What I’m Reading–Twitterature Edition July 2014

careers1.   The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin–about a bookshop owner dealing with a recent tragedy, and how a package dropped off at the shop changes his life.  I really liked this book, the style is just a little quirky, and AJ begins as a very unlikeable character, but goes through a significant transformation.  This book was written for those who love to read, and will add to your growing ‘to-read’ list.  One (tiny) detail I didn’t agree with–I have a hard time believing that policemen would want to read crime novels, much less start a book group to discuss them.  (There’s an early episode of Friends that touches on this–Rachel is waitressing at the coffee shop, but doesn’t want to drink or serve coffee outside of work).

book12. Eating Wildly Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin–this is very different than the other foodie memoirs I’ve read, and I was fascinated by her stories of foraging in New York City, especially after my baby steps into foraging.


3. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg–even more enjoyable than her first book, A Homemade Life.  She tells the story of opening a restaurant with her husband, and how it changes their lives.  It’s funny and sweet, and I love how different Wizenberg and her husband are, but their opposite strengths make their marriage and restaurant succeed.


4. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson–talks about boldness, chasing your dreams, and turning setbacks into opportunities. A book to read slowly, as Batterson packs in a lot of information and stories.  Great for those at a crossroads, or wondering what direction to take next.


5. That Summer by Lauren Willig–fans of Kate Morton may like Willig’s newest book.  I’m a sucker for any book where the main character inherits a crumbling old house full of treasures.  And if said house in in England?  Even better.  The story flips between 2009 and the 1840s–I’m also a sucker for split narrative books.  It’s a quick enjoyable read, written in the same style as her Ashford Affair, which I’ve also read (and enjoyed) but never posted a full review.  (I don’t care for her Pink Carnation series).

The thing that bothered me the most (and forgive me if this is horribly obnoxious) is the cover.  The house is central to both stories being told, and while the house on the cover is nice, it doesn’t match the author’s description (in the book it’s stucco, the cover shows brick/rock).  The well-maintained cottage garden is lovely, but Herne Hill has fallen in disrepair for many years, and the grounds have become quite grown up.  From what I understand, authors have little control over what their covers look like, but it seems as though whoever picked this cover photo must have never read the book.


6. The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith–I’ve been a reader of the Nester’s for a long time, and her book was just as inspirational as her blog.  I loved that she shared all the homes they’ve lived in over the years, and the mistakes and lessons that have come from each.  She got me up out of my chair to dust off a few of my own house projects that have been pushed to the side.

7. Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze–read my full review here.

8. The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron and Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Kurcinka–read my thoughts on the books and highly sensitive children here.

Here’s what I’ve just started, or am getting ready to dive into–so let me know if you’ve read any of these, and what you thought (but no spoilers please!).  I’m a little suspicious of the new Bridget Jones, I’m not thrilled about the situation with Mr. Darcy, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

book2    Linking up with Anne at the Modern Mrs. Darcy–head over there for more great book recommendations!

What I’m Reading–Smart Money Smart Kids

I’ve read several Dave Ramsey books and taken the Financial Peace University class, so the basic concepts in this book weren’t brand new to me, but it was nice to read the opinions of his daughter and co-author, Rachel Cruze, to hear the perspective of a child who was raised using these principles (and lived to tell the tale).

The book covered all ages of kids, from toddler to teens, so it’s definitely a book I’ll reread and reference as my kids get older.  It also covered how to talk about money in front of your kids, and how in some cases, you need to go out of your way to show them what to do.

Rachel Cruze uses the phrase ‘more is caught than taught’ throughout the book, and illustrates that parents often do money related chores like paying bills, budgeting, or donating money when the kids aren’t around, when they should be doing the opposite.  It’s good for kids to see parents working on a budget, discussing money, and physically donating money to causes they wish to support.   Sometimes this means writing a check when it might be more convenient to make an online payment or donation.

