Sunday, December 25

The Books I Chewed on in 2011

A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life
A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer
was the first thing I picked up January 1.
Starting the year with Parker is my little
tradition that helps me truly expand to
greet the new year.
I've read 48 books this year.  Words have encircled me.  Thoughts have inspired me.  The lives of others have been my example to continue to move beyond myself, to live with purpose that builds the kingdom of God, to become more me as I become more his.  It's been a good year.  These are all the books that I took on this year. The ones I've emboldened are the top 5 that made me think, stretched me and made me want to share its wisdom with others.
  • A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer
  • This is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes by Marilyn Berger
  • The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison
  • Great Expectations: Interactive Guide to the 1st Year of Marriage by Toben and JoAnne Heim
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where you Are by Ann Voskamp
      One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
      One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
      was the one book that I wanted to drink
      in quickly and then just as quickly stopped
      reading simply because I didn't want it to
      be over.  After leading women in a book
      group through it and seeing the ripple
      effect it has had in their lives, I'm certain
      it's one to re-read over and over.
  • Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller 
  • Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff
  • The Rock that is Higher by Madeleine L'Engle
  • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
  • The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg
  • After the Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart
  • Sheet Music by Kevin Lehman
  • Let Nothing Disturb You - St. Teresa of Avila
  • Sacred Companions by David Benner
  • 58: Fast Living - How the Church Will End Extreme Poverty by Scott Todd
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  • Churched by Matthew Paul Turner
  • Bittersweet:  Thoughts on Change Grace and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
I resonated with the loss of ministry, the
confusion of God's call, and the heartache.
of all of it.  Thank you, Shauna, for putting
words to the pain and showing the side
that no one usually gets to see.
  • The Prodigal God by Tim Keller
  • Mark for Everyone by N.T. Wright
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling 
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • Love Wins by Rob Bell
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • The DiVinci Code by Dan Brown
  • The Shack by William Paul Young
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
  • Wild at Heart by John Eldridge
  • Between Women of God by Donna Otto
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (again!)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Becoming a Woman of Influence by Carol Kent
  • The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias
  • Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri Nouwen
  • The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules
    This gem was snatched up for free on Kindle
    during the year.  It was serendipitous that
    my Bible study decided to study Ruth 
    and so I began this in conjunction.  It fed
    my soul as a woman seeking to follow
    hard after God.  I couldn't wait to get 
    into it every week.  
  • The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules by Carolyn Custis James
  • The Faith of Leap by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
  • Braided Streams by Marjory Zoet Bankson
  • Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James
  • Esther by Charles Swindoll
  • The On-Purpose Person by Kevin McCarthy
  • Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Discipleship by Alan & Debra Hirsch
  • NIV Application Commentary/Esther by Karen Jobes
  • Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen
  • Simply Christian by N.T. Wright
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This summer's reading theme was "What's all the Fuss About?"  It was some of the most fun I've had 
reading in a while.  Had I not done that I would have only
 read 2 fiction books.  It's intriguing to me how much non-fiction
has taken such a front seat over the years.
Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship (Shapevine)
Untamed by Alan and Debra Hirsch
As I think more intently about mentoring
this book challenged me to create
relationships that are wholistic.  In short,
it came at a very good time.

I attempted a few books that I just had to set aside.  As interesting as they were, I just couldn't push through Malcom Gladwell's The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Kathryn Schultz's On Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Alexandra Robbins' The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, and David Brooks' The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement.   I'd love to read them one day, but these are the kinds of works that I think I grasp better and get excited about in the form of a TED talk. 

What were your most inspiring reads this year?

Wednesday, December 21


DH and the boys are out in a blizzard to pick up his mother and brother from the airport.  I am sitting in a quiet, clean house, noting the snowfall and drinking tea.  And frankly I'm soaking up all the normalcy I can before Christmas jumps in.  It's a refective time so with that here is a bit of a reflection on the last month of life.  
We enjoyed Denver's Night at the Museums at the beginning of November.   This year we went up to Golden to explore the American Mountaneering Museum and the Astor House with friends and their amazing kids.  Amazing because they have a great story.  And amazing because they just are.  

B took part in a three part physics co-op wherein they built towers, bridges and containers for the egg drop.  He did pretty well with his design.  It didn't break from the fall from a second story window.  Of course, some kids in the group were disappointed that they did so well so they did end up breaking a couple just for fun. 

