Family Reading Status

Aug 28, 2015

I know you hear a lot about what I'm reading, but today I thought I'd give you a quick look at the currently reading piles of everyone else in our family too.

  • Reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I think I have about sixty pages left. For the most part, I've enjoyed it, but it has not been a fast read for me. Whether that's because of the genre or just my busy schedule right now, I don't know. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts after I finish it.
  • Listening to The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. I'm a little more than halfway through and enjoying it so much more than The Forgotten Garden. Plus, the reader is quite fabulous.
  • Also reading Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson and the scriptures every day.
  • Pretending that I'm still reading The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron, although I don't think I've cracked the cover in at least a month.
  • Just finished listening to The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. He really liked it, and he said I should listen to it too. 
  • Listening to The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman. He started it on a recent trip, and I'm not sure if he's picked it up since he got home. Apparently, he was falling asleep while listening to it (while flying, not driving!), and he said he'd have to backtrack quite a bit to remember where he was.
  • Reading Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. I admit to doing no screening before Aaron started this book, but he seems to be enjoying it.
  • Also reading some nonfiction by Seymour Simon. I believe this week he read Lightning and also Lungs.
  • Just finished Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osborne this morning. He was pretty thrilled since it was the first chapter book he's read all on his own.
  • Listening to The Boxcar Children, Surprise Island, and The Yellow House Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner. There was a day earlier this week when he was sick, so he spent a lot of time in bed listening to these three.
  • Current favorites: 1 Hunter by Pat Hutchins, Sylvie by Jennifer Sattler, Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere, No, No, Kitten! by Shelley Moore Thomas, and many more.
  • Reading Not Yet Tip on his own, along with other books from the yellow group of the Reading For All Learners collection.
  • Some recent favorites: City Animals by Simms Taback (mostly because of the page with the dog), What Does Baby Say? by Karen Katz (because he can repeat almost all the sounds), and Walter's Wheels by Noelle Dingeldein (because he laughs every time on the race car page). 
Amy and the boys:
  • The Story of the World: Early Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer. This has taken us all summer to read, but we're nearing the end. It will feel like a major accomplishment when we finish.
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. This is a short enough book we should have been able to blaze through it in one or two sittings, but with the start of school and trying to finish The Story of the World, we haven't been able to devote more than ten minutes at a time. Too bad though because my kids love it.
Mike and the boys:
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis. I think they have one chapter left.
Mike and Amy:
  • How to Talk to Your Child About Sex by Richard and Linda Eyre. I wouldn't call this fun reading, but with Aaron starting second grade, I feel like it is necessary. 
And once we're done with all of these, we have so many more great books waiting in the wings: Harry Potter, Mister Pip, and On Being Mortal, to name a few.

What are you currently reading? 

    Why I Don't Mind Folding the Laundry

    Aug 27, 2015

    Motherhood, and also just adulthood in general, comes with a long list of menial, repetitive tasks. The dishes must be washed, the laundry must be folded, the grass must be mowed, the floor must be swept, the oil must be changed, the windows must be scrubbed, the garden must be weeded, the meals must be cooked. Over and over again, forever and ever, from now until the end of your lives.

    No one tells you any of this in their peppy graduation speeches. There's a lot of, "You can be anything you want in this world! You're going to do amazing things! Go get 'em!" and not a whole lot of, "And, oh yeah, those piles of laundry don't wash themselves. Have fun with that." (They also never tell you that, yes, you can eat ice cream on the couch after the kids go to bed--so there are some hidden perks.)

    There are days when I feel like my life is slowly evaporating in monotonous tasks. Sometimes it seems like I have nothing to show for these hours and days that I'm living. It can be kind of a discouraging thought to realize you could live your whole life and come to the end of it, and no one will really care that you've folded 23,541 loads of laundry. It actually doesn't look that impressive in an obituary.

