Tag: family

Wise Up | Marty Machowski

In Wise Up, Marty Machowski (whose books The Ology and The Gospel Story Bible have become standards in our home), takes families through the book of Proverbs in ten-minute jaunts. He asks probing questions about selected passages, all with the aim of teaching our kids to value and pursue wisdom.

Machowski pulls passages from all over the Bible into the discussion as well, showing that the pursuit of wisdom is not a topic limited to the book of Proverbs, but one that is prevalent and highly-prized throughout the whole of Scripture. This is a quest that matters—to God and, therefore, to us—and Machowski is careful to emphasize that while not leaning toward a moralistic interpretation of Proverbs. The gospel is everywhere in this book, and that is beautiful.

But here is where I need to make a confession.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

When I flipped through this book just now, I found our bookmark, placed there months and months ago, holding our place at the reading for “Day 4.” I have written before about our inconsistency with family devotions, but I was sure we’d made it at least a week into this one before shelving it. So, I need you to know that: we haven’t read through this full book as a family. We didn’t try any of the projects (though I love the idea of them), and I don’t think we sang any of the hymns (though we love singing hymns). But I wanted to share this book anyway, because it is a great study and I want you to know about it.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

I also want to ask for your help: for those of you who make family devotions a part of your day, what does that look like? We read together before bed—sometimes from the Bible itself, sometimes from a story bible—and I just embarked on a study with the girls as part of our school day that I hope to share here a little later.

But I’m learning that when presented with pre-written questions, the five of us old enough to know what’s happening seem to wilt and conversation dries up. If we read a story Bible and follow the girls’ questions wherever they lead, a rich and rewarding discussion sometimes ensues (or sometimes, people flop on the floor and pretend to sleep). It’s harder to measure our progress when we have discussions that way, but I’m starting to make peace with that.

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

What about you? How does your family read Scripture and hold devotions together? I’m on a quest for ideas here and, through that, I hope to win some wisdom.


Wise Up: 10-Minute Family Devotions in Proverbs
Marty Machowski (2016)

The Family Journal | Songs for Saplings

When we learned that we were expecting our first child, we Made the Announcement, scheduled appointments, wrung hands, and rejoiced. We contemplated, with an ecstatic sort of sobriety, the fact that our lives would never be the same again.

And then I bought a notebook.

Why We Keep a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

Thus began the first in a three-volume set of notebooks chronicling the first months—or years—of each of our daughters’ lives. They bore witness to first teeth, first words, and first steps, but more than that, they contain a steadily evolving picture of what our family was then when each of the girls was small. In them, I dropped stories of missed naps and meltdowns, overheard conversations between siblings, favorite bedtime stories. But I also dropped my own perspective into them—that couldn’t be helped—and so essays like this one, or this one, sprouted from my musings upon life then as a mother of one daughter, two daughters, three.

I became the family historian.

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah’s notebook is the only one still active and a part of me feels bad about that (poor middle child!). Her babyhood is a slim notch on the timeline of that book, but of the three children she will have, I think, the richest, most complete picture of our family life captured in time lapse over the course of four years. But her notebook is almost full. What then?

We don’t know yet if that will be the last volume in that set, or if there will be other children for whom to keep other books (update: I’ve started a new one!). But I had begun to wonder about a place to keep a family history, one that is open to everybody and that will contain a little of everyone’s story—a braided work, with room to include the small moments of the next few decades.

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

And then!

The day after I posted my review of Songs for Saplings, Dana Dirksen emailed me. That is how that sentence sounded in my head, but when I said it aloud to my husband, I think it came out of my mouth like this: “DANA DIRKSEN EMAILED ME.” And in case that wasn’t clear, I clarified: “She sent me an email! In my inbox. There is an email from Dana Dirksen.”

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

I’m not used to having the authors and musicians I review notice my reviews, let alone contact me and thank me for them. But Dana noticed. And her email was really very nice. There was more in that email that shall be revealed in the fullness of time, but for this story, the important part was that she sent me a package to thank me for loving her music so much that I wanted to share it with all of you.

In that package was, among other things, the Songs for Saplings Family Journal: beautiful, hand-bound, smelling of leather and travel and memories in the making.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

And now is when I pause and inform you of my unofficial policy on solicited reviews: I don’t write them. People can send me free stuff if they want to, but I can’t guarantee them a review. Because this blog is about you and me and our shared love of books, I like to think that we’ve built up a certain amount of trust over the years: you come to me for book recommendations and I give you a library of carefully curated recommendations of books that I love—not books I wanted to love because they were free and I felt beholden to authors or publishers. Perhaps that policy will change one day, I don’t know. But that’s what it is right now.

I’ve never said that on this blog before, but there it is. I say it now because I want you to know that Dana sent me the journal as a thank you gift, understanding that I was not obligated to post about it on my blog. I am posting about it now because I do love it.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

The Family Journal features the full text of the catechism as adapted for the Songs for Saplings albums, along with related Scripture and—this, my friends, is the clincher—blank pages in which to make notes on the conversations you and your children have about the topics covered.

