Why I’ve been MIA… It’s a baby.

Hey there, remember me? I used to write in this space with frequency. Then we moved to Texas and health issues cropped up, leading to a year of rest… Little did I know that this time of rest was preparing us for a year of big ch-ch-changes!

I’m having a baby!!! I don’t know about you, but when I’m pregnant, the baby pretty much takes over my brain. And that is my explanation for why I haven’t been very active here. This baby is due to arrive next June. Are you confused yet? This little baby of mine was conceived last December, which means I’m already 11 months into this “pregnancy.”

As you can see, this is a very different kind of baby. While we wouldn’t mind adding another cuddly little person to our family, that door seems to be shut. This baby that I am growing right now is a book baby.
dsc_1574-2

Don’t I look excited, nervous, and maybe already a little bit sleep deprived? I’m signing my contract which means that I get to officially tell you all.

I’m working on a book about raising boys. It’s about the grand call and adventure of raising knights-in-training and what it means to raise chivalrous boys in a 21st century world! The official title will probably be Knights in Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honorable, Courageous, and Compassionate Boys.

I had no idea how much work it would take to write a book. It was my major focus this summer and why I turned down a few speaking engagements to do it. As much as I love to get out and encourage other families in person, I knew that this would take every extra bit of time outside of being wife and mom.

The Back Story

So this book baby… I guess you could say that it all started in May of 2015 when a reporter from the New York Times contacted me. She was writing an article on teaching manners and wanted to interview me about a post I had written years earlier on our chivalry challenge. I’ve done my share of media interviews, so I didn’t really think much about it.

Afterwards, when I didn’t hear back from the reporter, the interview faded from memory until December when she contacted me again. It was going to go live soon. A friend of mine had just had a really bad experience with a news interview and suddenly I was nervous. It’s been nearly 18 years since our last bad experience with a reporter. We still cringe when we think about it.

The day before we left for Arizona for the holidays, the reporter emailed me to inform me the article was live online that day and would come out in print the following day in the Times. When I hopped online to read the article, I noticed the hyperlink to my blog and frantically set about to freshen up that old blog post so people coming over could find it. I flung it out there the following morning before grabbing my keys and setting off on our 15 hour drive to AZ.

Like any blogger, I enjoyed my 15 minutes of “fame” as traffic exploded for a few days and then forgot about it as we enjoyed time with family and friends until a few days later when I received a strange email in my inbox.

Long story, short – an editor from Penguin Random House reached out to me about writing a book. After prayer, my family and I decided to make the leap, as my mind swirled with the possibilities and the vision for the book really took root! So it has been a crazy year over here. I found a wonderful agent, wrote my first book proposal, finished up our homeschool “year” and speaking commitments before settling down this summer to write in the margins of life.

It was a summer and early fall of 5am writing sessions at places as glamorous as my grocery store and McDonald’s because they were far less distracting than coffee shops with the loud music or home where I am always needed! Weekends were spent sequestered away in the library. We made a secret trip to AZ this summer so my kids could play with cousins while I hid away and thought and wrote and wrote and thought all day every day.

I’m so excited to share everything that is tucked away in this book. It is full of so many things that I am passionate about – the power of play and the imagination and the importance of good books. It is a book about embracing all that makes boys so incredible and about inspiring and equipping them to own who they will become. It’s coming next summer!

For now, I’m in a bit of a breather period for a couple of weeks and we are enjoying having weekends back as a family! I am not getting up as early and we are enjoying the rhythm of learning and living! Long walks, zoo trips, spelling lessons, grading copious amounts of math, and a return to more read-aloud time is the norm once again.  I’ll also be back in this space, writing once again.

Until then…

dsc_1326-2 dsc_1354

My favorite way to vacation with kids…

cabin-collage

“Wahoo! This is the coolest place ever, mom!”

Jubilant shouts could be heard as we pulled through the trees into an opening that enclosed our hideaway for the next couple of days.  We were hear to unplug, to unwind, and to reconnect as a family. We packed food, books, our coloring pencils and watercolors ready for time to slow down and savor. I’m always pretty exhausted after a weekend of speaking at a conference and we knew that we were preparing to move into a new and busy season for our family, so this seemed like the perfect time to sneak away for a break.

