Fells {English Memories}

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{Lake District, Cumbria, England, June 2016}

What is it about the English fells that captured my heart and built my faith so much? Perhaps it’s the barrenness of them, or the romantic sentiments attached to them from so many stories I’ve read by English authors? I’m not sure, but something about these hills meant so much to me and I will never forget them. At the risk of sounding overly sentimental (what, not me!?), they burned an indelible mark into my soul. There is something about lifting up my eyes to such hills, those airy, lonely, wilderness retreats that refreshes me, makes me dream, and lifts my heart out of heaviness. I’m so thankful my newer home area has many hills and valleys, making my heart sing, as I dream they are my very own fells.

“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”
― Robert Macfarlane (emphasis mine)

Here, here, and here – If you are interested, more about my 2016 England trip.

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Autumn 2017 – Our Favorite Books for Children & Young Adults

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This may seem like a massive list for just a few months of the year! We do enjoy our books, that’s for sure. However, remember there are eight people (well, my 3 year old didn’t say much) weighing in on their favorites for RIGHT now. They don’t necessarily have anything to do with autumn, just what each person is enjoying personally, some from our learning and others just for extra fun during this season. I tried to take photos of all the suggestions from my family for this list, but that didn’t work out (alas, real life), but I did some. I also added an age range, but honestly, we all love most of these. Hope you enjoy this list!

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay – Hilarious adventures of three friends who have a magical pudding that never runs out! Two nasty puddin’ thieves are after their treat. Wonderful rhymes and songs! (All ages! Australian Classic.)

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton – This is the first in a series and my 5 year old and I are very much enjoying this! Our copy has full page, lovely, colorful illustrations. This is the story of three children that find a magic tree that takes them to faraway, crazy, lands. They meet a host of fun friends, and some creatures they wish they HADN’T met! (10 and under)

 

 

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – a favorite reread here all around. (All ages!)

The Twenty- One Balloons by William Pène du Bois – the incredible story of a retired Professor who decides to take a balloon trip, ending up crashing on an island full of surprises. (All ages!)

American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg – this is well-loved favorite, especially the part about Paul Bunyan. (10 and younger)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer – We are really just in the beginning of this book, but my 12 year old and I are really enjoying it. It is sobering, yet heart-warming. We have really interesting discussion after reading. I’m editing just a wee touch as I read this out loud, but over all a engrossing story of a young man growing up in Malawi. (12 and older)

The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith – (*whispering* I find this series little simple and redundant.) My children, however, especially my boys, find the idea of warrior rabbits, fantastic! This is a prequel, I believe, to The Green Ember.  A certain boy is even getting a t-shirt from this series for Christmas. (10 and under)

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Knee-Knock Rise by Natalie Babbitt – My 8 year old and I are reading this together and so far it is a mysterious, interesting story about a boy Egan who travels to visit relatives. Everyone in the village lives in terror a menacing noise up the mountain, is Egan curious and brave enough to find out what’s up there? (10 and under)

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace – this is the fourth in this series and I’m looking foward to reading this with my 8 year old daughter. We’ve been slowly savoring these. Adventures of two friends and their families in a Midwestern town. She picked this before we’d even read it, because she really loves these! I’m going to hold off on the last four in the series as those are when Betsy and Tacy are older. We’ll pick up on those later. (10 and under)

The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – This was a sad, yet mystical story about a little girl and her parents during the Great Depression. A neighbor shares the story of a secret river full of fish, sending Calpurnia on an adventure to help her family and friends. We have the version with Leonard Weisgard’s illustrations and I think that adds a lot to this. (10 and under)

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The Book of Golden Deeds by Charlotte M. Yonge – A collection of stories of bravery and true courage. You won’t find any sports “heroes” in this book! Highly moving and challenging. My daughter and I have wonderful discussions on this title. Older language, just FYI. (12 and up)

The Story of John J. Audubon by Joan Howard – This is an interesting biography or historical fiction? (I can never tell), about Audubon. My daughter and I are really enjoying talking about it. ( 8 and up)

The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney – Interesting science behind clouds told in engaging way with folk lore, stories, and myths behind clouds. Good for discussions with older students, some adult- type topics in it, just FYI. (12 and up)

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Half Magic by Edward Eager – Three children find a magic pebble that gives you HALF of what you wish for…so be careful! This leads to hilarious situations! The children love this book. (All ages!)

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss – This is our summer read aloud that we didn’t finish and we are still very much enjoying it. Fantastic examples of what hard work and ingenuity can do. Great examples of a loving family environment. I think some of the situations in the story are a bit TOO convenient, but I didn’t mention that to the children, and they love the exotic animals, interesting houses, and adventures the Robinson family are having! Older language, just FYI. (All ages!)

Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards – yes, by THAT Julie Andrews. This started off slow for us, and some children were very frustrated and emotions ran high about certain parts of this book, that they actually wanted to quit! However, I pressed on with this one, because I had peeked ahead, and now they can’t get enough of it. Hopefully, they will enjoy the ending. (All ages!)

Honorable mention, not pictured:

The Dry Divide by Ralph Moody – this is the 7th book in the Ralph Moody Series which my husband has been reading in the evenings to the children. We love this rough and tumble true story of Ralph’s life.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – my oldest wanted me to include this series. We both enjoy fantasy and she read this series this autumn after it was recommended to her.

We read many picture books and my youngest has favorite board books, but I can’t get my head wrapped around our favorites in those areas right at the moment. I’ll let you know if any jump out at me.

Happy Reading! Please share if you have any favorites from these genres in the past few months!

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October Reads

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Lesser Ury (German, 1861-1931), Parisian Interior, 1881 {Google}

The weather is turning into a perfect blend of cold, misty, grayness. Perfect for reading, that is. Curling up with the hot coffee, quilts, and taking a deep sniff of those old books off of ones shelves is just about perfection here on earth, don’t you agree? I wanted to clear up something that came up on last month’s post. These posts list the books I’ve FINISHED that month. Maybe my title is a bit misleading, but many of these books I may have been reading for months, but I finished them up in the month I list them. I also had a request for listing the children/YA books we read here. I think I will try to do that quarterly. So be looking for an autumn children’s/YA book round up soon. Maybe later today if I can squeeze it in!

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper (*****) – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Those fictional journeys often speak into our reality. She is mainly speaking of this in regards to writing, fantasy, imagination, and especially the openness and wonder in children. I loved many of the ideas that I pulled from this reinforce Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on how young children need broad exposure to rich ideas from imaginative worlds, nature, myths, and legends. Although she is talking mainly from her perspective, there is so much in these essays that can span many experiences and situations. I really, really enjoyed this.

The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing  Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time by Sally Clarkson (*****) – As always, encouraging, idealistic, and something to aim towards. Clarkson’s books always make me so thankful for my life as a wife and mother. I know that some find Mrs. Clarkson a bit too idealistic, but I read once a quote somewhere on the topic of writing, “Don’t look at a wonderful writer and think that you will never be able to write like them, instead look at them and think I want to write like that.” I’m probably misquoting that and I don’t know who originally said it, but I take it as aim high, live your life to the fullest. Clarkson is that catalyst for me as a mother and friend, especially. I love her thoughts on hospitality and all the recipes in this book look simple, doable comfort food. I love her Scriptures and encouragement for my faith. She calls us high, yet shows us grace for weary times. I love her compassion towards times when things are chaotic and hard. I felt this strongly especially in this title and I loved her thoughts on young adult/adult children as I’m just entering that season. Overall, another favorite from Sally. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes.

Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe (***) – Basic, yet beautiful ideas about how to use journals as an important part of learning. This book is really nice if you need some fresh inspiration for nature, science, or common place journals.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt (****) – First of all, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. Really enjoyed this!

Anna Akhmatova (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets) by Anna Akmatova (****) – The notes at the end of this collection saved me a bit as I confess extreme ignorance about Russian history. I loved Akhmatova’s use of words, though. Sigh. Even though I didn’t always completely follow what subject she was touching on, I still loved her raw depth of emotion and the cadence. Some of her originality was probably lost in translation, but overall I just loved these.

The Silver Hand by Stephen R. Lawhead (*****) – This is the second in the Song of Albion series that my oldest and I started last month. Wow. This one was even better than the first. The two time-traveling Oxford post graduate students are now fully apart of the Celtic world of Albion, which is thrown into civil unrest at the murder of their king, Meldryn Mawr. Lewis or Llew, as he is now known by, finds himself in an important position, with insane odds stacked against him, that could affect the future of Albion.  I loved Tegid, the Bard character’s perspective, which this story is told mainly through. This is definitely for older young adults as it is very violent.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This was a comforting reread, and I loved it even more than the first time I read it. Three children are visiting their mysterious Uncle Merry Lyon, in a dusty old house on the Cornish coast. After finding an hidden entrance to an attic full of junk, a old map is discovered, and that’s the beginning of a dangerous, creepy, mission to find a missing grail. King Arthur, England, and scary evil henchman. Yes, thank you very much, Susan Cooper. Middle school on up!

Songs from the Slums by Toyohiko Kagawa (***) – Heart-wrenching poems from a Japanese minister who chose to live and work among the extreme poor of Japan’s slums.

Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World by Richard J. Foster (****) – 3.5 I believe the author is from a Quaker background and I found his outlook interesting.  I loved the first 3/4ths of this book, so much to think on and pray about. The emphasis really being getting our eyes off of ourselves and onto the Lord. The last fourth of the book was interesting, a kind of “Christian socialism” promoted. Some of it was good and it had elements of truth, but a bit formulaic and the author seemed a bit more “preachy”. Overall, an interesting read, full of food for thought.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and John (I honestly read John again at the same time I was in Ezekiel, as it is such a heavy book)

Care to share what you read this month?

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Daily Diary {Unit of Time}

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The Night School, Geritt Dou, 1660 {Google}

Chicken soup with veggies simmering on the stove, walnut chocolate chip brownies baking, and the chatter of voices drawing pictures.  Stirring the soup, I think through the day. The beginning was one of a brilliant, cold blue, sky with a orange-hued golden crust, the bottom resting on the black bottomless shadows of the horizon. Sipping a bit of soup, I gaze at the now. Popcorn scattered around, half dried laundry waiting, my Monday. Evening now upon us, soon children will be wrestled into their beds, the giggles, messes, and moments tucked away for tonight. Listening to Bing Crosby, youtube videos on how to dance “The Charleston” (don’t ask how we got on that!), discussions over Matthew, chapter 6 come to mind. First big snow showers (no accumulation to the chagrin of the children), chickens who are on strike due to the cold, and black, forlorn, frozen skeletons of dear cosmos waving an icy hand at me.  The smell of wood smoke as Noah stokes the furnace in the basement, the needle nose pliers out to fix the knob on the dryer, and knocking at the door, an organic certification lady to talk business with my husband. Leftover baked potatoes, steamy hot, sprinkle of cheese, pat of butter, salt and peppered. A bit of leftover chili with toasted sandwiches. Apple cores everywhere, a big load of seconds from a local orchard spilling, rolling, tumbling out over our porch, apple heaven, apple pie, and soon-to-be applesauce if I can get to it. Two book packages in the post, thumbing through them, hot coffee steaming, warming, caressing my face, words floating up from the pages. New to me writing podcast, delightful kindred moments as I chop veggies for the never-ending feasting, gratefulness for the bountiful life simmering just under the surface. Benjamin-Boy with his deep, chocolaty eyes twinkling at me, his lovely red sweater now out of blue tub, arms outstretched, crying for me, “Hold me, Mom!” Paintings radiating with light, stories on Johnny Appleseed, autumn poetry, and snuggles with Sam, reading his special him-and-me only book. Oh, there were the arguments too. Mini-trials of regular ‘ole life, if you will. The lack of eggs (don’t ask, refer to chicken strike above), doing what we ought when we don’t want to because it’s right (oh, boy, do I understand that one!), the crumbs, the massive laundry load, hurt feelings, tears, the smashed apple I just stepped in with my bare toes, and the general wild exuberance that frays the stoutest of nerves. Gladys Taber writes this and I thank her for it, this perspective, a glorious thing.

“What has my day been worth, this unit of time given to me? Possibly I said a comforting word where it was needed, or offered practical help to someone in trouble. Nothing world-shaking, to be sure. I cannot influence the world. I can only live every day as well as I can, keeping my home, cherishing my neighbors, helping in the community in a small way. But perhaps I have grown a little in understanding, patience, and loving-kindness. And perhaps I shall do better tomorrow, another precious unit of time.”

Stillmeadow Sampler

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Daily Diary (Sunday Wind)

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{Miles Davis goes well with these Ginger Snaps, just in case you ever wondered}

I crept out onto deck to escape the after lunch chatter, chili dishes being scraped to the last drop, sourdough bread sighed over. We stopped to pick it up from a grocery store bakery after church today. Everyone was in rapture over it. As I sat down on the bench, the gusty, lovely wind kissed my face, running its fingers though my hair. I closed my eyes and felt the glorious warmth blanket my face. The autumn colors are wooing us all, our drives to and fro becoming private Artist showings. I feel a prick of pain, heart and soul, as I know it will be all over much too soon. But never-mind that. I’m here now, aren’t I? And that prick was actually a wasp sting! Time to duck back into the house, supervising the meal clean up. Music playing, wind in the curtains, we get things generally put to rights. Annie and Noah head out with my father-in-law, Peter, and Amos in the rumbling, rusty farm truck, the “littles” staying home with me. I order them a dose of sunshine and then taking my own advice, grab coffee, with dash of half ‘n half, stack of books, a small quilt and head out myself. The wind hasn’t forgotten me, it’s welcoming as I sink back into the swing. What a perfect Sunday afternoon.

