The Artist’s Daughter {Book Review}

Spring 2013 007

Having to take some downtime at the end of this pregnancy has allowed me to finish reading Alexandra Kuykendall’s memoir, The Artist’s Daughter. It’s our new theme book for the upcoming 2013-2014 MOPS year.

I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure what to do with this book. Most of our MOPS theme books are non-fiction pieces that you can underline to your hearts content until the book is in tatters. They are full of treasured quotes and ideas to use for the upcoming year’s theme. But this…well, this book was a memoir. I started pen in hand and quickly found that this wasn’t going to be an underline-every-other-page style book. Instead it turned out to be a tapestry of stories. Mini vignettes that I read quickly, devouring each and eager to read the next.

When I finished it in two days time I sat and pondered. How do I use this book for our MOPS group?

Then it struck me. Life stories. We each have one. Alexandra’s was fascinating for sure, but that was not my life story. That being said, it made me hunger for other women’s stories…other mothers stories.  And I realized that even if this was not my story, I related to much of it. Snippets of seasons of life stood out for me as a mother. I could relate to her post-postpartum depression and not being able to hold her baby right away. I could relate to her judging and feeling judged by other moms. I could relate to her unrealistic expectations as a mother and how God humbly dealt with her in each of those flawed areas.

That’s what this Beautiful Mess theme is all about. We are a mess! Our lives as mothers are tangled up in the mundane messes of everyday life. Fingerprints on windows. Sinks full of dishes. Markers on walls. Toys littering floors. Junk piles on counters and desks. Brimming closets full of too much stuff. We, as moms, battle the daily mess in a very tangible way. But our souls…oh our souls. They are a mess too. Bad habits springing up like weeds trying to choke out the work God is doing in us.

This is where our stories reach hearts. As we talk about our very unique and different paths, we will share common threads of hope with one another. We will relate and rally and pick ourselves up again. We will not give in but instead revel in how our own beautiful mess is being shaped by The One who can turn it into His masterpiece.

This year’s MOPS will not be a neat series of topics in outline form but, instead, threads webbing out in all directions, connecting with one another. I’m excited to see where the year takes us as mothers and as growing disciples of Christ. I think Alexandra’s memoir is the perfect segue from last year’s MOPS theme: Plunge! Last year we explored on how to dig deeper, be more authentic, embrace vulnerability. Well, there is nothing more vulnerable and authentic than our own personal story and sharing that with someone else.

Thank you, Alexandra, for stepping out bravely and speaking words of truth even when they’re not so pretty! Thank you for being vulnerable and authentic with us, your dear readers.

{For those of you who don’t know, MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers and is a wonderful Christian support group for moms during those hardest transition years into motherhood. I would encourage any mother who has never checked it out to find a group in your area. Not only will you get connected to other moms in your own community – and how important is that when you feel like you haven’t had an adult conversation in forever! – but you will also reap the benefits of activities and speakers set up just for you specific to your season of life. Please click the MOPS button on my sidebar to find out more about this wonderful organization and find a MOPS group in your local area.}

For more on Alexandra Kuykendall, visit her blog and facebook page!

And in a moment of my own authentic vulnerability, while I was typing this post here is the beautiful mess my littles were making in the dining room with my bigs sitting right beside them obliviously playing DS games. So much for No Chore Day!

Ivy's Birthday 065

Ivy's Birthday 066

Slow Reading ~ The Gentle Art of Domesticity

As sometimes happens, I am walking along the bargain aisles at Barnes and Nobles hoping to catch that great homeschooling find when out of the corner of my eye I spy this cover.

I know you are not suppose to judge a book by it’s cover but I am a visual person by nature and, unfortunately, this is too often the case with me…at least with books! And this one didn’t disappoint! It’s all in the title: The Gentle Art of Domesticity {Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & The Comforts of Home} by Jane Brocket. What’s not to love? For $10 I found a homey book that I can curl up with at night or on the weekends and enjoy in my new home!

Sometimes in this bloggy world we adults develop a bad case of attention deficit disorder. We get so used to perusing and looking and envying that we never take the time to stop and read and do the things we are looking at. Or is that just me?  I often need to force myself out of this destructive pattern. This book is a breath of fresh air in that department. It’s like reading a blog (beautiful pictures married with wonderful content) but in long form. Instead of sneaking a 5 minute reading blog break, you can take an hour and read on the comfort of your couch.

This isn’t a how-to book so much as a how-I-got-here book. It is all those homey ideas I want to ruminate in for a while. And her take on our culture is spot on. Take this excerpt for example.

