How to inventory your library without feeling overwhelmed

used book store

Jake and I have spent many dates wandering up and down aisles of used book stores. We’d often purchase a few, and then read each other the summaries and chapter titles on the way home. Super booknerd love.

Needless to say, soon after we married, we had our first very serious problem on our hands.

How do we fit 2 home libraries into 1?

Our first solution was making one of the bedrooms in our duplex a library. It was one of my favorite rooms.

Before we moved to Kenya, we sold most of our stuff, but NOT OUR BOOKS. Solution #2: We packed them into boxes and stored all 1500+ our parents’ houses. They totally loved that.  (more…)

The Perks of Living Small

The perks of living small

Yesterday I overhead a conversation between one of my kids and her friend:

“Wow, you have 4 kids in your family? Your house must be huuuuuuuge.”

Well, my dear one, you might be surprised to learn that it isn’t.

Well, I guess that isn’t 100% true. In one way it’s quite spacious– 1,100 square feet is average or above average compared to how most of the world lives. But according to the ever-expanding square footage of homes in America, we’re living small.

We all know the perks of living large: lots of space to run around, space to be unbothered, the ability to entertain large amounts of people at the same time, a home that always has an open bedroom.

But what are the perks of living small?

Some days small living feels cramped. When it’s below freezing AGAIN for the 30th day in a row and our kids are crawling up the walls, I want 2500 square feet to separate myself from the crazy. Lots of space to burn off energy sounds like, well, a lifeline from heaven.

BUT, most of the time I love that we can always hear one another no matter where we’re at in the house. A story coming from the big kids’ room, a cry of help from the bathroom, and giggles (or shouts of frustration, depended on the day) from the living room. Even when people are in different bedrooms or on different floors doing our own thing, I still feel like we’re together. Just through observation alone, I can stay pretty informed about what’s going on in my kids’ lives. 

Speaking of [not] doing our own things, the kids have this m.o. where they follow us (and each other) around. No one likes to be in their room by themselves, but instead everyone wants to hang out together. Most of the time it’s quite charming. The kids read on each others’ beds, leaning on one another and often times reading over someone else’s shoulder. When I try and sneak away to my bedroom when the kids are drawing or building with legos, it’s not 10 minutes before every kid has brought their toy or book or drawing pad into my bedroom to be with me. And while sometimes we drive each other batty, I think we all kinda like the togetherness that 1100 square feet brings.

The recent warm weather reminds me of the fact we don’t have a yard. On a beautiful sunny day, I want my kids to run free outside while I enjoy a little peace and quiet inside the house. I envy parents who can send their kids into a fenced back yard to play for the morning without thinking twice. A fenced back yard is like a huge playpen — and I long for this in my life.

On the flip side, not having our own outdoor space forces us out into the community on a regular basis. Today, we rode our bikes to the school park where we crashed an outdoor birthday party game of kickball and started an impromptu game of tag with a few other kids from the neighborhood. Because we don’t have our own personal slice of outdoors, small living helps us to meet people in our community (even when our introverted selves would rather stay home). 

Like many other apartments, we have an open plan, which is a fancy way of saying our living area, kitchen, and dining area are all just one big room. Truth be told, when we invite a few people over, our spacious-enough house suddenly shrinks and I feel sardined.

But we try not to let it stop us. One of our favorite memories is eating around our kitchen table with 16 friends for a Thanksgiving meal. While most of our American friends wouldn’t go for such a cramped way of eating, we find that many of our friends from other parts of the world don’t mind at all. Small living means we squish together, and in the process build a lot of memories. I don’t remember all my Thanksgiving meals, but I certainly remember that one.

Not only do we not have a ton of room for people, we also don’t have a ton of room for stuff. I can’t keep too much around that I’m not actually using, and there are times when I wish I hadn’t given a certain kitchen gadget to Goodwill.  We’ve given up our habit of perusing used bookstores for fun, because our already-big home library has hit its space limitations.

Living small means our hearts can’t get too attached to our stuff. We know that what we bring into our home is only ours for a time. Eventually it’ll find its way back out into another kid’s closet or a neighbor’s kitchen. Small spaces teach us to think carefully about our purchases and to regularly consider what we need to give away. In a world where I’m constantly being told that stuff will make me happy, this is certainly a perk.

The desire for more and for bigger will most likely continue to be a draw for most of us. No matter how much square footage we have, we tend to wish we just had a little more. And for our family, the secret to contentment lies not in pretending those perks of big living don’t exist, but instead to notice and appreciate the upsides of our limitations.

 

10 Gift Ideas for the Book Lover in Your Life

It’s National Library Week and what better way to celebrate than by visiting your local library and checking out a good book?

If you’re a book nerd and want to go above and beyond your usual weekly visit to the local library, perhaps you want to buy a little book-themed gift for a librarian or a library patron that you love.

The Public Library: A Photographic Essay 

Jake and I like to visit public libraries while on vacation, especially when we’re in a big city. Last year when Jake and I went to Chicago, we visited a public library in the heart of downtown and it was one of the highlights of our trip. This book is like that, but x10. 🙂 (more…)

What I’m Into {Feb/March 2017}

 

It’s 1:00pm and I’m sitting at my desk in a very quiet house.

Normally I’m at work right now, but after a grueling couple weeks, I gifted myself a vacation day.

When I woke up this morning I named this day Sit-In-Bed-And-Read. I have a gloriously tall stack of books on my nightstand and today was going to be THE DAY.

