Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Books

I love reading booklists. They always inspire me to put a few new titles on my To Be Read list. I've read the end-of-year book reviews by several bloggers for several years, and this year I am inspired to do the same. It's nice to look back at what I've read and consider how those books impacted me. So, here we go. My year in books:

Book that made me laugh out loud: Honestly, for the life of me, I cannot remember if I read this at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013, but either way, it's the one that stands out for having given me the giggles: The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond. I adore that woman's blog and the book was just like chatting with a funny friend. But I have to admit, I cannot get with her on her TV show. Somehow, her perky personality that shines through on her blog and in her book just fizzles on screen. If you've never visited her cooking blog, well, you are seriously missing out! Go. Now. And read this book. Hilarious.

Best Parenting Book: Toss-up between Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen and--please don't throw stones at me for this--A Love that Multiplies: An Up-Close View of How They Make It Work by Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar. The first is excellently cerebral and requires much digestion and cultural introspection. It challenges modern American parenting on many levels. Well worth working through. The second provided an interesting glimpse into the Duggar's child-rearing philosophies and house rules. While I don't agree with them on everything, I find them intriguing and admire their ability to maintain such a tight-knit family. This book provided ample discussion opportunities with my husband. (He didn't read it. The Duggars don't interest him like they do me. But I couldn't wait to pick his brain about it every day--just what he wanted to talk about after work, I'm sure :) Love you, honey.)

Book that Surprised me the most: Too Jewish: The Powerful Love Story of a Jewish-American Family by Patty Friedmann. I got a Kindle for Christmas and immediately went looking for a free title from Amazon Prime's lending library. I randomly chose this one. It proved to be a fascinating glimpse into a sector of America that's kind of hidden to most of us. Also, it had an ending that I really was not expecting, so it literally took me by surprise. I kept pulling for this family the whole way through...

Best Spiritual/Religious Book: Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life by Elizabeth Scalia. Boy howdy, I didn't realize how many modern-day idols I'd built for myself. This book challenged me to look at many, many aspects of my life. A little uncomfortable at times...

Best old book revisited: I re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series this summer. Mostly I felt 12 again, which was fun, but the later books in the series--the ones where Anne is married with children of her own-- resonated with me in a whole new way than they did when I was a pre-teen. Imagine that. Anne's House of Dreams actually made me cry this time through.

Best Fiction: I was a little late to the Hunger Games party, but once I started this series, I couldn't put it down. Honestly, I don't know how my children were fed and bathed while I binged on these books, but they seem to have survived the experience... Admittedly, the first in the series was the best, but I still couldn't look away from the other 2.

Best Nonfiction: Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. You probably saw the movie years ago. It was good. But not as good as the book. Compelling read.

Best YA book: Little Britches: Father and I were Ranchers by Ralph Moody. I previewed this book for the boys, and then handed it to my husband to read aloud with them in the evenings. I enjoyed it. They enjoyed it. If you've never heard of Little Britches, I'd highly recommend, especially for boys and their dads. It was always a treat to eavesdrop on their evening sessions, the questions the boys would ask, the things their dad would say...
*edited to add: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. Excellent story weaving together the lives of 2 different children from different times in Sudan. I was previewing for my 10 yr old, but he's a little too sensitive for this book this year. Definitely will have him read it when he's ready.

Best children's book: This was the year our family discovered the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems. We haven't come home from the library since without at least one E&P book in tow. These books make everyone in the family giggle, and my older kids enjoy reading them to the younger ones, so it's great bonding material in our house.

How about you? Any good books that I should add to my TBR list? Leave your suggestions in the comment box. Always looking for good books.

Here's to good reading in 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mountain Madness

What?!? Another blog post? Somebody must have suddenly found herself with some free time. Some post-holiday, post-moving extra bit of time on her hands...

I have to admit here that I'm still not used to my husband having time off. For the last few years, that hasn't really happened much. This year, he had the entire week of Christmas off and we had big plans to take the kids to the mountains for some sledding. The weather wasn't cooperating well, though, and several days in a row we chickened out of tackling the outing with subzero and single digit temps. I know. Wimps. Our time outside Alaska made us a little soft.

Finally, Saturday warmed up to double digits so we quickly piled the sleds and snow gear into the back of the van, loaded up the thermos with some hot chocolate, threw together a couple pbj sammies, and headed up the mountain.

Apparently, we weren't the only family with such a great idea. That hill was crazy, yo. His first run down, Ziven decided the top of the run looked ever so enticing.

  After hauling himself to the pinnacle, he proceeded down the slope with so much speed, he flipped head over heels in a spectacular crash. Or so I'm told. Thankfully, I didn't see the actual crash--I was still getting Tola dressed back at the car--but the scratches on his face and his wet hair told me enough.

We all agreed that halfway up, or maybe 3/4, was perhaps smarter, and we made it through the rest of the outing without any further crash-and-burn episodes. Hallelujah!

