Wild and Windy: Memoir Minute

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Wild and windy. The old windowpane drums and clanks fighting the wind’s tug and pull. The baby whimpers. I scoop up his soft, warmness and pull him close to my heart. Another tug and pull, his nursing gulps, his cold feet curling into my stretched belly, his little hands on my side are all mixed in with the howling drumbeats. I cuddle us deeper down into the duvet. A warm, firm hand comes from my husband’s side. My hair smoothed back softly by these strong, work-worn hands.  The shakes, rattles, and rolls are strangely comforting. We are inside this big, square lug of a house, four walls around us, and the yanking, wind trying to say something. At least it’s a sheltered listening that we are doing. Oh, the raw, unleashed beauty of the wind, its screams, whispers, and sometimes speaks still, small inklings. I love it even though its a bit looming at times. Riding on the back of this wind was a dust and tap of sugaring snow. Later, after I rise, I light candles, a dark glow creeping in with the dawn and spilling in the edges of the windows. Lamps, candles, and twinkle lights remind me of the Light that pierces all our wind-tossed darkness.  Foundation strong, windows secure, and the flickering light shining in the midst of it all. ~

 

March Reads

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{A bit of spring Tasha Tudor Cheer}

How are you all holding up? Our day-to-day life here hasn’t changed all that much, but of course we miss family, friends, and activities. I was in a bit of a reading slump in February due to traveling (seems a lifetime ago!), but I was able to finish a lot of things this past month and I was happy to touch all of my 2020 categories.

Carbonel: The King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh (*****) – I believe I actually finished this in February but forgot to mention it! I really enjoyed this cute Middle Grade story about a little girl who buys a retiring witch’s broom and cat, resulting in many adventures. It had all the lovely bits a children’s book should have and most older British children’s books do so well…mysterious old houses, lovely market places, delicious food, and home-i-ness. All the relationships in this book were done so well, too…not perfect, but loving. This was just a delight to read. There are at least two more in this series, so if I can get my hands on them, eventually I’d like to read them! 

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer (**) – I was looking for a light Jane Austen-ish type read and usually Heyer is good for this, but this one was repetitive and the secondary main character was super annoying. I’d recommend staying away from this one. Ha!

Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux by Heather King (****) – This is a memoir of sorts, full of thoughtful insights about the idea of living God’s love out in our everyday moments. This book was written from a Catholic perspective, but as a Protestant, I still was able to glean some challenging and beautiful ideas from King. A good book leading up to Easter.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow (***) and Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (****) by Jessica Townsend – I found these two Middle Grade books in the Nevermoor Series a lot of fantastical fun. Morrigan Crow has been born under a curse and won’t live to see her eleventh year of life. A mysterious man, Jupiter North turns up, telling her that that is not true, that she has been chosen to participate in a contest to win a place in the elusive Wundrous Society. The first one was a little confusing on the characters and we didn’t get to know them better until the second book. If you can just read for sheer fun, not expecting anything deep, then these might be a light diversion for you.

Echo Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – This is a time-split suspense story following an unsolved murder in a small town post WWII. A creepy dollhouse aids in the solving of the crime, which I thought was intriguing and I was surprised by who committed the murder. Otherwise, I didn’t love the 1940’s story line and in the modern story line, the main protagonist, Aggie, was so hysterical, that I found it hard to like her.

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad (***) – This has taken me FOREVER to finish and I finally was able to skim through the last bit. This memoir centers around a journalist who spends time living and following the lives of a bookseller and his family living in Kabul. I loved getting to know the various family members and learning more about a part of the world I’m unfamiliar with, however, sometimes it was hard to know how Seierstad was able to be privy to so much of the internal thoughts and feelings of the family. There is definitely a note of sorrow running through this and again I felt a bit torn to whether this was legitimately from the family or an outsider looking into a culture completely unlike her own. It was well written, though, and overall I did enjoy it.

The Youngest Miss Ward by Joan Aiken (*****) – If you love Jane Austen fan fiction, you may enjoy this one! As long as you remember, Aiken is not Austen. This story follows Harriet Ward, the supposed much younger sister of Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris of Mansfield Park. She is sent away to live with relatives as she’s deemed in the way and an irritation to all in her home, except her dying mother. This has a surprising twist to it and I found it to be pretty deep and well written. Or maybe I’m just a Joan Aiken fan from her children’s books. Perfect, light read!

No Other Kind of World: Poems by Jeff Hardin (*****) – I picked this Tennessean’s poetry up on our trip south in February and wasn’t disappointed. These were beautiful and otherworldly. Highly recommend!

Castle on the Rise by Kristi Cambron (***) – This is a three way time split inspirational historical romance. Cambron does a wonderful job with making you feel like you are in Ireland. I loved the natural and setting descriptions. There is a depth of details to Cambron’s stories and I appreciate that…not as surface-y. I knew nothing about Ireland’s history presented in this story and it was a fascinating look at their 1916 uprising against England.  I think she did a wonderful job with character development, for the most part. The romance in the modern time period felt a bit fast and throughout the book felt a bit meh or cliche-ish, but overall, I enjoyed these three women’s connected history.

A Finder’s Magic by Philippa Pearce (***) – I grabbed this off of my book shelf one afternoon as I really enjoyed Tom’s Midnight Garden, last year. This one was overly simplistic, but I really loved the illustrations by Helen Craig. A boy looses his dog mysteriously and a magical old man comes to help find him.

Emil in the Soup Tureen by Astrid Lindgren (***) – This follows the story of a mischievous little boy, Emil and his adventures and again it’s the illustrations here that REALLY shine. Bjorn Berg’s delightful black & white inked detailed drawings of the farm, nature, and children are just scrumptious. Lindgren is known for her Pippi Longstocking adventures, also.  I may read this one with my younger children as it has some funny moments!

Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (*****) – This was our February classics read along pick over at Instagram and I finished it up on the last day of March. The second half of this book picked up for me and was glad as the beginning slogged a bit. This book follows the lives of Tom and Maggie Tulliver, siblings living in a mill, near the River Floss. Misfortune and intrigue follow them, as their father looses the mill to creditors, and this book had a sad overtone to it. I felt like the main things I walked away with was how parents shape their children in so many ways, how important love and affection are in family relationships, and how a weak will may seem like not that big of a deal in a child, yet can turn out to be our greatest handicaps as adults.  I found the family feeling of responsibility interesting in this story. I found this story so much easier to engage with then Middlemarch.

Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter. I’ve also been reading in Psalms and meditating on the I AM statements in John.

 

My favorites from this month were: Shirt of Flame, The Youngest Miss Ward, Mill on the Floss, and No Other Kind of World: Poems ~ how about you? Did you read, listen to, or watch anything exceptionally great? I’d love to hear!

~

 

Monday Ponderings {March 9th} Match-Striked Dawns

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Only Heaven is better than to walk with Christ at midnight over moonlit seas.

~B.M.

 

Trial ever consecrates the cup

Wherefrom we pour the sacrificial wine.

~Lowell

 

The Cloud of Witness

 

Fragments of these quotes have been tumbling around in my head lately. My heart skips from the idea that being shrouded in the blackness of life with Christ is the very next best thing to being with Him in Heaven. A profound reshifting of how I view the sorrows and trials of life. Weariness and relational pressures build like the dirty, greasy dishes in the sink. Yet I can choose to see the precious, discarded, darling pint-sized blue and green gingham shirt on the bathroom floor as evidence of a vibrant, earnest 5 year old boy I get to love.  Irritations war within me over snippy words, grating like the large dental bill opened recently. But the pleasant ‘thawp, thwap’ sound of our USA map blowing as the furnace kicks in below, visible heat and friendly sounds warming me inside and out. Hope drains away quickly like the last dregs of my coffee, if I glance at the waves instead of gazing into the piercing Eyes of strength. His hand outstretched through the darkness towards me. Deadlines, half written schedules, tensions between to-dos and to-creates, crumpled recipes, all pile like the dead, sodden, end-of-winter, depressing leaves out under the tree. Leaves not unlike the potato peels all over the floor, a child-like outlook that I so wish I could grab onto, saying this was the “best job ever” – peeling potatoes with mom. Potato-peelings of life moments are glorious if I can look at them anew, through a filter of child-like honesty and without cynicism.

