That Whole Advent Book Thing? It FLOPPED.

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By far, the most popular post on my site (in ten and a half years’ worth of writing!) is my list of Jesus-Centered books to use as a countdown to Christmas during Advent. We started this activity in 2012, when Libbie was a new 4-year-old and David turned 2 during Advent.

It has worked, faithfully, for our family every year. The kids got excited about unwrapping a book. They cuddled with us, sat, and for the most part, listened to the story. Even when Joshua was a baby (he was born in March 2013), we all enjoyed the tradition.

I have accumulated SO MANY Christmas books that now I have to choose 25 to wrap. I was definitely scrounging and thrift-store searching that first year! I probably have an extra 20 books (many of the ones that are more “Santa Christmasy”) that I put in a basket under the tree to be enjoyed any time.

This year, I cheerfully wrapped all the books I needed and set the pile in my bedroom. Before December even began, Joshua (3, nearing 4) took a few to his room and unwrapped them. I tried to convince a three-year-old who argues with me about every little thing that these were not presents for right now. I re-wrapped some books.

We started on a good note. Sure, David (who turned 6 on December 20) didn’t want to sit still and was often doing a wiggle dance and singing during the book reading. Or maybe Libbie (8) was in the bath or still doing homework. Or maybe Joshua went to bed and we did it without him.

We had several late nights where we just tossed the kids in bed when we got home. We had nights where we just forgot to open the book. We’ve gotten out of our real bedtime routine with everyone; we’ve always put the kids all to bed at the same time, but with Joshua not napping he’s often ready to go down for the night at 7. Oh, and we had a six-week-old baby when December began. So there was that, too! Many nights I was nursing, dealing with a fussy infant, or just in flat-out zombie mode.

This tradition – the one I was sure was going to be our thing, that my kids would want to pass on to their kids – felt like a total flop this year. 

I truly love to read to my kids. But reading to one child who asks incessant questions, one who is pretty much running laps around the living room, and one who may or may not be sitting on my head, while I also try to keep an eye on baby sister and oh gracious, now they are fighting because someone touched someone else PLEASE JUST GO TO BED RIGHT THIS SECOND.

So um, yeah. Now you know my feelings about that! Having four kids seems to be a new world I was not really expecting.

They read to themselves. I read to them individually as I can. But the whole pile on the couch and all of us read together thing? It just isn’t working right now.

Tonight, I took a deep breath. I told the older three they could color or play quietly while I read. And from my chair, while holding Hannah, I read them the prologue and first chapter of Begin, the first Growly Bear book that I have heard great things about as a read-aloud. And you know what? They did color. Joshua only talked once. Libbie moved closer to me so she could actually hear the story (and made me a note that said “Your the best mommy ever”) (I can forgive her your/you’re error because BEST MOMMY).

Things flop. We learn. Next year, who knows what the case will be? And even if they’re running laps around the room, at least I’m speaking Scripture to them through those Jesus-centered books, right? God’s Word will not return empty. Something will stick in their brains.

And next year, they’ll be 9, 7, 4, and 1. And things will be totally different. And I will wrap those dang books again and see what happens. 

The Big List of Star Wars Songs for Kids

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Star Wars Playlist for Kids

My 5-year-old son, David, is obsessed with Star Wars. I mean, obsessed. Seen every movie, including number 7 on opening night (his birthday present). It’s basically all he talks about. He probably has more toys than is healthy and a Star Wars shirt for almost every day of the week. (When spring came, he was sad he didn’t have any short sleeve shirts. So we got this, this, this, and this from Amazon, because at the time they were all $3-5. Gotta love some Amazon.)

My greatest endeavor, however, was finding all the kid-appropriate Star Wars songs that I could. He and his 3-year-old brother ask to listen to this playlist constantly and have every song memorized. Since tomorrow is Star Wars Day (May 4th), I thought if you, too, were searching for this, I could help you out!

I think you can find these all under the “Star Wars Kids” list on Spotify under Jessica Weaver. But if you’re not a Spotify person, there are links to find the songs elsewhere, too.

