Thursday, June 09, 2016

Kids on a tractor

My kids are so fortunate to have a dad who doesn't mind giving them tractor rides on occasion!
 Even the littlest got in on the fun. :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Cheesy grin

I've decided that really the best way to keep myself blogging during this busy season of life, is to put up quick little vignettes nearly every day, like I do on Facebook.  I don't know why I didn't think of this before.  I guess it's probably because I enjoy writing longer, detailed posts here, and I think of FB as the place to put up little "popcorn" posts with a picture and a few words.  I still want to write more in-depth here, but since I just don't often have the time to do that, here's a way to still keep in touch with you all with the amount of time I do have. :)

So tonight's post is a pic of Miss Ari from last night!  She was eating a snack and being silly for the camera while the big kids played a soccer game.  Can you believe how BIG she is getting?!  
This little cutie keeps us laughing with her cheesy grins and her silly antics. :)  She is saying so many words now, it's hard to keep track of them all.  Last night she learned the word "sheep."  And now when we ask her to say "Sam," she says..."SHEEP!" :D  Silly girl.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Book Review: Beyond All Dreams

Summary: Anna O'Brien adores her job at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.  It's a bustling and important place to work...and things are busy as the library employees prepare to move everything over to their impressive new building across the street.  As a map librarian who excels at research, Anna's skills are a valuable asset not only to the library, but also to Congressman Luke Callahan, one of the youngest and most powerful congressmen of the day.  As Anna helps Luke with research which he hopes will further his political goals, she also uncovers discrepancies in the Navy's story of what happened to a ship lost at sea when Anna was a child--a ship her father happened to be aboard.  But as Anna comes closer to learning the truth of what happened to the Culpeper, Luke starts trying to dissuade her from her quest, for reasons Anna can't understand.  As tensions grow between them, unrest on a larger scale is developing in the nation, with tensions between the US and Cuba.  As Luke pushes for a peaceful solution in Congress, can he and Anna also make peace and perhaps rekindle the love that had been starting to grow between them?

My thoughts: Beyond All Dreams was another good read from Elizabeth Camden.  I always appreciate the amount of historical detail that goes into her books...she must do an immense amount of research for each one.  She also comes up with such original settings and themes, which I find really interesting and refreshing, considering how so many inspirational novels seem to be rather redundant these days.  Once again in this book, she has created two likable, flawed main characters in Luke and Anna.  They were total opposites, but perfect for each other.  Each has lived through a difficult and painful past in their own ways, but emerged stronger for it.  This book was based on historical events leading up to the Spanish-American War, a period of history that I wasn't really familiar with.  It was neat that I finished reading it in January, and in February the kids and I covered the same time period in our homeschool history studies!  I also liked the fact that Luke was from Maine, and a little bit of the story took place there.  Several of Elizabeth Camden's other books have been set in (or partially in) New England, which I enjoy since I'm a New Englander. :)  While Beyond All Dreams wasn't my favorite of her novels (Against the Tide still holds that place, I think!), I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a bit of good clean romance.  

**Thanks to Bethany House for the free review copy.  I was not required to give a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

**This post contains affiliate links.

A few favorite podcasts

{image courtesy of}

Back about two years ago, I had mentioned my newfound love of podcasts in this post.  Well, I STILL love podcasts, and I keep finding new ones to enjoy!  Sometimes I listen to one while exercising, and other times I listen while I'm doing housework, especially dishes or cooking supper or folding laundry.  It's kind of like reading encouraging books or blog posts, but in the form of a radio-style show...but the best part is being able to pick one that is just what I need right now!!  And being able to multitask while listening.  So cool.

Because of the stage of life I'm at, my favorite podcasts are usually on the topics of home, family, homeschooling, or just general encouragement for moms.  I'm sure I haven't even scratched the surface of all the great shows that are out there, but here are some of my current favorites, in no particular order:

Read-Aloud Revival: I love, love, love this show.  Sarah MacKenzie is just such a fun and bubbly host, and she has some fantastic guests.  Reading aloud to my kids is one of my passions (and a big part of why we homeschool with Sonlight), so this podcast about "building a family culture around books" is right up my alley.

