On My Bookshelf: What Read {April – June 2014}

A lot of you ask about the books I read. I frequently post about them on Instagram and Facebook, but for those of you who like lists, every few months I share on the blog what I’m reading.

With the excitement of Eleanor’s birth, I never shared the books I read in the second quarter of this year!

I didn’t quite reach my goal of 4 books per month, but I was close!

Books I’ve read so far this year {April – June}:

On My Bookshelf: What I'm #Reading {April - June 2014} #books #booklists

Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Give Them Grace was a book I had on my book list for quite some time but never got around to reading. Honestly? Though it was on my list, I kept pushing it to the bottom because I thought it would be like so many others that I read. It wasn’t.

After reading it on my kindle for iPhone app, I immediately ordered a hard copy to keep handy and to re-read often. Give Them Grace has become one of my all-time favorite parenting books. I highly recommend this book. I wrote a little more about it here if you’re interested in learning more.

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch 

Read my thoughts about Rhinestone Jesus here.

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa Jo Baker

This book. More than beautiful words bound within a spine, more than a lighthearted story, this book is full of compassion and empathy and wisdom and hope all wrapped up like a gift. I loved reading Lisa-Jo’s story and hearing her heart. Moving, encouraging and just beautiful! 

Church + Home by Mark Holmen

Treasuring Christ when Your Hands are Full by Gloria Furman

This was a great read, especially after reading Give Them Grace. Gospel-centered encouragement fills the pages of this book!

Let Hope In by Pete Wilson

Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I didn’t know much about this book when I picked it up at the library, but from the first few pages, I was drawn into the story. I really enjoyed this book. This is not a Christian book, and there is some bad language used occasionally, but not only was the plot interesting, the story and characters gave me much to think about and reflect on. Two thumbs up from me

You Can’t Make Me, but I Can Be Persuaded by Cynthia Tobias

The Hour that Matters Most by Les and Leslie Parrott

I had written up a few posts about eating together as a family and wanted to check this book out to see if it would be a helpful resource. It is! Easy to read and great suggestions and recipes are included throughout.

Managers of their Homes by Steven and Teri Maxwell

I picked this book up at used curriculum sale, and I found so much help and hope in its pages. I’m praying that I can implement many of the strategies that the Maxwell’s suggested as we begin our new school year in the next few weeks.



Question for You:

So tell me, what are YOU reading? Any books you’d recommend?

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We Will Call Her Eleanor

Three weeks ago, we welcomed our newest addition to our family — Eleanor Hope Alison Dawson.

our sweet girl

So many of you have asked about her name, I thought I’d write up a post about it!

I am eager to share the story behind sweet Eleanor’s name because, like the names of our other children, her name is  a testimony to what God has done in our lives!

All of our children have at least one family name as a middle name. For Eleanor, that name is Alison, after my mom.

We want every other name we choose to mean something. Not only will these kids answer to these names for the rest of their lives (!!!), names have a way of molding us, defining us in a way. So choosing names for our children has always been a prayer-filled, thoughtful process. 

Our Eleanor is no different. She was named as a result of God’s promises to us, and I am eager to see how her life continues to demonstrate the promises and character of God.

As we looked through girl names, we loved the name Eleanor.


When Josh and I heard the name, we had totally different thought processes. I’m still laughing at our different perspectives because each is so typical of us. {I love this man God has given me, and I’m so thankful that we get to do life together!!}


Josh’s take:

People have asked how we decided on the name Eleanor, and it’s funny because when Erika and I were talking about names, I mentioned that I liked that name. Erika looked up the meaning and loved what Eleanor means.

Me? I am a huge nerd, and love fantasy stories and classics like Lord of the Rings. I liked the name because I remember this clip from one of my audiobooks:

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Frodo asks Sam what he will name his new daughter, and asks if he will follow the old custom of naming her after a flower, like Rose.

Well it will have to be a beautiful flower…because you see I think she is very beautiful, and is going to be beautifuller still…” said Sam.

