Tag Archives: mothering

For the Love of Audio Books

“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one is with another who shares the same books.”Katherine Mansfield
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I love the way listening to audio books brings all my kids together.
Yesterday they spent the entire afternoon in the boys’ room listening to The Last Battle, a book they’ve read and listened to several times before. But we like to listen to our favorite books again and again. It just makes us love them more.
They were all in there together, drawing, building Legos, or just laying on the bed and soaking up the beautiful language and storytelling of one of CS Lewis’ masterpieces.
We don’t use earphones or earbuds when we listen to books, at home or in the car, because I love the way listening to a story together builds our relationships with one another.

The moment we put those ear buds in, we are shutting ourselves off from everyone around us. I work very hard to cultivate relationships within my family and so this “shutting off from one another” is the exact opposite of what I want to see happening.
Instead, I love to hear my kids laughing over a story together, or discussing the book as they listen to it together. We aren’t all separated from each other–we’re enjoying time together. I love the way, everyone is drawn into a room when an audio book is turned on. We’re pulled together by the magic of a good story.
We have beautiful conversations about whatever book we are listening to. Everyone chimes in, and we all relate to the book in different to ways, but we’re experiencing it together,  which creates such special bonds. We talk in the language of the books we’ve read. I often hear my kids say things like this, “you know that part in The Hobbit…” Or, “it’s like in Caddie Woodlawn when…”
The books we read together become shared experiences and create cherished memories just as family vacations and adventures do. In fact, the books we’ve read together are some of our favorite adventures.
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I have always felt that putting something in, or over, our ears separated us from one another and I’ve never liked that. Even at 11 or 12 when I got my first Walkman, I didn’t like listening to it in the car because I was missing out on the conversation my parents were having. I hated sitting next to my mom while she drove, my headphones on, and not talking to her. It felt almost rude to me. But even more, l knew I wasn’t experiencing life with her. There would be no conversations about the simple things we saw as we drove, or the deeper conversations that might happen as we sat next to each other.
There wouldn’t be singing along together to the Sam Cook cassette playing in our hunk of junk Dodge Dart while my mom drove my brother and I to math tutoring. There’d be no laughing over silly stories together There wouldn’t be learning how to sit together in silence, each having our own thoughts, yet fully comfortable together in the quiet.

Building relationships is certainly easier when we are fully engaged with one another.
I suppose all those things played a part in my decision to keep our book time free from ear buds and headphones. It’s not that those things are bad in and of themselves. Or even that using them is bad. It’s just that for us, the experience of being together without them is better.
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So how does this life style decision play out in our family, practically speaking?
Truthfully there is no grumbling about listening to books together because it’s something they’ve always done. This is our way of life and they don’t seem to mind it at all. The only problem that occurs occasionally is that someone is being too loud and interrupting the book. Then that person is asked to be quiet or leave the room. And the problem is solved.

We get most of our books from our subscription to Audible. This does have a monthly fee, but I consider it an essential part of our kids’ education and to our family life, so it is 100% worth the money. I get two credits to use a month and very rarely use more than those credits That means I do not spend anything beyond my monthly subscription fee. Sometimes we can purchase a whole series for one credit, like all the Ramona Quimby books. Or we purchase lots of long books, so we really make those credits count.
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Our Audible books can be played on any computer or phone, so the kids can listen to them just about anywhere.
They often have the computer set up in the living room and gather there to listen to books.
They can also listen in their rooms on the laptop or on our family iPod.
We borrow books on cd from the library often and those get played on Lilly’s Hello Kitty “boom box” or on the computer.
No one has to stay in a room and listen to a book if they’d rather be doing something else.
Sometimes one kid is inside listening to a book while the others are playing outside or in another room drawing. But it just seems that once a book is turned on, they all just gravitate to where it is playing.
My kids have a hard time resisting stories.

We also listen to books in the car all the time.
My kids don’t mind long drives because they get to listen to books. In fact, short drives are far more troubling to them because they want to listen to the book longer.

Everyone takes turn choosing the books we listen to. Or we choose one together.
Occasionally there might be a groan when Davy picks “Tales of Brer Rabbit” agin. But mostly they are happy with each other’s book selections.
They just love listening to books so much that they are happy for every new book that is chosen.Or a beloved old book revisited.
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Beyond the relational ways listening to books together has helped our family, it has also had an impact in other ways:
1.  We’ve grown our reading skills because of listening to challenging books from a very young age. My younger kids are always listening to books high above their reading level. But because of the constant exposure to these books, their comprehension skills and vocabulary are through the roof.  We also listen to all our books unabridged. It has never proven to be a problem for them–even with the most challenging books. They are building skills to become great readers.
2.  Everyone is exposed to a variety of genres, and authors they might otherwise not choose. Each of us has our favorite books of course, but since we are listening to books together, we are kept from choosing the same types of books over and over again. My kids are open to reading just about anything, because they’ve experienced so many different types of great books.
3.  We’ve learned the art of listening and paying attention. Listening to books that are challenging has taught all my kids the skill of being a good listener. They have to pay attention in order to understand what is going on in a story that may have lots of characters, an involved plot, advanced vocabulary, or complex sentence structure.
4. We’ve learned the importance of asking questions. Many of the books we listen to are higher level books. That means the younger kids will often stop and ask questions about what is going on, who a certain character is, or even say something like, “wait, what just happened?” If they were reading or listening alone, there would be no one to ask questions of, and I think the temptation would be to just stay lost. But because we’re listening together, asking questions is a normal part of the reading experience.
5.  We’ve learned the skill of summarizing, translating, re-telling , and explaining. As we listen to books together, and questions are asked, those questions must be answered. That means my kids are learning how to explain things to one another, and how to summarize what someone just missed or didn’t understand. Best of all, they are doing it in a natural, real life way.
6.  My kids are learning the joy and pleasure that comes from talking about books. The exchange of ideas and thoughts that come to us as we read (listen to ) a book together is a valuable skill that will translate to so many other parts of their life. It’s teaching them to be critical thinkers who can then discuss their thoughts. That’s a very practical part of this journey that I appreciate. But as I said before, they are also learning the joy and pleasure of discussing books. That to me is of great value as well. In fact, it may be my favorite part of this whole journey. Because there are few things I love to do more than talk about a book with my favorite little readers.

Now to get you started, here is a list of some of our favorite audio books.
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For the younger crowd:
*The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection narrated by Stockard Channing
*Charlotte’s Web narrated by EB White
*A Bear Called Paddington narrated by Michael Bond
*Mr. Popper’s Penguins narrated by Nick Sullivan
*The Courage of Sarah Noble narrated by Barbra Caruso
*The Peter Rabbit Collection narrated by Peter Batchelor

Books for older kids (but even my youngest has enjoyed listening to):
*The Yearling narrated by Tom Stechschulte
*The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy narrated by Rob Inglis
*The Princess and the Goblin narrated by Ian Whitcomb
*Johnny Tremain narrated by Grace Conlin
*Littel Women narrated by Kate Reading
*Caddie Woodlawn narrated by Roslyn Alexander
*The Borrowers series narrated by Rowena Cooper
*Father and I Were Ranchers (and the following books in this series) narrated by Ralph Moody
*Danny Champion of the World narrated by Peter Serafinowicz
*The Wind and the Willows narrated by Michael Hordern
*The Merry Adventures of Robinhood narrated by David Thorn
*The Chronicles of Narinia narrated by various narrators

These books are all available on Audible.
But you might be able to find them at your local library or on the site LibriVox, which offers many books to download for free.
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I hope this glimpse into the way we experience books as a family will encourage you to listen to more books together. You don’t have to totally ditch those earbuds.But I promise the benefits that come when you share a book together as a family will make you want to tune into one another more, and tune out less.
Remember, you don’t have to go on fancy vacations, or grand adventures to create memories with your family. Making memories can be as simple as popping a bowl of popcorn and settling down with a fabulous audio book. You’ll laugh together, wonder together, and if you’re like my family, cry together. Best of all, listening to a book takes some time, so you’ll get to revisit that together time again and again until the book is done.
Its magic!
Don’t underestimate the power of books to bring people together.
For the love of (audio) books,

*For more on my love of books, be sure to follow me on Instagram. You can find me @maandpamodern, right here.