It’s become a bit of a tradition in our family.  Starting back 5 years or so when we’d escape to a cabin with my parents, sisters and their families.

While I love to drag my kids to all kinds of cool museums and historical sites, tucking all 6 of us into a hotel room is not on my list of relaxing and enjoyable things to do…  While it is fun to go out and see new sites, I have to say that my favorite way to vacation with kids is to rent a house or cabin somewhere and flee from the distractions and business of civilization.  I’ve shared about our “cabin” experiences before here because I’ve found them so refreshing.  There is something magical about escaping into nature to simply enjoy God’s creation and each other. My hubby is not the camping kind of guy, so renting a cabin is the way we go.  I must say that I do like having access to a kitchen and hot showers!

cabin2

This year was no different.  For three days we disappeared.  We didn’t see a single other human being and simply enjoyed hiking the trails on this property.  It was a truly magical set-up with cute trails, hidden “man-caves” and a huge porch and big lawn to play on.  We played hard, read books, went on nature walks, napped often, and of course played games (Everyone but Greta can now play Dominion! #win}.  And the best part?  My phone didn’t work there, so it was truly an opportunity to unplug, unwind and delight in cultivating relationships with my favorite people.

cabingamecollage cabinnaturewalks cabin-insta

How do you like to vacation?

Our various cabin experiences:

Because Sometimes You Just Need to Unwind and Think

Rocky Vacation Learning and What I Learned Along the Way

Wildlife Count and the Slow Demise of a Tomboy

Prayer: Opening Eyes to See the Miracle

A Welcome Break

Anytime Art

 

Easter Finery: Iconic or Idolatrous?

Discerning between icons and idols in everyday life...

When I was a young teenager my mother would not let me wear a black party dress.  She told me that it was “too mature” for me.  She said it sent the “wrong message” to the young men.  And yet a century earlier a young girl dressed in black sent the “right message” – the message that she was a conservative girl of good morals.  So was black a symbol of good or bad?

First, it is important to think about what black is. Black is a color. It is also an image – today it can convey sophistication (the little black dress), mourning (black funeral clothes), or even counter culture (Gothic black).

Images are all around us.  An image is a likeness or representation of something –a person, an action, a product, or an idea.  Many images are innocuous and are quite helpful. Think of Apple, Nike swish, heart, thumbs up, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

But some images are idols – a false replacement for truth or a replacement for the true God. By contrast, an image can also be an icon – a window through which we see truth and/or God.  Contemplating the difference between idols and icons can be helpful as we strive to teach and display truth in our lives. So how do we do this?

Rewind to the Easter celebrations of my childhood.

My mother taught me how to celebrate the joy of Easter with a new beautiful dress.  In fact I wore all new clothing from new underclothes, to the new dress, to new shoes, and a hat and gloves.  She explained that because Jesus rose from the dead He made all things new.  I knew we were celebrating the new life that Jesus won for us when He conquered death. I knew that He had made all things new, and that I was representing that on Easter Morning.  This tradition continued with my children, and they are doing the same with their children.

easter-then-now

Years later, in Of Penguins and Golden Calves, Madeleine L’Engle wrote that she would not dress her girls in new Easter clothes because she thought these clothes were idolatry.  She thought that the clothing usurped the preeminence that the resurrection of Christ was to have on that day.

I was stunned when I read this. I had never considered that Easter clothing could be idolatry; And this thought from an author who is known as a liberal and unorthodox Christian.  What could have caused her to make this extreme statement? In order to understand one must consider the context of Madeleine’s life.  She and her husband were raising their children in New York City in the late 40’s and the 50’s.  Their community was theater people and entertainers.  In her day, and in her localized culture, Easter clothing might have been an idol…. a distraction from the truth of the resurrection, a time to show off your fashion sensibility. Consider the film Easter Parade made in 1948.  It is Christ-less, but fashion-filled. By opting out of the fashion show, L’Engle stood out in her culture the way someone who does not celebrate Halloween does in my local culture.

