The Wednesday Five | Vol. 9



I'm trying to bring back the Wednesday Five on the blog!  You can read other Wednesday Five posts here, and feel free to join in if you want.

A Quote

"The direction of a big act will warp history, but probably all acts do the same in their degree, down to a stone stepped over in the path, or a breath caught at the sight of a pretty girl, or a fingernail nicked in the garden soil." 
-John Steinbeck, East Of Eden

A Book

Ribsy by Beverly Cleary.  Tonight we all sat down together for dinner, which doesn't happen as often as I'd like, and Derek and I took turns reading it aloud to the kids.  It is nostalgic, written about a different era, and I love it so much during this crazy time.

A Bit Of Nature



A Recommendation

You have to check out this Youtube channel I just found - this little old lady has a channel called Great Depression Cooking, and she cooks a meal that her family ate during the Great Depression, and tells her memories from that time.  She's got to be at least pushing 90 then?  Man, I hope I'm like her when I'm 90. I thought it was particularly nice to stumble across her channel during uncertain economic times.  Hopefully we don't have a full-blown depression in our future, but her stories are interesting.

(Seconds of potato soup while I type this)

A Moment Of Happiness

When we were eating dinner tonight, the kids were all listening to the story so carefully while Derek was reading, and I was feeding Georgie a few spoonfuls of soup to help her not spill.  I put particular effort into a creamy potato soup for dinner tonight, and she really liked the potatoes. She takes a bite from the spoon, and then all of a sudden she looks at me and makes this wide-eyed, stretched-out silly face at me.  It was so cute and unexpected, I laughed.  Then I made the face back, and she laughed.  Then she said something cute and all my adorable little clan laughed.  

It's moments like that which remind me how even "hard" times have fun in them.  The world could fall apart, and I like to think we'd still find ways to make each other laugh. 

Coronavirus Quarantine Coffee Chat



Let's just take a moment and admire my title alliteration (I worked hard on that one).  And after you're done admiring, let's pretend we are having coffee together, round two!

A Coffee To Try

Speaking of coffee, have you seen that whipped coffee trend?  Apparently it's a thing - started in South Korea during their coronavirus self-isolating measures.  You take instant coffee, sugar, and water, and whip it with a hand mixer, and it turns to this foam-like consistency.  Then you top a glass of milk with it and let it gradually melt together.  This idea was so interesting to me - who would have thought those three ingredients could turn into this creamy coffee foam?  I've never had any coffee like that before, and it was fun to try.


A Little Encouragement

How is everyone feeling during this second week of social distancing?  While we have been mostly in good spirits, I did find myself getting overwhelmed late last week over some minor stresses, and I realized that it would take a very little straw to break the camel's back right now.  After getting out of the house for some breakfast at Sonic on Saturday, and virtual Sunday school and church services, I am feeling better this week.  Our pastor pointed out that we should be careful not to binge on Netflix or news, but to binge on God's word, and I was convicted by that.  I haven't spent enough time just praying over this whole crisis, and I want to focus more on that.



The sermon was also a great reminder of things we can be certain of in these times of uncertainty.  It's certain that we will have trouble in this world.  But it's also certain that Christ died to save us from our biggest problem, sin; that He has conquered death and this world; that this world isn't the believer's true home; that one day He will return or call us to Heaven, and this light suffering will be nothing in comparison to His glory.  I've been saying from the start that we should keep the coronavirus in perspective, but more than an earthly sense of perspective, for those of us who have trusted in Jesus, an eternal perspective comes with real peace.  Peace that passes understanding.

A Record For Posterity

Just for a little record for my grandchildren who may read this someday, last Monday the President asked us to practice "social distancing" for 15 days.  Social distancing involves staying home as much as possible, washing your hands alot, staying six feet away from each other, not shaking hands, etc, and trying to keep groups under 10 people.  That last one is tricky for us, since we have 7 people in our family alone, but we are still trying our best to follow the recommendations.   The idea is to slow the spread of the virus long enough to give the government and medical community time to prepare for a potentially bad impact from the virus.

I've been watching no news except for the President's press briefings each day, and that is the way I like it.  From what I heard, so much of the commentary is politically-driven, and sometimes even bordering on panic-mongering, and I don't need that in my life.  Watching the briefings has given me a good idea of what is actually important to know, and I'm impressed with the way it's being handled, though a little skeptical about the plan of checks being sent out from the government.  Where is the money for that coming from?  I understand why they want to do it, but a couple thousand dollars per household is a ton of money, and it doesn't just come out of thin air!  We'll see what happens with that.

Last week most press questions were implying that we would be locked down for months, which I was finding stressful.  Not because it would be personally hard to stay home that long, but because the resulting economic damage could be devastating to the entire country.  It's only been a week and I already know people who are losing their jobs.  I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of months.  Yesterday President Trump assured the nation that we can't let the "cure" be worse than the illness, and that they are hopeful that we are looking at a matter of weeks rather than months.  Weeks I can handle, so I found that heartening.

Today they are starting clinical trials of an anti-malaria drug in treating the coronavirus, and if that works it would be a game-changer - as the President said, "a gift from God".  I spent time this morning praying that this medication would be effective.

In our state, we are looking at restrictions for the next 30 days, but thankfully not a shelter-in-place order as some states are dealing with.

How We Are Keeping Busy

More personally, the past week has not been that unusual for us.  We are a homeschool family, and not much has changed in our day-to-day life because of that.  Our co-op has been basically canceled for the rest of the year, and having every day of the week at home has been refreshing.  The biggest change has been having Derek work from home every day, but that hasn't been too much of an adjustment.  He was working "from home" two days a week before, though he often ended up working from our local coffee shop.  So our main obstacle was finding him a more isolated corner of the house to make working at home feasible.  We ended up setting up an "office" in our master closet, and even though it's a cramped space, he says it has been working really well!  We are probably keeping the closet office from here on out.



I've been trying to make homeschooling a little more fun over the last week, and we've been trying to send letters to some of our friends and family.  We've been slacking on the letters for the past couple days, but we'll get back to it today.  I especially want to write a letter in response to my friend Hazel this week.

The kids have been spending alot of time outside, then it snowed and all their pent-up energy was unleashed on the house.  Now it's melted and I'm making them go outside again.



I've been watching too much TV, and I'm trying to step back from that this week and spend more time reading - reading the Bible, and reading my big stack of library books.  Sometimes a mindless distraction is not a bad thing though, so we won't give up TV entirely.

As far as projects - keeping on top of household chores has still taken up the majority of my spare time, as it always does.  But I do have one extra project.  We have a vacation booked at the end of April.  We may have to cancel it, but we are not going to make any decisions until a couple days before we are scheduled to leave, so I am treating everything as if we are still going.  The coronavirus news has been changing almost daily, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better, so who knows what the status will be by then.  I'm going to be cautiously optimistic for now.  Today my project is to pull out the kids' summer clothes, and figure out what gaps are in the kids' wardrobes so I can determine what summer things I will need to buy, and which things I need to get before our hopeful vacation, and make a budget for all that.  So that's what I'll probably be working on today.

A Bookish Conundrum 

And because I can't end an update without talking about what I'm reading, I keep wavering on which book I want to focus on while we are mostly stuck at home.  I started The Lake House by Kate Morton, and I'm enjoying it, but I also got a few chapter into East Of Eden by John Steinbeck, and I'm finding that really interesting.  Which to read, which to read.  Have you read either of those books?  Which one should I choose?  Maybe I'll just continue alternating for now, and see which one pulls ahead.

How's this week going for all of you?




How I'm Changing Our Homeschool During The Pandemic



As schools and libraries and businesses are shutting down, many assume that nothing has really changed for us homeschool moms during this pandemic.

That's partly true, but only partly.

For us, our co-op has been canceled, most likely for the rest of the year, and our weekly library trips are put on hold (ha! I keep stumbling into puns this week).  My kids have been asking me every night "What are we doing tomorrow, Mom?", and the answer continues to be "nothing".   It doesn't seem right to continue on with our schedule as though nothing has changed, when my kids obviously know something has.  They know we aren't going to co-op or church, and they know why.

While I'm grateful for the stability that homeschooling has given us, I decided to make a few changes over the coming weeks.  I find myself a little jealous of the extra time so many public/private school moms are getting with their kids.  I am blessed to get that amount of time with my kids every day, and it's easy to forget that!  This whole thing has reminded me that I get to choose the quality of the time that I get with them, and I want to up the quality during this unusual series of events.  I want to make some special memories with my kids too, even though homeschooling means not as much has changed.

So here are the things I'm doing to make the next couple weeks more exciting for all of us.



Take a step back from the three R's.

For much of the homeschool year, my main focus is keeping up in the "three R's" - reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Obviously those things are important, but we aren't going to fall behind if we lighten up on the tedious bits of homeschooling for a couple weeks. I want to pull back on the "have-to's" and focus a little more on the homeschool "want-to's".

More history and science.

I love elementary school, because there is so much flexibility in what we choose to study!  We get to follow our whims.  Right now we are going to focus on westward expansion in history, and see where that takes us.  And science will include alot more nature walks and special activities.



Add in those activities we never get to.

Amidst keeping up with our regular curriculum, sometimes I don't make time for the things I really want to do with the kids.  Things like nature study (still trying to figure that one out), art lessons, physical education (our basketball hoop needs more action), cooking instruction, and life skills (such as letter-writing, how to clean a bathroom, etc.).  I want to take this as an opportunity to spend time on those things right now.

Watch more movies.

Books are wonderful, but often movies really make things come alive. I see alot of Little House On The Prairie in our future.

Take advantage of all the free resources!

In light of so many people finding themselves accidental homeschool moms, alot of websites are offering more free educational resources than ever.  I'm taking full advantage!  I've already downloaded a couple free studies, and I'm keeping an eye on my inbox for more.  If you have any resources to share, please do!  I know there are a ton right now that I don't even know about.

(Just for a couple things, I really am enjoying Chantel's homeschool posts this week, and Raising Up Wild Things and Cottage Chronicles both have the cutest printables that I've seen anywhere!)



If you are a homeschool mom, are you changing anything about your school during the pandemic?

You can read all my homeschool posts here.


