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Yesterday I bombarded you with pictures filled you in on the happenings and highlights of my November. Today, we’re taking a look at what went on behind the scenes: the lessons I learned while making fun memories and living through the month’s big experiences. Some of what I learned has been big, some of it small, and some quite trivial but still fun or just good to know.

Creating these monthly lists has become a lifeline for me, and my hope is that in sharing them I might inspire you to take a more reflective, learning-focused view of your life too.

1. I overuse the word hate.

A few weeks ago Charleston told me that he hated something. I can’t recall what he was referring to, but I didn’t like the sound of that word coming from his little mouth so I asked him not to use it. He pushed back at first (because he’s two and that’s what two-year-olds do) but soon caught on and started calling me out whenever said the word hate. And I was appalled by how often the word creeps into my vocabulary. No wonder Charleston had picked it up! I’ve been making a concerted effort to stop saying hate, not just for Charleston’s sake, but because I believe our words matter and I don’t like the idea of introducing unnecessary negativity into my life through my lazy word choice.

2. Honey Nut Cheerios is the best-celling cereal in the United States.

I was shocked that Honey Nut sales beat out Original Cheerios by huge a margin ($502 million in annual sales versus $322 million for Original). Runners up included Frosted Flakes, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, with Original Cheerios ranking fifth most popular. Honey Nut Cheerios is one of my favorites, so I approve of this statistic. What’s your favorite cereal?

Another recently acquired fact: the mascot’s name is BuzzBee, or Buzz for short.

3. It will all work out. 

I was talking with a friend this month about a difficult situation she’s dealing with. As we talked I was getting very upset on her behalf and was amazed by her calm demeanor and firm assurance that it would all be okay and that God would take care of her. This friend has undergone quite a bit of hardship in her life, so her attitude wasn’t blind naiveté but simply a refusal to assume the worst. Her attitude has made me realize how quick I am to worry and catastrophize; cognitively I know this isn’t an attitude I should be choosing, but it is definitely my emotional default. I am using my friend’s faith-filled posturing as a reminder that the little things (and maybe even the big things) will most likely work out. . . and even if they don’t, God’s still got my back.

4. Tent camping is a lot of work, but totally worth it.

I hadn’t been tent camping since I was a kid, and never realized quite how much work is involved, especially when you are starting from scratch and need to buy or borrow all new equipment. We bit the bullet and took our first family camping trip this month, and despite all the work involved, I can’t wait to go again. A few other lessons we learned from this first trip: borrow as much as possible (especially when there is an option to borrow a YETI ice chest—AMAZING!); camp at a site with running water, bathrooms, and electrical outlets (at least if it’s your first time); bring bug spray and lots of baby wipes; and camp with friends, who will fill in the gaps of whatever you’ve forgotten to pack. They also make the experience a lot more fun! 

5. Not all electrical currents are the same.

On our camping trip, each family was in charge of providing one meal for the group. For our family’s dinner, Luke and I made taco salads. I prepared most of the food ahead of time and reheated it on our stove. (I’d planned to reheat the chicken in my slow cooker but a quick Google search the day before gave me the head’s up that this is not recommended for food safety purposes; glad I checked!) Since I knew our campsite had an electrical outlet, I decided to bring my rice cooker and use it to cook my Mexican rice at the site. However, the electricity was somehow not a good match with my cooker because it took three times the usual length for my rice to cook through. It did cook eventually, but only after we’d already cleaned up the rest of the dinner dishes; next time I’ll cook the rice ahead of time, too. (Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t that big of a deal; we had plenty of other food and nobody even noticed the rice was missing—proof of #3 above!).

6. Puberty is the most important time to invest in bone health.

This article by one of my favorite child nutrition bloggers explains why. Apparently bone mass builds at a steady rate during childhood, but skyrockets during puberty. About half of a girl’s lifetime total body calcium is deposited during puberty, and boys are even higher—50-65%.

7. Always check dirty clothes for stains.

This is a simple and seemingly silly lesson, but one I’ve been learning the hard way. Now that Charleston is older and quite active, his clothes get VERY dirty. I keep tossing them into the wash without checking for stains, and they end up setting because I haven’t pretreated them. I know Charleston doesn’t care but I’m tired of dressing him in stained clothing, so I need to get better at this.

8. There are a LOT of literary awards.

As a teacher, I was familiar with the Caldecott Medal for picture books and Newbery Medal for children’s books (though I’d always misspelled it with an extra r). But I did not know about the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, the Hugo Award given to science fiction books, or many of the other nine literary awards reviewed in this handy resource. I am making plans for my personal reading challenge for 2018 and have a feeling this guide will come into play.  

9. I miss the analog life.

Nearly all of my reading these days is in the form of ebook or audiobook. I enjoy these formats for their convenience, but I miss the feel of an actual book in my hands. Similarly, I do a lot of journaling and notetaking but all of that is done on my phone or computer; as a result my penmanship skills have deteriorated and I barely recognize my own handwriting. I’d hardly noticed these shifts until Luke and I spent the large portion of a rare date night in a Barns and Noble, and I was practically beside myself, surrounded by so many beautiful PHYSICAL books and paper supplies. I bought myself a hardcover devotional book and spiralbound journal and have been enjoying spending my time with God the old fashioned way: with a book by my side and pen in my hand. It has been a glorious.