I’m still feeling my way around that part, getting the hang of what I want to record and how to go about recording it, but already I find that having a place sent aside for recording little steps in our spiritual growth as a family causes me to pause and take note of moments like these: the child too shy to pray aloud finally piped up at dinner. The child with a lie on her conscience came to me unprompted and sought forgiveness. The child who struggled with fearfulness at night announced that she is not alone, not really, because God is always with her. The baby made “Amen!” one of her first ten words.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

These moments are stones in the road our daughters travel toward faith, and I expect that recording them in our journal will not only keep us looking forward toward the day when each of us will stand before Christ and, I pray, hear the words, “Well done,” but will keep us looking back at the sins overcome, the prayers answered, the victories won by grace.

I continue to be the family historian. And this is our new chapter.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story


If you’re interested in purchasing the Family Journal, you have two options: you can buy it through the Songs for Saplings store at full price for (gulp!) $90 (that’s when I remind you that it is hand-bound, leather, beautiful, and smells like memories), or you can get one for free by becoming a monthly supporter of Songs for Saplings for whatever amount feels comfortable to you. If you’re not sure why you should be a supporter of Songs for Saplings, read on.

How to Play Librarian

Last week, while sifting through the photos stored on my laptop, I found this:

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

That’s Lydia. The one that turns seven next week. I went through the usual shock and aww that accompanies a discovery like that, from “Really? She was ever that small?” to “Oh, the cheeks!”, and as I moved from one photo to the next it occurred to me that you might be interested in these photos, not because they cause you to meditate on the rapid passage of time (though they may affect you that way if you’ve seen Lydia lately), but because they are from the day we built ourselves a library and named Lydia head librarian.

little-book-big-story-cardboard-library (7)

I suppose this is a picture of one way that we have made books a part of the daily fabric of our family life: we play with them as well as read them, and share them with each other in inventive, quirky ways.

We had received a library kit as a gift not long before those photos were taken. It came with Ex Libris tags, a date stamp, and a small notebook, and for the longest time, I wasn’t sure what to do with it—we had more books than Ex Libris tags, and I have no desire to loan books out with due dates—but then we received a box of old books from a friend and those books, that kit, and a big box left over from a move combined to make a trifecta of creative play. We made library cards for the family, tucked tags in the front of each book, and Lydia’s shift began.

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

How to Play Librarian, or "A DIY Cardboard Library for the Ages" | Little Book, Big Story

So, how do you play librarian? It has less to do with the way you build a cardboard desk and more to do with how you view books. We have always kept our books within our children’s reach, and while that costs us some book covers when we have a toddler in the house, that price is worth the sense of ownership our girls feel when they browse the bookshelves of our home. They learn to respect books, yes, but better yet, they learn to value them for what they contain—not just for how they look on the shelves.

I grew up with that sense of ownership: my dad gave us free access to his books (and I mean free: when given the opportunity to choose my own subject for a book report, I once went my dad’s bookshelves and selected Bimbos of the Death Sun. It’s a pity I can’t remember how my teacher graded that paper) and so I always knew where to go when I needed something new to read—and who to ask if I needed help finding it.

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

We want our kids to be comfortable with our family’s books and so we carefully curate a library that we can share with them. We want them to feel free to read and touch and explore and play with the books we collectively own, and I have visions of watching them, nearly grown, browse the shelves, looking for something good to read. I will probably hover conspicuously in the background and ask (the way I do to my husband whenever he glances toward a bookshelf), “Can I help you find something?”

That is how I play librarian.

But better still, I have visions of watching my daughters pass books to each other, asking, “Have you read this one yet? You’ll love it.” And that is why I gave our daughters a box of old books to stamp and share at whim.

How to Play Librarian, or "A DIY Cardboard Library for the Ages" | Little Book, Big Story

Librarian turned out to be an enduring game and it’s one that Lydia asks to play every so often, in part because we keep those old books with the library kit (it’s still around, on a shelf in their bedroom) and I know she’d like to read them again, and in part because she just loves playing Librarian.

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

Gunner covers Lydia’s lunch shift

The Conviction of Things Not Seen | Story Warren

Robin Hood came with us to the grocery store this morning. He lives at our house, actually, and eats breakfast seated cross-legged underneath Sarah’s chair. He’s thirty-five, she says, but still a kid.

In case that sounds insane, here is some context: Story Warren, a site dedicated to equipping parents to nurture their kids’ imaginations, has graciously published my post “The Conviction of Things Not Seen” on their blog today. (That feels like a triple exclamation mark sort of sentence, but because I am a well-mannered English major who cannot abide that sort of thing, I shall refrain from actually using three exclamation marks there. But you should read that sentence as though they are there.)

That post has everything to do with why Robin Hood lives with us, as Sarah’s imaginary brother.

The Conviction of Things Not Seen | Little Book, Big Story

You can read the full post here. And then I encourage you to explore the rest of their site, because if you ever get the sense that I am a kindred spirit, then I suspect that you, too, will love their content. Watch the about video. Savor this article. Look at all the books they recommend that I’ve never even heard of! (You know I’m going to fix that, pronto.)


