Happy New Year! 2016 recap

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I can’t believe we are in the final few hours of 2016! What a year it’s been. For many, it’s been a mostly negative year. I think I feel fairly neutral about the year as a whole, as it affects me personally. Good things and bad things happened. I’m nervous about some things in the future, and hopeful about others.

I wanted to revisit my goals that I wrote about here and see how I did. I’m pleased with how I challenged myself with #3 and that has made me feel really good about my year as a whole, even if it was just a small thing. I like the idea of setting achievable goals. I am ruminating on some for 2017, so I’ll be back with those. (Maybe. ;-) )

My 2016 goals, and my response to them:
1) Draw closer to Christ.
– This is always a journey and I won’t ever be able to check it off. For this year, I do think I was able to make some positive changes in this area. I have been more conscious about how external influences affect me, and made some changes with this in mind. Hopefully I can continue to do this even more in 2017.

2) Be more present with my kids.
– I completely failed on this one. Some days I do okay, but I still have a lot to work on.

3) Read for pleasure.
– This goal ended up being so empowering! I initially set a goal of 12 books, but when I hit that this summer, I decided to shoot for 24 books – and did it! A few of the books I read were really impactful in my life this year. I picked up several that I’ve always been meaning to read, and I’m so glad I did. I look forward to having this goal again for 2017.

4) Journal.
– I didn’t do very well at this. I did get a journal that encouraged creative writing – giving you just the first sentence, and you finish it. I enjoyed that for a little bit, but eventually it fell by the wayside.

5) Make a budget and stick to it.
– Ha! I have this goal every year, and every year I fail miserably. I did purchase YNAB and I got our budget all figured out, but then I did horrible about recording transactions and sticking to the categories. Last night, Paul and I watched a few YNAB videos and are committed to setting it up and holding to it this year. We’ll see. ;-)

6) Develop good habits with housekeeping.
– Another big fat nope. Ah, well.

7) Learn to crochet
– I actually bought a “how to” book and yarn and started teaching myself. I got the very basics, but then couldn’t figure it out when it got more complicated. I wanted to take a class, but I was basically a single parent for much of the year so that just wasn’t going to happen. But, I’ve a little bit lost my interest so we’ll see. I did pick up cross-stitching again! I enjoy that a lot.

Happy Thanksgiving! And more books :-)

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Thanksgiving is in two days!

I pulled out our Thanksgiving books today (we’ve been traveling, which is why I’m so late with this) and read them to the girls. I thought I’d share. (Next week I plan to do an update for my Christmas books now that it’s been a few years.)

(All italic descriptions from Amazon.com, and asterisks mark my own thoughts on the book.)

1621: A New Lok at Thanksgiving

I got these two books from the library after seeing recommendations for them in one of my Facebook groups…

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving
by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation

Countering the prevailing, traditional story of the first Thanksgiving, with its black-hatted, silver-buckled Pilgrims; blanket-clad, be-feathered Indians; cranberry sauce; pumpkin pie; and turkey, this lushly illustrated photo-essay presents a more measured, balanced, and historically accurate version of the three-day harvest celebration in 1621.
** We have visited Plimoth Plantation several times since my in-laws live fairly close, and this book covers a lot of what is talked about when you visit Plimoth. It’s a bit more informative of a book, so I mostly skimmed it with the girls. It’s a really good look at the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag people, and the actual facts of the traditional “First Thanksgiving”. I am glad to be able to talk about these things with my kids.

Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday
by Mike Allegra

During the nineteenth century, Sarah Josepha Hale dedicated her life to making Thanksgiving a national holiday, all while raising a family and becoming a groundbreaking writer and women’s magazine editor. Sarah Hale’s inspiring story, accompanied by luscious watercolor illustrations, tells the tale of one woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
** A great story that talks about how Thanksgiving became a national holiday, without it being about Pilgrims. I enjoyed this story of a widow who was persistent in her quests for her passions. Also, a good reminder to be thankful for what you have even in times of little.

Saying Grace

These are a few of the Thanksgiving-themed books we own. (The others I think are more twaddle-ish, which is why I didn’t include them here.)

Saying Grace: A Prayer of Thanksgiving
by Virginia Kroll

Find special mealtime prayers and Thanksgiving activities inside! Grace’s mind was racing. What was that spelling word that meant ‘great generosity in giving’? She squeezed her eyes shut, and it came to her. Bounty. That was the word! Journey back in time with Grace and relive both the hardships and blessings along with her pioneer family. Saying Grace tells the story of one girl and her discovery of the value of mealtime prayer at her family’s first Thanksgiving.
** Another nice story of one family’s Thanksgiving celebration without it being about the Pilgrims. My favorite part of this book are the beautiful illustrations. This is a Christian book about giving thanks and praying before mealtimes.

Pilgrim Cat
by Carol Antoinette Peacock

When young Pilgrim Faith Barrett discovers a stray cat on the Mayflower, she names her new friend Pounce. Together they face the long, cramped voyage and the perils of the first winter at the Plymouth colony.
** I picked this up this past summer when we visited Plimoth because it was about a cat (of course). It’s a cute little story that follows a little girl and her mouser cat on the Mayflower and their first year in the New World and the first Thanksgiving.

