Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hello? Anyone out there?

Just checking. [grin]


Here is a quick update since I didn’t post yesterday.

SPS: I’ve been up before 6:30 am every weekday morning for the past two and a half weeks. To most of you, that doesn’t sound like a big deal. Believe me when I say it is. And immediate shower then quiet time/Bible study (before checking email!) almost every morning. Yes. It has been difficult to get in much reading time, now that I’m trying to get to bed earlier each night.

Good food: I am still staying strong. It’s only day 10, but I have a good feeling about this.

Geography: I spent some time drawing and coloring a larger map today with a little more detail. Still not from memory, and I have a long way to go!



::  Blessings of a Life Interrupted by Angelina Stanford @ CiRCE (The opening quote by C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites. Go read it.)

“And then it hit me. I wasn’t managing to teach my kids in spite of life’s interruptions; I was teaching them something far more valuable. I was teaching them how to live life. Real life. The life that is messy and is filled with unexpected difficulties. Not the “real life” that only exists on paper and in my imagination. The real life that I never experienced as a child and was completely unprepared to encounter as an adult.”

:Where all New Year’s resolutions go to die @ The Art of Simple

“You have a choice. You can make this your excuse or you can make this your story.”

Rabbit Trails

::  Why I Want to Be George R.R. Martin’s Neighbor @ The Rabbit Room

"In my life of reading, moviegoing, listening to music, and studying visual art, I have encountered truth, beauty, and mystery as much in the work of non-Christians as I have in the work of Christians. I’d even go so far to say that the truth and beauty I have found in the work of unbelievers has strengthened my faith even more than what I’ve found in “Christian art.” And that’s to be expected. I believe that we are all made in the image of God, and that eternity is written in our hearts . . . in all of our hearts. Thus, when anybody achieves any kind of beauty or truth in their work, that goodness is from God, whether the artist likes it or not."

::  The Dark-Tinted, Truth-Filled Reading List We Owe Our Kids by N.D. Wilson @ Christianity Today

"Shelter your children. Yes. Absolutely. But use a picnic shelter, not a lightless bomb bunker, and not virtual reality goggles looping bubblegum clouds. Feast with them on fiction in safety, laugh with them through terrible adventures seething with real weather. They should feel the wind and fear the lightning and witness the fools and heroes—and yet stay protected. In your picnic shelter, pack stories that bless the meek and shatter the proud. Stories that use hardship to burn away the dross in characters. Stories that honor the honorable and damn the damnable."

::  The Beginnings of a Dark-Tinted, Truth-Filled Reading List @ Story Warren (Good comments, as well.)

::  Books for Boys – A Show and Tell @ Story Warren (Great list.)


::  The Art of Andres Amador (Spectatular!)

Monday, January 27, 2014

SPS, Food, Geography, Oh My!


Happy Monday!

This is the beginning of week three of the SPS challenge. Mondays are our big day. I was up by 6:30, made bed, showered, tea, quiet time/Bible study, laundry, filled out SPS, kids up, enjoyed the sunrise, ready for CC, arrived EARLY (well, for us, anyway).

So this is what I’ve been missing. Glorious.


I enjoyed spending time with friends today. Russ watched Lola for the afternoon while the boys were in class, and then he watched all the kids while I had an outing with my sisters to check out some free books (lovely, in every way). We skipped archery tonight.

This is the beginning of week two of the good food challenge. Seven days down. Six pounds down (wahoo!!). And feeling great. My husband is particularly enjoying the hot, well-rounded, homemade meals every evening.

I made delicious Chinese 5-Spice Turkey Lettuce Boats topped with matchstick bell peppers, broccoli slaw, and a sesame dressing from Practical Paleo on Friday. They were beautiful, but I was too hungry to snap a photo. I made the leftovers into a salad, which I had today for lunch.

The rest of the family had waffles yesterday (one of my favorites), so I needed something other than eggs. I whipped up a batch of sweet potato latkes and ate them with apples fried in coconut oil topped with a little Greek yogurt and a dash of cinnamon. Serious good food!

This is the start of my geography challenge. I currently can manage to locate with accuracy the countries of Europe, Asia (including the Middle East), and South and Central America along with the United States and the provinces and territories of Canada. I’m trying to review these continents daily. I’d like to get Oceania, the Caribbean, and Africa before moving on to higher levels of proficiency and adding bodies of water.



::  Imagionality: Understanding Your Child’s Imaginative Personality by Clay Clarkson @ Story Warren (I cannot wait to read the rest of his three-part series!)

“Here’s a pattern from the Genesis creation account that I want to suggest: Information, Imagination, Creation. In other words, information feeds imagination which fuels creation. If our core personality is all about mentally processing information—how we gather it, and how we act on it—then God’s order of creation seems to suggest that imagination is not just a product of our mental processes, but rather an inherent capacity within us. Imagination stands apart from personality.”

::  Who Really Gets to Do What They Love? @ The Take Away (What do you think?)

::  Why Christians Should Create @ Relevant Magazine

"Art is how we express our unfathomable reality in words or pictures or sounds. When a painter paints a sunrise, the artist is putting forth his or her interpretation of the emotions and unspoken words of that sunrise. The author of a book is projecting part of his or herself into the characters and settings, sometimes expressing his or herself in ways that surprise even the author."

::  Life Through a Leica @ Chicago Magazine (Lovely.)

::  Dr. Andrew Kern- Why Literature is Essential in Education  (I cannot wait to hear Andrew In person next month!)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

40 Days of Geography


This is my next challenge, which falls under the “Learner” category of my life roles.

Specific goals:

  • Locate every country in the world, the United States and capitals, and the provinces and territories of Canada.
  • Learn the geographic regions, mountain ranges, peninsulas, rivers, and bodies of water in Europe and U.S.A.
  • Draw a free-hand map of the continents from memory.

I’ll be using Sheppard Software free online World and U.S.A. Geography Games. I hope to master at least level 5 for each of the continents/regions.

This is my very first freehand map (not from memory). My kids have been required to draw world maps, and I discovered that it is much more difficult than I thought. {grace for my children}


I invite you to join me! If you want to scale it down, pick one continent.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Friday



Luke crawled in bed with me at 6am. He said his leg hurt and he wanted to go to the hospital. I gave him some ibuprofen and we snuggled for a bit. I crawled out before 6:30 to shower. Spent a little more time pampering myself than usual. As I was walking out of the bathroom before 7, Lola was calling me. Sigh. I walked up to her room and she asked, “What is that beautiful smell, Mom? I can’t know where it’s coming from.” When I lay down beside her, she smelled my arm and said, “That’s it.” I told her I had put on lotion. She said, “It’s beautiful.” I snuggled with her hoping she would go back to sleep. No such luck. I left her lying there and woke up Levi at 7:20. So much for alone time today.

I didn’t fill out my SPS or do Bible study or stay on task this morning, but it is what it is. My days are not in competition with each other.

My morning was filled with little tasks. I realized Levi was almost finished with his math program, which sent me on a rabbit trail thinking of what we needed to be doing in the next few months. (I obviously do not follow a strict lesson plan and schedule!) In order to know what we need to be doing for the next few months, I had to think ahead to next year. That set me to thinking about the Classical Conversations Challenge program, which Levi will be entering in the fall. Serious rabbit trail. I’ll have to write and share about that in a separate post. But I did order a new math program today (completely new for us, not just leveling up).

I also registered us for outdoor school in April with our distance learning program. This is our first year to attend, and Russ and I will go along with the three boys (leaving Lola with…someone, ha!).

Lola needed a nap today, so I managed to get her down and then spent some concentrated afternoon time working on lessons with the boys. Luke and I wrote a rough draft of his writing assignment. I might share it below. Levi went. to. town. on his writing assignment. I decided to let go of the reigns and let him write whatever and however he wanted as long as he was inspired. He has been writing for hours, and I don’t see an end in sight. It might end up being a book. Certainly not the three paragraph story that he was assigned. But it’s on lined paper, double spaced, with neat handwriting. I think he is up to nine pages.

Levi and Russ headed to swim practice, while the rest of us went to Costco. Then I made beef and veggie stir fry (over rice for Russ, over cauliflower fried rice for me) for dinner. I’m at the end of “paleo-ish” day 5 and feeling well—not as foggy and sluggish. Just as my 40 Days of SPS challenge came with additional benefits (most importantly, quiet time/Bible study), the 40 Days of Food comes with the additional challenge, not just of eating good food instead of junk, but of meal planning and cooking regular meals.

[I hate to cook dinner. Truth. Spending an hour or more in the kitchen cooking and more time cleaning up only to watch dinner either downed in 3 minutes or complained about is not my idea of a good time.]

So, here I sit ready for a weekend. Lola will be up for a while, so I’m thinking a tv show is in order. Yes, Netflix Streaming to the rescue.


Cosmic Order

Wouldn’t you know it, God sent perfect words of encouragement and affirmation to me today, on a day my children woke early and things didn’t go quite as planned.

::  Hands Full of Good Things @ CiRCE

"We are profoundly skilled at being frustrated with the never-ending goodness of God. Among the blessings of God are the labors to which He has called us. For those of us laboring in Christian classical education – at home, in a school, or in some other context – we would do well to remember that, while our hands are full, they are full of good things. Nurturing the souls of students on truth, goodness, and beauty is a high calling indeed. Sure, it would be easier without students, but it would also be non-existent."

::  A Slave in My Own Kingdom @ The Rabbit Room (Inspired by The Silver Chair by CS Lewis)

“In this little house, with the front closet that’s always filling with damp and mildew, with the warped boards in the floor beside the washing machine, with the shelves spilling over with books, and the walls covered with photographs of chunky babies . . . in this place, the place where God has given me some measure of dominion, I have lived like a slave. I’ve seen every mess, every meal, every load of laundry as a link in a chain. I’ve answered endless questions and filled endless mornings and changed endless diapers as acts of penance. The Enemy is so subtle, and I am so easily bewitched. Ever he comes to “steal and kill and destroy,” and I relinquish my freedom, my authority, my joy. I let him take it all, without a fight, without a word of protest. That’s slave mentality for you.”



A Short Story

The Peasant and the Knight (a retelling of Aesop’s The Fox and the Leopard; IEW Medieval History-Based Writing: Lesson 18)

By Luke and Heidi Scovel

Once upon a time there lived an elite knight and a lowly peasant. Near a massive castle in the English countryside, villagers were lavishly feasting to celebrate the outstanding harvest. While some villagers were dozing and some villagers were dancing, the knight and the peasant were disputing. The knight, who was clad in impeccable, embellished armor, smugly relished his superb appearance. Scornfully, he remarked on the peasant’s dilapidated cloak. Now, the peasant prided himself on his agile, muscular body, made strong by years of hard labor in the fields, but he was wise enough to know that he could not rival the knight’s appearance. The peasant chose to exercise his wits and have fun debating. The knight’s temper soon exploded. He scowled. The peasant yawned. “You may have smart armor,” the peasant rebuked the knight, “but it is better to have a smart head.”

Moral: Fine appearance does not equal an attractive mind.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Thursday


Living a Good Story Inspiration

::  What Makes a Person Memorable? From Storyline: “Be memorably kind.” YES.

Creative Inspiration

:: From popcorn elephant to pencil-shaving accordion—Goofy sketches incorporate everyday objects @ 22 Words (Positively delightful!!)

On the Beauty that Surrounds Us

::  What happens when you magnify sand 250 times? Magic. (See Gary Greenberg’s TED talk below.)


To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.

~William Blake


On Words

:: Wednesday With Words @ Ordo Amoris. Some great C.S. Lewis quotes here—like this one:

"The unblushingly romantic has far less power to deceive than the apparently realistic. Adults are not deceived by science-fiction; they can be deceived by the stories in the women’s magazines."


Still on Day 4 of the week of life-coaching.

“To attend: This means to focus on one thing until serious progress has been made.”

I’ve written down some “actionable steps” for my life roles. I’m using my “40 Days” this year to attend to some of my goals.

“To inhibit: This means there must be a strong ability to inhibit distractions from getting through.”

Ah, this one is much more difficult. I have to be careful not to think of my children as distractions. But it is difficult to focus on one thing other than children! Quiet time/Bible study and shower and evening routine are about all I get while children are asleep. I could sleep less, but I know my limitations. I am not a pleasant, productive, healthy person on less sleep.

Quit something. I’m not sure what to quit, because I am very, very careful about commitments. Ten recurring things on my schedule? I can’t even think of ten. Ha!! When I commit to something, I commit someone else to it as well. If it costs money, it comes out of the family budget. If I need focused time without parenting duties or need to leave the house without kids, my husband (who works the equivalent of three jobs) or my mom has to watch the kids. It is simply the reality of this season of parenting. And homeschooling is my primary job.

I need to keep a log of exactly where I spend my time. Much of it, admittedly, is spent on the computer. But usually what I do on the computer fits in with one of my life roles and can be done in snatches of time. Longer periods of focused time are simply not available.

At this point, other than teaching my children—which is a big, worthy commitment, I don’t have any big projects on my list of goals. I’m still wrestling with the idea of something big. Is this the season for that sort of goal? Am I just not brave? Or am I lazy? Or boring? I don’t know.

“A working memory: This means we need to be reminded throughout the day of what we are supposed to be working on.”

This is where the Storyline Productivity Schedule (SPS) fits in. Baby steps…


I woke up to a sermon on the radio that is still foggy in my head, but seemed to say exactly what my quotes the past couple days have said. Open your eyes and see the wonder. And be full of gratitude.

And this worship song was playing at some point (again, I was half-asleep for a while) and has been going through my head all morning:

Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
You're rich in love and You're slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
10,000 reasons for my heart to find
Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
10,000 years and then forever more
Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name


I went to bed too late last night, and, again, had a rough time waking up. Who am I kidding? I always have a hard time waking up…

But I was up by 6:30, showered, made tea, had quiet time, filled out my SPS…

Luke woke up and came into my office as I was working. We snuggled and listened to the above video and sang together. It was lovely. Lola came in a little later with her blankie and pillow, so I carried her to the couch and snuggled for a while. (And then I made a point of snuggling with both Levi and Leif after they got up.)

Luke and Lola grabbed books and curled up on the couch (with the laundry) for some morning time together. Luke helped himself to some of my tea. And, yes, he wears his coat in the house if he isn’t wrapped up in a blanket…

It was a normal, full of reality sort-of day. Lots of good moments. Lots of not-so-great moments.

The sun was shining on our little part of earth. The boys were itching to get outside. They grabbed a huge stack of blankets and transformed a flatbed trailer parked in the grass near our driveway into a “reading boat of awesomeness.” They even hoisted a “sail” made out of a big stick and more blankets. We sat in the sunshine, huddled due to the cold, while I read another chapter of Watership Down. Lola was running amok on the trailer in her swimming suit. I have no idea where her mother was, because it was not warm enough for swimming suits today.

Russ is home from his short work trip, and he has taken the boys to swim practice. It is my turn to be productive, so off I go.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Wednesday


:: Whose team are you on? @ The Art of Simple (Excellent advice for those of us reaching toward goals!)

“We’ve bought in to the belief somewhere along the line that our days are actually in competition with each other. That we get to measure the goodness and success of our current day only against our yesterday, or the day before, or last Thursday.”

Creative Inspiration

::  Dad dresses up daughter for famous art portraits. (Gorgeous. Adorable. Fantastic.)

::  Russian Mother Takes Magical Pictures of Her Two Kids With Animals On Her Farm. (Exquisite!)

::  A shy photographer gets creative with self portraits. (What an imagination!)

Cosmic Order

::  From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

“Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave—that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.”


Up early. Quiet time. Filled out my SPS.

Bonus: I must keep my desk cleared to fill out my SPS, and I have to write the date each day. Now I’m not so completely lost in the flow of time.

I got a few things done on my to-do list. I worked most of the day on lessons with the boys. Levi made incredible, creative progress on his story today. Luke and I made progress, as well. The boys did a little archery for recess.

We were out the door shortly after 3pm, headed to the library. Then the grocery store (and snack). Then swim practice for Levi in the next town over (while the rest of us killed time in the truck, reading, mostly—except for Lola who was causing all sorts of mayhem). Then swim practice for Luke. Then back close to our house to drop off Leif at AWANAS. Then back to pick up Luke (and Levi, who had stayed to help) at the pool. (The boys swim in the town just east of us, about a 15-20 minute drive from our house.) Lola and I watched them swim for a few minutes. Then we waited in the truck while the boys showered and dressed. Then home by 7:30. Whew. More food. Bedtime routine (I use the term “routine” quite loosely). A friend brought Leif home close to 9pm. Lights out for everyone shortly thereafter. Big sigh. (Broke up a dispute at 9:45. It might be a rough day tomorrow…)

I’m feeling much better today. Cold is abating. Headache is a mere shadow. I ate well. Eggs/sausage/kale for breakfast. Leftover loaded bun-less burger for lunch. A bit of stir-fry from the store late afternoon. A banana. And I may or may not be eating one of these as I blog.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Tuesday


6:15 Woke up without an alarm: MIRACLE #1. Got out of bed after a few minutes regardless of the splitting headache: MIRACLE #2. (I did promise to let myself take a nap later if I wasn’t feeling well. And I dressed for the day in yoga pants.)

Had some quiet time, made tea, filled out my SPS, did a little blogging. Boys got up late. Lola got up really late.

8:30 Time to tackle breakfast and the house.

Morning drowned in the little things. The boys and I were having a hard time moving.

I made a batch of sausage and kale to eat with eggs for breakfast this week. I make a frittata with a little parmesan cheese, and it is my most favorite breakfast. (Well, paired with a cinnamon roll and OJ, it would be my favorite, but who’s whining?)

I tackled the house. It was not pretty. Not pretty at all. I would feel regret at not taking care of the disaster last night, but I know how awful I felt and I’m okay with giving myself some grace on that one.

The boys, left to their own devices, created a world history timeline in their room with Playmobil and scripts written on index cards for some of the “characters.” Luke spent much of his day reading The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay. Levi convinced Luke to start The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series, and they read side by side on the bed for a couple hours this evening. Sometimes I wonder why we do formal lessons…

In the spirit of the day, I tackled some fun, independent learning: European geography. I mastered through level 5 of European countries! And practiced my states and Central and South America.

Then there were various “administrative tasks.” Like booking a hotel for a girls’ night away. I’m heading to Medford with my sister and cousin to hear Andrew Kern speak. Then I registered for a conference at Gutenberg College in Eugene Saturday of that week, also to hear Andrew Kern speak. (Sure, call me a groupie. Anyone want to join me?!)

Early dinner (late lunch? Luke calls it Linner) was the above loaded bun-less burger: mixed greens, beef burger (our friends raised the beef cow and we split the meat after it was butchered), dijon mustard, grilled onions, bacon, chopped grape tomatoes, and guacamole. Washed down with a La Croix cran-raspberry soda. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Late supper was a sliced banana topped with coconut milk, toasted sliced almonds, sea salt and cinnamon—another favorite.

And, now, bedtime and reading! I’m still dealing with serious sinus pressure and a headache, so I may turn in early tonight…

Cosmic Order

::  To Tame the World by N.D. Wilson (Go read the whole article!) Wilson’s book Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World is on my reading list this year.

“We can understand why man, modern man in particular, would like to mop the floors and bleach the walls. We might not be able to tame reality, but we can tame our perception of reality. We intellectualize in order to feel in control.

“But God's personality—his fingerprints— won't wipe off. His incredible, untamable, transcendent personality is everywhere. It oozes out of an aphid's hindquarters for an ant to savor. It slams against jagged cliffs in the North Sea and glows with pride at the birth of a star and flings the cold moon like a yo-yo trick and laughs when a too-green apple makes our insides panic.

“This raucous place does have a steering wheel. But that steering wheel is far from our hands. Accepting this requires humility. It requires us to seek our knees and then our faces. To let this world suck us down while we form words of awe and repentance and affection for the One who crafted such beings as us in such a place as this.

Catching Up


Saturday was full of swim meet. I managed to make it there with Lola and Leif in time to see the boys’ first events.

Levi started swimming shortly after Lola was born. I’ve been juggling a baby/toddler and one or two non-swimming boys at swim meets for a few years. Not fun. But just this past weekend, I noticed that things are getting just a bit easier. Luke is now swimming. All three of the boys need less parental oversight. And Lola is much easier now than she was a year ago. I don’t have to hold onto her every second that we are there (while she is actively pushing away and unhappy about being confined). It should get easier from here on out. I also have to say that my husband works like a crazy person at swim meets. He takes the boys early. Helps set up. Coaches. Competes. Performs the swim-parent role (I am rarely at a meet from beginning to end).

The boys headed out for the swim meet on Sunday morning. I was scheduled to work in the nursery at church, but both Lola and I had been up coughing and sick that night and it wasn’t a great idea for us to be around other little people. We stayed home to be sick together. I spend the whole afternoon running errands and working through my long pre-Monday to-do list. And got to bed later than I had hoped.

Monday. All things considered, it went better than last week. I was up early, showered immediately, and had quiet time. Because I had a rough time last week managing a productive Monday morning and giving grace to my children, I filled out my SPS, did one administrative task that was up against a deadline, and then went straight to getting ready for our morning at CC. That worked much better.

We spent all day at with our CC community. Foundations at 9am (I helped in Leif’s class all morning). Lunch and social time at noon. My mom came to pick up Lola for the afternoon. Essentials class with Levi and Luke from 1-3 (Leif played with kids in the gym). We helped clean up a bit, and then Russ switched me vehicles and took the boys to Eugene to pick up a bow he had ordered at Cabela’s.

The boys were gone for the rest of the evening (they went straight to archery class). I picked up Lola and had a chance to spend some wonderful quality time with my mom and sister.

