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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fun With Grandpa

I took a couple of days off from blogging this weekend to hang out with these two.

My dad popped in for a visit, and we're always happy to see Grandpa!

It is blazing hot here, so we mostly took it easy at home. We watched The Reivers, Winnie-the-Pooh, several old Western TV shows, and even a bit of the opening ceremony for the Olympics. {How's that for variety?}

I didn't even link up with Kelly's Korner since we don't really do anything creative with our pictures--mostly incorporate them into our bookshelves {surprise, surprise}. I'd actually like to do more of that, using the shelves for more decorative purposes, but they're pretty full with actual books!

So that was our weekend. How was yours?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Even More True Confessions

As promised, Confessions: Part Two.

-Our iron has been broken for two weeks, and I've done nothing to address this problem other than Google irons. I'm thisclose to being OK with wearing wrinkled clothes.

-I don't care two hoots {or even one hoot} about the Olympics. Never have, never will. This always makes me feel guilty.

-While I shouldn't feel guilty about not caring about the Olympics, I probably should feel guilty about making these homemade Mounds bars. Without the chocolate. And eating them out of the bowl. And maybe finishing Jason's, too.

Y'all. They taste just like the real thing. And I loved that they used three seldom-used, random ingredients I had in my pantry: Karo syrup, coconut, and powdered sugar. {Final confession: I have no idea how long those items have been in my pantry, nor for what they were originally used.}

Happy weekend. :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Domestic Diva

Confession time.

Sometimes I think about what life would be like if I were a stay-at-home domestic diva.

In my head, with all my "extra" time, I would be quite the Wonder WomanMama.

I'd save the earth by using cloth diapers and growing our own food, and I'd save our budget by couponing and learning to sew. I'd astound everyone with my feats of scrapbooking and with my consistent practice of running every morning and doing yoga every night. I'd master all kinds of creative house projects as well as a new language every now and then. And, of course, I'd write many, many well-respected books...about something.

But I suspect that real life would be FAR from that picture in my head!

So, help me out here, do any of you work-outside-the-home moms have similar pictures of what you would do if you were staying home?

And moms at home--do you have crazy pictures like this of how perfect your life would be if you were "hiring out"?

Stay tuned for even more confessions tomorrow. ;)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Love My Aerosoles!

{aerosoles, circa 2002}

For some reason, about 10 years ago, I needed a pair of navy heels.

I had looked all over with no luck and, on a whim, stopped into the "old-lady Aerosoles store" at the Galleria {SO close to where I lived at the time--let me tell you, I spent way too much time there!}.

And I found these beauties.

Yes, they're a bit scuffed around the toes and heels now, but they're super comfortable {a must these days with my plantar fasciitis}. The heel is just the right height for work wear, and I've even had them resoled and repaired rather than look for another pair.

So, Aerosoles, check 'em out. Not just for old ladies. ;)

{And I was not compensated for this post, but I would happily accept any shoes Aerosoles would like to send me.}

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

No Turning Back

{or, More Lessons I Learned From My Dog}

{yes, that was spit-up on the couch...sometimes I don't even know who I am}

This past Sunday, I was walking Fred and feeling homesick for Tuscaloosa. Even though I love my church and home here in Fort Worth, all I wanted was to be back in college--at University Church with plans to head to Crimson Cafe for lunch {topping it all off with a nice, long conversation with my favorite roommate}.

Just as I was letting myself get caught up in full-blown nostalgia, Freddy spotted a friend WAY down the street. Normally, if a puppy is that far away, he whines but comes along without making a big deal about it. I guess this one was special, though, because he would not give up the idea of going to see that puppy.

We were headed in the complete opposite direction, but he continued to insist on pulling back towards that puppy the entire way home! He pretty much missed the last half of his walk!

See where I'm going here?

Not that there's anything wrong with being nostalgic or homesick, of course, but this has always been a tough area for me. College was both a really wonderful and really difficult time in my life, so I find myself looking back a lot and wishing I'd done so many things differently.

But God used that morning walk to remind me that, when I let myself get too caught up in thinking that way, I'm missing out on all the good things He has for me now and in the future. So, while college will always hold a very, very special place in my memory, I'm going to try to keep it in its proper Paul suggested. {And I love that I can still have nice, long conversations with my roomie, who's also transplanted here in Texas!}

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Seven by Jen Hatmaker

More than fearing poverty or simplicity, we should fear prosperity.

God has been using a really cool community of writers and thinkers to open my mind, help me live more intentionally, think more critically, and generally do a better job of understanding what it means to follow Christ.

I’ve been reading beautiful posts by Sarah Bessey, thought-provoking ideas from Rachel Held Evans, commentaries by N.T. Wright and Ben Witherington, and, most recently, Seven by Jen Hatmaker.

For seven months, Hatmaker focuses on a different area of life {food, clothes, waste, media, spending, possessions, and stress} where she tries to trim away the excess in order to make space for God.

A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves.

If a fast doesn't include any sacrifices, then it's not a fast. The discomfort is where the magic happens...Jesus gets a fresh platform in the empty space where indulgence resided.

Many of these are areas that I’ve had my sights on for awhile, some by financial necessity, others from a growing discomfort that the status quo is not how God wants me to live. 

This season of life is passing me by, accelerated by a lack of boundaries. Most days I just try to keep the wheels on, not living in the moment at all; I'm just getting it done while thinking about what's left.

Of course, it’s always easier to look to God for direction in some spheres of life than others.

My communion with God suffers not for lack of desire but time. And let's be honest: I say I don't have time, yet I found 35 minutes for Facebook and an hour for my shows. I found 15 minutes for the radio and 24 minutes for a missed 30 Rock episode. So when I say I don't have time, I'm a gigantic liar. I have time. I just spend it elsewhere. {ouch-tdn}

Her writing is funny, straightforward, and convicting. She also gives the best rationale I’ve heard for why Christians should be the greatest champions of being good stewards of God’s creation.

I also appreciated that she was not preaching a specific solution or selling a blueprint of how to get closer to God—merely sharing the experience of what she and her family did and what they learned.

Whatever God has done or is doing in our family is certainly not a template...We live in a certain city with a certain task, we have specific gifts, and we're horribly deficient in others...You have an entirely different set of factors.

However, she offers plenty for the average American Christian to consider. Jason and I had some good talks after I finished reading, and we’re going to continue to search for ways to structure our life to please God.

This nagging tension that things aren't right, that life is more than blessing extremely blessed people...that's all true. A torrent of believers are demanding more from the indulged American life, daring to imagine that discipleship is adventurous and risky and sacrificial and powerful.

If you’ve had that nagging tension, too, I highly recommend Seven.

Other favorite quotes…

If the modern church held to its biblical definition, we would become the answer to all that ails society. We wouldn't have to baby-talk and cajole and coax people into our sanctuaries through witty mailers and strategic ads; they'd be running to us. The local church would be the heartbeat of the city, undeniable by our staunchest critics.

When the exhaustive exegesis of God's Word doesn't create people transformed into the image of Jesus, we have missed the forest for the trees.

If we all raised others up instead of raising ourselves a little higher, there would be few needs left on earth.

We spend, spend; amass, amass; indulge, indulge item by item, growing increasingly deaf to Jesus who described a simple life marked by generosity and underconsumption.
I've discovered reduced consumption doesn't equal reduced community or reduced contentment. There is something liberating about unplugging the machine to discover the heartbeat of life still thumping. Maybe we don't need all those wires after all. Maybe we're healthier unhooked from the life-support of consumerism than we imagined.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Come On In

Our foyer is small, but it works for welcoming guests into the house.

Jason's aunt gave us the crosses when we got married, and the door {which still needs another lock} is a little different but growing on me. I try to do seasonal wreaths or hangings on the door.

Another bookshelf. Surprise, surprise. :)

We keep some older books, music and language books, and our beloved Lemony Snicket collection on these shelves.

The print above is from a high school trip to France, and the platter is another Arthur Court piece we got for the wedding.

Here's Freddy on Halloween peeking out the door.

{Linking up with Kelly's Korner today.}

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Little Look Back...

Pardon me for a moment while I reminisce about how quickly she went from this...

to this...

Once again...

OK, just one more set. {Who doesn't love looking at tiny baby feet?}

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Six Months!

Oh my. If Catherine's next six months go by as fast as the first six, we're going to have a one-year-old on our hands in no time.

What a joy this little one is! She has us completely over the moon, and we're so grateful she's in our life.

Here's what she's up to these days...

-Weighing in around 14 pounds (20th percentile) and 26.5 inches (80th percentile).

