Friday, April 17, 2020

Consistently


Yesterday, for the first time, I counted up last night the number of days that I have been “home” - using that loosely as I have been out of house as the designated Walmart / Sam’s shopper for our crew. The count begins from the first day both girls were officially out of school for CoVid-19 and never returned. The total: 37 days. Thirty-seven days since I’ve been with friends, since my kids have seen friends, been to school/homeschool classes, or worshipped in our church building. That’s a lot of days! There are probably many that have been home-bound for longer, and the number isn’t letting up for another few weeks at any rate. And, to be honest, will I really rush out the moment that the stay-at-home is lifted?



Over all, the staying at home part hasn’t bothered me at all. I’m a homebody and quite introverted so having my calendar suddenly become clear hasn’t been a huge burden. I’ve missed watching my kids play their spring sports, and I will miss seeing my eighth grader participate in mock trial in a real courtroom - mock trial on zoom just isn’t quite the same. But even with my love of home, it took about three weeks before I really started getting down. Days were blurring and it was hard to be motivated to continue homeschooling my crew and keeping up with stuff. I decided I needed a little motivation to see if I could get myself back into a better frame of mind because that’s really where the problem was centering. My mind was set in unproductive and unprofitable ways and it was dragging me down.

Fun fact - in general, I am not motivated by a daily checklist. Seeing a list of things I have to check off makes me absolutely not want to do them. Which is weird because I’m such a list maker and love making a list of things that I need to get to, but that I work in when needed or it fits ... but a week of boxes marked with things I need to do daily? Such a turn off. I am nothing if not contradictory! I am motivated by routine - creating a flow to my day where things naturally fit in because it’s just what I do then, so I do it. I think it was Gretchen Rubin who talks about this in one of her habit books - that the best way to make a new habit is to combine it with a habit that you are already doing and after so many days of attaching it to something it just becomes part of that routine as well. You would no sooner forget to do B than you would A now, if that makes sense. And then, it made sense as to maybe one of the reasons I was feeling super out of whack and depressed - I was missing my routine. I was no longer getting up to take kids to school daily; when I did that, I made a point to be up before then so I could have some quiet time before the drop off run. I was still sort-of getting up before Ethan at least, but not long enough for a enough time to settle my mind for the day, for sure. And let’s not talk about bedtimes! With not needing to get up for school, we were being fairly lax with winding down at night and that doesn’t work well (for me) either. It makes me laugh a little that it took me so long to figure out what was out of sync!

A couple weeks ago, I started setting my alarm again. Not crazy 5am times like when we had school, but 6:30ish. I enjoyed the sun being up when I got up! I had time to open my Bible and prayer notebook - even if it was 20-30 minutes it was helping me so much. I picked a book of the Bible to work my way through so I had a place to return to (taking that decision fatigue out of the way as well). I also added 3 other things to my day that I wanted to try and fit in as part of my routine - not a checklist to make it mechanical, but remembering to take time to do things that bring me joy v. checking the news and scrolling Facebook, ie., things that do NOT bring me joy! I resolved to try and take a photo, read a little, and create a little something every day. All things that in real-non-CoVid life I did, but that I had stopped making time for because sitting and fretting took up my time instead. Pretty lame. And “create” has a very b r o a d meaning - it might mean that I print one of those photos I took and stick it in my scrapbook. It might mean I crochet for a bit while I watch something with one of the kids. I even might count dinner as being creative if it was a new recipe! This doesn’t mean I don’t still get anxious (unfortunately). Or that I don’t hyperventilate when I tie my bandana on before running into Walmart because I feel claustrophobic. But it’s making me think twice about checking the news, or seeing if I’m missed non-existent texts, or checking my email for thirtieth time in 20 minutes, that kind of thing. One day my days will be very full with driving and going and all the doing, but hopefully these markers for my days will be so ingrained they will stick around.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Currently :: April 2020

This has been on the list of things to do for a few weeks, but I've apparently hit that point in our sheltering in place that I've dusted off the blog!

Cooking: all the things. I know I'm not the only one who has funneled all their monthly money into groceries! I'm not spending it on gas or sports or (too many) books. I'm not complaining though - this time at home as rekindled my love of slowly chopping veggies, simmering sauces, and cooking dinner. I won't complain when our evening sports start up, but I have really enjoyed cooking real meals and not something that we eat hurriedly before heading out the door or warm up when we get home (or figure out how to pack it). Some favorites that we've enjoyed:

  • Whole Kitchen Sink's beef and broccoli. If you don't have the coconut aminos and arrowroot flour to make it Whole 30 (sometimes I do and sometimes I don't), you can easily sub soy sauce and cornstarch. Delicious and came together super fast in the instant pot.
  • Naptime Kitchen's Salsa Verde chicken. Yum and one that I made substitutions with as well - I didn't have salsa verde so just threw in regular salsa instead. I love recipes that I can tweak with what's in the cabinet. Of note: her greek-ish crockpot chicken is in regular rotation around here and it is so good. 
  • Lazy Genius' from scratch tikki masala. SO GOOD. I usually use a jar of sauce to make this, but no more.
  • homemade sausage gravy with biscuits (from a can). This was a huge crowd pleaser so I need to do this again.