Mostly I stayed at the bottom of the hill calling out "watch out!" like a madwoman every time a kid came careening down from the top of the hill with zero control over his sled and the direction it was heading--usually toward a couple of kids still trying to get their feet under them and stand up after their own wild ride.

It was pure madness on that mountain. And maybe that's why the kids are so eager to return again. After all, we all need a little madness in our lives ;)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

And So Merry Christmas

first, the nice one... or at least the one where all 4 were kind of looking at the camera.

Somehow, Christmas more than any other holiday makes me pause and consider the passage of time. Perhaps it's the infant Jesus wrapped in those swaddling clothes, lying in his manger or in his mother's arms. Maybe it's the sentimental music that envelops us everywhere we go. And maybe it's just the time of year for introspection and looking back... But celebrating the birth of our Savior makes me pause and count my blessings; it makes me want to stop time and live fully in this moment. Forever. Every year, I try to etch the children in my mind just as they are right now. They will never be just this same again. And Christmas, though much the same year after year, is always new. It's that newness in the midst of the year growing old that brings such joy. We wish you all the happiness and blessings this Season brings. Merry Christmas! (and I can still say that on Dec 28th because it's still Christmas--the 4th day)

...and then one of the many outtakes...

'Tis the Season

Mostly December went by in a blink. It was Ziven's birthday, and then suddenly, Christmas. The weeks between were packed with recitals and parties and getting-ready-for-Christmassing. See?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Ten. Ten, people. TEN!!! It's such a big milestone. Where did the time go? I'm so proud to be your mama and I couldn't imagine my life without you. So, for your 10th birthday, 10 things we love about our Ziven:

1. You are curious. Endless questions since you could string together 2 words. You want to know Why and How and What...You want to know as much about the world around you as you can.

2. You are honest. You want to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

3. You have a heart for the less fortunate. Your heart bleeds for anyone you see or hear of in need and you want to find ways to help.

4. You have a wonderful imagination. You love to tell stories and you keep your brothers entertained with your yarns in the car, on walks, riding your bikes...

5. You love to read and be read to. Stories are important to you, and we love that you still like to snuggle up to read with us.

6. You have such love for God and all of His creation.

7. You are protective. You watch out for your younger siblings, don't want anything to hurt them. And you're our go-to man to check the locks at night.

8. You are funny. You are developing your own sense of humor, and quite often, it's subtle. You delight in sharing a good joke with you dad.

9. You are helpful. You are always willing to lend a hand and ask what you can do to help.

10. You are YOU. And we love you ever so much.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} Reindeer farm edition


The sun breaking out behind the mountain at the reindeer farm.


Tait loved the baby bunnies. He tried to talk me into bringing one home. I'm afraid bunnies would be bound for the stew pot at our house...


This moose eats bananas from your mouth! I was laughing so hard when Tait's preschool teacher did it that I nearly missed the photo...And apparently, I did entirely miss Ollie taking his turn!
Moose kiss, anyone?


Look at my couch, yo! This was a freebie last year when we moved. It didn't come to us with its arm flapping in the breeze like that, mind you. It did have a teeny tiny threadbare spot on the top of the arm. That my darling 2 year old discovered she could wiggle her teeny tiny little finger into and enlarge by degrees until shazam! One day she could get her whole hand in there. And then with one quick downward motion, she ripped that baby off! I'd like to say it happened just a few days ago, but since we're keeping it real here, I'll *blush* admit it was 2 months ago. Eek! Maybe it's time to find that roll of duct tape...

Linking up at Like Mother, Like Daughter today.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In which I confess that I am not, after all, superwoman

{Part 1 of 2}

Would you believe that I heard this exact phrase--or nearly so-- more than 3 times last week?

"I think homeschooling moms are either Superwoman or they are crazy!"

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume these women were not lumping me in with the Crazies. (Or maybe they were, but for now I'll pretend they were standing in awe rather in terror...) I think they were suggesting maybe I'm of the Superwoman variety. *Blush* How kind of you. And how very wrong. I am not Superwoman. Most homeschooling mamas I know are not Superwoman. The vast majority of us are just regular mamas with faults and shortcomings that homeschooling actually highlights and brings into sharp focus.

Oh, I've learned much about myself along the way, and it hasn't all been pretty. Contrary to your vision of me donning spandex and a cape each day, most mornings find me scrambling to print out that day's math assignment and figuring out just what we are going to do for writing that day. If you interrupt this process or try to talk with me before I've finished my cup of coffee, you may get your head bitten off. Fair warning. I'm organized enough to have a general idea of what we're doing for the week and a skeleton of what this year might look like, though that's subject to change--but I'm nowhere near as organized as a classroom teacher has to be. I don't have daily lesson plans. I don't have lesson plans at all. I don't do art if I can help it. Messy science experiments I prefer to save for the summer months when they can be accomplished purely outdoors.


