Friday, May 31, 2013

Borrow or Buy?

{This post, like most of my posts that discuss books, contains affiliate links.}

Today I'm returning to my unofficial blog series on reading.  I love conversations about books and I love hearing your answers to my questions. We've  talked about our reading quirks and how we choose the books we read aloud to our kids.  We've talked about whether we quit books we hate or soldier on  and whether we prefer fiction or non-fiction and what specific genres are our favorites

Now let's delve into the nitty gritty:  Do you buy or borrow your books?

The library is my best friend.  Probably 90% of the books I read are borrowed from the library.  It's free, it's easy, and if I hate the book, I return it without another thought.

Occasionally, I'll borrow a book from a friend.  The first time I read Call the Midwife (before there was a TV series or any hype surrounding the book), I borrowed it from my friend, Ginger, who is my go-to person all things reading.  I'm nervous about borrowing from friends, though, because I feel responsible to return the book in the pristine condition in which I received it and I'm sometimes a careless reader.  (I'm not "allowed" to read Brian's books because I tend to curl the pages and bend the covers.)

I buy numerous used books which is why all the bookshelves in our house are full, but it's hard for me to commit to paying full price for a book I might not like. I do it occasionally, but not without sweaty palms.  (I'm frugal to a fault.)  I literally waited 10 months after I got my Kindle to purchase the translations of the BibleI wanted.  It only cost $2.99, but I made do with a free version until I got the nerve. 

So what about you?  Are you a buyer or a borrower?

Come back Monday for the launch of my FREE eBook:
Summer Reading Guide For Families

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Today I wanted to share something exciting going on in the life of my real-life friend, Allyson.  (Aside from the exciting news that she is expecting her fifth baby-- and fourth girl-- this summer!) 

This week, she opened a new Etsy shop, All Our Days, selling digital download prints for your home. 

Jeremiah 31:3 Aqua // INSTANT DOWNLOAD // Scripture Prints // Wall Art
(order here)

This is my favorite print from her shop.  This shade of aqua is my favorite color (it's all over my house!), but I also have a strong mental and emotional connection to the verse.  I remember listening to Elisabeth Elliot's radio show for years and hearing her open every broadcast with,

" 'You are loved with an everlasting love,'-- that's what the Bible says-- 'and underneath are the everlasting arms.' "

For her first month in business, Allyson and her family will be donating 50% of their profits to the adoption fund of another blogging mama, Lauren from MercyInk.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Joggermom Marathon: Week 4-- Running Plans for Everyone

Progress:  For the 4th week of May, I logged 14.7 miles.  I ran another 2.9 miles early this morning  and I'm now taking a 2 day running break in anticipation of my race on June 1.  That brings my May total to 53.8 miles. I've run the marathon twice!

Joggermom Marathon |

Plans to Get Started: I will be the first to say that running is not for everyone.  I never thought it would be for me either, but once I began to challenge myself, I got hooked.  Brian tried running for awhile and we even ran a 2-mile race together in January, but his work schedule and an injury put him out of commission. 

That being said, if you want to give running a try, there is no reason why you shouldn't give it a go.  When I started running at the end of September, I couldn't run for more than a minute at a time and a 30 minute run-walk work-out left me exhausted.  I discovered that there are training plans for all fitness levels and your current level of fitness should not deter you! 

(The plans I used are highlighted in bold.) 

Need to get in shape with walking?
Try Prevention Magazine's All Walk Program or the Hal Higdon Walking Program

Want the challenge of running with plenty of walk breaks?
Try Prevention Magazine's Walk-Run Program or Mayo Clinic's Training Schedule for Beginners

Ready to rev it up a bit?
Try Prevention Magazine's Run-Walk Program

Already physically fit, but want to ease into running?
Try Prevention Magazine's All Run Program

Want to be 5K ready 9 weeks from now?
Try the Couch-to-5K  Running Plan

Already a casual runner but want to work up to 3 miles? 
Try the Hal Hidgon Novice Training Plan

Monday, May 27, 2013

Summer School

Our school year officially ended on May 17 this year, but we never really stop learning!  On our first week out of school, we had Field Day with our local homeschool group, visited the library, and went on a field trip!  Summer is our chance to learn about things we didn't have time to concentrate on during the other nine months of the year or our chance to experience more hands-on learning (field trips, art projects, swimming...).  Last year, we read about the human body all summer (book list here)  and completed our health credit before the next school year even started. 

