Currently | May 2020


Currently...

Making...chocolate chip cookies.  I have a grain mill on my counter, and I usually try to grind fresh flour when I make baked goods - it's healthier because you get more of the nutrients from the grain that way, and I actually like the texture of the freshly ground grain in our muffins or whatever. But I finally realized that I have to give up on using the home-ground flour in our chocolate chip cookies.  It was just not working.  I reverted back to good old store flour when I baked yesterday, and the cookies were magnificent.  Yes, that is a very big word for a cookie, but I stand by it.

Learning...more about America.  That sounds like a loaded answer, but what I'm actually referring to is Hillsdale's free online courses, and if you've never checked them out, you should!  I'm doing the course called "The Great American Story: A Land Of Hope", and it's cool to get such a condensed overview of our history.  They have all kinds of courses though, including ones on the Supreme Court, economics (timely right now), the Constitution (also timely), the World Wars, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Winston Churchill, and a bunch of different ones on literature.  I'm really enjoying the one I'm taking.

Dabbling in...gardening.  My lavender and basil have still not really sprouted, but Derek got a greenhouse set up on our porch, and he is growing vegetables!  I'm very excited to see how they do in the greenhouse.  Where we live, a greenhouse is pretty much required for any serious growing.  Maybe it will help cure my black thumb.

(In the greenhouse.)

Missing...the library.  Our state has been gradually opening up, and I'm getting more and more irritated that the library is dragging its feet.  I understand they don't want to open the building yet, but I see no problem in allowing people to pick up holds curbside.  They won't even allow us to return books yet, and I've got about a hundred picture books sitting in bags on the floor, just waiting.  How hard can it be to wipe down the returns or let them sit in a room to isolate for a day or two?  Other county libraries have been partially open for weeks and they make it work.

Reading...about ten books at once.  With the library still closed, I've been scrounging my shelves and the Kindle books on Amazon for my next read.  I have a terrible habit of reading a chapter or two of any book that looks interesting until one sticks, hence why I have so many going at once all the time. I'm currently working through Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (it's really fascinating), The Two Towers (it's a re-read, I've been reading a chapter each night), Unknown Valor by Martha McCullum (just started this one), and The Underground History Of American Education by John Taylor Gatto (also fascinating, and perhaps a little terrifying).  I'm going to start The Lake House this month though!  I mean it this time.

(Burning my Mother's Day candles.)

Loving...the way my kiddos have been handling this whole thing.  I know our routine didn't change as much as others', but we still haven't been able to go to a lot of the places we would normally go either. But they've mostly rolled with the punches and they've been finding all kinds of things to do around the house; they play elaborate, imaginative games with their stuffed animals or cars.  They cheer when we announce a movie night, dive into reading books they wouldn't normally pick up, and are particularly sweet little lights in my life right now.  Have there been alot more household messes to clean up?  Yes.  Has there been occasionally disappointment when I have to tell them that we are, yet again, staying home?  Yes.  But overall, they've handled it all very well.

Bummed about...the homeschool conference being cancelled.  They held out as long as possible, and maybe I should have seen it coming with all the other things being cancelled, but I thought there might be a chance since it wasn't scheduled until later in June.  I think it's unfortunate they had to cancel it with so many people considering homeschooling more seriously as a result of this pandemic.  I'm seriously considering hosting a miniature homeschool conference in my house with my friends instead.  We are almost to the phase that allows more than ten people to gather, so it would be legal and everything.  We could watch a session or two from an online conference together, bring curriculum to allow others to look through it and get ideas, and make it a potluck!  I'm mulling it over.

(Gwen took this picture of me at sunset the other day.)

Excited about...our last day of school!  We are officially on summer break this week, and Wyatt in particular is excited about it.  The kids have been asking me to buy a kiddie pool, though it's not quite warm enough for one yet.  I think this summer in particular it will be important that I plan some fun things for us to do together, since our usual go-to's (zoo, parks, library programs) are in flux.  I want them to have fun and feel as little as possible of the lingering effects of this shutdown craziness.  Summer is NOT cancelled.  I refuse to let it be.

How is the summer looking for you right now?  Any plans to still make it fun?




