Book Journal!

5 Feb

I’ve occasionally thought that it would be nice if I kept a list of the books I have read in a notebook or something, but who has time for one more thing?

However, a couple of years ago I started using our state’s online library.  And let me just say, it was LIFE CHANGING!!  When I have a nursing baby and a bunch of toddlers running around, it is the best thing ever to be able to “check out” an e-book or audio book to read.  When I’ve finished a book, I can just “return” it and instantly check out a new one, without ever having to take small children to the library.

**Chorus of Angels Singing**

Also, when I have limited hands because one is holding a baby, or two, it is so much easier to hold my iPhone than a paperback!  and I can turn the pages with my thumb! Audio books aren’t my favorite, but it sure is nice to listen to something intelligent while I’m driving, or folding laundry, or cleaning the kitchen.

Back to the point: the Overdrive Online Library app has a history tab, and I discovered that I absolutely LOVE to look back at the books I read. It isn’t just nice, it is a huge happy boost for me.  It makes me feel like I accomplished something.  I smile about the books I enjoyed and even like to see the books I abandoned and remember why.

Last week I listened to this cool podcast from “What Should I Read Next?” in which different women shared how they keep track of the books they read. Some use Excel spreadsheets, some have a bookmark that they write on, some keep notebooks, bullet journals, or use smartphone apps.

After listening to all the great ideas, I printed out the reading journal that is offered free on Modern Mrs. Darcy (I had to give her my email address- a fair trade) I printed it at home, but took it to FedEx to be cut in half and spiral bound. They only charged $3 to do that for me.

This year I am making a thoughtful effort to put back into my life beautiful things.  Things that make me happy.  Things that may not be practical, but give me such a boost that I know they are worth while.  This reading journal is one of those things.

I also downloaded the “Library Thing” app to catalog the books I own. Its free. I already wish it had a feature where I could add notes about each book (like if I’ve loaned it to someone), but at least when I am at the book store, I’ll be able to check and see if I own Wind in the Willows already or not.  The handy bit is that it has a bar code scanner, so many of my books, I can just scan and the phone adds them into my library without my having to type anything.  So that is sweet.  Another bonus is that it is counting my books for me.  512 so far, but I haven’t scanned the kid’s picture books yet….


Don’t Tell Me I’m Awesome

22 Jan

`The internet is full of mommy blogs and internet articles to tell all us moms that we are awesome and amazing and super—even if our 4 year old isn’t potty trained yet, our house has a crunchy floor, and we haven’t done laundry or mopped the floor in living memory.

I had twins a year and a half ago.  They made babies # 8 and 9 for me.  I know how to make bread and I know how to sew.  I cook from scratch, and my family is pretty happy to eat the food I cook unless I commit the awful sin of not chopping the onions finely enough.  I am not awesome because I do these things.  My mom taught me how to do them, and so I can do them, much like any other woman out there who does what she learned from her mother and tries her best to be a good mother to her own children.

I love to teach and I like to make pretty things and read books about interesting ideas.  I like to share about what I am excited about.  Usually the response I get is

“Wow, you are amazing, I could never do that.”

“You are a super mom.”

This pretty much makes me feel like a shmuck.  I wasn’t sharing because I was seeking praise.  I was sharing because I was excited.  I want to hear about what other people excited about. I want them to be excited about what I’m excited about.  Instead, I’m stuck all by my self in a time-out called “You are Awesome.”

Sometimes I share about the struggles that I have.

I get the same responses.

“You are a super mom.”

“I could never do what you do.”

“You are so patient.”

“You are awesome.”

Sometimes I want to argue with people.  I want to tell them that they could do what I do—

which is do the best I can with what I’ve been given.

I want to tell them that I’m not patient; I’m just too tired to fight battles that aren’t worth fighting. Or I’ve realized that some things aren’t important enough to get mad about.

“God gave those twins to you instead of me because I couldn’t handle them, but you can.”

Maybe, but I seriously doubt it.

I think God helps me deal with what life throws at me.  Just like God helps others deal with what life throws them.

