Posts

Less is Better | Five Favorite Books

I didn’t begin the year with an urge to start fresh goals. If anything, I only had the desire for less. Less time commitments. Less of my own ego. Less busyness with unimportant things. Less things cluttering my time and kitchen cabinets. But living with less, as most Westerners realize, requires humility, fortitude, and remarkable discipline. This month, I have been slowly inventorying my capacity and desires right alongside my belongings. If less is what is needed, then the answer is certainly not found in doing more but instead prioritizing something I already have or am already doing. Then, put the rest aside. Sometimes the reminder we need isn’t a notification on our phone or a mark on the calendar, it is a line of wisdom sitting on our bookshelf currently collecting dust. Here are the books I have been re-reading at the start of the year, fortifying some rhythms and re-making others.


Essentialism | I have read this book annually the last four years (just finished it again this week), mostly because I am not an essentialist by nature. Although the book is technically about business and economics, the life applications are endless, reminding me with each read of the power of choice, of my need to define and protect what is most valuable, and as I mentioned in the last post, to recognize the trade-offs as Mark and I work toward long-term goals. I walk away from this book with more clarity and vision of our values, with more resolve to say no.

This is Home  | Although there are heaps of coffee table books with beautiful images of homes, I love how this book by the stylist Natalie Walton explores the soul of the home as much as the aesthetic. Broken up in three parts with interviews and images of 16 international homes, This is Home explores how we create, live within, and nurture our sense of home. The featured homes are lovely, no doubt, but much like our own home, they are not primly designed or overly fancy. The homes seem more organically designed, more slowly grown into by the people who inhabit them. This books always helps stir my creativity in our home’s design, to think through what we already own, to see the space we inhabit in a new way.

Simple Matters | I read this book by blogger Erin Boyle cover to cover when it first released, and I reference it often throughout the year. She and her family of four live in only a few hundred square feet in the NYC, and again and again, I find myself challenged by their minimal lifestyle, by their intention and creativity in tiny apartment living. The book is neatly categorized by areas of the home and is quite practical whether you are cleaning out a closet, decluttering your office drawer, or making your own cleaning products.

Teaching From Rest | I did not begin homeschooling because I love grading or creating academic tasks for my children. I do not think I am the best teacher or the most consistent one either. I sometimes find myself slipping into that role, looking at our homeschool as a machine of “did you?” Check. Check. I am perpetually aware of my short-comings and theirs. How do we do it all? We don’t. No one does. This quick read is always encouraging for me. It gives practical helps, of course, but more importantly, it slows me down and reminds me, less is better here, too. This read is faith-based, but I find instead of a didactic how-to, it is a comforting voice of a friend, asking me to consider again why our family chose this path this year. I find myself identifying my core values and goals for our learning again, instead of simply looking at what the curriculum guide says or what another parent is doing. I see my children. I see me. I see our own style and pace and needs. I am finding the important less that makes it more for all of us.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership | I read this book last fall and am re-reading it again now, even referenced it here last week. Clearly, this is not a book either on minimalizing the home or organizing closets, but it recognizes our humanity, that we are not tasks or things to shuffle about, nor are those in our care. We are souls, and as such, we need margin and solitude. As one who can easily believe doing more or strategizing better is always the answer to a problem, this book quite practically reminds me to simply stop and listen, to make room for my thoughts and emotions, to make room for God to speak to me. It is a faith-based book, and although it is directed toward people in spiritual leadership, I found that the principles applied equally to those leading in any capacity––as a parent, mentor, or business owner, too.

 

,

Dawning | A Playlist for Spring

I took a walk in the backyard this week, noticing the wildflower “weeds” rising to the early morning sun in adoration. Perhaps at the first warm light of Spring, we appear the same, pulling upward, our bare feet rooted, our heads lifted to the sky. Spring is a season of hope. We plant seeds in the earth and clear unnecessaries from our cabinets and closets. Intuitively, we renew. Spring is dawning. For those of you awakening this season, here are some soft notes to accompany you.


Dawning on Spotify

Field Keaton Heston | Mindful Towr’s | Good Friday Josh Garrels | Montana Youth Lagoon | Only Love Ben Howard | Big Black Car Gregory Alan Isakov | Each to Each Penny and Sparrow | Holocene Bon Iver | The Only Thing Sufjan Stevens | Paint The Paper Kites | Do You Rise Ian Randall Thorton | Morning Francis and the Lights | Heartbeats José Gonzalez | The Woods Hollow Coves | Berlin Corey Kilgannon |  Go Solo Tom Rosenthal | Hope Daughter | Berlin RY X | Saturn Sleeping at Last

With Hope

I’ve been thinking about hope this year, that fragile confidence Emily Dickinson described as a songbird with feathers, perched in the soul, singing against the wind and the coldest of circumstance. The writer of Hebrews calls faith the substance of hope (Heb. 11:1), and after listening to the podcasts below, I realized more deeply how faith and hope and love work together in each of us. Without hope, my faith is ambiguously directed, a nebulous cloud. Hope gives my faith and belief direction and purpose in prayer and perseverance. Love fills in the gaps. Love reveals the lies that I am only loved for what I do, or for how much I do for others, or for how much money I make, or how wonderful my children are, or how lovely my house is decorated. Love reminds me I am more than all of those things. And so are you.

This week, I took Olive to another appointment for her mouth, another specialist, another medical team member to help us chart what the next decade will look like for her and her mouth. For those who don’t know: at the end of January, the girls were playing in the front yard with our 90 pound one year old Lab puppy, when Olive’s legs were take out by the line. She flipped, face first onto the sidewalk and incurred serious mouth trauma leading to emergency oral surgery. If your stomach churns a bit reading it, you’re right; it was horrific, but I am overflowing with gratitude that she incurred no brain or bone damage. I haven’t shared any images of the journey here or on social media for Oli’s protection, but she is healing so well. Her stitches are long gone, her spirit is just as large and vibrant, and her smile is just as magnetic, only missing several teeth. Wink. Of the several missing teeth, only two were adult teeth (her big ones, front and center). Apparently, it’s a more complicated fix because of her age, hence all the appointments and conferring specialists.

On the way home from this particular appointment this week, Olive had a lot of questions about the path forward, and clearly I had no answers yet. I empathized with her. She wants to know what’s coming next. In many ways, I ask the same questions, always looking forward and planning where I’m headed, how or when a particular hard spot in the path might correct. I again apologized and assured her we’re progressing, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Then she turned to me, with a bright and confident tone, so full of hope, and said, “It’s okay, Mom. It’s like Auggie’s Mom says in Wonder, ‘The Scars are only the map that show us where we’ve been.'” Immediately, tears sprung to my eyes. Those words were for me. Those precious words, spoken with a toothless lisp, so full of hope and promise, so confident that her needs would be met, were for me.

Sometimes we think we are the ones teaching our children about the world when it turns to be the reverse. As adults who have tasted and seen the bitterness in the world, the unmet expectation and disappointment, it can be easy to feel swallowed up, to allow those experiences to cloud our imaginations or ability to see beyond. Our world is ripe with heavy, chilly circumstance, and chances are if you aren’t currently walking through something difficult, you know someone who is. Yet hope is the songbird that sings against it, that reminds us that the scars in our life are a part of our story, but they do not define our path forward.


ENCOURAGING LISTENS

“Get You Hopes Up” part 1 and part two

“Hope in All Circumstances” 

“Hope is a Strategy”

 

Six Recent Books on My Nightstand

Every night I slide into bed grabbing a book on the stool beside me. Most evenings, my eyelids begin to close after just a few flips of the page. Bedtime is clearly not the best reading time for me any longer. My days begin early and by the time I’m tucked into bed, my body seems to intuitively know I need sleep. So if I want to read a book and actually understand what I’m reading, I have to make time during the day, which requires a bit of extra discipline, one that always feeds my soul and massages my brain a bit.

When my children were younger and regularly napping, I tended to find pockets of quiet a bit easier, mimicking their patterns for day rest, but it’s a little more difficult as the kids grow and our energy is more constant throughout the day. And so I look for these pockets in the morning before the kids wake up, on the weekends when we schedule regular periods away from screens, and ideally during the day when my children are working or playing independently. Audiobooks are a lifesaver, too. Also in the moments when I tend to flippantly pick up my phone to scroll social medias, I’m learning to ask myself more often: is this what I need right now, or would it be better to sit somewhere with a book? 

I tend to read with a pencil in hand, an active expectation that I’m going to learn something new, I suppose. The more I mark up a book, the more I connect with it, digest it, practice or think on it. I still remember when Olive first began learning to read, I found her flipping through a chapter book marking every sight she knew at that point. I thought, that’a girl. Although I love immersing into a well-written novel, memoirs, self-helps, and cultural commentaries always lure me. I find myself with stacks on parenting, poetry, writing, business, culture, etc.––books that often directly apply to my living. Fiction feels like spa therapy, and so I always aim to keep one novel and a book of poetry on my nightstand, too. Consider it balance to my constant effort in self-improvement (insert: eye roll).

For those of you who are curious, here’s a smattering of the non-fiction on my nightstand I’d recommend. Unfortunately, I only read one adult novel this summer. ONE! And although promising in ideas, the content turned out to be a bit unsavory, so I won’t mention it by name. (Insert: smirk.) But I would love to hear your favorite fiction recommendations. As you can see, I can use some storytelling balance.


The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection  | As someone who remembers childhood and teen life before the internet, who traveled internationally as a teen without a cell phone, who didn’t have a personal email until her last year of university, and who parented her children’s early years without social media, I LOVE this book! It’s a MUST for every parent and millennial, right alongside Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows. Don’t get me wrong, I totally feel old writing this, but this is the first book that actually refers to my generation as the last to remember absence, to remember life with abstract space and digitally noiseless downtime. He works through many topics in this book, even heartbreaking ones, like the modern hardships of depression and cyber-bullying plaguing teens and young adults. It’s well-written, poetic even, and enjoyable to read without the fear-mongering tone prevalent in other books on technology.  If you’re looking for some practical parenting thoughts on this idea of absence, you might find what I wrote early last year about the hidden gift of boredom helpful.

Gracelaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart | My friendship with Ruth has been a gift of the internet, one for which I’m grateful. Her wisdom, directness, and love for Scripture always speaks straight to me and so many others. She is a gifted watercolor and hand-letter artist, and just launched her first book––a book divided seasonally and topically into over 30 different truths and meditations on Scripture. She sent it to me a few weeks ago to preview, and one of my favorite aspects, aside from the beauty and encouragement, is the way it’s parsed seasonally into digestible segments, making it a gift to pick up while I’m making dinner or taking a small break from school or work. It is always a fresh breath, especially as a mother.

The Soul of Discipline: Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance | Most parenting books address specific stages from infancy to teens, but what I adore about this read is the gentle, holistic viewpoint, defining what discipline is––debunking the negative connotations––and how it evolves through the different phases of parenthood. Written by the same author of Simplicity Parenting (one of my very favorite parenting books), The Soul of Discipline follows the Governor-Gardener-Guide phases of parenting, how our role of leadership changes as our children grow, from the vigilant, boundary setting Governor of the early years through the probing and attentive Gardener during the tween years into the more relaxed decision-maker and more helpful Guide years with our teenagers. Although parents of infants and toddlers might not find the Gardener and Guide sections important quite yet, this book will be helpful to have as a reference in the years ahead. Consider this a gentle resource that will grow with you, one to reference at any point in parenthood. If you’re curious, here’s a list of other favorite parenting books.

Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance  | Mark and I have had several conversations with our children about why we do hard things, and this book was a song of praises for the value of hard work and cultivating lifelong interest. Equipped with heaps of research and narrative, I found myself challenged, encouraged, confronted, and inspired in nearly every life touchpoint––from the way we parent to how I grow a business and cultivate vision in general. I mentioned this book here a couple of months ago, as something anyone working toward hard things should read, and I mean it! I even marked certain chapters to listen to on audiobook with the children in the car. I’m sure they loved the discussion of high and low-tier goals afterward, too. See what fun our car rides are? 😉

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul | This book was handed to me recently by a dear friend after a conversation about our 3-ness on the Enneagram––our constant need to be doing and to be successful in all endeavors, our tendency to perceive that we are loved for what we do rather than who we are. You can read more about the Enneagram, but this particular book has been a well-spring of wisdom, beautiful encouragement, and rest for me in a really hard last few months. It’s rare in modern culture to be reminded of the gift of begin brought low.

The Rain in Portugal  | I picked this book up on a whim last month. I haven’t read any of Collins poetry in a couple of years, but I always remember his lighthearted, masterful play with words and felt I could use some laughter. Plus, his poetry books always have the best covers, and so you know, I totally judge books by their covers. The same is true of win bottle labels. Design matters. But I digress. I like to have books of poetry around the house to pick up when I have a brief moment of quiet and don’t want to commit to a longer period of reading. This collection is cheeky and endearing, whisking me off on a ferry or to Moscow in the most causal way, as if we were lifelong friends having a conversation. This one I’d definitely recommend and re-read.

Migratory Birds | A Playlist for Transitions

In the late spring and early summer, before the air becomes too weighty, I love to toss a blanket in the yard and watch the sky––the shifting clouds and migratory birds. Hammocks are perfect for this, too. So are car windows. Although the weather this time of year is too warm to lounge outside without water nearby, figurative shifts are always taking place in our home, even when the movement is too quiet to notice.

The kids are away with grandparents this week, and I’m stealing time a bit to sift through books and write down ideas for the year ahead. Although the summer season will linger here for quite a bit longer, a figurative shift in routine is looming for our home, one that involves messy tables and piles of books and art supplies again. It’s funny how swiftly these years seems to circle around again.

I am feeling more settled these days with Liam moving into the high school years, excited for some of the material he will be studying and learning this year and our conversations along the way. Still the years seem so brief––so very brief. Homeschooling has a way of slowing the years a bit, even as it demands more of the hours in a day, but I am understanding how precious this gift of time with my children will be in the nearing years ahead. I sense we are in a sweet spot right now.

Whether you’re preparing for a new school year or still enjoying the lazy days of summer or planning a last minute road trips, here’s a relaxed playlist for you, melodies that tend to flit and float right along with you.

Shortline RX Y | The Breech Dustin Tebbutt | Migratory Birds Western Skies Motel | Here in Spirit Jim James | Mexico The Staves | Youth Glass Animal | Forest Fires Alex Flovent | Honey and Milk Andrew Belle | Love is All Tallest Man on Earth | Anchor Novo Amor | Holocene Bon Iver | Garden Western Skies Motel | Afterglow Jose Gonzalez | La Belle Fleur Sauvage Lord Huron | I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For Joey McGee | Atlas Hands Benjamin Francis Leftwich |Smoke Medic | Bloom The Paper Kites  

LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

, ,

15 Nature Activities + Books to Enjoy Spring Flowers

Perhaps one of the best parts of Spring weather is all of the wildflowers blooming. We naturally are outdoors more, and so I always look for ways to bridge the natural world in my children’s play and learning. This season we have studied flower parts, collected flowers, planted wildflowers, dried wildflowers, and more recently made Sun Art. I thought I would write down a few ideas to share, activities that are versatile for ages and locale. I also listed a few of our favorite flower books to complement our learning. Happy Spring!

1. Dissect a Flower / Wildflowers can be difficult for this since the flower parts are often small and more difficult to identify. We found that Lilies worked best since their parts were easier for young ones (and adults) to identify. Consider gluing/taping and labeling the parts to a sheet of paper as you identify them for review. Microscopes aren’t necessary for this activity, but they are a special addition for older children to see small parts up close. This sturdy, American-made Magiscope is our favorite, if you’re looking for future gift ideas for your homeschool. 😉

2. Create Sun Art / This activity always turns out beautifully, and is simple enough for preschoolers to enjoy. I purchased this Sun Art paper, although a smaller size would work, too. Consider cutting the larger sheets to create bookmarks or even layer over cardstock for special cards. The children collect the flowers and arrange them indoors on the blue paper, out of the sun light. When they are ready, they take the paper to the sun and lay a piece of acrylic, the set arrive with, over the top. Press down firmly to prevent shadows, and leave it in the sunlight for a few minutes until the paper turns white. Rinse the paper under water for a minute and let it dry. All Done!

3. Flower Scavenger Hunt / Print a paper with local wildflowers and set out on a walk around the neighborhood or in a nature preserve to see how many you can find. See how many you all can name without looking it up.

4. Press Wildflowers / I loved doing this as a child, and it only works if you’re picking in an area where it’s allowed. Spread and wrap a handful of blooms on a paper towel. Press between the pages of a book.  Stack heavy books on top and leave for a few days, until the flowers are completely dry.

5. Wildflower Memory Game / Gather several different wildflowers from one area. Spread out across the table, covering each different flower with a cloth. Remove the cloth and let the children study the flower for a 30 seconds to a minute, then cover again. Send them into the field to see if they can remember which flowers were on the table. For young children, choose five flowers. For older children, choose up to 10 different flowers. My kids love this one!

6. Make Nature Faces / Cut a piece of cardboard or brown paper bag in an oval shape. Have the children collect plants and flowers to make facial features for the oval. Glue them to the board and name their nature faces to play with or hang on the wall.

7. Create Flower Crowns / Of course, flower crowns can be beautifully elaborate and complex, but they needn’t be for child play. Look for long grasses or weeds to tie or braid together. Tie flowers to the mix and wear for outdoor pretend play.

8. Plant Wildflowers / For all the activities that require picking wildflowers, here’s an opportunity to give back. Purchase seeds that will grow well in your area and create a personal garden, or spread them along empty fields and highways for the public to enjoy.

9. Dry Wildflowers and Herbs / Gather a small bunch of favorite flowers or herbs and tie them together. Hang them in an arid area of your home, near a door or window that often open, and leave them for a couple of weeks until completely dried. Cu  herbs to use in the kitchen, or hang the wildflowers in a bedroom.

10. Create a Wildflower Journal / Take photos, dry-press, or illustrate wildflowers you discover. Help your children label their common and scientific names and location. Add new pages each time you go for a nature walk or even for the next season.

11. Make Your Own Wildflower Nomenclature Cards / Nomenclature or three-part cards are a Montessori memory and learning tool, where three separate card parts are matched together. The top part is the largest with a photo of the flower, the next part has the name of the flower, the third part a description (better for older children). Create your own local nomenclature cards by taking images of flowers you discover during nature activities or play. Learn about the flower together with your children, and help them create the name card and description card for matching and memory work.

12. Play Wildflower Board Games / Make your own Bingo or memory game with photos or try this one.

13. Gift Wildflower Seed Packets / Share the gift of Spring blooms with friends and neighbors. Purchase wildflowers seeds in bulk, and add a spoonful to these mini-envelopes. Let your children stamp a wildflower on the front.

14. Grow Flowers from Seeded Paper / What a magical experiment for young children. This is best matched with beloved Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed.

15. Color Previously Illustrated Wildflowers / This vintage styled coloring book has over 44 favorite, full-page wildflowers with information about each for your little artists. Plop down on a blanket with them and color together. Find out if any are local to your area.

FAVORITE LITERATURE + BOTANY RESOURCES  FOR YOUNG CHILDREN TO ADULTS

Miss Rumphius | This is one of my favorite books, and we read again and again each time Spring arrives. It prompts questions of what each of us are doing to make the world more beautiful.

Nature Anatomy | The spine on this book is worn thin with use and reference and is still my children’s favorite. It covers many topics lightly with beautiful illustrations, a perfect resource for wetting little appetites.

Up in the Garden Down in the Dirt | This book is larger in theme than flowers, but I appreciate how it shows the connection between the life below and above the earth’s surface, and the relational connection of the family in the garden. Plus, the illustrations are just lovely.

A Seed is Sleepy | Beautifully illustrated and labeled like each of Dainna Aston’s books, this one poetically tells the power and life of a seed.

Play the Forest School Way | This is another favorite reference for playful activities outdoors. I adapted two of the activities above from this book, and I love that they label each activity with age-appropriateness.

The Tiny Seed | Eric Carle. Need I say more? This one is perfect for exploring the way seeds travel and grow with early learners, and new copies arrive with seeded paper for you to plant and experiment with at home!

Planting a Rainbow |  This one is another perfect read with littles to introduce flower names, color, and seed bulbs.

The Curious Garden  | Peter Brown is another favorite author here. My oldest received this one as a gift several years ago, because he and the main character share a name, but I love this story for so many reasons. It models the importance of caring for the earth, the power of plant life to beautify spaces and uplift the human spirit, and the impact of even the smallest actions to create change.

The Secret Garden (I love this collector’s edition) | This is a wonderful read aloud or shared read with older children, exploring ideas about growing gardens both literally and metaphorically.

How to Be a Wildflower  | Filled with poetic quotes and ideas, this beautifully illustrated field guide is for older children and adults both to enjoy!

Botanicum | This one is currently on our wishlist, but we’ve enjoyed Animalium so much, I know we’d love the illustrations and descriptions here, too.

The Gardener | Like The Curious Garden, this introduces the contrast of urban and country settings, and the power of natural life and beautiful florals to uplift the human spirit. It is also formatted with letter writing, perhaps inspiring a lost art, even in our home.

,

Music for the Afternoon Mess

A Music Playlist for the Afternoon Homeschool MessSomewhere amid the tidy online images, the Mess exists. I capitalize Mess because it seems to live and exist on its own, creeping in and out of corners unannounced. Between the creative projects and delicious meals are spilled paints and sprawling colored pencils, stacks of books and papers with scribbled writing and illustrations. Sometimes a glass jar of bugs sits with us. Nearly always a small cup lingers with the last bit of coffee, cold. The energy of our homeschool day pushes and pulls between cleaning up and pouring out. These rhythms seem in conflict with one another, yet they are connected, one requiring the other. The tidy space draws us to create, to read, to write, to build, and yet our busy hands and minds can destroy a table space, a living room floor, a kitchen counter in a heartbeat. The Mess is a part of the process; it is a part of our home, a part of living. On the days, I am overwhelmed or frustrated by it (more than I wish), I remember our learning is not a tidy experience, coiffed and prim. It is wild and organic, ordered and sometimes pruned, but so full of life. Mess does not always equate to disorganization. Our days are fairly organized in the order and routine, and Mess is a part of it. Here is what our table often looks like at the end of an afternoon, and as two older mothers reminded me last week, I’ll miss it one day.

To keep the Mess at bay, we’re focusing on three brief periods of clean up and chores during our day at home: just after breakfast, just before lunch, and just before dinner. I hope it will help us learn how to better partner with Mess, to let it move freely during our learning, but also prepare the space for the next segment of our day. We’ll see.

Several people have asked about the music I sometimes play in my IG Stories, so I put together a playlist of favorites for our afternoons of read-aloud, illustration, and writing. A playlist for the Mess.  Enjoy.


Apertura Gustavo Santaolalla | Digging Shelters Neil Halstead | Where’s My Love Syml | 33 “GOD” Bon Iver | Try Escondido | Riptide Vince Joy | Yes/No Ears of Light | Break Apart Bonobo | Celeste Ezra Vine | White Noise Ella Vos | Planet Earth II Suite Hans Zimmer | Everything Ben Howard |  Heartbeats José González | Stanley Park Aoife O’Donovan | Mushboom Feist | All Yours Widowspeak | I Need a Forest Fire James Blake | String Quartet in F Major, M.35:2 Maurice Ravel | Lullabye Emitt Rhodes

Playlist on Spotify

,

MUSIC IN THE HOME | a playlist for Daily Rhythms

music_at_home_spotify-9music_in_the_homemusic_at_home_spotify-12 music_at_home_spotify-10 music_at_home_spotify-8music_at_home_spotify-6music_in_the_home-spotifymusic_at_home_daily_rhythms_spotify-2music_at_home_daily_rhythms_spotify-5

“Music is the art of thinking with sounds.” ― Jules Combarieu

Books and music have always created a backdrop for our days at home together, even as the specific rhythms have varied through the years. During our children’s early childhood, I kept a small basket of instruments on the shelf for play throughout the day. And often we set aside a small portion of our homeschool morning for raucous singing and dancing together. Music time doesn’t always need to be serious, and these sort of moments can be a simple tool for bonding and playful experiences with sounds. If too much of this tends to stress you out as a parent (raises hand), my advice is to tuck certain instruments away until this daily time together. Wink.

Although much social and scientific research has revealed the positive effects of music on the developing brain, I’d argue it’s also good for the soul of the home. Music can lift and encourage heavy days, help heal fragmented emotions, and quiet noisy hearts and attitudes. It can even at times give language to emotion in ways young children might struggle to express. One moment a few years ago, when Olive was unhappy with me, she stomped away and then abruptly turned to the piano. She looked at me, pounded out three staccato bass notes, and then walked away. I laughed aloud of course but was also awed at how much she had communicated to me through those three notes, more than she might have been capable with her words. For her, sounds intuitively connected with her emotions and thoughts, even at age three.

As our children have grown older, music still makes up much of our days and evenings together. A record is often spinning or the iPod is humming through the speakers, sometimes quietly in the background, other times blasting for energetic clean-ups, impromptu dance parties, or even in the kitchen when the kids love to play “guess which soundtrack?” We listen to a variety of sounds during the day here, often complimenting (or re-directing) the activity and mood, and although we own a lot of music, I have also used the Spotify app for years to easily browse new music and create private and public playlists for the home. The kids have several of their own, too––a fun way for them to explore their own style.

For those of you interested, I’ve included a playlist below entitle Daily Rhythms, a sample of songs our family is enjoying together right now. The music feels quiet, but varies in energy, much like the plot line of our days at home. Spotify also now has a Kids & Family category in their app/site, too, which includes specially curated playlists for different age groups and activities––an easy cheat when we begin to feel in a rut. We particularly love Milk & Cookies and Bedtime Stories––a playlist with short stories, like Peter Rabbit and the Three Little Pigs (perfect for rest time). Pop 4 Kids is always fun for a brief dance party in the living room when our bodies and brains need rejuvenating. Enjoy!


This post is sponsored by Spotify, a seamless way for people to enjoy and share music anywhere together. Images by Kristen Douglass. All thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting businesses that help keep this space afloat. 

,

for the weekend | favorite books on parenting

favorite_parenting_books-2 favorite_parenting_books

Weekends are always the best time for personal reading. On Saturdays, I tend to stay in my PJs longer and often meander back into my bed with coffee and a book, a small gratitude with having older children. A couple of people have recently asked me about my favorite parenting books, so I thought I might share a few here for those of you interested in the books that have helped shape the strategy and heart in our parenting thus far. Truly, my mother and other dear friends have been my favorite resources, although I know not everyone has parents they can trust for advice, or friendships nearby with whom to share a drink and swap parenting joys and woes. On a brief side-note, if you are in the latter group, please don’t be  discouraged. I have found myself in similar places after moves or in new transitions or simply due to the fullness of our family life, and there is a sweetness, too that comes with seasons alone with your children. You might find a few ideas for meeting friends in what I wrote here last year.

Parenting books are wonderful for hearing ideas and strategies outside of my immediate circles, especially when I have felt in a rut of routine or simply defeated. Let’s agree now: no book is entirely perfect or will match one family or child exactly. But I’ve learned if I’m willing to listen and observe my own children and habits and not assume I have to know everything or get it right all the time, it’s easier for me to hear just the right lessons anywhere. Also, prayer matters. Taking time to bless my children (and husband), to ask God for wisdom in how to lead them, is a bold act of humility; it also shapes my own heart. I digress again. As we grow nearer to the teen years, I’m looking again at these books and turning to a few new ones. Of course, I’d love to hear any of your own favorites (and so would other readers), so feel free to share in the comments.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson | I want to read this again as an older parent. This book covers a broad range of topics and is written in a way that explores and exposes research than gives didactic steps for parents to practice. It’s smart and narrative-drive, and the writers have clearly titled and sub-titled each chapter for quick reference or if you’re simply interested in reading a part. The book is intriguing for exploring some of the common social beliefs/stereotypes about children and teens.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne | I mentioned this book here, so you might have known it would appear on this page, too. It is a “less is more” book on parenting and is clear, gentle, and well-written. I should also note that although it addresses the clutter of toys and routine, it’s truly a deeper philosophy, one that if begun in little ways while children are small will be a gift in upcoming years, too.

Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk | This book is written from a Christian perspective about loving and empowering your children with self-control over punishment-driven tactics. It is narrative-driven, brief, and easy to follow. Although the ideas are his own, Silk often references Parenting with Love and Logic, another reference I’ve heard other parents rave about over the years, although I have never read it.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: The Seven Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation  by Becky Bailey | I read this when Olive was a toddler, when I found myself exhausted of strategies to nurture her emotional self while setting boundaries that worked for my other children. This book is clear and highly practical, and always address the parent’s heart/thoughts first before addressing the children. The seven basic skills are clearly outlined with sub-titles (for skimming or reference as you need it). I wish I could put one in the hand of most adults, who it seems could benefit from learning these skills as much as children.

Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey | This book has little to do with parenting and much to do with understanding people. We all know our partners and children are different than us, and yet it’s still difficult to resist making them like us. This book, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), has been so helpful over the year for noticing the nuances of temperament. I don’t limit myself or family member to their boxes, as some might fear, but rather use it as a tool to see, “you’re not doing this to frustrate me, you truly experience the world in a way that doesn’t value or see this.” It leads to all sorts of interesting conversations.