who is your character? subtitle: the most grooveless, themeless post in the history of blogging

Do you watch movies and put yourself into one of the roles?

We were watching The Emperor’s New Groove earlier. Bear with me, because I am not posting pictures, and if you have never seen the movie you might be a bit lost and if you have seen the movie, then this is the Old Man who gets thrown out the window at the beginning and his conversation with Pacha, the peasant…

Pacha: What happened?
Old Man: Well, I threw off the Emperor’s groove.
Pacha: What?
Old Man: His groove! The rhythm in which he lives his life. His pattern of behavior. I threw it off. And the Emperor had me thrown out the window.

You guys, I think I might be the Emperor.

Be. Ware, Kids. Be very, very ware.

just kidding...no groove has ever been harmed...or FOUND... in our family...
just kidding…no groove has ever been harmed…or FOUND… in our family… {this photo taken five minutes after Something Fun Happened. Keep reading…}

We just finished up a trip from here to there and there to here…also known as Portland to Eastern Oregon and back again…also known as…The Car Stinks. The dog had a bath before we left.

not the guilty party

So we will go ahead and put our money and blame on the car sick kid. You would think that the child born in a car would be a better traveller.

{photo cred: Liam}
{photo cred: Liam}
selfie
{photo cred: Liam} {{not included because he was car sick – I just like seeing what he takes pictures of when I let him loose with my camera}}

Eastern Oregon completely floors me. You know how you spend your whole life searching for what feels like home? And sometimes you find a place that just makes your soul sigh because it’s the closest thing you find this side of heaven? Eastern Oregon is that for me. It’s heaven. But so is this home that we make here. Even when it’s noisy and chaos-y and groove-less.

So, I won’t boot any kids out the window THIS week.

ungroovy at best

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Crazy kids. Welcome to my groove-less, love-filled life.

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on the importance of regularity

|| there this this thing that happens when you don’t write…

and don’t write…

and don’t write…

|| you get kinda…

…blocked up.

{this is an approximation of what Writer’s Constipation looks like}

If ya catch my drift…

|| so I am grabbing a cup of coffee to help things along and trying out this regularity thing to see where it takes us

|| you and me would rather not end up on the other end of the spectrum, now would we?

“MOM!!”

|| and I would imagine that this will take some getting used to, but eventually I will figure out what to write, right?

|| I’d imagine you would want to hear about what’s been going on! We have moved, did you know? Our space is still small, and I have lots of thoughts on that. I’d condense them for you, but, then, what would I write about next week? I work from home, now, and this takes up a big chunk of time but mostly just takes away from my desire to stare at a computer screen. I’m completely and equal parts inspired/intimidated by how blog-know-y my writer friends have all gotten (if you have a blog and are reading this, I am probably looking at you!). I have lots more thoughts on motherhood and working a job that isn’t mothering alongside it. I’ve been thinking a LOT about Church and church and community. I have all these thoughts percolating about living day-to-day and in the moment while not losing sense of goals and direction. What have you been pondering? What would you like to hear about? I’m aiming for Monday’s, my friends. See you here next week!

fail to win

Today was not my proudest of moments.  Wanna hear about it? I know you do.

Before I begin, would you please join me in asking for Mama Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Pio to make intercession for a strong and wonderful woman who has loved God and also these three? I know they will comfort her as she turns her sights towards Heaven.

I’m not one to swear*, by nature. I’m hard to shock, so that’s not it. I sorta wish I was the sort if person who could pull off, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” You know. CLASSY profanity. Um, ok, so maybe that doesn’t exist. But, you know what I’m talking about? Some people turn the drop a choice word and you think to yourself, “*gasp* there are CHILDREN present!” And some people can turn the air a little blue and the effect is just different. Think Irish priest who has the room in stitches. I think it has to do with one’s mood and intent when said choice words are dropped? Maybe.

You know?

But me? If I use bad words it just sounds like a little kid wearing underpants on her head looks. A little ridiculous. Not as cute. But just as ridiculous.

I’d like to say I don’t swear because piety. But that’s not the reason. I don’t use profanity because vanity. *sigh*

TODAY I dropped a good “Son of a NUTCRACKER!” I was reminded last Christmas that is a good choice word for me. I can swear it with vehemence and it can help me to immediately laugh at myself.

I needed to laugh at myself.

All day I WANTED to write a good blog post so that I could complain complain complain.

“Everything happened wrong.” I wanted to write that…except that really only ONE thing happened wrong and I just decided to let it color my whole day. “Nothing happened right.” I longed to declare that…except that nearly EVERYTHING happened right, but I was just letting that ONE thing that went wrong color my whole day. I’m emotional. My kids were so sweet and wonderful today. And me? I was just frumpy and frustrated with every little annoyance. Every last bit. So I ranted and raved at nutcrackers. And reminded myself that there were children present.  And laughed at myself. Wryly. I then sat down on the stairs with my head on my knees to have a party. Of one. Pity style.

