Classics Challenge - The Harvester

I think this is my third Gene Stratton-Porter book. They are a great read when you want something easy and safe and that was just what I needed right now. By safe I mean they are sweet and light and you know that the guy's gonna get the girl or the girl is gonna make it through her fever/trials of high school when her clothes aren't suitable or the mean guy is not going to succeed at whatever evil deeds he's scheming. Sometimes they are almost too sweet, but they aren't twaddle. And sometimes, you just need some sweetness in your life.

The Harvester is about a man who has built up a career around gathering herbs and plants from his property but suddenly finds he needs something (someone ?) else in his life. It was a bit of a slow start for me. But I hung in there for the first quarter and once it picked up, I finished the rest in two days.

Descriptions of nature are one of the things that Gene Stratton-Porter excels at. You just feel like your there - or you want to be. I find myself reading one of her novels and wanting to toss it aside and go for a hike in the woods. But this particular book has a LOT of very lengthy descriptive passages and as someone who considered herself a reformed passage skimmer, it offered too many temptations. I'll admit I skimmed a couple pages here and there. I just couldn't help it. I was too invested in the plot to listen to her woods about the yellow finches meandering flitters through the marsh and the sounds it makes along the way. But they are really amazing descriptions so  I probably should consider my skimming a fault of mine not the author's.

 Also, up until the end, there was one idea about what love is that was driving me crazy.  It felt like it was the writers point of view as well as our heroes and I strongly disagreed with it. So while I wasn't worried about the book overall having a happy ending as I knew it would, I was worried that I'd want to chuck the book at the wall at the end. Now a lot happens in the story and I can't say more without major spoilers but I will say that it resolved well, this issue was resolved and I can recommend the book if you too are in need of a happy go lucky light read with a heavy dose of nature lore.

The Harvester is my  Classic by a Woman Author selection for the Back to the Classics Challenge. Learn about the Back to the Classic's Challenge over at Books and Chocolate


Norah Jane is Three Years Old

Some birthday pictures... 

Frosting her own cake with the dress she clearly put on herself (backward).

and a letter. 

Dear Norah,

 What a change from last year. You are such a little girl now. A fiery, independent but totally snuggable little girl.

You dressed yourself and pick our a good expression when I asked for a photo :-)

First up, independent. You know what you like and you just make it happen. From what clothes you want to wear to what naptime story I should read you, you have an opinion. For your birthday you wanted a chocolate cake in the shape of a heart. But you wanted to frost it yourself (frosting on the top but not on the sides!) and put the candles in their places as well. The whole week before your birthday you practiced singing the Happy Birthday song and were on the verge of a meltdown when you and Jonah got into an argument about whether someone is allowed to sing their own song. I finally convinced him that you could sing along and you calmed down. 

Three years old is also the big switch from nursery to staying in the service for the first half and then attending children's church with the "big" kids during the sermon (3 yrs old to first grade - in your eyes that includes some pretty big kids!) and I told you about it a few weeks in advance - at which point you were instantaneously done with nursery. It was definitely a "I'm outta here, move me up!" kinda moment. Luckily no one seemed to mind you joining in a bit early. 

You can definitely stand up for yourself with your siblings. And you try your hardest to keep up with their play times too. You're a whiz on a bike or scooter and while you can't climb as high as them in a tree, you do give it a good try and it probably won't be long before your right up there. 

You are quite opinionated about how you want your hair done. A simple request for a ponytail is fine. Demands for a bun like Lucy are a bit harder! But no matter what Lucy or I end up doing to it, you run over, ask for a picture and tell us how cute you look and then within 10 minutes you've taken it out. 

This past year you've swallowed a penny, gotten stuck in a tree, covered in poison ivy and somehow got caught hanging upside down from the side of your bed (that's still had three crib-like sides so when I say stuck upside down, I mean 2 feet up in the air with your foot between the wall and the side. I don't even know how you did that but I got there fast and saved you). You also cut MY hair. I feel pretty proud of myself for keeping you intact this year. I'll try my best this next year as well. We recently listened to a couple Ramona audiobooks and I could see my future ahead of me! 

Covered in Poison Ivy, waiting in the ER for the x-ray results of the penny late on a Saturday night. 

But while you're energetic and curious and a bit of a wild child, you're also my hugger. You love to get and give hugs and kisses and poor Jude is now your most common victim. You call him "Your favorite Jude" or today it was "my Jud-ee" and you tell me you picked him out (hmm, not sure how that would have worked but I'm not gonna argue with you)  and just love to make him smile. Sometimes you cry when he cries and I pick him up because you say you wanted to pick him up. I don't even try to explain that you aren't big enough because that has never been a fruitful conversation, I just distract you by asking you to pick our his outfit or fetch me a diaper. You are an excellent helper with him. You announce (loudly) when he starts to wake up "He's opening his eyes! He's awake"...sometimes I'm not sure if he was before you yell but he certainly is afterwards. You also like to cheer him on when he poops. It guess it's nice that someone is so thrilled about poopy diapers as the thrill has kinda worn off for me. 

I knew you'd love him though. You're such a little mama. You have 6 dolls that you tend to regularly, all with very descriptive names like Girl doll and Boy doll and Baby doll and Yellow doll (it's blonde) and brown doll (it's a brunette, otherwise a match with yellow). Only one doll has a name and its our little African American doll and she's got the same name as the foster girl we had so she's special. But you tuck them in your bed or push them around in your cart and I love it all. Sometimes you try to fall asleep and there really isn't room for you in bed with the dolls and a few stuffed animals thrown in for good measure. 

You love Lucy and Jonah too and I have really enjoyed watching each of those relationships blossom this year as you've grown up. Just today you and Jonah spent over an hour setting up a big road of books and building cars together. You also love to play games like sneaky snacky squirrel with him. Lucy is your go to when my hands are full and you know she can always be counted on for when you need someone to spin you around or read you a book. And the worst possible thing that could happen to you is being left behind or not being able to do something they can. 

Happiest in the middle of it all!

You make as all laugh and have discovered that trick and have started to become a real clown. You call yourself a "silly sister" and sometimes we don't know why we are laughing but it's a genuine laugh for sure. 

I still probably think of you as littler than you are and you keep amazing me with the things you know that I haven't ever taught you. Like your numbers or letters. And you're so confident. Sometimes you're so confidently wrong but that's pretty fun too. Lucy knows just to smile at your attempts to read to yourself or count past 15 but Jonah likes to inform you of your mistakes - but you just take that at all.  You came up to me a few days ago with a book and this sad look on your face saying "I just can't read this book. It's too hard" and the week before that you asked me how to spell monkey. I get asked to spell things a lot so without evening thinking I start off "M..." and you say "But I don't know how to write!" and when I try to fix it by suggesting you just draw a picture of a monkey you say "No, that's too hard too. I can only draw circles and lines" so in the end Lucy drew you a picture of a monkey. It was so funny but we both had to keep our faces flat because your heartache was so real.

This week when I asked you if you wanted to start doing some "school" with me you said "Oh yes, when I'm older I will do school" but I clarified that I meant now you got so excited. "Now, let's go!" and we ran off to do very academic things like sew a fall banner and read about apples, wash some and make fresh apple juice and you just had a blast this week. So your officially not just a trouble maker but a real preschooler now. I think your going to enjoy yourself.

Perhaps you like having Jude around because it means you aren't the littlest. 

A conversation from yesterday:

Norah: I can do lots of things. Jude's just a baby. He can't do anything but drink milk.

Jonah: Yes he can. He can smile and.... and blink!

Norah: rolls eyes clearly indicating that she can do more than blink. I wish I had a video tape of that face.

But yes, Norah, you can do more than blink! It's hard to be smaller but your impact on our family is much bigger than your physical size. It just wouldn't be the same without you. But I'll always think of you as my baby girl. 

Oh, one more fun thing about you - you like to speak in complete sentences as you might notice from the answers below. Almost anytime we ask you  a question you respond with the full reply. "Did you eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch?" doesn't get a yes or no but a "I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

Norah's Birthday Interview:

What is your favorite color? Purple (Normally she says Violet so Jonah askes her if she really means Violet. No, Purple she replies)

What is your favorite toy? I like my puppy toys.

What is your favorite game? I like Hoot Owl Hoot.

What is your favorite song? I like the Happy Birthday Song. 

What is your favorite animal? I like a pig. 

What is your favorite book? I like a Bible.

What do you like to snuggle with at night? I like a snuggle with a baby doll. 

What is your favorite movie? I like Winnie the Pooh.

What is your favorite thing to eat? I like eggs.

Where is your favorite place to go? I like Mastadon (our local state park)

What is your favorite outfit?I like my big sister shirt. 

What do you like to learn about? I like to learn about more God things. 

What have you learned in the last year? I don't know. 

What is hard for you? A tricky things are hard for me.  

What is your favorite thing to do as a family? Hug the baby. That's a family. I like a go to (our local state park). 

What do you like about Mommy? I like to hug and kiss you. 

