November is off to a strong start, but I need to take a moment to reflect on last month before I feel ready to move forward. October has always been one of my favorite months—some years it’s my very favorite month—and this October did not disappoint! We rang in the month with a visit from my best friend and ended it with some amazing Halloween festivities, with plenty of other fun events scattered between.
The weather has been crazy here in Austin, with some days reaching into the 90s and other days rainy and near-freezing. The changes in temperature have taken a tole on our immune systems, but good spirits have prevailed. Here’s a (rather lengthy) glimpse at our epic month.
// READING LATELY //
October was quite a heavy reading month, with me racing through books to reach my 200-book goal by the end of the year. I read several profound Christian living books and would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, though this was by far the most convicting, and this was SO relatable.
I was a little less impressed with the fiction I read this month, though this beautiful story about a Muslim family is easily one of the best novels I’ve read all year, and this book left me wanting to read more from this author. As always, I’ll be sharing full reviews of each of these titles in the coming weeks. Also stay tuned for my review of next month’s reading challenge pick for “a book written by an author from another country;” I’d been hoping for something a little different, and this book from a Nigerian author delivered.
// LISTENING LATELY //
I can’t seem to get enough music in my life lately. I have it streaming in our house all day long, and thanks to our Google Play subscription I have unlimited access to whatever style I’m craving. I’ve been enjoying a variety of Google stations (especially the Christian worship stations), as well as a few specific albums and artists. I never tire of powerful Broadway tunes, and the soundtracks from Les Miserables, Wicked, and Hamilton have been getting quite a bit of air time. I’m also digging Lauren Daigle’s newest album, which unites her jazzy sound with inspiring lyrics, and I’m LOVING the latest from Josh Groban, which is a little more popp-y than his other albums (in a good way), but just as beautiful. I’m also pretty obsessed with the soundtracks from The Greatest Showman and A Star is Born, even though I still haven’t seen either movie.
// APPRECIATING LATELY //
I’m not the best at keeping up with politics, which is good for my sanity but presents a challenge when I’m trying to make informed voting decisions. This year I turned to I Side With for assistance. This site is not affiliated with any political parties or interest groups, and it made voting SO much easier. I Side With offers a political quiz with questions about your stance on various political issues; based on your results, it shows you a percentage rating for how closely you align with various political candidates. (And you can log in with your location so that you only see results for candidates that will be on your specific ballot.) I loved that the quiz questions offered more than just yes/no responses, but several nuanced stances as well. You can also weight each issue according to how important it is to your overall political views. The quiz helped me to clarify how I feel about various issues, and It was helpful to see where candidates stood in relation to my own views. Even if you choose not to take the quiz, this site is a wealth of information about various political issues and the candidates running in the upcoming election. I already placed my votes in early voting, but if you haven’t voted yet and are in need of some unbiased guidance, I highly recommend this site.
// MONTHLY CHARLIE-ISMS //
After a few incredibly rough months, Charleston seems to have turned a corner! Even other people have noticed a difference: last week when I picked Charleston up from the child care room at my weekly Bible Study, his babysitter said, “Charleston had a great day today!” And then, tellingly, “Do you think he’s feeling okay?” (Insert laughing-crying emoji here.) I’m not sure what prompted the change, but my sweet, eager-to-please child has returned to me and I’m not at all mad about it. And though the obstinance and tantrums have subsided, he’s just as spunky as ever, and his hilarious quips just keep coming.
Charleston on Family:
+ “You know, when I was in your belly, mom, I just missed you.”
+ “Is Dad allergic to country music?” Luke: “Yes, I sure am.” Charleston, shocked: “You are allergic to country music AND cats?!”
+ “When Daddy goes to God in Heaven, then we will return Arlo to his house and get a cat instead.” (He’s made several variations on this sentiment lately; he really wants a cat and really doesn’t like that Luke’s allergies, as well as our already having a dog, are an obstacle.)
+ Holding up ten fingers: “Hey mom, is this how many you’re going to be when you go to meet Jesus? Or maybe 26?”
+ “I love you to Pluto and back. (That’s a planet. That’s my favorite planet. I like it because it has magic powers.)”
+“I want a baby sister.” Luke: “What would you do with a baby sister?” Charleston: “I just want to throw her into a pond. Wait, do fish live in ponds? Maybe not then because the fish will poop.”
