norcal camping-9

Almost thirty years ago, my curious baby brother (that’s him, above, not a baby anymore) wandered from our campsite in Pismo Beach, CA next door and into to our camp-neighbor’s motorhome. He was fascinated with the RV because it had a steering wheel for driving right inside (we had a trailer at the time)!

It was a fateful meeting, because not only did that family return him and become our dear friends, but they invited our family to join them at their summer camping spot, Lake Almanor, up in Northern California. We did so that very summer and then continued to camp there with the same crew of friends every year of my childhood.

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The summer after I graduated high school, leg in a cast from a bad car accident, I visited the lake for the last time. It’s a bit off the beaten path, and David and I had never been as a couple through all my college years and our eleven years of marriage. Many of the lake crew have kept going (including my parents, off and on) but my brother and I, living the farthest away, hadn’t been back in years– fifteen years to be exact for me.

Until this year.

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From four main families our numbers have grown. Of my generation, we all have families of our own now except for two of the younger brothers. And this year, fifteen years later, we finally (almost) all got back together at the lake for a reunion of sorts and a wonderful week of camping at one of my favorite places.

norcal camping-2

Back when we were kids, we thought we “owned the place” at that campground. There were just six of us– five girls and one boy, plus a few younger brothers. We acquired more lake friends over the years, but that was our main crew. This year, David counted thirty-eight of us, and that was missing a young family of six who couldn’t make it.

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I saw the lake through new eyes this year, as we introduced our kids to our old traditions like milkshakes in town, putting pennies on the railroad tracks (with gum, of course), ice cream at the camp store, catching crawdads, and the most beautiful sunsets (the ones you see here are all unedited).

So today, as I reflect on what a beautiful time we had there (even despite LOTS of rain one day, and one sick kid), I thought I’d share a few photos with you. We were traveling on 10 on 10 day after all. Only today you get a few more than ten. ;)

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This trip also marked the maiden voyage of our little tent-trailer! We are in love! And of course, ahem, now we know where she leaks (and have hopefully since fixed that).

Sharing bits of our childhood with our own kids is one of the sweetest things about building a family. Watching them embrace traditions that I grew up with made my heart feel full, and as I got to experience one of my most favorite places in the world after such a long hiatus, I was reminded anew of the wonder of creation and the gratitude for this life I’ve been blessed with.

And on a related note, as I’ve said before: camping with young kids– it’s definitely not easy, but oh, how we love it.

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our family's first home

I finished grad school in the spring of 2006, and that fall I stayed on at my university as a part-time lecturer in Spanish. I also found out I was pregnant that fall. I continued my teaching job until a few weeks before the spring semester ended, when Gigi was born.

I was never so career-driven that I wanted to pursue full-time teaching (not that the California budget made that a possibility anyway) or PhD, much to the disappointment of a few of my professors. I knew I wanted to stay home with my baby girl.

But I’ve always been an academic. I probably would have considered going back in the fall to teach one class a semester (every autumn I’m drawn to school supplies– bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils, anyone?– and books and curriculum and learning) if we hadn’t moved out of state, where I had no university connections.

It was there, in Colorado, where I first settled into officially being “at home.” I joined a wonderful moms’ Bible study and enjoyed days full of analyzing my baby’s schedule, making baby food, researching cloth diapers and green living, documenting milestones, and learning about home management, organization, and productivity.

When I finally decided I needed an outlet for expressing other thoughts, findings, book reviews (besides just the family photo updates that were regularly posted on our family blog), I also discovered that the blogosphere wasn’t just a place to park my soapbox (which I’ve long-since abandoned anyway), it was a real, live community.

The blog community was a place where I could be home-based but also well-connected, and exposed to ideas, deep conversations, and inspiration,  my academic mind stimulated and my new-mama heart encouraged. I really fell in love with blogging, and connecting over the enigma that is the internet with other kindred spirits who tap down thoughts and click publish.

When I started my first non-family-photo-album blog, I chose the name Gidget Goes Green, enjoying the alliteration and fun use of my childhood pseudonym of choice, along with my new passion to research and write about green living.

But very shortly thereafter (maybe a month later?), I changed the name– I wanted to broaden my writing topics, and I realized that most everything I wanted to write about related in one way or another to the home. Not just to the physical walls and roof, but to a heart of hospitality, to the elements of homemaking, to the place where we gather to love, and eat, and discuss the deeper issues of life.

jane austen quote about home

Last week I read an old-ish post by Emily Freeman that I really loved and was struck with resounding feelings of yes, when I read these words:

Home isn’t either beautiful or not, happy or sad, full or empty. Home is both and home is and, whether home is church or family or a cul-de-sac. Home has good parts, hard parts, marvelous and miracle parts. Home is where we celebrate and where we grieve, where we are broken and healed, hurt and made whole again.

