and on cds and cleaned off the hard drive of my laptop. Necessary maintenance that just needed to get done.

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Before I know it everyone is up and the hustle of dinner time is upon me. Cheesy Tex-Mex Roll-Ups was on the menu, yum!

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So this is pretty much a normal school day when we're home for the whole day, which is actually only a couple of days a week. We have Classical Conversations once a week during the school year, and for two years we also had a science co-op once a week as well. Not to mention errands, playdates, field trips, and sports in different seasons.

But these unassuming days at home are some of my favorite times. I soak them up and they are just as worthy of documentation as the more exciting days.

Daily Moments

Blog commenting has gotten a lot more quiet in recent years. In part, that's because a lot of the discussion has moved to other social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. My favorite social media by far is Instagram, with Pinterest coming in second. I follow my real life friends as well as those whose images and lives I find inspiring, despite not know them personally. Where Twitter feels impersonal, Facebook too combative, Instagram is just right. The perfect combination of words and pictures.

Although I do have the goal of picking up my "big girl camera" to document life this year a bit more than I did last year, my iphone is always on me and perfect to capture the daily moments that would otherwise be lost. I also link to my posts here and articles on other sites, if you're interested in following my writing.

I would love my blog friends to feel free to follow me on Instagram @danielleajones. Although it is private I will happily add you to my feed once I'm sure I'm not being spammed. Since my feed includes images of my kids at times, I want to make sure I know who's following me. That way I can find and follow you too!

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“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” -Aaron Siskind

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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.

Am I Beautiful?

I was putting her to bed the usual way, with a song and prayer.

Suddenly, my four year-old daughter made a pouty face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, stopping the song mid-line.

“You sing prettier than me,” she sulked. And then, as if it added insult to injury: “You sing prettier than me and are more beautiful than me.”

I must admit I found my daughter’s comparison of herself to me — at the age of four no less — sobering and a little disturbing. That she would already feel some need to compete in the beauty and talent department with another female saddened me. It also made me realize how innate those feelings can be.

I already knew she was tuned into recognizing and valuing beauty — in nature and in other people. And most days after picking out her clothes, she comes down to the kitchen to ask what probably every woman has wondered at some point, “Am I beautiful?” But this new revelation of comparison and competition made me think deeper about the message of beauty I want my daughter to receive.

Join me over at Ungrind to finish reading

Image Credit: Ungrind.org

Ava Claire

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I was due January 5th. I didn't think I'd last that long, but I didn't imagine that our new bundle of joy would arrive on Christmas Day!

But arrive she did, and what a sweet Christmas surprise! I still can barely believe we have another baby in the house. She gets showered with love everyday by her siblings, who are excited to have her join our family.

We have enjoyed the Christmas break and Josh being home from work. We're thankful for my mom who has helped out and family that were in from out of town who got to meet Ava. And we're super thankful for the amazing meals so many wonderful friends have been dropping off!

We're getting used to our new normal and loving almost every minute of it.

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