For the gentle arts are just that: gentle. They do not demand to be practiced. No one is obliged to pursue them. They have not been taken up by any government department and regulated and repackaged with health and safety messages and warnings. They are a matter of individual and personal choice. They can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest and the ability to thread a needle, break an egg, choose a color or wield a pair of scissors. They don’t require complicated skills, qualifications, training or equipment…What they do require, though, is a consicious choice to do something ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘quaint,’ to choose not to buy and consume endlessly, but to make and create for a change…It’s the awareness of the worth of the gentle arts that counts, the ability to see that the feminists of the 1970s were misguided when they thought that teaching young girls to devalue domesticity constituted progress.” {emphasis mine}

Wow! And this from an author who was, herself, a proclaimed feminist! It was her journey through that process of attaining a family and struggling with careers that landed her in this ever-so domestic world. I love this for two reasons. One, the book reads like a blog journal ~ interactive with you while at the same time maintaining that personal awareness and growth that only comes with writing things down. And two, you don’t have to be that traditional Martha Stewart-y crafty girl to enjoy this book. You can be that career momma or retired grandma with time on her hands or even the mom who longs to do crafts but is up to her elbows in a dirt-colored-snotty-nose season of life and still resonate with Jane’s writings on domesticity. It is that inherent domesticity in all of us women, designed by God himself, that connects us as a collective whole despite our individualistic bents.

I long to recapture my own domesticity amid the potty training, homeschooling, disciplining, and laundry pile ups.  I know this art will take intentional slowing down on my part, as well as intentional thought about how I want our home atmosphere to look and feel. It’s not about the keeping up with the Jone’s I’m interested in, it’s the comforting feeling of hospitality I long for my family and guests to feel when they step through my door. I’m excited to glean some valuable nuggets of truth in this area from Jane’s book. I hope this one stays on my shelf for years to come!

{Update :: The wonderful reason this book feels like a blog in print is because Jane actually has the most wonderful, beautiful blog right here in this cyber world. It is called yarnstorm and is just lovely. Please, go check it out!!! Plus, the book is turning out fabulous. The perfect read to take slowly in bits over sips of coffee during those rare free moments.}

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The Orange Shoes

We participated in the Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox Christmas program this year. My kids filled out the wonderful get-to-know-me worksheet, made Christmas cards and picked what they wanted to go in the shoebox. It was a very positive experience with only a few drawbacks (kids didn’t get to help with packing the boxes) that I might tweak for next year.

To help facilitate why there is a need for this program we watched this video:

operation christmas child

And then we read this story…

…and everyone was quiet, captivated, and in awe. It is one of those stories that instantly grab you from the opening page with delicious words to pull you in. It is a picture book that even a 10 year old boy will completely sit through enthralled and not think he is too old for this. It is a timeless story about valuing the important things and how we, as parents, can spur our children on even when there is little money to do it.

Little Delly has no shoes. Her parents barely have money to pay for basics let alone shoes for her. There is to be a Shoebox Social at school to raise money for new school supplies. Delly has to not only figure out how to participate, but undergo the all-too-common cruel teasing from other school children about her appearance and family. But Delly is dertermined and gifted artistically and having little money does not hinder her from taking part.

My kids begged to be read this again after reading it the first time. This book was a rare and precious treat to us! Perfect for before-the-holidays reading!

Sew Simple Owl Softies and Mommy Time

Lily's owl softie.

This week I made the kids a promise. A week of undevoted mommy time. Each kid picked a number and that was their special day with mom. After breakfast and chores they would have my undivided time until lunch to play with them how they chose. They spent the past couple of weeks pouring over ideas of what to choose and constantly reminding me of when their day was. No backing out of this promise! The Lord has been working this onto my heart for some time now. I had to cancel social dates, put my own work aside, and just be with the kids.

Day 1 ~ Luc (5) took me caterpillar hunting (in the rain) and we played with grandma’s special toys that are normally put up in the closet. We read lots of Mercer Mayer stories and drank hot cocoa with marshmellows.

Day 2 ~ Lilah (4) had a tea party with me. She dressed up in her fanciest princess outfit, picked out my outfit for me, picked out ribbons for our hair and makeup for our face. We looked fabulous in blue sparkly eye shadow! She picked out a pretty lace floral tablecloth and the good china tea cups and tea pot and some princess books, soothing music, and nail polish. We had chai tea with pumpkin bread. We painted nails and read princess stories while they were drying.

Day 3 ~ Lily (8) decided to have craft time with me. She poured over my pinterest boards and found just the craft she wanted to do…this adorable owl softie. She used her imagination and picked out materials she found in the house. She used her budding sewing skills to cut out the pattern, stuff the owl body, and sew the wings. Mommy sewed the body and the other parts to the body. I must say, it turned out quite adorable and she so loves it!

Day 4 ~ Gabe (almost 10) will be choosing to have me mend a hole in one of his favorite stuffed animals (something I’ve been promising but haven’t had the time to get to) and play Monopoly with me. He is very excited for his day tomorrow!

Day 5 ~ Ivy (2) will have the last day with me and said she wants to play Dora and read books. She will be pretty easy. For her, just sitting next to mommy is enough!

This has been a huge success for the week. I had to pray daily that the Lord would help me lay aside my other work and allow me to emotionally deal with my house being a wreck for a week for the sake of my children. The children have enjoyed it so much, as have I, that I think we will continue the tradition and use the first week of every school break as this special mommy time before I start any other projects, cleaning, or planning for the next school quarter.

Today we read Owl Babies to go along with Lily’s new owl friend. I forgot how much I love this book. I fell in love with it on a trip to Vail years ago and immediately bought it and set it aside for the this same daughter who was then in my stomach growing. I read this book the same way every time. It is not Owl Mother but rather Owl Momma. And we do not say baby owls we say owl babies. And when we are wishing we do not simply make a single wish but rather we wish and wish and wish and wish. There is comfort in the way mom reads a story. I hope they remember that as they are reading it to their little ones someday and realizing that it isn’t quite how mom read it.

 

Linking with ~

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Diary-style Fictional Writers

It’s Read-Aloud Thursday again and I had nothing planned to write. In fact, I wasn’t really going to do much blogging this week. It is fall break for us here and I have been doing a lot of cleaning and organizing and very little schooling and reading. But then our darling 7 year old girl came down with the flu. And I had just happened to have picked up our library holds the day before. And there just happened to be several of Marissa Moss’s Amelia books tucked into my bag that I could share with her.

She started with Amelia’s Notebook (I believe that is the first one?) and devoured the rest over the course of two days. She loved that she had a girl version of something akin to Diary of a Wimpy Kid which her older 9 year old brother loves so much.

I had first spotted this series in a chance walk through a little gift niche store here in town on my anniversary date. I often choose books based on their covers (Superficial, yes…but I am visual. What can I say?) and happened to spot this darling book called Amelia Writes Again. I picked it up, flipped through it and immediately told myself to remember the name (easy since my husband’s nickname for me is Amelia) to request from the library when I got home.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a whole series and requested as many as I could for her.

What is it about this diary style writing that attracts young readers? I think it may just be that they know this is especially for them. There is an inherent trust that the topics discussed will be relevant to said life and will contain NO educational-well-meaning-parent-content! They are books to escape in and enjoy exactly the stage of life they are currently going through. Even my five year old boy looks through these in anticipation of learning to read. He can’t wait to join the ranks of his older siblings in this secret right of passage.

Love, love, love these books! I just love how the books look and feel like those composition notebooks that are on sale everywhere right now. What better time to encourage your child to start their own journal? Can’t wait to get the rest of them from our local library!

So you want to become a Pirate?

Ahoy there, scurvy dogs!

This week our reading adventure mingled with a super fun field trip…The Midlands Pirate Festival!

All week our kids were talking pirate speak and daddy sat down to read the littles the very famous How I Became a Pirate by our beloved author David Shannon in which a little boy discovers that as much fun as a pirate might be, it can’t replace mom and dad reading bedtime stories and taking care of basic needs like hygiene. An excellent book that has been well-loved in this house over the years! (I heard there’s a sequel: Pirates Don’t Change Diapers…may need to check that out at our local library!)

We had a great time visiting the festival and partaking in singing, sword fighting, ziplining, belly dancing, turkey-leg eating, and shopping. My kids gave it a thumbs up and an, “Aaarrrggghhhh” for good measure!

Read Aloud Thursday: Kevin Henkes

I was invited last week to participate in Amy’s Read Aloud Thursday’s at Hope Is The Word. Time ran away from me but I decided this week I would give it a go. I love reading other’s reviews of books. They are always so helpful in my library selections. So I am excited to share in this endeavor with other mothers who have this same passion for children’s literature.

This week has been a social whirlwind for us. Two playdates, two picnics, swimming, church, lifegroup, grocery shopping, a library trip, and two unexpected social visits left very little time at home. (And my house shows it!) So today was a day to just sit at home and do school. Unfortunately it was hard to just do that. I kept looking around at all that should be done by way of housekeeping and had a hard time just letting it go. But I knew I needed to. These littles needed momma time. So I lit some candles, put on soft jazz, inhaled, relaxed and grabbed some books I knew would put me in the right frame of mind.

Kevin Henkes is one of my all time favorite children’s authors. Today we curled up with Chrysanthemum to start with. His use of repetition is calming and I love that he doesn’t talk down to children. His broad use of vocabulary astounds me every time I read his books. And he knows the children will get it. He doesn’t pander to age range or supposed ability. This is what stretches a child and will do more for a well-rounded language arts curriculum than any vocabulary workbook can!

How can you resist lines like ~

Oh, pish,”said her mother. “They’re just jealous.” 

“And envious and begrudging and discontented and jaundiced,” said her father. 

We read straight through all the Kevin Henkes books we own which also included Chester’s Way, Julius, the Baby of the World, and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Although I am also especially fond of Owen which is about a little mouse who just can’t give up his blanket. I don’t own it but will if I ever come across it in a library sale!

And, if you haven’t been there yet, go check out his site. Click on Mouse Tales and you can play interactive games to go along with the books. I see an afternoon project coming up!