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?



interview with judah: summer camp.

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Tell me about your camp. What kind of camp was it?

A Christian camp

How many boys were in your cabin? How many counselors did you have?

Ten boys and two counselors

What major did you choose for the week?

Outdoor survival

What’s one thing you learned about outdoor survival?

That clay can be used as a bug spray

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What other activities did you get to try?

Archery, climbing, GaGa ball, zipline, jump on the Blob, kayaking, water games in the lake

What did you do during chapel?

Talk about Jesus being the Vine

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What did you do to celebrate 4th of July?

Big fireworks on lake

What’s something that surprised you about camp?

That everyone was so nice

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Did you get homesick?

Yes

What was the hardest thing about your week?

The showers weren’t very clean

What was your favorite part of your day?

I liked it all

Do you want to go back next year?

Yes!

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Was the lasagna as good as your mom’s?

Not quite as good

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about going next year?

It’s very fun and there’s nothing to worry about

Is there anything else you want to tell us about?

Not too much, I would if I felt better

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And there you have it, folks! Poor Judah has been sick ever since he got home Saturday and wasn’t quiet up to this interview. We’re headed to the doctor this afternoon to see if he has strep throat. He still insists, “It was worth it!’

I felt like he came home about a year older and a foot taller. He is just growing up so much.

The senior counselor pulled David aside Saturday when he picked Judah up and said, “I want to tell you what an amazing kid you have. He was so nice to everybody and so respectful. We love Judah!”

Thanks to Bethel Christian Camp for an awesome first camp experience!!!



judah goes to camp.

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Yesterday evening we dropped Judah off for 6 nights at Bethel Christian Camp in Gaston, about 30 minutes away from Columbia. It’s a camp we’ve known and loved for a long time. We’ve met the director, and have seen lots of friends attend over the years.

I can’t imagine a better first camp experience for our boy; still I can hardly believe he’s gone.

He’ll turn 10 in September, which is the age I was when I started going to camp, but it still feels young somehow. I was delighted that we were allowed to settle him into his cabin and see the bunk he chose and meet his senior counselor. He was so excited. I reigned in my emotions and put my big girls pants on and said good-bye with a clear voice and a big smile.

The five of us made a forlorn trek back to our van, and cheered ourselves up with a stop at Pelican’s Snowcones before we headed home.

We gave Amelie the option to go to camp this week too, but she said, “No way! I’ll miss you too much!”

She regretted her choice when we dropped Judah and she got swept up in the excitement of chattering kids and rustic cabins and the lake. Still, she’s not even 8 yet, and I’m not sorry she decided to wait. Next year will be soon enough.

And so this week we find ourselves one kid short. It’s the quietest kid we’re missing, yet still the house feels a little bereft today.

I know I’m being sentimental, but to me this feels like the first big milestone of my kids growing up. Bit by bit they’re gaining independence, making memories apart from us.

I felt sad in the months leading up to this week, but even though I miss my boy like crazy, I suddenly find myself so very happy for him. This week away at camp is good and right; such a fun, valuable part of childhood. I love that he’s living his own story. It’s a gift to be a big part of that story, but I’m okay with letting go a little. I love the boy he’s becoming.

We get to send Judah emails throughout the week which are printed and given to him at lunch time. Here’s Noah’s message from today:

Dear Judah,

I can play Hobbit with you and play special toys with you. And I can play with the big Lego set too, and I can do Hobbit Hole reading with you. And I miss you really and I like you to sleep there because you had a good, good night. Obey your teacher and your class. Let’s sit in the chair together and read a book.

Love Noah

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noah two-year adoption interview.

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What’s your favorite…?

Fruit: Avocado

Vegetable: Peppers

Dinner: Soup

Treat: Chocolate donuts

Snack: Ring pops

What’s a food you really, really don’t like?
Lemons

Restaurant:
Go eat sushi and then go on a walk

What do you like to play outside?
Play with the water table, swim in pools

What do you like to play inside?
Play some toys

What is your favorite thing to do at the park?
I like climbing up, spinning, and I like eating snacks

What’s your favorite book?
My favorite book is Harry Potter

What do you like about swim practice?
Getting out and getting warm and having a snack like Cheerios

What don’t you like about swim practice?
I don’t prefer swimming

What’s your favorite TV show?
Batman and I like Voltron and Hoopa Ring (Pokemon)

What’s your favorite movie?
Lightening McQueen

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I wanna be a cooker who cooks

What are you really good at?
Making some snacks, making some dinner

 
What are you scared of?
Of a monster. At the night there’s a monster and it’ll scare me. But then I’ll wake up and see and then Gabey will wake up too and see a monster and be scared too.