Apparently I have an inability to enjoy a lazy day. After dropping the kids off at school, I decided to do just one thing from my to-do list. You probably can guess the rest of the story. It quickly became obvious I had misnamed this day. It renamed itself Catch-Up-On-Life. It’s morphed into a day that I am doing all of the things that “I’ll just do tomorrow.” Grocery shopping. Making dr. and dentist appointments. Fixing things. And a whole lot of internet errands.

But now I take a break in completing my to-do list to share all the things I’ve been LOVING this month.

First things first.

Books

We don’t purchase books very often, but this month we decided to grab each book in the Ordinary People Change the World series. In each book, kids learn about some ordinary person who has changed the world in a big way. They are well-written and the illustrations are on-spot.

Our book club launched this month, and we read Threading My Prayer Rug, a story about a Pakistani Muslim who moves to America and begins her adult life. It’s both eye-opening and funny, a rare mix. I’m learning about arranged marriages, Muslim faith practices, and what it looks like to move to America from a very different culture.

I finished up a couple books this month that I didn’t enjoy, and I even quit a book in the middle (gasp!).  No need to fear though- I have some other promising ones on the horizon. (more…)

The Family Reading List {February 2017}

Family Reading List (february) (1)

Oh, y’all. We have had a good month of reading. Our bookshelves are oozing with a curation of interesting books, magazines, and graphic novels. Here are some of our faves.

Anaya’s Reading List (3.5 years old)

The Saddest Toilet in the World

Sam Apple

Although Anaya has been potty-trained for a LONG TIME, she adores books about potty-training. Probably because bodily functions are hilarious. She thrives on pushing the envelope of decency and humor. I will not surprised if she ends up being a stand-up comedian.

A quick synopsis goes like this: Kid doesn’t want to sit on the toilet, toilet gets sad and leaves home, boy misses toilet and family searches the city to find it. Preschoolers will love it. Parents can tolerate it.

Others to try out:

Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship
Daniel Tiger: Nighttime in the Neighborhood
In My Heart: A Book of Feelings

(more…)

What a bus driver taught me on the way to the Women’s March on Madison

As we waited at the bus stop, a woman slowed her car to a stop, rolled down her window and shouted, “Hey! Are you going to the march?”

Jake and I had the three girls with us, and before either of us could respond, the girls happily told the lady we were. “Thank you!” she yelled. “I’m so proud of you all!”

A few minutes later, the bus turns onto the street and we were relieved. It was well overdue and we were nervous we weren’t going to make it in time. Then we saw that it was full. To the brim. The message flashing on the bus’ front sign “Drop offs only.”  My heart sank. There was no way we were getting downtown by car. The bus was our only option at that point.

As I was giving Jake the “what do we do now?” look, the bus driver stops, opens the door and yells- “Hey! Do you guys want to squeeze in?”

“Oh, uh, are you sure?”

“We are very full, but it breaks my heart to leave your girls out in the cold. We can make room. Come on in.” (more…)

The Family Reading List {January 2017}

the-family-reading-list-2

Welcome to the first Family Reading List of 2017!

Winter weather has us staying indoors, so we’ve had more time to explore the bookshelf. Each month I’ll share with you some of the books that the kids have been enjoying.

Anaya’s Reading List (3.5 years old)

Little Big Girl

Claire Keane

Anaya desperately wants a little brother or sister. Since this isn’t going to happen (sorry little lady!), she self-medicates with reading about having younger siblings. Little Big Girl is about a girl who is little, but loves to have BIG adventures. When a younger brother comes along, Matisse discovers that maybe she’s actually.. big!

This book is super sweet, and is perfect for a little sibling with an even littler sibling on the way :).

 

Others to try out:

I am too absolutely small for school
Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color

 

(more…)

Why We Don’t Give Gifts on Christmas (and what we do instead)

why-we-dont-give-gifts-on-christmas-morningIt’s no secret that Jake and I can be a little unconventional.

But, it may surprise you that we don’t give our kids gifts on Christmas morning. None. Zero.

When we tell people this, we get a variety of reactions:

  • The wild-eyed are-you-freaking-kidding-me, what-kind-of-person-are-you look (my personal favorite).
  • An I really want to roll my eyes at you because aren’t you taking this Jesus thing a little too far look.
  • Honest confusion. Why? 
  • Ohhhh, I get it, you must be a super fundamentalists look (btw, we’re definitely not).
  • Genuine Sadness for our kids. Oh. That’s so sad. You must have a really boring Christmas.

All of these are fair responses- it IS a little strange. But our family loves Christmas. It just looks a bit different than what other people are used to.  (more…)

Animate: A New Kind of Bible Study

I work with small groups on a regular basis, and I always have my radar up for new and interesting Bible studies. When evaluating small group curriculum, I’m looking for a few factors:

  1. Simple, straightforward prep for leaders. Leaders often feel more comfortable leading a small group if they have material they can pick up, preview, and easily run with.  A well-prepared leader is a key factor for a positive group experience.
  2. Low level of “homework”. Most small group participants will not do homework for the study (even if they say upfront they want to). Small group curriculum that comes with a set of short videos for small groups to watch together is a great alternative to requiring preparation outside of the group.
  3. Options for those who want to dig deeper. While most participants will not do homework, a couple of the rockstar members will want go above and beyond.  These participants will gravitate towards studies that provide something to mull over during the week.
  4. Challenging. The best small group experience happens when people are challenged and have the freedom to explore theological and practical ideas in the context of a safe, grace-filled learning community. Too many guardrails of what’s okay or not okay to say kills a discussion and leaves participants wondering if the weekly meeting is worth their time.

animate-series-review

 

Recently I’ve gotten the opportunity to take a look at the Animate series from Sparkhouse, and it has all the marks of a great study. Helpful facilitators guide. Short DVD experience. Journal for the participant. More questions than answers.

(more…)