2020 Books

I set out with a goal at the beginning of this year to read all The Chronicles of Narnia again, as well as at least one book from every grade level list from my school. I started out strong….and then, well, 2020. BUT, I still managed to read 58 books, and they were a mix of genres, not all fluffy fiction (although, quite a few were fluffy fiction, LOL), so I’m going to take that as a win. I’ve discovered my favorite type of fiction books is a good murder mystery. Below is my list, along with a few notes about each one.

1. When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal (good fiction-not “fluffy,” though, although it had a good ending)

2. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (third grade list)

3. The Gospel Comes With a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

4. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover (definitely a fluffy read, but really enjoyable)

5. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (6th grade list) (This was a long, slow read for me. 2nd half was better than the first, and I see the merit in reading it for the subject matter…but not one I will be rereading anytime soon.)

6. Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (I thought I would like this more than I did. It was a quick read, and it kept me intrigued, but at the end my overall impression was just “meh.”)

7. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (12th grade list)

8. The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney (One of the upper school summer reading books. I enjoyed this, used it as a sort of devotional to supplement my Bible reading time.)

9. North by Scott Jurek (about him beating the speed record on the Appalachian Trail-I absolutely love books like this, and this one was no exception).

10. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms (Fun, fluffy read.)

11. On the Bright Side by Melanie Shankle (I always love her books, and this one was no exception.)

12. The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone (SUCH an interesting read)

13. The Road She Left Behind by Kristine Nolfi (cute fluff read, nothing special)

14. It’s a Love Story by Lincee Ray (a fun memoir by a Christian author)

15. The Youth and Teen Running Encyclopedia by Mick Grant and John Molvar (a coaching book I read for XC)

16. P.S. From Paris by Marc Levy (a fun, fluffy read)

17. A Fire Sparkling by Julianne Maclean (novel about WWII-really enjoyed this one)

18. Can You Drink the Cup? By Henri J.M. Nouwen (A book about spiritual life, focusing on the question Jesus asked his disciples before his death)

19. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (I love this author’s style of writing-always keeps me reading!)

20. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (Narnia book one-JECA kindergarten list)

21. Defending Jacob by William Landry (a murder mystery-quite good)

22. Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In by Louis Zamperini. (Memoirs, life lessons-really enjoyed this)

23. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (murder mystery-really enjoyed this one-read it in less than a day)

24. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (good story, but written from a weird perspective)

25. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (captivating story, but sad)

26. Why I Hate Green Beans by Lincee Ray (a memoir by a Christian author/blogger-very fun and encouraging)

27. A Woman Like Her by Marc Levy (another fun, fluffy read)

28. The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan (a murder mystery-good read)

29. The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman (a book about making decisions-good read)

30. America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (a historical fiction novel about Thomas Jefferson’s life, told from the perspective of his oldest daughter-based on his letters-really good read!)

31. Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore (a true story about mondern day slavery and homelessness-a memoir-really good

32. Becoming by Michelle Obama (her autobiography about becoming 1st lady-very good read)

33. Stand All the Way Up by Sophie Hudson (another excellent book by one of my favorite authors-this one was very encouraging, and SO appropriate for what is going on in our world right now, even though she wrote it almost two years ago)

34. The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar (a historical fiction novel about the WASPs in WWII-great read!)

35. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan (A memoir about a daughter and father both having and surviving cancer at the same time).

36. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (murder mystery-really good)

37. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons (sad/heavy read, but written in such an intriguing way)

38. Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson (a reread that I love)

39. The Negotiator by Dee Henderson (1st in the O Malley series)

40. The Guardian by Dee Henderson (2nd in the O Malley series)

41. The Truth Seeker by Dee Henderson (3rd in the O Malley series)

42. Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan (a very, very fluffy beach read)

43. The Bright Side of Going Dark by Kelly Harm (a fun, fluffy read with some good messages)

44. The Protector by Dee Henderson (4th in the O Malley series

45. The Healer by Dee Henderson (5th in the O Malley series)

46. The Rescuer by Dee Henderson (6th in the O Malley series)

47. The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy (WWII book told from the perspective of women in France-good read)

48. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (murder mystery-good read)

49. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. (A book about trauma)

50. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (I enjoy her style of writing)

51. My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan (a fun romantic read)

52. The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin

53. The Last Letter from Juliet by Melanie Hudson (WWII novel about a female pilot-great read)

54. In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn (A sad, but very compelling, story)

55. The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O’Neal (really enjoyable fiction/mystery novel.)

56. The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide (excellent read!)

57. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseni (A fictional book set in Afghanistan in the 1970s-early 2000s-a powerful, sad read, but so good and important. I like books like these that give me a glimpse into other cultures.)

58. Love Her Well by Kari Kampakis (a book about parenting teenage daughters-highly recommend!)

Christmas Day

This Christmas Day, of course, was not at all like normal. But it wasn’t bad, either! This is the first year, ever, that we have slept in on Christmas Day. Normally we have to set alarms and wake the kiddos before daylight so we can enjoy our Christmas as a family before heading down to my parents’ house. Which we love! But it was also really nice to have a slower Christmas morning and not be so tired.

We always get the kids one big gift and stocking stuffers. And we never wrap their gifts, just cover them with blankets. 🙂 This year we got Josie a Cricut and Jack a hoverboard with go cart attachment.

They were both THRILLED with their gifts. And they always love opening their stockings, too. This year Josie had a devotional book, a bracelet, a Golly G’s gift card, some ColorStreet nails, some candy, and Christmas Tree cakes, of course. Jack got a slingshot, some Legos, some bath bombs (he LOVES bath bombs), a Golly G’s gift card, candy, and Christmas Tree cakes.

Jake and I exchanged gifts, too. He got me rollerblades!! And a new awesome down blanket for hiking. The rollerblades were hidden in the dirty clothes, hamper, LOL and the kids wrapped up a note for me to find them.

I got Jake a Pit Barrel smoker, a smoker thermometer, and a new shirt.

For Christmas morning breakfast, I made Instant Pot sausage gravy (our FAVORITE gravy, but definitely a special treat type of thing!) and of course chocolate gravy. We decided to keep it simple and just have biscuits, gravy and fruit. And it was delicious.

And then we just had a long, lazy day. We watched movies and played. Josie played with her Cricut all.day.long. She loves it! Jack made a million laps around the house with his hoverboard.

At some point in the afternoon, even though it was FREEZING, we bundled up and went up the road to the church where we go for walks so I could try out my new roller blades. Josie rollerbladed, too, and Jack took his new hoverboard. Jake just walked with us.

After we went for a walk, we ran by Mama Judy’s (and stayed outside) to pick up our Christmas care package :). She sent us home with potato soup, chili, and lots of cookies.

Then we settled back in for a long cozy night, being lazy and watching movies. We checked the last thing off our Christmas to-do list, watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Even though it was different, Christmas was good. It was nice to be able to just focus on our little family of four. I love them a lot!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve wasn’t at all like normal this year, but we still wanted to make it special and memorable. We started out with Jake’s family’s traditional Christmas Eve breakfast: sausage cheese balls, blueberry muffins, eggs, and fruit.

It was delicious!

Then we got dressed and loaded up all our presents in Jake’s truck to make our deliveries. We made our rounds, staying only on porches or in yards, but it was fun to get to visit with everyone for just a little bit (it was FREEZING outside!) The kids opened their gifts at Shshr and Ta’s.

After our deliveries, we came home and let the kiddos open presents from all the various family that sent them theirs, and we opened our presents from Mama Judy.

Then we had a long, lazy day together. Jack put together a lot of his new Legos and Josie loved looking at her new Hamilton posters and stickers for her room. We all watched the movie Inception together at some point in the afternoon. (yes, we know, definitely not a Christmas movie, LOL)

That evening Josie and I went together to pick up our favorite Japanese food for our Christmas Eve dinner. It was delicious! And, it snowed on our way home!! And even stuck a bit. Magical, for sure!

After dinner we read through the Christmas story out of all the gospels. Then we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” and ate yummy dessert. (Between my students, Nana, Mama Judy, Ta, and our gingerbread making, we have SO MANY DESSERTS right now!) Jack put together more of his Lego sets while we were watching. 🙂 He said, “This is a good movie to just listen to.” LOL

We ended the night with me trying to get a quick family picture in front of the tree. This is how most of our family picture sessions go, LOL.

After the kiddos went to bed, Jake and I set out Christmas, and then stayed up way too late watching another movie. Which was kind of nice, because normally we are WIPED out by Christmas Eve night, because of all the day’s activities. We missed being with our families, but there was something nice about just being home, too.

Pre-Christmas Festivities

Christmas looked a lot different this year than normal. We found out on the Saturday after school let out that a lot of people at school had come down with Covid, and many were too close to comfort for us to feel okay not quarantining. So, the Fentress family has been on quarantine, and will continue to be, until Jan. 1. Thankfully, though, none of us have any symptoms, and have not felt sick at all. Hopefully, at this point, we are in the clear, but we are still being cautious, just because we don’t want to be the cause of anybody else getting sick.

Anyways, we have still had a lot of Christmas fun, even being on quarantine. Break was a bit different this year, because we had a whole week off before Christmas even happened, which was actually really nice.

The week before school let out was fun for the kids. I made homemade wreaths with my class, and then on our half day we had a party day. I’m not going to share many pics of that, though, since I didn’t get any of just Jack (#momfail), and don’t want to post pics of all my students on here. On the half day before Christmas all the students were really excited because we had a casual day, so everyone could wear jeans and Christmas shirts. It was a lot of fun to see all my kids out of their uniforms! Josie’s class had a white elephant ornament exchange, and she made a felt Baby Yoda ornament to take.

Earlier that week, we also celebrated Mama Judy’s birthday! We had her over for dinner and dessert and the kiddos made her some cards.

One night we went for a drive in Jake’s truck to test out his new radio system, and we stumbled upon the coolest Charlie Brown light display-so fun!

Our sweet, sweet neighbor came over with the sweetest Christmas basket-new Christmas dishes, a gingerbread house kit for the kids, oranges, peppermints, homemade pickles and banana bread! We love our neighbors so much.

I prepped sausage balls for Christmas Eve breakfast, and we kept yummy smell good stuff going on the stove for days.

One night we went to Golly G’s for drinks (hot chocolate for Jake, egg nog coffee for me, and iced coffees for the kids-LOL-They get coffee anytime we allow them to, which isn’t very often!) and then went light looking. Travis Price Park had a whole drive through light display, which was really cool.

One day our sweet youth group leaders came by and dropped off a “quarantine” basket for our family, filled with all kinds of sweet goodies. I love our church. They are the best. I miss, so much, getting to gather with our church family every Sunday…but I know this is only a season. And it will be that much sweeter when we get to again.

When we knew we were going to (literally) be home for the holidays, we made a big list of things we wanted to do to fill our time and make Christmas special. One thing Josie wanted to do was to make and decorate homemade gingerbread cookies. This is something we’d never done before, so I had to look up a recipe and borrow some cookie cutters from Nana (I can’t find my stash! I’m afraid I got rid of them at some point.). I am SO glad, though, that Josie suggested this! She and I had a great time rolling them out together and decorating them, and Jack even decorated a few when he saw how much fun we were having. And, they were DELICIOUS, and we had a great time doing some “cookie drop offs” for some friends and family. I think this is definitely something we will be repeating in future years!

Family Pictures, 2020

Once a year I set up a tripod and we snap some family pictures. This year it was just in our back yard, in under 30 minutes, but I like what we got. 🙂

While I was setting up my camera, the cat decided to join in. 🙂

The many, many faces of Jack. It takes a looonnnnggg time to get a decent picture of him right now, because he is in SUCH an awkward smiling phase. The last one is definitely my favorite, though, because that is HIM.

Love these two goof balls

Why does she keep looking so old??

December so far

December has had its ups and downs, but we are half way through, and only one more week before break!

Here are some miscellaneous things for the month:

The first of the month we had two virtual days, right after Thanksgiving, to make sure everyone was well/not infected before we came back to school. The first day I took the kids with me to my classroom and taught from there, but the second day we just stayed home. And it was nice! It went so much more smoothly than in the spring, because everyone is more used to doing so many things virtually.

Jake got a much deserved new truck! We bought it from Chad, who was getting something else. It is SO nice. We are excited to take a trip in it, because it has so much more room in the cab.

Normally the first Friday in December is our school’s Christmas Vespers performance. However, because of Covid, it was not a live performance. Instead, we filmed it beforehand and had a simulcast the night that it would normally be on, so everyone could watch at the same time at home. It was actually pretty cool to watch! Ta sent me a picture of Jack she took while she was watching, and a friend took a picture of Josie while she was watching. 🙂

Craft projects are keeping me sane here lately on the weekends. I’ve made jelly, painted a plaque for a baby gift, and worked on some other random Christmas gift crafts.

Here’s to this week going smoothly and quickly!

be still

A couple of weeks ago it was finally time for something I had been waiting for for a couple of months-my tattoo appointment. This is something I had been contemplating for a couple of years, and a phrase God had laid on my heart a couple of years ago that I’ve been mulling over for some time. (Not that he laid on my heart to get a tattoo, but he definitely did some speaking to me through this phrase.) And this year has been hard. And I felt like the time was right.

A couple of my dear friends went with me, right after school one day.

It did hurt a bit…..but really not too bad, and it was totally, totally worth it. It turned out exactly I had envisioned in my head. Not sure if I shared this or not, but I had my mom write it…so this is her handwriting, which makes it even more special.

be still……a good and much needed reminder.

Christmas Decorations!

I was not looking forward to decorating for Christmas this year. To be truthful, I really never look forward to decorating for Christmas. But, the kids were pumped, so we got them out on Friday. I put up less than normal, even, but I was please with how they turned out, initially. Then, Jake found a cool website that showed how to make homemade garland out of fresh cedar. So on Sunday, we went over to the farm, and I cut a bunch of cedar boughs, and tried my hand at it-and I LOVED how they turned out! It didn’t take long at all, and made such a big impact! The fresh cedar just added such a POP to all of our Christmas decor, with pretty minimal effort. Definitely will be doing it again. 🙂

We found this awesome antique nativity set in Mama Judy’s attic!

And then, on November 30th, it snowed! So decor in (a little bit) of snow: