Top Books of 2014

I read a lot of good books and I find it hard to pick favorites so I figure if I make enough categories, I should be able to fit most things in. So without further ado...

My 2014 Top

3 Classics
  • Dr Jekyl and Mr. Hyde (with Frankenstein) - I was surprised how much I liked Dr. Jeykle and Mr Hyde because I didn't really care for Frankenstein. I am glad I read both because the comparison was interesting. Although I still haven't read Deadliest Monster and really want to. 
  • The Moonstone - The original mystery novel. And it set the standard well.
  • Cranford - So different from Gaskin's other works but nevertheless quite enjoyable.
3 Re-reads
  • North and South - It's dangerous. I read the book then I want to watch the mini-series. Then watching the mini-series makes me want to re-read the book!
  • Anne of Green Gables - As Elaine mentioned, my views on the characters change as I age and start to relate to it different, but I still love it as much as ever. 
  • Sense and Sensibility - I know some people think its a weak link in Austen's works but I love it. Probably because I feel like I am Elinor (which not coincidentally, is how we spell Lucy's middle name :-) )
3 Children's books
  • Wind in the Willow - I can't believe I hadn't ever read this before. It makes me sad I didn't read it as a child because I don't think I can ever replicate how I would have experiences it back then but I'm glad I read it as an adult. 
  • The Story Girl - I've read the Anne series and the Emily series but didn't even know about this one. Love the kids and their relationships with each other.
  • Children of Noisy Village - Read aloud with Lucy. She got the sequel as a Christmas present this year and I'm just as excited as she is to get started on it.
3 Non-fiction
  • Bringing up Bebe - This didn't' really change the way I parenting but then again, I didn't read this as a parenting book. If I did, I probably would have found it annoying. But I am fascinated with different cultures and parenting so I found this really interesting examination of that, and of expat living in general, another subject of interest to me.
  • Root Cause - This is good - if you have Hashimoto's. If you don't, well, lucky you.
  • The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers - I don't care that their story is a perfect match to the movie or that this book supposedly tells a slightly different story than the other one she wrote. Read it for what it is and enjoy it.
3 Series
  • Thursday Next - I have a hard time recommending this because its very odd and I can easily see people not liking it. But I do like it. a lot.
  • CS Lewis Space Trilogy - These are hard and weird and I don't think I even got 10% of what Lewis was trying to communicate, but at least I tried.
  • Lord Peter Series - Well written British murder mystery. Shockingly, I liked them :-)
Most likely to cause me to wake up a small child with my laughter
  • Dad is Fat - Hilarious
Modern Fiction
  • Someday, Someday Maybe - I don't read much modern fiction so there wasn't a whole lot of competition but this wasn't bad.
The Series I probably should give up but can't quite (yet)
  • Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness Series. I like Rhys Bowen series. They are light reading and I'm never really surprised at the endings but they are amusing. The Royal Spyness has always been my favorite and what I consider her funniest. But she's starting to really stretch to keep it going. I should stop reading them but I'm still kinda invested and am not quite to the point of leaving them on the shelf.
Book I'm Most Proud of Myself for Reading
  • How to Read a Book: I started it in high school. 15 years later, I finished it. Good job me!
  • Runners' up: Pilgrim's Progress and That Hideous Strength. Both are good, both are hard to get into.
3 Least Favorites
  • The French House - It might have been interesting if you had really learned anything about the house itself instead of just the people that stayed there so they could surf. But even then you'd have to 1) understand who everyone was and 2)get past the horrible financial decisions the owners/authors made. That fact alone caused me to want to throw the book against a wall. If it wasn't an e-book, I might have but I couldn't take out my anger on my poor innocent kindle.
  • The Book Thief - I had an very interesting discussion with my church book club ladies about this. That part was good. The book itself, not so much.
  • Bellfield Hall - I can't really say anything bad about this book. In fact, I had no recollection of this book at all when I saw it on my list of books read. And that might be the worst thing you could say about a book, at least the others inspired some sort of feelings in me.  But even reading the story summary left me blank. The name of the main character seemed vaguely familiar but the rest - nothing. I would blame myself but this is the only book on my list I can say that about. I may not remember all the small details about each mystery and every side characters middle name, but I could tell you the basic plot and main characters. So, I'm gonna say its you and not me, Bellfield Hall.
And last, but certainly not least, my...