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Daily Diary {Autumn Breeze}

 

Just like that. The cooler weather is back. The countryside slides by, emerald green tinged with orange-hues, deep and rich, my windows down. The Amish are out splitting wood, mums and pumpkins appearing all over, this day gorgeous, breezy. It was clear with a few fluffy bits of white tickling the blue. Pink cosmos gaily dancing, smell of pears baking, this autumn feeling deserves a dessert. Tetleys in our cups, poured over sugar and cream, we read “The Children’s Hour”, such a lovely bit of poetry. We can imagine ourselves in the same exact situation with Mr. Longfellow, his sweet daughters clambering all over him. A bit of that lovely breeze tickles the red gingham curtains. I finally hemmed them up a year or so after buying the fabric. Something so simple, that brings so much joy. Since I’ve hung them we’ve admired the red glow, the breeze dancing with them, a kind of stop and think about it moment. Clothesline is flapping with towels, most the books are back in the basket for today, although Annie, Noah, Sam and I want to read Plutarch together. It may have been dubbed “Puketarch” a few times here, but the richness of language, characters have us returning. We always end up with bits of gold jumping out at us, surprise-like if we press through the difficulties. That’s life in a nutshell.

I’ve been missing my reading stack a bit, but I realized that I’m really enjoying all the books the children and I are reading together. I’ve been sneaking a peek of Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper here and there. The title is a bit misleading as it is so much more. Essays on imagination, reading, fantasy, writing, and too many interrelated ideas to count. It’s fascinating and inspiring. Poetry also has been a constant fount to draw on, soaking deep into the cracks. Abigail Carroll, Wordsworth, Mary Oliver, and most recently, new to me, pieces by Anna Akmatova. I’ve been dipping my toe into one of my favorite rereads during my current season of life, Bequest of Wings: A Family’s Pleasure with Books by Annis Duff. Inbetween the pencil sharpening, listening, cooking, and coffee sipping, her lovely words about this feast we are partaking warms me. It sets me to the grabbing of the next beloved book off the shelf, striking the match to light another candle, and ignoring the spider webs in favor of just one last chapter. Last night, my heart welled up as we sat, cozy under blankets, I just listening from my spot on the faded green couch. It was like they were coming alive. On their laps, pages open, was Rosemary Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of THE ILIAD and this led to many thoughts and ideas being slung back and forth. They touched on history, geography, morality, religion, art, helping one another, companionably arguing, thinking and hashing things out. I sat there, silent, stunned, learning and taking in so much. My heart sang as I read Mrs. Duff this morning on this very life of relationships. This relational life of the tears, the dishes, the beauty of seeing and knowing TOGETHER, of having others to share with the richness of words, nature, music, art. All of it intertwined, shining, sounding out a loving Creator Who is reaching out His hand to us all. The gift of this life is stunning and I can’t ignore it.

The sun slowly descends, I think of my chicken and vegetables waiting for their bed of rice, the hungry bellies to fill, another day coming to a close. Pajama-clad little ones, perhaps a bit of the Ralph Moody Series or Mandy by Julie Andrews, before climbing in our cozy beds for the evening.

Welcome, Autumn loveliness.

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Daily Diary {Humidity}

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Monday dawned as Monday is wont to do. We’ve had some unseasonably humid and hot weather, I shouldn’t say unseasonably actually, as that is unfair. Our area is known for all sorts of weather and I appreciate it’s variety as it graces me with autumn colors each year. For that I am grateful and content. The trees are frozen in their half change of color, waiting for the coolness to return. However, yesterday, I was melting a little, green skin, witch-y hat and all. We decided to use the cooler morning time for outdoor chores and playing, and attack the books in the afternoon. One of the many joys of home educating, flexibility and freedom.

However, sometimes it’s best to press through and follow a general rhythm, as any deviation from the set course of the ship is hard. It is difficult to turn this big vessel, with its many sailors, it is slow moving, cumbersome. It’s always a balance and risk to change anything. Noah, flour dusting his shirt, and Ella, with flour everywhere, decided to make eight loaves of bread before the deep midday heat hit. The smell was heavenly, yeasty, and homey, temperature of house rising. Our little window air conditioner was huffing and puffing, trying to blow the house cool. The other children were creating, playing outdoors, and yes, fighting. Ahh, real life.

We rallied a bit around lunch time, the kids opting for a Paddington meal of marmalade and bread, cold milk to wash it all down. I returned (again) to my healthier eating, baking some zucchini w/salsa and a bit of cheese, Greek yogurt and banana for dessert. We finished eating while giggling together at the silly poems from Sing a Song of Popcorn, lovely collection we are reading currently. Hiding in Amos’ office, I audio messaged a friend for a bit and we productively commiserated on all we had not yet got done, laughing. Technology is good for something.

Ben was put down for the nap he never took, instead we heard him talking and singing upstairs. We crunched the numbers, we scribbled the words, we read, I listened to various children’s narrations, and we worked on chores in the middle. Somewhere in the fray, I had a vague thought about laundry, but nothing ever materialized from that. Thankfully, I had remembered to thaw the ground turkey for dinner, although I am a professional at turning frozen hunks of meat into meals, no need for weightlifting here.

I received an email saying that piano lessons were canceled, a bit of relief to the afternoon. We watched a small portion of an naturalist talking about nature journaling on youtube and then headed out to sit under a tree to work on our nature drawings. Noah had a dead chipmunk that the cats had caught that he worked on sketching, while the rest of us worked on the life cycle of the monarch, holding our noses at the smell of the chipmunk. We had recently found a monarch caterpillar, the gift of watching it form its chrysalis, hatch, and then Phoebe saw it flutter away, all a thing of glorious beauty.

We worked on some Spanish, recited Isaiah 53, and noticing that the branches of our tree school room, were slowly starting to sway, we looked up to the sky. The hot, still afternoon slowly shifted to one of coolness, gusts of breeze, the wide expanse darkening to a deep blue-gray, angry looking. It added a lot of atmosphere to our continued reading of Saint George. We conferred on who would carry what if we needed to make a mad dash indoors and then enjoyed the refreshing breeze as we narrated to one another. “I felt a drop!” hollered Sam, various children dropping from their perches in the tree, like monkeys. Tin jar of colored pencils picked up, backpack of journals grabbed, and everyone laughing, giggling and scrambling for the door. The skies opened up as I reached the last step of our deck, Idlewild, and we shut it tight, we gazed at the deluge.

We finished reading a bit of history, shaking off the leaves and dirt. We packed up the books and started cleaning up the extra large mess from the weekend. I felt like I had lived a week in one day. Ha. But in that moment, the heavy, humid weight of my heart lifted, and a cool realization, damp and fresh, swept me. We had done it. We had walked through another day. We had steered our ship just a little bit more. We had moved forward together.

Late afternoon had its moments, of course. I won’t talk about the huge Nerf gun fights that ended in tears, popcorn messes, and arguments over media games. I made the spaghetti and salad for dinner, and then I may have shut myself tight up in my bedroom for a moment or two.  I gazed, my eyelids drooping, at these beautiful people, finishing the day reading a chapter of The Swiss Family Robinson, what an amazingly hard, yet beautiful Monday.

~

Daily Diary {School Daze}

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I pound down the stairs to the screams of multiple children, I enter the room dubbed “Lego Land” and find them wheeling a extra twin bed around with various appendages flying in all directions. Children on mattress joy rides. Can we call it Physical Education? Creative Expression Class? Anger Management? I calmly direct the mattress and WHOLE bed be put back, the LEGOS and other debris swept and children report the the table for lunch. Well, in my saintly dreams, anyway. I was frustrated and exasperated. It actually seemed like a perfect time for locking myself into my room with 14 bars of Hershey’s chocolate. Good thing I don’t have any. Good thing I’m self-disciplined and have good habits, Charlotte Mason, dear.

The morning started off slow, as I woke earlier than my alarm, mumbling about my traitor body that wouldn’t let me sleep another seven and half minutes. I turned it off and then went back to sleep. Disorientated about the light blinding me when it was suppose to be 5:00 am,  I stumbled out of bed, horrified at the late hour of 6:53 am, stared out my window, a deep, fog not unlike that of Barrow Downs hovered, one-eye half open, I started my life-giving brew, and sat down to check-in to the all-important internet world. My brain slowly unscrambled, a slight hum beginning to drift down from upstairs. Goodness. They’re awake. Those wild, crazy, lovely, delightful children of mine. My hubby bids me adieu and good luck. I barely turn from him when I feel the First-Tug-On-My-Sleeve of the day. It’s my three year old wanting me to read him a book. An hour later, I gulp a swig of cold coffee, put down the board books, boy, and realize that my oldest hasn’t stirred out of her room for KP duty. She is my Chief Oatmeal and Taco Maker.  Thank goodness gracious for her.

Well, with a morning that’s lagging a bit behind, one has to reevaluate. I’m outnumbered. Only one thing can be done to preserve whatever sanity one has left. You go slow, you hang laundry on the line to blow in the breeze, you turn on Rachmaninoff, you let boys build their battle fields, other kids draw, and you heat up your coffee, waving your white flag of Early-Start Surrender. I regrouped, and by regrouped I mean get dressed and brush one tooth. My oldest made delicious oatmeal, the table got cleared, and we were acting slightly more human-ish by now. A pile of apples and pears later (didn’t we just eat?), we attack copywork and maths. My daughter took one look at her towering stack of books, a slight shiver running down her back, and dug into it all. I’m the lucky one, really, I get to hear her narrations, have discussions, on all the interesting things she is reading. I get to hold the sticky, brown-sugar-y hands, get burdock out of curly hair, and clean up the little, darling toddler pants. They are urine drenched, but hey. I alternate sending children outside for fresh air (aka keep-mom-sane) and helping them each with their individual studies. I laugh with my middle son over the silly happenings in Twenty One Balloons by William Pène du Bois, talk Feudalism with another, and listen to piano being practiced.  My oldest son stabbed a few taters and threw them into the crock pot for lunch, Baked Potato Bar. This sounds more romantic than it is. Basically, hot potatoes with all the unwanted frig scraps on top. It feeds a crowd. Potatoes have kept whole country’s alive, surely they will do for seven people to survive a Thursday. After wrestling teens, toddlers, and table cleaners, (and finding out we cracked the poor old crock pot insert !), we settle down into our blissful messiness and enter other worlds together.