We studied sheep.  Yes, sheep.  We thought, too, about shepherds.  It was a two week unit study and one thing I most enjoyed was reading to B from Scouting the Divine by Margaret Feinberg.  Sometimes we assume that kids won't understand our "adult" spiritual formation books.  But Margaret writes so accesibly that B tracked right along with her and we both were reminded of what the Good Shepherd does for us daily.  This little craft was so cute and easy for S to make.  And it was so much more fun than gluing cotton balls to paper like he's done sooo many times in Bible class.  

We began to be Thankful.  S made a little thankful tree.  The crafts you think are overdone (i.e. ahem...gluing cotton balls to paper to make sheep) they end up loving.  He said what he was thankful for and we wrote his thoughts on leaves and taped them to a branch.  I think his favorite part was hacking the branch off the felled limb in the backyard.   And on the computer is which is B's math curriculum for the year.  He and I both love that it's all online and includes instructional videos.  Plus I love that it's only $10 a month. He's doing really well, and if he's ever stuck I just watch the video with him and help him work through both practice and graded problems.  I can even set up rewards for him and pause the program (like I did for Christmas this week).  He's halfway through his year but he's 3/4 of the way done with math!

 We took a little break. J was off the whole week of Thanksgiving and we were lucky enough to find a little condo in Estes Park to rent for three days. It was out of cell phone range and had no internet access.  Perfect.   We played games, walked through downtown and watched the glassblower for a long time, enjoyed their community-wide free Thanksgiving Dinner, took in a movie and tried out their skatepark.  Perfect.  Oh, I said that.

We don't have many traditions at the holidays, but since moving to Colorado we've been to see the Littleton Christmas Tree Lighting every year. So, after returning from Estes Park we went to cute little downtown Littleton yet again and froze and watched as the wind blew all our candles out.  But it's still fun.

Monday, November 21

Make Something Day 2011

Make Something Day, the antidote to Black Friday, is this week!  I'm feeling a little behind this year.  But maybe I do every year.

Since all of our family live in other states and only one or two relatives will end up venturing this far for Christmas, I need to get gifts in the mail by December 10th.  The kids and I haven't even begun our homemade items this year.  Google is being my friend tonight.  On Wednesday we're hitting the road for a short getaway and I want to be able to take some things with us that we can work on.

Last year we made several things to give as gifts.
1: Paint Your Own Pottery:  This outing was also co-op with our homeschool group.  Each boy picked a male in the family to paint a trophy cup for.  Their dad uses his for pocket change.

2: Hemp Trivets:  Hot glue, a cork square, a lot of hemp cording and even more patience helped J make these for his female family.

3: Truly Handmade Cards:  B drew this leaf design in art class. I wish you could see it up close because there's a ton of little design work in it.  We copied and shrunk it down and printed it on cardstock, he stamped and cut and assembled notecard sets to give to Grandmas and Aunts and friends far away.  Signed the by the artist and totally cool.

4: Homemade Granola:  I used two recipes, Maple Walnut and Coconut Almond, packed a few cups worth into clamp canisters and gave them out to all of dh's co-workers.

5. Fleece Pillow:  For my sports fan son, I thought it was time for his Thomas the Tank engine pillow to grow up, so I covered it with a football motif fleece fabric. Easy.  And he hasn't even missed Thomas.

6: Framed Brochures:  In the summer of 2009, dh took me on an 8 day trip to Great Britain.  I saved all the ephemera from the trip and finally did something with it. I cut these brochures and maps and train tickets all down to the same size, centered and adhered them to a mat and framed them.  It hangs in our office to remind us to do it again someday.

7: Felt Tissue Covers:  This was the boys biggest project.  Not only did they send them to relatives, but they passed them out to all their teachers at their Friday classes and anyone else they could think of.   It was a  simple piece of felt, cut to size with pinking shears, folded over and hand stitched along the edges with a little monogrammed applique.  My boys really love to hand stitch.  This was perfect for them.

What are you making this year?  I'd love to hear your ideas.
Here are some sites I'm drawing inspiration from this year:
sew mama sew

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 2

October Catch Up

October came and went.  It was busy and good and mostly normal.  My least favorite day was when S ran over his finger while sitting on a skateboard.  We're still waiting for that fingernail to fall off.  It's barely hanging on.  I did not take a picture of it and you're welcome.  

My favorite days were the two afternoons that dh and I had lunch dates.  I love, love, love that all three boys on are in classes all day on Fridays.  Originally I thought, "Yay, I get a day for me!"  But then I discovered that even better than that was to have a day for my marriage.  Whoa.  So good.  