It’s a more-eloquent version of how I’ve described the idea of home before, and it’s a beautiful description of the place where we each come back to over and over and where we welcome others in and show them who we really are.

Someday, I may change the name of this little blog, who knows. But my hope is that it’s always a virtual reflection of what a real home is– the both and the and, a place that welcomes and nourishes, inspires, and fosters community.

And so thanks for being here. You are most welcome. 

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nothing stays the same

Parenting advice can be annoying, right? But one thing I’m never afraid to share with new moms (and remind myself about) is this:

Just when you get comfortable with a rhythm, routine, stage or phase, something changes.

(The same goes for rhythms, routines, stages, or phases you’re uncomfortable in, too, They usually don’t last forever.)

Some regions have a similar mantra for the weather: If you don’t like the weather here, just wait five minutes. 

The weather is much more steady here where I live. It generally ranges from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, all year long. Parenthood, on the other hand, sometimes feels like an ongoing series of transitions, and those steady plateaus in-between often feel too short for comfort.

I’m in one of those transitions right now. I had recently been extolling the glories of afternoon quiet time to some friends of mine. Summer had been great, an even more productive time for me than normal for writing and blogging stuff. We would play all morning and then after lunch the kids would each go in their separate rooms (Gigi in mine) for naps or Quiet Play Time. I would have a couple of (mostly) blissful hours to myself to do things like eat a complete meal in peace, surf Instagram, read a few chapters, or do some writing.

Then. We finally took Hallee’s paci away last week (cue music of doom: duh-duh-duh).

Let’s just say on the first day, after a pretty good night (surprisingly) when Daddy made the The Call, I texted him with the desperate, and dramatic, words: You killed naptime. 

I knew it was time. I wasn’t blaming him per se. But seriously, my afternoons as I knew them, seemed OVER.

We’ve had lots of crying. Poor Hallee is hoarse (I think she and Gigi are naturally prone to a raspy voice, especially during bouts of lots o’ crying). And I’m praying her through this, and trying to focus on the nice, cuddly moments, instead of on the throwing-board-books-at-the-door moments.

psalm 27

It’s been a week now. We’re still in transition. But things are improving. I may or may not have bribed my kids to have a good quiet time today. Desperate measures, I’m telling ya. Because my kids are different people when they get the rest they need. And today we needed a restful reset.

(I keep telling myself that if I had to suddenly alter the way I’d slept for my whole life, it would be a bit of a shock. That helps me be more compassionate and have more grace with her.)

So here we are, coping with the new normal. Which will, naturally, change again soon I’m sure… probably in the next few weeks when we go camping and road-tripping, or in a month or so when school starts.

Of course, we all know how fleeting childhood is, so none of this is really surprising to me. It’s just another one of those reminders to take a deep breath and remember it’s just a season, which, in turn, reminds me that the sweet, beautiful moments are fleeting as well.

So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
~Robert Frost

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3 little apps making me happy

Today’s edition of 3 Little Things features a few favorite new apps I’ve downloaded to my phone. These are all great for simplifying and streamlining various aspects of life. {Playing along with Amy of MomAdvice again!}

1. IFTTT 

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this one– it stands for “If This Then That”– and basically, you use and create “recipes” where your phone does something for you after you do something. I’m using the recipe where whenever I post a photo on Instagram, IFTTT tweets that photo as a full photo that will show up in my Twitter feed instead of just posting an Instagram link.

A really neat recipe I spotted in their is one where when you drive by a certain point, it will text someone. The app calls that one “text my wife when I leave work.” If I’m doing a bad job explaining this app, just download it (it’s free) and you’ll figure it out. ;)

2. ZipList 

A friend recently told me about this and I’m super excited about it. I’m using the web browser version to create my grocery list, both from my own mind, and from recipes– I can open a recipe I find on Pinterest for example with the Chrome extension (they also have buttons you can install in other browsers), and then it will import the ingredients and then I can select which items on it to add to my list.

I can save recipes in there, and, it also shows me what items are on sale at stores nearby (I inputed what my favorite stores to shop at are). Once I create my list, I just login on my phone app and there it will be! You can also print the list out, which might be helpful when I have a really long list. Membership/app are free, although there are ads to navigate around.

3. SheReadsTruth

This is a new free Bible app put out by the ladies at SheReadsTruth. I’m really excited about it because it has their plans built in (some plans are free, some aren’t), and it has a community aspect, where women can comment on the plans. The interface is simple (and beautiful) and it’s easy to share verses/passages.

What apps have you discovered lately?

