Worth reading (and a giveaway!)

Between yard work and OB work and the challenging work of parenting teens fluttering on the edge of the nest, I haven’t been reading lots of books lately. But two that I’ve read are very worth mentioning.

First off is an excellent book about relationships called Attached. This book is actually geared toward adults at two different stages of life:  people seeking a marriage partner, and people who are already married but wanting to improve their relationship and learn to interact on a deeper level so that both partners can feel more satisfied in the marriage.

You’d think that dual focus might be hard to pull off, but actually the authors did a good job of thoughtfully addresses the challenges at both those points in life.  The premise of the book is that most people tend toward one of three basic attachment styles:  anxious, avoidant, or secure.  These styles affect who you are drawn to in a marriage partner, AND how you mesh with your partner in a relationship.

This book contains lots of stories and illustrations to help you identify your own type as well as the tendencies of those around you, and gives good practical help for avoiding the pitfalls of each type, and working toward a secure style of relating to your loved one.  I highly recommend this book for anyone from young adult on up to an ‘old-married’ person like myself.

Then there’s the most recent book I finished, The Boy With The Bamboo Heart.  This book tells the story of an orphan who survived great struggles during his childhood in Thailand and then went on to found a children’s charity.  There’s some language in the book, and some frank talk about the very hard things that happened to him.  But the most memorable message in the book to me was the many places where kind adults intervened, gave him a chance, and helped him overcome his very difficult beginnings so that he could go on to become a productive, successful, and very kindhearted member of society.  I couldn’t help but finish the book wanting to be just that kind of influence in the lives of kids around me.

I’m giving away a copy of this book here in a couple days.  If it sounds like something you’d be interested in reading, comment below and tell me about a book that has inspired you to reach out to others and do more in the world.  In fact, whether you’re interested in the giveaway or not, I’d love to hear any book recommendations you have along these lines.

And finally, here is a really great and encouraging article for mothers of strong-willed children:  How to be the mom your strong-willed child needs

My latest Stitch Fix

Last week I got rather a cute batch of Stitch FixBlue items that I thought you might like to see.  This first item is a silky blue blouse that was quite pretty, but looked a little boxy on me and just didn’t quite feel like my style.  It kinda felt to me like it should be paired up with heels and a business suit which is just not me.


StripesNext up is a black and white striped elbow length top that is actually quite similar to several others that I have.  But the cozy t-shirt fabric and the flattering style won my heart once again.  I know it is something I will wear regularly.


BagThis luscious green bag was another item that was love at first sight for me.  As you can see in the photo, it is actually two bags, with the smaller bag snapping into the larger bag, depending on the size of bag that you feel like carrying around on any given day.  The leather feels beautiful in your hands, and the bag is big enough for travel.


SkirtCardiganThese final two photos actually show two items. First is a maxi skirt in a fun pattern.  I am such a sucker for maxi skirts, as they are some of the comfiest items of clothing that I own and can be dressed up or down, depending on my mood.  I think I have about hit my limit on maxi’s though, and will probably ask them not to send me more after this fix.

SkirtCardigan2Finally there’s this black t-shirt knit cardigan.  It has a fun folded-over neckline that swoops down to form pockets at the  front edges, similar to the turquoise sweater in this fix.  The fabric is stretchy and soft and being black will of course go with lots of different outfits.

I really loved this fix, and ended up keeping everything except for the blue top.  Fun, fun!  Have you tried Stitch Fix? Click here if you’d like to see the other ‘fixes’ I’ve been sent over that past couple years.  And if you’d like to give this service a try, just click on my referral link.

What we’ve liked on Netflix lately

John and I have an evening habit of 45 minutes or so of TV after the younger kids are settled for the night.  It can be a challenge to find TV that’s interesting to us both, is intelligent, and during which people mostly stay reasonably dressed and seem to have decent morals.  We both like mysteries, but I prefer the kind where crime scenes aren’t dwelt upon and the content is not too creepy.  Blacklist and Bones and several others struck out for us — just too ‘eek’. Ditto for the later seasons of ’24’.  Anyway, here are a few that John and I have really enjoyed lately.

  • Blue Bloods.  We loved this one enough that we bought the DVD set.  It shows people trying hard to do what’s right and honorable in the middle of difficult and challenging circumstances, and it does a great job showing both the struggles and joys of living in a family.
  • Psych is a lot of fun, though it tends toward goofy.
  • White Collar has some really fun, complex relationships and storylines.
  • Royal Pains is another one that can be a little goofy, but we like the characters, the houses, and the beach location.
  • Death in Paradise is a British one that we finished recently and were sad to see it done.  Along with some fun mystery and characters, the show is located on a beautiful island…aaahhhh.

Do you have similar likes and dislikes?  I’d love to hear your recommendations.




Got a photographer-wannabe at your house?

I haven’t done a giveaway for a long time, but I am excited about the one I have for you today. In our family, there are several kids who frequently grab my camera or my phone to either take selfies or to get photos of what’s going on around them.   If there’s a kid like that in your family too,  I have just the giveaway for you.

Next week National Geographic is releasing the National Geographic Kids Guide to Photography: Tips & Tricks on How to Be a Great Photographer.  The fun and accessible book is packed with great info for budding photographers.   In this book kids can learn all sorts of essential photography concepts from setting up shots, working with lighting, and improving composition.


Photographer in training

Photographer in training

Kids (and adults!) can even learn how to set up a camera’s manual settings, something that professional photographers see as an essential skill for working in tricky lighting situations. Animals, people, sports, and landscape photographer are all discussed in a very kid-friendly way.  Info is broken into colorful short paragraphs and interspersed with lots of great photos.  In my opinion, this book is geared toward kids ages 10 and up, though a motivated younger child could also learn plenty if he was a strong reader.

Getting Started Nat Geo Guide to Photos, credit Annie Griffiths

I am giving away one copy of this book next week.  If you know someone who you think would be interested in it, comment below.  For a second entry, like this post on facebook or share it on twitter, and then come back and comment again.  I think this book would make a great Christmas gift for an interested kid.   I’ll announce a winner next week!



Book giveaway: Waking Up White

Later this week I’m going to answer some parenting-logistics questions that I’ve been asked lately– things like what we do about allowance, how old our kids have to be to babysit siblings, etc. If you happen to have questions about how we do things at our house, will you shoot them to me in comments? I’ll add those questions/answers to Wednesday’s post.

Today, however, I am giving away an intriguing book called Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.  She grew up in a privileged white community in the 60’s and 70’s, and realized well into adulthood that, first of all, she was so uncomfortable with race issues that she was often nervous talking with black folks, and second, that she desperately wanted to be the type of person who works to break down barriers, rather than pretending they don’t exist.

I think a lot of white people would like to think that racism is a thing of the past, that everyone plays on an even playing field these days.  But the more she explored this, the more she came to realize that’s just not true. It’s a proven fact that black boys get pulled over by police more often than white boys. White women still cross the street when black men walk by.  And black men have to dress much more neatly than average to go shopping at the mall without being covertly watched and sometimes even questioned by security people.

Chapter by chapter, the author shares her own personal journey of racial awakening– of really understanding the privilege she gained simply from being born into a white family.  She also came to realize that the reserve and politeness she learned from her family of origin, were sometimes causing her to avoid the kinds of deep conversations that might lead to understanding another person’s point of view, to really imagine life in their shoes.

She talked about the different values in different families, and how some of those values might add layers of complication to how we perceive folks.  For example, a student  she’d labeled difficult and distractible because of her tendency to leave her seat and go chat with other students turned out to be from a culture that highly valued cooperation.  The child was honestly trying to help other students out.

Another time the author realized she was inadvertently offending black associates by being too quick to call them by their first names instead of honoring them by saying Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones.  From her cultural standpoint, she saw it as a sign of friendliness. But many people, especially those growing up in the South, do not.

Yet another time she learned that calling a black person ‘articulate’  can be seen as an insult — a stinging jab often heard as ‘he’s unusual for a black person’– and not a true compliment at all.  Of course relationships between any humans can be complicated, even at their best.  But the overarching message of this book to me was how important it is to be honest and humble in our dealings with each other, to not assume that everyone is coming from the same frame of reference, and to be willing to hear and believe people telling you that life is very different for them than it may be for you.

As a mom to children born in several different countries, I read this book with interest and found it to be very worthwhile.  It left me with greater understanding and a renewed determination to be the type of person who builds bridges and grows relationships wherever I go.  As the author states in this book, we’re all different, but we all belong here.  We should treat each other as such.

If you would like to enter the drawing to win a copy of this book, comment below. I’d love to hear how you talk about race with your kids.  Do you encourage your kids to help all kids feel welcome in their classroom? How do you respond when your child points out someone of a different ethnic heritage in the grocery store?  If you are adoptive parent, how do you talk about race with your kids without leading them to expect bad treatment around every corner?



Related story:  Raising Black Kids in a ‘White’ State

Movie Giveaway: Against the Wild

The winner of The Perfect Score is commenter #5, Ticia.  Send me your address, Ticia, and I will get that book headed your direction.


Today I have yet another giveaway.  It is for a family movie called Against The Wild.  You can see the trailer here on youtube.  Our family watched it together and to be honest, my older teens didn’t find it riveting material– I think it’s geared more toward the elementary age group.  But it is  safe movie to watch with the whole family, and the dog is just beautiful.  (Of course I’m biased there– we have an Alaskan Malamute too.)

If you’d like to enter to win a copy of the movie, comment below and tell me about the best family movie you’ve watched lately.  I’m always eager to hear family movie recommendations.  Most recently (after reading the book to the younger girls) we watched ‘City of Ember’ again, and really enjoyed it.  I’ll select a winner of the video on Friday.  And if you’re interested in buying a copy of this movie, it is on sale at Wal-Mart.

Free movie tickets!

Son Of God movieThis seems to be a month of giveaways! The winner of the book The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle is commenter #12  Tracy Stanley.  Tracy, send me your address and I will get your copy headed in your direction.

Today I’ve got a new giveaway–  four vouchers  to go see a new movie that comes out this weekend.  It is called ‘Son of God‘  and the vouchers can be redeemed to use in any theater as long as it is showing. Here’s what the Dove Foundation had to say about the movie.

I’m always a little leery of movie presentations of faith– often producers use their creative license pretty liberally.  But  John and I are looking forward to taking our teens to check this one out for ourselves.  If nothing else, it is a great springboard and opportunity to talk with others about our faith. And the musical score was done by Hans Zimmer, one of my husband’s favorite composers.  (He’s a big fan of dramatic orchestral musical numbers.) Here’s the official movie trailer so you can get a feel for it.

I am going to give away these tickets in pairs, so that two families will have the chance to see this movie more affordably — or free, depending on the size of your family.  To enter the drawing, comment below and tell me about a movie you enjoyed recently.  I’ll choose a winner on Thursday, so get commenting!  🙂

Because these vouchers are e-vouchers, if the winner replies quickly, I might even be able to get them to you in time to see the movie this weekend– if I can find time in the midst of the Refresh conference anyway.

Speaking of which, if you’re in the Seattle area and are interested in attending Refresh (a conference for adoptive and foster families) online registration is closed, but you can still show up on Friday and register in person.  There are lots of good speakers, including Deborah Gray (she wrote Attaching in Adoption) and Milan and Kay Yerkovich (authors of How We Love).  I’m excited to be team-leading a couple sessions with two awesome mommas.  Lisa Qualls of One Thankful Mom and I are doing a talk on having faith in hard times, and Jen Summers (a fellow mom of ten!) and I are talking about large family logistics.  Should be fun!

Of Chaos and Coffee

Coffee in the morning One of the things about having lots of kids is that you’re always trying to control the chaos one way or another. Sometimes that means putting multiple kids in the same activity to save driving, or doing fewer activities overall. Other times you triple a cookie recipe while you’ve already got a mess in the kitchen, or nix a messy snack and instead suggest one that is easier to clean up.

Recently it dawned on me that years of parenting many little ones left me in the habit of saying ‘no’ more often than is necessary in my current life. My youngest is 9, and I’ve got lots of capable teens, all of whom can wash dishes and do all sorts of other useful things, and some of whom can even drive each other places. That makes for a little more margin in our lives. I’m on a campaign this year to say yes to my kids more often. Sure, there are still limits. But ‘yes’ is definitely flying off my lips more often.

One of the example of this is hot drinks in the morning. For years I saved cocoa, tea, and coffee in the morning for sledding and snow days just to save on hassle and mess, but these days when kids ask for coffee or tea in the morning, my answer is a happy yes. The kids enjoy the extra pampering and so do I. This month, thanks to some freebies from Maxwell House International, we are enjoying cafe style coffee along with our tea and cocoa. This mildly sweet coffee is mellow enough that I’ll even let my 9- and 11-year-old daughters make half a cup in the morning. I also occasionally add a spoonful to my Ethiopian coffee for a bit of a different flavor. My kids really like the French Vanilla, but I prefer the Vanilla Nut myself. Swiss Mocha and Hazelnut are a couple of other options. You can see them all here.

Did you know that not only can you enjoy Maxwell House International as a cafe style coffee beverage for a flavorful and creamy coffee experience, but you can also add a few spoonfuls instead of creamer, to bring some romance to your coffee? In honor of Valentine’s Day, Maxwell House International wants you to try it. It’s delicious!

International Cafe

 Click here to get a sample (or a coupon) while they last. For additional fun, you can comment below, tell me which Maxwell House International flavor you would like to try. There are so many–including French Vanilla, Vanilla Nut, Hazelnut, Suisse Mocha, Vanilla Caramel, Café Vienna. You’ll be entered automatically in a random drawing for a $100 Visa gift card.



Sweepstakes Rules:
No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner  will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 2/12/14 – 3/24/13.

Be sure to visit the Maxwell House International Page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

Capri Clear giveaway (and random fun from our house)

I was asked recently to try out a sample of Capriclear Soothing Oil.  The only ingredient in this spray-on moisturizer is fractionated coconut oil. I’ve learned so many good things about coconut oil in recent years that I loved the idea of trying it as a spray. Awhile back I tried out another spray-on moisturizer, and loved the convenience of the spray bottle, but found that it didn’t last long on my Ethiopian daughters’ very dry skin.  In addition, one of my daughters is very sensitive to fragrances, and because of this she has almost given up on moisturizers.

WilonaThis spray goes on very light and after being rubbed in,  it absorbs nicely and lasts well.  Several times I even used it in my girls’ hair, to add some shine and extra moisturizing. I liked the way it worked for that purpose too. The spray was billed as perfect for babies, due to it being only one ingredient and fragrance free. So after trying it at our house for a few days, I handed it off to my daughter to try with her baby, whose skin was a little broken out at the time.  Amanda reported that it worked well for little Wilona and seemed very soothing.

I will be giving away a bottle of Capri Clear to one reader early next week.  If you are interested in entering the drawing, comment below and tell me something interesting that is happening at your house this month.

Lidya and HenryAs for us, we are chugging along with school, trying not to get too tired of it all.  We have an ambitious schedule this year and I’m hoping we can keep up so we can have a long Christmas break like we usually do.  The biggest two things on the list are high school Chemistry  (Apologia) which I am hoping to complete in ONE year, AND an essay a month for everyone.  Writing and editing can take lots of time, and Chem is very time consuming as well.

So far, the most exciting thing this month that has happened is that our 18 year old daughter Lidya was invited by her friend Henry to go to the homecoming dance at his school.  We had great fun shopping for her dress (yet another score for thrift shopping!) and also adding a bit of bling to the dress.  She and Henry had a very nice evening, first going to Outback for dinner with some friends  (where an anonymous stranger paid for ALL their dinners) and then off to the dance. Such fun!

Writing is going well.  I’ve got 7 out of 10 chapters pretty much pulled together.  However, I keep thinking of more and more I need to write about!  Hopefully I will have it all pulled together within the next month or so.  I’d love to get it turned in early, but we’ll see.

I’m starting to keep my eyes open for fun Christmas ideas for my clan– with so many people to shop for, I always need to start thinking early. These days the grandbabies are the easiest to shop for, and the teens are more challenging.

Little baby Ali is getting bigger.  Isn’t she sweet?


Looking forward to hearing what’s going on in your world!

Have kids who like to draw? (‘See the Light’ Art DVD Giveaway)

This week we had craft day at our church– a homeschooling coop with a bunch of friends.There are usually 20-25 kids — some teens, a few toddlers and preschoolers, but most of the kids are probably in the 5-12 age range.  Moms each take turns being in charge of the craft, and we don’t really expect anything huge or involved.  But when it’s your turn, you always want to do something that is enjoyable for all, which can be tricky with that broad an age span.

I was in charge this month, and decided to go with an art project that I’d seen online.  This cartooning video is part of a whole series of DVD art classes designed for homeschooling families.  I watched it ahead of time, and decided to show about 25 minutes of the 70 minute video.  This was the first time our group had done anything quite like that, but it ended up working really well.

Cartoon veggiesThe teacher steps kids through the art in a really doable way.  For example, she began by showing kids how to make different kinds of cartoon eyes, noses, and mouths in a collection on a sheet of scrap paper.  It was all very simple and non-intimidating for folks not sure of their drawing ability, but varied enough to also intrigue the kids who did like to draw.  Then she showed how to cartoonize shapes of vegetable using a mix of the features that she’d already shown the kids how to draw.

Not every kid adored the activity, but at any given moment during the 25 minute drawing session, a good 75% of the kids were happily engaged, which in a group that diverse I consider a big success.  The preschoolers ended up being happy mostly coloring and drawing free-form, but several of the 5 year old kiddos were able to follow along and do some interesting faces with the instruction of the DVD.  I’m looking forward to showing the rest of the video to my kids at home.

Now, the fun part:  I am giving away  a cartooning DVD to one of you!  All you have to do is comment below and tell me a bit about your family and art.  Do you enjoy drawing or does it intimidate you?  What about your kids?  Who do you think would enjoy this video most at your house? For a second entry, you may share this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter, or you may ‘like’ See The Light on Facebook. I will choose a winner early next week.