Then cleaned the apartment while my kids played outside.

engineerAnd the sun shone all day. And I STILL planned to write a whiny, complainy blog post. (And, in between the lines, apologize to every single person who is mired in snow.)

And then, in an instant, I realized I had to end my pity party. In a phone call I was reminded how nothing remains but love. Gratitude closed around me like one of those slap bracelets I used to love.

So I patched the pants I didn’t really want to patch. And I read the stories that I thought I was too tired and grumpy to read. And I reveled in my funny kids who love each other so much (in between fighting so fiercely) that it makes my heart ache because it swells so much. And we prayed our prayers for peace and comfort for my Nani. Even though I think I might have failed any and every “test” today, our little family ended our day in love. And that’s a win.

*note: I use “swear” and “profanity” interchangeably. Yes, I know the difference. Yes, I am pretty much referring to profanity. Yes, I will roll my eyes at you if you call me out. But you are good readers. I know you will not.

from little things…comes great love: How and Why to Make Friends at Church

…little things…great love…small acts from little hands…building up the Kingdom of God…I’m no pioneer in this mode of thinking…many saints have said it better…and yet you get my thoughts on it today…

One of the things you may or may not know about me is that I hate confrontation. And I also change my mind a lot. So I really try to keep myself from smugly posting things like, “I will never bring snacks to Mass.” Because, believeyoume, there have been days that I have had to eat my words.  With gravy on top. WHILE I laboriously pick up all the Cheerio crumbs from the pew. And I really don’t like to open up heated subjects on the blog.  This is my place to be a little bit funny and a little bit serious and write out some of the words that would otherwise sit in the caverns of my brain and drive me crazy(er).

Right NOW, in this season of life, we don’t bring toy-like things with us to Mass and we don’t bring food.  The one exception is that the boys may bring a children’s Bible or missal. Ami can have a non-noise-producing teether and she may nurse. But I HAVE packed crayons and other toys before.  And I HAVE discovered that the minions have packed in contraband (matchbox cars) at one juncture or another. Do I appreciate other parents’ attempts to keep distractions to a minimum? Absolutely and I do my best to send mental high-fives their way.  After Mass. Outside. I only send mental high fives in the vestibule. And then only reverently. You know. *grin*  But, do I understand and have I been there and have I prayed that other people not judge me over it? Absolutely.

I won’t lie and say that I don’t sometimes wish that the family next to us would have left 10 of the dozen action figures or dolls at home. It’s tough on easily distracted 4-year-olds to watch full on playtime happening two pews over and know that he is expected to sit there quietly. Not impossible. But still tough. And since the ratio of noise to toys seems proportional, I sometimes wish, for their sake if not mine, they knew that Mass without tons of toys and snacks is actually easier (note: not EASY…easiER) especially in the long run.

Over time we have gradually reduced the things we bring to Mass. I no longer put forth the effort to print out coloring sheets that correspond to the Gospel. I don’t pack a “Mass bag” anymore, and that’s a personal preference. I don’t pack things FOR my children. Most items are on the “We don’t bring” list. IF they want to bring a Bible or missal, they may, but it is something they are entirely responsible for. This doesn’t ensure that my children will be well-behaved at Mass, but it does mean that they won’t be arguing over the same blue crayon.

Do you know why I do (or don’t do) this? I do this because I think that it helps children encounter God. We and our children are human, and we will always encounter distractions when we worship. Bringing more distractions with us, I think, sends a message that our time spent in participating in the sacraments and in prayer are things to be endured instead of acts that we engage in so that life can be poured into our souls. I do this because I want the Mass to come alive for my children. I do this, also, because I want them to learn that we distract ourselves at a cost to our relationship with God and with each other.

But do you know what else? I don’t write any of this to chastise. I write it because I feel compelled to offer hope and because, actually, I want to remind myself to always offer small acts of love from my little hands.  I write it because our faith is both vertical and horizontal, and because we have a chance to live out that vertical focus and horizontal love in a special way when we worship together.

Even more, though, I write it because there have been so many many days at Mass with wild, distracting children when my heart was breaking. I’m not being dramatic to say that. I was at Mass, clinging to a life line. Literally. And when I was on the receiving end of comments or looks or heard of criticisms later, I wanted to scream, “You have NO idea what is happening in my life!” It wasn’t just from people I knew, though those were the ones that hurt most deeply; I would read blog posts on how to raise children who behaved in church. I felt so inadequate when I would read things like “church shoes beget church behavior” and the following Sunday wound up black and blue from a temper-tantruming toddler who packed quite the kick with heavy, “nice” shoes on his feet. Or when I read, “we make our children under the age of three sit on our laps, no exceptions” and realized that there was one of me and two of them.

We were a family in crisis, and it was something I did not share. I never said a word because I didn’t want pity and, anyway, I knew I couldn’t tell my story. I wanted understanding and compassion even though they couldn’t know the depth of my pain. And maybe maybe it would have been nice for someone to offer an extra set of hands. Desperately desperately I desired love and belonging despite the loneliness and brokenness and suffering I felt (even when it may or may not have been evident, for I am generally naturally optimistic and was very active in our church community). I didn’t desire relaxed standards. I loved and love reverence and beauty during worship. I didn’t desire to feel like my kids were good by comparison (“Your kid screamed louder during Consecration than mine did, so I must be doing something right!”). I didn’t want someone to make excuses for me. I did know that I felt overwhelmed and lonely and stuck. I felt like I was on the outside, looking in.

I think back on those dark, dark days, and I remember how there were some real and holy  people who showed love and hospitality and kindness, even when they didn’t have to and when they didn’t know how much I needed it. It makes me think about how to show love to the brokenhearted and to be reaching out, even when I am not aware of someone’s suffering. This is not my forte. I’m not exactly shy, but I’m introverted. It’s HARD for me to strike up conversations. It’s really hard for me to remember that I’m not the only person who has problems. Because, however, I think it’s of great importance to reach to people on the margins and I think this holds true at church. Here’s my “scratch the surface” list:

  • On a regular basis, sit next to/behind the young parent with child(ren) that you see attending church solo week after week. When we get down to brass tacks, this could be for any persons you see attending alone (elderly, college student…really any person), especially if you might happen to notice that they duck out quickly afterwards and don’t seem to know many people.
  • I’m not one to encourage long, loud conversations as soon as your good padre has left the building or even after the choir has stopped singing. I like to make eye contact. Maybe send over a friendly nod and smile. If a mother with young children looks particularly frazzled as she scrambles to clean up goldfish crumbs, get down there and help her out.
  • IF opportunity presents, it’s ok to make an offer to help! Said person might turn you down if they are not comfortable with it (e.g. if I have a screaming infant and a 3yo insistently informing me that he’s “gotta go potty”, I may not be ok with leaving either one in your care while I help the other one) or they might be really, truly grateful. I’ve seen large families take smaller ones under their wing, so to speak, and offer a set of hands to hold a baby or a “totally cool teenager” to sit next to the toddler and help keep their attention on the Mass. My boys will sit in awe of teenage boys, and will imitate them sitting quietly when NO amount of my shushing worked. Be a familiar, encouraging face! Build community! Small things really show great love!
  • Does your parish have fellowship following Mass (non-Catholics: insert “church” and “service”)? Look for the people sitting by themselves, camp near them, strike up conversation as you break donuts. This doesn’t have to be to the exclusion of talking to people you already know – you know how to introduce people!
  • Sometimes the person sitting solo at the table is an introvert who happens to like donuts. Sometimes sitting alone in a crowded room is a quiet cry to be noticed.  Be persistent with your friendliness, but not pushy. Use your common sense.
  • Remember that you don’t know someone’s sorrow. You don’t know their losses. You don’t know their struggles. You don’t know their situation. Some may open up to you. Some may keep their armor impenetrable. You might never know how much your kindness meant to them (this side of Heaven).
  • Organize meals! Invite people to dinner! (Don’t forget about your priest!) Take meals to people in need! Organize play day picnics for moms home with small children! Meals show love!
  • This should be a no-brainer, but…befriend people as real friends. I’m not saying that you need to become best friends, but if you offer charity with condescension, it hurts. Don’t discuss them or their situations with others unless you have been asked to do so. Don’t swoop in to save them, patting yourself on the back for your great kindness. People are not objects. Remember that Jesus, alone, is Savior.
  • Look with kindness and compassion on those around you. Suffering doesn’t always look the way that you expect it to.

 

What would you add to this list?

The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Reading With Your Kids (A Mini-Series): Part III

Lazy Mom's Guide to Reading With Your Kids

This is part three and the final installment of this series.  You can catch up on part one and part two if you are so inclined. Linking up with Housewifespice. Because books.

I really owe this whole project-I-didn’t-realize-was-a-project to my mom, who surrounded us with wonderful books, selecting ones that were beautiful and wonderful, and to my dad, who has always let us know by example the importance of the written word.

