Two Simple Questions for Your New Year

I recently started a new journal. It’s something I love to do. Truly, it doesn’t take much to make me happy! I love picking out the blank book I’ll be using for the next year or so. Choosing the design, the size, deciding between lined or unlined. Feeling the crisp blank paper makes me excited about the future. What joys or sorrows will fill its pages? What circumstances will be captured for posterity?

I love a new year for much the same reason. It’s a fresh start, at least mentally. It whispers hopes and dreams for the future, new goals to pursue, projects to plan. I think of it as a “reset” button for my life.

I get it that some people aren’t excited at the prospect of “New Year’s Resolutions.” But for me, in a world that is constantly on the go, a new year is a signal for me to stop and take stock of my choices, priorities, and my time. To consider what is working and what isn’t. A time to pause and discover what changes might need to take place.

And so I’ve pared down the list making over the years. I no longer resolve to “exercise every day of the week” or “memorize a whole book of the Bible.” That’s a recipe for failure. Now I tend to ask myself two simple questions that help guide my thinking.

Read the rest over at For the Family.

Published in Flourish

FlourishMag-2 As my friends know, I'm a huge fan of The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast. I interviewed the host, Sarah Mackenzie earlier this year and was also I was also super excited to hear her speak when I went to the Wild+Free Homeschool conference last month. Her talk was encouraging and inspiring.

So I was very excited to be asked to contribute photographs and an essay to Flourish, Sarah Mackenzie's e-magazine.

The theme of the December issue was gratitude, and you can read what I shared here.

Also, you might want to check out the Flourish archive. Packed with good stuff!


My First Periscope + A Free Ebook for You!


It started with Christmas. Early in December I’d pull our special stash of Christmas books down from the shelf. Reading aloud is one of our family’s favorite pastimes, and the winter months particularly lend themselves to snuggling on the couch and reading a good story while the Christmas tree lights sparkle.

But soon I was searching for books for every holiday. Over the years I've collected quite a list of picture books that we turn to when we approach a certain festivity. I've purchased some from used book sales and we borrow others from our local library.

Recently, I've been writing a lot about holiday picture books for children. I was excited to write a piece about Christmas picture books for Wild + Free's most recent "Light" bundle and faith-based ones for For the Family. And that got me thinking: why not create a master list, of sorts, of all the holiday books we've read and enjoyed over the years?

And so I decided to put together a FREE Ebook for all my email subscribers.

Celebrate! Holiday Picture Books for Children is a ten-page resource of picture books for many of the major holidays around the year. Whether you're a homeschooling family that wants to add books about a holiday's origins to your curriculum or you just want a fun book to read, this is the resource for you. You can print it off and throw it into your bag when you go to the library or to reference when you're in search for the perfect book on Amazon. Why not start now, with Christmas?

To get your own copy of my Ebook, just subscribe using the form below or in the bar at the bottom of my website. It's that easy! You will receive a confirmation email in your inbox. Once you confirm your subscription, you will then receive a second email that will contain the link to the free download.


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AND, to give you a preview of just a few of the books I share in the ebook, check out my very first Periscope broadcast! It was a little weird, but fun!

I hope these books will add richness and joy to your own holiday traditions!

Prepare Him Room

Last Christmas I was honored to be asked to participate in an Advent series hosted by Christie Purifoy. The result was the following thoughts on preparing Him room, which is one of my favorite articles because it is so personal. Last Advent was a special time as we waited for Ava to arrive (and we had no idea she'd arrive on Christmas Day!) and prepared to celebrate Christ's coming too. It is good to relive because even though I'm no longer great with child, I still am preparing room in my heart for the Advent of Christ. Today I'm sharing those same thoughts over at Ungrind.


Joy to the World! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her king; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing!

The song is so familiar that I barely notice the lyrics. I stream it from iTunes while making dinner.

But suddenly these words cause me to pause:

Let every heart prepare him room.

This December I am great with child.

My belly is swollen with a child that thumps and kicks and pulsates life. Three weeks out from the due date we are preparing room. The crib is set up; the clothes are washed and stacked in neat rows in a freshly painted white dresser. I’ve been here before. The preparing and waiting. The waiting and preparing.

Join me over at Ungrind to finish reading.

Picture Books for the Advent Season

WintryNight Christmas is a time for classics. It is time for grandpa’s famous eggnog and grandma’s annual pecan pie. It’s time for favorite Christmas carols around the old piano and movie marathons ofWhite Christmas and Holiday Inn.

And it’s also time for our own family’s tradition of pulling out our favorite Christmas picture books and piling on the couch for some Advent-themed reading while the lights on the tree twinkle and shine.

Today I wanted to share some of our faith-based favorites. Some are retellings of the biblical story of Jesus’ birth while others are completely fictional, but all point children to the true meaning of Christmas.

Come check out the list over at For the Family!

A Heart of Thanks

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It's easy to get caught up in the cleaning and buying of turkeys and the travel and forget the "why" behind Thanksgiving. But that's what I want my kids to get most--not just during the Thanksgiving season but all year long. So today I'm writing about the little ways, both daily and special, that we practice a thankful heart.


We sit around the table amidst the morning breakfast mess: hot bowls of oatmeal, spilled milk, crumpled napkins.

“So what are you thankful for today,” I ask the kids, spooning a mouthful of my own oatmeal, sprinkled with brown sugar and cranberries.

“Legos!” one son shouts, waving a spoon into the air like a salute.

“Getting to go to the zoo this week,” another son chimes in.

“My sweet baby sister,” my daughter adds.

This is part of our morning breakfast routine, going around the table saying one thing we’re thankful for before our day starts.

Join me over at For the Family for the rest of the article.



The First Day of School

2015-08-31_0012015-08-31_0022015-08-31_003 A new school year began yesterday! I'm so excited to begin a new year of learning and growing alongside my kids. I thought I'd share our curriculum choices for this year, because I've enjoyed other people's posts along those lines (I'm a geek like that). I usually discover something I've never heard of before, and through such lists I actually came upon the science curriculum we're using this year.

But first, my new desk area. My old desk was literally falling apart, so I got this very simple white desk from IKEA, kept the old green chair that went with the former desk, and spray painted a desktop organizer a glossy black. Tada! A lovely work area that is aesthetically pleasing--because after all--that's pretty much the most important thing for me outside of storage.

And can I draw your attention to the most adorable book bunting? You can order it custom and mine is Pride and Prejudice. I ordered and gave Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre book bunting earlier this year to both of my sisters. It's is such a fun and unique gift for the book enthusiast!

If you're interested in any of the resources I will link to them below:

Desk: Linnmon/Adils from Ikea Corkboard: Vaggis Noticeboards from Ikea Mama print: Melissa Lyon West Jane Austen print: PrintableDesignHouse on Etsy (similar) Book Bunting: Rosealind Ashberrys on Etsy


Now onto more homeschooler-ish things.

Duncan and Owen are entering their 3rd grade year. So hard to believe! Here's what we'll be using this year:

Reading: We love the All About Reading resources and it has worked great for the boys. We started out trying to use The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and after the first year it did not go well. I love how much more simply All About Reading is broken down and that it comes with its own readers! We will be finishing All About Reading Level 2.

Language Arts Loop (for more info on loop scheduling read this):

Spelling: For spelling we use the Spelling City website and I plug in words from their All About Reading lessons.

Grammar/Writing:  We will be finishing First Language Lessons Level 2  and then I think we will be switching to English Lessons Through Literature. It is very similar to First Language Lessons in approach but is more integrated, a fact I love. It uses full-length books (instead of selections from literature) and also incorporates writing and spelling into the lessons. I will also be using this rather new program with Sophia in the future as well.

Penmanship: Zaner Bloser handwriting textbook for penmanship. Nothing fancy. It's just penmanship and it works.

Math: We use Singapore Math and it's been great for my kids, although I will be looking for something less "teacher intensive" once they are reading more fluently. Any suggestions?

History 2x weekly: We will be daily listening to the Classical Conversation audio CD and learning the history sentences and continue learning the timeline song. We also will be reading The Story of the World Vol. 1 along with a TON of library book reading. I will be incorporating geography and art study into history.

Science 2x weekly: My friend Nicole introduced me to Biology for the Grammar Stage from Elemental Science and I'm very excited to use it this year. Last year we were part of a Science co-op and this year we are not, so I'm excited to try something new. The kids will be learning about animals, plants, and the human body.