I arrived home shortly after 5pm and was in pajamas by 5:40. Between this awful cold, caffeine and carb withdrawal headache (serious stuff, that), cramps, and a day of social interaction, I was DONE. I lay down on the couch and didn’t move. I barely managed bedtime for Lola, directed bedtime (ineffectively) for the boys from my spot on the couch, and then fell asleep. I dragged myself to bed around 10 and slept like the dead. I certainly didn’t set myself up for success in the morning, because the house looked like a bomb had gone off…

Speaking of caffeine and carb withdrawal… Day 1 of 40: DONE. Eggs and sausage for breakfast. Tea all day (apparently not enough caffeine, however). A small amount of sweet potato chips and sweet pea crisps for snack. Mixed greens with chicken, salsa, and guacamole, a few carrot sticks, and a few bites of apple for lunch. La Croix soda in the late afternoon. I was feeling nauseated and sick in the evening and the boys weren’t home, so I just had a banana with almond butter for dinner.

Psalm 61
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.

1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
5 For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6 Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
7 May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

8 Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

40 Days of Food

Starting tomorrow. Not a Whole30, but a 30+ days of “primal” with a few scheduled “relaxed days” thrown in (like family vacation, book club nights, etc.). I’ve outlined the general idea with my main food plan and links in the past, so I won’t rehash that here, but this is my accountability space so if I don’t say anything more about it…ask me how it’s going, will you? [grin]

When I wrote out my “life roles” on day 3 last week, I didn’t have a specific role that encompassed my eating or exercising. (No “chef” or “athlete” for me…) But I needed to establish a vision, goals, and actionable steps for my health. While I wrote, I realized that health was a bigger picture element for me—it enables me to fulfill my roles in life to the best of my ability.

My goals were not “lose 20 pounds” (though that would be nice) or “gain muscle” (again, nice) or “develop skill in a sport” (not likely) or “run a 5K” (not going to happen).

My reasons for a food re-set are threefold: physical energy, mental clarity, and emotional stability. None of which I possess in abundance. In order to do my best in the roles God has given me, I need to be my best physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. (I’m working on spiritual depth during my morning quiet time.)

Meal plan—check.

Grocery shopping—check.

40 days. I can do this.

Friday, January 17, 2014

40 Days of SPS ~ Day 5

Cosmic Order

From The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers (quoting her own play, The Zeal of Thy House):

“For every work [or act] of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.

“First, [not in time, but merely in order of enumeration] there is the Creative Idea, passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning: and this is the image of the Father.

“Second, there is the Creative Energy [or Activity] begotten of that idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter: and this is the image of the Word.

“Third, there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul: and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.

“And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole work, whereof none can exist without other: and this is the image of the Trinity.”

This book is so rich. I’ve found it fascinating so far. Madeleine L’Engle wrote the forward, and The Mind of the Maker dovetails very nicely with L’Engle’s book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art which I am re-reading this year.



Yesterday the boys had swim team practice again until 7:30. We ate dinner after that and I manned bedtime while Russ headed out for more work. (Yes, his schedule is ridiculous. He works from 6am until 2:30, often later. Three days a week he commutes an additional 45 minutes each way. Mondays he has been taking the boys to archery in the evening. Then Tues-Friday he leaves for the pool around 4:30, swims from 5-6, coaches from 6-7, gets home around 7:30, quickly eats dinner, and then usually has a couple hours of work to do in the evening. He often coaches or works some over the weekend. And lately, he’s spent hours fixing things that have broken down around here—like the truck. He goes on out-of town business trips every couple months.)

I was so tired last night, but it took everyone a while to get in bed and fall asleep. I came down from Lola’s room at 9:30 pm. Russ was just walking in the door with ice cream. He knows me too well. I fell into bed after more house chores, and couldn’t keep my eyes open to read. In addition to less sleep and more productivity, I’m fighting off a cold.

[Is this cold the natural ebb and flow of life? Is it spiritual opposition to my productivity and intentionality? Or is it spiritual opposition to my ability to extend grace not only to my family, but also to myself? Or is it spiritual opposition meant simply to confuse me and make me expend energy in thinking about it? Should this be filed under hangnails or cosmic order? Ha!!]

It was very, very difficult to wake up this morning. I was up 40 minutes late, and dragging. Skipped life-coaching exercises and worked with kids instead. They are having a hard time getting independent starts in the morning, but we got quite a bit accomplished today and it felt good. Our three chapters of Watership Down were definitely the highlight. [Well, that and the homemade chocolate chip cookies.] The boys wanted to keep going, but we had to spend some serious focused time on our IEW writing assignment for Essentials today.

The above quote? I couldn’t think of a more accurate way to describe what writing assignments are like in this house. Luke and I co-write his papers, a la Brave Writer style—which she compares to making cookies with children. I’d say it is more like me modeling the process for him, as he finds writing decidedly more difficult and less desirable than making cookies. Levi is encouraged to be at the table with us while we hash out ideas aloud, but he doesn’t seem to be able to work that way. He just wants to listen and not write. Or be distracted. Or stare at his paper until words magically appear. I told him that the words were not going to come until his pencil started moving. I told him that the process is there to help him: The key word outlines. The prompting questions about the elements of story. The brainstorming pages. The checklists for content.

He fights prescribed or required process (or content).

But, in the end, he buckled down and rather quickly (after days of wasting hours of designated writing time) came up with this. Three different kinds of paper. Many colors. Random shapes and sizes. Upside-down words. [No outline. No double spaces.]

…Irate and scornful, Kay ordered Arthur, his squire, to immediately go back for his sword. Arthur tried to argue, but Kay stood firm.

“But there is no time!” Arthur exclaimed for the last time.

“GO NOW!” Kay yelled maliciously.

Arthur raced towards the inn. He spied the sword in the stone. Quickly he clutched its golden hilt. Effortlessly he removed the sword from the stone. He didn’t realize that he had accomplished the near impossible. He raced back to Kay, not noticing Merlin in the shadows…

…The crowd clamored to try. Ector commanded Arthur to replace the sword in the stone. Arthur obliged. When all the knights had tried except Kay and Arthur, Kay stepped up to the stone and strained with all his might. The sword didn’t even budge an inch…

It needs just a little bit of editing for a final draft, but not bad. Not bad at all.


And for the past three hours, my mantra has been “KEEP MOVING.” Laundry. House-straightening. Dinner. Blogging. I so badly wanted to crawl into my bed with a book, but I knew I’d never get back out.

I’m praying for a little bit of down time (maybe a show?) with my husband this evening before hitting the weekend. Swim meet Saturday and Sunday. Meal planning. Grocery shopping. House cleaning. Nursery at church. Finishing our assignments and presentations for CC, and all the night-before prep (backpacks, clothes, snacks, lunches…). Some administrative tasks. We’ll survive another Monday and then I’ll be single-parenting for a few days…

Thursday, January 16, 2014

40 Days of SPS ~ Day 4



I wasn’t feeling well when I headed to bed last night and only managed a few minutes of reading. I woke up around midnight with a headache, sinus pressure, and a quite sore throat. I grabbed some Ibuprofen and a cough drop and went back to sleep. Lola woke up crying and croaky around 3ish, asking for a drink of water. I lay down next to her after getting her some water, until she fell back asleep.

I didn’t even hear my alarm when it first went off this morning, and my body did not want to move. I allowed myself to lie there a few minutes and half listen to the sermon on the radio, finally shoving myself out of bed at 6:30.

I spent a minute or two snuggling with each kid this morning soon after I woke them up.