Besides, I don’t want to be told that I’m super mom.   I was looking for connection, maybe even asking for help.  But instead I am again isolated by the assumption that I can be patted on the back and told I’m awesome and that this will magically help me feel happy and not exhausted.  Is it too much to ask to let me join the ranks of normal mom and have normal mom friends?

Next time you have a friend who shares what she is excited about, instead of telling her she is amazing, say “That’s cool.  I’d like to try it, could you show me how?” Or  “Neat! Here is this cool thing that I am excited about.”

Next time your friend mentions her struggles, maybe she doesn’t need to be told how far superior she is to all the other humans.  How no one can match her.  Maybe she doesn’t feel awesome and telling her she is awesome will just make her feel the gap more.

Maybe she just needs a friend beside her, to know she isn’t alone, a few laughs about how life is crazy, and a salted-caramel-truffle blizzard from Dairy Queen.

Word for 2017

12 Jan

I really love new beginnings. There is so much hope in a fresh start.

In December, I was thinking that my word for the year would be


To help me remember not to focus on where I am or how far I am from perfection, but instead to just keep moving in the right direction.  So that’s definitely part of what I want to keep my focus on this year.

But then another word crossed my path and repeated itself several times and I know that it is what I really need to work on this year.


As we raise our children we teach them the remembrances of our culture.  I don’t mean we make them memorize facts and dates and state capitols.  I mean we teach them what we have learned as humans over the last 4000 years (plus or minus) .  We read to them our Mother Goose Rhymes and our fairy tales and folk tales.  We teach them folk songs.  We tell them the stories of our family members who lived and died.  We tell them how our family lived and how they died.

All these remembrances create an anchor for our children that tethers them to the past.  In the rushing ever changing river of now, they have a safety.  Their present and future have meaning because they can see it in the context of the past.  They can overcome hardship because they know that in our family we have had hard times before, and we overcame them.  Without a tether to the past, there is only the present.  The past and future have no meaning, and we are tossed about by each new meme on facebook.  We are touched or aghast or amused, but in the end it all means nothing if we have no tie to the past or responsibility to the future.

Jesus Christ broke bread and gave of it to his disciples and said, “This do in remembrance of me.”

He gave us an anchor, a tether that keeps us connected in the rushing river of life.  Through the power of his grace we overcome the trials large and small of life.  We can also overcome our own selves.  We are reborn in Christ and become his children as we take His name upon us.  This is why his name is “The Very Eternal Father.”  Thus remembrance of Him is remembrance of family.

Remembrance isn’t just remembering.  It is also doing.  We don’t remembrance.  We do things in remembrance of.  I know this has deeper significance than I can articulate right now.  It is something I want to spend a lot of time studying and thinking on this year.  I am looking forward to the learning.


Christmas Eve

24 Dec

I like the part of Christmas Eve where “not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse”. 

( not quite there yet this year.) 

 Then I lie still and remember the magic I felt when I was young and anticipate the kids’ excitement in the morning. Sometimes I sneak to a window and open it a crack and smell the frosty cold air and check the starry sky (just in case Santa is flying over.) 

Then I close the window and look at the stars a little longer and think about the new star that shone down on a little stable in Bethlehem. For me, Christmas is about feeling awe and wonder at the Love of God, that He sent His Son to us, for us. I wish for you my friends to feel that wonder in your hearts tonight with me. 

🎄🎄🎄Joyous Christmas and Much Love to you all.


Glow Worm

Mad Organist on the Loose

21 Dec

I participated in a Christmas Choir this year.  We practiced for about 2 months before the concert.  The music was VERY ambitious. Our conductor was so encouraging and so much fun.  The energy he put into every rehearsal and preparing practice materials was astounding.  He wrote 3 of the pieces we performed himself and arranged another.  The music he wrote was absolutely beautiful. We are super lucky to have him living in our little corner of the world.  

  Five weeks before the concert, our conductor mentioned that he was still looking for an organist to accompany the choir for the final number.  None of the usual organists in our area were available.  So being me and wanting to help so much that I forgot my own limitations–why is it that my desire to rescue so far exceeds my ability?  I offered to work on the piece–warning the conductor that I haven’t had very much experience with organ beyond a 1 semester class that I took in college.  

