Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best of 2013


For last year's words belong to last year's language

And next year's words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"


Here is the collection of my favorite blog posts of 2013. Do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list?


::  The Good Life ~ My Answer

I spent a bit of time exploring the elements of a “good life.”

::  Blub. Blub. Blub. or I Used to Be a Dreamer

And the follow-up post:

::  Tuesday


A little house tour after my open house party in April:

::  Welcome

::  Home

::  Living Room

::  Kitchen

::  The Master Bedroom

::  Hallway Display

::  The Princess Tower

::  Little Learning Spots

::  The Live and Learn Studio

::  Keeping It Real (the office/library/school room)

Out and About

::  Adventuring

I loved looking back at all the pictures from this Amtrak field trip with the boys.

::  Checking Out the Wildlife

Some of my favorite pictures of the year happened at Wildlife Safari.

::  Our Private Beach

::  More Columbia Gorge and Falls

::  A Day on the Water with Friends

::  A Day in Paradise (and Another Day in Paradise)

::  1st Day of School ~ A Gazillion Photos

I love our new tradition of hiking at McDowell Creek Falls on the first day of school. This was our 2nd annual celebration.


::  Mt. Hope Academy ~ New Resources and Curricula: 2013-14

I spend many hours putting together this detailed curriculum series. There are links to posts for specific subjects at the beginning of this last post in the series, as well as a link to our Medieval history-based book list link at the end.

::  Notes, Quotes, Links, and More

This was a six-part series on my speaking notes from the local Classical Conversations Parent Practicums. I shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears over this one.

::  A Memory Master in the House

We had three Memory Masters this Year! Luke, Levi, and I put in a great deal of hard work to earn those titles!

::  History Studies ~ Integrating CC and SOTW

Food and Health

::  Let’s Celebrate

I think this 2 minute Paleo chocolate-cake-in-a-mug post was the most-viewed post of the year.


::  Seniors

My niece Ilex and her friend Adelaine. Gorgeousness.


::  Let’s Talk About Luke

::  Let’s Talk About Levi


::  An Anniversary Party

I will treasure these pictures of my grandparents!

Favorite Book

::  Gilead

Favorite TV Show

::  Arrow

Favorite Movie

Did I watch a movie in the theater this year? Catching Fire is the only one I can remember. (Is that sad?)


And next year's words await another voice.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Little Bit of Everything


I guess 7:45 pm was the right time to go to Costco the Friday before Christmas! It was close to empty other than several good friends we ran into. The boys (as usual) headed to the book table to read while Russ and I shopped. Luke came to us with wide eyes and told us that a lady who worked there offered to buy them the books they were reading. I said she was probably kidding. We walked over to the book table and, indeed, she came up with a receipt for the books they were reading. She said she had been watching the boys be so well behaved and enjoyed seeing them read so much that she wanted to treat them. She gave Russ and me a hug and said, 'Thanks for raising readers!'

Russ lost his car keys. He searched for them to no avail. For two months. Luke found them in the couch cushions. Not under the cushions. Not between the cushions. But *zipped inside* the cushions. Any guesses who the culprit might be? All of you need a Lola at your house. She makes life so exciting.

And… if the most expensive Christmas present you purchased goes *poof* and you spend hours looking for it and begin to think you've lost your mind, look inside the zipped pocket of the dinosaur backpack under the bedside table. [thanksabunchlola]

Heard first thing one morning: "I keep track of days like I keep track of any candy I get. So I always know when it's Saturday." (That would be Luke.)

And a couple Mt. Hope readers shared this video with me after I shared the Van Damme video. The boys watched it, and I had some Chuck Norris explaining to do…which led to an internet search of Chuck Norris jokes…

We had a Christmas Eve Eve [grin] celebration at our house with Russ’s parents. They are two of my most favorite people. I wish I had a picture of dinner, but I rarely get pictures when I’m hostessing!