And please, I beg of you, in the name of all that is Holy, do not unexpectedly drop by my house unannounced at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, or you will be greeted by something resembling the following scene, which will dispel once and for all the notion that I am superwoman, (but may serve to solidify the crazy part of the equation): The 2 year old is standing at the sink washing her hands, which she has been doing for the past half hour. She is soaked, and water puddles on the chair she is standing on and on the floor beneath her. The floor also happens to be littered with nuts and raisins from her previous activity, sorting trail mix. (That's what I like to call it, anyway, as it sounds better than "picking through to find the M&Ms.") The nifty little table activity I set out to keep her busy while I did 2nd grade math has long been abandoned for the greener pastures of free-ranging in the kitchen.

The preschooler has erected a massive fort in the living room, with blankets strewn everywhere. I'm pretty sure he's inside one of those tents because I hear the sounds of Minion Rush on the iPad coming from that direction. The 4th grader keeps trying to sneak over there to watch, abandoning his work on the computer. After a couple of fits of temper, the 2nd grader and I finally make it through an entire math lesson with only a few tears being shed. (Mine or his, I'm not sure. Depends on the day.) When I finally get up to dry the toddler and the kitchen floor, everyone else seems to think this is code for "quick! hit the Legos! It's free time!" I'm pretty sure I've given each of them a checklist for the morning, and I'm pretty certain those haven't been done and even more certain they don't contain the imperative to "play with Legos." In desperation, I put on a video for the under 6 crowd--something "educational", of course-- so we can have half an hour to work on Geography.

So if this, dear friend, is your vision of what Superwoman looks like, then I'll accept your compliment with thanks. And if it's your idea of crazy, well, sometimes it feels that way to me, too. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go remove this cape. It's time to make dinner.

Friday, October 11, 2013

7 quick takes ed. 1: end of fall, wacky schedules, and dog poop

Jen over at Conversion Diary hosts 7 quick takes Friday. You can click over there if you'd like. I'm not linking up over there, but wanted to give credit where it was due. 


My dog is pooping in the house. And in the car. Aside from being disgusting, it's sad. He's 14. We may be facing the end here, folks. I'm sure when I'm the ripe old age of 98, I won't have very good control over my bowels, either. *sigh*


The trees went from green to yellow to bare in the space of 2 weeks. Fall is nearing its end here in the far north. The snow is steadily creeping down the mountains surrounding us. It's a matter of weeks or days before we are locked in winter's grip. I'm hoping for weeks. The kids are rooting for days...


My husband's new work schedule--3 weeks on, 1 week off-- gives our family a little mini-vacation every month. Which has its ups, don't get me wrong. But you know that readjustment period directly following a vacay? Those few days (or a full week) when everyone is a little grumpy and things are a little off? Yup, I think we have that to look forward to once a month, too.


We joined a gym. I've actually been going faithfully. I have found a new love for spinning. Except the seats on those bikes are, in my opinion, unneccessarily hard. Do you think anyone would notice if I wore bubble wrap under my shorts?


My wonderful husband has taken over all of the laundry. All of it. I've never been very good with laundry. Well, I've always been pretty good about putting dirty clothes in the washer. Not as good at getting those transferred over to the dryer. Let's just say I had to usually sometimes run the same load through a second wash to get rid of the stale washer odor they accumulated from sitting there a wee bit too long. I was even worse at retrieving clean, dry loads from the dryer and folding them. We often had to hunt down clean socks from the dryer. But now my dear husband does a load each night. And if it wasn't enough that he gets up at 5 am for work, he now gets up at 5 am, throws clothes in the dryer, and has them folded before he leaves before work and, I'll admit it, before I'm even awake for the day...Whata guy!


Quite possibly, Bob the Builder may be the only reason I'm able to get more than just a little school work done with the older boys on most days.


I think perhaps the fact that I now have all 4 of my children sleeping mostly through the night mostly in their own beds has spoiled my ability to function on little to no sleep. I've had a few sleepless nights over the past few weeks with the kids and husband keeping me awake with this terrible cough that just.keeps.hanging.on and I find my ability to function well and maintain a pleasant demeanor has been severely impaired!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}


The tundra in fall. Our fall colors are a little closer to the ground.


Enjoying a sun-filled fall day.


Well, okay, not so much funny. More like cute. I love how she's pulling on her dress while big brother reads to her. 


Our 2 new appliances. The coffee maker broke down months ago and we finally got tired of boiling water to use the french press. And our Crock Pot got lost in last year's move, and I wasn't prepared to go another winter without one. I've been putting this one to use making luscious steel-cut oats for us while we sleep. All the ingredients go in a steel bowl that goes inside the crockpot, which gets partly filled with hot water--creating a "double boiler" effect that perfectly cooks those oats overnight. 


Friday, October 4, 2013


A montage of our summer days spent at Oma and Papa's house. We were there for 4 months while we waited for Daddy to get back from Afghanistan, and I had a new camera, so there are many, many pictures. And I'm just getting my feet wet with processing and editing and uploading and downloading... I think after this labor of love, I need a nap! Or a glass of wine.

*edited to add: if you click on the image, the collage will enlarge.