 Overall Favorite 
  • Jane Eyre - I've read it before at least once and it was fine but for some reason it really spoke to me this year. Isn't it amazing how reading is such a partnership between the author and the reader. Even if the book doesn't change but I do, it can seem completely different? Books. Gotta love 'em.


I am not ashamed

of asking for you all to watch and if possible, like my youtube video. The kids got Picasso Tiles for Christmas. They are so much fun. But we need more because they get mad when I take them all to build my own towers! Children!

So please click here to watch Lucy describing her creation and if you stick around to the end you get to hear Jonah say "rocketship" and I know I'm a bit biased but that part always makes me smile. If we can get 100 pageviews or 20 likes, we get a $50 coupon towards another set!

And if you happened to watch through my facebook feed yesterday, unless it went to the youtube page, I don't think it counted as a view so please watch again. Thanks!

Update: Just 8 likes or 16 views away!


Adventures in Advent: Finishing Up

I know it's past Advent and most of you are all done Christmasing too but I want to save this for my own future reference. Carry on with New Years Celebrations and ignore me over here :-)

The last bit of the month was all about nature and the the nutcracker.

We went on a Christmas hike and spent our time looking for red, white and green things. We found some red leaves and red berries, white flowers and some while mold/fungus stuff growing in the creek and there was still some green grass to be seen. Spending time outside and just talking about Jesus while we walked made for a nice morning.

Lucy had been asking for a drawing lesson so I tried to show her how to draw a Christmas tree but due to "attitude" issues and frustration, we stopped mid-stream. But we did have success making some simple Christmas tree ornaments.

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They really loved the glue and buttons part so these things weigh about a pound each and I had to pick out the sturdies branches to hang them on.

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And of course we had to read a few Christmas tree books: Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, The Jesus Tree, Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree and the Little Fir Tree and eventually got around to putting our own tree up.

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Then we got our copy of The Nutcracker from the library. Lucy actually remembered the book from last year as soon as she saw the cover and could tell me a good portion of the story. We listened to it all week and watched a few clips on youtube. Jonah spent the rest of the week asking for "nut and mouse video?" every time I turned on the computer and if we ever watched a clip that wasn't the big fight scene he would say "No, where the mouses?"

We tried a different drawing lesson and this one went much better. And I think her nutcracker turned out pretty well despite her unorthodox color choices.

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On Friday I had to scramble to find one more nutcracker "craft" because Lucy really wanted craft time so I printed this for them to color and cut out. Jonah thought his looked angry so he torn the eyes off and draw "happy eyes" on instead.

For the nativity part, we added the next to last pieces of our set on top of the piano (just waiting on Mary and Baby Jesus until the Big Day!) and then made our own set from these paper printables.

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and went with some friends to visit a living nativity down the road a bit. That part is a tradition so this was our fifth year (and our first to get a good picture of it!).

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The things they say - Christmas edition

The kids playing doctor together. Lucy is sick and Jonah is the doctor.
Jonah: (Holds up a wise man).
Lucy: I don't see how that's going to help me
Jonah: Oh, I be right back. (Runs and gets a purse with a necklace and headband.)
Lucy: No, that's won't help either. Go get something else.
Jonah: Oh, okay. I be right back...repeat 10X

Lucy: Can I have some of that stuff on my bread?
Me: Nutella, sure.
Lucy: Well, we got it a couple days ago so I don't think you should call it new-tella, just tella.
Me: No, its not because its new. That's just the name - Nutella.
Lucy: I call it Tella.
Me: Okay, but its name is Nutella.
Lucy: Well, then Tella is it's nickname.

