book club for kids: the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe.

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The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, are one of my favorite series ever, so I was happy to be assigned to help lead the book club with two other families from our homeschool group. Our group reads and discusses three books a year together, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is our first for this year.

Families can choose between reading the novel aloud together, having older kids read it to themselves, or listening to the audiobook. We kind of did all three because we read the book before together awhile back. Last month, Judah and I brushed up on the story by reading it alone again, and Amie listened to the audiobook.

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I’ve been sick with a virus-turned-sinus-infection for over two weeks, which made school patchy. For three days I lost my voice altogether, so we did some Narnia movie marathons, both with the new version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the old BBC versions. I took the opportunity of laying in bed a lot and re-reading the whole Narnia series, and it was delightful.

Thankfully I was on the mend in time for Book Club and fully immersed in the world of Narnia!

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One of the joys of having older kids is feeling like I have energy to be creative again.

Last year I helped with the book club for Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers, by Ralph Moody. That was so much fun, but it also felt a bit stressful to plan and prepare for it. I’m realizing part of it was that I’d never done anything like it before and probably had way too many expectations on myself! Ah well. We all had a wonderful time just the same.

Still, it’s amazing what less than a year can do.

It’s not just that I’m more rested now that my kids are becoming independent; it’s that they’re old enough to help with ideas and the work. Also our homeschool group has grown this year so that three moms lead a book club together, rather than two, and that makes such a difference.

We were busy/sick this time around, so while the moms would’ve preferred a coffee date, we did our main planning over email, and read the ideas to our kids to let them chime in.

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Here’s our big secret: in order to have a successful Book Club, it does not take being a Pinterest mom (Kelly, Beth, and I would be the first to tell you we’re not), and it doesn’t even take homeschooling your kids;

The only magic ingredient is enthusiasm.

It’s true! It’s amazing the wonder that overtakes a child when he or she sees that you dive in and enjoy something creative — especially something you can share with them.

When Judah read over our idea list he was amazed and impressed; simply because grown ups had taken time out of their schedule to be creative and share ideas together about a children’s book. His request was everyone dress up, including the moms. Many of us did! And those who didn’t want to dress up, didn’t, and that was just fine!

Our hope for all Book Clubs is that everyone has fun and no one feels pressure.

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I’d like to say here that birthday parties for my kids have always stressed me out. Always. When I imagine a theme and decorations and party favors I feel this black cloud settle over me. I know it sounds terrible, but in my head it’s a show I have to put on to impress people. So typically my response to the black cloud is to rebel and not give my kids traditional birthday parties.

I know, it’s terrible. All you moms who plan some pretty awesome parties: you have my admiration.

But Book Club feels different to me. It makes me happy to build a celebration around a book; and there really aren’t expectations for Book Clubs. Instead of an event I put on to entertain kids, we love inviting the kids to contribute and have fun with each other.

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To keep myself from getting stressed out, I weighed all my childrens’ ideas (and there were a lot of them) with the question, “What’s your plan for carrying that out? Is that something you can do yourself? What do you need from me?” Of course I did a lot of the work, but I told them my main priorities and asked them what theirs were and what they could contribute, and we settled somewhere in the middle.

We worked as a team and it was so fun. Judah and Amie cleaned both bathrooms on Thursday. The four kids and I made a His House run (our favorite thrift store) to find costumes — and I told them ahead of time that if we couldn’t find it at that one store, we’d make do. David pitched in by cutting cardboard shields and designing Gabe’s Aslan mask. Judah decorated the wardrobe door. And of course our friends came early Friday to help decorate and make tea and cheese sandwiches.

We sent out an email ahead of time letting other families know the schedule, and giving a list of items people can bring (like food, paper goods, markers, and picnic blankets).

During Book Club, the non-hosting moms pitch in and help as needed with crafts and food and watching the toddlers.

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And so, on Friday morning, we turned down the lights, lit candles, and played the soundtrack from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie. We had a cool, overcast day that seemed to fit perfectly.