The Wednesday Five | Vol. 8





I'm trying to bring back the Wednesday Five on the blog!  You can read other Wednesday Five posts here, and feel free to join in if you want. You can borrow the format and slap any old day of the week on there.


A Quote


"Shake not the head, feet, or legs; roll not the eyes, lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, wry not the mouth; and bedew no man's face with your spittle, by approaching too near him when you speak."
-George Washington, from his rules for civility 

I thought you all would appreciate that part about not "bedewing" any man's face with your spittle in light of the events this week!


A Book

East Of Eden by John Steinbeck.  Our little local library, the one that is a ten minute walk from my house, was still open today.  I went in (careful not to touch anything), and rented this book.  I've never read anything by Steinbeck, have you?  Grapes Of Wrath I've heard of, but this one sounded interesting.



A Bit Of Nature


Isn't this fence in our neighborhood so neat?


A Recommendation

I recommend you keep an eye on your email this week, because a lot of companies are having online sales to combat the fact that people aren't out shopping in person.  I'll probably have alot of packages coming next week (so glad that postal service is still up and running)!  I ordered a swimsuit I've had my eye on for a while at 20% off, dresses for the girls at over 50% off, and some new essential oil blends from Plant Therapy at 30% off.  Good deals this week, and lots of homeschool websites are sending out freebies too - email/online is where it's at right now!


A Moment Of Happiness

Georgie was following me round the kitchen this morning, and I bent down with my lips pressed together to give her a kiss.  She threw her chubby little arms on either side of my head and pulled my face to hers, crossing her eyes as she aimed at kissing me on the lips.  I don't want to ever forget her concentration and precious little face.

Post-Apocalyptic Books To Read During A Pandemic





What should one read in the middle of a pandemic? That is the question.

I won't tell you all what to read, but I will say that over the last week, with hysteria over the coronavirus and social distancing protocols in place, I have really been enjoying books with a post-apocalyptic vibe.  That might seem a little morbid, but it's not really.  At a time when so many people are scared, it's comforting in a weird way to think of how much worse things could be.

You could be on an outer space mission and come back to an earth that has no people left on it.  You could be in a traveling orchestra that is being chased by vigilantes after 90% of the people on the planet have been wiped out.  All the electricity in the world could suddenly fail.  You could find yourself unable to provide for your family while a dust cloud fills your lungs and covers your car (that one actually happened).

There, now don't you feel a little better about this whole coronovirus thing?  No?  I'm the only weirdo here?



All joking aside, a little escapist reading never hurt anyone, and people need a break from coronavirus news.  Turn off the TV and try one of these! (My post-apocalyptic reading is limited, so I welcome your suggestions in the comments!  I'll also add to this post as I read more.)


Books I've Read




Last Light by Terri Blackstock

It's been...possibly a decade since I read this book, but I do remember being pretty into the story.  An electromagnetic catastrophe knocks out the world's electrical systems, cars, etc, basically plunging everyone back into the 1800's when it comes to technology.  This book is a murder mystery/thriller type book that takes place with that backdrop.  I remember enjoying it, and maybe it's time to pick up the rest of the series.

Content Notes:  This is Christian fiction, it was clean!






Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Probably alot of you have already read this, but this book follows a traveling orchestra after a virus wipes out...somewhere in the ball park of 90% of the population (worst estimates for the coronavirus are around 3%, so keep that in mind lest you get anxious!).  It's less about the apocalyptic event, and more about how people might keep art and music alive after something like that happens.  I really was taken by the characters in this book and enjoyed it alot.

Content Notes: Definitely some cussing and some crude/inappropriate sexual references, but not too densely if I remember right.






Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

I just read this one, and it ended so sadly.  I still have a book hangover from it.  This book is about a man who is stranded in the arctic, and a crew who is stranded in space, when the radio waves of the world suddenly go silent.  No one knows why.  This is very much a character-driven book, and the characters aren't necessarily likable, but I thought it was an interesting portrayal of loneliness and finding the things that really matter.

Content Notes: Some cussing and crude/inapropriate sexual references, not too dense, the characters are atheistic and that comes through.






The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I read this one a few years back, and it really resonated with me for some reason.  The earth is slowing it's rotation, just as the protagonist is coming of age.  I'm kind of a sucker for coming of age novels, so I liked it, but I also remember it ending rather sadly.  But the scientific speculation of what would happen if the earth slowed it's rotation was also fascinating.

Content Notes: Some language and sexual references.






The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Note: Free to read if you have Amazon Prime!

I mentioned this book in my post yesterday, and I'm still reading it now.  This is the only non-fiction book on this list, about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and what it was like to live through that. People can't afford to feed their families, farmers can't sell their crops, and enormous dust clouds sweep across millions of acres, destroying homes and whatever livelihoods were left.  I'm finding it really compelling, and interesting on a personal level since I had some relatives not too far from the Dust Bowl around this time in history.  I am finding this book particularly encouraging in times of uncertainty.  Those people went through so much, way more hardship than you and I will probably ever face.  There is a reason these people gave rise to and/or are called the Greatest Generation.

Content Notes: Some cussing and references related to prostitutes.

