Showing posts with label print. Show all posts
Showing posts with label print. Show all posts

Sick Day - Books, Music, And Projects

I know this has been said a multitude of times in a multitude of ways, but when it happens to you it warrants being lamented again - it just really stinks to get sick as a mom.

It started Sunday afternoon, and I thought it would just be a mild case of the sniffles (like it was for Derek), but no.  By Monday morning the sniffles had erupted into a full-blown, sinus-pressuring head cold.  

I had to cancel a meeting with a fellow MOPS table leader to plan out some playdates for the spring, but we also had lunch scheduled with Derek's mom. I really didn't want to cancel lunch, and I naively thought my cold was probably mild enough to make it through one meal. 

We had a nice lunch with Derek's mom, but poor little Clarice started throwing up, and by the time I got home my nose was raw from all the baby wipes and still dripping like an icicle (I think I now understand why a lot of people buy the "sensitive" wipes).  I felt as if I could nap for a week, but I still had to supervise a round on the potty chair (oh, potty training) and get all the kids settled before I could lay on the couch and wallow in my misery.

My dad was here when I got home though, taking a look at our furnace (which had been making an awful scraping noise), and I got to give him a hug before he left.  No matter how old I get, a hug from my dad will always make me feel better.

My Birthday Card Project

I was hoping to start school back up with Wyatt this week after our nice break for Christmas, but I may postpone it since we are sick again.  This has been a particularly bad winter so far for sickness, and it is really bumming me out.  Before this winter I could count on one hand the times we had really been sick in the last five years.  I used to think maybe our immune systems were especially hardy, but maybe we were just lucky, and I'm afraid our lack of illness in recent years has made me a bit of a baby about it now.  We'll see how I feel tomorrow, and how rowdy the kids are.  We may be able to sneak in a read-aloud at least.

If I'm feeling good enough though, my nap time plan for the week was to finish a birthday card protect I've started!  I have been wanting for years to create a birthday calendar and send out cards to all my family and friends on their birthday month.  Since my focus for the year is to really see those around me, I thought this would be a great year to finally make my birthday card vision a reality.  I've made it through April so far, but I was hoping to already have January's cards out by now, so I need to get moving.  

Though part of me also thinks maybe this week I just need to rest.  Ever since New Year's Eve I have been exhausted.  It's been almost on par with first-trimester level exhaustion, only without the sweet baby to make it worth it.  I can't seem to catch up on my sleep (the furnace-scraping and can't-breath-through-my-nose-head-cold issues may be contributing to this), and I'm thinking maybe birthday cards and schooling may just have to wait a few days instead. I have trouble slowing down, and maybe this cold is the Lord's reminder that this week is my last chance for rest for a while, and I should take it.

Sick Day Books

I have a couple books I'm reading right now, and I'm hoping to make a little headway on them while I recover.  I'm planning on snuggling on the couch in my fleece-lined leggings, sniffing essential oils on my homemade diffuser-tassel bracelet, drinking tea, and reading.  You know, in between changing diapers, picking up toys, and feeding the children.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton - A couple different people have recommended Kate Morton to me, so I thought I'd give one of her books a go.  I am only a little way in this one, but I'm really enjoying it.  The book is really clean so far, and also quite intriguing.

Conform by Glenn Beck - This book is about the public school system.  I was especially interested in it for the information on Common Core, but he covers a whole bunch of topics related to public schools and I'm finding it really interesting.  Even though I am homeschooling our kids, I am a taxpayer after all, and I want to be informed about how all that tax money is being used.

New Music

The other day I put it out there on Instagram that I was looking for some new music to listen to this January.  For several years after we got married I asked for Taylor Swift's new CD so I would have something to listen to after it was time to put away the Christmas music.  But Taylor Swift doesn't have anything new out (I don't think), and if we are to go off of her last album, I think she is going in a direction that I can't relate to anymore.  But I still like having new music to listen to in January!  I got a bunch of good recommendations on Instagram and Facebook, and I've had so much fun working through them over the last couple days!

I thought I'd ask here too in case any of you missed my Instagram post...any new music recommendations for me?

For secular music, I like country, light rock, pop, indie - almost anything as long as the lyrics aren't trashy or inappropriate.  For Christian music - I don't have anything against the worship music stand-by's, but I do find that after a while it all starts to sound the same to me.  I most enjoy Christian music with unique sounds and/or rich, meaningful lyrics.

What do you got for me?  What is your favorite January music?  Fire Away!  I'll check them out while I'm laying on the couch and blowing my nose today.

Old-School Blogger Shout-outs

I am hoping to get in some blog reading and commenting this week too (this is where I was going to tell you about why I quit using Disqus, but I posted that yesterday instead - if you use Disqus, you might want to read that post).   Though I can't guarantee that I won't fall asleep while the kids nap this afternoon instead of reading blogs.  As of last night I can finally lay down and breathe through my nose at the same time!  Which means I can actually nap instead of merely tossing and turning and feeling miserable.  I must be on the mend.

If you have time for some old-fashioned blog reading too, here are a couple blogs to check out!

Hannah at Wonder-Filled Life - Hannah is one of my favorite old-school bloggers.  I love reading about what her and her boys have been up to, and she responds to every comment!  She is a long-time blogging friend, and so sweet.

Meghan at My Beautiful Life - Meghan had her first boy around the same time that I had Wyatt, and she has kept up on her blogging really well!  She writes about being a mama to her two sweet kids...and now is a great time to start reading her blog because her third is due pretty soon!

Remember to read AND comment, because blog commenting is what makes this old-school thing go 'round!

Okay, I'm signing out, friends.  Off to eat some oatmeal for breakfast, drink some tea, and watch Dr. Phil while the kids play trucks and dress-up in their rooms (I feel totally silly admitting that I sometimes watch that show - it's almost as bad as admitting to watching a soap opera...)