Sketchbooking: I'm going to be using sketchbooking as a way to incorporate writing, history, science, and drawing with the kids this year. Inspired by Kirsten Rickert (and since my kids love to draw) we will be using the Strathmore Kids Drawing Story Book to capture what we learn in short sentences, diagrams, and pictures. I love that it comes with space for drawing and is pre-lined for writing!

Physical Education: Soccer (fall) and PE once a week at our homeschool co-op.

Art: We will be studying art in the context of history and be sketchbooking but they also will have an applied art class each week at co-op.

Music: Co-op music class!

Sophia will be joining us as a Kindergartener this year and she's is super enthusiastic about it! She will be tagging along for all of our studies as she has interest but for her we will be concentrating on reading, penmanship, and beginning math. She will be using All About Reading, Zaner Bloser handwriting, and Singapore math just like her brothers but at the Kindergarten level. She also will have a geography unit study, P.E., art, and music class at co-op every week.


I also thought I'd share some of the online resources and blogs I find inspiring as it pertains to homeschooling. Some of them I've talked about before and have interviewed their founders. Here's some of my favorites!

Online Resources:

Wild & Free Conference, Bundles, and other resources  (Interviewed founder Ainsley Arment here.)

Read-Aloud Revival podcast and membership site (Interviewed podcast founder and host Sarah Mackenzie here.)

Home | School | Life  Magazine, blog, or newsletter, this is a great resource!

Simple Homeschool A practical site by various authors full of posts from the practical to the encouraging.


Mt. Hope Chronicles  I've been following this blog by Heidi Scovel for years, maybe even before I had children? I love her blog, especially her booklists! And she has three boys so I find her perspective valuable when it comes to resources for boys.

Ed Snapshots A very practical blog which also has a podcast attached to it.

Cloistered Away I love Bethany's blog. I heard her speak about Intention at last year's Wild + Free conference. She's a writer, photographer, blogger, and homeschooler so I am inspired by her and our interests are similar.

Kirsten Rickert Another inspirational mama who is a photographer and writer with heavy emphasis on the environment, I love subscribing to her blog and reading her thoughtful posts.

If you homeschool (or even if you don't) what educational resources or sites do you love for your kids? That inspire you?


This girl.


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!


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!


What I'm Into Right Now

Listening: I recently discovered The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey and I'm really loving it. I went back through the archives and am catching up on her various interviews with Shannan Martin, Tasha Morrison, Shauna Niequist, Trillia Newbell, Jessica Turner, Gloria Furman, Jen Wilkin, and Jen Hatmaker to just name a few.

Also, just finished listening to The Orphan Train on audiobook. It was okay but not amazing. I'm moving on to The Light Between Oceans as my audiobook pick. Should I get my tissues out now? I've heard it's a gut wrencher.

Watching: Broadchurch: Series I. If you like British mystery and crime, this is for you. Even if you don't, try it anyway. This is one of the best series I've ever seen. It's gut-wrenching, humorous at times, raw, riveting, and smart. The story, acting, and cinematography (ah, I geeked out the the cinematography) is superb. When it ended it felt as satisfying as a good novel. It follows a family, a town, and two detectives as they seek to discover the murderer of a 11-year-old boy. The premise is sad but it has wonderful redemption moments too. I won't say if we watched the last three episodes all in one night. Ahem.

Reading: I got Green Dolphin Country for Christmas. I'd wanted to read it for years, being an Elizabeth Goudge fan but it was out of print for a while, I believe. But the size put me off for a while (it's 767 pages). I decided summer was the perfect time to delve into it. As always, the writing is exquisite, that old-fashioned quality of character development and description I love so much.

Eating: We are loving Spaghetti alla Carbonara (so easy) and now that it's zucchini season, we are eating it in many forms like Zucchini Cakes and Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats.

Drinking: Lots of cold brew iced coffee. Like, everyday.

Exercising: I'm getting back into my exercise routine with the help of Tracy Anderson's Precision Toning. With 15 minute segments I can easily fit it into my day and get a real good workout too, either doing one segment or combining them for longer sessions.

What are you into right now?