There are two bloggers that I have to give much credit to. Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things, was a blogger that I cut my blogger teeth on, and is responsible for relaying the fact that reading TO one’s children is important – EVEN after they are reading on their own. It’s how writers are born. She has a great encouraging set of posts entitled Read-Aloud Revival, and a particularly great post in that set (How to Get Back in the Saddle) for when your reading aloud has waned. It was this post that got this whole thing started. And Aunt Leila from Like Mother, Like Daughter, who helps me to realize that if she can do it (her words), so can I…which leads me to decide that…if I can do it…so can you. Also, if Auntie Leila or her daughters recommend a book, it’s probably a good idea to read it.

Book Specifics

A year and a half ago, if you had presented me with the list of books that my kids listen to now, I would not believe you. Not in an underestimate-my-kids way. (Ok, maybe a little, because some titles on this list astound me that my four-year-old and five-year-old will listen to, comprehend, and enjoy!) But in a there’s-no-way-I’m-that-together way.

Wanna see why? Here’s our listening list, presented in the order in which we downloaded:

  1. The Little House – Virginia Lee Burton
  2. The Complete Tales (Unabridged) – Beatrix Potter
  3. The Kissing Hand – Audrey Penn
  4. The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites – Dr. Seuss
  5. Caps for Sale – Esther Slobodkina
  6. Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey
  7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
  8. Corduroy – Don Freeman
  9. Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-House – Judy Schachner
  10. Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown
  11. Winnie the Pooh (Dramatised) – A. A. Milne
  12. Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka – Tomie DePaola
  13. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Mo Willems
  14. The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog – Mo Willems
  15. Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late – Mo Willems
  16. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  17. Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones – Judy Schachner
  18. Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble – Judy Schachner
  19. The Cricket in Times Square – George Selden
  20. Magic Tree House Collection: Books 1-8 – Mary Pope Osborne
  21. The Little Engine that Could – Watty Piper
  22. The Very Busy Spider – Eric Carle
  23. Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren
  24. The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis
  25. Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie
  26. The Trumpet of the Swan – E.B. White
  27. The Henry Huggins Audio Collection – Beverly Cleary, Tracy Dockray
  28. Favorite Poems for Children – assorted authors
  29. The Princess and the Goblin – George Macdonald
  30. Just So Stories – Rudyard Kipling
  31. The Moffats – Eleanor Estes
  32. Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
  33. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  34. Half Magic – Edward Eager
  35. D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths – Ingri d’Aulaire, Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
  36. Freckles – Gene Stratton-Porter
  37. The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection – Beverly Cleary, Tracy Dockray
  38. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  39. Father and I Were Ranchers – Ralph Moody
  40. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – C.S. Lewis
  41. The Horse and His Boy – C.S. Lewis
  42. The Silver Chair – C.S. Lewis
  43. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum (this one not available anymore)
  44. The Last Battle – C.S. Lewis
  45. The Children’s Homer – Padraic Colum
  46. Man of the Family – Ralph Moody

What is in our near future?

  1. More from Ralph Moody (Liam loved the first and second books of the series and is requesting the rest.)
  2. More from Arthur Ransome
  3. I’d like to get our ears on some James Herriot.
  4. Andrew Lang’s fairy stories.
  5. ??? Let’s open up the comments for ideas and suggestions!!

Some assorted thoughts in no particular order:

  • Not included in this list are The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy that we enjoyed from somewhere, I wanna say LibraVox, but don’t quote me on that.
  • I always, always select unabridged, unless it was noted above (I don’t think I noted it anywhere…)
  • If you get a chance to select a book read by the author, I generally recommend it.
  • We started out with picture books because I assumed that was all my boys would comprehend/have patience for and also because I had thought to put together a book basket so they could follow along as they listened. (That never happened. I still think it’s a nice idea.) Occasionally, now, Lo will request one of the picture books, but for the most part they ask for the longer stories.  I suspect that we will get more use out of the shorter ones again as Ami gets a little older and for any subsequent kiddos. (Maybe I’ll get around to that basket.)
  • My kids listen and re-listen and listen and re-listen to all of these titles. In the same way that you buy the books you love (instead of checking them out of the library), we purchase the audiobooks that we love. (Some of these were impulse, so that doesn’t hold across the board, but generally.)
  • I have not prioritized the list above. You see it as our listening taste unfolded. Some of these titles I would probably not pay for again, necessarily. So if you would like to hear more thoughts on which I heartily recommend and which are only so-so, email me and we will talk.
  • If you want great book recommendations, go browse around Like Mother, Like Daughter. There is a whole category of posts on books, and Auntie Leila is most sensible.
  • Kendra has a great post on Spooky Stories for the Whole Family and How to Get Them for Free. Her book recommendations are top-notch and she talks about good resources for free audiobooks at the bottom.  (Though I didn’t have the issue with Audible that she had – I actually love Audible because of ease with which I use it everywhere.) Now that our budget has tightened considerably, you better believe that I am considering what she has to say, however, I have manymanymany reasons why I love Audible and why it will be hard to switch. Keep reading, I discuss it….right now…

Audible Specifics (or Helpful Hints From Not-Heloise)

Now, because I am getting a heap o’ questions about it, here are some Audible specifics. I promise that this isn’t a sponsored post. Audible is what WE use. I’ve learned a few things, and I’m including specifics if you would like to go that route.