Jonah's been getting into a teensy bit of trouble due to his lack of self control around the Christmas tree. So we just keep moving ornaments up out of his reach. Now, he's joining in by bringing me ornaments and telling me to "put dis up I no reach mama"

Lucy is really into similes and comparisons these days. Here are some favorites from the last few days:

Me: Stay back while I pour the toffee. If it touches you, it will burn.
Lucy: Will it hurt? How much?
Me: A lot
Lucy: It will hurt like a snake bite would hurt.

Lucy: I love being snuggled up close to you. Very close to you. Close to you like a puppy is close to its leash.

Lucy: Do you love me?
Me: Yes
Lucy: A lot? As much as (pausing then pointing to a friend's popcorn ceiling) all those bumps on the ceiling?

We're reading from Genesis to Jesus' birth in The Jesus Storybook bible for our advent devotionals each night. Getting Jonah to sit and listen is a bit like herding cats but we still try. But the night we did the story of Jonah, he was quite attentive. When we got to the page with the picture of the Jonah falling into the water next to the fish he shouted "Oh no, its gonna get me!" and then when Craig turned the page, he pushed Lucy out of the way "let me see me, I need to see me!"

While reading "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Jonah: I don't like that guy, he angry. (Repeat on every single page until the last one!)

Me: Okay, mimi all done for now
Jonah: Little bit more?
Me: No, all done, maybe later
Jonah: (Hits his own arm) Oww, I hut (hurt) my arm. I need mimi. I need mimi to feel better. I hut my arm!

Jonah in bed, not sleeping, holds up his foot: One daddy toe, one baby toe, two baby toe, eight baby toe, seven baby toe, no, no, no. One daddy toe, one baby toe, two baby toe, six baby toe, no, no no...

Craig: Where did your clothes go?! Why are you naked?
Jonah: I took off my undies
Craig: Why did you do that?
Jonah: I wanted to be nakey!
Perfectly logical toddler reasoning.


Beyond A Christmas Carol: 3 Christmas Reads Adults will Enjoy

I love Christmas picture books and we have a ton we own and even more we check out from the library every year but this year I've found a couple enjoyable Christmas reads for adults too.

 Yes, Grown-ups can read Christmas stories too and there is more out there than just A Christmas Carol. Not that A Christmas Carol isn't good, it's a classic for a reason and in fact, I'm reading it right now but there are more options. And they are all pretty short so you still have plenty of time to complete them before the season is over.

The Gifts of the Child Christ by George MacDonald (find it free here and here) - A short story. Somewhat sad but also sweet and very thought provoking.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie - This book contains several short stories, the first is the only Christmas one but I really enjoy it (as wel as the others, despite their un-festiveness).

The Story of the Other Wise Man (another freebie!) - I actually got this from my library for Lucy when it came up in a search only to discover it isn't really a kid's book. It isn't inappropriate for kids, I just don't think they'd enjoy it. I think my library has it in the jf section because its short? It's really more of a short story than a full book. And it a simple story but I still liked it.

Two Bonuses: Okay, I'm cheating. These aren't really written for adults but they are just as engaging for me when we read and I wouldn't hesitate to read them to myself if didn't have a kid handy.

A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy - I did an ILL library request for this last year and Lucy listed to it but was really a bit too young but I loved it. Now I see our library has its own copy. Yay!

The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden - Technically a picture book (with wonderful illustrations by Barbara Cooney), its long so Lucy and I treated it like a chapter book. I really wanted to cheat and read ahead but I didn't. Aren't you proud of me? I've heard more than one adult say they cried while reading it.


Adventures in Advent: Week 2

Another fun week, not quite as full as the one before but we still managed to finish the Letter J by making some Jingle bell bracelets

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 (yes, the rest of the day I was wondering what I had been thinking while simultaneously begging for some peace and quiet. oh, well!)

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, finish up our study of Hansel and Gretel by making a gingerbread house  which meant Lucy and I decorate a gingerbread house while Craig tried to stop Jonah from eating everything.