What do you like to play with Judah?
Play some Legos and play some Everything is Awesome and play zombies and tag somebody and kill them (ghost zombie game)

What do you like to do with Amie?
I like to play with Amie’s Lego set

What do you like to play with Gabe?
With his storm trooper Lego sets

What do you like to do with Daddy?
I like to play fighting

What do you like to do with Mommy?
I like to play with toys and blocks

What’s your favorite thing about school?
Going to my class, having lunch

Who’s your best friend?
Sam

What do you want for your birthday?
A Hoopa Ring toy (from Pokemon)



gabriel two-year adoption interview.

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What’s your favorite…?

Fruit: Watermelon and cantaloupe and pineapple, grapes too

Vegetable: That’s a hard question. Broccoli.

Dinner: Inside-out pizza (calzones)

Treat: Decorations on desserts, all different kinds of decorations on donuts, cake or cookies

Snack: Oreos, the cookies you put on your finger like a ring (Fudge round cookies)

What’s a food you really, really don’t like?
All different kinds of veggies, salad

Restaurant: Papa John’s

What do you like to play with outside?
Ride bikes, play with the chickies

What do you like to play inside?
Make projects, play with my stuffies (stuffed animals), I like to play games, drink all different kinds of drinks but not grown-up drinks. I don’t really like coffee. I tried it once with a little sugar but I didn’t really like it. I like lemonade, fruit punch, and apple juice. I like boxes of juice.

What is your favorite thing to play at the park?
The splash pad

What’s your favorite book?
Superhero books, Star Wars, Elephant and Piggie, I like lots of different books

What do you like about swim practice?
The warm shower

What don’t you like about swim practice?
I have to swim in the cold water

What’s your favorite TV show?
Iron Man, Voltron, I like the girl elf in Voltron because she’s so pretty

What’s your favorite movie?
I like all three Toy Story movies

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A policeman to protect the whole world, and a daddy. A daddy policeman.

What are you really good at?
I’m really good at puzzles and at games. I think I’m good at hard games but first we have to read the instructions. I’m good at putting the ball in the hoop on our trampoline sometimes

What are you scared of?
That’s a really hard question. I’m not really scared of anything, even the dark is not scary. I think I’m scared of a thief if they come in the dark and grab my stuff but they don’t.

What do you like to play with Judah?
I like to play games with Judah, I like to play cannons with the blocks

What do you like to do with Amie?
I like to play with her in her fort

What do you like to play with Noah?
I like to play blocks

What do you like to do with Daddy?
I like to go on dates with Daddy and today we’re going to the Fireflies baseball game

What do you like to do with Mommy?
I like to do cooking

What’s your favorite thing about school?
My favorite part is the iPad

Who’s your best friend?
Sam, Judah, Amie, Noah

What do you want for your birthday?
A remote control



i’m still here!

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Hi friends!

I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up with the blog lately, and I feel bad about it. Not that I expect you to be sitting by your computer waiting for a post.

It’s so odd, really. For years I wanted to experience a home renovation so that I could take pictures and blog about the process, but I neglected to factor in one very important thing: that during the renovation I may have zero — and I mean zero — energy for blogging or really anything beyond laying on the sofa with glazed eyes and watching Netflix every night.

Ah well. I’m sure some of you could’ve told me that was a pretty good possibility.

I have absolutely no idea how these DIY-ers manage to do enormous home projects and also blog about them. They have all my respect. Meanwhile, I’m most certainly not a DIY-er, and I’m still just hanging on for dear life.

Things got a whole lot harder here during the last third of the addition when a giant hole was cut in our living room wall, and various and sundry people began traipsing in and out every day. Oh and there’s the dust. And the noise. And the piles of clutter around our house. And a lot of kids to keep out of everyone’s way.