This year, instead of tackling a big learning goal, I have several smaller ideas in mind:

  1. Let the kids take turns choosing things from this list I printed and hung in the dining room: 101 Almost Free Things to Do With Kids This Summer.
  2. Work with Maddie and Owen on fluency when reading aloud.
  3. Teach Ben how to hold a pencil correctly with this easy method: Teaching a Child To Hold a Pencil .
  4. Spend 5-10 minutes a day learning about world geography with this free map and activity guide from Thriving Family: Around the World in 60 Days

What are your summer learning plans?

Coming next week: Summer Reading and the launch of my new e-book: Summer Reading Guide For Families

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spreading the Good News

We got a surprise in the mail a few weeks ago.  Our kids think it is the greatest of  privileges to be the one asked to go out and check the mail.  It's always a special thrill when they are able to come back in the house yelling, "Mail call!" and hand out letters or bills or the rare package.  On this particular day we were not expecting a package so when we opened the big yellow envelope and found that the people at What's in the Bible?  had sent us the latest DVD in the series--Volume 11, Spreading the Good News-- as a surprise and thank you for working with them, we were excited and appreciative!  (We were planning to buy it anyway so getting it free made it even better!)

Volume 11 tackles the book of Acts.  While Volumes 1-9 (the Old Testament) laid out the reasons why we need a Savior to rescue us and showed us how God had a plan for salvation from the very beginning...and while Volume 10 (the Gospels) illustrated how Jesus became Salvation and Redemption for sinners... Volume 11 shares how the Good News ripples out from Jerusalem and is carried to the world. 

The first episode focuses on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The second episode teaches about Peter's vision of the unclean animals and the life and ministry of Paul to the Gentiles.  There is an especially moving segment about Paul's transformation from a legalistic, Jesus-hating Pharisee to a passionate follower of Christ.

Click on either coupon below and enter the coupon code at checkout to take advantage of the savings:

Our family is excited about another resource from What's in the Bible?  that we plan to use in our homeschool next year.  It is a set of 12 Scripture memory cards in color with various characters from the DVD series.  We love how Phil Vischer and the What's in the Bible? team encourage children and families to delve deep into God's Word--  memorizing, understanding, and applying what they learn. 

Click on the memory card below to download the entire set for FREE! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Joggermom Marathon: Week 3-- Finding Time to Run

Progress:  I kicked up the miles this week, logging  15.1 miles for Week 3, bringing my total to 36.1 miles for the month.  It was amazing to see the miles add up to and beyond 26.2!  I've really pushed myself this month to get faster, too.  Even though I've officially completed my marathon, I plan to keep logging and reporting my miles here for the rest of the month, in anticipation of my next 5K on June 1st.

Joggermom Marathon |

Finding Time to Run: My running routine changes constantly.  I'm a stay-at-home mom, but because we homeschool, I still have to work around our schedule.  What kind of teacher would I be if I went out for a run instead of teach a math lesson?  (A pretty popular teacher, actually!)   Sometimes the weather gets in the way.  Snow, wind, rain, humidity and intense heat can all affect how long or far I run, or if I run at all.  (I don't have a treadmill so all of my running has to be outside.)  I have to ask myself questions like, "Should I run if I have a cold?" "Should I run if my kids are sick?" "Should I run in the morning when there is more traffic on the road?" "Will cars be able to see me if I run this close to dark?"  