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I took these on the 10th, but am just finally getting them posted. It was a great day to document the beauty in the ordinary– a simple morning at home with my younger two (Gigi was my parents’ house), a quiet afternoon, and then our church beach night (one of our favorite weekly summer traditions), with the bonus of some wonderful time spent with a blogging-friend-turned-real-life-friend and her sweet family.

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ten on ten button

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summer reading challenge-1

We’re about a month into summer, and since school got out, boy has reading clicked on a deeper level for Gigi.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that right around the end of the school year we found out Gigi was farsighted, and needed glasses. She’s been reading and writing fine, but all this time she actually had a hard time seeing up close.

So maybe it’s the glasses that helped her really dive into reading chapter books, or maybe it was also the challenge I presented her with as summer began.

(We’re still using our summer learning plan as a guide but we’re not totally adhering to it every day.)

At the end of first grade, Gigi was able to read chapter books but also a little lazy and unfocused with them. Giving her a specific challenge helped her have some motivation to start a book… and finish it. Now, she’s been devouring books– staying up late to finish with a flashlight and reading in the car.

She’s been so excited to start new books that she has still had a hard time sticking to one at a time (where on earth could she get that from??). I keep telling her that when she’s older like me, she can read lots of books at once. But I’m trying to encourage her to stick to one at a time to help her comprehension.

I still have to remind her to actually pick up a book and read because she’s easily distracted (by Legos, her desire to play with friends, etc), but she’s not longer putting up a fight most of the time.

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The challenge

I told Gigi if she read fifteen chapter books, she would earn a $15 gift card to Barnes and Noble. Lucky for her, her two grandmas said they would each match that. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

summer reading challenge 2014

I’m now certain that she will surpass my challenge, no problem (and I’m excited to see how many books she ends up finishing this summer). I originally planned to print out and hang up the list, but I think she enjoys going on my computer to type the books into the Word document as much as she enjoys finishing a book. ;)

Finding books at the right reading level

Since Gigi is mostly homeschooled, I didn’t have an exact reading level given by the school to go off. I emailed her reading teacher from the learning center and got a few recommendations based on what they had read in class. The first books she was interested in reading on her own were the American Girl books, so I did a little research and found that they were about a 5th grade reading level.

From there, I researched other books that were about the same reading level, but were a subject matter that a 2nd-grade girl would be interested in. The trick I’m learning, from other moms of advanced readers, is that sometimes it’s hard to match reading level with content appropriateness. We’re not really there yet but that’s something I want to be aware of– so that I don’t end up with her reading Flowers in the Attic in 5th grade like I did (seriously? That’s supposed to be an appropriate kids’ book??).

And I’m trying to steer her towards more classics than fluff (like those rainbow fairy books she always gravitates toward at the library– those are off-limits for now, until she’s ingested some of the good stuff).

great chapter books for grades 2-5

Here are the books I ended up setting up as valid for the challenge. I’m sure there are lots more great ones to add to this list (I’d love to hear ‘em if you have ‘em!).

I’m so proud of what she’s already accomplished. The more I get to know how God made Gigi, the more I see that likes to rise to a challenge… and she also loves earning rewards.

How do you encourage summer reading? What books would you add to my list?

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July Goals

by gidget on July 2, 2014

in life in general

beach camp

So June wizzed past me. Several family birthdays, lots of family members and friends hit with a tummy bug, an anniversary, a beach camp (pictured above), June gloom, beach nights, and more. I kept meaning to sit down and post my goals with grace but never got to it. Let’s just say I worked on May’s goals for an extra month. ;)

1. Finish reading 2 books. I loved reading these last two months. See what I’ve been up to over on GoodReads.

2. Finish my 2013 photo book so I can get it printed. This is a BIG project– I have culled through thousands to get it down to 1500 photos. Ugh. Didn’t even touch this project.

3. Get my eBook for sale both on my site and on Amazon. Yes! Made my first sales, too- so thankful.

4. Keep working on my Good Habits- get a string of 7 in a row for each item (reviewing memory verses, reading to kids, flossing). In classic ENFP/lazy person fashion I got bored with this app and deleted it after ignoring it for several weeks. Still working on those habits, but without the reminders.

5. Fix/sew 3 things in my (crazy, outta control) mending pile. Nope. I made a baby shower gift last month, but that’s it. :(

july 2014 goals

But now it’s July and I’m ready to get real with goal-setting again.

It’s summer so I’m keeping things simple.

1. Start my next eBook (!!), which will be very different from my first.

2. Do something with all those photos I take. Work on the 2013 book or figure out another system. But seriously, I have to do something.

