To Read or Not to Read – What Kind of Question is That?!?


It’s hard to believe January has arrived and with it a blank slate of fresh starts and new beginnings. I love restarting homeschooling with a new schedule and a renewed sense of direction. And making goals for a new year is always exciting.

January is also a good time for reflecting on the past year, and I am excited to say that I accomplished my reading goals for the year! I made some changes to my reading plan as I went as it became evident that I had chosen some books that weren’t what I wanted or needed to read. But before the last day of each month, I had finished whatever book I had set out to read. And because of what I had chosen, I went to see a live showing of Les Misérables and met author Doris Kearns Goodwin! It was an exciting year-much of which was “spent” in the 1800s with my good friend Abe Lincoln. (I have a secret crush on old Abe, but that story is for another time.)

While I was spending time in the French Revolution or amongst the streets of Washington or learning a new thought regarding parenting, however, some other areas of my life became very, well, um, unpolished. My house began collecting more dust than I like, and my blog has needed a good old dose of elbow grease as well. I’m going to try to work a little more on keeping other areas of my life up to date as I read this year. But before all these things, my kiddos have to have their time, so my house and blog may still get a little dusty here and there.

I want to share with you the books I read this year and those I plan to read this year, and I really want to encourage you to make a similar list. I wish I had started sooner! I jotted down some ideas to help you make and keep a plan. Hopefully you will enjoy revisiting the world of words as much as I have!

Some Tips for Making Reading Goals…

  1. Choose a plan that is doable for you. If you haven’t read in a while or have minimal amounts of time, maybe you can plan to read a book every couple of months. Most of us have a crazy lot of things going on in our world, but my guess is a little less time spent on social media and watching television will give you a good amount of time to read a chapter or two each night. But DO plan to read, and make sure you accomplish your goal!
  2. Select books that make you want to read. Choose books that are helpful in your stage of life, are from an exciting time period, or are popular. You can get good book suggestions from a librarian, friends, or other people’s book lists. (Like mine below!) Another way I like to find books to read is to look up a book I really liked on Amazon and check out what other people purchased with that book.
  3. Utilize your own bookshelves and your local library. This last year, I listed a few books I owned and had never finished (or even started!) and a few I wanted to get at my library. Excepting a couple of e-books I purchased to read on my phone, I didn’t spend any money reading the books on my list this year. Our library has interlibrary loan options that allow me to request books that they don’t carry – like the book I checked out on chickens when I wanted to start a coop in my backyard. (This story is also for another time!)
  4. Be flexible. If you start reading a book that is just not for you, give yourself permission to change things up. But keep in mind that most books are hard to get into for a few chapters.
  5. Keep things varied and stretch yourself a little. Read a variety of types of books – old and new, nonfiction and fiction, helpful books and entertaining books. I love to throw in some biographies and classics. They are a lot of fun to read, and you really feel cultured when you’re done. (Cultured is a feeling most mommas don’t experience. Well, unless you count cultured milk that an infant projects down your shoulder!)
  6. Get excited about accomplishing your goals. Maybe you reward yourself with tickets to see a play, the purchase of a new book, or a night out with coffee and your next book. Make it fun and exciting to revisit the world of reading.
  7. Find someone who will keep you accountable. I knew I was going to have to post on this blog if I didn’t finish a book, and that was very motivating for me. I also had friends who asked me how my reading was going, and my husband did his own reading along with me. It’s good to have people around you check in with you on your goals –and this is true for any goals you set.

Okay, now for the fun… Here are my booklists, past and future. This year, I wanted to read more than 13 books, but I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with everything if I picked two a month. So my plan for 2014 is to read three books every two months. This way, I can get started on a book if I finish one early one month and finish it up along with another book the next.