As a runner, I've learned to make a general plan for the week, but be flexible about executing it. My ideal plan is this:
  • Monday-- go for a 3 mile run
  • Tuesday-- rest
  • Wednesday-- go for a 2 mile run, focusing on speed
  • Thursday-- rest
  • Friday-- rest or go for an easy 3 mile run
  • Saturday-- go for a long run (5-6 miles)
  • Sunday-- rest

I'm trying to figure out a plan for running in the summer.  Like I said, I don't have a treadmill and I'm a wimp about the heat.  We live in a severely humid area of the country which makes it even more dangerous to get overheated because sweat is not evaporated from the body as quickly.  I'm considering getting up to run a few mornings a week before Brian leaves for work, but that would mean being out of the house by 6:15 am which will take discipline.  I'm not seeing any other way to do it, though, and taking a break for the summer would steal any bit of momentum I currently have going. 

Any runners out there have advice for summer running?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Goal Check In

We finished up our school year on Friday morning and celebrated by having friends over for a visit in the afternoon.  I was surprised by how lost I felt when it sank in that we were done our structured schooling until August.  Though we have reasons for taking a summer break, it's still an adjustment. Instead of letting it get me down, Brian encouraged me to take a breath of fresh air, enjoy the weekend, and begin a new week with new ideas for the summer.  

And now?  Now it's Monday and we are beginning a new routine and finding a new normal for the coming days.  I thought today would be a good day to review the goals I made at the beginning of the year and evaluate my progress. 

Goals for 2013
Short-term Goals:
  • Learn to change the oil in van...and maybe the wiper blades, too Not yet

  • Redesign The Dress for spring   (see photos of The Spring Dress here)

  • Spring clean the house using this plan  I scrapped this altogether because I found myself cleaning things just to check them off a list and feeling guilty if I missed a day.  Instead, I stuck to my regular light cleaning routine and did more heavy duty cleaning if we were expecting company.

  • Print 10-15 baby pictures of Alaine to include in her photo album  I found a coupon code for 25 free photos.  Alaine, 2, likes to look through her album and say, "That was me as a little girl."

  • Run a 5K!  (read details and see photos from my race here)

Longer-term Goals: 
  • Work with the kids on responsibility and finishing tasks to completion   Beginning to see progress!  Plan to continue focusing on this through the summer. 

  • Continue to find ways to welcome people into our home  We had guests over here, here, and here!

  • Plan our 2013-2014 school year

  • Have a date night with Brian (at home or out) once a month  Spring is Brian's busiest time of the year, but we managed a few at-home dates and Brian took a day off so we could manage a whole weekend away (photos here)! 

March date-- NCAA play-offs on TV and take-out dinner


    And now, I've tweaked my goals again for summer.  Though my goals for summer include a fair amount of down time and a lot of reading for pleasure (to myself and to the kids), I'm hoping to be productive, too!
    Even Newer and More Revised Goals for 2013

    Short-term Goals:

    • Learn to change the oil in van...and maybe the wiper blades, too
    • Run another 5K in June
    • Redesign The Dress for summer (or fall?)
    • Finish the e-book I'm writing by the first week of June
    • Compile the kids' portfolios for their school records
    • Plan our 2013-2014 school year
    Longer-term Goals: 
    • Work with the kids on responsibility and finishing tasks to completion
    • Continue to find ways to welcome people into our home
    • Have a date night with Brian (at home or out) once a month 
    • Train for a 10K
    Did you make goals for the year?  Have you made any progress?  

    Friday, May 17, 2013

    The Wind in the Willows

    {This post, like most of my posts that discuss books, contains affiliate links.}

    I mentioned that I was in a real classics dry spell.  Brian reads numerous classics every year, but every time I go to pick one up, I change my mind and read something "easy" instead.  I had to face my laziness when one of the kids expressed interest in reading The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum out loud .  Brian read it last year and told me how different it was from the classic movie and that it was not scary.**  We chose a beautifully illustrated copy with pictures by Lisbeth Zwerger.  I knew that if I chose to start a book with my kids, I would stick with it and not abandon it for the easy route.  As it turned out, I didn't need to worry because I loved it.  The illustrations were the key.  The full-page pictures and the tiny ones tucked into the margins captivated our attention and supplemented the words we were reading. 

