My Favorite Family Read Alouds {For Cold Winter Days!}

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We love to get lost in books around here. I’m always on the hunt for titles to read to my whole crew…and I mean my whole crew. With four kids spanning the ages of thirteen down to six, I have to keep hunting for books we can all chew on and sit still for. We love to cuddle up on couches, on the floor or under the covers with big cups of tea and a great story. It is really the sweetest moments we make together. As the cold weather gets colder, we need this time more and more.

If you’re looking for books to warm the hearts in your home too, here is my list of favorite Read- Alouds that children (and adults) of every age will find captivating!

1.  A Wrinkle in Time- I used to imagine myself into this family as a child. Meg and her brother Charles Wallace must search for their father through space and time in order to save him and the Universe from a deep blackness. This book awakens something new in my soul every single time I read it.

2.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle- This sweet lady has a  very unorthodox (ahem) remedy for every childhood ill you may be facing in your home. If whining, not sharing, laziness or bickering ever pop up in your house, you may have found a new favorite too! It has been the best way I have found to address bad manners in our home and we never read it without a complete giggle fit.

3.  Little House on the Prairie- I become captivated by the daily life and immersion into a childhood on the prairie every time I read this book- and the recipes are amazing! This series always makes my children count their blessings, want to bake and imagine just a bit more.

4.  The Chronicles of Narnia- I  cry every time we read this series. It is an allegory to our faith and world view, but it is also literature that awakens the best of our character, our longing for valor and courage to be real in our lives and quite literally opened up a whole new, quite cherished, world to our family.

5.  The Railway Children- This was one of the most pleasant books I have ever shared with my children. Three siblings loose their father to a false-imprisionment and head to the English countryside to live a simpler life, finding a sheer love for the railway and all those connected to it in their vicinity… and end up solving a mystery too!

6.  The Mysterious Benedict Society- Four very gifted and out of the box children are called upon to rescue their town and become under-cover agents for the Mysterious Mr. Benedict. My children are captivated by the adventure in this story and I love the loyalty and comraderie of the characters.

7.  The Saturdays- Four siblings in turn of the 20th century New York City determine to pool their allowance and each take a Saturday to do what they have always dreamed of. Each chapter highlights a respective adventure that is beautifully woven into the whole of the story of this family. It is lovely!

8.  The Burgess Animal Book- Peter Rabbit discovers his neighbors and gives you a naturalist’s education as you read and truly get to know the characters of the forest well. My children ask for this one again and again and even with higher language use, my little ones are in love and learn so much!

9.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins- This was my favorite as a child and I was so thrilled to read it to my own children. They loved the story of Mr. Popper, the unkempt house painter, his special Antartic penguins, and all their shenanigans, just as much as I did.

10.  The  Trumpet of the Swan- This is the story of a boy and a swan and the latter’s migration and struggle to be reunited with his family, all the while he overcomes an inability to “talk” learning to play the trumpet. This book made us laugh and learn and soak in the seasons all at once.

11.  Understood Betsy- Betsy is a frail girl who is sent to live with relatives on a farm in the country. They gently spur her to independence with love, extraordinary faith in who she truly is, and by requiring more of her than she thinks is possible. She soon begins to find her own inner strength and fortitude and leads young readers to do the same.

Ok, now it’s your turn! What is one {or more!} of your favorite read alouds? My library basket is waiting!

Blessings,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

How to Really Begin Your Life As A Mom

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This morning I found myself curled up in the candlelight with my children, reading one of my favorite devotionals, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. In the throws of Fall foliage outside, we found ourselves drawn to a page full of red leaves and began reading about how in the Autumn, when chlorophyll depletes and the cold chill wisps through the air, leaves reveal their true colors. Each leaf slowly and beautifully shows us what they are really made of- and it only comes as they lose their life.

In Autumn, we see the dying, and in that, the beauty that has been hidden all along is revealed to us is golden and ruby hues of glory.