Discerning Icon from Idol

How should we respond to this idea of eschewing Easter finery?  With quaint disdain for Ms. L’Engle?

We need to evaluate the Easter images in our life. Is this image an icon? Is it a window through which we see truth?  Or is it an idol – something that obscures truth or our love for God? This evaluation must take into consideration our time and our local culture. While it might not be wrong inherently, like new clothing, we must still consider if it obscures truth in our day, in our culture, with our family and community.

We also must evaluate what saints have done in the past; what was an icon for one generation can become an idol for the next generation. When the people of Israel grumbled against Moses, fiery serpents appeared and bit the grumblers so that many of them died. When the people repented, the Lord directed Moses to make a bronze serpent, set it on the pole, and walk through the assembly lifting the icon high. If anyone would look to the bronze serpent he would live. (Numbers 21:4-9) This was a beautiful icon foreshadowing what was to come. This was a window to the truth of Jesus’ coming.  The Father made Jesus to be sin who knew who sin (2Cor. 5:21) and this was represented in the Serpent (a sign of evil and sin) and it was made of bronze – a symbol of judgement.  And all who looks to the Son and believes will be saved. (John 6:40) During the time of Hezekiah the people of Israel had found the bronze serpent and rather than seeing it as an icon, they made offerings to it. They made this amazing icon an idol.  Hezekiah was commended by the Lord because he broke the idol into pieces. (2 Kings 18:4)

Finally, we should be ready to gently explain why a particular image is either an icon or an idol in our lives and in our time but not assume our conclusion applies to everyone else. All the while we must let the Lord deal with other people’s evaluations and decisions. Each generation needs to consider this for their generation, for their children, and for their own self. How do we celebrate and live life in such a way to provide windows to truth, and not obscure truth?

And as we meet people who are abstaining from an idol in their lives, we should not judge them, or patronize them by condescendingly calling them “weaker” brothers.  They may be weak, or they may be more sensitive, or they may be more perceptive.  We do not ridicule or deride them.  We consider their analysis, and we look to ourselves and our family. We turn from the idols that are drawing us away from the Lord. We keep the icons that draw us close to truth, and to the maker of Truth.

Restoring Chivalry and Civility {free printable}

Chivalry is far more than merely how a man treats a woman. It is a whole code of conduct and it is inspiring! Free printable and training log for Knights-in-Training, a boys chivalry challenge!

My book, Knights in Training, inspired from this foray into the realm of chivalry comes out on May 30th, 2017! Find out more HERE

A couple of months ago, a reporter from the New York Times contacted me because of a free printable I offered. She wanted to interview me for a piece she was writing on chivalry.  That article finally came out today which of course had me thinking with fond memories again of that season nearly 5 years ago when we embarked on Knight-Training.  I’m thinking about pulling it out again, especially since Trey missed out on it last time around.

We live in a day and age where our culture is anything but civil.  It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes on Facebook or even less time at a school recess yard to recognize that.  As parents, however, we have the power to shape the culture of our home.  We can set an example in how to show care and respect for others.

Years ago, when we were learning about the Middle Ages, I read up on chivalry.  What I learned surprised me.  I had always thought of chivalry as merely how a man treats a women.  But it is far more than that.  It was an entire code of conduct.  As my boys waged imaginary battles all around me, I read and was filled with renewed vision.  I desired to raise these three boys to treat others with respect, to fight for what is right and good, to stand against injustice and evil, to defend those that are weak and protect them.  When the culture at large proceeds to demean women, I wanted to raise strong sons who would show thoughtfulness and care, not only for the women that they encounter each day, but EVERYONE.  I saw an opportunity to inspire my boys to seek to build one another up instead of tearing others down.  In a ME-focused culture, we desired to focus on loving God first and then others.  So as we learned about the history of the middle ages, we delved into character development too.

