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

three boy read book indoors

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

My Second Pregnancy And Postpartum Anxiety

second-pregnancy-postpartumI tried to come up with a clever title for this article, but I just could not seem to fit the words together in a rhythmic way. I want to share with you how I am feeling about enduring my second pregnancy and how I am feeling about postpartum anxiety.

My first child will be turning two in November. Being a mother is incredible and every bit rewarding. I love watching my son master new skills and gain a wider vocabulary. The joy I have received from mothering is indescribable. However, despite the joy that has swirled around in my heart, I have also battled a force I was not prepared for: postpartum anxiety. For nearly 9 months following the birth of my son I experienced the worse case of anxiety I have ever dealt with. It was dark, it was dreary, it was horrible.

I had prepared myself for depression and what some call the “baby blues,” but I had no idea that some women can experience postpartum anxiety. I was paranoid about everything, I feared everything, and I lost more sleep than the normal new parent, because I thought death was impending. This problem negatively affected my marriage relationship because I didn’t fully comprehend all that was going on with my body. That uncertainty made it very difficult for me to think about my husband’s needs, and it also made difficult my ability to keep my attitude in check. We fought often.

After a few doctor visits I finally found out that my thyroid played a huge role in the anxiety I was experiencing. {I talk about that in an article titled: Living With Thyroid Problems.} I praise God that my body finally balanced itself out, with only a few lingering effects that still rise up from time to time.

What I endured through those first 9 months of postpartum was enough to keep me far from ever thinking about having another child. But then, as time went on, a desire in my heart for another child grew wildly. I tried to push it away, in fear of experiencing another rough recovery, but God kept bringing it back with a gentle reminder that He wants me to trust Him with every aspect of my life.

Well, in August I found out that my husband and I are expecting our second child. We both are over the moon for the opportunity to extend our family. Although I have joyfully embraced this second pregnancy, the thought of postpartum anxiety has definitely crossed my mind more than a few times. And each time I have to remind myself that God is in control and that I need to trust in Him. My fears are based on “what if’s,” circumstances that might happen but are not guaranteed. What I need to have is faith, confidence that no matter what happens God is going to help me through it.

I also wrangled up a friend who is going to walk through my pregnancy and postpartum recovery with me. Someone who I can talk to about all that I experience so that I do not get sucked back into the darkness that is anxiety. I am also very blessed to have a husband who is willing to be patient and share encouraging words with me, also reminding me to trust in God every step of the way.

I am curious to know if you ever experienced postpartum anxiety or depression and how you felt going into a second or more pregnancy? Let us all learn from each other’s experiences, please share in the comments!  


– Jennifer Smith   Unveiledwife.com

The Mommy Guilt Cure

hugging mother and daughter

It was one of those really bad parenting weeks for me.

You know the ones I’m talking about. When our patience runs thin, our tone of voice loses it’s softness, and we react with emotion rather than with grace and intention, and it’s literally all we can do to just get through the day and make it to bedtime.

And yet, just when we finally get that moment of peace, silence and solitude, it’s loudly interrupted by the overwhelming emotions of mommy guilt and shame. And every memory of every mistake we’ve made throughout the day haunts our hearts and minds, and we’re certain we’ve ruined our children forever.

{I keep using the term “we”…I think because it makes me feel better to assume I’m not alone in weeks like this….ha!}

In the midst of this particularly tough parenting week, I found myself writing out my heart in the pages of my journal, which often times ends up being a lengthy heartfelt prayer to the Lord. And there I was, confessing my sins and selfishness before Him, asking for mercy and compassion, and hoping with all hope that despite my shameful behavior that week, He would still see my honest hearts desire was to be something completely different. And that, in his grace and mercy, perhaps he could keep my children from hating me and being screwed up all due to my numerous parental mistakes over the years. And…amen.

Just a couple nights later, as we were going over our foster care questionnaires with the kids, Taylor, my 9 year old son, out of the blue asked if we could maybe foster or adopt someone with a different color skin.

“Because, ya know, I just want them to understand that it doesn’t really matter what color we are on the outside, it’s really just about our hearts and how we are on the inside.”

Then he added… “But let’s just see if we can only get someone who has been teased a lot about it, so we can show them that not everybody is like that, ya know?”

And when I asked him if he wanted a boy or a girl, he responded, “It doesn’t really matter, it’s really just whatever God wants for us.” Then when I asked him what foster care would mean to our family, he very matter of factly stated, “It means we will have to work really hard to teach them about the Lord.”

