Joyful Domesticity’s Summer Reading Challenge, 2019 ~ Book Suggestion Links

Here are some ideas from our own family experiences (mostly thanks to our county library system… although our own personal home library has more of these titles than you might think… haha!) and reading lives to share with you, according to the categories in our Summer Reading Challenge. We have read almost every single title listed below ~ either all the kids (up to age 11), or just some of us. For instance, my big kids don’t love Eric Carle or Alice Schertle anymore, and my littles aren’t quite ready for John Hendrix or J.K. Rowling. Please feel free to share more ideas in the comments if you have favorites for any of these categories!
But most importantly: have fun cultivating a love of story in your home!

 

Goldfish on Vacation by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Books by Sally Lloyd-Jones:
The Jesus Storybook Bible
Found: Psalm 23
Baby Wren and the Great Gift
Bunny’s First Spring
The House That’s Your Home
Hats Off to Mr. Pockles

Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

Books by Kate Messner:
Over and Under the Pond
Over and Under the Snow
How to Read a Story
The Brilliant Deep

Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock

Books by Barb Rosenstock:
Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library
The Noisy Paint Box
Through the Window
Dorothea’s Eyes
Ben Franklin’s Big Splash

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small

Books by Sarah Stewart and David Small:
The Library
The Journey
The Quiet Place
The Money Tree
This Book of Mine (coming out this summer!)

Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek by Deborah Hopkinson

Miracle Man by John Hendrix

Graphic novel by John Hendrix:
The Faithful Spy
Hook’s Revenge

Books illustrated by P.J. Lynch:
The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower
Melisande
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
The Gift of the Magi
When Jessie Came Across the Sea
No One But You
Mysterious Traveller

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A book that became a movie:
The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe
Harry Potter & the Sorceror’s Stone
Anne of Green Gables
The Princess Bride
Little Women
The Secret Garden
A Little Princess
The Hobbit
Tom Sawyer
Swallows and Amazons
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Paddington Bear
Where the Wild Things Are
The Cat in the Hat
Charlotte’s Web

A graphic novel:
Hazardous Tales
Calamity Jack
Anne of Green Gables
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Zita the Space Girl Trilogy
Mighty Jack
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
Mighty Jack and Zita the Space Girl
The Drawing Lesson
The City of Ember

A biography:
Now & Ben
Neo Leo
Timeless Thomas
Balloons Over Broadway
Some Writer!
Nothing Stopped Sophie
Snowflake Bentley
Brave Girl
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Six Dots
The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin
A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin
Papa is a Poet
Balderdash
Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen
Emily
The Right Word
The Boy Who Loved Math
A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider
A Poem for Peter
Abe Lincoln: the Boy Who Loved Books
A Boy Called Dickens
A Picture Book of Louis Braille
A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus

A classic:
Charlotte’s Web
Little House in the Big Woods
Farmer Boy
Treasure Island
The Jungle Book
Peter Pan
The Wind in the Willows
The Wizard of Oz
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Pilgrim’s Progress
Little Pilgrim’s Progress
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
Illustrated Stories from Dickens
Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables
Winnie-the-Pooh
The Iliad and the Odyssey

A book with a dragon:
Henry and the Chalk Dragon
My Father’s Dragon trilogy
Saint George and the Dragon
Beowolf
Sir Gawain & the Green Knight
King Arthur & His Knights of the Round Table
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

A book with a lighthouse:
Hello Lighthouse
Our Castle by the Sea
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
The Lighthouse Kids
The Lighthouse Children

A wordless book:
Journey
Quest
Return
Unspoken
Museum Trip
Flora and the Flamingo
Flora and the Peacocks
Flora and the Penguin
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Spot, the Cat
Flashlight

A book written by a female author:
Alice Schertle
Sally Lloyd-Jones
Laura Ingalls Wilder
L.M. Montgomery
Shannon Hale
J.K. Rowling
Kate DiCamillo
Gail Gibbons
Deborah Hopkinson
Tasha Tudor
Beatrix Potter
Sandra Boynton
Grace Lin
Edith Nesbit
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Louisa May Alcott
Margaret Wise Brown
Jennifer Trafton
Maryrose Wood
Barbara Cooney
Jane Yolen
Beverly Cleary
Laura Numeroff
Astrid Lindgren
Madeleine l’Engle
Patricia Polacco
Helen Oxenbury
Rosemary Wells
Trina Schart Hyman
Jean Fritz
Patricia MacLachlan
Cynthia Rylant
Barb Rosenstock
Virginia Lee Burton
Peggy Parish
Ruth Stiles Gannett
Helen Oxenbury
Kate Messner
Melissa Sweet
Linda Sue Park
Janet Stevens
Mary Pope Osborne
Caroline Starr Rose
Candace Fleming

A book written by a male author:
Eric Carle
Ezra Jack Keats
P.D. Eastman
Bill Martin Jr
Aaron Becker
Jonathan Bean
Richard Scarry
Gene Zion
S.D. Smith
Jason Farley
N.D. Wilson
Andrew Peterson
C.S. Lewis
A.A. Milne
John Bunyan
Roald Dahl
Gary Paulsen
E.B. White
Dr. Seuss
Arnold Lobel
Maurice Sendak
Chris Van Allsburg
Rudyard Kipling
Robert McCloskey
Tomie dePaola
Lewis Carroll
Shel Silverstein
J.M. Barrie
David Macaulay
Lloyd Alexander
Michael Bond
Jonathan Auxier

A book based a true story:
Finding Winnie
Winnie
Winnie’s Great War
Rescue & Jessica
One Hen
Beatrice’s Goat
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
The Faithful Spy