If you’re interested, here’s our schedule:

10:00: Arrive and hang coats

10:15-10:45: Tea and scones with Mr. Tumnus, Kelly leads book discussion (kids under 6 play outside)

10:45-11 White Witch freeze tag

11:00-11:30 Decorate crowns and shields

11:30 Lunch: Beaver’s feast (British cheese sandwiches, tater tots, orange marmalade sticky buns)

12:00 Taste Turkish delight! And chocolate, of course

12:00 Free play, clean up, get ready to go home

1:00 pm Take a nap! 🙂

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It was such a special memory; on Saturday, Amie woke up and said, “Mom, I just wish today was Book Club again!”

My goal is to document all three of our book clubs this year for the blog. If you want a peek into one of last year’s, see it here.

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Left to right, Mrs. McReady, Edmund, the White Witch, Tumnus the Faun, and Aslan





north myrtle 2017.

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Hello friends! We just finished a lovely week at North Myrtle Beach. Here are a few highlights . . .

1.Our condo was the best. David found us a three-bedroom this year at a great rate because it’s off-season, we even got upgraded to oceanfront since we arrived right after Hurricane Irma passed through. No damage there, but the place was pretty sparse those first few days.

A three-bedroom allowed us to spread out comfortably without being on top of one another … nice big kitchen and living space. Two bathrooms, and two bedrooms for the kids. We logged many hours right there on the 12th floor. We brought toys, books, Lego’s, books, and games. We cooked all but one of our dinners in and brought some pretty epic snacks from Whole Foods.

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2. One of the things I love about a whole week away (a new-to-us experience last year) is the way we settle into a daily vacation rhythm and the real world becomes far away and life feels very simple. The most important question of the day is, “Do we eat dinner in the condo or grill out by the pool?” We spend all morning on the beach, come up for lunch and some rest time, then head to one of the pools in the afternoon.

I soaked up a week of just our family, the freedom to focus all our attention on one another and on making new memories.

Our favorite tradition this year was grilling dinner at Tower 4 poolside. It’s the tower across the street from the beach, so the pool area is a hidden gem. There are two hot tubs, a playground, and gas fire pits.

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3. We read lots and lots. David and I each brought several books, and I also brought a big stack of beach-and-vacation themed picture books from the library for the kids.

I tried to specifically choose books for vacation that felt restful. That meant no harrowing war or immigrant memoirs. I’m reading through the Bible this year, and was in Proverbs all week. There’s much I need to learn from those words. Every afternoon I read a chapter of a book on sanctification, and wrote about it in a notebook.

During afternoon rest time, Judah and Amie and I read The Penderwicks and were enchanted. I felt blanketed in strong, comforting words all week (who isn’t inspired to be the best the best version of themselves after reading Little Women?), and came home wanting so much to grow into the kind of person I read about over and over.

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4. We chatted on the elevator and on the beach and at the pool with many retired folks here on their vacation, and a few families. I love how outspoken older people are. I guess that’s a privilege of living through years and years of holding your tongue. No one seems surprised when you speak your mind. We had many sweet comments about our large family (many astonished comments, Wait! You have four!?), and one lady who was my favorite floated my way in the pool and said, “Look at all those kids! You must be Catholic! Do you homeschool?”

Near the end of our time we met a family with five kids who homeschool, and two of their children are siblings, just adopted from foster care. We were complete strangers but suddenly had a million stories to share and advice to ask from one another. And our kids loved swimming together, whether at the beach or pools. I have the utmost respect for them, who are suddenly figuring out life with five children ages 9-13, and I’m so happy that our paths crossed.

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5. We went to the boardwalk twice, once at lunchtime for pizza and arcades, and once in the evening for ice cream and arcades and glow sticks. We decided we much prefer the boardwalk in the evening, rather than baking in the midday sun (apparently everyone else figured that out before us).

We enjoy the Fun Plaza boardwalk arcade because it has old school games like Skee ball, air hockey, and Pacman. A nice man gave the kids 1500 tickets as he was leaving, so at the end of the night they had a shopping spree at the prize counter.