The deeper we delved, the more inspired they became. They wanted to emulate knights in every way…  So I decided to have them ‘train’ to become knights.  The training was rigorous (for little boys), including daily running, archery practice, sword fights, stick horse rides to the park (in full armor – you should have seen the curious looks of our neighbors!) to stage mock battles and learn the art of warfare (high ground is a plus), jousting practice, shining my silver (since their armor consists of cardboard, foam and paper mache), etc.
But we didn’t stop there…  No, I decided in the name of seeking to raise modern-day knights, that I would introduce them to the idea of chivalry!  As I expected, my boys were drawn to this too and so we decided to take some extra time in their knighthood training to include talking about, practicing and rewarding chivalrous behavior!  I was amazed at all of the opportunities they had, even as young boys to implement the code in their own lives.
Knights-in-Training - inspiration to train your young knights in chivalry {free printable}
I printed off the list on paper, burned the edges to give it an ‘authentic flair’ and posted it up so we could review it daily!
Chivalry code of conduct and Knights Training Log {free printable}
My boys were also big chart kids.  They just loved to chart progress and see it visually, so we printed off charts for the two older boys.  Stars were bequeathed when I spotted heroic feats of chivalry!  It was fun to watch them step in and defend their baby brother against ‘injustice’ (warring other brother), see my boys race out to open the car doors for Aunt B, see the son who has been struggling with lying, fess up and speak the truth (even though it meant facing consequences – a true sign of bravery and strength I told him.), and have boys eager to carry groceries to the car and then into the house!
Even after we moved on from that unit on the middle ages, they were still eager to grow in strength and valor on these areas.
Knights-in-Training - inspiration to train your young knights in chivalry {free printable}

At the end of our unit, we had a dubbing ceremony where the boys were each knighted by the ‘king of the house.’  They were quite serious about it all, preparing the throne room and kneeling so reverently.  Even the three year old slowed down from his frenzied running (that is the norm at the end of the day) to watch and participate.

I’ve come to realize that this training in chivalry is only the beginning.  I pray they will continue to grow in strength, love for the King of kings, defending the weak and taking stands for what is right and true!

If you would like to engage in some Knights Training of your own, I’ve included the printable Knights Code of Conduct as well as a Chart to mark your progress.  Now that I have a little girl in the picture, I’m going to have to give some thought to how I want to do this with her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Related Post: Knights-in-the Making
King Focus

Day1-Medieval Castle Comparisons

Have you subscribed yet to receive blog updates via email and get access to past freebies?  Enter your email address below. {Your privacy matters.  Emails are never sold and only used to receive blog post updates.}


 

I am MOTHER – protector of childhood…

childhoodcollage1childhoodcollage

Childhood is so fleeting.  Seasons come and go.  Life is full of crazy ups and occasional lulls…  And yet time marches on.

And here we are, mothers.  We welcome these children into our arms and into our hearts.  We love them, nourish them, train them, protect them.  In a culture that is crazy hectic, and rarely has a filter, we get to build a hedge.  We get to give our children the gift of a childhood.  We get to pursue an un-rushed life that creates margin, so our kids can spend time being kids.  Unhindered time to develop those important problem solving and interpersonal skills, those skills of negotiation and resourcefulness.  We can give them the time it takes to ponder and take in everything they are learning about the world around them and make sense of it all – time to just be in the moment.

And in the midst of laundry, cooking, and homeschooling, we can steal small moments to soak in their play.  We take mental snapshots of the carefree days of childhood, days spent outdoors with sunlight filtering in through leaves.  We can say “YES” to pleas to collect neighborhood discards for backyard fort creations.  And we can smile as we watch them so seriously at work in the business of play. Oh the beauty of this season called childhood.

You and I are protectors of this childhood.  It’s a beautiful calling…

 

Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday Specials!

If you’ve been wanting to snag either my book, The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks or my Preschool Song Cards, you can use the coupon code, CHRISTMAS, to get $3 off each item between now and November 30th!

BLACK FRIDAY only: use BLACKTINSEL to get 40% off Truth In the Tinsel.

A homeschool mom’s guide to taking sick days without going crazy!

Here are 5 tips to help make homeschool mom sick days a little more manageable...