-Still eating and {mostly} sleeping well. Sweet potatoes are a favorite, but I have to admit that I sometimes have an instinctive negative reaction to seeing the very orange sweet potatoes next to her very blue eyes. {As Bama fans, those colors are never together in our house.}

-Trying to crawl. She can get up on her arms and on her knees--just usually not at the same time. But she does a fine job scooting around. {Working on her one-armed push-up here.}

-Turning from her belly to her back.

-Asking for a blanket when she sleeps. {Don't worry--we sneak in after she's asleep and steal it away.} Not sure where she got the idea, but it's very sweet to see her {very} happily snuggle her blankets.

-Playing "Where's Catherine? There she is!" We've been doing this for awhile, but she has started instigating the game with us. She'll pull her blanket over her face, we'll say, "Where's Catherine?" Then she pulls it down with a HUGE smile, and we say, "There she is!" This is more fun than you can imagine.

-Reaching out for everything when we're walking around with her. I had no idea my light switches were so dirty.

-She's also going after Jason's glasses, the food on our plates, and our drinking glasses. {She also LOVES to put her mouth on our glass as if she's drinking, but I learned the hard way that she's spitting out more than she's taking in.}

-She's starting to mimic us a little bit, but she hasn't been "talking" as much because we've been keeping the pacifier in more. It seems to help some with the spitting up, and we'll take all the help we can get on that.

-Trying on shoes. Which she chewed and then promptly took off.

I feel like she's really developed a lot in the last month, becoming much more interactive and interested in life around our house. Definitely a growing-up girl!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Feeling Like a Million Dollars...

...without spending a dime.

{forgive the tp in the background as well as the ironing board that is apparently a piece of furniture in our house now}

Anyway, this is, hands down, my favorite skirt. Ann Taylor, wool, lined. Fits like a dream. I feel like I could take over the world every time I put it on. And it was free {along with the sweater set}.

I picked them up at a seminary clothing exchange a few years ago. In fact, I haven't had a clothing budget since we came to seminary and can count on one hand the new outfits I've bought since then {counting maternity clothes, but excluding shoes that wear out like crazy}.

Through things like the clothing exchange, gifts, and loans from friends, God has been so gracious to provide for our clothing needs. {And for Catherine's--we haven't had to buy that child a single item of clothing, and she'll be six months old tomorrow.}

Sometimes it's been tough, but mostly it's been really refreshing.

I read Seven by Jen Hatmaker this week {review is percolating}, and in one of her months, she wore just seven items of clothing. Not ready to go down that path just yet, but I really liked one thing she said...

Clothes used to define me when my genuine identity was fuzzy. When I didn't know who I was or what I was here for, I dressed like someone who did. I dolled up the container, but I'm learning that I'm really just a jar of clay. Because that was all I was ever supposed to be.

For a long time, I over-emphasized the importance of clothes in my life {and budget}. I've become a big believer in buying second hand {cheaper, yes, but also more environmentally-friendly}. I want the pieces I purchase in the future to be few, classic rather than trendy, well-made, and reflective of me--not just on sale at Target or to impress anyone else.

Obligatory disclaimer: of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with enjoying and experimenting with clothes. I follow a handful of fashion blogs and will probably forever drool over Kate Spade goods.

But there's a line that I crossed at some point where money that should have gone to other things was going to clothes. And, through straightened circumstances, God called me on it. I'm so grateful He did, and I'm so grateful that our heavenly Father knows what I need.

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? So do not worry, saying...'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Posting and Commenting

Guilty of blogging about blogging here, but I've been noticing a difference in how bloggers respond to comments. Some people reply on the post itself, while others email their responses. I can see the benefits of both. I've tended toward replying on the post, but that means that people have to check back to see my response.

Sometimes, on the comment notification, there's a response email address that makes it easy to respond via email, but sometimes it's a no-reply address. Anyone know what the difference is on this? Does it have to do with whether someone is following your blog? {Which you can do down at the bottom of the page here.}

So, my friends, do you have a preference of how you'd like me to respond to your comments? I aim to please, so just let me know. Either way, I'll do my best to respond within a day.

I've also been aiming at blogging every day {or thereabouts}. It's a good exercise in discipline, the only kind of journal I'm keeping these days, and it's been fun. I'm sure there will be times where I'll back off due to the busy-ness of life, but, for now, I'm here most every day.