    But then, there are also days when I don't mind those boring tasks one bit. When I don't have to think about what I'm doing, then I can think about whatever else I want. My hands are busy, but my mind is utterly and completely free. There's something quite pleasant in that.

    When I was reading Emily's Quest a few weeks ago, I came across the following passage. And it was satisfying to find out that Emily Byrd Starr agrees with me:
    "This evening, just when I was in the middle of a story Aunt Elizabeth said she wanted me to weed the onion-bed. So I had to lay down my pen and go out to the kitchen garden. But one can weed onions and think wonderful things at the same time, glory be. It is one of the blessings that we don't always have to put our souls into what our hands may be doing, praise the gods--for otherwise who would have any soul left? So I weeded the onion-bed and roamed the Milky Way in imagination."
    It sounds fairly romantic--especially that bit about roaming the Milky Way--but there's a lot of truth in it. There are so many things I enjoy doing when I don't have to be fully engaged with the physical task at hand.

    The first, and probably most obvious one, is to "think wonderful things," as Emily put it. I don't know that my thoughts are always wonderful, but I love to just let my mind wander. I stew over problems (and brainstorm solutions), I formulate new blog posts, I ponder eternal truths (which sounds much more impressive than, at least in my case, it actually is), and I make plans for the future. And for me, I actually think a lot more clearly if I'm busy doing something instead of sitting still and trying to think.

    Monotonous tasks also give me the perfect opportunity to indulge in some inspiring or entertaining listening. For the last few months, I've been listening to a conference talk first thing in the morning before I listen to anything else (I've had this one and this one on repeat lately). It gets the day started right and reminds me to focus on the important things. I tend to listen to audiobooks when the kids are asleep or occupied (I'm listening to The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton right now--so good!) and podcasts when they're likely to need my frequent attention (two recent favorites: Bringing Up Betty and The Yarn).

    I'm not much of a singer, but occasionally, I like to sing while I work. It makes me feel happy and alive. But even more than that, I like to put on some upbeat music. It's energizing--for me and my kids. Sometimes--usually--dancing ensues.

    A task like washing the dishes gives me the perfect opportunity to call someone on the phone. It's almost always my mom, but once in a while I branch out to a friend that I need to catch up with. The truth is, I don't love talking on the phone, but if I'm busy doing something else, it can be fun.

    Not recently, but quite a bit in the past, I used those mindless tasks to memorize scriptures or poems or hymns. Wiping down the bathroom sink took the same amount of time as five repetitions of a certain phrase. I should get back into that.

    I've also found that if I'm doing something fairly stationary (like making dinner or folding laundry), it's a great time to have some quality time with my kids. I can help them with homework or projects. I can let them help me with whatever I'm doing. I can ask them questions and take the time to listen to all their grand ideas.

    So yes, I've definitely found ways to enjoy doing almost every task in our home. My problem now stems from the fact that it's almost impossible to "think wonderful thoughts" if I'm being interrupted four different times by four different people. But I happen to be quite fond of those four little people, so usually I don't mind.

    What do you do to engage your mind while your hands are busy?

    Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery

    Aug 24, 2015

    Finally, finally, I can check off the Emily trilogy from my to-read list. I read the first one probably fifteen years ago, then read it again a few years ago, and finally made the reading of the last two one of my goals for the year. And I'm so glad I did. This final installment was probably my favorite one in the trilogy.

    At the beginning of this book, Emily has been left behind. Sure, she has Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura, and Cousin Jimmy, but all of her friends (Perry, Ilse, and, most notably, Teddy) have gone off on the grand adventures of adulthood. (Emily has something of a vague regret for not taking up Miss Royal on her offer to go to New York City.) But New Moon is just as dear as ever, and Emily loves the sweet comforts of home. Before Teddy leaves, he and Emily make a promise of sorts to each other. Whenever either of them sees the star, Vega of the Lyre, they will think of each other--"everywhere and as long as we live."

