System Status: Fourth Quarter 2018

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What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.

~The Year, Ella Wheeler Wilcox~

And so I took most of December off from blogging, which I’m actually okay with. It’s not good practice in terms of being a proper blogger, but then I’ve never really considered myself a proper blogger, so there you go. 🙂

Happy new year! 2018 was kind of a status quo year for us, which I’m also okay with. 2016 and 2017 were pretty bad, so an uneventful year was a welcome change. I hesitate to say that I’m feeling good about 2019 because I feel I’m tempting fate to respond with, “hah! think again!” so I’ll just say that I’m thankful nothing spectacularly awful happened in 2018 and hope for the same in 2019. And that sums up my feelings/hopes/plans/resolutions for the new year!

The last quarter was quiet. We plugged away at school, went to co-op (with goats), ended our first term and began our second term, and went on a few hikes, including Roxborough State Park, Staunton State Park, and Castlewood Canyon State Park (I’m getting good use of the state parks pass this year!). We also went to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic in November to see them perform Peter and the Wolf.

E and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary on November 6th with voting, pho, cupcakes, and a visit to the golf course where we got married, a tradition we’ve done every single year except last year when we had to put our 20-year-old cat to sleep the same day we celebrated 13 years (so really, not much celebrating happened). His mom also flew out to stay with us a few days over Thanksgiving and I did not poison her or anyone else with my cooking, so I count that as a success. 🙂

In December, we went through our Advent and Jesse Tree traditions again this year and even got a Christmas tree 2.5 weeks before Christmas….kind of a record as in recent years, we’ve only been getting it about a week before the big day. We also kept it up until the 29th…again, kind of out of the ordinary for us as we normally take it and all other Christmas decorations down on the 26th. I think these events reflect maybe a lighter mood this year…at least, I hope so. Christmas was just the four of us, no snow, Buche de Noel, and lots of gifts. All around, it was uneventful, but again…I’m not complaining!

Our Christmas gift to B was a hamster who has been christened ‘Hamlet.’ The cats haven’t eaten him yet…..fingers crossed on that front.

In the end of of the fourth quarter I was into….


It was a mad dash for me at the end of the year to reach my goal of 36 books for the year. I did make it, but not without some caveats which I’ll expand on in my reading recap and refresh post next week. For now, I’ll finish off the year….

I read Vermeer: A View of Delft by Anthony Bailey which was for both the picture study aid and my piece for Common Place Quarterly. I think this was well-researched and well-written and started off very compelling, but then I had a hard time keeping my mind on it after the first few chapters. I did learn a great deal about his life…or at least, the facts around his life as there aren’t many known facts about him. Most of what I had read about him prior to this was really only about his probable use of a camera obscura or some other apparatus to make his paintings, so this was refreshing in that it focused on his life and had just a tiny bit about technique. I read this for the biography/historical account category in the Modern Classics Challenge.

I also read State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I didn’t like this as much as Bel Canto, her more well-known book, but she still doesn’t fail to deliver a great story. I also thought it was interesting, given how money-crazed our world is and how much money there is to be made in pharmaceuticals, that Dr. Swenson chose to go the route she did. And, of course, it was also fun to take a (brief) visit to the Twin Cities, where I grew up. 🙂 I read this for the fiction category in the Modern Classics Challenge.

It took me most of the year, but I also finished Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and I absolutely loved it. I feel like this is the type of book that I should probably read once every year so that I can take it all in fully. There were disciplines that I didn’t quite understand, though I tried and re-read paragraphs many times. And then there were disciplines that resonated with me so deeply that I found myself reading the words out loud before I underlined and highlighted and book darted them. 🙂 Again, this was another book that I was not expecting to like based on the title. And again, despite the title, it was a book that was very profound to me and that I am so very thankful I read. I read this for the non-fiction category in the Modern Classics Challenge.