Thanks for reading along. :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Non-Loner Librarian

My Twitter account {which started out as focused on library-related stuff} boasts that I've been breaking down librarian stereotypes since 2005 {when I got my MLS}. The idea kind of started as a joke when I told a friend I was going to library school, and she said, "You wear fishnets. Can you be a librarian?"

Even though I no longer wear fishnets, I am all about doing away with those crazy librarian stereotypes like putting your hair in a bun, wearing orthopedic shoes, and shushing!

And I think most of my professional colleagues feel the same way. {A few examples: Maggie, Librarian in Black, and Hack Library School}.

Yes, we {often} love to read, but we no longer regard ourselves as "keepers of the book." We're information professionals--teaching the best practices of research, advocating for communities, helping patrons navigate new technology, and, yes, recommending good reads.

What we are not is loners. At least not on the job.

So you can imagine my chagrin when I saw this article. Even if we're to overlook the myth that introverts "simply don't have what it takes to be a people person" and lack "the ability to be sociable" {grr}, Daniel Bukszpan's take on librarians is not only outdated, it's also just plain wrong. {Makes me wonder how accurate his descriptions are of zoologists, biochemists, and software developers as well.}

"If you’re in love with books, and you like shushing people more than you like meeting them, then a job as a librarian may be for you. A librarian’s duties include cataloguing, classifying and maintaining such materials as books and periodicals."

Let's start with the duties. Yes, cataloguing, classifying, and maintaining books and periodicals are the duties of some librarians. Generally, cataloging librarians. They represent a small percentage of all librarians {one in seven if we're basing it on the library where I work}.

And even they don't work alone! Our cataloging librarian, for instance, manages a team of workers. That she must work with. On a daily basis.

But guess what? The cataloging department doesn't even get to work alone. They have to interact with other departments, and those departments are made up guessed it...people.

So much for those loner duties.

The part that really really bugged me, though, is the idea that librarianship is a good fit if "you like shushing people more than you like meeting them."


Librarians must be OK with the idea that the days of quiet libraries are virtually over. Sure, we make quiet spaces for people who want to study or read, but most libraries now resemble coffee shops more than antique stores. That means no shushing!

And if you don't like meeting people, you're in the wrong business, despite what the article claims.

Patrons, my student workers, and other librarians file in and out of my office, get in touch with me via phone or email, and even send me messages on Twitter and Facebook. All day every day. But {this is coming from a proud introvert, mind you} being able to help them is the best thing I do.

Being a librarian can be a calling. I consider it my ministry. It's often challenging, stimulating, and fun. But it's not for loners.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Reclaiming Our Nights

One of our "house rules" is to forego activities on weeknights. Our limited family time is just too precious to sacrifice for anything but the absolute necessities. 
But even with this restriction, we don't have a lot of time. By the time I get home from work (5:30 on a good day), we eat, feed and bathe Catherine, walk Fred, and get C to bed, it's 8:00. That leaves about one hour of "free" time before I hit the sack.
The nights have been feeling a bit chaotic as of late, and I am not a fan of feeling chaotic. As I was working on this post, I noticed that Ashley also wrote a nice one about the "busy trap," so I'm guessing that this is a common problem!
Here are a few things we're doing to reclaim our nights.
-Dinner at the table
Since we got married, our "normal" has been to eat in the living room in front of the television {shameful, yes}. Even though we kept saying that when C got older we didn't want that to be her normal, we'd not really made any effort to stop since she was born. That has changed. It was getting really tough to eat my supper, feed her, and watch television. {What, kid, you want me to pay attention to you? Star Trek's on!} ;) So we've started eating dinner in the library. And I love it. It feels slower-paced, more intentional, and {dare I say it} grown-up.
-Limiting television
Because I want to be fully present with Catherine when I'm at home, we'd already started limiting our watching to when she was in bed. But it's been bothering me that my only free time was spent collapsed in the recliner watching reruns of Dallas {shameful, again}. So our new rule {still early in the implementing process} is that, if I'm going to watch television, I have to be multi-tasking: brushing Fred, doing my nails, blogging, reading...something like that. But I also want there to be some nights where we don't turn on the television at all. I'd like to leave space in our life for writing, music, projects, talking, just being together. We're still figuring out how this will work and where to be flexible, but that's the goal for now.
-Cleaning up
Once I sit down in the evenings, getting up again is generally a lost cause {until it's time to go to bed--and sometimes that's tough!}. But I really love a clean house and sleep better knowing I don't have to tackle the kitchen the next morning. Jason is awesome to help cook and clean, but he's tired at night, too, because he works just as hard at home as I do at work all day. So we're making it a Team Norris goal {yes, I like to refer to us that way} to make sure things are "straight" before bed--kitchen cleaned, shoes put away {guilty}, mail sorted, that kind of thing.
It's challenging enough to feel like you're squeezing all of your "real life" into the three hours after work, so I'm hoping our new rules will help us feel like we're using that time in the best way possible.
What are some of your house rules for managing the chaotic evenings?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What My Dog is Teaching Me About Community

