October Reads

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This is what I finished reading in October! I definitely start reading my favorite genre when our homeschool begins, because it’s so fun and it tends to be lighter for my tired brain! Middle Grade! ❤ How ’bout you? What do you read when you are mentally tired? Do you enjoy Middle Grade? 🙂

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (****) – This was a lovely account of a young girl growing up in the aftermath of desegregation in the 60’s/70’s. Things are not easy and Woodson does an amazing job sharing her life through a collection of chronological, non-rhyming poems. I really loved this more than I thought I would.  I found her feelings as a young girl and creative rang true. She didn’t sugarcoat what she was feeling. It made me think and feel.

Writing from the Center by Scott Russell Sanders (**) – DNF – 2.5 stars for what I did read. There were SO many little lines of beauty in this book. Unfortunately, the author’s gorgeous writing was lost in his harsh, preachy tone. Even though, he and I may not agree on some of his blanket judgments, I was willing to hear him out and appreciate his perspective as a writer living and working in the Midwest USA. However, the deeper I got into the book, the more I found he whined, blamed, and contradicted himself. I haven’t read a book recently where I’ve loved the WAY the writer writes simultaneously being super irritated by some of what he was writing. It’s a very strange feeling. He needs balance and clarity to this message. He comes across hypocritical because he’s calling for change and willingness to work with others while clearly very prejudiced against views that aren’t his own or down-grading into stereotyping. Disappointing.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (*****) – My daughter had read this and thought it was “meh” and I had set it aside due to her recommendation. I was looking for something light and picked it up. I really loved Barnhill’s writing and this was a creative MG fantasy read. A mysterious, dark tradition hovers over a little village. The youngest baby of the village must be left in the woods to appease the evil witch.  But things are not what they seem and the evil may be nearer than they think! The ending was a bit convoluted and rushed, but overall, I really loved this because it was so beautifully written, maybe not so much for the plot.

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) – This was beautifully written and I love her honesty with struggles about motherhood and as a creative. I loved her perspective as an American married to a Frenchman and learning to live in French culture. She was so interesting and the recipes, bits of life, and gorgeous look at motherhood made this a HIGHLY loved book for me. I would love to attempt some of the French recipes, too, I appreciated them seeming approachable for the average cook. If you need to escape to the French countryside for a bit, pick this one up.

The Crooked Sixpence by  Jennifer Bell (****) – Another fun Middle Grade fantasy about two children who find out a secret about their family after their beloved grandmother falls ill. They are Uncommoners who can use everyday objects magically! Magic rolling pin, anyone? I tried the second in this series and wasn’t able to finish it before it was due back to the library, so maybe this first book was enough for me. But I may return to this series!

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (***) – I loved how the author KNEW children and how they act and behave. It was so realistic. I loved the relationship of the family and siblings with the neighbors. Just so lovely. The plot was a little thin, but overall, this was really sweet.

Studying to Be Quiet: One Hundred Days of Keeping by Laurie Bestvater (****) – I knew this author from another book of hers on Charlotte Mason journals, so I bought it without really knowing what it was. I received it and opened it thinking that it was just a book of favorite quotes of hers. Then I read the foreword/preface/afterword in one sitting. Wow! A lovely invitation to quiet ourselves in a journaling practice for 100 days. While I didn’t do it perfectly, it ended up being a lovely way of working through my last months of pregnancy and my post-partum haze. I actually journaled RIGHT in this book, using the wide, white margin for my own quotes, thoughts, and meditations. I recommend!

Sarah’s Unicorn by Bruce and Katherine Coville (*****) – This was a lovely picture book I read after I picked it up from a thrift store for my 7 yo because I recognized the author. A young girl finds her beloved aunt under a spell, changing her into a nasty witch who treats her cruelly. She finds solace and animal friends in the woods, leading to a chance for revenge. Will she take it?

