Summer reading report, so far.

Now that my children are able to swim while I sit and read a book (joy!), this summer I’ve been able to do a lot more reading than I could in years past. Here are some of my summer reads to date:

Title
The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1)
The House at Rose Creek
The Secret Keeper
Blackmoore: A Proper Romance
The Lemon Grove: A Novel
A Timeless Romance Anthology: Spring Vacation Collection
Longing for Home: A Proper Romance
A Timeless Romance Anthology: Summer Wedding Collection
In His Hands: A Mother's Journey Through the Grief of Sudden Loss
The Kiss of a Stranger
Band of Sisters
House of Secrets (A Shandra Covington Mystery, #1)
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale

Some of these I’ve blogged about already, and some of them I’m still going to tell you about a little later, but you can go to my Goodreads account if you’re at all interested in knowing my reviews of the books.

Today I want to tell you about Sarah Eden’s newest book, Longing for Home. Even though I’ve met Sarah briefly before and we have a long list of mutual friends, I had never read any of her books before this summer. I don’t want to dare say that I get tired of reading Jane Austen, because I love her books, but I wanted to read something similar to Austen rather than repeat my reading of her classics for the who-knows-how-many-really time. I knew that Eden’s books are Regency Romance, so I gave them a try, and found them to be quite delightful. You can see from the  book list above that I read several. When I got the chance to read Longing for Home, I was excited, but a little skeptical because it wasn’t even Regency. It was Wyoming in the 1800s and that sounded eerily Western to me, but I read it anyway and I really, really liked it. In fact, I think it may be my favorite of her books so far.  Here’s a description:

Though she was only a child during the darkest days of Ireland s Great Famine, Katie Macauley feels responsible for the loss of her family s land and the death of her sister. Now a woman grown, Katie has left Ireland for America and the promise of earning money enough to return home again and plead for her family s forgiveness. She arrives in Hope Springs, Wyoming Territory, a town sharply divided between the Americans who have settled there, with their deep hatred of the Irish, and the Irish immigrants who have come searching for a place to call home. Her arrival tips the precarious balance, and the feud erupts anew. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, however, Katie finds reason to hope. Two men, as different as they are intriguing, vie for her heart, turning her thoughts for the first time toward a future away from Ireland. Katie must now make the hardest decision of her life: stay and give her heart a chance at love, or return home and give her soul the possibility of peace.

 

eden

It really wasn’t a western at all, but I did learn a lot about some of the challenges of the immigrants and settlers. I really liked Katie’s spunk and determination, and her overall lack of self-pity when there was much she could have mourned. The story is a romance, which usually makes it quite predictable, but it was more than that too. She has competing suitors and some real challenges to face and I really didn’t know how it was all going to play out. I think Eden develops her male characters well, and this book is no exception. This was a great read and one I can easily recommend.

What’s been one of your favorite summer reads so far?

My summer plans for sanity: schedules, plans, charts, and other coping mechanisms

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I am one of those moms that makes a crazy weekly schedule for summer. I thought I’d share it in case it’s helpful for anyone else or gives you ideas of how to tweak things your own way. Do NOT look at this and feel guilty if you never had any similar intention. *I* do this because it helps me know what to do with my children when they are out of school and suddenly back in my care 24/7. If I did not make a plan or a schedule, I would find myself fretting in bed in the morning while my children got a jump start on chaos. If you are the type of mom who likes to go with the flow and not be pressured by a schedule, then you probably won’t like these ideas, and that’s okay. We can still be friends. :)

Weekly schedule.  Here’s a link to my chart, but this is the general idea: chores* done by 10 am, then a brief devotional and “summer school” (30 minutes of workbooks, writing, etc.). Mid-day activities include:

Monday:  Money and Menu plan– Allowance and Bank, Plan lunches and dinners for week (this year I’m going to try having each child in charge of one day of lunch and dinner), Grocery shop

Tuesday: Temple, Treat, and Tech– Get a treat and visit a temple, Rent a movie or video game

Wednesday: Service and Play–Humanitarian or other Service, Fun ideas from Pinterest

Thursday: Travel– Day trip or hike

Friday: Library and lunch– go to library and meet daddy for lunch

(This schedule is way more flexible than it may appear. Times are approximate, and we also have swimming lessons and other random calendar commitments, so some days the schedule will get trumped with something else.)

