Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

The Wednesday Five | Vol. 12


A Quote

"Isn't there something in living dangerously?"
-Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

A Book

I started reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe - I've never read it, and it's referenced so often in American Culture, I figured I should read it to know what everyone is talking about.  It's so much more interesting than I originally thought it would be, kind of like East Of Eden was!  Don't be afraid of those big books, folks.  In my experience thus far, even big books typically have to be somewhat interesting to get published.

A Bit Of Nature



I'm trying to figure out what this bush is...it looks like a chokecherry bush to me.  We used to pick chokecherries growing up and make syrup out of them - I hope that's what it is!  I'm breaking out my plant guides later to confirm.

A Recommendation

If you have never heard of the Serial app, you should definitely check it out!  It breaks up classic books into 15-minute serials that are delivered to you each morning.  I think it makes those doorstops feel more manageable.  It's how I'm reading Uncle Tom's Cabin.  And the books are all free!

A Moment Of Happiness

We were at the Christian bookstore yesterday, and Wyatt spotted some devotional books that he wanted.  After I looked through them to make sure they were good, I offered to buy one of them for him.  He insisted on paying me back when we got home, but I honestly wasn't going to remind him.

Later that night, after bedtime, I was sitting in my chair, and Wyatt snuck out of his room and handed me a bill and a handful of coins to pay for his devotional, and then he asked me what time I usually get up to read the Bible.

I wrote about this last week, but I was about his age when I paid for my own first devotional book and started reading it along with my Bible daily.  I don't know if he heard me telling that story or not, but either way, I love that it was so important to him to buy the book himself and get on track with reading his Bible daily.  I love seeing him take initiative in his own godly habits and spiritual growth.

He gave me his squinty-eyed grin when I told him he could come read with me in the mornings, and it just warmed my heart so much.  I'm so proud of my boy.

The Wednesday Five | Vol. 11



Gracious, I've lost my blogging rhythm a bit.  When did I last write about something personal on here?  It's been a while, so I'm going to use The Wednesday Five format to get back into it this week.  You can read other Wednesday Five posts here, and feel free to join in if you want!

A Quote

"We're a violent people, Cal.  Does it seem strange to you that I include myself?  Maybe it's true that we are all descended from the restless, the nervous, the criminals, the arguers and brawlers, but also the brave and independent and generous.  If our ancestors had not been that, they would have stayed in their home plots in that other world, and starved over the squeezed-out soil...that's why I include myself.  We all have that heritage, no matter what land our father's left.  All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies.  It's a breed, selected out by accident.  And so we're over-brave and over-fearful - we're kind, and cruel as children.  We're over-friendly and at the same time frightened of strangers.  We boast and are impressed.  We're over-sentimental and realistic.  We are mundane and materialistic - and do you know what other nation acts for ideals?  We eat too much.  We have no taste, no sense of proportion.  We throw our energy about like waste.  In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture.  Can it be that our critics have not the key or language of our culture?  ...That's what we are, Cal, all of us.  You are not very different."
-East Of Eden, pg 568 (emphasis mine)

For some reason this little monologue in East Of Eden stood out to me when I read it a couple months ago, and I've been mulling it over a bit.  I don't know if I think Steinbeck got Americans exactly right, but in some senses I think he captured some of the spirit of America here.

The part that stands out to me right this minute is where he asks whether critics of our country fail to understand Americans because they don't have the key and language of our culture, and I think he got that right.  Ultimately what has tied us all together as a country, as Americans, for the last 244 years is our ideals - our ideals of freedom, and our efforts to reach toward those ideals even when we may have failed to live up to them.  We are a people tied together by a love of freedom, and a tenacious will to struggle and fight to achieve it, and to defend it whenever it is threatened.  I hope we always keep that.

I saw a random social media comment from a person in a country which shall remain nameless, who criticized Americans for "always thinking someone wants to take your freedom away".  It irked me to no end, just because of the sheer ignorance.  That's an example right there of someone who doesn't understand what America really is, who maybe never will, because she doesn't have "the key or language of our culture".

Okay, sorry for the lengthy aside there - it just happened!  On to the next category...

A Book

I've been reading books on alot of political topics lately, but I don't really want to talk about those, so I'm going to mention that I started Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb.  It's basically a memoir of a therapist who ends up needing therapy after a bad breakup.  I find the little tidbits about psychology interesting, and the author really knows how to tell an interesting story, so I kind of got sucked in.

A Bit Of Nature


This is from our trip to a little mountain stream a couple weeks ago - Clyde pointed out that the light playing on the water looked like a snakeskin - it kind of does, doesn't it?

A Recommendation

I recommend you get yourself over to Target, because they put out the school supplies in the dollar spot this week!  I got a bunch of good stuff that I might show over on Instagram.  I always look forward to raiding the dollar spot for homeschool stuff - all their little knick-knacks spark alot of homeschool ideas for me.

A Moment Of Happiness




Last week was our 12th wedding anniversary, and Derek and I were able to get away to a resort, thanks to my mom!  We had a nice time, and when we came back home the next day, Georgie ran up to me and said in her little baby voice "Mama, you're here!  I wuv you, Mama!  I wuv you so much!"

Oh my goodness, that girl.  I wuv her too.

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?


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.

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. 

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?

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?  

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?






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