A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Books of 2019


I read 83 books last year!  I don't know whether that was more or less than usual, because this was my first time keeping track.  I volunteer at our Friends of the Library's Book Den.  It's a used bookstore and warehouse full of books.  We earn free books for our volunteer hours, so my To Read pile has become a To Read bookcase. 

The links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click on one, and make a purchase, I may get a tiny commission.  Here's some of the books that I enjoyed, or didn't, in 2019. 

Fiction
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen.  I read Pride & Prejudice in 2018, and would like to get through all 6 Austen books at some point, so when I came across Northanger Abbey at a used book sale, I added it to my pile.  I enjoyed it, and was pleased that the movie is very true to the book. 

I also read several works of Austen fan fic.  Some authors were better than others at staying true to Jane's beloved characters. 

Victoria, by Daisy Goodwin.  I ran across a proof copy of this at Book Den.  We can't sell proofs, so I rescued it from the recycle bin to read.  I'm glad I did, the British monarchy is fascinating.  I also enjoyed the PBS series on Amazon Prime. 

Mount Vernon Love Story, by Mary Higgins Clark.  This was a surprise to me.  I usually think of Mary Higgins Clark as writing modern suspense fiction.  This was historical fiction, based on the life of George Washington. 

Another small book I read, but this one I did not enjoy, was Tracie Peterson's Silent Star.  This one was depressing.  I cried my way through it.  I usually enjoy Peterson's works, so this may have been partly because of when I read it.  The subject matter, combined with personal events, was rough. 

Let's talk Murder, She Wrote.  Now, when Donald Bain was writing the series, I enjoyed them.  But this Jon Land guy kinda sucks at it.  I've read quite a few of the Donald Bain ones, and after 2 by Jon Land, I'm done.  I won't be reading any more of his.  The Mrs. Fletcher I grew up watching on TV doesn't swear. 

If you know the YouTube channel Crash Course, you'll recognize author John Green from CC History.  I read his The Fault in Our Stars, and I was impressed.  (Spoiler alert:  I cried.  I cry at everything.)  I'm keeping an eye out for more of his books to come through Book Den. 

The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton & James Patterson.  This was probably the newest book that I read this year.  It was a little improbable in parts, but very action packed. 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris.  This was one of those books that lingers with you for a while.  I found myself reaching for another WW2 book to stay in this world a little longer. 

Non-Fiction
Wandering away from the fiction aisle for a moment...
The Zookeeper's Wife, by Diane Ackerman.  The Warsaw Zoo during the war.  The slaughter of the animals by German troops.  The hidden refugees.  The cache of weapons.  And the incredible people who lived the story. 

My Folks Don't Want Me To Talk About Slavery, by Belinda Hurmence.  I stumbled across this accidentally while I was researching for my trip to North Carolina.  Wow.  First person accounts of slavery, collected in the 1930s. 

While I originally picked up Asian Americans in the Old West, by Gail Sakurai for Hannah and Katie, I found myself reading it. 

Fiction series
The Aunt Dimity books, by Nancy Atherton.  I discovered these in 2018, and have read most of them now.  I read 5 of these in 2019.  The only one I have yet to read is unavailable in our library system. 

I discovered Jennifer Chiaverini's Elm Creek Quilts books and read a couple of those.  There are a few more in my To Read bookcase. 

The Bookstore Cafe Mysteries are cute fluff books.  I found these in 2018 and read all the ones that were available.  This year, I read Alex Erickson's Death by Cafe Mocha as soon as it came out. 

What's Next?
Although I started The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I was ambitious in the undertaking, and have not yet finished it.  It's chewy reading, and after slogging through several cases, I set it aside.  I'm trying to read one case from this between lighter tomes, but I confess I am only about halfway through this 636 page behemoth.  I intend to finish it at some point this year. 