Charleston on God and the Bible:
+ After we had a discussion about God’s omnipotence: “I didn’t know God could do that! I trust God even more than police and firemen!”
+ Walking over a puddle: “Is that still wet from when God flooded the earth?” (He’d just learned the story of Noah at church.)
+ When I mentioned that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden: “Hey, I love that place. I have been wanting to go there. Is it far? We can take a plane or a shuttle. Do Adam and Eve have a kid yet? We can visit him for half an hour in the morning.”
+ When I asked him if he wanted to pray before our meal: “No, I just sing songs to talk to Jesus, so I don’t need to pray.” (It’s true, he loves to make up his own worship songs.)
+ “Every day when I nap I talk to God. And I think God wants me to tell you a message. He wants me to tell you there’s not going to be a playground any more in Heaven. And no nap time.”
+ Upon seeing a unique bird: “God sure made that bird super pretty.” Begins clapping. “I’m clapping for God.”
Other Observations and Funny Moments:
+ “When it snows I hope a carrot falls from the sky so we can build a snowman.”
+ After hearing him pretend to read a page from his book, I commented: “You’re going to be reading in no time.” Charleston: “Well, I almost know all the words that I need to know.”
+ “Some day, can I have a van if I don’t like driving race cars?”
+ When I found him playing with an item I keep in the closet and I reminded him that he isn’t supposed to go in that closet: “Oh, I didn’t go in, my arm was just long enough and I reached in. But I stayed outside.”
+ In the grocery store, very loudly: “Why is that lady looking at her list on a piece of paper and not just on her phone?”
+ After clearing his throat: “Sometimes when I sound a little different, I just cough my usual voice back into my mouth.”
+ While helping me put a letter into the mailbox: “Should we text her so she knows to come and pick up the letter?” This was followed by an explanation of how the postal system works, which fascinated him.
// HAPPENINGS AND HIGHLIGHTS //
My friend Cara flew out from California to spend the first weekend of October with us. Cara and I have known each other since we were 17, and I am always amazed at how quickly we are able to pick up where we’ve left off, however long we’ve been apart. I love our time together, how we literally never run out of things to talk about, and especially the amazing ways she loves on Charleston: the two of them were the best of pals while she was here, and Cara blessed all of us by agreeing to his endless requests for another round of chase or one more game of hide-and-seek. It was a quick visit, but we packed in a lot! We ate out at three different restaurants (Hat Creek, Chuy’s, and BC’s Backyard Grill), visited a beautiful park that recently opened up in neighboring Georgetown (which has one of the most incredible playgrounds I’ve ever seen), and brought Cara with us to church. (You can read Cara’s recap of the weekend on her blog!)
The highlight of Cara’s visit (and the reason she chose that particular weekend to come out) was attending a Happy Hour Live! event, hosted by Jamie Ivey in her home town of Dripping Springs, about an hour south from my house. Jamie’s podcast is one of my favorites, and when I saw that Annie F. Downs would be one of the guests at this event, I knew I had to attend (and to invite Cara, who is also one of Annie’s biggest fans). The second guest was Chrystal Evans Hurst, another Christian leader I deeply admire and respect. The event exceeded every expectation! The setting was charming, complete with a quirky photo booth, porch swings, long picnic tables, hipster-meets-glamour signage, and even a horse for atmosphere. The barbecue dinner was delicious, the music was fun and upbeat, and the goody bags were amazing. Plus I loved being surrounded by kindred spirits who share my loves for Jesus, podcasts, girl time, and solid Christian teaching.
A standout moment from the evening was getting to hear Jamie and her guests talk on stage. The trio had fantastic chemistry, throwing out jokes that had the audience roaring in laughter, then toning things down to discuss some heavy and profound topics. It was awesome to get a sneak peek behind the scenes of their work and their faith lives. And afterwards I had the opportunity to meet, hug, and gush over all three women. Through their books and podcasts, Jamie, Chrystal, and Annie have each played a significant role in the formation of my faith in the last few years, and it was a dream come true to meet each woman and tell her how God has used her in my life. All three women were as kind, fun, and intelligent as I had hoped they would be; I could have spent hours talking with each one, and was thankful for the time they took which each woman there that night.
