Showing posts with label Fun Stuff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fun Stuff. Show all posts

A Little Sunshine (Award)



When I was a kid, Focus On The Family had a pen pal program.  You sent in a card with your name and address, and they paired you up with another kid who also hoped to receive some happy mail.  By the time I reached junior high, I had ten different pen pals going.  I still have a bunch of letters from those girls filed away in my closet.  

Sadly, I lost contact with the majority of my pen pals, but there are still a couple that I am in contact with today, and one of them is Bethany from Waves And Lilacs!  Pen pals that also turn into blog buddies!?  It doesn't get much better than that.  

Anyway, Bethany tagged me for the Sunshine Blog Award a couple months ago.  I am pleasantly surprised that these awards are still around!  If you've never seen one of these posts before, I answer the questions that Bethany sent me, and then award some of my favorite bloggers and pose some questions to them.  It's a fun getting-to-know-you opportunity!




1. How do you balance motherhood and blogging?
Well, I've managed to balance being a mom with keeping this blog running since the beginning, so I've been asked this a few times.  As far as the practical nuts and bolts go, I sit down and type during nap/quiet time, occasionally get away on a Saturday morning to write, and I take pictures randomly wherever I go, just so I have a few images to slap onto a post when I need them.  I make notes in my phone when an idea strikes so I can remember what I want to write about later.  
Especially as my kids have grown, I rarely work on my blog when they are awake, which means I've had to learn to prioritize and scale back where necessary.  I love to blog as a hobby, but my kids are way more important than my blog!  I don't want to let it take my attention away from them, and I find that when I keep that in mind I still find ways to squeeze it in.
I've had people ask me how I find the time, and all I can ever say is that you find time for the things that are important to you.  So sometimes instead of reading a book or binging on a TV show, I spend my spare time writing a post or editing pictures.  I think we often have a lot more time than we think we do, if we just learned to utilize it better (that goes for me too!).
2.What is your dream vacation spot?
Italy.  Derek and I have been wanting to go to Italy since we got married.  Our original goal was for our 10th anniversary trip, but since that is this year, it's obviously not going to happen.  Maybe our 20th?
3.What is one item you would need if left stranded on a deserted island?
That depends, how long am I going to be stranded?  Did I get shipwrecked, or am I just being left there temporarily while the boat fills up with gas or something?  If we're talking temporary - my phone.  I'd have plenty of books to read on my Kindle app.  If I have been shipwrecked...my Bible and some flint (don't make me choose).
Maybe this question was supposed to be more fun, but what can I say, I'm practical.
 4.What is your top goal for the year?
I didn't really make goals for the year this time around, but I'd say for the rest of the year my goal is to get organized and into a good daily homeschool routine.  Last year we got our work done but we mostly flew by the seat of our pants, so I'm hoping to form more lasting habits and rhythms this year.
5. What’s your favorite romantic memory with your spouse?
Oo, good question!  The easy answer would be our engagement or any of the trips we've done together.  But my favorite more normal memory is probably our 6th anniversary. My cousin got married on our anniversary, and we had a fun time at the reception.  The kids were running around and dancing, and it was so cute.  But then our song came on, so I handed the baby off to relatives, and Derek and I danced to the same song we danced to on our wedding day.  It was a sweet flashback, and in that moment I just was so happy to be married to him all over again.
5. How did you pick your kiddos’ names?
I have a system.  First we print off the baby name list from 100 years ago from the social security website (we like old name).  Then we go through and cross off anything we hate to narrow it down.  Then we pick our top 10 names or so from what's left.  Then we look up name meanings, because that's important to us.  We narrow it down to 2-3 name possibilities.  With the first few we would pick the final name when we saw our baby's face (to make sure the name fit), but with the last couple we just had one choice and knew our baby's name before they were born!
6. You can only watch one show for the rest of your life. What is it?
Ugh.  Hmm.  I'm going to say Survivor or The Middle.  Survivor would be great because it has 36 seasons or something ridiculous like that (and counting), so we'd be busy for a while.  And we love to analyze that show!  The Middle would be great because it's so funny!  (Have you watched The Middle?  I haven't met too many people who've seen it.  If you watch it, you HAVE to start from the beginning, you won't get half the jokes if you don't.)
7. What is the anthem of your blog?
Hmm, "anthem" feels so high pressure, haha!  I think my hope for this blog is that someday my kids will read it, and will be able to see God's faithfulness in our lives, even when it was hard.  I've been singing the kids a new hymn lately as I put them to bed, and the words kind of encapsulate what I hope the overall trajectory of this blog (and my life) will be.  
"To God be the glory, great things He has done."
8. What is one blog post you are MOST proud of?
I've got over a thousand posts on this blog now, so this is a hard question. Skip?  I guess most recently I like my "Things I Regret (And Don't) From My First 30 Years" post.  It's a nice summary of my life and this blog thus far.
9. What do you shoot your pictures with?
I either use a Nikon D5200 with a 50 mm 1.5 f/stop lens, or I use my iPhone 7+.
10. What is your favorite recipe?
Oh, I found this great recipe that we've been loving lately!  It's in a cookbook called One Pot Wonders, and it's the "spicy beef and sweet potato braise".  So good!
11. Who/what inspired you to begin blogging?
I started blogging almost ten years ago now!  Back then, blogs were more like public diaries where you also made friends.  I started to blog for a couple reasons.  First, I loved writing down my thoughts about different things, and for me, it's a whole lot more fun to write if I have somewhere to share it.  Second, I was a young newlywed, and none of my friends were married yet, so blogging was a great way to make friends with other girls close to my age who were also married.  The internet has a lot of problems, but one of the great things about it is how it lets you connect with like-minded people from around the world!  I have friends from all over the country and overseas, all because of this little blog.

My Nominees

For those I tag, if your blog is in my sidebar - I tag you!

