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Last week a friend messaged me to tell me she pre-ordered my book.

“HOW?!” I asked.

“It’s up on Amazon!” she said.

So OBVIOUSLY I dropped everything to check it out and lo and behold, it was there.

MY BOOK. The one I’ve been working on for the past 14 months with Ave Maria Press. It doesn’t even feel real that it’s finally here.

I took a deep breath and shared the big news with my podcast’s Facebook group. A few hours later, my book had climbed to #11 on the Catholic bestsellers page on Amazon.

There I am. Just hanging out next to Thomas Merton. WHAT?!!! I couldn’t believe it. I may or may not have started crying.

But before we get into why pre-orders matter so much (especially to new authors), some of you are probably wanting to know more about what this book is all about and your wish is my command.

The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture is the first book I’ve worked on with a real publisher, editor, the whole shebang.

It’s part memoir and part reflection and guide to essential elements of intentional Christian living that my family re-discovered during an extraordinary year of leaving the 9-5 grind to live on a farm (with no flushing toilets!)  When we moved into our little 100-year-old house in the city, we tried to bring those practices into our urban life, too.

You’ll be inspired to:

  • live simply
  • offer hospitality
  • revive food culture and the family table
  • reconnect with the land
  • nurture community
  • prioritize beauty
  • develop a sense of wonder
  • be intentional about technology
  • seek authentic intimacy
  • center life around home, family, and relationships

And people who aren’t my mom read it and liked it! Here’s what they said:

“If you’ve ever yearned to make radical changes to your life that will bring you lasting satisfaction, this is the book for you.” —Jennifer Fulwiler, SiriusXM radio host and author of Something Other Than God and One Beautiful Dream

“This book is an antidote to the Throwaway Culture, a blueprint to living a fulfilling life. What St. Benedict did for the early monastics, Haley has done for modern suburbanites and families: provide a compelling rule, a practical life plan, one centered on community, simplicity, and charity.” —Brandon Vogt, Content director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and author of Why I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too)

“Prophets wake us to our true state, call upon us to be better than we are, and demand that we think hard about the life we are living. And thus we shy away from prophets. Haley Stewart, however, won’t let us escape so easily. Hers is a genuinely prophetic voice, but one so full of fun and the sheer joy of living that she thoroughly charmed and convinced me. A wonderfully wise book for our confusing and misguided era.” —Paula Huston, Author of One Ordinary Sunday

I feel like I’ve been pregnant with this book for almost a year and a half and on September 7th when it releases I’ll finally get to give birth. It’s truly so exciting.

So what’s the deal with pre-orders? Pre-orders are crucial to getting Amazon and bookstores to stock a book, especially for new authors. To an increasing degree, the success of a book really depends on strong pre-orders so pretty please support your friendly neighborhood blogger by pre-ordering your copy today!

To those of you who have already pre-ordered and helped The Grace of Enough reach the bestsellers page, I am so grateful. Truly. I have poured so much of my heart and energy into this book and I can’t wait to see it on your bookshelves!

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Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. One of these March sisters is not like the others. While we all want to believe we’re Jo (because she’s the greatest), some of us admit to ourselves that we’re actually more of a Beth or a Meg. Nobody wants to confess that deep down they’re an Amy. Because Amy is the worst.

One of my only beefs with the beautiful newly released film adaptation of Little Women is that none of the scenes from the book highlighting Amy’s growth are included in the series. She turns out looking even more terrible than her book character. Amy will always be the worst March sister, but I have a vested interested in her not seeming even more selfish and immature than she has to.

When re-reading the novel as an adult, I realized that I had been kidding myself all my life that I was a Jo. Dear reader, I am not a Jo. I might be a writer and I might have a temper, but I do not measure up to Jo March. I’m not painfully shy and selfless like Beth. And I’m not sweet domestic Meg, happy to sit on the knee of John Brooke as he lectures her about financial responsibility (I mean, gag me).

Nobody wants to be the selfish, silly, littlest sister, but despite how much I try to convince myself otherwise, I am Amy March.

I am decidedly selfish. I care too much about what other people think of me. I know how to read people and charm them if I so desire. I have no talent for the visual arts, but I doubt not that I would have tried to weasel my way into my sister’s trip to Europe and the heart of Theodore Lawrence given the chance. Like Amy, “me first” is my natural bent.

I also sympathize with Emma Woodhouse–the most hated of all Austen heroines. And when I read Mansfield Park, I know that I’m no virtuous Fanny Price, I’m probably more like horrible, manipulative Mary Crawford.

But in the end, Amy and Emma turn out very different from Mary Crawford. There’s hope for them. And it isn’t just because they try harder not to be despicable human beings.

As the brilliant Jane Austen reveals time and time again in her novels, the people we surround ourselves with can make or break who we become. In Sense and Sensibility Austen notes that the Dashwood girls’ half-brother, John, who fails to carry out his promise to his dying father to care for the women left behind, might had turned out alright had he married “a more amiable woman.” Instead he marries someone more selfish than himself who exacerbates his worst tendencies.

Amy March and Emma Woodhouse are saved by emulating people who are better than they. And that’s probably why I didn’t turn out to be a complete monster: I married a Mr. Knightley, a Prof. Bhaer, someone who does the right thing even when it costs him, someone who treats people with kindness and service without a thought as to whether they can benefit him, someone who doesn’t have a manipulative or selfish bone in his body. My husband is just a decent human being and I’m still trying to figure out what he saw in me when we started dating as teenagers. But I thank my lucky stars he saw something worth loving because otherwise I could have been an Amy March forever.

