Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our Christmas Season


I realize it’s been fairly quiet the past few weeks here at Mt. Hope. We’ve been relaxing and savoring the season in a low-key way. We’ve had a few activities, but I’ve chosen not to fuss with pictures so that I can fully enter into the moment.

:: The boys had their Christmas choir concert the first week of December in a gorgeous old stone church with stained-glass windows. The church we attend on Sundays meets in a middle school cafeteria (the middle school I attended years ago) and jeans and flip flops are regular attire, so the atmosphere at the concert felt especially lovely and festive to me with all the kids in their Christmas best. The choir additionally performed earlier in the week at a local retirement home.

:: Levi’s CC Challenge class met on December 1st, 5th, and 8th, and he has had some work to continue the past two weeks. Apparently, he has decided to make his short amount of work take all. break. long. to complete.


:: We had the house decorated by December 10th for a belated St. Nicholas Day celebration—our traditional Christmas party with our best friends. We spent a lazy and glorious afternoon together making marzipan and enjoying each other’s company.

:: My best friend, Char, is my own personal Christmas elf. She loves Christmas so much and her excitement spills over to bless me. My sister stopped by to chat and complimented me on the darling star garland hanging at the top of my entertainment shelving unit. I had to tell her that Char made it for me. [Shannon was not surprised.] And then she complimented me on my gorgeous greenery wreath. Yep—Char. And then Char sent me home with a container full of decorated sugar cookies and fudge, which I shared with the kids, and homemade baklava, which I shared with no one.

:: Russ bought me a new flute as an early Christmas gift, and I’ve been playing daily.

:: My ChocLit Guild book club met for our annual cookie exchange. I always look forward to book club, but book club plus a huge plate of goodies to bring home is as good as it gets. I shared my favorite almond strawberry thumbprint cookies.

:: Russ and I attended a Christmas party for one of the businesses he works for. We’ve been attending this particular party for years—a room full of truckers. As in truck driving instructors. Seriously. But I get both prime rib and lobster, so it’s all good.

:: We attended a quintessential small-town nativity pageant with Char and her mom and kids. It was about 45 minutes away, held in an old elementary school (now the small town’s event center). This pageant has been a community tradition for 74 years! There were nine scenes with full sets and costumes, and a choir singing numbers between scenes. So lovely.

:: This year, Russ had the brilliant idea to put our Christmas tree on the front porch. Now I’m wondering why we have never done this before! With such a tiny living space for our rambunctious, always-home family, even a small table-top tree feels overwhelming in the living room, but this year we purchased a slightly larger tree and the boys had a blast decorating it. We can easily see it through the windows, so it doesn’t feel as if something is missing.

Right after we put it up, a major storm blew through with high-wind warnings. I was questioning our decision for a few hours there. Now we’re in the middle of flood warnings. It’s a blustery, wet, sloppy mess out there.

[You can see our new paint color in these pictures. It didn’t get finished [sigh], but at least it isn’t blue with a mismatched blue shop in front of the house. I guess I’ll have to put up with the caulk marks by the front door, random blue tape here and there, and the piles of stuff on the porches and around the shop until the spring. I’m learning to not care.]


:: The kids continued with AWANA this month, and now they are off for a couple weeks. Swim team practice continues all month long for Russ and the boys.

:: Levi and my sister both ended up with the stomach flu a couple nights ago (several days after Rilla was sick) and I’m having déjà vu. We spent weeks last Christmas break taking turns with the stomach flu, and I’m praying it doesn’t continue to make the rounds this season.

:: When I first pulled all the Christmas books off the shelf, I didn’t think I’d need to do any other Christmas decorating. We have so many!! So the boys have been reading and we’ve been working our way through the Christmas movies.

:: Christmas cards go out on Monday. Nothing like the last minute… I suppose I should wrap gifts as some point also…

:: We’re spending Christmas Eve at our house with Russ’s adopted parents, Ron and Haley.

:: Christmas Day will be spent with my family, as usual.

:: Levi’s 13th birthday is the following week—on New Year’s Day.

:: And then we have something fun planned for two days later… [surprise!]

How are you celebrating this Christmas season? Are you busy or relaxed? Or both?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

With Love, The Scovel Family [2014]


Instead of working on getting my Christmas cards mailed, I creatively procrastinated by reminiscing over our Christmas card pictures through the years.

And now I’m sharing them with you instead of mailing this year’s Christmas cards.

This was our first family Christmas card picture back in 2002. Levi was almost a year old.


I don’t know if we sent out pictures or cards the following year, but this is what our little family looked like. I was pregnant with Luke when we attended my sister’s retro Christmas party.


We did manage family pictures the following year.


This is one of my all-time favorites.

2005 Family

Then Leif arrived. We were in the process of moving during this Christmas season. This picture was taken in my parents’ driveway, and our house is at the base of the hill in the background.


I had a blog by the following Christmas. My favorite out-takes were from this family picture session.


We took family pictures at the beach this year (here and here), but I ended up scrapping them for this picture collage and it is my favorite Christmas card out of all the years.