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6. And finally, David dragged us all out of bed at 6:45 on our last morning (by then the boys were actually sleeping in due to a few late nights), and we took donuts and coffee down to the beach to watch the sunrise. We were all a bit grouchy at first, but it turned out to be one of the best things we did.

There’s just nothing like seeing the glowing orange sun rise over the ocean, a cool breeze in your face, and the kids all sat and made sand castles for an hour while we sipped our coffee.

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We’re so very thankful to once again be able to take a 7-day vacation. It was restorative for our whole family, and we felt ready to return to our home and life in Columbia at the end.

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judah’s room and chores for kids.

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We moved into our new master bedroom on our 13th anniversary, May 22. Shortly after, Judah and Amelie finally got their own bedrooms.

I thought I’d show you around Judah’s room today, and tell you about our chore system.

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Judah’s one request for having his own room was to have “a library.” So we promised him one of our tall pine bookcases from the living room for his growing book collection.

You may remember back in May 2016, we gave Judah and Amie a bedroom makeover. It was a fun project, and as you can see, little changed in the room for Judah once his sister moved out.

Even though they were nine and seven, and truly needing some privacy and space of their own, a big part of me dreading giving our two oldest separate bedrooms. I just love Judah and Amie’s friendship. They’ve been through thick and thin together over the years and are best buddies. I didn’t want them to miss out on shared afternoon play-times, whispering at bed time, waking up and spreading out Lego’s before breakfast.

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But really I didn’t need to worry.

If anything, having a little space has helped their friendship. Now they aren’t tripping over one another’s things. Judah, who is very neat, isn’t frustrated by his slightly-less-neat sister.

It took a few weeks to get used to the new arrangement. We had to have some talks about selfishness and using bedrooms to exclude one or more siblings. We had to ask Judah to come out and play with his siblings. You know, the usual family stuff.

But now we’ve found our rhythm. We have a two-hour afternoon playtime. Judah and Amie spend the first hour alone in their rooms, and the second hour together in one of their bedrooms. They draw, play Lego’s, or sneak out to jump on the trampoline. They always have an audiobook going together and will sometimes listen before bed if they aren’t hanging out with David or me.

I also regularly ask them to have special time with one of their brothers in their bedroom. I’ll set a timer for 30 minutes, send Noah in with Judah and Gabe in with Amie, and tell them to play together. Then another day we’ll switch. Maybe that seems contrived, but it really does help sibling relationships in our home. And the little boys love it.

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Judah keeps his bedroom very neat, and loves having a place for all his books.

He nearly always has a Lego project going on the floor. He alternates between building back sets he’s gotten over the years, creating scenes from his imagination, and looking up Lego instructions on the iPad to try and copy a set (he doesn’t own any of the Harry Potter Lego sets but has built most of them in some form from internet instructions).

The painted white IKEA dresser and lamp came from our old master bedroom. We got him the Wingfeather Saga map poster as a “room warming gift.”

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I feel that this closet is a bit wasted now that Amelie has moved. I wish we could have the closet in her room, because she needs it more than her brother, but oh well. I’ve settled by stowing some of her things in here.

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Judah set up his bookcase all by himself, and I think he did a pretty great job. My favorite part is the Harry Potter glasses.

He requests books for Christmas and birthdays now and often has family members find used books for him.

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Now let’s talk a little bit about chores.

I mentioned awhile ago that my friend Kelly shared her chore system with me. I have tried so many different systems, charts, schedules, and we just don’t keep up with them.

A good thing about David and me is that we have great house-keeping habits. We work as a team to keep things clean and picked up inside and outside, and have done it so many years that it’s just second-nature. I’m so very thankful for his helpfulness around the house.

It’s a great thing … until you’re trying to share the load with your kids.

We can both be a little controlling about how we want things done (i.e. no messes!!), but truly most of the time we just forget to make the kids help us out. We jump up and load the dishwasher automatically after breakfast. We take out the trash as soon as the can becomes full, grab an armful of books to put away as we’re walking through the living room.

What I really want is to impart these habits to the kids. I want keeping house to begin to feel like second nature to them too, because that’s just what we do as a family.

So it’s taking some intentionality.

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We started with this list. I’m focusing on just the big kids at the moment until they really get their chores down well.

They do a great job by now with the daily chores at the bottom of the list. We do those weekends and weekdays, day in and day out. Gabe and Noah also clear their dishes, put away laundry, clean up their room, and make their beds. All the kids help unload the van on grocery day.

After a few months of practice (and yes, finally, some consequences of losing a dollar out of his allowance jar), Judah now automatically begins the lunch dishes every day. I never have to remind him. It’s amazing! Amie is reaching that point with caring for the chickens too.

The only thing I can say is we’re learning to tackle just one new habit at a time, and to keep it simple.

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By looking over the chart, I know there’s more our kids could be doing. I have friends who kids are doing all their own laundry by the time they’re eight!

But I’d rather get these few habits down pat and build from here.

I add “Daily chore” to my kids’ school list so they’ll remember to check the chart. And I still do some reminding.

I really need to update the chart, but I’ll just clarify that my kids do not remove their sheets every Friday and I do not wash them all every Friday. It’s a nice idea though, isn’t it? We’ll get there!

Finally, the biggest help from this system has been the bathrooms. I keep a container of Lysol wipes and a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s spray under each bathroom sink. I taught Judah and Amie how to wipe down the sink and toilet (using separate wipes!), and clean the toilet bowl.

Are they cleaning the entire bathroom? No.

But it’s amazing what walking into a nice-smelling bathroom with clean counters and toilet will do for your mood. I’ll take it!

I’m still getting used to cleaning my own house again since we decided to stop using our beloved house cleaner. And by “getting used to cleaning,” I really just mean “not cleaning.” I have this daily chore schedule posted for myself on the fridge:

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Isn’t it great? So thorough!! Well. I rarely follow it. But I do water my plants! And I do vacuum when we have company!

How about you? Do you have any chore advice for us?



august.

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Can you believe it is already September?

In 5 days my oldest child will be double-digits.

I glanced back over my blog entries … posts were kind of patchy this summer, I know. I really struggle with blogs and the internet and social media in general. I think they have wonderful benefits. But they’re also one-dimensional. The things that are most photo-graphable are the fun, exciting things. Not the messes. The tempers. The two-hour period before dinner when I want to pull my hair out.

The internet is fun, but it’s not real life. It’s a snapshot. I think we’re at our best when we can stop and realize this, when we celebrate one another’s snapshots, but also remember we as people are more than our internet presence. Nobody’s life is perfect. The older I get, the more stories I hear, the more I believe you cannot possibly judge a person by the way they look or by their Instagram pictures. We hurt people when we do it, because we don’t give them space to be real, to suffer. Everyone suffers.

The truth is, I struggled a ton with anxiety and depression all summer long, like a choking black cloud that wouldn’t leave. There were days that I got out of bed to put food on the table for my kids and switch the laundry, and that’s about it. In many ways, this summer felt like survival.

That’s why all these trips God brought our way, that I’ve posted about, were a gift. I needed them, I needed someone to grab me and make me go on an adventure when all I wanted to do was curl up in a dark room alone.

I don’t share this to make you feel sorry for me, truly I don’t. Each year I accept a little more that this is simply the story God is asking me to live in. I believe that He can use people who are very weak. I believe that He can redeem anything.

And in the meantime, I just plead with you to bear in mind what David tells me often, “A blog isn’t real life.” Don’t think that because of my sporadic fun pictures I’m this super-mom or I’m doing everything right. I’m not.

Just because I spend seasons posting about cool things we’re up to or show you how tidy our house looks doesn’t mean we don’t have days where we’re bored and snap at each other and I turn on Netflix, afternoons I don’t sit and read a novel instead of playing games with my kids, mildew on the shower wall (yes! even our new shower!), and a layer of crust on the stovetop. Just ask my mom, who deep cleans my stove top every time she comes over.

One more thing: I’m still not against the internet and social media. I love our blog, because in my low moments, I make myself read back over old posts. They are a beautiful, big-picture reminder of God’s faithfulness to our family. Even in our hard times, every single day, there are always, always bright spots to thank Him for. He never leaves us alone.