Freddy and I walk around our neighborhood in the evenings, and I started thinking about how he might be a better neighbor than I am.

Where I'm hesitant to jump into conversations, he bounds right in. A group of puppies and their people walk together every night, and I don't know why we haven't joined them. Fred is always eager to say hello! He charges right up into neighbors' yards to greet them and wags his tail as soon as he sees someone--even if they're all the way down the street. Everyone is a friend.

He is also all about the more, the merrier. There were 11 puppies on that group walk I mentioned one night this week. He was so excited his whole body was wagging.

And he never gets in a hurry--the puppies he's "talking with" get his full attention, and he could stay and talk all night. He's just happy to hang out with friends.

In my defense, Fred is an ESFP {assuming dogs have personality types}, while I'm an ISTJ. This idea of being neighborly comes a bit more naturally to folks like him. :)

But I've still been trying to put a few of his lessons into practice and do a better job of being part of a community.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Closet Updates

I finally tackled the closet last weekend, and I feel so much better about it! It's opened up a lot of space, and it doesn't feel nearly as stressful when I go in there now.

Shirts and sweaters are on the bottom. Pants, skirts, and dresses on the top right.

Everything on the top left? {Pretty much everything you can see in this picture on the top.} Well, that's what still doesn't fit. Yipes.

In happy news, though, I am down another eight pounds, three inches. Slowly but surely, right?

Now it's time to tackle Catherine's closet. That girl just keeps getting taller and taller.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Couple of Videos

The grandparents are probably our main audience on these, but here we have a couple of videos of Catherine...

eating bananas...

{I am probably feeding her all wrong, but I've never fed a baby before.}

And doing that razzing thing. {She turned off the video herself on that one.}

We actually don't know why she started blowing raspberries like that. Despite what you see me doing in the video, we really haven't done it for her to mimic, but she does it anyway. {And now thinks it's funny when we mimic her.}

Both activities are quite messy all around. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shout-Out to Texas Libraries

I've come across several happy Texas library stories lately that I wanted to pass along.

I really, really want to set up a little free library at our house, but I'm not sure if Jason will let me. :)

A much better use for a Wal-Mart, I must say.

And I love this idea for Arlington newborns! Why don't all cities do this? One of my public librarian pals included a library card application with her gift for Catherine when she was born, and we can't wait to take her to the library!

Finally, a fun little personal story, Jason and I went through our Blockbuster queue this weekend to see what we could find at the public library. We cut our list in half!

Hooray for our libraries!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Summer Fun

Summer and I haven't been the best of friends for a few years now {especially after last year's heat combined with first-trimester nausea}.

I thought a good way for us to make up might be to think of the things I loved about summer when we were friends. Jason and I might even try to squeeze in a few of these when we're feeling particularly grumpy in the next few months...

-Listen to music and sing along with the windows rolled down
-Close my eyes and soak up the sun
-Eat fresh fruit
-Go to the Farmer's Market
-Go to the library {not for work!}, and check out a big stack of books
-Hit up Fort Woof
-Wear a bathing suit {easier said than done these days}
-Watch a baseball game {bonus points for watching in person}
-Add cilantro, everything
-Try cold soup {again}
-Go to bed with wet hair
-Have friends over to play
-Play the Wii
-Stay up late reading
-Get a shaved ice {apparently called snow cones here?!}
-Paint my nails a fun color
-Go to yard sales
-Poke around The Dollar Tree
-Go to a matinee
-Ride a bike
-Make a lemon icebox pie

How do you make peace with the summer? :)

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Few More Books

I got on a bit of a blogging kick last week with Sarah Bessey's week of books. So much fun!