Your Morning Basket: Pam Barnhill hosts this wonderful show all about doing "morning time"...a great way to bring "truth, goodness, and beauty to your homeschool day."  We haven't really called it morning time in our home (although I now think of it as that), but we started the practice of all meeting together and doing our read-alouds and memory work, etc. first thing in the morning for school this year, and it has really improved our school days.  Before, I always felt behind on our read-alouds and like we weren't fitting in the really good stuff that I wanted to share with all the kids together.  Now, I pretty much have a revolt on my hands if I decide to skip morning time!  It has been such a great way to start our days.

Homeschool Snapshots: This is Pam Barnhill's other podcast, which is also a great one!  She interviews a different homeschool mom for each episode, and they are such fun to listen to.

At Home with Sally: Sally Clarkson is one of my heroes.  I love her wisdom, her books, her homeschooling advice and inspiration to make my life and home beautiful, and to be the best wife and mom I can be.  I am currently savoring her newest book, The Lifegiving Home (co-written with her daughter Sarah), and I was so thrilled to discover she also had started a podcast!!  Since I have never had the opportunity to go to one of her conferences or events, you'd better believe I am soaking up this chance to listen to her.  Most of the episodes are co-hosted with her friend Kristen Kill, and I love hearing her perspective and wisdom as well.  Good stuff here!

The Busy Mom: I've been vaguely familiar with Heidi St. John for a while, but only just recently discovered her podcast.  So far I've only listened to a couple episodes, but I'm eager to hear more.  She's practical, down-to-earth, passionate and funny.

HomeschoolingIRL: This is one of my new favorite homeschooling podcasts...wish I'd discovered it sooner!  Andy and Kendra Fletcher are homeschooling parents of a large family and they tackle all kinds of homeschooling topics with wisdom, grace, and humor.  Lots of humor!  Over the past week I listened to two of their episodes (#39 and #58) on homeschool burnout (which I've been feeling a LOT lately!).  It was so good to hear that I'm totally normal in that regard...and I came away encouraged to keep on keeping on. :)  They have done a whole bunch of episodes, so I have lots to catch up on!

Cultivating the Lovely: Mackenzie Monroe is a young mom like me, and I enjoy her sweet personality and the different guests she has on her show.  She's talked with ladies like Crystal Paine, Sally & Sarah Clarkson, and many others, about all kinds of topics.  She has a heart for the Lord and I've enjoyed the devotional materials she puts out for free on her site, too.

Inspired to Action: One of my original favorites, Kat Lee's podcast continues to be encouraging and inspiring!  Her heart is to encourage moms in their walk with God and their mothering, and she touches on other topics like organization, health & fitness, etc.

Now in case you didn't know this (I didn't for a while!), you do not have to own a "device" such as an iPod to actually listen to a podcast. :)  You can listen to them right from the sites I linked above, in most cases!  So if your computer is located in a central part of your home, or you can turn your volume up loud enough, you can still listen while washing dishes!  Or if you do have an iPod or tablet and some earphones, that's a handy way to listen while exercising, or vacuuming...something where you're moving around a lot.

Hopefully this will give someone a little podcast inspiration.  And if you have your own favorites, please share so I can discover some new gems!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter pictures

Just popping in to share a few pictures from Easter!  This was the first Easter in several years that we had pretty warm weather (at least by late afternoon) and it wasn't super chilly taking pictures of everyone outdoors.  

Ari had fallen asleep on the way home from church, and we had to wake her up to take pictures...thus the less-than-thrilled expression.  Poor girl!  Jim was doing his best to make her smile.
 She still looked a little grumpy in some of the pics, but it could be worse. :)

It was too much trouble to try to get a whole family picture this year, as we were taking them quickly after we got home, and everyone was eager to change to comfy clothes and get ready for supper (our church service is in the afternoon).  So we took a few with just Jim, Ari, and me after we got shots of the four kids together.
 I had made a new skirt for Easter from my favorite easy pattern, and was happy with how it turned out.  I didn't make special outfits for the girls this year, but they both had new-to-them clothes from the thrift store. :)  My sweater and top were both thrifted, too.  More and more of my clothes come from there, and now I hate paying full price for anything!
 As you can see, by this time Ari was happy again (especially because she got Mommy and Daddy), and we got some cute smiles out of her.
I hope each of you had a blessed Easter, celebrating our Savior's resurrection.  It's one of my very favorite holidays because it's such a meaningful day to me as a Christian.  Because He lives, we can live also!  What an amazing truth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Homesick for blogging