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims
by B.G. Hennessy

The activities of ten Pilgrims and ten Wampanoag Indian children as they prepare for a splendid harvest feast at Plimoth (now Plymouth Plantation) are described using the familiar childhood rhyme.
** I was suspicious of this book when I first saw it, but I actually ended up liking it. It’s very simple for the littlest ones in your house, but adorable illustrations and tell a bit of a story of Pilgrim and Wampanoag children getting ready for a Thanksgiving feast.

What I’m into these days

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It’s September. After a busy summer where we traveled a bunch and played and overall enjoyed our summer break, we are settling into our fall routines. The end of summer marks birthday season for us: Caroline turned 4 on July 18, Savannah turned 7 on August 22, and Elizabeth turned 2 on September 1st.

We started school again around the beginning of August. We did take the summer off from school, but we read a ton thanks to the Give Your Child the World reading challenge. Now we’re shifting our focus to more academic things. Savannah is in 2nd grade this year, and Caroline is in Pre-K.

The weather is getting a little less hot, which is so nice. I have decided the air conditioning doesn’t really work in our car (it only blows cold air when we’re driving 55+), so I’m really ready to not be sweltering when stuck in traffic. I have a few of our annual fun things lined up… apple picking, Greek festival…

On my mind… Finally I have the desire to put effort into the home decor in our house. We’ve lived here 7 years and still haven’t hung pictures. I have been dissatisfied with the living room layout the whole time, but only in the past few days have I finally come up with a solution. I need to ponder it a bit longer, but I am excited to get it working.

On my nightstand… I finished “Prairie Girl”, the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Fascinating book and I highly recommend any Little House fans to read it. I started “The House That Cleans Itself”, in hopes to help me come up with a solution to keeping my house neater. I need desperate help in that area! I also have 3 other books that may or may not get read before I have to return the to the library… 

On my tv… I have been enjoying the Dick Van Clark Show, surprise surprise! I needed a new sitcom, and I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I do. It’s amazing how relevant some of the story lines are, despite them being from the 60s.

On my phone… I’ve been playing around with the app Duolingo. I got as far as I could go with Spanish pretty quickly, so I switched to Italian. It’s pretty fun, though I’m not sure how much I’m retaining.

On my computer… I’ll tell you what’s not on my computer, and that’s Facebook. I took a little break from it… for at least a month, maybe longer. All the political stuff was getting to me, and it was causing more stress than it should have. I still am not used to not being on Facebook… I feel restless and miss that connection with my friends. But I also feel it’s a bit freeing. If you miss me, I’m still active on Instagram and Google Hangouts. :-)

On my radio… Okay, not really radio, but I didn’t want to repeat phone. ;-) I’ve been really into podcasts recently. My favorites are Stuff You Missed in History Class, Young House Love, and Read Aloud Revival. I probably will add more but right now those three are a good balance. I need to get some headphones so I can listen when I’m doing chores around the house. Right now, I mostly listen at night before bed or when I’m alone in the car. Which is almost never, ha!

I think that’s good for now. I do miss blogging… Though it’s hard to make time for it these days. Ah, well, such is life. 

Growing up in Atlanta

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Written by Savannah

Hi! My name is Savannah and today is my 7th birthday! I live in Atlanta, Georgia with my mom, my dad, my two younger sisters, and my cat. I love where I live! I have lived here all my life.

First day of school

We live just outside Atlanta in a house that is 55 years old! There are lots of big trees in my neighborhood, and the roads are a little hilly. I have my own room, but my two sisters share a room. My next door neighbor is named Maya. We play together a lot. Maya goes to a public school that is in our neighborhood, where most of the kids go. I am homeschooled, though. I have a desk down in our den for school, but we do school all over the house. We read a lot of books together. This year my middle sister, Caroline, is doing school with me for pre-k.

Homeschool room

I like to draw and play and watch tv. I like horses, unicorns, mermaids, and dolphins the most! I take swimming class at the Y and my sister is just starting martial arts. I really like swimming and pretending I’m a mermaid. My class doesn’t start again until September so I’m having to wait.

Savannah swimming

My Daddy works in downtown Atlanta and sometimes we go visit him. It’s really fun. He works next to a park that they built when the Olympics were in my city 20 years ago. Mommy likes to tell me all about that because she was living here and she remembers them. There is a fountain in the park that is fun to play in. The fountain is made out of the Olympics rings!

Visiting Daddy at work

There are a lot of people who live in my city who are from other countries and speak other languages. The area of Atlanta where I live is especially diverse! There are lots of restaurants near my house that are food from other countries – mostly different countries in Asia and in Latin America. We go to a church near my house that is in Spanish and English. I am trying to learn Spanish but I have a hard time remembering the words. I love my church and my friends there!


Atlanta gets very hot in the summer, so we stay inside where it is cool. But it is very nice in the spring and the fall. Sometimes in the winter it snows! I have never gotten to build a snowman though. We so rarely get snow that we always have to take pictures when it does happen!


