Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Goals

Whew!  December flew by!  With our Thanksgiving trip lasting into the beginning of December, and then with studying for my test combined with normal Christmas-time activities, the month seemed to end before I really knew it was here.  And now it's over.

Here's how I did with my goals this month:
  • Read through my book list.  I realized this month that there were a couple of books on my list that I completely forgot about.  Oops!  I'll carry those over to 2014's "to read" list.  I didn't get too much read this month since I spent so much time studying for my law test.
  • Exercise.  I had two weeks of good exercise...and then none.
  • Have one fun day in school every month.  I meant to celebrate Cookie Day (December 5) with my children, but we were still recovering from our Thanksgiving trip.  And I was too busy trying to get some real school done after our Thanksgiving break and before our Christmas break to plan another one.
  • Take one field trip per month.  We made it to the Planetarium again.  That will have to count.
  • Date night.  John and I actually had two date nights this month!  Whoohoo!  First, we attended his work Christmas party.  And we also went out to go Christmas shopping for our children.
  • Home improvement project.  We put up the Christmas tree.  Does that count?  In case you're wondering, it's still up.
  • Service project.  I meant to do something but didn't have the mental energy to plan anything.
  • Hospitality.  It's a busy month for everyone, so we didn't try too hard to have anyone over.  
  • Work.  I took the Texas pharmacist law test yesterday.  If I pass, I'll be able to start looking for a job -- one of my goals for next year.  
  • Having my children do more around the house.  Once again, I don't have too much specifically to point to, but I've been having my children do lots of little tasks around the house that are really helpful.  For example, I've been sending Daniel or Sarah Beth out to lock the chickens up for the night after they roost.  It only takes five minutes, but it's one less thing for me to do.
How did you do this year with your goals?  Have you started working on making your goals for 2014?

Monday, December 30, 2013

My 2013 Reading

After reading almost fifty books last year, I was curious how many I would read this year.  I read over forty (most of which were worth reading), and I think that was pretty good.

Here are the books that I wanted and planned to read this year.  I didn't get to all of them, however, and the ones that I didn't read have an * beside them.  Most of the ones I didn't read, I just forgot about.  But a couple of the novels didn't interest me anymore, and I don't have time to read books that don't interest me.  (All of the links go to my review of each book.)
Here is the list of books that I read in addition to my "to read" list:
How many books did you read this year?  Which ones would you recommend the most?  Have you started making a list for 2014?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas! The Lord is Come!

Joy to the world!  The Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room, 
And Heaven and nature sing, 
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing!

Joy to the Earth!  The Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessing found
Far as the curse is found, 
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders of His love.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: The War on Christmas by Bodie Hodge

While I truly believe there is a war on Christmas in our country right now, I don't think this book is so much about it.  This book reads more like a Christmas "myth buster."  Myths like the wise men visiting the newborn Jesus and that there were three of them, along with the perpetual virginity of Mary are all tackled, held up to the light of Scripture, and found wanting.  What I found most interesting were the chapters on the Christmas star (a true miracle, not a comet like I believed) and the place where Jesus was born (not the stable that we see in nativity scenes).

I enjoyed this book even though I already knew some of the information in it.  Honestly, I was intrigued by the title and knew that I wanted to read it without knowing anything else about it.  If you want to learn more about the true story of Christmas, you should read this book.

I want to thank Handlebar Publishing for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review: City on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii by Tracy L. Higly

In City on Fire:  A Novel of Pompeii by Tracy Higly, Ariella has been taken captive by the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem and made a slave.  Her owner is terrible, so she makes a drastic decision to leave him and change places with a gladiator, disguising herself as a boy.  After being unsuccessful in the ring, she is bought by another owner and her lot seems to improve.  But her friendship with another slave Jeremiah makes her rethink her decision to turn her back on God.  Is He really there?  Does He really care?  Who is this Messiah everyone is talking about?  Then her past resurfaces and threatens to drown her.  And of course, the climax of this book takes place during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

I really enjoyed this book about ancient Rome.  The history it contains seems to be true, and in the afterword, Higly tells how she researched this book.  The story is exciting and suspenseful, keeping one reading.  And the characters are well-rounded and believable.  It's a relatively small thing, but I appreciated that no matter how hard Ariella trains, she is unable to beat any other gladiator.  I hate it when women are portrayed as just as strong as men because we're not.  I'll be looking for more of Higly's books to read.