I hate getting sick. I always have, but as a mom, this loathing has reached epic proportions. We simply do not have the time to get sick. Ever.  Any mom of young kids knows that life at home can go from order to absolute chaos in what seems like the blink of an eye.

Chaos and noise are not conducive to the recovery process.  That is what raises blood pressure and results in having to get up from the couch far more frequently than an invalid should ever have to rise.

I shared about it on Wednesday, when I wrote about how to preserve read-aloud time when you can’t read-aloud.  This has been a season of living much of my life from the couch.  I typically don’t get sick often, but when I go down, I go down. Trepidation overtook me every time I had to swallow when I had my bout with strep throat this summer. That spike-covered rock was there at the back of my throat each and every time.  My body felt like it had been hit by a Mack truck.  Determination set in as I sought to see if the steps we’ve made to preserve order in times such as this would work.

While my boys can now feed themselves and their sister (hurray!), I’ve seen that this is about the ONLY thing that would happen when I was sick.  The chaos, clutter, increased bickering, and noise resulting from the lack of routine was enough to send this usually relaxed mama into a fit of crazy.  And let me tell you, crazy is also not conducive to speeding up the healing process.

Kids need rhythm and routine. Kids need a mother or a Lord of the Flies scenario ensues. Ok, ok, I maybe getting a bit melodramatic, but sickness has a way of doing that.

I’ve learned the art of least investment for maximal impact.  It’s how to get well without going crazy. Here is what is working for me, as a homeschool mom.  I’d love to hear what you do when you need to take a sick day!

  1. Set expectations in advance.  Obviously if you are still in the toddler phase, this doesn’t work, but as they get older and you have established routines, I think it is important to discuss expectations for those times when mom is sick…  I’ve always seen my kids rise to the occasion when they know what is expected.
  2. Keep a general routine.  There are things that they do each and every day that STILL must be done, even if I’m not there to check on work.  We practice piano. We tidy up. We clean the kitchen when we are done. We throw trash away. When you get something out, you put it away.  They know all these things, but I had found that they magically would forget if I was tuckered out on the couch.
  3. Pare down to the bare bones.  I love the flexibility of homeschooling, but I also like to keep routine going as much as we can.  Now that my kids are getting older and I’ve transferred them to their own lesson plan checklists, I instruct them to do the things that don’t require my direct involvement.
  4. Read-Aloud.  My go-to when we are stressed or need to reconnect as a family is to pile on the couch with a good book.  Read-aloud time saw us through 14 weeks of bedrest and it was how we learned in the first months after my last two babies were born.  I’ve now added it to my sick-day protocol with a twist.
    1. Have them read to you.  I was surprised with how excited they were about this.  I think I’ve been slacking in the “read to Mom” department lately.
    2. Utilize Audio Books!  I love this option so much, I wrote a whole post about it yesterday! You read that one, right? Audiobooks should have a place in every sick mother’s arsenal. We were slated to start Little House on the Prairie this last weekend.  There is no way I could read with my throat practically swollen shut.
  5. Take-out, Baby! I can’t cook from the couch.  So when you are really, really sick, sweet talk your hubby into bringing home dinner.  No prep and no dishes; it’s a perfect way to end a sick day.

Related Posts:
How to Cultivate Read-Aloud Time
Seven Reasons Why You Should Read-Aloud

A time to step back, to go deep, to rest…

There's a time to rest, to still the noise, to listen...

A time to rest, a time to still the noise, a time to listen…

There is a time for everything under the sun, and God has made it abundantly clear that this is a season to embrace going deep – with the Lord, with my husband, and with my children.  It is a season to still the noise, a season to rest.  I’ve felt this need for a while.  Some ongoing health issues make this break vital. I laugh when I think about how I keep saying, “But God…” and He faithfully brings reminder after reminder to rest in Him and to step back from the online world.

My job: listen and obey.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll be going “dark” for the most part.  I’ll be logging on twice a week to mail out orders of my book and new preschool cards. But other than that, we’ll be settling into our new routine for this upcoming semester, reading, relaxing and just “being”.  I’m excited.  This is about as close to a sabbatical as a mama of 4 can get and I’m taking it!

