Monday Daybook: before Thanksgiving

Out my window: Cold.  Dark.  Nonetheless, the chickens are asking to be let outside.

In the kitchen: Thanksgiving preparations.  Normally, we travel this week and spend Thanksgiving with Sam’s family, but this year we’re staying home. Not only do we get to host a dinner (perhaps the first time in 18 years of marriage?) but we’re also using the weekend to celebrate the volunteers who work with children at our church.  I have a lot of lists.


This is the photograph (by Jon Kaplan) that stole my heart in Guatemala.  I went back to the gallery three times before I finally bought her and carried her home with me in a tube I was sure I would leave on the plane.  I used my birthday money to frame her, and now she hangs in my kitchen and smiles at me while I do the dishes.  Is there a piece of art that has done that to you?

In the school room: We’re taking this week off, but the library basket is full.  We are planning to be out of the house today and tomorrow (but remind any thieves who would target our house that we have eight vicious attack chickens on the loose).  Last week we had first-quarter tests in pre-algebra and Chemistry.  When we start back in December: World War I and the 1918 Influenza pandemic.

Planning: aforementioned celebrations.  Also, I am planning for Advent.  I’ve been wrapping up books, and I just pulled out all our Advent candles.  If you don’t have any, you can find them on Amazon, or here.  Our wreath uses plain white candles, so I tend to stock up on them when I find them and then take them to church to be blessed on Candlemas Sunday.

Around the house: this place is a mess, the consequence of being out all weekend. But I have children for who can “clean” it, and they can’t make it worse!

Reading: I just finished rereading The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, and I’m still nibbling at From This Day Forward by Elswyth Thane.  I picked up Seabiscuit and a couple Travis McGee mysteries from the library, but who are we kidding- there isn’t going to be any time to read this week!

In my shoes: I’ve been packing my head lamp and warmer clothes while the kids swim, and I’ve been able to fit some evening runs in under the street lamps.  And I’m planning to run a turkey trot this week with my PRP (perfect running partner), instead of the one I’ve run the past few years with Sam,  his sister & her husband.  There’s one really tall guy who wears a turkey hat, and I always end up following the turkey butt for the whole five miles.  Hopefully I can find a turkey butt to follow this year.

Grateful:   I just wrote our annual alphabet of thanksgiving, so I have quite an alliterative list of bountiful blessings.  Most immediately, I am grateful for the kindness of Jesus.

Praying for: This is also quite a list, but chief on my heart today is my mother-in-law, Judy. Would you pray for her, too?  Thank you.


Today I’m grateful for:

Last week’s visit of our friends, and our trip to the Margaret Brown House.

This week’s miles. I tried a new route for my five miler yesterday, and it felt good.


My birthday hike, delayed for a week.  Obviously, this was before the winter descended on us like an acme anvil.

That my patient with liver failure is finally on the transplant list.

Tea and wool with a Christy on Saturday.  Dinner guests three times this week.  We are very blessed.


My mom.

The miracle that let Mandy go home from the hospital.

Tea and pie with Heidi.


Playing games with my kids, even if they have to make up complicated alternate rules every time.

My friend Karen’s life, and how her recipes help me remember her.  I made her pumpkin ribbon bread this week and posted a note to her fb page.  Her cousin emailed me for the recipe, so I was able to share it.

Wrapping up some love

I spent rest time this afternoon wrapping up books.  Not just any books. Christmas books.

My friend Christine gave us one of her favorite Christmas books before my oldest was even born– it must have right after I told her I was pregnant.  And with that gift, she started us down a road of piecing together our Christmas book library.  Little by little, year by year, we have added to the collection.  It seems frivolous, to have a box of books we only read in December, but it was the box we missed most last year when all our Christmas ornaments and decorations (and books!) were in storage.

Yesterday at church, my friend Gabs was asking my about our Advent wreath.  (It’s this one, in case you’re looking for it.)  But we use our books as a type of Advent observance, too.  Slowing down, gathering on the couch, unwrapping a book each night, and snuggling together to read.