We are like leaves, mamas. Our beauty shines brightest when we reach the end of ourselves.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I am weak. I can feel it in my bones at the end of the day, I can sense it in my nod over dinner time conversation- a nod is so much easier to produce than a full sentence at certain times of the night.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

I long for the kingdom of heaven to be tangible in my home, in my heart. . . in my mothering. On my own, I lack in my offering of grace, of kindness, of patience and self control and diligence. My offerings are meager. I reach the end of what I have to give every day and in that place, I meet my greatest of hope.

When we reach our own end, we are greeting our true beginning.

My real life as a mom begins at the end of myself. When I depend, rely and face my desperate need for Christ.  My mothering really begins when it is hidden in Him. When I am hidden in Him.

When you reach the end of yourself, when you go weak in the knees with exhaustion, when you feel buried under the rhythm of the dishes, the laundry, the carpool, the frailty of your own heart? Mama, you are in the safest place of all. You are dwelling in the place of surrender. The brilliant hues in you? They are ready to shine beautiful.

Christ in you, Your life hidden in Him- this is the real beginning ready to bring glory into your everyday.

What areas are you surrendering into his hands today, friends?

Praying for you as you seek Him,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

What’s For Dinner? My Quest to Bring Joy Back to the Table

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Not long ago my children and I met some new friends at the park. As moms getting to know one another typically do, we shared about where we grew up, how we handled the challenges of parenting, what was making us laugh, and little quirks about our kids. As we sat on the bench chatting, my new friend leaned in and with a look of severity said, “I’m sure you can relate to the one thing that I’m really struggling with: my children need to eat. . . . like multiple times every day.” Be still my heart. We had only known each other for such a short time, how was she able to see into my soul?

All jesting aside, there are times when my desire to nourish my family with healthy, hearty and beautiful meals can be really overwhelming. In seasons of welcoming a new baby or caring for an aging relative, moving or just getting up to speed with a change in the school schedule, meal planning  can feel nearly impossible. As my children have grown older, I have come to realize that there really is no slowing down, there will always be a transition that I must weather well, a crises to avert, a difficulty to overcome- or even just busy seasons with activities to navigate.

There will always be challenges, and yet my desire to light candles, to love on and to connect with the members of my family is unchanging. The most important thing we can bring to the table is a heart for fellowship with one another!

Sitting at the table is one of my favorite times of our day as a family, but often the planning required to get there zaps my joy. I have tried exactly one million and one ways to meal plan and while there have been seasons I have accomplished this task quite well, it mostly just drains me and I am left  with questions about how to make meals fit all the needs of our family. When should we have leftovers? Should I have made a double batch of that? Are we eating too many calories? Is there an easier way to do this? 

This summer, after an extended period of kitchen blahs, I was determined to bring JOY back to my dinner table. I knew I needed a plan. Without a meal plan, our time at the table falls apart and we end up eating pancakes or scrambled eggs. True story. So, exhausted from travel, lacking inspiration and facing an empty fridge, I decided to start by printing off  the Better Mom Whole Food Meal Plan. After a few months of seeing it make a big difference in our home, I wanted to share how it has impacted my family with you, because I know I am not the only woman out there who has no idea how to answer when the kids ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

If you feel unorganized like I did and don’t know where to begin, if you long to be able to focus on relationships instead of logistics, can I encourage you to give this meal plan a try? There is a sweet offering of grace in this meal ministry and I want to shout it from the rooftops because it has anchored our family to having sweet time together at a time when it seemed like being overwhelmed might just win.

Kelly from The Nourishing Home has put together an absolutely beautiful and entirely FREE meal plan for The Better Mom Readers. Really, absolutely, for always and forever FREE!  She has links to all the recipes used for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a pdf shopping list for the week and most of all- a heart for moms. This ministry has freed me to love on my family and not get lost in the logistics of the kitchen. It is practical and so very valuable!

-Every recipe is made with whole food, with gluten free and paleo options.

-Each menu plan utilizes leftovers, and indicates time saving measures for meal preparation (like grilling up extra chicken at dinner time to use in tomorrow’s salad).