Are you ready for a new year? I feel like I have two months worth of purging, cleaning, organizing, and planning to do before I’m ready!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gift-Giving Extraordinaire

Gift-giving is not my forte. Not even close. My best friend has the gift of gift-giving. My older sister gives us beautiful family gifts every year. (This year her gift included homemade cookies for Russ, handmade bottle rockets for the boys, dried apples—a favorite, and babysitting/work coupons from the kids—all beautifully displayed in a vintage crate filled with cedar and decorated with stars made from book pages.)

Then there is my sister Shannon. One year she made the most darling personalized canvas book bags for the boys. Last year she picked out perfect vintage books. This year—well, you can see for yourself. She cut out and hand-painted wooden shields for the boys and included a paper with the meanings of all the elements on the shields. How can anyone top these?!!

[She also hand-drew and framed beautiful family tree pictures for Lola and Ivy. I’ll have to get a picture of Lola’s so I can share it.]

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Day

My grandparents [the first time they’ve been here for Christmas in almost 25 years!] with the great-grandkids:

Casey cooked tri-tip steak on his Traeger. Shannon made twice-baked potatoes. Asparagus went on the grill. I baked Swedish limpa [sweet, dark bread]. Mom made bread stuffing.

I missed several pictures, but the afternoon included some outside fun with bottle rockets that my sister Holly made for the kids. Dessert included [gluten-free] apple, pecan, and key lime pies and a birthday cake for Jesus.

I have pictures of the incredible gifts my sister Shannon made and gave the boys that I’ll share tomorrow.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent ~ Day 23



The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park is a gorgeous picture book. It imagines the boy and his father who harvest the myrrh that is sold to the wise men on their way to visit baby Jesus.

Advent ~ Day 22

Stable/Cave, Presepi (Nativity Scenes)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Year

It was just a year ago yesterday when Shannon’s and Ben’s lives changed forever. Rilla Grey. What a sweet light she has been.

We met at Storybook Land to celebrate, not knowing that it would be INSANE. Long line outside the door waiting to get in. Line moving like a snail inside the door.

But it was magical nonetheless, and wonderful to see such special friends gathered together to celebrate this special life.

Even Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa were along for the ride.

Some of us continued the party, gathering at Yogurt Extreme.

Happy 1st Birthday, Rilla Grey!

(P.S. Thank you for your prayers of wellness for our family. My grandparents were mostly spared from the sickness—a needed miracle, truly. And Lola was the only one to get sick in our family!)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent ~ Day 21

Reindeer People, Scandinavia


The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert, photography by Per Breiehagen (gorgeousness!!!)


Ollie's Ski Trip (I adore Elsa Beskow’s vintage Swedish books!)


Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Reindeer by Maj Lindman (Speaking of vintage Swedish books… The Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and Flicka, Ricka, Dicka books are great for early readers.)

If you are searching for more vintage Swedish goodness, try a few books by Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking): The Tomten, The Tomten and the Fox, and Christmas in Noisy Village.

One More Stocking-Stuffer Idea


Am I the only one who has fond childhood memories of multi-colored ball point pens?! Luke had these on his Christmas wish list, and I just now remembered. I know all three boys (and friends and cousins) will love them. I think I’ll also grab some of the four-color pens while I’m at it. They might last a little longer.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Last Minute Christmas Shopping


I’m finishing up my Amazon purchases for Christmas gifts (thank goodness for Amazon Prime!!). (I posted a few other ideas here.)

My boys love ThinkFun Rush Hour, so I think they will get a kick out of Solitaire Chess and Turnstile in addition to the Perplexus Twist (a game for each boy).

I purchased a signed, personalized, hand-illustrated copy of The First Dragon for Levi, but I needed something very different for Luke and Leif. Then I found the perfect books for their personalities:


Guinness World Records 2014 (Luke has been begging for this one), TIME for Kids Big Book of What (a fun series including books about Where, Why, and How), and 5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!) (National Geographic Kids) (National Geographic Kids has several great books to choose from). I know they will pour over these books for hours and hours!

