Brain Food (AKA: My Latest Reads and Listens)

Author, Blog

Have you ever read and consumed so much information, it felt like your brain would pop? Or is that just a type 5 problem? Between speed-reading for review swaps, research for my own books, and a weekend parenting conference, my brain has gorged itself like it was Thanksgiving (over and over). I even came across a tongue-in-cheek article about Post Homeschool Convention Stress Disorder which was perfectly timed. So now it’s time to digest and detox; to let it all sink in, filter out what I don’t need, process it and put it back out there in my own words. Here’s what’s been on the brain table lately.


I Carry Your Heart by Barbara A. Luker
This was a great dual-timeline read from a fellow Black Rose Writing author for a review swap. It broke my heart into a million pieces, as star-crossed lovers tend to do, but Luker did it in the best way possible. This story is an expose on the types of love out there—passionate, steadfast, familial, and more. It’s a sweet, if somewhat haunting, tale.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
What a classic! It’s been around since the 90s and I’ve heard great things about it for years, and I finally grabbed a copy and started reading. Let me tell you… I feel seen! I read every other paragraph aloud to my husband because I was so amazed at how relatable it was. “Babe, listen to this, is this me or what?” If you are a writer and want more than grammatical tips, pick this up. It gets to the heart and soul of writing.

In Search of Sisters, by Mary Ellen Bramwell
Another review swap for a Black Rose Writing author! This started out slow but eventually became quite a memorable story. I enjoyed reminiscing over my own Europe trip as the protagonist explores the continent. I liked how her search for herself transformed to noticing others more. It makes you want to get out there and talk to your neighbors.

We Too, by Mary DeMuth and Talking Back to Purity Culture, by Rachel Joy Welcher
Each of these books deserves their own post, but I’m going to lump them together for now. As I’ve wrapped up final edits on Outside of Grace, I’ve been pouring over some books related to purity culture and sexual assault as it affects Christians specifically. It’s a topic that I’ve grappled with for 90,000+ words, edited extensively, and spoken with various professionals about. It continues to reveal ways purity culture affected me, and challenge me to deconstruct my beliefs, separating what is actually Christ-like from what was just culturally-imposed. Hard stuff, like I said, deserving of its own post.

The Princess Parables by Jeanna Young
If we’re being honest, most of my reading time is spent with books targeted at 2-5 year olds! I grabbed these at the homeschool conference I attended and my girls love them. They retell Jesus’ parables as princess stories. I’m thrilled to take their love for all things princess and put it into something that tells positive, moral stories instead of the usual…well, you know.


I’ll be honest, I tend to spend more of my time reading quick articles than I do books. Of course, most of that is on pointless bunny trails, but here’s a few articles I sought out and enjoyed recently.

Becky Wade: How to Support Authors (Good look at what authors really make from their books.)
Seven Reasons Why Motherhood is Amazing For You, According to Science (Helpful for *those* days)
Motherhood is the most achievable path to a legacy (Also encouraging)
Why was Mary Magdalene the First Witness of the Resurrection? (Highly recommend!)


The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill
Like Bird to Bird, I’ve known about this for a couple years and heard so much about this podcast, I felt like I had already listened to it just because people talked about it that much. I am SO glad I finally started listening to it myself though! The quality is impeccable, the content unnerving, and the conversations it has stemmed with my husband are priceless. We’re currently in the process of shifting away from our old church and looking for a new one, so this has been incredibly well-timed for us as we consider what makes for a healthy or unhealthy church environment.

Teach Them Diligently conference
There were so many incredible speakers at this conference. Heidi St. John absolutely blew me away and left me convicted and well-churched for days to come. Rebecca Spooner was also amazing, each of her sessions had the audience sniffling and trying to subtly wipe away our tears. She touched my heart. And Rachael Carman’s talks were so witty, pointed and well-shared, I went home and practically narrated them verbatim for my husband. If I could adopt her as a second mother, I would. (Also, thanks to this conference, I’ve been reading a lot more of the Bible lately too! It truly left me inspired and encouraged.)

What about you? What’s been in your brain-food diet lately?

Sorry I’m Late


I tried my very best
To get out the door
But it’s quite hard to hurry
A daughter who’s four

She’s not the only one
Her sister is just two
Rushing out the door
Is more than she can do

We fight about jackets
We fight about shoes
We fight about headbands
And wearing tutus

We bring all the books
We bring all the snacks
And for the baby dolls
We even turn back

So sorry I’m late
And I’ll never be early
But you see I have two
Highly sensitive girlies

Perhaps one day
Will quietly arrive
That I say put on shoes
And nobody cries

There’ll be no more diapers
No blanket or lovey
By then they might even
Ask me for a car key

Maybe then I’ll be early
No little hand to hold
I’ll walk in the door wondering
Why we have to grow old

I’ll help a young mom
Her son’s shoes aren’t a pair
I’ll hold the door open
I’m proud that she’s there

Because I remember when
I walked in those shoes
And I’ll always remember
When mine were just two

[ Written at red lights on the way to something, quite late, of course. ]

Rundle Press Update: New Busy Book!


