Early morning power outage means fun with flashlights! – with Scotty

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It’s an exciting day when your husband’s book contract shows up in the mail! So proud of you Scotty!

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So thrilled to discover this oasis of beauty in south Florida. – with Scotty and Cutest Baby In The City at Morikami Museum And Japanese Gardens

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My valentines.

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Cooking a very British meal to celebrate one of Scotty’s students being accepted to the University of Edinburgh! Haggis, bangers and leek mash, Eton mess, orange squash. Makes me a bit homesick.

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Best birthday gift – my boy taking a nap on my lap. #sweetest

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Surest way to get bored children to be interested in their toys again: start putting them away.

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Fantastic veg box this week means lots of roasting (Japanese yams, beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes).

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My favorite “Mom” books

So, one of the things I miss about not writing this blog is that I don’t have a journal of the books I’ve read. I’m going to try to get back into that and so today, I’m sharing with you the pregnancy/mommy/parenting books I’ve enjoyed the most over the past 18 months. Interestingly, in the genre of parenting books I have hated most of the books I’ve read. Here are the ones I actually enjoyed.

Found

Found, A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett

Probably my favorite new-mom read. Micha Boyett wrote this as the expectant mother of a two-year-old who is wrestling with her loss of the sacred. Struggling with prayer, finding motherhood to be challenging, wondering how there is any value in spending every hour with a very small and needy person, Boyett seeks solace in her faith but is frustrated by the silence, the mundaneness of the everyday. Her quest to reconnect with a faith that has defined her entire life leads her to the ancient spiritual practices of early Christians as well as those of the Benedictines. I found this book to be encouraging and a wonderful reminder that the sacred is found in the small, everyday acts of mothering. Beautifully written, honest, encouraging.

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Great with Child, Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly

I read this during the last months of my pregnancy and ended up loving it. Hearing that a former student is pregnant and newly settled in a place where she has no one, Beth Ann Fennelly decides to send regular letters to her student to encourage her through her pregnancy. This was definitely something I could relate to! We had arrived in South Florida eight months before I got pregnant – our community was very small and it felt really isolating to be pregnant. The book starts really really slow and I almost gave up on it but am so glad I stuck with it. The letters are kind and maternal but without a glimmer of “know-it-all-ness”. While the author’s description of her extremely traumatic birth may have fed into my fears of labor, I still think it’s a worthwhile read.

Bebe

Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

Always a sucker for expat American authors living in Paris, I was excited to read this and then two of my favorite people gave it to me right before Iren was born. This was the first book I read while I was recovering from the birth and soaking up all the newness of this amazingly delicious baby I now had to keep alive. I found this book to be very entertaining and mildly informative. Like many American francophiles (of which I number myself one), Druckerman falls into the trap of looking at all things French through rose-colored glass. According to her all French children are lovely, polite, calm, foodies. In my experience, this simply is not the case, but I will say that I did notice fewer public tantrums during my time in Paris. I also noticed five-year-olds in strollers sucking on pacifiers regularly. So, obviously, French children are not perfect. Anyway, I enjoyed this book for the sociological perspective and I did learn one thing that served us very well in those early weeks: le pause. Basically it means that you don’t instantly respond each time your baby makes a peep. Of course you respond quickly but instead of picking bébé up instantly, check to make sure that he is actually needing you. Often time babies make noises in their sleep and if you rush to pick them up too quickly, you’ll quite possibly wake them and disrupt their sleep cycle. That was the best take-away and totally helped us with getting Iren to sleep through the night pretty early on…of course that all got wrecked when we started traveling and having to deal with time-zone differences, but it was nice for when we were at home.

