Please Be Gentle with My Bruises


Please Be Gentle with My Bruises

I’m about to lay bare my heart...because I don’t want this space to showcase just my glamour shots. I want it to be real. Authentic. My life in all its messy glory.

So here it is. Yesterday was awful. Just plain bad.

It was more than the typical disruptions, sibling disputes, and toddler tantrums. It was way bigger.

The arguments were battles of brothers with fists flying and fire shooting from eyes. When I stepped in to mediate, a fist or two was raised toward me. Just as it seemed the storm was passing, another one reared its ugly head and we were caught up in its spinning winds again. No one was hurt thankfully. Well, at least not physically, but the wounded hearts are the real story.

There were tears. So many tears. From my boys and me. Sobs of the unfairness and frustration and rejection. Some were mine. Some were my boys. With all this emotion hanging in the air, our home was a heavy place, and I was at a loss as to how to make it better.

Being a parent is hard. There are days that completely knock you down and you wonder just how you’ll find the courage to get back up.

Even on a good day, when all six of my kiddos are seemingly angelic, and we’re out at the grocery store, someone will ask me, “How do you do it?” I’m never sure if they want an honest answer or just a smile and a chuckle, but I always choose honesty.

“How do I do it? I don’t know.”

This answer usually makes people uneasy and they reply with the smile and chuckle. Of course, it’s not my intention to make anyone uncomfortable, but the truth is, I don’t know how I do it. I just do. Somehow. Each day is a challenge and gift. New twists on old arguments pop up like rain clouds threatening to ruin a sunny day. The truth is I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t have to, and neither do you.

As I reflected in the day with a longer than long shower and some chocolate, I made three conclusions.

1) My default mode must always be love and calm. Responding in anger will never help. In the midst of their own big emotions, my children need me to be the eye of the storm. That place where they can stand while everything else swirls around them and feel safe.

2) Parenting is hard and we need to support each another. There’s no need to hide the challenges of parenting from each other. We all know how difficult it can be. Pretending that it isn’t only alienates us.

3) Let go when it’s time to let go and hold on when it’s time to hold on. In the midst of my boys’ arguments, I needed to hold on; to them, to my own emotions, to love. I needed to love them through it. But when it was over, I needed to let go. After hearts were heard and hugs shared, it was time to let go. I had to resist the urge to talk about it just a little more in my attempt to ensure it will never happen again. As they were joking with each other and playing tag at the end of the day, I had to bite my tongue, when all I wanted to shout was, “All of that arguing and now you’re acting like nothing happened?!” I had to let them be. To soak in what they were able to learn from the situation for where they are individually. This is the hardest part. As their parent, it hurts to see them hurt. And angers me to see how they treat each other. But I cannot control that. All I can do is model love and compassion. The rest is up to them. But man, that is so hard!!

So there it is. My imperfect snapshot. Bruises and all. So hang in there! You’re not alone.

Monday Mindset: What's Your Word?


Monday Mindset

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

Happy 2016!

With the opening of a new year and the closing of the old, we can’t help but hope. We long for new beginnings like a feast after a famine. We look over our shoulders at where we’ve been and gaze ahead longing for a path to be made clear that will lead us to the goals we set.

What if we can light our way, calling upon lessons learned and striving ideals? Not through resolutions as we are accustomed, but through thoughtful intentions? And what if the light we seek is within us? I believe that it is, and for this reason, I have taken to choosing a word or short phrase to be my beacon throughout the year. Something I can use to evaluate whether or not my actions and decisions are in line with my priorities.  In years past, my intentions have been things like Stubborn Joy, Love, and Trust.

This year I choose diligence.

There are so many areas of my life that need me to be just that, diligent. And diligence encourages me to be present and faithful in all that I do. It is a audacious word, full of courage. My prayer is that I meet this challenge with all the grace and strength it requires.

What will be your word, your phrase, for 2016?
  Leave me a note in the comments so I can cheer you on!

