Thursday, January 23, 2020

{This and That} :: Baby Edition!

If you follow me on Instagram or on the Joyous Lessons Facebook page, you have already heard our happy news! But in case you haven't...


Emilia Agnes Cruz
Born January 18, 2020
6 pounds, 12 ounces
19.5 inches

Despite the long wait for her arrival (she was 11 days overdue, my second latest) and the loooooong days of mild and sporadic contractions that dominated last week for me, labor itself was fast and unlike any of my others (which all followed roughly the same pattern). I actually went into active labor right when we arrived for my scheduled induction at 9pm. Baby arrived in a whirlwind just after midnight. There were some scary moments but in the end, all went well!

just a couple hours old -- look at that hair! LOL

I had a couple setbacks in the hours following but was still able to go home by bedtime that night, which I think was God's hand at work. Getting home to my own shower and bed -- and my kids! -- is always one of the BEST feelings.

Baby's patrons are St. Emilia of Caesarea and St. Agnes of Rome. St. Emilia had five sons and five daughters like we now do. Isn't that just perfect? She is known as Mother of Saints because several of her children became saints also, including St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nyssa.

St. Agnes is a family favorite. And since little Emilia was so late, her baptismal date providentially fell on St. Agnes' feast day! (We always baptize three or four days after the birth.)

The siblings are all so very smitten. I have to get in line to hold her.

Besides the baptismal day, I have been parked on the sofa resting, reading, working, and just gazing at this sweet bundle.

I don't plan on going anywhere at all for at least a couple weeks. When I was a young mama, I used to jump right back into life as soon as I was able. I do it differently now. :)

Grateful for the chance to rest, for a safe delivery, for a healthy baby, and for the many prayers prayed for our family over this past month.


Last week while we were waiting on Emilia, we finished up term exams and had a little celebration to cap off the week!

We always do a few end-of-term gifts after our exam celebration. This time, I restocked the bookbinding materials (following the Christmas crafting frenzy, we were low on cardstock and thread) and set us up with supplies for silhouette crafting next term, which I am really looking forward to!

And then the kids each get a 4x6 set of the term's artist study selections for their Books of Masterpieces. These are just simple photo albums they receive when they begin formal schooling and add to year by year. I was actually a few terms behind (oops! LOL), so I played catch up with a big order of penny prints from Snapfish. The kids spent over an hour going through their albums, discussing their favorites. A great way to spend an afternoon!

We are all set to start Term 3 the first week of February, as long as my recovery goes smoothly from here on out. In the meantime, the kids are playing lots and lots of board games. Some favorites from this Christmas are Even Steven's Odd (a real winner! the 5yo and up play daily) and Apples to Apples Junior, but chess, Stratego, and Quixx are still in heavy rotation. And the littles have been enjoying Tiny Polka Dot.

We have also been working through a bunch of RightStart Math games as they solidify some facts and concepts. Vincent has pulled out the geometric paper tiles from RightStart Level G to play around with too.

They are pretty fun and he always has an audience. :)


We are getting ready to send out a Save the Date for the 2020 CMEC Summer Retreat as well as information about registering for the CMEC for the 2020-2021 School Year, which will open in the next couple months. If you are interested and aren't yet on our mailing list, please head over and sign up so you don't miss these upcoming announcements!

I will be back in this space when I'm able!

Monday, January 6, 2020

So This Is the New Year

This year's Christmas card

(If you know the song my post title comes from, we might be of a similar age. I was taking a walk down musical memory lane the other night, revisiting old favorites. It has been a while!)

I'm back! Jumping back into online life now that the Twelve Days of Christmas are through and we're easing back into regular routines.

Well, not quite regular routines. My due date is today! We are doing Term 2 exams this week and then will be back on break until after our babymoon. So this is just a short (God willing!) stretch of normalcy as we play the waiting game for Baby Girl to arrive. We are looking forward to keeping busy with our exams and a little celebration at the week's end -- if I make it that far.

And so I thought I'd catch up with some end-of-the-year reflection and updates...


It seems like everyone on social media has been doing these decade side-by-sides, so I thought I'd join in...

Christmas 2009

Christmas Morning 2019

Some things don't change: case in point, I was pregnant in both photos. Ha!

And then some things really do change, like those cherubic faces from the first photo that are now in their teens in the back row. Sob. (Not to mention those faces that are now nearing their forties, ahem. I still have a couple years left, but my husband turns 40 next month, which is a little hard to fathom!)

One with just the kids...

Christmas 2009 -- gah, those small faces kill me!

Christmas 2019 - Damien wasn't a fan of taking the photo, but we couldn't well leave him out! LOL

The crazy thing is that if I go back just five more years to 2005, we had no children...and now we have ten! God is so good.


I kept meaning to post about our Christmas festivities on Instagram, but every time I turned on my phone, I turned it right back off again. I always end up feeling like that during the holidays! So I'll use this space to catch up a bit...