10. I spend a lot of time relearning things.

Not surprisingly, I spent quite a bit of time this month reflecting on the subject of gratitude. I started formulating what I thought were some original ideas related to the subject and felt compelled to write about them. Before starting a blog post I decided to look back at what I’d written in past Thanksgivings and realized I had written almost the exact same thing last year and the year before. Even the quotes I was pondering (that had seemed new and fresh) had already made an appearance on the blog. So much for learning “new” things, although apparently God knew I needed to learn them again. On that note, I like the idea of reviewing these WIL lists annually; I’m sure I could learn a thing or two from past versions of me. Future Kendra: if you are reading this now, you are welcome for the idea!

A quote that apparently speaks to me every Thanksgiving.

11. We have a lot less control than we think we do.

A friend of mine struggles with picking at the acne on her face, which only worsens the condition. She’d always assumed that she was causing her face to break out. She shared with me recently that she had finally stopped picking at her face, but instead of going away, her acne was getting worse. All this time she thought she was in control of the situation, and she actually had nothing to do with it. As we talked I realized that I do this all the time; not with my face, but with other circumstances whose outcomes I think I have under control. What if I stopped trying to micromanage my life (or my body or my family)—maybe I’ve been carrying a burden that wasn’t mine to hold! (Related: a number of recent studies have found that we have very little control over our body size. In other words, many of us are manipulating our diets to gain or lose weight that we have very little power over changing.)

12. Speedy podcast listening is a thing.

If you’ve read here for any length of time, you are aware of my podcast obsession. I regularly keep up with nearly forty weekly shows and listen at double speed to keep on top of my queue. Other than internet friends, I don’t know anybody whose podcast obsession rivals mine, so I was excited to read this article a friend sent me about other people who listen even faster—and to more shows—than me. According to the article, podcast consumers listen to an average of five shows per week which seems shockingly low to me.

13. I really need to stop letting my perfectionism get the better of me.

This is a recurring theme for me and has come up a lot this month. The incident that really drew my attention to the problem involved our Christmas cards: we had already designed our cards and placed our order, but later that day I started second guessing our choices and decided to contact Shutterfly’s customer support to see if I could make changes. Long story short: my perfectionism led to our cards being (accidentally) canceled, then reordered and sent to the wrong address, which required a few stressful hours on the phone and the loss of quite of bit of money (because I had used coupon codes when placing my first order that were no longer applicable). I wish I could say this was a unique experience, but situations like this happen way too often for me. I have yet to learn my lesson of being okay with settling, but I am documenting this story in an effort to hold myself accountable to striving for imperfection in the future.

14. Family camp is the best vacation for families with littles.

We had the most amazing time at family camp last weekend. I’ve attended this same camp many times before, but never with a toddler. As a result, I’d never realized what a gift the camp’s separate parent/child activities and even free babysitting could be. I love my son like crazy, but it’s very difficult to enjoy adult time with him around. At camp we were able to have some time away from him, knowing that he was having a great time too. And I loved that we still had plenty of family time during the day. This was a great compromise for parents (like us) who aren’t ready to leave their child overnight yet, but still would like to experience a partially kid-free vacation.

15. When traveling: don’t overpack. Also, don’t underpack.

For our trip to California, I packed more outfits than days for both Charleston and me. Unfortunately I packed for cold weather and it was unseasonably warm. I wish that I had packed fewer sweaters and more t-shirts so that Charleston and I weren’t both rotating through the same three tops the whole trip. In other words, I didn’t need to pack fewer clothes, just a better assortment. Along those lines, I’d like to get smarter about packing our diaper bag: I probably don’t need twenty backup diapers, but an extra outfit would be a good idea. (This was another lesson we learned the very smelly way this month.)

16. Faith is a “living, daring confidence in God’s grace.”

We had a fantastic speaker up at camp, but this quote from Martin Luther was my favorite takeaway of the weekend. Our pastor reminded us that we all put our full confidence in something, whether it’s the skills of the pilot flying our plane or the legs of a chair we are about to sit in. It’s not the quantity of our faith, but the object of our faith that matters. When we lean into God, He is more than able to carry us. 

Astute readers may notice that this post is coming to you on a Thursday, which isn’t my usual posting day. That’s because I‘m linking up today with Emily P. Freeman to share what we learned this fall. Emily was the blogger who introduced me to the concept of documenting what I’ve learned each month, and I am honored to get to link up with her seasonal WIL roundups. If you are stopping by from Emily’s, I’m so glad that you are here!

I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule this Saturday with a seasonal inspirational quote, and on Monday I have an awesome stocking stuffer gift guide for you. Until then, I’d love to know: what is one thing you learned this month?

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