  • With Audible, a subscription gets you (depending on your plan) a certain number of credits per month (generally one). A credit gets you a title, but not all titles are “created equal”. Some cost more. Some cost less. So I use our credits for the more expensive titles that we purchase and I “spring” for some of the titles that have great “member prices”.  For example: we used our first credit for The Complete Tales (Unabridged) by Beatrix Potter, which is closer to $9 (or was), and I purchased The Little House by Virginia Burton, which was $0.41, using my credit card (not using a credit). Now I make sure to use my credit for a title that costs more than my monthly member price ($14.95/month). Pay attention when you check out, because you CAN use a credit to buy a book that is $0.41, and that’s a bit…absurd.
  • Once you buy the title, it’s yours. You can listen to it as often as you like. You keep your titles even if you cancel your subscription.
  • There are sometimes more than one version of the same title; I listen to short samples and read reviews to pick a good one, but…
  • …if you don’t like a title, you can return it within a certain time period. And I do this. Audible has been fantastic about returns, in our experience.
  • You can download the Audible app on iPhones and iPads and have them on the ready for travel.  My car has a USB cable port that I can plug my phone into and play the app through the stereo. (I just used a bunch of words there that I hope I used in correct sequence. Does what I just said make sense?) I download them onto my phone at home (where I have wireless) and then they are on my phone and ready to go. I don’t keep aaaaalll of them on my phone. There would be no room. They have all been on my phone at one time, and I circulate them through depending on current favorites.
  • When we had more than one room in our house, I would put the titles onto the app on the iPad and bring that into the boys’ room at night (or carry it wherever in the house we needed it). Now that we have ONE room (or have I not mentioned that lately), I just download all the titles to our computer and open them with iTunes. They get organized splendidly under “Books” and with thumbnails that look like this  which means that my kids are perfectly capable of turning on their own stories if I am nursing the baby or otherwise occupied. They have memorized which picture goes to which book. This manner of organization works PERFECTLY for my cluttered brain!
  • Note: I have noticed that it seems that Audible recently changed how you download the titles. After you purchase your titles, you go to your “Library” and, next to each title, you see “Play now” or “Deliver to”. I used to just click “Download” and it would open up straightaway in iTunes. I spent all of a minute fuming that things had changed (I’m an old lady, apparently, and if you change my technology, beware my wrath) and then realized that I could select “Desktop” from the “Deliver to” pull-down menu and then drag it into iTunes. (I have a Mac. If you have a PC, you are on your own.)

Reader Specifics

In the course of writing this series I got a little input:

  • Adrienne from Benedicamus Domino! mentioned that Tomie dePaola read BY Tomie dePaola is delightful (I concur), and also that fairy stories by Andrew Lang are a must.
  • My friend, Jenn, mentioned that her parents used to take video of themselves reading books. Then when would send the book and the recording to their grandkids. I just think this is such a great idea, especially for grandparents that don’t live close to their grandkids!
  • Micaela from California to Korea brought up Whispersync. I haven’t used it. It sounds great. When you purchase the e-book on Amazon, the Audible Whispersync is available “ridiculously cheap”. Basically you can read/listen/listen/read/read/listen/read…et cetera et cetera et cetera (name that movie) and your e-book and audio experience will collaborate so that you don’t have to spend time searching for where you left off. And I can see where this would be completely practical and great. Technology…

And that, my readers, concludes this series, probably the first and only series I will ever write. (Although I’m tempted to write out a series on all my thoughts on the Laura Ingalls Wilder series…maybe just a post…or two…) We (all) have gone from haphazard reader/listeners to intentional literature lovers. I went from being a exhausted-guilty mom who wasn’t sure she had enough voice or energy or patience to read aloud anything more than Pat the Bunny to a mom (still sometimes exhausted and occasionally guilty) who is finding joy in listening to good literature AND in reading aloud. It’s amazing what happens when you cut yourself a little slack, spread yourself a little love, and allow yourself to take baby steps in the right direction.

What books are you going to be reading aloud or listening to?

The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Reading With Your Kids (A Mini-Series): Part II

Lazy Mom's Guide to Reading With Your Kids

You can read the first part of this series here. I’m linking up with What We’re Reading Wednesday at Housewifespice because the name of the game post is books.