Every fall our family spends a day at Sweet Berry Farm, where we get a true pumpkin patch experience. This year we took advantage of nearly every activity the farm offers: we did a corn maze, rode a hay ride, picked flowers, fed the goats, and watched Charleston ride a barrel train and make a sand art necklace.
We lucked out on weather: though it was pretty warm (nearly 90), it was sunny and dry. That night a storm rolled in, and we had several days of rain and temps in the 40s. Oh, Texas weather, you are a mystery. But we sure enjoyed our lovely day and the chance to do something fun and a little different as a family.
Another seasonal event this month was a Halloween Festival I attended with Charleston at our local Y. Charleston was cute-as-could be in his backup costume, a flight suit that his uncle (a pilot) bought him two years ago and that finally fits. The event was crowded and too loud for Charleston, but he had fun decorating a cupcake, bouncing in the bounce house, and then playing for a couple of hours on the playgrounds outside (which were less crowded and noisy).
We busted out the backup costume again this past weekend for another Halloween festival put on by our city library at a local park. There was quite a bit of activity including bounce houses, pony rides, carnival games, and a train. It was fun, and a great opportunity to support our library.
This week offered many opportunities for Charleston to wear his official Halloween costume, the Big Bad Wolf. He wore it to church last Sunday as well as on Tuesday at our gym. I couldn’t get enough of that furry little face. It’s amazing how much more fun life is when you’re donning ears and a fuzzy tail (at least, that was the case for my little wolf pup).
On Tuesday evening we carved/painted our pumpkins. It’s a tradition that I’ve loved since I was a child and I’m glad that my boys indulge me with this one. This year we went with a Monster’s Inc. theme for our pumpkins. I carved Mike, Luke tackled Randall, and Charleston painted Sully (with some help from me). Charleston really wanted to help carve, but he’s still too young to handle a knife so we decided painting would be a good alternative. He loved it, right up until he decided to paint his lips and the inside of his mouth with blue paint. Thankfully we caught him before he swallowed any paint, but that put an end to the painting. I thought he’d be excited to help me scoop seeds from the pumpkin, but he didn’t like the squishiness and decided to supervise instead. While pumpkins weren’t exactly Pinterest worthy (though Luke did a great job with his), I was pretty proud of our efforts.
On Halloween afternoon, we donned our Little Red Riding Hood-themed costumes (Charleston chose our theme this year) and headed to City Hall for a Truck-or-Treat event. This is an event we go to every year, and it has such a fun vibe. There are service vehicles outside for photo opportunities, and kids can trick-or-treat through the offices and hallways of the main building. Each department decorates with a different theme; some favorites this year were Candyland, Jurassic Park, and Day of the Dead. It was fun to spot costumed city employees we know from the library and our gym!
Halloween evening was all about trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Charleston had been looking forward to this for months and he had the best time! He navigated our route and commented on every house, decoration, and costume. (I lost track of how many times I heard him squeal, “That’s the best house I’ve ever seen!” or “That is my favorite carved pumpkin in the whole world!” Like his mama, he has difficulty controlling his enthusiasm.) He eagerly ran up to each house, rang the doorbell, and waited patiently for the appropriate time to shout out, “Trick-or-Treat.” And after carefully selecting his candy, he was sure to say “Thank You” and “Happy Halloween!” before waving goodbye. I was so proud of my little gentleman! We were out for about ninety minutes before his pumpkin bucket was full and he informed me, “I think I have enough food for me now.” By then it was pouring rain and we were all soaked, but he hadn’t complained once. We headed home to pass out candy to late trick-or-treaters, and I think Charleston had just as much fun giving candy as he had getting it. His excitement and enthusiasm for the evening—and really for everything holiday-related this month—made this Halloween our very best yet.
While there is a lot about Halloween that I’m uncomfortable with, I love the community spirt of the holiday, specifically during trick-or-treating. It’s the one night of the year when neighbors enthusiastically meet and serve each other, setting aside petty disagreements and politics (despite the numerous political signs littering our lawns this week) for the sake of bringing joy to our children. I’ve always appreciated this communal aspect of Halloween, and now that I have a child of my own, I’m even more thankful to my neighbors who help to make the holiday a success.
That’s a wrap for October! And I have a feeling November is going to be just as wonderful. Unfortunately the camping trip we had scheduled for this weekend was canceled due to flooding within the campground, but we still have plenty of fun lined up in the coming weeks. I’m happy to have you along with me for the journey!