Lest you think dinner is from scratch every night, I've also bought a ton of frozen pizzas from Sam's as well. I'm so thankful that some of the food buying frenzy has slowed down in the last week or so - at least I can tell it has in my local store. They still are limiting things like bread and eggs, but the last couple times I went in, I was able to get everything on my list (minus yeast which I can't find anywhere!) The first few weeks when I would go, I would get a horrible tightness in my chest and pit of my stomach just looking at all that was picked over and empty. The Lord has totally provided and we haven't missed a single meal, but seeing those empty cases and shelves made it seem very scary and real.

Empty meat cases at Sam's
Baking: not me, but the girls. Almost every day someone is asking me if they can make chocolate chip cookies, muffins, etc. It's a blessing ... and a curse! They, like me with dinner, have time to do it, and unfortunately, they are pretty good at it. I will leave you with the one thing that I have baked several times now and think about all the time: SkinnyTaste's everything-but-the-bagel bagel balls stuffed with cream cheese. So so good.



Going: no where for the most part. Perks of this - I'm on the same tank of gas going on three weeks now! Downside: the only time I get out is a hurried trip into Walmart or Sam's. I've just decided that those are the two places I'm going to go and I get in and get out. I made an exception yesterday with a trip to Target (my first in a couple months it seems like) to try and by some yeast for a request for homemade pizza dough but I totally struck out. We have made a couple trips into the pediatricians for wellness appointments and their office has done a great job getting us in and out the door. I would have put those off like everything else, but my school girls needed some forms for registration for the fall and I felt like we would be safe doing it. 

Reading: currently I have a couple books that are in the queue or in process: 
  • Christine Hoover's With All Your Heart: Living Joyfully through Allegiance to King Jesus. This book hasn't been the easiest to read. It's pointing out some sin in my life that has been uncomfortable, but I'm thankful for the words that she's put out there for me to work through. 
  • Ethan and I have read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH together, and just finished the 4th Paddington book, Paddington Abroad, last week. Reading aloud with him after lunch has been a gift (and a needed screen break for him) with so much home time. We're about to start the first book in the Wingfeather series by Andrew Peterson. I've never read these aloud with any of the kids, but since I've been wanting to reread them, Ethan will be a willing participant along with me.
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Natalie (the 14 year old) has read this twice in the last few years and I'm jealous. One of my favorites and most significant books in my life and I am overdue for a re-read.
There are always others on the shelf waiting to be read as well! I've really cut back on the number of books that I've bought in the last couple of years, choosing to utilize the library for the most part, but I've treated myself to a few used books the last few weeks and hopefully I'll come back and share those finds after I've read them.

Studying: I've been in a CBS (Community Bible Study) study of the minor prophets this year but when school let out mid-March, it ended. I've worked a little on finishing the lessons, but the class has moved to zoom meetings for the last 4-6 class times. To be honest, I don't have time (even with being home so much!) to do zoom meetings during the day ... it's hard with a 9 year old that wants help with math and other kids coming in and out for help as well. I've chalked this up to one of the unfinished things of the season and have pulled a study on James off my shelf to work through. Since he starts right off with a word about steadfastness during trials and handling it with joy, it seems like it might be timely.

Schooling: Several have asked me how it's been going with my two school girls returning home. (In case it's new info, our 16 year old is a sophomore at a public high school and our 12 year old is in 6th grade in public school. The 8th grader and 3rd grader and I are still in Classical Conversations / homeschooling). The 6th grader has settled back into working at home really well - huge props to her school, they have done an outstanding job getting packets of work together for the students. She works a little each day, and even knowing that it's review material and it won't be graded on return; the fact that she has a little work to do each day helps her have something to do and she's keeping up with it. My 10th grader is a different story - her school has NOT provided a lot of guidance or instruction while she's been out, unfortunately, and has really only encouraged the kids to use this time to complete any outstanding assignments. She doesn't have any so as of now, she's in the midst of a six week spring break or so. Nice for her, but I'm curious how they will handle the rest of the year's work? That's the question on everyone's mind ... along with whether or not they will call school in our state for the rest of the year. As of now, our two are supposed to go back the last week in April, but I'm highly doubtful. 

The homeschoolers are plugging along as normal, for the most part. Natalie (8th grade) has a ton of zoom calls a week with her Challenge B class. At least half are for mock trial which she is still preparing for even though they will miss the experience of trying their case in a real courtroom with a real judge. That's been a disappointment after all their hard work for sure! Ethan has gotten to zoom with his little homeschool peeps and it's been precious. He has a great class and you can tell they miss being together. He and I have done the CC science experiments we would have done in class together, like building an egg protector and throwing it off the roof of the house, so that has given us some fun projects to do. 