And the shopping. I know, I know, you’re like, wait, she’s complaining about shopping now? Must be nice. But as anyone who’s ever experienced a house or yard project can attest, you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot on average 1.5 times a day. There are so many decisions, about things I never in my life expected to care about, but are suddenly vitally important. And remember this: whatever you buy will have to be exchanged at least once.

Yesterday I’m pretty sure I blanked out at least two times in Target, and when I came to I was wandering aimlessly in an aisle and had no idea how I got there. It’s bad, people.

For all their challenges, here’s where Gabe and Noah are just the best.

Me: “Hey, guys, I’m sorry to say this, but we actually need to go back to Lowe’s.” Amie and Judah: “Noooooooo!!!!” Gabe and Noah: “Yay!!!! Lowe’s!!!!!”

And enough of my whining already, right? I mean, I’m getting another bathroom! And a bedroom! And a closet! And a lovely little hallway for books and plants. Truly, I’m very very thankful, and David and I say constantly that it’s going to be worth every inconvenience and every penny we’ve spent. It’s turning out better than we ever imagined it could be.

Also, we couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant group of people working on our house: not just our builder and his crew, but all his subcontractors have been so nice that Amie said, “I’ll be so sad when all the workers leave” (that’s my extroverted child speaking).

We’re almost there! We’re so close we can just about reach out and touch it. Maybe two weeks until we can move in? That’s nothing, right!?

Tell me that’s nothing.

And now, because I’ve proven to us all I’m definitely not one of those cool DIY bloggers, can I please just give you a hodge-podge of low-quality phone pics to fill you in on our month?

Thanks!

Okay, first, the house!

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We have brick! Actually these photos are outdated. The brick is completely finished, and I’ll post more after the masons come this weekend and clean of the mortar and it looks all nice and crisp (who am I kidding, I’ll probably post photos a couple weeks after the fact).

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Oh, how much my little guys are going to miss having an “instruction site” in our yard. They were mesmerized by this dumpster exchange. And meanwhile, I was consumed with guilt over the fact that our little house project has generated over a dumpster’s worth of waste. Wendell Berry would be horrified. Please don’t tell him.

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For those who are interested, here’s the roof tie-in from the back yard. Isn’t it cute?

And speaking of back yard . . .

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A few weeks ago, the kids and I went on a lovely field trip to a nearby family-owned farm outside Columbia, and the farmer showed me this whole area where she lets her one-year-old daughter garden to her heart’s content. I told David how inspiring it was, and about two days later he put in a third raised garden bed, for our kiddos.

The other two beds are David’s babies. He loves them. He tends them. It’s one of his favorite ways of unwinding. But we want our kids to learn the gardening process and to be able to do it all by themselves, so this bed is for them. Soil and plants aren’t especially cheap, so it’s more than “digging in the dirt.” There are rules. Think of it as a little hands-on class. They are thrilled.

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And now we go inside!

Here’s our new doorway, in all it’s glory. I love that Scott made it larger than a traditional doorway, in order to let in more natural light from that window. The bookcase to the left will go in Judah’s room to open up that space more, and those books will be moved to the new built-ins, which will be in the nook to the left when you walk through the addition doorway. The brown chair will go elsewhere too.

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We’re doing the painting ourselves in order to save money, and by “we” I mean mostly David, with some help from my brother and me. It’s a whole lot of painting, especially with all the new trim. Some pieces were primed but still need two coats. He’s been wonderful about it.

I really wanted to go with an almost-white to make our space look big and light-filled, but worried that all white would feel a bit stark. So our exact color is Olympic Hourglass, which is a very-slightly-gray white. The trim and doors will be the Behr paint match of Benjamin Moore Simply White (I highly recommend this color if you’re looking for a true white; I got the tip from Young House Love).

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The hardwood floors will be sanded and stained next week to match the floors throughout our house.

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Here’s our closet! After getting the quote for custom shelving, we decided to go with an IKEA metal rack system, which is considerably less expensive. There will be carpet in here too.

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And here, my friends, is the bathroom. In the last two weeks the shower and floor were tiled. We planned to save money and use vinyl flooring in the bathroom right up until this very week. The cost turned out to be reasonable, since we went with larger tiles, and we are so, so glad we did it.