It's interesting trying to find a balance of how often to write, what to talk about, how personal to get, how to balance between books, the kiddo, random thoughts, etc. I read two posts tonight from two of my favorite bloggers coming from totally opposite perspectives, so that was a good reminder that there's not one "right" answer on this blogging thing.

Anyway, here are a couple of picks for the last few categories...

Favorite memoirs...
Sarah mostly talked about spiritual memoirs, but, with the exception of Girl Meets God and Elisabeth Elliot's work, I haven't really read many of those.

Outside of the spiritual types, you can't go wrong with any of Rick Bragg's work. All Over But the Shoutin', Ava's Man, and The Prince of Frogtown are amazing. The first time I read his work, I felt like he had been eavesdropping at my family reunions.

I would also put Thoreau's work {Walden, etc.} in my favorite memoir list {if he belongs in that genre}. Reading his work makes me want to move to the woods and build my own furniture.

Favorite poetry...
OK, confession. I am not a big poetry fan. This sounds so lazy, but I feel like it takes so much work. {Dorothy Parker is a fun exception.}

So we only have a few poetry books, but I really do enjoy going back to them again and again.

I've loved Jewel's A Night Without Armor {not to mention her music} since high school. It's just lovely. Also, we have a collection of John Donne's poetry that makes me all swoony.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,  
Though I must go, endure not yet  
A breach, but an expansion,      
Like gold to aery thinness beat. 
If they be two, they are two so 
As stiff twin compasses are two;  
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show      
To move, but doth, if th' other do. 

Daily books...
Aside from the Bible {and blogs, I guess}, the only thing I read every day is the encyclopedia. My parents bought me a set when I was 10 {my, how times have changed}, and that was my deal: I'd read an entry each day. Since Miss Catherine came along, I've sort of fallen behind on that, but I'll get back to it, I'm sure. I've been hearing several people talk about The Book of Common Prayer, and {surprise, surprise} it's on our bookshelves. So that will be on my daily reading list next year.

OK, that wraps up the 10 books series! Back to just reading A Year in the World now.

What's on your reading list? Any favorites in those last few categories? And, fellow bloggers, how do you define your blog voice, topics, timetable? Let's chat!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

10 Favorite Re-Readers

I have a hard time balancing re-reading old favorites and checking out new {to me} books. There just isn't enough time for all the reading! So if I'm going to re-read it, it has to be good!

A lot of these are probably typical re-readers, but that doesn't stop me from loving them.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The first book I remember reading...reading...and reading. I know it's drawn a lot of criticism, and my perspectives have definitely changed since the first time I read it when I was 11. But I still get all swept up in Scarlett's trials and the poignant descriptions of the Civil War.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
I was introduced to Kate Chopin in high school, and this was my first "girl power" kind of book. Her other work is brilliant and lovely as well, but this one is still my favorite.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Another high school favorite {amazing how those stick with you}. For a long, long time, I read this one every fall. Even though a lot of it is set in the summer, it feels like a fall book to me. There just aren't enough words to talk about how much this book and its author mean to my state. Harper Lee was brave to write it, and if you get the chance, add the biography Mockingbird to your list, too.

Light in August by William Faulkner
Speaking of how books feel, I love to read Faulkner in the summer. His vivid descriptions, spot-on Mississippi drawls, and loooong sentences work really well when you hit triple digits. Light in August is my favorite of his so far, but The Reivers was great, too, and a bit more fun. 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
OK, I know this one is a short story, but it's another one I want to read every fall. It's the perfect mix of scary and funny, and, being a short story, it is just the right length for a quick read, too.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Like Sarah Bessey, I love this slightly lesser-known Austen. Of course, all of her works are divine, but something about this one just sticks with me. And I'm partial to the name Anne Eliot because it's on our girl-name list for future Norris bebes.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
OK, I know there are seven books here, but it's hard not to come back--again and again--to Harry. Next time, I want to listen to the audiobooks!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
I'm cheating a bit with this one, too, but I have them all in one big book, so can they count as one? :) I read these for the first time in fourth grade and just kept on reading them again and again. The audiobook versions would be fun for these, too! I get something new out of them every time I read.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Yep, another young adult series--it's hard to beat children's literature! Jason has been listening to these lately, and it's made me want to relive the trials of the Baudelaire children {and give what they cook a try in the kitchen}. I can't believe I didn't like The Bad Beginning the first time I read it. Hooray for second chances!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The first "real" book I read, and just writing about it makes me want to go pull it off the bookshelf and read it right now. What's not to love about the story of the brave, quirky, courageous March family? 