This is gone on long enough for an update! It's a beautiful Saturday and I have a strawberry pie to bake for our small Easter lunch we'll have tomorrow. Thankful that even though I can't celebrate with others, I still have a Savior who is with me today and who I'll celebrate tomorrow. Hallelujah.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A New Word of the Year


It took me several days before I settled into a word for the year for 2020. To be honest, I don't think a word of the year is required. I haven't done one every year; in fact, I think it was 2014 when I last thought hard about having and committing to one to focus on.

This year I decided to spend the year thinking about courage. As I was looking at definitions I settled on this: courage is strength in the face of pain or grief; the ability to undertake an overwhelming difficulty or pain despite the eminent and avoidable presence of fear. I kept coming back to this word and arguing with myself about it. I'm not fighting a horrible disease or on the brink of bankruptcy so I thought courage might be a bit too ... bold of a choice. I could settle for something "easier" like joy or gratitude! But no. I couldn't shake it and started to settle in and see what it might look like for me.

Courage means taking a bold step forward even when you are pretty sure you are going to mess it up. It means trying something new, even when it seems like it's too late. It means admitting I like something even if it's super nerdy and not hip. It also might mean admitting that something isn't that great for my life and that it's time to sever ties from it. It means trusting God even when I don't know what the next month, season or year will look like, and for a planner-girl that is h.a.r.d.

There is obviously way to more to unpack here, but I'm slowly starting here. So, for the first three weeks of January what has that looked like, from the trivial to the hard?

  • making a hair appointment after way too long. (The last haircut was so bad, I had to have my then 12-year-old clean up the back after two trips to the stylist). 
  • signing up for a crochet class in February. My mom made afghans for me and my sister and all the baby blankets for the grandkids and I started to feel a little sad that that was fading away.
  • commiting to a Whole 30 in February (plus one day in January) ... for real. I've done a couple what I would call faux-30s, but I need to reset my eating habits and taste buds. I'm needing all the courage I can get to break a diet coke and sweetened coffee habit!
  • showing up in hard places when I don't want to because it's where God wants me to be. (Vague but it needs to be right now).
Some of these things are super silly but there are fears associated with them of failure, rejection, pain, and baggage. Making some progress in a few smaller areas (looking at the dreaded hair cut and trying the class), will hopefully gather momentum as the Lord takes me to other areas he wants me to step out in the coming months, both internally and externally.

Soli deo gloria.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Week in the Life 2019


Once upon a time, I liked to scrapbook. A lot. I read scrapbook magazines, bought scrapbooking books, read alllll the scrapbooking blogs. You can guess where a chunk of my play money went, too. 😉 I loved this creative outlet. In a sense, it was my form of gratitude journaling as I documented school memories, places we went, books we read, etc. However, as it's gotten busy, scrapbooking has taken a backseat to schooling, teens, all the driving, and just life. Scrolling through other people's photos and adventures took place over documenting our own. (Sad, but true!)

This week, I'm taking back a little bit of me. I miss writing and story telling and taking photos. I've found an old Week in the Life kit I purchase a few years ago from Ali Edwards and have dusted it off. (Quite literally with the dust!) I'm making plans to be mindful of next week. What I do, where I go, what I eat, what I'm reading, and what I'm grateful for. While I'm also working on getting back into the swing of our family's Project Life albums, I think this project will mostly be for me. I haven't decided if and/or how much I'll document online. I don't want to pronounce that I'm going to blog every single day ... that's a sure-fire way to set myself up to fizzle out by Wednesday. Maybe an occasional photo on Instagram here or there, but maybe not. This is about really being present and so grateful for MY life and no one else's.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

April's Reading



There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason as to when I get on here and post a reading up date. I used to be more consistent, but that has fallen by the wayside. Either way, I felt like sharing my April books tonight so here I am. We'll see how coherent this is as it's approaching bedtime, but I'm trying to hang in here for bit longer so I can make sure kids go to bed at a decent time. (I miss little kid bedtimes!)

I read nine books this month - most on the lighter side. They were:

Seed of Rebellion (Beyonders #2) by Brandon Mull (a reread) - I started rereading the Beyonders in March (I think?) when I was wanting something familiar. So far, anything by Brandon Mull is a great story and since I'd read these before, easy to pick up and put down when it was busy. Also, I only own books 1 and 2, so after finishing this, I wasn't dying to go on to #3 since I already know what happens!

The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman - I have listened to Emily Freeman's podcast of the same name on and off again - I'm just not a great podcast listener! It's too easy for my mind to wander when I have earbuds in and no words to follow along with. I was a last minute orderer of her book, but I really did enjoying seeing her podcast live and breathe here and it all made so much more sense to me on the written page than in audio. Decision making wears me out and the guiding principles and thoughts she shares in this book are golden - many are just common sense, but sometimes you need someone to tell you that it's ok and give you a couple nudges if you are wrestling through big decisions. This book was that for me and I'll be revisiting it.


