Category: Our Family (page 1 of 4)

A Break and a Big Book List

Well—I find myself at a cross-roads and, dear readers, I don’t know how I feel about it. The truth is, we have crossed this wonderful threshold as a family and now, behold! Every human in our family is a fluent reader. We still read aloud together now, but it’s become optional. No one really needs me to read to them (or pre-read for them) in the way they once did. And I’m left wondering: is this blog something I’ll continue in this stage of life? Or is there something else the Lord is calling me to?

Right now, I don’t know. But a rest seems wise, and some time to reflect. So here is my plan: I’m going to take a six-month sabbatical from posting here. My hope is that this step outside my weekly rhythms of publishing (ten years of them!) will allow me to prayerfully consider what’s next—and if “what’s next” is returning here, then huzzah! I’ll come back with renewed vigor and a whole heap of new books to share.

In the meantime, I plan to continue sharing occasional reviews at Story Warren, and I’ll pop back in to let you know when they’re up. I may also send out periodic updates on my newsletter, so if you haven’t subscribed but want to stay in touch, you can subscribe to that right here:

* indicates required

I cannot, however, bear to leave you without new reading material, so prepare yourself for over-compensation! I’ll finish this post with a giant list (and I mean giant) of all the books I’ve had piled up waiting to be shared. The ones I’ve been itching to tell you about. The ones I hope you’ll enjoy between now and next January.

Dear readers, thank you. You are such a joy to me, and the thought of changing what or how or if I write here makes me . . . oh, is there a word for it? The possibility of something new feels exciting! But also, the possibility of things changing here feels so, so sad. It’s been a long time, friends. I enjoy my work here immensely.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Instead, let’s pray. I’ll be seeking wisdom and resting, and I’d appreciate any prayers for clarity you’d like to offer on my behalf. I am so grateful for you.

And now, enough of that. Let’s talk about books!

The Big Fat “I’ll Miss You” Book List

Go and Do Likewise, by John Hendrix — A lovely and insightful look at the parables, from one of our favorite author/illustrators (also known and loved for Miracle Man and The Faithful Spy).

The Betsy-Tacy Series, by Maud Hart Lovelace — This series follows Betsy and Tacy through their school years, into the first years of their marriages. Delightful and lovely (even if Betsy gets awfully silly about boys for a few books there in the middle). If L.M. Montgomery had been raised in Minnesota, I imagine her books would read like Betsy-Tacy.

The Strange New Dog, by James Witmer — A chapter book for early readers, by one of our family’s favorite writers (see also: A Year in the Big Old Garden). This book is the first in a series—watch for the second one later this year!

The Arrow and the Crown, by Emma Fox — A retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” for teens that has become one of my daughters’ favorite rereads.

Growing in Godliness, by Lindsay Carlson — Written for teen girls, this book helps readers consider what it looks like to grow in Christ right now, where they’re at.

Arlo and the Great Big Cover-up, by Betsy Childs Howard — What does the gospel mean to us when we’ve disobeyed? This book walks through it beautifully.

The Story of Us, by Mitali Perkins — A poetic look at the whole story of the Bible, by the most wonderful author of Forward Me Back to You and Steeped in Stories.

Helen Roseveare: The Doctor Who Kept Going No Matter What, by Laura Caputo-Wickham — An excellent picture book biography for young readers about Helen Roseveare, a doctor who served God in the heart of Africa and risked an awful lot to do so. We love this whole series so much.

What Do I Do With Anger?, by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub — How can we think about anger biblically—in that moment when we’re mad things didn’t go our way? This book does a great job exploring that question in a practical, applicable way.

Working Boats, by Tom Crestodina — If your family loves cross-sections the way our family does, you’ll love this delightful nonfiction picture book (written and illustrated by our neighbor!).

Miriam at the River, by Jane Yolen — The story of Moses, through Miriam’s eyes. The illustrations are stunning!

The Forgotten King, by Kenneth Padgett — A powerful parable of the gospel, beautifully illustrated by Stephen Crotts.

Good Night Body, by Britney Winn Lee — Sometimes, going to sleep isn’t easy. This cozy picture book walks readers through the process of calming our bodies so we can fall asleep. When our youngest was in the throes of extended illness, this book became a nightly read and a lovely way to connect at the end of the day.

The O in Hope, by Luci Shaw — Luci Shaw’s poetry, made available for young readers! This book is a delight.

The Fantastic Flying Journey, by Gerald Durrell A trip around the world, in a hot air balloon, to examine animals all over the globe? Yes please! A joyful and hilarious journey by the author of My Family and Other Animals.

The Quill’s Secret, by Erin Greneaux — The second book in the Gold Feather Gardener series, this early chapter book invites readers on another adventure with Maya and Everly. And stay tuned for the third book! It’s coming!

God, Right Here, by Kara Lawler — What can the seasons tell us about God? This sweet picture book explores that question.

33, by Andrew Roycroft — Thirty-three poems meditating on the Gospel of John, each thirty-three words long and illustrated by Ned Bustard. We’ve been savoring this book one a poem at a time over lunch.