So today I hauled the box of Christmas books off the shelf in the basement and began wrapping them.  The plan (alas, if I could only stick to the plan!) is to open one each night and snuggle together as we read.  I know just which ones my kids will look for, weighing the books in their hands and trying to see through the paper.  (How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever are two of their favorites.  I will be especially happy when we unwrap A Child is Born and The Shoemaker’s Dream.)  This year I’m adding a few more I’ve been looking for: a version of the Christmas Carol that’s been out of print, and The Baker’s Dozen.  Most of the books I have bought used, and we have imagined them in older, now grown-up hands before us.  The first few years I bought blindly and found some lemons, but now I am picky.

Like Mother Like Daughter, Modern Mrs. Darcy and Elizabeth Foss have lovely lists of Christmas books, but I’ll share here a few that didn’t make it onto theirs:

The Shoemaker’s Dream (Schell/Kasuya)- a shoemaker encounters Christ (no elves involved)

Silver Packages (Rylant/Soentpiet)- an Appalachian boy who receives a life-changing gift from the Christmas train

The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems (ed. Harrison & Stuart-Clark)- poems for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, as well as winter.





twitterature: november

It’s been awhile since my last twitterature post.  Be sure to check out Anne’s reading at Modern Mrs. Darcy– I can always find something great on her list.

The Good Lord Bird (James McBride): Hands down, this was the best book I’ve read in awhile. It’s a fictionalized account of John Brown, and both Brown and the book’s narrator (Henry/Onion) were vivid and remarkable. Even as the story marched toward the inevitable historical conclusion, I waited for a last-minute miracle to save them… and somehow McBride pulled that off.

Gene Card (E.E. Giorgi) is a sci-fi thriller heavy on the science, which is realistic and compelling.  Gene Card occurs in a disastrous future in which all the characters are complicated and no one’s motives are pure.

The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown).  I loved this book and even regretted loaning Sam my kindle while I was reading it. Brown tells the story of the US 1936 Olympic crew from childhood through their brush with the Nazis, and I couldn’t put it down.

The Watch that Ends the Night (Alan Wolff). This was a reread for me, and I did a test read with the children, who keep asking for it.  It’s the story of the Titanic from many perspectives. In free verse.  Longer review here.

Peace and Bread: The Story of Jane Adams (Stephanie Sammartino McPherson). This biography of Jane Adams was a surprise hit with the under-13 crowd, and I found myself reading ahead.  Free from sentimentality. Inspiring.

Finding Calcutta (Mary Poplin): Another reread, and absolutely worth coming back to. Poplin’s observations about her time with the Missionaries of Charity are incisive and compelling.  I’m glad I found it again.

From This Day Forward (Elswyth Thane): A Thane romance between a famous singer and a scientist in the 1930’s. Last time I read it I hadn’t been to Guatemala yet, and I enjoyed her descriptions of Central America.   I see how reading this book as a teenager shaped my ideas of marriage.

Okay for Nor (Gary Schmidt): I was skeptical that any book would live up to The Wednesday Wars, but Schmidt did it again.  This family is in grave distress, but the painful beginning is powerfully redeemed by the end.


So I guess our chickens read the blog, because after I wondered aloud last week when we’d start seeing eggs, we found 2 soft-shelled eggs in the coop on Sunday.   Then Tuesday, we found a hard-shelled egg (speckled brown) and yesterday, another hard eggs (this one solid brown).  So I think that means we have 2 chickens laying eggs. This week, when the temperature has hardly broken zero.

First egg: translucent. Note the flip-flop wearing of last Sunday.

Third and fourth eggs. No flip-flops were worn in the gathering of these eggs.

We weighed the eggs, just to see how they compared with regular eggs.  The speckled one was 30g and the solid 31g.  To compare, a “grade A large brown egg” from a cage-free chicken was 67g.  Little eggs from young chickens.  This whole chicken thing is an adventure.