Historical fiction:
Phoebe the Spy
The Cabin Faced West
Birchbark House
Winnie’s Great War
Listening for Lions
Homer Price
Billy and Blaze
Betsy Tacy
Anne of Green Gables
Kilmeny of the Orchard
Emily of New Moon
Dear America Series
Henry Huggins
Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine
Hatchet
Summer of the Monkeys
Leepike Ridge
A Long Way from Chicago
The Matchlock Gun
The Sign of the Beaver
The Railway Children
The Orphan Band of Springdale
The Bobbsey Twins
The Boxcar Children

A book in a series:
The Green Ember
The Mistmantle Chronicles
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Anne of Green Gables
The Chronicles of Narnia
The 100 Cupboards
Betsy Tacy
The Penderwicks
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
The Wilderking Trilogy
Edward Eager’s Tales of Magic
The Wingfeather Saga
Edge of Extinction
The Mysterious Benedict Society
What You Do Matters
Mercy Watson
The Princess in Black
Tumtum and Nutmeg
Prince Martin
Cilla Lee-Jenkins
A to Z Mysteries
Magic Treehouse
I Survived

A book with a one-word title
A book with a dust jacket
A book without a dust jacket

Re-read something you loved:
Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine
The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic
Henry and the Chalk Dragon
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
Sophie Quire
Sweep
Gone Away Lake
The Family Under the Bridge
Flora and Ulysses
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Miracles on Maple Hill
Building Our House
This is My Home, This is My School
The Remember Balloons
The Book of Mistakes

Read poetry:
Papa is a Poet
100 Great Poems for Boys
100 Great Poems for Girls
Where the Sidewalk Ends
A Child’s Garden of Verses
Sing a Song of Seasons
Poems Every Child Should Know
A Treasury of Poems for Young People
A Child’s Introduction to Poetry

Read Shakespeare:
Pop-Up Shakespeare
Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children
The Shakespeare Stories
Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare
Poetry for Young People

Read about science:
Outside Your Window
A Rock is Lively
A Beetle is Shy
An Egg is Quiet
A Nest is Noisy
A Butterfly is Patient
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies
Leonardo and the Flying Boy
Indescribable
The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes
The Girl With a Mind for Math
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code
Margaret and the Moon
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine
Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures
In the Bag
Great Inventors and their Inventions
Marvelous Mattie
The Inventor’s Secret
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison
Young Thomas Edison
Toys! Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions
The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book
Klutz Lego Chain Reactions Science & Building Kit
STEAM Kids

Read about art:
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies
The Boy Who Drew Birds
A Child’s Introduction to Art
The Story of Paintings
Discovering Great Artists
Seek & Find: Art through the Ages
The Children’s Book of Art
The Magical Garden of Claude Monet
Linnea in Monet’s Garden
Monet Paints a Day
Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail
Degas and the Little Dancer
Van Gogh and the Sunflowers
Camille and the Sunflowers
Joining the Dots
Cezanne and the Apple Boy
Matisse the King of Color
Through Georgia’s Eyes
My Name is Georgia
A Book of Postcards
The Artist in the Desert
Rembrandt and the Boy Who Drew Dogs
The Noisy Paint Box
Katie and the Impressionists
Katie and the Mona Lisa
Katie and the British Artists
Katie and the Waterlily Pond
Small Stories of Great Artists

Read something patriotic:
The 4th of July Story
Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution
The Declaration of Independence
George vs. George
John, Paul, George & Ben
Red Coats & Petticoats
Aaron & Alexander
Paul Revere’s Ride
The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence
America: a Patriotic Primer
A More Perfect Union

Read something about ice cream:
Ice Cream: the Full Scoop
Curious George and the Ice Cream Surprise
Curious About Ice Cream
And Then Comes Summer
Ice Cream
Isaac’s Ice Cream Tree
Ice Cream Summer
The Scoop on Ice Cream
Ice Cream for Breakfast
Ice Cream Sunday

Read something about food:
Food Anatomy
Blueberries for Sal
A Medieval Feast
The Kitchen Knight
Fannie in the Kitchen
Julia, Child
The Seven Silly Eaters
Bon Appetit
Minette’s Feast
Bee-Bim Bop
Each Peach Pear Plum
Everybody Cooks Rice
Pancakes, Pancakes
Walter the Baker
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the USA

Read something about gardening:
Nature Anatomy
A Packet of Seeds
Miss Rumphius
We Are the Gardeners
The Secret Garden
The Tiny Seed
Tops and Bottoms
From Seed to Plant
The Vegetables We Eat
The Fruits We Eat
Flowers
Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt
A Seed is Sleepy
Miss Maple’s Seeds
Oh Say Can You Seed

Read something about water:
The Little Island
Over and Under the Pond
Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man
Island Boy
Hello Lighthouse
Time of Wonder
One Morning in Maine
Harry By The Sea
The Circus Ship
Flotsam
Water Can Be…
The Brilliant Deep
Papa and the Mechanical Fish
Shark Lady
Otis and Will
Water is Water
Coral Reefs
Paddle-to-the-Sea
Seabird
Coral Reefs
Marshes & Swamps
Surrounded By Sea
Exploring the Deep, Dark Sea

Read something about outer space:
A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky
Lost in the Solar System
Star Stuff
On the Launch Pad
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars
There’s No Place Like Space
Go For the Moon
Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars
Hidden Figures
Papa Put a Man on the Moon
Eight Days Gone
If You Decide to Go to the Moon
When We Walked on the Moon
A Computer Called Catherine
Look to the Stars
I am Neil Armstrong
Moon
The Moon Book
The Planets
Planet Earth
Galaxies, Galaxies!
Stargazers

Read a Psalm
Read a Proverb
Read an Epistle
Read a Gospel
Read from the Pentateuch
Read from the Prophets
Read in bed
Read while eating
Read standing up
Read in the car
Read aloud to someone else
Listen to someone read aloud to you