And now, a few of those fun things from August:

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On August 21, we had a little Solar Eclipse party with David’s folks. Grandpa made a real life model of the eclipse for the kids, we pulled lawn chairs outside, and enjoyed one of the most spectacular sights nature has given us in my lifetime. We were right in the path of totality, and it was breath-taking.

Then we came back inside to the air conditioning and feasted on pimento cheese and crackers, carrot cake, iced coffee and fruity drinks for the kids and beer.

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There’s a new coffee bar in the student center of my alma mater, CIU, and I’ve already been twice to visit my parents at work and drink coffee. It’s delicious! The kids love seeing Papa and Nina at work, picking out a treat from the gift shop, and visiting the playground by Pineview Apartments.

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Some friends sent David and I to a fancy hotel in downtown Charleston for a night last month. We left in the morning and returned the following evening, so it was a nice, long date. Our favorite thing to do in any city is to walk everywhere, and stop often for good food or drink. We walked eight miles each day!

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We always recommend The Ordinary for a nice dinner out. I say “always,” even though we’ve been there exactly twice. But it continues to be our favorite restaurant ever. Workshop Charleston was a really fun, upscale food court that we tried this time. And the hidden gem a friend sent us to was Xiao Bao Biscuit. I beg you to try this place if you visit Charleston. It is family-friendly and affordable, they describe themselves as “Asian soul food” and everything on the menu looked good. But there’s really only one thing you must eat: the Okonomiyaki. It will change your life.

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I’m on a Willa Cather kick right now. How had I never read My Antonia before? It made me happy from beginning to end. If you were a fan of the Little House books as a kid, please give My Antonia a try. I’m enjoying O Pioneers now.

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Judah is currently reading both the The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Heroes of Olympus series. Amie is thrilled to finally be delving into chapter books and is obsessed with the Critter Club series, which are perfect for your beginning chapter book reader.

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Our homeschool year has gotten off to a really, really good start.

This is one of those gifts from God that I absolutely do not deserve.

I thought long and hard this summer about what was best for our kids: I’m a mess myself, I don’t even deserve to try to homeschool them. Should we put them all in school? But David gave me a good talking-to, and I took the risk, and it’s been so wonderful. Not perfect, but wonderful. I’m coming out of the darkest season, and I find that it’s good and right for me to now pour my energy into learning with our kids. My husband knows me really well.

It’s a daily, constant juggling act, getting through everyone’s work and keeping Noah constructively occupied. Most days I don’t get everything done on my list. But still, somehow, we love it. We all do. I’ve heard more positive feedback from the kids in this one month of homeschooling then in the four previous years.

Yesterday Judah said, “Mom, you’re really good at homeschooling us. You know how to make learning fun.”

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We met the boys’ birth mom and her boyfriend at Isle of Palms on Thursday for the day and had beautiful weather. They bought boogie boards and we played in the water and made lots of sand castles and new memories together.

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I found some fun wall art for our living room wall just in time for New Members’ class, which started last Sunday. Actually, I’ve had my eye on those prints at Target for months and months, and finally found the perfect place for them. They’re my favorite shade of blue and remind me of batik art from Barbados. They make me happy.

Our new members class itself is making me happy too. I love the enthusiasm and genuineness of a new wave of people excited about being apart of CPC. I love cooking turkey chili for them. I love having two bathrooms to offer. Their stories never fail to inspire and challenge and humble us.

And the last fun thing I have to show you is a little before and after of the front of our house:

February 13, 2017:

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August 21, 2017:

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That’s right! The outside is completely finished!

Last week we had our new shutters hung, and Scott and his crew updated our front porch columns from circular-shaped to square. Just a couple things on the inside of the house and he’s finished. For the year at least. We planned to have the windows in our house replaced this fall, but got a van instead. Maybe next year!

Next up in the front is a driveway and some landscaping, but we’re on our own for that. We’ll get there!

I’m excited to give you a post summing up our addition experience, and of course I know I still need to show you Judah and Amie’s bedrooms.