As you can imagine, I was just about near a puddle of tears right there on the floor beside him.

You see, this child saying these wise things, tends to be what many would consider my Strong Willed one, or better put, the Child With Strong Leadership Skills. He’s the one that I’m pretty sure grows my gray hairs and deepens my premature fine lines and wrinkles. And yet, just when I think I have no idea what I’m doing or wonder how I can possibly mold and shape the children God has given me, this child busts out with a whole bunch of stuff Jesus would say and do.

And I am so completely humbled.

My goodness, doesn’t it seem as though the ones we love the most humble us the most?

I mean, how on earth with all the parental messing up I have done, could my children have ended up with hearts like that?

And it was in this treasured moment, that I knew the Lord was showing me just how much He truly does work in spite of us. And those moments where we mess up and we don’t seem to be measuring up to the parental standards we may have set for ourselves, God steps in and with all his love and mercy and grace, He fills in the cracks. He takes the brokenness and makes it whole again. And His ways, His works, His miracles are so much more powerful and life changing than our attempts at perfect parenting will ever be.

And so, we have to keep that truth close to our hearts always, especially because I get just how hard we can be on ourselves when it comes to the area of raising these sweet (most of the time) little souls.

And that truth is: Our God is sovereign, and his grace and mercy never fail.

“We try, We fail.
We trust, He succeeds.”
-Corrie Ten Boom

Blessings,

 Summer Saldana
SummerSaldana.com

Not Something you do, but Someone you Raise

someone you raise

Remembering back to my early years of being a mom, it’s still incredibly vivid just how lonely and overwhelming my days (and nights… can I get an amen?) tended to be. I had an overabundance of hormones and emotions, and not nearly enough sleep to balance them all…unfortunately for both myself…and my husband.

And so often in the midst of those dark monotonous days, I found myself wondering if just maybe God had made a major mistake in allowing me to be a mother after all. I had all these expectations and hopes imagining what motherhood and marriage would look like, and what I was experiencing most certainly didn’t seem to match up to any of them. And so, it was in that place of comparison, loneliness, self-pity and sleep deprivation that I found myself desperately needing to find a purpose and a connection beyond my husband and children.

And so began the birth of my blogging and YouTube career.

Now, I don’t for a moment regret the decision to start my blog or YouTube channel, for it was in choosing to share the “Me Too” moments of my life (and most especially the ones shared back with me) that helped in healing from the postpartum angst, anxiety, and struggles I found myself struggling to get out of.

Yet, as it would happen, it was in the midst of seeking to find my purpose on those pages and platforms that God was truly able to open my eyes and heart to the platform I was already being gifted to grow.

The one he’d blessed me with at home.

It wasn’t a realization that came easy though, and in those years (and still to the second I write this post and beyond) I have had to face some tough truths about my selfishness and desires. But having that giant mirror held up to my heart truly ended up being the best thing that could ever have happened to me. Because as I slowly began to look up from the mirror and take notice of what I had always deemed so important, I realized none of it any longer held the same appeal.

And while the seed had long been planted, it’s really only been in these last few years, and especially in these last two of our homeschooling journey, that I have come to truly appreciate that before all else, it is the family God has blessed me with, that is my greatest purpose of all.

I assure you this perspective definitely becomes clearer once you and your babies are consistently sleeping through the night! I also assure you there are days even with a lot of sleep and older children, that this perspective is a bit harder to call to mind and believe. Thankfully God’s truth doesn’t change based on our emotions or circumstances!

And while I still long to have purpose and connection outside the home, it’s no longer to fill an empty void. Because now I realize that anything I’m blessed with beyond my family, is simply just an overflow of abundance. A blessing to be sure, but never one that comes before the two little souls that stand before me each and every day.

I  know the years of being a mother can at times be overwhelming, lonely, thankless and tiring. And I know that in those years, we long to be used for a purpose, to live with intention, and to make a difference somewhere…somehow…

But the truth, the reassuring comforting truth is…

God has given us a purpose.

He has asked us to live with intention.

And in staying faithful to what he’s called us to, we will absolutely be making a difference in little lives each and every second of the day.

For there is truly no greater platform that you will ever build or be responsible for, than the one he has blessed you with right there in your home.

Blessings,

Summer Saldana
www.summersaldana.com

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