We like to go camping in Georgia. We are close to the mountains, where I have gone camping a lot of times. I share a name with the city of Savannah, and we have been camping there too.

Camping girls

My one set of grandparents lives in Florida and my other grandparents live in Massachusetts, so we drive a long ways to go visit them. They both live near the ocean and I like that we can go to the beach when we visit them.


My state, Georgia, is known as the peach state. I love eating peaches! They are so yummy. Also, in the fall my family always goes apple picking, and in the spring we go strawberry picking. I am glad we live close enough to do things like that.

Georgia Peach

One book about my state that I like is called P Is For Peach: A Georgia Alphabet.


I like living in Atlanta! You should come visit sometime. I bet you would like it too.

(Read all about our Summer Book Club books around the world here!)

Give Your Child the World: Week 8 – Australia, Oceania, & Polar Regions

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See this post for an explanation of this Summer Book Club. Check out the Australia, Oceania, and Polar Regions post at Simple Homeschool, for free printables and other ideas.


Our final week of our summer book club! This section seemed a little catch-all, going from the frigid polar areas to the warm Australia. :-) So I tried to choose books from all the different regions. And of course, as soon as I saw one of the books was titled “Elizabeth”, I knew I had to get that one. :-) I’m so glad our library had it!

(All italic descriptions from Amazon.com, and asterisks mark my own thoughts on the book.)

elizabethqueenoftheseasElizabeth, Queen of the Seas
by Lynne Cox

Here is the incredible story of Elizabeth, a real-life elephant seal who made her home in the Avon River in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. When Elizabeth decides to stretch out across a two-lane road, the citizens worry she might get hurt or cause traffic accidents, so a group of volunteers tows her out to sea. But Elizabeth swims all the way back to Christchurch. The volunteers catch her again and again—each time towing her farther, even hundreds of miles away—but, still, Elizabeth finds her way back home.

** We loved this book, and it was especially fun to see Elizabeth turn every time I read “Elizabeth!” The girls thought the elephant seal was really cute (the illustrated one, that is!). They loved that it was a true story.

overinaustraliaOver in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under
by Marianne Berkes

In the Down Under continent, baby wallabies learn to hop, brolgas learn to dance, and emus learn to zig-zag and children will want to hop, dance, and zig-zag right along with the amazing animals of Australia. As with all of Marianne Berkes award-winning Over books, children will also want to sing, clap and count to the rhyme of Over in the Meadow as they learn about wallabies, koalas, wombats, and more. What an easy, fun way to learn about these endearing, unique Australian animals! Jill Dubin’s cut-paper illustrations add to the fun.

** This book was so much fun to read! I had “Over in the Meadow” when I was growing up, which is in a similar cadence. We talked about how Australia is an island and so they have many unique animals. The book also has a lot of information in the end about the animals for people wanting to learn more, and a map of Australia showing the general regions and where the animals in the book are found. I also loved the collage illustrations. I think this book might be one I actually buy.

baltoThe Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto
by Natalie Standiford

It is one of the worst storms ever – the snow has not stopped for days and it is 30 degrees below zero. But somehow Balto must get through. He is the lead dog of his sled team. And he is carrying medicine to sick children miles away in Nome, Alaska. He is their only hope. Can Balto find his way through the terrible storm? Find out in this exciting true story!

** This is one of the books we’ll be reading this year in school, but at their request I went ahead and read it to them anyway. What an awesome story! I grew up reading this book a lot, and it never gets old. The idea of so much snow that you need a sled dog to get anywhere is beyond our comprehension, living in the Southeast US. As a side note, for adults who want to know more about the true story of the Nome Serum Run, I highly recommend the Stuff You Missed in History podcast episode on the topic. (I love that podcast! It’s a great one! You can listen from your computer if you don’t have a podcast player on your phone.)

antarcicanticsAntarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems
by Judy Sierra

Dive, swim, and glide with this delightful pack of penguins as they slip and slide through their icy world.
Judy Sierra, Jose Aruego, and Ariane Dewey invite you into the world of an Emperor penguin family and their wild, slip-sliding, rhyming fun.

** As I suspected, Caroline especially enjoyed these fun poems of penguin life. (She’s really into penguins currently.) The books starts with the birth of a baby penguin and goes through the life of a penguin. I could have done without the “Regurgitate” poem though. ;-) It does approach things realistically, talking about predators and dangers.

mrpopperspenguinsMr. Popper’s Penguins
by Richard Atwater

A classic of American humor, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations. “Here is a book to read aloud in groups of all ages. There is not an extra or misplaced word in the whole story.”–The Horn Book. Newberry Honor Book.

** This is another book we’re scheduled to read in school this year, so I didn’t actually read it to them this week. However, I read this multiple times growing up and it was one of my favorites. Such a charming story about a man who adopts some penguins. I’m a little surprised to see it on the list for Give Your Child the World, since it doesn’t actually take place outside the US, but I guess it talks a lot about what kind of conditions are in Antarctica, so Mr. Popper can attempt to recreate them for his penguins. Either way, it’s a fun story and I’m so excited to share it with my kids!