Goody Hall by Natalie Babbitt (*****) – Another Middle Grade read that I really enjoyed! Swoon! Natalie Babbitt hasn’t disappointed me so far! Willet Goody is getting a new tutor and his name is Hercules Feltwright, who’s former occupation may have been an actor. Somethings not right at Goody Hall and Willet and Hercules are determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. (FYI: there is a seance in this title, which may be frightening to some children.)

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (****) – This slightly frightening title is the folktale of the creepy Baba Yaga, creatively reimagined by Anderson. My favorite part of this story was the walking house and it’s protective feelings towards it’s inhabitants. An interesting, darker tale of friendship, coming of age, and loyalty.

What a lovely month of children’s literature! 🙂

~

 

 

Fresh and Crisp {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #2

IMG_20191019_101816_755Gratitude for…

11. Hanging out with my oldest, chuckles over the ridiculous Princess Diaries movies

12. my littlest hands while he’s nursing, he strokes or pats me, cooing and gulping

13. a made-up, use what’s on hand, breakfast “pizza”, that the children love
14. golden color of the cornfields, flaring out
15. Elizabeth Von Arnim’s The Solitary Summer, so lovely and quietly humorous
16. getting away for a few days with Husband and Baby. The colors were gorgeous while we drove
17. my nature journal. I love looking back at the little gifts from God that I’ve recorded
18. grocery store run with my 12 yo son one morning, he picked a sprinkle doughnut for me, a maple caramel type for himself
19. the joy of baby dearest and those plastic keys…all my kids have loved this toy
20. fresh, crisp black Pilot Pen with an .05 tip – love the scritch, scratch noise
~
What are you thankful for today?
(My desktop computer is undergoing maintenance- forgive wonky formatting as I’m doing this from my phone.)

Saturday Song

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I took to the meadows today. Cloud shadows hover over a section of far-flung woods. Clouds that are low-lying, pancake-like, stretching on to eternity. Green-gold topped with clear blue are the hues of the moment, a bit of scarlet thrown in for extra flourish. A gentle hum and a soft rustle are my background music, the distant shrillness of  machinery cutting rudely in. A small getaway, pens and journals in hand, a small step for the restoration of this mother-kind.

It was a week of relationship work, of gathering together with people. The hard-heart- softening work. Charlotte Mason shares that character is the purpose of education and surely she must mean mostly the mother’s character. Encircling little cousins that visited, comforting aches and pains, you know the stuff life is made of. A birthday party, sunflower-y cake celebrating another niece. A grandpa visiting at dinner time a few nights, homemade pizza, and eking out the last few garden watermelons ripe with late summer. Homeschool friends gathering around the craft and drawing table, turning ears, lifting voices, searching the depths of Van Gogh’s “The Potato Eaters.” Chocolate chip zucchini muffins shared and lovely conversations with other mothers. Francis Bacon and Jane Austen’s Persuasion discussed and quotes swapped. The long van rides, parking next to the riot of purple morning glories, heart leaves twining around my own fleshly heart. The long minutes spent talking, listening, soothing. The loudness of it all becoming magnified by low sleep. My comfy bedside chair became a revolving door for hurts, concerns, laughs, plans, book chats, and dreams. Heavy chair.

The spent, shriveled Queen Anne’s lace nods it’s weary head next to mine. The long expanse and deep view of it all overwhelms me. The wind whips my page over, a glorious, grassy, earthy, clover-y smell dives deep into my nostrils, winging through my lungs, truly refreshing. Beyond the ridge, up and out of a valley of trees, a golden soybean (or is it wheat?) field lies as a bright beacon drawing my thirsty eyes. It reminds me of the hymn I’ve been reading with the children called “Come to Jesus” by Fredrick Faber and how I read it this week accompanied with music. There’s certainly a wideness in God’s mercy, a wideness of the sea or even these vast fields. A small spider crawls up a large weed stalk next to my chair. Oh, my soul sings.