Recent Reads - Spring 2020



A while back, I decided to take a step back from Goodreads.  For a long time I enjoyed recording the books I was reading on that platform, but in the last year it's become the source of more stress than it's worth. People get nasty on there if you are critical of a book they like!  You would think readers would be a little more understanding that not everyone is going to like the same books, but not so much.

I also don't think Goodreads is a great medium for theological/political/sociological discussions, and there is a lot of that happening as well, many times in a not-so-nice way.  I've also become unsure if I really want a database of all the books I've ever read on the internet.  Do I really want all the tech giants and government having instant access to that information?  Based on how things have been going in this country for the last couple months, I think no.

Bottom line: it's just been adding too much drama to my life.  Instead of recording what I'm reading publicly on Goodreads, I've been keeping a private record of the books I'm reading in my bullet journal.  But I know alot of my blog buddies are also readers, so I wanted to share some of what I'm reading with you all too!  Here are some of the books I've been reading in the first part of this year, along with brief thoughts.



(Some affiliate links below, just to help bolster my book funds!)



I picked up this book because everyone says King is such a wonderful writer, but I'm not into horror.  This is one of his few non-horror books, so I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.  The story is about a man who stumbles across a unique way to travel back in time and tries to stop the Kennedy assassination.  I'll say this, King does know how to drive a book forward!  Once I was into this book, I could hardly put it down. However, would I recommend it?  Probably not.  Way more sexual content than I expected, which I skipped past as much as possible, but still - ugh.  Some graphic violence is described, which was disturbing.  I was not satisfied with the ending.  It could have been great if it wasn't for those things.



I already did a full review of this book here.  This book is a historical defense of Reformation doctrines and their existence before the Reformation.  If you're a Protestant whose ever wondered where the Gospel was before the Reformation, this is your book!  Short and sweet, and interesting.



This was a present from my longtime penpal Felicia!  I started this book on Christmas, and got sucked right in!  A bunch of funny Christmas short stories, with lovable, relatable characters.  I laughed out loud reading this, and might have teared up a couple times too.  I bought two more Vinyl Cafe books after reading this one, I loved it so much.  Highly recommend!



Only $2.50 on Kindle!

It's quite possible I read this as a teenager, but I didn't remember it so I read it again.  Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery, and if you've never read one of her books, you should.  In this one, a bunch of people are mysteriously summoned to an island, and one by one they start dying off.  From the author's foreword, you know they are all going to be murdered, but the question is, how?  Definitely one of Christie's more disturbing stories, but I couldn't help but appreciate how she pulled off a murder mystery where every character is murdered. If you don't know Agatha Christie already, I wouldn't start with this one though.  I like her Hercule Poirot books best.


This is actually a middle-grade graphic novel (ie. comic book), but it looked fun so I thought I'd give it a try.  It's the story of two girls - quite, shy Emmie, and popular, outgoing Katie.  Everything always works out for Katie, and not so much for Emmie.  One day an embarrassing note gets delivered to Emmie's crush, and everything comes to a head.  Interesting twist at the end!  I thought it was really cute.  I feel like there might have been one reference to a sex-ed class (?), so maybe parents just be aware of that, but nothing explicit.


I'm a big Ken Ham fan, and this book was written with his brother.  It has advice for parents interspersed with some biographical/memoir type content about the Ham family and how Ken Ham started his young-earth creation ministry.  I really enjoyed it!  Alot of the same info as some of his other books, but I liked having more of a biographical look at the Ham family.



Only $3 on Kindle!

So, I powered through this book on audio because I was trying to win a free gift card as part of a promotion on Audible - and I should have got the prize, but Audible decided I didn't qualify.  I tried calling customer service, but they refused to help me.  I was incensed and quit my Audible membership - they basically tricked me into staying a member for two more months to get a gift card I "didn't qualify" for! Even though I did.  So I have bad memories associated with this, ha!  But that aside, I did enjoy this audiobook.  Ember Falls is book two in the Green Ember series, which is a middle-grade fantasy story with noble, warring rabbits.  I'm enjoying the story, but find that alot of it is told in conversations, and I am not quite sure I like how that translates to audio.  This second book was a little slow-moving to me, but I still want to finish the series, until the "Green Ember rises, or the end of the world!" (I might have got that phrase a little wrong, but it's impressive I remember it at all considering I listened to it three months ago.  It stuck.)