Listen to an audiobook:
Trumpet of the Swan
Echo
Listening for Lions
The Wingfeather Saga
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
The Little House Series
The Princess and the Goblin
The Wizard of Oz

Read in the morning
Read by flashlight
Read outside
Read upside down
Read to a sibling
Read to a parent
Read to a friend
Tell a friend about a book
Read for 20 minutes
Read for 40 minutes
Read for 60 minutes
Read & lose track of time

 

Joyful Domesticity’s Summer Reading Challenge, 2019

Joyful Domesticity Summer Reading Challenge

One of the things I really love about homeschooling is how each of our family members both contributes and receives from the culture in our home without much contradiction from outside input. We are constantly discussing, evaluating, and sifting what we see, hear, and experience through our Christian worldview and family culture. I have posted before (it seems so long ago) about the main loves in our family and home ~ broadly stroking, books & food & music.

This last year, perhaps more than any other, our love for books and love of story has been quite pronounced. I have long loved the Read Aloud Revival, and have enjoyed the community of membership there this last year. I have found encouragement and validation and camaraderie over literature there, and it brings delight to my heart. I have also found a lot of encouragement and camaraderie at Simply Convivial and Scholé Sisters this last year, thanks to the community-building efforts of my friend Mystie. It is such a blessing & boon to know that I am not alone in my journey, even if many of my connections necessarily happen online.

Something that I have loved every summer with my children is pursuing a variety of reading challenges. We participate in Read to Ride, Barnes & Noble’s summer reading journal, Pizza Hut’s Book It program, and we have also enjoyed summer reading challenges from Exodus Books and Veritas Press in the past. This summer I have crafted a slightly more personalized take on it for my children. They will get to put stickers on their completed squares through the end of August, and there will be rewards for every dozen squares marked off. You may notice that there are a few specific books and authors ~ these are to help my children & me keep up with the Family Book Clubs my friend Sarah & her Read Aloud Revival team host each month. And then we love taking rabbit trails from those ideas, exploring more of the authors & illustrators we meet there, and build a lot of our library holds list from that. But the majority of these challenge boxes are much more open, more free. It is up to parental discretion whether a book can be used to check off more than one box, or whether each book should only qualify for one box at a time.

REWARDS for every dozen checked boxes:

  • Ice cream sundae
  • Movie date
  • Staying up thirty minutes late
  • Cookies & lemonade picnic
  • Choosing a new book on Amazon
  • Visiting local amusement park (with free tickets!)

I will also be sharing some of our favorite titles and authors that suit some of these categories, to encourage your own library holds list to grow!

Please feel free to print and enjoy Joyful Domesticity’s Summer Reading Challenge, and fatten the hearts & minds of your family this season along with us! And if you are so inclined, please leave comments sharing some of your favorite authors, illustrators, titles, and wins so we can learn from one another.

A Break for Breathing

It may seem as though even I were new around here now, it has been so long since there has been any update here on Joyful Domesticity. This has been a break for breathing, a season for a deep breath. A season for new journeys, and adjustments to old paths that take new winding turns.

For anyone who is genuinely new to glancing around Joyful Domesticity, please allow me to briefly introduce myself. I am Melissa Joy, a second generation Christian homeschooling mother in the Pacific Northwest. I have been married to my husband Steven since 2007, and we have been deepening our walk with each other & our walk with Christ ever since. One way He has broadened our faith and deepened our theology is through the sanctification of parenting: what a joy, what a privilege, what a hope, what a responsibility! He has blessed us with fourteen children: nine in heaven, four in our home, one in the womb.  Our journey of recurrent miscarriage has been very shaping and honing, of our individual spiritual lives as well as of our family culture at large. I continue to endeavor to reach out in empathy, compassion, understanding, and aid for other grieving mamas. I continue to learn much from the experiences and community God has put in my story.
We homeschool our little band of redheads on family property in the countryside in a Classical Christian model, emphasizing truth, beauty, & goodness through the means of books, music, science, math, art, books, language arts, penmanship, computer skills, books, history, geography, handcrafts, theology, and more books. We delight in embracing life together in our home, our homeschooling community, our church family. My husband operates a company called Olive Tree Bible Software with passion, patience, and diligence. I recently began an endeavor called Paideia Northwest, where we aim to host an annual conference in Northeastern Washington state for Christian mothers raising, educating, & loving their children for the Kingdom of God. It isn’t a money-maker, it is more of a ministry, as my heart longs to see Christian mothers band together in love and encouragement despite differences of practice, method, or even theology.

We have four sons, with one daughter directly in the middle. At this moment, our children are Gabriel (11), Asher (7 1/2), Evangeline (6), Simeon (3 1/2), with the littlest brother’s arrival anticipated in a matter of weeks. God has been continually gracious toward our family, and we are humbly grateful for His intense benevolence. There is no more challenging yet rewarding chapter in my life than motherhood ~ with its many facets.

While I have taken recent months to focus on my tangible home, replete with books and babies and bedrest, I hope to make a somewhat more regular presence here at Joyful Domesticity again. To share what God is doing in my heart, my home, my journey to the Kingdom. I am nothing particularly clever or wise or unique, but I have a heart that is eager to uplift, encourage, and share the sharpening of Christ mutually with my sisters in Christ both near and far.

For the glory of the King, the furtherance of His Kingdom, and the joy of the home! Cheers.

He Gives His Beloved Sleep

…”It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

Psalm 127:2

I awoke this morning when my body wanted to wake up. Not to the rush of children, not to the kiss of a husband bringing me coffee. My eyes simply opened when they were ready.