The exhaustion, countless meals, and the schedule threatening to drown unless I stop to see. To admire the three leaves with pale mimicking triangles on the clover, the grasshoppers, and yes, again with those clouds. The beauty of another week becomes my Saturday song. Sure, there were discordant moments, a screech here, and a blast there, but I see. In the midst of reading Mark in the Holy Scriptures together at the hot oatmeal breakfast table, rolling out dough, wiping noses, giving neutralizer treatments. During the washing and drying of towels till they’re soft, fragrant, and fluffy, I see just that small bit of glory. I see a little of the “peace that just begins when ambition ends.”* I’m reminded that I’m on a journey, I don’t need to rush, worry. I can just watch the bumblebee on the goldenrod, wash a dish fresh, open a soybean and a milkweed pod with my 7 yo, walk through grass and white clover, with the dew dampening my toes, steam rising from my coffee. I get to read piles of board books to my 5 yo and 5 month old, catch the edges of fog that lies in the ditches, around corners, and under trees, walk out after late night nursing sessions to gaze at the stars. I get to read about the Knit Your Bit campaign during the World Wars to the intrigue and delight of the children, light the black taper candles as the night draws to a close, and I am always amazed at the little tune of gratitude just hovering inches away ready for me to snatch if I will just listen, if I will just see.

~

*The Cloud of Witness, p. 362

Back Here Again

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I flicked on the faucet, filling my coffee pot. There at the bottom of the sink, a common cricket surprised me, a delightful friend to great the wee hours of the morn with. A weariness stole over me, yet I felt good about the fact that it was Friday and we’d made it. A full week of back to (home)school and it was lovely. Yes, of course, a favorite coffee mug was broken, paint got on the kitchen table, laundry did not get done, wrongs to wrangle and mend, and there were a few tears shed (not just by me, either).  But oh, the joy of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry read, intriguing mix of Greek myth, Christianity, and her ironic, heart-wrenching thankfulness for the coming freedom of the American colonies. My unkempt hair falling in my face (I desperately need a hair cut), while talking over philosophy (Ourselves by Charlotte Mason) with my two older boys about our dual selves and one of them comparing it to that cartoonish picture of the devil and angel on our shoulders, lends a sobering blend of joy and holy seriousness to what I get to do as a homeschooling mother. Silence and contemplation over mysterious bits from George MacDonald in his At the Back of North Wind. In our afternoon free time, my 12 yo son and I have been enjoying reading and discussing Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I had planned on a shift into our autumn menu, chili, chicken noodle soup, and roasted veggies with sausage. I’ve had to scramble a bit as the temperatures tricked us by dropping and then sultry sunshine slipping back in. We made due and sometimes soup was sipped to the hum of the air conditioner. This seems to be the year of Wisconsin (and England!) geography trails and deeper digging into science, but with glorious LIVING, breathing books at the helm. The early morning math figuring together, each child rotating to me for help, has worked wonderful this first week, it’s amazing the things we talk about as we fill up with ideas.  We had a long ramble on our beautiful gravel road, the dog gamboling ahead of us, darting in and out of the neighbor’s corn, the butterflies following us. “The butterflies are my friends,” the sweet, sensitive 5 yo tells me. Common Buckeye, Red Admiral, Sulfurs, and Monarch are still swishing lightly through these last dog days of September summer. Can you believe that Monday is the official first day of autumn? My sleep deprivation has reached new heights, a darling, chunky almost 5 month old baby boy smiles at me, making it worth it, but not any less hard. I was able grab a few secret moments to dip into this strangely imaginative book about writing and run away to Italy for a bit in Von Arnim’s The Enchanted April. Paint brushes dipped into watercolors remind me of the Staghorn Sumac tips now, brilliantly red-tipped. A few Christmas gifts have begun to get a jump start, and the oven is being used for more bread and cookies. Our favorite Elevenses snack began again, a giant bowl of popcorn and mugs of hot chocolate (yes, even with the heat! Old habits die hard.), hymns and folk-songs playing. It brings back so many memories of the countless pages read, conversations, and the life lived, learned, deep love planted around this old, hand-me-down table. The seasons ebb and flow, like one of those time-lapse videos, in my head.  It’s so good to be back here again.