What do you like about Daddy? I like to kiss daddy when he comes home. I like his hugs and kisses. I am upside down.  (Not sure where she was going with that upside thing)

What do you like about Lucy?  I like about Lucy, kissing Lucy. I like that she snuggles with me.

What do you like about Jonah? I like to kiss Jonah. (He runs over and kisses her). I like to light saber with him. 

What do you yourself? I like when I'm silly. Like I like to kiss myself (kisses her hand) and laughs. 

What do you like about Jude? I like to kiss Jude. He's little. I like when he smiles. 


Mason for Me - Fall (aka brutally honest) Edition

I'm including my own personal update in with this post instead of separately because it's not got a lot in it. My brain slowly faded and faded over the end of my pregnancy. By my last month or two I was barely even reading at all let alone adding to my commonplace book or reviewing my Latin flashcards. I was so tired (measuring 4-5 weeks ahead hugely pregnant, hot and anemic is not an energetic combo!) and my brain just wasn't working. Listening to Brandi Vencel talk about her anemia on a podcast reminded me that it was probably mostly the anemia and that would go away did help because I was feeling pretty defeated with even what I thought were low key goals.

So I re-evaluated. I picked up super light books and tried to read for 10 minutes a day. By super light I mean, barely above twaddle level novels or re-read old favorites that I know so well by know that I can pretty much pick the book up at any spot and read a page or two. Anything I could just to keep the habit of picking up a book instead of turning on netflix at naptime. Even if I did end up falling asleep 10 minutes 2 minutes in.

And I don't talk much about bible reading here because I assume that any of you Christian homeschooling parents out there already realize the vital need for Bible reading apart from Mother Culture, but I do consider to be one of the most important forms of Mother Culture. Let's not be planning elaborate self-education plans to read through the classics if you aren't at least reading your Bible daily. First things first. And this needed to be addresses in my life. We were going through the Psalms in church so I defaulted to that. I started at Psalm 1 and read one a day. I normally like to get out a physical bible instead of relying on my phone but that rarely happened. And sometimes, I even let the ESV website read the Psalm to me. Then I wrote down my favorite verse and tried to pray that - either as a request or a thanksgiving or praise and keep thinking over it throughout the day. Now, just like poetry hasn't always been my favorite form of literature, Psalms haven't been my go-to part of the Bible. But having pushed myself in the area of poetry, I can see pay-off when it comes to the Psalms. I was actually enjoying them!

I've often heard people encourage moms to give themselves grace when it comes to their Bible reading and prayer time when they are deep in the little people stage of life. And yes, there are times and places for elaborate Bible studies and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and there are times when those aren't the right choice. But you have to be careful because too often it comes out sounding like "don't worry about making that a priority."

To me, not making God and his words a priority is not "giving myself grace." Choosing to do what I can, even when it is just a little, is giving myself grace. Or actually, it's letting God give me grace.  I came to him saying "This is it, God. This is all the time/energy/brain power I have right now in the circumstances you have put me in so please use it to grow me."  And he does. Which is good because I don't know how I'd deal with all the ups and downs of this stage without having His words flowing through my mind. I'm trying, not just keep my children alive until adulthood, but to have them actually turn out to be virtuous, God-fearing men and women by then - that's not an easy task! I need God!

And to a lesser degree, that can mostly apply to my desire for Mother Culture as a whole. I need the
quality ideas running through my brain to give me something to ponder at 2am when Jude decides he has slept enough or when my brain feels like it will explode if have to answer another question about Star Wars (especially since they all end with "I'm actually not really sure what that particular robot/droid/guy in a suit is called")

I'm 9 weeks post-partum right now and Jude is, for the time being at least, a good sleeper and a decent napper, but my hormones are giving me quite a bit of emotional trouble this time around. I'm starting to come out of the fog but its slow going. I am getting there though.  I want to read more, I want to get back into really studying things, I want to clean the dust bunnies on my ceiling fans that I've been looking at the for the last 2 months but physically unable to fix (oh wait, different topic).

I've started my slightly more intense Bible reading plan, am actually making progress in books, and finished two (You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith and The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter both of which I'd recommend. Not too difficult but full of ideas to get your brain going) and I've finally started Giants in the Earth which has been on my to-be-read pile for several years so just starting it and going slowly feels like a big accomplishment. I know I'll be able to bring out my big Mason for Me plan from earlier soon  and I'll keep trucking along. But either way, God is good...and so are books :-)

Now, onto the link-ups. How are you going with your plans? Soaring with the energy of a new school year and a mug full of newly sharpened pencils? Or plodding along? Either way, we'd all love to hear about it!