Now I’m trying to go through my list and see if I’ve missed anything…

Are you finished with your Christmas shopping?

Advent ~ Day 20

Shepherds and Sheep

Advent ~ Day 19

Dickens ~ A Christmas Carol

Full text online.


Charles Dickens: Scenes from an Extraordinary Life (a beautiful picture book)

Christmas Carol & Other Favorites (Jim Weiss audio retelling)

Christmas Carol (Eyewitness Classics) (I love the DK Eyewitness Classics. They provide interesting background information to correspond with the illustrated story.)

Magic Tree House #44: A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time
Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens (Magic Tree House Research Guide)

Full film:

Full film (animated):

Charles Dickens biography:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent ~ Day 18

Anna and Simeon

(I like this next song by Amy Grant and Vince Gill, but the video is terrible.)

Advent ~ Day 17

Christmas Carols


The Huron Carol by Jean De Brebeuf (We added this to our collection this Christmas.)

The Huron Carol by Ian Wallace

We Three Kings by Gennady Spirin

Good King Wenceslas by John M. Neale (We borrowed this one from the library this year.)

The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola (I love Tomie dePaola books and Leif sang this song for the Christmas choir concert. We’ve added it to our wish list.)


The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats

This is one of my favorite videos of one of my favorite carols:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

And (surprise!) The Piano Guys with Carol of the Bells:

Advent ~ Day 16

The Real Day of Christ’s Birth

Again, no resources to share, so let’s go with another Piano Guys video!

Advent ~ Day 15


(Okay, I don’t really have good resources for angels, but this seemed like a good time to share a Piano Guys video.)

Advent ~ Day 14

Swaddling Clothes

I highly recommend the documentary Babies. The boys and I loved it and I wish it were still available through Netflix Streaming! One of the babies is well-swaddled at the beginning of the movie, and you can get a glimpse of it in this short clip. The film highlights the different cultures, but also shows the similarities and “human-ness” of each of the well-loved babies.

Advent ~ Day 13


December 13th is St. Lucia Day, which we’ve often celebrated (partly due to my Swedish heritage). You can read a little more at Professor Carol’s fantastic Advent series:

‘Lucy, Lucia, Lux – it means “light,” and a celebration of light is certainly appropriate to Advent. And nowhere can we find a greater celebration of light than the feast of St. Lucia in Sweden, where winter rules the day with darkness.’

Another one of my favorite Christmas traditions is watching our DVD of Rick Steves’ European Christmas, and it’s now available on YouTube! This part shows St. Lucia celebrations in Norway:

And another beautiful video:


Kirsten's Surprise (A Swedish immigrant American Girl)

Lucia, Saint of Light

The Lola Channel


Lola brought me the Christmas tree skirt from the Christmas bin (yeah, I'm behind on decorating) and asked me to tie it around her neck. "I want to be a supah hewo. Stwong and bwave. Lola to save the help Dad." As she's putting on her boots to go see her dad who is working on the truck that broke down.

As I was carefully pouring a can of Dr. Pepper into a cup with ice, Lola said, "Wow, you're amazing, mom." [I'm so glad my children can appreciate my mad skillz.]

And then…she came down with the stomach flu right after bedtime last evening. It started with Rilla. Then Shannon. Then Ben. Then my mom. Then Lola. Then my dad. It’s a particularly nasty bug for the adults (and obviously quite contagious), so maybe you all could be praying for my family this week. My grandparents *cannot* get this bug. And I do not want to see the rest of my immediate family go down, but Lola was drinking from my cup yesterday just hours before she got sick, so chances are I’ll get it at the very least. We’ve cancelled our Christmas caroling plans for the evening, and the boys are sorely disappointed. But we’re downing some herbal remedies in the hopes that they help—even a bit.