Additionally, I made a little cash to go toward our summer trip to India by selling more kids items at the Just Between Friends, Denver sale.  If anyone feels like donating to that cause, let me know!  For you locals, I'm going to do the Spring JBF sale too and I'm accepting your in-kind donations so I can sell them.  Let me know if I can take your kids' stuff off your hands.

I've started mentoring an amazing young seminary student recently and now I've added another young woman from our community. I'm loving this season of life wherein I feel comfortable with who God made me to be and am actually stepping out and trying to fulfill what I think that looks like.  

We've been doing plenty of school and I'm rejoicing that we're finally in a groove that's not too restrictive.  On Tuesdays we take our work to a coffee shop.  On Fridays, like I said, the boys take classes away from home.  And I'm trying hard to protect all the other mornings to keep them designated for getting our work down.  We've had several co-ops with our local group and a couple more are coming up in November. 

Other than that, here's a few snapshots of the month:

 A little board breaking in tae kwon do.  

A little home repair on the rotting fascia boards (this is a before picture). 

Some sequencing with S. 

 Making mummies as we studied Ancient Egypt.

B's living history museum at Options.  He was Jackie Robinson and his other classmates were Sally Ride and Amelia Earhart.  Martin Luther King, Jr. showed up late.

Snow storm #1

Museum Day with a Robotics class (and real mummies!)

J's Lego creation: a giant Ninjago minifig. 

Our harvest carnival outing. 

Snow storm #2: this morning!  I just finished shoveling the driveway.  Fall in Colorado is all about upper body strength between raking leaves and shoveling snow.  I'm still questioning why I maintain a gym membership at this time of year.   But my resting heart rate just clocked in at 50 so I think it's doing me some good.

Saturday, October 8

Do Not Be Afraid

We have always been a part of co-ops and homeschool groups for two reasons.
1.  P.E.
2.  Art

My oldest son hated getting his hands messy, always needed to know where we were going, refused to use color and rushed through everything.  Aside from the first couple of years when he was very young, I eventually determined that unless it seemed enjoyable to turn a lesson into a meltdown, I would simply not do art with him.  Instead, I farmed it out to other homeschooling moms to have the "pleasure" of exploring J's creative side during the classes they volunteered to teach.  Sorry, mom friends.

As a result, art has essentially sat dormant for a while. I tried to find ways to expose the boys to it in non-messy, linear ways.  We looked at masterpieces and learned about artists and I have always had them drawing (lots of stick figure art going on over here).  But that's essentially been my maximum effort.  Because the terror of the art lessons of the past has never left me, I don't even get out the paints unless I'm really throwing caution to the wind.   Sorry, Charlotte Mason, but we don't do nature notebooks.

When J was no longer schooling at home last year, B and I spent the year figuring out what worked for us.   And then we spent the beginning of this year finding out what worked for him.  He's an auditory/kinesthetic (large muscle) learner.  His intelligences lie in the areas of spatial, body and intrapersonal.  He's essentially an artist when he's not being an athlete.  But he's not the kid who loves drawing and painting, shading, perspective, etc.   He likes the sculpting, the building, the graphic designs, the turning-something-into-something-else kind of art.  He loves to make things and he cherishes each thing he creates.

In the past month he's been busy creating.  And surprise of surprises, I'm actually enjoying the process with him.  Of course, I've always enjoyed art and pursuing creativity.  And now, we've brought it back into our school day.  It turns out that I just needed to do it with the right child.

I will no longer be afraid of the art lesson.

Here are just some of the projects B and S have done in the past few weeks:

  • Rice Krispie castles.
  • A tile mosaic crown.
  • A truss bridge out of Popsicle sticks and white glue.
  • Scarab stamps out of baked modeling clay.
  • Egyptian wall friezes out of Plaster of Paris

This doesn't include the lanyard helicopters, the countless fuse bead projects, the carving he wants to do of the Sphynx or the paper mache mummies that we'll try to hit this week.    It's exhausting.  It's messy.  And it's no longer fearful.


Friday, October 7

More Than I Thought

I've been thinking lately, "We need to get real with school."

No longer can I try to squeeze in just a little more summer. No longer can I use my bag of excuses. No longer can I blame my distractedness on warm, sunny days.

Though we began in mid-August, we've had plenty of stops and starts and tons of bonus field trips.  It's been a beginning that felt very much like I wasn't able to finish a sentence.