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We even had to time make crowns and prepare for St. Lucia's day. We ended up making St. Lucia gluten free coffee cake instead of rolls which isn't exactly traditional but she did have an actual white dress this year so I think those cancel each other out.

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On to week 3!


Books for 2015

I sometimes wonder if the impression I give on the blog is that all my free time is spent reading Charlotte Mason and watching k-dramas online. I hope y'all know that's not entirely true. I actually read other books too - a lot of them in fact. So far this year I've read 115 books. That is much more than I typically do but I made it a priority this year and it shows in those numbers. And while I did pick fairly decent books (stay tuned for some top 10 lists) and have surprisingly few regrets, next year I want to make more of a effort to pre-plan what I read.

This year, in addition to making reading goals, I also spread out my reading more. While I'd normally have 2 or maybe 3 books going at a time, I expanded that to 5-7, trying to make sure I had a variety of depths and topics covered at any given moment. It really worked. I hope having several choices in each category will keep my inspire - and help me get those ILL ins. The * means I don't own it and our library. So this list contains a lot of books I've wanted to read for a while but haven't gotten around to requesting plus a bunch I found in the basement while organizing and put aside because they looked good. Which probably isn't the typical way book lists are made but what can I say, I'm unique.
It's a work in progress and I reserve the right to add or subtract books when I want but here is what I've got so far.

- Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature*
-The Inn of 6th Happiness*
-The Hiding Place
-Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen

-Norms and Nobility -Finally bought it during the Amazon 30% of any book sale. It was still pricey but I'm glad I'm going to have the time to read it slowly. I've actually already started and am almost finished with the prologue!

-The Living Page - A re-read. I bought it and devoured it while focusing on notebooks for myself but this time I want to slow down and focus on Lucy's upcoming first grade year (Ack! First grade! How? But by the end of 2015, I'll be gearing up for "real school")

-Charlotte Mason Volumes 2 (finish), 4 and 5 - Reading with the Ambleside Online Forum

-Consider This* - If I finish all those, I will reward myself with this one.

-Protecting the Gift - I don't want to read this one but I know I need to
-Something about intense/gifted parenting - have a suggestion?
-Something marriage related. Maybe Sacred Marriage?

Other Non-fiction

-When Athens Met Jerusalem*

-Laura Ingalls Wild, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks

-The Deadliest Monster

Classics and Harder Fiction
-Something by Dickens - I'm reading A Christmas Carol right now (which I can't believe I've never actually read yet although I was in a play version in high school) but can't remember ever reading any other Dickens. Surely I have? If not, I must remedy this. I'm not sure what to start with so I'm open to any suggestions.

-Middlemarch - Can you believe I've never read this? For some reason it really intimidates me but I'm also sure I'll love it once I get into it. If I don't read anything else on this list, I really want to make sure I complete this.

-Plutarch - 1-2 lives. I loved the first one I read but got stuck on the second more because of the format I was having to read it in than the work itself. Will try again!

-Kristin Lavransdatter*


Medium Weight Fiction
-The Housekeeper and the Professor*
-China Court: Hours of a Country House*

Fluffy Fiction
-Three Men in a Boat
-Hillsboro People
-More Lord Peter Books* - whatever I can get my hands on for cheap/free
-Lady Audley's Secret
-Rest of the Thursday Next series - only 3 to go?
-Hannah Fowler*
-Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good

Pre-Reading (Ambleside)
-Understood Betsy
-Daughter of Time (With AO Forum)
-Watership Down (With AO Forum)
-Idylls of the King (With AO Forum)
-Start Pre-reading AO Year 1 as I buy them

To Finish
-Once and Future King - was enjoying it but it got put aside and lost. I need to find it, then finish it
-The Princess and the Goblin

Whew, so that's about 30. Which isn't really a lot, numbers wise. But I'm still pretty intimidated by this list. I do think its realistic for me though and I'm excited about it. Anything you are looking forward to reading in this upcoming year? I've probably got room to squeeze another on here if you can convince me. To 2015!