~

Few things that blessed me this first back to school week:

Each day the world is born anew

For him who takes it rightly…

Rightly? that’s simply!- ’tis to see

Some Substance casts these shadows

which we call Life and History…

Simply? That’s nobly! – ’tis to know

That God may still be met with, –

Nor groweth old, nor doth bestow

These senses fine, this brain aglow,

To grovel and forget with!

 

Lowell, The Cloud of Witness, p. 380

 

Psalm 23 (emphasis mine) NASB

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

~

Crazy Love

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I have a crazy, crazy love of things….

So many little things…

Crazy, crazy, swirling, circling…these are the days of needing to reduce the daily life down into teeny increments. The copper tea pot, the baby sock, the drip of green paint slowly oozing down the side of the paint can, the u-shaped upside down bit of light from the table lamp, hour-glassing up the wall, the click of wooden blocks, post it notes, a black crayon, jug of distilled water nearby, smell of cornbread, can opener, shocking yellow bath towel, crossed off days on a nearly spent August, weeds taller than I, said green paint under finger nails, sunflower seed shells, two shoes without mates, white barn salt shaker, blue flicker of gas, glisten of waning light on ham slices, moonshine on roofs of cars below,  distant cry from crib, squares of blue & green outside, piece of spaghetti stuck to foot, the off button on the podcasts, the sign-out tab on social media, and the hesitant smile, side glance of a child, probably wondering where his mother has gone.

So many little, crazy things to love with a crazy, exhausted love.

~

Questions

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May I put life on pause and catch up on sleep? Can I find some space from the children to plan for the children, an upcoming school term, with thoughtfulness, grace, and purpose? Is there anything more beautiful than barn swallows swooping through the light pink and pale blue early morn? Is there a reason I feel like crying even though I have a supremely blessed life? How do I conquer all the piles in my home, piles of books, piles of clothing, piles of fabric for curtains, piles of hopes, dreams, piles of dishes needing tender loving care? How can I not miss the moments that are flying by, the teeny toes, the little eyes looking at me with their own questions pooling deep behind, and the butterfly fluttering on by? How can I enjoy the warmth and sunshine of summer from my deep, dark nursing chair cave, a sticky, squirming, DARLING, boy suckling from my breast? Where do I find mental room for on-going, never-stopping conversation swirling, rising and falling around me? How does my marriage grow and become beautiful without attention? Where do I find the well of energy, creativity, and get-up-and-go to cook for these lovely eaters here? Where do daring dreams go when they are crowded out by equal and lovely daily dreams? How does the weight melt off when one finds themselves in a sitting season? How do you know what is the next right thing to do? Where does one go after the last sip of delicious morning coffee or afternoon tea is gone, the empty bottom of cup reminding you of something? How do you find a prayer to pray when the reservoir is dry? How do you answer all these exhausted questions that float up and out and settle on down around your bowed shoulders? How do we take up our cross and follow when our ground lies fallow?

Just a few of the questions I’m asking myself today.

