System Status: First Quarter 2020

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“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

~ Emily Dickinson ~

What a quarter. What a year. What a couple of weeks. It’s all been crazy. I went into this year hoping it would be better…that maybe a new decade would signal better times to come. So far it hasn’t looked too promising…

January brought a trip to urgent care for both B and E. B fell off the back of a chair and ripped a hole in the back of his head that required stitches (thus the bandana on his head in the above picture). Poor little guy did so well, but it was obvious it was very painful for him. A week after that, we went to the Denver Art Museum to see the Monet exhibition which was VERY crowded, but also neat to see. Then a week after that, E was at the same urgent care facility for severe head pains and nausea. In the middle of all of this, we found out his dad died somewhat unexpectedly. And at after all of this, C turned six on January 30th.

The beginning of February brought the Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat at which I spoke for the first time this year on picture study. The rest of the month was fairly uneventful other than watching this epidemic start to spread and wondering how we could prepare.

And then there was March. E had a birthday and then the rest of the month, I’m sure, is not too different from yours. Lots of staying at home (though I’m thankful for technology which has allowed us to keep in touch with friends including doing our homeschool co-op over Zoom). Lots of reading the news. Lots of wondering how this is going to go.

And now on to the quarter…


Memoirs of Madame Vigee Lebrun by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun. This read like a who’s who of late 18th-/early 19th-century Europe. Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun left France just before the revolution began escalating and most likely none too soon. As the unofficial portraitist of Marie Antoinette, Lebrun’s head probably would not have been long for this world had she stayed. She wandered throughout Europe in the following years and ended up in St. Petersburg for 12 years where she became an intimate with aristocrats and royals, including Catherine the Great. I especially enjoyed that part as she wrote about a few of the palaces I visited when I was there and it was easy to picture them during Russia’s Golden Age. Later she returned to France, but then spent some years in England (again, painting royalty and the wives and mistresses of noblemen) before finally returning to France to finish her long life. Her memoirs and even her life have inspired various criticisms over the years…. she was vain and egocentric and enjoyed bragging about her success as a painter as well as the high-born friends she made. But I really just think she was sharing her story and I see this as an honest book. I do also think she was extremely talented and very over-looked in the world of art history, so her bragging was also not necessarily unfounded. 🙂 (MMD, 20RC)

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett. I love books about books, especially old books, so I was excited about this one. Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge about Shakespeare or something else, but I just did not enjoy this book. The story was okay, but the writing was just meh (of course he’s a published author and I am not, so I feel a little silly saying that….). I realized after I finished it that I tried to read another one of this books (First Impressions) not too long ago and had to put it down just a few pages in (I have a hard time with Jane Austen fan fiction). I also read another one of this books just a few years ago and wasn’t too impressed by that one either. I think he’s just not an author for me. (20RC)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I enjoyed this, though it can’t hold a candle to Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion, which remain my favorite Austens ever. (BC, MMD)

With B, I finished Swallows and Amazons and Ember Falls and he read My Side of the Mountain and Sarah, Plain and Tall to me (I kept picturing Christopher Walken and Glenn Close during his reading time). Right now, he’s reading The Adventures of Old Man Coyote to me and I’m reading Ember Rising to him.

With C, I finished Pippy Longstocking and we haven’t decided just yet what to read next.

I’m currently reading or listening to A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny, Emma by Jane Austen, Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer, Albrecht Durer by Jane Campbell Hutchison, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, and Home Education with my Charlotte Mason book group (though I’m not sure we’ll be meeting any time soon….).

2020 book challenges:

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 6/24

Back to the Classics (BC) – 1/12

Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD) – 9/12

20 for 20 Reading Challenge (20RC)- 3/20


Plant Therapy. I’m not really an essential oil person in that I do not sell them and I can’t whip out the right one for any situation imaginable. However, I do like how they make my home smell when I diffuse them and I believe that they can be beneficial to health in other ways as well. I was introduced to Plant Therapy a few years ago through a bundle sale and recently decided to take another look at their offerings when I was wanting to find a four thieves blend that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I found their Germ Fighter blend, but then dove a little deeper and discovered that not all essential oils are safe for kids (including this blend). Fortunately, they offer an entire line of kid-safe oils and blends (and they label all of their other EOs with their KidSafe logo) and I ended up getting a bottle of Germ Destroyer instead. I loved it so much that a week or so later, I picked up some Anti Age synergy blend to use with Younger Glo in my nighttime facial routine. Their shipping is free and very fast, they have a subscription service (with a 5% discount) as well as a rewards program, and Rakuten is offering 7.5% back on purchases from their website right now. I’m happy to say that I’ve found a new, high-quality, but affordable, source for essential oils! (You can also get 10% off your first order!)

My Neighbor Totoro. I’m a huge Miyazaki fan and E and I watched this years and years ago. We decided to watch it again with the kids recently and they absolutely loved it. We now have about a million Totoro (and cat bus) drawings floating around the house and it was perfect timing as we’ve definitely been watching more movies lately.