Parts of the book talked about raising children who are upstanding, caring, considerate people–the premise of if they are taught responsibility with money, that responsibility will bleed over into other areas of their life.  If they are taught to care about others, this helps them become caring and compassionate people overall, not just where money is concerned.

A quote that really struck me, “…there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a spender.  Like any other part of your child’s personality, it’s a natural part of who he is.  It is something that you should direct and nurture, not something you have to correct.”

I hadn’t realized it before reading Cruze’s quote, but I had always categorized ‘spender’ with ‘bad’ and ‘saver’ with ‘good’.  It was extremely refreshing and eye-opening to have this (unconscious) thought challenged, both in regards to the big and little people at our house.

All kinds of teen topics are covered–guiding them to a future career, balancing a career to make money with your passions/hobbies, how to pay for college and a car, and the emergency fund teenager-style,

SMSK breaks down the Ramsey concept to a kid/teenager level, and gives a lot of concrete ways to teach kids about money, starting with toddlers, and ending with teens getting ready to head out into the world on their own.

It also covers how to approach money as a family unit–in conversation, attitude and overall concept.  I appreciated the two voices the book was written in–father and child, and the different perspectives they had on the same situation.  It was inspiring to see what’s possible for your children can achieve by implementing these principles early on.





What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

careers1When I was in school, a common icebreaker game was to tell what we wanted to be when we grew up. From about sixth grade onward, my answer was always the same, “A millionaire’s wife.” I said it because it always got a laugh, but I also said it because I had no idea.

During my senior year of high school, I had to answer that question in front of a huge group of people–the majority of my school plus more.  I said I wanted to be a doctor in the ER–to those who didn’t know me, it sounded impressive.  Those who knew me hid a smile, because it was obviously a joke. Earlier that year I had passed out multiple times in biology and psychology classes because of my incredibly weak stomach .

It wasn’t that I was unambitious–I got good grades, took honors classes, was involved in lots of extracurricular activities–I was even captain and editor of various things. I always focused on the task at hand, not on the future.  Although there were choices in high school, it was still the basic format of science/math/English/electives, so I focused on my grades and after school activities.  I went to college and I still didn’t have a clue.

I started out in psychology (because my high school psych class had gone so well), but after a one hour intro to psychology careers, I decided it wasn’t for me because of the math involved.  I changed to English Literature, because I’ve always been a bookworm, and advisors said to pick the classes you would want to take even if you didn’t have to.  I jumped in with both feet, and started with a sophomore and junior level class the second semester of my freshman year.

Even though I bit off more than I could chew, I survived the classes, but it wasn’t the bliss that I envisioned.  My critical analysis class read several modern books I hated, and the class with the material I enjoyed had a professor that made watching paint dry seem exciting.  Someone I randomly chanced meeting asked what I was majoring in, and when I proudly announced, “English Literature”, so happy that I had finally figured out who I was and what I was supposed to do with my life, they replied, “Well, that’s a pretty worthless major, isn’t it?”  I was crushed–the carefully constructed pieces came crashing down around me.

I managed to pick something and graduate, but if I making the choice over, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t make the same decision.  I dated my husband all through college, and he went through several majors like I did.  Although he is extremely good at his profession, and enjoys it, I know there was a close second runner up that he would likely choose if we found ourselves to be 18 again.

Things happen for a reason, and we are happy with the life that we have, but I do want to be intentional about helping guide my boys in discovering a career path that they will excel at and enjoy. My kids are all under 10, so the conversations at our house are very casual and informal, but we regularly discuss different aspects of all kinds of jobs.

Some jobs make more money than others, and some jobs you have to go to school longer for than others.  Teachers have summer vacations, while doctors, policemen and firemen have unusual schedules.  Some jobs let you set your own schedule, some jobs are dangerous and other jobs are less dangerous.  Right now I just want them to think about all the possibilities that are out there, and what sounds interesting.