Continuing on in the Kristin Lavransdatter epic, I read The Wife by Sigrid Unset, which is the second book in the series. I read the first book last year and didn’t enjoy this one as much. I think I’m having a hard time following all of the political problems. It’s still well-written and obviously well-researched so not understanding it is most likely due to reader error. ? I haven’t decided if I’m going to read the next one this year or not….they’re just difficult for me to get through. I read this for the classic in translation category in the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Amazing myself, I managed to finish The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, even though I started the audiobook version on a whim when I was folding laundry one day. This was my first Twain ever…apparently I missed that rite of passage in high school and it was entertaining, but not a favorite. I read this for the classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction category in the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Between Christmas and the New Year, I treated myself with Kate Atkinson’s newest book, Transcription. Life After Life is one of my favorite books and I’ve looked for that same magic in all of her other books. While I didn’t like this one as much as that one, it was still a good, quick read.

At my monthly Charlotte Mason book group a month or two ago, someone asked me if I was an Enneagram type 6. This is the second time that’s been suggested to me and so I thought I might figure out what all this Enneagram stuff is about. Leigh Kramer recommends The Enneagram Made Easy on her website, so I flew through that over the holidays as well. I still can’t figure out if I’m a type 4 (as all my test results are saying) or a 6 (because ANXIETY is my constant companion), but at least I know what that even means now!

I also finished Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves! Finally! I started this 2.5 years ago when I first began attending the monthly book group, but as I joined midway through the year, they had already read half the book. I picked it up again earlier this year to read during my morning devotional/reading/quiet time and finished it two days before the end of the year. I really liked this. I’m not much for allegories, but I still appreciated all of the wisdom she shares using that method.

B and I also finished Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (this book always makes me want to cook) and Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (I was surprised at how much I loved this book). Right now we’re reading Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney.

I’m currently reading about a million books in hopes that I can meet my goal not at the very end of the year again! These include My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren, The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde, and Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason with my book group.

2018 book challenges final numbers:

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 36/36

Back to the Classics (BC) – 9/12

Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD) – 9/12

Modern Classics Challenge (MC) – 11/12

If you’d like to follow along with my book reading adventures, you can find me on Goodreads!


We watched quite a few different things this quarter thanks to various shows coming back. My friend Meg and I resumed our weekly iMessage dates to watch Poldark “together.” The plot is getting a little redundant so I think it’s good the show is ending next year. We’ll resume our weekly dates again in April (maybe?) when Call the Midwife returns.

E and I tried to watch season 3 of The Man in the High Castle, but I couldn’t even get through the third or fourth episode due to content. I don’t recommend the series anymore. While we were waiting for the next season of Travelers, we got through the first season of The Tick in a few nights, which we both really liked (I was pretty skeptical). Season 3 of Travelers took a few episodes for us to really get into, and then ended horribly (in a very-interesting-story kind of way). Neither of these have been renewed yet, but I’m hoping they will be.

We also watched a few episodes of Adam Ruins Everything, which is very interesting, though I don’t necessarily agree with every claim he makes on the show. Randomly, we caught the fifth series of The Great British Baking Show which made us really want to bake things and we both enjoyed more than I thought we ever would a show about baking.

And, of course, we’re all caught up on our broadcast tv shows: The Good Place, The Goldbergs, and Shark Tank.

On the movie front, we managed to get quite a few in, though none in the theater. We rented Solo (good for a movie but not particularly Star Wars-y), Ant-Man and the Wasp (funny!), Mission Impossible: Fallout (predictable and not particularly memorable), and Gravity (very good – the ending was not what I expected).

One night while I was folding laundry, I, for some reason, decided to put on The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. I had an honors professor in college who was a little obsessed with the Coen brothers and made us watch several of their movies in class. And, of course, when I moved from Minnesota to Colorado in 1996, everyone had to mention Fargo (and the ACCENT) when they found out where I was from. I don’t really like their movies all that much, but they do have a certain kind of…thoughtfulness to them. This one followed suit.


Silhouette Portrait 2. This was a Christmas gift. Paper cutters, where have you been all my life?! I think I finally found my impetus for getting back into scrapbooking!