The Island of Adventure by Enid Blyton - This was a series I recently spotted at our library. They had books 2-4 on the shelves, but no book 1 so I found an inexpensive used copy online and ordered it. Such a fun little book. Reminded me so much of Swallows and Amazons or the children in E. Nesbit tales. I've finally gone back to the library and gotten my hands on a sequel or two to this series and want to revisit these children in May now that school is winding down! This will be a read-aloud with Ethan soon, I hope!



The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I read this one to fulfill a requirement for the Modern Mrs. Darcy bookclub that I'm working through with a few friends. The category was a book recommended by someone with good taste (I think that's the gist ... it's late and I'm not being exact). My friend Amy at Hope is the Word has talked about this one several times and it was already on my shelf so it made an easy pick. As I told my friends in the group, I couldn't decide how I felt about this book. It was very unique in the way it was written (I don't want to give too much away if you haven't read it), and it was extremely well done. Maybe because it was a WWII book from a child's vantage point that made it harder. I'm glad I can move this from my to-be-read pile, but I don't know that it will go down as a favorite or one that I'll reread though it would be a good book for a younger reader without much of the atrocities that come with other WWII reading.


The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis - Ethan and I knocked another Narnian tale off our list. This is my favorite story, mainly because of the conversation between Aslan and Shasta when he finally meets the great lion and realizes that he was with him all along the way, from the moment he was abandoned as a baby to the dangerous moments on his journey. It reminds me so much of the verse: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." (Isaiah 43:2)


Bluecrowne by Kate Milford / The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford - Sometime in 2017, I fiiiinallly read The Greenglass House which had been tucked away on my kindle for ages. I was completely mesmerized by that book, along with it's sequel, The Ghosts of Greenglass House. (I need to go back and reread both one of these days). These two books are prequels to the Greenglass books, telling the story of the Bluecrownes who where sailors (privateers) and the original owners of the Greenglass house. I'm already eagerly looking forward to another prequel coming out in this series later this year. Super fun reading for junior readers.

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin - The last book I finished was one I found on my bookshelves that Natalie had brought to me. Sometime last year, I signed her and Ethan each up for Amazon book boxes. I've it set up where they rotate who gets a box (they come alternating months) and if we spot books we are interested in, we make our selection and set it to ship. (And when nothing catches our eye, we pass on the box with no penalty). It's the first time I've done any kind of a book subscription service and we've really enjoyed it. This was a book that came in Natalie's box sometime last fall - she devoured it and immediately brought it to me to read. I confess, I read 20-30 pages of it and set it aside. It didn't grab me so I moved on. However, as I was cleaning my office this weekend, it surfaced and I finished it off in about two days. It's fairytale in the style of Grimm, a little on the dark side, but with an unexpected twist at the end that I enjoyed. If you like Jonathan Auxier's books like The Night Gardener or Peter Nimble / Sophie Quire, you would probably like this, though it's much shorter and without as much wit and depth. Definitely more fairy to it, if that makes sense!


Hank the Cowdog by John Erikson - Ethan and I finished a second read-aloud this month! We blame spring weather and new chairs on the front porch entirely! He has been reading the Mercy Watson books aloud to me and I have been reading Hank the Cowdog to him. This has been recommended as a book for boys so many times - we needed a break from Narnia (and to be honest, I'm not sure about reading The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle to him now. I know he's going to miss all the cool stuff that makes those books magic!) This book was perfect for an 8 year old. Hank is trying to solve the mystery of who is killing chickens in the coop and he gets into all sorts of predicaments along the way. Ethan loved it so much that he immediately requested that we find a copy of Hank #2 (which I now have on Kindle) and we're already one-third of the way into it. That said, there are 62 books in the Hank the Cowdog series (last I checked) and we are NOT going to be reading them all out loud! But I'm hoping I'm piquing Ethan's attention enough that he might be interested in reading them on his own soon.

Lots of fun kid-lit books here this month - I always seem to default to that when my brain is heavy and burdened with other things. Now that we are about 17 days away from the end of our school year, I'm looking forward to even more reading - my library hold list is crazy!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Currently, April 2019

Listening ... to the sound of a boy watching nerf gun you tube videos on a Friday night (he's living his best life right now) and an Avengers movie on my computer.

Waiting ... until it's time to go pick my oldest up from her job (!) and then I can get pjs on and head to bed.


Field-tripping ... with the boy to see a real tyrannosaurus rex. Not gonna lie - these Jurassic Park fans were very, very excited! Locals should check out The Earth Experience in Murfreesboro. It's small (and not too expensive), but was a great way to wrap up this year of school where we studied animals and plants, and their systems, and ended the year with a study of rocks and minerals. 