I found our bathroom paint color on an HGTV Pinterest post: it’s the Olympic brand of Sherwin Williams Intellectual Gray (from Fixer Upper!), and it’s a Gray/Taupe. I spent some time really stressing that it was too dark (of course it was the one color we didn’t get a sample of), but the light floors and cabinets make it look better. I wanted it to feel cozy and I think it does!

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Look at this shower! We think it’s stunning. We wanted to go with subway tile with an inset and little shelf, and because we were willing to use remnants from our builder and the tile guy, we got the floor tile and that pretty inset design for free. We still walk in the bathroom and look at each other and say, “This can’t really be ours.”

Actually our other bathroom is kind of disintegrating during this building process (for example, we now have to use a wrench to turn on the hot water, and more floor penny tiles pop free daily), so I have a pretty sneaking suspicion that the entire family will be using the new bathroom for the foreseeable future. That’s okay: at least we’ll all comfortably fit, right?

If you’re wondering what all my Home Depot and Lowe’s trips consist of, let me give you a list of things we’ve needed to provide: shower tile, door knobs, cabinet hardware, sink faucets, all paint and primer, light fixtures, mirrors, shower head kit and shower curtain, towels, towel rack, toilet paper dispenser, closet shelving system, not to mention furniture for our room and Amie’s.

Okay, now that I look at it written out, it doesn’t seem like that much stuff. Why, oh why, does it feel like it?

Whew. Let’s move on:

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My baby is a Classical Conversations Memory Master! He did it! He was tested on 400 pieces of information from our school year in the subjects of Latin, English Grammar, History, Math, and Science, and had to achieve one hundred percent in order to get the award. He was the youngest student at our CC campus to become a Memory Master this year.

Words cannot express how proud I am of him. It’s not that I care if all my kids are Memory Masters. But God has given Judah an amazing mind, and I loved seeing him set a new goal this year and work hard for it and do his best. We told him he’d get the reward of a fun experience if he became a Memory Master, and I’ll let him tell you about that in a post after the experience.

We had our CC end-of-year program on Monday, and have just about three days of school left before we’re officially finished. It seems early, I know, but last year we started back during the summer, and that worked really well for us, so we plan to do it again.

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Monday was a big day for another reason: we celebrated two years with Gabe and Noah.

Two years! Can you believe it?

I’ll give you an adoption post here soon, probably after the addition is finished, because I have some thoughts. But I’ll just say now that choosing to adopt our boys is the hardest and best thing we’ve ever done.

It’s a mark of what God has done in making us a family that we had to consider how exactly to celebrate this anniversary, because they don’t even really think of themselves as adopted now. They’re just ours.

But we love adoption and want to celebrate it and support it for the rest of our lives, and of course we know one day they will have lots more questions. And so we decided our family’s annual Adoption Day tradition will be Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. The kids loved it!

Today David took the two older kids on a big hike in the Greenville area, and I took Gabe and Noah to the zoo and to Chick-Fil-A. Personally, it was my favorite two-year celebration because it’s rare that I get to be alone with just the two of them, just having fun. Spending today enjoying my boys felt beautiful. They make my life better.

Thank you for enduring my long-windedness, my friends!

And now will you do something for me?

I know all of you have your own busy, stressful lives, but if you get a moment, shoot me an email or text letting me know what’s up with you! What’s the hardest part of life right now? What’s the best? (those could actually be the same thing)

I love hearing from you and hate that this blog often feels like a one-sided conversation. In all of the construction stress, the most restful thing for me is to NOT think about the construction. I love hearing from my friends and family (and internet friends! you’re not a blog stalker!).

Happy Friday!





five things on friday.

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1. We’re recovering from two weeks of sickness. Not the flu, thankfully, but a bad virus that we all passed around and just lingered until I finally took the kids to the doctor on Tuesday. Turns out the three oldest had sinus infections and Noah had a double-ear infection. Poor things! It was kind of miserable, because I caught it on the front end, got better for a few days, then caught it again from someone else.

Thankfully I’m healthy again, and after a few days of antibiotics the kids are much more like themselves too, although let me tell you what, dispensing different doses of antibiotics twice a day for four children is not for the faint of heart.

Now we’re all more than ready to resume our normal routines next week. I consider myself a homebody but this bout of illness made even me stir-crazy!