I began reading Watership Down aloud to Levi and Luke. They didn’t want me to stop. I read it several years ago, and I’m already getting shivers just a few chapters in this time around. Hazel is, hands-down, my favorite animal protagonist, ever. I had no idea I could respect a rabbit so much. I am intentionally discussing this book as we go along, using what they boys already know about the elements of story from our Book Detectives meetings and adding in many of the Socratic dialogue questions from the Teaching the Classics syllabus. I’m marking up the book with underlines and notes as we go along.

(I think I’ll read Ender's Game next and we’ll spend some time comparing the leadership qualities of the two “boys.”)

I’m struggling (as always) with what to do with Lola while the older boys and I are working on lessons (Leif’s time is a bit of an issue, as well). If I do well focusing on lessons with Levi and Luke, I’m not happy with how Lola and Leif spend their time. Essentially, if Lola is anywhere near the boys, they are incapable of concentrating, and she is NOT an independent player. She and Leif don’t play well together well independently, either. The main school work happens (at this point) in the kitchen or living room, so Lola has to be sequestered alone in her room (under duress) (or in the bath or watching a screen, sigh) if any progress is to be made. Yes, ideally she should be trained not to be a distraction and my boys should be trained to ignore her and I should be graceful in my parenting while they are in the learning process and not yet capable of the skills, but… we aren’t there.

Cosmic Order

“Cosmic Order.” It is rather hilarious and apropos that I would come across the above quote today considering the fact that yesterday I specifically wrote down notes about “cosmos” (from my CC practicum theme) on the back of the paper listing my roles and vision statements.

The idea of “cosmos” is one that speaks to my soul. I am a person who loves order and beauty, and those elements encompass my ideas about creativity and art. And, now, even my ideas about my vision for my life roles. My notes about “cosmos” also remind me that often the very act of putting pen to paper when one must is when inspiration is given, not before.

Just for fun, I’ll share them again:

A cosmos is an orderly or harmonious system. The word derives from the Greek term κόσμος (kosmos), meaning literally "order" or "ornament" and metaphorically "world,” and is diametrically opposed to the concept of chaos.

While we’re at it, let’s look up the definition of ornament: (Merriam-Webster)
2a. something that lends grace or beauty
3: one whose virtues or graces add luster to a place or society

Order. (Form. Structure. Truth.) Ornament. (Beauty. Harmony. Grace. Virtue.)

Order + Beauty (literally) = World (metaphorically)

(We’re really starting at the very beginning, here.)

Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Formless. And what did God do? Created form: separated light and darkness, waters and sky, land and seas.

Empty. And once the form established, he filled the place with beauty: plants, stars, birds, sea creatures, animals, man.

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

(Words matter!)

Array: verb (used with object):
1. to place in proper or desired order
2. to clothe with garments, especially of an ornamental kind; dress up; deck out.

And, as Leigh Bortins says, that’s how you teach everything to everybody. Figure out what the form is, and then you have all the content in the world to make it creative, beautiful!

Sentence forms
Latin ending forms
Math formulas
The structure of story

And to tie in the quote from yesterday, the idea of that scripture is a song we sing to become a part of the story, and the Psalms being the heart, I’ll share this quote again:

“But more than that, we would desire to bring children into the garden of created being, and thought, and expression. Caldecott reminds us that for the medieval schoolmen, as for Plato, education was essentially musical, an education in the cosmos or lovely order that surrounds us and bears us up. Thus when we teach our youngest children by means of rhymes and songs, we do so not merely because rhymes and songs are actually effective mnemonic devices. We do so because we wish to form their souls by memory: we wish to bring them up as rememberers, as persons, born, as Caldecott points out, in certain localities, among certain people, who bear a certain history, and who claim our love and loyalty.” (Anthony Esolen, author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, in the Foreword from Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education by Stratford Caldecott)

We can draw our children into our own narratives and show them that there is a better way to live a good story.


The life theme I wrote on day 1 read “Learn more about God and His world, create, nurture family, encourage others.” I shortened that to “learn, create, nurture, encourage.”

When I listed my life roles, I found that each role fit under one of the categories of Nurturer, Encourager, Learner, or Artist (Creator). A few roles fit under more than one category.

The vision statements are much more difficult. I seem to come up with a list of words I want associated with that role rather than a phrase or sentence.

Attentive. Grace. Sincere. Listen. Passionate. Curious. Perseverance. Truth. Goodness. Beauty. Welcome. Enjoy. Explore. Productive. Story. Inspire. Affection. Playful. Cheerful.

I took the time today to also write out at least one or two “Actionable Steps” for each of my life roles, according to the process for Day 4.


What categories do your life roles fit into?

Innovator? Caretaker? Protector? Performer? Explorer? Thinker? Provider? Worshipper?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

40 Days of SPS ~ Day 3

SPS Notes: Day 3

I am so very tired this evening, so I’ll make this quick.

I have a hard time thinking of things to write on the SPS under “things I get to enjoy today.” But yesterday Lola’s adorable, hilarious, sweet prayer before dinner would have made the list if I had imagined it beforehand. And I knew that she was going to have a hard time falling asleep last night because of the afternoon nap, but we had a wonderful one-on-one time after the boys were in bed. She was talking non-stop and being so silly while she played next to me and I lay on the couch reading (The Once and Future King, which I am also enjoying and also tied in seamlessly with the boys writing assignment today). It was lovely. She went to bed around 10:30, and I was in bed by 11pm. Better than my old routine (midnight or later).

This morning went fairly well. Giving myself a very specific ultimatum has helped: Clothes set out night before. One snooze. Up at 6am. Bed made immediately. Shower before anything else. Bible study next—on the couch, before going into my office. Fill out SPS at my desk before getting kids up. Limit computer use while working on the day’s life-coaching exercise.

I had a much better day with the kids. God gave me grace that I was able to extend to them. We’re still working out the “school” routine. It’ll get there.

We had friends over for a relaxing visit this afternoon for a couple hours. I enjoyed the chatting time. (We’ve been doing so much better at picking up after ourselves and cleaning somewhat as we go along and I chose to let other things go, so it wasn’t as big of a deal to have company over as it usually is.)

Russ left for swimming at 4:30 with Levi and Luke, right at the end of our social time. I took Leif to AWANAS at 6:30. The other boys arrived home from swim at 7:30 (yes, that late), and we had dinner. Then it was clean-up and bedtime routine. Levi, Luke, and Lola were in bed around 8:30ish while Russ went to pick up Leif. He (Leif) was in bed a short time later.

I’m trying to wrap up my evening tasks before heading to bed with my book. I might not make it very far, considering the current weight of my eyelids.


Today’s life coaching exercise consisted of writing out the various roles I play in life and establishing a vision for each role. Again, I’m finding the act of writing out these exercises to be very different from just thinking about them as abstract ideas. Maybe it is that I’ve never been much of a journal-writer, so the experience is a fresh one for me. I think I have nothing to write, and then the ideas come with the physical act of writing. Very curious.

It may take me two days to complete the exercise, however, because I do want time to contemplate the idea. Vision statements seem like weighty things. I am pleased to note that what I did get down on paper fit perfectly with the off-the-cuff life theme I wrote on Monday as well as my personality strengths. I can only hope that means I’m headed in the right direction. {grin} Maybe I’ll have a chance to share more specifics tomorrow.


Inspiration for “Living a Good Story”

A friend (thanks, Misha!) shared the above quote with me this afternoon. It is perfect, especially considering N.T. Wright has been quoted several times in the book I’m reading for Bible study.

