A summer of reading, music, and not much else

17 July 2012


Last week I had a fantastic skype with my friend Nicole, updating one another on our lives, our kids, and - what's turned into one of my favorite aspects of our relationship - what we're reading, watching, and learning.

And since it's summer, and our schedule is more relaxed and fluid than it normally is (which for our family isn't saying much), the books and movies and activities to-do list is more fun than obligation.

So here's what we've got going on this summer:

My Books:

shot_1341781756708.jpgStill: Notes on a Mid-faith Crisis, by Lauren Winner : a book on navigating the "middle" of one's faith, Still leads me towards creative inspiration and hallowed prayer. Winner writes of a marriage ended and faith lost not from a place of bitterness, but from profound longing and anguish; a refreshing - though painful - perspective.

Grace-based Parenting, by Dr Tim Kimmel : This book comes recommended by loads of people and I'm averaging about one page of notes per five pages of reading. Confession: I don't read a lot of parenting books, so I don't have much to compare it to, but I feel none of the guilt and frustration I usually feel when I come across a how-to parenting book. Rather, I feel supported in our counter-cultural holistic family lifestyle.

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James : You know not only am I a fiction girl, but I'm an Austen girl. I was hesitant to pick up this continuation of the Pride & Prejudice story, written by a modern author, but it's a great mystery surrounding one of Austen's most stupefying characters: the sly Mr Wickham.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker : On date nights, Matt and I usually end up at Barnes & Noble. Sans children, an hour alone with books and coffee is pure heaven for us. I picked up this book, and before I knew it, had read the first 30 pages before closing time. When I shared this with Nicole, she said, "Oh, I just finished it!" Like minds and all that. Thankfully, it was on sale for the Nook so I - gasp - bought it.

Full book reviews - hopefully - will be forthcoming (if I finish them... you know the drill). Stay tuned!

My Kids' Books:

Jack is reading several books by Kate DiCamillo, including his running favorite, The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane. I love that my boy loves books. And after months of urging him to try reads outside of Potter and Star Wars and Magic Treehouse, I'm so happy to see him explore new things.

Ella loves Eric Carle. Right now our nighttime favorite is The Very Busy Spider. Asher, who is much too busy for books, even gets in on the mooing and meowing action.

Mad props go to our local library, for loaning me these books and welcoming my rambunctious brood several days a week, and, as always, for being patient with the subsequent fines. Also, honourable mention to Sarah Bessey and her 10 books a day series. My to-read list has never been longer!


Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay : This album is brilliant. Coldplay seems to be one of the few bands that grows in lyrical content, style experimentation, and musical depth each and every go 'round. Love them. Love this album. Dance, work out, and/or cry to it. Favorite track: Charlie Brown.

The Shelter, Jars of Clay & Various Artists : This is our Sunday morning album. From the back of the car, I hear Ella sweetly singing "Where you lead us, we will follow," and I know she's not just singing the words, but she's singing the story of our family. Favorite track: Out of My Hands.

The SuburbsArcade Fire : I was late to the party on Arcade Fire, but I'm so glad I arrived! We have nearly nightly dance parties with the kiddos to this album, and I find that the post-modern-alt-rock arrangements touch my soul in ways not felt since Coldplay's Rush of Blood to the Head. Favorite Track (do I have to pick just one?): Ready to Start. (currently $2.99 on amazon!)


The Way. Matt and I have been wanting to watch this film for ages. Several of our friends have walked "El camino de Santiago," or, The Camino, arriving home with stories of God and renewal. The movie is touching and has an internal, brooding kind of way about it. Not bad, but rather contemplative and stirring. And the cinematography! Oh, this film is gorgeous, in vivid European color and texture.

The Ides of March. Beware the film with sketchy protagonists. This film is meaty and fastmoving, and I felt like it was over too soon. As it reaches the climax, you know how it's going to end, but you still want to believe in the goodness of powerful people, even when you realize it's a mirage we're all only too willing to believe.

The Chronicles of Narnia films. This is our go-to cinema party staple. Good, family-fun fantasy, with spiritual depth and many teachable moments. My favorite is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe adaptation; my children's favorite is Prince Caspian. But don't get my husband started on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, unless you want to continually hear sighs and weary proclamations, "That's not how it happens in the book..."



A friend of mine recently lamented that she had heard of the lazy days of summer, but with her six children, the concept eluded her (for good reason!). I can't speak for everyone, but somehow we have embraced these so-called lazy days. Maybe it's the heat, maybe it's the lack of a yard, maybe it's apartment living or transitional living or the days of waiting we still find ourselves in. Whichever reason, our keys to lazy living are this:

1. Forts. We build a lot of forts. In the living room, in the dining room, in the kids' room. It's messy and things get moved around and usually someone gets milk or food on my favorite quilt, but it keeps all ages occupied and happy for at least an hour or two.

IMG_20120710_114028.jpg2. TV. Yes, sadly, we watch a lot of TV these days. But I'm trying to mix it up: videos from the library, wii games, Friday night cinema parties, Netflix, and so on. Some days I feel uber guilty about it, this enormous amount of screen time, and other days I'm all like, "It's hot, I'm tired, they'll survive." That, in a nutshell, is my summer motto.

3. Occasional Outings. We are a one-car family, and with the heat, we really don't do many outings. Usually just one or two big ones a week. And by big I mean walking all three kids to the library or local playground before it hits 90 degrees at 9am. We alternate library outings with splash park outings and trips to the farmer's market, depending on the car situation.

4. Quiet times. By lunchtime, we all - kids and mom included - need a break from each other, so I make everyone take a non-negotiable quiet time in his or her (or our) room. Ash usually (still, but not for long!) naps, but Jack reads and Ella plays with Legos. Quietly. Sequestered. Away from Mom. Even if just a half hour, this helps us all slow down, recalibrate and face the rest of the day.

These things aren't much, but it's just about all I can do to keep the sanity around here. Our life is unorthodox, our near-future ambiguous, and I'm trying to not take it so seriously or, conversely, treat it too mundanely. We spend our days together, we laugh, we bodyslam, we jump for joy when daddy comes home, and - sometimes - we chew on the television remote. 

Ok, that's just the toddler. 

So.... what are YOU doing this summer? Any ideas for beating the heat in tight living quarters? Potty-training tips? Book suggestions for kiddos or adults? Summer recipes you want me to have my husband try?

[disclaimer: book/music suggestions contain affiliate links]


  1. Love, love, love this! It's just fine to have a lazy summer that doesn't contain constant (high price) outings to theme parks & museums. Summer is suposed to be an easy going experience & It's just fine to watch Netflix shows in this heat. At least there're no adds;)

  2. I love this too. Quiet time in our house is usually me reading a magazine with a cup of tea whilst my two girls play quietly some game that they have invented like a safari or their latest "Titanic" adventure. I love their imagination and that they play so well together.
    Days out is beach days in our new home province of Nova Scotia. We are still checking out all the free stuff and loving it.

  3. We don't have any potty training tips... mine have been trained for about 8 years.... so... :)

    We're relaxing this summer, too. Easier with a yard. We've got a duck - sort of rescued him as a duckling. The kids are happy to sit, talk, play in the yard and the duck just follows along providing comic relief. We're trying to be active more - biking, swimming (such a relief to have all kids now quite able to swim!), hiking, and such.