august reading, and goals for september.

Well, it's the last day of August, and I'm evaluating my success in reaching my reading goals for the month.  I had posted a photo on Instagram of the books I was hoping to get to, and it was a pretty daunting stack.

I'm happy to report that I read most of these books.  I have about ten pages left in "Surprised by Joy," and a small section in the book on Diastasis Recti, so I'm determined to finish them both today to get in under the buzzer before I suddenly find myself in September.  (HOW IS TOMORROW SEPTEMBER, BTW?!)

The one book I didn't get to in this stack was Practical Theology for Women, which I'm not super upset about because I'll start leading through it next month in a book study anyway, so I know it will get read.  And I listened through another book on audiobook that wasn't in the stack - it was my first adult audiobook experience, and it was ironically entitled, "Listen!"  I also finished Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung, which I technically started last month, so it didn't make the stack photo.

So, as long as I can get my act together today and finish the few remaining pages of the two in-process books I've got going, I will have finished eight books this month!

Moving forward on the momentum from the last couple months, I set myself a goal for September:

In My Father's House by Corrie ten Boom

A Handbook to Morning Time by Cindy Rollins

Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Horger Alsup

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (my friend Mollie recommended a Risen Motherhood podcast with Jen Wilkin, and I've been hooked ever since!)

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

The Life of Prayer by Edith Schaeffer

Home Grown by Ben Hewitt

The Middle Place by Kelley Corrigan (my friend Kristy is my go-to friend for book recommendations.  Basically, anything she recommends, I will read.  And luckily, she regularly blogs her recommendations, so anytime I'm looking for a good book, I know where to find suggestions.)

Trim Healthy Mama Plan

So those are my goals for the upcoming month.  I'd challenge you to pick a book or two to finish in September, too!  I love the assertion by Oscar Wilde that "it is what you read when you don't have to that will determine what you will be when you can't help it."  I'd love it if you'd share in the comments what you're reading, or planning on reading soon!

happy birthday, Lolo!

Our tiniest big girl is four years old today!

She is so sassy and spunky and tiny and sweet.  She has us all wrapped around her finger... and sometimes has us ripping our hair out.  She will either sweet-talk or drill-sergeant you into submission to her will.  She loves all things girly, and is in love with Trolls, My Little Pony, and stuffed animals.  She will frequently burst out, "Mom? I love you!!" and she just looooooves her daddy.  Anytime anyone leaves our house, she asks, "Will you honk at me and tell me I'm pretty?"  She is such a wonderful big sister to Rocco and Callista, and is Penelope's constant shadow.

Saturday morning we threw her a butterfly-themed birthday party.  (For those of you who don't remember every single detail of our life, Penelope had a butterfly party in April.)  She requested a butterfly garden as a gift.  (For those of you who don't remember every single detail of our life, Penelope received a butterfly garden as a gift.)  Fortunately, Penelope doesn't seem to be bothered yet by this classic act of sisterly devotion, and took it all in stride.

For the most part.

Penelope had so sweetly saved up her money and chose to buy Laurelai a set of colored pens, since Laurelai loves coloring and writing like her big sister.  Penelope also made her a card with a picture of a beautiful mermaid and a castle, and a note that read, "Dear Lolo, even though you can be disappointing at times you are still my friend.  I love you.  You are: cute-funny-adorable and sort of kind.  I love you a lot. XOXO .P.S. I'm sorry for being mean to you.  Love, Penelope."

See?  Sort of took it all in stride.  (And I just have to mention that the front of the card reads, "YOUR A$S SWEET AS HONEY my little sis'."  So funny and, unintentionally, borderline inappropriate.)

Atticus carved Laurelai a little man out of wood.  Also, a very sinister-looking dagger (read: very sharp stick).  She loves them both, but the wooden stake has mysteriously disappeared... to the top of the fridge... to await the vampire apocalypse, the only time at which I will allow her to wield it.

As for the rest of her gifts, they were all mermaid-, pony-, and Troll-themed, and she was in heaven.

Her reaction to her Troll puzzle

She spent the rest of the day eating cupcakes and losing herself in Equestria,

Laurelai is such a joy.  She is the best surprise I've ever gotten in my whole life, bar none.  I am so grateful God gave her to us, and have loved getting to know her over the past four years.  I'm so excited to know her better and better!

