For the love of books // Frankie’s Favorites

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I love sharing the books that are special to each of my daughters. They gravitate to different genres and illustrators, and it’s a constant reminder that children are so unique in their interests. It’s a true joy to discover what books put that twinkle in their eye – I love seeing them light up when they bring me a book to read for the MILLIONTH time. I try to remember that one day they will not need or want me to read to them quite as much…..it’s a gift to be able to do so!

I thought I would share Frankie’s favorite books first, simply because they are always laying around, they are super colorful, and she is extremely consistent in her choices. She loves the same books and focuses on the details of the illustrations and words – she knows (and points out) when I make a mistake while reading, and she has tried to copy the drawings from each one, many times.

Frankie loves vibrant color, one-of-a-kind illustrators, and zippy story lines. If it’s not original, it’s not for her. There are several that didn’t make it into the photo (simply because they were in her bed and she has a huge bunk bed that I didn’t feel like climbing up) but these are her go-to’s. She’s almost 8 years old, but most of these have been on her nightstand for up to 4 years. She’s a creature of habit and knows what she likes. And I like that about her.

Without further adieu, here are “Frankie’s Favorites”:

Sayonara Mrs. Kackleman – it’s quirky and bizarre.

Walter the Baker – She ADORES the illustrations of Eric Carle; so colorful!

The Day the Crayons Came Home – if there is humor and a touch of sass, it’s for Frankie!

Whistle for Willie – Ezra Jack Keats is her favorite author, hands down. We have his entire works and each one is beautiful.

Caps For Sale – it’s a classic for a reason.

Ferdinand – long before the movie released, Frankie loved the part about him sitting on a bee.

What Will The Weather Be Like Today – not sure the specific reason she loves this, but I think it has to do with the intricate drawings and small details.

A Bad Case Of Stripes – the drawings are so colorful and the story is pretty funny too.

The Little Prince – she adores this and has since the first time I read it to her, when she was five.

The Tiny Seed – again, the illustrations of E. Carle are abstract and flowing. She loves this story so much.

Not in picture:

Ox-Cart Man – I believe this is a book she will go back to over and over again, even in adulthood. It’s just that good.

The Jesus StoryBook Bible – her favorite story is about Joseph and his coat of many colors. She has drawn it at least 50 times.

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt – this was her first dabble with graphic books/comics. She thinks it’s hilarious.

The Teacher’s Pet – she thinks it’s HILARIOUS when books say “fart.” (eyeroll from mom) + the illustrations in this book are AMAZING (IMO.)

Annie and the Old One – this one made her cry.

Wait for William – we have a very vintage copy that she adores. The parade is adorable.

The Story of Ping – Frankie is fascinated with ANYthing even remotely associated with the Asian culture.

I hope this gives you some exciting ideas for lovely picture books – they would all make wonderful additions to your home library!

 

lost in pages

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To get lost in a book – is there anything better?

Inside their bindings, I find hope and wonder and emotions I didn’t know I had.

In all honesty, books have been some of the most true and faithful friends I have even known. I don’t read for leisure, I read to feel something and to become something. Leisure appears and washes over me, but it is rarely my pursuit.

In years past, books were often a luxury, especially when I had much younger children….spare time was difficult to find, or I should say that a book was difficult to hold.

Now, I have more pockets of time, but books are no longer an extravagance….no, they are a necessity.

I need books to breathe. Books remind me of what things were, what I aspire to be, what I should be. Books give me inspiration, rebuke, and guidance.

Books frame the rest of my living experience – I am able to see things in this world more clearly because I have read.

I listen better. I know more. I search continually.

Books are life-giving to me and so I read and will never stop.

 

about Ray.

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It started when my daughter went scouring CraigsList for pre-1980 editions of Nancy Drew books. She received a set from my mom a few years ago, but just began to dive into the wonderful world of vintage mystery. She blows through them so quickly and is only interested in the “old” copies. She has no use for the newly reintroduced, snazzy “re-makes” (as she likes to call them.)

She happened to find a seller who was trying to unload 19 books for $40 dollars. While a very good price, I’m always one to haggle (blame all the estate sale-ing) and offered $30.00 (I’ll later feel bad for that…) The seller accepted and we agreed to meet this morning, at 10am “sharp.” He asked me to bring exact payment and we made an hour long drive to retrieve these treasures for my bookworm.

As most people, I was slightly unnerved with visiting a seller at a new location, without having ever met him. I rarely feel fear, but CraigsList does something to me. I’m always very cautious and have passed up some really good deals, simply because the location was shady. And I’ve been to some seriously shady neighborhoods for a good find.