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How to Learn from the Land without Setting Foot Outside

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Day 11: How to Learn from the Land without Setting Foot Outside

If you haven't read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, you must, no matter how old you are!  There's a reason it's called a 'modern classic'!  I have had the privilege of reading this book several times to several children and look forward to reading it a few more.  My Side of the Mountain is one of those books that makes you want to go live in a hollowed out tree, and Sam makes it seem like it's possible.  So when you need an adventure but can't make it to the woods, stay in with this book.  And be prepared to stay awhile:)

mysideofthemountain Acorn-Pancakes

And if you find yourself ready to head outside after your trip to My Side of the Mountain, check out either of these books.  There are plenty of activities to keep you busy for weeks!  These are definitely a favorite at our house. Happy Learning!

outdoor guide my side

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The Hundred Dresses Story Chart

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There's a Book for That, Day 9: The Hundred Dresses, part three & a free printable!

For the past two days, I have been sharing my notes and resources for the book club I facilitate at our local homeschool co-op.  You can find those posts here and here.  Even though I tried to make the description of our process and conversations as clear as possible, I know that sometimes it's helpful to just have something that you can download and print to have on hand when you are ready to jump into your own discussion.  So, I made you a story chart, based on the one found in Teaching the Classics, complete with notes for each aspect of the story.  While your discussion won't be exactly like ours, I thought you may find it helpful, as I did when I was just getting started, to have some notes to guide you.   So, consider this little story chart my way of paying it forward.  I hope you find it helpful and that it encourages you to dive in to a book discussion.  It's really not so scary once you get started.  :)  If you'd like a copy of the story chart delivered to your inbox, just pop your name and email address into the form below.  Happy reading (& discussing)!

Get a free story chart to jumpstart your own book discussion!

100 dresses


There's a Book for That, Day 7: The Hundred Dresses, part one

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There's a Book for That, Day 7:
The Hundred Dresses, part one

At our local homeschool co-op, I facilitate a book club for a group of 10-11 year old girls. The book we chose to read and discuss was The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. I didn’t know what to expect since I had never read it before but the reviews looked promising and it won the vote of the girls over other choices. It’s probably not wise to choose a book for a book club without reading it first, especially when it is your first attempt. But I am glad I did. Reading the book chapter by chapter with the girls allowed me to stay present in the book and look only at the “evidence” the author was giving us instead of unintentionally leading the discussion based on evidence that is presented later in the book (more about that in a moment). And I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by both the book and our discussion. (As of this writing, we have not yet finished the book discussion.)

So, back to the evidence….I first learned about the idea of reading a book for evidence when I listened to a podcast from the Read Aloud Revival, hosted by Sarah Mackenzie. If you haven’t checked out that podcast, you must!!! It is amazingly inspirational. Well, on Episode 10 of the podcast, Heidi Scovel, who blogs at Mt. Hope Academy was discussing her experiences with starting a parent-child book club. She called it Book Detectives. Right then and there, I knew I wanted to try this out.

Though my book club doesn’t currently include parents, I am considering offering that as an option when we begin a new book.

Click on this picture to go right to Episode 10 of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast.

Anyway, Heidi offered up this great analogy that every book, despite its specific genre, belongs to the genre of mystery. In every book, the author gets us to ask questions and to read for those answers. The author also tries to convey a message through the details of plot, setting, and character. It is our job as the reader to be a detective and to look closely at these details to figure out what the author wants us to know. To me, this analogy is brilliant and really resonates with readers of all ages.

During the discussions of our book club, the girls found themselves making assumptions about various things like setting and characters. But when challenged to find evidence in the book, they were able to clarify or revise their assumptions with accurate, supporting detail. And this changed how they read later on in the book. Discussions we had on the first day, reappeared as new evidence came to light.

Other than Heidi’s blog and the Read Aloud Revival podcast, I found a lot of helpful ideas from Deconstructing Penguins and Teaching the Classics. Both of these were extremely helpful as I jumped in. Tomorrow I will share more specifics of our discussions and what I have learned through my first attempt at facilitating.

There's a Book for That, Day 6: Wild Child

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There's a Book for That, Day 6:
Wild Child

Over the years of reading aloud to my children, I have read more books about Autumn than I can count, but this one...Wild one of my new favorites.  It's beautiful illustrations and gentle depiction of the changing of seasons are breathtaking.  And children will find a little bit of themselves in the wild child of Autumn. 

nature suncatcher

This book inspired us to get outside and take a look at the natural world around us.  We decided to collect some things that we saw on our nature walk.  Once we were home, we laid them out and I rummaged through our seed box to see what we had left to add.  We then cut out the center of a paper plate and a large circular piece of clear contact paper.  Then we arranged some of our favorite nature items onto the sticky side of the contact paper and covered it over with another piece.  The results were beautiful.  I also read this book and did this craft with our homeschool co-op.  I wish I had pictures!! All of the sun-catchers were so different!