Case in point, I only have two documented weeks of lesson plans and four (or has it been six already?) that I haven't even filled in.  It feels to me like we haven't really accomplished much.

But we have.

Last week we finished our study of Royalty and as it turns out, we accomplished more than I thought.
  • B (grade 4) colored a map of the word highlighting about 6 different empires in different places and eras.  
  • We spent time reading information about each ruler, including Xerxes in the whole book of Esther.  
  • He's identified the different titles for monarchy at various places and times around the globe.  
  • We've read fables and stories of kings (like Midas and Gilgamesh and Arthur) to compare to the real guys.  
  • We moved into a little study of knights and castles simply because that was where his interests lay and he filled a lapbook with castle diagrams, weapons and armor.  
  • We read the abridged Knights of the Round Table and a Door in the Wall.
  • He read The Magic Tree House Research Guide on Knights and finished the Time Warp Trio:  Knights of the Kitchen Table. 
  • He wrote his own story about Kings.
  • We worked up a timeline of major rulers and world events to put it all in perspective.  
  • Art activities included making a Rice Krispie castle and a tile mosaic crown.
  • He's moving through fourth grade math at and is doing very well in our first year of Spelling Power.

    S (grade K) is happy to do anything.  We've been plugging along with several things in addition to daily life skills:
    • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  It's perfect for him.  He's so full of excitement and his knowledge base is right where it should be to begin this study.  
    • Making Math Meaningful.  We've been doing something out of it every week and so far he's completely ahead of where the curriculum is, but he enjoys the quick hands-on activities.  Math has also included dot-to-dot pages, mazes and puzzles. 
    • Writing.  I have never pushed my boys to write.  But S wants to.  We practice just a couple letters a day on a wipe-off lap-board.  And he's doing beautifully.  It's amazing.  Maybe I'll actually have one child with good handwriting.    
    • He made his own age-appropriate lapbook about knights and we're tossing in some occasional study of the seasons. 
    • He spends time each week on practicing more reading skills.  Loves it.
    • He's done a zillion other activities:  things to move and manipulate, things to cut and color, pasting, painting, shapes to play with, measuring tapes, and play dough.  
    It's pure fun teaching Kindergarten level to S.  All in all, his daily time logs in at around 45 minutes.  It's much more than his oldest brother ever did and it's also much more structured than his other brother did at this age. He's definitely eager and ambitious. I've also noticed that he's much more patient this year.  We've turned a corner there and overall our days are so much more manageable and enjoyable.  So, for you mothers with distracting and demanding preschoolers, there's hope that they'll eventually get it.

    Tuesday, September 6

    Groping a Bit

    I heard something this summer;  a quote, a phrase, an idea.  It hinted that "expectations are just future resentments."  Today I feel the pulse of this.  

    I expected that I'd have the fall semester figured out by now, that I'd have my hands firmly grasped around the objectives and projects that would at most take us toward Advent. What I have is a little cup of ideas and a swelling pile of resources. This is all that I'm working with in these first days of our 10th year. I can't determine if it's unsettling or freeing. But I feel like I'm resenting
    ...that I'm past time for planning and am well into the time for implementing, ready or not.
    ...that I used to have things so prepared.  My former self seems more organized than my present self.
    ...that we haven't been able to fall into a rhythm.  Every day is still different.  Shouldn't this be a blessing?

    My lesson plans in this third full week are already askew.  We entertained company and opted to do two field trips.  I decided to do school yesterday -- on a planned holiday.  We've said, "yes," to the park day, the BMX track, the lunch meeting.  We're moving through the meat of our unit... and we're not sinking.

    I find that I'm sitting and listening with each moment, breathing prayers for direction.
    This activity might be good to put in right here.  Change direction.
    This child has a need I can meet.  Change direction.
    This resource is confusing, let's set it aside.  Change direction.
    Letting the children lead more, finding the moments that connect, paying attention to bodies and energies and what matters to little boys.  Praying all the while.

    I've never been free to ad lib so richly.  My first student needed checklists, structure, plans.  Now, though I'm practicing freedom I've yet to feel the shackles fall.  The way we've always done this isn't the way we do it anymore.  It's interesting that I sit in the midst of resentment when no wrong has actually been done.  
    It surprises me when I come to this conclusion: this is not resentment, but dependence.  It's the groping that I used to do back in the days when God was silent and my structured school days were the only things that I knew without a doubt.  Then, I was groping for God, wishing for his voice, willing him to act, waiting on him and asking him, "Am I doing this right?"  Now it's turned on its head. God has spoken and continues to be present and real, but my structures are shattered and I am utterly dependent on him to create them.  My focus changed but the question remains the same, "Am I doing this right?"  This daily instruction, filling of a pail, lighting of a fire.  Is this the best way or just the best way for today?