Really interesting book about parring down your schedule and learning to say no to things that are not the best use of your time.  I read this after reading Digital Minimalism and Reclaiming Conversation late last year, and it was a nice way to round out all those ideas about trimming distractions from your life.  I'd recommend it if you frequently find yourself overwhelmed with tasks that are not the best use of your time and that you didn't really want to do in the first place.  This book will be a good shot in the arm.



I picked up this book after Andrew Pudewa mentioned that it had interesting points about how to evaluate children's literature to determine if the underlying messages are ones that you want your kids' reading.  This book really made me think, and it did indeed have alot of great tips for choosing books for your kids that are in line with good character values.  The discussion on dragons in children's literature was especially interesting. It's written from a Catholic perspective, so I didn't agree with all the theology in it.  But I did appreciate how it made me think deeper about the kinds of books I want my kids' reading, and I'll probably return to it for ideas in the future.



This was a thriller I listened to on audio when I needed a distraction.  It's a story about a girl who disappeared, and years later her mother is still trying to figure out what happened to her - things start to come together when she starts dating again.  I didn't love this one.  I listened to the end just because I wanted to finish it, but there was definitely some sexual content (thank goodness for the button to skip ahead 30 seconds).  I also hated the ending.  Not that I was expecting a happy ending exactly, but it was bittersweet in a disturbing way, and left me with kind of a yucky feeling.  I kind of wish I had quit this one.  Maybe I'll just stick with Mary Higgins Clark books when I want a thriller in the future.  More modern thrillers rarely work out for me.


I started this book last year, and just finally finished it this spring.  Tripp gives advice in this book to all Christians on how to counsel and encourage others in a biblical way, by asking good questions and pointing others to scripture.  It's solidly grounded in the Gospel, and the advice later in the book was really thought-provoking and helpful to me in some of my relationships.  This is a book I'll probably be reading again, because I need reminders.  If you want some help on learning how to encourage others in the Lord, this book is for you!


East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

Only $1.50 on Kindle!

I've got probably an eighth of this book left, it's been taking up a large portion of my reading time for the last two months, but I think it will be worth it! The story is a generational story about two sets of brothers with a Cain-and-Abal type relationship.  I'm very invested in the characters, and I'm going to be kind of sad when I can't read about their lives anymore.  One content note: there are "houses of ill repute" involved, so some sexual references in the plot line, but nothing too explicit.



That's where my reading life stands as of Spring 2020!  

I've decided to change my strategy for how I'm picking books for the rest of this year.  When I was trying to write my post about my favorite books from 2019 (back in January), I found myself really unsatisfied with the group of books I had to choose from.  Then I looked over my last couple reading years and realized I haven't loved very many of the books I've been reading for a while now.  I decided to try to read more books that I like this year, and less books that end up being duds.  I may write about my strategy in another post, but I'm pretty satisfied with the books I've read so far in 2020.  There are alot of good ones on this list!  

Here's to hoping 2020 will be a great reading year, where my "Favorite Books Of 2020" post will be difficult to write because I have so many I love, as opposed to so few!

What has been your favorite book of the year so far?

Cold Coffee And Sunshine



My coffee is cold in the cup next to me as I sit down on my couch today, laptop perched on my knees.  I haven't sat down just to write in a while!  My fingers actually feel stiff and slow in typing.  I'm asked often how I make time for my blog with the kids and everything, and the truth is that Derek usually gives me an evening or a whole afternoon at the library, and I knock out a few posts at a time.  I obviously haven't been able to do that for a while.  Even now, when our state has been slowly reopening for a couple weeks, our libraries are still closed.

But today, Derek and a friend are outside, building a treehouse for the kids.  The weather has been just lovely for a few weeks now, which feels like another bit of God's grace to us amidst all this turmoil in the world.  We may not be able to go to the park, but the mountains are unseasonably warm, and hot pine needles smell like summer.  I can hear the kids shouting as they play on the driveway.  And I'm sitting here, with my cold cup of coffee that I'll probably re-heat again in a minute, and a wilted little wildflower on the armrest of the couch, presented proudly to me by my golden-haired four year old a little while ago.  The darn woodpecker is attacking the side of the house again, and the hummingbird feeder is swinging outside the window.  It's a nice Saturday morning, and I decided today was the day to catch up the ole blog.  I should make this happen more often.