2. Judah and Amelie finished their first swim competition season on a great note. They worked hard and overcame some fears and their last meet at the end of January was the smoothest yet. Still a little nerve-wracking, but no tears. More smiles and more thumbs-up to their cheering section in the stands. They’re both great swimmers and I love seeing them gain some confidence.

Before the meet, David said to Judah: “You know what buddy, after your very first race when you messed up and were embarrassed and wanted to quit? You know how you came back and swam again and finished the whole meet? Well, that was the proudest I’ve ever been of you.”

Later Judah said, “When Dad says stuff like that to me, I feel like I can do anything.”

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3. All eight of our chickies are alive and growing and as cute as they can possibly be. It turns out I’m a very happy chick-owner; and I’m more surprised about that than anyone.

I put off getting animals because I thought they’ve be a nuisance; one more chore that falls to Mom. But first of all: Amie adores her girls and, along with David, does most of the feeding and watering. Of course I think it makes a big difference that they’re outdoor pets. I just cannot imagine owning an indoor pet with all these kids.

But also, I care about them a whole lot more than I expected. I love their bright, curious eyes and how they each look just a little bit different. I like that some are feisty and wild and some like to be held. I even liked scrubbing their Tupperware bin home in the sunshine on Wednesday, and then making it all cozy again with a layer of pine shavings. I try to take time every single day to walk down to the basement and hold them and talk to them and freshen up their water.

It’s simply impossible to be in a bad mood when holding a baby chick.

4. Which brings me to my next point. This morning some fun plans we had were canceled and the kids were very disappointed. We had to talk through a couple of their reactions, but Judah came back said later, “You know what, Mom, after I heard the news I went to my room to build Legos because I knew it would make me feel more calm.”

And so that launched a discussion about things we can choose to do when we’re feeling angry or frustrated to help us calm down, rather than lose our temper. I was amazed that each of the three oldest had something that they knew right away makes them feel better.

Judah: “jump on the trampoline or build Legos,” Amie: “curl up with my stuffed animals, visit the chicks”, Gabe: “build a puzzle.” We all told Noah his calming activity is to go outside and dig for bugs (and when available, fire pits are a close second). Mom: “go for a walk, hold the chickies, go to the library.”

It was such a sweet, rambling conversations, one of those that made me think, Wow, my kids are actually becoming my friends.

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5. I’m making it a goal to learn names of native South Carolina trees and shrubs. My mom and Linda are a fount of information, and when I walk with them I ask them to tell me names of things. It feels very overwhelming to begin, so I’ve decided to focus just on what’s in bloom. Then I try to write what I learned in my bullet journal so I can practice on my run or when I’m driving.

Here’s what I learned to identify (and what’s blooming!) this week:

Forsythia

Camellia

Tulip poplar

Loropetalum

Nandina

What’s blooming where you live?

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Happy Friday!



winter bookshelf for the kids (and kids-at-heart).

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Friends!! I’m so sorry this took me forever, clearly I overestimated my ability to hammer it out really quick.

I hope it’s worth the wait.

I had so much fun writing this post. Children’s books are an unending source of delight to me, and the most amazing thing is how many wonderful books I’m discovering these days that I never knew existed. I read middle grade and young adult fiction to myself for fun (books my kids may not be ready for yet), but when I find a new picture or children’s book title I like to wait to discover it with them for the first time.

C.S. Lewis said that the mark of a good children’s book is that grown-ups enjoy it too, and I whole-heartedly agree with him.

This may be controversial, but I’ll just go ahead and say it: I let my kids check character books out of the library (like Tinker Bell, Star Wars, Lego Ninjago), but I don’t read them aloud to them. They can look at the pictures, ask a sibling to read it to them, or wait ’til they can read it themselves. By now they know the rule and now don’t even ask me to anymore.

I want to spend the energy I have reading really good, well-written books to my kiddos, but I also want reading to be delightful and fun for all of us.

So because of that, I also don’t give my kids a hard time if they don’t love a book that I love. Like, for some reason, they just haven’t been fans of Robert McCloskey’s picture books, like Make Way For Ducklings, which are on every classic children’s book list I’ve ever seen. But what can I do? I try introduce lots of great books to them, and give them space to form their own opinions. If they don’t like something I’ve been known to wait several months or a year and just try it again.