I want to look at life through the simple delight of a deeply, simple but gorgeous painting found thrifting for a dollar – a fresh, haunting blue, sheep on a hillside – He comes for me, that one, lost wandering sheep, a mother floundering in a midnight, blackness of soul. He holds me safe around His shoulders, quieting my incessant bleating and trembling. His beautiful truths of how much He truly loves me, filtering down through the cobwebs and endless muck of my emotions and pressures of this world. He delights in giving me good, tangible gifts, yes, earthly things like moist, spicy chicken and buttery broccoli, deeply lashed pooled blue baby eyes to stare deeply into, piercing my brown ones. Gifts of little rivulets of melting ice, dribbling, merrily and softly down the side of the street, speaking, no whispering hope and spring to the heart and soul, a knowing that it will come again. The grave cannot hold hope for long  –  I know so, because of the jonquils everywhere in the wild as we traveled south recently – shards of joy piercing deep their yellow welcome,  cutting up through the thick, leathery folds of my dry, skin heart.

Those pudgy little boy feet, with one sock on, one off, moments that culminate in this heart whisper that “Jesus is here RIGHT now” with you, Amy. Even in the messes, misunderstandings, the doors of the van of life spilling out paper wrappings, petrified apple cores, and crumpled socks. Not unlike the refuse twisting and turning inside, frantically trying to recycle into anything redeemable. Ice melting, last bits of snow sifting down from branches, trial and triumph, hatred and hope, a mixture of drinks to sip from this deep cup of life…nothing immediately good can be seen or felt in these times of emotional  graveyard, but through these dry bones are rising brilliant match-striked dawns of joy.

Wait for it, Amy.

~

Sunrise, Sunset

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Sunrise on oatmeal breakfasts, a newly-minted 15 year old’s birthday, on morning visits to friends that live 45 breathtaking minutes away, the grand, barrenness of the trek striking me with joy and a sigh. Sunset on our beloved Arabian’s life, his old age catching us not unawares but a bit unready to say goodbye, sunset on candlelit dinners, the dishes waiting for the dawning of day. Sunrise on my parents 41st anniversary,  and water park days with dad, tickets a gift from a beloved Great Aunt.  Sunset on lingering moments with book stacks, french toast and bacon dinners, and canvas tepee sleepovers in girl’s bedroom. Sunrise glittering across icy driveway, faint light creeping around corners of house. Sunset ushering in full moon, unseen from main windows, reflection glimmering  off cars, buildings, soft, blue glow enveloping the night. Sunrise joining the flicker of early morning candlelight and twinkle lights, bursting brightness into the house, glinting off that never-ending pile of dishes to be washed. The dry, chapped mother hands dipping in suds, listening to Mill on the Floss, towel over arm. Sunset bringing husband and son with a large load of bright, red apples from storage, children’s eyes sparkling and grins over a favorite fruit. Sunrise on devotions, The Golden Key, and Book of Luke, as we lick our breakfast spoons. Sunset on reservations, travel plans being finalized, and new {green 🙂 } glasses ordered.  Sunrise on nursling’s cries and a mother’s kettle steaming, books, lists, and words to soak into soul. Sunset on harsh words, fights about our beloved Playmags {of all things!}, and uncleaned crumbs. Sunrise slowly coming earlier and earlier, darkness being pushed back, ghostly blue blackness being parted aside, and a warm, friendly light peeking around the edge of the curtain. Sunset on bad habits, out of ordered affections, and worry, hopefully. Sunrise, the new dawn on a new day, a newer month, one week old already, oh the possibilities. If I listen and notice. Sunset on library trips, babysitting jobs for my oldest daughter, mentoring Zoom meetings for a teacher mom, and soup lunches at church. Sunrise, sunset on the first week of February.