So what does this mean for the blog?  I have so much I want to say, so many ideas swirling.  I’ll be back.  I’m praying about what that will look like.  I’m intrigued by the idea of podcasting or maybe sharing more videos.  What I love more than anything is when I get to interact with you all in REAL LIFE and not just through the written word or social media.  I’d appreciate your prayers and if you have specific things you’d like to see me address, let me know.

For those of you in the south or up in Minnesota, I’ll be travelling to Birmingham, Alabama to speak at the Refresh Homeschool Retreat in February and up north to Duluth for the MACHE Homeschool Conference in April!  I look forward to seeing some of you there!

“My plan” {ha! I’m learning to hold my ideas lightly these days.} is to take August to step back from all online engagement and then inch back into interacting on Instagram or Facebook in September.  As long as the Lord doesn’t direct otherwise, I hope to be back sharing in this space in October.  1

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite posts from the archives!

A collection of articles on living cultivated lives as we integrate faith and learning into everyday living.

Intentional Parenting

Intentional Parenting Means Raising Daniels

Intentional Parenting Means Setting Goals with the End in Mind

Intentional Parenting Means Setting {Bite-Sized} Goals

10 Adventure Books that Inspire a Boy’s Faith

A Time to Hold, A Time to Let Go

A Frugal Approach to Building Biblical Literacy

Read Thru the Bible as a Family

 

Inspired Learning

10 Ways We Cultivate Learning

10 Books that Inspire a Lifestyle of Learning

What Does a Typical Homeschool Day Look Like

Home if Where It Starts: Our Classroom, Our Mindset

How We Utilize Brain Breaks in our Homeschool

I’m Not Patient Enough to Homeschool… And That’s OK

Homeschooling: Why Socialization Matters

How to Support Your Wife in Homeschooling

When Curiosity Hijacks Your Day, Run With It!

Preschool Learning Resource Page

Satan, Burping, and Reading Readiness

Created to Create: Finding Our Inner Artist

 

For those who have asked, we are settling in well in our new Texas home!  We surprised the boys last week with a trip to the Cowboys stadium.  The highlight was getting to play football on the field.  I think they could have stayed all day…  We are loving the big trees and living in a little red brick house that is so very different from Arizona.  We are looking forward to fall and putting down roots as we continue to seek out and build relationships with friends here in our new city!

Why We Stopped Homeschooling >> BIG CHANGES

dallasmove1

Change is inevitable. Sometimes it is incremental and sometimes it is dramatic.

For our family change is coming in epic proportions. (But then, if you follow me on Instagram, you already know that.)  It is a wild ride right now and I’m praying for grace and to come through it with my sanity in tact.

We stopped homeschooling a few weeks ago.  No we didn’t put our kids back in school, but the “school” part of homeschooling has taken a backseat for now as we embrace crazy life-learning opportunities.

My hubby started a new job in Dallas, Texas this last week.  Yep, you heard that right; Texas, as in two states over from here. This is no move-across-town trip. {Not that those are a cake-walk either.}  We are packing up and heading 1,049 miles away. We’ve been furiously packing for the last 3 weeks because the kids and I drive out to join him this weekend.

Can I tell you how crazy this is?  Some of you may have moved recently.  And if that is a move, across state lines where everything in your life is turned topsy-turvy, I have SO much respect for you.  I’m going crazy over here – almost literally. There are days moments-all-through-the-day where I simply don’t know what to do next..  At church this morning, a friend asked for my email address.  I couldn’t even remember how to spell my last name; I’m that far gone, friends.  But I am plugging away.  A few heroic friends have insisted on coming over to help (because I’m awful about recognizing my need for and then asking for help).

So here we are in the midst of all kinds of crazy life-lessons. I’d love to tell you that we are rocking every minute of it, but ya…  I can say that we are learning, through trial and error, to walk this out by asking for forgiveness, praying together, and extending grace to one another.

All that to say, I won’t be blogging here for another few weeks.  We need to get to Texas and then I need to finish preparing to go speak in Utah, oh just a week and a half after we arrive.  I can’t wait to see a few of you at the UTCH Homeschool Conference.