    The things we think we should do, make us resent what we actually produce.  I, this abstract sequential being, try so hard to fight against the abstract, against the very core of self.  Isn't it good for me to move from shape to shape and from this color to the next?  These boys are not the same, I should not be the same either.  At the end of the day, what I've created should look nothing like me and everything like them.

    Bending but not breaking.  This is the tension where one ought to live.

    Photos are from our field trip to Miramont Castle 8/25/11

    Monday, August 22

    Today's Table

    I thought I'd do A Day in the Life based on this photo.

    This is what my coffee table looked like today after our morning of school at home.  I swear that sucker was clean when we started.  However, it tells a pretty good story of what we did today.

    When I came downstairs to begin with the kids I brought with me my tea (Green Tea Pomegranat), the book I'm reading, and the container of blueberries.   After I read Blueberries for Sal to S,  he had to estimate how many berries would fit inside the tablespoon you see there mixed in with the markers.  Then we estimated how many blueberries long a marker was, and counted how many would go around the perimeter of Sal.  Then we tested out how many we could balance on that wine cork -- he could do three. After that, he munched on the berries while he ripped and cut out his own construction paper rendition of Blueberry Hill complete with a Momma bear.  I also gave him four pictures from the story and had him sequence them and color them in for fun.  These last two ideas just came out of my head as we were going along.

    Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic showed up next.  We're doing this fun read aloud to start the year and B is making the cardstock gameboard to go with the book (sneaking in some writing there).  The idea comes from Games With Books which you can see underneath the game board.  We've used Peggy Kaye's books over and over and over again.  I love her ideas.  (That's where some activities for Blueberries for Sal came from too.)

    There's a Math Mosaics book there that got forgotten today because the game board took longer than we expected, but that's okay. While B was working on the game, S and I were on the floor with the Clifford math magnets .  He had fun with those.

    On my clipboard are the pages of the Math placement test that B completed today.  Because I'm switching curriculum, I'm not sure if I should get him 3rd grade math or 4th grade.  He's good at math, but after this placement test I think he may need a pretty good 3rd grade refresher before we move on.  I knew I should have been doing math with him all summer. Underneath those papers is the Kindergarten readiness test I downloaded and completed with S today.  It just told me what skills to focus on and what he already knows. I can't remember where I found it, or I'd link to it.

    Let's see, what else is there?  Oh, the stack of alphabet cards (the S is there on top of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle) were used when I found out that my Kindergartener really isn't sure what his last name is.  He does know it, he just doesn't know the first/last designation.  So we worked on spelling it out today and getting used to what it looks like.  We spelled it in capital letters but on the flip side are those very confusing lower case letters, so we spent some time on those.

    On the floor up in the corner of the photo is the file folder game I had prepped for S last year.  But I pulled it out today just for fun.  I think he's beyond it now so it's time to make some more.  (Love that website!).  While he did that, B and I worked through You're Smarter Than You Think: A Kid's Guide to Multiple Intelligences  He took the quizzes for the first three intelligences and we settled on Picture Smart for him and found out what that looks like.  Tomorrow we'll read through some of the others and see if he discovers a couple more that fit him.  We're spending our first days on learning styles/ modalities/intelligences, et al. because I want my dyslexic son to know how he's smart and that "smart" looks different for everyone.

    Here's how funny God is:
    My child is an auditory/kinesthetic learner; I'm a visual learner.
    My child is a concrete random processor;  I'm an abstract sequential processor.
    My child is picture smart; I am word smart.
    We are complete opposites.

    Finally, there on the table intertwined among the colored pencils and markers is a homemade Indiana Jones whip.  Random.  But that's so commonplace.  At the end of every day there's several odd artifacts that have made their way into our learning space.  It's humorous.  And I love it.

    The rest of our day consisted of lunch, grocery shopping, cleaning the fridge, LEGO building, and picking up J from school.  I dropped J at Taekwon Do, went to the gym, came home to the dinner dh had prepared and then had coffee tonight with a super fun new friend that I think I'll get the honor of spending more time with in the coming months.

    Today was a really good day.
    And, yes. The table is still a mess.