What I'm Drinking: Celestial Seasonings Fireside Vanilla Spice tea.  I LOVE this tea, because I am still rather bitter that Celestial Seasonings got rid of so many of their unique tea flavors a few years ago, and this tea feels like a throwback.  It's sweet vanilla, but with just a hint of "woodsy".  That sounds really weird, but it's so good.

2016 Was A Weird Reading Year

Another year, another bunch of books!  Let's talk about the favorites from 2016, shall we?  Unlike publishers or crazy book blogs, I am not constrained to what was published this year.  No, this is a list of the favorite books that I've personally read this year.

My reading was kind of all over the place in 2016, partially because I unofficially decided somewhere along the way to try reading some books that I normally would not pick up, especially in fiction.  I'm not sure it was a success.  While I enjoyed exploring a little, it left me with less books that I am actually comfortable recommending, and definitely less on the favorites list.

A Quick Side Tangent On Books And Politics

(You may skip this section if we are not of the same political persuasion, and it won't hurt my feelings! *wink*)

Let me just go on a little side-tangent real quick, because if there is one thing I've learned this year through all my book exploring, it's that if you are going to be a responsible reader, you have to go into each book looking for the worldview that is being communicated through that book.  I was shocked at how many of the more current general fiction books that I picked up insisted upon including subtle political or moral statements - and if I wasn't looking for them, I would have totally missed them, or been influenced by them without realizing it.

I think in 2016 there was a lot of backlash related to how biased the media generally is toward a certain political viewpoint.  For me personally, I realized how biased a lot of the general fiction that so many people in this country are reading is too - but the trick about fiction is that you usually don't notice it without looking for it.  Most people read fiction to relax and their guard is down.  It was all actually a little scary and discouraging to me.

A really good example is the way abortion is addressed in books these days.  You know I am strongly pro-life and have started volunteering at a pregnancy center, so I especially noticed this in my 2016 reading.  I was surprised at how it some of these more liberal authors can't seem to help themselves when it comes to supporting abortion.  The plot demands that the character keep their baby, and yet the author insists on making the character reference abortion as if that is what they should have done, but you know, "it was too late".  Why can't they just leave that out altogether?  Why do these authors have to try to subtly foist their own political viewpoint on us, as if a character choosing not to have an abortion is a moral choice the author doesn't agree with, so some sort of disclaimer is needed? I abandoned several books this year for this reason.

And book podcasts!  I tried listening to several different book podcasts this year, but I've abandoned almost all of them because I can't stand how they impose their own political viewpoints upon their listeners (some more obviously than others).  I basically can't even trust their recommendations anymore.  Some of these hosts even describe books that should be mostly neutral in political terms but they impose their own controversial viewpoints onto the book when they talk about them, and I'm just sick of it.  They do realize that there is another half of the country that doesn't necessarily share their political persuasion, right?  I'm looking at you, Book Riot.

On To The Books

So yes, 2016 was kind of a black hole of reading for me, I abandoned almost as many books as I finished, and I don't have a lot of great ones to recommend from my little reading experiment.  I've got eight that stood out to me, and as for 2017...I think I'm going to stick closer to authors I already like or classics.  You can't really go wrong that way.

So here we go, in no particular order.  If you do end up picking one of these up, please read my full reviews on Goodreads (the titles link to my reviews) for a more detailed breakdown of some of the content that may have required more commentary.

I'm Happy For You (Sort Of...Not Really) By Kay Wills Wyma - This was probably my #1 favorite of the books I read this year.  I read it at just the right time and got so much out of this book, and it really made me rethink ways that I am still comparing too much on social media.  I thought I was getting better at not comparing so much (and I have improved), but this book opened my eyes even more to the kind of person I want to be.  I've been telling a lot of my friends and family about it because it was so good.  I highly recommend it.

The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - The disclaimer is that this book does have some profanity and taking Jesus's name in vain, which I hate.  But other than that, I really liked this one.  The whole premise of the book is that the Earth has started a "slowing" of it's rotation...which lengthens the days and wreaks all kinds of havoc.  Obviously not biblically-based since we know this is not how the world will end - this book is purely secular.  But the underlying theme is one of a coming-of-age story, and I've just kind of realized that I am a sucker for a coming-of-age story.  Something about it resonated with me, and the overall plot of the earth slowing was just so interesting.  I think that's the science nerd in me coming out.

Brain On Fire: My Month Of Madness by Susannah Cahalan - Did any of you ever watch Diagnosis: Mystery when it was on TLC?  I LOVED that show, and this is basically that show in book form.  A lady starts to go crazy and they are trying to figure out why.  It's a true story that's written more like a novel, and I listened to it on audio.  It was really fascinating.  Some language in this one too.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - Some language and the Lord's name in vain in this one too, and I hated how it included the "clump of tissue" myth when it comes to unborn children.  So I hesitate to say I "recommend" this one.  I include it here because I have never gotten so much out of a fictional story and it really made me think about where I spend my time and energy.  If you have ever felt like you can't relate to people in other stages of life or wondered what your ten-years-younger self would think about the you of today, you might get something out of this book too (but please read my disclaimers first).

Adam And Eve After The Pill: Paradoxes Of The Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt - I picked this book up because ever since I quit the pill all those years ago, I have been interested in the effects birth control (and the sexual revolution) has had on society.  This book was fascinating.  It's published by a Catholic publisher, but the book itself isn't geared toward Catholics but toward anyone who is interested in this topic.  I had heard a lot of the data before, but the author had so many insights into our current culture.  I generally think we need to think a bit more deeply about what we are doing to ourselves in this department, and I highly recommend this one.

Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell - I just really like Mitchell's historical fiction - I feel like it's usually really well researched, and I generally like her characters.  This wasn't my favorite of hers because I felt like it took about a quarter of the book to get into it, but I still enjoyed it.  And the short story you can get if you sign up for her newsletter relates to this story and was so fun!

Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall - I wrote a full review on this book a couple months ago, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I really liked this one.  It's a middle-grade novel, but I enjoyed it as an adult.  It's a quick read, and the characters have stuck with me.

So what did you read in 2016 that stood out?  Do you keep an eye out for the different worldviews in your fiction?

I hope you had a more joyous reading year than me.  Here's to 2017!

On The New Year And Pajamas. Yes, Pajamas.

Let's start out this week's old fashioned blogging with a confession, shall we?

Here's My New Year's Confession

I'm kind of over the whole pick-a-word-for-the-year thing.  

For the last few years I've jumped on the bandwagon and picked a word that I want to focus on for the year, and I really enjoyed it.  I latched onto the idea originally because I love the idea of picking one thing to focus on during the year instead of making resolutions.  I've never been a resolution-making type person, and the few times I tried it didn't go so well.  Picking one over-arching goal for the year is much easier to maintain than making a list of ten goals that I've already failed at by February.  

For the monthly goals that I shared on the blog for this last year, I picked only one area to focus on instead of regaling you with a list of goals that I can cross off.  It was so much more manageable and less stressful that way.  I put a lot of internal pressure on myself to meet "goals".  I am more likely to succeed without crying when I focus on one thing. 

So it's not the whole concept that I'm rejecting this year - the part I'm over is the "one word" part.  And really for no deeper reason than sometimes I feel the inexplicable need to fight back against whatever is trendy. (In ideas, not in clothes.  Obviously.  I participate far too often in clothing trends.)

This year, I'm not picking a "word", but I am making one goal.  Or rather "focus".  I like that word better because New Year's goals and resolutions are so often made and broken, but it's easier to keep a focus.  If you lose it, you can shift right back.  When you fail at a goal that has a timeline or specific perimeters, you fail for good.

You'll have to read to the end if you want to know what my goal is! *winky face* (I feel weird typing that out because I like to express myself in words, but sometimes you just need an emoji.)

More New Year's Thoughts

(My #bestsixteen from 2016.  I'm making #bestsixteen a thing, because it just seems appropriate, and also I couldn't pick just nine.)

Okay, I can't help myself, let's just talk a little bit more about resolutions.  I want to know, have any of you ever made a lasting change in your life that started as a New Year's resolution?  I'm not trying to make a point, I just really want to know.

I actually haven't, but I also don't make resolutions often.

Whenever I look back and think of ways that I or my habits have changed, it usually happens in one of two ways.  The first type is change that comes gradually and unintentionally, because in some ways our experiences shape who we become.  I don't think they have to or should define who you become, but at the same, they do make a difference for good or for ill.  

And I know all your minds are going to tragic or bad experiences, but I'm not just talking about bad experiences.  I was pretty insecure in high school and in some ways even in college, but I grew up and found better friends and gained life experience, and I feel comfortable in most social situations now.  I used to think I knew everything (without even realizing I thought that), but motherhood has cured a large portion of that ailment.  Just regular life and the passage of time has a way of changing and growing you, and fairly often for the better (though sometimes for the worse too, let's be honest).

The second type of situation that has led to change in my life is when a bad habit got to the point that I was truly grieved by it.  I can think of three specific times (one even fairly recently), when the veil dropped and I could see that if I didn't redirect, I wasn't going to like where this path took me.  And I actually credit that to the Holy Spirit opening my eyes and convicting my heart of the sinful attitude behind those bad habits.  When He made it so clear, I didn't really have a choice but to turn around unless I wanted to be rebelling against God (and that is not a place you want to be), so I asked for help and God is the One who helped me to change direction.  

Those moments have never actually happened around New Year's for me.  Not saying they couldn't, though!

On To New Pajamas

Well, that got a little heavy, didn't it?  Here this is supposed to be the fun post of the week and I get all serious on you.  I always get a little reflective this time of year, but let's shift gears and reflect now on pajamas.

When I was pregnant with Clarice I made a commitment not to wear gross pajamas anymore.

I was in a nesting phase, and I was cleaning out my pajama drawer, and I realized how many sub-par pajamas I owned.  Why?  Why did I still have these?  I put them on to test them out.  I didn't feel attractive.  It was like instant frump.  Because I don't know if you've noticed, but after about six months, pajamas start to get those little fuzzy pills on them.  Or toothpaste stains.  Or the material starts to thin.  Why was I doing this to myself?  Why was I doing this to my husband?

So I cleaned out 95% of my pajama drawer (keeping a few staples that weren't in bad shape), and I went straight out and bought cute pajamas.  I determined right then that every six months or so, I would ditch the pilled pajamas and buy another set.  Out with the old and in with the new.

I've kept on pretty well.  Over time, when I realize that the old t-shirts and sweatpants have made it back into the rotation, I make a trip to the store (though I have to admit, I still need to purge a few of the old-new pairs again).  This month was pajama switch-up month for me, and right after Christmas I went on a hunt for new pajamas.

I really wanted this sleep romper in buffalo plaid, because oh my goodness, so cute.  They don't even look like pajamas!  I checked all over though and couldn't find them, so I ended up with these two instead:

Black sleep romper - I have never slept in a romper before, so I'll let you know how it is.  I don't do nightgowns because I hate how they get all tangled up around my waist, so I hope that it isn't a problem with this.

Pretty night shirt - I got this in a black and grey color.  This may look like a nightgown, but it's short enough (on me anyway) to qualify as a tunic, which wears like a long shirt.  No tangling problems, and I love how this one has a dip back and support built in.  It's really comfy.  I wear it with leggings.