Well, Sam, what about Eleanor, the Sun Star? You remember the little flower growing in the grass in Lothlórien?” said Frodo.

Yes, Mr. Frodo, I remember. That is what I will name her.” said Sam.

So, many things go into your decision when you’re picking out a name for your kids. Names have meaning and last. When you see your little one enter the world for the first time, you just know.


Erika’s take:

For me? Well, it was a different thought process all together.

When I heard the name Eleanor and learned that the name means “God is light,” I knew it was to be her name.

Above all, we want all of our children to know the Gospel, to understand and experience in a personal and deep way that Jesus is the light of the world and whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life! (John 8:12).

We pray that each one of our kids will trust the Lord as their light and for their salvation (Psalm 27:1), having a steadfast assurance that they are chosen and as a result, can show others the goodness of God because He called them out of the darkness and into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9, Matthew 5:16).

But her name, meaning “God is light” is two fold.

This past season has been a challenging one for me, one in which I’ve battled the darkness that threatens to overwhelm in depression and suffocate the free, joy-filled life God has given me.

Many days were a battle to get through. It wasn’t all bad of course — so many days were normal and joy-filled and beautiful. But there were heavy days, too — days when the clouds rolled in thick and I’d cry on my bed or on the floor or locked up in the bathroom, overwhelmed, weary, defeated. Days where my mind felt attacked and the darkness would inch closer and closer, threatening to overwhelm. With every ounce of strength in me, I’d cling to Truth and cry out to Jesus.

As my kids laughed merrily and played full and free, I fought demons in my mind, wielding the sword of Truth, but wondering how bloodied and bruised I’d end up. I was warring in my mind for a freedom that seemed out of reach, even though it was already mine in Christ.

But God was so faithful. He always is.

our girls
I was walking through a particularly hard time and spent so many nights, mornings, and in-betweens crying out to God, asking Him to remember us, to intervene, to bring healing and hope. And one night He did that.

God gave me a dream. It was somewhat abstract, far-away feeling, but I remember it so vividly. The feelings, the images, the freedom.

God gave me a promise in that dream. He is the hope giver, and He was promising hope. He, who is the Healer, would come and heal!

On those dark days and in the fog, I clung to Jesus, inviting Him to shine His light over the darkness of my sin and fear and doubt, and I clung to that dream God gave me – that promise of hope.

When hope seemed impossible, the healing never coming, I’d hold up this promise, offering it right back to God as my sacrifice, my way of saying, I believe you. I trust you, no matter how long it takes. My hope is in You!

Repeatedly during this season, through Scripture, through prayer, through the encouragement of my husband and friends, and so often through the laughter of my children and their tender hugs and prayers, God would draw me out into light and hope and freedom.

There is no darkness too deep or too dark or too far for Him.

God is light, and in Him there is no darkness. His light dispelled the darkness I was fighting. Once again, He saved me. 


We prayed over this new baby, asking God what her name should be.

He led us to Eleanor Hope, and we pray that she will know and live the light and hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray that she will be a Light shiner and a true-Hope giver.


{ps — for all of you asking what her nickname will be – because just about everyone has asked!!! – for now, we will call her Eleanor.}

Eating Together: How to Establish Family Meal Times

Eating Together: How Busy Families can make meal time work for them #family #dinner #parenting
I’m an idealist. I have this picture in my head of how I want my family to look and the habits I want us to have. The trouble is, sometimes I’m so focused on that perfect picture, I become discouraged easily when our reality doesn’t line up with my desires. Family meals is one of those areas.

As a child, we rarely ate regular meals together. On special occasions or when I’d eat over at my grandparents house, I loved time around the table. I was enchanted by stories of long-past days when families started the day together at the breakfast table and ended it together at the dinner table. Even as a child, I knew that though our culture and calendars undermine the importance of family meal times, some day, my family would eat every meal together.

Now as an adult with a family of my own, I’m experiencing just how challenging it can be to protect family meal times! 