Other Suggestions Via My Online Buddies

I put the word out about this post on social media, and a couple of my Instagram buddies offered some additional suggestions!  I haven't read these, but they sound interesting.






Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

A middle grade historical fiction that follows a girl through the yellow fever that hit Philadelphia in the 1700's.  This one sounds really interesting to me, and I love middle grade!  Thanks to Brittney for this suggestion.






Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

The world has mostly been destroyed through nuclear disaster, and survivors in a small town in Florida band together to survive.  Also sounds interesting! This on is $3 on Kindle.  Also suggested by Brittney, thanks friend!






The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I haven't read this one in years, but it would be very appropriate with the way we're all stuck at home right now!  Might try this one with the kids.  Only $1 on Kindle right now!  Thanks to Anna for reminding me of this one!



Also on my reading list?  The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (didn't like his last book, so we'll see what I think of this one), and Unbroken by Laura Hilderbrand (catastrophe on an individual scale, but I expect to be inspired).


Keep In Mind

None of these novels end particularly happily (with the exception of the Dust Bowl book - haven't finished it yet, but humanity obviously survives).  Most are bittersweet.  Keep that in mind if you don't like that kind of book, or can't handle anything but a happy ending right now.

Also keep in mind that as believers in Jesus, we know the world isn't going to end any of these ways!  Someday Christ will return and put everything to right.  He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4).  Maybe that's why I don't mind post-apocalyptic stories.  I can appreciate the imagination of them without fear, because I already know the end of the story for those of us who have put our trust in Christ to save us - and it's a good one.  I hope all my sisters in Christ who are reading this will remember that too in these uncertain days, and not let news stories or silly books bring any anxiety.  No matter what, we are safely in His hands.


Ways To Read When The Libraries Are Closed

I highly encourage you to see if your library participates in any digital services, because you can get ebooks and audiobooks that way!  My favorite library apps in the past have been Overdrive, Axis 360, and Hoopla.  Download the apps and check to see if your library is listed!  You can also apply for library card numbers for libraries in surrounding counties and check to see if any of those libraries participate in these app services.

If you are a Prime member, you should be aware that you can read some books for free on Kindle through Prime Reading!  The Worst Hard Time is available that way, if that one sounded good to you.



What post-apocalyptic-y books would you add to the list?

Pandemics And Whatnot



Let's have a virutal coffee date, since no real-life coffee dates are happening this week!

I've Got My Coffee, I've Got Toilet Paper (For Now)

Well, this has been a weekend for the books, and never did I think I would say that about a weekend where we literally did nothing.







On Thursday we went to our local railroad museum with my sister and cousins, and I'm so glad we got out one last time when we did, because by Friday things started shutting down.  Our co-op was canceled, and we made one last run to the library.  By Saturday night, the libraries were all closed.  A women's retreat I was supposed to go to was postponed, and our Sunday church service was put online as the doors were closed to the congregation.  

I know you know all this already, but I just wanted to write about it on my blog for posterity's sake.  

Derek tried to buy me bananas at the grocery store over the weekend, and they were completely out of produce.  We checked a different one later, and there was produce, but that store was out of canned goods.  I don't understand this stockpiling impulse at all.  Theoretically, if you were to get sick and get quarantined, couldn't you just get a non-sick neighbor to pick up the few things that you may not have in your pantry?  Or couldn't we just do that for someone else if we were the healthy ones?  But no, people have to go buy out all the stores until no one can get a package of spaghetti noodles or a bag of sugar when they need it.  Or let's not forget toilet paper (if you are a toilet paper hoarder, for goodness' sakes, share!)

Over-buying stuff might make people feel better, but for me, I think it's important not to be over-anxious.  I'll be staying home with everyone else, but I'm also not going to waste time worrying about something that I can't control at all.  I think the best thing to do is to pray for the nation/world, for the people who are badly affected by this virus, for the economy and the hit it's taking (another serious concern), and for wisdom for a quick resolution to this whole thing.

This too shall pass, guys.  It's going to be okay.

On Chickens And Vegetables

On a related note, I really am considering allowing Derek to do that chicken-raising project with the kids.  He mentioned it a few months ago because he would like the kids to join 4-H, but I was hesitant. I grew up with friends who had chickens, and always thought they seemed like a hassle.  But it would be nice to have eggs when you can no longer buy them at the store, right?  Also, maybe it's time to learn how to garden.  A black thumb has plagued me my whole life, but surely a person can learn.  Do any of you have chickens/garden?  The buying panic has made me consider that it might not be a bad thing to be a little more self-sufficient.  By that, I mean not at the mercy of the purchasing whims of the nation in a crisis.

A Book And A TV Series For Your Consideration 

On a positive note, I have been reading a ton this weekend!  Something about a pandemic that makes me want to hunker down with a book I guess, ha!  I was actually thinking about putting together a post about post-apocalyptic/natural disaster fiction to read during a pandemic, because it seems appropriate, no?  I'm serious though, I've been in the mood to read those kind of books.

