September Reads

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This is what I finished last month from my lovely books stack. Anything sound interesting? What did you finish reading?

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (*****) – this was a reread from my master list for the year and it was better than the first time. I, especially love the “Inner Ring” essay, but there are so many nuggets sprinkled throughout this collection of talks. This took me a LONG time to reread, but it was so worth it.

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.

The Golden Journey by Agnes Sligh Turnbull (***) – This follows the life of a wealthy father who manipulates his crippled daughter’s life out of genuine, but misplaced love for her. I found this one at a used library sale and was very excited, as I’ve enjoyed Turnbull’s fiction before. 3.5 stars because of the predictability of the plot. However, I really enjoyed how much Turnbull highlights the importance of character in this story. Engagingly written and definitely inspiring, albeit a little too good to be true, I enjoyed it immensely. 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – This book is a timeless classic on the educating and parenting of young children and a foundational book in our home. I’ve been hoping to reread it annually and I did this year to my great delight and blessing. It just keeps on giving.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – 3.5 stars for this creative and interesting children’s middle grade fantasy book. I became interested in this after watching a movie by the same name. This is the first in the series and I look forward to reading the other two. Sophie is the responsible oldest and finds herself on the wrong side of the Wicked Witch of the Waste. In her quest to right the wrongs, she encounters the Wizard Howl and friends, leading to all sorts of adventures. This was a little bit convoluted at times, especially toward the end, but overall, I really enjoyed this. So imaginative! The enjoyable movie definitely deviates a bit and adds an anti-war message that’s not at all present in the book.

What Is It by Lynda Barry (****) – 3.5 stars for this wildly imaginative mixture of memoir, diary, sketchbook, and writing instruction combination. I found this a lovely look at how creativity works and flows from the mind of this mixed media and craft artist, Lynda Barry. This book is actual scans of her amazing sketchbooks and hodgepodge scrapbooks all the while telling the story of her childhood and her growth as an artist. Very interesting!

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.

Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson (****) – I just love the whimsical and nonsensical nature of the Moomins. I’ve accidentally read these out of order, but no matter, I’m always charmed and delighted by these creatures and their little adventures. A flood separates Moominmamma and Moominpapa from Moomintroll and friends and they have all sorts of adventures (including a theater debut!) while trying to find each other again.

Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – These were completely predictable and totally charming. I love writing real snail mail letters, so I loved this collection of short stories that Montgomery wrote for newspapers and magazines.

The Holy Bible (*****) – John and beginning to dive into Psalms. I’ve been reading through the four Gospels over and over this year, but felt I needed to dig into Psalms for the rest of the year.

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Monday Ponderings {Happy October Eve, September 30th}

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When thou hast thanked thy God for every blessing sent,

What time will then remain for murmurs or lament?

~Trench

The Cloud of Witness, p. 386

 

“…remember that our happiness, our clarity, our ability to be attentive and of benefit to ourselves and the world really is dependent on building that stillness into our days to slow down a little and travel in.”

~Pico Iyer

Day 88

Studying to Be Quiet

Laurie Bestvater

 

~

 

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

Monday Ponderings {Happy First Day of Autumn ~ September 23rd}

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A Vagabond Song

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood –

Touch of manner, hint of mood;

And my heart is like a rhyme,

With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping 

time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry

Of bugles going by.

And my lonely spirit thrills

To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;

We must rise and follow her,

When from every hill of flame

She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

 

-Bliss Carman, Modern American and British Poetry,

edited by Louis Untermeyer – p. 95

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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.

~

Monday Ponderings {September 2nd}

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“…that God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth, the Inspirer of genius…” 

~Charlotte Mason

Parents and Children, p. 270-271

There are two things we should give our children: One is roots and the other is wings. ~Peggy Noonan

{I’ve been praying and thinking on our upcoming formal learning year. Our little home school is called Willow Tree Academy, based on Jeremiah 17:7-8. Our new motto that I’ve been thinking on and tossing around in my heart and mind for years, is Roots, Rings, and Wings. Roots in Jesus Christ, Rings of faithful sowing and slow growing, and finally Wings that carry us upward towards God and outward towards others. Do you have any life or home or school mottos? I’d love to hear!}

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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.