There's a Book for That, Day 5: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast


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There's a Book for That, Day 5:
What the Most Successful People
Do Before Breakfast

I just stumbled across this little gem and it was so inspiring! I hesitated as to whether or not to include it in this series because it isn’t exactly a story, though it does include several vignettes that perfectly illustrate the author’s well-thought-out point. After careful consideration, I did decide to share this book in my write31days challenge because What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast will jumpstart your learning, whatever that may be.

It will also help you learn more about yourself & what you value. And it will help you decide if the latter is reflected in how you spend your time. I don’t know about you, but this is something I need to revisit often. One of the great things about this book is that it's short and easy to read. Something even better is that there is an audio version available on YouTube. It takes only an hour to listen to and could significantly change your approach to your morning and your whole day!

There's a Book for That, Day 4: Paddle-to-the-Sea

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There's a Book for That, Day 4:

When it comes to geography, enlivening the topic can be a challenge. But Holling C. Holling has met this challenge amazingly well! Through the story of Paddle, the little wooden man and his canoe, geography is not only interesting, but exciting!  When reading this book, you can’t help but pull out a map and follow Paddle’s course from Canada to the Atlantic Ocean. And along the way, you learn about the characteristics of the landscapes, industries, cultures, as well as the geography of the Great Lakes area.  All from one story!

Holling C. Holling has written several books like Paddle to the Sea, and they all inspire us to learn more about geography and history. Happy Learning!

There's a Book for That, Day 3: Owl Moon


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There's a Book for That, Day 3:
Owl Moon

The beauty of books is the depth and breadth of learning they offer. Just one book can lead us in so many directions, hopping off on rabbit trails that lead us on to discover new ideas on a variety of topics. Owl Moon is one of my favorite books for just that reason. Jane Yolen’s writing effortlessly lifts us up out of our homes and right into the cold night going owling with Pa. We hear the crunch of the snow. Feel our hot breath behind the woolen scarf. See the magnificent beauty of the owl.


At the end, we sit in quiet awe of having experienced something so seemingly real without having to bundle up and head outside. From reading this book, you may decide to learn more about owls and seek out a non-fiction book like Owls by Gail Gibbons, or learn more about how the seasons affect animals or about life in the country. Or, because of the beauty of Yolen’s words, you may want to learn more about writing. Owl Moon is a book that I share with every young writer I work with, either one on one or in a writing workshop setting.

If you are curious about how to use Owl Moon to inspire writing, check out 5 Simple Steps to Using Picture Books to Teach Writing .  It will encourage you to look closely at the books you read and not stop your discussion at the plot but delve deeper into looking at the words the author chose and the beauty of the language.  Really, Owl Moon, and books like it can inspire writers of all ages!  They're concise, vivid, and after all, who doesn't love a great picture book?!

So, no matter what rabbit trail you find yourself on, you’ll be glad you followed it.  Happy Learning!

There's a Book for That, Day 2: Shanleya's Quest


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There's a Book for That, Day 2: Shanleya's Quest.


Shanleya’s Quest
is one of those books that everyone, no matter the age, can learn from, and it deserves a slow, careful read over several days, even weeks. While it’s not too long, only 32 pages, it is full of colorful illustrations and just as full of information about 8 distinct plant families. Each island that Shanleya visits throughout the story introduces and explains the characteristics of each of the selected plant families.

After reading a section, you will be inspired to get outside and take a closer look at the plants in your yard and neighborhood. You may even find yourself wanting to start a nature journal to chronicle your outdoor adventures.  Nature journals are so much fun!  As you can see from my daughter's journal page, she did some drawing of a mint plant, dictated to me what she learned, and included an actual leaf and a copy of an illustration of a mint family.


My advice is start small. Choose one plant family to learn about. Read the short chapter and jump in. If you find yourself really getting into studying botany with the plant family approach, you may be interested in the more in-depth book, Botany in a Day, also by Thomas J. Elpel. Or if you want another fun way to practice what you are learning, Hops Press, LLC offers a plant identification game specifically made to complement Shanleya’s Quest.

Happy Learning!