Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Just a perfect Sunday afternoon in the Smokies.

Just a quick and easy bucket of chicken and a couple hours of nothing but simple conversation and swatting away of gnats. 

 Just a beautiful daughter who indulges me as I learn to use the "real" camera.


Just the simple joy of hammocks and a favorite book and no cell phone service.


   Just an evening of strawberry shortcake, a game of Sequence, and a walk around the yard with these ones I love.

It's all I could ever want. It's more than I would ever have dreamed.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Semester Wrap-Up

W-o-w! I have no idea how I let so much time elapsed since my last post.

OK, I really do know. It's been busy around here.

Sad news first. We lost our old cat Hamlet. He was an old, old man in cat years, and he was a good, loving cat for our kids. We were sad to see him go.

Randy and I enjoyed a weekend away at a cabin in the mountains for our 28th anniversary, although the 8.2 mile hike almost killed me.

We went on two college visits with Duncan and friends: one to Milligan College, my alma mater, in upper East TN, and the other to Lipscomb University in Nashville, where Laurel goes. The kids loved them both and wanted to go to college immediately. Pro tip: visiting colleges with friends is so much more fun than going solo!

Mom turned 90! A bunch of the family was able to come over and help her celebrate. I love my beautiful mother so much and am so incredibly blessed to have her and my Dad live just down the road.

Speaking of Dad, he was presented with this beautiful quilt by Quilts of Valor for his service in WWII and the Korean War. Several teens in our support group's 4-H Club made this for him and had a wonderful ceremony.

And then there was prom. Duncan and his friends thought it would be a good idea to take pineapples as dates. Don't ask.  Really. (Homeschoolers are weird. See? I wrote about it here.)

I went to Nashville three times in April: once to see Laurel in this big college production called Singarama (that's her in the middle, dressed in 70s clothes for her group's dance), once for that college visit with Duncan and crew, and once to see Brandi Carlile at the Ryman. I'm so lucky to get to see my girl so much!

And besides all those extra things, all our regular happenings keep going on, too. There have been Eagle Scout ceremonies and family visits and all kinds of classes and seminars and on and on and on. Life is full.

But as always, the bustle of the school year winds down in May. I've been able to sneak in a few hours sprucing up the flower beds. Laurel arrived home this week for the summer; I can hardly believe she's halfway through college already! She'll be taking a math class at the local college this summer to get that over with—and getting ready for her best friend's wedding.

How can my daughter's constant companion since age 4 be getting married in a month? I don't know how it happens so fast.

Our co-op classes ended this past week.  As always, I am sad to see them go but happy to have a break. The top four are most of my seniors; the ones on the end I've had in classes since they were in preschool. Sniff.

 I have stacks of essays, research papers, and journals still to grade, so I'm a long way from done!

That's a bit of what's been happening in our own small world the past couple of months. Next up: graduation for several of my friends' kids and Bess's wedding. And, if I'm diligent, more regular blogging!

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up and the Hip Homeschool Hop

Friday, March 3, 2017

10 Things I've Learned This Winter

I'm chiming in with Emily Freeman for What We've Learned This Winter—something I've been meaning to do for a few seasons. I've been intentional this year so far with paying attention, to listening, to finding meaning in the pauses and lessons in the small things. And so, here are a few things I've discovered this season:

1. A winter without snow doesn't seem tragic when you don't have little kids.  I mean, we did have snow one day—the day we drove to Nashville to take Laurel back to college. See it there in the picture? A little bit?

Duncan didn't even get to use all of his ski passes this year; Ober Gatlinburg closed the slopes in late February. For most of the 18 years I've lived in the South (except maybe the first few years after moving here straight from 5 years in Iowa), I've mourned that my children will never know the glory of northern winters— the fat flakes piling up in satisfying drifts, the sweat of snowsuits, the agony of frozen ears thawing, the midnight skate on a frozen pond. But somehow, this year when my kids are 16, 19, and 23, I'm fine with a snowless winter. Just fine.

2. As one of my friends commented, "You can't take the homeschooler out of them." Look at this kid.

 He's 23-year-old college graduate, and he still find delight in the weirdest things, just like he did when he collected sap and sold it to his siblings for a a quarter. I hope his passion for seeing potential in all the nooks and crannies continues throughout his life.

*In case you were wondering, this is a ramp loader, used at the airport to load luggage into airplanes. The airline for which he works needed to get rid of this one to make room for a new one. Yes, he drove this from the airport 15 miles away into the heart of Knoxville, where he lives. It is now in the parking lot of his apartment complex, its new life TBA.