Our decorations went up as usual on Christmas Eve, when we also finished the last of the baking and wrapping. After that, we drove around to look at lights and head to Midnight Mass, with Confession and carols beforehand. One of my very favorite traditions of the year.

Christmas Day was quiet and slow. (Or as quiet and slow as life with eleven people can be.)

Our Christmas decor will stay up through January, so we all get to enjoy the bright corners and festive details for a bit longer. We are just getting started here in our celebration of the Holy Infant.

just a few of the paper snowflakes cut on winter solstice

sloyd houses joined our main nativity this year!

And a side note: every year I make an ornament for each of my kids. You can see some previous years' work here. This year, I decided to do these paper ornaments from 20/20 Press. They were surprisingly tricky! I do not usually struggle with papercrafts, but I almost gave up halfway through this project and started fresh with another plan. They ended up very pretty but I wonder how long they will last...


2019 in Books!

I finished a nice round 30 books this year, not counting school books except for free reads that I pre-read for my older kids, and not counting Charlotte Mason-related reading (of which I probably did more this year than I have ever done before!).

My top five books of the year (with one missing because I returned it to the library)...

Dorothy Sayer's Gaudy Night - My first foray into Lord Peter Wimsey began last January during our holiday break with this one, followed up by Busman's Holiday. These mysteries ended up being a balm for me during a challenging first trimester later on this year, when I went back to start properly at the beginning and got through a handful all at once. Clever, witty, and so very readable. I have always thought of mysteries as frustratingly formulaic, but Sayers changed my mind.

Goudge's The Bird in the Tree - Is it possible for a book to be a comfort read but also to challenge me at the deepest levels? I feel like Goudge's novels are like that. On the one hand, my mind rests in the homely details, the beauty of the landscapes and the language they are described in. The stories are usually fairly predictable. And yet, Goudge's novels make me uncomfortable at times -- not because they are emotionally manipulative (which I really can't stand in books) but because they point to underlying truths I know I need to live more out more faithfully. I read this trilogy out of order; I picked up Pilgrim's Inn a few years ago, and this is technically the book before that one in the series. I am glad I finally found a copy of The Bird in the Tree and got to circle back to the beginning of the narrative. I am pacing myself with Goudge -- one per year seems to be perfect.

Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter - A tome that has been on my to-read this for a decade, although I have read a couple other of Undset's novels in recent years. This is a trilogy of fat novels, and I read them over a few months this spring and early summer. I found Kristin to be an infuriating character in so many ways, but my frustration speaks to her being realistically written.  Kristin's soul-struggles are not my own at all -- our personalities really could not be more different. And yet I learned through her struggles how to pinpoint my own selfish spots and love better, and that is saying quite a lot for a book. As the mother of a large family, I feel like I connected in a special way with this story, though I think any mother would be able to relate to Kristin's heart and the ways in which it is pulled and refined. The second two books of the series were very hard for me to read while pregnant (I am not generally an emotional person, but I am when I am pregnant or postpartum). I think I will find a second read of this series to be even more fruitful since I will be able to focus in on some of the details that, this time around, were lost in the story's overwhelming losses.

Lansing's Endurance - Biographies rarely pull me in deeply, but this year two made my top-five list! I didn't expect this to be the page-turner it ended up being. Not only was this a fantastic story, but the telling of it was wonderfully engaging. The narrative's pacing was perfect, and the author managed to draw each of the many characters with sympathy and interest. With a big cast of real-life people to portray, that isn't easy to do! I was also surprised and delighted by the humorous bits considering the seriousness of their plight. My kids ended up reading this as their Term 1 living geography selection and liked it as much as I did.

Markham's West With the Night - I finished this one a few weeks ago and am still thinking about it. It's an autobiographical memoir by Beryl Markham, best known as a first-class female aviatrix. She had a wild and unsavory adult life in many ways, but I appreciated that those indecencies did not show up at all in this book. Instead, she focuses here on her youth through early-mid adulthood, living in Africa amongst both the natives and the English colonists. Not only is her subject matter compelling, and not only does she capture both nearly-unbelievable adventure and quiet reflection on those experiences, but her writing is exquisite. I was blown away by the subtlety and power of her prose and how she is able to balance the two, each sentence carefully formed and yet not overwrought. Truly a beautiful book. I originally read this to preview for Vincent and Gianna, but I think some of the beauty of it will be best saved we get to Africa in their geography rotation a couple years from now, so they'll read it then.


Last but not least, my "Best Nine" from over on Instagram...

2019 was challenging but very fruitful. Those two things always seem to go hand in hand. I set some goals and chose a "word of the year" last January, all with a very different view of how my life would play out. I am very happy I was wrong, though!

If all I learn, year after year, is that God knows best, I will be on the right track. Deo Gratias.


Looking ahead:

Since this will be a baby year, I have been giving some thought to what my year should look like as I balance home and outside obligations.