 

The Conviction of Things Not Seen
Théa Rosenburg, Story Warren

An Origami Advent Calendar

Years ago, I went on an origami binge. I think the flu may have been partly responsible for the stretch of time that I spent on the couch, watching Arrested Development and folding boxes, but I can’t be sure. What I do know is that for years afterward, a good portion of our closet storage was dedicated to what boxes were left over after I used at least two dozen of them to package the chocolate truffles that were that year’s Christmas gifts.

Did you catch that? I had tons of boxes left over after I used about two dozen of them to package Christmas gifts. And that only accounts for the boxes: there were origami ornaments, too, stars and cubes and some awkward cranes, plus paper quilts made from folded squares. I am not one for moderation when it comes to meditative folded-paper arts, apparently.

So there the boxes were, tumbling out of corners of our closet when we tried to find dress shoes and fallen scarves, tucked away with remnants of other, past binges: the jewelry binge. The hand-illustrated card binge. (The great knitting binge of 2008-2012 was still on the horizon, as was the present day watercolor-painting binge.) I began to despair of ever finding uses for all of those boxes, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away—they were too lovely.

But then, inspiration struck rather forcefully one morning in late November, about six years ago. Mitch found me digging through the closet at 5 am, pulling out not only the boxes, but also the library-style date stamp (left over from making our wedding album), scraps of origami paper, plain white labels, and the backing for a picture frame that had long since lost its glass. He grumbled something and went back to sleep; I took myself off to the living room where I worked until he and Lydia woke up. I tackled the project again during every spare moment until the evening of the next day, when I had this to show for my hard work:

Our origami Advent calendar has been with us for almost seven years now and has aged with surprising grace, though it is looking well-loved (sorry, DEC 24!). It seems that every year, someone asks about it—how I made it, how others might make one, too—and because of that, I once posted a tutorial on my old blog, Two Blue Buttons. But that blog is now retired and that post went with it into retirement. And so, because some of you have also asked about our calendar, and because I am enjoying branching out this Advent from book reviews into some Advent-themed DIY projects, I decided to write about our calendar for you, too.

I realize that the odds are against you having all the same miscellaneous stuff in your closet that I did, so rather than give you a full tutorial here, I’ll give you some simple guidelines for making a similar calendar, with some helpful links below in the “Resources” section.

DIY Origami Advent Calendar | Little Book, Big Story

The most important pieces, obviously, are the boxes. Once you’ve folded twenty-five of them (as mentioned, I find that episodes of Arrested Development pair nicely with this sort of project), all you really need to do is label them and then glue them to a base of your choice, be it painted board, a canvas, some sort of fabric-wrapped thing—I painted a large piece of drawing paper and wrapped it around the remnants of the picture frame.

Finally, fill them with stuff. In the past, we’ve done scraps of paper with service ideas or small squares of chocolate, but then I hit on the idea of filling the boxes with the ornaments for our Jesse tree, which felt delightfully like solving two problems with the same answer.

If you decide to make one of your own, I would love to see pictures!

REsources

Origami instruction sheets can be terrifying, but there is a lovely tutorial (with photos) for folding origami boxes on Creativebug. (The paper I used wasn’t as big as theirs—mine measured something like 6×6″.)

You can find some of my favorite origami paper on Amazon. (As you can see, I used quite a few different kinds for my boxes, but this link is for the stuff with the pretty gold details.)

Those library stamps aren’t hard to come by either.

Tell Me a Story | eeBoo

Our minivan smells like potato chips, sweaty shoes and chlorine. We find crumbs where there shouldn’t be crumbs, and little lost toys secreted in nooks and crannies. We know all of the songs on a handful of albums by heart; when we sleep we see the road unroll behind our tired eyes.

But, my friends, we are finally home.

Tell Me Story (Story Cards) | Little Book, Big Story

For the last twelve days, we’ve been off and on I-90, driving from our corner of Washington state to Mount Rushmore, where we spent four lovely days with extended family before piling back in the van and retracing our route. My husband has driven for hours, and I have heard the word, “Mom?” countless times, while perfecting the dexterity needed to fish toys out from beneath seats without turning around. We have loved (almost) every minute of it.

But it really is nice to be home.

We didn’t have a lot of time for reading on our trip, so today’s post is going to be a little different: we’re not talking about a bound book, but a deck of cards meant to inspire our own stories—a portable item, perfect for restaurants, quiet evenings in hotels and, yes, car seats.

Each set of Tell Me a Story cards features 36 beautifully illustrated, surprisingly durable cards. Each card features an illustration (no words). From card to card, recurring characters appear: here, the bear holds a button. There, he chats with a pig. It’s up to you and your child to tell the story that brings him from one scene to the next.

Tell Me Story (Story Cards) | Little Book, Big Story

A set of game ideas is included with the set, and most of them look like they’d be fun. But we’ve enjoyed free-styling with ours: shuffling them up or spreading them out and telling a story card by card. My two-year-old loves to rifle through them, just looking. (So I keep them in my purse, just in case.)

What is your favorite approach to storytelling in your family?


Tell Me a Story: Creative Story Cards
eeBoo