Since one of my favorite books from last year was The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton, I would be interested in reading more from her.  Although I'm not a knitter, I enjoyed a couple books by Maggie Sefton, and would read more from her, as well.  Susan May Warren continues to be one of my favorites, as I read 6 of her books last year. 

I do want to branch out and try some new-to-me authors this year, though.  I have works by Carl Hiaasen, M.C. Beaton, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Lisa See, Amy Tan, and Ken Wheaton ready for me to crack open.  And Eli has loaned me Blitzed, a non fiction book about drugs in Germany during WW2.  I have plenty of books to get me started. 

I've been slowly weeding books out of our collection, as well.  I've gotten pretty good about donating books when I finish reading them, but I have old books that I would like to read again first.  I pared down our board books to less than one shelf, just the favorites I couldn't let go of.  I've gone through the beginning readers a couple times, but we still have 2 baskets full of those, so obviously, I need to do that again.  I've started purging some of the picture books, as well.  Katie is 9.  We probably don't need over 4 shelves of picture books any more.  I also need to find a new home for our homeschooling books.  I may contact the local enrichment co op and see if they have a library I can contribute to. 

Most people read only 4 books per year.  Let's set the screens down a bit more in 2020 and get back into the magical world of books. 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Finishing Up December


Backing up to before Christmas for a little bit...  We did a family race.


This was a 1.2 mile walk, so I knew the girls could do it.


Jack was supposed to come with us, but it was 2 days after he sprained his ankle.


After the race, there were goodie bags!


We took the girls to a local live nativity.  That's a friend's son, playing one of the Roman soldiers outside the Bethlehem town square.


Mary & Joseph


Katie's finished mission project.  90% of 4th graders in California make one of these.  We chose a mission that we've been to, Mission San Jose.


Sat through another elementary school production.


Did my 12th 5K.  If someone had told me last January that I would do a dozen 5K races in 2019, I would not have believed them!


Rousing round of family Scrabble.  Sam won.


Spent time hanging out with my boy.


Took the "kids" (they're literally all grown ups, when did that happen?) ice skating.  We met Zach and Brayden there.


Sam had never been on ice skates, and he did great!


I love the way he just throws himself into something.


I hadn't been on the ice in a decade, but I got out there and did it.  At one point, I looked around and realized I was the oldest person skating. 


Zach gave Miss Adorable some pointers.


Gosh, they're cute.  Notice Eli's gloves?  Those were part of our loot from the family race.  Super handy.

And that's it for December and for 2019!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Christmas Happenings


Best Christmas present this year?  Sam came home for Christmas!  His first Christmas home since 2016.


Least favorite December event?  Jack sprained his ankle.  Again.  He sprained the same ankle back in May. 


Miss Katie in her Christmas Eve pjs.  I pass out new jammies to all the kids sleeping here on Christmas Eve.  Makes for reasonably decent Christmas morning stocking pictures.


Feeling short and blessed.


Grumman got a new mouse for Christmas.  Last year, I got him a bird cat toy.  I left it on the cutting table in the sewing room, and come Christmas morning, I couldn't find it.  We searched and searched, and eventually found it under my bed.  Grumman had helped himself to his present a little early!  This year, to prevent that, I kept his Christmas mouse in the closed up tote with all the stuffed stockings.


Grumman's favorite toys are these specific mice that rattle.  Only he rips them up until the rattle fall out.  So I bought a bag of rattles, and Eli's been sewing them back into the mice.  We decided Christmas Mouse needed a rattle, too.  I think this was a good plan, because he loves Christmas Mouse.


I got a bike for Christmas.  Eli assembled it with the new tools he got for Christmas.  Win-win!


As we were celebrating, the neighbor brought over TWO mis-delivered Amazon parcels.  One was Brayden's gift from Buddy, a new Lego set.


I also got a Cricut (affiliate link).  Eli has been calling my gifts "your crikey and your trikey."  It's a little intimidating, but I've made a couple things so far.  I'm pretty excited about all that it can do.