I had already decided not to take on speaking engagements this winter, and probably will not do any speaking through spring as well.

But barring medical issues, I am planning to be at the CMEC Summer Retreat in July! We are working on dates and will get those out as soon as we get confirmation. This has become a standing event on my schedule and I really couldn't bear to miss it.

As always, I'll be blogging as I am able and sharing on Instagram. I am hoping to keep up with @keepingcompanycm too. I will be writing for Common Place Quarterly through the 2020 editions.

And I have been busy behind the scenes getting a jump start on the 2020-2021 curriculum for the CMEC. We'll be opening registration in just a couple months and I can't wait to see who will join us for a new year of learning together. (The CMEC was one of my biggest blessings of 2019. Truly so grateful for that community!)


Wishing you a very happy new year! I might have time to pop in later this week with a round-up of our Christmas gifting.

But if I'm being honest, I hope that next time I pop in it will be with happy baby news. :) Would love your prayers for the week ahead.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

{From My Commonplace} :: For the Holidays

For all of us mamas that need a reminder this holiday season...

"'And presently the ship was at the land to which they were going.' That land was the sea-shore of Capharnum, from which they had pushed off so joyfully a few hours before in expectation of a whole holiday alone with their Master. How different the day had turned out! Holidays often turn out very differently from what we expect. Our Lord has, many a time, lessons for us which we had not looked for, and which are not quite to our taste. Something happens that does not fit in with the plans for enjoyment we had made for ourselves. Disappointment comes to us as to the Twelve. What are we to do then? As the Apostles did. Were they upset? No. They trusted themselves entirely to their dear Master. They let him have His own way with them, and they were beginning to find out that His way was, after all, the happiest and the best."

-- from Mother Mary Loyola's First Communion

She goes on to say that had they enjoyed the holiday they had planned, they would not have had the chance to see Our Lord healing the sick, ministering to them in deed and word, giving his hillside sermon they all so needed to hear. And it the evening following that He walked to them across the water and the next day that He preached the Holy Eucharist in the synagogue. It seems that what the Twelve needed was just exactly that day after all and not the kind of day they may have had in mind.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

{From My Pre-Reading Journal}

I usually share excerpts {From My Commonplace}, but this time around, I'm sharing some quotes from my Reading Journal, where I keep favorite selections from my pre-reading.

These two books were talking to each other this week...

"What is perhaps worse, though, was the damage done in creating laws that a significant minority of Americans would be disinclined to obey, laws which moreover could never be seriously enforced. In doing so, the architects of Prohibition had seriously undermined respect for the law itself."

-- from McClay's Land of Hope

"Now, such cruel punishments as these did harm in many ways. In the first place, it did harm to the whole people to be accustomed to see justice done by such bad means. Men who see an example of cruelty and carelessness for human life set by those in high places, and approved of by the law, are in danger of becoming themselves cruel and careless."
-- from Arnold-Forster's The Laws of Every-day Life

I'm reading Ourselves right now too, and between that and my Form 3 kids' other reading, there's just so much to consider about integrity, justice, the true meaning of law, and more. So timely in our political climate.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

{In a Week} :: Late Fall

Some favorite moments from a week of school in our home...

Notebook work with Form 1 and 2. Holling's Book of Indians has been a true delight for all of us. It is one I have had on the shelf but have never officially scheduled.

Brush drawing on this week's model. (Full disclosure: the flowers were a treat to myself because my husband was out of town, but I claimed them as an "educational expense." ;))

We are loving our term composer, Benjamin Britten. The Big Kids and I used to listen to the Children's Introduction to the Orchestra all the time when they were small with these cards, but I hadn't pulled them out in ages. Thanks to the CMEC for the reminder to revisit it!

Skype call with Grandma and Grandpa down in SoCal! (If the kids look posed, they kinda are: they have to arrange themselves in rows while we chat so everyone can see and there's no bickering. LOL)

My first grader is very enthusiastic about her math! I love this age.

Sand tray work is always a favorite.

And then we had a wonderful nature outing to cap off the week. Welcome, fall! (Finally.)

they were so excited to be "twins"'!

our favorite vernal pond didn't dry up completely this summer

We have been watching the decomposition of this deer ever since we first found it last spring, partly submerged and bloated along the water line. Since then, the water has receded, and it has been exposed to the elements for the past few months. At this point, it is several feet from the water line and mostly bones with a bit of fur here and there. Those teeth are still solidly set, though, and the hooves are beautiful.

One of the boys found a dragonfly nymph! Perfectly timed with our Arabella Buckley reading this term...

And Bridget was the frog whisperer that morning. They seem to be getting ready to hibernate because they were quite sluggish and very happy to hang out on her hand. We just read a chapter on amphibians preparing for winter in Countryside Rambles, so this was an especially happy connection.

a rare photo -- me and (half of) my crew

And this is how I spend every morning before lessons. Blessed.