Michelle, Angi, Rachel, Heather, Brittney, Emily
Amanda, Bekah, Meghan, Laura, Leslie, Rachel

My Questions 
1. What is a favorite childhood memory?
2.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
3. What was the last book you read?
4.  When you have some spare time, what do you do with it (besides blogging, of course).
5. With whom is your longest friendship?
6. Favorite summer beverage?
7. If you had the opportunity to attend your own funeral, what would you hope to hear people say about you?
8. All you ladies are married - how did you meet your spouse?
9.  Finish the sentence: "In high school I could have been voted most likely to..."
10.  Tell us something that we don't already know and wouldn't think to ask you.

Answer the questions on your blog, and then pass the award along (to however many people you want)!



Currently (June 2018)





Currently, I am...

Wearing:  I simple green t-shirt, and my favorite pair of shorts from H&M that I bought two months ago and am already wearing out.  Clearly I should have purchased a back up pair.  They were only $10!

Making: Body butter. A friend of mine posted on Facebook a couple months ago about this homemade body butter that she makes for herself and her girls.  Well, I happen to be a little obsessed with body butters, but I can't seem to find one that I really like since Bath and Body Works reformulated theirs, oh, 5+ years ago.  So I thought, "hey, why not?"  I finally got around to trying it this afternoon.  I added some essential oils to make it smell good, but I'm thinking that might be a wasted effort.  This particular recipe contains cocoa butter, and oh my goodness, the smell is strong.  It's cooling right now, and my whole fridge smells like chocolate.  I'm not mad about it.

Drinking: Peach-Pear La Croix.  I long ago learned that I don't love pop so much for the sugar as for the carbonation, so a flavored sparkling water will do!  The latest flavors I picked up were Coconut, Passionfruit, and this Peach-Pear.  I think Peach-Pear might be one of my favorites.

Eating: Nachos for lunch.  Not the healthy kind (is there a healthy kind?).



Cooking: I'm cooking out of the Fix It And Forget It Lazy And Slow Cookbook.  When I flipped through it at the library, I had to have it.  Basically the cookbook is broken up into weeks for an entire year, and each week gives you the menu, the shopping list, and directions on how to make the meals each day with the minimal amount of effort, using your slow cooker.  It's basically a ready-made year-long meal plan.  I've never been good at meal planning, so I'm all about someone doing the work for me!  I've made two recipes from it so far.  one was stuffed peppers, and it was great.  The other is Chicken Vegetable Soup.  I think the name of that recipe is generous, because there are literally only two vegetables in it - chopped up celery and corn.  We ended up having a change in dinner plans for the day I made it, so I haven't had any yet.  Derek had some for lunch and said it was more flavorful than you might expect for a vegetable soup recipe that only has chicken, celery, and corn in it.  I'm skeptical.  We're going to have the leftovers for dinner tonight.  I'll report back on Instagram or Facebook.

Reading:  Right now I am finishing up Voracious by Cara Nicoletti.  I am loving this book!  Each chapter is a little mini-memoir about her experiences with different books, and the food in those books.  Then she includes a recipe inspired by each book.  I'm not a food-memoir type of person typically, but this book is right up my alley!  I definitely recommend it.

(Remember how I was reading it before vacation when I hurt my knee?  I'm finishing it up now!)

Listening To:  Right this very minute I'm listening to the audiobook of Renegades by Marissa Myer.  You might know her as the girl who wrote the Lunar Chronicles.  I have to confess, I only made it through the first two books in that series, and I haven't felt compelled to pick up the rest - mainly because there are some weird experiments on humans (or human-like creatures?) that are ethically horrible, and I was a little weirded out by it.  Renegades, however, is funny and interesting so far - basically it's a superheroes story similar to X-Men, and some of banter between the villains and heroes is cracking me up!  I don't know if it's meant to be funny, but I am amused and loving it.

Also listening to Georgie fussing from her crib, so I'll be back.

Wanting: More time to read!  I just visited our local library sale, and I have too many books now.  I wish I could whole up for a week and knock a few off my list!  I'll try to show you guys what I found soon.  I got everything for probably an average of $1 a piece.  Not too shabby!

Buying:  This probably deserves it's own post, and you guys are going to laugh at me...but I bought a grain mill.  You know, so I can grind my own flour.  Ugh, I feel like a weirdo just typing that.  Basically, I like carbs.  I like bread, muffins, cookies, and cereal.  Since I like my carbs so much, I thought I might as well make them as healthy as possible.  Enter the grain mill.

I promise, I'm not turning into a crazy health food nut that won't eat white bread (we've already established that I love carbs).  But this is a fun kitchen project that is bringing back my love for baking, and I'm excited to give it a try!

And no, there's no hand-crank.  It's of the push-a-button-and-the-flour-is-ready-in-4-minutes variety.

Watching: The Bachelorette.  I just can't help myself.  If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that one of the contestants is from my (tiny) home town!  We actually saw the film crew while they were here.  And thankfully the guy is representing us pretty well so far, so I know who I'm rooting for!

Thinking: I've wasted a lot of years being discontent with where I live, and I feel really dumb about it now.  It's beautiful here!  How many people get to live in the mountains?  No, there's not a Starbucks around the corner, but there is a cute little down-home ice cream shop that sells coffee.  No, there's not a Target I can go wander around when I need to get out of the house, but there is fresh air and wildlife and hiking trails, and all those things are free.  Yeah, a lot of people left, but a lot of people came.  For the first time in my adult life I feel entirely content with my my house and town, and it's a lovely feeling.

(The only thing I'm bummed about is that our church is so far away, but it's not even a big deal to drive!  And we're making friends there too.  I've just started focusing on what I have instead of what I'm missing, and it's making all the difference.  Contentment is a wonderful thing.)




Loving:  This lovely summer weather!  I don't know why, but summer seemed to come all in a flurry this year, and the novelty has not yet worn off.  I'm sitting outside to type this!  It's so pretty!

Praying: For rain.  I love the warm weather and all, but I don't love wildfires, and that's where we might be headed if we don't get some rainy days.

(Also trying out this linkup here!)




Nothing Too Interesting

(I did not take this photo today.  Obviously.)

You know how I wrote that post about "spring" in the mountains last week?  Well, it's snowing.  That's about right.

You know how people ask you, "So, what have you been up to?"  And you respond with "Oh, nothing too interesting."  Well, that's this post.  Nothing too interesting, but life isn't always edge-of-your-seat, is it?  Life is made up of a whole lot of nothing-too-interesting, so I see no reason why I shouldn't still take time to write about it.