A Thanksgiving Tale For the Weary Mama



I remember this day like it was yesterday. Davy was 5 months old, the others were 7, 5, and 3. Aaron had been out of town for work for 10 days and I was prepping to host 25 people at our house for Thanksgiving.
This particular morning I rounded up the children to head to Trader Joe’s to get the turkey and do all the shopping. This was nothing new, because as a home schooling mama, I took all my kids everywhere, all the time.
But just because I did it all the time doesn’t mean it was particularly easy. Trader Joe’s, in fact, was especially hard. Those aisles were narrow and no matter how many times I’d bark at the children, “single file! Single file!” they all liked to fan out in a horizontal line alongside me and the cart, effectively blocking any other shoppers from passing us.
It drove me crazy!
I broke out in a sweat on every TJs shopping trip, tried not to curse under my breath, and to smile with a saintly glow at the 50 + people who looked at me and said, “my! You have your hands full!”
Oh Trader Joe’s shopping trips with 4 little kids, you were so much fun. 😁
When we arrived, I didn’t put Davy in the cart like usual, but strapped him to me in the Ergo carrier. I’d need every inch of space in that cart for groceries. We started with the turkey, a big one for our crowd of guests. And we cruised the store, filling the cart to the brim, me telling the kids to “stop jumping, stop wrestling, no, we can’t get those chips, single file!” and all the rest. I also told Lilly, repeatedly, not to hang on the cart.
Those Trader Joe’s carts
are notorious for tipping. It happened to me when William was a baby and James was hanging from the side of the cart. It was terrifying. And I lived in mortal fear of it happening again.
So of course, on that day it did. As I was reaching for some carrots, I heard a scream and turned to see Lilly falling to the ground with the full, heavy cart falling on top of her. I lunged for it, but wasn’t fast enough. Girl and cart hit the floor with a thud. The boys and I yelled, groceries flew everywhere, eggs broke, and Lilly wailed. I tried to lift the cart off of her and to keep the panic out of my voice as I asked if she was all right.
Kind employees and shoppers rushed to help and we lifted the cart off of her.
There was no blood, and nothing seemed broken, but she was crying.
I collapsed on the ground next to her, pulled her onto my lap and sat there, with a screaming Davy between us, the tears running down my cheeks, mingling with hers, and dripping on the floor.
I tried to stifle sobs.
I was so tired. And scared. And relieved. And frustrated. And so grateful I had put Davy in the carrier that day. And embarrassed. And mad.
And why did this all have to be so hard!
The boys huddled next to us, patting my back, trying to comfort me, scared because of all that had happened, and scared because Mommy was sitting on the floor in the middle of Trader Joe’s, crying.
In that moment, the weight of mothering all those little people felt far too heavy for me to bear. It was just so never ending.
80 fingernails and toenails to cut and clean, teeth to brush morning and night, children who didn’t nap anymore, sleepless nights, endless piles of laundry to do, bodies to scrub, thousands of Legos to clean up every single day, and even a simple grocery store trip that ended in disaster.
Sometimes I wanted to quit.

Have you been there?

Crying in the shower? Weeping under your covers or sobbing into your husband’s chest? I know I admitted to him more than once, “I feel like I’m suffocating.” and then felt terrible for saying it.
It’s hard, hard work, this job of mothering.
But I have good news.
It gets easier.
I’m not saying it is ever easy.
But those relentless, sometimes suffocating, early days will get easiER
There will come a time when your children can cut their own fingernails. Cue the angel chorus! There will be a day when you’ll say, “someone get in the shower!” and someone will, and they won’t need you to wash them. They’ll wipe their own bums, and remember to wash their own hands. They’ll get their own snacks. And one sweet, sweet, day, you will be able to leave them at home while you run to the store for a minute all by yourself.
Now before you berate me for not enjoying every.single. second. of motherhood while my kids are young, understand that I enjoy much of it. Like a whole, whole lot of it. But I’m also OK with a little independence. Saying goodbye to diapers was not a sad day for me. Not bathing 4 kids every night feels pretty grand.
There are beautiful things about watching my kids grow up. From saying goodbye to those simple tasks that sometimes add up and feel overwhelming, to the much bigger and sweeter things, like deep conversations and seeing them become their own person.
Seasons change.
And that is a good thing, because if we were stuck in the same season forever, we’d become awfully weary of it.
For me, the physically exhausting years of early motherhood are beginning to fade. And even though there are parts of their babyhood that I’ll forever miss, I’m also really enjoying the spot we’re in now. There are challenges, to be sure. But there always will be. That is the nature of this job.
What I want you to know, all you mamas of littles, is that even though it’s hard to believe now, you’ll make it. And when you do, don’t get so comfortable in your new spot that you think you’ve got it all together. Or even worse, think to yourself that those new moms who are making a big deal out of every single thing are overreacting. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell them to enjoy this moment because it will be so much harder when they’re teenagers.
Don’t. Just don’t.
Instead, remember that you were there once too. Think of what you needed to hear in that moment. Put yourself in their shoes. Smile at those moms in the grocery store when you see them looking frazzled or teary. Tell them they are doing good work. Just like I’m telling you that you are now.
Because you are.
So if you fall down, you can cry a little, but then get back up, and keep going.
Listen to me when I say, you are doing good work mama!
“Let us not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Happy Thanksgiving to all you mamas and your little turkeys too!

That Day We Almost Lost Davy

In almost 10 years of parenting, I can only think of 3 times when I have been truly terrified for my children’s safety.
Today makes it 4.

I was making lunch today and it was unusually quiet.
“Can someone find David?” I called.
Lilly and William went in search calling, “Davy! Daaaavvy!” as they walked around the house.
They went into the backyard and a minute later called, “he’s not out here Mom!”
Trying to quell the nervousness that was rising in my breast, James and I joined the search, calling Davy’s name.
I looked in every room, the closets, the bathtub, under the beds, and on the top bunks.
I looked in the garage, the playhouse and Aaron’s studio.
The kids were doing the same thing, all of us calling his name as our search grew more frantic.

I am a bit OCD about keeping our back gate closed.
I am always on the kids to make sure the gate is shut and check it multiple times a day.
None of my kids have ever wandered off.
But the gardeners were here today, and even though we all stay inside when they are here, and they are very careful to close the gate , I thought they must have left it open at some point, and Davy slipped out with no one knowing,
I don’t panic often, but I started to panic.

The big kids were still searching, yelling Davy’s name, and calling out to me, “I’m praying right now, Mommy!”
I could hear William crying
I ran across the street to my neighbor’s.
He was standing outside with his son and a Triple A mechanic.
“My 2 year old is gone ,” I almost sobbed,
All 3 Looked at me, utter expletives that were perfectly fitting for the situation, and started to run to their cars.
“What’s he wearing?” they asked as they were all climbing in.
A diaper. Just a diaper.

As I was calling 911, all I could think of was that I was a terrible mother.
How could I let this happen?
I hated myself.
Would the police declare me an unfit mother because I let my 2 year old wander away in a diaper?
Would I still be allowed to home school?
How would we live without Davy?
It is amazing how slow time moves in an emergency, even though everything is really happening at   the same pace as usual.
I felt like I was underwater, and drowning.

Before the 911 operator even picked up, my boys called from across the street, “we found him! We found him !”
“Thank God! Where is he?” I almost screamed back.
“In your bed, under the covers!”
“But I looked in there! I called his name !”
“He’s asleep Mommy! He’s ok!”
I waved my neighbors back and told them we found David.
And I walked back into my house, fell onto the floor, and just sobbed.
There are few things in this world more horrible than not knowing where your child is.

The big kids gathered around me and we prayed a prayer
of thankfulness to Jesus.
And then, through my tears, I praised them.
For not panicking.
For praying while they were scared.
For continuing to look for Davy even though we had looked everywhere.
And for finding him.

It shook us all up.
It was a good reminder to us all how precious we are to one another.
Sometimes we get frustrated and annoyed at each other, but how much more do we love each other!
I am not much of a drinker, but man oh man could I go for a stiff one right now!
And holy cow can David ever sleep!
This parenting thing is not for wimps, is it?
I’ve never been so glad for happy endings.

Tears, Loss, and Daffodils


It’s daffodil season.
Every time I see that first bunch of them in the market, I catch my breath, and feel the tears filling my eyes.
4 years ago when we lost our 4th baby, I was given many beautiful bouquets of daffodils.
And so they became my baby’s flower.
They are a sweet reminder of the care I received at time when I was broken hearted.
But they are also a reminder of the little person that I never got to know.
4 years later, I still cry for that baby.
Those yellow blossoms are heavy with feeling, sorrow and joy mingled together.

I’m still surprised at the sometimes intensity of my grief.
In the beginning, when I could finally get through a day without dwelling on the loss constantly, I felt guilty.
How could I live my life normally after losing a baby?
And then, years later, when I suddenly find myself sobbing about a long past miscarriage, I feel guilty about that.
Should I still feel the hurt like this?
Is it right for me to feel this way when there is so much goodness in my life?
And besides, other people have losses much greater than mine.
It seems no matter what I feel, I struggle with finding an explanation for it, a justification.
As if I need one.

After we lost our baby, well meaning people assured me there’d be more babies.
And then, after Davy was born, other well meaning people said we could be glad because we never would have had Davy if it weren’t for the baby we had lost.
I understand what they were trying to say.
And I wouldn’t trade my wild Davy boy for the world.
But please, please, understand something, the gain of one wonderful thing does not erase the loss of another.

Oh I know we should count our blessings.
And I know we should be grateful for the way God brings goodness out of brokenness.
That is redemption, and redemption is the most beautiful thing in this broken world.
But don’t you think God cries over the brokenness too?
I do.
He was with me in my tears.
He still is.
And it’s OK to cry.
Even when we reach that point where we can say, “I’m am so sad about that, but I am so glad for this.  This goodness which has come after such sorrow.”
Even then, in our gladness, we are allowed to acknowledge the loss that is still there.

I have been a crier my whole life.
I cry because of beautiful things.
I cry over broken ones.
I cry when I look at my husband and children because I love them so much.
I cry when I am sad, happy, mad, when I’m reading a good book, or when I know a friend, or a stranger, is hurting.
I used to be ashamed of my tears.
I was embarrassed.
But I’m not any more.
My tears don’t mean I am weak.
They mean I feel deeply all the goodness and the hurting this life holds.

I still miss my baby.
I think I always will.
And that is how it should be.
I will never forget a friend who told me, with tears in her eyes, that she still felt the pain of a baby lost 20 years ago.
What a gift she gave me.
She gave me the freedom to cry for as long as I need to.

Four years later, I am learning that I don’t have to explain away this sadness I still feel.
I can walk through the days of spring with joy in my heart because life is beautiful and full of much goodness.
My eyes can fill with tears of happiness when I spend a beautiful day in the sun with my 4 sweet babies.
But I can also sit still in the waves of sadness that wash over me at this time of year.
I don’t have to fix it, pretend it isn’t there, or wonder what is wrong with me.
I can cry tears over a love lost.
I will wipe them away, but I won’t stop them from coming.

I love the poem, On Another’s Sorrow, by William Blake.
It talks of how we should be with one another in our pain–that we should sorrow with one another.
Like the friend who came to me with arms full of daffodils, and a candle.
She sat next to me on the couch and cried with me.
She was with me in the hurting.
But the poem speaks also of Another who is with us in our sorrow.
In those times when no one is there to see us cry.
When everyone else has forgotten, or we just can’t share the hurt.
When we’re crying over a lost baby, aging parents, a failing marriage, financial woes, loneliness, a child with special needs, or feelings of desperation, He is there, crying with us.
You aren’t alone.

The last stanza of the poem really speaks to me.
O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.”
To you who are hurting, may you find joy.
And until then, may you make peace with your sorrow, and know you are not alone in it.

All the best,

*The beautifully illustrated quote is by the amazing artist, Lisa Congdon.
*And if you are interested, here is the full poem by William Blake:
On Another’s Sorrow

Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear -

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.
Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear -

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.


Back In the Saddle Again

I went horseback riding today with the ladies in my book club.
After I got the hang of what I was doing, I had an hour to sit on my horse, watch the world go by, and think.
Here’s what came to mind as I sat atop my horsey, Trigger.


When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

There were 2 girls in our group today who had never ridden a horse .
And most of the rest of us hadn’t ridden since we were kids.
It was a little bit scary.
As we lined up to get on our horses, there were nervous giggles, talk of upset tummies, of courage draining by the minute, and a couple, “why did I say I’d do this ?”
Once we started off, I alternated between, i love this! and , this is going to be the longest hour of my life!
I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
But after a while, it was really, really fun.
For all of us.