(Hi!)

Speaking of the treehouse, the kids are so excited for it.  It's really more of a playhouse than a treehouse, a little shed on a raised deck, with an even higher balcony-porch that wraps around a tree in our yard.  Derek wanted to make something sturdy and enduring, something they can enjoy now and when they are teenagers.  I think it's going to turn out great!  We are also toying with the idea of making a teepee further down the hill, but we can't quite figure out where to get or how to make a full-size teepee covering.

Other house projects-in-progress involve a lot of plants.  Derek decided to try to grow our own flowers for our outdoor pots this summer, and he's been baby-ing little flower sprouts for a few weeks now.  The flowers we chose don't seem to be happy, and we aren't quite sure why.  The vegetable plants he got from a coworker, on the other hand, are thriving.  He ordered a greenhouse, and I consented to have it set up in corner of our back deck.  Our deck is a little funny, with a long, semi-narrow strip right off the back of the house, which takes one step down to a wider area where we have our table set up.  So the greenhouse will be on the upper section of the deck, next to the house.  I was hesitant to let the greenhouse live there, because I want the deck to feel clean, but I think it'll be alright. I'm planning on hanging some flower baskets on either side to make it look...fancier?  More lush?  I'm also a little concerned about the draining, but Derek says all the plants will be in trays.  The greenhouse may move to the side of the house if our plants outgrow it.  It's a pretty small greenhouse.  We are gardening newbies (though Derek has a greener thumb than me), so any tips are appreciated!

I've been trying to grow herbs in our kitchen windowsill as well, and the basil and chamomile is thriving, but the lavender and rosemary have yet to sprout.  Did I get dead seeds?  Do they just need longer to germinate? Or did I drown them?  I don't know.  I'm disappointed that the two herbs I wanted the most seem to be rebelling against me, but I'll give them a little more time.

Derek is still working from home, from the closet-office, and he probably will be for a while.  Our governor is encouraging those who can work from home to do it, and I can't say we completely mind.  Working from home cuts out two hours of commuting time for Derek, which means more time for movie nights and house projects.

Homeschooling exclusively at home, on the other hand, is getting wearisome.  We are itching to go on a field trip, or a library trip, or a park trip, or something.  Over the weeks when we were required to stay home, and there was nowhere to go anyway, I did lessons with the kids on the weekends to knock out a few extra days of our school year.  So we are on track to finish our required number of days by the end of this week!  I would love to do a field trip to celebrate the last day of school, but I'm pretty sure most of those type of places will still be closed.  Maybe a "field trip" to Barnes and Noble for some books to read over the summer, perhaps?  I just saw that our local Barnes And Noble is open, and I'm extra excited about it.

Speaking of books for the kids to read, Gwen is reading pretty solidly now, so I went ahead and ordered some of the original American Girl books on Ebay.  I was aiming to gather the Felicity and Addy series, and just happened to also get the Josefina series in the process.  Probably my three favorites of the original American Girls, so that worked out!  Did any of you read American Girl books as a kid?  Which were your favorites?  I never did get one of the dolls.

As our state and county has started opening, we've enjoyed visits with my sister and parents last week.  It is so good to see family, and especially to be around people who feel similarly about this whole crazy mess the world has gotten itself into.  As I've been following the virus news and shutdowns the last few weeks, I've been reminded of the fact that an economic depression is going to have horrible ripple effects in so many less fortunate countries too.  I read in an article that the number of people in the world who face starvation is expected to double this year as a result of the economic shutdowns around the world.  Double.  That just breaks my heart. What have we done to ourselves? Opinions run the gamut about this whole situation, and I am trying not to get into mine here, but it can't be denied that some of our actions in response to the virus have been much more devastating than many expected.

(On a related note, my friend Bethany - another childhood penpal! - is trying to sell bows to help with relief in the middle East during this coronavirus crisis.  She's sold out for now, but it's a cool thing she's doing, and you might consider following if you are interested.)