Honorable mentions...
In this category, it was just too hard to pick only 10. I had to also give shout-outs to The Joy Luck Club {really, just about anything by Amy Tan}, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith {so sad, but hopeful!}, and C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy {I had no idea I would love those as much as I did}.

What do you like to read again and again? And how do you balance between the old and the new?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

10 Books for My Tiny

I used to be a children's librarian, so it was super hard for me to narrow down my favorite books for kids to only 10. {Here are Sarah Bessey's two sets of recommendations.}

Anyway, I decided to focus on 10 of the books that Catherine seems to be especially enjoying right now.

Z is for Zoo by Roger Priddy
I like several of the Priddy books, but this one was the first that really caught her attention. Bright colors, cool pictures {and a few that fold-out}, and rhyming words.

That's Not My Angel by Fiona Watt
Although I suspect that this one is not theologically correct ;) , she really likes feeling the different textures of each of the angels.

All Over Alabama by Laurie Parker
This book works in the name of almost every city in Alabama {in a story about frogs}. It's long for her, so we just read a page at a time. But I do it in rap mode...entertaining myself just as much, I think.

Animals Animals by Eric Carle
She likes this Eric Carle classic as much as the real animals in Z is for Zoo, and I love the poetry that goes along with the illustrations.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Reading {or saying, since I have it memorized now} has already become a nightly ritual for us. I can't wait until she enjoys examining the pictures, too! For right now, the rhythm just calms her down and lets her know it's time for bed.

Yum! Yum! by Joanne Fitzgerald
We have a lot of fun with this one! C got it for me for Mother's Day, and the short nursery rhymes are perfect for her right now. The illustrations are lovely, too.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Honestly, Mommy sometimes needs to read this after having her own tough days. I didn't think she'd be into it because of the black and white illustrations, but she seems to enjoy it.

The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss
I seem to have more fun with most of Dr. Seuss than she does right now {still a bit long perhaps?}, but I think she might like this one because I tickle her feet when I read it.

Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
I had only heard of this one before we got it at our book shower, but I love it! The story is charming and so funny, and I love doing the voice of the peddler.

The Story for Little Ones by Josee Masse
This was another gift from one of my student workers, and we've made it all the way through. She gets really excited about the stories here {and it excites me to see her interested in God's story}. We'll be looking for a children's Bible soon, I'm sure, but this is a fabulous starter.

These are the ones she likes for now, but I can't wait to read her more Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Jon Scieszka, Don Freeman, Tomie dePaola, Mo Willems...the list goes on...and those are just picture books!

If you can't tell, I'm super passionate about literacy and literature, and we're doing our best to pass on that passion to our little one by reading to her every single day.

If you're a parent, I highly recommend The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, too. It has research on the importance of reading aloud, recommendations for all ages, and tips on how to go about actually doing it.

OK, this is starting to feel like a PSA, so I'll stop for now. :)

What are your favorite children's books?

Baby's First Fourth

I've been struggling for awhile with the idea of nationalism--particularly in church. While I'm still uncomfortable with how many American Christians seem to link God and country {or God and their personal politics}, I wonder if I sometimes shy too far in the opposite direction.

Because nationalism seems to be so prevalent in American Christianity, I find myself being really cautious about making any "Yea America" kinds of comments. I don't want people to think I've forgotten that I, first and foremost, follow someone whose kingdom is not of this world.

But I was thinking this week about how I'm not hesitant to sing "Yea Alabama." No one {I hope} thinks I'm putting allegiance to my football team ahead of my allegiance to Christ. I love Alabama football, and I love America. Despite our {many, many, many} problems, I'm still happy to live here, to raise my kiddo here, and to serve Christ here.

So I knocked the chip off my shoulder this morning and sat my little ones down for a good ol' first Fourth photo shoot.

 {Well, Catherine's first...Fred's}

I have a feeling that the rest of today's celebrations will be pretty low-key, as the fireworks all start much later than C's bedtime, but we'll still grill out, have fun, and celebrate our country.