Now I am reclining in a fluffy bed all to myself, a fan making gentle white noise in the room while I read and rest. The fact is, without the fan, my ears were actually throbbing – this place was completely quiet. As quiet as my home during a power outage while my family is away on vacation. Too quiet.

My husband sent me away to give me some time off. He wanted me to sleep, to relax, to refill my vessel, to take a breather from the tyranny of the urgent I spend my life upon in the day to day, to step away for a day from the anxiety of the never-ending to-do list.

He actually wanted to send me to a nice hotel in town, and then have me spend a day reading and writing and sipping coffee in bookshops or bakeries. But when I said I didn’t want to spend money on that when there are so many other more worthy (or necessary) things pulling on our pocketbook, he arranged for me to stay next door.

That’s right. Next door.
My parents are our nearest neighbors, which is a bit of a jaunt for the average suburbanite – around the pond, through the marsh, over the rocky bluff, on the other side of the forest, up the hill. Yep. That’s the most direct route from our home to the home of our neighbors, my parents. And since my parents were planning to take a weekend to get away to a lake for their own time of rest and retreat, Steven decided it would be the perfect opportunity for me to get away to their home. With satellite tv and a featherbed, it’s as good as any hotel!

My husband is now home with our children doing the homeschooling for a day while I am retreating (yes, he used a vacation day on his wife). The kids promised me they would be extremely well behaved and do even better on their schoolwork than normal. But I told them not to make it too easy for Daddy or he will never know how hard Mommy has to normally work every day! I wrote out their assignments for today before I left, and I didn’t load them up too thickly – they’ll be okay. And hopefully it will be a good thing for all of us: Steven and the kids getting to spend a normal day together and experience what that is like, while I get some headspace and extra sleep.

My beloved is kind. And I am grateful for his thought in caring for me in this way. Life has a way of being very busy, of having no margin.
That is actually part of the reason behind Paideia Northwest bringing an annual conference for Christian mamas to get a day of refilling their vessel. It is a different kind of retreat; but it is an opportunity for women to come together for fellowship, for hearing encouragement & exhortation based on truth, goodness, and beauty urging them toward courageous faithfulness. There will also be food and drink to fill the body and new friends to make to feed the soul. But Steven knows that for me, it will be a big work day. Running a conference is not exactly restful – it is good work. I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring this event to life, and to have the front row seat to see what God does with our little offering by faith.

So for today, I rest. I relax. I retreat.
I will write and read and plan my baby boy’s third birthday party.
I will watch the Food Network and munch on easy food.
I will have a grateful heart for the hubby who loves me and who longs to give me rest.

Little Miss Country Girl

The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes,
and surely it is in the everyday things around us
that the beauty of life lies.

It is the sweet, simple things of life
which are the real ones, after all.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder~

Sweet little darling,
firecracker passion,
strawberry seed freckles,
your blue eyes now grey-green.
Work beside me,
hold my hand,
rest in the comfort
of learning alongside
this mama learning too
and who could imagine nothing better
than walking life with you.

My own sweet little country girl, helping her mama, seeking to grow up far too fast into my shoes.
She delights in ducks, water hoses, garden soil, butterfly wings, ripe strawberries, and fresh basil.
She finds comfort in holding hands, being close, and conversing about all the deep things she carries in her heart.
She seeks to be far too grown up far too quickly, but not because she really tries to – simply because she is a mature little starlet, truly an old soul.

As the years pass,
I am coming more and more to understand
that it is the common, everyday blessings
of our common everyday lives
for which we should be particularly grateful.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder~

My Cup Overflows

Thou anointest my head: my cup runneth over.
Psalm 23:5

This morning, as my children and I sat around the kitchen table doing our copywork for the day, little things were really getting under my skin. The six year old will not stand still, sit still, stop wiggling, or curb the humming & whistling… quite literally, no matter what we try, it seems that at least on this particular morning, he is actually physically unable to truly be still & quiet. The ten year old repeatedly uses his pencil and the heel of his opposite hand for a drum set in between penning words. The five year old moans every time she needs to correct a word, erase a pencil mark, or drops something on the floor… which, to be fair, is about every 27.3 seconds. The two year old is happily uncapping ColorWonder markers and strewing them about the floor (last time it was half-melted crayons which took a while to scrub up… so this is a major improvement) while singing songs at what-ought-to-be the top of his voice, but I happen to know it isn’t, because if there’s one thing we have in spades in this household, it’s breath support & plucky lungs.

My own copywork was going slowly, thanks to the ever-emergent nature of the fulltime homeschooling mother of small children. The dog needs out, the toddler needs to go potty, the children squabble, the pencils need sharpened, the dog peed on the floor, the toddler peed on the floor, the phone rings, the washing machine buzzes, the FedEx man comes at an unusually early hour… the singing, the pencil-drumming, the leg-wiggling, the chair-squeaking, the moaning about how long five verses is when you are trying to write in cursive and you’re only six years old…

I made a big, delicious latte and sat back down. I was only three verses through my five… and it had quite honestly been about thirty minutes already… when the five year old lost her self control and needed some correction. In my over-zealous flight to show her the error of her ways, I rather gave a flamboyant representation myself of just what lacking self control can do to a day. I managed to knock my entire large mug of hot latte all over the table and down the edge like a frothy waterfall. In the nanosecond it took for me to finally lose my cool and react in an expulsory fashion, God slowed down my vision enough to do one of those “this is your life” slideshows inside my eyelids for a moment… highlighting simply the last hour of the morning. My petty angst, my raw nerves, my frenzied attack of all the things at once rather than pacing and parsing them out in an orderly fashion. I don’t think I uttered a single sound or solitary syllable. God grabbed me right there. The proverbial swat on my hand was received, my eyelids came down, my shoulders slumped. The breath in my lungs caught and I immediately felt the mercy of God’s hand rearranging my morning in one quick movement.