The challenge sometimes is a result of our busyness  — schedules conflict and make together time elusive. Sometimes it’s a result of exhaustion — how many days I feel too tired to cook and too weary to insist on everyone being together! Sometimes my biggest roadblock to family meal time is my own selfishness — because by the end of the day, I don’t want to talk to anyone and I’d rather the kids just watch a show so I can eat in quiet!

For you, there may be other disruptions, but I know how challenging it can be to protect and preserve family meal times! 


One thing that has helped me stay the course is to look at the benefits of family meals and why time together around the table is important to me. This list encourages me on those weary days when I wonder if the battle is worth the effort.

These are some of the other things that have helped me establish family meal times in our home.

Family Meals: HOW to eat together as a family

Pick a meal

Family meal time doesn’t have to be dinner. In our family, my husband works a job with a constantly changing schedule. From one week to another his work days, shift times, and days off change. We can’t count on dinner together every evening because many nights, he is not home for dinner!

My kids, however, are early risers, so in this season, breakfast is our best opportunity for eating together. No matter what time my husband’s shift, we are usually able to squeeze in at least some time together around the table.

Look at the schedules in your family. What meal works best for you?


Set a goal —

Can’t commit to seven days a week? Start with one meal a week or two! Mark your calendar and let the family know, then work together to preserve that one time every week as your family meal time. As you’re able, begin to build in another day each week.


Establish expectations

If you haven’t spent much time eating together as a family, make sure you are first aware of what your personal expectations are and then begin to communicate, model and teach those expectations. 

For example, are you okay with the kids getting up and down during the meal or do you expect them to sit at the table until being excused? What is your expectation for behavior? How long do you plan for the meal or conversation to last? Does everyone have to contribute to the conversation? How do we respond as a family to each person as they share their ideas, answers, and stories?

Family meal times are such great opportunities to teach manners and etiquette and honoring others! But you first need to understand your own expectations and communicate those in a fun and loving way to the rest of the family.


Make a Plan

Remember your expectations and make a plan for your family meal times.

What do you want from your meal time? More conversation? More time together?

If your expectation is to use family meal times to help deepen the conversations in your family, have a plan for how to do that. Maybe you will use a resource like this one to generate conversation.

Do you want to use your meal time for your family devotions or coincide with family game night? Is your purpose to teach life skills or to encourage honor in your family? Be intentional with the time you have. Pray and work at making it a meaningful time for the family.


Keep it Simple –

Focus on one or two goals and let the rest go. Otherwise you may end up overwhelmed and frustrated when things don’t come together just the way you want. I have to remind myself of this again and again because I’m an idealist, remember? I tend to expect everything to be perfect right away, but this time together is new for most of us. Getting where we want to be takes modeling, training, and consistency, but let’s not forget that the process is sometimes the most beautiful part of the journey. Let’s move together where we’re going, not always sprinting ahead of everyone else!


Blessings to you, Friend, as you seek to spend time together as a family!


Question for You:

Do you eat together as a family? How do you “make it happen” in your home?



Resources for You:

Around the Table: Why Eating Together as a Family is so important #family #dinner #kids #parenting

Conversation Starters for Families {a FREE printables!}
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Family Game Night: Board Games for Kids and Families

We are a family who loves to play games!

It all started while growing up. My earliest memories are of game nights with my grandparents and board games with my brother. To this day, my grandparents, who are in their late 80s, still have weekly game nights with their friends — and us! Some of our favorite evenings as a family are playing games together or having friends over for a fun game.

Some of you have asked what games we enjoy as a family, so I thought I’d type up a short post and share a few. Problem is, as I started typing, I realized how many games we really do love! I tried pairing the list down, but I hope you’ll share some of your favorites, too, in the comments below.

Family Game Night: Top Picks and Suggestions for Family Board Games

Our Family’s Current Top Picks for Game Night

One of our new favorites is a game called HedBanz, a part 20-questions, part “Who Am I?” game. We played for the first time when a friend of ours gave Isabella this Disney version for her birthday, right before our family vacation, and we have laughed and laughed and laughed while playing. It’s a definite hit in our home!

