We are three months into our Fairbanks winter and have 3 months to go, which seems crazy, but hopefully in March the weather will start to be more warm and pleasant, though likely the snow will not melt off until April. With thinking ahead to the new year starting, I finally started to feel a little bit creative again.

I apologize for my last post... I wrote it back in October on a book I had read and intended to polish it up a little bit before posting. When I finally looked at it again, nearly three months had gone by and without having the book in hand to refresh my memory I didn't feel like I could make it any better so I just went ahead and posted it. I like borrowing digital copies of books from the library. Perfect for someone in a small apartment. But I can see some advantages to owning a hard copy.

Some of the things we have been doing this winter:

1. Silas's school. He is doing amazingly well. Julian still takes a lot of attention so schoolwork goes best if we do it while Julian takes a nap. He usually naps for 2-3 hours between 10 and 1.

We have enjoyed reading the Ramona Quimby books out loud together. I felt a little guilty but spent $17 on 2 pounds of Kroger coffee grounds so we could try making tin can stilts. I can't remember which Ramona book those appeared in -- I think it was Ramona and Her Father.

Reading has been Silas's least favorite subject. For him, I found that I got better results with Alpha-Phonics (our reading lesson book) if I stopped the lessons for a few weeks when he seemed to be struggling and focused on practicing what he had already learned. I did this twice. For about a month I had him read Bob books aloud, very easy beginner books. Then we went back to the Alpha-Phonics lesson he had struggled with and he breezed through it.

Then we spent quite a few lessons on blended consonants and he seemed to be having some trouble with those. Again I stopped the Alpha-Phonics lessons and checked out some easy reader books from the library, a little more advanced than the Bob books but simple enough that he wouldn't get frustrated.

He read the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel (very charming; highly recommend them for adults too) and the Dragon books by Dav Pilkey. Silas laughed and laughed at a groggy Dragon reading an egg while he fried the morning newspaper. There's nothing like a little kid's belly laugh to make you feel like life is worth living!

2. Going on walks, drinking tea and cocoa. We tried to get out every day until things fell apart a little bit in December. Our neighborhood is great for taking walks. A dozen or more quiet residential streets that wind all over around an elementary school. We go out walking after lunch and I usually make the boys hot cocoa after we get back and then let them turn on a TV show while I have a cup of tea.

My favorite tea is Buttermint by Twinings. Recently I haven't been able to find it at the store so I've become very fond of Licorice Spice by Stash. In the past I really enjoyed black tea. In the last year or two I found that if I have caffeinated drinks after 2 p.m. it can interfere with falling asleep at night so I usually end up drinking coffee before noon and herbal tea in the afternoon. Now I think I might actually like herbal tea the best, though I am not too fond of the flavor of blackberry leaf.

Occasionally I buy Toaster Strudels for a treat to have after we come back from our walk. I haven't done this in awhile because Micah always licks the icing off his but never eats the pastry. I guess I could just give him the little squeeze pack of icing without the pastry, but then someone would have to have a Toaster Strudel without icing, which seems sad.

3. This winter I have yet again been reading one of my favorite book trilogies: The Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta. I think it's a perfect series for anyone who is fond of the Bronte sisters. Maybe someone who would like to leave Fairbanks for awhile and be swept off to an oppulent mansion in foggy, mysterious London, where murderers might lurk around the corner. The protagonist, Julia Elliston, starts off as an avowed atheist but eventually comes to Christ. Sometimes conversions can be saccharine in books, I think, but hers is painful, which strikes me as more realistic. Even for someone who grew up pretty innocent in a nice Christian family, conversion can be painful. Not only does the bad news that you are God's enemy hurt, but it's scary put your hope of eternal happiness in a place you've never been and can't prove exists. It's scary to put your life in the hands of Jesus. There is a great temptation to hedge your bets. Maybe think you'll believe in Heaven when you wake up there, or you'll obey Jesus only as long as he doesn't call you to go to Africa. I found this quote from book 2, Mark of Distinction, where a friend of Julia considers her fragile, blossoming faith, to be very touching:

> "You're on the right path; I can say that much. It is no easy decision to lay down your life, especially without assurance of what that will entail. You fear being further broken, but consider that in the hands of Jesus, a broken loaf can feed thousands, while intact it will feed only one."

These are three books that to me would be worth buying hard copies. So far I have just borrowed them from the library or read them on my phone using the library lending app. And thank you to my Christian-fiction-savvy sister-in-law who loaned me the book originally!

4. Fun - celebrating the holidays with family. We had a really nice Thanksgiving gathering and Christmas gatherings with both Christopher's and my sides of the family. On Thanksgiving we prayed and and sang and read scripture together and that seemed so meaningful to me. Even though I know I am thankful to God for all my blessings, it makes a difference to take time to thank him with others. After the meal we played a fun board game called Chameleon (thankfully, this time no one unwittingly described Stalin as "nice" or "heroic" - that was a different time). During the Christmas festivities we enjoyed a movie showing of The Sound of Music, an entertaining secret Santa gift exchange, a Christmas puzzle race, and lots of treats like jalapeno poppers, cheesecake, apple tart. My mom made each of the kids Christmas boxes full of little presents, including an enchanting crocheted ornament: little Christmas trees decorated with beads, a different one for each grandchild.

5. Not fun - getting sick. The kids and I all got sick with the stomach flu about a week and a half before Christmas. Then two days after Christmas we started coming down with RSV. We got a fever, sore throat and congestion, and it just seems to keep going and going and going...

Christopher somehow did not get the stomach flu. And he was the last person to get RSV. Thankfully he was able to take some time off from work to take care of us. We spent New Year's Eve lying in bed listening to the fireworks pop outside with a miserably sick and congested toddler sleeping fitfully in between us and a growing pile of used Kleenex on the floor beside the bed.

Just before we got sick I had (after complaining loudly that we had TOO MANY TOYS AROUND HERE) for some reason added onto an Amazon order a play dishes set and toy mixer for Julian, because he loves pretending to cook and spends hours every day playing with pots and pans. They arrived the very day Julian started feeling well enough to play again. It seemed providential. When he shook the pretend salt shaker I thought that was the first grin I had seen from him in days. He borrowed my pink ceramic teapot and a sugarbowl and along with those he had so much fun with his new toys. He spent hours playing and we had a very hard time making him go to sleep at night. A couple of times he succeeded in convincing his dad to get him back up out of his crib to play with his toys at 10 p.m. When he woke up in the morning he looked for them first thing. It was good to see him feeling better.

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