I NEED to get back to blogging!!!  I know I say that almost every time I finally post something, but the truth is that I am really getting homesick for it.  Today I was looking back on some posts from a few years ago because I wanted to go back and see how we had made our little resurrection gardens around Easter time.  When I saw those posts...and how much I'd recorded from our day-to-day made me sad that over the past couple years I just haven't made the time to record the memories.  To be honest, lately homeschooling has been taking a ton of time, and my days have been chock full.  Teaching three kids in three different grades, while chasing a busy toddler around and trying to keep up with housework, laundry, and dishes, is really challenging me.  (I don't know how you moms of many get anything done!!!)  If it's not school, it's running errands or taking the kids to various events and outings and get-togethers with friends.  All of these are GOOD things and things that we love to do!  But how to make time to get on here (when my arms aren't full of a little girl, which makes it hard to do anything other than read stuff online) and actually post about all the things that make up our life...other than late at night (like right now)...that's the tricky part.  But I really want to somehow fit it in, even if just once a week, maybe on a Saturday or sometime when Jim can watch the kids for a bit so I have a little free time at the keyboard.  Because these days are fleeting, and I'm going to be so sad one day if I don't have much to look back on from these more recent years!

At the moment, the house is quiet.  Everyone is in bed but me...I finally got Ari down a few minutes ago.  She is not the world's best sleeper and has never slept longer than 6 or maybe 7 hours at one time (I can count on one hand the number of times she has--possibly--slept that long).  She starts off the night in her pack 'n play in the boys' room and sleeps anywhere from 1 to 3ish hours before waking, when one of us gets her and brings her back to bed with us (or Sam brings her in!).  Then she sleeps with us or crawls into her cosleeper from our bed, still nursing occasionally through the night.  She's fast outgrowing the cosleeper, so that won't really be an option for her much longer.  My plan is to work on her sleep habits through the summer, but right now it's not a fight I feel like working on. :)  This way I still get a decent amount of sleep, but boy, do I dream of the night when a good straight 8 (or even 7!) hours is normal for me again.
 (And this is little girl is just so sweet that I can't begrudge her the lost sleep...most of the time, anyway. ;))
I have lots of things I could write about, but since it's late and I need to get to bed asap, for tonight I will just share a picture collage from our little hike last Saturday.  I had a to-do list of all kinds of things I needed to tackle that day, but instead we decided that we needed a "mental health" day much more.  So we packed a few snacks and some water, loaded Ari in the backpack, and headed out back to the national forest land, where we proceeded to have a wonderful adventure.  Jim showed us a lot of the places he's hunted over the past few years, we explored old cellar holes, waterfalls and was just such a good afternoon.  We came home in much better spirits than when we left!  So thankful for the gift of nature just outside our door, and adventure for the taking.

Hoping to pop in again soon... Till next time!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ari inside and outside

This little person is rapidly approaching 15 months old!  I wanted to share a few recent pics that capture a little bit of her personality.  She is such a clown--definitely takes after her big sister in that way--and loves to ham it up for the camera!!  I made her an Angry Birds "Stella" hat because each of her older siblings has a hat in that theme as well, and sometimes she wants me to put it on so she can wear it around inside the house.  Sorry these pics are a bit fuzzy, but you can see how she likes to be silly!

 She also has recently starting loving the outdoors.  Today when the big kids went to put their snow clothes on, she brought me her snowpants too, so I bundled her up and had them take her outside for a while.  Jim got home soon after, so he went out to play with them too, and got a few pics while Sam was pushing her around in a toy dump truck. :)

Such a happy girl!!

I'll try to do a better update post about Ari soon, with milestones and such, but for now I just wanted to put up a few pics to remember these fun moments with her. :)

December at Our House

Okay, yes, I realize it's been well over a month since I last blogged, and that it's now the end of January, and I am JUST NOW putting up a post entitled "December at Our House."  It feels a little out of season already, but since I didn't want to miss recording our holiday memories, I'm putting it up anyway. :)  Finally!!  This post will be mostly pictures with a few captions...come along with me as I go back down memory lane!

We decided to buy a real tree this year--our first in probably at least 5-6 years!  Jim wanted to get a BIG one and take advantage of our high ceilings. :)  I think it was around 9 ft. tall.  The kids get more into the decorating every year, and lots of fun was had by all!