Here are three things you should know about me:

  1. I am really terribly lazy.
  2. I LOVE new and great ideas.
  3. I have a short attention span.

All these traits mean a couple of things. I am always in search of an “easy button”. I really enjoy being part of a good “brainstorm”.  I am terrible at actualizing things in the manner that I imagined them. I am great at starting to set up new systems. But I really have to push myself on the follow through. I like to see result RIGHTNOOOOOOW! (In fact, it’s very difficult for me to write a “series” here on the blog, because usually I like to just write and hit publish. None of this crafting-and-polishing-for-weeks business for moi.) You know the mentality of “Why dust every day when you can dust once a month and feel like you live in a Pledge commercial”? No? Ohme neither.

I tell you this in a public forum to help you understand that: if I can do this, take heart. If I can use baby steps to change from Haphazard Reading to Intentional Reading, I know that you can, too.  It will look different in your home because you are you and your kids are different from my kids.  After all, I still have found neither the Fountain of Youth nor the Holy Grail nor The Easy Button. I will, though, tell you what has been working for us for the past year and a half.

_______

Problem: I wanted to have reading and good literature inform our days instead of being a last thought. I wanted us to read intentionally instead of trying to fit it in. Instead of waiting for it to look calm and peaceful and Pinterest-y, it had to be a part of our lives amidst the chaos.

The solution: really arose by accident.

1.  First, we had to figure out the HOW.

At the end of this series (next week), I’ll share some Audible tips for those of you who might want to use Audible.  For now I will just say figure out what works for you.  Prior to discovering Audible, listening to audio books didn’t work fluidly in our life. Putting a CD took at least two extra steps (getting the CD out and putting the CD away), not to mention that I then had to deal with the clutter of CDs. Not to mention that I didn’t/don’t have a CD player because it’s just one extra THING. When I was growing up (home schooled) my mom would often put on books-on-tape that she had borrowed from the library. When we started this, our library was sorely lacking in quality children’s audio books. I hadn’t figured out a manner of finding legally free audiobooks and storing them in a way that was conducive to the mess that is my brain. These obstacles might not seem like much, but for me it is enough to effectively block all good intentions. Then, my friend, Steph, introduced me to Audible.  I had heard about Audible.  But sometimes it takes a slap in the face – or a kind friend borrowing my phone and loading on some audio books for us to listen to on the (8 hour) drive home – to help me actually try something.  I’m resistant, folks.  What can I say? Thus intrigued, I subscribed to Audible on my own and began.

2. Then we started small

We started out by listening to picture books. The Audible member prices on some of these titles are ridiculously cheap. In part three of this series, I include our listening list, so for now I’ll just say we listened to things like Make Way for Ducklings and The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter (Unabridged). We would still read bedtime stories, but, after prayers, the boys would fall asleep listening to the audio book. Beatrix Potter was great for that because the stories would keep playing as they would drift off to sleep.

Then, they started asking to listen at lunch time. And then while they played blocks.  At that point in time, I was pregnant and one child no longer took naps and the younger napped only infrequently. Can I tell you that watching your children play quietly with blocks while they listen to a calm voice reading a story just might be the closest thing to heaven that a mom in the trenches if young kids gets to experience (other than, you know, ACTUAL nap time!)?

3. Then we got a little bigger

About a month into this venture-that-I-didn’t-know-was-a-venture, I decided to try and share The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We had cracked this book open to try and read a chapter a night, but my tendency to go all Cinderella-at-midnight-except-at-6:30pm means that I, personally, should not try to make resolutions for bedtime.  Quick and clean or else it gets long and dirty. Regardless of our previous failure, I decided to try. Mostly I was just pregnant and exhausted and mentally tapped and looking to lay on the floor of the boys’ room and doze while they fell asleep. At first, my boys were totally resistant. Logan didn’t totally get what was going on, but he’s pretty go-with-the-flow, however Liam is generally resistant to any and all changes to his world and, most especially, to his bedtime routine. There is something magical about C.S. Lewis, though, and just like Lucy got through the wardrobe into a whole new world, our family entered into a whole new world of sharing literature together. (Sorry to subject you to “a whole new world” twice there. Idealistic. Cliche. Disney. My blog. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.)