In the meantime, I’ll still be popping into Facebook and with finally upgrading to a smartphone (so I don’t get lost in Dallas), I’ll be posting even more to Instagram!

If any of you are in the Dallas area, let me know!

Texas, here we come. We’ll pick up our lesson plans once we get settled!

p.s. Not quite everything is changing. We’ll be near a Sprouts and a Library!

p.p.s. The kids are mostly excited.  Sad to say goodbye to friends and family, excited for the adventure ahead.  What do they think about the moving process? They are about as thrilled with packing as I am…

dallasmove3dallasmove2

 

Cultivating Thanksgiving and Anticipating Christmas

November through December is one of my favorite times of year.  Not only is our weather simply beautiful, but it’s a time of year when I pause to think.  I’m sure I can’t be the only one that gets super busy with the changing of seasons…  When we start a new “school” year, life is hectic as we slip into new routines, resume regular activities and tackle fresh challenges.  I get going a million miles a minute and if I’m not careful, I’ll look up and realize I’m not headed in a direction that I want to go. As November dawns, I find myself slowing down.  Not physically, but rather mentally.  It is a soul slow down.  My spirit becomes quiet and I sit back to take stock.  I sit back in gratitude for all God’s done.

Yesterday, our pastor spoke on the cost of discipleship.  I’ve been mulling it over in my mind continually since then.  In a culture that prizes comfort and convenience, our pastor challenged us to not be subject to these two idols.  Jesus did not come to grant us a life of comfort and ease.  He came to rescue us.  He came to call us to kingdom work.  And so I sit and think.

This has me looking forward to this season and seeking ways to cultivate these stirrings that God’s placed in my heart.  I want to invite my kids into the act of listening to the Lord and then FOLLOWING Him wherever He leads -no matter the cost.  I want to remember back and I want to prepare for the future.

Our culture is changing so rapidly.  It’s vital that we, as a family, become grounded in God’s Word.  The rumblings in our culture remind me of what the puritans went through back in England and how God used that time to move them here to the new world.  As I look towards the future and the role God’s called me to play in shaping these young lives we are blessed to nurture, I want to be intentional.  I want to be resolved and yet relaxed as I follow God’s call in discipling these kids of mine and whatever else he brings along the way.

So we’ll be pulling out our favorite Thanksgiving books.  We’ll be talking about counting the cost.  We’ll be talking about Jesus, why He came and what it means to follow Him.

So I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts and resources (including several exclusive coupon codes) that help us during these two seasons!

Favorite Thanksgiving Resources

LessonsInThanksgiving

I’ve collected all of my posts here on our hands-on history lessons, crafts, and book recommendations!

Mayflower Boat Tutorial

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve made our Mayflower Walnut boats.  With Greta being 3 now, I think it is definitely time to pull these out again!

Christmas Thoughts and Resources

I love to slow our schedules down a bit in December and really savor time together as a family and time to spend with the Lord.

Here are a few favorite posts.  You can check out all of my Christmas related blog posts here or take a peek at my Christmas Pinterest board.

Christmas Young Children     A Giving Countdown for Christmas.
Open-ended water-color project with beautiful results           Beautiful picture books for the Christmas season

4 Amazing Christmas Devotionals/Resources

This post may contain affiliate links.

Truth in the Tinsel

Truth in the Tinsel 2014I love this devotional from my friend, OhAmanda.  We’ve done it 3 times now.  It is fun and engaging – even when we went the easy route with the coloring ornaments instead of the messy crafts during two of those years!  We’ll be delving into it again next year when Greta is four!  Here is our initial review that I wrote and then my followup post on it from last year.  I even have a special coupon code, just for you all!

COUPON CODE ALERT: Use CULTIVATE to get 20% off the ebook!  It’s good for the rest of 2015!

 

More than a Holiday

More Than A Holiday
I’m super excited about this one.  I’ve been reading through it and can’t wait to do this devotional with the kids this year.  It is a great resource that answers a lot of questions.