I went through all kinds roller coasters of despair and hope as I practiced.  The piece was really beyond my ability.  But I practiced every day–our church is unlocked every morning for Early Morning Seminary, so I would practice during that time rather than have to pester someone about borrowing a key to the building.

Because I am homeschooling, it was possible to do this.  My 11 and 12 year olds could take care of the babies if they woke up while I was gone practicing.  

I did borrow a key over Thanksgiving break.  Those days I practiced more hours.  Pumpkin Pie practiced with me, pushing the stops and working the crescendo pedal because my feet were both busy with the pedal pedals.  I have to admit that from Thanksgiving up to the concert day, our homeschool routine suffered some (a lot) because this organ piece pulled so much of my mental energy.  I said lots of prayers along the lines of, “please let me make no horrible song stopping mistakes.”  “Please let me play it during the concert the way I just ran through it this last time.”  I did not pray for zero mistakes because I felt like that was asking too much. I know that my performance on piano or organ is never quite as good at the concerts as what I can can do practicing.  Seriously, it’s like I go blind from stress.  Music that I have perfected to auto pilot so that my fingers can just do their thing independently of my brain, that’s what I can do for the performance.  Everything else flies out the window.  Pretty much my mind abandons me under high musical anxiety. This anxiety is always highest when I am accompanying because: 

    A-if I mess up, I could mess up everyone.

     B-I have to keep up with the choir, no wiggle room to slow down if I need to.  No going back to fix a mistake.

     C- The accompaniment is the support, not the star.  If I make too big of a deal out of my part, then I’m hogging the glory that rightfully belongs to the main performer(s). Sadly, reminding myself of my relative unimportance doesn’t lessen my anxiety because I know that good support is important, bad support can be devastating, and I start worrying about worrying too much.  Yeah.  Mad. 

The concert day arrived much too quickly.  My three oldest sang with me.  My sister babysat the babies so that my husband could come enjoy the concert.  

As a choir, we sang the best we had ever sung the music. (That can happen with singing, it can be better than practice because of synergy and energy and sudden unity that hasn’t happened before.)

The final number came and Pumpkin Pie and I scuttled over to the organ.  The singing was strong.  I made many many mistakes, even on bits that were easy, but none of them were awful showstoppers.  The final bars were not as good as I had hoped and much below what I knew was possible.  Someday I hope that all the yoga I’m doing will help me to find a way to calm my mind when I’m under stress so that I don’t freeze up so badly.

All the audience were so kind.  So many people said how good it was and how incredible the organ sounded.

I am full of relief and pleased that everyone sincerely enjoyed the concert and especially commented how awesome my organ work was.

At the same time, I am embarrassed by so much praise of my playing, especially when I made so many mistakes, and especially when I was the accompaniment–that whole supposed to be awesome yet invisible support thing.

And I’m really worried that people have an exaggerated idea of my abilities now– they seem to think I can just sit down and play anything because I could play one piece that I spent weeks and weeks working on.  

I loved the practices.  I loved making more time for myself and music in my life.  I loved preparing for Christmas in a way that kept my joy in what Christ did for me In the forefront of my mind.  

And I am really glad that the concert is done and over with!!

Why I chose to Homeschool-turning my heart to my children.

1 Dec


I’ll be honest.  I never thought I would home school.  I was glad to send my older kids to school and have a break during the day.   My college degree is Elementary Education, but I never seriously considered home school.  However, I did often say things to myself like, “If I ever home school, I’d use such and such book/curriculum.”  Funny, huh.

My mom was a school teacher before she married, and she did many school activities with my siblings and I as we were growing up.  She had planned to home school, but a couple of months into my kindergarten year, our house burned to the ground.  So she sent me to school, and I joyfully went.  I loved being at public school and making friends.  I was never sorry that I hadn’t been home schooled.  All the home school kids I met at church were super weird.