Back to the story.

My nerves were settled when we turned into the neighborhood from which we would make our much-anticipated pick up. It happened to be a rare suburb in Virginia, which warrants an entirely separate blog post, but I haven’t the time for that right now. It’s almost the girls bedtime and my private writing moments are waining.

When we pulled up to the home my navigation had instructed me to, I saw a large American flag waving and a tightly manicured lawn, but not that of a gardener. No, one that was straight out of Revolutionary Road – strategically selected and coiffed regularly. It was heavily bricked and stately. Perhaps I’m remembering it incorrectly, but that is how my mind has played it back all day.

A man slowly emerged from the garage and waved. He had a friendly smile and his shirt was tucked in, secured with a belt. A fashion regularity I wish more gentleman my age would return to. It’s a sign of a bygone generation, much like men who mow their lawns in slacks and collared button-ups.

The three girls and I got out of the minivan and met him halfway. He introduced himself as “Ray” and he had our books waiting. He had also offered to show me seven other vintage titles (of course we bought them) he had and told me he would give me a very discounted price. He leaned down to talk to Polly and shake her hand. He grinned at my girls and we made small talk. He asked where we were from. I quickly knew that this wasn’t just a “this kinda thing happens” meeting. Maybe I’m making more of it than I should, but it’s what I do, and it’s served me well.

Because nothing is chance and nothing just happens. It’s all in the plan.

He told me that his wife suffers from Alzheimer’s and is now in a home.

He is alone and downsizing their estate, to a degree.

They are one of two couples on the street that were original owners.

I didn’t want the conversation to end, but it couldn’t go on indefinitely. We don’t “know” one another and I had three hungry young ones, so we loaded up the minivan. As I was punching in our home address into my phone, Ray walked back to our car. Apparently we gave him one dollar too much and he wanted to return it.

We waved goodbye and that was that.

Except it wasn’t. At least I didn’t want it to be. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I immediately texted my husband and told him that life moves so quickly. This beautiful, rhythmic routine you begin….can end. I don’t fear much, but I fear that (well, and CraigsList.) It had me very emotional. Life is so beautiful and I don’t want to forget it. I don’t want to think of only having a few more decades left with Sean and the girls. It was a bit stifling, so I decided, to instead, write Ray.

I sat down this afternoon and chose to respond to one of his earlier emails regarding our transaction. I breathed deep and started in. I thanked him for selling us the books and told him how happy it made Kensington. I also wrote that I was so very sorry his wife (and he) suffer. I hoped that it didn’t fall on deaf ears and he understood my intention.

I went and prepped dinner.

About an hour later, “bing!” There was a reply.

Ray had just returned from visiting his wife, Paulette. He told me that, in all his years selling online, he had never received a thank you note. He shared a few things with me, most notedly that his wife no longer recognizes him, except as the man who brings her ice cream, apples, and cranberry juice. He had taken care of her for eight years before no longer being able to on his own…eventually relinquishing what had been their life together.

I exchanged one more email with him, apologizing if my emails and inquiries were bizarre to him – I am a stranger, after all. I wrote a few more things asking if he would like to exchanged words….letters…emails. That I am interested in his life and Paulette’s. If they had children. What their life had been like. What it was like.

I decided to write this post before I checked to see if he has responded.

There’s a part of me that is afraid he will agree this entire thing is odd. That he’ll think I’m some weird kid who looks at him like a kitschy sociology project.

But it’s not. I just want to understand why we met. Why my daughter has been asked to read Nancy Drew for three years and she just now decided to become obsessed and just now wanted to find vintage copies online.

I want to know about Paulette and Ray. Or maybe I don’t and I think this is going to be some magical connection and it isn’t. But I can’t stop being me and I can’t stop being interested in people, their stories, and who they are.

I think I’ll go check if Ray wrote back…..

look what the cat dragged in (welcome back, death & moving)

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Well, well, well……look who finally decided to write again (over three months later.)

My absence is well-founded, I promise. As I shared in the previous post, we traded coasts and in the last three months we packed up our family home, said goodbye to loved ones, and set off for the country.

So much has happened and while I desire to chronicle it in sufficient detail, my sad excuse for a nightstand journal (and Instagram) will have to do. Without sharing every single moment and emotion, I’ll say that it’s been a whirlwind, but a remarkable one. Change on this scale is never without heartache – the old refrain goes that when something new begins, something has to end (or something like that). It’s true, you know. We had many goodbyes to say and many memories to release from our grip. Everyone says that you’ll always have the memories but what they don’t say is that many memories are dependent on location and current circumstance. Sure, they will always live on in your mind and heart, but some things just feel more alive when you are still close to the people and places with which they occurred. Of course you always have them, but they do change. Trust me.