Books I Read in 2013 – about 5,000 pages!
JanuaryEducating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson
FebruaryGood and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller
MarchWordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson
April For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan S. MacAulay
MayThe Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
JuneKilling Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
July What Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings – and Life by Laura Vandekam
August Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
SeptemberTeam of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
October Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
November Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series: Volume 1 by Charlotte Mason
DecemberThe Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight by Heidi St. John
BonusHints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumball

Books I Plan to Read in 2014
A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola
The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children by Sally Clarkson
Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series Vol. 2: Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel by Elias Chacour
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Future Men: Raising Boys to Fight Giants by Douglas Wilson
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea
The Bully Pulpit: Theordore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noël Piper
Bonus Books to Read with My Hubby
Hints on Child Training by H. C. Trumbull (This is a repeat from last year!)
The Duties of Parents by J. C. Ryle

I would love to hear from you about what books you plan to read. Happy Reading in 2014!


I’m Fired!


Today I set an oven on fire.

I was cooking for a herd of college kiddos with a couple of friends at the building where my husband works. I set a stockpot of 20lbs of potatoes down and cranked that burner on high. When I looked back a minute later, the stockpot was surrounded by about two feet of flames.

One of my friends reached for the fire extinguisher. One swatted at it with a damp cloth (which we later found out was not recommended protocol). I managed to stand in the middle of the room and squeal, “Fire!”

I now know I do not respond well in crisis situations.

As we later cleaned up the mess from the debacle, I realized something.

I had unknowingly fueled that very fire.

I was being clumsy and not careful, pouring olive oil over three turkeys and, apparently, the stove. Then I set that bad boy on fire.

Isn’t that how it is sometimes as a parent? You don’t realize that you’re “adding fuel” to a fire? Maybe you go to bed too late, you focus on the wrong things, you don’t stay in God’s Word, you don’t pray through your day and your parenting decisions.

And then you combust. We yell at the kids, we make poor decisions, we act in anger and selfishness.

And we stand in the room and scream, “Fire!”

And God hears. He knows. And he cleans off the mess and the soot. Then He sets us back aright to begin again.

And I’m so glad he does.

He uses His fire extinguisher of grace on our kids and on our mess. His love covers a multitude of sins.

And I’m so grateful because I sure do have momma sins!

The Crazy Cave


I woke up today unprepared. But I knew I could wing it. And I knew there would be painting for history, which I knew would make the kids excited. Cave painting (per Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World Book One Activity Book) would be at 10:30, and I would be a hero. Who says it’s not worth doing projects when you homeschool?!?

At 10:30, we gathered together to rehash what we’ve been learning about nomads. I couldn’t wait to bust out the surprise activity.

But it was my daughter who “busted it out” first.

As we were discussing life for the nomads and cave dwellers, I turned in time to see my daughter dump terra cotta colored acrylic paint in a puddle on our white-ish carpet.

Dear toddler girl, this ain’t no cave.

By the end of the “history hour,” we had painted our cave paintings. We had also painted the carpet, three shirts, one pair of shorts, the sidewalk, the front porch, and a small section of the house. I could have guessed the shorts would get paint on them. (They were worn by my six-year-old who could figure out how to make a mess with an ice cube in a bathtub.) And my husband had been meaning to paint the house. (We just gave him a head start.)

Needless to say, we will not be painting again anytime soon. Maybe in a few….or 30….years….

As for other projects, I don’t know. My kids told me it was one of their favorite days of all time. But if you ever see me at a craft store, please stage an intervention. Or just paint my shirt and call me crazy.

Strawberry Summer Salad


I decided today it was time to roll up my sleeves and dust off this poor little neglected blog. Life has a way of getting busy when you have four little kids and a crazy summer schedule!

I wanted to share a summer recipe that I have been thoroughly enjoying. But let me tell you an adventure I had a few weeks ago with this very salad.

We had some friends over that we had been meaning to have over for some time. We had made some hamburgers, and I was making potatoes and onions in our iron skillet and throwing together my newest favorite recipe when they arrived. My hubby had cut lettuce from the garden, it had soaked, and I put it through the salad spinner at about 100 miles per hour before I began putting the salad all together.