Happy birthday, tiny bestie!

callista at two months.

Callista turned two months old on Saturday, and is doing such a great job!  She's starting to stretch her feedings at night, and becoming pretty predictable throughout the day.

During the day, she eats about every two hours - she wakes up, eats, is awake for about an hour, and then sleeps for about an hour before starting the cycle all over again.  She's starting to want to go to bed earlier in the evenings, so I try to push her to stay awake until around 10.  After her last evening feeding, she usually sleeps 6-7 hours before wanting to eat again!  I'm definitely not complaining.

She's smiling, cooing, and figuring out her arms and legs.  This week, she's figured out how to get her hands into her mouth.  Her eyes track together and focus on things now, and she smiles when she sees me or Todd.  Her huge eyes are the first thing anyone comments on when they see her, and Todd likes to joke that she's approximately 40% eyes.

She is seriously so very sweet, and I feel like we're out of those really difficult newborn days.  It's amazing how quickly it always seems to have gone once you're looking back on it (though it feels like it takes forrrrr.evvvvvvvv.errrrrrr while you're in it).  There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not consciously grateful for her, and amazed at how it never gets old.  I find her just a precious and amazing and new as I found Atticus, and all of them, because she's herself.

what's up (weird) weekly.

Well, I tipped my hand on Tuesday when I posted the photos from the eclipse, because I've now already shown you all the photos from the week.  Our camera lens is being a real turd, so I haven't had much motivation to even attempt photos.  So you mostly just get words today.

Our week was just weird.  I jumpstarted the whole thing by losing my retainer, a mistake I'm seriously regretting and have cried over multiple times.  Then, I missed church on Sunday because Callista had a rough night (as did I, since I seem to have lost the ability to fall back to sleep once I'm woken up).  Rough weekend.

Monday, my mom was here for the day so we could all watch the eclipse together.

Tuesday, we went grocery shopping during the day, which is always way more exhausting than I think it's going to be.  I tried to work it around nap schedules, which meant we didn't even leave the house until around noon, but I figured it would be okay since we were just going to Aldi.  But then everyone was hungry and getting tired, which were both exacerbated by walking around, staring at food.  We didn't even get home until about 2:30, at which point I served microwave popcorn for lunch while I unloaded groceries.  (This part of the job always catches me by surprise, like, "Oh, right.  I just hunted and gathered all of this, but now I have to muscle it into the house and then get it put away before it all thaws.  Orrrrrrr I could just succumb to the exhaustion-induced coma I feel coming on...  Coma wins.")

Tuesday afternoon, Todd got in to see the dentist, who said it looks like he's going to need a root canal.  Awesome.

Wednesday was pretty normal, thankfully.

Yesterday, I had a chiro appointment in the morning, and had to head to the grocery store to sell some shoes in the afternoon.  (I'm a shoe peddler on the side; didn't I mention that?) (Not really.  It was just a buy/sell/trade meetup in the grocery store parking lot like a normal person.)  We got some school accomplished, but not everything.

So we missed about a full day's worth of work that we'll have to make up when all is said and done, which makes me feel like a failure, since we're barely three weeks into school.  But it's just one day, right?

I hate weird weeks.  I like my days to run like a well-oiled machine.  But then real life happens and weeks look like this - not bad, just not 'normal'.  Here's to hoping next week is a little more boring around here!

i suppose it had to happen sometime.

I've told you before about my seriously janky teeth.  When God put the teeth in my mouth, I feel like he was kind of like, "Let's put one here... Okay.  Now, how about one over here?... Sure.  Now what about a couple over there?  Yeah, that could probably work." 

I spent seven years in braces and active orthodontia, and when I was finally 'done' at the age of 14, they handed me a retainer and sent me on my way.

We scheduled this sweet photo sesh to commemorate my crowning achievements at the time: my freshly straightened teeth, and the fact that I could rock this clarinet like a boss.  Doodly doodly doo.

Clearly, Crest Whitestrips had not been invented yet.  That's okay; in this killer band uniform, no one was looking at my teeth anyway.

I have worn that same retainer nearly every night for the last seventeen years.  It's disgusting and discolored and falling apart, but my teeth visibly shift after only one night without it, so it has remained a constant companion through all these years.  I have held it closer to me than a clarinet (i.e., relaxed grip but never far from the chest).

Except that now I've lost it.  (My retainer, not my clarinet.)

I haven't been able to find it since last Friday morning.  I seriously have no idea what happened to it - I got up to make breakfast, took it out to brush my teeth... and I haven't seen it since.  Best case scenario, it's just taking a little breather somewhere in the house and will turn up again once it feels it's gotten a little space.  (It probably finds me relationally needy.)  Worst case scenario, Rocco found it somewhere around and decided to throw it in the garbage.

My teeth are already seriously messed up - one of my front teeth is starting to jut out, all the upper teeth on my right side are starting to shift in, and my tongue is now resting between my bite in back.  They ache from having shifted so far, so quickly.  And I'm ticked.

I mean, seriously.  I have had this thing for seventeen years.  I have taken it on two international vacations.  I have moved into three dorm rooms, two apartments, and three houses.  I have taken it with me to the hospital six times for the delivery of each kiddo.  It gets packed for every single overnight stay.  I have been nothing but the very picture of responsibility and straight-toothedness.  And then I decide to make breakfast one day in my own freaking house, and it disappears.

So it looks like I'll be calling a local orthodontist to have molds of my teeth cast, and a new retainer made.  I get to pay hundreds of dollars to get my teeth to (hopefully) look no different than they used to.  (I mean, whiter than they used to.  But no less straight.)

Apparently my tenth anniversary gift to Todd will be the gift of a normal-looking wife and a smaller bank account.  Happy anniversary, Todd!

(In all seriousness, will you please pray with me that I find this thing?)

total eclipse of the yard. (i mean, IN the yard.)

I just sat down to write today's post, and I was like, "What day is it? Friday?" I was bummed to find out it was, in fact, not Friday.  It is Tuesday, and therefore I am sad.

But, to cheer myself up, I'll show you what we were up to yesterday.  Like everyone else and their mom, we were outside watching the eclipse with their mom.  I mean, we were outside watching the eclipse with my mom.

She came up Sunday night, and brought with her eclipse glasses and all the supplies to make pinhole viewers for the kids.  Because our city is right-smack-dab in the zone of totality, we had big plans to view everything from the backyard as best we could.  (Our neighborhood is very "tree-sy," so we only have one small circle in the backyard through which you can actually see the sky. It was iffy there for a while as to whether we'd have to go elsewhere to view, but lucky us, the sun peeked right through it the entire time.)

I laid Callista and Rocco down for nap early so that we didn't have to worry about them blinding themselves, and I made the middle kids tape their eclipse glasses to their faces so there wouldn't be any accidents.  Finneas was thrilled.  (He actually didn't mind the tape, but he didn't get the pair of glasses he was hoping for.  Life in a big family is full of drama.)

We would toggle back and forth between outside and inside - we'd head out for a few minutes to see what the sun was up to, then head in to document our observations in our nature journals.

The outside-inside-outside-inside transition made the glasses-swapping downright chaos.

Finneas tried to tape his own eclipse glasses to his face, and then couldn't figure out why he couldn't find the sun...

Todd came home on his lunch break to show us all how to really rock the shades, and Finneas eventually got the glasses he had been coveting, so everybody's day was made.

Overall, it was so much fun, and the best part was getting to share a (sort of) once-in-a-lifetime event with the kids.  Here's to hoping the next once-in-a-lifetime total eclipse that's coming in seven years is as cool.

'what's up' weekly.

This past week has been filled with a lot of 'normal,' which I love.  We did school and are now two full weeks in.  Why that feels like a major feat accomplished, I don't know.  But it does, and I'm not complaining.

On Monday, I took the kids to a nearby creek with a friend.  Can you believe this is smack-dab in the middle of downtown?  I'm not kidding.

On Tuesday, we had our first Connection Group meetup of the Fall semester.  We're not hosting it in our home this year, so it felt a little strange to just go to Connection Group.  I think this is really going to make a big difference in my stress level this year; I'm already glad it's worked out this way.

On Wednesday, we headed up to the Amish as usual.  One of the gals that I've gotten to know asked me if I could bring her a few things 'from town' next week.  What does an Amish person need from Walmart, you ask?  Forty pounds of sugar and a pack of brown pipe cleaners.  Obviously.

Yesterday was our anniversary, so a couple friends came over to watch the kids so we could go out.  For being somewhat of a landmark anniversary, we played it really low-key: we went, with Callista, to Red Lobster.  We weren't able to do anything more exciting because we have a nursing baby and are broke because: six kids.  But I kind of loved rejoicing in our semi-boring anniversary date, because it was a reminder of the amazing things keeping us tethered close to home in this season.

Today is Friday, glorious Friday.  Which means bird study, painting, listening to classical music and (hopefully) napping.  It's also the night we order food in, so I don't have to prep, cook or clean up the kitchen in the evening.  Fridays are good days around here.

And other than that, the only major news is that Todd has suddenly developed an excruciating toothache, and the dentist can't get him in until the 28th.  So we're praying hard there is a cancellation so he can get in sooner, and that he's able to stay ahead of the pain until then; or that his tooth just miraculously stops hurting.

And, unrelatedly, in reading news:

In school this week, we read Big Claus and Little Claus in our Hans Christian Anderson anthology.  It is a dark and weird and hilarious story that we're still trying to mentally process.

I finished O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, and The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis.  I've started Surprised by Joy and a book about healing a Diastasis Recti.

And Finneas discovered Robin Hood:

And that was our week!

happy van-niversary to my very, very favorite person.

Today, I have been married to this perfect specimen of a human for ten years.

Ten whole years.

I can't tell you how often I am blindsided by gratefulness.  He is so much more than I honestly ever thought I could possibly find.  He is stable.  He is good.  He is proud of me.  He is kind, and intelligent, and godly and strong.  He is the best dad - and seeing him so passionately father our kids leaves me so amazed that they will grow up getting to take him for granted - in the best way possible.  This is what life is for them, and they don't know how good they have it.

But I know how good I have it being his wife.  I get to laugh at his jokes, be challenged by his depth, and be provided for by his hard work.  I love the life we've built - really, the life he's built for us that I have the good fortune of getting to participate in.  At the end of everything, if I have nothing to show for my time here other than having gotten to be married to him, I will be more than satisfied saying I lived the best life.

Happy anniversary to the best friend I've ever had.  There is no one like you in the world, and I'm the luckiest to get to call you mine.

planning to set up your own daily schedule (pt. 2).

Grab that piece of paper and pen you had out yesterday; we're going to finish planning your routine, and then actually set up and implement it!  (If you missed the first two principles to consider when brainstorming for your schedule, check out yesterday's post to get caught up to speed.)


List out every single thing you're responsible for.  Like, everything.  Breastfeeding.  Cooking.  Wiping butts.  Grocery shopping.  Vacuuming.  Getting everyone ready for church.  Folding underwear.  Weekly date nights with the husband.  Write it allllll down.

Now, take a quick second to brainstorm - could anyone else be doing any of these things for you so they're not actually on your list anymore?  Keep in mind that everything costs something  - often in home management the question is, "does it cost time, or does it cost money?"  Those aren't the only costs you might be paying to keep something on your list, but they're definitely major players.  Menu planning saves you money, but costs you time.  Hiring a housekeeper costs you money, but saves you time.  What is each task costing you, and what would it cost to delegate out some of your tasks to others? 

Ways I personally delegate in our current life stage:...

[Click here to continue reading]

planning to set up your daily personal schedule (pt 1).

This week, I'll be reposting a few oldies-but-goodies about time management.  Many of these begin with the assumption that you watched my FB video on the topic, so if you haven't done that yet, I'd encourage you to do so!

Let's talk schedules/routines.  I walked you through mine in the video, but I'd love to get you started on planning your own.  Before you actually jump into the nitty gritty of setting up your schedule, I think it's especially helpful to think through a couple of things that will help you set up a successful schedule.

There are four guiding principles to think through first that have been especially helpful to me; we'll cover the first two today, and get back to the rest tomorrow, to keep this post from getting outrageously long.

Grab a pen and paper, because you're going to be doing some writing.

[Click here to continue reading]

back to school: accomplished.

Well, we did it.  We made it through our first week back to school since Callista was born.  And you know what, it really wasn't that bad.  In fact, I think we all breathed a little sigh of relief at the normalcy of it all, even though a couple things have changed already going into the new year.

I wish this photo was less blurry - I'm still completely idiotic without an autofocus option on our camera.  But I think you can still tell how big he's getting and how handsome he is.

How cute is she, and how long are her legs?!

The kids have started using planners this year as a way to foster more independence with their assignments, and we've been getting together with a family in town in hopes of establishing a nature group that will meet semi-regularly.  This is a huge answer to prayer for me, as I'm markedly indoorsy and need an outside motivating force to pull me out of the house - namely, someone who's expecting me for an appointment I had planned for in advance. Verrrrry little else accomplishes getting me out the door with all the kids.

We've met a couple of times now, and I think we've determined the park we'll be meeting at regularly.  Being an Iowan at heart, when I think "city park," I think, "flat grassy patch with a playset on it."  But I'm learning that parks in Columbia are a whole different thing.  The one we're going to be going to is a ten-acre timber with a hiking trail, smack in the center of a residential area five minutes from our house.  (Today we're headed out with another friend to the heart of downtown, where there's a fully wooded area with a creek for the kids to play in.)  If I could give Columbia a big old kiss on the lips for giving my kids the chance to swim in a creek and hike through a timber in the middle of town, I would.

In other related-to-school news, Finneas seems to be on the cusp of reading and is really desperate for it to finally 'click,' so we'll be picking up some Dick and Jane books from the library and seeing where it takes us.

Beyond those items of note, school will probably be pretty 'business as usual' for a while, which we actually all really appreciate for the structure it gives our days.  So we're looking forward to sinking back into a normal routine after being off-kilter for the last month and a half.  It makes it so much easier to manage our time well, get things done, and avoid the boredom and bickering that large swaths of unstructured time inevitably entail.

See?  No more bickering.

Or, as that sign would be translated in a more fun culture than ours, "School-time-happy-fun-day-hooray-yes."

As we're not the only ones getting back into the swing of school and establishing a refreshed sense of routine, I thought I'd spend some time this week revisiting some of the stuff I've covered on time management, getting the important stuff done, and still leaving room for margin and rest.  I suspect I'm not the only one in need of a refresher course as we head into the new school year.  If you haven't already, I'd suggest you start by watching my FB chat on time management (and ignoring how crazy I look in the still-frame).  Then throughout the week, I'll be posting more info on the topic to help you get started... or re-started, if you are anything like me and tend to fall off the 'I've got my life together' wagon with alarming regularity.

homeschool portfolios. (missouri record keeping)

The week the kids were up at my mom's and I was pretty couch-bound with Callista, I spent most of my time trying to gather stuff together to complete the kids' portfolios of last year's school work.

Every time I see this photo, I think, "Duh, I need to go back and change that to say Grade Two," since I originally wrote it incorrectly (because I'm clearly a dummy).  And yet I still haven't fixed it.

Missouri state homeschooling law requires, among other things, that we keep portfolio records of their work, which basically serve to prove that we completed the required number of core and noncore hours over the course of the year.  So along with the yearly and weekly schedules, booklist, and scope-and-sequence sheets, I had to include logs of all of our hours.

But after all that boring mumbojumbo, I got to show off the kids' hard, creative work in all of our subjects.

Atticus' completed free reading list for Term 1

A printout of all the poems, Scripture verses, math facts, quotes, and personal info (like phone numbers and addresses) the kids learned through the year.

Examples of Atticus' handwriting work... and his freestyle construction art.

As we read through Paddle to the Sea, we mapped Paddle's journey through the Great Lakes.

Other things included in our portfolio were copies they'd made of each term's Artist study works, lyrics to the folksongs and hymns we learned, and photos or examples of their arts and crafts.

Because Charlotte Mason schooling involves very little paper work or seat work, a lot of our documentation involved lists of activities we did and places we went (along with any brochures and guides available for these adventures), as well as lots and lots of photos.

When we moved from Iowa, where we had the amazing freedom of no state oversight, to Missouri, I was pretty bummed.  And while I would still strongly advocate for absolute homeschool freedom, the portfolio requirement here has at least provided the silver lining of a scrapbook of their work each year, which I probably wouldn't have kept if I didn't have to.  If we ever move elsewhere, I will probably continue (or at least attempt to continue) keeping these binders of their work.

Supplies I used:
1.5-inch binders
Subject dividers
Photo sleeve sheets