Trying new things is so important.
It’s important for me as a person.
Amongst other things, it makes me more interesting, and helps me grow.
But right now, I think it is most important for me as a mother.

A while back, when I was trying to find the kind of exercise that I enjoyed doing, I took some aerobics classes.
My performance was laughable.
And what I mean is, the instructor laughed at me because I was so bad.
I just could not get it.
It was really hard for me.
And sometimes frustrating, and sometimes embarrassing.
At the same time, I was trying to teach my son to read.
He was struggling.
There were times when I wanted to throw the books across the room and give up.
I wanted him to just get it, because it surely could’t be this hard.
Sometimes I wondered if he was really trying.
One night in aerobics class, as I went the wrong way, again, I suddenly understood how my son felt.
And I had so much compassion for him it brought tears to my eyes.
He was trying.
But it was hard.
And that was OK.
It was going to take a while.
And that was OK too.

We expect a lot from our kids:
Stand in front of that hard ball, that’s coming at you really fast and hit it with this little stick.
Don’t be scared!
And if it hits you, don’t cry!
Go into that group where you don’t know a soul, and talk to people and make friends, and I’ll pick you up in an hour.
Don’t be clingy!
Sound out these letters into words, and read them quickly, out loud, and in front of people.
And you better do it before you are 6.
Don’t mess up!
And don’t get frustrated!

Of course it’s imperative for us to encourage our kids to try new things, to meet new people , and to learn new skills.
But we also need to show them kindness and gentleness during the process.
We need to give them grace when it’s hard.
We need to hug them and say, “it’s OK to be scared.”
And we need to know where they are coming from.
Like Atticus Finch said, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

So go for it.
Be the new kid.
Be a beginner.
Be not good at something.
Be scared.
It will help you love them better.
And after a little while, you might even start having fun.
(or you might stop doing aerobics forever and do boot camp instead.  and that’s ok)

All the best,

A Floating Hearts Photo Booth Backdrop

It’s almost Valentines Day!
In honor of that, I’ve decided to try to jump start the barely beating heart of this blog (see what I did there?  Gosh, I’m witty) and repost some old content for the holiday.
I have some lighthearted and fun posts, and some heavier but heart warming posts on what real love looks like.
I hope it will be a good balance.
We’re starting with the fun stuff.
And let me tell you, it doesn’t get much more fun than a floating heart photo booth!562979_4904182715837_1229022705_n

For the past 3 or 4 years, the kids and I have hosted a Valentines Day party for our home school group friends.
It is a whole lot of kids running around our back yard, its a whole lot of sweet Valentines being given to little friends, its pink donut holes, pink lemonade, and its a whole lot of photo booth pics.
Its really one of my favorite parties of the year.555937_4904179915767_1082180333_n
I will never claim to be a crafty person, and this will never be a crafty blog.
Most Pinterest crafts I try are a failure.
I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.
I’ve learned to embrace my strengths, and not worry too much about the things I don’t do as well.
Occasionally though, I manage to make something that turns out pretty good, or, dare I say, great.
That’s only because my husband steps in and helps me figure out where I am going wrong.
He is beyond crafty–he’s an artist and can pretty much make anything turn out amazing.
That’s what happened here.
With his help, this floating heart photo booth backdrop turned out better than I hoped it would.
It was adorable.

Besides not being crafty, I am also a last minute party planner.
I’m talking, stay up until 2 am the night before the party to finish the project that I decided to start at 10.
I have the ideas in my head for ages, but I just don’t get around to starting them until the last minute.
That is what happened here.
Therefore I have no pictures of the steps it took to make these floating hearts.
I don’t have a supply list.
I don’t have anything but these pictures of the finished product to inspire you to make your own floating hearts.427236_4904181075796_1866736852_n
Oh, and I do have the link to the tutorial I used.
Because you know I didn’t figure out how to do this myself.
There is some math involved.
But you can do it.
And it will be adorable.
Go visit Hank and Hunt Party Crafts for one of the sweetest Valentines crafts you ever did see.377714_4904178515732_697038454_n

Will you just look at my kids a year ago?
Time is racing past.
It’s a good reminder to make sure to stop and do something really fun and frivolous like this now and then.
It is totally worth the effort and lost sleep.
I’ll cherish these photos for the rest of my days.