I loved our family photos this year. [I can’t find the pictures of this month on my computer, so this size is the best I have.]



And then our family was complete!



I LOVE the following picture of all the kids.


Christmas Card 2011

This is the year I had pictures way ahead of time, and then didn’t get the cards sent out until February. Oops.



We managed a picture of the whole family last year. Hurrah!


Christmas Greetings


Now that I’ve taken a nice little trip down memory lane, I suppose I should sent out my Christmas cards. Tomorrow.


Do you send Christmas cards in the mail? (I know I’ve gotten cards from a couple of you!)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Last Minute Shopping? Games!


My boys have been on a game-playing kick lately, and I’d like to foster that habit in the new year. The bulk of my gift-giving tends to be books (of course!), but now that the boys can play games independently and are slightly improved in the area of keeping game pieces together, games may start to out-rank books in the gift department! The right games promote delight-led learning, cooperation, good sportsmanship, and time spent with family and friends. They are good for hours and hours and hours of enjoyment! And…they are easy to wrap. [hallelujah!]

Oddly, my boys have been begging for the Herb Fairies course that teaches about herbal remedies. It was developed by a local company called Learning Herbs. Two families in our Classical Conversations group shared about this course during their family presentations, and the boys were intrigued. The course wasn’t available at the time. Then it was. Then it wasn’t. But I purchased Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game (from the same company, but now available at Amazon), and I think they’ll love it. It says it is for ages 4 and up, so Lola can play along! [I think I may add A Kid's Herb Book, because books—and I can’t help myself.]


Next up, Ticket To Ride. The original (#1 bestselling board game) is a railroad adventure across the United States (perfect for our geography studies this year), but I’m so tempted to buy the companion games for Europe, Asia, Nordic Countries, and more! [Some are expansion sets and some are stand-alone games.] The recommended age range for the original set is 8-12, but the companion games add complexity for a wider range of ages.


The award-winning Settlers of Catan finishes off my gift list this Christmas. I know the boys will love this one. Leif is a champion game-player (he was the family’s reigning Monopoly champion at the age of 4), so he’ll do just fine with Settlers of Catan even though the listed recommended age range is 10-14. This game with expansion packs should keep the boys entertained for years to come.

(This last-minute shopper is thankful for free two-day shipping!)

Are you finished with your Christmas shopping? What is the gift you are most excited to give?

[This post contains affiliate links. When you shop Amazon through my links, I receive a small commission on anything you purchase, even if you don’t purchase the recommended item! Thanks for supporting Mt. Hope Chronicles!]

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

Favorite Things

C. S. Lewis

:: Check out these fantastic videos of his essays illustrated/animated! [I can’t pick a favorite.]

:: C. S. Lewis: The Undragoning of Eustace @ Jennifer Neyhart [So beautiful. Check out her other C. S. Lewis posts, as well.]

:: Thanksgiving and Desire, Ordinary Time and Advent, and C. S. Lewis Week @ The Rabbit Room

It takes work to see the extraordinary things in “ordinary” time: to see a sunbeam shining through a cracked door into a dusty shed as a parable for the modern world; to see praise as “inner health made audible”; to see a world in a wardrobe.

:: The Legacy of C. S. Lewis @ The Imaginative Conservative

For in both his fiction and nonfiction Lewis, like Eliot, affirmed such norms as the rightness of order, not anarchy; the desirability of cultural change coming about slowly and organically; and the high value of custom, convention, and continuity. He also stressed the importance of individual responsibility for one’s decisions and actions; the necessity of recognizing man as a flawed creature, and of mistrusting the naked human ego and all utopian talk of men being like gods; and the overarching imperative of recognizing a transcendent order in the Person of God, the Author of Joy as revealed in the doctrines of orthodox Christianity.


:: What If Fairytales Weren’t Fairytales After All? @ Tates Creek Presbyterian Church [go read this one!]

What if our novels and films were both untrue and true? Untrue because they are figments of human imagination; true because they are portals into another reality, a greater reality of which our physical reality is a part not the whole.

What if we tell stories because we are made in the image of a God who Himself is telling a story that we are all a part of? We certainly cannot see this God anymore than Harry Potter can see J.K. Rowling, but there are signposts everywhere that we exist within a story written by an Author.

:: Redeeming Santa @ Tates Creek Presbyterian Church

Allowing our children to encounter and even believe (children don’t cognitively believe like we believe. They have an ability to get lost in fantasy without detaching from reality. Maybe that’s what Jesus means when He said, “Unless you become like a child you cannot enter the Kingdom…”) in fantasy is one of the greatest ways to prepare them to believe in the true and better story to which all other stories point. To deprive them of fantasy is to reinforce the lie of our secular age that there is no fantasy.

:: I Saw Mommybloggers Dissing Santa Claus by Marc Hays @ Kuyperian Commentary

If myth “blurs the lines between fact and fantasy” to such a dangerous extent, why do we read stories to our children at all? And if we’ve decided to read them stories, then we would crush their imaginations by perpetually reminding them that this is not real. In fact, we read them stories because fiction is more real than not. Fiction is vicarious living, whether or not the protagonist has magical powers. Stories by humans will always teach us about what it means to be a human, and there are no stories that are not written by humans.