Mario Memory Match – My mom bought this game for Christmas for my {then} 3-year old son, and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t think the kids would have much interest because we already have a few different memory games. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I don’t know if it’s because it’s a Mario version or because of the Super Mario Twist, with different challenges on various cards, but my kids have spent hours playing this game. I have actually been shocked at how often they play and how good they are at it! Even my {now} 4-year old can whoop me in this game!

Parcheesi – From my earliest memories, my family has been playing the game of Parcheesi, so naturally I introduced it to my kids at a young age — maybe too young, but I was just so eager!! The suggested age is 8 and up, but my 6 year old understands the basics and I’m excited for her to gain more of the strategy as she gets older.

Uno and SkipBo are two of our favorite card games, apart from Go Fish, of course! We also just introduced Old Maid which has been a lot of fun — someone always ends up either laughing or angry when the Old Maid is picked!!

Rush Hour – We have the Rush Hour Jr. edition, and my two big kids love this game — ok, honestly, I do, too. This game is a great logic game focusing on visual perception and problem solving.

Jenga — This is a game that we all love, from the youngest to the oldest. Jenga is one of those games that everyone can play, and with all ages playing, we all learn a lesson in patience!

 Family Game: Our favorite board #games for kids and families

Classic First Games

Of course we have our fair share of classic first games that get thrown into the mix, too. Some of the regular classic games we play are:

Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders – We introduced these two games when the kids were still tiny. These are some of the simplest, early games that my kids enjoyed from about 2.5 years old and still have fun playing at 4 and 6.

Giant Checkers – I was surprised by how fast my kids caught on to checkers. We love this giant board and pieces for the little hands in our home.



Operation – and for all the Disney Jr. fans out there, how fun would this version be?!

Family #Game Night: Our favorite #family games -- erikadawson.com #kids

Games We Want to Try

Blokus — I’ve heard this one described as a 3-D Tetris that helps build spatial thinking. Blokus is a game that has received numerous awards and rave reviews. Recommended for ages 5 and up, this is one we’ll introduce soon!

Qwirkle – A mix between Sequence and Scrabble, I have heard nothing but good things about this strategy game, designed for ages 6 and up. This is another one that has received numerous awards, so I’m excited to give it a try!

I have my eye on this Thinkfun Roll and Play Board Game created especially with toddlers in mind. I have a very active two-year old, and the gross motor skills and introduction to game play sounds like a perfect activity to add to our collection. The reviews are outstanding, too, so I’m excited to investigate it a little more.

Battleship — I loved the game of Battleship when I was a kid, and I think my two big kids are at the perfect age to start playing.

Zingo – Zingo is another game that my kids are at the perfect age to try. Sort of like a fast-paced, energetic game of Bingo, I’ve heard that this game is also great for pre-readers.

We were given the game Spot It! On the Road before our road trip this year. We enjoyed it so much we are looking into purchasing the Spot It! Educational Set to help us have fun while we’re learning!



Games for Adult Game Night:

Settlers of Catan – My friends have been playing this game for years, but we didn’t jump on the bandwagon until about 2 years ago. I’m only sorry I waited so long. Part Risk, Monopoly, and Go Fish combined, this strategy game is one even I can understand and enjoy, and every time we play, we share so many laughs with our friends. Settlers has definitely become a favorite of ours.

Dominoes — Our favorite Domino game is Mexican Train, followed by Chicken Feet, but for both, we prefer to use a double 15-dot domino set, similar to this one.

Apples to Apples, Taboo, and Catch Phrase are three of our favorite up-beat, make us laugh-tip-our-sides-hurt games.


There are so many great games out there that I haven’t even included in this post. Makes me all giddy to think of introducing my kids to some more of my favorites like Master Detective Clue (which I always thought was more fun than regular Clue), Sequence, and even Monopoly.

Question for You:

So tell me, do you play games in your family? What are some of your favorites?


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