System Status: Third Quarter 2018

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No melancholy days are these!
Not where the maple changing stands,
Not in the shade of fluttering oaks,
Nor in the bands

Of twisting vines and sturdy shrubs,
Scarlet and yellow, green and brown,
Falling, or swinging on their stalks,
Is Sorrow’s crown.

The sparkling fields of dewy grass,
Woodpaths and roadsides decked with flowers,
Starred asters and the goldenrod,
Date Autumn’s hours.

The shining banks of snowy clouds,
Steadfast in the aerial blue,
The silent, shimmering, silver sea,
To Joy are true.

My spirit in this happy air
Can thus embrace the dying year,
And with it wrap me in a shroud
As bright and clear!

~ Autumn, Elizabeth Drew Stoddard ~

I know I’ve been quiet. My goal is always to put up one post per week, but I’ve found that there are not, in reality, 40 hours in a day and I can’t do all.the.things in the 18 hours that I’m awake, so I have to prioritize. Right now the priority is our homeschool which is obviously as it should be. I’ve also been working on the Vermeer picture study aid, and rather than devoting time to writing anything here I’ve been devoting time to trying to finish that. I will have an editor this time around! Hooray! A mom who downloaded the last picture study aid provided me with feedback on my form and included a few (or more) typos that somehow made their way into it and I was SO thankful. I said as much in an email to her and asked if she might be willing to proofread for me in the future and she said yes so hopefully that will cut back on the new little mistakes I find each and every time I read one of the picture study aids no matter how many times I’ve already read it.

This quarter began in the first half of the summer and ended after the first month of our school year – not only an adjustment in the weather but also our daily routine! As I mentioned in my last System Status post, we decided to take a trip up to Lake Minatare in Nebraska in Early July. We’ve been toying with the idea of getting a camper as we so often go on these little road trips but have to stay in Airbnb or VRBO places which can sometimes be hit or miss. In particular, the longer trips where we have to re-pack after we leave each place is a pain and the idea of being able to pack everything up, including our food, and not have to worry about it until we’re home again sounds nice. So we found a local place that rents campers and after lots and lots and LOTS of research (and near mistakes) of just how much exactly E’s Tacoma can tow, we ended up with a very small hybrid camper. Overall it went well…we definitely learned a few things not necessarily unique to camper camping but more to campgrounds and wireless coverage and having to work while camping and…well…yes, it was frustrating at times. But I think a camper will be in our future some day.

E traveled some in August and September, so we mostly stayed home with a few local hikes here and there. We celebrated B’s 8th birthday on August 13th with a trip to the LEGO store and watermelon “cake” and his favorite foods. Later in the week we had a little party planned but several families weren’t able to make it at the last minute so we met some friends at a park instead and I think B enjoyed that just as much. Quiet, but good.

Then we started B’s second grade and C’s “preschool” the week before Labor Day on August 27th. This was a change for me as I normally plan to start the Tuesday after Labor Day, but in determining the timing for how many weeks there were between then and Christmas, I decided to add an extra week so we have a full 4 weeks to memorize a Christmas poem rather than part of it before Christmas break and part of it after. That most likely sounds a little silly to the rest of the population, but it’s how my brain works and it gave me peace, so I went with it. Our first co-op meeting was September 7th and it felt so, so, so good to be back among these women and children I love so very much. Being around them fills me up and I always look forward to co-op days. This year I’m teaching both upper- and lower-form picture study (last year it was only lower-form) and hymns to all ages and I’m enjoying being able to get to know the older kids better.

I turned thirty-eight on September 19th. After school in the morning, E watched the kids so I could take a nap and then he made me cupcakes. It was epic. 🙂 C figured out that in two years I’ll be thirty-ten….I’m going to go with that.

I’m trying to be better about nature walks this year and we managed to get two in so far, including a trip up to Mueller Lake State Park last week to hunt for the changing aspens. We met another co-op family up there and though we didn’t get a whole lot of hiking in, there was definitely some aspen viewing and pond playing. A good day all around!