The last couple weeks have felt so busy to me, but not with anything very substantial.  No, I've been busy with things like creating a spreadsheet with all the groceries that are in my cupboards, making muffins for the kids for breakfast to save money on cereal, and cleaning my house.  All helpful, good domestic things.  All things that, dare I say, I have surprisingly found rather fun.  

Once again, not things that are very interesting to write about, but that won't stop me from trying! Because guys, if you have never created a grocery-cupboard-spreadsheet, I feel like you should give it a try.  This was a particularly hard month when it comes to grocery money, so the spreadsheet was born from my desire to see how long I could make it without going to the grocery store.  I had no idea how much was hiding in the dark recesses of my freezer!  I've barely gone to the store at all this month - I've spent probably around $200 on groceries for April.  For seven people.  

I laid all the items in my cupboards out on a spreadsheet and then put together meals with what I had, and it's been amazing.  I saved so much money!

And we've actually been eating pretty well, if I do say so myself (thanks in large part to this cookbook).  We've had braised meatballs in wine gravy, spicy chops with sweet potatoes, skillet steak with peppers and cheese, barbecue roast, raspberry hazelnut chicken with potatoes (not as labor-intensive as it sounds, I made it with salad dressing).  And for breakfast we've been having these (amazing) nut muffins, banana muffins, cranberry muffins, pumpkin pancakes, and hard-boiled eggs (instead of the cold cereal we usually have).  

My grandma told me once that when you have less food to work with, it's easier to get creative and you almost end up eating better than when you have an abundance.  I must say, she was right.

I also realized about halfway through the month that I had read hardly any books, so last week I buckled down and finished FIVE books.  Pretty good, right?  And I'm halfway through three more that I'm hoping to finish before May!  

I've been having a lot of fun making videos with my recently read books this year, and watching other bookish videos on Youtube.  My friend Felicia has been on "booktube" for years, and I love watching her videos.  It's quicker and easier to talk about the books you've been reading, rather than sitting down and compiling a post with mini-reviews (at least it's easier to me, I don't know why).  So if you want to keep updated on books I'm reading, you need to stop by my channel.  Or you can also follow me on Goodreads, because I'm still writing reviews on all my books there (how is that easier than writing review posts on my blog, you ask?  I don't know, it just is!).

Speaking of May, we booked our vacation!  We are flying out to North Carolina this year to visit Derek's family!  The last time we went to North Carolina I was largely pregnant with Gwen, so it's been quite a long time.  We have four more babies on the outside than we did then.  I'm not going to lie, I'm a little nervous about flying with five young children.  The airline assured me (multiple times, because I asked the same question, worded slightly differently, repeatedly) that we would be sitting with our children on the plane.  "Are you sure?" I said.  "Because there are four of them, and one in my lap." But they assured me this would be the case without any extra seating fees.

Now I have the monstrous task of digging all the kids' summer clothes out of the closets, and sorting through them to see what will be acceptable North Carolina attire in May.  Southeast people, what's it like out there in May?  Because the last time I went on a May vacation somewhere that I thought it would be warm (ie. ARIZONA), it snowed.

The spring snow, I tell you.  It follows me even out of state.

The Weird Thing About Small Towns (And Other Random Remarks)



I've been struggling the last couple weeks to get stuff done.  And I'm not talking about any amazing projects, I'm talking about so-called simple things - like making dinner, folding laundry, eating lunch (oops).  You'd be surprised how much more challenging things are when you are feeding a baby every two hours.  It's like having a newborn again.

So I've been wanting to write a regular old blog post for about a month now.  Ah!  Well, I'm finally doing it, so that's progress.

A Faithful Servant

In case you are living under a rock, Billy Graham passed away yesterday.  People have been sharing this quote all over social media (and that includes me):

"Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” 
-Billy Graham

That quote makes me want to cry every time I read it.  Are hormones involved?  Maybe, but mostly I just swell up inside when I think of such a faithful servant of Christ finally stepping into his reward.  What kind of joy he must be experiencing now, in the presence of our Savior!  I'm about to cry again, just typing this out.  I might also feel like crying a tiny bit because the Church has lost one of it's treasures, the second in recent weeks (remembering R.C. Sproul).

I'm also thinking about how I want to be more faithful to Jesus with my life, so that I'll hear those words that Graham has most certainly heard. "Well done, good and faithful servant."  I don't think I have to proclaim the gospel to stadiums of people to hear those words, but could I be more faithful in serving Christ in my roles as a wife and mother?  In proclaiming the gospel to those in my immediate circles? Yeah, you bet I could.  I've been convicted of that as I think about Billy Graham today, finally home.

The Weird Thing About Small Towns

If you missed it on the blog a few weeks ago, we recently started going to our local CBS (Community Bible Study).  I'm not totally new to this particular CBS - I went there from the ages of 10-15 with my mom.  I can't tell you how soul-filling it is to be back there now.  I thank the Lord for guiding my steps back to that church at this point in my life, because I don't think I realized how much I was missing this type of Christian fellowship right now.  The challenge to really study Scripture consistently, the older women who offer encouragement, the opportunity to connect with other moms - it's all exactly what I needed.

All that to say, going to CBS has brought up a weird realization about small towns for me.  Derek and I live in the same little rural community where I grew up, but it's an unusual situation in that we're less than an hour away from an actual city.  For most of my married life, I have gone into the city to meet friends, go to church, and attend a moms group.  I did this because I always felt like there was no one close by in my life stage to be friends with, and I'm an extrovert who likes to be around groups of people.  I was one of the few of my friends who grew up here and didn't leave, so I resigned myself to just having to travel a bit to hang out with friends in my same life stage.

But enter Community Bible Study, where there are actually two moms of young kids close to my own age at just my own table.  And there are many more in other discussion groups at my CBS!

You might be thinking "Duh, Callie, obviously there will be some other moms at a community Bible study."  But I seriously didn't think about the fact that even though a lot of people I grew up with left my small town, a lot of other people have moved in since I became an adult.  And these people are even better than the childhood friends I had, in terms of practicality, because we're all here now because we want to be here!  It's like a whole new world has opened up to me!  There are people for me and my kids to be friends with in my own town!