    (**The Wicked Witch of the West does appear in the book, but her part is small.  I was most bothered by use of the term
    good witches since we believe that witches and witchcraft are evil.  However, since the witches in the book are not practicing sorcery but are more like fairies, we decided it was appropriate for our older children.  You would need to make your own choice for you own family.)

    When my sister, Kati, and I began our Sisters Book Challenge in February, we each gave the other a list of 10 books. The challenge was to read (and blog about) at least five of the ten books on our individual lists.  One of the books on the list she gave me was The Wind in the Willowsby Kenneth Grahame.  Yikes!  Here was another classic-- a classic I had attempted to read twice before and never finished.

    I worked night shelving books in the children's section of the library while I was in high school.  There was one book that I had to reshelve almost every single night that I worked.  I noticed it more than any other book.  Want to know what it was?  The Wind in the Willows.  Armed with this recollection and my sister's suggestion, I determined to start and finish this book as part of the challenge

    On the heels of The Wizard of Oz, I decided now was the time to conquer another classic. Since an illustrated version had worked so well for me before, I looked for something similar and found a version illustrated by Michael Foreman.  Again, the lovely visuals drew me in. This time I had no trouble at all getting involved in the story of Ratty, Mole, Toad, and Badger.  In fact, it only took me a few days to read from start to finish.  And not only did I finish, but I really loved it!  (Now I know what all those library patrons saw in this book.)

    Do you read classics?  What is one classic book I shouldn't miss?

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Joggermom Marathon: Week 2-- Beginning as on "Older" Mom

    Progress: I've been working on increasing my speed on shorter runs (1.5-3 miles), but I also fit in a long run (5 miles) on Sunday when Brian was off.  I logged 12 miles for Week 2, bringing my total to 21 miles for the month.  I'm only 5.2 miles away from completing my marathon. 

    Joggermom Marathon |

    Beginning as an Older Mom: I don't think of myself as old, but I started running a couple months after my 32nd birthday.  In a world where sports players retire in their thirties, it seemed a little late to begin a strenuous physical activity.  I was worried that it might be too hard, having never been an athletic person.  I thought running could possibly be too much stress on my out-of-shape body. 

    Only a few weeks in, I considered stopping.  I had told myself I would not quit, but both of my knees were aching, one ankle was sore, and my lungs felt like they were going to burst if I ran more than a few minutes at a time.  Brian suggested that maybe running wasn't for me and I could try walking instead.  I wanted the challenge of running, though, so I slowed it down, taking the pressure off myself to move quickly.  I switched programs from the more intense Couch of 5K to a gentler Walk-Run Program.  That gave me the confidence to run a 2-mile race. The race, in turn, gave me the confidence to attempt the Couch to 5K again and finally complete it! 

    I have gained a few unexpected benefits from running.  Before I started running, I had "creaky" knees.  When I squatted down, they would crack and make a yucky scraping sound!  When I started having more pain after I started running, it made me nervous.  I figured my knees would continue to be a problem and force me to give up running altogether, but when I slowed it down and the initial soreness cleared up (about a week after it started), my knees have continually gotten stronger so that now I have little to no creaking or cracking. I  feel noticeably more strength in my legs when I go from squatting to standing.

    I've also noticed a big change in my metabolism.  After Alaine was born, I held onto 5-10 pounds despite adopting healthier eating habits.  I figured it was natural part of getting older and a result of having 5 babies in 8 years.  Just when I had accepted that the weight was meant to stick around, I started running and it came off with no extra effort. 

    Monday, May 13, 2013

    What is Your Genre?