In particular I've been reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Eghan, and man, that book puts things into perspective.  Imagine the air filled with so much dirt that it feels like you are eating it, people dying because their lungs are filled with silt, and not being able to feed your family except every fourth day because the economy crashed at the same time, and you no longer have a way to earn money.  That really happened.  Those people back then were made of some tough stuff.  I've found it particularly interesting because some of my ancestors were in Nebraska at that time, and I wonder if they experienced any of the things I'm reading about.  There is a really interesting series about the Dust Bowl on prime video, if you are interested in learning more.

I started that section with "on a positive note", but that wasn't overly positive was it?  To me it is positive though, in as far as the country (and world) had a lot to deal with in a very short period of time at the start of the last century, and they made it through.  They had World War One, the flu epidemic, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl, all within 20 years.  Thousands of people didn't die, millions of people did.  Things can always be worse, and I'm just thinking about this verse this morning:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6

That's all I've got this morning.  Time to re-fill my coffee cup and get started on school with the kids! I'm thinking a hike might be on the schedule.  This is a good week to finally get serious about nature journaling, I'm thinking.



Silence



It’s an unseasonably warm day. The sun is diffusing softly through the curtains, and the house is almost quiet. My tiniest child is sleeping upstairs, and I hear muffled shouts as I carry my book into the sitting room. I brush the gauzy curtain aside and see my gaggle of children, coats unbuttoned and flapping as they race on their bikes. 

A sniffly noise emits from our hound dog, snoozing in the corner, his head resting between his two front paws and eyes closed. I sit and read a while, listening to nothing but the sounds that always fill a “quiet” house. The heater clicking on. A sink dripping somewhere.  A slight breeze creaking the screen door. A small cry from my baby upstairs, before she settles and this noisy silence fills the air again. A conversation outside, in young voices I can’t decipher. A page of my book turning.





I look out the window and I can see the rain blowing up over the mountains, and the wind is picking up. My kid-gang tumbles through the door with bright eyes and red, runny noses. My middle boy asks for a snack with big eyes and a sniff. They tell me it’s getting cold, and they are inside now, and the house is quiet again, but not silent. A cartoon plays softly from the next room, and they occasionally converse with their fictional screen-friends or burst out into laughter.

Sometimes I want peace and quiet as a mom, and I got a little bit of the peace part this afternoon. The quiet part is ever debatable. A house with five kids is never actually silent. 

But then, even when the house is so full of noise that I’m overwhelmed, I know in my heart that silence isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. How very grateful I am to be here, in a house that’s never truly quiet, where shouts of joy, and small sorrows, squabbles and giggles - all this life spills out and vibrates the air molecules straight into my ears almost every moment of the day.

Currently | March 2020



Fixing...our minivan.  The van was making a funny noise, so we took it into a mechanic, who recommended we take it to a transmission specialist.  We paid a painful amount to get the transmission, which was supposedly falling apart, fixed.  Goodbye family vacation.  Only to get the van back and realize that it is making the same exact noise.  No one knows what it is or how to fix it.  I'm just mad we got the transmission re-built when that wasn't even the issue, but I guess eventually it would have had to be done anyway.

Wearing...these $2 shoes from Walmart.  They are having some great sales lately!



Feeling...quite upbeat this last week, because spring, actual spring, is in the air.  Last Friday it was nearly 50 degrees in the mountains.  The kids played outside all afternoon, and I didn't even have to shout to close the door to keep the cold out, because it wasn't that cold.  I didn't realize how sunshine-deprived I was getting.  I loved all the snow in February, but a week of sunny days was much needed.

Reading...The Lake House by Kate Morton, but also the homeschool catalog.  I am considering switching curriculum for a few subjects next year, and trying to decide what would be a good fit.

Borrowing...a tablet device from the library that I thought would be good for math review for my kids, but instead ended up calling them an idiot!  One of my kids brought the tablet back after practicing math facts and told me with a furrowed brow that the tablet had said (exact quote) "You idiot, what's wrong with you?" when a question was answered wrong.  Is anyone else as shocked by this as I am?  We don't call people idiots in our house, and I'm mad that a math program would call a child names just for getting a problem wrong. I guess it was supposed to be funny, but I wasn't laughing.

Hearing...that the grocery stores are selling out of toilet paper because everyone is freaking out about the Corona virus.  After my friend told me this, I realized that I was running low on toilet paper at home, and maybe I should see if the grocery store really was sold out.  And it very nearly was!  I snagged the last few packages of cheap generic because the only other option was a pricey Quilted Northern, and I resent that I had to contribute to the grocery store selling-out just because other people are panicking.  Can we all just calm down a little about the Corona virus?  I am so sad for the people who have died because of it, and it's a terrible and tragic thing.  But for the let's-clean-the-grocery-store-out type, we are in the United States, which is probably the best place in the world to get a scary virus.  We have a very high quality of medical care available to us here.  Maybe take a deep breath, say a prayer for people who are in more danger than you are, and try not to freak out.  No one wins when people can't buy toilet paper.

Recommending...picking a personal area of study for the year.  I mentioned this before, but in 2020 I am trying to learn more about World War 1, and I've done the same in past years with the Cold War and Winston Churchill.  It's amazing how much clearer different aspects of history can become when you learn more about just one area.  I've been really enjoying reading, listening to podcasts, and watching movies about World War 1, and I understand it better than I ever did when I learned about it in high school.  I think I'm going to make a habit of picking a topic each year to focus on studying, because it's been really enriching.  Have you ever done this, and what topic did you pick?