My current favorite sources for kids’ book ideas are Read-Aloud Revival and Sonlight (full credit to Sonlight for helping me discover most of the chapter books on today’s list).

Here we go!

Picture books

When it comes to picture books, I’ll typically settle on an author we like and work my way through their books, getting a couple at a time. Often this involves typing the author’s name into Google to see what all they’ve written, then requesting books from the library, but sometimes I’ll just find the author at the library and flip through titles there.

The following are tried-and-true authors that ALL my kids enjoy (and me too!); they are books we have read and reread and reread again.

I’d also like to point out that this list could provide gift ideas if you want it to (see how versatile it is!?). If we’re invited to a child’s birthday party I ALWAYS give books. They’re fun for baby showers too! I still remember books that people gave us when Judah was born. Do the recipient a favor, pretty please, and write the date and a message inside. It’s such a fun treat for them to discover when they learn to read for themselves.

Sandra Boynton

Thank you to our family: Pat, Cathy, and Annie for getting us hooked on Sandra Boynton when Judah was a toddler! These are family favorite board books and all these years later, we own most of them and still read them together. Blue Hat, Green Hat is the book that all four kids delightedly learned to “read” first, and it’s their favorite. We’ve also completely memorized Pajama Time! and Hey! Wake Up! Please just do yourself a favor and read them all.

 

Mo Willems

If you are down and need a pick-me-up, look no further than Elephant and Piggie. Their friendship reminds us that life is sweet and should not be taken too seriously, and that laughter is the best medicine. We own several of them but also always have one in our stack out from the library. They’re Gabe’s current favorites, and I tell him that Waiting Is Not Easy is the book we read over and over to comfort ourselves when we were waiting for him and Noah to come into our lives. It still makes me cry to this day (and is a great gift for any adoptive parent).

The Knuffle Bunny series by Mo Willems is a little lesser known but just as brilliant as Elephant and Piggie. These three books are ones the grown-ups especially love.

Finally, City Dog, Country Frog, is a hidden Mo Willems gem in my opinion. It’s a little more serious than his other books, but a beautiful, touching story.

 

Shirley Hughes

I stumbled upon Shirley Hughes on a website once, and couldn’t believe we’d never heard of this lovely English author! You’ll enjoy her artwork just as much as her writing. We’ve almost completely worked our way through her books, and there’s lots of them (don’t you just love prolific authors?). Start with the Alfie and Annie Rose series. The Tales of Trotter Street  series is a favorite of ours too.

 

Jonathan Bean

I discovered Jonathan Bean on a Read-Aloud Revival podcast episode and love, love his books and illustrations. I’ve been buying them over time because they’re the kind of books I want to share with my grandkids one day. His stories Building Our House and This Is My Home, This Is My School, are from his childhood (he includes family photographs in the back!). It’s so fun for our kids to have a picture book that’s about a homeschooling family. We love Big Snow and At Night too.

 

Jane O’Connor

These are hands-down Amie’s favorite books. She never gets tired of them, and heads straight for the Fancy Nancy books when we arrive at the library. I enjoy them because Nancy is, well, fancy, and her mom is plain, and somehow they find ways to meet in the middle. Sounds like another mother-daughter relationship I know of!

 

Rosemary Wells

Rosemary Wells is so fun! Yoko is story about a cat who brings sushi to school for lunch, and her classmates’ response. We have Noisy Nora in our stack now, and the Max books are sweet too.

 

Kevin Henkes

Our favorite is A Weekend With Wendell. We also love Owen, and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. I’ve never met a Kevin Henkes book I didn’t enjoy! But they check out like hot potatoes in our library, so I usually have to get online and request them.

 

Henry and Pawl and the Round Yellow Ball, Mary GrandPre, Tom Casmer

This isn’t a series but is a sweet story of a boy who wants to be an artist. It was given to us when Judah was born and has been a favorite for a long time (Which delightful person gave this to us!? How I wish I could remember. If it was you, please speak up! See, there’s a good reason for you to write a note in the books you gift). I think I read it twice a day to Judah for a good long stretch. It has the added delight for him now of being written by the illustrator of the Harry Potter series.

 

Jaqueline Woodson

Jaqueline Woodson’s children’s books are thoughtful and compassionate.  Her stories touch on race, poverty, incarceration, and foster care in age-appropriate ways. I first found this book after our adoption and it helped me understand what my boys were feeling just a little better.