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Also I loved playing school when I was a child. When it was time for me to go to college, I chose a teaching degree because I figured, either it would help me be a better mom, or if I didn’t get married/couldn’t have children, then I could be a teacher and still have children. It was a great plan. But I fell in deeply love with teaching as I learned more about how it’s done. So then, when I did get married and have children, I still wanted to be able to teach as well. Each year as the August rolled around, I would eat my heart out, wishing I could go teach. I knew I was a good teacher.  I could change so many children’s lives if I taught. It would be so much more fun than washing that stack of dirty dishes piled high in the sink.   My new plan became hurry up and get all my kids I school so I could go teach.

When Blueberry Pie was little, he begged and begged me to let him stay home.  His whole first year of Kindergarten, I had to carry him out to the car, peel him off me, throw him in and slam the door quickly.  (Thank goodness he rode to school with his Grandma, who having raised her last child to kindergarten age, was going back to teaching public school.)

I refused to home school him because I was pregnant with baby number four, we lived in a tiny 900 square food apartment, and I was sure that “home school” would be him playing while I continued to clean the house and chase toddlers.  He rarely did what I asked him to do, so I figured he needed a teacher that he would obey.

I did teach piano lessons.  I taught preschool and children’s music classes in my home several times, and that kept me happy and quieted the hungry teaching monster within.  I sold Mary Kay (and what is a Mary Kay party but me standing at a table “teaching” women about skin care  and makeup?) I was terrible at selling the product afterwards, but I loved teaching those skin care classes.

There were many things I wanted my children to learn, but there never seemed to be time to teach them because they were gone to school all day.  Evenings were full of me scrambling to get dinner made and nagging them to do their chores.  I tried to monitor what they were learning in school, and some things frustrated me.  But what could I do?

Sometimes I would consider home school but I had so many fears:

1. I was sure that I wouldn’t be organized enough.  The kids would be sitting around waiting while I scrambled to throw together lesson plans.

2. I’m so terrible at keeping a house clean that I was sure that before a month was over, the kids would be running wild while I cleaned the house all day.

3. My kids would grow up weird and socially awkward, like the home schooled kids I had known.

4.  I would accidentally leave out vital information that my kids needed to learn to be successful in college and life.

5.  People would judge me.

Attempting to quiet the teaching monster within, I started projects.  In addition to Mary Kay, I joined a quilting group.  I played about with writing a book.  Soon I wanted all the kids to go to school so I could work on my projects that I enjoyed.

When Key Lime Pie (baby #5) was 3,  I made a big effort to become a Mary Kay Sales Director.  But I didn’t quite make it before baby #6  was born, and I lost all the momentum I had built up.  When Banana Cream Pie was a year old, I began working toward that dream again.  In just 4 short years, I thought, maybe 3 if I put her in preschool, I would have all my children in school and I could do what I wanted.

But God had other plans for me.  He made it very clear that I needed to have another baby.  I didn’t want to.  I did not want to be sick and pregnant again.  I did not want to spend months of being up all night with a baby.  I wanted to lose weight and stay the same clothing size for  a whole year!  I did not want to put off my dreams of having all my kids in school for another 5 years. But after some months of wrestling with myself, I knew what I would do.

When I became  pregnant with Baby #7, my mind and heart changed. Putting off my dreams of Super Star Mary Kay Director suddenly made them too far out of reach to care about.  I acknowledged to myself that my husband hated when I left the house in the evenings to do parties.  I tried doing parties during the day, but I could not find a regular babysitter, and when I could get a sitter, the babies cried the whole time I was gone.

I accepted that I was a mother of children and began to be happy just to focus on them and what they needed.  But then life changed again.  Blueberry Pie started High School and Key Lime Pie started Kindergarten.  The dynamic of our house changed.  Suddenly it seemed like no one was ever home except for meals and sleep.  I got up early (as I always have) to fix breakfast.  But everyone else just got up in enough time to grab breakfast as they ran out the door with a “Bye Mom!”  Then I cleaned house and took care of the 2 babies and cooked dinner.  The big kids and my husband came home, ate the dinner, and then disappeared off into the house to do their own things.

I became increasingly lonely.  It was just me and the babies.   I’d given up my quilting club because the drive was long and my Grandmother who had also been a member, was too weak to go anymore.  I’d given up working hard at Mary Kay because it made my family miserable.  I began babysitting to help pay off some car debt we had.  Paying off the debt was good, but babysitting isolated me further.

Then, because I like even numbers, I talked my husband into having just one more baby.  (It didn’t take too much convincing.)

That “one more” turned out to be the twins.  When they were born, The Scooter Pies turned my world completely sideways ring-tailed crazy.   Whereas before I had felt isolated and lonely, now I was massively overwhelmed, stressed out, and isolated and lonely.  When the twins were 3 weeks old, my husband had to go to his weekend National Guard drill.  For the first time ever, I cried when he left for soldier duty.  Because life is like this, both his National Guard job and his full-time work began requiring more and more hours.    Every time he left for work, I felt abandoned.  I love my babies, but I was losing my mind.  When the twins were 6 months old, I accepted a babysitting job to help out a teacher.  With her 2 children, I was caring for 6 babies age four and under.  I spent literally all of the day spooning food into mouths, changing diapers, and soothing sad babies.  Spooning food into babies’ mouths is something I never have learned how to enjoy.  Many times I just sat on the floor and rotated babies.   I sang songs and read stories.  I really made intentional efforts to stay positive.  I worked hard each day to move my leaden arms and legs and keep up an effort to do anything besides sit on the couch a lot.  But I sat on the couch (or the floor) a lot.

Where before I had always dreaded when the kids would get home from school because I hadn’t finished a project yet, I began to watch the clock, eagerly anticipating my children getting home from school. I needed their help!    I wanted their company!  One of my friends began homeschooling, and I listened as she talked about how much she loved it and could see how simply she added it into her day.

I thought about all the extra -curricular things that my children wanted to do.  We didn’t have time to do them because they were gone to school 9 hours a day, over an hour and a half of which was just riding the bus!

I thought about how tired my 7 year old was all the time because she had to get on a bus at 6:45 a.m.

I thought about how my 6th grader never had time to read the books she wanted to read because her reading time was taken up with required reading for school.

I thought about how interested in art my 8th grader was.

I looked over the elective courses that had seemed more than adequate for my son whose time is taken up with Band, Jazz Band, and Swimming, and saw that for my daughter, the elective classes were shallow and worthless compared to what I could do with her if she where home.

I thought about myself and how lonely I was, and how desperately I needed a project that I could be excited about and use my brain for.  I thought, home school is a project that would use my brain and yet be a benefit to my children instead of taking me away from them.

I thought about how as my kids have gotten older, they have gotten more fun to be around. I wanted more time with them!

I talked it all over with my husband. In the past, he has been very critical of home school in general–as an adviser at a local junior college, he meets several students each year who were home schooled and are woefully unprepared for college. To my surprise, he was supportive and even enthusiastic about what our girls could learn at home.

So, I asked the girls if they would like to try home school and they answered immediately and resoundingly, “Yes!”  Then they paused and Pumpkin Pie admitted, “I will miss my friends.”  Then one asked, “will we have to take the MAPP test?”

I said, “no”

In unison, they cheered, “Home school!”

And so our journey began.  And I am loving it.  I am happier than I’ve been for many years.  

I’m starting a new blog about our home school.  If you would like more information about home school, I would love for you to visit me at Small and Simple Home School.

I will continue to keep this blog as our family record and for non-schooly ramblings of mine.

The First Day of School

5 Oct

First day of home school for Cherry Pie, Pumpkin Pie, and Tamale Pie.  They were so excited, and humored me by dressing up for the first day of home school like they always have for public school.

First day of the public school year for these two.  Junior in High School and Second Grade.  (Key Lime Pie only lasted about two weeks in public school before I decided that she needed to switch to home school like her sisters.)

The babies who are not in school.

Banana Cream Pie did not want to be in a photo.  She is not in school either, but I feel sure she is benefitting from hearing me read aloud to her sisters and having them home to read aloud to her.