We read books about different jobs, and when I ask what they want to be when they grow up, no matter what they say, I always tell them they can be anything they want to be.  I think understanding one’s personality is so extremely helpful, and it helps me parent them to recognize the personality traits and tics that each boy has.

When they’re older, I hope to help them recognize their own strengths and weaknesses.  Strengths/interests can be channeled into different vocations, and weaknesses can be overcome to create a well-rounded personal and professional life.  I want them to recognize their strengths, gifts and preferences so that they can make a wise career decision when the time comes.

I have no agenda–I want them to be happy and successful at whatever they choose, but I don’t have a specific dream or plan for any of them.  One is fascinated by building, so I wonder if engineering is in his future, but right now he wants to be a teacher.  No matter what they do, I want them to help people, and feel like they’re making a positive contribution to society.  Everyone has a different role in life, and we function best when we’re doing the role that best suits us, not trying to take on someone else’s role.


A friend gave this illustration once, and I think about it often, although when I picture it in my mind, I do so in the cartoon version, because otherwise it would just be gross.  She said, “We can’t all be eyeballs–if we were, there would just be a huge pile of eyeballs sitting there, and they couldn’t get anywhere, or talk, or eat.  Someone has to be the foot, someone has to be the hand, the fingers, the elbow–everyone has a different role in life, and all those roles are important.  So if you’re an elbow, be the best elbow you can be.”

I gave the millionaire’s wife answer many times, and I wish that just once, someone would have taken me aside and asked, “But what do you really want to do with your life?”  I know that it’s commonplace now to change careers several times, and that may or may not change by the time my children enter the workplace.  I don’t necessarily think that there is one ‘right’ path and all others are ‘wrong’, they may have a variety of options that would all make suitable careers.  I just want them to be thoughtful and intentional about what they do, because life’s too short to do something you hate.


One Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, we were all working in the garden.  I was weeding the berry patch, which is close to the barn.  I thought I heard a crying of some kind, so I walked over to the barn to investigate, but didn’t see anything but barn swallows.

Another half hour of weeding or so, and I heard the noise again.  I walked around to the other side of the barn, and I saw this girl:


She was walking along the cement corncrib, and instantly my heart melted.  She wasn’t terribly cooperative about being caught, and as I pulled her out of her hiding spot, she spit and swiped at me with her tiny claws.  I knew instantly that her name should be Esmerelda, because of her green eyes.

Once I had ahold of her, she let herself be petted, and even started purring a little.  I took her over to show my husband, who rolled his eyes and said, “Well, you better show her to the boys.”  They were playing near the garden, and when they saw her, the kindergartener called dibs on picking out a name.


I braced myself, and reminded myself that whatever name he picked we would use, and that it would be okay.  He was thoughtful for a few minutes, and then announced, “Grave Digger.”

Grave Digger is the rather unfortunate name of a monster truck.  (He actually has his own website here, which I had no idea existed until the writing of this post).

I shot my husband my best, “I blame you for this” glare.  Being the mother of boys has given me a wide range of experiences I had never dreamed of.  And Grave Digger is one of them.  I’m pretty sure my kindergartener doesn’t even know what a grave is, but, very quickly, I imagined my sweet boy announcing to his kindergarten class and Sunday School teacher that his new kitten’s name is Grave Digger.  Plus, just look at this face:


So I quickly pointed out that this kitten was female, and Grave Digger is obviously a boy name.  Obviously.  So we ended up with Oreo.  I secretly call her Esmerelda, but no one else needs to know that.

Summer Schedule Update


We’ve now been following our summer schedule for one month, and we have one full month to go (plus a few weeks). You can read about the original plan here.

What’s worked for us: not having specific times for each activities was one of the best decisions ever.  The schedule has become very elastic–it’s an order of activities, and we are working on being flexible if things change.

We’ve kept a little learning, just to keep our brains from going mushy–the kindergartener is working on handwriting, addition/subtraction flashcards, and Spanish.  The second grader is working on handwriting, multiplication flashcards, and Spanish.  The preschooler has specific things we work on for speech.