Sorry, I feel really dumb typing that out and thinking something so obvious was revolutionary, but there you go.  An epiphany of sorts.  The weird thing about small towns is sometimes they change, even in good ways, right under your feet without you realizing it.

What Else Have We Been Up To

Let's see, what have we been up to?

1. Doing an awful lot of feeding the baby.

2. Crying over spilled (breast)milk.

3. Dealing with crazy weaning-like hormones because my body is giving up on producing milk.

4. Taking Fenugreek to try to combat my milk drying up.  Smelling like maple syrup, because that's what Fenugreek does.

5. Feeling like crying a lot (see #3).

6. Developing a good homeschooling rhythm.

7. Trying to get better at budgeting (trying a new method this month, I'll let you know how it works).



10. Typing out blog posts that may never actually get published.  I'm still mulling over the topics.  I've been in a serious mood lately and feel like I'm getting a little too intense in my writing when I'm not in a good place to handle those emotions or potential discussions (see #3 - hormones). 

11. Spending some nice days at home as a family, because Derek keeps getting minor holidays off work.

12. Trying, trying to develop a morning routine, which so far has been a big fat fail.  I enjoyed reading about Heather's morning routine though.  Do you all have a morning routine, or am I the only one lacking in discipline here?  Why am I so tired in the morning??

13. Reading a lot of books because I need an escape from all my crazy emotions sometimes.  See what I've been reading here.

I'm going to wrap this up, because it's 9:30 PM, and we've already established that I probably need more sleep (see #12).

Did any of you grow up in a small town and stay?  Am I totally being a weirdo for not realizing small towns change? 






What I've Been Reading! January And February Books



Last year I had full intentions of doing a recap of the books I've been reading each month.  I had the same intentions this year.  You know what they say about good intentions...

But nevertheless, I decided to just squeeze in book updates where I can this year, and I wanted to try something a little different by doing a vlog instead!  Here is the first installment:



Books I mentioned in this video:

(affiliate links below) 

Why I Didn't Rebel by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach Hello Mornings by Kat Lee Love And First Sight by Josh Sundquist Murder On The Links by Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen I See You by Clare Mackintosh Castle Of Water by Dane Hucklebridge The Discipline Of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies
The Lost Art Of Reading Nature's Signs by Tristan Gooley
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson
I mentioned getting a book recommendation from a blog friend, and that would be Rachel at A Country Vicar's Wife. Hop over to her blog and say hi!

Also, you can follow me on Goodreads here if you want to be in the know before I put these videos together.

What have you all read so far this year? Have you read any of these?


The Year Of Reading Challenges - Book List For 2018



I don't really make New Year's resolutions, and I kind of gave up on the word-of-the-year thing (for now at least).  But one thing I do enjoy is making reading goals for the year!  You all know how much I love books, so these kinds of New Year goals are less burdensome and more fun.

I have three basic goals for this year:



3. Read 75 books this year.

I read a lot of books anyway, so 75 books won't be too much of a stress.  It comes out to about one more book a month, which I'm hoping will challenge me to spend those spare moments less on scrolling my phone and more on flipping through pages on my Kindle.  But looking at my reading list over the last year, I think I could increase the quality of the books I read.  I'm hoping participating in both of these challenges will help me pay more attention to the kind of books I'm reading, so I can make sure I'm actually growing in some way from my reading.  I especially hope to read better quality fiction books (even though I know I'll still have some light reads on the fiction side, because sometimes you just need some chick lit).  Here are the categories for both of these challenges, and my preliminary picks (which I can almost guarantee will change, but it's good to have a plan).


Jaime Balmet's Christian Women Reading Challenge

I listen to Jaime's podcast and really enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to her reading podcast that will start sometime this year!  Her challenge focuses mostly on Christian non-fiction, and I'm hoping to read some winners in these categories this year!

Practical Homemaking - Three Books

1. Hello Mornings by Kat Lee (already completed, see review here).
2. The More Of Less by Josh Becker (I own the audiobook.)
3. How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana White

Biblical Womanhood/Marriage - Three Books

1. Housewife Theologian: How The Gospel Interrupts The Ordinary by Aimee Byrd
2. Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur
3. Women Living Well by Courtney Joseph

Parenting/Family Life - Four Books

1. Why I Didn't Rebel by Rebecca Lindenbach (completed - I'll count it here, but it wasn't my favorite. See review here.)
2. Reset For Parents by Todd Friel
3. 30 Ways To Save Your Family In 30 Days by Rebecca Hagelin
4. Six Ways To Keep The Good In Your Boy by Dannah Gresh (I read the companion to this one about girls and it was great.)

5. Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur or Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jankovic (Bonus books since the first book in this category wasn't my favorite.  Both would be re-reads - I know they're good!)

Christian Living - Six Books

1.  You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith (I already started this book and it is excellent!)
2. Adopted For Life by Russel Moore (I own this one and have wanted to read it for a while.)
3. Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
4.  How Then Shall We Live? by Chuck Colson  (I own it, haven't read it.)
5.  Brass Heavens: Reasons For Unanswered Prayer by Paul Tautges
6. Glimpses Of Grace by Gloria Furman (I own it, but I'm not sure if I'm a fan of Furman's style.  I'll give this one a try.)

Theology - Four Books

1. None Like Him by Jen Wilkin (To buy!  I really liked the other book I read by Wilkin, and her Bible studies are great.)
2. Your God Is Too Small by J. B. Phillips (A classic my pastor mentioned years ago that I have wanted to read.)
3. Expository Listening by Ken Ramey
4. The Work Of Christ by R.C. Sproul


Biography - Two Books

1. A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, And A Great War by Joseph Loconte
2. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes (I have the audiobook, which is an ideal way to get through biographies in my opinion.)