But Lola bounced back quickly. After being awake for a while last night and then waking several times to throw up, she was curled up asleep on a chair in the living room, while I was near her on the couch. At 7 am she awoke and said with a cheerful, surprised voice, “Hey, I’m not twying!” [crying]

A few hours later she walked into the kitchen and exclaimed, “What in tarnation?!” Yeah, I’d say she’s back to her perky self. (I swear I don’t know where she’s heard that one!)

Sunday, December 15, 2013



Because if I don’t just post them, it will never happen…

The (postponed) Christmas choir concert was still held last week despite the continued snowy and icy conditions which made it all the more festive. I can’t express how much I’ve appreciated this opportunity for the boys. All three of them have enjoyed the experience (Levi most of all), and we are looking forward to continuing with the next term. The instructor is excellent, the music selection is wonderful, and the music theory homework is perfect for our needs. The above photo was taken at their performance for the elderly at a local assisted living facility.


School closures continued through the week (our CC week 12 was cancelled on Monday along with swimming and archery), and Wednesday brought freezing fog. Every surface was covered with lacy ice. It was gorgeous!


Even though the freezing fog made roads a bit slippery (in addition to all the snow and ice), we were feeling a bit of cabin fever and decided to brave a field trip to Christmas Storybook Land and then out for hot chocolate with our friends. (Leif stayed home with Russ because he chose not to go and Russ has been working mostly from home for the past couple weeks, which has been nice.)

I think the weather made it more exciting.


In case you wondered, snow bibs double as an excellent puppy carrier. (And, people, everyone should have a Lola in his or her life.)


More sledding. Dad joined in when it was almost dark.


On Thursday I made cookies and we ran a bunch of errands in town before heading over to our best friends’ house to celebrate a belated St. Nicholas Day. This is our ninth annual Christmas tradition. It has changed a bit over the years, but we always make marzipan (the kids would never let us get away with skipping it—I think it’s their favorite Christmas activity) and find gold (chocolate) coins in our shoes. The only picture I took was of the cookies before we left (my new favorite Christmas cookie!!), because we simply enjoyed the most wonderful, relaxing, special time together at their house. After pizza, Christmas gifts, and marzipan-making, the kids headed outside to build a snow fort until the rain brought them in, soaked, and ready for snuggles, Christmas books, and a movie. I can’t tell you how much I value our friendship and how much I needed that afternoon together!


My grandparents just came to spend Christmas with us. They arrived by plane on Thursday and will stay until the first of the year. My grandmother is going through more chemo treatments for her cancer, and we are so thrilled to be able to have them here in between treatments. I haven’t spent Christmas with them since I was a kid!

Friday was Saint Lucia Day, so my sister planned an impromptu party in honor of my grandmother’s Swedish heritage. Luckily all I had to do was get Lola dressed. Mom’s house was lovely and decorated, Ivy cut boxwood and Ilex made wreaths, and Holly made cookies. (I was reminiscing about Lola’s first year as Saint Lucia.)


As we were leaving to go to Bambi’s house, Lola (who can’t say her r’s) said “You will have to cawy me. I tan't walk on da wocks in my pwetty pwincess shoes. It has to be an *inside* pawty not an *outside* pawty, mom."


[Aaaaand, my truck broke down on me on the way home (luckily just as I was pulling in the driveway). Sigh.]

Saturday I met up with friends at the local coffee shop for some inspirational chatting about education, and then Russ and I headed to a Christmas party (yay for prime rib and lobster!!) while Ilex took the kids to “A Walk Through Bethlehem” (a hands-on, Holy Land encounter for the whole family – walk the streets of Bethlehem, visit the marketplace, taste, smell and experience the wonders of the First Christmas in Bethlehem) at a local church.

Today I might actually get some Christmas decorating done, and tomorrow we go on a trolley ride with friends to look at Christmas lights and sing Christmas carols—another one of our favorite Christmas traditions!

