Spirit-Led Parenting

I’ve been reading Megan’s blog Sorta Crunchy since before I became a parent and was excited when she released a book — Spirit-Led Parenting. But, since the subtitle of the book is “From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year,” I figured I’d wait to read it until we have another baby someday. But, as I heard more and more about the book, I felt like I should really read this book now.

I am so glad I did. This book is, without a doubt, one of my favorite parenting books to date.

spirit led parenting book review

A great summary of Spirit-Led Parenting comes from near the end of the book: “May our hearts and minds be ever-focused on the movement of the Spirit. And may our days be directed not by our children, not by ourselves, but by Him alone.”

While most parenting books I’ve read have included undertones of “do this or you’ll mess up your baby for life” and “don’t do this or you’ll mess up your baby for life” (sometimes even with exact opposite instructions in different books!), this book was a breath of fresh air and spoke immense amounts of grace into my life as mom. Rather than focusing on specific methodologies and rules for how to parent during baby’s first year, Megan and Laura focused on the fact that parenting may – and often, should – look different for each family and even for each baby within a family.

The most important aspect of parenting during baby’s first year is not breast or bottle, baby-wearing or not; instead, it’s following the quiet, gentle stirring of the Holy Spirit in a parent’s heart.  “The right way for each mother and father to approach parenting is to seek His direction and guidance…. He extends to us the freedom to stop striving in vain to make our own plans work and to confidently follow the leading of His Spirit instead.”

And, as we follow these gentle stirrings, the authors point to the most amazing transformation of baby’s first year – “[W]hat if, as that first year of babyhood winds down and a toddler stands where your baby once lay, what if you looked in the mirror and realized that the one who has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year is you?”

To be fair, if you’re firmly in the “cry it out” camp and not interested in considering other options, the sleep chapter of this book may not be for you, as both authors entertained/experimented with the method and found it to strongly violate their mom intuitions and they’re pretty clear about that in the chapter on “As They Sleep.” But, even if you’ve practiced CIO methods and have found yourself wondering if there might be a better way, I think this book might encourage and strengthen you. I found their insights on the method – as well as every other methodology behind parenting in the first year – to be incredibly gracious, freedom-giving, and inspiring.

As I read about the authors’ struggles to find their own way and to parent in the ways they felt God leading them – even when it went against conventional wisdom and advice from church friends and family members – I nodded my head in agreement, cried a little, and hugged my girls a lot more.  Even though this book specifically addresses the first year of a baby’s life and I’m currently in Beach Baby’s second year and Beach Girl’s fourth year, I felt encouraged and inspired in my parenting right here and now.

Dare I say – I found myself hoping one of my girls would wake up, so I could go in and snuggle her a little longer (yep, I never thought I’d say that!).  I’m certain I’ll read this book over and over again, and it will be my go-to gift for expecting and new moms. And, I’m seriously hoping that they’ll write a book about bigger kids too!

You can find this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local bookstore. If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Arrested Photography

We’re huge fans of Arrested Development.  Love love love the Bluth family and all their kookiness.  As we anxiously await the new episodes on Netflix next weekend, we’re geeking out over all the fun AD buzz online.

A few nights ago, Beach Dad stumbled across this site where you can insert Tobias Funke into your photos. Of course, we wasted spent the next hour laughing over fun photos like this:

When Beach Girl saw this photo, she said “Is that our family?” haha!

If you’re looking to insert some Tobias into your photos, check it out at insertmeanywhere.biz.  And, if you make some fun photos, please share the links in the comments!

I’m Back!

I’m back in action!

Thank you so much to my sweet friends/readers who’ve encouraged me to get back writing.  I’m sure I won’t be posting as regularly as I once was, but I’ve missed blogging and am glad to be back at it.

I have a bunch of blog post ideas swirling around and some fun ideas to share with you soon.  In the meantime, here are a few random things we’ve been up to:

We traveled to Raleigh-Durham, NC in April and got to meet our sweet nephew. Here are the cousins:

I found a $5 scooter at a yard sale. Sweet! (And then I spent $60 on helmets because I’m a total freak about safety… well, at least I saved money somewhere haha!)  The girls have been having a blast scooting.

It’s finally warm enough for the beach again. You know I’m thrilled.

We broke ground on our house a few weeks ago. Woohoo!!!

Hopefully, we’ll be moving in around August. I’ve been researching paint colors, furniture options, and DIY projects galore. I’m having so much fun! I realized I haven’t posted much about DIY projects on this blog, but you can bet that once we get moved, I’ll be posting plenty. Beach Dad and I both love DIY projects, but haven’t done many this past year.  I’m itching to get started.

First up: this dresser.


Solid wood and $25! (at the same yard sale as our scooter)  It needs lots of love, but it’s a much-needed replacement for Beach Girl’s dresser, which has pretty much fallen apart.