I want to thank BookSneeze for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Blogging Break

Our Christmas tree.

I'm going to be real with you:  I've been feeling overwhelmed since we returned from our Thanksgiving trip.  I feel like I'm running behind, and I can't quite catch up.  There's so much for me to do with normal tasks, but now I have added to those studying for my law test and Christmas.  I can't do it all; something has to give.  And blogging is the thing to give because I need to keep up with my normal household chores; I have got to study for this test; and I really want to enjoy this Christmas season.

I'm not saying that I won't be around at all the next few weeks, but I won't be around as much.  I have a couple of posts that I need to write:  books that I need to review.  And there might be a couple that I want to write, but some of what I want to write will go unwritten, like the posts about not buying for too many people, not leaving anyone out, and showing you my Christmas decorations.  (You can read those old posts without the revisions I wanted to make.)

I hope that you enjoy your Christmas season, as I hope to enjoy mine.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mary!

Mary turns two years old today.  It's hard to believe that my youngest child is two, but like it or not, she is!  All of my children have waited until they turned two to really start talking, and Mary is no exception.  She only has a handful of words, but she has an amazing ability to get her point across without using many (or any!) words.  And she loves to sing; she sings when I get her out of the bed in the morning, when she's waiting for breakfast, while we're doing school, when she's playing,... you get the idea.  And it's all without words!

Mary is my independent child.  When you try to help her with something, she says, "I-do-it!"  It's all one word, and each syllable is stressed more than the last.  Usually, it's nice that she wants to do so much for herself, like when we're leaving the house and she puts her shoes on; but sometimes, it's not so nice, like when I'm in a hurry and she can't figure out how to do something.  Mary is my first child to be so independent, the only one to insist on doing things herself.

Mary also thinks that she is just as big and can do everything that her older siblings can do, like jumping off the stool or unloading the dishwasher.  She hates being left behind or being told that she can't do something.  She is also a big helper; when she spills her apple juice, she gets the cloth, wipes it up, and puts it in the washing machine.

I'm not sure what God holds in store for Mary, but I look forward to seeing how He uses this strong-willed, precocious, fun-loving, smile-inducing, never-a-dull-moment child.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Counting My Blessings: Lots of Different Things

This picture is rather old; it's been cold here lately!

It seems easier to feel thankful at this time of year.  I mean, it's the Christmas season!   Jesus leaving Heaven to become a person is a wonderful reason to feel thankful!  But shouldn't we be this thankful all year long?  Just something for me to think about.

Here are a few ways I'm counting my blessings this week:
  • God became man.  Does that blow your mind away like it does mine?  I cannot wrap my mind around that statement:  God became man.  Jesus gave up all the wonders and glories of Heaven to be born to a poor couple in a dirty stable.  What love He has for those He has chosen!
  • Rachel had another good check-up this week, and we no longer have to inject her methotrexate!  We get to give it to her orally.  Hooray!  (And yes, we actually did a happy dance at the doctor's office!)
  • Our Christmas tree.  We got it up a little earlier than usual this year.
  • Our babysitter who is coming over so John and I can go shopping for our children.
  • Money to buy Christmas presents for our family.
  • Getting to be with John's family for Christmas.  They're all coming to the Houston area, and it will be fun to see everyone.
  • No more Classical Conversations until the new year starts.  Don't get me wrong; we love CC.  But it's nice to have this break and spend more time this month on the rest of our schooling.
  • A good reason for some baking.  We made Chocolate Minty Melts last week, and we plan to bake some gingerbread this afternoon.  Yum!
How has God blessed you this week?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review: An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson

During the 18th century, Leonard studies mathematics from one of the leading mathematicians of the time.  He cannot get enough of his studies until one day a man is murdered.  As this crime is investigated, Leonhard discovers a conspiracy involving the University he attends and the whole city of Basel.  Does the conspiracy involve his Master?  How?  Why?  And Leonhard has to determine what to do with the knowledge he finds.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  Being a bit of a math nerd, I loved the references to math principles even though I don't quite understand them.  But what I appreciated most about this book were the word pictures.  Robertson has a way with words that amazes and intrigues.  I savored his descriptions, going back and reading them again to make sure that I fully understood them.  How he uses light and dark, as related to good and bad, is impressive.  This book is worth reading just for his descriptions, but the story keeps the reader on the edge of his seat!

You can read more of my thoughts here.

I will definitely read more of Robertson's books!

I want to thank Bethany House for my copy of this book to review, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday's Quote: Infinity and the Infinite One

I came across another neat quote in An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson last week.  (You can read a previous quote with my thoughts here.)  As a boy, Leonhard had his first taste of infinity as he watched raindrops falling into a river, and this is how he recounts the experience:
I'd looked at the wide surface [of the river], which was vast to me then, and considered how very, very many drops of water there were:  innumerable, then no, they could be counted.  It would only take a very long time.  Perhaps all day!  In my childish calculation.... 
I watched more drops fall....And then I knew, that whatever their sum was, it could always be one more, and if always more, then never to end.  For any number, there was one more beyond.  Always. 
I had only one way to comprehend that.  The Mathematics of infinity was still beyond me.  But my father's preaching was already deep in everything I would know about my world.  From him, I knew a word for something that was beyond everything else:  heaven;  a place where "one more beyond, always" did reach its end.  So I had always understood the infinite end of all numbers as God showing himself in his creation.  Everything he made had his image, and part of his image in Mathematics, was infinity.  It was invisible because it was far past the end of sight.  It was the greatest elegance.
I had never thought about how math can teach us about God, but as we can see from this quote, the fact of infinity clearly points to Someone who is infinite, Who is much greater than we are and much greater than we can comprehend.  Just as there are numbers that are too great to grasp, so is our God. He is so much more than we can possibly understand, but we can begin by imagining infinite numbers.

Creation proclaims the Creator, and we can learn much about Him by observing what He has made.  As Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

What have you learned about God from what He has made?

Friday, December 6, 2013

November Review of Goals

There's only one more month left in this year.  Where did 2013 go?  It's time to be thinking about next year's goals while still trying to finish this year out well.  Here's how I did on my goals in November:
  • Read through my book list.  I didn't get much read this month, and nothing off my "to read" list.
  • Exercise.  I did well the middle weeks, but the first and last -- not so much.  I think I'll blame our Thanksgiving trip for the last week's lack of exercise.
  • Have one fun school day per month.  I don't think I had one this month.  Oops!
  • Take one field trip per month.  I don't think we went anywhere for a field trip.  Wait!  Does horseback riding count?
  • Date night.  Thanks to my wonderful mother who watched our children when we visited, John and I were able to go out all by ourselves.
  • Home improvement project.  Nope.
  • Service project.  Nope.
  • Hospitality.  I had a friend and her children over for lunch one day.  I hope that counts.
  • Work.  I am scheduled to take the Texas pharmacist law test on December 30.  If you get a chance, I would be extremely grateful for prayers this month.  Studying with four children underfoot isn't easy.
  • Have my children do more around the house.  Again, there's nothing specific I can point to, but they are doing more.  
How are you doing with your goals for the year?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

November Reading

I did not get much read this month.  I'm not sure why that is, and nothing that I read is on my "to read" list.  Oh, well.  Here is what I did read:
  • Martyr's Fire by Sigmund Brouwer.  You can read my full review here, but it wasn't very good.
  • Return to me by Lynn Austin.  I loved this book about Jews returning to Jerusalem after their Babylonian exile.  You can read my full review here.
  • Everard by Chautona Haviq.  This sarcastic, witty take on fairy tales had me wanting to walk more on my treadmill (in order to read more) alternating with making me not want to finish it.  All in all, I'm glad I finished this tale of a prince who is too shy to speak to his beloved, but will dare almost anything in order to prove himself worthy.  The Christian themes in the book made it even more readable.
What have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Our Thanksgiving Trip

Laura's and my children -- all twelve of them!