Cellos (and Music)


:: Why Music Theory? by Caleb Skogen @ Classical Conversations

Music theory…teaches how to communicate well through studies of order, harmony, relationships, ratios, dissonance, consonance, tension, and time. Within these studies, one is pushed passed the mere notes and ideas of a score to discover more of music’s grandiose purpose. Many of us do not generally think about music or the arts as means for understanding God, but studies in music theory can help one understand that form is important to our Creator and that it should be used in ways that reflect His character. This is an appropriate pursuit of the beauty that Plato wrote about.


::  How to Read a Brook: Some Notes on Creation-Literacy @ CiRCE. On Wordsworth, Augustine, and stopping reading to read well.

Books are mankind’s words about God and the world, but the world is God’s word about himself. As the Psalmist writes, the heavens “pour forth speech” and “reveal knowledge” which runs “to the end of the world.” The cosmos then is not full of unanswerable questions (as it would sometimes be convenient to imagine), but unquestionable answers—the visible, audible, tangible, smellable, tastable, altogether incontrovertible testimony of the Three-in-One.

:: The Wonder of Unexpected Supply @ CiRCE

Perhaps teaching itself is a poetic endeavor; or perhaps poetry, in it’s ability to work directly on the affections, is the purest form of education.

:: Off Stage by Tim McIntosh @ CiRCE Magazine [Read the rest of the CiRCE magazine here, or request the GORGEOUS print copy (pictured above).]

Yet the starkness of the stage highlights the incredible power of Hamlet’s yearnings. Richard Burton as Hamlet cries, “What should such fellows as I do, crawling between heaven and earth!” His longing leaps off the bare stage, an incandescent reminder that God has planted eternity in the hearts of men.


:: Your Adult Siblings May Be The Secret To A Long, Happy Life @ NPR

"The literature on sibling relationships shows that during middle age and old age, indicators of well-being — mood, health, morale, stress, depression, loneliness, life satisfaction — are tied to how you feel about your brothers and sisters."



"When people are bored, it is primarily with themselves." —Eric Hoffer (HT: Gutenberg College)

::  The 3 Characteristics of an Educated Man @ The Art of Manliness [This is an older article, but I thought it was fantastic.]

The real test for the modern educated man is the ability to entertain himself when technology isn’t available or is not socially acceptable to whip out. Can you entertain yourself at a boring meeting, while camping, while conversing at a dinner party? The educated man can, and he does it, ironically enough, by retaining an important ability of his childhood—curiosity. The educated man is insatiably curious about the world around him and other people. In any situation, he sees something to learn, study, and observe. If he’s stuck somewhere with neither phone nor company,  he uses the time to untangle a philosophical problem he’s been wrestling with; the mind of the educated man is a repository of ideas that he can pull out and examine to pass the time in any situation.

Books and Movies

::  First Trailer for “The Little Prince” Movie Released @ The Reading Room


:: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 by Jeffrey Overstreet @ Letterboxd

:: “We will need writers who can remember freedom”: Ursula K Le Guin at the National Book Awards @ Parker Higgins

"I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries — the realists of a larger reality.”

:: 50 Best Books for Boys and Young Men @ The Art of Manliness

:: The Green Ember is here!

Green Ember

Monday, December 8, 2014

An Upcoming Journey ~ Creating a Life You Love



My friend Mandi at Life Your Way is launching an incredible 12-month e-course for 2015!

Each month, participants will explore a different life theme such as Rest, Create, Serve, and Explore. Inspiration, encouragement, opportunity for discussion, and practical resources will be given for each theme by a panel of experts passionate about their topic. Mandi has organized a stellar line-up of contributors (I know you will recognize at least a few!), and this course will be a rich experience to make the most of a new year!

I am honored to be leading September’s theme, Learn.

I cannot express how much I am looking forward to exploring the idea of filling our adult lives with learning—not for the sake of a product or a job or even our children but for the soul-enlarging pleasure of attention, wonder, and expression!

Consider taking the course with a friend!

LIVE. creating a life you love will be launching January 1st, but an early bird offer is available until December 15th. Click here to read details about the course and check out the themes and contributors!

Will you join me?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Book Project ~ Participation Request!


I’m working on a major book list project. It’s a combination of my own must-read suggestions and a “best books to read” challenge for myself this coming year—something similar to Amazon's 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime.

So give me your top 5-10 must-read books.

Classics. Modern fiction. Non-fiction. Historical fiction. Children’s books. Poetry. Short stories. The best of the best.

My book list includes books I loved, obscure (The Little French Girl) or well-known (To Kill a Mockingbird), books I hated but everyone should read anyway (1984), and books that made me think (Hamlet).

Help me create my “best books to read” 2015 Challenge!


Share your best books. Tell me what genre. And give me a reason.