Counting ... the days left for our school year. (We're in the twenties now!) Our school girls finish up the Thursday before Memorial Day, and our goal is for the homeschooled crew to finish up right about then. We may have a boy with 1-2 math lessons to tack on, but thankful we aren't straggling into June this year.


Cheering ... all the baseball.


Baking ... my mom's strawberry pie. True signs of spring and Easter.

Planning ... a stay-cation sort of summer this year. We trekked to England last year, and the year before we took a two-week road trip to California. This year (for the most part), we are staying put. (See also: teenager with job). We've got a few days we're going to drive to visit recently moved grandparents in Kansas, and one overnight trip to Memphis to visit the zoo and Ikea. (Mom's pick). 😉 I also am now realizing, as the girls especially are getting older, the weeks fill up fast and fly by with VBS (helping, not attending now that they are too old), a middle school camp for one, and many days at the pool.

Cleaning (out) ... all my materials from directing our homeschool group for the last two years. Since we have put two of the girls in school (for very good and right reasons for both of them), our homeschool organization decided not to renew my contract for the next year. I get corporate policies but I loved directing and visiting with moms and tutors in that role, and was not ready to move on past it. It will be nice to get all the stuff packed up for its new home with an amazing mom who's stepping into the role after me.



Reading ... on the front porch. He reads to me (right now it's the Mercy Watson books) and I read to him (right now we're reading the first Hank the Cowdog book). It's been a good break from our Narnia streak that we've been on since January. We've two chapters left in Hank and he's informed me that we're headed back to Narnia after that. Fine by me!


Closing ... with a photo of Kitty, just because. She here in her current favorite spot where the morning bird watching is premium. She has it good around here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Spring Break Best Life and Tolkien Tales


Living her best life after the exhaustion of the vet and groomer

We are spring break-ing this week. No travel here (minus a quick overnight trip my husband is on this week). So far we have mostly hung around the house and tackled a few less glamorous projects - deep cleaning the kid bathroom 🤢, a trip to vet/groomer for the pup, and an eye appointment for me. (Embracing my worsening eyes with prescription sunglasses this year - woo-hoo!)


I did finish one book that I've been working my way through this month as part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge that I'm doing with a group. The theme of this month was "a book on the backlist of a favorite author." This book by Tolkien came to my attention several months ago when Rachel mentioned it on Instagram. In the last couple years, I finally read through the full LoTR series and have been wanting to turn right back around and read them again. I haven't though I did squeeze in a re-read of The Hobbit around Christmas! Anyway, this is a collection of some of Tolkien's short stories and poems that I had never heard of so it seemed like a great fit for this category.

First off, I did enjoy this book. Tolkien is just a master at story telling and characters and I enjoyed every bit of that in this book. That said, I have decided that I just don't love short stories! It takes a bit to get into the story and figure out the characters and what's going on ... and then the tale wraps up and it's done and we're on to the next group and tale. As someone who loooooves a good, long series, it's no surprise this frustrated me. 🙂 I also went into these stories expecting more LoTR type tales. These weren't with the exception of one poem that went on for a good 30-plus pages about Tom Bombadil (from The Hobbit). There rest were all stand-alone tales and the introduction to the book was well worth reading the explanations behind some of them. Ie., the first story about a little dog that gets lost from his owner is one based on a tale Tolkien told his son when a beloved toy was lost and the adventures that pup went on. The backstory made the tale even more enjoyable.

If you are a Tolkien fan, this would be a fun addition to your library if you like short stories. I did enjoy it, even though I'm still looking forward to that LoTR reread hopefully sometime soon. 🙂

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lent


Lent is not something that I grew up with. I have always gone to your basic expository Bible teaching church - a good thing - but I wasn't exposed to church calendar concepts like Lent and Advent until an adult. Even then, they were fuzzy foreign concepts. The more I have learned about them, the more that I have come to look forward to these seasons, even though I still feel like I am no expert!

In my Bible study that I'm doing with Community Bible study this fall, we are working our way through Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Throughout these pages, you see so many times where God is telling his children, the Israelites, to look back and remember what he has done for them. Make a memorial, build a remembrance, tell the stories to their children. Then He tells them to look forward to see what is to come. For His people, wandering in the wilderness until they finished their 40 year debt for their grumbling and lack of trust in Him, he reminded them over and over that a promised land is coming! A land of milk and honey! A land where one day God would lead them in victory over the surrounding pagan armies! But, as it was for the Israelites, it sure is easy to keep my eyes focused on what I'm lacking in the moment, than the bounty that is ahead.