Idle Parent

The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson

After reading several books that sent me into a tizzy of self-doubt and shame at what a failure of a parent I was, Scotty kindly put his foot down and told me I should probably take a break from reading books on how to optimize my child’s intellectual development before the age of 1. I cannot remember how I found The Idle Parent but I am so so glad that I did. It helped me recover from books like Brain Rules for Baby and reclaim the joy of mothering. Hodgkinson is a bit of an anarchist but he’s British so he’s a politely anti-authoritarian. What I loved about this book was its encouragement to return to the fundamentals. He argues that the most important things we can give our children is ourselves and space. He encourages simple living and by this he means, downsize so that you don’t have to work as hard to pay for all the stuff you have. I really appreciated the relational focus of this and the admonitions against helicopter parenting. The books I’d been reading made parenting feel like a frantic race against time to prepare your child for his freshman year at Harvard (of course, he’d only get there if you spoke 1900 words per hour to him and ensured he had the best tutors and never saw a screen during the first 24 months of life). For Hodgkinson, admission to Harvard is not the ultimate goal of every parent, good relationships with independent, reasonable and kind children is the goal – and that’s something I can heartily agree with even while I may not employ some of his tactics like training Iren on how to make a cocktail so that I can sit and read while he serves me. Definitely a fun, light-hearted read that I found to be refreshing.

GraceBased

Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel

I read this book about 6-7 years ago and loved it. I really connected with Kimmel’s emphasis on communication in parenting and building relationships of trust and respect. I’ve regained an appreciation for the uniqueness of Kimmel’s approach as I’ve been reading other parenting books that purport to teach “biblical” parenting principles. I’ve been dismayed at the authoritarianism of many of the books, the emphasis on physical punishment (even of infants) in others, and poor theology in others. It’s a minefield of really bad “Christian” parenting books out there folks! This one stands apart and I’m really grateful that it exists.

Loving

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic

So far this is my favorite book on dealing with little ones. Yep, I only have a one-year-old so I’m a total newbie but Rachel Jankovic isn’t. She had five children in six years (I know!) and has so much wisdom to share. I’m not even finished with this little book because each chapter is so convicting and encouraging, I really only need to read a couple pages each night before I go to bed. Last night’s reading came after a very long day with Iren (he’s getting six (!) teeth and has a cold right now so he’s miserable) and was exactly what I needed to read. One of my major weaknesses as a mother is my drive to accomplish things each day – I love looking back at the end of each day and knowing that I finished projects, the house is cleaner than when the day started, the laundry is all folded and put away, and I was able to log so many hours of work. I’m a slave to productivity. But guess who isn’t? Yep, Iren. Jankovic’s gentle reminder that Iren is the most important thing helped me reframe my priorities…at least for today. I know this is a battle I’ll be waging for years, but having the wisdom of women who’ve walked these paths before is so wonderful.

So, there are a few of my faves. I actually have a shipment of more books coming my way, so hopefully I’ll be back with my thoughts on those.

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Merry Christmas from the Manors

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What a year it has been! Despite all my best intentions t0 send out Christmas cards, the stack of lovely letterpress ones that I bought is sitting here mocking me. So, I figured I could fire up the blog again. I’ve been missing blogging and watching the days slip by without aIMG_1077ny record. One of the things I enjoyed the most about having the blog was putting intentional effort into observing and recording the little gifts that each day gives. Since Iren’s birth (already a year ago!), my heart has been full with the realization of how full each day is with tender mercies and fresh starts amidst the chaos of raising a child.

As a quick update, we’re in the midst of our third year in South Florida. The place is growing on us and we are laying down some roots and we bought a house. There’s a little guest room, so plan your visit! Scotty continues to work at Knox Theological Seminary where he is the VP of Academics. I’m slowing working through my Master’s degree and continuing my work for BFB. I’ve been very blessed to have a group of first time moms atIMG_2502 our church and Iren is growing up with some really dear friends.

And speaking of Iren, he’s a joy. An extremely active little guy, he’s full of life and noise and definitely knows what he wants. After waiting a long time to take the plunge, both Scotty and I have found parenthood to be amazing. Yes, as our friend Derek says, we’ve entered into the world of cliché and say things like, “kids change everything,” and “it’s amazing…and exhausting” and we think that our baby is the most incredible person we’ve ever met! And despite the platitudes, it has made us both a little bit more aware of the amazing love that God has for us, his broken, stubborn, willful children. So, Christmas takes on a deeper significance as we think of the gravity of sending one’s own son into a heartless and cruel world in order that it might be saved. We chose Iren’s name because it means peace. During this Advent and Christmas season we are so thankful that when Christ left this world he left it with this promise:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Happy New Year!

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