Cute, right?  No frumpy pajamas, there is a resolution for you right there.

My Real Hope For The Year

I read a New Year's post recently that focused on "hopes" for the New Year, and I really liked that.  I like thinking about what I hope for the New Year instead of what I'm going to muscle my way into happening, because what do we really know about what will happen this year?  

In my latest post on Tommy Nelson (which if you have a minute you could share from their page, because that makes me look good - where is my winky face emoji?), I talked a little more about how to not be so stringent in picking goals for the year.  This verse came to mind.  God knows what will happen this year, and we...we really don't.  We can make our plans, but I like hoping better, because even that word feels like an expectation, a looking ahead to see not what I want to make happen, but what God will do.

So my hope for the New Year is that I can be a person who makes those around me feel seen - and maybe even known.

I read a book last January that I have been recommending like crazy, I'm Happy For You by Kay Wills Wyma, and in it she tells a short story of a fast food person who always remembers her kids' orders.  Her kids couldn't stop talking about how nice that fast food guy was, and how amazing it was that he remembered their order.  And it's true, isn't it, how much something small, like remembering to put extra rice in a burrito, can give that feeling that we are known, that we belong somewhere. 

"Is community with humans, as in interpersonal relationship and communication, the key to genuinely meeting our need to belong?...Practically speaking, yes.  Even small, seemingly insignificant but deeply meaningful interaction fills voids."

Isn't that good?  That story from the book stuck with me, because I want to be that person.  I want to be the kind of person that really sees those around me.  Who remembers them when they feel like no one knows their name.  Who sees that they are struggling, and doesn't just click the sad face on their Facebook status but reaches out to help.  Who remembers the little details about someone's life or preferences, so they don't have to tell me twice.  The type of person who makes other people feel like they are someone worth knowing.

That starts at home with Derek and the kids first, and then I hope I can stretch that out to those in my immediate circle. Because this Sunday, and on so many other days, other people did that for me.  

My mom and sister made sure I sat with them at church since Derek was home sick.  A girl from MOPS who I don't know that well, but would like to know better, looked me in the face and greeted me by name.  A sweet lady at church stretched over the coffee bar counter and gave me a hug.

It feels good to feel like you belong.  And in 2017, I want to do that for someone too.

Old-School Blogger Shoutout

Speaking of making other people feel like they belong - this week I wanted to share two bloggers that have done the blogging equivalent of that for me.  I've read both of these blogs for a while (when I've made the time), and not only do they share great real-life posts, but they never fail to return the comment and make me feel like we are friends - even when I haven't commented on their blog in six months.  And I'm clearly not the only one who is made to feel like I belong by these ladies, because check out their comment sections. They get more comments than most, and their comments sections would be a great place to start if you are looking to find active old-school bloggers!

So without further ado,

Michelle from Mich Mash - Michelle is pretty much hilarious to me.  One of my favorite blogs to read.

Erin from Love, Fun, And Football - Another favorite to read because she seems to keep the personal touch in every post!

(Also check out my shoutouts from last week, because I feel like not a lot of blog reading was going on two days after Christmas.)


That's what I have.  So do you make resolutions, or "hopes", or pick a word?  This is the week for talking about it, is it not?  What are your thoughts?

What I'm Drinking: Coffee.  Black.  I haven't caught up from our Rogue One date night and New Year's Eve yet. (Okay, if I'm being honest, I might put in a pump of white mocha too if Derek lets me steal some of his syrup!)

Winter Style: New Year's Eve Outfit

Does anyone actually go to New Year's Eve parties?

I've honestly never been invited to a New Year's Eve party, not even before I had kids with a bedtime before midnight.  What does one wear to a New Year's Eve party?

Well, this is what I'd wear.

(Some affiliate links below.)

We are actually thinking about having a New Year's gathering, we'll call it, this year.  I really want to have a game night, and isn't New Year's Eve a good excuse?  Especially with young kids, because we could do it early in the evening, have New-Year's-Eve type foods, and quit in time to get the kids in bed - and no one will think we're lame, because they will be leaving to put their kids in bed too.  See how that works?

And here I am, writing this ahead of time to schedule for the day before New Year's Eve, and I don't know if we're really going to get our act together enough to get some people over here! I should get going on it.

Earrings: ?? Probably Charlotte Russe, probably 7 years ago?  When I like an article of clothing or accessory, it stays with me.
Shirt: Forever21, bought when I was pregnant one of those times, because this is long and stretchy and can be bunched up to fit around a belly.
Sparkly Sweater: Forever21, and I had no idea how cute it would be when I ordered it a few years ago.  It's a winter holiday staple, whether we are talking Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's.  It's never leaving my closet.
Leather-paneled leggings: Target, a couple years ago.
Socks: Target
Boots: JustFab

Do you do anything special for New Year's Eve?

Why I Didn't Love Rogue One

(Warning: There are Rogue One spoilers below!  Read at your own risk.  Also this is me at the theater last night.)

Before I start into my opinions about the new Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One, you should know that Star Wars pretty much runs in my blood.  My dad saw the movies as a young teen and when my siblings and I reached an appropriate age, we all gathered around the TV, and a new family tradition was born.  We watched those movies countless times growing up, and I will always remember going to see Episode One when it came out in the theaters.  We watched the movie as a family, went to Taco Bell and discussed it endlessly, then drove straight back to the theater and watched it again.  There are many Star Wars enthusiasts, and dare I say even experts, in my family.  They may not all share my opinions, but this is what I thought of the latest installment.

First, when I say I didn't "love" it, I don't mean I hated it either.  I thought the plot was really well done, and I loved all the references that tied into Episode Four (the Star Wars movie that comes right after Rogue One).  I thought the connection between Jyn and her father was well-formed and added a sweetness to that part of the story.  The ending was bittersweet, as was fitting since we knew from Episode Four that “many fighters died to bring us this information”.

There were a few small irritants in this film, such as the lack of backstories and making the Force too “religious”, but there were a couple things that bothered me more, and I think are a reflection of some of the ways our culture is changing, so I want to talk about those here.

The first point may seem petty, but I think it’s worth discussion - and that was the flatness of the characters in this movie.  Do you remember the variety of personalities in the original Star Wars trilogy?  We had Princess Leia, with all her spunk and conviction.  We had Han, with his arrogance and recklessness and lovably absurd connection to his ship.  We had Luke, the whiney farmer turned introspective brooder turned indispensable Jedi.  What tied it all together, what made these movies classics, was the color of their personalities, the sense of history, the development of relationships.  It was their tenacity in the fight, their grit, the conviction that the Empire was evil and must be stopped, but it wasn’t only that - their personalities were what made it fun, their flaws were what made us laugh, and you got the feeling that they couldn’t have finally defeated the Empire without being exactly who they were, flaws and all.

I didn’t get that in Rogue One. I was disappointed that many chances to give the characters more depth were not taken.  Not only did we get too much Luke Skywalker brooding and not enough Hans Solo reckless and arrogant determination, but the characters in this movie didn’t even really seem to know why they were fighting (except for a brief speech from Jyn on the need to fight against an Empire “this evil”, a mark in her favor).  The scene that was most frustrating to me was the monologue from Cassion that was supposed to be inspiring as he pulled all his buddies back into the fight, but the whole speech was really rather depressing.  

“We’ve all done terrible things in the name of the rebellion - without the rebellion all those terrible things will be in vain.”  

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the whole speech goes against the reason why my family got hooked on Star Wars in the first place.  I’ll tell you why I have loved Star Wars so long - and it’s because Star Wars has always been about good versus evil, and there was no confusion between the two.

In the original trilogy (Episodes 4-6) we have the classic fight between good and evil.  It was the dark side and the light side, tyranny and freedom.  In that world, you either gave in to the draw of power at the expense of the innocent, or you fought against those who would oppress others for their own gain, or you were one of the countless rabble of spineless bystanders.  It made you want to choose what was good, and never give in and let evil win.

In the second trilogy (Episodes 1-3) we see how good intentions aren’t enough by themselves, how you need a strong grounding in what is right and wrong to avoid being seduced by the desire for power.  How a hunger for control can twist easily to justify terrible evil, and how governments can slide so easily into tyranny when too much power is willingly put into one man’s hands.

In Rogue One, we have an evil Empire willing to destroy planets to reach it’s ends, and we have a well-established rebellion…who apparently has no idea what they are fighting for, except to make past “atrocities” worth it.  And I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t cut it.  I don’t want to see a movie of people who are just fighting to justify past misdeeds.  

I resent the attempt to muddy up the side we all want to root for.  I resent the attempt to give Star Wars shades of grey.  I resent the attempt in our culture to remove heroes and cut them down to size.  They do it with historical figures all the time, and now apparently we can’t even have fictional characters that are good and right and true, and know why they are fighting.  I resent the segments of our culture that say there are no more heroes.  Because I don’t buy that.  I think there are still heroes who take risks because they believe in what is right - and they don’t have to be perfect but they should know what they are fighting for and believe in it’s goodness.  I think there are heroes hiding down in many, waiting to come out when they find something good that is worth fighting for. 

I want to see a movie where the good guys know that there is right and wrong, good and evil, and they fight to defeat that evil and preserve all that is good in the world.  They fight precisely because they recognize that good and evil exist.  That is what Star Wars has always been about to me, and it resonated so much because I think it touched down on that truth in the human heart.

In Rogue One some of the main “heroes” are muddied up and cut down to size, and die simply to undo their own or other’s mistakes or to assuage their own consciences.  Some may say that is more true to real life, but the reason I watch movies like Star Wars is for moral clarity, not moral ambiguity.  It was not inspiring, it was disappointing.

Will Rogue One ruin Star Wars for me?  No, because it’s only a Star Wars story, a side plot.  I can dismiss or overlook the parts I don’t like.  Should you still go see it?  Yes, because there were a lot of tie-ins and themes that were worth the time.  But will it be a Star Wars favorite for me?  No, because it missed the boat on portraying why I love Star Wars in the first place.  I just hope Episode Eight doesn’t continue down this same path, because in a culture where morals are muddied, Star Wars has stood out for making good and evil crystal clear.

P.S. I reserve the right to change my mind, but this is my initial reaction.  What did you think of the movie?

It's The Day After The Day After Christmas

Which also means that it's my sweet girl's and husband's birthday!  If you are new around here, you might not have read Gwen's birth story, but trust me, go read it.  It's a good one.  

I am having a hard time believing that she is four years old, and I'm not sure why.  It just struck me this morning that she is four years old.  At age three it seems like there is still a bit of baby left in them, but she is solidly in the "big" little girl stage now, and I'm rather sad.  Of course, my sadness may also have something to do with the fact that a recent crop of pregnancy announcements are making me sentimental since I'll probably never have another pregnancy announcement, and I get nostalgic around the New Year, and I am on a sugar low from all those Christmas cookies.

Let's Talk About Christmas

That's a nice segue, so let's talk about Christmas!  Last week I spent three solid days baking.  In years past, Derek and I used to throw away so many Christmas goodies that had gone stale, so for a while I was limiting our Christmas treats.  But this year I went a little crazy again because I have four kids who are able to eat the extra cookies now!  We are still living off cookies and cheeseballs, and probably will be all week.  I may just eat a ginger cookie (my favorite) for breakfast.

We had a lovely three-day Christmas - my side of the family on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day we officially stayed home and had our own family Christmas, and then the day after (yesterday) we saw Derek's side of the family.  It was a beautiful celebration, and I have a bunch of cute pictures, but unfortunately you won't get to see them today because it'll probably take me all afternoon to sort and edit them, and I don't want to get out of my Tuesday old-fashioned blogging habit.  For now, here's a picture of me from baking last week that I shot by propping my camera up on a bunch of books.

What Did We Get?

I'm glad you asked!  I record this here for posterity's sake, and so I don't buy the same things two years down the road because I forgot what I already got the kids.  Feel free to comment and tell me what you got for Christmas too!

This was a fun year to shop for the kids because they actually had opinions about what they wanted, and I was confident they would like their presents.  We gave them three presents each, and then a couple family gifts of games and books.  

Wyatt is five years old, and he got a talking Percy (from Thomas The Train), a Paw Patrol scooter (it was just plain black, but I put Paw Patrol stickers on it - it was a big hit), and a remote control truck.  He wanted the huge (expensive) one, but I just got him the largest remote control vehicle I could without breaking the budget!

Gwen is (now) four years old, and she got a Melissa And Doug magnetic doll set, a Disney princess mini guitar, and a new baby doll with a doll cradle.  Gwen proceeded to tuck her new baby doll in the cradle with a bottle, and rock the doll while serenading her with "Jingle Bells" on her guitar.

Clyde is two years old, and he got a talking Percy (same as Wyatt - they both love trains), a wooden train track set (Percy will go on it), and a large remote control Thomas.  Do you notice a theme here? When I asked Clyde what he wanted all he said was "trains!".

Clarice is one year old, and she got wooden magnetic blocks, a wooden Melissa And Doug key/lock house with wooden doll figures, and a Baby Stella.  Apparently Baby Stella is a big thing right now?  All I know is that I had to get a Baby Stella for her because she saw it in the store and grinned at it from the cart, and when I handed it to her she kissed it's face.  Her reaction on Christmas morning was the same!  

Me - Derek got me a bunch of good stuff!  I got four Yankee candles!  I'm a little picky about my candles, and I like Yankee because they really fill up the room with scent.  I got "Sparkling Snow" "Crackling Winter", "Happy Tonight", and "Beach Walk", and they should last me the rest of the winter into spring. I also got a hand-lettering book, an artist pen and brush pen with India ink (to practice lettering), and a book of Emily Dickinson poems, because I told Derek I wanted to read more poetry.  Watch out now, I'll soon be firing lines of poetry at you all I'm sure!

I got Derek Starbucks white chocolate syrup so he can make his own white mochas at work, a Technic race cart lego set (those things are complicated!), gel boxing gloves for when he works out, and the game of Risk.  We ended up playing Risk the rest of Christmas Day, and I have yet to win a game when we are playing for world domination.  Give me some time though.  I've decided I should stop focusing on conquering Asia because it's a lost cause, and I'm feeling really good about the next round hopefully tonight (though I should probably let him win on his birthday, huh?).

Back To The Birthdays

Last night we got home late and I dug into the birthday decorations.  Gwen wanted a Minnie Mouse birthday party, and it's really important to me to make sure to individually recognize Gwen and Derek's birthday since it's so close to Christmas.  Christmas-time birthdays are easy to forget, and I made a vow never to wrap birthday presents in Christmas paper (we got Gwen dress-up clothes in a lovely shoe-and-purse birthday paper), and to always decorate and have a cake. 

Derek and I stayed up late decorating for Gwen, but he was a bit bummed that everything was pink and purple, so I snuck downstairs and decorated the bathroom door with streamers and balloons and birthday notes so he would see them before he went off to work.  Perhaps an odd place to decorate, but I was going for the surprise factor.

So if you need me today, I'll be sorting toys and putting away Christmas presents, baking a cake, and trying to lug Derek's ginormous present out of the shed by myself.  I don't think he's reading this today, so I'll tell you what it is.  DEREK, STOP READING NOW!
I got him a basketball hoop!  It is massive and heavy, and we probably won't be able to set it up until spring, but I am confident he will be fully surprised!

Old-School Blogger Shout-Out

If you don't know what I mean by "old school bloggers", check out my posts from the last couple weeks (here and here), in which I bemoan the loss of old-fashioned blogging and resolve to get back to it, and attempt to encourage others who are doing the same.

First, Emily from Live A Charmed Life!  Emily has been so consistent at maintaining the relationship side of blogging by sharing about her sweet family on her blog and also caring about other people's doings as well.  She's a long-time blog friend of mine!

Second, Brittney from With Eager Hands!  Brittney is also a long-time blog friend who is getting back into old-fashioned blogging with me, and you have to read about the stars on her ceiling (it's making me kind of jealous actually)!

Go visit their blogs and say hello!  These girls are getting the shout-out this week because I know they are the kind of bloggers that will comment back, and as I said last week, I think that is a big part of what we are all missing.  

Feliz Navidad (is it too late to say that?) until next week, at which point I will regale you with all my New Year's thoughts and opinions (I am pretty opinionated about the holiday).

(Our Christmas outfit photo from this year. I really actually love snow. People like to complain about it, but how can anyone deny how pretty it is?)

What I'm Drinking: Junior Mint hot chocolate, which my sister got us for Christmas.  Junior Mint hot chocolate!  Is it just me, or does that sound fantastic?

Here's My Christmas Card To You!

I love sending and receiving Christmas cards.  It's one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season! Almost every time I pick up the mail I have a card waiting for me from a sweet friend, and it just completely brightens my day! The Christmas card mail basically makes my whole year.  (Though I have to say, it's been a slower card year than some.  I have a good collection, but not the same as last year.)

If I could, I would send every one of my blog friends a Christmas card.  I so appreciate all of you who have stuck around during the ups and downs of blogging, and I love having this space to connect with you!  I'm blessed to know so many of you, and even if you have read and never commented, I feel like we are friends in a way.

So consider this my Christmas card to you! I wish I could send you all a physical card, but this will have to do.  This is the card we sent out this year (when we ran out I just sent a regular card with a picture in it - I never seem to order enough cards).  I used a couple of pictures from Clarice's one year old photo shoot (I promise I'll share the whole session soon!).  

Merry Christmas, friends!  
May you have a wonderful weekend celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus!  
And may your weekend be filled with lots of pie too.

How We Do Advent

Advent season is almost over, but I really wanted to do a little spotlight on our Advent Calendar this year.  I've had a few friends ask me this year what we do for Advent as a family.

The year we had Wyatt, Derek's brother, Jeff, and his wife, Rae, sent us this Advent calendar!  My sister-in-law is a master potter who is so talented, and she made the jars - and Derek's brother fashioned this cool rotating display for them.

We have one pot for each day of the month up to Christmas.  Every year before December 1st, Jeff and Rae send us a box filled with goodies to put in the calendar!  It's their Christmas gift to the kids each year, and it makes it so easy for Derek and I to do Advent, because we don't even have to think about putting everything together.

Each jar contains a paper with a verse on it and a chocolate for each of the kids.  I usually let the kids eat their chocolates while we read the verse and then talk about it (or sometimes we'll work on memorizing the verses, now that the kids are getting older).  And then some of the days also have an extra surprise in the jar.  

This year so far the kids have been surprised with coins for their piggy bank, a charitable gift in their names (which is great for talking about giving at Christmas time), and if it's a present day they will get a little card with a present number on it.  In the box of stuff, Jeff and Rae send numbered presents for each kid, usually four or five of them!  The kids get so excited about doing Advent each night, and when it's a present night everyone cheers!

(The kids got these jammies as one of their presents this year, and they were so excited!  I let them wear them exactly one night before I stashed them away for Christmas Eve.  You know, so we have fresh, clean jammies for Christmas morning? I didn't buy Christmas jammies this year, and my kids seem to ruin new pajamas after two nights, so I'm saving them.)

I love our Advent calendar, and I am so grateful to Jeff and Rae for putting it together for us every year.  It's a great way to focus on Jesus's birth and have some Christmas fun each night with the kids, and I honestly don't think I would be organized enough to do this every year without their help!

What do you all do for Advent, as a family?

On Life (And A Little More On Old School Blogging)

It's Tuesday, and as promised I'm back to some good old-fashioned blogging today!  I have to tell you, I have been itching to sit down and write this post all week.  It was so refreshing last Tuesday to write something and publish it without making a fuss.  I thought of so much that I wanted to say, both about the old days of blogging and life in general, so I'm warning you now, this is going to be a long one.  I've included convenient section titles, so you may read whatever sections are of interest to you (you are welcome).

Christmas Baking And How The Good Stuff Sticks

Yesterday we finally did some Christmas baking.  I couldn't believe it took us this long to get around to it, because I planned my Christmas season out way ahead of time so I would have very little on my to-do list in December - and still, I barely find time to bake with the kids.  Why is it that no matter how hard I try, December is still nuts?  I am glad that I had most of my Christmas prep done, because it would be panic time right about now if I didn't.

Our Christmas baking was supposed to happen last Thursday, but I woke up and within about a half hour I figured out it was not going to be a wise day to try to bake.  Things went awry right from the beginning, and I shudder to think of the disaster our baking attempt would have been, so I left the sugar cookie mix in the package.  I did think we could handle chocolate-covered pretzels, so we did that instead.  I may have caught Clyde licking chocolate off his pretzel-dipping spoon.  The pretzels are staying within the family now.

You know the funny thing is, last Thursday I was itching to sit down and type out all the ways Thursday was not ideal, because admit it, it's fun to read about disastrous days (when it's someone else's day).  And it really was one thing on top of another that day (it was a good call to stick with pretzels).  But now that I am sitting down on Tuesday to give you the play-by-play, I can't remember all the little things that went wrong.

What I remember is calling Derek at about five o'clock, crossing my fingers that he would say he was almost home.  I remember having a tiff with him on the phone because he was going to be later than I wanted, and then hanging up because I heard Wyatt howling down the hall with his fingers stuck in a slammed door.  He cried for ten minutes as I gently washed the bloody skin flap with water and put a bandaid on it, and he finally stopped when I squeezed the injured digits in my palm and started an episode of The Lion Guard, all four kids gathered around me as we watched the termites take over the pridelands (don't worry, the Lion Guard got the pridelands back).

Then Derek walked in the door, and he gave me that look, and I gave him that look, and I walked over to him to give him an "I'm sorry" hug, and I buried my face in his shoulder.  His coat was warm, and he had that smell, that good husband smell, like home (if you are married I imagine you know what I'm talking about).  And the day just didn't seem so bad anymore.

I called making dinner a lost cause for the day and ordered Chinese food, and we sat on the couch with our Kung Pao chicken after tucking the kids in bed and watched the season finale of Survivor.  And now when I think about Thursday, I really can't remember all the things that went wrong anymore.  Sometimes the daily frustrations seem like such a big deal, but really it's the good stuff that sticks.

Wood Floors Are Not Invincible.

I take it back, I do remember one thing that went wrong on Thursday.

As part of our house renovation this year, we put (vinyl) wood floors upstairs - Aquaguard (which means water resistant) and scratch resistant.  These floors are durable.  This was also a good decision if we are to judge by the amount of crumbs that end up end under the table after each meal, because all of that used to end up in our carpet!  When I think about how seldom I used to vacuum, I'm a little grossed out.  Now when I see the crumbs I can only tolerate them for precisely 10.2 minutes before I have to sweep them up, which you would think would be a bad thing, but it's not.  It's quick and easy to sweep, and then I feel at peace and confident in the cleanliness of everything.  I don't have OCD tendencies at all.

So here I am, patting myself on the back for the last six months for the fact that I no longer have to deal with nail polish and grease stains on my carpet because I was shrewd enough to upgrade to wood floors...and then Clarice, our little firecracker, sufficiently burst my bubble by drawing on the floor.  With a permanent marker, and I am still scratching my head about where she even got it.  I guess our wood floors aren't as invincible as I thought they were.

(Thankfully my handy dandy Norwex cleaning paste got it right up, so all is well.)

(She also was not wearing this dress when the aforementioned Sharpie incident occurred. I just took this picture when I was taking our family Christmas pictures the other day, and I thought it was pretty.  And now you get a sneak peek of our Christmas attire.)

Some Thoughts On What Really Happened To Old-Fashioned Blogging.

I've been putting a lot of thought into this old-fashioned blogging thing since my post last week, trying to decide how to move this forward.  I don't feel like I ever went into full-blown impersonal blogging on here (at least I hope you all didn't feel that way), but my blog has been in a weird in-between place for the past three (?) years. The more I think about it, the more I'm grateful that you all have stuck with me for so long.

For a quick blogging history review, the year it all started to blow up was 2013.  The blogosphere was flooded with fresh new bloggers, and the focus became marketing your blog, pushing it on social media, networking for blog business purposes, and gaining sponsors (sidebar ads or paid posts).  For me personally, it started to get hard in 2014.  I just had Clyde, and I struggled to balance life with three kids.  Reading blogs was the first thing to go, and the more I think about it, the more I think that's what led to the downfall of old-fashioned blogging, at least for me.

I think many in my little circle of the old-school blogosphere had the second or third kid around that time, and we all maybe handled the balancing of life and babies and the metamorphosis of blogging in different ways.  Some kept on faithfully, some slowed down in blogging or shifted focus, and some quit all together.  For me, when I stopped investing my time in reading and commenting on other blogs, it became easier to quit putting myself out there on my own blog.

Which leads me in a roundabout way to my point, which is that the thing that made blogging go 'round in the old days was the fact that if you were a blogger, you read blogs.  You read, and you commented (remember all the commenting joy before blogland got so self-centered?).  And when someone commented on your blog, you reciprocated not just by replying to their comment via email, but by going and reading something on their blog and commenting.  There was something so unspoken and natural about all this.  If you wanted people to read your blog (or keep reading your blog), you read theirs.  Nothing written, either in the posts or comments, had to be particularly important, it was just all a part of getting to know each other and sharing our lives and having a conversation.  It was outward-focused, and generous, and beautiful in the simplicity of it.

The secret is, there are still corners of the blogosphere out there like this.  I know because I spent all my breakfast reading time on blog surfing last week, and I think I found them.  And some of them never left (check my comments from last week's post).  If it's anything like the blogging community of old, they will still welcome us with open arms if we go in not focused on what we can get from it, but what we can give.

Bottom line: I think if we want to bring old-fashioned blogging back, we're going to have to be generous, and do unto others as we would have them do unto us (yes, the Bible applies even to blogging).  So I'd encourage you (as I'm encouraging myself) - if someone comments on your blog, dig back and remember the good old blogging etiquette.  Don't just reply on your own blog, but go visit on their blog and comment on something they wrote.  I think that's the first step in this little old school revival, as well as the first step in making friends, to make conversation.  That's what we are all missing most I think, is the friendships.

Well, sheesh, that was a longer point than I intended.

An Old School Blogger Shoutout.

To wrap this up, how about a little shoutout?  We've all kind of lost touch with each other, haven't we?  I thought about a linkup for those of us who want to find this community again, but there is something so market-y about linkups (especially in this day) that it rubs me wrong.  Linkups are also easy to hijack, and I don't want to lose focus here.  Instead, I'm going to point you to two old-school bloggers each week along with these stream of consciousness posts (because yes, I will be back at it again next Tuesday), and I'd encourage you to go visit their blogs and comment!  Comment below each week if you are also interested in a shoutout, and I'll make it around to everyone eventually.

Old School Blogger 1: First, Natalie from She Builds Her Home!  For those of you who aren't aware, Natalie's first blog was Extraordinary Love.  Remember The Blessing Box?  Now that was a good linkup.  Natalie wrote an old school post last week after I wrote about it here, so I wanted to give her the first slot!

Old School Blogger 2: Next, Laurie from From The Koala Tree (which is just a cute blog name, right?), who also gets the first slot because she also wrote about old school blogging last week after my post!  See, we are not alone!  Laurie is a friend of one of my blog friends from the old days, and she also helps to run Airmail Christmas (it's too late to sign up this year, but bookmark it for next year.)

I wanted to share these two ladies first, because remember how we used to all link to each other like that? Someone would read something that resonated with them, and if it resonated enough they'd write their own thoughts about it on their blog and link back to the original post.  I don't know about you, but when someone linked back to me like that, it made my day, and these ladies revived that feeling for me last week.  I wanted to return the favor (generosity, remember?).

See you all back here (and maybe on your blog too if you want to join in) next Tuesday!  Next week may be short though.  It is the Tuesday after Christmas, after all.

What I'm Drinking: Nutcracker Sweet from Celestial Seasonings, which is THE tea of the Christmas season to me.  I like it best with a Hershey bar.  When I was a kid I used to retire to my room each night with my Nutcracker Sweet tea and my Hershey bar, and stay up way too late in the glow of my Christmas lights reading The Lord Of The Rings.

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