~

The Gift of This Moment

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Haunting flute music drifts through the air mixed with my lemon essential oil mist. Feasts for nose and ears. I’ve been slowly floating up and out of post-partum exhaustion and haze, resurfacing, so to speak. Not quite back in the land of the living yet, but one moment at a time, finding my way, taking deep breaths at the surface. Our summer has been a mixture of scrambling, snuggling, and sliding around in the big, red van. We’ve been bumping our way over country roads to family parties and a week at the cabin, surrounded by the memory of pine-drenched air there still fresh in my nose mind. The year has flown, new baby’s have a way of slowing time down and speeding it up at the same time. We’ve enjoyed reading poetry together, trying to finish stories and songs that fell to the wayside during my last months of pregnancy. Summer is time for long book series, my oldest especially embracing the extra reading time, but also she has been found out in the hay meadow on her horse, our new family dog trotting alongside. Ahh. Summer. A welcome friend, I’m soaking her in, recalling the Polar Vortex that swept the northern midwest just a few months ago. I saw somewhere online that there was like a 100 degree difference in some parts of the midwest when compared to the deep “winter that never seemed to be Christmas” that we went through. In hindsight, that was a lot harder for me than I thought. So, I’m determined not to complain of the slow, sultry, still days we are having now. I closed my eyes and let the sweat drip down my back, trying to soak in warmth, bone-deep. Yes, I don’t love nursing a hot, wiggling, darling in this weather, but I’m grateful for it and it’s erasing effects of that cold that is written deep in my skin. Technology has been a boon to me the past few days, as a dear heart, Elisabeth, has been voxering me about my history study plan for the autumn. Summer is off from the scheduled books, but mothering and teaching really never rest. We plan, we dream, we hope, and pray. My black hollyhocks stir slightly in the breeze, a hopeful bit for me, as I fight feelings of being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of needs. Needs for myself, of health, feeling good again in my stretched skin, sleep, and peace. Needs for my husband, encouragement and restful place to come home to, and the needs of a whole bouquet of beautiful children I’ve been given to water. We walk by faith, not by sight, and sigh, isn’t that a good thing? If I looked outwardly only, I’d faint, but I fix my gaze by faith on the One who walks along with me, in fact, carries me. Flute, water trickles, and a gentle murmur of sweet voices are surrounding me now. A gift in the moment. And I’m thankful for it.

~

May Reads

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Here’s what I finished in May! Running a month behind, folks. I’ve been busy snuggling my darling little baby. I had a memoir heavy month!

Letters of a Women Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (*****) – A friend recommended this to me and I’m so glad! This is hilarious and super inspiring. I listened to it on Librivox and was so charmed by her hard-working spirit, love of nature, and resilience. Eye-opening, turn of the century real letters between two women. My children enjoyed listening to some of it as well. Page turner. Just FYI: racial slurs and some scary/intense situations.

The Other Side of the Dale by Gervase Phinn (*****) – A gentle, delightful memoir of a rural English school inspector. I absolutely loved his humorous insight and descriptions of the English countryside. However, the most delicious part of this was the darling and fascinating conversations he had with the children in the schools he visits. He really captured how delightful children are if we just listen to them. I found out this is a series! Can’t wait to read more about Mr. Phinn’s adventures.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (****) – I did it! I finished this massive classic. I read some and listened to the rest on Librivox while waiting on my baby and then during the long nursing sessions. It took me a long time to get into this, but then I really started to appreciate it. The different characters and marriages in and around the town of Middlemarch were very interesting to me. My favorite character (s) was (were) Mr. Garth and possibly Dorothea Brooke. There are many deep, wonderful lines that I’d love to go back through and copy down in my commonplace. My brain is sort of muddled currently, so I’m not doing this book justice, but it was fascinating.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I needed something light and sweet and this reread was just as wonderful the second time around! I read this one afternoon when my baby was sleeping and it was just what I needed. An “old-maid” is diagnosed with a life-altering illness and believes she has a short time to live. She throws caution to the wind, breaking away from her controlling relatives to take risks. Never in her wildest imagination could she have guessed what would happen.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay (***) – I enjoyed this light fiction centered around three women who are connected to one bookshop. Reay did a wonderful job of making these characters real and interesting. I especially loved Janet, imperfect and struggling with her divorce. I loved all the book references and the atmosphere of the shop.

The Enchanted Isle by D.E. Stevenson (***) – This was a sweet story about a burned out headmistress of a girl’s boarding school, Charlotte Fairlie,who visits a gorgeous Scottish island. I really loved the young girl that befriends Miss Fairlie, leading to love and adventures.

Shepherdess of Elk River Valley by Margaret Duncan Brown (****) – This title is amazingly similar in topic to Letters of a Woman Homesteader, and yet it has it’s own flair and uniqueness. In Stewart’s book, Elinore has many children and responsibilities to others, whereas Margaret is alone most of the time, alone with her mountains of backbreaking work, books, and her own thoughts. I found Margaret’s thoughts & quotes on her extensive reading, intriguing and unique. She does a good job of sharing the hardships of shepherding in the harsh Colorado climate.