Last week I wrote “rearrange furniture” on the white board “schedule” three different days.  It didn’t happen.  Sam came home from work and read it.  Alarmed, he said, “What are you rearranging?!”

When I was growing up, my mom rearranged the furniture regularly.  Moving things around gave a room a whole new feel, without the expense of buying something new.  I loved the feeling of a fresh room, but as an adult I haven’t been much of a  rearranger.

So Monday, I tackled the living room.  I didn’t quite know what I wanted except for “cozier” and “better for conversation.”

I started by pulling the couches away from the walls.  There was nine months (have we really lived here 9 months now?!) of dust, plus a few marbles and pencils, along the baseboards.  Alas, the lost library book wasn’t hiding there.  The boys helped me with getting the couches onto the rug and bringing my special chair back out of our bedroom.

The result:


Better for conversation.

I don’t know how long it will stay this way, but for now I’m happy with it. Especially since everyone wants to snuggle there and read books on the couch with me. That’s what we need on this cold, snowy day.

Daybook: Nov 10

Out my window: it’s dark.  These dark mornings are good for promoting children’s sleep, but not for much else.  It’s hard to get out and run in the dark.  I do like the sunrises, though.  Here’s a recent one I saw from the hospital as I was coming out after a delivery.


In the kitchen: we’re out of groceries.  I have leftovers of my Vietnamese noodle bowl, but that doesn’t leave the children anything to eat.  (Well, there’s always frozen zucchini…)  That will be me at the grocery store with four children today, trying to smile brightly when the fifth person tells me, “Why, you sure do have your hands full!”

Both girls swam in the same relay this weekend. So fun.

We had one of those weekends– full but very busy.  We traveled for a swim meet and saw friends we hadn’t seen for a year.  We also ran into two friend at the meet we hadn’t seen for even longer.  Very fun, but my house is a wreck and we have nothing to eat.  Rice noodles, anyone?

In the schoolroom: so I don’t have the kids’ assignment sheets done yet, either.  But they ought to be able to figure some of it out.  “Do the next lesson in your math book.”   I think we’ll start with snuggling on the couch and reading, and then work our way up to the grocery store.  We’re finishing a biography of Margaret Brown and By the Shores of Silver Lake.  I feel a Swallows and Amazons book coming on…

In the garden: We’re supposed to have snow and a hard freeze this week, so sent the girls out with clippers to bring the remaining flowers into the house.  They did.


On my bedside table: I’m reading of my favorite Elswyth Thane books, From This Day Forward…  All the non-fiction awaiting me is pretty heavy, and I’ll admit to brain fatigue.

Speaking of fatigue, here is Owen’s 100 butterfly.

In my shoes: I ran two miles last night in a mad dash against the darkness.  I was hoping for three miles, but the darkness won.  Gone are the long, slow summer twilights.  Sam’s knee is slowly improving, so he’s beginning to run again.  “Just three,” he says, and runs three miles in the time it takes me to run two.  Hate that.


In the coop: Apparently the chickens read my post last week, because there were two (two!) eggs in the coop yesterday.  The eggs were both soft, so one of the chickens had stepped on one and broke it.  I read that first eggs can be a little funny– soft-shelled, or shaped strangely. Yes?  But if they are starting to lay and we’re not hearing and rooster-crowing, then Eponine is a hen. Yes?  Chicken-keeping is fraught with uncertainty…

These chickens are not dead.

Grateful: I am so grateful to be home.  To be running, even if it’s only a slow two miles sometimes.  I’m grateful for the friends I saw this weekend who have known me for more than a decade and know when I’m not being real.  I’m grateful for authenticity.  I’m grateful for the laughter around our dinner table.

Praying: for so many hurting people.  And so many people dear to me who are doing hard work.  For my friend who is planning to be deployed to West Africa with Doctors Beyond Borders, that she will be safe and brave and able to minister grace despite the constraints of space suit and fear.