The Friend Who Forgives: Family Devotional, by Katy Morgan — This devotional is intended for family use, but it also works beautifully as a devotional for kids to use independently. Based on the excellent picture book by Dan DeWitt.

GraceFull, by Doreena Williamson — When Hope befriends a girl at church who is a refugee from Syria, she’s left with some big questions. This picture book explores these questions with tenderness and grace.

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days, by Katy Bowser Hutson and more — Like Every Moment Holy, but for little readers!

The Dreamkeeper Saga, by Kathryn Butler — A fabulous new fantasy trilogy! Our girls loved this series.

Crossing Bok Chitto, by Tim Tingle — A gorgeous historical story about how the Chocktaw people helped slaves to freedom. This one makes me cry every time.

The Light Princess, by George MacDonald — A classic fairy tale by the author of The Princess and the Goblin, beautifully illustrated by Ned Bustard.

My Breakfast With Jesus, by Tina Cho — This picture book takes readers to breakfast tables all around the world and considers how Christians all over the globe welcome the day.

The Songs of a Warrior, by Katy Morgan — A fantastic retelling of the story of King David for middle-grade readers (from the author of The Promise and the Light).

Count Yourself Calm, by Eliza Huie — Oh so good and practical, this one. This book teaches kids to calm themselves down when they’re upset, one breath at a time. Written from a Christian perspective.

Sophie and the Heidelberg Cat, by Andrew Wilson — When Sophie sins against her sister, she doesn’t know what to do to make things right. But then she meets the Heidelberg Cat, who walks her through the doctrines of grace.

Beneath the Swirling Sky, by Carolyn Leiloglou — Full disclosure: I haven’t read this one yet. Full, full disclosure: Carolyn Leiloglou is a friend of mine, so I am pre-disposed to like this book. But! I think you will too, so I wanted to put this middle-grade adventure on your radar well before its September release.

Wild Things & Castles in the Sky, ed. Leslie & Carey Bustard, Thea Rosenburg | Little Book, Big Story

Also worth mentioning: you can find many, many more books listed in Wild Things and Castles in the Sky, that book about books I co-edited with Leslie Bustard and her delightful daughter Carey. If your bookshelves need refreshing, it’s a great place to start!

Thank you all so much for reading! Your willingness to read along with me is such a blessing. I’m so grateful for you all, and I’ll see you in January!

Disclosure: I did receive copies of some of these books for review, but I was not obligated to review them or compensated for my reviews in any way. I share them with you because I love them, not because I was paid to do so.

Summer Break!

Happy late summer to you! For the next few weeks, I’m going to put my feet up and take a break—I hope you don’t mind. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in the Pacific Northwest, these last weeks of summer are like those droplets of water falling from the hose when you water the garden too late in the day: that is, fleeting. They evaporate almost before they hit the sunflower leaves.

The rain is coming for us, and the early nights. So while my girls are still home from school and the ice cream truck is still making its rounds through our neighborhood, I’m going to take some time away from blogging to nap in the hammock. For a little while longer, I’ll banish all thoughts of school supply shopping.

And I’ll stock up on great books to share with you in September. Wherever you are and whatever it looks like, may the rest of your August be full of unexpected delights! I’ll see you when our lone hollyhock is done blooming.

Life in General

For over a week now, our old couch has been sitting in the front yard with a free sign on it. It’s deep purple and we have loved it, but now that two of the girls are nearly full-size, the six of us can no longer squeeze comfortably onto it for a movie night. So, to the curb it’s gone. But nobody seems to want our old couch: day after day it’s waited there in the sun, inviting the attentions of strangers yet being rebuffed.

This fourth of July, though, was the first one that, instead of putting the girls to bed at seven and waking them at ten, we let them all stay up to watch the fireworks. We took an evening walk, came back and ate cherry pie, then sprawled out on our expansive new couch and passed the time until 10:30 by watching episode after episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender.*

And then—doused in bug spray and wrapped in blankets—we squeezed onto the old couch one last time, with Hondo at our feet. From our front yard, we watched the city’s fireworks display punctuate the summer sky.

(I know. You’re wondering, when is she going to get to the books? I will. But not today. Today I want to share with you a little of our life these days.)

When I began this blog, two of our daughters were very young; the other two hadn’t yet arrived. I shared stories and pictures of our family’s life in a way I’ve gradually stopped doing as they’ve grown older. I’m more guarded, I guess, about their privacy, and about the things I share about them online now (let’s just say I’m grateful my parents didn’t have social media accounts when I was a teen). But they are older. It’s bizarre. Those grocery-store prophetesses who warned me that it would go by so fast—they irritated me when the girls were small and aging month-by-month and I was exhausted and enjoying it so much, okay? But they weren’t joking. Now that nobody’s nursing and everyone’s out of diapers and I haven’t carried a human being in my body for over five years, the time really does seem to run through my fingers.

Years ago, Mitch and I entertained the idea of taking each of the girls on a one-on-one trip: I’d take them each somewhere for their thirteenth birthday; he’d take them each somewhere when they turned eighteen. With a big family and a single income, family trips that involve six airline tickets aren’t high on our list of possible ways to spend time, so this would be a way to both explore somewhere new together and to whisk each of them away from the family maelstrom to spend time together one-on-one. So this summer, I’m taking Lydia to Concord, to see Louisa May Alcott’s house, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and various other sites of historical and literary importance. She chose these places; I can’t wait to explore them with her. But of course this means that, egad, the daughter that was four (or thereabouts) when I began this blog is now thirteen.

So, that is one way our family has changed lately. But another big thing is that I’ve begun editing books. For years I worked for Deeply Rooted Magazine, editing articles and working with writers. Then I spent a couple of years sort of spinning my wheels and wondering: what next? God had brought me to a place where it finally sunk in that it was time to step down from Deeply Rooted and focus on homeschooling the girls: okay. Relinquishing that role was hard and I wasn’t exactly happy about it, but I did it. And then a few months later, he brought us to a different place, where it was clearly time to reenroll our girls in school. So, I left that position to homeschool and then didn’t have any kids at home to homeschool. And God said, in the ways he does, wait.

Then he took several seemingly separate strands—a friendship begun while working for Deeply Rooted, an artist whose work I have respected and admired for years, even the sudden free time brought on by the pandemic—and wove them into a sturdy rope. He gave me the time and opportunity to begin editing books on a freelance basis. I enjoy this immensely; I also have moments when I wonder if my brain is liquifying, so overloaded is it with grammar, usage, and software tutorials. Sometimes after a long bout of editing, I go outside for a while and stare at the cottonwood trees.

It is good to be reminded of life’s grandeur after tending to its minutiae.

Most of the editing I’ve done so far has been for Square Halo Books, and I love the books they publish so much I worry sometimes that my enthusiasm sounds insincere. But I mean it: in a world of giant publishers and dodgy practices, here’s this small publisher releasing books into the wild that are glimmering, golden, that give one hope! I love their books, every one. (Especially these ones.)

I have also been writing for some new projects that I cannot wait to share with you when the time is right. Not yet. But soon. Until then, I have some new reviews queued up for next week, and I think they’ll reward you for waiting.

*Avatar = the best show out there. Mitch and I have watched it several times, and we’re just now introducing it to the girls. And the magic just doesn’t wear off: the picture of repentance and grace it portrays! I can’t get enough of it.

The Plot Thickens

Have you ever walked a puppy through your neighborhood? It’s like being pregnant in a grocery store—people who never looked twice at you suddenly stop and make conversation. Neighbors you’ve passed on the sidewalk for years ask, “May I pet him?” and you say yes, of course, because they are already petting him. There are poop bags and chewed shoes and “good grief, what should we do with him now?” but there is also that tractor beam effect on strangers and the perpetual excuse to stop and chat.

After a year and change of the pandemic, I’ll take any excuse to stop and chat.

Because that’s it: that’s why I stopped posting a few weeks ago. We got ourselves a blue heeler puppy and named him Hondo, and while there were other pots on the stove (including but not limited to a sizeable construction project in our yard), that was the one hogging three of the burners. He is delightful and a whole lot of mischievous fun. I’ll be back as soon as I can figure out how to photograph books without his “assistance,” and I’m excited to be back: I have, oh, dozens of books to share with you, all of them delightful.

But since I don’t have a full review for you today, I leave you with some bonus odds and ends:

If you can find yourself a copy of The Battle for Castle Cockatrice, by Gerald Durrell (yes, that Gerald Durrell), grab it! It’s a gem of a book, one that made us all giggle many times as we read. It was one of the best books we’ve read aloud together in a long time.

Hannah Anderson’s Turning of Days is lovely. Just lovely.

I recently read this new edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with a handful of friends, and wow—that’s the way to meet this book for the first time. Karen Swallow Prior’s introduction and guidance through this difficult book was fantastic!

I am a little amazed at how James Herriott’s Treasury for Children continues to enthrall our entire family after over a decade of reading and re-reading his stories. If you’ve never read it, please: do.

“Two Truths & a Lie About Motherhood After the Little Years”

Yesterday morning, our youngest came out of her bedroom looking equal parts thrilled and apprehensive, and announced, “I think I have a loose tooth!”

I felt the tooth. It was so. Now, she’s been sporting a gap-toothed smile for nearly a year already, on account of knocking one of her front teeth loose on a bike handlebar last summer, but this was new. This was a Milestone for all of us.

My youngest child is losing her baby teeth.

And so it seemed apt that Risen Motherhood shared my article “Two Truths & a Lie About Motherhood After the Little Years” this week. What comes next? When her children don’t exactly need her all the time, what’s a mom to do?

I’ve heard moms talk about this moment—this “all the kids finally out of diapers” moment—like it’s a finish line, as though we ran hard and the race is over. High fives all around! I’ve heard rumors about getting my life back, about resuming paused hobbies, about reconnecting with my true self, the one who apparently spent the last decade buried beneath maternity tops and nursing pillows. But I wonder if it isn’t the other way around. I wonder if my true self was not the one showing through in those years of sleep deprivation.

You can read the full article here.