    But after he goes, Teddy changes. He becomes preoccupied with his art and soon becomes quite well-known and esteemed. Emily, on the other hand, publishes a lot of stories and poems but can't seem to get any higher on her Alpine path. She becomes very discouraged and, after a nearly fatal accident, she loses interest in writing entirely. The years pass slowly, and it seems for a time that all her dreams are lost.

    This book reminded me of the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. As you might remember, George Bailey wants nothing more than to get out of Bedford Falls. He wants to travel the world and go to college and become an architect. But after his father passes away quite suddenly, he chooses to stay in order to help the Bailey Building and Loan not fall into the greedy hands of Mr. Potter. In Emily's case, she stayed at New Moon much more willingly (she's a homebody at heart), but she still watches as all of her friends find success and happiness and she seems to stay stagnant and the same. In both scenarios, the friends come home for visits and find everything exactly as they left it. It's comforting to them, but it's aggravating to George and Emily who, in spite of choosing to stay, have such big dreams for their lives, none of which seem to be coming to fruition.

    This book was quite the contrast to Emily Climbs, which, in spite of many funny and witty moments, was almost intolerably slow for me. The romantic tension in this one kept the pace up for me. Montgomery keeps the reader guessing the entire time: who is Emily going to end up with? Is she even going to get married? Is she really going to marry someone she doesn't love? Is Teddy really going to marry someone he doesn't love? 

    It's a different kind of page turner than something action-packed or danger-filled. In fact, I suppose you could say that for most of the book, nothing much happens. Many years pass, and, as a reader, I felt a lot of frustration with Teddy and Emily and kept wondering, Is anything ever going to happen???? But it was that question that kept me turning the pages. I had to know if things would resolve between them. The promise of reconciliation was very tantalizing.

    It's so funny because, really, I don't actually like Teddy Kent very much. I know he's sweet and dreamy and kind, but he never seemed to have much backbone, and this final installment did nothing to change my opinion. In fact, if he'd been less romantic and more practical, none of the misunderstandings would have happened (but then, I just said that the whole reason I liked this book was because of the romantic tension, so you can see, I'm conflicted).

    However, when there was even a hint of a threat that Emily wasn't going to end up with Teddy, I was quite indignant. How could Montgomery set up their love story so perfectly in the previous two books and then not have anything come of it? She strings the reader along until the last possible second (we're talking, the-wedding-guests-are-arriving, the-minister-is-waiting, last possible second). In fact, it wasn't until the last four pages that I could finally relax, and I'll admit, I would have liked a few more pages of happiness before it all ended. I think all the previous pages of tension deserved a drawn-out happy ending.

    Even though waiting to see what would happen between Emily and Teddy was the main thing that kept me reading, Emily's ambition to become an author was a close second. I loved one of her journal entries where she is reveling in life's beauty, and then her final line is, "How much difference in one's outlook three acceptances make!" (She's referring to having three of her manuscripts accepted for publication.) It's so true. On the days when someone compliments me or follows me on Instagram or comments on my blog, my disposition changes because I feel appreciated and valued. And it makes me realize that it wouldn't take much effort on my part to do that for someone else as well. 

    Out of the three books, this is the only one that, upon finishing, I went back and reread some of my favorite parts. I guess that affirms what I said at the beginning: this is my favorite of the three.

    Secrets of Adulthood #1: Sweep and You'll Feel Better

    Aug 21, 2015

    Even though we still have more than a third of the year to go, I've already been contemplating my reading goals for 2016. I don't have them all figured out yet, but one thing that I do know is that a couple of rereads are in order. One of those rereads will be The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

    I've forgotten many details from the book (hence, the reread), but a few of the things have stayed with me, particularly Gretchen's Secrets of Adulthood ("What's fun for other people may not be fun for you--and vice versa" is one of my favorites). Immediately after reading the book, I thought of several of my own, and I've been surprised with how often one of my Secrets of Adulthood will pop into my head at just the right time and calm me down or remind me of something important or make me smile.