Marines are sometimes referred to as "crayon eaters."  So Josiah made Sam a batch of chocolate crayons for Christmas. 


One of our favorite leftover traditions, Turkey Enchilada Casserole.  Sam specifically requested that we have this while he was home.  I made 2 9x13" pans of it, and Eli was disappointed that we didn't have more leftovers.


Eli and Miss Adorable doing day after Christmas at her house.


Eli tests out the assembled "trikey."


The annual faux gingerbread house making event.


I made a Crazy Cat Lady House this year.  And then broke a tooth a couple days later, snacking on the fence posts.  Sigh.


Eli's house sports a flag roof.


Katie's house had sprinkles for the path.  We ended up with like 5 jars of green sprinkles, so I may have encouraged their generous use this year.


Jack's creation.


Miss Adorable joined us this year.


Hannah's walls collapsed, but I like the China flag she has on the lawn.


Still enjoying Unstable Unicorns, a Christmas gift from Buddy last year.


I enjoyed a total of TWO rides on the new "trikey" before An Incident occurred.  We're off to take one of the wheels to the bike shop today.

I hope you and yours had a lovely holiday, and I wish you health and learning and blessings in the new year. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Starting On December


Let's see if I can get at least the first half of December written up while it's still December.


Grumman is delighted with the season.  He's pretty sure my militree (military tree, with red/white/blue lights and patriotic/military ornaments) is his own personal enrichment. 


And while that wasn't my intention, let's face it, he's not wrong. 


The December craft I taught at the kids' school was fleece cat beds for SPCA.  I cut and cut and cut a stack of fleece for us to start with, using up roughly 2/3 of my fleece stash.  I'm really happy to be moving some fabric OUT of the sewing room, and for a good cause, too.  (Grumman, of course, thinks my bed is a cat bed.) 


Hannah cutting fringe for her cat bed. 


A finished bed.


Jack, tying his fringe together. 

It was fun to see all the old prints again.  The sharks he's working on there, I used to make Sam a hoodie, when he was obsessed with whales, sharks, and dolphins. 


I finally donated the Lion Dance costume.  It's too short for Grumman's long body.  But I consoled myself by getting him a Santa hat, instead.  He's Not Amused. 


I've mentioned our Nativity tradition before, but I thought I'd show an update with more animals.  Each year, I buy a new animal for our nativity set, and we donate the same animal to a family in need through World Vision. 


Oh Grumman. 


While we're talking about animals, I saw these ducks on one of my walks recently. 


We use fabric gift bags at Christmas instead of wrapping paper.  Well, over the years, as we've added more people to our family, I occasionally need to make a few more bags.  I'm blessed to have been given a lot of Christmas fabrics over the years, so I was even able to pick black fabric to go with the black thread already in my serger.  These little bags were made specifically to hold gift cards. 


My cat is kind of a jerk. 


Gifts wrapped.  I also added reusable name tags a couple years back.  I printed gift tags onto card stock, filled in 3 for each kid, and laminated the whole batch.  Less waste. 


This was a miserable failure of a race.  First, it was raining.  Second, we parked a MILE from the start line.  Third, the race started at 4 pm.  In December.  In the rain.  (Photo above was taken when we got there, so it wasn't dark yet, but by the time we started, it was dark.)  We were only a few blocks in when I turned to Eli and Josiah and said, "This really sucks."  They were over it, too, as we sloshed along with water in our shoes, in soaking wet clothes, so we called it quits.  Actually, my race timing app says we did a whole 5K, if you count the walk to and from the car, but we didn't do the 5K the race organizers planned out.  As we drove home, the thunder and lightning started.  I decided I'm not a die hard fitness fan, but a fair weather walker.  I won't be doing a rainy race again. 


Miss Hannah played hand chimes for the school's church one Sunday recently. 


I think this is most of the middle schoolers. 


Merry Christmas, everyone!  Best wishes for a healthy and purposeful New Year!