West Wind by Mary Oliver (*****) – Beautiful poems that came at a perfect time for me.

The Holy Bible (*****) –  finished John, starting back through the Gospels, Matthew,  some of Mark

~

 

April Reads

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(poem in photo by Mary Oliver)

Better late than never. Here is what I finished last month, waiting for my baby. He was eight days “overdue”.  What have you enjoyed reading recently?

The Mad Farmer Poems by Wendell Berry (*****) – I loved this short collection of poems. I especially loved “Satisfactions of a Mad Farmer”. I used it in my nature journal for my spring and summer sketches.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (****) – an online friend mentioned that this was a good read during Lent. I have had it on my shelf forever and am so glad I dove in. I found it fascinating and found a lot to contemplate as I thought over the life of these nuns. This story is focused on a career business woman who gives everything up to enter the Brede convent. The lives of the nuns and the intricacies of their relationships was so interesting. Godden did a wonderful job making each woman really interesting and deep.

Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Writer and a Mother by Lisa Garrigues (*****) – beautiful exercises and essays on writing and motherhood. I hope to go through this again and do some of them. The beginning part is for very new writers, but it gets deeper in the second half.

Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher (***) – Confession time: I have never eaten oysters. Ha. This book did nothing to induce me to either. My husband tried them in P.E.I, Canada as well as mussels and he enjoyed them. This was lovely writing, but I just feel grossed out by oysters. I know it’s unfair judgment since I’ve never eaten any!

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (*****) – Lovely imaginative tale about a clock that strikes thirteen, opening a time portal to a dreamy garden, friendship, and beauty. I really enjoyed this children’s classic.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Luke and some of John

~

 

Why write?

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“Let your white page be ground, my print be seed, 

Growing to golden ears, that faith and hope shall feed.”

~ George MacDonald

 

Why write? Or pursue any other creative endeavor? I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been reading a lovely book called Writing Motherhood: Tapping into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer by Lisa Garrigues. The author really is making my brain whirl with ways we can write from our everyday lives. While she specifically is focusing on mothers, I have found so many tidbits, quotes, and little ideas for general writing, especially as I get deeper into the book. As I thought of this question above, at first, I panicked. I felt a huge need to write beautifully about this and automatically felt this need to justify creativity. However, once I calmed down a bit, I realized, in my heart of hearts I knew why I write. So, here’s a small list that I’m thinking on and refining in my heart:

  1. I’m an Image Bearer of my Creator God, who loves me – my creativity is a small glimmer of His beauty and character. Of course, it’s not perfect like Him, but if it can reflect even a minuscule piece of Him, it’s worth it. I offer it back to Him as an act of worship, as something I love-to, have-to, and want-to do.
  2. I write to force myself to slow down and humbly notice the small beauty of life. Ultimately, this helps me cultivate gratitude. I mainly write with paper and ink, initially when working on a project. You have to go slow at that inky speed. It’s been a wonderful practice for me.
  3. I write to prayerfully encourage and inspire others in the same upward, outward direction. I want to bring our physical realities a little higher up till they touch the spiritual realm. Yes, we live here in this fallen world, but we are sojourners on a land not our own. I want to be deeply aware of this, but also realizing if we look closely enough we can find glimpses of our real life beyond piercing through here…

Have you thought through why you write or pursue your creative bent? I’m sure my reasons will shift a bit in different seasons, but this is a start.

~

 

 

Reflecting

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I have so much to do today but little energy with which to do it. I’ve been struggling with a bit of insomnia and it hangs heavy on my back like buckets of water swinging from a yoke. Our last holiday gathering of the year is tomorrow, so you know that fudge I’m to bring and the other dessert, as well as gifts to wrap and odds and ends of traveling? They are all sort of heaped in a mental pile by the door, beckoning. My husband is off to work early, with promises of getting a new cellphone for me. I’m leaving Apple behind, one lonely bite in its forlorn side. I’m the only lone Apple customer in my family and for ease, I’m switching. I’m hoping I just get a simple layout with a good camera.