What are your plans for today?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Remembering Ange


Whenever I watch The Andy Griffith Show, it feels like home. I grew up watching it with my family, and we still have inside jokes like "just pay the man." We loved the Darlings, and you've never seen an Ernest T. Bass impression until you've seen my brother's. I never really watched his movies or Matlock {even though I am a big fan of the seersucker suit}, but I've always enjoyed everything I did see of Andy Griffith's work.

He was just a fine fella.

Luckily, I married a smart man, who loves Andy as much as my family did. When I went home for lunch today, Jason was playing some of our favorites like The Crawdad Song and Andy singing the theme song from the show. We might just have to listen to his classic descriptions of football and Romeo and Juliet tonight, too.

My college roommate and I felt a little blasphemous when we decided that fictional Andy was probably a commitment-phobe who lied to his kid on a pretty regular basis. But we loved him anyway. ;)

RIP, Andy Griffith. Thanks for the laughs.

Monday, July 02, 2012

10 Books That Influence My Parenting

Two posts in one day? Crazy, I know! ;)

But I was super excited to see the topic for today from Sarah Bessey: 10 Books That Influence My Parenting. I needed some recommendations, so there are several new additions to the to-be-read list!
I've read a fair amount of books on parenting, but I'm always on the lookout for more. 

Here are a few that I liked:

The Spiritual Growth of Children by Kurt Bruner, John Trent, and Rick Osborne
I read this one for a class before kids were even on the horizon for us, but I thought it did a great job of explaining how to teach them about God {without the oh-so-awkward home devotionals}. It divides ideas into age ranges and includes all sorts of ways to incorporate your faith into your parenting.

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
Several of the parents at the school where I worked in Alabama recommended this book. I love the idea of addressing the heart-issue behind the behavior, rather than just correcting the behavior itself. With the exception of how to discipline, I found this to be a great resource for us. He advocates spanking, and Jason and I don't plan to use physical punishment {spanking, etc.} with our kids. But, as with a lot of these, you can take what you like and leave the rest, right?

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
When I found out we were having a girl, I was actually really nervous! Boys just seemed easier somehow! I know that's not true, but I think part of that impression came from the discomfort I feel about the whole princess culture. Peggy Orenstein helped me take a deep breath, better understand the issues, and feel a bit more prepared to address it all when the time comes. I still have A LOT of concerns about the things I see in the entertainment industry like the overdependence on yet disrespect of men, the inherent materialism, and the push for girls to be "grown up" at younger and younger ages. But that's another post for another day.

The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
The Five Love Languages has been a big help in our marriage, and I enjoyed seeing how it translated to kids as well. Jason and I are both big on physical touch, but he really values quality time, while I swoon over acts of service. It will be interesting to see what fills up Miss C's love bank. 

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau
This was a good book for a "middle person" like me. Several friends had recommended the controversial On Becoming Baby Wise, and it seemed like an equal number had advocated burning it. :) I found a few of its practices helpful but its tone somewhat harsh. Even early on, though, I was really eager to get C on a pretty consistent routine {especially regarding overnight sleep} for her sake and ours. There was no way I could let her "cry it out," but I also knew co-sleeping wasn't for us either. So I liked The Baby Whisperer a lot for hitting a nice balance between attachment parenting and BabyWise-ing. {Isn't verbifying fun?}

Baby Sign Language Basics by Monta Briant
We had no idea babies could learn to sign so early, but Monta Briant suggests starting from the beginning. What harm can it do, right? And it's fun! We consistently sign several things with C {hi, milk, change, dirty, bath, I love you}, and she seems to be picking it up slowly but surely. She doesn't do much yet, but we think she's trying {and we hope she's understanding even more}.

Living With Kids and Dogs Without Losing your Mind by Colleen Pelar
After nine years as an only child, I knew Fred would have a bit of an adjustment {understatement} when C arrived on the scene. This one gave us good information about preparing him to "say hello to the baby" and to reorient to his new role. There have been challenges, sure, but he's done great with her so far. And she is really starting to notice him {and laugh at his antics} these days. I hope they'll be good pals as they get older.

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
This was my most recent read, and I enjoyed it so much! Kind of like The Baby Whisperer, it portrayed a nice mix of a few different parenting styles. We'll definitely be doing some things a la francaise {and hopefully teaching la petite a bit of French vocabulary along the way}.

Well, I couldn't even come up with 10, so you can see why I needed recommendations! OK, your turn. :)

Read from the beginning...