My sudden physical response was so jolting, I managed to slide my chair away from the table far enough that the waterfall of coffee avoided me altogether but rather soaked up my copywork journal and splashed upon some of the readalouds from our morning basket, sopped into the table runner, and managed to splosh & splash across the entire kitchen nook floor (praise the Lord we recently got rid of the rug & reverted to the bare wood) & onto most of the chair legs around the table.

While I spun around to grab an armful of towels from the drawer beside the sink, I thought to myself, well, that’s one way to restart the morning.

I cleaned up the books, the table runner, the chair legs, the floor… and layered kitchen towels amongst the wet, brown pages of my own copywork journal. As I did this, my children grew suddenly so attentive and diligent in their own copywork, their verses were finished and they moved on almost mechanically to their sketchpads and math books. I hardly even noticed my daughter crying over her copywork… I was so caught up in my coffee-soaked Scripture pages and trying to make sure no library books were casualties.

Finally, my daughter looked up at me and said in a very sad little voice, “Mommy, was that my fault?” I cupped her chin in my hand and looked her in the eyes to say, “Who knocked over that cup of coffee?” “I don’t know, Mommy. Did I do it?” she asked, tears trying to puddle in her ever-greener blue eyes. “Mommy knocked it over, baby. You didn’t do it. Mommy lost self control. I let my impatience take over.” I stepped back and looked at all the kids. “Thank you for being patient with me while I got through my own temper tantrum. God’s still working on me, and I am not always a cheerfully obedient daughter.”

They smiled at me. They forgave me. They understood.

I made a new latte. We all sat back down, a freshly mopped floor now beneath our feet. It was overdue for that anyway. I looked down at my copywork journal. The page that seemed most ruined held Colossians 2:6-7: Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I certainly was not walking in Him with an abundance of thanksgiving this morning! And now this coffee-soaked, tattered & torn page would remain the evidence and reminder of my weak & wobbly ways.

I gently turned that page over to see where I had left off of this morning’s verse… we are just beginning to work on memorizing Psalm 103, so I was three verses into it when I spilled the coffee…

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
who forgives all your iniquities,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your…

Oh my.
My own eyes now filled with tears. Immediately, I was brought to prayer of humility, confession, repentance, praise, and thanksgiving.

I am not called to run a home that is still, silent, stark, & stoic.
I am called to be faithfully building up my home, training these children for the Kingdom, and pursuing Christ as a corner pillar.
How can I so easily lose sight of the calling of my soul?
To bless His name! And to not forget all that He has done.

Oh! Praise the Lord that even in the very midst of that moment, His grace was there to grab me and set me straight again. To show me that I was pursuing an incorrect vision of my day, rather than embracing the life before me with faithfulness. My friend Mystie had just shared with me a few days ago some thoughts about leading our homes and teaching our children with rest and faithfulness. It was a must-re-read for me this afternoon. Quoting Sarah Mackenzie, in her book Teaching From Rest, “Our days, though messy, loud, chaotic, and sometimes completely overwhelming, can be filled with great peace. … Teaching from rest means we don’t panic when things don’t go according to our plan.”

It was a beautiful spiritual exercise to finish my section of Psalm 103 once my page dried out enough that my pen wouldn’t rip the page badly.

…who redeems your life from destruction,
who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
who satisfies your mouth with good things,
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

What a perfect pivot from where I was to where I went.
The irritation and angst that had been building in me (although I would not have admitted it) gave way to destruction, and it wasn’t until after my soul awakened to NOT FORGET the benefits of my Lord that I once again realized how very much my cup overflows – with His lovingkindness and tender mercy, and with so many countless, tangible, good things.

Bless the Lord, O my soul! For things like forgiveness, healing, redemption, satisfaction, and strength. These are the gifts that He gives in abundance. These are the things that I can rely on, even in the midst of the messy, chaotic, loud, frustrating, and unpredictable.

Mystie says, “Instead of looking for what you can cut to make life easier, cut the whining, cut the social media, cut the lingering over your coffee. Cut the fear, cut the comparisons, cut the jealousy, cut the anxiety – we can, because God gives us grace to turn from our sins, to repent.”

Yes. He does. Bless the Lord, O my soul! And all that is within me, bless His holy name. The goodness and mercy of my God follow me and fill me. He makes my cup overflow. Amen.

Summer Reading Stack, take one

It is hard to imagine that summer is so fully underway! With soccer camp behind us and music camp looming just ahead, the garden in full production and the birds nearly ready to start laying eggs, you’d think I would have a clue. But I totally missed local strawberry season, and the only way I won’t miss our local cherry season is if I get out there this week with my sister-in-law and all the kids. My children are ecstatic that “fireworks day” is this week, but when my daughter asked this evening, “is that the day about St. Patrick?” I realized that I need to revisit some basic Independence Day foundations with the kids in the next 24 hours. Note to self: dig out the patriotic picture books post haste! I know I have Mary Pope Osborne’s Happy Birthday America on the schoolroom bookshelves somewhere…

While our official school year with the chaos of our weekly co op finished up over a month ago, we are continuing our normal habit of schooling through the summer when we are at home. During soccer camp week, we focused on Bible, reading, music practice, and soccer practice. Plus playdates and swimming! It was exhausting and delightful. It will be a very similar pattern during music camp. The rest of the weeks of summer, though, we are plugging away with piano lessons, ukulele lessons, and the basic subjects at home: Bible (which term we use rather broadly to include Scripture, catechism, hymn, devotional, copywork, & handwriting), math, English, reading, and music lessons.