::  14 Quotes About Writing from John Green @ Mental Floss (ha!):

8. On Writing & Storytelling

“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who wanna tell you a story but don’t wanna make eye contact while telling it”

::  Dwelling in Possibilities by Mark Edmundson @ The Chronicle of Higher Education. This one is a long article, but some very interesting points are made here that will make tomorrow’s life-coaching exercises (“to attend” and “to inhibit”) more vivid.

“They want to study, travel, make friends, make more friends, read everything (superfast), take in all the movies, listen to every hot band, keep up with everyone they've ever known. And there's something else, too, that distinguishes them: They live to multiply possibilities. They're enemies of closure. For as much as they want to do and actually manage to do, they always strive to keep their options open, never to shut possibilities down before they have to."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

40 Days of SPS ~ Day 2


Today I completed the reflection questions regarding the timeline I filled out yesterday. Actually wrote down my answers. And started bawling.

I value security. That is completely in line with my personality style. The thing that gives me security is being in control of my surroundings. I live in a very concrete world that I take in through my five senses. The things that are important to me are tradition, structure, order, peacefulness, safety, and beauty. Those are the very things that my spouse and oldest child resist (which is completely in line with their personality styles). And my younger three children are not compliant, orderly, peaceful children. (Yes, children can be trained to some degree, but those traits come more easily to some than others and some children are born to be world-shakers.) They have a direct affect on my immediate surroundings, and my five senses, overwhelmingly, which I can’t control. Which pulls security out from under my feet. Which sends me into a negative, emotional cycle of self-criticism and feelings of inadequacy. Because I can’t do well what I was created to do. And yet, my highest calling is to nurture my relationships with my husband and children. It is my current career, mission. And I spend almost every waking hour with them in a small space. But when I try to exercise my gifts, my closest relationships suffer. Which leads to more self-criticism and feelings of inadequacy. Which leaves me empty of emotional and physical energy—the tools I need to accomplish my daily tasks, which could help to lead me back to security and feelings of well-being, which in turn give me confidence and the ability to do bigger things outside the realm of my little, comfortable, controllable world. (Does that sound like an emotional roller-coaster to you? Yeah.)

I have no idea how to be ME in this space, in this time, while giving grace to my children and husband. I don’t know how to train my children while still respecting them as persons with personalities and needs of their own. How do I not resist the things that they need to be the people God made them to be? How do I train without nit-picking or being a control freak? How do I judge what is essential and what is my preference? How much do I sacrifice of myself in the service of my family? Is the beauty of a story in the sacrifice?

How do I let go of control? And still be functional? Still teach/guide/train my children?

I don’t know.

I do know that my security and my identity and my happiness should not be dependent upon other people. My husband and children are part of my story, but my story is not dependent upon them and I cannot write their stories.

This is all part of my story, unfolding. I suppose it is too much to ask for a resolution on Day 2. {wry grin}


SPS Notes: Day 2

Well, yesterday wasn’t a beautiful, grace-filled day so let’s begin again, shall we? That’s what it all comes down to. That we’re willing to start fresh with purpose each morning.

I had a rough time falling asleep last night even though I was exhausted. Maybe I should have read for a few minutes even though it was rather late. Nevertheless, one tap of the snooze and I was up by 6am this morning. Made bed, showered, began Bible study at 6:20.

Luke woke up before I got in the shower and I told him to go back to bed. Then he was up at 6:30. He said he wanted to get started on his morning tasks. So much for that uninterrupted quiet time…

Finished Bible study. Folded a batch of clothes. Prayed over my day. Clearly I need more grace in the parenting department.

Headed to my office to fill out day 2 of the SPS at 6:50. It was a little easier the second time around. The only thing I wrote under “If I Could Live Today Over Again” was that I wanted to have grace for my children. Because that is more important than productivity or creativity.

It’s really tough not to spend time on email or Facebook or article-reading or anything else computer-related.

Just getting started on my reflection questions, when it was time to wake the boys at 7:15. Clearly also going to have to figure out how to work that differently. And I was hungry. Grabbed a granola bar.

Just getting back into when Lola woke up at 7:30. Luckily she was cheerful, so I put her on the couch with a stack of books. Checked on Leif. He was still in bed, reading.

Put on Latin DVD for Leif and Lola @ 7:50. Finished negative turns. Got distracted by message from friend. Great Wolf Lodge Groupon. Emailed Russ. Replied to a couple messages online. Latin DVD on for Levi and Luke at 8:15.

8:30 Focused on kids and morning tasks. Cleaned up granola spill. Got Lola dressed. Directed children in tasks. Managed to be graceful. {grin}

10:00 Distance learning teacher came to interact with the boys. I tried to corral/manage Lola, not so successfully. She was really whiny/needy.

12ish Lunch, parenting, and internet surfing.

1:30 Lola was so fussy I got her down for a nap. It took a half hour, and I’ll be up late to pay for the afternoon peace.

2:00 The words of my epiphany started flowing, so chaos reigned in the house while I typed behind closed doors.

3:20  Summoned the physical and emotional energy to do more lessons with the boys while Lola was still sleeping.

4:30  Russ was headed out the door with Levi and Luke when he realized there was no swim practice today. Levi continued to work on lessons at home while Luke (who had finished his checklist like a boss) ran errands with Russ. I worked on my blog post, booked a much-needed short Great Wolf Lodge vacation for next month (wahoo!!!), and did other administrative tasks.

5:30  I think I am going to have some quiet reading time alone while a (frozen) lasagna is in the oven (yes, I’m leaning on easy meals this week) and the boys are watching Carmen Sandiego. Then we’ll have dinner, do clean up, go through the evening routine (lessons ready for tomorrow, house cleaned up, clothes out for tomorrow, etc.). The boys will be in bed by 8ish, but Lola will have a rough time going to sleep. I might try to read while keeping her company…


Some perspective that God sent my way this later this afternoon:

::  Ann Voskamp (on Facebook)

“Deep Breath:
In Christ — no matter the road, the storm, the story — we always know the outcome.
Our Savior: surrounds.
Our future: secure.
Our joy: certain.”

::  Brave Writer (on Facebook)

“There's a reason I didn't make a big splash into the homeschool curriculum world over the last decade: I was homeschooling.

I thought about that today. I homeschooled my kids. I wrote writing books on the side. I answered emails after I sang lullabies at bedtime or before the toddler pounced on my chest first thing in the morning. I didn't go to conventions lest I miss a soccer game or ballet performance. I didn't ask for speaking opportunities. I let them come to me and many times, turned them down. I haven't been available. I didn't want to BE available.”

And some “Living a Good Story” inspiration:

::  Tales of the New Creation @ The Rabbit Room. Go read the full text. So many thoughts in this post tie together threads that have accumulated in my recent readings and musings. I love Gilead, and the introductory quote was one of my favorites passages of the whole book. I have Flannery O’Connor and Tolkien on my reading list for this year. And The Drama of Scripture, which I’m reading in the mornings, is all about finding our place in the biblical story, an unwritten Act 5, Scene 2.

“Now—I’d like you to imagine that we are living, as Marilynne Robinson suggests, in Troy, within an epic poem. I want to suggest that the world, our world, is itself a work of art, and that our very lives are paintings and poems, frescos and songs, all founded on that which has come before us—all rooted firmly in tradition. The world we inhabit, right now, the rooms we sit in, the walls around us, the sunlight coming in through the window, this all makes up the great work of an age.

“…You see, we are standing every day in the presentness of a story, of an epic. It’s going on all around us. It’s full of characters major and minor, good and evil. It’s full of wars and miracles, love and hate, great beauty and terrible suffering, and it’s so big that none of us can comprehend its full measure.

