My year couldn't possibly come to a satisfying conclusion without me doing a wrap-up post on the blog, could it? :) I, for one, don't want to break tradition, so here is my customary look back over the preceding 365 days.
Some months, I'm bursting with an idea that I want to use for my blog look; and other months, I lack inspiration and have to make myself come up with something. Some months, I introduce the new look as soon as the month begins; and other months, days and more days go by before I get around to it. But in any case, I am so happy that I still continue this practice of changing the header and background each month because, despite the time and work involved, it brings me so much joy to look back over an entire year of designs. :)
Another habit I've developed is writing down each book that I read (not counting books I read aloud to the family) throughout the year, then sharing the list here. Since this was a year in which I was pregnant (which resulted in plenty of times when I was too tired to get up and do anything productive but not too tired to read) :) and nursed a baby (which gave me extra time to read--except for when I was so tired that I fell asleep breastfeeding, which has happened quite a bit during the past three months!), my number of books that I read is higher than in some other years.
As I jotted down titles and authors, sometimes I wrote a note about the book, and sometimes I didn't. With those that I didn't, I often thought I would come back later and write something about it; but obviously that didn't happen for all of them. So be it.
1. The Wilder Life - Wendy McClure
2. I Need You Now, God, While the Grape Juice Is Running All over the Floor - Dotsey Welliver - This book was written a year before I was born, but the experiences of the author as a busy wife, mother, and lover of Jesus were easy for me to identify with. Welliver tells many funny stories which made me laugh, but other parts of the book made me think, including this quote from it: "Somewhere down through the noisy days and nights, I made a fantastic discovery. You do not have to have a peaceful atmosphere. All you need is the Prince of Peace. If you are filled with His peace inside, you have an insurance policy against circumstances." An insurance policy against circumstances? That sounds like something I could really benefit from! :)
3. The Altarpiece - Sarah Kennedy - I wanted to like this book, since the author is sort of a local, and the subject matter and setting looked interesting; but the vulgarity really turned me off. Disappointing. :(
4. The Geography of Memory - Jeanne Murray Walker - I read this book about Alzheimer's on my Kindle during my Canada trip (I think it was the first book I read on my Kindle?)
5. An Old-Fashioned Girl - Louisa May Alcott - An old favorite of mine, I read this on my Kindle while traveling home from Canada.
6. Shadow Spinner - Susan Fletcher - We checked this out of the library so Josiah could read it for school, but it looked so interesting to me that I read it before he could even get to it. :)
7. Beloved Bondage - Elizabeth Yates - I pretty intensely dislike almost all of this book because the main female character seems like such a spoiled brat to me...and because of the namby-pamby view of God. I remember reading this some years ago and having the same kind of reaction; but for whatever reason, I put the book back on my shelf. This time, I'm letting it go. (I will say, however, that in the end of the book, basically everything turns out OK; but that doesn't mean I have to keep the book.) ;-) (I will also say that other books by Elizabeth Yates are far superior, in my opinion--like Mountain Born, for example.)
8. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons - Barbara Cohen - This was another book for Josiah's schooling; but after I read it, I decided not to have him read it yet because there are one or two places that are, in my opinion, better suited for mature readers; the plot, however, was very interesting, and I enjoyed it.
9. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm: The Child - Eric Wiggin & Kate Douglas Wiggin - My parents gave me this trilogy for Christmas in 1991, and I suppose I must have read it back then, but I didn't remember anything about it. When I spotted it recently on one of our bookshelves, I decided to pick it up for some light reading. This book was a little too similar to Anne of Green Gables (but definitely not written as well as Anne!) to be completely enjoyable, but I didn't stop reading. ;-)
10. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm: The Girl - Wiggin
12. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm: The Woman - Wiggin
13. Stories for a Man's Heart - compiled by Al & Alice Gray - I guess it's kind of funny that I read this; but I was considering putting it on the list of 13 books I want Josiah to read when he's 13, so I wanted to read it first :)
14. I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith - I had heard a good recommendation about this book; but in my opinion, it was just so-so.
15. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? - Roz Chast - I saw this recommended on another blog, and immediately put it on reserve at my library. The day I picked it up, I started reading it after I got the kids in bed, then didn't stop reading it until I had finished the book.
16. Still Alice - Lisa Genova - I heard about the movie before I heard about the book, but I read the book first. Since the main character is a woman with Alzheimer's, it's no surprise it sucked me in. I read it in three days (and would have read it in one, if I could have!); and every time I pulled myself away from it, I found myself so emotionally involved in it that I had to consciously remind myself that I was Davene and not the woman in the book! ;-)
17. Left Neglected - Lisa Genova - Another fascinating book by Genova.
18. A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson - Patricia Brady
19. Free to Learn - Peter Gray - I could write a whole post about this. Very thought-provoking and encouraging for me at this stage in our homeschool journey!
20. The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
21. When the Belly Button Pops, the Baby's Done - Lorilee Craker
22. A Long Way from Chicago - Richard Peck
23. Laura Ingalls Wilder Country - William Anderson
24. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo
25. Safely Home - Randy Alcorn
26. A Year Down Yonder - Richard Peck
27. The Trial - Jen Bryant - A freebie from the gleanings at the end of the used curriculum sale at our homeschool convention, this was unexpectedly good. The idea of a historical novel being written entirely in poetry didn't attract me at first, but in this case, it works splendidly.
28. Mother - Kathleen Norris - Very sweet book.
29. A Perfect Day - Richard Paul Evans
30. When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling - R.C. Sproul Jr.
31. A City of Bells - Elizabeth Goudge - copyright 1936 - I saw this mentioned on someone's blog and checked it out of the library, based on that. One thing that particularly stood out to me in this book was a quote from Pericles: "For the whole earth is the sepulcher of famous men; and their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men's lives."
32. The Beacon at Alexandria - Gillian Bradshaw - Another freebie from the used curriculum sale. I definitely have mixed feelings about this book. I was completely impressed by the rich historical detail included all throughout this book (for example, rather than simply writing that the main character was eating dinner, the author very specifically mentions what she was eating, which was obviously food that is very different from what's normal today); but the questionable morality and, for lack of a better word, coarseness made me decide to let this book go, rather than leaving it around for my children to eventually read.
33. The Flame Trees of Thika - Elspeth Huxley
34. Blood Brothers - Elias Chacour
35. This Is the Life - Helen Chappell White
36. Mrs. Miniver - Jan Struther - I really liked this one.
37. The Spirit of Pregnancy - Bonni Goldberg - Pregnancy is such a special time in a woman's life, and I enjoy reading other women's experiences with it; but some of the perspectives in this book were quite different from my own, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I did have to laugh when I read these words in a piece of writing by Louise Erdrich, "...our bodies are rounded vases of skin and bones and blood that seem impossibly engineered for birth. I look down onto my smooth, huge lap, feel my baby twist, and I can't figure out how I'll ever stretch wide enough. I fear I've made a ship inside a bottle. I'll have to break."
38. Christmas Roses and Other Stories - Anne Douglas Sedgwick - I did not care for this very much.
39. A Love Like No Other - edited by Pamela Kruger and Jill Smolowe - I first read these stories about adoption in May of 2008 when our third son was just four months old and I was feeling a strong nudge to adopt. Five months later, we unexpectedly got pregnant again, and since then, adoption has never come to the forefront of my mind so strongly (that's not to say I've never thought about it, but it hasn't seemed to be the path for our family, although I still strongly support it in other situations). Regardless, it was interesting and eye-opening to read this book again.
40. The Search for Delicious - Natalie Babbitt - Josiah sat down and read this one afternoon, then encouraged me to read it, too. I enjoy the companionship of us both having read the same book. :)
41. Lincoln's Battle with God - Stephen Mansfield - I learned so much about Lincoln's spiritual journey from reading this; it opened my eyes to many things I had not previously considered.
42. Before Your Baby Comes - William & Patricia Coleman - This was given to me by my parents on November 7, 2001, just a few weeks after we found out we were expecting our firstborn. :) It was fun to reread this and then let it go to help someone else as they adjust to new motherhood.
43. The Measure of a Heart - Janette Oke - This was the first book I read after the birth of Benjamin; in fact, I packed it in my hospital bag to have some light reading during my time there, and then finished it the day after we brought Benjamin home
44. The Story of Beautiful Girl - Rachel Simon - I had seen this recommended by someone online and then gotten it from our library, but I waited until after Benjamin was born to read it because I was pretty sure it would absorb me and I wouldn't want to stop reading! Sure enough, that's what happened.
45. Seventeen-Ounce Miracle - Rachael Lofgren - I borrowed this from my neighbors and was amazed while reading about a teeny-tiny girl who survived her very premature birth.
46. In My Father's House - Bodie Thoene - I have been a big fan of Thoene books in the past, but this series took a little longer to draw me in. There were so many "main" characters that I had a harder time following it, and it felt a little disjointed. But that's not to say that it was awful - it wasn't!
47. America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money - Steve & Annette Economides
48. A Thousand Shall Fall - Bodie Thoene
49. Say to This Mountain - Bodie Thoene
50. O for a Thousand Nights to Sleep - Lorilee Craker - I first read this in January 2008, when Tobin was a newborn! It was enjoyable to read it again, three babies later. :)
51. Vera's Journey - Judy Yoder - This was one of the most impacting books I read this year. I could write a whole post about this and hope to do so someday.
52. Elephants and Quaker Guns - Jane Chapman Whitt
53. Your Prayers Are Always Answered - Alexander Lake
54. Steve Jobs: Insanely Great - Jessie Hartland
55. The Plain Choice - Sherry Gore - Jeff gave this to me for Christmas, and I really enjoyed reading it.
Out of these 55 books, I believe I only have 20 here on our shelves, with the rest either coming from the library or being given away after I read them. It's not much, but every little bit helps when it comes to downsizing and living simply. :)
Sometimes in years past, I have made a list of my favorite blog posts from each month; but this year, when I tried to do so, I became overwhelmed because I had too many favorites. :) So I'm going to skip that this year. I did notice that I didn't write as many blog posts in 2015 as I did in preceding years; and in fact, each year the number dwindles a little more. If the current trend continues, in 15 or 20 years, I won't be blogging at all! ;-)
2015 has been a wonderful year; and of course the birth of Benjamin dominates this year in my memory. 2016 isn't likely to have such a huge event in it; but I'm hopeful that it will give many moments of joy and sweetness, learning and growing, kindness and deep love. Welcome, 2016!! :)