And if you can’t manage to get this done for Valentines Day, don’t fret.
This would be pretty perfect for a birthday party, baby shower, or even next year’s Valentines Day party.
I have no problem with planning ahead.
Of course, I’d still be up the night before actually doing the work, but it would have been all planned out in my head for ages.

If this is your first time stopping by this little blog space, thanks!
I’m hopeful I’ll be back with another post soon.
Do check in and keep me accountable.
Happy Valentines Day!
All the best,
Ma Modern
(but you can also call me Greta)


Adventure Is Out There! That TIme I Took My 4 Kids to a Hipster Hotel All By Myself

I love to take my kids on adventures.
In doing so, I hope to pass onto them a love, and a longing, for adventure, that lasts them their whole life.
Our adventures often entail a fair amount of work and a bit of discomfort, and usually leave me exhausted by the end of them.
But they also leave me exhilarated.
They are the stuff of memories.
I’m always, always, glad we made the effort.
Early this summer, Aaron set out on an adventure of his own.
He flew to Spain and Portugal to hike El Camino de Santiago.
He, my dad, and some others, would be there for 10 days, hiking over 80 miles along an ancient pilgrim route.
It was an amazing time, and I hope I can get him to blog about it here.
Meanwhile, I stayed home with our 4 kiddos.
It was the end of the school year and baseball season.
There were a million things going on.
I couldn’t get a babysitter to save my life.
There were closing ceremonies, pizza parties, and extra practices for playoffs.
I was pretty worn out from doing regular life alone, and missing Aaron fiercely on his birthday, Davy’s 2nd birthday, Father’s Day, and our 15th wedding anniversary.
As a way to get through the time while Aaron was gone on his adventure, I had planned to take the kids on one of our own, but time seemed to be working against me.
I had one night.
So we went to Palm Springs.
It was a calculated move.
I needed to deliver some paintings to Just Modern, a fabulous shop in Palm Springs that sells Aaron’s work.
And James had been asking to stay at the ACE ever since his Daddy took him there for lunch a few months prior.
That’s right, my 9 year old loves the ACE hotel.
He liked the food, the aesthetic, and the design.
“It’s mid century, but kind of rustic too, Mom.  And they have a photo booth.  And a diorama.”
He knows how to woo me.
I found a ridiculously cheap rate–$63 for a double–and away we went.
One night in a hotel?
That’s not much of an adventure, you say.
Our kids have stayed in a hotel only one other time in their lives.
We have 4 kids–we travel cheap.
That means we camp, we stay at the grandparents, and once a year we rent a tiny, log cabin on the central coast of CA, and the owners think we are insane for cramming our whole family in there.
We don’t really do hotels.
So to my babies, it was an adventure extraordinaire.
It was for me as well.
Taking all 4 kids anywhere by myself always is.
Even to the grocery store–I never know what;s going to go down.
But to a hipster sort of place like the ACE, where my kids could very well be the only ones there, and where anyone with 4 kids might as well have 14, it would be an adventure indeed.
I was game.
Bed jumping commenced the moment we walked into our room.
The irritation of packing up, of leaving hours later than I had planned, of stepping out of the car into 108 degree heat, and of feeling a little out of place with my four kids, my minivan, and my distinctly unhipster attire, faded away.
They were having so much fun already.

While they gleefully jumped from bed to bed, I opened my computer, hoping to catch Aaron in Spain, and facetime with him for a few minutes.
He wasn’t online.
I checked my Facebook messages, hoping there would be one from him.
Instead, I saw news that made me gasp in disbelief, and then burst into tears.
A childhood friend had been in a motorcycle accident that morning, and by that afternoon he had passed away.
He was a young man, married, and his first baby was due to arrive in days.
It was the kind of tragedy that leaves you crying for everyone that is left behind.
The kids were ready to go to the pool, but I told them we needed to pray, and it would take Mommy a little while to be ready to go outside.
They were sweet and respectful, eager to hug me, and pray with me for people they didn’t know.
It was such a reminder of the day, nearly a year before, when another friend passed away unexpectedly.
It catches you so off guard.
And it makes you instantly aware of what matters.
I knew this was the frame for our time together these 2 days.
No chores, no work, no distractions to keep me from the most important part of my life.
I dried my tears, and with prayers in my heart, we went to the pool.
We had the small pool all to ourselves.
It was bliss.ace-27ace-26ace-29