You can’t be around a Mr. Knightley or a Prof. Bhaer day after day and not lose some of your Amy Marchishness and Mary Crawfordishness. And thank goodness, we’re not doomed to act according to our natural bents! We can rise above them and conquer them. I will always struggle with being selfish and trying to impress other people because that’s how I’m wired. But I don’t have to let those tendencies define me. And day by day I can be re-wired to love other people first, to do what’s right because it’s right, and to serve when it costs me. There’s a little more Jo in me after 12 years of marriage and a little less Amy. And that’s a happy thought.

If there’s hope for me, maybe there’s hope for Amy March, afterall.

Which March sister do you most identify with? Let’s chat in the comments!

Related content:

You can find my review of the new Little Women adaptation over at America Magazine.

You can listen to our Fountains of Carrots podcast all about the romantic relationships and personalities in the original novel: Should Jo Have Married Laurie? and Other Thoughts on Little Women

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While the first half of this pregnancy mostly involved me lying on the couch watching every Masterpiece Theatre series ever released, as the HG nausea has improved I’m trying to make up for lost time on my to-be-read pile. Here’s a few of the great titles I’ve picked up lately:

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler:

Sometimes you read a book that makes the mascara run down your cheeks. And it makes you laugh so hard your kids say,

“What’s the deal with Mom?”

“Oh, she’s just reading Mrs. Fulwiler’s new book.”

Jennifer Fulwiler’s second book made me say “YES” out loud multiple times while I soaked in its wisdom. Jen hit it out of the park with this one, folks. I know you’ve seen it everywhere on social media (it was even #1 on Barnes on Noble! And no, not just for Catholic books for ALL BOOKS) but it lives up to the hype, I promise.

It’s on a topic that is so dear to my heart: how do we follow our dreams AND nurture our families? How do we reshape our expectations and individualism to see ourselves as part of a thriving team that is changing the world by honoring our God-given talents and passions?

I know Jen in real life. I love her family. She is the real deal and I am truly indebted to her personally for how she has encouraged me over the years to live out my passions so that I can be the woman and mother God designed me to be. Friends, God loves YOU and made YOU. He knows how you are wired because he MADE YOU THAT WAY. Do not believe the lies that want to keep you boxed in, ignoring your family’s unique calling. He has a plan for setting the world on fire with your talents, creativity, and love. Read this book and laugh and cry and let it inspire you. And listen to our Fountains of Carrots podcast interview with Jen on this topic because it will PUMP YOU UP.

An Immovable Feast: How I Gave Up Spirituality for a Life of Religious Abundance by Tyler Blanski

I loved this book so much and I think it’s so important that I devoted an entire blog post review of it! So check that out or listen to our Fountains of Carrots interview with author Tyler Blanski here. If you’re a millennial or want to understand the millennial experience of our modern spiritual landscape, this book is for YOU and it is far and away the best conversion story I’ve read in years.

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

One of my goals this year is to make it habit to pray the hours. I really like The Little Office!

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI

I started this one when I was super sick with this pregnancy and now I’m just a couple of pages away from finishing. Beautiful!

Books In Progress

Made for This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth by Mary Haseltine

I can’t believe this book hasn’t existed until now. Where has it been all my life (and all my pregnancies)? Mary Haseltine, a mom of many and doula who has studied theology of the body, has done a masterful job at filling a deep need.

Mary brings such theological depth to the discussion of pregnancy, birth, our bodies, and how it all relates to God and his presence in our lives. Reading it as I prepare for my 4th birth has been an unbelievable blessing and has honestly transformed the way I think about birth. This isn’t my first rodeo, but I’m learning so much about the sacredness of birth and the strength and beauty of women brought to light in the Catholic tradition.

In addition to tons of practical information about preparing ourselves to bring new souls into the world, the way Mary frames the whole topic is so beautiful. (I was honored to contribute a couple of short reflections that were included in the book and there’s oodles of great birth stories and thoughts from other Catholic women about their diverse experiences.)

And if you haven’t listened to our podcast interview with Mary, definitely check it out!

Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor

The sweet ladies of the St. Thomas Aquinas Mothers Association gifted me this beauty when I gave a talk for their meeting in Dallas last month and I can’t believe I’ve never read it before. Whether Flannery is discussing peacocks or Catholic creatives, every sentence is gold!

Water at the Roots by Philip Britts

Fans of Wendell Berry will enjoy these beautiful poems by visionary farmer, Philip Britts. I had never heard of Britts, but he’s a fascinating figure and the poems are lovely.

When We Were Eve: Unveiling the Woman God Created You to Be by Colleen C. Mitchell

Just recently started this one but am really enjoying this examination of what it means to be a woman in light of the Creation story from Genesis.

Fare Forward: A Christian Review of Ideas

I’m really excited about this new periodical print project. This issue includes some great writers like Eve Tushnet, Leah Libresco, and Ross Douthat.

Books I’m Reading with the Kids:

Kendra Tierney’s Traditional Catholic Prayers for Awesome Catholic Kids books

There’s three options: Superhero theme, Fairytale theme, and Woodland theme and I just happen to have three kids who are very into each of those themes at this present time. These are such a great resource and my kids love them!

Building the Way to Heaven: The Tower of Babel and Pentecost by Maura Roan McKeegan, Illustrated by T. Schluenderfritz

This is a beautiful picture book from the creators of Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb about Jonah and Jesus. This series of books puts Old Testament and New Testament stories side by side to help kids see the the connection between the two.

Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World by Brandon Vogt

This isn’t a children’s book but we’re reading snippets of it at the breakfast table as a family. Thumbs up! Brandon writes so beautifully and with such love about the saints.