The last bit of excitement this quarter came in the form of a tiny, tortie-point siamese kitten we randomly decided to add to our family the day before school started….because you know THAT’s a good time to add more stress to your life. She was so, so, so sick and we were pretty worried about her that first week. There were a few trips to the vet and a lot of hand-feeding, but she made it and we were thankful but still had to overcome the hurdle of introducing her to Gracie and Jenny, which didn’t go so well. We took it very slowly, though, only letting her out to roam the house with them for a few hours each day and eventually Gracie decided she was okay and gave her a bath. Jenny, on the other hand, took a little longer and there was quite a bit of hissing, growling, and a fat tail (all on Jenny’s part), but she eventually also succumbed and decided to give the kitten a bath as well, so Sophie is now a part of our family. I still can’t believe we have three cats.

In the end of the third quarter I’m into….


This quarter, I finished Swing Time. This was an impulse buy at a library used book sale. I remembered it had been a Book of the Month club selection and thought the synopsis sounded intriguing so I grabbed it. It was an interesting read, but the protagonist wasn’t particularly likable….maybe that’s irrelevant? I’m not sure I’d recommend it, but it definitely offered a different perspective from my every-day life (British woman of color, not married and with no kids). (Read for the MMD “a book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own” category.)

84, Charing Cross Road took me all of one day to read, partially because it was so short and partially because it was very engaging. I know people who write as she does in that way where everyone is an old friend and you feel at liberty to say whatever you want. I enjoyed that part of it and how much the booksellers liked her. I was sad it ended the way it did, though. (Read for the MMD “a book you can read in a day” and the MC “book from the 1970s” categories.)

Peace Like a River is a book I heard about years ago. Admittedly, though, I was hesitant to read this one as I was assuming, based on the title, it would follow a certain, predictable path that you often see in Christian novels. But I picked it up on a whim at a library book sale for $.50 earlier this year thinking I should probably give it a chance based on some reviews I had read. I was honestly and very happily surprised by what I actually read. Enger has a way with prose that is not only almost lyrical but also puts you right there in the narrator’s space and mind. It was also a nice way to revisit my childhood in Minnesota. 🙂 This was excellent

The Awakening of Miss Prim took me about a week which is pretty fast these days. I think one of the quotes (about Little Women) I took from this book sums up my feelings about it quite well: “I’m sure its literary merit doesn’t stand up next to many other books but, as we both know, this is not what it’s about. It’s about beauty, delicacy, security. When they grow up and life treats them badly – as it certainly will – they’ll always be able to look back and take refuge for a few hours in that familiar sentimental story.” Maybe not familiar quite yet but sentimental, yes. It actually reminded me a little of the Inspector Gamache series in that my stomach was growling the entire time I read it and I wondered how practical it might be to start researching an international move to a fictional town. ?(Read for both the MMD and MC “a book in translation” categories.)

I read The Boys in the Boat as fast as I could. My friend Summer threw this in my cart when we were shopping for used books at Goodwill one day and I decided to keep it. So many people had suggested this and so many people were right – it was excellent.

Oh, how I wanted to like Mansfield Park. I really, really did. I saw the 1999 movie a few years ago and loved Fanny in it. But in the book she’s just….so…..annoying. So, so annoying. And no one else is particularly likable for that matter either. This took me so long to get through, but I’ve got another Austen under my belt so that’s something. (Read for the BC “classic by a woman author” category.)

B and I also finished James and the Giant Peach which I’m counting for the BC “children’s classic” category. B loved this one and Roald Dahl was one of my favorites growing up, so I think we need more of these in our future.

I’m currently reading way too many books. I’m now seven books behind in my yearly reading challenge on Goodreads…. I have little hope of meeting it this year (unless Christmas break can be an epic reading time) and I’m trying to be okay with that. Trying. I’m slowly making my way through Vermeer: A View of Delft, State of Wonder, The Wife (second book in Kristin Lavransdatter), Ourselves, Celebration of Discipline, and Parents and Children with my Charlotte Mason book group. With B I’m reading Farmer Boy and with C I’m reading Raggedy Ann Stories. Our favorite book in school right now is Understood Betsy.