A silly Julia tried to catch Sam under the "mistletoe."  On the ladder!
Our beautiful tree...we compromise on the lights. The kids like colors and I prefer white, so we have some of both!  Having such a ginormous tree really made our living room feel a bit small, but that was okay!
My attempt at doing a Christmas/winter themed book advent calendar.  I only got about half of the books wrapped ahead of time, after that we just read a book a day without the trouble of wrapping or unwrapping.  Next year I want to have these ready well before the end of November.  It's such a special tradition for the kids (me, too!).  
We also did our Jesse Tree/Jesus Storybook Bible advent calendar.  This is possibly one of my all-time favorite parts of the holiday season.
Somebody got into the icicles!!  Look at that guilty face. ;)
She also learned to climb ladders...boy, were we in trouble!  After that we had to watch her VERY carefully and keep the bottom of the ladder blocked off when the older kids were using it to bring things up and down from the storage space.
She still naps in the swing on occasion...all that climbing and activity wears a girl out!
One day Ari got her very own box from UPS!  A belated birthday gift from Uncle Joe.  She was apparently quite excited!
Family photo after church, a couple weeks before Christmas (after our church vespers program)
The kiddos in their Christmas finery.  Josiah is wearing the same clothes Sam wore at Christmas for the past few years.  The girls' dresses were a happy serendipitous coordinating look...Ari's was from the thrift store for a dollar, and Julia's was passed on to us in a bag of clothes from a friend.  (I bought the sparkly red sweater at Walmart.)  I loved how they looked so nice together!
Our sweet pastor's wife Patty made Ari this adorable little tutu.  Soooo cute!
Snuggles with Daddy.  One of her (and his!) favorite things. :)
She also loves to snuggle with her siblings, especially Sam.  
Brother-sister love :)
We finally baked our traditional sugar cookies a few days before Christmas.  Ari didn't really help, but she had fun watching!  I'm sure next year she will be in the thick of things.
Happy bakers!
And a silly little observer :)
The sweet moments that memories are made of.
Finished cookies
Christmas Eve...everything's ready!
I had made the kids each a pair of pajama pants, and we let them open them on Christmas Eve.  Ari's aren't in the pic, but they match Julia's.
Bright and early Christmas morning!  Ari was still sleeping at this point.
A box of Legos for all three big kids to share.  
This picture is out of order, but I'll just leave it here...Ari with Great-Grampa when he and my parents came over sometime after Christmas.  She really warmed up to him and he seemed to have lots of fun playing with her, too. :)
Back to Christmas...the kids have been enjoying these historical graphic novels and Sam was happy to receive a new one for Christmas!
Hotwheels cars are a popular stocking gift around here!
Julia with a new Lego Friends set
The kids received several Star Wars books to share--this encyclopedia was a big hit (and continues to be a popular book around here!)
I was thrilled to receive some books and coloring books--here are a couple of them.  
Ari got a sweet Peter Rabbit board book.  She LOVES books!
Here she is later, in a new outfit from Grandma and Papa, sitting on a pillow quilt made by Grammy.  She had a great Christmas too! :)
A few days after Christmas, we finally got some snow.  
Snow baby!!
Julia snowboarding.  The snowboards we found at the dump continue to be popular around here!
Getting ready to slide with Daddy
Later that day, some of our neighbor friends skied down the road to play with us.  How cool is that?  (The road hadn't been sanded yet.)  Here you can see Nicholas, Sam and Madeline getting ready to slide down the driveway.
Ella, Julia and Josiah.  Julia is wearing Sam's coat from last year, and I still keep thinking she is Sam till I look closely at the height and her face!
Kiddos trudging back up the hill.  There are times I don't love our driveway, BUT having a perfect sledding hill makes it worthwhile. :)  

So that is a peek into our holiday season.  Now, of course, we are back into the middle of school and normal life, but it sure was nice to have a few weeks off to celebrate and play.  I've been struggling again to find time for blogging, but I hope to set aside at least a little time once a week to post something, because I sure do miss it.  It's a relaxing outlet for me, but I have trouble letting myself take the time to sit down at the computer when I feel like I "should" be doing all kinds of other things.  I think I need to get over that! ;)  

I am still working on thinking through goals for 2016 and I hope to blog about that, later.  Well, little sweetie just woke up from her nap, so it's time for me to be done here.  Till next time...