Everyone got hungry, and we headed to the big pool for dinner.
I treated myself.ace-37
Davy wasn’t the least bit interested in food.
All he wanted to do was play ping pong.ace-42

As I had suspected, my kids were the only ones there.
We stood out.
Dinner time was exhausting.
And probably quite humorous for anyone watching me.
Through it all, I was chasing Davy, taking every kid to the bathroom at different times, changing a poopy diaper. trying to keep Davy out of the pool long enough for me to finish something on my plate, and changing tables a million times to get away from smokers, to be near the pool to watch the big kids swim, to be in the shade, to be by the ping pong table, to be away from the ping pong table, and on and on it went.
Thankfully we had an incredibly nice waitress, and my friend Deliesse showed up so I’d have another adult to talk to.
We gawked at the guy walking by in the white speedo and cowboy boots, and she stayed with the kids while I made bathroom trip after bathroom trip, one child at a time.
She was a lifesaver.
At other times, all of this might have gotten to me.
Like I said before, adventure is fun, adventure is worth it, but adventure is also work.
I could have said, I’m fed up!
This isn’t any fun!
Why does everything always have to be so hard?
At other times I’ve said those things.

Those thoughts didn’t come this time.
Instead there was the ache in my heart for a life lost, and a vow to cherish my time with the people I love.
It’s how I should always be, but sadly I am not.
Far too often I loose sight of the most important things and focus on the unimportant things.
At times I get downright lost in them.

After dinner, it was back to the pool with lots of picture taking along the way.
The ACE is extremely photographable.
Night swimming, and sunset, and tired kids falling into bed.
We had such a great day together.
It’s so nice to wake up to cuddles, knowing the only thing you have to do is head out to the pool to eat a breakfast that someone else is making for you, and will then clean up for you.
Eating crackers in bed before breakfast?
No problem!
Mommy doesn’t have to clean those sheets.
Hotel life is pretty blissful.
I wanted to stay until Aaron came home from Spain.ace-50ace-52
James and I enjoyed breakfast by the pool.
He’s my foodie, and I was happy to give him the chance to live it up for a couple of days.
“Isn’t it amazing to get to eat breakfast right by the pool Mom?  I can’t wait to come back here.”
He wanted eggs, toast, potatoes–the works.
The other kids just wanted croissants.
They didn’t want to get out of the pool.ace-53

The hipster vibe was in full force that morning.
I felt it.
There were mustaches galore.
Short shorts–on the guys.
And no other kids.
I didn’t mind that.
There is a lot of hipster stuff I like–put a bird on it!
But there I was, with my mom body, in my hideously unflattering, sagging in all the wrong places, bathing suit from last year, amongst a sea of firm, bikini clad bodies.
Did I feel uncomfortable?
I was running around, chasing Davy, splashing with them, playing tag in the pool, getting out for cold water to drink, putting on sunscreen, giving Shamu rides, and just being a mom.
I didn’t feel cool, or hipster, or very much at ease.
But they were having the time of their lives.
None of the things I was feeling mattered to them.
They were just having fun.
And they were happy to me playing with them instead of folding laundry.
So I remembered my vow, stopped thinking about myself, and had fun too.
After all, no one is ever thinking about you nearly as much as you are thinking about yourself, right?

If we never do anything that is new, or hard, scary, or uncomfortable, we’re going to miss out on a lot.
We’re going to miss out on adventure!

There was some crying in the back of the minivan when we pulled out of the parking lot.
No one wanted to go.
And everyone couldn’t wait to come back.
The ACE was beautiful, fun, the food is always top notch, and despite my own insecurities, everyone was super nice to us.
It was just the kind of grand adventure I had hoped it would be.
I will forever cherish the memories of our day and night together at the ACE–just me and my babies, braving the hipsters, and having a darn good time.

All the best,

PS.  How fun that the day I post about our trip to the ACE, I see this fabulous giveaway on Oh Happy Day.
Go here to find out about a chance to win a trip for 4 to Crafting Community at the ACE.
It sounds like something my kids would absolutely love.
They would have to share the pool this time though.
They might like it better when it’s just them and the hipsters.
No really, go check it out.
It sounds fun!