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

Book challenges update:

Goodreads Reading Challenge – 20/36

Back to the Classics (BC) – 5/12

Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD) – 8/12

Modern Classics Challenge (MC) – 10/12


Summer is always a challenge for finding shows to watch, but in some ways I’m glad for that as we found a few that we really liked but otherwise wouldn’t have tried. We finished seasons 1 and 2 of Man in the High Castle and are looking forward to starting it back up again this week. When that was done, we tried Travelers and though it took a few episodes to get into it, that one also ended up being addictive. When we finished that series, we tried Jack Ryan but it hasn’t been as good as we had hoped (I’m still having a hard time with Jim Halpert in a Harrison Ford role). We also flew through the first season of Forever which is very strange and I don’t know that I’d recommend it, but it’s at least thought-provoking.

On my own, I watched The Miniaturist which was based on a book I tried to get into a few years ago but couldn’t….I think it was more due to the audiobook narrator than the book itself. Infamous Meg and I also started up our Monday night Poldark iMessage dates again!

As E and I seem to have run out of new series to try, I’m thankful a few of our mindless favorites returned last month: The Goldbergs, The Good Place, and of course, football. 🙂

On the movie front, we managed to get a few in. We like the Marvel movies and both Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War did not disappoint. We also saw Ready Player One but were disappointed by that one as we read the book a few years back and found the movie severely lacking. I watched Isle of Dogs as I’m a Wes Anderson fan but E skipped that one and it was just okay. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? fulfilled promises of inducing tears and Tim’s Vermeer was extremely interesting (and I loved watching the room come to life both in the warehouse space and on his canvas).


Golden Turmeric Milk. I saw a recipe for this a few months ago and experimented with it a bit until I found a combination that I liked. I make it most days as an afternoon snack and I’m beginning to think I might be addicted.

Teton Sports Oasis 1100 2 Liter Hydration Backpack. I love this backpack. This was a birthday gift from infamous Meg and I will never ever hike without it again. The only caveat was the bladder it came with which tasted very plastic-y and didn’t show any signs of losing that flavor. I ended up putting my old CamelBak bladder in it and now it’s perfect. It has just enough pockets for a first aid kit, a field guide or two, my DSLR, an extra lens, and my wallet and phone as well as two side net pockets for water bottles for B and C. One of the buckles also comes with a built-in whistle which has come in very handy when the kids get too far ahead of me on the trail. I love it.

Jane Austen Coffee (or tea in my case) Mug. Another birthday gift from Meg because it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a girl having a birthday, must be in want of a mug.

Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat. I wrote a post about this but it’s worth mentioning here too because I really do love it. Registration is now open for the February 2019 retreat but it’s filling fast!

Common Place Quarterly. A group of Charlotte Mason homeschooling moms has gotten together to offer a Charlotte Mason print magazine! I’m honored to say that I have been asked to contribute in the form of periodic picture study inspiration which you know is near and dear to my heart. There are so many amazing and helpful Charlotte Mason resources on the internet, but as I’ve mentioned before, I much prefer holding reading materials in my hands rather than looking at a screen. So when I heard about a real, tactile, PRINT magazine full of Charlotte Mason goodness, I knew that I’d definitely be signing up for a subscription. This magazine will be a full-color, book-quality publication containing solid education and encouragement in all things Mason. A full feast will be spread in every issue with topics ranging from Plutarch and Shakespeare to sections of Ms. Mason’s volumes to a funnies page. I can’t list it all here, but you can find out more information and pre-order at the website.


Free Charlotte Mason Homeschool Planner. For those of you still needing to plan………. (like me)

21 Ways to Display Kids Artwork. I am a firm believer in displaying kid art all around the house. It not only adds some color and pop to our space, but also instills in my kids a sense of pride that something they have made with their own little hands is beautiful and worthy of hanging on the wall. Here are a few ideas for displaying it!

It’s Not About The Haircut. “What is it, this thing, where we do so much for so many people (both the big and tiny ones), and even when we accept we also need to also take care of ourselves—and we try—we are trying to take care of ourselves! but it just feels like we can’t get a break? That was why I was crying.”

And on that note…. 🙂

The Self-Care You Need is Spiritual. Is self-care a day at the spa? Really? The more I’ve thought about this recently, the more I’ve decided that self-care isn’t quite what we want to think it is. I think Mystie’s definition here is much closer to the truth.

On the Blog.

Commonplacing: Curiosity and the Desire for Knowledge (from Charlotte Mason's "Ourselves") -

First Grade Homeschool Morning Time. All about what we did for Morning Time last year.

Ambleside Online Year 2 Term 1 Plans. What we’re doing this year for B’s second grade.

Commonplacing: Curiosity and the Desire for Knowledge (Ourselves). “Back in 2014, the number of people on an average Facebook friends list was 338. I know many of these are probably not people we would necessarily call ‘friends,’ but more acquaintances, work associates, high school/college friends or people along those lines. But still…that number is awfully high for an average person. I’ve heard so many people (myself included) defend their Facebook use as a means to keep in touch with friends as they wouldn’t otherwise and, again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. But I think this medium of friendship maintenance also allows for a lot of “curious” friendships rather than ‘knowledge’ friendships. We can scroll through a friend’s wall and see pictures of their latest vacation, their lunch, their smiles all around, without really knowing what’s truly going on in their lives. In their hearts. In their minds. What they’re struggling with. What they’re thankful for. And often, we don’t have a real desire to know. We’re content with the ‘scraps’ we see as we scroll by and assume that offers a good summarization of the whole person. We’re ‘keeping in touch’…..but not really.”

2019 Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat. I’ve attended the last two years and can easily say this is one of my favorite weekends of the year. If you’re a Charlotte Mason educator, I highly recommend this retreat!

In the Shop.

[one-third-first]Philippians 4:8 "Think about these things..." Downloadable Print -[/one-third-first]
[one-third]Charlotte Mason “I am….” Quote with Watercolor Sunflowers Downloadable Print -[/one-third]
[one-third]Charlotte Mason "There is nothing which a mother cannot bring her child up to" Quote with Watercolor Flowers Print -[/one-third]

Bird Sightings.

Western (or Woodhouse's) Scrub-Jay -
Western (or Woodhouse’s) Scrub-Jay
Mountain Chickadee -
Mountain Chickadee (juvenile)

We’ve transitioned to regular bird seed (as opposed to safflower which we use most of the spring and summer to deter grackles, cowbirds, and other blackbirds) so we’re starting to see a tiny bit more variety. We also got a new, enormous bird bath that will never blow away in the crazy wind we get here because it weighs 150 lbs (literally). and that has attracted several more (including mountain bluebirds!). We took the hummingbird feeder down a few weeks ago as they’ve left for the season, but right now at the seed/suet feeders we’re seeing lots of house finches, magpies, our mountain chickadee couple (who I’m so thankful returned!), occasionally black-capped chickadees, collared-doves (who chase the very few mourning doves brave enough to try the feeder), goldfinches (both American and lessers, though I don’t think the lessers will be around much longer), scrub-jays, a few blue jays, and one very rare sighting of a white-winged dove (who is not supposed to be this far north). Also, one particularly determined squirrel who seems to have a blood rivalry with the magpies and a random northern flicker who likes to peck for bugs in the yard. On the ground we’re getting a few chipping sparrows, but they seem to be few and far between these days. This week I saw our very first junco of the season, though, which means the colder weather is definitely upon us!

On Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

I think I’m finally done prepping for the first day of our homeschool co-op for the year tomorrow. I’m teaching upper- and lower-form picture study this year so most of my bag will be filled with items associated with that: notes, prints, and maps. I also volunteered to make printouts of all of our hymns and folksongs for the year, so 30 copies of those are going in the bag (also, I may be slightly obsessed with SVG fonts ?). I like to bring my own binder (my son brings one also) to keep track of schedules and other printouts as well. I probably don’t have room for Gracie though…. . #homeschool #homeschooling #homeschoolcollective #charlottemason #charlottemasoneducation #charlottemasonhomeschool #charlottemasonirl #homeschoolcoop #charlottemasoncoop

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And there you have the state of me. 🙂

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