I think that brings us up to speed! I’ll post more advent books and links shortly.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent ~ Day 12



The Other Wise Man (picture book retelling)


The Fourth Wise Man (DVD)

The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke (full text)

Old black and white film of The Other Wise Man:

Advent ~ Day 11


Advent ~ Day 10


Mary and Baby Jesus, Art

Rembrandt: The Christmas Story (This story of the birth of Jesus combines text from the Gospels with images by Rembrandt. Lovely.)

Magnificat (Song of Mary) (click on the player at the bottom of this link to hear it sung by my friend Lori)

Luke 1:46-55  Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”


Michelangelo’s Pieta at Saint Peter’s Cathedral (Art History at Khan Academy):


The Divine Comedy by Dante, Paradiso—Canto XXXIII

"Virgin mother, daughter of your Son,
Humbler and higher than all other creatures,
Fixed aim and goal of the eternal plan…”

(At 3:47:00 of the following video)

Advent ~ Day 9

Gold—Refiner’s Fire

Current mining and production video (shows refining fire at the end):


This is a really neat video showing traditional Egyptian gold jewelry craftsmanship (including the melting and stretching process at the beginning):

Advent ~ Day 8


Drive Thru History--Miracles, Messiah, and the Roman Empire: From Bethlehem to Caesarea

A quick movie trailer about Herod’s Temple:

Sunday, December 8, 2013



Four degrees this morning. The last time it was this cold was December of 1972. I wasn’t yet born. Just south of us hit –10 degrees. East of the mountains in Bend, it was –20.

In other news, water—we’ve had none today. Frozen, burst pipes and a day of repairs for my husband. He met our neighbor at Home Depot early this morning. Also buying plumbing supplies. 16 hours of (my husband’s along with my father’s and father-in-law’s) labor later… I think we’ve got it.

I’ve been house-bound since Friday. The boys’ Christmas choir concert was rescheduled (and I hope will happen this next week). My husband had to drive to Portland (where there was no snow) for work on Friday. He was fine coming home until he hit Salem and chains were required on I-5. I don’t ever remember that happening before between Salem and Albany! It took him an hour and a half on back roads instead of the usual 20ish minutes.

Church was cancelled. All local schools are closed tomorrow. We are just not equipped to handle these icy conditions here in the mild Willamette Valley.

The boys have been sledding and just hanging out. I’ve felt completely and utterly nebulous. Nothing has been accomplished for days. No, that’s not accurate. I finished both Insurgent and Allegiant yesterday. So that’s something. Ha! After today, it looks as if a bomb went off in my kitchen. I guess it’s provident that we have no CC classes tomorrow. It will be house cleaning day instead.

While we were off kilter today, the whole family fed on junk food and cried our way through August Rush for the 37th time. (Russ wasn’t about to miss the ending, so he sat and watched the last 10 minutes while waiting for pipes to thaw.)

Lola Sled

And that’s life at Mt. Hope.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent ~ Day 7


A very quick video showing the harvesting of frankincense:

A three-hour documentary about the trade routes of frankincense (but shows the harvesting of frankincense in the first few minutes):

Advent ~ Day 6

The Christmas Star


The Christmas Star by Marcus Pfister

How to fold and cut a paper star:



Advent ~ Day 5

John the Baptist

A Son for Zechariah, The Birth of John, and John Baptizes Jesus from The Children's Illustrated Bible

The Bible Miniseries - John the Baptist (Focus on the Family):

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent ~ Day 4


Christmas Truce ~ WWI

Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy (quite a bit of text punctuated by vintage photographs)

Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon (a shorter picture book accessible for younger children, including an audio CD)

The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia Of World History (Contains a two-page spread about WWI with an illustration and description of troops in the trenches during the winter—Luke immediately remembered these pages when we read this day’s entry in our Advent reader.)


The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story (An Appalachian girl waits for her father to return home from fighting during WWI. This is one of my most favorite Christmas picture books!)

Christmas Truce 1914 from the film Oh! What a Lovely War:

BBC Documentary on The Christmas Truce of 1914: