Another Year of 100 Books: Week two

2018 is all set up to be another year of 100 Books.

I have my whole list set up and I’m posting it on Sunday.

It’s actually 85 books.  85 Normal Sized books.
Plus Infinite Jest  which will be counted as ten books.  And that’s reasonable because it has 1,079 pages and there are some long sections which appear to be lacking punctuation and paragraph breaks.  So, volume of pages plus wear and tear equals consideration as multiple volumes.   My blog.   My rules.

I made a fatal error in my first  Year of 100 books when I included  Richard Rhodes book The Making of the Atomic Bomb  and gave it “single volume” status.  That book was just shy of 900 pages.  It was a magnificent book.
But, as I was trying to read two books a week with six kids so close to me I could touch them  18 hours a day…. it took me almost a month to finish The Atomic Bomb, and I never really caught up after that.

So, I’m giving special status to Extra Ginormous books this time.  Every book containing more that 650 pages will be considered as two.
More than 1000 pages PLUS long sections of text which are virtually impossible to interpret means the book is worth four or more.   That means Five.  Because of math.
And in this particular case, it actually means Ten.
I’m only tweaking that one rule.  Otherwise:

I will stick to the 2018 calendar year.
I will read or listen to every book on the list in its entirety.
I will list every book on this blog with start and finish date as I start and finish reading.
I will comment on every book I read here on this blog, by means of accountability.

So, 85 titles, plus Infinite Jest standing for ten books, leaves five unknowns.  Five free spots to fill between now and December 31.

It’s now January 13, and I should have three books under my belt by this date in order to begin the year in a good position.  And these are the three:

I have just completed Lincoln in the Bardo  by George Saunders.  I think everybody else read this last summer or something.  I wish somebody had told me!
This book is going down as one of my top ten books for life.  I loved it so much because it’s funny and heartbreaking, historic and insanely imaginative.  I love the use of so very many voices, multi facets of life and death and suffering and joy.  I love the tender, sympathetic picture of Abraham Lincoln.  I love the way that he combined the perspectives of untold numbers of people, real and unreal, and managed to maintain a perfect narrative flow all the way through.   I love the suggestion of the enormous requirements of input from both the living and the dead in order to bring an end to slavery in our country, to end the war.   Loved this book.

I also read Tuck Everlasting  with the ten year old who is almost eleven.  It was as rich and delightful as ever.  I think this is the fourth time I’ve read it.  It never disappoints.    People bearing undeserved hardship with courage and selflessness.   So satisfying!

And I’m including audiobooks, which is how I just experienced Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.    She is always nourishing to my soul.  I am always encouraged by her. She has been a trustworthy partner in the excavation of my stratified misconceptions about my own strengths and weaknesses, and for that I am grateful and will be, certainly, returning for another Brene book in a couple of months.  She has show me the  possibilities that are before me if I can get a better handle on what vulnerability,  forgiveness and courage look like in real life.

Three super satisfying books!   All begun and completed between January 1 and January 12, 2018.

Next up is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.    I’m two chapters in, and it’s rich, intense and exhausting.  I will be looking for something quiet and pastoral like Wendell Barry when I’m done with Cormac.

So, after that last blog entry, I couldn’t much bring myself to write another until some amazing real estate event occurred.

I guess you might say that such an event has now happened.  It appears that our house will close in two months, as we are now under agreement.  And  I am happy for the purchasing family, as they have gotten the very deal of the century.  I hope they will be happy there, as we certainly were.  The neighbors are the real treat there, and this family does not yet know what a marvellous community they have fallen in to.    They think they are buying a house, but they are actually getting a whole new family.   People we love.

And I am thankful it’s  going to be someone’s home.  It was such a nice home for us.



Fear No Idea

My husband often tells our children that they should fear no idea.  He wants them to read widely, to ask difficult questions and to listen to opinions which are different from our own. He wants them to understand God well, and to understand the world well.  Once they have a broad understanding of the character of the God who created the universe, and how that God has worked through history, they will have a perfect vantage point and perspective for understanding any ideas men can invent.

I recently was in the company of Christian parents who would not permit their children to read books written by non-Christian writers.  Their desire to protect their children is admirable, but it may leave their kids unprepared for real life.  Our kids need to learn to take an idea, an argument, a piece of literature or philosophy apart and really try to digest and understand it, to appreciate its beauty and identify its errors.  I want them  to see that even the most enormous human ideas are swallowed up by the truth of God.  And how glorious is that!