We’ve already visited with an uncle who happened by, swiped clean the breakfast table of its bagel remnants and granola bits, and I enjoyed a strange, but entertaining story, wearily sinking into the quilts and comfort of my bed. Our school holiday ends on Monday, and I think all of us had a wonderful, for-the-most-part, restful time this year, for which I’m truly thankful. I think fondly of the stories, Advent readings, and poem we enjoyed. We had a little advent calendar from the grocery store, the children taking turns, finding darling chocolate shapes within. We also shared Tasha Tudor’s Advent calendar in her A Book of Christmas and were thoroughly charmed by the darling pictures she painted. The children enjoyed frosting and decorating cookies for various parties and it worked well to do it slowly and in a couple of days. I loved keeping the rush as low as possible, so we could hear the seasonal hush. We enjoyed feasting together as a family, red candles lit, and just more games, movies, and laughter. Oh and the Christmas music. James Galloway and Bing Crosby being favorites. Even chores weren’t the same, with a pine scent lingering in the air, and cinnamon rolls after coming in after feeding animals.

The beauty of the season is definitely still hanging about and it’s really only the 11th day of Christmas. I held out for as long as I could on getting a Christmas tree and I’m so glad I did! We found an off-the-beaten track Christmas tree farm and they had some left just for us to choose from. It was a lovely time, excitement high because it was so close to Christmas and the sparkle of it all hadn’t worn off yet. We were given fresh-popped popcorn and hot chocolate, and my husband and oldest son ratchet-strapped the tree tightly to the top of the mini-van. We may have seemed behind or late, but truly getting the tree later in December has made it all the more special now. It’s standing tall and beautiful right now…most of it’s needles soft and scent fresh.

I think the most special thing has been the few meaningful conversations I have had with a few children or over an Advent reading. We didn’t do all that I wanted, but what we did read and talk about really was special. The children really stepped into their own spirit of gift-giving this year, making or using their own money to buy others things. I didn’t do or make them do that at all, but it was its own special gift to me. The sun is glaring against the piles of snow, and I’m so grateful for its blinding brightness. Carries one through the immense, long gray days of this time of year, does it not? Even our New Year’s Eve ended in a special way, all of us home, singing and sipping sparkling Apple Cider at midnight! We’ve never done that before and it was special. Sigh and back to the present, I hope to make some turkey and veggie soup later, Thanksgiving Tom still giving a month later, and some of the children may go to a homeschool gym night with my father-in-law. Oh, but wait, it’s actually lunch time and I haven’t yet put anything on the table! Time to stop typing and heat up some leftovers for lunch, maybe with a side of piping hot grilled cheese.

I’m so thankful for another year of celebrating the Savior’s birth and for the small moments that make His love truly tangible. Off to fix lunch!

~

December Reads {and my Back to Classics Challenge 2018 Wrap-Up}

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Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Here’s what I finished up in December (I tried to get titles done that I’d been reading awhile, since I had a bit more time over our holiday) and about my Back to Classics 2018 Challenge!

Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury (****) – I finished up this book for the category of  A Classic with a Color in the Title for my Back to Classics Challenge. This book was so very weird, beautiful, unmatched,  with a magical use of words, sentences, almost a prose poetry! A slow read for me, because I had to process each story or wade through the themes. Time, age, technology, natural resources, space, family, and so much more. I got bogged down a bit in his school-boy fascination with the space race and rockets which came through strongly in many of the stories. I’m too young? or something to appreciate that particular fascination maybe. The stories on the surface seem so far fetched, yet underneath there are beautiful layers to peel back and think on. I really love Bradbury!

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (****) – 3.5 stars -I barely finished this as my 7th title of the 12 for my Back to Classics Challenge. It fulfilled the category of A Classic in Translation. I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked it for it’s creepy, psychological feel, the atmosphere of it, but I feel a bit confused on some of the “supernatural” seeming elements of the story after finding out more about who the Opera Ghost was at the end. I’d love to see this on stage someday, though. My older daughter and I have been talking about it a lot as I slowly read it and then she gobbled it up and really liked it. Maybe it was me? Maybe it was how slowly I read it?