  • “Yoda” – Weird Al – (Amazon / album on iTunes)
  • “The Saga Begins” – Weird Al (Amazon / album on iTunes)
  • “Oh, Lando” – Recess Monkey (Amazon / album on iTunes)
  • “Tatooine” – Phineas & Ferb Star Wars (Amazon / album on iTunes)
  • “Sith-inator” – Phineas & Ferb Star Wars (Amazon / album on iTunes)
  • “Star Wars Disco” – Little Apple Band (Amazon / album on iTunes)
  • “Star Wars” – The One World Ensemble (Amazon) (Just the theme played by someone else)
  • “Star Wars: A Capella Strikes Back” – BYU Noteworthy (Amazon / iTunes)
  • “Why Is Dad So Mad?” – The Board of Education (Amazon / iTunes)
  • “When I Was a Boy” – Drew Worthley (Amazon / album on iTunes) – Not strictly a Star Wars song, but it has a verse about it and is generally just a sweet song.
  • “The Greatest Story Ever Told” – Good Clean Fun (Amazon) – This is a punk rock song, and I don’t think there is any foul language in this song … but I can’t find the lyrics anywhere. My kids think it’s hilarious, and the chorus is fun, but here is your warning.
  • “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” – Meco (Amazon / album on iTunes)
  • “The Empire Strikes Back (Medley)” – Meco (Amazon / album on iTunes)
  • “Lightspeed” – Joel Henriques (Amazon / iTunes) – This one isn’t available on Spotify, but we’ve heard it on Kids’ Place Live on SiriusXM.

Let me know if you’ve run across any kid-appropriate Star Wars songs that we’ve missed! Do you have a mini-Jedi at home?

My Kids’ Favorite Music

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Notice I did not title this MY favorite kids’ music. These are not necessarily the tunes I would choose, day in and day out. (I’m a big fan of The Rizers and Yancy, personally.) But these are the albums my kids ask me to play – especially in the car – over and over and OVVVEERR again.

kid music

Raffi in Concert with the Rise and Shine Band – Raffi

Who loves it? All my kids, but especially Joshua (almost 3).

Their Favorite Song: Joshua likes “5 Little Ducks,” because of all the quacking

My favorite: “De Colores,” because I have listened to this album so much I can sing a whole song in Spanish, which I have never studied.

This album was released in 1989. For reference, I was 7 years old in 1989, the age my oldest daughter is now. Ha! And I remember some of these songs, like “Apples and Bananas” from my childhood. (And “Baby Beluga” from Full House.) Despite the fact that it’s 25 years old, the album doesn’t really seem dated, other than the names-around-the-world in the song “Like Me and You.”

I’m not sure whether Joshua just likes it because he can say “Raffi” (or “Ralphie,” usually), but he will always ask for this one.

I’ve Got Music in Me – Jack Hartmann

Who loves it? It was Libbie and David’s favorite a few years ago.

Their favorite song? What they call “The Fish Song,” really “Five Little Fish.” They just call this whole album “The Fish Song.”

My favorite song? “Be the Best You Can Be.” Who can resist a song with a message?

Jack Hartmann composes and records songs from his role as a teacher. This album is from 1995, and while it teaches letter sounds, body parts, and more, it’s the album of his that seems most appropriate for the car and not the classroom. (Several of his others, like Math in Motion, have songs recorded with places for kids/teachers to fill in blanks, etc, if that makes sense.) This one is just music other than the last track, which is one of the songs in instrumental for performance. I credit Jack Hartmann with teaching David his letter sounds! Hartmann is kind of cheesy, but he knows what works, and we enjoy these songs a lot.

The Family Garden – Billy Kelly

Who loves it? All my kids (ages 7 to nearly 3)

Their favorite song? Probably a tie between “I’m Thinking of an Animal” and “Rock Lobster”

My favorite song? “That Old American Flag” – it is a sweet song about patriotism and family.

My LEAST favorite song? I hate “Straw,” because it’s a bunch of nonsense lies and I am rule-follower. But oh well. Haha.

Billy Kelly is pretty much insane, which might be a prerequisite for being a children’s artist. This goofy album celebrates gardening, flags, pen pals, and nonsense; remakes a few songs, like “Coney Island Washboard” and “Rock Lobster”; and adds some total nonsense with “Straw.”

The Merry Goes ‘Round – Jewel

Who loves it? Libbie (7)

Their favorite song? “Sammy the Spider”

My favorite song? “Snooze Button Blues.” Because every morning.

In her standard Jewel style, The Merry Goes ‘Round is folksy, with some pop and blues built in. She remakes the classics “O Susannah,” “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain,” and several other old favorites, while adding peppy tunes like “Sammy the Spider” and “Supermarket Song.” The album is kind of weighted toward the beginning tracks, in my opinion, but overall it’s a fun listen and one my kids are starting to get into.

The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band – Laurie Berkner

Who loves it? All of us, Mom included. We like many of her albums, but this one is a good compilation of the best tunes.

Their favorite song? Libbie – “Five Days Old”; David – “Buzz Buzz”; Joshua – “Boots”

My favorite song? “Victor Vito,” although they are all super catchy and you will find me singing “Moon Moon Moon” all the time.

According to Amazon, Laurie Berkner has nine albums for children. We listen to three of them on a regular basis, but this best-of compilation is really fun. My kids basically have every one of these songs memorized, and that includes the 2-year-old.