It’s divided into the following sections:

Is the Christmas Story Real? – How do we know and the role of genealogies and prophesies.
The Christmas Story – one day just focused on the overall account.
The Characters of the Christmas Story – a deeper look at the people involved.
Elements of the Christmas Story – giving historical background that will foster appreciation and understanding.
Why is the Christmas Story Important to Us? – this section addresses myths surrounding the Christmas story as well as the take home question, “Who is Jesus to You?”

Each days devotional is divided up into sections that provide parents and older kids a deeper historical and theological context, a scripture to read, a daily devotion, dialogue questions, a simple prayer and then optional family time activities.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  For those that want to join in and do this with your family, I have a coupon code for you that is good through NOVEMBER 8TH!  Use “CULTIVATED” to get 20% off the More Than A Holiday ebook.  If you are a print book kind of person, it is also available for purchase over at Amazon.

SQUILT Christmas Carol Study

An in-depth look at 5 Christmas Carols: a guide to quietly listening and discussing these classic carols.

If you are anything like me, you are asking yourself, “What is SQUILT?” SQUILT is short for Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time. Doesn’t that sound lovely?  This book contains 5 lessons that are designed to take 5 weeks, assuming you “do SQUILT” 2 times a week.  It centers around these 5 Christmas carols: Carol of the Bells, Away in the Manger, The Little Drummer Boy, Angels We Have Heard on High and Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.

This study is a great way to sneak in some quality music with your children and help build their habit of attention while listening for different musical details. It melds music appreciation, listening for tempo, rhythm, instrumentation and mood with a snapshot of this history behind the Carols.  There is a notebooking component that is clearly laid out for those of us that, ahem, don’t really do a whole lot of that.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  I’m full of coupon codes today!!!  It’s Mary’s birthday today, so if you use the coupon code “BIRTHDAY” you’ll get 25% off the Christmas Carols ebook or any of her other SQUILT Music Appreciation programs.  The coupon is good through NOVEMBER 10TH!

Praying the Scriptures through Advent

Jesus, Light of the World: Praying the Scriptures Through Advent  And then finally…  a resource for ME!!!  My friend, Candace, just released a simple and beautiful devotional for praying the Scriptures through Advent.  I’m looking forward to curling up on the couch in the morning with a cup of tea, my Bible, and this ebook for some special time with Jesus – {hopefully} before my kids wake up.

COUPON CODE ALERT!  And yes, Candace was gracious to give me a special coupon code for you all.  You can use “CULTIVATE” for $2 off that is good through November 26th!

The Fall That Helped Me Take the Plunge…

GretaCake

We have what’s been affectionately dubbed as “Crazy Birthday Week” in our home – 3 birthdays all in one week! So it’s been a busy week of celebrating 10, 8 and mid-30’s {ahem}. The two kids who didn’t have birthdays this month learned lessons in contentment and “not-mine”.  I caught Greta inspecting Keegan’s cake, whispering to herself mine

And then, the day after my birthday, the Lord gifted me with a blessing-in-painful-disguise.  He’s been moving me to a place of rest for the last month or two.  I’ve slowly dialed back some of my commitments so I can focus on my health and nurturing relationships, both familial and with my Heavenly Father. Once you get going, it is hard to slow down. I’ve struggled with fear of letting people down and other but, but, but’s…  And lately I felt that nudge to unplug and unwind, but have been hesitant to take the plunge.

So as I was hanging out with my neighbor and watching our kids play in the rain I noticed that Greta had dropped an umbrella which was now being blown away by the wind.  Only a moment after I sprang into action to recapture the runaway umbrella, my body went one way while my feet went another, landing me square on my elbow.  {Is it normal to see your own bone when this happens?!?}

Even two days later it is still painfully swollen and I am basically out of commission.  My sweet hubby is taking this post via dictation, so that I can let you know that I will be unplugging, mostly, for the immediate foreseeable future.  Looks like I will have plenty of time to tackle my reading list and continue to watch these kids of mine step up and help their one-armed mama.

Hopefully I will be back here in a few short weeks…