We were all settled and were enjoying the evening when I noticed something funny-looking in the bite of salad I was about to take. Upon examining the specimen on my fork, I realized I was looking at a giant, caterpillar-like worm happily hanging out on the vein of my salad. This thing was huge-I am sure it was about 10 feet long. And it was bright green. Just like the lettuce.

So I did what any normal, reasonable mom of three boys (who tries to be cool with bugs so her men will be brave) would do. I screamed at the top of my lungs and flung the worm across the table to my husband who was sitting across from me diagonally. As it happened in slow motion, I saw the ginormous worm sailing above all the food with the piece of lettuce flying about him like Superman with a lettuce cape, and I am sure he flashed a grin back at me as he departed.

And so my husband, who has very good reflexes, caught my friend, and there was a moment of silence. And then we all got a good laugh – except for Mr. Worm. He wasn’t laughing when it was all over.

All that is to say a word of caution – lettuce from the garden may contain extra protein. I now run my hand down each piece of lettuce before I serve it. It was that traumatizing

If you are able to get clean, worm-free lettuce together, this salad is unbelievable. Seriously. A sweet friend of mine gave me the recipe that she got out of a church cookbook. (Those are the best!) And now, I make it at least once a week. It’s my new fave.

Without further adieu, I give you…

(Wormless) Strawberry Summer Salad
(Printable Version)IMG_2449

Shake and chill:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt

A big ole’ bowl of greens
2 ½ cups sliced strawberries
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
1 cup slivered almonds (I just chop the raw ones I keep in the freezer)

Toss dressing with the greens mixture just before serving. Enjoy!

Other serving options: Try blueberries or mandarin oranges instead of the strawberries, or serve it with sliced grilled chicken.


A Plan to Plan (A Homeschooling Date)


Whew! We made it through another school year! It’s always such a relief to cross the school finish line and move into summer – and I daresay I look forward to it more than the kids do!

Now I get to focus on one of my favorite things about homeschooling – planning for next year. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, I really love to choose curriculum and plan for upcoming years. Doesn’t everybody?

As I have been preparing to go to a homeschool conference I am very excited about attending, I made a basic planning sheet to prepare to investigate and purchase the things I will “need.” (Yes, sometimes a sharpie pen or a cute notebook is a “need!”) I thought other homeschooling mommas might find it useful, too!

I do want to add a little disclaimer: I homeschool (mostly) using the Charlotte Mason method, sprinkled with a little Classical Method here and there. But my hope with this “think sheet” was to be able to look at a few sheets and get a barebones idea of where I am headed with each kiddo. Many of these subjects we do as a family, so I plan to print a sheet and put “family” in place of a child’s name. So, for example, history will read, “See family” on each kiddo’s sheet. On the family sheet, I will spell out what we will use to teach history.

My hope is that you can print these sheets and head to a local coffee shop or to a friend’s house and plan away. What a great time to think and get excited for the upcoming year!

School Planning PDF

Happy Planning!

Just a few sites that might start the ball rolling for choosing curriculum:
Homeschool Reviews
Cathy Duffy Reviews
Simply Charlotte Mason
Ambleside Online

Budgeting Banks


I received some awesome vinyl from Silhouette (maker of my favorite cutting machine) to try out for a review on my blog. Their machine is way awesome! I used it to make a few fun projects:

When I received the vinyl, I had so many project ideas–but the one I was most excited to make was a budgeting bank system for my kids.

I have the Silhouette Cameo, which is super easy to use. All I had to do was choose the font I wanted to use and load the vinyl, and then it did all the work!

For this project, I used the font SNF Journaling Dots, though with Silhouette’s program you can use any font on your computer. I made the dots, peeled off the back of the vinyl, and applied the letters–super easy! (These are applied to Hubert’s Lemonade containers, which were a good excuse to drink their yummy lemonade!)