We travelled to Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with my family.  We made a couple of stops on the way to my parents' house:  first, we dropped in for a little while at my mother-in-law's house to see her, and then we travelled to visit Laura where we spent the night.  We stayed one night with Laura's family and had a wonderful visit.  Laura and I have been friends for a long time, since before either of us were married.

Sarah Beth even received some instruction on how to ride, instead of just being led around.

Then we travelled to see another friend, Ms. Sharon, who was one of my riding instructors.  I've known Sharon for twenty years!  We've kept in touch via snail mail, so it was especially nice to see her in person.  John and I last saw Sharon when I was pregnant with Daniel, six years ago.  Sharon graciously offered to let my children ride one of her ponies, and they loved it.

It was cold that day, but it didn't dampen my children's enthusiasm.

Then we finished our traveling to my parents' house where supper was ready and my sister and her children were waiting.  We saw a lot of my family while we were there, and it was so nice.  My brothers and sister (and their families) came by often to spend time with us.

You can't tell from Rachel's face, but she had a good time, too.

I saw several other friends, too.  As a matter of fact, Tuesday was so full of visiting with different friends, that I had to leave one to meet another.  I've never been that popular before!  One of the friends I saw, I've known since elementary school!  Thirty years!  (And I know that I'm dating myself.)

I didn't worry about Mary at all; I knew she would love riding Tonto.

Then we had a big Thanksgiving feast which was delicious!  And on Friday, we visited with new friends, ones that my parents met at church and thought we would enjoy getting to know.  We did!

John found Mary curled up asleep one morning.  It was a busy, exciting week!

Saturday was my father's seventieth birthday, so the whole family gathered for that celebration.  What did my dad want?  He wanted us all to meet him at the gym so we could watch him climb the rope.  Yep!  My seventy year old father can climb a sixteen foot rope.  We figure that he's going to outlive the rest of us since he's in such good shape...better than any of the rest of us.

All of my parents' grandchildren.

On Sunday, we went to my parents' church which was our church first.  As you know, we've had a hard time finding a church home in Texas, so it was wonderful to worship there.  It felt like home!  The icing on the cake was attending the Sunday school my father teaches.  That was fun!  And informative.  

We left Georgia on Monday and arrived home on Tuesday after visiting one of John's friends in Mobile, Al., Monday night.  

Whew!  It was a long trip; we were gone twelve days.  But it was such a good trip!  And now it's back to normal, well, it will be tomorrow anyway.  On the agenda today is grocery shopping, cleaning out the chicken coop, laundry, unpacking, among other things.  And I have to figure out what we're having for supper!  I haven't had that concern for almost two weeks!  And when I finally get some "free" time, I've got blog-reading to catch up on. 

That's what we did for Thanksgiving.  What did you do?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday's Quote: Sound Waves and Their Obedience to God

I've been reading An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson, and I have enjoyed it immensely.  In it, Leonhard, who is studying mathematics during the 1700's, enjoys seeing how God uses math to make Himself manifest.  In this quote, Leonhard discusses some of his studies with his grandmother, specifically he has been reading that sound behaves as a wave, a revolutionary idea at the time.
"I don't know if the wave is the equation or the equation is the wave.  But this is what I've written, that the equation is the law that the wave must obey."

"Sound must obey laws?  Like men must?  And who gives laws to the air?"

"I think God does."

"And do they follow His laws?"

"Yes," I said, and firmly.  "In every circumstance they do.  They aren't unrighteous." 
Sound waves obey the laws made by God, but men do not.   Isn't that an interesting thought?  Isn't that a neat way to phrase it?  You know what else?  It makes me jealous of natural phenomena because gravity and sound waves obey God with no other option.  I wish that I could obey God so unerringly; don't you?

Praise the Lord -- one day, we will!