Everyone gets an hour of reading time per day–this can be an audiobook with any kind of non-electronic toy, or regular reading.  They both also read quite a bit in their free time, so often it’s an audio book, and I’m okay with that.

The schedule gets us out of the house early in the morning, and we get lots of physical exercise in during the coolest part of the day.  This is probably the part of the schedule that has taken the hardest hit, but the two big boys are both playing baseball this summer, so they’re still pretty active.   Many times if we miss our running/play time, it’s because we’re headed to a park/pool for a playdate anyway, so I think it all evens out.

I think the schedule has helped them appreciate the days at home– June is always a busy month for us–two birthdays, our anniversary, and father’s day fill our calendar with lots of fun.  We just finished up a weekend of final celebratory festivities, and I think the boys are ready to relax just as much as I am.

What we’ve changed a long the way: in the beginning I said if we missed a part of the schedule, we’d just skip it.  However, this meant that we missed a lot of learning and chore time, usually because of a fun activity.  I’m all for fun, but I’m trying to raise some responsible kids here too, so I made the mandate that we would fit in learning and chore time even if we were gone in the mornings.

I had high hopes that the schedule would help my oldest hsc learn flexibility, by providing a structure for our days (which he craves), but work around interruptions and unexpected events.  The jury’s still out on this one–we’re still struggling with flexibility, and things not always going exactly like the expected plan.  I’m still hopeful that our schedule will help with this, and even if it doesn’t, it has made the summer so much smoother and enjoyable.

Sometimes You Don’t Get Raspberries From a Raspberry Bush…

Yesterday afternoon I was walking out to the garden, when I spotted a hen and her entourage. I knew she had been hanging out around the raspberry bushes at the far end of the yard, but I had no idea that she had turned the raspberry patch into a nursery.


We’ve hatched chicks before, but we set the mother hens up in a closed in hatching box, and brought the broody mamas food and water every day–this gal just snuck off and took matters into her own hands wings.


The chicks are mutts–half Barred Rock, and half mystery rooster.  Here’s the three contenders:


This is Nutmeg, our oldest bird, and my favorite–he eats out of our hands, and will jump into our cars if we leave the door open.  He’s an Americana, so if the chicks are female, we’ll know he’s the daddy if they lay olive colored eggs.  Americanas lay blue eggs, and Barred Rocks lay brown, so usually a cross results in some shade of olive green.


This is Chicken Buddy, we hatched him a few years ago, and he’s half Barred Rock and half Jersey Giant.


And finally, Red Ryder, I’m guessing he’s a Buff Orpington or maybe a Rhode Island Red.


It’s been so interesting watching the mother hen care for the chicks–she keeps them warm by sitting on them, has taught them to scratch and forage on their own, and, in the beginning, flew at us in a fury to defend them.  We’ve since put them in a large wire dog kennel that sits on the grass, so they can enjoy the sunshine, still scratch, but have protection.  At night I put them in an enclosed dog carrier, and she doesn’t mind me handling the chicks at all.

We’ve talked about starting a sustainable flock of dual-purpose birds, instead of buying a hodge-podge of chicks every year.  This hen’s obviously got the mothering thing down, so that might be in our future.

Highly Sensitive Children


Do you have a highly sensitive child?  Have you ever even heard of the term before?  I hadn’t until about six months ago.  I have two highly sensitive children–one I’ve known about for a long time, and the other snuck up on me. You can go here to take a quiz to see if you might have a highly sensitive child in your life, and here to see if you might be highly sensitive.

Mary Kurcinka wrote the book, “Raising Your Spirited Child”.  She coined the term ‘spirited’, and defines spirited children as: “… normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and uncomfortable with change than other children.”

In reading these two books, I find the terms ‘spirited’ and ‘highly sensitive’ interchangeable, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll use highly sensitive child, or hsc.

There can be a wide variance in hscs–my two are the oldest and youngest, and have similar hsc characteristics, but overall very different personalities.  There is a five and a half year age difference between them, and my youngest was(is?) a preemie, so he’s also a little like a wild card compared to his full term brothers.

The biggest hsc struggles in our house are:

* resistance to change–this is our biggest issue. Any and all change from the schedule or plan can bring on meltdowns.  We’re constantly working on flexibility, and talking about how plans change, and we have to adjust and change too.

*attune to others’ moods–the hscs feed off of even the slightest stress or negativity of anyone in the house, especially the parents.

*overstimulation–right after school is prime time for hsc struggles.  We have implemented an immediate snack/quiet time as soon as everyone gets off the bus, which helps.

*punishment–even the mildest reprimand can bring on a wide variety of negative responses.

*clothing–I’ve cut tags out of countless shirts (thank goodness so many now are tagless!), and it frusterates me to no end knowing that perfectly good clothing sits in the dresser unworn, because of some (seemingly) minute issue. (Like socks with uncomfortable seams).  I’ve come to terms with letting my hsc wear or not wear what they want (within reason).  There are enough boys in my house that all the clothing will get worn eventually.

Contrary to what connotations the words highly sensitive bring to mind, my hscs aren’t shrinking violets, particularly the baby.  Being the youngest of a houseful of boys has taught him how to take care of himself very well.

Thankfully we haven’t had any behavior issues at preschool or in the church nursery, but if a playmate comes and snatches a toy out of his hands, he doesn’t burst into tears, he gets it back.  (Yes, we talk about sharing a lot).  He wrestles, argues and negotiates with multiple boys up to five and a half years older than him every single day of his life.  He’s not shy.

Food issues are often a common factor of hsc’s, but at our house, the hscs are the best eaters, and my easy-going, laid-back kid is the picky one.  Go figure.

I’m a highly sensitive person also, and as much as I would like to say that this helps me relate to the challenges my hsc bring to the table, the opposite is actually true.  I find it difficult to deal with some of the hsc issues in my children, maybe because I deal with the same issue on another scale in my own life.

And my easy-going, laid-back kid?  He’s also in the middle, and I’m terrified of him being the stereotypical left-out middle child.

Parenting hscs can be exhausting and frusterating.  It’s also joyous and amazing.  Learning how to cope with hsc issues can tilt the scale twords joyous and amaing more of the time.  These two books have been invaluable to my house in smoothing the way for all of us to deal with each other better.

I try and read anything I can get my hands on about highly sensitive children, and I encourage other parents of hscs to do the same.  Since there is such a variance in hscs, the information in one book may pertain to your family more than other hsc books.  For example, both Aron and Kurcinka’s books are well written, informative, and helpful.  But Kurcinka’s could have been written just for my sons–it has literally been life changing for our family.

Chances are there is a highly sensitive person in your family or in your life.  Learning about this trait, and the positive and negative issues that go along with it can help you get along with them.


What My Kids Are Reading–The Dangerous Book for Boys


When it comes to finding books for my boys to read, I have a severe case of the-grass-is-always-greener. It seems to me that quality books that interest boys are fairly few and far between, so I’m always on the lookout for good books for my guys.

My oldest received The Dangerous Book for Boys a few years ago as a birthday gift, and it has been read, re-read, used, and loved. This isn’t a book to be read once and set on the shelf to collect dust, it is intended to be used for all kinds of experiments and building projects. It would be a perfect end of the school year gift to provide lots of summer entertainment.

Some of the subjects the book covers include:
* paper airplanes
* knots
* seven wonders of the ancient world
* making a battery
* building a treehouse
* making a bow and arrow
* grammar
* fishing
* baseball’s MVPs
* famous battles
* making crystals
* insects and spiders
* juggling
* first aid
* poker
* astronomy
* secret inks
* the golden age of piracy
* sampling Shakespeare
* chess
* early American history
* books every boy should read
* extraordinary stories

This book requires some guidance–for example, my oldest read the chapter on poker, and promptly turned into a card shark. While we don’t play with money, we do play to win with chips, and focus on the fun of playing the game, and the things he can gain from it–concentration, logic, strategy, ect.  (And if I ever get a call from the school saying he’s taken the class lunch money over a game of cards, I’ll refer them to my husband!)

The Dangerous Book for Boys has a lot of fun hands-on projects, but it also has a lot of information to read–extraordinary stories of real life heroes and adventurers, famous battles, questions about the world, poetry, Latin phrases and Shakespeare.

The book list on page 262 looks good, although much of it is uncharted territory for me–many of the suggestions are for 12 and older, and my crew is 9 and under.  The list starts with AA Milne, Roald Dahl, CS Lewis, EB White, Mark Twain, and progresses up through late teen/early adult-appropriateness.

The Dangerous Book for Boys has such a wide variety of topics, I think most boys would find at least several things they’re interested in.  By the way, there’s also a Dangerous Book for Girls, (although I haven’t read it).  Lots of the topics/projects appeal to both genders, so use the    book(s) as a jumping off point to explore new and different projects and ideas for all kids.

Summer Lunch–Egg Salad


My favorite way to fix egg salad is with 1 T of mayonnaise, 1 t of ground rosemary, a pinch of kosher salt and a pinch of pepper per every 3 hard boiled eggs.  It’s great as a sandwich on no knead bread, or it can stand alone along side a green salad.

Our hens are cranking out the eggs right now, so we have more than enough to eat a lot of egg salad–it can be made in about 15 minutes, and I prefer it while the eggs are still warm.  Fresh eggs can be difficult to peel when they’re boiled, so I date our egg cartons and always boil the oldest eggs.

Pouring salt in the pan while they’re boiling will help the shells peel off easier as well.  I keep inexpensive table salt around just for that purpose, and put up to 1/4 of a cup of salt in the boiling water.

Relish and celery are also popular add-ins for egg salad, as well as any combination of herbs you like.  How do you eat egg salad?


What I’m Reading–Twitterature Edition June 2014

book2  1. Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther–couldn’t put it down. This is the story of the author’s upbringing in a fundamentalist cult. It’s heartbreaking at times, yet Esther’s ultimate triumph is proof that good can come from tragedy.

2.Maisie Dobbs: a Novel by Jacqueline Winspear–how am I just now discovering Maisie Dobbs? A private investigator in London between world wars, Maisie is smart and on her toes, and happily, there are many more books in this series.


3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery–while sick in bed, I reread this favorite for the umpteenth time. Later on the in the week, I found a geranium on clearance, and was inspired to buy it (even though it’s not apple-scented).


I also took the time to bookmark a few of my favorite quotes:

“It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it?”

“But really, Marilla, one can’t stay sad very long in such an interesting world, can one?”

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”

Apparently interesting is the word of the day. :-)


4. On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis–this book combined two things I love: old houses and food. The French countryside setting didn’t hurt anything either. A beautiful memoir of the author’s move to a small town in France, and the remodeling of her home. Recipes are at the end of every chapter, and I have more than a few to try. I also put her Farmhouse Cookbook on hold.


5.A Gift From Brittany by Marjorie Price–following in the French countryside/old house restoration theme, you can read all my thoughts on this book here.


6. From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins–this wasn’t the page turner that the first one was, (you can read my thoughts here) but it did pick up at the end of the book.  I’m guessing there will be more in the series, and I’ll keep reading, even though I thought the historical detail outshone the plot.


7. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley–I really enjoy books that tell two stories from different time periods simultaneously.  I also like not being able to fit all the pieces of the story together until the last page.  This book combined both those elements, plus it’s also about an old house, so pretty much my cup of tea.  This was the first book I’ve read by Kearsley, and I’ve heard it’s not her best, so I’m looking forward to reading the others.

Head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more great book reviews!