Book Notes: May

A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola:
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; I’d first tried to read a book by Charlotte Mason but didn’t get much past chapter 1. It was helpful to have someone “Translate” her into such a conversational, easy-to-read type of book. I am also happy to have discovered the Charlotte Mason way of homeschooling—homeschooling in general is pretty foreign to me, but I feel much confirmed in our reasons for wanting to homeschool and more informed in how to go about it.

Grace Notes by Rita Dove
For some reason I thought this was a newer book of hers (I sometimes grab books randomly from the poetry section while trying to simultaneously keep an eye on the girls). I liked it mostly except for section Four which was overly self-conscious in my opinion.

And Short the Season by Maxine Kumin
I almost couldn’t finish this book—lovely descriptive language here and there but it seemed to lack…heart or caring perhaps? It felt more like I was reading her writing exercises—none of the poems seemed like there was much invested in them, emotionally.

Rereading:

Imago Dei: An Anthology of Poetry Published in Christianity and Literature: a good anthology for its mix of styles and perspectives, all writing religious poems

Let Go by Francois Fenelon: A slim volume of letters a priest wrote to members of his congregation. Much on suffering and dying to self.

Reading to the Girls:
A Child’s Anthology of Poetry edited by Elizabeth Hauge Sword: Includes Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost. Not your typical “children’s” poetry anthology. I’ve enjoyed reading the girls a mix of nursery rhyme poetry with legitimate modern poetry (they liked Bishop’s “The Fish” surprisingly well!)

Uncle Wiggly’s Storybook by Jim Weiss: I read this as a child (in fact, we’re using my childhood copy). Moralistic tales about a rabbit’s encounters with good and sick and well and bad children (who all reform in some way or other). The storytelling is in a charming tone, and I like that the vocabulary is complex for a book of children’s stories.

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What have you read this month? Any book recommendations?

The Importance of Self-Care

When Zu was around 22 months old and June was a colicky, fussy newborn I felt like the worst mom in the world. Like if it were a title, I would win it. I was constantly feeling overwhelmed, drowning in the never-ending rip-tide of Need.

So the one who could wait—me, obviously—would just have to wait for whatever that one needed. I’d put off meals because the girls needed to be fed (then changed and naps and then one would need one thing while the other needed something else), or showers, or make-up, or time alone, I reasoned that since I was the grown-up, I could just put some of those things off until the kids got what they needed.

The problem was I was sometimes skipping entirely what I needed because the kids were both babies and needed me constantly—as a result, I wasn’t just grumpy, frazzled and overwhelmed, I was snappy with my family and sometimes almost panicked feeling, especially when June had her crying fits (11 to 3a.m., her Angry Hours).

I don’t remember when it was exactly, maybe when June was around 6 months old, that I knew I had to change something, so I started having snacks. And I found it was a lot easier to feel patient and not-overwhelmed when I wasn’t so hungry. Then I started making it more of a priority to shower and get “dressed for the day” every morning. Little by little, things were getting better.

In various other crazy hectic survival-mode times of life with littles, I’ve found that one of the most important things for me to keep doing is taking care of myself. It sounds selfish and is counter-intuitive to me—I thought it would make more sense to just take care of them first, then what I needed later—but the kids never stop needing, so if I don’t take care of what I need, then I’m not able to be as good of a mom as I could be. ( the “oxygen-mask” metaphor, Mom’s Night Out).

Every person has their different priorities of needs, and I think its important to know what those are before going into a new busy season. I’ve been thinking on mine lately, and on my husband’s, so that when babygirl #3 makes her appearance, we can slow down and enjoy her as much as possible.

For my husband, sleep is #1 priority, but for me, my list is more like this:

Self-Care Needs
(for Me To be a Good Momma and Not a Cranky, Overwhelmed Crazy Woman)

  1. Food
    When trying to lose the baby weight, it is tempting for me to skip snacks and skimp on meals, but when I don’t get enough to eat, I get snappy or faint, neither of which is good.
  2. Some Personal Hygiene
    (I’m not one that NEEDS a full face of make up and my hair perfect, but I must have a shower, wear my contacts, and wear real clothes—no sweatpants.)
  3. Somewhat Clean Environment
    (Everyone has different priorities with cleanliness—what bothers me the most is when the house starts to feel too cluttered or the dishes pile up too high.)
  4. Some Alone Time
    (this is the hardest one to come by, but I really do need it and I’m willing to make some sacrifices to get it—lately that’s meant waking up at 5a.m. to have an hour to myself before the girls wake up. as an introvert—INTJ personality—I need some quiet before the chaos, to pray, to be alone with my thoughts, to write.)
  1. One-on-One Time with Bryan
    (oh to have a conversation un-interrupted by mommy, mommy, mommy… or waaaaaahhhhh)

Sleep isn’t a huge deal for me—I mean, obviously I am not a robot and so I must sleep—I just do ok with having less sleep or cat-naps here and there. I can also do fine without socialization or lots of time outside the house. Both of those things would be high up on my husband’s needs list but barely make it to mine.

So though I guess it sounds selfish, I do plan on taking time to take care of myself (the oxygen mask!), even with three little girls needing me this fall.

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What is your self-care priority list? Similar or very different from mine?

the heart | post 9

thisquiethour:

whatever God has given you to do (YOU, not your neighbor, not your husband, not the mom that sits next to you in mom’s group)–do it joyfully, to his glory!

{ and more on this, by a gifted young writer —

Originally posted on until i read what i say:

“All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair… All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD has commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering.” Exodus 35:26, 29

God has given Moses the blue prints for his tabernacle. And there is something for the Israelite women to do. There is something for them to give — their skill. Taught to them by their mother, cultivated through childhood until this day, their ability to spin and weave was important, it was necessary in the building of the tabernacle, the dwelling place of the Almighty God.

The place where the LORD chose to meet with His people needed the hands of His women to make it a reality.

He needed their talent, their knowledge – which He…

View original 369 more words

do you enjoy your kids?

Of course you love your children—you feed them, change them, bathe them, tuck them in at night. But do you Enjoy them?

“What loving parent wouldn’t give his or her life for a child? But as we break that life down into smaller increments, it is simply made up of time: minutes, hours, days, and years. We may be ready to sacrifice blood for our beloveds in times of crisis, but not always our precious day to day time.” –Never Say No, Mark Foreman

I confess that there are times I’ve viewed my children as tasks. Times, especially when June was a newborn, when zuzu would wake up and I would see her as my to-do list—ok, fix breakfast, change her clothes, brush her teeth and hair…

God has called us to more than that as parents. He does more than that for us—God doesn’t just tolerate his children, he enjoys us!

This concept is still new to me, honestly. Growing up in the bible-belt where legalistic thinking rules the roost, I was mainly happy that God decided to spare me and that he tolerated me (that I had “my own little shack in the corner of heaven”, as they say). I knew he loved me, but not that he liked me.

God didn’t let his Son die for people he could barely tolerate—we’re his beloved sons and daughters:

He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zeph. 3:17

I want to enjoy my children (and husband!) the way God enjoys me. It might mean getting down on the floor to play ponies or reading that book the 112th time or playing in the sprinkler while the kitchen sink is full and the tubs are dirty.

Children aren’t just an interruption of schedule, aren’t just something to check off the list. When i’m holding on to my own time so tightly, what am I saving it up for that is more important than truly loving and enjoying my children? What am i missing out on when I refuse (or softly refuse by saying “not now” or “later”) to put aside all my adult worries and tasks to play make-believe or pull out the bubbles and sprinkler or swing low sweet chariot?

the tasks are more temporary than the playtime they want fro me. Why keep a clean house anyway? To create an inviting and comfortable home for my family. But that comfortable inviting environment is meaningless if it doesn’t house a family that enjoys each other. Sometimes the tasks and to-dos have to take a back seat; in fact, maybe most times they should.

So what I’m praying about this week and correcting in my day-to-day is how I enjoy my children. Am I more bent on accomplishment (whether that accomplishment is a new poem or a swept floor) or am I focused on what is more important, enjoying these living blessings God has given me?

Getting ready to welcome our third baby girl into the family, I know this is something I’ll have to make a mantra of in my mind—when all of the immediate physical needs of my little ones drive me to the just-get-stuff-done mode of living, where its so easy to forget to sit down and talk to zuzu about her day, or get my goodmorning hug and kiss from june, or hold that sweet impossibly small newborn against my chest and just breathe in her newness.

God enjoys his children and I will enjoy mine too.

A Praise Song by Renee Emerson

Praise Him in rising,  for wake-cries of Mama,
for the run down the hall, pretending to be
pirates, ballerinas, pet-tigers, grown-up mommies.

For breakfast first thing, for boiled eggs
and good oatmeal toast. For just-brushed
teeth, the dishes filling up the sink, testimonies
to satisfied bellies, spent hungers.
Praise Him for  toddler-limbed girls
clustered close to me on our frayed
sofa, so I can read them a book, our
mix-matched pajamas a clutter of colors.
Praise, Praise, for the sleepy-time
soothe-scent shampoo of their hair,
Johnson baby lotion of their skin.
For the catechism of diaper change,
pull-up change, potty-time,
of fishing sippies out from beneath
chairs and couches, the depths of the over-
crowded monastery of the toybox.
For the music of the first cup
of coffee brewing, the rough prayer
of the second, of whining and pulled hair,
of another round of Jesus Loves Me.
Praise Him, Praise Him, for the laundry
they unfolded, sprawled like Lavender
-scented fragments of prayer across
ordinary living room carpet.

For the morning, for the run down the hall,
for another round of Jesus Loves Me.

miscellany vol. 21

It’s been almost a month since the Big Move and we’re settling in faster than I thought. We moved into the house two weeks ago and already it feels like home (possibly because of my crazy nesting hormones…we were unpacked in a week!). I love the neighborhood, I love the fenced back yard with actual grass (mostly clover but some grass anyway!), and that the driveway is flat so zu learned to actually ride her tricycle and that its so much easier to take the kids outside to play (without having to scale a mountain, like our old backyard).100_8667

I miss our friends though—what we want to work on in the next couple months is finding community here. We joined a church and have started visiting around with life groups. I’m not used to being part of a big church—it seems like they have something or other going on every night. But everyone has been really friendly and welcoming.

Bryan: starts his new job on Monday—it’s an entry level job, but the hours (oh the hours!) and the salary are better than what he had in rome. plus, he gets to be around people all day everyday, which he loves.

The girls: I started “homeschooling” the girls a couple weeks ago. We’re doing “God’s Little Explorers” (the cheapo free version). I’ve liked having a “curriculum” since it gives me a direction to go in, since I’m not naturally a super crafty person. it’s a bit of a weird time to start homeschooling, but the plan is to go until the first of july then take a couple months off after wendy’s born, starting back up again in September or October. it depends on the girls though—zu loves doing her homeschool lessons and asks me all the time “can we do more school?”.

June wants to be potty-trained, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for it—isn’t it supposed to be bad to start them right before a new sibling comes?—so we’re sort of half-way casually doing it. if she asks to go potty, we put her on the potty.

Zu has had a few moments where she’s cried, missing her old room or old kindermusik or old friends. Overall though, I think she’s settling in here—she (and june) love being close to family, she’s “the new girl” so very popular in her new kindermusik, and she likes playing in nursery at the church on Sundays.

I’ve been on the fence about sending them to mother’s-day-out at the church this fall. sending them or not sending them, neither decision is “bad”—which is what makes it hard. So really I just need to choose. On one hand, it would be nice to have a day with just me and wendy, so we can bond and I can possibly do some work. on the other hand, we plan on being pretty involved with this church and I don’t want our family to get over-scheduled.

As for me: I’m teaching an online class this summer and updating two online classes. Everything will be done by the end of june though, so I’ll have more time to do a bit more decorating in wendy’s nursery, and fold and refold her cute little onesies, so very tiny!

100_8674Being in the third trimester is no fun. I feel achey, big and awkward, and my hormones/emotions are just everywhere. It makes it hard to go out and meet so many new people because I just want to Introvert. I’m also the stage where I start wondering what in the world we were thinking, can we handle three, how can I appropriately parent and show grace and love to three kids so close in age, is this fair to the girls to give them another sibling so soon, etc. its also the stage where bryan and I agree that this is our LAST BABY (until this “last” baby is a year old and we get baby fever real bad and I’m pregnant again). but I am ready to meet this little girl—I can’t wait to see if she’s got eyes like zu or hair like june—or if I finally have a baby that looks a little like me!

This month I’ve finally managed to start getting up before the girls in the morning! it means waking up at 5, but it gives me about an hour to read and pray and write. writing poetry is part of my “quiet time” in the morning, so I’ve been pretty productive lately with that—I finished the first draft of my second manuscript (just a draft—I plan on editing it for the next year before I even think of sending it anywhere).

So on into summer! Time to go find four leaf clovers and play with whirligigs.

book notes: April

The Berenstain Bears, God Made You Special by Mike Berenstain
This Berenstein Bears is much more Christian-focused than the books I grew up with, but Zuzu and June enjoyed this book. It is about the bear family having a picnic with their best friend family, the Bruins, who bring along a cousin who is developmentally delayed. Sister bear asks some questions about the bear cub that’s a little different, and the momma bears answer her questions encouraging her to include him and approaching it from a Christian perspective. I think this book could be a useful tool for talking to a toddler about children who are different from them and giving them ideas on how to interact with those kids.

(I received this book from booklook bloggers for review)

Novel Interiors by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti 

This is a pretty coffee-table book of interiors inspired by different novels. I’ve not read all the ones that they mention, but some of them (like Austen novels) were fun to look at and imagine how I could implement some of the ideas in my own home. I think that overall it could have done with a little bit more DIY-type things—telling the reader how to make that novel-interior happen for themselves.

(I received this book from blogging for books for review)

 The Road Not Taken and Other Poems by Robert Frost

I’m rereading this one–it’s been a Very long time since I’ve delved into some Frost and I’m reminded why he is revered like he is. I might have to post a few favorites from this collection on the blog soon!

A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola

we started homeschooling this week, so i’ve been reading along with this little by little. i’d tried to start with one of charlotte’s own books but didn’t get very far into it. i like how she breaks things down very simply and gets at the heart of charlotte’s teachings. my only critique (so far!) is that she pretty much thinks charlotte mason is the sun and moon. i love mason’s teachings about “real books” and outdoor play and “someone to love, something to think about, something to do”. i’ll have to post more on our homeschooling endeavors later–once the first couple weeks are complete, at least!

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what are you reading? suggestions on what i should pick up next? {I’m linking up with everyone at Modern Mrs. Darcy. }