This is mirrored in the New Testament when young believers in churches across the Middle East and Asia are encouraged to look back on their old self and see that it is done away with. Behold, a new thing has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17) But again, it sure is easy for me to get bogged down in my self-pity, my lack, my suffering, etc. Instead of staying in the suffering, look forward to what the Lord has in store - his grace that is sufficient for me, his peace that passes all understanding, his joy that will be my strength, both here and in the new land that he is preparing for us this very moment. (Revelation 21:1)

The past two (+) years have been doozies. Harder than hard. I have grieved over some things and cried and asked God why is he not fixing ___ and making it right! But God is not mine to command (thankfully!) so even though He hasn't "fixed" things, I haven't given up on Him even if the "fixing" needs to be me.

For Lent this year, I decided I needed to just sit with God on this. See what he says about suffering. Look for beauty in the midst of hard seasons. To that end, I'm reading through Job. I did get the She Reads Truth journal so I will have somewhere dedicated to journal and scribble my way through this, but I'll probably be taking it more my speed than theirs. I'm also reading Christine Hoover's book Searching for Spring. I love what she said in chapter 1: "We may not be able to see and comprehend clearly all of what God is doing in the present, but we can always mine the past the future for treasures."

I'll be doing some mining for treasure as I prepare my heart for Easter. Looking back to see what God has done for me, counting those blessings one by one. Looking forward to what is yet to come.

Soli deo gloria.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Reading Round-up - January & February 2019

Settling back into this space on a wet Saturday evening, as one does. Actually most of our weekends have been wet the last month - ridiculously so! Spring is here and early this year by the sight and sound of it. I am ready for the sunshine and warm breezes and all that brings. I am nearing the end of a commitment to direct our homeschool group and with that "freedom" I'm hoping to putter here a bit more. I find I think about this space more than just a bit and miss stringing thoughts together, even if just for myself. :)

On to the bookish bit!

In January, I read six books and uncharacteristically, 4 of them were rereads. There are certain times of the year that I crave a reread - fall especially as school starts back and I don't have the mental energy to tackle something new for myself. I lapse into a reread of a good series - last year it was the Harry Potter series - and feel no guilt about it one bit. This year I participated in Carrie's LM Montgomery reading challenge for the first year in ... a few ... and revisited her Emily series. Thanks to Goodreads, I realized I hadn't read through this series since 2011 and I really enjoyed getting into it again. Definitely a "darker" series than the more popular Anne, it fit my mood and season of life perfectly.


Our read aloud for January was also a reread - Ethan and I started from the beginning of the Narnia series and have a determined purpose to see it through this spring. :) We had read The LWW last summer but it didn't click with him enough to jump into book two, however that has since changed! He is enjoying it so much that we have been reading a bit during our school day and then continuing it at night before bed when we can (instead of our usually school day and separate bedtime read-aloud). No complaints here.



In other January reading, I dabbled in two series mentioned via Sarah (Read Aloud Revival). I'm a sucker for a good junior or YA fantasy series. I read Flyte by Angie Sage, which is the second book in the Septimus Heap series. I think this could be a fun read aloud for Ethan down the road or one to hand off to him in a few years. Adventure and quirky characters galore, but yet not one that I'm dying to fly through myself. I also started the YA Ascendance trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen and read the first book, The False Prince. I will probably finish this series slowly - enjoying it, but no rush to devour it.

In February, Ethan and I finished Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader in our Narnian journey. Onward and upward! I also read several stand-alone books this month. I dearly love a good series, but haven't found a good long one to draw me in right now! I finished:



Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge. I love her books The Little White Horse and The Scent of Water. This one was a little bit more of chore to get through, but I finished it and enjoyed it. Not as much as the others, but it is beautiful writing set in the English landscape which drew me in!


Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. I had read Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale which was a haunting folktale set in Russia. I couldn't put it down - I really loved the glimpse into Russian folklore and legend - but yet haven't moved on to the sequel. This book is also a creepy ghost story but set for 10-12 (and up), I'd say. (I'm starting to get the impression she writes more spooky stuff than I am used to). I would be careful what child I handed this too as I hustled to finish it - I really wanted to find out what happened but I also wanted to get to the end of the book! If you like Jonathan Auxier's The Night Gardener, you would probably like this book!

I also did go ahead and read The Runaway King (book 2 in the Ascendance Trilogy). Not as captivating as the first book, but still a great series so far.


My first non-fiction for the year - Finding Holy in the Suburbs by Ashley Hales. I LOVED this book. For someone that has always struggled with measuring up, fitting in, and trying to hard, t this book was a needed reminder to me of who I need to rely on to fill my needs - not a spouse, not my children, not my calendar ... the Lord is the only one that can bring contentment and peace and when I do slow down to ponder and grasp that, the outflow into my life and the life of others is world-changing. Of all I have read in the first two months of the year? This book, hands down, is my first highly recommend of the bunch.

And there's the first two months of the year wrapped up in a nutshell. And now, to curl up under a blanket and maybe get a few pages in this evening!