Anyway, to try to get back to a happier topic before I close this out, I'm still working through East Of Eden by John Steinbeck.  It's a long book, okay?  I'm most of the way through it though, and I still have no idea where it's going. How's all this going to end?  I'll probably go curl up with it on the porch as soon as I'm done typing this.  When I finish that book, I'm going full-steam ahead on The Lake House by Kate Morton.  I also started Unknown Valor by Martha MacCallum.  The cover caught my eye, and I kept seeing it everywhere, so I grabbed it at Sam's Club last week.  I'm already getting sucked into it, so that's my current nonfiction read!  What have you all been reading?  I have a full post on what I've read so far this year in the works for later this week!

I'm typing this on Saturday, you'll probably be reading this on Monday, which means Mother's Day was yesterday.  Our plan is to drop by Derek's mom's house in the morning, and then I think Derek has a picnic lunch planned for me and the kids.  They went Mother's Day shopping for me this week, and the kids are so cute, telling me not to look in their closets so I don't see the presents they got me.  Then I'm hoping to see my mom for dinner.  It should be a lovely day, and the first Mother's Day in a while when we'll get to see both our moms on the same day.

I'm feeling especially blessed by my mom this year, as I've seen her here and there during the shutdown, and she's dropped off little notes for the kids, and I've made more of an effort to talk to her on the phone regularly.  I've never been good at making those phone calls, I've never been much of a phone-talker.  But I'm starting to change my tune.  It's undeniably better to hear someone's voice and have a real conversation than to poke out characters for a text bubble.  And I've especially missed getting to see Derek's mom - we've sent letters to her, and Derek continues to talk to her regularly, but I hate that we had to miss seeing her on Easter.  I have a really wonderful mother-in-law, and it's not lost on me what a blessing that really is.  It'll be good to see her face.

The sunshine on the porch is calling my name, so I think I'll go grab that book now.

How have you all been?  What have you been up to?  Any restrictions lifting in your states yet?  Or for international friends, how are things going in your country right now?


A Letter To My Six Year Old




My Dear Clyde,

Here we are, your sixth birthday!  I thought today a lot about the day you were born.  Your dad was halfway across the state, and I had spent half the night throwing up and woke up queasy, before the contractions set in.  I wasn't expecting your birth that day - I spent the morning crunching tiny bits of ice to help with nausea, but before dinner time, you were in my arms.  I cried when I first saw you, said you were so handsome.  And you still are, but now when I look at you, instead of a handsome, scrunchy baby face, I see a handsome little boy.  Where did that baby boy go?



This year has been so much fun with you.  This year you learned to ride a bike.  You got really interested in legos, and built an entire spaceship by yourself, not to mention "cloud pushers" and other inventive planes.  You have continued to be interested in trains and planes, but after our Kennedy Space Center trip, spaceships have been added to your list of favorite vehicles.

Every time I ask, you give me the biggest hug, trying to squeeze all the air out of me.  You come up to me with your little quirked grin and tell me I'm the best mom ever, or ask with faux casualness if you can have a snack.  On family movie nights you try to squeeze yourself right next to me and your dad before your siblings notice.

You find particular joy in "tricking" us or getting us to laugh.  My favorite quote from you this year came when I casually asked where Gwen was. "I ate her," you replied, seriously and not missing a beat, and when I looked up your eyes were twinkling and you laughed.



You often tell me you love our "school" Bible time, and I can tell so much of what we are learning from God's word is soaking in.  Your little heart is open to the Lord, and it is a joy to me to see that.  There is nothing I hope more for you, my boy, than to know Jesus and to love and serve Him with your whole heart.

Sometimes you come into our room in the middle of the night.  "I had a bad dream," you'll whisper, and when I ask what it was about, you always say "a dinosaur".  I often wonder if you really have that many dinosaur dreams, or if you've just figured out that claiming a dinosaur dream lets you sleep on the floor next to our bed.

I rub your hair and give in every time, not because I'm so tired, but because I really don't mind having you camped out on the floor next to me.  Someday you won't come in the room in the middle of the night anymore.  Someday dinosaur dreams will be gone forever, and I won't get to see your angelic little boy face dreaming by my feet when I get out of bed in the morning.

No, I don't mind.  I like having you close to me, my sweet boy.  You are growing up so fast.  You are so mischievous and fun, and you also have such a soft, sweet heart.  Even as you grow up, year after year, I hope you keep that always.



Happiest of birthdays, my adorable SIX year old boy!  No matter how big you get, you'll always be my baby.  I love you more than words can say, Clyde Boy.

Love,
Mama

Tunnels And Light, Etc.



I haven't written on this little blog in a week in a half.  It could perhaps be because I was obsessively checking the news last week for updates.  I also couldn't seem to get up any motivation to write because boredom reached an all-time high last Wednesday.  I couldn't think of anything interesting to say.  But all that's changed this week, and I'll tell you why!

Is That, Perchance, Light At The End Of This Tunnel?

Well, guys, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting very big, very bright, and very beautiful (as a certain president might say)!  

Just to sum up for posterity, our state went under a stay at home order (due to the coronavirus) at the beginning of April, and that was after two weeks of most people voluntarily staying home anyway. So we've basically been isolating for five or six weeks, along with most of the country.  The economy has absolutely tanked during that time, and at least 22 million people are now unemployed.  Even though our family's income is stable for the moment, and we were already largely at home anyway with homeschooling, it's been really painful to watch people being affected badly by the virus itself, and also the millions of livelihoods that are getting ruined by this shutdown.  Food bank lines are miles long.  Something obviously has to give.

(Georgie, coloring during quaren-church.)

Our state has put forth it's plan to start opening back up!  As of next Monday our stay-at-home order ends!  Woohoo!  We are still encouraged to stay home as much as possible, but there is just something about not being forced to stay home.  It's a freeing thing.  Retail opens back up on the 1st, and once they see how the coronavirus cases are affected by a partial reopening, they'll make a decision on restaurants in mid-May.  Things are looking up!

What does all this mean for our little family?  Well...we can get together with friends and family in small groups again without going against a government order.  I am looking forward to taking my kids to a park and (crossing my fingers) the library soon.  I'm also hoping some field trip destinations reopen soonish, because I had originally planned May to be "the month of field trips" to close out our school year.  We'll have to do all these things carefully, while being cognizant of giving people space and not spreading germs, but that's not a big deal at all after what the whole country has been going through.  We'll see what happens.

Has your state announced any steps or plans for re-opening yet?  I know alot of states have not come up with a clear plan yet, and if that's you, I'm sorry.  

Homeschooling Update

I shook up our homeschool a bit at the beginning of quarantine, but when it became clear it was going to go on much longer than I thought, we got back into a regular routine after a couple weeks.   In some areas I'm still motivated (got to finish that math book!), but in others, I admit, I'm feeling like things are a little stale.  We've finished up several of our curricula for the year, and are still working through others.  We have about 23 days left of the school year, and I'm trying to think of ways to still keep things interesting as we try to wrap things up.  For one thing, I bought this book:



I wanted to do a little unit of westward expansion of the United States, and I thought this book would bring it to life for the kids.  We did the seventh chapter last week (starting in the middle), and loved it!  My good friends who own a ranch also sent us this:



It's a bunch of resources they put together about oxen and their role in westward expansion, and it's been a great addition to our study!

This week I decided that if we can't go on real field trips as originally planned, we will go on virtual ones.  I have been looking through this website with a bunch of virtual field trip ideas, and I think we're going to do the aquarium today.  A friend also shared this marine biology class online, which we might check out.  Our geology curriculum just went over marine fossils, so this would all probably fit in nicely.

I'm also strongly considering putting together a little in-the-car photo scavenger hunt that I can do with the kids one day this week or next week.  Cassidy shared a scavenger hunt on Instagram the other day, and it looked so fun!  It would give us all a chance to get out and still enjoy spring, since alot of our springtime plans have been canceled.  I'm mulling it over.

Other Random Stuff

Last week was a complete bust as far as accomplishing anything, but this week I started feeling motivated again, and I finally cleaned up my house and took some "after" pictures. We've been in this house 18 months now, and we've accomplished a lot of updates.  If you'll remember our house used to have pink carpet, so yeah, it looks better now!  Keep an eye out, I'll probably get some new house tour posts up soon.

We had been enjoying beautiful warm weather before Easter.  Then it snowed.  Now it's back to beautiful sunshine again.



I've been doing a 30 Day Song Challenge on Instagram, and I have to say, it's been so much fun!  If you follow me on Instagram, you can see it on my highlights.  I might put it together into a playlist eventually.

We also celebrated Clyde's birthday right before Easter!  My baby boy turned six years old.  We took him out to Dunkin' Donuts (drive through) for breakfast, colored Easter eggs on his birthday, and had a movie night.  He got legos and slime and a mini version of that alligator dentist game you probably remember from when you were a kid.  He was happy as a clam!  I'll get his birthday post up soon too.

(Kids opening their Easter baskets - we got them flip-flops, sunglasses, and an Adventures In Odyssey each!  And candy, of course.)

I also started reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley with my book group friends, and wow, it is interesting so far.  Disturbing and interesting. I'm curious to see where the story will go.  Have any of you read it?



How goes the quarantine where you are?  Anyone losing your mind yet? (I was last week, I admit.)  What are you all reading? Any projects you've been working on? 

Hang in there, this can't go on forever!  Hoping you are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel too.

Certainty

(This week last year, we were visiting New Orleans. Is it cheating to recycle those photos for this post?)

Walking to the mailbox has become something of a lifeline over the last weeks.   Though I am so blessed to be able to say that our day-to-day life has not changed much through this virus situation, it is still difficult on all of us to be stuck at home.  So we are making a tradition of fresh air and mud on our shoes, as we trudge on the dirt roads of our neighborhood for the post.

The other day, as we were walking, my oldest stopped in his tracks.  "Did you hear that, Mom?  I think it was a robin."

And we all stopped and looked around, and from the eave of our neighbor's house we saw a swooping movement, a flash of orange-ish red.  

"It is, it's a robin!  That means it's spring!" my boy cried, and somehow seeing that little bird did my heart good.  The world may have ground to a halt, but spring is still coming.






I've been thinking alot in the last few weeks, about the juxtaposition of some things going on unchanged, as other things cease entirely.  I may not be afraid of physically suffering, but the frustration and disappointment and uncertainty of these days is still stressful.  I'm remembering that these feelings qualify as the cares I need to cast upon Him.  He cares for those things too.  And in the midst uncertainty, I look at spring flowers pushing their way through the dirt, and I remember all the things of which I can be certain.  

I am certain that even if this world burns to the ground, this is not my real home.  

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20

I am certain that we are all sinners, but Jesus took the punishment we deserve for our sin by dying in our place on the cross.  

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

I am certain that Jesus has risen and conquered over death, and that if we turn to Him in repentance and faith, He will save us - and He will hold us in the palm of His hand, and no one and nothing can snatch us out of it.  

"For if you confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9 
"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand." John 10:28

I am certain that we are going to have trouble in this world, and we can see some of that trouble clearly now.  But I know that He has overcome the world.

"In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." John 16:33 
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7

I am certain that one day He's coming back, and He'll wipe away all our tears.  He will give believers the crown of righteousness that we cannot earn, but that Jesus bought for us on the cross.  

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4 
"Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8

And in the meantime, I know that God is our ever-present refuge, upon whom we can cast all our cares.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Psalm 46:1-2 
"Cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5: 
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31


That last verse feels poignant at this moment.  I'm sitting here, typing this now, listening to the birds making nests in the eaves outside my window.  Tiny peeps, flashes of shadow against the screen.  And I remember that not even one of them falls to the ground without God seeing.  And He cares for us more than the sparrows.

This is our comfort, our help in trouble, our peace with God - bought by the precious blood of Jesus. Today is Good Friday, and we remember His death to pay the price for our sins, the penalty we owed.  On Sunday we will celebrate, because no matter what is going on in the outside world, He is risen.  His is the victory.  And He has us in His hands forever when we trust in Him.  What peace and joy there is in that, even if we have to celebrate stuck at home this year.

If you don't know that peace, I pray that through all this you will find it.  And if you do know Christ, I pray that you'll also remember with me that we can turn our eyes to Jesus, rest in His peace, celebrate His resurrection well, and take this chance to share the truth of the gospel of Christ with a world that is full of fear.

Happy Resurrection Day in advance, friends!

"He is not here; for He is risen, as He said." Matthew 28:6

The Wednesday Five | Vol. 10


A Quote

"He had an idea that even when beaten he could steal a little victory by laughing at defeat." 
-John Steinbeck, East Of Eden

A Book

Sometimes I don't know what to put here - should I share the book I'm reading, or something else?  I'm still reading East Of Eden, and making good progress.  I'm strongly considering starting Brave New World by Aldous Huxley next.  Seems like it might be appropriate for these crazy political times, along with 1984 and Animal Farm.  In our state, a man was arrested after an officer stopped him for playing t-ball with his daughter in a completely empty park.  I kid you not.  What in the world.  Are we still in America?  Every day this is starting to feel more like the Twilight Zone.