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What everyone most looks forward to, though, is our regular habit of reading aloud. In general, I am the one who reads aloud to the children while they eat a meal (or two), and while they do things like copywork, artwork, sewing, or other quiet fine motor projects… but the children do love being asked to take turns reading passages to one another. (Only the three oldest are solid readers, of course, but even 2 1/2 year old Simeon likes to hold a book and “read” it to us either by reciting what he remembers of a favorite, or by interpreting something from illustrations.) It gives the children practice speaking well in front of others, without the added pressure of needing to recite a memorized passage or write a speech themselves. One step at a time! I am very pleased with their skills of inflection, character designation, and rhythm/speed/pause.
Something I have been incredibly pleased with in the last few months is the broad variety of picture books we have gotten that are biographies of wonderful, creative people, both historic and contemporary. It is wonderful to accomplish humanity studies through the practice of reading aloud with one another.

This morning we enjoyed visiting the world of Virginia Burton, the brilliance behind stories like Katy and the Big Snow, The Little House, and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. We have always loved Virginia Burton, so to read a picture book where we can recognize all of her wonderful characters, as well as find out a little more about her own life, delighted us all.

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Burton2 Burton3

There is a delightful comment here about Virginia, called Jinnie, making creations with her very magical wands — her art supplies!, which made us giggle and have a brief conversation about the magic of creation, using things like charcoal, pencils, brushes, stamps, and God-given hands.

We also recently read about Grace Hopper, which was of particular interest to my own computer programming son, as she was so highly instrumental in creating and streamlining computer code. She found the solution in taking binary a lot further than anyone before. It is good for my son to read about women doing amazing things — like computer coding for the naval forces during a war, or painting children’s books, or cooking gourmet French food, or rocking babies to sleep on a starry night. Each of these things is a powerful force, and could be wielded for great good in God’s kingdom. I am eager for my children to take note of these things.

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Software tester. Workplace jester. Order seeker. Well-known speaker. Gremlin finder. Software minder. Clever thinker. Lifelong tinker. Cherished mentor. Ace inventor. Avid reader. Naval leader.” Such good reminders that a beautiful education is fat with variety, fully faceted all around.

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And there are also innumerable books that I want my children to read about incredible, world-changing men throughout history. One of my favorites this week is called Balderdash, about John Newbery himself. What a treasure of a little book! The artwork is absolutely sublime.

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The story begins with an introduction to Newbery as a boy in a time when books were not made for children, but rather only for adult sensibilities. And John set out to change this as soon as he had outgrown childhood himself. Apprenticing for a printer, and eventually owning his own printing company, he was the one who put children’s literature truly on the market. The lighthearted way this book describes the life and times of John Newbery is truly satisfying. I think Newbery reminds me a little of my father, and perhaps that is why I think I could have been friends with this gent if I were about two centuries before my time.

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Did I mention that Joni Eareckson Tada sent us a couple of books recently? We had written to her earlier this spring, as a family and then also along with a letter-writing class I taught at our homeschool co op. What a delight to receive letters in return (an unexpected surprise, for certain), and the additional of books to enjoy. This woman has been an encouragement to my heart since I was right about ten years old, so it feels full circle now for my son of the same age to be finding joy from her as well.

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But lest you think we do all serious reading, even in picture books, and don’t delve into the realm of lighthearted tale, anthropomorphism, comedy, or jest… think again. When you see a book cover that has your 2 1/2 year old all but pegged (including just one letter off on the author’s name!), you bring it home from the library to pass around and everyone agrees it’s a total ringer for our little Simeon James!

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Or how about the Animal House that had the three big kids walking around our house trying to locate all the animalesque words they could find in our own home? Refrige-gator, seal-ing, floor-mingo, kanga-room, gi-roof, snail-box, chimp-ney, cow-ch, ele-pants, hare-way, chande-deer. The house was echoing with bad puns and uncontrolled laughter for a solid twenty minutes after we finished the book itself.

FunBooks1  FunBooks2

I must quickly mention two sweet picture books we discovered last week, which both could be summed up in the idea of knowing yourself… with two very different ways of getting there. Tracks in the Snow is sweetly simple, with a little girl eagerly trying to find the owner of tracks she sees in the snow until she realizes they were hers leftover from the previous day. And Adelaide is truly winsome, in a very subdued message that the little kangaroo with wings has a life that no other kangaroo could have because she was made exceptionally unique – which is, of course, exactly the way we want her to be.

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And lastly for now, our love of bird books continues. We revisited an old favorite, Chickens to the Rescue, which allowed us to introduce it to the youngest member of the family — and now our chickens themselves have taken on an adventurous twist of their own when we call out the refrain to them across the backyard.

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And Calliope… who we now realize is a drake and has thus adopted the nickname Ope rather well… would like to show you our latest ducky favorite. Largely because it’s simple, sweet, and has precious ducky illustrations.

FunBooks7  FunBooks8

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I have two large canvas bags filled with library books ready to be returned tomorrow after our watercolor lessons with Mrs. S. We have potty training books on hold, waiting for us! Somebody around here needs a little extra literary inspiration, I think, to make the final leap in the process of ascending the porcelain throne…
And I have more books and snippet-reviews to share coming up soon.

What kind of children’s books would you like to see reviewed for a tried-and-true perspective?
I’ve got a pile of little gingers who are up for the challenge.

Hungry for Healing, Part III

Hungry for Healing, Part III
The Apple Pie

A number of months ago, I made an apple pie for my husband. Fruit pies are his love language. He loves when I get the crust just right. But he could probably revel in the filling with delight even if the crust weren’t flaky enough or got too browned around the pinched, ruffled edge. He simply loves pie. Really can’t live without it. And as long as it tastes delicious and close to heaven, he doesn’t care what it looks like.