There’s a new busy book in the Rundle Press site! This winter activity book has 12 activity pages with a variety of activities from decorating a snowman to working with vowels. It can be used as a simple fine motor activity book for young toddlers, or a preschool workbook for 4-5 year olds.

My kids have loved these quiet books for car rides, waiting in restaurants, and doing “school” in the morning (while mommy works). Bonus: three-ring binders with clear covers can be used as dry erase pockets. So we keep a stash of coloring pages and dry erase crayons on hand with these. They’re so easy to pull out and have a quick half hour of quiet.

The only thing not quick and easy is all the cutting and laminating! (File that under Homeschool Mom Problems.) I prepped one today for a local mothers group giveaway, and once the hand cramp goes away, I’ll be making more for my own kiddos! They’re still using their autumn ones, but I’m obsessed with the little woodland animals filling the winter one. I’m also thinking they might make good gifts for nieces and nephews. Once that hand cramp goes away…

If you’re interested (or need a digital gift for a far-away-friend), head over to the Etsy shop to check it out. These are sent as a digital download to be printed and laminated on your own. Trust me, a little time cutting and prepping will go a long ways towards a quiet house. And that, my friend, is always worth it.

Recovering From a Case of The Gimmes


My daughter recently recovered from a bad case of the Gimmes. Of course, it’s like the cold, there will be different variants of it that pop up over time—particularly over the holidays—but thankfully we seem to have found a quick solution.

After a rough week of the Gimmes, my daughter came home from ballet class immediately demanding MORE. She wanted to eat out for dinner, she wanted to be entertained, she wanted someone to play with her. All this from the child who had just had a grandparent visit and gone to her weekly ballet class. That should be treat enough, right? Of course, the Give Me bug can be a nuisance to anyone, but I seem have a personal pet peeve that goes beyond normal reactions. So I was upset, more upset than I should have been, and I set out to fix it.

We talked. As any [honest] parent of a preschooler will admit, that does nothing. So we moved on to the next step and read a nice story about generosity. Also nothing.

Step three. This is where the real magic happened. In a particularly lucid moment, I grabbed a brown paper bag, a paper plate, and two green markers. I handed my daughter the paper plate and markers and told her to color a big, scary, green monster. She did her absolute best. I told her to keep adding details until we both felt it was complete. Then we glued the monstrous head onto the paper bag to make a puppet and we played two games.

The Green Monster Games:

  1. The first was a tickling game. The Green Monster would attack unsuspecting passersby, growling, “I want more!” And the only way to stop him was to name something you were thankful for. So that mean old Green Monster attacked my daughter, nibbling at her ticklish neck and growing for “More! More!” until my daughter shouted out, “I’m thankful for my dress!” And with a whine, he melted away like the wicked witch of the west.
  2. The second was reading game. We have a book of Aesop’s Fables, so we pulled it out and found the story about the goose that laid golden eggs. In short: a poor couple discovers their goose lays golden eggs and they soon become quite wealthy. But they always want more. Eventually, they cut into that goose to get all the gold at once, only to find it’s a plain goose on the inside. Throughout the story, I had my daughter hold the puppet, and any time she heard a phrase like “I want…” or “I wish…”, she was to attack the book (or me) with her puppet.

Honestly, with fun and giggles, it worked magic. She even started to think wanting or wishing was bad, so we had to backtrack a bit and tell her it was alright to want something, but we needed to stay grateful for what we have. The Green Monster got such a workout that the paper bag died before long. But since then, when she starts to catch a case of Gimmes again, we are usually able to offer a quiet reminder that “it sounds like you have the Green Monster,” and she tends to calm down.

Going into the holiday season, when they are given so much, many children begin to get the idea that they can have anything and everything they ever wanted. As Joshua Becker beautifully explains on Becoming Minimalist, “You allow them to keep looking for happiness in the next toy, the next game, the next purchase… Maybe if they were required to find happiness in the toys they already have, they just might find it.” (Quote changed slightly from “he” to “they” because hello, girl mom here.) It’s also part of the Diderot Effect. The more we have, the more we want.

So as we wrestle against the tyrants of consumerism and marketing to keep our Christmas sane and sweet, we’re probably going to need a new Green Monster to have on hand. And in the meantime, we’re focusing our November on two immune-building activities: Thanks and Giving (not just giving thanks). We’ve cleared out toys to give to others and we’re filling in our Thankful Tree every evening at dinnertime. It’s been a sweet month and I see my children growing, but I know they (and I) will continue to wrestle against the Gimmes throughout life. It’s only natural. I’ve realized my original anger at the problem was unjustified—she had simply caught a bug that we all catch from time to time. But I want to do everything I can to help my children grow a healthy immune system. Because hey, I need it too.

Nature Activities for Preschoolers


Preface: This blog was doomed to be a little bit of everything. It is my name, after all. Sure, it should probably find a niche and cover just one teeny tiny aspect of life. But I’ve tried that, and before long, my interests change a bit and I get passionate about something new and the blog falls by the wayside. So I’m going to roll with the fact that my life is a little bit of writing, a little bit of photography, a little bit of central Texas news, and a whole lotta momming. And I’m not writing it to become the biggest, baddest, most-money-making-est blogger out there. I’m writing it to keep it active and because hitting those little letters on my laptop brings me joy.

And today, my mind is on nature. The weather is finally changing in central Texas and it’s beautiful outside. I want my children to live that old-fashioned life, spending hours a day outdoors. But there’s one huge problem: they don’t want to go outside. I mean, sure, maybe for a few minutes, for a quick bounce on the trampoline. More than that though? Not feeling it. I don’t blame them, honestly. Indoors is comfortable, predictable, and controlled. My oldest is highly sensitive and not one to enjoy getting muddy, being startled by a dog, or having her hair blown into her face. Plus, most of her toys and entertainment are located indoors. So when I say with all the enthusiasm of a nature-loving momma, “Let’s go outside!” I’m likely to get a blank stare and a “no thanks” shrug in response. Thus, I have to lure them. I have to instill a love for nature in them through fun, joyful activities. Here’s a few currently on my radar:

Nature Walk Ideas

  1. Tree hunt around the block, use a guide or an app like LeafSnap or PictureThis to identify them.
    1. Tally the number of each type of tree you find.
    2. Make tree bark rubbings with paper and a crayon.
  2. Go bird spotting: use a guide or app like iNaturalist to identify them. Bring binoculars or make play ones with toilet paper rolls.
    1. Tally the types of birds you find.
    2. Try to find a nest.
    3. Make up a story about one of the birds you see. Read a story about a bird when you get home (The Nest That Wren Built is our latest from the library).
  3. Go on a sound hunt—try to identify at least 5 sounds you hear on your walk.
  4. Go on a smell hunt—sniff various plants and find your favorite. Follow your nose to find what smells good/bad.
  5. Throw rocks in water. Honestly, this is about 95% of what we do outdoors. Toddler addiction right there.
  6. Look for signs of the season. It’s October, so head out and find leaves changing color, acorns falling, birds migrating, etc.
  7. Take dolls or animals for a walk. Bring a favorite lovey along. If it’s an animal, all the better, find a habitat that he/she might like.
  8. Make Play-Doh imprints. Bring along a jar of Play-Doh and press it against a tree, compare the imprint to the next tree or item you find.
  9. Go on a rock hunt: find rocks to paint. After they’re painted, return them or hide them around your block.
  10. Color scavenger hunt: draw a box in each color of the rainbow on a brown paper bag (add black, brown, and white too). Find items in each color and collect them in the bag. Check off each box as you go.
  11. Look for signs of animals: find tracks or scat on a trail. Look for signs of natural animal paths.
  12. Suburbs style house hunt: find the most colorful house on the block, the biggest, the smallest, the most decorated, etc.
  13. Go on a bug hunt—look under rocks and logs to find bugs.
  14. Find a natural obstacle course on a hiking trail. A fallen lock or series of large rocks are great for this. Try balancing, hopping, crawling, etc.
  15. Gathering hike: gather natural items like sticks, leaves, rocks, flowers, etc. for crafts at home.

Nature Craft Ideas

  1. Make a sun-catcher using flat/pressed natural items on sticky contact paper.
  2. Use natural paintbrushes like dandelions, twigs, leaves, etc. to paint a picture.
  3. Make a nature mobile: hang leaves, flowers and acorns from a stick using yarn.
  4. Leave people: draw funny faces on leaves, googly eyes optional.
  5. Make leaf rubbings using a crayon. Compare different types of leaves.
  6. Draw a tree on paper and “leaf” it with found items (pieces of grass, leaves, flowers, etc.)
  7. Make a sticky nature bracelet using contact paper or duct tape and gather things on it.
  8. Make a paper crown and decorate it with found items.
  9. Make fairies using sticks for bodies and leaves for wings. Paint rock houses for them.
  10. Make a leaf necklace by “sewing” leaves onto pipe cleaners (just stick them right on).
  11. Press flowers and use them to decorate greeting cards or bookmarks.

Which idea is your favorite? What was the last thing you did in nature? I’d love more ideas!