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.


  1. Happy due date, Celeste! I'll keep you in my prayers this week.

  2. You have such a beautiful family! We went from 2 kids to 6 in the last 10 years. I read Kristen Lavransdatter last year and really enjoyed it (them??). She was infuriating! Wonderfully human, though. Hope all goes well and you have a new baby girl soon!

  3. A lovely and inspiring catch-up -- thank you! I am due next week with baby #10 as well! May God bless us both with peaceful, happy, healthy deliveries.

    1. I will be praying for you also -- thank you for letting me know, because I love having fellow mamas on my list to pray for! <3

  4. Thanks for sharing your lovely family's news. You know I always love your posts!I've been thinking of you you, wondering when the baby will arrive! Excited for you all! Another sweet little girl!

    I'm hesitant to say this, because I really really don't want to add to your huge stress and workload, but I've been wondering whether you might do a Year 7 post and book list for what you used? No pressure!! AO Year 7 has so many options and some may not necessarily be great from a Catholic perspective. I always trust your judgement and recommendations and am so grateful for the immense amounts of help and guidance I have got from your blog. Thank you!

    God bless
    English Home Educator

    1. Hi Antonia! I really do have plans to do a short Y7 recap, but it keeps getting pushed off in lieu of other assignments and opportunities. It is on my list, though! :) I did not find too many things in that year that I had to tweak for religious reasons, but I did cut it down quite a bit to fit into our timetable, so I didn't use it as written. I also ended up combining or subbing with a lot of CMEC materials for certain subjects last year, so I'm not sure it will be as helpful as previous recaps have been. :) I hope you have had a great Christmas season so far!

    2. Thank you for your reply Celeste!
      God bless!

  5. Prayers for the best delivery for you and baby!

  6. Prayers for you and baby (and family!) during this transition! I also read Gaudy Night this past year with the Literary Life Podcast and LOVED it. I can't decide if I want to read Busman's Holiday or Murder in Advertising next. I am newly pregnant and love your idea of using them as a get-through the first trimester read.

    I am also seriously considering joining the CMEC this coming year... *so excited!*

    1. Yes, I feel like Sayers kinda saved my life this year! LOL

      I'd love for you to join us! It's a great community. :)

  7. your Christmas photos only 10 years apart really struck me!!