 

Chapter books

Wonder, R.J. Palacio

This is aching yet heart-warming story about a young boy with a facial deformity named August, and his transition from being homeschooled to attending middle school. It’s a beautiful example of the power of story to take us outside ourselves and allow us to walk in other people’s shoes. I don’t typically like books written from multiple points of view, but the effect was powerful in this case. Everyone can find themselves in the pages of this novel, which I’d say is for older elementary students or middle schoolers (and high schoolers! and grown ups!). I plan to have my kids read it in fourth or fifth grade, and I look forward to discussing it with them.

 

The Family Under the Bridge, Natalie Savage Carlson

This story about a homeless family and the stranger they meet takes place in Paris, and my kids immediately recognized the illustrator from the Little House on the Prairie books. I could see in their eyes that it was the first time poverty became personal to them, and we enjoyed this sweet story and also had lots to talk about.

 

Here’s a Penny, Carolyn Haywood

The adventures and misadventures of a young, adopted boy named Penny, set in the 1940’s. We thoroughly enjoyed this story (especially the ending), and it’s sequel.

 

The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin was a favorite from my childhood; last month my mom gave me the beautifully illustrated copy we’ve had in our family for years, and it was our December school read aloud. This is a fantastic, fast-paced story for both boys and girls; even Gabe, who’s known to get bored of chapter books, was swept up (because I mean: goblins!!!).

 

The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes

This is a book for every young girl’s bookshelf. It’s about poverty and gossip and cliques. I want to reread it with Amie as she grows up.

 

Adventures with Waffles, Maria Parr

This was a bedtime read for Judah, Amie, and me this winter. Set in Norway, it’s about best friends Trille and Lena, who find themselves in one catastrophe after another. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and also had me choked up a couple of times. Judah loved it so much he chose to talk about it in a school presentation.

 

In Grandma’s Attic, Arleta Richardson

It made me so happy that my kids enjoy this series as much as I did as a little girl. In some ways reminiscent of the Little House books, it’s full of funny stories of a girl growing up on a farm.

 

No Children, No Pets, Marion Holland

Judah, Amie, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a single mom and her kids who inherit a ramshackle hotel in Florida.

 

Father and I Were Ranchers, Ralph Moody

We just finished this true story about a family who moves to a cattle ranch in the early 1900’s for our kid’s book club. Our kids have gotten hours of imaginative play ideas from it. A couple warnings: it has a sad ending, and there’s some “cowboy language” you’ll want to skip over, but other than that it was just about perfect. Little Britches is a whole series, and Judah’s just now starting the second book, Man of the Family. I want to read it too!

 

Finally, if you’re looking for more chapter books, especially for boys, here are:

Judah’s recommendations (age 9)

Captain Nobody, Dean Pitchford

Homer Price, Robert McCloskey

The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein

Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling

The Wingfeather Saga series, Andrew Peterson

 

I already have enough picture books/authors for another post, so I’ll write you another in awhile (with my track record, better plan on it being a long while). In the meantime, you know I always love recommendations!

Even if you don’t have kids, may I suggest making time for children’s books? Go sit yourself in the kids’ section of the library and pull a few off the shelf. The great ones never, ever fail to move me and lift my spirits.

Happy reading!

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a birthday post.

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Hi friends!

Yesterday was my 35th birthday! Can you believe it!? It feels like a sort of milestone. I’m halfway to 70!

I’m really not one to be sentimental about my kids getting older (I love older kids!), but yesterday I had a sort of earth-shaking revelation: I’m 35. Judah is 9 1/2. That means I’ve lived exactly one half of the life I have with him at home, before he spreads his wings and flies away.

A few moments of heart-thumping panic, and then I moved on.

Here’s to seizing the next nine years with my boy and choosing not to be consumed by guilt!

Here’s to having lived one-third of my life married to David!

Here’s to barrelling full ahead to 40!

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I always like to know how people enjoy celebrating their birthdays, so I’ve decided to tell you how I celebrated mine.

The kids and I made an executive decision this year that everyone gets their birthday off school, including Mom. So I planned the school calendar accordingly.

I know it’s not possible for everyone, but if you get the chance, it’s fun to take the day off on your birthday!