-Careful thought about balancing out your plate with flavor, color and nutrition abounds in these meal plans!

-Every other Saturday the menus, with full recipe links are posted at The Better Mom. These are absolutely complete and absolutely FREE!

-Subscribers to The Nourishing Home (Also a free service!) additionally receive shopping lists and other recipe extras.

The next Bi-weekly meal plan will be available at The Better Mom tomorrow! I hope it is a practical encouragement to you and that your coming week is filled with yummy food and precious time with your family!

Blessings,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

How Moms Can Learn to Read

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“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink of it deeply, or taste it not, for shallow thoughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking deeply sobers us again.” ~ Alexander Pope

As our children head back to school, or our formal homeschooling studies begin again, I think the minds of mothers naturally turn toward learning. Setting new rhythms, making goals, developing great study habits- education is on our brains this time of year! Around our table lately, we’ve been talking a lot about what our children will study this year, but more importantly, we’ve been discussing how we want them to learn. What will the process look like? How will we teach them to think?

Motherhood has sparked my appetite to grow and learn along side my children- I want to be excellent so I can share with them and spur them further! I’ve also become more and more aware of all that is online and on bookshelves competing for my heart and time. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking in an endless Times Square, lights flashing, constant buzz, everyone crying out to be heard…marketing their ideas and wares in the way that will grab my attention the fastest and longest, enticing me to stay just one more minute to take the cream.

Among all the noise, all the headlines, all the messages coming at you today, how will you choose? How will you truly engage and really read, and know what is true? And how will you teach your children to do the same?

As I teach my children how to read, not for phonetics and fluency, but for meaning, I’m finding clarity in how I want to approach learning to read as a grown-up. I want my babes to drink deeply from the words they encounter, to measure them against the truth they know and hold.  I want their own impressions to be forged deep, to be marked with ideas that are unique to them and to their experiences so that they add to the conversation that has already begun.

Because the cream, really, is that sweet spot of connection, isn’t it? Its where relationship enters the scene.

You know the place. It’s where our knowing and understanding collides fully with the ideas expressed by another, where the truth of God’s Word is revealed and soon we are a little troupe banded by the experience of words striking deep within and becoming a part of us. Community grows like this,  even here at The Better Mom, with words exchanged and shared together.

With our children this means we talk. A lot. 

Its hard to share what you do not know, and  moms, we have to be ready for those conversations, so our job of continuing to learn and grow becomes even more important.

So how do you learn to read as a grown-up? How do you develop the art of knowing? 

First, mamas. . . . pray. God wants to see your capacity for learning grow and delights in the connections you make between different topics and especially to his Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your studies, your reading, even your math fact practice (shout out to my fellow elementary school moms!) Our God wants to be the one to lead you as you think deeply about ideas, history, blog posts and all the wonderful things He has made.

The Four Questions (adapted from the work of Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren) is another great way to approach what you read, especially as a way to breakdown material that you might find difficult at first. Its a classical model that gets at the root of how we think and interact with what we are studying and is really easy to implement. Here’s how it works:

1. Read. Keep Reading. Read some more. Immerse yourself in the work of great minds, of those who have gone ahead of you, of those you admire, esteem and even disagree with. Just don’t stop. Carve out time to apprentice yourself to great writers and great ideas. Read actively and with intention.

2. Ask What is this About? What is the main theme or idea, what is the message? What details are important and how are they being shared?

3. Determine if it is true. Measure what is being said with the Scriptures, with what you know and believe to be true about humanity, yourself, and the world that is being shared. Dig in to the details and don’t be afraid to disagree. {Conversely, don’t be afraid to have your opinions and thinking challenged and changed}

4. Decide if what you have read is significant. Why is it important to you? Why is it important to others? If you find it meaningful, Share it. Add to the conversation. Respond.

Friends, don’t won’t waste your reading. Engage it. And don’t forget to add to the conversation! Your insight and comments are precious and have the ability to build up the body of Christ and your children’s minds. 

I can’t wait to hear what you share,

Blessings,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com

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