    {This post, like most of my posts that discuss books, contains affiliate links.}

    We talked about our reading quirks and how we choose the books we read aloud to our kids.  We've talked about whether we quit books we hate or soldier on  and whether we prefer fiction or non-fiction.  Today let's talk about the types of books we read -- not simply fiction or non-- but our favorite specific genres.  

    I admitted last week that I am not a fan of historical fiction.  On further reflection, though, I'm afraid that's not true.  The best book I've read so far this year was historical fiction.  The Secret Keeper was set primarily during The Blitz in England during World War II, but it was also so much more than historical fiction.  It included intrigue, suspense, and drama.  One of my all-time favorite authors, Lynn Austin, writes historical fiction.  She covers a wide range of time periods, from the Biblical kings of Judahto the Civil Warto the Great Depression, but I love her writing because of the strong characters and the can't-put-down plots.  I guess I read more historical fiction than I think, but it needs to be more than history to captivate me. 

    So what is my favorite genre?

    When I'm reading fiction, I like
                medical drama (think A Heartbeat Away),
                          a good  suspense story (think The Thirteenth Tale or Deeper Water),
                                      or modern character-driven drama (think Watch Over Me or The Shape of Mercy).

    With non-fiction, I gravitate towards
                          memoirs (think Midwife's Here! or I Still Believeor The Year of Learning Dangerously).


    I hit a dry spot with classics recently.  Unless Sherlock Holmes is considered a classic (is it?), I had not read a classic I enjoyed for a couple of years.  At the end of the week, I'm going to share what classic book finally broke the dam. 

    What you tend to navigate to one particular genre or all you a well-rounded reader? 

    Sunday, May 12, 2013

    Mother's Day on Saturday

    We planned a big dinner for Brian's family on the evening before Mother's Day.  Really, it was just another excuse for us all to get together.  I love family get togethers! 

    In the week leading up to the party, the kids and I did a little cleaning.  We did a little cooking.  We did a little decorating.

    sewn paper banner

    It was so much fun adding bright, cheerful colors to the decor.  I made this banner cheaply and quickly on my sewing machine with scrapbook paper and white thread.  For the centerpiece we bought three potted tulip plants that also doubled as gifts for the mothers. 

    I removed the pink paper from the middle one and put it in a yellow bowl to match our color scheme. 

    The card was inspired by one in the Craft-a-Day book I picked up at the library and then didn't want to return-- the one I simply must own soon!

    I did a little panicking when I found out Brian had to work Saturday and wouldn't be home to help with any last minute preparations!  As it turned out, a few hours after he got to work, it started raining so he was able to come home early. The sun was shining brightly again by party time.

    Posing in our party clothes

    Before I did any inviting, I brainstormed ideas for a meal that could feed 20 people.  I didn't want to commit and then panic trying to find a dish large enough to feed us all.  I don't consider myself to be much of a cook (I'd much rather bake!), but Brian suggested we order fried chicken so that's what we did.  Each family contributed side dishes to the meal and we had a lovely variety of food. 

    We feasted on chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, rolls, and sweet potato biscuits

    It probably sounds cheesy, but we also feasted on great conversation and fellowship-- laughing, telling stories, and catching up.

    Giggling cousins

    For dessert, we shared brownies and chocolate chip cookies, plus a pineapple birthday cake since my sister-in-law's, Carrie, shares her birthday with Mother's Day this year. 

    mini pennant to match the wall banner

    Before everyone left to go home, we snapped a few group pictures. 

    Brian's brother, Mark; their mom; Brian; Brian's sister, Amy
    Grandma with 12 of her 15 grandchildren--
    notice the posing girls and the face-making boys!

    The 4 moms

    We plan to spend Mother's Day at home eating leftovers and relaxing (well, aside for the 5-mile run I hope to do in the afternoon). The kids have asked if we can play a few games and the Survivor finale is on tomorrow night, too.  It's shaping up to be a great end to the weekend!

    Did you do anything special for Mother's Day? 

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