David offered to pick up breakfast treats from a bakery, but I knew in the end we’d all prefer cinnamon rolls, so I whipped up a batch Monday afternoon.

I planned to sleep in, but popped awake at 6:30 and was happy for a chance to sit with a cup of coffee and my Bible before the kids woke up.

At breakfast time, we gathered for cinnamon rolls, and I got to open my cards and gifts.

David and the kids gave me Little Dorrit in hardcover and dark chocolate, a garlic press, and a gift card to the Nickelodeon theater downtown to see La La Land (David’s love for me does not quite extend to musicals, but he’s more than happy to send me with my mom).

I got birthday money from family, which I’ll use for books and to go shoe-shopping with my brother tomorrow. Hooray!

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This year each of the kids made me something special:

“A picture of Daddy on the trampoline” from Gabe

A “light saber” from Noah

Two friendship bracelets and a card from Amie

A bookmark for my new book from Judah that says “Julia for President”

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Even better than those sweet gifts is the shower of cuddles and hugs I got all morning from my two littlest boys, who weren’t doling those out so freely this time last year.

After breakfast, David and I needed to sit and have a conversation about our school path in the fall, because if you can believe it, open enrollment practically everywhere is now.

Like a total nerd, I made a huge pros/cons list in my bullet journal, and after processing it all, we unanimously agreed to keep on the exact same path for next year: Classical Conversations homeschooling.

Homeschooling makes me tired, but it is a good, worth-it kind of tired. I’m so thankful for all well it still suits all four kiddos.

It’s good to have that decision behind us, pay next year’s deposit, and move on with life!

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We played a few rounds of our current favorite game: Rat-A-Tat-Cat, and then David headed in to work. The little kids went outside and Judah and I settled in for a game of Battleship, sharing a box of Kleenex.

Several of us have a virus this week, so I was thankful for this very lazy morning at home, and turned on Sid the Science Kid for an hour before lunch so I could sit in the sunlight on the back porch with my new book.

It’s no fun being sick on your birthday, but here’s what is fun: a 70-degree day, eight growing chickies in our basement, and the two rows of onions David planted this week.

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The other sad part of the day was Noah’s 4-year-old doctor well visit at 3:30. We dropped Gabe and Amelie at Mum-Mum’s and headed to our pediatrician in West Columbia (Judah came along for moral support). We love our doctor, but if you’ve had a four-year-old, you know that this particular check-up is just the worst because: a finger prick and four shots.

I fortified myself beforehand by stopping at the Starbucks drive-through for a tall Cascara latte (have you tried it? It is divine).

Speaking of dessert, we have a tradition of stopping for a mini milkshake from Sonic after shots, which I remind my kids of beforehand, but Noah was still a little sad. My three older kids would’ve been crying from start to finish of the check-up, but he was very mature in his sorrow, just hung his head and looked depressed in a very 12-year-old way. The wailing started when the shots started though.

Poor buddy. Does anyone else get choked up when their kids get shots?

But we did it!

A trip to the Prize Box and a milkshake was very comforting.

That was my last four-year-old check up.

Sweet Noah is in the 19th percentile for height and the 6th for weight: the little guy of the family. We think he’s pretty darn cute!!

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We had plans to go out for sushi to this wonderful hole-in-the-wall place downtown that makes tiny California rolls for kids, but since several of us are sick, we’ll save it for another time.

My parents stopped by after work with homemade chicken noodle soup (made-from-scratch noodles!!!), and it felt good to just hole up all evening and go to bed early. I think you become quite boring when you’re 35.

David and I watched the first episode of the BBC show Sherlock, and enjoyed it but probably won’t continue with the series. I can’t explain why, it’s just the way we are. The only series we’ve ever completely finished is The Wire, and we came pretty close with The Office but fizzled out, and that was years ago. If you’re wondering about me, here are the series I’ve finished: Parks and Rec (two times at least), Parenthood, and Call the Midwife.

Anyway.

I’m excited about Little Dorrit!

Word to the wise: if you’re going to tackle a big long classic novel, try to find a nice hardcover edition. It sounds shallow I know, but it truly changes everything. And I love having my very own copy to underline!

I loved this birthday: thanks to everyone for loving me and making me feel special.

It’s good to be alive!

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