Finances - Two Books

1. More Than Just Making It by Erin Odom (Started it, great so far.)
2. Love Your Life Not Theirs by Rachel Cruz

Christian Classic - One Book

1. Out Of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (the one fiction book on this list, but it counts, right?)

Church History - One Book

1. Still trying to figure this one out.  Suggestions?



Modern Mrs Darcy Challenge

Anne's blog is probably the most prominent book blog out there.  This reading challenge looked fun - I decided to add this challenge into the mix this year since it seems to be more conducive to picking fiction.  Here are her categories, and what I might pick for each.

A Classic You've Been Meaning To Read

-So many choices...I will probably either go with A Tree Grows In Brooklyn or To Kill A Mockingbird.

A Book Recommended By Someone With Great Taste

-Throw me some suggestions, people!

A Book In Translation

-I'm struggling with this one.  I'm thinking of trying My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.

A Book Nominated For An Award In 2018

-To be determined when the nominations are actually made.  But I'll probably be going for a Newberry because I like Children's books for this category since I think they will have less of a chance of being political statements.

A Book Of Poetry, A Play, Or An Essay Collection

-I'm strongly considering tackling a Shakespeare play, since I've never actually read Shakespeare.  Have any of you?

A Book You Can Read In A Day

-I'm just going to fill this in with Love And First Sight by Josh Sundquist, since I already read it and it's definitely doable in a day.  Read my review here.

A Book That's More Than 500 Pages

-Started The Brother's Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which could also technically count for "a book in translation".  I'm planning on reading a chapter a day until I finish it, which is absolutely doable.  This book is more interesting so far than I thought it would be!

A Book By A Favorite Author

-Definitely The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which was a gift for Christmas from my dear friend Felicia!  

A Book Recommended By A Librarian Or Bookseller

-To be determined when I get up the nerve to actually ask a librarian for a recommendation.

A Banned Book

-Either To Kill A Mockingbird or Fahrenheit 411, both of which I've started and haven't finished because of my bookish ADD.

A Memoir, Biography, Or Book Of Creative Non-Fiction

-It is very likely this category will change, but I'm hoping to either do Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior (about Hannah Moore) or John Adams by David McCullough.

A Book By An Author Of A Different Race/Ethnicity/Religion Than You

-I've been wanting to read more stories from people who escaped North Korea, so I'll be going with The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee for this one.


Both of those challenges should take me through about about 38 books, which means I'll have 37 other books to complete.  I may double up in some categories or do some of Tim Challies reading challenge to keep me reading books that will grow me throughout the year.

What is on your reading list for 2018?  Any recommendations for me?







Why I Wear Makeup



The first time I wore makeup I was 13, and I was getting ready to go to an event with my Bible study group.  We had just gone shopping for some back-to-school clothes earlier in the day, and for some reason my mom decided I was old enough for a little mascara.  I remember feeling so grown-up and pretty, headed off the the event wearing makeup for the first time.  There have been many times since then that I was grateful to my mom for introducing makeup and teaching me how to apply it, especially as I grew and encountered people who didn't share my feelings about makeup.

I remember being bewildered the first time I heard someone say they felt makeup was akin to lying.  I also didn't know how to respond when a friend stopped wearing makeup after her daughter was born, saying she didn't want to show her daughter by example that she wouldn't be pretty without it.

Honestly, I'm still not sure what to say about those arguments.  I suppose everyone has their own reasons for wearing, or not wearing, makeup. All I can really speak to is why I, personally, like to wear makeup, so that's what this post is about.  It's not an argument for why you should or should not wear makeup, it's basically some philosophical (and some silly) thoughts from someone who actually likes makeup quite a lot! 

Arguments Against Makeup

First I thought I'd address my take on the two arguments against makeup that I mentioned above, because though those arguments made me stop and think, they didn't make me quit it.

"Makeup is lying.  You are trying to make someone think you look better than you do."  

This argument didn't really stick for me because it's not as if I'm putting on makeup and then trying to tell people I'm not wearing any, that I'm just naturally this beautiful (ha!).  I assume they'll notice that I'm wearing makeup, and I wouldn't really have it any other way. If we're going to use this argument, we might as well extend it to clothes and say that choosing a flattering cut is "lying", and you must wear clothing that shows all your lumps and bumps if you're going to be honest.  Don't brush your teeth with mint-flavored toothpaste, or you might be "lying" by giving someone the idea that your breath naturally smells that good.  Sorry, it just doesn't fly.

"If I wear makeup, my daughters will think they need makeup to be beautiful."  

I was honestly a little taken aback with this argument when I first heard it, and I didn't know what to think.  I can see why my friend started thinking this way, but I came at makeup from such a different perspective that I couldn't agree.  My own mom wore makeup, and she taught us girls how to wear makeup, and I honestly never thought I was less beautiful without it because of something my mom said when she introduced makeup to me.  I vividly remember her telling me that makeup done right doesn't "make you beautiful" but rather enhances the beauty that is already there.  I took that to heart and always approached makeup with that in mind.

Why I Wear Makeup

So without further ado, the reasons I personally wear makeup, and why I'll show my girls how to wear it too.

I think it's fun.  

This is probably the most superficial reason why I choose to wear makeup, but nevertheless, it's true.  Over the years I've experimented with different makeup looks, found my favorite makeup products, and I honestly just find the whole thing pretty satisfying and fun.  For some women makeup is a an artistic expression, and while I wouldn't necessarily say the same thing about myself, I do appreciate the skill it takes to do it right.

I feel more ready for the day with makeup on.  

I got an email newsletter from Diana Kerr (a blogger I follow who is also a life coach) this week, and was reminded of this point.  I've heard it said many times that most people are more productive if they get dressed for the day instead of just staying in their pajamas.  Their brains takes getting dressed as the queue to get started with the rest of the day, and it's harder to get going without it.  Like it or not, makeup has become a similar queue for me.  On days where I don't do my makeup I typically am more tempted to be lazy.  When I wear makeup, I'm more ready to get on with my day and be productive.

I especially like the point Diana made about what effect our taking care with our appearance might have on how we serve the Lord.  Will we use our days to serve Him better when we feel more prepared to face the day?  And does makeup play a part in that?  Not for everyone perhaps, but for me, I think makeup might actually make a difference here too (as weird as it is to type that out).