Thanks for bearing with me, friends. I hope to blog more regularly in the coming weeks. Thanks for your sweet texts and emails. They mean so much to me!



new van.

Three weeks ago David flew to Nashville for a pastor’s training conference. Quite unexpectedly, as we turned onto the airport drive, our van began making very strange noises. Minutes later, it wouldn’t transition from first gear. We had to turn it off and turn it back on multiple times to limp to David’s departure gate.

And there we were, all six of us. Thankfully, it didn’t happen on the highway. Thankfully it didn’t cause David to miss his flight. Thankfully it didn’t happen when I was alone with the kids. Or on our road trip to Pittsburgh that weekend.

There are a lot of things to be thankful for! Still, our dear Honda Odyssey van, which we bought a mere two years ago — the day before adopting the boys — was dead.

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David raced to catch his flight, and his parents came to our rescue by calling a towing service through our auto mechanic and driving to pick us up. The process took awhile, and so I treated my kids to lunch in the Columbia airport lobby ($15 for four bags of Cheez-Its and a Clif bar). And we waited!

David spent the week in Nashville, and the kids and I used his Civic. Our mechanic told us that the transmission died (at just over 100,000 miles), and took a few other parts with it. The amount it would cost for all those replacements was close to the amount of money the van was worth. Ah well.

Judah isn’t quite heavy enough to sit in the front seat, but was an emergency. David arrived home Thursday night, and Friday morning we rented a van for our long weekend in Pittsburgh.

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It was actually fun to test drive a completely different van: a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. We’d gotten a little spoiled by our Odyssey’s DVD player, so it was also nice to take a road trip and realize we really don’t need one. We listened to How To Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell, on audiobook (highly recommend!), and brought toys and books for the kids and listened to lots of music.

After we arrived home we car-shared with Linda, and were very thankful we didn’t have to rush to find a van immediately.

Our mechanic told us his top choice for a reliable minivan is the Toyota Sienna; Consumer Reports and lots of our friends seemed to agree, so we began looking for one after our Pittsburgh trip. After much deliberation, we decided to look for something newer with lower mileage, because we’re dreaming of some big family road trips in the next decade.

We found it last week! It was a rental owned by the local Toyota dealership. They gave us a loaner car while it was cleaned and detailed for us, and we brought it home yesterday.

We’re so excited about our Sienna — especially after squeezing into sedans for nearly three weeks (isn’t it crazy how you take things for granted until you don’t have them?). Our new van is more spacious and has more leg room in the back two rows than either the Odyssey or the Pacifica, which feels very important looking ahead to three teenage boys. We were a little bummed to lose the leather seats and some of the amenities of our EX, but the feature we’re most excited to gain is the Bluetooth and GPS.

As we drove the van home, I told the kids I promised their Dad I’ll drive it until Noah goes to college, at which point Noah became very depressed and said, “But I’ll be scared in college. I don’t want to leave you and Dad.”

Noah, I wish I could record those words. We’re so happy college is a long way away!

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a new school year.

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Here in South Carolina, most schools don’t start back until after the solar eclipse on August 21, but we officially began the new school year yesterday. We’re traveling this month and next month, so I wanted to give us a little bit of a buffer to get in our full 180 days.

I take that back — I wanted to give us a huge buffer. We finished last year at the end of April, and I had every intention of starting us back at the beginning of July. Or earlier. I just adore those school-year-round, the-world-is-our-education homeschoolers. I want to be them. But I’m not.

Wait, this sounds familiar. Haven’t I told you this before?

Yep. Okay, please remind me of this in the future: we’re just a traditional school-year kind of family. We like to have a real summer and hang out with our friends who are off school. Also our swim practices change from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and it throws off a school routine.

All of that to say, here we are!

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If you’re still in planning mode, a word to the wise: please give yourself a good chunk of time alone to plan out your year (or semester), either in a quiet house, or at the library. David offered me that, but I was disorganized and ended up squeezing all my planning into the cracks. It was so stressful.

The above photo is what happened when I spread out my books and planner at the table this weekend: Amie, Gabe, and Noah instantly had their own “planning” to do. Amie want to make her own calendar and needed lots of input. The boys want to try out the new glue and markers and create ninjas and bad guys, and give me a play-by-play of their battle scene.

I love my kids. They really are the best. They’re creative and motivated and funny.

But trying to make a plan for our year in the midst of this happy cacophony made me want to pull my hair out.

So I file that away for next year.

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In the state of South Carolina, I need to document what we do for school each week, so this year I bought the Debra Bell homeschool planner (left) for 20 bucks. I’ll let you know what I think. The main perk in my eyes is that it allows space for multiple children’s study schedules and curriculum. Right now, that makes it a winner.

I mentioned this before, but I just don’t prefer to do any homeschool planning in my bullet journal, although some people love it.

In celebration of the new year, I also bought myself A Gracious Space, by Julie Bogart, which is full of very brief daily readings for the homeschool parent. There’s a volume for each season, and it’s so inspiring.

And finally, I’m attempting to follow Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours for personal prayer. She use and consolidates The Book of Common Prayer into brief daily readings (also in four volumes). It’s mostly Scripture, and I realized that when my head’s swirling with tasks and school and people to care for, I need a guide for prayer. It’s a comfort, and I plan to use it as a reset throughout my day.

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Can you believe this is my fifth year of homeschooling? I just don’t feel that old. I have an almost-ten-year-old!

The biggest change for us this year was deciding not to be apart of Classical Conversations anymore.

That was a huge decision for me, kind of a roller coaster, and my apologies to David for all the obsessing and reading aloud of pros/cons lists. CC served us well for four years, and then suddenly, it stopped serving us. This past year it felt like it was a burden, instead of a help. Isn’t it funny how seasons of life change and things you once loved suddenly cease to be the right fit?

Frankly, I became bored with the curriculum, but it took so much time that I couldn’t pursue the things I really wanted to do with my kids.

I am such a by-the-book, Type-A person, that I was truly terrified to quit CC. It was my security blanket; it ensured my kids were getting an education. I didn’t realize how much fear and insecurity would surface inside me giving it up.

I’m homeschooling on my own now. What if I fail?

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Well, I’ll never know until I try, will I?

And deep in my heart, I really, really want to try.

We’re using mostly Sonlight curriculum this year: I purchased one core (D: American History, Part 1) for Judah’s grade: it covers our History/Bible/Geography/Literature and Poetry. I also bought the Science core.

I plan to modify it for all the kids, and use past Sonlight books I’ve purchased for the younger boys.

I just can’t speak highly enough of their curriculum. I’ve used the read-alouds for years and they’re almost always guaranteed winners.

I’d like to say here that the four years of Classical Conversations memory work we did are already serving us well, just a week into our school year. The kids know when Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas, they know the animal kingdoms and classifications. So I do love the CC program and am thankful for how it’s helped us. Now it’s time to dive a bit deeper.

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This year will be a challenge because I’m teaching three legitimate grades (I’m very laid back with kindergarten): fourth grade, third grade, and first grade. We have a diagnosed learning disorder this year (Dysgraphia). A friend from church is working with us to make some modifications for that.

But.

There are so many things I’m excited about. Here are a few:

1. We’re kind of easing back into our subjects over the next two weeks, but thus far every curriculum change I’ve made has felt right. After studying U.S. History one morning, Judah said, “This is going to be my favorite school year ever!” I’ll give more specific reviews later about the different books we’ve chosen, but it just feels so good to have my kids excited about school.

Does that mean they love every subject? No. But I want to have enough inspiring material in there to keep them engaged with learning.

2. David’s dad, Steve, will be doing weekly Science experiments with the three oldest kids that correspond to our Biology curriculum. This week they planted radish seeds and are returning to check on them and make drawings of the progress. Has their own father planted radishes in our garden and shown them? Yes. But everything’s cooler when Grandpa is the teacher.

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3. I’ve been studying Charlotte Mason’s educational methods this summer through podcasts and Wild + Free, and asking my CM friends lots of questions. We’ll begin doing narration and artist study as part of our school week. My parents are in the process of moving, but once they get settled, we’ll resume nature watercolor with my mom.