A Bit Of Nature



I caught this tiny little bud sprouting on our bushes today!  I'd be 100% okay if Spring came early this year (though I'm still rooting for a lot of moisture in April and May to avoid fires).

A Recommendation

I found a new site with a lot of cute nature study printables, and I recommend you check it out to break up the monotony of school days when you're stuck at home.  I printed some up for my kids, and I'm planning on sending some of the cards to my nieces and nephews!  Also, if you missed it, these adorable Little House On The Prairie paper dolls. Get them while they're still free!

A Moment Of Happiness

The kids and I walked to the mailbox again today, or more accurately, I walked and they rode their various muscle-powered vehicles.  My "little middles" (Clyde and Clarice), pushed past me on their scooters, their little heads bouncing up and down with the effort, and Wyatt peddled past on his bike.  But I just chuckled to myself as Gwen flew past me with her hair shining in the sun, and her baby doll strapped to her back in her child-sized Ergo.  If you ask her, she'll still tell you she wants to be fill-in-the-blank "AND a mama", and I love it so much.

Currently | April 2020


Sharing...photos of our weekend hike.  Our state has shelter-in-place orders, but you can't tell me that getting outside is non-essential! (And thankfully the state agrees, so no conflict there.) It was so good for our family's mental health to get outside together and enjoy the crisp mountain air.  I have to say, I'm more grateful than ever to be living in the mountains right now.  It's a blessing to be a couple minutes from trails and woods with all this going on in the world.










Writing...letters to family and friends.  More accurately, the kids are writing letters - I have been letting myself become too distracted to sit down and write a letter.  I decided to change that late last week.  I had been keeping up on the presidential press briefings, and avoiding all other coronavirus news, which was working for me at first.  But now... if I'm completely honest, I'm a little sick of hearing from experts who don't actually seem to know anything except what we all already know, and are constantly changing their projections (ie. guesses).  I know that's not a popular thing to say right now, but it's how I feel.  I'm sure if there is some huge update, an actual update, the news will find me.  I know my state's requirements, and that's all I really need to know, so I'm quitting on the briefings too and just living my life for a while.  First thing on the agenda - actually sit down and write that letter I've been meaning to write for two weeks!  Ugh.

Teaching...myself to embroider.  I have been wanting to learn how to do hand embroidery for a while, and I think now is the time!  Especially since I've officially quitted on the news, I should have time.  I'm hopefully going to watch my first instructional video today.

Wishing...and praying this shutdown will come to an end sooner rather than later.  Summer is right around the corner.  If this virus really is seasonal, like they say, things will hopefully be looking up in the upcoming weeks.

Investigating...homeschool curriculum for next school year.  I got another homeschool catalog in the mail, and I've been flipping through the pages.  It's reminding me of how I used to love getting the JCPenney catalog, and Christian Book Distributor catalog, and American Girl catalog when I was a kid.  There is something fun about just flipping through a catalog.  I'm especially sad that the JcPenney catalog is no longer a thing (I don't think).  Do you remember how thick those books were?  I'd circle all the toys and clothes that I liked so my mom would know what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday.  Fun times.

Buying...Summer clothes for the kids.  I pulled out our tubs of summer clothes and sorted everything last week, and filled in a few gaps when Old Navy was having a 50% off sale.  I also ordered a couple fit 'n' flare dresses for myself, because they are perhaps the most perfect summer dress I've ever found.  More than other years, I'm looking forward to warm summer days, when hopefully the parks and libraries will be open again and Coronavirus Round One will, God willing, be behind us.  Remember at the beginning of March, when I complained that it was a boring month, and nothing fun ever happens?  I was right, nothing fun happened, but in retrospect, it can't be called a boring month, can it? I will never complain about a normal March again.

Reading...East Of Eden by John Steinbeck.  I was about to quit on it, because I was finding it a bit depressing, but the book hit it's stride.  Now I can't pick it up unless I'm willing to sacrifice a couple hours reading it, I'm really invested in the characters and can't put it down!


What are you all up to?

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.

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