Sunrise, sunset. 

~

Monday Ponderings- Keep Your Clocks Wound {February 3rd}

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…we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain. We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound, so that it will not forget. ~ Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

Sunshine has spilled for two and half days in a row, albeit a bit spotty. On Saturday, I stood still near my kitchen window, gingham curtains brushing my elbows, hands wrapped around my hot coffee cup. I lifted my face, eyes closed to its warmth bathing me. Yesterday, I noticed a flicker of it through the tree branches, slanting through the window, and landing on the back of the church pew. It blinked and bowed, dancing across the wood grain just like a prayer.  This time of year we think of the coming of the spring, as we angle half past through the blinding white and the equally blinding darkness towards greenness and light.  Thinking on the L’Engle quote, it’s hard work to keep our many “clocks” wound and things going, especially in the darkness. Then the sunset itself was hopeful last night, a promising gift of purples, pinks, and pungency. There is often just the right amount of grace for the moment if I take time to look hard, peering through the dimness. This morning, I found myself up in the early black with baby,  then hands deep in dish bubbles, and my audio book. As the morning knocked, the sky grew lighter and lighter…mismatched to my heaviness over words that I was repeating in my head. Words have power, just as light does. Words sink down into our souls, whereas light shines up, around, out, and through.  The sunshine is good medicine though, when wading through dishes, desperate moments, and peeling back the inner onion layers (more on this later). Sunshine therapy at its finest, a moment or two of clarity, and the click clack of keys to catch it before it floats away into the air.

~

Favorite Reads of 2019

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Happiest New Year! Here are my favorite reads from 2019. I’ve categorized them so you can scroll to a genre that interests you, if you only have a few moments.  Otherwise, I welcome you to stay and scroll around for awhile! The above photo shows a couple of things non-book related that I loved reading.  Commonplace Quarterly is a Charlotte Mason book quality magazine which is so encouraging.  The Letters From the Sea Tower is a monthly subscription based handwritten-letter and art piece, and I can’t tell you how much we’ve all loved these letters. The thoughts and ideas in them have enriched our lives. Ourselves by Charlotte Mason Book 2, I was privileged to go through as apart of Nancy’s Living Education Lessons.

My Favorite Book of  2019 

The Cloud of Witness – A Daily Sequence of Great Thoughts from Many Minds following the Christian Seasons (*****)

~2019 was a harder and richer year for me in many ways. I honestly struggle so much emotionally and physically with pregnancy. And yet…there is this precious little person here smiling at me as I type with his little two-bottom tooth grin. Sigh. So darling! This above devotional poured out it’s life-giving water to a parched woman-mama soul over and over again. Even just one small line or word from one of the daily snippets meant the world to me very often. A faith lifeline, really. I highly, highly recommend it. You can purchased it here and I check this helpful calendar and there is an Instagram and Facebook account to keep you current as well. My church tradition doesn’t follow these days/feasts so those are all so useful. I love to know if I’m keeping up with all the others sharing in the beauty and encouragement.

Faith Encouragement

The Holy Bible, OF COURSE. I read and reread the four Gospels many times as well as my favorites Psalms, John, James, and others.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (*****) – This title has been on my shelf and TBR forever!  One of “the Read and Finish things on my shelf books”. I am so glad I did. This is probably will be a favorite forever for me and I hope to make it a yearly reread.  The title of the book is a bit strange and misleading, don’t let that stop you from soaking in lovely book from Whitall Smith. There were a few things, I may quibble with, but overall this was the most challenging and encouraging read for my faith in a very long time. Highly recommend!

Memoir

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)– 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.

A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place by Hannah Hinchman (*****) – Just wow. I can’t even explain why and how much I loved this book. This book has an overall sadness or loneliness to it, in some ways. But, I think we all understand that and some of us crave a quietness that is very elusive in our modern culture. This is an amazing small sampling of what a nature journal could be and mean to us as a person. This book requires time, close attention, and contemplation. Just the point the author shows through her intimate and close observation of our natural world.

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 inspring. 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.

General Fiction

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (*****) – A favorite reread! In the back of my mind, I remembered really enjoying this fictional account of two English women, who on a whim, answer an advert for month in Italy at a medieval castle. They end up inviting two other women to share the costs and space with them. Sigh. This is so lovely in that I think it does a wonderful job in relating the struggles and internal battles women in different circumstances and life stages go through. The beauty of Von Arnim’s descriptions of Italy and the gardens are so soothing and there’s a subtle deepness underlying the story line of these women. I highly recommend this one. I then watched the movie and really, really enjoyed it.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim (*****) – The hilarious introspection of a wife and mother. Lush descriptions of nature, gardens. Enlightening, insider’s look at a wealthy, upper class woman’s life. I really enjoyed this title. This is technically a sequel to her Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I don’t think you need to necessarily read them in order.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

“All this building and talking and flying made me homesick. It wasn’t logical, since I was home, but that’s what I came to perceive – a fulminant ache high in the rib cage, a sense of time’s shortening fuse. After the first accident, it had felt as though my apartment belonged to someone else; after the second, I began to feel as though there was a home I belonged to, and this one, though pleasant and likable, wasn’t it. The previous tenant would’ve rejected such nonsense, but then the previous tenant never had an eccentric foreign house guest, sewing up artworks to hang in the sky, talking to ravens, spinning twilit Arctic stories. My weary old ground was broken and watered, and what sprang up was a generalized longing. I began to feel like a character myself, well-meaning but secondary, a man introduced late in the picture. I wished to spool back and watch earlier scenes, to scout for hints and shadows, clues as to what might be required of a secondary actor when the closing real began.”

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

Poetry

Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov {gorgeous nature poetry}

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (*****) – a collection of beautiful poems! I’m planning out our poets for autumn study and have been reading different poets here and there. I was only slightly familiar with St. Vincent Millay’s work and I’m glad I read this.

A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems by Robert Siegel (*****) – This took me awhile to really get into and appreciate, but as I read further along, I fell in love with many of these detailed, observant poems. I’m so glad I finally picked this up off of my TBR pile. I found one of my favorites here online.

Children’s Literature

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) –This one did made me cry! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

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.

The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett (*****) – This was a fascinating, children’s historical fiction. I’m now obsessed with learning more about watermarking paper before it was used. This lovely story is set in England in the late 1400’s, follows the adventures of a boy who’s apprenticed to a printer, a controversial position for a scrivener’s son. Thieves, pirates on the Thames, the War of the Roses, and a story set in the shadows of the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, this is such a lovely book to bring English history alive. The author illustrates the book with lovely inky sketches full of glorious details, which really adds so much charm. Can’t wait to share this one with my children! I also read The Wool-Pack (*****) by Harnett and JUST as much, if not more charm! Her little sketches and illustrations really make these shine. The story is again at the end of Middle Age England, and this time the son of a wealthy wool merchant uncovers a bunch of thieves stealing and discrediting his father. The subtle lessons, suspense, and the father son relationship were wonderful! (One thing about this title that may need some explaining? is that the 14 yo son is betrothed to a 11 yo! Yikes. However, it’s done in a tasteful way and they are just friends when they meet one another. It was a little creepy to my modern sensibilities, but it was reality of a wealthy young man’s life at that time.)

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – These are tomes because each volume is 2 books. I had so much fun with these and they would be perfect for over the holiday vacation. They are interrelated stories about a powerful enchanter whose title is Chrestomanci. He has nine lives and the current enchanter is Christopher Chant. He is an enigmatic, mysterious personality and he helps in many different children’s lives and situations throughout the books. These are SO fun and escapist fiction with interesting ideas in it. Jones really understands children’s imagination and thoughts. I found that so lovely. My favorite of the books were The Pinhoe Egg and Witch Week. If you are a fan of light fantasy/magic Middle Grade books with subtle British humor, you will enjoy these!