While I washed, peeled, and sliced apples, I recall meditating on trees and fruit and baked goods. I contemplated Rachel Jankovic’s comment once that “trees which have borne much fruit should no longer look like a sapling.” I thought about God growing my tree, deepening my roots, expanding my trunk, filling out my branches, producing my fruit, and performing the harvest year by year. In her book, Loving the Little Years (which I haven’t read in a long time), I remember Rachel’s musings on trees and fruit: “The branches are our responsibility, the ground is not.” “The more fruit you make, the more fruit gets used.” “You cannot know the depth of His plan for your fruit. So throw it out there on the ground when you have no plan for its future. Waste it.” “Be bountiful with your fruit and free with it. The only thing that you can know for certain is that God will use it.”

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While I blended flour and salt together, and cut fat into its grains with dedication and delight, preparing to wrap, enfold, cover, and encase those apple pieces… I thought about the process with a sense of recognition and familiarity. I remember texting a friend of mine to say that I was writing a blog post about apples, apple pie, body image, and mom life. I remember telling her that I had been peeled, cut, seasoned, aged, and baked – that I was realizing I was no longer an apple, but rather a pie. I vaguely recalled Robert Capon saying something which planted that seed.

I never hit publish on that. Partly because I lost steam, partly because I wasn’t ready to really expose my struggle.

But the image has not strayed from my mind. I’ve written and rewritten thoughts about this numerous times. None of them felt right. But the repeated phrase Jonathan Rogers told me this winter was to trust my instincts and to worry less about what I write. So this morning, I don’t plan to edit, rework, or nuance. I am writing stream-of-consciousness style, for better or for worse. It may be a jumbly, hot mess. That’s pretty much the state of my work these days. It’s simply true.

At nearly 35 years old, raising four children full-time, with thirteen pregnancies and a host of health & hormonal nuances under my belt, I am a woman learning to live post-anorexia and post-bulimia, loving my smile lines, embracing the little streaks of white dappling my carrot top. I think about Nate Wilson’s poetic phrasing in Death By Living when he said that his grandmother was the tree from which apples fell and grew, from which apples fell and grew, from which apples continued to fall and grow.
Apple trees produce apples, which contain seeds to produce trees, which will produce apples, which contain seeds to produce trees…

Apple tree in old apple orchard horizontal.

I am not alone, stagnant, isolated, an island. I am an apple. I fell from a fruitful tree, I was sown and sprouted. I grew into a sapling.
But the rub comes when I fail to acknowledge that God has continued to deepen my roots, increase my fruit, lengthen my branches, and strengthen my trunk. I am not the girl I once was. I am not the firstyear fruit producer I had been. And while I love the imagery of remaining the tree, of looking forward to the days of needing my branches propped up, of having burls and truly gnarly bark thick with wrinkles and creases – there’s something about the idea of moving from the orchard into the kitchen that delights me.

I’m a baking addict, so that’s one thing.
I love flour, sugar, fat, spices.
I adore the sounds of thick syrupy fruit bubbling on the stove, and the schunk sound my knife makes as it slices through crisp apple flesh.
Even just imagining the smell of pastry in the oven makes my salivary glands dance.

And then there’s Father Robert Farrar Capon.
The man who really introduced me to onions.
The one who started me realizing that my hatred of my body and my war with food was truly a spiritual battleground, and I wasn’t seeing victory.
He is the one who reminds me that, yes, I fell as a crisp, ripe, firm, shapely apple from a strong and faithful tree. But when God took that apple, He didn’t set it on a shelf to be kept the way I was harvested from the tree of my lineage.

I was plucked in order to be used.
Apples are meant to give nourishment, to give joy.
I am meant to give life, nourishment, and joy too.

And just like the apple that is used up for those purposes, I will not be left the same.

Rachel Jankovic wrote, “our bodies are tools, not treasures. You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dinted body… Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work. One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of joyfully giving your body to another.”

She goes on to say, “make sure you aren’t buying into the world’s propaganda. While there are a great many rewards, the sacrifice is very real… [and] the answer to these obstacles is not to run away in fear as the world does, but to meet it with joy, and in faith.”

My life, my calling, my homemaking, my motherhood, my faith – these things call me to be used for the good of others, to give myself away, to be used up, to savor, to become considerable, to be relished.

As Robert Capon said in a beautiful benedictory passage in The Supper of the Lamb,

May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity. May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at last become considerable… And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed… Eat well then.

I will determine, then, to turn from buying into the world’s propaganda. I will meet these obstacles with joy, and in faith. I will embrace my season of apple pie as sweeter and fatter than my firm and slender days as an untouched apple straight from the tree. I will endeavor to appreciate my softened body with a heart of thankfulness rather than a sense of resentment. I will seek to glorify God with this sweet season of bodily life, not grasping for control over the size of my jeans, the fit of my swimsuit, the taut of my belly skin, the roundness of my cheek.

May I be used. May I be molded, remade, served up as something even more marvelous than I was to begin with. And may I see joy and glory in the process and in the result. Not because my determination is a victory. But because God is in the business of making things new, and I want to give myself up to Him as He works new things in me and through me. Muffin top and all.

Glory be.

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“for to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example,
so that you might follow in his steps…
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
by his wounds you have been healed.”
1 peter 2:21, 24

At the Barre

Originally written for a writing course I took this winter
with instructor Jonathan Rogers,
here is an artistic look at a turning point
in the developing feminine psyche of eight-year-old Melissa.

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At the Barre

Ballet lessons were a highlight of my childhood. The weekly foray into all things poised, wearing the uniform of black leotard and pink tights, made my little-girl heart skip and leap like my instructor Miss Tammy herself, yet the defining memory of my years in that ballet studio has little to do with plie, jete, or curtsy.