Flying, dipping, diving, we float through different stories, narrations, sharing, singing, and talking. Cain and Abel. “The Wreck of the Hesperus”. Abe Lincoln. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. The murderous mayhem and mattresses are forgotten, the piles of toys, crumbled bits, discarded clothing, and half-eaten, browning apple cores a distant (for the moment) memory. Our voices raised together, we sing the “Doxology”, we listen to a bit of Tanglewood Tales, we learn a little about architecture, our Constitution, and finally, we sit around planning story-inspired art that we are working on. The afternoon sun glows cheerfully, I fold some more laundry, hide for a bit in the basement near the washer, laundry is helpful like that, always waiting, always there for you. We make pancakes for dinner, little sailboats made out of plastic ice cream dishes and morning glory leaves are floated in the puddles, a few tears are shed over a sharp knife ban, and I breathe an exhausted thanks Heavenward . Thanks for these children, for a home, thanks for this life, Lord. A swirling daze are these home schooling days, but I wouldn’t trade ’em for the world.

~

Soup’s On

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The pungent odor, the juicy, crisp feel, onions sliced, dropped into the pot. The sizzling music plays as flavors meld together, spatula stirring and chopping ground turkey as it browns.

The pungent, slightly morbid poem “Adventures of Isabel” by Nash chuckled at over breakfast. Uncontrollable laughter over Carrie, the half talking cat in Lear’s Half Magic, dropped lightly into the mixture.

Plump, diced chunks of tomatoes. Thin, black beans, morsels of golden corn added with the onions and meat.

Dicey moments over proper way to make a basic dough. Guffaws breaking tension as full stick of butter falls on floor, face down, bits splattering. A quick clean up, stir of resolution and a pinch of lets-start-over thrown in.

Water running, water necessary for life, soup pot is filling. Spices to birth flavor, to compliment vegetables, meat, and bringing soul, depth to sustenance.

Stones and sand, water flowing over our mock little river bed, four boy eyes gazing at geology experiment. The flowing, flowing of life giving words from The Holy Bible, Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves, rushing, tumbling, swirling, compassion and interest about a boy in Malawi. Folk tales about Paul Bunyan and Babe, straighting out a road in Minnesota. Spice for the heart, soaking for the imagination.

The simmering. Hot heat on my hand as I gently stir. The patience and a light shake, bit o’ pepper and salt into it all.

Listening, answering, sowing, words, numbers, the scorching of being “on” all the time. Inner patience, cultivation of a restful heart silence even through the shaky hop, skip, and jump of relationships. Throwing in an extra measure of grace, knowing full well how truly much I’ve been given.

A smell so delicious sifts through the air. A simple table cloth, candles flickering, mismatched bowls catch the light. Hearty soup, bread, fresh stick of butter, the meal has been prepared. The mixing and simmering are in the background, the relationships are here all around.

Gather in closer, sip, lather your slice with creaminess, taste and see. A daily dance of living ingredients, slowness, humility, and astonished gratefulness.

~

Be It Ever So Humble

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There is no place like our little home of learning. Yes, we are returning to the book shelves, returning to an invitation to enter in. The rustles of paper, woodsy pencil smell mixed with burnt electrical odor drifting up from our faithful sharpener, and the back acres’ beckoning call. Embroidering little gifts for Grandparent’s Day and Christmas, enjoying a hilariously performed narration of Saint George of Merrie England, inhaling loaves of fresh bread, digging into their maths with happiness (how I have children that enjoy Mathematics is nothing short of miraculous, they are actually teaching me the fun of it), watching our Monarch caterpillar build its gorgeous chrysalis, and measuring, crisp ruler lines emerging, seeing little paper envelopes unfold.  Journals cracked open, new sketches join the old. Belly laughs over Edward Lear’s Half Magic, thoughtful discussions on silkworms, and diving back into the beauty, magic, and intrigue of history. Loreena McKennitt playing softly while morning breakfast is served.  Milk, walnuts, and brown sugar poured over hot oatmeal, salty popcorn for elevenses, tapers are out, for autumn is slowly approaching. Soup and chili are back on the dinner menu, thank goodness.

The ecstasy, the sheer delight of this privileged life I’m blessed with is true and it is here. I choose to see, I have to see it. I closely notice the green vine of it peeking up through the cracks. Because as the big picture flickers by, playing out a tense-feeling mother who is fumbling along, trying to help us all get back into a regular rhythm, the habits of what we ought to do versus what we would like to be doing. Or in reality, the tension of what I like to be doing versus what I ought to be doing. This is ministry at its finest. A ministry of listening, the ministry of time, a ministry of stories, a ministry of delicious meals, a ministry of love, compassion. It is the ministry of relationships, possibly the hardest thing of all. It’s the piles of overflowing laundry, the grocery shopping, the garbage, the lawn to be mowed, the appointments to make, the filthy floors, the beauty and beast of it all. 

In a few weeks, the flow, and the newness will even out, the three chocolate bar afternoons will end, and the semi-sanity will return. I will get gradually use to the indoor noise level again, the four-persons-asking-me questions at once, and the proverbial split milk, but now on top of someone’s copywork. The glorious thing is that as we soak all of this messy beauty in together, it begins to seep out in our stories,  our art, our conversations, it becomes part of us, it forms our relationships, it enriches us. It changes our path, informs our decisions, turns our hearts, hands Heavenward and outward. An unseen beautiful vine of love twining its way through our home. And that is worth every minute of it all.

 

~

 

August Reads

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Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in the Forest by Carl Larsson – 1881

What is on your reading stack?

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (*****) –  4.5 stars. I was extremely intrigued by the beautiful, minute, yet deep observations on nature and life. They were subtle, and I almost want to go back through this book and try to jot them all down for rainy day reviewing. The story was one of the exhausting, messy life it really is to make it as a scientist- weird, quirky, and a bit nuts. Besides the excessive use of the “F” word, this crazy, beautifully written memoir, was so interesting and inspiring no matter what line of work you are in. The vague, strange undefined friendship with Bill, her lab partner, was a bit hard to read and maddeningly endearing at the same time. The author ranted a bit too much about how bad she was treated as a woman in a science field, other than those few things, I really enjoyed it and now want to go plant a tree.

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute (*****)-  This beautiful story follows John Howard, a grieving 70 year old man, who escapes to a fishing vacation in France, after the death of his son in the RAF. It’s summer 1940 and he craves quiet, avoiding all the talk of war and death in England. Little does he know what he is headed for! This was a BEAUTIFUL, heart-wrenching tale that blessed the socks off of me. It was written in a plain, straight-forward style, and yet I was right there with Mr.Howard through every step of this extraordinary journey. The love and grace shown by him and others was an example to me of God’s unconditional love. I loved the children in this book and Mr. Howard’s treating them as people. One of my favorite books of the year so far!

News of the World by Paulette Jiles (****) – My sister recommended this to me and it was a sweet, yet sad story of a little girl who was captured by a Kiowa Indian tribe and it now being returned to her relatives many years later. Old Caption Kidd is commissioned with this task, and he funds their long journey by reading the news for .10 cents a person as they slowly trek across frontier Texas. This is a sobering read and brings to light the brutality of our country in those wild west days. Gun battles, primitive living, dangerous elements, and fiery political arguments following them as they fight to stay alive. The care and love that grow between the little girl and Kidd, who she begins to fondly refer to as Opa, is so heartwarming and I found this to be such a rewarding historical fiction, as I believe it’s based on some true facts.

Waking the Gods by Sylvian Neuvel – (***) 3.5 – fun, sci-fi with a creepy side to it. Written in an unique way through interviews, media reports, etc. This is a sequel to Sleeping Giants, which I read at the beginning of this year. If you are into alien invasion stories, these books are for you. I think there might be a third in the series coming as well.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – (****) I love the humanity of this book, Robinson’s writing humming with reality and depth of soul, these are real people to me. I found the questions of Reverend John Ames, his doubts, fears, and thoughts to be universal in their simplicity and complexity. I loved how the love for his wife and child were strongly FELT, even as he told. I enjoyed the town of Gilead, it’s smallness, again the feeling that it could have been me living here at that time in history.I enjoyed the generational lines to this book, the looking back and forward, deeply into the lives of these people, particularly the three ministers, grandfather, father, and son. Robinson definitely has strong views of her own, I feel like those come through in her writing, even though she tries to put “always questioning” spin on them. Her writing is just exquisite and the beauty is in it’s plain, straight-forward way of flowing. It took me awhile to read this, I hesitate to say this, since so many love it, and the Pulitzer Prize and all, but occasionally, I felt like it was trying to be beautiful, especially in the beginning, I struggled to fully get into it…, but when I hit 1/2 way, maybe even 3/4 of the way, I really started to appreciate it and see its richness. Lovely and I look forward to reading more of this author.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (*****) –  this book follows the story of 12 yo Douglas’ summer vacation in a small town during the late 1920’s. This book is so strangely weird and deeply beautifully, bordering on creepy at times. Bradbury does a wonderful job looking at life through the eyes of this extraordinary boy’s imagination and spin on things. The language and turns of phrase are unforgettable. I believe some of this might be inspired by Bradbury’s own childhood.

A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll (*****) – I found this delightful poet in an anthology, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been searching out her works and this is a lovely juxtaposition of the life of Saint Francis with Carroll’s modern life. I love the introduction she gives us to St. Francis and I love her jarring, beautiful, simple poetry. Go here to read some beautiful poetry.   

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (****) – Slight spoiler here, just FYI! This is a beautifully written story, touching a point in history (immigration of Spanish/Portuguese Jews to London due to the Inquisition, following through to the ravages of the plague on London) and historical characters that I knew nothing about. I’m still in awe over Kadish’s writing. Antique documents found in an old house, dusty caches of inked treasures drew me in. I don’t always love stories that jump from the past to the future and back again, but this was done well. So much rich detail, characters, and well-developed sense of place. Ester’s deep internal ramblings, along with Helen’s regret, and Aaron’s search all tie together well, occasionally some of their inner musings got a little muddled, but over all, interwoven so well. This felt slightly dark, chilly, and sad in so many ways, just all these people living in terrible fear, and the horror of persecution for beliefs. Little shafts of light shone through the darkness though and I appreciated those, because otherwise this would have been pretty heavy. The tension over the documents of antiquity found and studied by competing departments of the university was intriguing and kept me on my toes, I actually felt my fist clenching a bit as I read.

The ending was pretty predictable in regards to Helen, Aaron’s was not as clear, and Ester’s was a surprise. I felt saddened by the choices, viewpoints, and conclusions that the author comes to. I disliked the heavy immorality. Overall, this was an deep, fascinating read and one I will be thinking about for awhile.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin  (*****)- I loved this charming story of young Rebecca going to live with two spinster aunts who help her get an education. So sweet and I was enchanted by her and how she blessed the whole town.  I found the end of the potential romantic interest a bit jarring, weird, and unsatisfying for some reason. I saw a lot a reviews online saying that this obviously inspired Anne of Green Gables and I didn’t see that much at all! I was surprised because it seemed even to the point that people where alluding to Montgomery using a little too much inspiration, if you know what I mean. I can see similarities to Wiggin and Montgomery’s writing style and the story line of a young girl wanting to be a writer. Emily of New Moon is more similar in plot, than Anne! Anyway, this was just a pleasure to read.

Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery by L.M. Montgomery (***) – This is a small collection of her poetry, she was actually a very prolific poet. By her own admission, she did write poetry for the market, paying the bills, and you can see that in some of these. However, there are quite a few that were so lovely and blessed me so much. I could just breath the very things she was talking of in her poetry, while I was in P.E.I., since many are on nature.

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane (****) – This is such a hard book to describe in a good way. I loved this book. About sense of place, about people who’ve connected with their immediate surroundings and specific far-off places, and the history of place words. The importance of recognizing and keeping places in nature alive for family, the lore, legends, and special connections the words bring to these intimate geographical parts of our world. I’d say this is part travel log, part reading log, part naturalist memoir, part logophile’s dream. This mainly focuses on England/UK, but it is worth reading no matter where you live. I definitely plan on reading more of this author’s work.

The Alpine Path: The Story of my Career by L.M. Montgomery (****) – this is a short, simple biography touching on the main points of Montgomery’s career. I found this inspiring and lovely for anyone who loves writing and words, or who is just a fan of her beautiful stories.

Jurassic Park and Lost World by Michael Crichton (***) 3.5 – I found these entertaining and just ok for a light read. Definitely violent and a bit creepy. The huge sections on evolution felt clunky and out of place in the high action plot. I felt the first was TOO fast paced, the second was a better balance of action and dialogue.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, James, 1 Peter

~

 

 

Prince Edward Island to Hearth Ridge Farm: A Tension

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Here home again, bittersweet world of words.

Red-stained, Isle of blue-green,

Sail waiting to be unfurled.

Glints of gold on glass, mind’s-eye scene,

path of sunlight to horizon, quiet ease.

The din of loved ones, drowning

sea’s strong murmur. But I’ve a new lease, a fervor.

Responsibilities crashing loudly, crowning,

but a secret seeps from my

lapping lips, whispering of far-flung beauty sounding.

Out comes dunes, out comes brilliant sky,

Out comes red earth, surf, and seagull cry.

The thick worlds collide, my heart’s

isle and soul’s farm become intertwined.

Fingers stroke cheeks, sand grains left behind.

My breath is salty, pungent as I kiss

their darling, dirty faces, fists. The fields of corn,

waves of the sea, something missing and found in me.

Beacons, buoys, blueness, quintessential coastal horns,

sea in my lungs, earth in my throat,

compost of being, soul sea-soaked.

Farm’s beauty full width and breadth, feasting on, seeing

It’s flesh alive because of Island wind,

that died a death sown deep in me.

This old dirt-made woman, new from sweet saltiness of sea.

~