“…We live in the present story built on the bones of the dead. And just as the hope of Abraham and Israel led to a new covenant in Christ, ushering in a new age of human history, so is our own hope, our own story, the foundation of a greater work yet untold. Because in this story, in our story, the Author isn’t dead, the Author hasn’t retired and turned in his pen. He’s got stories left to tell.”

::  The Heroic Journey 5: The Hero’s Inner Journey @ Write At Home

‘The Outer Journey is a clearly-defined, visible goal, a clearly-defined finish line — “I won,” or “We got married,” or “I saved the world.”

‘The Inner Journey is the journey of fulfillment. From fear to courage, from shyness to confidence, from rejection to acceptance — think of the family in The Incredibles, how each of them are different at the end of the movie, especially the daughter.

‘Heroes in the beginning of movies, in the World of the Common Day, are frequently defined by others, by external forces and situations – their parents, jobs, beliefs they’ve always carried about themselves. But by the end of the novel, they stand up and say “No, this is who I am. I define myself.”’

Monday, January 13, 2014

40 Days of SPS ~ Day 1

“’I hate a Roman named Status Quo!’ he said to me. ‘Stuff your eyes with wonder,’ he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.’”

~Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Whew. It’s 9:25 pm, and I’ve made it through one day. Doesn’t seem like much, but one has to start somewhere. (And this is a very long, boring post about the details of my day.)

It feels like two days, really, considering how hard I worked yesterday to be ready to hit the floor running this morning. The boys and I worked non-stop after church until 10 pm last night cleaning, organizing, and getting everything ready for our Monday, which is our most hectic day of the week. (What a day to start a new routine, eh?)

I tried to get the boys to bed earlier, in fact I did get them in bed earlier, but two boys were still awake at 10 pm. You can lead a horse to water…

House clean(ish), check. Dishes and laundry caught up, check. Clothes laid out for everyone, check. Backpacks and notebooks packed, check. Library bag, bag of books for a friend, my bag of books, Lola’s bag, and my purse packed, check. Snack bags, water bottles, lunches ready to go, check. New morning routine notebooks with checklists ready on table for each boy, check. Storyline Productivity Schedule notebook ready to go for me, check. Alarm set, sigh.

I fell into bed a little after 10 pm (my goal), read from my book list for about a half hour, and told myself I was allowed one tap of the snooze button. Only one.

And I did it. Hit the snooze once and was out of bed by 6 am. (Some of you are laughing, but I’m being honest and vulnerable here.) Immediately made the bed so I couldn’t get back in it. Then went straight for the shower. (I don’t know why, but having my clothes out the night before is going to make a big difference.) I ate a leftover scone and brewed some tea while reading my Bible and commentary. I folded laundry and prayed over my day.

At 7 am I filled out my first daily page of the SPS. It is a completely different thing to think “oh, what a great idea” than actually doing it. I had to think of what I’d do if I could live today over again…before I had even lived it. I did well on four out of five, but the one I failed on was the most important: be cheerful with my children. More about that in a minute.

The second part I had to fill out was “things I get to enjoy today.” I really had to stretch to come up with something, which says more about me than anything else. The most enjoyable thing about my Monday was drinking a Dr. Pepper. That is so wrong. But I also had no down-time today, and I’m not sure I know where to fit that in on any day.

I haven’t yet gone through the process to figure out my life theme, and I’m not sure how to go about that. Is there a specific process? I don’t know. But I had to write down something, so I wrote “Learn more about God and his creation, create, nurture family, encourage others.” Which I suppose could be shortened to “Learn, create, nurture, and encourage.” I don’t know what a life theme is supposed to look like, but that is consistent with who I am as a person and what I want out of life. We’ll see if it changes over the next 40 days.

At this point, 7:20, I needed to wake the boys. We had talked about what I wanted from them independently first thing in the morning, and they had their checklists. I headed back into my office and closed the door.

The main project I wanted to complete this morning was the timeline from day 1 of life coaching at Storyline. This is the point when I realized that I have no idea how to make uninterrupted productive/creative time without sacrificing more sleep (which makes me irritable and spacy). I couldn’t even get 5 minutes of uninterrupted time at that point. It is clearly going to take substantial hands-on training before my boys are capable of being awake without needing me to referee or discipline. I told my boys that they were going to have to learn to be problem solvers and team players.

I did manage to jot a few things on my timeline, but it was not an easy exercise. I realized that I have very few pivotal moments (good or bad) in my life. My life is full of little things. I have many blessings, but I also fail in the little things over and over and over again.

Lola was up at 7:50, and I headed to the kitchen soon after to make breakfast, realized we were down to the wire for getting out of the house on time. Got frustrated with the kids who didn’t and wouldn’t do as they were told…realized that every time I have any sort of agenda or plan, I get angry. I feel as if I have no control (remember, control is a big issue for me) because everyone is pushing back. It feels as if I’m dragging around six times my body weight.

We did get out of the door and headed to CC. I worked in the nursery for the morning, the most relaxing part of my day. Lunch in the gym. Russ took Lola to my mom’s house, Leif stayed in the gym to play, and Levi and Luke and I went to Essentials class from 1-3:15 (during which I was frustrated with them, every single minute of the class).

I almost forgot to pick up Leif from the gym after class, but remembered him after we were buckled in the truck ready to go. I picked up a pizza and headed to my mom’s to pick up Lola. She was asleep, but I chatted with Mom for a little while since she had just arrived home from California. Then I woke Lola up and headed home with the boys. 5 pm. An hour until we needed to leave again—just enough time to unload all of our stuff from CC, put it away, bake the pizza, eat, clean up, and head out.

At 6 pm I left Lola with Russ and drove the boys to archery. It’s a brand new sport for them (and for Russ and me), and this is the first time I had taken them. I had no clue what I was doing or what they were supposed to be doing. All new. I’m not so great with new. Especially when I am trying to assist/monitor three boys. My boys. And there are a bunch of people I don’t know. Regardless, it went fairly smoothly until the end of class when everyone was confined to a tiny little space and I couldn’t move and I thought I was going to break out in hives. An hour and a half was enough. We left before the last round.

Home at 8:30, we started the bedtime routine. It was after 9 pm before everyone was in bed, but Lola was still awake close to 10 pm (drat that short nap this afternoon!). I quickly finished up a few chores and got a few things ready for tomorrow before starting this post. But now it’s almost 10:30 and too late to read. Sigh. And I didn’t get a chance to answer the reflection questions for today. They’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.


Also, per the instructions for the first day of life coaching, I wanted to take the DISC test. I found this free online DISC test and took it this past weekend (knowing I wouldn’t have time today). I am well-versed in the Myers-Briggs personality types and felt that the DISC test wasn’t as helpful, but it may be that I’m just not as familiar with it. I do think that understanding how you are wired (and how that is different from or similar to those in your daily interactions or relationships) is extraordinarily helpful.

You can find a free online Myers-Briggs test here. My favorite explanations of the sixteen MB types are found at The Personality Page. At the bottom of each type description are additional links covering relationships, careers, and personal growth. I am an ISFJ, The Nurturer. This is what The Personality Page has to say about ISFJ careers:

“ISFJs have two basic traits which help define their best career direction: 1) they are extremely interested and in-tune with how other people are feeling, and 2) they enjoy creating structure and order, and are extremely good at it. Ideally, the ISFJ will choose a career in which they can use their exceptional people-observation skills to determine what people want or need, and then use their excellent organizational abilities to create a structured plan or environment for achieving what people want. Their excellent sense of space and function combined with their awareness of aesthetic quality also gives them quite special abilities in the more practical artistic endeavors, such as interior decorating and clothes design.”