Speaking of Beach Girl, here’s a pic of me with my cuties on Mother’s Day:

Beach “Baby” isn’t so much a baby anymore… she’s a walking, talking, climbing, screaming, snuggling toddler.  “Beach Toddler” doesn’t have such a good ring to it, though. Any ideas for a new name??

Takin’ A Break

I’ve taken an unplanned blogging break the past couple weeks as my “offline” life has been more full than usual. Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to:

  • We had the chance to visit with all 4 of our parents (separately) over the last few weeks.
  • We’ve started a new “diet” that involves eating (almost) no processed food, so I’ve been spending plenty of extra time in the kitchen. I also have been in serious sugar withdrawal… I had no idea how much sugar I was apparently eating and the first week off of it was especially rough. I’m hoping that increased energy stage will come soon!
  • Both my girls are in their annual half-year stages of disequilibrium. They’ve both been more emotional and tantrum-y than normal and it’s been a difficult time for all of us.  I was so thankful when I remembered this happens every year around half-birthdays, both of which are right around now. (Also, can we please get rid of daylight savings time?!) My sweet girls are both needing some extra snuggles, book-reading, tickles, and playtime (oh, and disciplining conversations…) these days.
  • One of Beach Girl’s friends (who is 3 years old) from church has been in the hospital with meningitis for the last 3 weeks and, while he had been improving, has had a rough past week. Please join us in praying for Miles, his family, and his doctors.

All this to say, I’m going to continue taking a break from blogging for a bit. I have 100 blog posts swirling around in my head and am really missing writing, but of course, things in the offline world are more important than the online one, so the blog will have to wait. I’ll be back!

Pinterest Challenge: Preschool Busy Binder

preschool activity binder

It’s that time again! I can’t believe this is my third time joining in with Young House Love & Bower Power‘s Pinterest Challenge. My previous projects were a homemade kindle case and a magnetic message board. This time around, I Pinterest Challenge’d myself to make a dry-erase busy binder filled with fun, educational, and reusable preschool activities.

We love activity bags and this preschool busy binder seemed like a nice addition to our collection of work that Beach Girl (who’s almost 3 1/2) can do independently so she can learn and have fun, even when I’m trying to get something else done. A busy binder also seems great for waiting at a restaurant, for car trips, or for during church.

Since she’s shown a lot of interest in learning to write letters lately, I mostly chose activities that let her practice drawing lines, curves, shapes, and even letters. Each page offers some other educational (and fun) value too – like learning about animals, drawing silly faces, or discerning different sizes. But my main goal was to let her practice her fine motor skills and develop her hand muscles to get her ready for writing letters. It must be working because yesterday as she tried it out, she told me: “Man! My hand is getting tired!”

preschool activity binder

For this project, I was inspired by:

Like Family, Home, & Life recommends, I used sheet protectors to hold all of the worksheets so that I can swap them out over time (Bonus: Those are cheaper & less frustrating than laminating pages!). Here’s a pack of 25 for $5.88. I also laminated a few smaller parts, but the page protector idea saved me lots of money & frustration.

One of my friends recommended dry erase crayons because they don’t smear or stain as easily as dry erase markers. Writing with them feels just like writing with a crayon, but they erase off the page protectors/laminated sheets easily enough that Beach Girl can do it herself. My friend has tried a few brands and said these LeapFrog ones are her favorite, so I got those. We’ve been happy with them so far!

I also found some other websites that have great printables. There are so many wonderful, free printables, it seems like we could do preschool for 10 years and still not run out! I had fun searching for my favorites (it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the awesomeness though!). In case you’re interested in making a similar binder, here are the ones I chose:

  • I Spy With My Little Eye page – the page is from here, but I got the idea to print two and cut one up & laminate the little pieces here. I wish I’d written the words on each like she did. (I made this one first, so we’ve already spent a couple hours on this activity alone and Beach Girl loves it!)

preschool activity binder

  • A couple connect-the-dot pages from this this Crayola Count & Connect activity book. (I got mine at Target for $1. Keep an eye out around back-to-school time for some great activity books!)
  • Shape Detective from Super Mom Moments – Find shapes that match in each row.
  • More or Less from TLSbooks.com – “Look at the sea creatures in each box. Color the group that has more.”
  • What Do Animals Eat? from TLSbooks.com – Match each animal to the food it eats.
  • Missing Shoes from TLSbooks.com – Match each person (ballerina, fireman, etc.) with their shoes.
  • A Perfect Picnic from TLSbooks.com – Find 10 things that are different between two nearly identical pictures.
  • Can You Draw These? from Crayola – Draw a square, circle, and triangle like the ones pictured.
  • Letter Matching from Paging Supermom! – Match the uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Back and Forth Lines from Crayola – draw lines that look like the ones pictured (short & wide or long & narrow, zig zag, wavy, or wiggly)
  • Crazy, Silly, Happy Faces from Paging Supermom – Draw faces on the heads (There’s also space for writing adjectives to describe each, but we’re not ready for that yet!). This was such a cute activity! Check out “happy” and “cranky”:

preschool activity binder

  • Bear Tracing Activity from TLSbooks.com – Complete the picture of the bear.
  • All Kinds of Weather from TLSbooks.com – Match the children to the appropriate weather for what they’re wearing/doing.
  • Day and Night from TLSbooks.com – draw lines to match up the pictures of what the children are doing to whether the activities happen at day or night
  • Shape tracing – I outlined an oval, heart, star, square, rectangle, triangle, and diamond on a couple pages and labeled them
  • Count and Circle from TLSbooks.com – “Circle the correct number of objects in each row.”
  • Counting Crustaceans – “Count each group of crustaceans. Circle the number that tells how many.”
  • Marine Life Shadow Match – Match each marine animal to its shadow.
  • Draw a line to connect the matching cats (although it says they’re rabbits haha)
  • Writing skills cards (I also found this from All Our Days) – I cut these up and laminated them separately and then stuck all the sheets in a page protector in the binder.

preschool activity binder

  • Same size worksheets (vegetables, fruits, toys, & animals) – Color the items in each row that are the same size.
  • Mazes from Raising Our Kids  – I liked these because there are two on one page, but I think one bigger, simpler maze would be better for a first maze. Beach Girl keeps drawing lines through the “walls” and saying “Look! Jonah got out!” haha
  • Map of the United States from MrPrintables.com – This map is so fun. If you have a color printer, I especially like the look of the color version, but we’ve had fun drawing different road trip routes on the black & white map & coloring places we’ve lived or traveled.
  • Personalized handwriting practice page – This is the part of the book I’m most excited about (idea also from All Our Days). On this website, you can create and print a personalized handwriting sheet with your child’s name, address, etc.

These are pretty quick activities, but the page protectors let us do them over and over again (and I can easily swap them out or add more as she gets older). I’m hoping this busy binder will even last through multiple children!

If you’re visiting my blog, I’d love for you to follow me on Pinterest or to subscribe.

Please make sure to check out more posts from the Pinterest Challenge at: Young House Love, Bower Power, Decor and the Dog, and The Remodeled Life. And, if you’re interested in other activities for preschoolers, here are some of my most popular posts about preschool:

Thanks for stopping by!

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A Tale of Two Design Books

I recently read two home design books – one that I enjoyed much more than the other.

Creative Display:

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Creative Display, I may have been better off doing so.  If the display on the cover of this book is appealing to you, then you’ll probably enjoy this book more than I did.  As someone who tends to skimp on decor and “underbuy” (a term I got from Happier at Home!), the idea of setting up elaborate (and often extremely expensive) displays throughout my house seems excessive to me. Not to mention that none of these displays could survive 10 minutes in a house with a toddler!

This book doesn’t have many words – I read through it during one nap time – but it is filled with photographs of diverse displays from around the world (mostly Paris and LA). I did glean some ideas from the book and was inspired to start attempting to arrange more any creative and interesting displays around my home, but I was glad I got this book at the library instead of buying it. Although, it is a gorgeous book and I guess it’d make a great addition to one of those creative displays the book extols!

Design Rules:

Design Rules: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator, on the other hand, is an interior design book that is right up my alley. I’ve read it over the past two months, slowly soaking in everything I could about interior design.  I am not naturally gifted in anything design-y, but it’s my recent obsession and I’m trying to learn all I can. This book gave me a helpful overview of general guidelines for design (like the more often you’re in a room, the more subtle the paint color should be and vice-versa) and more concrete design “rules” (like how big of an area rug you should buy and how high you should hang your curtains).  I found this book extremely helpful and will be referring back to it often.

I have a few other design books on my list, so stay tuned for those reviews soon. And, if you have any recommendations for design books, I’d love to hear them!

Quick Tip: Use a Messy Shirt

Did you know that vitamins stain? Well, more specifically, did you know that if your child is eating a vitamin and drools it all over her shirt to be funny, that vitamin stain isn’t going anywhere? (Even if it’s a chemically-food-dye-free vitamin!)

I was pretty bummed when I figured that out, especially because I thought this shirt was super cute before Frosty turned orange.

But, orange Frosty reminded me of one of my mom-tricks that has saved me loads of laundry (and prevented even more stained shirts) these past few messy-toddler-filled years:

Turn an old, stained shirt into a “messy shirt.”

We use messy shirts for art projects and while eating messy foods. When a bib won’t cut it (like when we ate pizza for dinner last night), I just throw a messy shirt on over the girls’ clothes before we start painting or eating. The shirts are great because they cover anywhere food might end up (notice the pizza sauce all over Beach Baby’s sleeves!). When they’re done making a mess, I throw the messy shirt in the laundry with their other (still clean) clothes and I don’t have to worry about removing stains because that’s what the shirt is for!