Then we finish off the late afternoons with a “summer snack” (usually a Popsicle), 30 minutes of reading time** followed by some quiet play time, their 30 minutes of media time, then dinner and family time, and finally bedtime– except for Thursday nights when I’ll let them stay up a little later for neighborhood night games.

*Note on chores: I make a daily chart (you’re welcome to download and edit my document here) so that every morning, each person knows exactly what their jobs are that day. Each day as they pass off their work, I will give them some kind of voucher that they can collect and cash in toward their allowance on Mondays. It may be as simple as a labeled popsicle stick. If you have any questions about the chores we do around here, go ahead and ask in the comments.

**Note on reading: You know how a lot of schools have a take-home reading program? Well, I modify that plan and run a similar system at home during the summer. My children like to read and will often pick up books during down-time and definitely at bedtime, but what I love about take-home reading is the assigned content. Sometimes I’m a big fan of forcing things on my poor children, especially when I know it would be good for them to step out of their comfort zone a little and expand their minds by trying a new genre or subject matter. So I did a lot of research about good books for my kids to read, and I went and checked out a lot of them from the library. Then I created big gallon Ziploc bags with their names on them and made a form (here’s a blank one you can download) that lists their “assigned” books. During their reading time every day, they read the book in their bag for as many days as they need to until it’s done. Then I sign it off, and they move on to another book on their list. I love this part of the day because it makes me feel like a children’s librarian, one of those jobs I’m just sure I would love.

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So there you have it. It’s kind of like comfort food for the psyche; it makes me feel better to have a summer strategy. Here’s wishing you the best in your own summer preparations. What are some of your favorite strategies?

Hi.

My poor blog.  If it weren’t for GCBC and Find-a-Friend Fridays, it might have completely withered up and died this summer.  Summer is just busy.

Here’s a peek at the last several weeks in no particular order.  I do not expect anyone to care except for my posterity, who I decided long ago will read my blog nightly along with their scriptures to keep them on the straight and narrow.   …. What are you laughing at?

Anyway,

We went camping for 6 days in Colorado.  It was a twelve-hour drive, and my children surprised me by being very, very good the whole way down.  They compensated for their good behavior by driving Matt and me bonkers over the next several days.

One day, we drove up Pike’s Peak highway to some reservoirs to fish, hike a little, and picnic.  Matt sent the boys with a couple camp chairs down to the beach and told them to pick a spot and wait for us there while we unloaded all the other equipment.  A few minutes later, we walked down to the beach and could not find them.  We searched the shore in both directions and still could not find them.  Long story short, they didn’t know that we had parked right next to a reservoir, so they hiked down the road (like a MILE) to the reservoir below that we had passed on the way up.  Then they hiked the trails from the parking lot there down to the beach, where they sauntered to the other side of the lake, plopped down the chairs and sat and waited for us.  For a long time.  When I finally happened upon them an hour later, I was so relieved and they were so confused about why we took so long and why they were in trouble.  They actually did exactly what they were supposed to do; they just did it at the wrong lake.  Matt was about pack up everything and head back home after that, but we recovered, even though the boys had to stay within ten feet of us the rest of the trip.

Another lowlight of the trip included middle-of-the-night puking by Grant.  In our pop-up trailer, on the cushions, during a thunderstorm so all the windows had to be closed.  So not fun.  Highlights included time with family and beautiful hiking and scenery.  We survived and actually had fun.  I’d say it was (almost) worth the 3 garbage bags full of dirty laundry we brought home with us.  Here are Matt and Natalie hiking at Garden of the Gods.  It’s a scene that makes me happy.