It also says this:

“When down on themselves or under great stress, the ISFJ begins to imagine all of the things that might go critically wrong in their life. They have strong feelings of inadequacy, and become convinced that "everything is all wrong", or "I can't do anything right."

Yeah, that.

I plan to use my ISFJ profile to answer the reflection questions tomorrow.


And a few more encouraging or interesting thoughts on “Living a Good Story”:

::  The Heroic Journey 3: The Hero’s Goals @ Write At Home

“But never let the Hero use the misfortune as something to whine about, or use as an excuse. Readers emotionally identify with characters they feel sorry for, not characters they pity or who pity themselves, or those who have brought their misery upon themselves.”

(Ha! I’ll try to get over my pity party tomorrow. It’s my own fault for bringing misery upon myself.)

::  Organizing Your New Year: The Lie of Perfection vs. Failure @ Erin Organizes

“Real change, though beautiful, is messy. It happens over time through commitment,  perseverance, and, frankly, the grace of God.

“This message may not sell as well as the bright, light, happy change portrayed in retail advertisement, but it gives us permission to rest in between that picture-perfect catalogue life and the miserable failure we may fear our life is instead. In short, it gives us permission to be human.”

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Have you read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story? In the book, Donald Miller explains how our lives follow the same path as a protagonist within a story. This concept was revolutionary to me.

I had just discovered the elements of story through Teaching the Classics (yes, my early education was sadly lacking) and had begun to analyze simple stories based on these elements. (You can follow some of our parent-child literary analysis book club discussions under the Book Detectives tag.)

Very soon after, I took a short workshop titled The Bible as the True Story of the World wherein we talked about how the Bible as a whole, rather than piecemeal stories, followed the very same elements of story. This was the moment I began to realize that story was a truth about creation, and that God as our creator had indelibly written the concept of story and creativity onto our very souls. (I’m exploring the topic of biblical story in greater detail this year while reading The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. More about that later.)

You might well imagine then what sort of epiphany I experienced while reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Yes! Of course!

p. 31

I wanted it to be an easy story. But nobody really remembers easy stories. Characters have to face their greatest fears with courage. That’s what makes a good story.

p. 58

We get robbed of the glory of life because we aren’t capable of remembering how we got here. When you are born, you wake slowly to everything… The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering. What I’m saying is I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given—it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral.

p. 59

I’ve wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don’t want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.

p. 68

If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation… If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet.

I wrote my post Billboards a while after that, a year and a half ago. A year and a half ago. This is the moment when that well-known motivational quote, “A year from now you’ll wish you had started today,” starts beating me down like a relentless sledge-hammer.

But my story is not over. Life is a staggering gift. And I’m answering the call to adventure.

This is my year of discovering my STORY. In faith. In art. In writing. In health. In relationships. In home. In adventure. In gratitude. In celebration. In reading. In learning. In thoughts.


The STORY of one ordinary, extraordinary LIFE.

And I’ll share my story journey here at Mt. Hope Chronicles.

That doesn’t mean for one second that I am not full of fears. In many ways I am terrified of Monday, the first day of 40 days of my Storyline Productivity Schedule challenge, starting with a free week of life coaching.


Big picture:

  • My call to adventure is mundane, prosaic compared to other people’s adventures.
  • Failure. Failure to get started. Failure to persevere.


  • I won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. This likely sounds ridiculous to most of you, but the truth is that I simply cannot get out of bed in the mornings. It’s as if I am in a different world and no brilliant reason or motivation that I came up with the night before makes one iota of difference to me. I would blissfully sleep from midnight to 10 am every single day. I require a lot of sleep in general, and I simply find being in bed a lovely place to be.
  • I won’t be able to control distractions. Control anything, really. Lack of control is a big issue for me. I hate that I can’t control my environment or myself, and the feeling of being out of control is terrifying.

I’ll let you know how my week progresses!



For more reading about heroes and the elements of story:

::  The Heroic Journey 1: Every Story is the Same Old Story @ Write at Home

Somebody is living in the world of the common day. Ordinary day-to-day life. He’s not comfortable there, something’s… off. Then it happens: He gets an invitation, in some way, to enter a different world. Go on an adventure. A quest.

Thus the journey begins — wait. Not so fast. It’s usually the case that the person, now recognizable as the hero, rejects the call to adventure. He’s unsure of himself, even though deep down, he knows this is what he’s been waiting for.”


Have you answered a call to adventure?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Year of 40 ~ Beginnings

I’m impatient.

I’ve always wanted things to come easy—make the decision, come up with the idea, and voila!, there it is: Cellist. Book author. Famous blog personality. Interior designer. Well-educated children. World traveler. Business owner. Fluent Spanish. Fluent French. Phenomenal photographer. World-renowned public speaker [just kidding]…

It doesn’t really matter what the thing is, I just want to have the finished product manifest itself at the beginning of the journey. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

[Oh, heavens. I just typed “finished product” after typing “well-educated children.” That speaks volumes, doesn’t it?]

So, when I came up with my theme for my “Year of 40,” I fully expected to roll out the carpet on January 1st. Transformation complete. And the year just born, all pink and wrinkly.

The crux of the matter is, I have a slight issue with the whole productivity thing. With time-management. Self-management. It seems I may have to start at the beginning before I can end at the, well, end. (Yes, I’m slow on the uptake.)

To that end (or beginning), I’m starting my first 40 on Monday: Forty days of the Storyline Productivity Schedule to face my inability to structure my day and manage myself.

My first project will be completing the free week of life coaching by Donald Miller (author of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story) at Storyline (where you can also find the free download of the Storyline Productivity Schedule).

I’d love company (and accountability) on this journey. Would anyone be up for joining me in this challenge? I’ll be checking in here at Mt. Hope quickly at the end of each day with an update and something—a quote, a thought, an image, a video—to inspire and encourage.

Are you in?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

In With the New ~ A Fresh Theme (and a Book List)

I had a vision for my new year, 2014—my year of 40.

January 1st was to bring a wondrous unveiling of a magical new world here at Mt. Hope Chronicles.

Big dreams. Big plans. Couldn’t pull it off. For various reasons. (Partly this, but mostly this.)

Rather than allowing myself to be stymied by my default all-or-nothing mentality, I’m going to try a one-snowflake-at-a-time approach. And eventually the world will be transformed.

Consider this book list post the first snowflake.

Can you guess my theme for the new year?


::  A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

::  Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle (again)

::  Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

::  Standing by Words: Essays by Wendell Berry

::  The Way of the Storyteller by Ruth Sawyer

::  The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers

::  A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle

::  Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O'Connor

::  The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Bartholomew and Goheen (continued)

::  Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider

::  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller (again)

::  The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing by Jeff Goins

::  Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World by N.D. Wilson

::  The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness

::  The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

::  Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

::  Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson (again, possibly with Levi)

::  Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (again, possibly with Levi)

::  The Once and Future King by T.H. White

(With Levi)

::  The Story: Teen Edition: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People 

::  Watership Down: A Novel by Richard Adams

::  Fahrenheit 451: A Novel by Ray Bradbury

::  Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger

::  Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books behind the Hogwarts Adventures by John Granger

::  Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (series)