3. This.

While my daughter is away at college, her room becomes my laundry folding and clothes ironing room. The first day that she went back after Christmas break, I walked in and saw this propped up in her window, and it took my breath away. I felt like she had left me a little message, knowing that I would miss her and that I think about her all the time. Be still, Mama. Know that He has me in the palm of His hands. Sometimes when I wake up at 4 a.m. and Randy is snoring so loudly that I can't get back to sleep, I walk into her room and am doubly reminded, first by this in her window, and second by the shadow— created by the streetlight outside her window— of the words on the wall. Be still. Know Him. Trust Him who holds our past and our present and our future.

4. My Dad is incredible. I haven't really learned that this winter, but I keep being amazed by my him.

My parents had a house on Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, for 30 years, and my father never fished. Ever. Sure, he did the requisite fishing as a kid, but right there on the "Lake Trout Capital of the World," he never fished. But my brother, who has recently taken up this sport, called and said, "Wanna go fishing?" And, at 92, my Dad caught the biggest fish of his life.

5. Pedicures are kind of addictive. 

My daughter and I had our first pedicure together over Christmas break. Yes! My first! I don't know why I've never had a pedicure before; in general, I'm just not that kind of a girl—people invading my personal space and all that. Feet. Nail polish. But yeah—we loved our pedicures, and we already have one booked for when she's home over spring break.

6. I'd rather have crème brulée than chocolate cake. 

[Also, while I'm well versed in the German umlaut and the l'accent aigu, I just learned how to do the l'accent grave (merci to my high school French teacher, Madame Baroody, for knowing those terms), so I'm pretty proud of that.]

7. The bullet journal truly is life changing. And washi tape is cool.

I've been intrigued by this concept for several months, but all the Pinterest ideas make my head spin. My bullet journal is simple but oh, so effective. I've kept it up for two solid months, and my productivity in all aspects of my life has increased tremendously. And, most importantly, that internal chaos has quieted, and I'm being so much more intentional. Bravo, bullet journal advocates!

8. My life is full of ordinary moments that would not make a captivating 4 minute video. I've been using the 1 Second Everyday app. The idea is to video one second each day to stitch together a year in 365 seconds of video clips. You'd think it would be easy to just record those ordinary moments in video, but, honestly, these moments I treasure are, for the most part, more still life than action shots: quiet dinners, the dog sleeping in square of sun, my boys standing next to each other—the younger taller than the older now, my daughter nestled next to me watching a movie, my husband stretching before his morning run, my parents and I playing our near daily game of cards.

The rhythm of our ordinary days won't make for captivating video, but that's doesn't make life any less of an adventure.

9. Sometimes things are worth trying again and again and again. Like Stitch Fix— an online fashion retail service. I've been doing Stitch Fix on and off for a couple of years, and every now and then I get things I really like. I've had one or two packages that were so not me—like the black leather pants— that I sent everything back. But this past month, I ordered one for my birthday, and I absolutely loved every single item in the box. {Insert cute picture here of me standing against an exposed brick wall, looking casual yet sophisticated in my burgundy skinny jeans and black-and-white striped sweater} The difference? I was completely detailed and transparent with my stylist (e.g., I only want clothes in the following colors, I really like this outfit, etc.)—and she listened. There is something so satisfying about being heard. And that in itself brings me to another thing I'm being reminded of this winter— to listen more carefully. All the time, to everyone.

10. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, when something pops up again and again, I need to pay attention.

Like this verse from Ezekiel 36:26: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

Within the first 11 days of January, this verse came at me four different times. Four times in 11 days: you'd better believe I'm paying attention. I've read through the entire Bible probably a dozen times in my life, perhaps more, and I am quite sure I have never seen this verse. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

The first time I heard it, I thought, "Wow! I've never heard that before!" The next time, and this time was at church, I sat up straight and wrote a little about it the next day. I wrote about the walls of protection I have around my own heart. I pondered transparency and brokenness and being compassionate.  Just a few days later, I stumbled across this again, accompanied by this quote:
Let’s not waste precious time holding grudges or withholding friendship or affection from the people in our lives."

And then on my first day back teaching after winter break, I looked up on the wall of my classroom and saw this piece of paper, tucked into a canvas. Do you see that, above? That's the verse, randomly placed there. I've been teaching in that classroom for 4 years, and I've never seen anything stuck in that canvas. What a strange place to see it, and yet I shouldn't have been surprised.
--> I love hearing God’s voice so clearly, so insistently. I feel honored, to be honest, even if I don't have a full understanding of what he is saying to me.
 A new heart. A new spirit. A heart of flesh.

As I head into spring, I'm paying attention.

I'm being still and trusting.

And— I'm waiting and listening.

{Also linked to the Weekly Wrap Up}

Friday, February 3, 2017

January in Review

1. Laurel went back to college: second semester of her sophomore year. It was hard for me to leave her there, but we had a lovely, long Christmas break. This semester will be an exercise in adjusting to life-after-studying-abroad. She's decided to add a second major (psychology) to her family relations major. It's a natural fit. She's taking 3 psychology/family classes this semester (lifespan, family, and social) plus a couple of her gen ed requirements. She also works 12 hours/week at an elementary school.

2. Dad turned 92. I am so blessed to be able to celebrate yet another birthday with my Dad. I love him so much. Here is is blowing out the candles with great-grandsons Rory and Soren, who shared his birthday cake. And the picture below is of our family's newest ping pong tournament champs: my Randy and my oldest nephew, Owen.

3. Duncan began his Eagle Scout project. His project involves mapping out all the veterans' graves at a large local cemetery. Over the course of two work days, he directed his fellow Scouts (several of them are in the second picture) to find, record, and mark on a map about 500 sites. The next step will be for him to put all of this into a database—and then to write up his project. So, step 1 is done!

4. Speaking of Eagle Scouts, this one submitted his application to graduate school today. He's been working for American Airlines for close to three years now, and he's ready to move on and back into academia for awhile. Don't ask about the large piece of equipment that he brought home. As one of my friends said, "They can graduate the boy out of homeschooling, but they can't take the homeschooler out of a man!" AKA: why let a perfectly good belt loader to to the junkyard when you can have it for free?

5. Bullet journal. Wow. The bullet journal is changing my life! Mine isn't as complex or as detailed as most of the ones I see on Pinterest, but it is working wonderfully for me. I got this blank calendar/journal in my Fair Trade Friday box several months ago, and it is perfect for the bullet journal concept. I have areas for exercises, notes, projects, movies to see, quotes, things I've learned, and, of course, to-do lists and calendar items. I love it.

 6. The Book Thief. Wow, I love teaching The Book Thief in literature class. I'm so excited that my class will get to do my Repurposed Pages project in just a couple of weeks. This is one of my favorite class projects ever, and I can't wait to see what this new crop of students creates!

7. Gatlinburg Fire Recovery Center. Our Appalachian Studies class volunteered at this huge warehouse in January. The place is overflowing with donations for families who lost their homes and businesses in the Gatlinburg wildfire. We had a group of about 30 and did everything from sorting clothes to helping shoppers. It was an amazing set-up, and seeing our community come together in this way is truly inspiring and affirming.

8. Winter campout. Duncan's Scout troop had its annual "winter" campout. Some years it really is cold; this year, not so much. Duncan's wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt in the photo below. Yep.

9. Book Club. We had our annual Book Club Getaway weekend and chose the books for 2017. Lots of good food and laughter with these wonderful friends of mine. Here's our book list!
February: Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
March: Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris
April: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
May: Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, Lynn Vincent
June: My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
July: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
August:  Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
September: Mink River by Brian Doyle
October: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
November: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
December:  Ordinary Grace by William Krueger 
I had read the first one and the last three previously, but that's OK! I don't mind re-reading books if they are worth re-reading!

And... that's January all wrapped up. How was your month?

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Sunday, January 8, 2017

To-Be-Read {Updated for 2017}

*Indicates books added in 2017

41 False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm
Alena by Rachel Pastan
*All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
Americanah by Adichie.
Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg.
Aprons on a Clothesline by T. DePree
Arctic Dreams
by Barry Lopez
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
*At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider  
At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story as Told by Jody M. Roy, Ph.D.
*Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy 
Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal M. Omar (reviewed at Bookworm's Dinner)
Bastards by Mary Anna King
*Becoming Curious by Casey Tygrett
Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain
The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Behind the Burqa by Sulima and Hala (reviewed by Semicolon)
Bellman and Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield.
*Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Blood of Flowers
by A. Amirrezvani
Blood Work
by M Connelly
Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior.
Book of a Thousand Days by S. Hale
Book of Lost Things by J. Connelly
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Bootletter’s Daughter by M. Maron
Born on a Blue Day by D. Tammet
*Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
China Dolls by Lisa See
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. 
Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eye Ward
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry
Commoner by J.B. Schwarz
Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
A Country Doctor’s Casebook by R. MacDonald
*The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Dawning of the Day: A Jerusalem Tale by Haim Sabato
Departed, The by K. Mackel
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by D. Gregory
Dough: A Memoir by Mort Zachter (reviewed by Lisa at 5 Minutes for Books)
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (The World As Home) by Janisse Ray.
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (Reviewed at S. Krishna's Books)
Executioner's Song by Mailer
Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad by Waris Darie (reviewed at Maw Books)
Far to Go by Alison Pick (Reviewed by Kristina at The Book Keeper)
Family Nobody Wanted by Doss
Fatal Vision by J. McGinnis
Father, Mother, God: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse
*Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah
First Wife by Emily Barr (recommended by Fleur Fisher)
Flowers by D. Gilb
Fortune Cookie Chronicles by J. Lee
Franklin and Lucy by Joseph Persico
Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith (reviewed by Leah at Good Reads)
Ghost Map
by S. Jackson
Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes 
Ghost Writer, The by J. Harwood
The Girl in the Italian Bakery by Kenneth Tingle
The Girls by Lori Lansens
Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel
Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton
Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
Hava: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (reviewed by Gautami at Reading Room)
High House, The
by James Stoddard
by John Hershey
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan C. Bartoletti (reviewed by Natasha at Maw Books)
Hot Zone by R. Preston (reviewed by Semicolon)
The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons
*The House We Grew Up in by  Lisa Jewell
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen (mentioned by The Magic Lasso)
Human Cargo by C. Moorehead
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams.
*The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
I Am Scout by Charles J. Shields (reviewed by Becky)
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab 
*Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh
The Invention of Wings by  Sue Monk Kidd
Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas
by E. Southwark
Keeping the House by E. Baker
*The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones (reviewed by Bookeywookey)
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger (reviewed at Thoughts of Joy)
Last Storyteller by D. Noble
Leave it to Claire
by T. Bateman
Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan (reviewed by Literary Feline)
Left To Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza (reviewed at Maw Books and Just a Reading Fool)
Liar’s Diary by P. Francis (reviewed by Semicolon)
Life Among Savages
by Shirley Jackson (reviewed at Dwell in Possibility)
Life Is So Good
by R. Glaubman
* The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian. 
Lila by Marianne Robinson
Little Altars Everywhere by R. Wells
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by Rod Dreher
Living End by L. Samson
A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka (reviewed at The Lost Entwife)
Lost Children of Wilder by N. Bernstein
Loving Frank by N. Horan
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Mad Girls in Love by M. West
Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
Many Sleepless Nights
by Lee Gutkind
Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy 
Mariner's Compass by E. Fowler
The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Mercy Falls by WK Krueger
*Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Minding the South by J. Reed
Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills
Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway (Reviewed at The Bluestocking Society)
Murder in the Name of Honor by Rana Husseini (Reviewed at Reading Through Life)
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (Reviewed by Reading to Know)
*The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls
Not without My Daughter
by B. Mahmoody
*The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
* The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
Perfect Example by John Porcellino (reviewed at The Hidden Side of the Leaf)
The Plague of Doves  by Louise Erdrich.
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin (reviewed at Reader Buzz)
A Pool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.
Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert
A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor
Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon (reviewed at Missy's Book Nook)
Proof of Heaven by Mary Curran Hackett
Property by Valerie Martin (reviewed by The Magic Lasso)
Quaker Summer
by Lisa Samson
Quilter’s Apprentice
by J. Chiaverini
A Quilt for Christmas  by Sandra Dallas
The Quilt Walk by Sandra Dallas
Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah
Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson
Reading Lolita in Tehran by
Azar Nafisi
Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson (Reviewed at Reading to Know)
The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson
The Rest of the Story by Phan Thi Kim Phuc.
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Rises the Night
by C. Gleason
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books by Lynne Schwartz (reviewed on Shelf Life)
by Shactman
Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens
Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins (reviewed by Just a Reading Fool)
Same Kind of Different As Me
by Ron Hall and Denver Moore (recommended by Stray Thoughts)
*Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford
Saving Levi Left to Die
by Lisa Bently
 The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (Reviewed by Word Lily)
Seven Loves by Trueblood
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
*The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
Slaves, Women andHomosexuals by William J. Webb
 So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy (reviewed at Polishing Mud Balls)
Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf (reviewed at Maw Books)
Some Girls by Jillian Lauren (reviewed by Book Club Classics)
Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi
Song Yet Sung
by James McBride
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture by Donna Partow
Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner:
Stillwater by William Weld
by John Williams (suggested by JoAnn at Every Day Matters)
The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump by Sandra Hempel
Summer Crossing by Truman Capote (reviewed by CaribousMom)
by M. Cabon
Teahouse Fire, The
by Ellis Avery
Stones Cry Out
by M Szymusiak
*Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Testament of Youth
by Vera Brittain (recommended at Musings)
There Are No Children Here
by A. Kotlowitz
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
by Alan Alda
Thousand Years of Good Prayers
by Yiyun Li
The Threadbare Heart
by Jenny Nash (reviewed at Maw Books)
Three Cups of Tea
by G. Mortenson
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver
*Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Time Between by Mary Duenas
To My Senses by A. Weis (reviewed by J. Kaye)
Tomorrow, the River by D. Gray
Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
by D. Hari (reviewed by CaribousMom and Maw Books)
Trauma and Ghost Town by P. McGrath
*Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Unbearable Lightness of Being by Kundera
Uprising by Margaret Haddix (reviewed by Semicolon)
Undress me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman (reviewed by Book Zombie)
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Well and the Mine, The by Gin Phillips (reviewed by Semicolon)
Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
What I Though I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen
What Is What by D. Eggers (reviewed at Maw Books)
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
What Peace There May Be by Susanna Brarlow
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (Reviewed at Big A, Little A)
When I Lay My Isaac Down by C. Kent
When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewalt
Wherever you Go by Joan Leegant (reviewed by Bibliophiliac)
Whistling in the Dark by L. Kagen
Who Killed My Daughter by Lois Duncan (Reviewed at Nonfiction Lover)
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
*Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Winter Seeking by V. Wright
Winter Walk
by L. Cox
Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (recommended at Rebecca Reads)
Women of the Silk by G. Tsuriyama
Year of Living Biblically
by AJ Jacobs (reviewed by Andi Lit)
Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes  

Friday, January 6, 2017

December in Review

I can't believe this is our last day of winter break! It seems like so much has happened in the past month. The holiday spirit started at the beginning of December when Laurel came home from her semester in Vienna! She had such an incredible experience, and it's been soooooo wonderful to have her home!
Laurel and her roommate, Madelyn, arriving at the Nashville airport from Austria!

Sadly for Laurel, her Christmas break began with getting her wisdom teeth removed. Our oldest decided he needed some sympathy, too, so he got 12 stitches as a result of a sword fight with his roommate. Don't ask. They're 20-somethings.

We had all kinds of fun with friends and family before Christmas, including a "60-16-50" party (right corner) to celebrate a friend turning 60 on Dec. 24, Duncan turning 16 on Dec. 15, and Randy turning 50 on Dec. 26. It seemed essential to mark this occasion with friends!

Christmas itself was wonderful. I just sometimes can't even believe I get to have all these wonderful human beings in my life. Laurel brought us all kinds of amazing gifts from her travels, which was kind of the highlight of our gifts.

A few examples of Laurel's travel gifts: pasta bowl from Italy, Opa and Oma mugs from Berlin, scarf from Prague

My kids were extremely cooperative, letting me do a photo shoot even though Jesse had been at work since 4 a.m. and really just wanted a nap.

In our family, Christmas lasts until 5 p.m.— and then it's Duncan's birthday. He turned 16, got his license a couple days later, and then inherited Laurel's car. The bottom pic shows him driving off on his first solo errand!

A few days after Christmas, we headed down to Charlotte for our annual Christmas/New Year's celebration with Randy's brother and sister-in-law. This time, however, we made a stop at the Biltmore in Asheville. We all gifted Randy's mom with a Christmas-at-Biltmore tour. It was beautifully decorated!

Randy's brother and his wife are the most wonderful, gracious people. We love to celebrate together, and this year was especially momentous because Randy, the little brother, turned 50. In his honor, Greg prepared an all-black meal.

Well, the potatoes came out lavender, but you get the idea! We always have a relaxing few days filled with lots of good food and laughter in Charlotte. It's a great way to end the year and bring in a new one.

And so 2017 is here and our lovely winter break is nearly over. Laurel heads back to college in Nashville tomorrow. We splurged today and got pedicures. It's lovely to have pretty feet on a cold and dreary day!

She's packing, and Duncan is enjoying his last day of freedom before all his classes begin again. He's taking all the same things as last semester: chemistry, world literature, world geography, trig, and Appalachian studies. We've also added in a world cultures class, which will fit nicely with his literature and geography classes. And probably the two biggest things for Duncan this semester will be taking the ACT for the first time AND… doing his Eagle Scout project. He's had his project plan approved and is now gearing up to actually schedule work days. His project will be creating a map of the veterans' graves and a large cemetery where his troop always places flags on the graves on Memorial Day. I'm exited for him as he begins!

And now… let the new year begin!

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up