Poems, 1965-1975 by Seamus Heaney (***) – This is a collection of four of his poetry books and the first three were enjoyable, but I was so bogged down and confused in the last book, North. The language, metaphors, etc, were all “Greek” to me, for some reason. Ha. Not sure what happened, but I like to be able to take SOMETHING away, even if I don’t understand completely and I was having a hard time doing that.

Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken (****) – The third book in The Wolves Chronicles and it was so strange and enchanting. Dido Twite, a brave little girl, who we are introduced to in the earlier two books, finds herself stranded on a whaling ship and falls into some crazy adventures, including stopping a plot to shoot a cannon ball from Nantucket to London! Ha. Very humorous, imaginative, and fun!

Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue by David J. Bobb (***) – I started this as a read for a home educating retreat this past fall and found it interesting. I especially loved the chapters on Abigail Adams and Frederick Douglas. This was a little slow moving for me, but I’m glad I finished it.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (*****) -This was a reread for me and I loved it more than the first time. Jane lives with her mother and wealthy grandmother in a colorless and harsh environment. She doesn’t know what happened to her father, being led to believe he died. One day,  a letter arrives from him, asking for her to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Little do they know how much this will change all of their lives. This possibly has a too-sweet ending, but I adore the hope and beauty that this story holds, it’s one of my absolute favorites from Maud. I love how happiness is found in the simple act of loving and serving.  This is in fact why I call myself “Amy of Hearth Ridge”. 😉

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) – another reread for me, as I plan on reading Enger’s other two titles next year. I loved this so much and was just drawn in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein throughout. Highly recommend!

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (****) – This memoir I saw recommended somewhere and I gobbled it up in ONE day on our Christmas holidays. Kristin travels to the country to interview a farmer and basically ends up never leaving. Very gorgeous writing, inspiring, and truly shows the amount of work farmers do. The nitty-gritty, bloody, filthy details of truly growing your own food and living off the land isn’t sugar-coated. I suspect the author and I differ on our views of love and marriage, but I found this very real and somehow touching. It definitely was inspiring.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – I’ve been through this first volume a few times over the past years home educating my children. I so enjoyed going through it with my book group and gleaned again so many beautiful things.

A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham by Patricia Cornwell (****) – I really enjoy Mrs. Graham’s poetry and found that I had this biography of her life on my shelf. It was so interesting to read about her life as a child in China, where her parents served as medical missionaries and growing up to marry Billy Graham. I mostly, though, appreciate her as a mother, homemaker, writer, and appreciator of the small details of life. So interesting!

Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories by Bess Streeter Aldrich (****) – I love Aldrich’s richly layered stories, A White Bird Flying, Lantern in Her Hand, etc. and so I was thrilled to see this selection of Christmas stories by her. Some are taken from her novels, some are just stand alone short stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Full of precious nostalgia, beautiful sentiments, and her word-smith beauty is just lovely. The stories may be a bit extra sweet, but it was a perfect read for December. I even read a bit to my children and they loved it.

Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – This took me all year to reread for maybe the 5th time? Yes, I love this book so much. I walk away with new lines and thoughts of beauty every time. This is the second book in a trilogy, but I’ve only read one and three once, this one is so lovely, and has the power to stand alone. I talk a bit more about it here and chat about Goudge, also, who is one of my top favorite authors.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (****) – This tome I actually finished in November, but forgot to mention it! I think this book starts making the HP series better…the first few books are good, but the last few shine. They become darker and more complex, but so do the interesting things they address. This was an entertaining read for my days of illness in November.

{Whew! So that wraps up a wonderful year of reading! I have one more bookish post I’m working on related to my 2018 reading and that’s my favorites from the year.  I can’t wait to share it with you soon. I also have made my own personal challenge for next years reading and my daughter is joining me. Can’t wait to talk about it more! How was your year? Do you have a favorite list? Please share you list or a link to yours! I’d love to read it!}

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