Then, for a touch of color, I added a pot holder loom loop to each one. (Ribbon would be cute, too, but these were for boys.) My husband built a cute little crate to hold them all, and now we are all ready for the kids to put their money into their separate bottles for good budgeting skills!


Silhouette is running a promotion on their machines and vinyl in case you want to check them out. To get the deals, use my promo code, UNPOLISHED.


A Reading Rundown: Good ideas from Great Books


I have been a plugging along reading these last few months, and what fun it has been! I wanted to share some of what really stuck with me after the books were closed and put away. After all, there are scores of reviews found on books on the Internet….I wanted to share something different. Be advised that these are not necessarily main thoughts, just the leftover parts…like the fat build up on my thighs after I’ve eaten too many skillet cookies, or something like that!

JanuaryEducating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

  • Rest is for mommas, too! I don’t like to admit I need rest, and I think naps are overrated. But I have discovered, especially as I homeschool, that a short rest (for me that’s reading a book or scrapbooking) is just what I need! I get the kids all settled, and enjoy about 20 minutes of undisturbed peace and quiet. And, what’s more, I don’t allow myself to feel guilty for it!
  • Instead of a movie night, try cuddling up with popcorn and other snacks for a “reading night!” We gave this a try and loved it! I am anxious to try it with an audio book – I was too busy reading to eat popcorn.
  • Limit phone use (and other technology) to really “get something done.” This is pretty basic, but served as a good reminder to leave my phone away from the area where we do school. It was so helpful! I need to try that again!

FebruaryGood and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

  • “Come when you’re called” is pretty self-explanatory. But I love the way the authors encourage you to get near to your child and for them to get near to you to discuss things. How often are we yelling, “Would you clean up your toys?” from the kitchen? And then we wonder in amazement that our kids annoyingly holler at us! We’ve been practicing having the kids come to us when we say their names. We’re still a work in progress on this.
  • The authors introduce the term badgering to refer to a kid pestering, relentlessly, to get a parent to change an answer. My kiddos, as young as they are, try this technique now and then. After explaining to them what badgering and bullying were, I now simply say, “Mommy said you can’t do that right now. Since you’re asking again, I am feeling bullied.” They actually apologize on their own, and move on to other things! This one has been so useful in our house!
  • When you give a child a task, it’s so important to follow-through, or check in with them. You can ask them to let you know when they’re done, or you can simply watch them accomplish it. This has been helpful in helping our boys follow through with our requests, instead of finding out hours later that a bed was never made. Reduces momma’s blood pressure just a bit!

MarchWordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson

  • My favorite quote from this book is, “Read until your brain creaks.” Man, I love that thought. It makes me just want to read and read. He encourages readers to have 20 books going at once – a dangerous thought for this half-book-reader-who-doesn’t-always-finish-the-book! But it’s encouraging, too, that you can pick up a book – from an array of choices – that best suits your mood!
  • Stretch yourself – write a genre you wouldn’t normally write or read something you wouldn’t normally read. You’ll be stretched and maybe enjoy something more than you thought!
  • Don’t worry about the fact that you will forget most of what you read – rest in the thought that you have been shaped by it

April For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan S. MacAulay

  • Forming good habits with the kiddos is so worth the time. Having good habits for the everyday and mundane frees up a kiddos mind (and a momma’s!) to think about more important things! I have been making a list of the habits I want to better instill in my kids (like what to do when we finish our work early, how to best leave the table after dinner, etc.) so I can focus on bigger ideas with my kids.
  • Kids need to be outside – often. The best education comes not within the four walls of a building, but in the world around us – God’s creation. As much as I don’t like bugs, letting the kids capture and examine a grasshopper can teach far more than any textbook on the subject.
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The words of Jesus. Simple ones that I have heard hundreds of times. But I have never been encouraged to apply them to my life as a mom. So powerful.

I hope you’re keeping up with reading a book or two each month of your own! I would love to hear how a book has recently impacted your life as a woman, a wife, or a mom!

Stay tuned – later this week I have a fun craft to share!