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

It’s always the right time to read Pooh.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

I read this one to Benjamin when he was little but this is the first time the girls have heard it and they love it!

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

This is Benjamin’s current bedtime read after the girls are tucked in. My first time reading the space trilogy and we’re both really enjoying it!

What are you reading and enjoying lately? Let me know in the comments!

(And psst! Don’t forget that This Week’s Miscellany is moving to my email newsletter ONLY and won’t be showing up on the blog anymore so don’t forget to sign up to be a subscriber–it’s free, of course!–before I send out the first revamped TWM this weekend)

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Welcome to This Week’s Miscellany, the occasional round up of Carrots family updates, photo dumps, books I’m reading, links I loved, and big news. 

(Psst! After our regular TWM updates, I have some big news so be sure to check out what I’m sharing at the end of the post!)

Friends, there’s still 12.5 weeks until my due date. That’s right. This is my 6 months pregnant bump photo, not my “we’re on our way to the hospital” photo. Ah, the glamorous life of a 5’1″ girl with a short torso.

The good news is that baby girl is right on track. I hope the weeks leading up to her birth fly by but I think something weird happens to time in the final trimester and life feels like it’s moving through molasses. I’m sure in the dead of Texas summer when this little one is due I will feel VERY READY.

In other news, it is SPRINGTIME. Which means playing outside around our backyard farm (did you catch the tour?)

And making flower crowns out of our wildflower patch worthy of Anne Shirley or a fairy from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

We’ve also prioritized Family Fun Days to enjoy the outdoors before the heat hits. Lots of picnics at the park!

And Benjamin and Lucy both got their first “stripes” on their Jiu Jitsu belts which was a big moment for them. They’ve both worked so hard! We’ve seen so much growth in Benjamin in focus and ability to stay attentive thanks to the discipline of his classes. I can’t recommend it enough for scatter-brained kids in need to some energy expenditure.

Lucy has always had a great attention span, so her growth has mostly been in confidence and strength. And she loves to see her friends (she’s one of those kids that makes friends wherever she goes). To be honest, I’d be thrilled if she keeps it up through high school so that I can send her off to college knowing she can take down and destroy any unfortunate soul with ill intentions.

Podcasts:

On The Simple Show, Tsh Oxenreider and I did a deep dive into what we’re calling “social self-care.” We did a four part series on friendship, stewardship, books (our literary medicine cabinet!), and living in the knowledge that we’re going to die. It was a great series and I hope you don’t miss it!

On Fountains of Carrots Christy and I talked with the lovely Patty Breen on the often misunderstood topic of annulments and just this week we released our interview with the one and only Jennifer Fulwiler about choosing to follow our passions AND serve our families. Great conversations!

Have you noticed that I’ve ACTUALLY BLOGGED lately? A magical combination of late second trimester improvement to my pregnancy sickness, a completed book manuscript, and Daniel’s new work schedule have made the stars align so that I can actually blog again.

I have so MISSED writing in this space. Writing my first traditionally published book has been an incredible experience, but it was challenging for my personality to work on ONE project for so many months and ignore all the ideas I had for blog posts.

I have a list a mile long of things I want to write about (and I always like to know what you want to hear about, too, so share in the comments if you’re so inclined) and it feels so good to have the time and mental space to connect here on the blog with you wonderful folks.

Here’s one snag: not as many of you are actually getting to see these new posts.

I’ve talked with other bloggers and this seems to be an across-the-board issue that’s affecting everybody For years, I could type something up, post the link to my followers on Facebook and voila! They can click over. Easy peasy. Now? Not so much.

Facebook only shows what I post to less than 25% of my 12K followers and that’s on a good day. I much prefer Instagram and Twitter to FB these days (except, of course, the Fountains of Carrots Raspberry Cordial Social Club which is my happy place on the internet with over 3,000 like-minded folks), but social media is always a gamble.

The rules are always changing. So I’ve decided to switch gears and focus on connecting with you through your email inbox, that way there’s no social media in the way! If you want to keep up with me and my writing, you can subscribe and I’ll be able to reach you without having to go through big bad Facebook. You’ll be the one controlling what you see and don’t rather than the FB algorithm.

I’ll still be posting here to the blog (and you can sign up to get my blog posts sent to your inbox here), but I’ll also be spending a lot of time on creating good things JUST for my email newsletter subscribers.

What’s this email newsletter thing, you ask? It’s basically content from me that won’t show up here on the blog. It will only be accessible to my newsletter subscribers. I consider my newsletter subscribers to be my inner circle of folks who support and encourage me and I want to spend even more time investing in that connection.

I occasionally write “secret posts” that are just for my newsletter subscribers, often on my most vulnerable and behind-the-scenes topics. But I haven’t been very consistent. Sometimes I only send something out if there’s something REALLY exciting going on. That’s going to change.

In addition to the secret posts, I’ll also be sending out more regular emails, either weekly or bimonthly because I am revamping This Week’s Miscellany and moving it to be an email subscriber only feature.

When deciding how I want all of this to pan out, I’ve been thinking about which email newsletters I subscribe to and what I love about them.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Short and sweet. I like updates from writers that I can read quickly and that tell me what they are reading/writing/enjoying.
  • I like behind the scenes looks at how writers and creatives structure their lives and what they’re dealing with/struggling with.
  • I like content that is helpful to my life.

So that’s what I’m keeping in mind. What does that mean for This Week’s Miscellany?

Here’s what I’m envisioning:

  • A weekly “here’s what’s up ahead for the liturgical year” section with links to recipes, etc
  • Current reads
  • A quick look at our meal plan and how it connects to what’s growing in the garden
  • Family update
  • links to my favorite articles and podcasts I enjoyed that week.
  • links to any new blog/podcasting content

I want it to be something you could read in 4 minutes that will brighten your week!

So that’s what to expect weekly (or every other week). And then occasionally (like next week) I’m going to be sharing a secret post about something that’s on my heart. This time? Comparison. AKA how I used to struggle with envying other people’s circumstances (or productivity!) and how I got over it.

So if you want to stay in touch, pretty please sign up for my email newsletter so that I can reach you without depending on the fickle social media gods! THANKS A MILLION!

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I’ve had a lot of requests for a homeschooling update lately. Since the school year is wrapping up, it seems like the perfect time for one.

2017-2018 has been an exciting year watching the kids grow and learn. It’s also been a challenge because from November through March I was mostly out of of commission due to hyperemesis gravidarum during this pregnancy (it’s another little girl due this summer and we’ve already picked out a name!).

So my illness meant four months of the school year that anything that required energy from mom just didn’t happen. I was concerned that everyone would fall behind but miraculously, it turned out just fine. And we already do school in the summer because it’s so hot outside that I figure why not do some math catchup between trips to the pool? Otherwise we’d just be sitting around in the house staring at each other!

Our Original Curriculum Plans for 2017-2018

For a….

-3rd grade boy

-1st grade girl

-preschool girl

Our homeschooling method is VERY laid back. We’re of the opinion that young children naturally love to learn and our job is to nurture and guide their God-given curiosity and thirst for knowledge. So we don’t push the structured school time for very little ones because “school” is woven into the rest of our lives.

With each passing year, we have to add a little bit more structured school time as the kids get older, but we really do this gradually. Before first grade all we do is read alouds. In first grade we add math (and handwriting if there seems to be readiness). In second grade we add geography and history. The 3rd grader added Latin this year. And everybody participates in art, music, and poetry.

I thought I’d just share an update of our plans and then what actually happened by subject. Ok, here we go!

Math:

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I like starting out with Singapore Math (1A and 1B) in 1st grade so that’s what we’re doing with (almost) six-year-old Lucy.

Our oldest was not a fan of Singapore in 1st grade and due to his strong choleric temperament, getting him to sit down with a workbook was like pulling teeth so we switched to Life of Fred which he loves.

It’s written as a narrative and Benjamin really enjoys reading each chapter. Then we do the short practice section together so I know he understood the content. But since Benjamin raced through a ton of Life of Fred books last year, I could tell he needed a little more practice than LoF offers to really nail division and some other skills so we completed the 3rd grade Singapore workbook this year and that did the trick.

I also bought these multiplication table flash cards and this DVD to help with the memorization of the times tables.

So to sum up:

3rd grader: Singapore (He’s all done! We’re going to pick back up with Life of Fred for the summer and see if we need the 4th grade Singapore book or if LoF will suffice since he likes it better.)

1st grader: Singapore (Lucy isn’t done with her math this year, mostly because we lost the book when I was too sick to deal with finding it but she’s back in a groove again and is about 70% done and will finish over the summer. While the math concepts have been smooth sailing for her, she’s not as confident a reader as Benjamin was in 1st grade and has needed more help reading the instructions than he did. Every kid is different!)

Preschooler: no math this year, but I think she’ll be ready for 1A/1B next year. She’s so determined to keep up with her older siblings that I might just have her skip Kindergarten. Not that the labels really matter because we’re homeschooling!

Reading:

Because my 3rd grader is super internally motivated and already loves to read for pleasure, I don’t make reading part of our “schooling.” It it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! I do enjoy reading aloud to all three kids so we make that part of our days.

For preschoolers, I really love the Catholic preschool curriculum Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven by Sarah Park because the picture book lists in it are worth the price of purchase. I go to this book first when I’m ordering books from the library.

I don’t think anyone’s ever too old for GOOD picture books, but a couple of years ago we added chapter books to the mix, particularly for bedtime reads. I did not write down all the books we read together or listened to as audiobooks this year because my brain has been scrambled eggs this pregnancy. But here’s a few I can remember:

  •  the Molly American Girl books with the girls at bedtime
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater with the girls at bedtime
  • The Green Ember by S.D. Smith with Benjamin
  • Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl with Benjamin.
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne with everyone
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame with everyone
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott with everyone as an audiobook
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (haven’t finished this one yet, but about halfway through and it’s very summery so now is the perfect time to pick it back up!)
  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder with everyone as an audiobook
  • Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
  • Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George

On his own the 3rd grader read or listened to and really enjoyed:

  • At the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
  • North or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
  • ANYTHING Roald Dahl. He just devoured his books this year.

He also really likes reading books on Greek and Norse mythology (more classic re-tellings or modernized series like the Percy Jackson books), lots of non-fiction books about animals and farming, and OF COURSE, Calvin & Hobbes.

Here’s a few we haven’t gotten to yet that I want to read aloud or listen to with the kids over the summer:

  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  •  The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Read Alouds/audiobooks from other years:

    • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
    • Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
    • Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls by Caryll Houselander
    • The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
    • The Felicity books
    • The Kirsten books
    • The Addy books
    • The Samantha books
    • The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
    • The Trumpet of the Swam by E.B. White
    • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
    • Secret of the Shamrock (Chime Travelers) by Lisa Hendey
    • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

If you’re interested, you can read about our favorite authors and favorite picture books. We’re also very into audiobooks. I came up with a big list of audiobooks we especially love and where to find good audiobooks (and free ones!)

We use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann to teach our kids to read. Highly, highly recommend.

Now that the first grader is able to read on her own, we got some Bob books for her to practice with and she loves them.

So to sum up:

3rd grader: Read alouds, reading chapter books on his own

1st grader: Read alouds, 100 Easy Lessons (finished it this year!), Bob books

Preschooler: Read alouds, 100 Easy Lessons (60% done and will finish this summer!)

Handwriting:


Two years ago we added handwriting to our curriculum. Benjamin had been resistant to practicing handwriting to we put it off for an extra year and I’m glad we did. We started out with Handwriting Without Tears, the first grade level even though he was in second grade. He whizzed through it and we did second grade, too and started on third grade (cursive) this past summer. It was definitely worth it to wait an extra year until he seemed ready and he caught up just fine.

3rd grader: Handwriting Without Tears (cursive) He’s all done!

1st grader: Handwriting Without Tears (printing) Done!

Preschooler: Handwriting Without Tears (preschool) Done!

History:

Story of the World audiobooks — We loved Ancient World and we started Medieval last year, but skipped some of the anti-Catholic sections that gave very biased accounts of the Reformation. We started Early Modern and were almost done when it was due back at the library. Will finish it this summer because it was fascinating!   You can also get Story of the World as a print book but I prefer the audiobooks.

For American history we watched Liberty’s Kids.

To sum up:

All three kids: Story of the World and Liberty’s Kids (almost done with Early Modern SOTW and finishing this summer)

Science:

We planned to start doing formal science this year by adding Astronomy (from Memoria Press) and supplementing with D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. Benjamin loves the Myths book and we read aloud from it as well, but we haven’t even cracked open the Astronomy so that will be a summer project. But I’ll explain later why I’m not too concerned and why science actually did happen this year.

To sum up:

3rd grader: Astronomy, Greek Myths (Mom totally failed in even starting Astronomy–bumping it to a summer project or to next school year)

1st grader: Greek Myths read alouds

Preschooler: Greek Myths read alouds

Co-op:

We participate in a Catholic homeschool co-op that offers Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for the girls and some enrichment classes for Benjamin’s grade. This year he did P.E., geography, and nature drawing.

To sum up:

3rd grader: P.E., Nature Drawing, Geography, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd II (for ages 6-9)

1st grader: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

Preschooler: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

Religion:

The kids do some faith formation with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, but a lot of our “domestic church” instruction goes along with reading the daily Mass readings together around the breakfast table and discussing as a family (especially with Daniel’s knowledge since he studied so much about Biblical languages and religion in college). We also read picture books about the saints and as a family we’re currently reading Saints and Social Justice by Brandon Vogt.

I’ll do a full post on this another time, but Benjamin (age 9) really wanted to dive in to some apologetics–he is SUPER analytical and giving him the right resources has been essential for his faith life. So on nights when Daniel works evening shifts, Benjamin and I snuggle up and read apologetics on the coach after the girls fall asleep. I was pointed in the right direction by my friend Brandon Vogt as to what books would he helpful for Benjamin after Christy interviewed Brandon about apologetics on this episode of the Fountains of Carrots podcast. Not every 9yo needs to dive into extensive apologetics, of course, but apparently my precocious little guy really needed that foundation for his faith life!

Composition:

This probably Benjamin’s least favorite subject, and we didn’t push it much this year. But now that he’s tackled a lot of handwriting skills, it’s a bit easier for him than in the past. But it’s like pulling teeth.

The girls on the other hand would sit next to me ALL DAY asking me how to spell things and writing notes and stories. I ordered some IEW writing curriculum that I’m going to try out with Benjamin this summer. Thankfully, I feel like our Latin that I’ll discuss below has helped SO much with understanding English composition. It taught him all the parts of speech and made structuring sentences make a lot more sense. He’s a naturally good speller (I honestly think spelling is one of those either you’re good at it or you’re not things) so we haven’t bothered to do any spelling curriculum.

To sum up:

3rd grader: some composition, emailing grandparents

1st grader: none

preschooler: none

Poetry:

All the kids love learning poetry! Last year we memorized some Robert Louis Stevenson and Hillaire Belloc poems.

This year trusted friends recommended The Harp and Laurel Wreath by Laura Berquist which is a collection of TONS of poems for the early years through high school. It will last us forever! We didn’t get to do as much of this as I’d hoped this year, to be honest.

All three kids: Harp and Laurel Wreath

Art:

This year I added Simply Charlotte Mason picture portfolios. I got three of these beauties (Fra Angelico, Giotto, and Botticelli). And I do these together with all three kids.

This was really a highlight for me, SO FUN to do together. We completed our Giotto study and are partway through Fra Angelico. Botticelli (my favorite!) will have to wait for this summer.

Latin:

This was our first year adding Latin to our curriculum (also from Memoria Press) for our 3rd grader.

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As my husband Daniel and I have been sharing photos of the bounty from our urban garden, I’ve gotten lots of requests for a backyard farm tour. Your wish is my command!

One of the biggest selling points of the house we bought two years ago was the giant backyard. After a great experience doing an agricultural internship for a year on a working farm (yes, that farm where we lived with no flushing toilets), we learned tons of important lessons about how we wanted to live our lives more connected to the earth (and I include a lot of that discernment in my book, The Grace of Enough, that’s being released this fall!) .

Our experience also taught us how difficult it is to support a family with small-scale farming. By the end of our farm year, instead of purchasing land out in the country and farming for profit, we started looking for an affordable home in the city where we could make all our urban homesteading dreams come true while living off of Daniel’s steady income as a staff member at the farm (and now working at a local non-profit).

And one day the perfect place popped up. A 100-year-old little house walking distance from a Catholic church and our favorite Mexican restaurant. Minutes from downtown and friends’ houses. (The other day when we had car trouble we were reminded of how great the location is–we can get tacos AND walk to Mass even if our car won’t start. The essentials!)

The house has a huge backyard that included an extra lot (we think at one time another house was there). Daniel has slowly been transforming the yard from an expanse of grass into rows of garden beds and a wildflower meadow. He’s built chicken coops for our layers and broilers and a greenhouse for our seedlings.

It’s not Marie Antoinette’s aesthetically perfect play farm. It’s not Joanna Gaines’s farmhouse chic (although if you want that, the Magnolia Silos are just a couple of miles away).  It’s just a messy, lovable space to grow our food and for our children to fall-in-love with the earth and get covered in dirt and wildflowers.

Daniel and the kids spent hours pouring over seed catalogs this winter and choosing what veggies and flowers to plant.

The greenhouse was overflowing!

And now we’re reaping the benefits!

The kids love helping in the garden (and are getting old enough that their weeding attempts are actually useful!).

This year a friend brought over a rototiller and Daniel prepared a HUGE garden for all the seedlings to grow in.

Then he finished the rows off with a broadfork.

Right now we have zucchini a plenty and the tomatoes are getting ready. This is our dear friend Natalie harvesting some of our Swiss chard for a community dinner.

Tomato flowers!

SO MANY ZUKES.

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Every so often, we chat fashion at Carrots. I hope it feels like going shopping with a friend, but not having to try on jeans….or leave your couch.

Well, friends, we are wrapping up the second trimester over here. We have a baby name and we’re close enough to this summer baby’s arrival that I should probably start looking for some baby things to replace everything I gave away when we moved three years ago.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to baby stuff, but there’s a few things like, ahem, a CAR SEAT that I think is highly recommended if we ever want to take this baby home from the hospital. (Friends gave us OODLES of lovely hand-me-down cloth diapers, though, so we’re all set there! Yay!)

When you’re only 5’1″ and some change, second trimester fashion for you looks like everybody else’s third trimester fashion because there is just NO WHERE FOR THAT BABY TO GO BUT OUT. (Consider this your gentle reminder that the correct answer to “when are you due?” is always: “How exciting! You look great!” and never “GOOD GRIEF YOU’RE ALREADY SO BIG.”)

The end of the second tri and very beginning of the third is when my HG (extreme morning sickness) is most under control and I can get through the day without the anti-nausea meds. But it’s also when it becomes imperative that I buy bigger undergarments in order to feel like a human being and find a few maternity items that can help me survive the final few weeks. Enter Stitch Fix.

This post contains affiliate links to Stitch Fix.

Don’t know how Stitch Fix works? 

Here’s the basics: you answer some questions about your style, size, and preferences on their site and write a note to your stylist about what you have in mind. (From experience, I know that the more specific your notes to your stylist are, the better your fix will be!)  Five items are chosen just for you by your stylist! They arrive in a box right to your doorstep with notes from your stylist and a style card to give you inspiration. You try ‘em on, pay for the items you love, and send back what you don’t want with the easy peasy return bag. If you purchase any of the items, your styling fee ($20) is waived. If you send everything back, you pay the styling fee.

For this fix I had in mind a handful of items that I desperately needed so I requested exactly what I was looking for. I had great luck with the fix I ordered for first trimester clothes and those items really carried me through the cooler weather:

But at this point in the pregnancy I needed some new pieces, specifically in the pants department. In the note to my stylist I explained that I wanted some grey leggings and some cute distressed black jeans with that FULL STRETCHY PANEL, BABY. And I wanted a summery dress I could wear for the next 3 months and post partum.

Ok, let’s do this:

I absolutely adore the pieces she put together for me! I bought three out of five and sent the other two back.

Dress: Stitch Fix, Leggings: Stitch Fix, Sandals: ThredUP

Item #1: Winnie Maternity Legging by Rune. Y’ALL. These leggings are the softest most glorious thing!!!! I wear them basically everyday. These leggings are now part of me. I am one with the leggings. They are practically perfect in every way. I’ve been pairing them with t-shirts for around-the-house wear and with tunics and dresses for out-of-the-house wear. This is actually a non-maternity dress that I got from Stitch Fix months ago but it’s still working for me.

My 9yo son’s take: “I like the leggings’ color. Kind of light and dark at the same time.”

Jeans: Stitch Fix, Shoes: ThredUp, Shirt: ? Target?

Item #2: Jorja Maternity Distressed Skinny Jean by Just Black. These jeans are SO comfortable and super versatile. I’ve only had them a week and already gotten so much use out of them. Having comfortable pants is such a must during pregnancy.

My 4yo daughter: “I don’t like those jeans because they have holes.”

Shirt: Stitch Fix,  Jeans: Stitch Fix, Shoes: ThredUp, Daughter: God

Item #3: Ravi Maternity Lace Yoke Knit Top by Skies Are Blue. So I love the lace on the top of this pretty shirt, but since it’s snug already with 13 weeks to go (and unfortunately clingy on my love handles) I decided to send it back. I look a little washed out in pastels so the pale yellow wasn’t great for me. Oh hey, there’s those jeans again.

My 9yo: “I like the lace on the shoulders.”

Yes, folks, that belly has 3 more months of expansion ahead. I am totally on target for my usual 40+ pound weight gain. Go me.

Cute daughter break. I mean…can you even? I feel so lucky that we’re getting another little lass.