In other news, I taught EFY last week, but only for one day because I got sick.  I spent the night and following morning vomiting and running back and forth to the bathroom.  I tried to show up the next afternoon and teach, but they sent me home.  :(  I was sad I wasn’t able to finish.  It was fun while it lasted.

Matt’s mom and grandma have been in town and it’s been fun to have visitors.  I like the company and the kids love the grandma-love.

I got nostalgic and read my entire missionary journal this week, starting right after my mission call all the way to the plane ride home from Argentina.  It was so cool to relive all those memories and feelings and blessings.  It’s taking all my restraint to not hop on a plane to South America right now and go visit everyone.  I couldn’t stop there, so I kept going and read all my post-mission years up until I met and married Matt.  My goodness.  Those long single years were sure busy and dramatic times.  Half of me wants to go back and relive the excitement, but the other half (the tired and happily-married half) wouldn’t touch those years again with a 10-foot pole.  :)

This summer has been pretty low-key, and it’s been nice.  I’ve actually enjoyed the free time and summer activities.  I’ll miss the relaxed schedule once school starts again.  Just in the last few days, though, my boys have entered a new really annoying stage of behavior that Matt appropriately labeled last night “the gauntlet of stupidity.”  The constant noisemaking, grade-school comedian, poking and giggling and wrestling stage has made me grateful again that school is right around the corner.

So how about you?  What’s been the highlight of your summer?

Surviving Summer (in a nutshell)

I have a love-hate relationship with summer.  I will explain.

I love the sunshine and the absence of snow.  I love the parks and the leisurely pace and the fun summer family programs.  I love the freedom to schedule outings and day trips and vacations completely uninhibited by school calendars.  I love building a schedule made up of all the priorities I don’t seem to have room for during the school year.  I love my children having time to play outside and play with each other. I love the longer days, and I love that the kids get more playtime with dad. And I love watermelon, strawberries, and popsicles.

Now for the parts that are harder to celebrate. . . .  longer days mean later bedtime, and, frankly, after I’ve spent an entire day with all three children by myself, I’d kind of go for a 6 p.m. bedtime.  Vacations are fun, but they are hard work.  As in, if you’re a mom, the only things that really do “vacate” are your brain and your energy.  Plus, has anyone else noticed that children are just really naughty for several days after a vacation?  It’s exasperating.  I find it difficult to coordinate babysitting or go to appointments or make some time for myself when all my children are at home all day.  The gym, for example.  (Have I mentioned before that I loathe gym day-care?  I have issues.)  And since I never have any quiet time during the day, I stay up too late at night wasting my brain on mindless stuff just because I’m relishing my alone time. Oh, and let’s not forget that when siblings get to spend oodles of time together, they fight like cats and dogs.

Sigh. Sorry my cons paragraph seemed quite a bit longer than the pros.  I tend to get a little dramatic when I complain.  Anyway, in light of this summer paradox, I have a few questions:

  1.  Do you think that maybe there’s a really fine line between children being naughty and children just being annoying?  I think I lump it all into the naughty category and get more fed up than I need to be.
  2. One thing that saves my sanity is scheduled and enforced reading time.  My boys are 6 and 8 and both read really well.  I’ve found that a lot of books that are at their reading level have kind of inappropriate content.  They’re not quite ready for pre-teen literature.  Do you have any suggestions for some good chapter books or series for boys?
  3. Any post-vacation tips?  Because, seriously, we have a few more coming up and I don’t know if I can handle the sassy, lazy aftermath.
  4. We have a lot of great kids in our neighborhood, but I don’t know much about the rules of play date “etiquette.”  If a child invites another child to play, is it presumptuous to want to play at the home of the invited?  I always think it’s kind of odd when a kid shows up and says, “Can so-and-so play?” and you say yes, and then the kid just comes on in.  Oh, you meant here?  On the other hand, I know my own children would like to go play at their friends’ houses, too (One word: Wii.), but I never want them to invite themselves over.  Am I being weird about this? because I worry that I’m making more of it than I should.
  5. We like to do several small weekend camping trips during the summer.  After Elder Perry’s last general conference talk, I committed myself to make sure that even when we are traveling, we should always go to church and take the sacrament.  This past weekend, we took a wrong turn on the way home, lost some time, and didn’t get back in time to take the sacrament.  I feel sad about that.  I need the sacrament.  This is not a question.  I’m just saying how it is.
  6. I’m hoping it’s normal to be in a summer blog slump.  I don’t know if there’s less time for writing or if I have less ideas, but I dont’ feel very bloggy productive.  And reading blogs?  Only minimally.  Anyone else feeling that way?  I’m sorry if anyone I love has been feeling neglected.
  7. Last question.  Do you have any favorite quotes or scriptures about patience?  I’d love to hear/read them.

Tell me you’re torn too.

In less than 3 weeks, school is out.  Children will be home full-time for the summer.  I can’t figure out if I’m thrilled or terrified.

No more frantically getting children out the door to the bus in the morning.

No more papers to sign and return or send emails about when I lose them.

No more volunteering at the school and putting books in to ziploc bags for two and half hours straight.

No more packing lunches.

No more backpacks and their contents scattered on my kitchen floor.

versus:

No more one-on-one time with the kids when their staggered school schedules send them out and bring them home at different times.

No more quiet, alone time for 6 blessed hours a week when they were actually all in school and preschool at the same time.

No more leaving my children’s education and daily schedule up to some one else.

No more dealing with them in shifts.  It’s all three, all day, every day.

Yah, it’s a tough one.  I acknowledge this makes me a total mom wimp.  I had all three at home all day for several years and a few summers after that, but you know how it is.  Once you’ve tasted the sweet flavor of freedom, it’s hard to go back.  I admit there’s parts about it I enjoy, but I’m determined to have a plan.  I  need a routine in place or we will all drive each other absolutely nuts. “Mom, I’m bored. What can I do?” I’ll be able to face that first week they’re back home if I know how the summer will go.  Here are my ideas so far:

  • 30 minutes a day of summer reading
  • 30 minutes a day of workbook pages or writing exercises
  • daily chores
  • Some kind of scheduled activity each day of the week, probably mid-day, some spilling into the afternoon.  Ideas for now:  1.  Library and lunch (picnic or eating out),  2. Creative Projects (art, crafts, sewing, gardening, etc.), 3.  Meal planning and grocery shopping (I’m going to let each child choose one dinner recipe a week and buy all the ingredients for it at the store.  Then the day we eat it, they can help me make it.), 4.  Service (I’m looking for some kind of formal volunteer opportunity we can all do together.  Hoping for Meals on Wheels.),  and 5. Outings (preferably free.  Parks, canyons, walks, …. any suggestions here?)
  • Free time and play time in the afternoons.  Hopefully lots of sunny days for swimming and outside play.
  • Quiet time (ha! I’m really going to try) while I’m fixing dinner.  Kids in own rooms doing reading, listening to books or music, quiet play, etc.
  • I’ve been tossing around the idea of teaching them some Spanish this summer.  I was a darn good Spanish teacher in my pre-kids life and I’ve got all the materials I need.  I should do it.
  • We’ll do one family camping trip a month.  It’s hard work, but we love it.
  • I also thought about making a “bored box” with ideas in it that they have to pick out and do if they ever tell me they’re bored.

Some people will think all that’s just craziness, but it helps me a lot to have a blueprint to work with.  There will be lots of flexibility.  Plans will change on any given day due to weather, sickness, laziness, holidays, calendar events, or children spending half the day in time-out (I’m a realist.).

What are some of your summer plans and strategies?  I’d love to hear them.  Are you excited?  Worried?  Seriously, are you torn too?