~

Dragon Poison

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grateful for…

  • coolness with sunshine
  • Lorna Doone shortbread biscuits
  • morning talk with my husband before he’s off to work
  • orange-y shampoo from my sister
  • podcast on tea, learning the herbal tea isn’t really tea, it’s a herbal infusion
  • pen & ink drawings,  how-to videos on youtube
  • Nancy Willard’s Anatole series
  • watermarked paper
  • finished book about journaling as a way of life
  • pumpernickel bread (and the word, pumpernickel, so lovely)
  • little boy’s imagination about “dragon poison”, a old bottle with some sort of concoction in it
  • little daughter who kissed a package of butter, I understand, dear, I do!
  • baby who holds his feet together in a praying pose
  • poem by Robert Siegel, “A Pentecost of Finches”
  • commonplacing some thoughtful lines from a new favorite magazine, Common Place Quarterly
  • boiling corn on the cob with a daughter
  • gingerbread cake
  • trying new recipe of fish tacos and the family loving them
  • Loreena McKennitt
  • a pool of ideas for our learning year coming together
  • my trusty apron, so faithful, new bit of fabric for another
  • starry skies during early morn nursing moments

 

What are you grateful for today?

~

 

 

June Reads

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Hello, friends! Here is what I finished in June! A month of light, fluffy reading while I nursed my baby.

Old World Murder by Kathleen Ernst (****) – I found this at my local library while looking for something light to read. I was intrigued by a mystery series set in Wisconsin!  Ernst is a historian and that’s what makes her stories shine. This first one is set at Old World Wisconsin, a living history museum. The mystery was a little too easy to figure out, but I found it overall interesting. I then ended up getting four more of these out of the ten in the series, accidentally reading them out of order. The story line got a bit redundant and I did read them more for the history of my home state. The light romance was ok, but the main protagonist, Chloe’s excessive preachy tone about feminism got annoying and the characters values were questionable. I’d say this first one is the best and the other four were just 2-3 star reads. I probably won’t finish the series.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum (***) – Another I pulled off the shelves of my local library. This is the first book in a series that the Jason Bourne spy movies are based on. It was just ok, again a good light, fast paced read for nursing sessions. I won’t be reading anymore in this series, though. One was enough. 😉

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.

Fuel by Naomi Shihab Nye (****) – an interesting collection of very observant poems by a Palestinian American poet. I enjoyed these for the most part, a few being very vague or politicized.

The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon (****) – This book took me TWO YEARS to finish. It’s a collection of lovely short stories for children and I found it quietly lovely. Beautiful sentiments and subtle lessons throughout the many stories. To be honest, though, my most favorite part of the book was the afterword where another author shares about a visit to Farjeon’s home and an interview with her.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (****) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (*****) by J.K. Rowling – I finally finished up my HP rereads and these are my favorites of the series. Definitely darker and disturbing, but full of redemption and love shown by Harry, his friends, and associates. I don’t think these books are of the same literary merit of the great classics, but the unique storyline and redemptive themes are fascinating.

In the Region of the Summer Stars (***) and In the Land of the Everliving (****) by Stephen R. Lawhead – I purchased these first two books in Lawhead’s new series for my oldest as a gift and she asked me to read them with her. The first was just ok and I was hesitant about the second but I found it much more fast-paced and intriguing! These stories are based in Eirlandia ( supposedly early Ireland, I believe) and a savage tribe is ravaging the land. Conor is the eldest son of a Celtic king, but a birthmark on his face casts a superstitious shadow over him, denying him claim to the throne. Conor finds himself in a strange position, trying to prove himself and unite the fighting clans against their common enemy. Fairies and strange beast-like enemies will make this an intriguing read for fantasy fans.

The Box of Delights: When the Wolves were Running by John Masefield (****) -A few years ago, I read the first, The Midnight Folk, in this series, and I loved it SO very much. I finally got around to reading the second. This was such a weird book! It’s Christmas and a mysterious traveling magician is making the rounds in the neighborhood. Kay Harker is entrusted with a strange little box the magician gives to him for protection and it turns out to be a magical time machine! Kay finds himself in the middle of a dangerous game of keep away from a whole gang of villainous henchmen.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Mark, Luke, and John. Beginning the Gospels again.

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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

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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

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