Leaving everything you know is really hard. And really good. There is so much to learn that you can’t possibly predict or hope for. You just let it wash over you. If you resist, the story turns contrived and fake.  I’m glad for the change and know that I will never, ever regret this adventure. All of it has taught me so much about myself and others.

I think everyone should be forced to move away at least once in their lifetime. It’s good for your soul, good for your marriage, good for your children, and good for your faith.

At least, that’s my opinion, with which I know many would disagree.

A month after we arrived on Virginia soil, our beloved dog Molly died. She had been with our family for close to 15 years and she was such a part of us. It’s funny….I never understood the emotions that people displayed, when their pets passed, until Molly left us. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I recalled a memory from my childhood that had been hidden in the recesses of my mind, for decades.

When I was about 8 (approximately the age of my middle child), I was left at the neighbors home for the afternoon. My parents came back to pick me up, both with blotchy, red faces and tear stained collars. I still remember what my mom’s skin look liked – spotted and bizarrely puffy. They had been crying. Both had just stood in the veterinarian’s office where they put down their beloved dog, Boaz. He had been with them since the beginning of their marriage, and the time had come. I remember, as a young child, thinking their response was so overly dramatic and stunning. It was a dog!

Fast forward 30 years and Sean and I (and all the girls) stood on the back of our property, as Sean dug a hole large enough for the body of our sweet, golden labrador. She was wrapped in a cream sheet, with a bandage around her leg, protecting where they had put the lethal injections. She laid there still warm and with a look of serenity. We pet her and Sean lifted her into the hole and followed with gently sprinkling dark red, Virginia soil on her body. Tears bubble just typing this. I felt ill.

My face was red, blotchy and puffy…. just like my mother’s had been, so many years ago.

It’s not just a pet. It’s a memory. It’s a season of marriage, of life. It’s gone. Just like the reality that we are no longer a “young married” couple with our sweet puppy…..we are older. She was older. We have moved on. Nothing is the same.

And it has been ridiculously embarrassing how difficult it has been to look for her (still) each day, or catch myself saving leftovers for her. She’s gone and it’s weird…. just \a reminder that live moves on. You can’t stop it or slow it. It just goes and you’re here for all of it….whether you like it or not.

We realized that not one of our girls know any life without Molly. She’s always been around and we underestimated how difficult it would be for each of them individually. One of my girls is still crying on a near daily basis – always spontaneously. Molly left a huge hole in our lives. In my effort to allow them to feel anything and everything they want to (with Type A personalities we can often not allow much time for emotion – MUST MOVE ON AND GET BACK TO NORMAL! THINGS TO DO!) I introduced them to my two favorite children’s books relating to death and mourning. Both THIS book and THIS book have touched me, are simple, and give kids space to feel very real sadness. They are good for the soul. Neither are able to be read without real tears, even two weeks after her passing. I recommend them to anyone who finds themselves in the same place we are in.

In every difficult thing, there is beautiful light, and things to be learned. Sean loves to remind us all of God’s great timing. Molly could have easily passed in Long Beach, making the transition to Virginia a little harder – never having her be a part of this great journey our family took together. No, he allowed Molly to make the trip all the way out here and enjoy the hills, land and all that our small farm offers. She spent the twilight of her life in a glorious cacophony of barking at birds and running around after small chicks as they chirped uncontrollably. She was so happy here. She had a new resurgence of energy, that undoubtedly was gifted by this unique change in atmosphere.

It was a perfect ending to the long life of a perfect pet.

convalescing // things to hear/read/do

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Age really is just a number.

That is, until you get the H3N2. Nothing makes me more aware of my aging body than catching the “going-around” flu of the year. I thought I had escaped it. Our family (sans one child and one super-spouse) endured the dreaded winter stomach bug, just days before Christmas. We hurdled over January 1st and I thought we’d made it.

I thought I would be spared.

Nope.

I started feeling poorly last week and I just can’t kick it. It doesn’t help that I manage a cold like I manage most issues in my life, with “Mind Over Matter!” as my mantra. Which sounds all well and good until it’s day 6 and you still feel like death warmed up. I’m slowly learning the fine art of caring for myself, not that anyone has forced me not to….I simply choose to do so many other really really valuable (to us) things, and suddenly I’m forced to realize I haven’t slept or napped or exercised or rested or stopped. In five years.