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Literary Best of 2018

For a sporadic blogger, I've been looking forward to looking back over my reading for 2018 and making this list of favorites! 2018 was a good reading year for me, helped along by many hours sitting on the benches at gymnastics as well as moving my phone to charge across the bedroom instead of using it as my alarm on my nightstand. After last year's post, I had some reading goals for 2018 and I think I improved in the areas that I wanted to. I read more over-all (91, up from 70), more non-fiction (14 versus last year's 8). (You can see the full list in my sidebar here).

One area where we have slipped has been read-alouds - 12 total for the year. That makes me sad, but it's where we are right now. My 15 year-old goes to school outside the home, and my 7th grader doesn't join us for read-aloud most of the time because of her schoolwork. Most of those books have been bedtime ones with Ethan at night and I'm so grateful that he and I still have that time together! He and I are actually participating in the Read-Aloud Revival's 31 day reading challenge in January - we each have to read to each other 10 minutes a day. He needs to build some fluidity in his reading and I need the help getting back into our routine!

All that said, here are some of my favorites from this year, in no particular order!


Come and Eat by Bri McKoy :: This was a surprise read that I ended up LOVING - I had been eyeing the book for a while, and when it was on sale on Kindle for a song, I snatched it up. I went into it thinking it was a cookbook/memoir type story, and while it does have some recipes in it, it's more about cultivating hospitality in your home and what that looked like for her and her husband. I loved it, and it has made me think about those that I want to invite to sit around our table in the coming year.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas :: This book was recommended to me by my 15 year old - her History/Geography teacher handed it off to her and she read it and said I HAD TO READ IT. (Emphasis hers). And then she wanted me to take her to see the movie. :) (Which I did!) This book was super outside my comfort zone but wow, I'm so glad I read it. This was an eye-opening look into the lives of inner city African Americans - something that I will never, ever experience or understand. The book was excellent (warning: there's a fair amount of language), and the movie was just as much so. So glad she pushed me to read this.


Renegades / Archenemies by Marissa Meyer :: A few years ago, I stumbled upon Marissa Meyer and her Lunar Chronicles and devoured that series. This is her newest YA series - teens with superpowers, good v. evil (but who is good and who is evil?), clean ... I love these books. Renegades is the first in the series and I've already read Archenemies (book 2) ... book 3 doesn't come out until late 2019!


The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin :: Another from my non-fiction stack from this year - I've read Shannan Martin's blog off and on for some time now, and this book was heart pulling in both good and hard ways. If you aren't familiar with her story (and I won't even try to do it justice), she and her husband left a comfortable lifestyle and beautiful farmhouse to move into the inner city area of Goshen, Indiana, and learned to love the neighbors around them right there in their hardest spots. A call to loving those around us where they are ... not where you want (or think) they should be.



The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers :: One of the read-aloud wins for us this year ... Ethan and I read this series aloud together and it was delightful. I was tipped on to this series by Sarah and she didn't give any spoilers away so I'm not going to either - other than it is allegorical and brilliant and I loved it so so much. Read this series (there's three, but I only could find photos of two), buy it as gifts, etc., etc.


The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie :: Even though it is getting harder and harder to read aloud with my crew I still 1000% (not a typo) believe in the power of connecting with my people through books. This book deserves a spot on your shelves and should be part of baby gifts as friends start their own families.


The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge :: This languished on my shelf for far too long - English characters and countryside and delightful story to boot. I am making a plan to read more Elizabeth Goudge in 2019!



Ready Player One by Ernest Cline :: My husband took me to see this movie earlier this year and it was a surprise hit with me. (I don't know why I was surprised - futuristic, young underdog wins, and 80s themes abounded!) Travis bought the audiobook for one of his many, many work trips this summer and since this was the summer of carpooling kids all the time, I started listening to it as well. It should be noted that there is more language than I like in this book and one chapter is extremely mature and could be skipped all together without detracting from the story. That said - this book was outstanding. This is one of those works of fiction that (even though it is not "Christian" material) that continually pointed me back to God because the incredible creativity of its author. I've not read anything else like it and it reminded me of how creates his people with such amazing creativity and ingenuity and what we create is a reflection of his Creation and creativity. I don't know if that makes sense, but it was a book that moved me to praise because of what he allows us to do ... and though I don't think I have it in me to write a Ready, Player, One, he has created me to be creative in His image and am I doing so?

All that to say, this was a GREAT book and an even greater life lesson out of it.


Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson :: I wasn't sure about putting this on my favorites list because it's a book about books, and I read it fairly late in the year. The author is Sarah Clarkson, daughter of my beloved Sally Clarkson, and I enjoyed reading her short essays on her reading history and I really enjoyed the book lists in the book. This book will be referenced many times over the next several months for inspiration for my own reading. While I do love me some juvenile and YA fiction, I'm inspired to also read a bit more for me v. all the reading / prereading I do for my kids. I'm looking at Dickens, Anna Karenina, and other authors to round me out a bit more in 2019.