4. The kids were terribly disappointed back in April when I told them we wouldn’t be continuing with Classical Conversations. Mostly, it’s because they love the social aspect, and I get that. Also, it was familiar. But the field trip and book club group we were also apart of last year is expanding into a twice-monthly homeschool co-op (and includes some of their CC friends). I’m really excited to have more time to be involved in it and I know the kids are going to enjoy it.

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5. Finally, it just feels really good to be back in our routine.

I had so many grand plans for our summer. I accomplished very few of them. I don’t use my time well without structure. Also: I was tired. It’s funny, I’ll probably get way more accomplished with the healthy pressure of a school year than with all the free time I had during the break.

Homeschooling is definitely a challenge, but gathering around the table this week, laughing about our new Latin vocabulary songs, drawing pictures of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, reading about Llamas in the Andes Mountains, reminds me why I do this: at the end of the day, we just really enjoy learning together.



living room update.

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I’ve taken a couple of blissful months off thinking about house projects; no scouring of Pinterest or spontaneous trips to Home Goods. It’s a very restful feeling to find myself not even really caring that things still aren’t completely finished.

And it’s true: they aren’t. Our builder still needs to come wrap up a few items, and we’re going to have all the windows in our house replaced. And we still haven’t touched up the paint in our bedroom or put the final coat on the baseboards. But Scott’s working a job now that he said is over two times the size of our bedroom addition, so we’re squeezed into the cracks of his time. Oddly enough, I’m okay with it.

David and I just really, really needed a break from house projects.

But we did get the living room back in order and Judah and Amie’s bedrooms finished, so I’ll show you our progress!

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We’ve always loved our long, spacious living room. It was a non-negotiable for us when house-hunting, because we have groups of people from church over. Our living room is perfect for New Members’ class, during which we’ve been known to squeeze 35 people into this space.

However, surveying it post-addition, it just didn’t feel right. Losing our reading corner made us suddenly feel like there was a lot of wasted space.

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So we made the (for me) excruciating decision to transfer our wall of books to a different place to make way for another little seating area. We decided to give away our India bookcase as well, to simplify.

Call me superficial, but I mourned.

That glorious color-coded book wall felt like our trademark. It set the feel of our home when you walked in the door. It made me happy every single time I looked at it (am I being dramatic? yes, of course). But it just wasn’t practical for us anymore. So it had to go.

Thankfully that IKEA bookcase is easy to rearrange, and we stowed the extra column of shelves in a closet in case we change our minds down the road.

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After the construction, I knew that every single book needed to be removed and cleaned anyway. The dust was overwhelming. If I did this addition process again, I would’ve used more tarps, but oh well. The truth is all of that would’ve needed to be cleaned regardless. Thankfully the kids were troopers and pitched in to help.

We also took the opportunity to purge books. Again. All the books in our dark glass-front bookcase are David’s theology books and will eventually have a home in his new office. Want to know where they are now? Well, the trunk of his car and here:

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While rearranging, I took the opportunity to admire our Wendell Berry collection. Um, yes, I may have added to it since this photo was taken:

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It was actually fun and therapeutic to go through all our books, to choose which we love most, and which we’re okay with passing on.

Some books remain classics in a family, but isn’t it funny to flip through others and feel that you’ve kind of outgrown them?

But now, here we are!

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Does the new bookcase location make the same statement? Not at all.

But I do love that cozy new reading nook. We talked about getting a loveseat for the space, but actually like it just the way it is.

We had our electrician add an outlet to that wall, and eventually I’ll figure out some art to hang.

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When I thought about updating our living room, it was really important to me to create a space that’s inviting for the kids to play; especially our little guys. So we have a basket for their Magna-tiles, a basket of wooden blocks, and a book basket.

The decorator in me wouldn’t mind finding another chair to round out the sofa area, but then my kids wouldn’t have room to spread out. I want them to know this is their space too.

When they saw the wide open floor they said, “Mommy! Did you make a play place for us!?”

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If you look back the other direction, the room hasn’t really changed.

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Our living room felt really chaotic for months. We love that it’s relaxing once again!

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