    In the book, Gretchen has her resolutions, her Twelve Commandments, and her Secrets of Adulthood, and so at first I was a little conflicted with how to categorize my little pieces of advice to myself. But where the resolutions are specific action plans for achieving goals and the commandments are sort of these overarching, big-picture values, the Secrets of Adulthood were just random tips and tricks. They aren't necessarily things that will make a big difference in your worldview, but they might make everyday life a little easier. So I decided my little thoughts fit best under the Secrets of Adulthood heading, and I've called them that ever since.

    Today I'm going to share one of those with you, and this may become something of a regular feature on Sunlit Pages. We'll see. Additionally, I would love to hear about your own Secrets of Adulthood--those little daily mantras that help you survive and thrive.

    Here's one that I repeat to myself on an almost daily basis:

    [Sweep], and you'll feel better. 

    Of course it needs an explanation.

    With four boys running around, our home is always in varying degrees of chaos. There are moments when I can handle it just fine but other moments where it totally overwhelms me (and both types of moments happen cyclically every day). When I'm in my overwhelmed state, my irritation and frustration with the mess tend to escalate very quickly and unpredictably. Within seconds, every direction I turn sends me further into despair. It feels like I will never have a clean house ever again.

    At this point, I can go one of two directions: either I can wander around while feeling more irritated and overwhelmed at every turn; or I can focus on fixing one thing, just one, while turning into a rational human being again.

    It's in that critical moment of decision that this mantra comes in so handy. I repeat it silently to myself:

    [Sweep], and you'll feel better. [Insert task of choice], and you'll feel better.

    I find that when I set my mind to one chore, it doesn't really matter what it is. Just the act of bringing order to one thing (be it the sink full of dishes or the crumb-cluttered floor or the basket of clean laundry) calms me down enough that I can then tackle the rest of what's bothering me (and also delegate some of the work out to other family members).

    Generally, the simpler this initial task is, the better. In fact, vacuuming might be my all-time favorite thing to do to bring almost immediate calm. Whether it's the white noise or the therapeutic motion or the instant lift it gives to a room, I always feel better after vacuuming (but I like the way "Sweep, and you'll feel better" sounds more than "Vacuum, and you'll better").

    The key is to trust myself that it will actually work.

    Clark agrees with me.

    What do you do to restore yourself to a state of rational calm? What are your most oft-repeated Secrets of Adulthood? 

    Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

    Aug 19, 2015

    Book Review: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren--uproariously funny and delightful
    Oh, Pippi. That iconic literary figure. Even if you've never read the book, I'm sure as soon as I said, "Oh, Pippi," an image of a lanky girl with bright red pigtails jutting out from the sides of her head and humongous black shoes on her feet flashed across your brain. Everyone knows Pippi.

    And now my kids know her, too.

    If you've read the book or seen one of the movie adaptations, then you might also remember a few other details, such as these:  Pippi lives in a home called Villa Villekulla (one of those names that rolls gloriously off the tongue--try it). She has no mother or father (her mother died and her father was lost at sea). This lack of parental supervision suits Pippi just fine, and she takes full advantage of it: staying up into the wee morning hours learning how to dance the schottische or drawing on the walls or rolling out dozens of cookies on the kitchen floor. Her neighbors, Tommy and Annika, are rather envious and love coming over to play because there's always something fun or wild or strange going on. She's also unbelievably strong, which makes for some pretty funny moments. (It was one of those facts I kept forgetting about until, all of sudden, she was doing something spectacular, like throwing the local bullies up into a tree.) But even though Pippi doesn't have parents, she doesn't live alone: She has a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson and a horse who resides on the porch. All in all, it's a good life.

    I knew we'd found a winner as early as the very first chapter. Tommy and Annika are visiting Villa Villekulla for the very first time, and they ask her, "Don't you have any father or mother?" And Pippi happily says, "No, not the least little tiny bit of a one." My kids busted up laughing. Then Annika asks, "But who tells you when to go to bed at night and things like that?" Pippi answers, "I tell myself. First I tell myself in a nice friendly way; and then, if I don't mind, I tell myself again more sharply; and if I still don't mind, then I'm in for a spanking--see?" At that point, I had to stop reading because Aaron, Max, and Bradley were laughing so hard they couldn't hear what I was reading. (And I had to go back and read that part over again because they'd enjoyed it so much, they wanted to hear it a second time.)

    They enjoyed the rest of the book just as much, although Aaron admitted on the second chapter that he didn't think it was quite as funny as the first. The first chapter definitely had the element of surprise going for it. Since my kids had never heard of Pippi before, they were just as startled and delighted by her as Tommy and Annika.

    Now a word of warning. Pippi is impudent. She is sassy. She can be a little bit rude. (When she goes to school (for all of one day), the teacher asks her what seven and five are, and Pippi replies, "Well, if you don't know that yourself, you needn't think I'm going to tell you." I know. I cringed too.) But the thing is, her impudence and sassiness and rudeness are very innocent. She's not saying those things because she's trying to get the upper hand on adults or because she's trying to assert her independence. She says them because she has absolutely no filter and never considers the appropriateness of what she's saying before she's already said it.

    But she recognizes that she often doesn't know the proper way to behave, and it causes her the occasional moment of anxiety. When Tommy and Annika invite her to their house for a coffee party, Pippi worries, "Oh, what will happen? Oh, I'm so nervous. What if I can't behave myself?" Annika says, "Of course you can." And Pippi goes on to say, "Don't you be too certain about that. You can be sure I'll try, but I have noticed several times that people don't think I know how to behave even when I'm trying as hard as ever I can." (Spoiler: her conversation at the coffee party is a total disaster.) So you can't help but love her for trying.

    Pippi's also very literal. She reminded me of a younger Amelia Bedelia--a more scatter-brained, sporadic Amelia Bedelia. In fact, it's a little hard to keep up with her. She changes her mind (and her stories) so quickly. She can go from stating something as fact to admitting it's fiction faster than you can blink.

    I think the thing that I loved the most about Pippi though was her optimistic flexibility with life. Her plans are always spur of the moment and she never thinks about the consequences. I don't necessarily agree with that way of living (and for me, personally, I'd never be able to handle it), but I love that she always makes the best of her decisions. When she paints a large picture on the wallpaper in the parlor, she doesn't fret about ruining the wall; and she doesn't regret the picture. Instead, she thinks it's a beautiful painting and greatly improves the room. But you know that in a few days, she'll probably be tired of it. However, she won't wish for it to be back the way it was. She'll just move onto her next great idea and make more "improvements." And it's that kind of attitude, moving forward with optimism and flexibility, that I admire.

    It felt a lot like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in that each chapter was its own story. There's wasn't any overarching drama, and there was nothing about the last chapter that actually made it feel like the end. It just ended. That must have been a popular literary device in the 1950's, but I can't say that it's my favorite.

    If you're looking for your next great readaloud, I'd recommend this one, especially if you've enjoyed some of the other similar books I mentioned in this review. And if you've already read Pippi, I'd love to know what you thought about her. Did you find her obnoxious or endearing?

    KidPages: Again! by Emily Gravett

    Aug 17, 2015

    It's been awhile since I've done any KidPages posts. I've been having a hard time just keeping up with my regular book reviews, which is why I've been slacking. I do share our favorites on Instagram though, so if you've been looking for more picture book recommendations, you can follow me there.

    The parent/child bedtime struggle . . . we've all been there. The later it gets, the more quick-witted the kids seem to be (and, by default, the slower, tireder, and, in my case, crankier the parents are). Kids can think of a million reasons to stay up for just a few more minutes.

    And Little Dragon is no different. (For the sake of this review, we will call him Cedric. There's nothing that explicitly says that's his name, but if you read the book, you'll see why it's a good choice.) The bedtime ritual starts out peacefully enough: he plays, eats some cookies and milk, brushes his teeth, takes a bath (this all occurs on the endpapers), and finally, settles down with his favorite book. His mother cheerfully reads it, and at the end of it, Cedric asks for it again.

    A child asking to hear a favorite story again? It's a difficult thing to refuse. (I know. My kids tempt me every single night). Cedric's mom gives in. She reads it again. But you see where this book is going. And each repetition gets shorter and less comprehensive as fatigue and exhaustion set in. As often happens, the story is putting Cedric's mom to sleep, but not Cedric himself, who gets more and more animated (and obnoxious) the longer he's up.

    Finally, Cedric's mom cannot resist sleep any longer (I plead guilty of falling asleep while reading to my kids, too). But Cedric won't give up. He jumps up and down on her chest screaming, "Again! Again! Again!" In an irrational moment, he blows a fiery hole through the very thing he wanted so much.

    And that's the end of the story.

    It's abrupt, but if your kids have reached the point of psychotic and irrational behavior, then bedtime often is. We parents can only be patient so long. Eventually, a line is crossed, and then it's over. Just like that.

    Parents will like the abrupt ending because it's so true to life. And kids will like it because it's unexpected and funny. And that's the way the whole book is: a little bit for the adults, a little bit for the kids. The balance is just about perfect.

    Also, the text is pretty genius. It's a combination of the words in Cedric's bedtime story and the ever-insistent (and more and more obnoxious) "Again!" With each repetition, Cedric's mom slightly alters the words of the bedtime story out of necessity (she's exhausted) and because she has an agenda (get Cedric to bed). The distinction between reality and fantasy slowly meld into one another until the bedtime story becomes Cedric's story. It's very clever.

    I've loved Emily Gravett's illustrations for a long time (I think Blue Chameleon was the first book I read of hers). Because of the combination of pencil and watercolor, the pictures are detailed, but with soft, dreamy edged lines.

    And one more final plug: It's short, so if you're looking for a quick bedtime read, this is it. (But you'll have to read it again and again and again . . .)

    Seven Reasons Why We've Had a Perfect Summer

    Aug 14, 2015

    I thought we'd never beat last summer (it was pretty much the summer of my dreams), but this year tried very hard. It was different--Clark made sure of that--but we still managed to capture the idyllic feel of summer. With it coming to a formal close next week (school begins on Wednesday), I thought I'd reflect a little on what made it so great so that maybe, hopefully, I can recreate it next year.

    I've come to realize that I'm happiest when we have a strong foundation of structure and routine interspersed here and there (not every day) with a fun new activity. I'm a homebody at heart, but I like the occasional adventure. (Most of my kids are this way too.)

    And so, taking that into account, here are seven of the things we did this summer that made me love it so much I wish we had another six weeks of it (at least).

    1. Making summer goals

    Have I mentioned these goals enough yet? I'm sure it's my Upholder personality showing through that here, in the middle of August, we can still be working just as diligently on our summer goals as we did during the first week of June. Not only have these goals helped me feel like we actually accomplished something this summer, but they defined every morning and gave it a purpose. The goals became part of our routine but in a very measurable way. It's one thing to have a daily list of chores (we have those too), but it's another to feel like everything you do has a purpose and is contributing to a larger goal. I will admit that accomplishing these goals required an insane amount of dedication on my part (my kids liked them, but they would never have stuck with them if they'd been left entirely on their own), so seeing those stars gives me just about as much pleasure as it does them.

    2. Reading The Story of the World

    Are you familiar with this history of the world by Susan Wise Bauer? I've been eyeing it for many months but wasn't sure if my kids were old enough for it to hold their interest. Finally though, I just decided to try it out (and we further committed ourselves by making it one of our summer goals). We started with Volume Three because that's the one that was available at the library at the beginning of summer. Now, looking back, I'm kind of glad we had to start with the third one because it includes the time period of the American Revolution, something my kids were already somewhat familiar with. We've read a little bit every day. It has forty-two chapters (divided into two or three sections), so it's been one of the goals that I've really had to stay on top of. We'd been reading about four or five pages a day, but just last week, we decided we better increase it to ten if we wanted to be done with it by the end of August. The best part of it has been that at the end of every sub-chapter, either Aaron or Max draws a picture of what we read about. We've made a long timeline in their room with all the pictures.

    3. Going to the pool

    When I was growing up, I went to the pool a few times each summer, but definitely not every day. However, I knew that the pool was a landmark for many kids--the common thread that tied all the days together. There was a part of me that longed for that daily familiarity. So you might say that now I'm living my childhood dream. There is a little swimming club in our neighborhood. All last summer, we saw kids with towels hanging around their necks making their way there every afternoon and then straggling back home. This year we decided it was time to buy a share ourselves. It wasn't the most economical (it's just a little pool, and it's only open for three months out of the year), but both Mike and I agree that it has been more than worth it and one of the highlights of this summer. It's given my kids some motivation to be productive in the morning because the promise of the pool is always there. We've gone almost every day, and it's been a great way to cool off and relax. Plus, it's turned my kids into confident little swimmers, a benefit I hadn't even really thought about.

    4. Instituting poetry snack time

    On a past episode of The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast, Sarah Mackenzie interviewed Julie Bogart. One of the things they talked about that piqued my interest was poetry teatime. The basic idea is this: you gather up a few books of poetry, set out some food (it can be as fancy or as basic as you wish), and read poems while enjoying a little snack. I knew my boys wouldn't go for something called poetry teatime, so I renamed it poetry snack time, and it has been received with the greatest enthusiasm you can imagine. There are too many details to go into right here, so I'll save them all for a future post.

    5. Watching very little TV

    Almost by accident, my kids have watched very little TV this summer, and it's been fantastic. During the school year, I rely on the TV when I'm teaching piano or working on blog posts. But I took a break from piano and I shifted most of my writing to the early morning, so there just hasn't been much need to turn it on. For the most part, my kids don't even ask for it. On the rare occasion when we've turned it on, I almost always regret it because it turns them into grumpy little monsters.

    6. Reading aloud

    Of course this one was going to make the list. Reading together has made up a big chunk of every single day. I love reading to my kids right after breakfast, before we tackle any of our work for the day. It's been so nice to have the flexibility to be able to read one more chapter . . . and then, one more chapter just because we feel like it. And we've made it through some pretty great books during the last two and a half months.

    7. Participating in fun, memorable activities

    I like routine; I like structure; but I also like changing things up and trying new things (as long as they're not scheduled too closely together). I feel like we struck a good balance this year. The majority of our days were blissfully boring, but occasionally, we broke them up with something new. It made our summer feel fun and exciting without feeling stressful (although there were a couple of weeks right at the height of summer that got a little overbooked--but I suppose that's natural, right?).

    Here are a few of the out-of-the-ordinary things we did:
    • Attended family reunions (fourth one this weekend)
    • Played at the watering hole with cousins
    • Watched a movie at the library
    • Took a road trip to Nebraska to visit my grandma
    • Kayaked in a little pond
    • Went to Lagoon (a local amusement park)
    • Hosted several guests (family and friends) from out of town
    • Tried ice skating 
    • Caught crawdads
    • Swam at Lava Hot Springs
    • Hiked around Silver Lake
    • Went camping (Mike and the three older boys, not Clark and me)
    • Participated in a session of swimming lessons
    • Relaxed at the cabin

    Mike and I argue all the time about which is better: summer or winter (we both agree that spring and fall are, of course, the best). He says winter because he hates being hot. But I say summer because even at its most unbearable, the mornings and evenings are still indescribably pleasant. This summer has been so good to us. I'm sad that it's over, but I don't think I would have changed a thing about it. And that feels good. Summer for the win.

    Tell me about your summer. What fun (or ordinary!) things have you done?
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