If they reach adulthood having never understood these things they will be lacking  the tools they need to navigate their culture.  And when we cannot navigate, we are more likely to live in fear.  And fear is like a yoke of slavery.  And Galatians 5:1 says  “1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

My wish for my kids is that they will go out into the world knowing that as children of God they are hosts and hostesses of the earth.  I want them to fear no idea, and to be able to stand up confidently and answer, graciously, any one who challenges their beliefs.

Once in a while, Christians question the books that I and my children read….the ones listed on our book list pages here.  I have been told that we should stick to Christian authors only.  But really, knowing that there is much to be gained from Christian authors, I believe that to read them exclusively would put us in a kind of literary monastery ….isolated from so many great ideas and basing our academic choices on fear.   Of course  there are books we don’t bother reading, but not because we fear them….

And with these thoughts in mind, I was pretty tickled to read some good words at The Christian Reader this afternoon…..the entire post can be found at the link there under the title of “No’ Scottish”, but here is a little taste of that good article.

“The world thinks we’re buffoons and morons who only hold to religion because we’re too dumb to think for ourselves. Never do they dream that they are standing in an epistemological quagmire as they laugh at us who are standing on solid ground. They don’t realize that an abyss is yawning underneath them, and the only reason they get their next breath is because of the grace of God. Unfortunately, most of us don’t seem to realize it either. Many of us can therefore neither offer them any help, nor honor the Lord with a stout and ready defense. I’ve heard some of the dumbest things come out of Christian mouths, and it makes me want to cringe. Our minds ought to be as clean and sharp and efficient as a well-oiled machine. C.S. Lewis once said:

God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.

It’s only cowardice and laziness that keeps us from being what we are supposed to be in this area, and that’s simply no’ Scottish at all.”

I took a photo of Maggie walking ahead of me to the dam today, and when I got it home, I realized I had almost the same shot from last summer.    These two pictures were taken at the same spot on the trail, under such different circumstances.

What a difference a little tilt of the earth can make!!!

Happy Birthday to a Couple of Cool Chicks

Twice in my life, the sun has set on January 16 leaving me enormously pregnant with no sign of delivery…..and the same sun has risen the next morning,  finding me holding a  beautiful new daughter.   It happened once in 1996, and again in 2007.    I have talked about it here before…….(and if you click that link, you’ll see that snake photo Audrey wishes I would stop posting.)

So, tonight we will celebrate Maggie’s fourth birthday, and tomorrow we celebrate Audrey’s fifteenth.  They are such a joy to us all…..Happy Birthday girls!!!!!!

the second week in review

Here, again, is this wonderful passage from John Bunyan’s book  All Loves Excelling.

“The High God is yours;  the God that fills heaven and earth is yours;  the God whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain is yours, yea, the God whose works are wonderful, and whose ways are past finding out, is yours!  Consider therefore the greatness that is for you, that taketh part with you, and that will always come in for your help against them that contend with you.     It is my support, it is my relief, it is my comfort in all my tribulations,  and I would have it be yours, and so it will when we live in the lively faith thereof.”

This is an amazing concept.    It’s the most perfect antidote to discouragement.   It is so uplifting to consider that this great God is ours, and is our comfort.   Especially since our week here was not very inspirational or inspired.  But we were carried through and cared for through it all.  That is really marvellous!

This is how the outside world looked last time any of us were in it.     I love the look of the dam on our river  when it freezes.   I went for two very chilly three mile runs on Monday and Tuesday,  in temperatures which were something like -11C, and then, along with  my children, I fell ill.

It’s not surprising that our very satisfying start back to school last week…..complete with ball spike and victory dance by me…..was followed by a really mediocre week in which it has felt that we are marching through molasses.   This, thanks to a funky virus that is claiming us one by one and leaving us curled up under blankets and quilts on every sofa, chair, bed and even on the floor in front of the fireplace.
Not all of us have fallen, and the ones still on their feet have loved us and fed us, and kept things tidy and have kept morale up in something like a symphony of cheerful non-complaint.

Maggie has hardly shown any signs of illness, and has flitted from patient to patient wearing her Queen Elizabeth I dress.

Here she is , wearing her uniform, with a bit of war-paint fading from her cheeks, having just donated her mug of milk to good old Cinder.    Gross, but also sweet.    And it’s OK, she knows not to drink after the dog…..

She ministers to us by snuggling up close to her patient of choice, with the rustling crinolines and stiff collar standing tall.   Once she’s nestled in under the covers,  she  tells the most preposterous stories which include dragons, trips to Costco, a creature who creep into houses to steal ginger-ale, hairy spiders taking up residence in people’s noses, and squirrels in bathing suits.   And it’s really encouraging.   It reminds me that health is still close-by……so close I can almost touch it.   And then, later I find her sleeping, curled up like a pinto bean in front of the fireplace, exhausted by her efforts.

As I have said, we are neither inspired nor inspirational.   But we’re really thankful.   I am so very thankful for those blankets, chairs, beds and fireplace.  For Helen singing while she made breakfast for us all this morning.   For my sweet neighbour who just stopped by with a casserole.  For the good words of Philippians swirling around in my head, reminding me to remember my brothers with thankfulness and to look for how the grace of God is evident in their lives.    And for the blessing that comes to us as we remember to pray for one another.

We were all scheduled for the high entertainment of a debate session tonight, in which the three older kids had each taken a different stand on the topic of who should get the vote (as if it were the 1920’s).   One is arguing for an all white vote, another argues for black and white men voting, and another is taking the side of the women’s votes.    But two of my debaters are too dizzy to fight.

We had hoped to rocket  through the early 1920’s in history, and go straight for The Great Depression starting Monday.   Wonder if we can double up and cover all we missed next week and get back on schedule?    I’ll know in a week.

My older kids are doing two courses of Biology this year.  One is Apologia Biology, which seems to be a big favourite among home-schoolers.  The other course is a far more rigorous Biology with Microbiology which is being taught by their dad.   He usually brings them together for science class on Friday afternoon, and science class is always preceded by a day of jittery nervous energy, and three kids who have their heads buried in textbooks and computer screens in preparation.    I wonder if they will have class today……they don’t like to let Jon down, and it’s really beautiful to me to see them trying to rise to his expectations.


I made a bit of progress on David’s sweater.   Here it is last week:

And here it is this week:

Here’s the original drawing, the plan for this sweater.   It’s silly, but I’m filling the drawing in with color as I get it knitted up.

the first week in review

The first week back to school, after any event, is always a challenge.  I think I’ve said that before.  And I have learned not to pin too many hopes on that first week.

So this week, we just aimed at getting everybody minimally back up to speed in math, science and grammar.   And I also planned on doing a whole lot of group discussion so we could all remember what it was we were studying in history  last month.
We all wanted to get started memorizing Philippians 1:1-6 together.
I had a pile of war poetry, written by WWI soldiers,  to read and discuss.
And I wanted to get everybody to work on  persuasive  essay projects that would sound enticing.
One of the kids is writing an essay trying to convince the president to join the League of Nations, another  is  writing a proposal to a friend to join her in a business venture, another is writing a paper to persuade her dad that  a vegetable garden would benefit his mental and physical health…..and Daniel is writing a paper about why Lego should be in the home (and all over the floor) of every 8yr old boy.    I’m leaving somebody out, but that happens all the time.

Persuasive essays are a great favorite.  For a brief moment, they are being told that it’s OK to smear their opinions all over somebody else……and that’s way more fun than writing a book report.

I was also hoping, just hoping, that after the disorganization of the past two weeks we could squeak everybody through piano lessons today without too much shame.  And they did it!    They surpassed all my expectations.    I nearly cried.

So,  Hallelujiah, We made it…..on all points.  This has not happened before, I’m sure.  I always fall flat this first week after the break, and it’s always a bit discouraging.  But not this time.
So, I’m pumped now.  I’m taking this as a sign.  We’re about to have a killer second half of the year.

And on top of all that, we got winter.      Here’s our street this afternoon.
And Maggie learned to ice-skate today.
We all went skiing Monday and we tried to teach Maggie to ski.  And that was a comedy show.   She went up the kiddie hill on the magic carpet, sobbing most of the way.  Then she cried in a howling sort of way,  all the way down the hill.  Three times.   Then she went back up for the fourth run, and when she got off the belt at the top, she amazed us all by reaching back, unfastening her  bindings, stepping out of  her skis and marching down the hill.
I gathered up the skis and followed her.
I wish I had a photo…..just try to imagine a three year old dressed up like a hot-pink astronaut stomping down a snowy hill, grim determination and hot chocolate  all over her face.

She can ski next year.   This year she’ll skate, and that’s enough for me.

Oh, and I even got David’s sweater started.   I have never actually made a sweater that  anyone would wear.   So far, I’m just good at flat items.    So here’s the ribbing for the waistband, and I’m working my way up.   I can tell you now that once I get to the arms, and have to actually attach those babies, I’m going to be melting in a pool of sweaty anxiety.   Knitting Drama.  Stay Tuned!