I’m getting better, actually (don’t ask my friends, they might disagree.) I am starting to set down a good book, in favor of sleeping until at least 5:30am. I’m starting to allow myself to think of exercise as imperative to mental rejuvenation, rather than a luxury. I’ve even started to realize that the weekend a huge paper is due, “YOU CAN NOT HOST FOUR FAMILIES FOR APPETIZERS & DINNER, RACHEL!” This past year I’ve said “no” to a multitude of activities that sound/are amazing, in lieu of taking my small family on a quiet, local hike, where I can feel less drained, anxious or propelled to re-evaluate so many things. Peaceful mindfulness is becoming a good friend of mine. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way.

I’m learning to slow down (kinda.)

This is all said with the clear recognition that I fail in my attempts, often. My husband and I are missing our weekly Couples Flamenco dance lesson (yep) because I started feeling better yesterday, and decided to go on a long run, last night. I woke up today feeling awful, and asked my always-gracious (but occasionally sassy-when-it’s-needed) friend Amanda to keep my kids, even though we weren’t going to the lesson, so I could sleep, and my hubby could rest as well. She texted me that I was crazy to go to the gym in the first place, but of course she would watch my kids.

She’s right. Like I said….I’m learning.

While I want to get up and vacuum my house RIGHT NOW, and do the dishes/laundry/homeschool planning….I’m choosing to sit down and do nothing. It’s rare, but man, it’s nice. I rather like it, actually.

Being forced to be still isn’t something I want to be known for, so I’ll take this physical admonition, enjoy it, and remember that just because one is restful and still, we should never assume they are not purposeful, intentional and living the life that God deems faithful. I think at times I’ve made the mistake of assuming because I’m busy, my life has purpose.

This just isn’t so.

Like I said….I’m learning.

In any case, I thought I would use this chance to share with you some really wonderful resources that I have been learning and growing from. We are living in a time of so much information and that can be a really huge blessing. I love looking for pockets of time, throughout my day, where I can read, listen to a podcast, watch a video or skim a magazine.

I received a bunch of Amazon gift cards for Christmas (my people know me) and here are a few books that just came in:

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I’m not finished with them all, but I would recommend each of them, nevertheless.

I’m a huge HUGE student of the life of Winston Churchill, and his part in history. Oh my goodness, I can’t get enough. THIS and THIS are must-haves, if you’re at all interested in his life. I also love this one, which is endearing and places Sir Winston in a more “sweet” light.

I’ve long been a follower of R.C. Sproul, his ministry and his theology. He passed away last month and I was so very sad that the believing world lost such a leader. One of my favorite resources to hand fellow Christians (or those searching) is the web address of Ligonier Ministries. It’s chalk full of videos, sermons and literature on living a life for Christ, and was begun by Dr. Sproul. I also highly recommend their monthly devotional pamphlet, TABLETALK, which is a ministry of Ligonier. It comes to my door each month, and I smile. It challenges me. I’m working through two books by Sproul and I believe they would be beneficial for any believer, no matter what stage of your spiritual journey you’re in. You won’t regret adding THIS and THIS to your home library (or any of his books, truthfully.)

I know that “history” isn’t for everyone, but I think it should be! It illuminates and adds context to modern-day issues, as well as being downright fascinating! You can be knee-deep in history by this evening, with a few resources I’ve recently devoured. Podcasts (once vetted) are a wonderful thing. FREE and full of information, opinion and story-telling! I’m so in love with this type of media because I can learn while engaging in other activities I need to accomplish (read: laundry.) It’s a win-win.

Without further adieu, here’s a very short list of historically-centered podcasts that will make your heart sing:

American History Tellers (new podcast with amazing narration and frames history with fictional stories which allow you to feel like you are living it)

The Christian History Podcast (how churches came to be, essentially)

Tides of History (supurb story-telling and context)

History Unplugged (a huge catalog of episodes, covering events from JFK to French trappers to Leif Erikson to the Siege of Malta)

Letters From War (my new favorite podcast by the WaPo, based on old letters found in a storage unit!)

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As I was writing this post, I realized I have some unspent Amazon dollars and I’m purchasing THIS, THIS (an oldie but particularly relevant,) and THIS (curious the narrative here) with the remains…..have you read any of these? What did you think?

A good recommendation is one of my favorite things, so share what you’re into right now!

Alright, I’m off to lay in bed, drink a luke-warm cup of coffee, and start a Netflix show. Here’s to hoping I kick this cold and learn my lesson….

Slowing down is a very good (and hard) thing to learn.

reading now // next to my armchair

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Christmas is a time of peace, quiet and lingering, for our family. Surprisingly to most people, our December calendar is generally pretty empty. Towards the end of the month, we really hibernate, spend time with friends, and hunker down together (hopefully this year, in the mountains.)

As we spend our days together, we are surrounded by several things – good food, good people and good books. This Friday announces the beginning of December, but I’ve already kicked off our Christmas reading (we already have our tree up, so why not?!)

Below I share the books we currently have our noses in – some holiday related. I hope you’ll find one that sounds just perfect to accompany a warm cup of tea, and a comfortable blanket. I have a turquoise armchair that I like to curl up in (with an electric blanket that my family teases me about, relentlessly) and these are some of the books you’ll find on the table, next to my cuppa.

Enjoy!

Next to my armchair:

The Common Book of Prayer (my copy was found at an estate sale, but they sale them on Amazon and they are red, too)

Come Let Us Adore Him (this is a new way to celebrate advent and the anticipation of the birth of the Christ child. I’m very excited to begin this)

Mere Motherhood (i love this real, raw account of a veteran homeschooling mother)

Pleasing People (a convicting, must-read for us recovering, type-A people pleasers)

Respectable Sins (an even more convicting book)

The LifeGiving Table (a beautiful call to intentional “being” with our family and loved ones)

For Advent:

A Simple Advent Guide by Tsh Oxenreider (new this year, it’s simple and lovely)

We Light the Candles (we’ve used this in years past and love it’s simplicity and focus on Christ)

Slow + Sacred (created by my dear friend, it’s simply beautiful)

For the children:

An Orange For Frankie (just heartwarming – in tears by the end)

Seek and Find Christmas Carol (adorable for the kids to do together – whimsical illustrations)

Little House Christmas (if you love the Ingalls family, you’ll love these short excerpts – we read one a week, by the fire)

Little Woman Christmas (Alcott makes Christmas so darn charming)

Happy Reading!

book list 2017 // something for everyone

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Every.Single.Christmas.Season I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what gifts to give. I really do enjoy buying the perfect gift for my loved ones – something special that will uniquely fit a person’s personality and interests.

I had a flashbulb moment this year (and I’m not sure why on earth I hadn’t thought of this earlier). I was blow-drying my hair (when all my best ideas happen) and I thought, “This is the year of books! Everyone gets a book!” It’s a pretty perfect idea – I adore literature, and there really is a book for every person – opening a world of new ideas, opinions and thoughts. Books grow and teach us. They soften us. They are the perfect, thought-filled gift.

This year, in between shopping for my friends and family at the bookstore, I decided to also compile a book list for you. As with any booklist, mine is obviously not exhaustive. Many of the books dearest to me don’t even appear. It pained me to not include each and every amazing title that I’ve enjoyed or gleaned from, but it’s just not possible!

The books I selected have been read by me this year, or are those that I pick when asked for a suggestion in that specific category. It doesn’t mean they are the only suitable choices, simply my go-to’s and ones that have proved perfectly fitting. There are at least another 30+ I could add for each category (and hundreds more for history lovers, educators and children!) Alas, that wouldn’t help you much, would it? To that end, I endeavored to keep my selections to a minimum.

Again, there are so many others I wanted to add, and if you need additional selections, contact me! I’d love to help you find the exact book you are searching for.

ENJOY and here’s to reading!

Note: There is much crossover amongst the categories. Please take a look at each, for you might find something that suits a completely different person than suspected!

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For the student of theology and religious study:

For the homeschool mother:

For the sports lover:

For the new-ish Elementary school reader:

For the the food & feast lover/entertainer in your life:

For the political junkie and social issues aficionado:

For the science-fiction/fantasy lover:

For the hurting or grieving:

For the dad who doesn’t have enough time to read:

For your husband:

For the exhausted mom:

For the classically-inclined young lady:

For the middle schooler who isn’t completely won over by current YA fiction:

For the young one in the family (picture books and short read-alouds):

For the skeptic:

For the eagerly-growing Christian:

For the history buff:

For the poetry/short story/essay lover:

For the older and wiser women in your life:

For your grandparent:

For that adorable pre-schooler in your family:

For the fiction-reader:

For your sister:

For the family who loves to read aloud together:

For the education-lover:

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I hope this list proves beneficial. I had a wonderful time compiling it for you.

Merry Christmas!