4. We resolved to enjoy the process

Now, my boys are avid listeners. They are still pre-readers (I stand by my opinion to instruct but not push, and Kelly only made me more staunch!), but they LOVE books.  They listen to audio books over and over and over again (just like I read books) and when they play I hear them incorporating what they hear into their play. We only download the books that all of us want to listen to, meaning that I don’t share books that I find grating. The set-in-stone listening time is bedtime (and losing this privilege is a cause for many tears), and the expectation is that they fall asleep with minimal disruption (this has evolved into a necessity because we live in a studio apartment and my husband has a work schedule that gives me little to no alone/downtime). No one seems to mind that they fall asleep during the story; they re-listen so many times that they really are able to pick up listening wherever. Liam is at the age, though, that he will not fall asleep if he is listening to a new story, so we try to listen to ones he is familiar with at nighttime.

The boys are free to ask for an audiobook at any point in the day, and they both know how to access their books on the computer. We listen in the car (and audiobooks have stood us well as we drove across the country sans a DVD player). We listen during quiet time. We listen while we they play Legos. We listen during lunch. (One reason that Audible works so well for us is because of its extreme portability. I’ll talk about that in part three.) We fit it into the nooks and crannies of our day because it is enjoyable for everyone.

5. We are okay with ebb and flow

Sometimes we listen more than others. Sometimes the boys like listening to the familiar. Sometimes they really want to be challenged. Sometimes we listen to books that coincide with what we are learning about for school. Sometimes we listen for total fun. Sometimes I am too tired to do anything but prayers and turn on the audio book. Sometimes (and only recently) do I have the energy and vocal stamina to read chapter books (instead of just picture books). No one was more surprised than me when I realized how much I was enjoying ME reading ALOUD the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. No one. But some nights I am irritable and exhausted. But I can see how much better I am doing than I was a year ago, so, mostly, I can be kind and understanding to myself and not let it permanently set us back.

_______

Stay tuned for the conclusion of this series, wherein I share our complete reading list, some tips for using Audible, AND (reader participation alert) I’ll include some things that have worked for YOU. So share away in the comments, and I’ll give credit where credit is due.

What is your how and why for exploring and encouraging good books with your kids?

A, You’re Adorable

Happy Feast of St. Scholastica! And Happy Birthday, sweet Ami!

Day Six - Baptism with godmother
Day Six – Baptism with the prettiest godmother in all the land

Dear Amélie Maria Margarete,

One year ago you entered our lives with all the drama that a little sister with two older brothers likes to command. Your brothers seem to accept your demand of the throne without question.

Day One
Day One

You are a child of many nicknames. We have always loved your name. But we cannot help but turn it diminutive. Dad calls you “Schnecke”, and you have so much drool that this  “Little Snail” name suits you well. We tried to call you “Mel”, but “Ami” seems to suit you so much better.

Month One
Month One

I love that Logan calls you “Chico”…or “Cheek-o” as we came to realize it was. The story of why just makes me laugh. He also calls you “Tornado Head” because of the cowlicks on the back of your head. And I think that maybe it was the tornado warning from the night of your birth that swirled your hair.

You were born ready to climb. You rolled, crawled, climbed, stood, and walked earlier than I was ready for. I would tell you to slow down, but I don’t think it would do you any good.

Month Three
Month Three

You are building your ASL vocabulary, and you charm your world when you sign for what you need or tell us what you see. I will never get tired of having conversations with our hands.

You are never happier than when you are playing with your brothers. If only they would include you in all their big kid games. You have them both mostly wrapped around your finger…until you take their things. I would not say you favor one over the other. But you love them differently. For Liam is your hero…and Logan is your partner in crime. You have a blood-curdling scream when they don’t let you have your way. You may think you are stubborn, but your mother is more stubborn, so don’t plan on THAT habit lasting very long.

Month Nine
Month Nine

You love your dogs and relish your job of feeding them biscuits and also ordering them around, though they are three times your size. You sing the most precious of songs to your baby dolls and stuffed animals. You are a mimic-er. You are the knocker-down of block towers. You have the best form for squats – which doubles as your dance move. Which means that you have inherited your Papa’s and my style of dancing. So sorry.

Year One
Year One

You are my child of yets. I labored for so long with you and yet you were born so fast. I am still waiting for the day that you sleep through the night. And yet I have never felt so rested in my life. You are busy and yet you are calm. You are fierce and yet you are gentle. You work steadily, and yet you are eager.  You have blessed our whole family with your zest and your love. I love the baby you have been, the child you are, and the woman you will become.

All my love,
Mama

This is gonna be my year…

Sorry about the title. That’s really just to poke fun at a friend of mine who said he’d slap anybody who made such rash declarations.

I’m not really a New Year’s resolution person. I’m more of a periodic, “resolve to amend my life” person. (Yes, I’m Catholic. And I’m so grateful for Confession because it provides this opportunity as often as I need it.)  I find that I need “The Confession Experience” on every level of my life. Organization. Budgeting. Being a wife. Being a parent. Being a blogger. Exercise. Eating. Balance. Everything.