Dress: Stitch Fix,  Sandals: ThredUp

Item #4: Reginy Maternity Hi Lo Knit Dress by Lux & Co. This dress was a “no” for me on many levels. We’ve got the pastel pink that I’m not crazy about and the top is very gap-y in the bust so I’d have to wear an undershirt to avoid flashing a lot of cleavage which would make it too hot during the Texas summer. And the cut felt super unflattering, although I liked the length. The print was a little too “grandma” for me. Back it went.

My 4yo: “I like the pattern and I like the color.” Disagree, baby girl.

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Before I had any “big kids” and life at home was just babies and toddlers, it was difficult for me. As an extrovert I really thrive on adult interaction and I wasn’t getting it. Making connections of any kind, whether meeting up with friends or just connecting with people on the internet helped keep me afloat.

But in the past couple of years, I’ve felt an inward shift. I’ve been increasingly overwhelmed by people. I’ve needed more ALONE time, more time to read, more time to binge watch a costume drama about a British monarch, more time to just sit and be and not interact with anyone at all.

Is this the same girl who would meet friends in the college dining hall for breakfast, walk with them to class, meet other friends for lunch, study at the coffee shop with another friend all afternoon, meet up with friends for dinner and then say, “who wants to hang out with me tonight!?” I needed no recharge time. I could not wait to CONNECT. Now just the thought of this schedule makes me exhausted.

I think this change toward introversion is very natural as my children grow older and take up more of my verbal energy. I’m in a different season. But I think some of it has to do with relationship-overwhelm, something I didn’t really pinpoint until talking with my friend Rebecca Frech about her new book Can We Be Friends? on a recent episode of the Fountains of Carrots podcast that Christy Isinger and I publish twice a month.

In this episode about friendships and building community to counteract loneliness, we talked about the bizarre combination many of us experience of feeling overextended AND lonely all at once. Rebecca told me about something I had never heard of before: Dunbar’s number. Get ready to have your mind blown.

British anthropologist Robin Dunbar claims that the human brain is only able to maintain between 100 and 250 human relationships (typically about 150). We do not have the space in our brains for hundreds upon hundreds of relationships.

This threshold is why we feel crummy and overwhelmed when we try to follow the lives of not just family members and intimate friends but also everyone from high school, the owner of the local bakery, somebody’s cousin that said something funny on Twitter that time, and everyone else that comes across our path.

When we know every detail of a college roommate’s sister-in-law’s life from all her facebook posts, she is actually starting to take up one of our valuable 150 spots. And while your college roommate’s sister-in-law might be an absolutely lovely person, do you want her to take one of your 150? Probably not. If you count up your extended family and those you consider close friends you might be close to reaching your 150 already!

After almost three months of not being able to get out of bed due to extreme pregnancy nausea (hyperemesis gravidarum) I had developed a pretty strong social media addiction of scrolling on my phone. Granted, scrolling was pretty much all I could do week after week, but now that I’m up and about again, I found myself still reaching for my phone habitually when I should have been engaging with my kids or doing something useful.

I decided to take Facebook and Twitter off my phone during Lent to help to refocus and avoid distraction. It helped! But I’m also ruthlessly unfollowing people on Instagram and Facebook. Not because they’ve offended me or because I callously have no interest in their lives, but because they’re not one of my treasured 150.

I wish them well, but can’t let them take up that important space in my brain that should be the in-person relationships that are life-giving as well as the long-distance relationships that are truly intimate and will be longstanding.

So far I’ve unfollowed about 250 people on Instagram and almost as many on Facebook (although that’s less of a commitment because you can unfollow someone without unfriending them). I’m already enjoying my feeds more and feeling less overwhelmed.

Another practical step I’ve been taking is setting up weekly chunks of time to connect with close friends. I want to invest in my real 150!

For us, Friday nights are the time when we spend quality time with close friends like our children’s godparents. A particular afternoon a week is the window when my kids and I visit with my best friend and her kids (both our husband’s are working at the time so it’s a great time for us to connect and have our kids run wild). With hang out time already penciled into the weekly calendar, the energy needed to coordinate hang outs is saved but we’re still investing in some of our 150.

So consider, who’s part of your 150? Are you investing in truly valuable friendships? Is social media crowding out the people really important to your life?

For more on this topic, listen in to the conversation Christy and I had with Rebecca Frech on friendship or my chat with Tsh Oxenreider on The Simple Show about friendship as social self-care.

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“So are you done having kids? Is this your last pregnancy?”

I’ve been asked this after each one of my pregnancies. And until this one (my 4th), I have always responded with a resounding “no!” (with the caveat that none of us are entitled to a baby and we can’t always predict secondary infertility). But keep the babies coming! No plans to stop! Enough for a quidditch team!

But this time my answer is different. “Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. I can’t imagine doing this again.”

This is my 4th pregnancy with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe morning sickness that can stick around through the whole pregnancy). While I’m now 25 weeks and functioning although queasy 24/7, there were 6-8 weeks I couldn’t get out of bed due to the severity of the nausea/dizzyness/vomiting and then months of being too sick to prepare food or sometimes even walk through the kitchen.

Even being treated with prescription anti-nausea drugs, I could barely get myself showered, dressed, and out of the house for ages. It left me feeling very broken. And the months of illness have taken a toll on my whole family.

I’ve had rough pregnancies before, and after my third I took an almost five year break to recover physically and emotionally, but this is the first time I can’t imagine going through it again AT ALL. And these feelings surprised me.

Because I’m only 32. I don’t feel like I’m “done” with newborns and diapers and mothering little ones. But I’m starting to entertain the idea that my family won’t be as big as I dreamed. That maybe our future as parents won’t be in biological parenthood, but maybe in foster care and/or adoption.

You’d think with my experience of pregnancy that the Catholic Church’s teachings on contraception would really cramp my style. In fact I’ve had people ask, “do you wish you could just get your tubes tied and never have to go through this again?” But to be honest, no. I’m so relieved that’s not on the table. I am so grateful that our options are limited to Natural Family Planning, that we will continue to take things one month at a time. That I can’t just do something permanent while I’m still traumatized from another HG pregnancy,.

Asking a laboring mother in transition if she wants to have more kids would be insane, right? Because how can she make that decision in the midst of her agony? Nobody wants to sign up for more kids during transition! During each of my labors I remember thinking, “Important mental note from Haley to Haley: DO NOT EVER DO THIS AGAIN.” But once the baby is born, the joy overcomes the pain. The love is so big that I would do it all over a thousand times it that’s what it would take to meet that tiny person in my arms.

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”- John 16:21

I know our future family planning decisions shouldn’t be made when I’m curled up in fetal position on the bathroom floor, too nauseous to move. Because the truth is I don’t know what the future holds. And I’ve learned enough in three decades of life to know that my plans shouldn’t be set in stone.

My life doesn’t look much like I imagined it would 15 years ago. It is so much better than I imagined. I hope I know better than to hold my plans for life too close.

So if you asked me today what the future holds I would probably say NFP indefinitely and that this is my last pregnancy. I’d tell you that foster care has been an unexpected call on my heart in recent months and that in the future we plan to pursue it. But I’ll hold those plans with open palms. I have to hold them up to God resting in the grace that is the openness to life and generous love that He calls us to.

Maybe down the road my soul will long for those baby kicks again and our family will be in a situation that makes a few months in bed something we can handle in that season. Or maybe we’ll have an unexpected pregnancy someday and I can rest in knowing that God’s plan to bring a new life into the world overcame my expectations. Or maybe God will bring other little souls into our home through foster care and adoption.

Whatever happens, I know it probably won’t look like I expect. And I’m okay with that.

So are we done having kids? Yes. No. Maybe. We don’t plan to actively pursue another pregnancy. This little girl may be our last baby. But will those plans change? Maybe. We don’t have to know what our lives will look like or how our hearts will move in the future. It’s all part of the adventure God has in store for us. And I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. (And also looking forward to the suffering of this pregnancy being replaced by the joy of having this child in my arms.)

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I am a baby name nerd. You need to know this to understand this story. I make extensive lists (despite my aversion to listmaking) of baby names I love for future use. I have a giant document on my laptop of first names, middle names, various combinations that I update every time I fall in love with a new name.

Since my pregnancies are rough, choosing a name is one of the rare joys I experience during the months of nausea. It really helps me mentally get through to the day the baby is in my arms.

Before I tell this story and share the name we chose, I did ask my husband Daniel’s permission about posting because he’s a more private person than I am and he said, “Sure! I mean…it’s not like blogging about it is a binding agreement.” I disagree. Blogged means binding! And I’m sticking to that unless I change my mind.

This pregnancy we were pretty sure we were having a boy. So we focused on boy names and agonized over them. We did a baby name consult with Sancta Nomina (so much fun!) And after much deliberation, by the 20 week ultrasound we had settled on Lavrans Arthur after St. Lawrence and after a character in Kristin Lavransdatter.

We’d spent less time discussing girl names but had agreed on Evangeline Rose (although I didn’t think TOO much about it because we were surely pregnant with a boy.) But I loved the idea of naming our child “Good News” because isn’t every sweet little life good news?!

Lo and behold, a third little girl was kicking on the ultrasound screen! I was immediately smitten by her precious face (she has the same nose as her sister Gwen!) and while I still think Evangeline is such a beautiful name I could see right away it wasn’t HER name.

As we waited for our follow up with our midwife I thought about the long list of girl names we had talked over…..and then a COMPLETELY different name I have never before considered for ANY of my pregnancies just popped into my head: Hilda.

“Daniel!” I said. “Hilda! Do you hate it?! I’ve never thought of it before but I am suddenly VERY into this name. I think it’s her name. I’m looking up what it means and everything about it.”

Here’s what I found:

Possible patron saints: St. Hilda of Whitby, St. Hildegard von Bingen (Doctor of the Church!)


Meaning: Hilda: Battle Woman. Hildegard: Battle Garden.
Favorite middles: Rose or Rosemary after Our Lady (Mystical Rose), St. Rose of Lima

After discussing with the kids, our favorite combination is Hildegard Rose which would mean Battle Garden of Roses which is incredibly Marian! I imagine the power of the Rosary or a rose garden devoted to Our Lady who crushes Satan under her heel with the strength of her fiat. It’s honestly kind of metal. A rose is both beautiful and dangerous.

I’ve always felt that I was choosing my babies’ names. But this time, I feel like I was just TOLD what her name already is. Which is kind of weird or mystical but I’m here for it.

Nicknames:
Hilde, Hildy, Hildie (the pronounciation would be Hil-dee, but I’m not sure how we want to spell it. Suggestions welcome.)
Hilda
Hilda Rose
Rosie/Rosy

Am I missing any?

With a more unusual first name, I like a classic like Rose as a middle in case she totally hates Hildegard and wants to be H. Rose Stewart someday.

So we are anxiously and impatiently waiting to meet Hildegard Rose Stewart in 3.5 months time. From her extremely active antics in the womb, I’m pretty sure our little rose garden is going to be a force to be reckoned with. And I can’t wait to kiss her precious cheeks.

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