Wet Pro Brush. I had this vision when I was pregnant with C of brushing her hair and doing something for her that I had always wished I had had a mom to do for me. Real life, though, has a rude way of being different than our dreams and she came out with fine, curly hair! What did I know about curly hair? Don’t brush it! I think? So I sprayed and combed it instead and she cried because it was snarly and I was at a loss and sad that something I wanted to be a sweet memory for us was just painful for her. I shared none of this with anyone, but just happened to be talking with my friend Niko one day about curly hair. She has tight, kinky hair, so she knows a thing or two about curly hair and she told me about this amazing brush that you can use on curly AND wet hair! But isn’t that the first rule of hair care? Don’t brush wet hair? (Honestly, I really know nothing about hair care.) So of course I was skeptical, but I read reviews and decided to take the plunge and while our hair-brushing experiences aren’t completely tangle-free, this brush has made it SO MUCH BETTER than it was with the comb. I’m a believer.

And on a new year resolution theme….

You Need A Budget (YNAB). I’ve been using this for years and years now to manage our budget and I love it. If one of your new year resolutions is to be better with your finances, I highly recommend it.

Plan to Eat. I’ve also been using this for years and years for all of my recipe-keeping, meal planning, and grocery list planning (you can see how here) and I love it. I know a lot of people have various food goals at the beginning of each year and meal planning makes it so much easier to eat healthier and stay in budget!

Nourishing Meals and The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook. And on the note of eating healthier, one of my goals for the new year is to not eat out as much and to try a wider variety of recipes. I know I’ve mentioned them many times before, but I love these two cookbooks and most of the recipes I’ve made from them have been a big hit with my family. I’d highly recommend them if you’re looking for nourishing recipes!

Clean Mama. I’ve been using her free cleaning schedule off and on for a few years (I printed it out, laminated it, and stuck it to the fridge so I can re-use it every month). Admittedly, when our house was smaller, I was a lot better at keeping up with it, but I’m determined this year to stick to it. She also has a lot of wonderful posts about keeping your home clean and organized naturally.


What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life? What if I am a mom who delights in her kids but needs time for herself and sometimes just wants to be first and doesn’t like to play but who hugs and affirms and supports her kids in their passions? A mediocre mom who can never live up to her own expectations of good enough, let alone yours. What if I embrace my limitations and stop railing against them? Make peace with who I am and what I need and honor your right to do the same. Accept that all I want is a small, slow, simple life. A mediocre life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life.

First Grammar Lessons. If you’re looking for ways to include grammar instruction in your homeschool for your younger students (Form IIB), Charlotte Mason Poetry has recently posted Ms. Mason’s “First Grammar Lessons” online in its entirety! I’m going to look at using these with B beginning next year.

Growing Up Surrounded by Books Could Have Powerful, Lasting Effect on the Mind. Another reason to hoard books. 🙂

The Habit of Irritation. Being nearly perpetually irritated with my children as a habit? I never really thought of it this way, but it feels true given what Ms. Mason says about neural pathways, etc. This was incredibly convicting, but also very inspiring that maybe I can get out of these habits when they are particularly bad.

On the Blog.

Charlotte Mason Picture Study Aid: Johannes Vermeer. A FREE downloadable picture study helper to aid in your homeschool picture study time.

Beauty in Charlotte Mason Community: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. It’s ironic to me that a group I so wanted to join for the sake of my kids – for their learning and growth – has been so enormously wonderful for me. I have learned so much from them, not only about Charlotte Mason and the topics we cover during co-op, but also how to exist in a community. How to be myself and not assume that that’s a bad thing. How to be part of relationships that last. I prayed for a group like this. I prayed for friendships like this. And despite the fact that it was next to impossible just three short years ago that we’d ever actually be in this particular group, here we are. God is awesome.

2018 Holiday Gift Ideas.

Ambleside Online Year 2 Term 2 Plans (and Term 1 recap)

Bird Sightings.

Bushtits -

Spotted Towhee -

Black-billed Magpie -

Northern Flicker -

Blue Jay -

Black-capped Chickadee -

Nothing much new to report this quarter. The Juncos have returned, though we’re also getting quite a few more finches, both house and gold, than we normally get this time of year. The black-capped and mountain chickadees have been coming back more frequently, which I’m thankful for, we’ve been occasionally getting a little cloud of bushtits, one random towhee when the weather was planning to get bad, and in the last week or so, we’ve had a northern flicker coming pretty steadily. Other than that, the magpies, scrub-jays, blue jays, and collared doves are still regular visitors to the feeders.

Favorite Instagram.

And there you have the state of me. 🙂

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