At THIS present moment in my life, my periodic take-stock-of-life moment is occurring as the calendar flips over. It’s a coincidence driven by living in a studio apartment (oh, did I mention???), and not having any place to put the generous gifts we received this year, and getting a chance to rest and relax at my parents’ house for a week (Mom and Dad, your home is better than a retreat! Thank you!). Oh, and turning 30 in four months probably has something to do with it, too.

No matter where one pinpoints the straw the broke the camel’s back,  I’m motivated to help bring in income for my little family. So that we can buy a home (a little-home-that-maybe-has-more-rooms-than-one) in the not-so-distant future. And so my husband can go back to school. And so I can go back to school. And because growing a family in a studio apartment can be rather difficult. Rather than get caught up in the enormity of our GOALS, I have decided to focus on the daily processes and steps that will be conducive to forward progress (see here, here, and here for articles that have inspired me in this direction).

just begin

In this spirit of helping to provide, I’m working on a couple of projects. One of which is becoming a Brand Ambassador for Rodan + Fields. This is a skin care company that sells these products that, oh! I am just coming to enjoy! And I won’t lie that I am both excited (because I love trying out things for my face…”goops and cremes” my mom always called them) and nervous because sales-y stuff is not my forte. I waited a little bit before I mentioned this all here because…well, because I needed some time to settle into things. This company gets me excited and enthused, though, and since we currently need to supplement our income, I feel truly BLESSED to be able to stay at home with my littles and still help my hard-working husband provide.

Anyhow, this is all just mostly to throw a rock in this little pond, to tell you that I’ll soon be throwing up a button on the side so you can ever-more-easily contact me to find out more about how you can work towards glow-i-er skin. And to ask you to take a look at the products available and see what might be right for you.  If you know anyone who might be interested or who might be interested in joining my team, drop me a line, will you please? You will be seeing a few mentions here: a couple of pictures, and maybe some words, and some giveaways. This is my processing space, so don’t expect that to change!

And any encouragement you might toss my way…oh that would be…well…encouraging. Because, validation and affirmation? Need ’em!

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation, by Maia

Merry Christmas, on this…fourteenth day of Christmas!

closest we get to a Christmas card…my new year's resolution is...
closest we get to a Christmas card…my new year’s resolution is…
"Ami! Do NOT touch!"
“Ami! Do NOT touch!”

*sigh* Is it over already? Even by 12 Day standards, it’s time for some semblance of routine and order and…less coffee sipping…to be happening. School? Whazzat?

I spent a good portion of my time sipping coffee and fishing evergreen needles out of Ami’s mouth. I got to spend some QT with my in-laws (I like Aggie’s term “in-loves”) and ALSO with my side of things. Bliss. Total bliss. No pictures. Forgot my camera. Dog ate my homework. You know the story. DID get some footage of uke playing and crazy kid dancing, but you will have to go check out Facebook for that exciting video.

doubt that I will ever grow out of reflection photos
see?
see?

I know you all are having super exciting weather.  Makes me want to fish through the photo archives of a couple weeks back and post some pictures. Of the 12 hours of snow that we had. But instead, I’ll just tell you that it’s gloomy and rainy here in Washington state. And temperate. Cue increased caffeine intake.

not sure why we can't get a sib picture without someone grabbing the baby's chin
not sure why we can’t get a sib picture without someone grabbing the baby’s chin

 

In conclusion, my Christmas vacation was very, very fun, even though it was not white. And I have some exciting things happening in January to tell you about soon. And I DO hope that you had yourself a merry little Christmas, too. Please give me an A.

 

Why I’m Starting a Bail Fund

I’m not being pessimistic. Really. I can’t say with certainty that my progeny won’t end up in jail, but I certainly am not anticipating it. Or assuming it.  Or worrying about it. Much. One day at a time. Everydangday.

Last night, though, as I tried yet again to tie Lo’s Tae Kwon Do belt…

someday I will tell you about the snafu that is Tae Kwon Do for us

(Lemmejustsay: Unsuccessfully. Lo is getting a reputation as the Karate-Kid-With-Belt-That-Comes-Undone-in-the-Middle-of-Class. Seriously. YouTube is not doing me any good in this department. And, also, I’ve figured out why I can’t teach my kids to tie their shoes. Apparently I’m challenged.)

…he leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. Sweetest kiss ever.

if he DOES get himself a mug shot…no bias…it will be theeee cutest

He must have read the surprise in my eyes, because he said, “Dat’s so dat when I do [go] to jail you bemember to tum and det me and tell them, “You let my tid outta dere!”

So I’m starting a savings account just in case, because, in the years to come, I’d hate to think of him sitting in a cell regretting the sweetest kiss he ever gave me.