The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street / The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Van Glasser. My favorite juvenile series discovery of 2018! If you love the Penderwicks, All of a Kind Family, the children from The Saturdays ... basically any family whose children get into all sorts of adventures (and scrapes) sometimes (and sometimes not) through no fault of their own. :) We've flown through books 1 and 2 here - book 3 can't come fast enough!


Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome :: Nestled in this stack is another favorite - one that I read on my own after (again) having it sit on myself for far too long. I loved Swallows and Amazons and see this as becoming a fun read aloud with Ethan down the road. English children, adventures and scrapes (reminds me of the book just above!) and things always working out in the end. This is whole series, but I have managed to hold off on devouring the other 7-8 books or so that I understand are out there!

Lastly (and without a photo) are two books by Jen Wilkin worth mentioning worth your reading. This summer, I worked my way through her study of the first twelve chapters of Genesis, God of Creation. As someone who is pretty familiar with the book of Genesis, I loved her insight and perspective and came away with thoughts that fueled my planning for my home and my CC community for the fall of 2018. God is a God of order, of form and function, and creativity and we are in his image. Speaking of In His Image, that was the title of another book of Jen Wilkin's that was was excellent and worth adding to your stack. She walks through ten characteristics of our God that we are called to imitate (in contrast to her book from last year, None Like Him, where she explored ten attributes of God's that are his and his alone.) I recently heard somewhere that with the plethora of media we have available to us (podcasts, books, social media accounts, etc.) it is so easy to jump around and take little bits of insight from too many people. "Back in the day" you might have just a few authors that you follow, through their written work only, and you would revisit their works and let it settle in more and more with each reading (I think of people that have influenced me like this such as C.S. Lewis and Elisabeth Elliot). This is something that I'm trying to embrace more in the coming years, just because I follow someone on social media doesn't mean I need to buy and read their book - there are very few that I want to mindfully support financially and invest lots of my head and heart knowledge into. Jen Wilkin is just one of a very few current authors that I would call out that makes that cut for me. 

If you made it this far, thank you! What were some of your favorites for 2018? Anything I should add to my list for the coming year? 

And Happy New Year to you and yours. ❤

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Currently :: A Present Participle List



Shaking :: the cobwebs off my blog. I'm seriously rusty at writing but I miss it. Here's to a brief catch up list.

Hearing :: the cat investigate things underneath our Christmas tree. She is up to no good!

Seeing :: my calendar in front of me as I need to figure out what's going on next week. 'Tis the week before Christmas yet it's still a full one. I'm looking forward to the two weeks that come after when my calendar is blank!



Watching :: movies! As you have probably seen, several companies came out with monthly movie passes - buy a pass and you can see X number of movies a week in the theater. This summer, T and I each got a movie pass through our AMC theater and it has been so fun. We don't go to the movies every week (there's not enough good stuff out there for that, for sure!), but we have enjoyed going more often and getting nicer and reserved seats like Imax, Dolby surround sound, and dine-in seating - seriously spoiled with that one! This past Thursday, we went to see the new Peter Jackson movie, Mortal Engines, on opening night in IMAX with the reclining seats. It's been a great investment in date nights for us!

Reading :: it's been a good year of reading - five and half hours a week of gymnastics will do that for you! I made my list last week of the top 10-ish books I've read this year and would love to figure out when to blog it. It's on the to-do list! Currently, I'm reading Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard. It's the second book in the Red Queen series (YA dystopian novels are my thing right now apparently) and I'm enjoying it. I read the first book a couple years ago, but didn't love it enough to finish the series. Not sure what's different this time, but I've made it to book two!


Educating :: three out of the four kids at home this year. This fall, for the first time, we have put one of our kids into public school and has taken some getting used to! It has been a great change for our oldest for many reasons and she is settling into 9th grade and has survived her first semester and enjoyed it. I miss having all my kids at home with me, but it's been a good step (for her and me!) We're taking the other kids a year (or a semester) at a time and seeing what they need - isn't that what we as parents do about everything. No kid is the same, and that becomes even more apparent as they get older and you really start to see how they learn differently. There's such a stigma in the homeschool community when you do something like this with one of your kids and I haven't loved that.

Planning :: to work on my power sheets this weekend. The last several years have been "ugh" for lack of a better word. Power sheets aren't the answer to my problem, but I'm looking forward to using them as a tool to help me process some things that have been going on and move in a different direction in the future. (It's vague, I know).

Creating :: not much. This is first year that I've haven't diligently worked on a Project Life album and I miss it! I have worn out two little selphy photo printers and decided that this year I would use the Project Life app to make our family scrapbook pages. It's a great app, but it's not for me! It's too hard for me to sit and create scrapbook photos on my phone without my eyes crossing. :) I love writing out the journaling cards and printing my photos, so I'm hoping to get back to in 2019.

Here's to a quick catch up and moving on. Happy December!

Consistently

Yesterday, for the first time, I counted up last night the number of days that I have been “home” - using that loosely as I have been ou...