3. Get caught up & backed up on 2014′s photos.

4. Go surfing!

GOALS-WITH-GRACE

What are you hoping to accomplish this month?

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alice waters on education

 

Sometimes raising a child can seem so complicated.

There are different styles, and priorities, and methods, and… sometimes it’s nice to just stop and take a simpler look.

When we look at life skills we want our kids to learn by the time they leave the house, I think this quote by Alice Waters really sums things up pretty succinctly: “Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.”

Even Jesus lived out these two priorities; just look John 6: 1-15 when He feeds the five thousand. Feeding Himself (and His disciples) and serving (and feeding) the community are at the center of this story.

kids in the kitchen

If we can give our kids the skills to feed themselves, and instill in them a sense of community, then they will be generously equipped to serve and love others as they live out their lives. 

I have to remind myself of the value of these moments when I’m in the kitchen and my littlest one drags in a chair, as she always does. It’s easy to get caught up in the tasks, and shoo her away, but then what am I teaching her?

Welcoming my kids into my cramped, cluttered kitchen so they can observe, learn and soak in the skills and the kitchen culture is one of the best ways I can prepare them for the rest of their lives.

And letting them help me feed others– whether it’s cookies for the local firefighters, a meal for a new mom, or friends joining us for dinner– is one of our family’s favorite way to live out this education.

What are ways that you teach your kids to be able to “feed themselves” and “live in a community responsibility?’”

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keeping creativity and learning fresh

“Frequency makes starting easier. Getting started is always a challenge. It’s hard to start a project from scratch, and it’s also hard each time you re-enter a project after a break. By working every day, you keep your momentum going. You never have time to feel detached from the process.” ~Gretchen Rubin


The essay by Gretchen Rubin in Manage Your Day-to-Day, Harnessing the Power of Frequency, was a little beacon of truth for me. In it, I was encouraged to really try to do something creative or writing-related every day to keep my momentum going.

I often come to place, after days off due to scheduling, getting sick, or traveling, where I feel so overwhelmed with the things I want to do, that I am paralyzed and unable to start. And this from someone who’s naturally a good starter (and less of a finisher).

what I do every day matters more

I was sensing this about myself, and then upon reading Gretchen’s essay, I was convinced. The wonderful thing about summer for me is that our laid-back days seem to provide me more time to work than I had during the school year. So I’m trying to be intentional about creating more than consuming (although I’m reading a ton, too, so maybe it’s just less online consumption).

Here are the main ways frequency helps us, according to Gretchen Rubin:

  • keeps ideas fresh
  • keeps the pressure off
  • sparks creativity
  • nurtures frequency
  • fosters productivity
  • is a realistic approach

I can’t recommend this book enough for practical ways to be more intentional with our creative work, and really, so many aspects of our lives… even educating our children!


gigi making fake money

I distinctly remember that when Gigi started first grade last year, she had definitely lost some of what she had learned in kindergarten, simply due to “summer atrophy.”

So this year I determined that I wasn’t going to let learning slide as much over our summer break. I knew if she did a little each day it also would make the transition into fall easier, too.

I’ve only had a school-age kid for two years now, so I’m new to all this, but it turns out this is a pretty common practice. My friend Tsh calls what they do over the summer “homeschool light,” and I know my friend Jessica is “doing school” somewhat this summer, too.

I actually first saw this in action with a friend whose kids (older than mine) go to public school. She’s always had them do some kind of light homeschool work during the summer to keep things fresh.

I already shared our summer rhythm with you. Well, here’s what our {flexible} weekly schedule for learning looks like. We’re also hoping to add in some math, with dad, or on the computer, this summer. Some days we simply don’t get to this, but when we do, I don’t have to rack my brain for something- it’s already laid out for us.

Summer learning schedule

She’s reading a ton (more on the challenge I created for her soon), and I might get her going with some writing eventually, with Tsh’s summer writing guide.

Summer’s all about fun, right? I didn’t want Gigi’s learning activities to be a drag, so I created a little reward system for her. Some days I might give her an extra media ticket for doing her lesson/learning activity without complaining. But she also learns a “smart star” every day she completes that assignment.

smart stars for summer learning sessions

When she reaches twenty stars, she’ll earn a reward — this time we decided on getting a “professional manicure” (her term) with mom– something we’ve never done.


 

As for me, I’m thinking some kind of schedule or rhythm would help me with my creative pursuits as well this summer. Maybe I work on blog posts one day and bigger writing projects another day?

Right now I’m sort of writing and blogging and social-media-ing on the fly. And it’s working, because our days our more relaxed as it is, but I want to make the most of my productivity, so I’m definitely going to fiddle with this.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you keep learning and creativity– both yours and your kids’– fresh over the summer?

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