Advent Adventures - Week 1

I really dialed back our fun activity crafty time this fall. I'm still torn about it. On the one hand, less stuff going on means less stuff I have to worry about getting done. But I miss doing those things with the kids and I've finding that that is really what gives me energy. I'm too introverted to go out during the day more than once or maybe twice a week (out being a playdate with friends or a visit to a museum, park, etc) so those fill time nicely - a day at home with the kids playing and nagging me seems really long. And Lucy really loves this type of thing (Jonah happily tags along but he makes his own fun no matter what). So I guess I'm glad I cut stuff to make life manageable, I just think I cut the wrong stuff. But I'm not sure what else I can cut. I mean, we still need to eat and wear clean laundry, right? It's a conundrum.

While I ponder away at that, I decided to really go whole hog with the fun cutesy stuff for Christmas and see how it goes. This week we did J is for Jesus (and then I'm taking a break from Alphabet Path until the New Year but J for Jesus just fit too well!) before moving on to St. Nicholas. And of course we read tons of Christmas books (check out the newly updated Christmas section of Lucy's book page for some of them)

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We made some simply candy cane ornaments, read The Legend of the Candy Cane and talked about the symbolism. Lucy spontaneously decided to try some different patterns. I prefer the 2-2 but she liked 3 of each color best. The next day we saw something else with a candy cane and she told me all about what the shape and colors meant.

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We've never done the "Santa thing" and don't plan to but this year she started asking about him. So we talked and read about the real St. Nicholas, watched the Veggie Tales' St. Nicholas video, and got ready for our St. Nicholas themed tea time.

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We made our St. Nicholas miter hats and put together St. Nicholas bingo sheets, talking about each picture and why it went with St. Nicholas.


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Then we made our tea time snack. Jonah kept calling it dog food then Lucy would correct him, "No, Jonah, it's funny puppy!" which he eventually caught on to so I think we'll have to declare it a family tradition to call it funny puppy now.


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For tea time, we did double duty, starting with our regular tea time pile and the Letter J. We looked at some Jewelry art and listening to Jabberwocky (Thank you Benedict Cumberbatch) while I made tea.

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 Then we moved to St. Nicholas. We looked at several depictions of him over time as he went from St. Nicholas the giver to St. Nicholas the saint and then to Santa Claus before finishing with a riveting game of Bingo.

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Jonah's hat looks a little off because he accidentally ripped it and I tried multi-tasking its repair while also making tea so it ended up sideways, Lucy and I had a hard time controlling our laughter but he hasn't noticed anything amiss so I'm not about to tell him. 

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The tea was on Friday and by Friday evening, I could tell the sickness storm was a brewing. Lucy fell asleep before dinner then woke up with a fever of 101+ and by the next morning, Jonah was sick as well. I was a little sad because this was our first year actually celebrating St. Nicholas day itself but despite the ickiness the kids perked up at the sight of their stockings with chocolate coins,  pajamas and new christmas books. I didn't get any pictures but I've got some good memories. My favorite was when Lucy noticed my stocking was empty. She told me to cover my eyes and ran and found her toys to fill up, making sure I knew they were mine to keep not just borrow. When I gave her a hug and told her she was sweet she started up with a mini-sermon about how important it is to give and how St. Nicholas was a giver and he could love others because he had God's love in him. If I was the grinch, my heart would probably have grow 3 sized I think.



The things they say - boy edition

Jonah: It's too spicy.
Me: It's only macaroni and cheese, it's not too spicy.
Jonah; It's three spicy!

Jonah combines Can I? and May I? and often asks "Man I do that?"

Me: I love you, Jonah!
Jonah: (laughing) No!
Me: Yes, I love you!
Jonah: No! Haha, I be jokester!

Me, putting on a Santa hat: How do I look? Festive?
Jonah: No, Boo-ti-ful. Boo-ti-ful. Want to play with me Boo-ti-ful?
Me: Why yes I do!

Jonah: Man I have old soup?
Me: What do you want?
Jonah: Old soup!
Me: You mean leftover soup?
Jonah: Yeah, old soup?

Jonah and I are lying in his bed. I'm pretending to sleep so he'll stop talking and sleep himself. He's just talking about all sorts of stuff when I notice some familiar words. He's giving his version of the memory work from Luke we are all working on, complete with hand motions. "They wrapped him in cloth, and placed him in da manger, because there was no room. no room!" And just as I was maybe about to get a little prideful about that, he starts singing the words "Diarr-he-aa! Diarr-he-aa!" But he finished his song with a "I love you mommy, and I love baby Jesus, oh, baby Jesus" so I'll take it.

And a husband funny. Reading Lucy Olivia and the Fairy Princess*
Craig: "be a reporter and expose government malfeasance"
Me:  Isn't that supposed to be "expose corporate malfeasance?"
Craig: Not when I read it.

*Just in case you were wondering, that book quickly found its way back to the library and will probably stay there. Not a favorite.


The rest of the weekend

All of Thanksgiving guests left on Friday so of course Murphy's Law says Saturday and Sunday must have gorgeous weather. We took advantage of it by finally visiting the bird sanctuary and a nearby animal nature park. I had originally wanted to come when we were studying the letter B (for Bird). This week as the letter J and alas, there were no J-birds there but we still had fun.

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Jonah selfie!

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I'm very proud of us for getting up and going in time to tag along for the bird feeding walk. I didn't take many picture on it because it was a bit gruesome. Condors pecking the eyes out of fish, owls eating dead chicks - very interesting but not photogenic. 

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Of course, with all the interesting birds we had a chance to see, Jonah's favorite were the chickens. I think he would just have stood there and watched them the whole time if we had let him. But he must have been paying attention because several times this week he had reminded me that the chickies were dead and bloody and yucky.

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Then we drove through the park, saw some buffalo and elk and took a short hike. 

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No hike is complete until Jonah stops and puts rocks in his pocket.

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Every nice afternoon we have, I tell myself it's got to be the last so I really try and appreciate but this year keeps surprising us and bringing another one. I really hope that continues all winter!

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Thanksgiving Week in Pictures

Sneaking away for a date while there was an excess of babysitters around. I don't think they missed us at all (either the kids or the grandparents ;-)


But that night the boys got to work preparing the traditional Norwegian dish Lefse which Lucy referred to as a tortilla thing.


Lounging with Uncle Chad and Auntie Steph

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Decorating the Table. I didn't have a tablecloth big enough (I should, but I couldn't find it) so I just covered it white easel paper.

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 I suggested decorating it with fall designs which I thought was a good idea, Grandma suggested drawing things we were thankful for which I thought was a better idea, Lucy insisted that the whole thing was a princess's backyard!

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Lucy was too busy soaking up everyone's attention and handed over her sous chef role to Jonah. He did a really good job on the cranberry sauce and helped put together the green bean casserole with a bit of supervision from Uncle Chad.

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Then he insisted on running around with (an extra, clean) pair of underwear on his head. Our celebration was obviously very formal.



One of the many book readings Jonah persuaded someone into.


He also persuaded Grandma to give up her turkey leg. Took it right off her plate and looked so cute she didn't even bother getting it back.


Lucy did a little persuading of her own. I guess we had been in picture taking mode so much she started to think every moment needed one so when we walked past a big rock one evening she insisted we all get together on top for a picture. So here we are, in the cold, in the dark, standing on a rock just for her. Probably not one for the scrapbook but it does make me laugh. 


But the biggest miracle was probably family photo time. Thanks to Neighbor J and some pretty snowflakes in the background, we got several great shots of everyone together with only a little bit of photoshop due to someone's unwillingness to smile on demand (no, not a child, a child's father, ahem). This is a bit of tease because I'm not actually sharing those yet but I thought you'd be happy to know we got them. All in all, a good week. Hope yours was too!