We live in a sin-cursed world, and that does, unfortunately, affect our faces.  

We age.  We get wrinkles.  We experience sun-damage.  We get tired or dehydrated.  All things that wouldn't necessarily have happened pre-Fall, but things we have to deal with now.  I struggled a bit with this point when sitting down to write this point, because what exactly should we do about this anyway?  Is it just vanity, a "chasing after the wind" to try to counteract the effects of a fallen world on our faces?  It does feel vain in a way, but another part of me doesn't think it is necessarily wrong to try to bring out our natural, God-given beauty even while fighting against the impact of the effects of sin on our skin and hair.

As in so many things, a lot depends upon the attitude with which we use makeup.  Certainly makeup can be used in a vain, prideful way, but does it follow that makeup is always used that way?  I don't really think so.  I read something in Eve In Exile by Rebecca Merkle that made me think about this a little differently.  Running throughout that book is this theme that one area that God often gifts women is an ability to take something and improve it, make it beautiful. Overall, Merkle applied the idea to much more meaningful things, like bringing beauty and reflecting Christ into our homes and families.  But the idea really stuck with me, because I think it explains some of my (and many women's) love of beauty, and desire to take something less then attractive and bring some beauty to it.  That could show up in hobbies like photography or other art forms, in the way we decorate our houses, the way we cultivate gardens, or yeah, maybe even in the way we use makeup.  And I don't really think that's a bad thing, if we can avoid focusing on our own glory in the process of using makeup and rather try to bring glory to God by taking care with our appearance.  Something to think about. I'm still mulling it over.

When Makeup Goes Wrong

I started thinking about this post in the first place because I somehow found myself in a section of the library next to all the books about makeup.  Weirdly, I didn't know there was such a section, even being a fan of makeup myself.  "How fun!" I thought to myself, and grabbed a couple of the books to peruse at home.  

I read a few chapters, and I have to tell you, something just wasn't sitting quite right.  I wondered if I should really be spending all this time thinking about my outward appearance.  Not to be cliche or anything, but there is that whole verse: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

Now, I don't think that verse is necessarily saying that the way we present ourselves outwardly doesn't matter at all.  There is, after all, the Proverbs 31 woman who looks after the outward appearance of herself and her family, dressing them in "scarlet" and herself in "fine linen and purple", and she is commended for it.  We are representatives of our families and ultimately of Christ to a watching world, so being a slob is certainly not a virtue.  But the idea, talked about further in 1 Peter 3:3-4 is that we should take care to cultivate a good character above worrying about how we look.  

So I started thinking, how does the time allotment compares when it comes to caring for my outer appearance and taking care to cultivate "gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in God's sight"?  Do I spend more time doing my makeup (and fixing my hair and getting dressed) each day than I do reading God's Word?  Maybe that's a problem.  I think the most significant way I use makeup wrongly is by getting distracted by it and focusing too much on my physical appearance.  I often want to look good for other people, so that I will feel good about myself, and so I prioritize applying makeup.  

This is the one reason I wear makeup that I feel is the wrong, and even a sinful, reason.

Going forward, I am hoping to think about these things further and make sure that I am approaching makeup with the right attitude as a Christian woman - and especially making sure I am prioritizing time in God's Word over applying makeup in the morning.  Because a good thing to remember is that for those of us who put our trust in Jesus to save us from our sins, someday this old, sin-affected body will be replaced with a perfect, glorified body, with a glorified face, and there will be no reason to put makeup on.  I think it's fine to wear makeup while I'm here, but it's certainly not the most important thing.  It's infinitely more important to make sure I'm investing in things that will last when makeup no longer matters at all.

So what do you think about all this?  Do you wear makeup?  What role do things like makeup play in our walk with the Lord?







Hello, January




Watch out World, I finally discovered I can narrate blog posts into my phone whilst doing something else! This is how it works. I'm currently narrating into my Notes app while driving to the gym (don't worry, it's hands-free with the little microphone on my earbuds). When I get to the gym I have a big mess of a paragraph with no punctuation, but the bones are there, and I edit while I ride the stationary bike. Multi-tasking at its finest! No, I don't get as good of a workout in while tapping on my phone, but what can I say, blogging is worth it to me.

I've been meaning to write another old-fashioned blog post like this for a couple months, but it just doesn't seem to get done between figuring out how to take care of all five kids while homeschooling, so this is my solution for now. 


Back To School

Speaking of homeschooling, as of the second week of January we started school again for the first time since Georgie was born. Five days a week until the end of May will get all of our required days in before summer. That seems pretty good to me considering I took two months off for "maternity leave". I find myself putting a lot more effort and creativity into homeschooling the last couple weeks, more than I did last fall. I think I underestimated the amount of energy that being pregnant took out of me at the start of the year. Even though I have a newborn now, I feel like I'm able to put so much more into our days without getting worn out.

I shared my homeschool bullet journal on Instagram last week (don't worry if you missed it, I will have a blog post about my homeschool bullet journal in the months to come once I refine my process a bit more). So far this method is working like a charm! I really love keeping track of what we're doing this way, and I'm finding it really motivating to write down everything with my highlighting method to make sure we're getting a good variety of subjects in each week. Some homeschool moms really seem to thrive on a weekly schedule for different subjects, but I am doing better with just having weekly goals for our subjects and squeezing them in wherever it happens to work for that week. We've accomplished so much more with this flexible method than we did when I was trying to schedule our whole week out.

Family Outings And My Toy Strategy
Let's see, what else? We've had some fun weekends so far this January. We took a weekend road trip into the mountains and did a short hike with the kids. It was freezing cold, but I tucked Georgie into my Solly wrap, and she was asleep within two minutes, despite my frozen fingers.  It was nice to get outside. It's so beautiful in the mountains, even in the winter. 