Linking up here.

Goals For The Dreariest Months | March And April Goals



March is upon us, which means it is time for me to check in with my 2020 goals!  Making goals for a couple months at a time (January/February), as opposed to monthly goals, ended up working out really well over the last couple months.  It gave me a little more wiggle room to catch up when life got a little crazy, so I think I'm going to do that again and make goals for March and April together.  I'll write a check-in at the end of May.

But anyway, how did my January and February goals go?

-Memorize Hebrews chapter 5.
-Set up prayer pages in my bullet journal.
-Start the day hugging each kid, and hug Derek when he gets home. (Did pretty well at this - I didn't succeed at starting every day with a hug, but there were more hugs in general!)
-Clean out my Facebook friends list.   (Read more about this here.)
-Send snail mail.
-Save $100 in February.
-Participate in the Read Your Bookshelf challenge.

I was pretty happy overall - focusing on a few small goals in specific areas was great because I never got too overwhelmed or behind, and I did succeed at mostly every goal I made.

As I've been looking ahead, I'm glad to have a few specific things to work on during what is arguably the dreariest time of year in the mountains.  March and April are usually interspersed random snow days and muddy days in between, and as a consequence, Spring never been my favorite time of year.  One of my dear friends moved up into the mountains several years ago, and she said she finally understood why I hated spring, ha!  But writing this out, I'm looking forward to trying to accomplish a few things instead of letting the momentum get buried with all the spring snow and mud.

(Spring looks kind of pretty in this photo though, doesn't it?)

I'm thinking I might have added too many things to my list for this next two-month period, but we'll see how it goes! Here are more specific updates and thoughts for my goal areas, and the things I'd like to focus on for the next period:


Spiritual

Overall Goal: Memorize Hebrews, and spend more time in prayer each day.

Update:  I did successfully memorize Hebrews 5, but I want to spend a little time reviewing it over the next couple weeks and then move on to memorize Hebrews 6.  I did create some prayer pages in my journal, but I'd like to figure out more specific items to pray for each member of my family.

Little Steps Goal: Memorize Hebrews 6 before May, and be more specific and thoughtful in my prayers for each family member by coming up with a prayer list for each person.

Marriage And Motherhood

Overall Goal: Be a happier and more thankful wife and mother.

Update: Last month I did get much more intentional about doling out the hugs, though I didn't always catch every kid every morning.   But I did my best, and I think the kids and Derek appreciated my attempt to start our day on a better note!

Next Little Steps Goal:  Over the next two months, I'd like to make a written list of specific ways I am thankful for each kid and Derek (and perhaps write them a note telling them what I come up with).  I also want to re-read Happiness Is A Serious Problem by Dennis Prager.  I read it several years ago, and remember it being thought-provoking and helpful!

Social

Overall Goal: Spend less time on social media, and spend more time investing in and encouraging my real-life friends (including family).

Update:  I think I've been pretty successful at staying off social media so far this year - so much so that I think I'm going to have to tip the balance the other way again!  I haven't been sharing enough of our day-to-day photos on Instagram, and I don't want to drop off too much on that because I still want those photos and memories for our Instagram photo book.  I wasn't 100% happy with my snail mail attempt last month, so I'd like to try that goal again.

Next Little Steps Goal: Write a letter to a friend, have my sister over for poetry tea time with the kids, and plan a joint birthday party for the boys.

Financial

Overall Goal: Save $1000.

Update: I saved the $100 I had hoped for, and also got paid for a couple of my freelance articles, so I squirreled that money away too!

Next Little Steps Goal: Save $100 in March and $100 in April.


Reading

Overall Goal: Read more books I own.

Update: I did finish two books I already owned as part of Chantel's Read Your Bookshelf Challenge.  The two I finished were And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and Ember Falls by S. D. Smith (part of the Green Ember series, so I'm sort of counting it for the read-a-book-with-a-color-in-the-title challenge).  I enjoyed them both, and enjoyed crossing them off my list!  I have also decided that for this goal area, I'd specifically like to focus on reading the physical and audio books I own.  I have a bunch of ebooks I haven't read, but I would like to focus on physical books to clear space on my bookshelf, and audiobooks are a no-brainer since I listen to them while I'm doing chores.

Next Little Steps Goal: Read at least one book from my physical shelf (I'm thinking The Lake House by Kate Morton, so I can cross off the March prompt in the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge), and one audiobook (I'm thinking The Accidental President by A. J. Baime). I also have to read Adopted For Life: The Priority Of Adoption For Christian Families And Churches by Russel Moore, because the challenge prompt for April is "the book that has been on your unread shelf the longest".




So here is the full list for March and April!


-Memorize Hebrews 6
-Make a specific prayer list for each family member
-Read Happiness Is A Serious Problem by Dennis Prager
-Make a gratitude list for each family member
-Write a letter
-Have my sister over for poetry tea time
-Plan the boys' birthday party
-Save $100 in March
-Save $100 in April
-Read one physical book from my unread shelf
-Read one audiobook from my unread shelf
-Read Adopted For Life by Russel Moore

How are your 2020 goals going so far?  

Stuff To Do In The Winter With Your Kids



How is winter treating you?  

I have always loved snowy winters and every year I wish it would snow more - I am certainly getting my wish this year!  We have had snow every few days for a few weeks now.  I love that when I look out my window everything is pretty and white, and seeing the snowflakes fluttering to the ground puts me in the mood to bake and snuggle on the couch with a book.

However, every year I also seem to forget how hard it is to be stuck in the house with multiple young children for an extended period of time.  We are definitely getting some cabin fever over here.  I have to remind myself that during this coldest time of year, we are all happier if I put a little effort in to plan specific activities to do with the kids, instead of leaving them to their own devices.

I'm re-reading this post I wrote for Rooted.com about winter science activities to do with your kids - in the midst of busyness and all these snowy days, I forget all the fun ideas I had!  If you are struggling at all with winter doldrums, go check it out and maybe it'll stir up some ideas for you too!



My Favorite Books From Last Year



Is it too late to write a post about my favorite books in 2019?

I have been slacking quite a bit on recording the books that I'm reading, ever since...well, our vacation, which was in August.  I met my goal of 52 books for 2019, but I didn't record many of them on Goodreads.  But I wanted to at least share a few of the books that stood out to me on here!



Non Fiction

I read a lot of non-fiction books that I really liked, so it was hard to leave some of them out.  These were the ones that stood out - I especially read some great Christian non-fiction, so if you are looking for some Christian encouragement-type books, read on!

Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham

I bought this book when Voddie Baucham visited our local homeschool conference a few years ago, and I finally finished it.  Wow, if you want to be challenged in your parenting and in training your kids up to know the Lord, this is one you should pick up!  I was convicted to re-think a lot about my parenting and refocus on what is really important because of this book.  In fact, it's probably time I read it again.

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

This book is about the smaller sins that aren't mentioned much in Christian circles - we brush over these sins in ourselves and others, we tolerate them.  Bridges challenges us in this book to root those sins out of our lives.  This book is soundly rooted in the Gospel, and I found it not just convicting but very uplifting as well.  I highly recommend it!

None Like Him by Jen Wilkins

I feel like I've mentioned this book a million times between my blog and Instagram, but it was really good.  Wilkins looks at ten attributes of God, but these are not attributes that we can reflect (such as love, grace, etc), but attributes that belong to Him alone.  I found this book insightful and inspiring, and it was biblically sound and very readable.  It's a great book to start with if you are just beginning to dip your toes into theology.  Even though I was somewhat familiar with alot of the attributes she discusses, there were terms I learned and specific points that made me think more deeply about the ways that God is set apart from us.

Devoted: Great Men And Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies

If you've ever wondered if the little things you do for your kids are making a difference, pick up this book!  It's short and sweet, and would be perfect for Mother's Day.  I found it both convicting as I read about different godly moms through history and how they impacted their sons, and encouraging because of the little things they did that made such a big difference.  Highly recommend.

What Wondrous Love Is This by Joni Eareckson Tada

This is a book about hymns, and I used it as an addition to my morning Bible time.  Each chapter covers a different hymn, it's history, the theological breakdown, and it's personal impact on the authors.  I didn't even know half of the hymns in this book, but I would read a chapter and then look up the hymn on Spotify, and it was such an uplifting addition to my morning routine.  I'd recommend it if you also love hymns and are up for learning some new ones!

You Who? Why You Matter And How To Deal With It by Rachel Jankovic

I liked Jankovic's Loving The Little Years, which I read years ago, and finally remembered her as an author this year when I saw this book.  She discusses the "self help" culture, and why it is not the way we should approach life as Christians.  I think I need to read this book again, because I flew through it so fast the first time.  I read it during a discouraging period, and it was exactly what I needed to break me out of my doldrums, but I can't remember everything about it.  I inhaled it the first time, and I'd like to read it more thoughtfully a second time.  But anyway, it was good.

Them: Why We Hate Each Other And How To Heal by Ben Sasse

This book was timely for the current political climate, and the epidemic of loneliness in our culture.  We are more connected than ever, via the internet, but less rooted and less likely to actually know the names of our neighbors.  Sasse discusses why this is, what's really dividing us as Americans, and little ways that we can start to fix it.  I thought his view of why our culture is changing in our level of connection to one another was interesting, and in the end I was so encouraged by this book.  Though Sasse is a Republican senator, the information in this book and the points he makes are bipartisan, so I'd recommend it no matter your political leanings.

Chasing New Horizons by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

I started several space books last year after our visit to NASA, and I'm still working through most of my space books, but I shot through this book on audio!  It gives the history of Pluto, and how we finally sent a spacecraft to that distant planet.  What I found really interesting about this book was how involved it is to fund and plan an unmanned space mission, and all the logistics of sending a spacecraft to such a distant planet (even going as fast as 52,000 mph at times, and traveling almost a million miles per day, it still took 9.5 years for it to arrive at Pluto!).  I listened to it on audio, and I'd recommend reading it that way, I think it could be a little dry if read in print.  But it was a fascinating book to me.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

This book was so timely, since I read it after I decided to go on a Facebook break in December.  It challenged me to think more carefully about social media and how I wanted to be using it.  Highly recommend this book if you struggle, like I do, to put down your phone!



Fiction

As I was looking over my list, I did not have as good of luck with fiction books last year.  I'm going to list the books I really liked first, and then do some "honorable mentions".

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have to be honest, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book.  I have seen the movie before and the characters weren't exactly likable, and there was alot of debauchery, cheating, etc.  But what made this book worthwhile for me was reading while also listening to the Close Reads discussion of The Great Gatsby.  Because of reading the book while listening to that podcast, I noticed so many things that I wouldn't have otherwise, and I realized the message of the book is completely different than what I originally thought it was.  I ended up really liking it!  You can bet that if I ever have my kids read this for school, it will be assigned WITH the podcast.  Here are the links to the episodes if you're interested:

Chapters 1-3
Chapters 4-5
Chapters 6-7
Last Chapters


1984 by George Orwell

Does anyone really like 1984?  I'm not sure that's quite the right word, but I did get alot out of this book.  Some of it was creepily similar to aspects of our political environment today.  It's not like any book I would normally enjoy (more sexual aspects of the plot than I expected, and the ending was NOT uplifting), but I have to include it here because I think every adult should read it.  Very interesting.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

The first book I've read by Montgomery that wasn't an Anne book, and I loved every second of it.  It was completely delightful.  I especially liked the nature writing and the ending.  This book didn't feel anything like Anne Of Green Gables to me, but the writing was the same ol' Montgomery-style that I loved from the Anne series.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

I love every Schmidt book I've read, and this is no exception.  A boy opens the door one day, and finds out his family has "inherited" a butler from his grandfather.  The butler starts putting the family in order and teaching Carter about cricket.  Really fun and delightful while also wrestling with some deeper subjects.  If you haven't read Gary D. Schmidt, you just should.  I usually recommend The Wednesday Wars first, but I loved this book because it had the same feel.



Honorable Mentions

A couple more books I read and enjoyed alot...

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

All the "book celebrities" (ie. Anne Bogel and booktubers) mention this book all the time, and I finally read it.  It didn't completely blow me away, but I did thoroughly enjoy it.  It's a post-apocalyptic book, but it imagines how art might survive in a post-apocalyptic world through following a traveling orchestra.  I think I enjoyed it even more because I've never quite read another book like this, so it was something new.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

I listened to this book, and I'd recommend it in that format, because I think it would get slow in print (and also, the narrator was very good).  Whoever recommended this book to me said I should go into it without reading the synopsis, and I'm glad I did.  But let's just say if you are into time travel plots, you might like this one.  It's more character-driven than plot-driven.  Even though it's a slower-paced book, I still really enjoyed it.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Horror books aren't really my speed, but this one is a classic, and I'm glad I read it.  I understand vampire references in pop culture so much better now.  That Gilligan's Island episode where Gilligan is bitten by a bat?  Makes so much more sense.



There we go, my favorite books from 2019!

What did you all read last year?  Any stand-outs?






Halfway Through (Happy Birthday To My Oldest)



My Dear Wyatt,

Buddy, you are nine years old!  I can hardly believe how much you have grown this year.  I looked at you the other day and saw with fresh eyes how tall you have gotten.  

You are all boy, and a smart, thoughtful boy too. I frequently find you tucked away by yourself in your room, reading a book about birds, or nature, or science experiments, or history.  Sometimes you'll read something in a book that you want to try, and you'll emerge with tons of ideas spilling out.  You'll go track down the supplies you need and start bringing your ideas to life.  Right now you are anxious for spring, when you can use your new bike lights (which you got for Christmas) to ride your bike when it's dark.  On your birthday list this year is an "adventure kit" (containing binoculars, a compass, and a flashlight, for all your birding adventures), a new watch, and Audobon bird stuffed animals with authentic sound effects.  




I love how adventurous you are when you get a new idea in your head, but I can still tell when you get nervous in new situations by the way you hang back next to me.  Sometimes if something is bothering you, you'll come and sit by me a while until I gradually get it out of you.  You need me less and less these days, so I have to hang on to the little ways that I can help you.

You are a funny kid, and you are constantly making your sibling laugh with your silly stories and jokes.  You are an organizer of games, especially imagination games, and I love to see the stories you all come up with together.  They all look up to you so much.  




I love your interest for so many subjects and how curious you are about the world, but I love even more how I see you growing in your faith.  You have made a very specific effort to start reading the Bible every day, and you just made it through the book of Genesis.  It gives my heart so much joy that in all your learning, you are making learning about the Lord a priority.  

Ten years is an exciting year for kids since they hit the double-digits, but nine is a landmark year for me as your mom.  This year you are halfway through your childhood. I find myself looking back on the last nine years with tears in my eyes, wondering where it all went.  But I'm looking ahead to the next nine years with excitement, because I am so proud of the young man you are becoming.  I can't wait to see what the future holds for you, my darling boy.  I couldn't ask for a more wonderful boy who made me a mama.  I love you more than every feather on every bird in the world.




Love,
Mama


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