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If we aren’t listening to Kids Place Live on the satellite radio, we are probably listening to one of these in the minivan. What are yours kids’ favorite tunes?

 

 

Teetering on the Edge

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David at the beach

It’s September 1st.

For me, that can feel like the edge.

I remember the exact feeling of panic I got last year. I think it has to do with October through December being a jumble of holidays and birthdays for us. I so vividly remembering spewing to my husband that, “It is almost FALL and then Libbie will be 6 and then it will be Halloween and then Thanksgiving and then David’s birthday and then Christmas and before I know it, it will be March and Joshua will be TWO. WAHHHHH!!!!”

I’ve never claimed to be a sensible and calm person.

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I woke up this morning with that same edge-of-the-cliff feeling. Only now it’s all a year old. How could my baby possibly turn 3? Never mind that his birthday is still more than half a year away. It feels like those months will slip through my fingers like Jell-o.

I read this post by Steph Fisher last week reminding me of Brené Brown’s thoughts on “foreboding joy” in her (too wonderful and awful) book Daring Greatly. Brown writes, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.”

It is vulnerable to love with our whole hearts. It is vulnerable to love my kids at 6 1/2, 4 1/2, and 2 1/2, knowing that soon those numbers will round up and change. It is vulnerable to live in the moment and simply enjoy the sunshine and scents and little laughs without worrying what is to come.

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So this fall, I’m giving myself permission to be vulnerable. To sit and stare into three sets of big blue eyes – all different, beautiful shades – and truly listen to my kids speak.

I’m giving myself permission to lavish in the remainder of the summer (which lasts until about mid-October here, really) without worrying about when to pull out the long sleeves and pumpkin decorations.

I’m taking one month at a time, even as I go to events to make sure David has a spot at Libbie’s wonderful school when he’s in kindergarten next August. One week at a time. One day. One hour!

I’m making time for myself to exercise and eat real foods, knowing that the payoff is daily and long-term, and not feeling guilty for leaving my kids in the gym childcare for an hour.

I’m giving constant, constant thanks, knowing that is the best way to firmly plant myself in today and now.

Consider those my Right Now Resolutions.

Please Stop Growing Up

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Please Don't Grow Up

Joshua is my first baby I don’t want to grow up.

(Coming from a family that knows child death, OF COURSE I want him to grow up. But you know what I mean.)

It’s probably just that he’s most likely our last child. But at 2 years and 3 months, I think he is quite likely the cutest thing that has ever happened to Planet Earth.

Don’t get me wrong: he is trouble and a half. I spend half my time trying to keep him from hurting himself. But it’s well worth it.

Joshua making funny faces

Because every morning when I get him from the crib, he makes some proud declaration like, “Nemo sleep my bed!” His curls go every which way and he smiles his trademark giant, goofy, toothy smile. Joshy has been giggles and grins since he was born and is almost always happy. (Except when he’s not. Like when I won’t give him “another one cup milk.”)

I know how much kids change between 2 and 3. I’ve been through it twice before. I know that soon he’ll start using more real grammar, he’ll stop running his silly gallop around the apartment, he won’t be so eager to give me “hug and a kah-iss.” I might have to cut the curly mop. He won’t fall asleep cuddled to my chest nearly as often.

Sleepy nap with Mommy

Oh, there are so many sweet things about them growing up. I love the stage Libbie is in, where she still likes me but is old enough to do fun stuff with. But I’m scared. I’m scared of moving on past the baby-and-toddler stage we’ve been in for nearly seven years now.

Who will give me slobbery kisses? Whose sweet baby language will make me shake with laughter?

Who will need me like a toddler needs his mommy?

 

Favorites of the Week

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Favorite picture: We went to the Creative Discovery Museum this week, and Joshua was sure that the tambourine was actually a necklace.

Favorite links:

Recipes I want to make:

Favorite moments of the week:

  • Finding the Make-It room at the Creative Discovery Museum. It is a room full of recycled things, wood pieces, fabric scraps, a sewing machine, hammers, nails, and some fun blocks that you can build and add a motor to. I could have stayed there all day! And I think David (my artist and builder!) probably would, too.
  • Coming home to find Mr. V had cleaned the living room and organized a closet. This is romance when you’ve been married nearly 11 years!
  • Playing board games.
  • Libbie working on writing her own book.
  • Making nachos and cookie bars for dinner – Spring Break food – and eating on the couch while watching Master Chef Junior.
  • Talking to my dad on Skype and seeing how much better he is feeling! My parents went to a restaurant and went for a walk yesterday in a park. Yay! (He had open-heart surgery just 16 days ago!)
  • Taking my big girl shopping. It was really fun. I am seeing the light of having a big kid! She is so opinionated, but so very animated and adorable.

Reading offline: Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg, and yes, still getting through Daring Greatly.

What have you been up to this week?