We also took a trip to the stock show on MLK Jr. Day. The stock show is a family tradition going back to when I was a kid myself. It's fun to take the kids now and show them all the animals and wander through all the vendors together (and sometimes go to a rodeo, though not this year). We ended up getting the kids some really sturdy metal toys so they can set up their own little ranch. The set was expensive, but it came with a tractor and three trailers, and fence pieces that fit together, and a cow. The kids have been playing with it nonstop since we got it. We feel a little sheepish for spending so much on it right after Christmas, but this is a toy set that will last through all our kids, and probably even until we have grandkids. It's also an easy set to add to, which is something I'm working toward with the kids' toy collections. I don't know about you, but I really don't like getting random little toys for the kids that will break two months down the road.  I'm trying to narrow all the kids' toys down to a few categories that can be added to - like this ranch set, Legos, pieces to the boys' train set, Calico Critters, and eventually Barbies (yes, I'm getting my girls Barbies - I'm not one of those anti-Barbie people).

A New Bible Study
In more recent news, we did try a Community Bible Study in our area this week. When I was a child we went to our local CBS for years.  In case you might have forgotten, I was homeschooled from fourth grade through high school. CBS was one of the ways we got in our social interaction and Bible curriculum (all at once!). I have so many fond memories of those Bible study days, and I am still in touch with some of the friends I met then.

So I have known for a while that I wanted to get involved again when my kids reached grade school. I decided now was the time. On Wednesday we tried it out, and the kids LOVED it.  It was so cute to hear them talking in the backseat on the drive home, all about the Bible lesson, and what they played in the gym, and the snacks they had. I was also surprised when I went into the sanctuary for the concluding lecture to see Clyde, onstage, dressed in a furry robe. He was acting out John the Baptist for all the moms!  He was waving at me and blowing kisses. That's Clyde for you, my little extrovert! I am looking forward to next week.


This is where I would normally start talking books (because when do I NOT feel like blabbing about what I'm reading?), but I have an entire post waiting in my drafts about my reading plans for the year. I am hoping to have a little blogging time in the morning on Saturday (Derek is so sweet and lets me escape to the coffee shop every now and then).  I have several posts in the works, which makes me want to ask a weird question: which post should I try to get up next week?  My blogging time these days is limited. I'll let you all choose, if you have an opinion...you can help me prioritize!







What I'm Drinking: Coffee with Southern Butter Pecan creamer (because I forgot I was supposed to bring it to our mom's group yesterday - whoops).

What are you drinking on this fine Friday morning?  How is your January going so far?

All The Christmas Favorites - A Survey



This has been such a fun Christmas season!  I didn't expect that this year.  I thought we'd be a lot more stressed with balancing Christmas preparations and a newborn, but it's been the opposite - I've kept my expectations low, and it's ended up being the least stressful Christmas I've had in a while.

Unfortunately that also means there are things that didn't happen quite in the ideal timeframe...like this Christmas survey I saw several weeks ago. I am just now sitting down to fill it out, and it's certainly made the rounds in blogland already!  But here we go anyway, just for fun.

1. Real tree or fake tree?  We always go with fake.  I have one vague memory of getting a real tree as a child, with impressions of wet feet, crying siblings, and a tree turning brown in our backyard until springtime.  I've never felt that it was worth the effort as an adult, so we just do fake trees.  I will say that I wish fake trees smelled like real ones though.  Someone told me once to get a real wreath to enjoy that evergreen smell, and I thought it was a brilliant idea, but it's one of those things forever on my Christmas to-do list and never crossed off.

2. Favorite Christmas cookie?  I have a particular fondness for soft ginger cookies (I love to enjoy them with a cup of tea), but my favorite is probably snowdrop cookies!  Easy, delicious, and gluten-free even (for my gluten-free friends, because personally I love my gluten).

3. Home on Christmas morning or travel? In the last couple years we have started staying home on Christmas Day, and it's the best.

4. Clear or colored lights?  I no longer have to decide between the two, because last year we sprung for the expensive strands of LED lights that can change to any color we want!  I will say, I am not a huge fan of the white light setting though, because they are almost fluorescent, so our downstairs tree still has regular clear lights.

5. Send Christmas cards? Yes, yes, yes!  

6. Favorite Christmas present received? Hmm.  I hate this question.  It's kind of depressing that I don't remember most of my Christmas gifts over the years.  My most memorable and favorite is probably when Derek had a star named after me, the year I was pregnant with Wyatt.  I might have cried.

7. Favorite Christmas present given? I hate this question too.

8. Stockings or no stockings? Yes, but in recent years we haven't put much effort into stocking stuffers.  Stocking stuffers can really eat into the Christmas budget!  And we are on a tight budget (five kids, you know).

9. Christmas PJs? I have tried to buy the kids Christmas pajamas in years past, but this year I let that one go.  It was a good decision.  I just can't do everything.  Thankfully our sweet brother and sister-in-law send pajamas to the kids as part of our advent, and the kids are so excited about their nutcracker pajamas this year!



10. Favorite Christmas carol? I always liked "Hark The Herald Angels Sing", but "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" is another one I like.

11. Favorite holiday tradition?  Derek and me sitting with our sparkling cider on Christmas Eve after all the presents are put out for the kids.  Think that final scene in "A Christmas Story".  It's Christmas-y and romantic, and gives us a much-needed moment of quite before the Christmas morning flurry.
 
12. Early shopper or last minute? This year we were early shoppers, and it was wonderful!  I think I'm going to shop early from now on.

13. Favorite Christmas movie or t.v. show? I love "The Nativity Story" movie (we make sure to watch it every year), and my second favorite is probably "A Christmas Story".  I also can't help but like "Christmas With The Kranks".

14. Favorite holiday beverage? Eggnog or wassel!

15. Cookies and milk for Santa? When I was a kid we always picked our best-decorated sugar cookie (usually the one that was most drowned in frosting) and left it out for "Santa", who we really knew was my dad.  My poor dad.  He had to eat three over-frosted sugar cookies every Christmas Eve!  Probably quite the sugar rush.  I haven't really had the kids put out cookies for Santa yet, because they are not all old enough to remember that "Santa" is really Derek, and I don't want to make it confusing before we are all on the same we-just-like-to-pretend-for-fun page.


A Commentary On Postpartum Shopping



Postpartum Shopping, how do I loathe thee!  Let me count the ways.

Do you remember on What Not To Wear, how Stacy and Clinton found that mom of x-number of kids who got all frumpy, and during the wardrobe trashing session they found that she was still wearing maternity pants when her child was two or three years old?  For the first time I understand that lady, and I fear I could become her.

Right now I have exactly three pairs of jeans that fit me.  One of pair are really no longer flattering on me and generally not fit to be seen in public.  One pair fits wonderfully (thank goodness) and are a wide-leg bootcut.  One pair are my skinny maternity jeans.

And that's it.

I might be able to get away with the one pair of wide-leg jeans until I can squeeze back into my regular pants again, but the problem is that this doesn't work with a lot of my wardrobe.  I basically learned how to dress in part from What Not To Wear, and I remember all the tips for how to pick flattering clothes that hide the not-so-favorite parts of your body.  Well, after five kids, let's just say my stomach will never be the same, and I'm okay with that.  I do have skinny arms and thinner legs, so what I usually do is wear skinny pants, and long shirts with a flowy or semi-loose fit through the torso.  Then I do a handy little half-tuck into the front of my pants, or a nice knot on the side of the shirt, and wholla!  I camouflage that little post baby-flab around the middle.  

For this look to work though, I need a good pair of skinny jeans.  A lot of my looser-fitting shirts are too voluminous to wear with my one pair of wider-legged jeans.  And you might remember that my only pair of skinny jeans that currently fit are maternity pants, which aside from being maternity pants, are not so good for tucking.

I will not be that lady who wears maternity pants too long.  Stacy and Clinton are echoing in my brain.

So, last Friday I packed up all five kids and headed to the mall.  I needed to make a return anyway, and I thought, why not see if I can find a pair of skinny jeans while I'm there?  It should be easy!  In and out.

I probably should have recorded some Instagram Story videos for you all while I was out, because it's been a while since I shopped like that, and I have thoughts.  Here is what I would have said if I had been shopping with a good friend by my side.

1. First, we stop at the front of JCPenny to return a sweater I decided I didn't want.  We have to wait a while because the line is long and there are only two store clerks.  I spot some velvet ribbon choker necklaces next to the line, which catch my eye.  I pick one up and turn it around and realize there is no necklace clasp in the back.  It is literally just a velvet ribbon tied onto a piece of cardboard for $7. Let's just put aside the fact that I could buy the exact same piece of ribbon at Joann's for a dollar and take note of the fact that this is a very dangerous style.  Yes, let's just tell young girls that it's a good idea to tie something around their neck in such a way that any psychotic adolescent or serial killer could just give a good yank and choke her to death!  Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?  I don't even tie my scarves around my neck in a way that would make it easier for some stranger to choke me.  Safety first.  You never know when you might come across a psychopath. 

2.  We make the return and head to the back of the store, where the brand that looks most like my style resides.  I look around and grab a few pairs of skinny jeans.  Plus, you know, a sweater or two.  We head to the dressing room, and I have the kids sit right outside the door.  Note to self: bring the iPad loaded with a movie next time.  I hand them my phone so they can play a game instead.

3. I forgot how awful postpartum jeans shopping is for my self esteem.  On the plus side, I only have to go one size up from my previous size.

4. I try on about 10 pairs of jeans three different times, while calling out every 60 seconds or so to make sure none of my children have wandered off.  If there is one thing I picked up from Stacy and Clinton, it's to dress the body you have, not the body you want or think you might have someday, but that's kind of hard to do when you know that you're going to get skinnier as things shift back over the next few months.  I'm kicking myself again for getting rid of my size-too-big jeans that I wore after previous babies.  I should have hung onto those last year instead of purging my closet!  Then I wouldn't be here sucking air in to button a pair of pants because I know I should buy the tightest pair I can so I can get the most use out of them while losing the baby weight.

5.  When did low rise jeans go out of style?  Seriously, when?  I haven't had to buy jeans in a while, and it's like a whole new world.  All I can find are mid or high-rise jeans.  They are all hitting me right in the middle of the post-baby flab, which 1) is uncomfortable, and 2) is super unflattering.  Maybe if I wear a smoothing undergarment...

6.  I try on the most promising pair of denim again and sit down for a second.  That's when I remember why I always buy low-rise jeans.  My stomach pooches out where the jeans should be sucking it in, and there is a funny wrinkle in the crotch.  No.  Oh no.  It's the return of the 1980's style mom jean!  Who decided bringing back high-rise jeans was a good idea?  Because these are all basically high-rise jeans to me, even the "mid-rise" jeans.  High-rise is the new mid-rise, and I've never met a pair of high-rise jeans that didn't look funny on me when I sit down.  Is this the best we can do now?  Haven't we grown beyond 80's jeans as a society?  What is happening!

7.  I chuck all the jeans and decide to try another store.  Maybe H&M.  That's where I got my (great) pair of maternity pants after all.  Why can't I just wear my maternity pants again?  Oh yeah, Stacy and Clinton come back to remind me.  I head across the mall with my brood trailing behind me.  Georgie is thankfully sleeping like an angel through all this.

8. H&M has the same problem.  I grab a pair of "shaping" "mid-rise" jeans that look suspiciously like the high-rise denim I just left behind.  Then I find one pair of low-rise pants buried in the racks.  Hooray!  Off to the dressing room.

9. All duds.  Not only do we have the same funny-looking-when-I-sit problem, but I realize H&M's target audience (at least for jeans) may be slightly younger than me now (scary), and the difference between jeans geared toward juniors and jeans geared toward misses are how they make your derriere look.  I don't want to draw undo attention to my derriere, thank you.  So even the low-rise pants are a no.

10.  I realize that the aforementioned "mid-rise" skinny jeans at JCPenney may be my best bet after all.  They were better than the H&M jeans, and they were cheap since JCPenney was having a big 60% off sale.

11.  I buy the JCPenney jeans.  They are only transition jeans after all. 



On the plus side, I found four tops and a skirt (remember, 60% off!) on my quest to find ONE pair of jeans.  Insert sigh.  At least my top half will look good.  Cross your fingers for me that I can actually fit into my collection of low-rise jeans at some point in the future (or tell me where you've bought flattering jeans recently!), because otherwise the future of denim is looking pretty bleak for me.
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