The rectangular studio held polished wood floors, two walls of barre, ample floor space for the ten little dancers in my class, and one entire wall of flawless mirror. The room smelled of sweat, hairspray, and leather. We practiced leg and foot positions standing along the wall of barre which faced opposite the mirror, one hand delicately resting on the barre, the other extended in a gracefully draping arc. Legs extended to lengthen muscles as our calves carved shapes along our pink tights, thighs tensed like gazelle necks, toes pointing until the leather of our pink shoes creaked with the strain. Necks were long, shoulders pressed down, shoulder blades squeezed tight on plank-straight backs, chins elegantly turned slightly left—just enough to see our reflections in the mirror, to self-correct poise and gauge how long until Mrs. Henshaw reached us for professional critique and instruction.

Miss Tammy was absent this particular day, replaced by the studio director Mrs. Henshaw. Everything about Mrs. Henshaw was as straight and strict as her name sounded. She moved along the line of dancers as we practiced repetitions of movement to classical records.

Born with German bones and raised alongside a puppy frolicking in an overgrown pasture, often crawling along a creek bed to catch tadpoles, ballet made me feel more lovely and dainty than anything. So there I stood, stately and feminine in uniform and practice, not a red hair fallen loose from the perfectly round bun atop my head, when Mrs. Henshaw reached me. Her gaze exacting, she studied the position and movement of my body, her chin aloft and cheekbones harsh. Without words, her terse hands stretched my leg further than my hamstring knew possible, and raised my elbow ever so slightly to achieve the angle of perfection.

Waiting for her eyebrows to soften and her head to give me the expected miniscule nod of approval before moving on to the dancer behind me, I almost relaxed into the genuine ballerina I saw in my reflection across the dance floor. I felt confidence begin to blossom in my bosom. And then Mrs. Henshaw cocked her proud head ever so slightly, pursed her lips in that confrontational way which makes the neck hair bristle, and reached her index finger out to poke it into my stomach. If her manicure had been less perfect she would have snagged my leotard with the veracity of her nail pressure. “Getting a little chubby,” she said coarsely.

She moved on to the dancer behind me, as though she had not just eviscerated me with the penetrating words of an irreversible cut.

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Ducky Doula

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It is funny how hobbies can sort of just show up on your doorstep one day. And then takeover your bathroom for a month. And pretty soon occupy any spare moments you didn’t even know you had. Haha!

My little birds have reinforced this, if not taught it to me directly.

Who would have thought that I would spend Friday and Saturday and half of Easter Sunday fretting about a little duckling that was malpositioned in an egg, stuck and struggling? And then that I would spend about two hours on Easter Sunday evening learning some ducky doula skills?! If you had ever suggested that to me in the past, I would have giggled in your face. And maybe you now are giggling at your screen. But suffice it to say, this is true.

I had not known the process of how fertilized eggs grew bird embryos, how the membranes functioned, what the yolk did, how the bird draws in the last of the yolk just prior to hatching, how pipping and zipping are to function… I knew nothing about the air pocket at the fatter/rounder end of an egg. I did not know that hatching took so agonizingly long. I had no idea that you couldn’t generally help a bird out of its egg without putting its life at risk. I didn’t even think about the fact that temperature and humidity levels would need to be so very specific in order to best imitate nature and how God does this process with broody mama birds. I now know that having three thermometers to monitor one incubator is a really good idea if you don’t want your fertile eggs to overheat and essentially cook. I now know how to candle eggs. I know what a pip looks like, and where it is supposed to be. I know how awesome it is when a little duckling pips at the right spot, zips the eggshell successfully, and pops out with vigor. I also know how traumatic it can be when a duckling pips at the wrong spot and dies with its little bill poking out the airhole, but gives up trying to hatch because it’s in the wrong spot and can not continue the work of hatching as God best designed it. And because of that, I learned how to spot a troubled hatchling who has pipped in the wrong spot… in fact, my last duckling came out the wrong end of the egg… at first I thought it was completely upside down but eventually learned it was more like what humans would call transverse. So I had to do some quick research on “hatch assist” to see how to give the duckling a chance at life, because it was basically prepared to die. I used a toothpick to give it an airhole after its pip was beginning to dry out and close up, and then waited. A long time. And when it still made no progress I chipped a tiny bit of shell away near its bill and head, and then waited. Another long time. I kept this egg very moist, and checked on it every few hours. The little thing kept wiggling and chirping and breathing, but made absolutely no progress in hatching. When I could tell it was getting tired, I brought out tweezers and suuuuuuper slowly helped it break the shell. Tiny piece by teeny tiny piece. Lots of moisture. Lots of time. And even lots of prayer. Proverbs 12:10 “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.” I was seeking to be a good steward of this little life God had put into my hands. And when this fragile little duckling finally came slowly out of its shell (rather than bursting forth as the previous two had), it was bleeding from the umbilical area. I had never even thought about the fact that birds would have umbilical cords! Shows how much I knew… At any rate, rather than let this little duckling rest on its own in the incubator, I scooped her up and put a warm paper towel on the bleeding area to apply pressure and warmth. I snuggled the little thing for a good while and enjoyed being a participant in this part of God’s creation. It was a unique experience for me, and not one I expect to experience a lot again in the future (although I recognize you never know, so I will never say never). I was delightedly surprised to see this duckling survived that first night.

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Duck4.3.e IMG_1738 DuckEaster3

I never imagined that I would have learned quite the things that I learned through my journey of incubating duck eggs over the last month.

Allow me to introduce my little duckling trio to you.
Left to right: Easter, Cheer, and Calliope.

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Duck4.3.g

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It is amazing how a frail little thing hatched 2 1/2 days ago that I wasn’t sure would make it through the hatch, or the first ten minutes, or its first night… is now stubborn and strong, pecky and plucky. No kidding.
This is Easter.

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