Storage Baskets, Draw Organizers, and Blind Cleaners. Partially because it’s spring, partially because there’s an epidemic going on, and partially because I’m stuck in my house, I’ve been on an organizing kick. These are a few things I’ve picked up that have made that job a little easier and more enjoyable.

Taste of Life. For local friends, I can’t recommend this little business enough. They offer ready-made meals (many gluten-free options!) at very good prices that you can pick up at their store in Monument (some of their meals are also sold at Natural Grocers). I bought a bunch of meals a few weeks ago and we’ve been using this as our “eat out” option during the epidemic when I need a break from cooking. It’s been soooooo convenient and the ladies are also very kind there. 🙂

Around the Internet

Going forward, I’m sharing links I find around the internet in my weekend entertainment posts!

On the Blog

Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten -

Charlotte Mason Picture Study Aid: Claude Monet A picture study aid (and prints!) for Claude Monet is up in the shop!

PNEU Programme 94 Form I Book List A list of the books from the 1922 PNEU schedule, including links to online version and modern reprints.

2020 Reading Challenges The Back to the Classics Challenge category for 2020 was posted in early January, so I added more books to my reading goals for the year.

The Loaves and Fishes of Motherhood My thoughts on how motherhood relates to the story of Jesus feeding the thousands with just a few loaves of bread and some fishes.

Weeknight Real Food Recipes My little collection of weeknight-friendly recipes!

CMER 2020 Reflections (and Charlotte Mason’s Principle #4) Thoughts from this year’s Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat.

Messiah: Lenten Art Devotions A new Lenten picture study devotional is in the shop!

Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten Curriculum (Free Booklist!) The newest version of the Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten Curriculum is available!

Charlotte Mason Picture Study Aid: J. M. W. Turner The last picture study aid for the AmblesideOnline 2019-2020 school year is ready for download!

Junior Ranger Badges to Earn at Home 47 Junior Ranger badges from the National Park Service that you can earn at home!

Charlotte Mason Picture Study Video: Vincent van Gogh’s “The Bedroom” A video picture study covering Vincent van Gogh’s “The Bedroom.”

In the Shop

I added a few new products to the shop this quarter including a new, colorful mug option, the latest version of the Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten Curriculum, Lent Art Devotions, and a new picture study aid for Claude Monet!

Bird Sightings

Male Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

The summer birds are slowly making their way north and we had our first robin sighting a few weeks ago. Several mountain bluebird couples were checking out our shed boxes about a week or so ago, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of interest as they haven’t been as active in the last few days. Our resident house wren should be back within the next few weeks to claim his box again and we’re hoping the tree swallows are back after they skipped last year. The two years before that, we had a pole up that was about six feet from the boxes and they used that for mating and perching, but we didn’t put it out last year so we suspect that may have been the problem. The pole is back this year and waiting for them.

I also saw a few grackles last week, but otherwise it’s still our standard house finches, collared-doves, and juncos (more on the ground) at the feeders. April 15th is hummingbird day! I need to get a new hummingbird feeder.

And there you have the state of me!

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  1. I love seeing the books you are reading and the birds. The books are similar to what we are reading, but the birds are always somewhat different from what we have in PA. I remember watching the Sarah Plain and Tall Glenn Close movie that my mom rented from the library on VHS, and when I made my huge list of movies based on books, I saw it was available on YouTube . . . maybe you guys can enjoy it.

    Also, fyi, I have been regularly commenting, but my comments were being blocked by askimet spam filter. I think I got them to fix the program so fingers crossed this one goes through 😉

    1. I like to see birds in other places as well. 🙂 When we take roadtrips, it’s always interesting to see what lives in other places that we don’t have here….like cardinals! We saw them when we were in Arizona a few years ago and I grew up with them in Minnesota, but they’re not here in Colorado. And I shared your big movie list in my newsletter! Thank you for putting that together! I’m sorry the comments weren’t working. 🙁 I had no idea but I’m glad this one seems to have gone through!

  2. I’m not an essential oil fanatic, but we use Plant Therapy too! Ran out of Germ Fighter a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to put in an order. Thanks for the reminder. ? I love that I can even get free shipping to Canada (on orders of $50 or more)…although we only get 3.75% back at

    1. Normally we only get 3.5% back from Rakuten from PT, so I’m taking advantage of it while it lasts! They are a great little company, from what I’ve read….I really appreciate all they’ve been doing for their community during the epidemic!

  3. We have been listening to Dan Mohler’s Kingdom Living podcast, and it has been so beautiful to see how the Lord has been building us strong before these storms have come against us. I’m incredibly thankful that the Lord can redeems what the enemy throws against us! The Lord has not give us a spirit of fear but one of power, of love, and of a sound mind. It’s not just a comforting verse to repeat to ourselves, but truth. I’d highly recommend you listen in on Google podcasts! (I haven’t found it available anywhere else.)

    1. Thank you for that suggestion!

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