Long Classics

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.

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 was sort of muddled currently, so I’m not doing this book justice, but it was fascinating.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (*****) – I read along with an Instagram group and I really loved this book. One of my favorite things about this was how places take on a life of their own, how amazingly distinctive Dicken’s characters are, and all of the children in this were fascinating and heart-wrenching. Mr. Bucket was one of my favorite characters, but I still can’t pinpoint why. I will probably have to reread it, someday! Ha. This follows multiple story lines and slowly culminates in them all tied together in some way. It features two main narrators, a young woman Esther Summerson, and a third person narrator, presumably Dickens himself? I can’t even begin to do this A-mazing book justice. Dickens gives us an immersive experience literally bogging us down at times in the foggy, gritty details of London. Highly recommend!

General Non-Fiction 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) One of my favorite home education and parenting books ever. I reread it again this year!

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

 

~What richness! I was so blessed by my reading year in 2019! You can always look through my Year in Books category for hours of book browsing, if you so choose. Here are my past years favorite books as well! Ever upward and onward to our 2020 bookstack! 🙂

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

Favorite Reads of 2016

 

December Reads

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Here’s what I finished in December!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (***) – Beautifully written and so disturbing to me. I have intense feelings on all the questions and ideas this book raises. I can’t wait to go through this with my teen and discuss. I will say having learned a little about Mary Shelley beforehand helped me approach this book. I’m glad I didn’t go into it completely blind about the author’s background.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – Very fun!!! It took me a bit to get into it, but then I really enjoyed it. Wizard Howl shows up in a hilarious disguise in this unique adventure. In some ways, I liked this one better then Howl’s Moving Castle.

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – Amazing and very weird. I’m going to be thinking on this one for awhile! This was a modern retelling of a few myths/ancient stories all melded together. This definitely isn’t for everyone, but I found it interesting.

The Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber (****) – This one took me a long time, but full of gems one comes to expect by a friend like Gladys. A sad overtone to some of this title as her longtime friend, Jill dies, and she flounders about a bit. Her dogs are a big part of her life, which sometimes seems out of proportion to reality. But I suspect it’s just me, as I have many children to care for, so the excessive care of dogs seems overwhelming to me. Ha! A few of my favorite quotes from this one:

“Perhaps maturity is realizing this childish self but not letting it dominate situations. Or perhaps it lies in accepting life as it is without rebellion…There is only today and what we make of it. We may still be happy, in one sense of the word, but we do not look for perfection ever after. The other side of this coin, is that we value more what happiness we may have instead of dreaming ahead for the ultimate.” p. 216

“But since we have just so much time allotted us, some of it should be spent in reflecting, and some in pursuits which have nothing to do with our daily lives, such as enriching our spirits with music, nourishing our minds with literature, enlarging our horizons by looking at great paintings. Because life isn’t a business, it is a precious gift.” p. 200

“Faith runs like a golden thread through our lives.” p. 204

I love how the Stillmeadow books are set up by months. Ideally, I’d love to read these and recommend taking these titles over a year, a month at a time. I have a new-to-me one for 2020!

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Acts, and Romans.

{What a great year of reading! I have many half finished and unfinished reads, but overall, really enjoyed my pages this year. Having a new baby this year definitely slowed me down a bit, which is a good thing, I think, and I did read a lot of middle grade which is my favorite for relaxing.  I completed quite a few on this list of books on my shelf I was hoping to get to, but not all of them. I will hopefully be back NEXT week with my plan for 2020! I have some ideas to streamline my reading and to help me with my toppling TBR.}

How was your reading year?

~

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.

The Holy Bible (*****)- enjoying Psalms and John

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.

~