Monday, December 31, 2012

Books we read aloud this Christmas season

The Birds' Christmas Carol ~ My great-grandmother's hardback copy that she got when she was 8 years old ... in 1908.

 The Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider
This book was just lovely. The stories are super short and all have a beautiful message to hear about God and His love for us. I'll be purchasing this one, for sure!

The Festival of Stones by Reg Down ~ this was a perfect read straight from October through Christmas. It included all of the holidays and seasonal festivals.



Dewey's Magical Sleigh by Brahm Wenger and Alan Green ~ this is a great story about feeding those who are hungry!

All for the Newborn Baby by Phillis Root.
We sang this one and it put the dog to sleep.

There was No Snow on Christmas Eve by Pameal Ryan


The Christmas Donkey by Gillian McClure ~ beautiful story!

B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner ~ Although this is a "Christmas Alphabet", it was just as lovely for my 8 and 9 year olds as it would have been for a kindergartner!



Country Angel Christmas by Tomie dePaola ~ you really can't go wrong with a Tomie dePaola book!



Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate ~ The Princess read this one several times. Perfect for the animal lover and Jesus lover!


The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shepard


This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar ~ the girls love these types of stories, the rhythm and the poetry. And, of course, the message.


A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith ~ I just love including all of these stories that are based on the Nativity story, but are creatively told from other points of view.



Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola ~ again withe Tomie dePaola! A beautiful story of generosity.

 The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg ~ there is also a DVD. This was our "candy cane day" ~ we read the book, made peppermint bark and watched the movie.



Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell ~ a favorite around these parts.



The Donkey's Dream by Barbara Berger ~ so beautiful!



The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojcieghowski ~ another one that had a DVD as well. We enjoyed reading this story aloud and then the girls watched the movie.


Winter's Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan ~ a favorite of the Princess all throughout the year.



The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Mackall

***
The Christmas Carol retold by Mark A. Taylor (can't find a picture)

***
The First Christmas retold by Mark A. Taylor (can't find a picture)

***
The Christmas Story Audio CD with the story, verses from the Bible and Christmas Carols (can't find a picture)


The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, Illustrated by Douglas Gorsline ~ we read this every Christmas eve.

******
 
And, the books in the book baskets that the girls read themselves, but we didn't quite get to as far as Family Reading Aloud:

DK Children Just Like Me: Celebrations ~ this one was a favorite around here!
The Little Drummer Boy by Carolyn Quattrocki (we did read this one aloud last year)
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston
The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rock Osborne
The Christmas Story from the King James Bible with paintings by Gennady Spirin
Hanna's Christmas by Melissa Peterson
The Legend of the Christmas Rose by William H. Hooks
A Small Miracle by Peter Collington (we did this one last year and it's really special)
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck (we did read this one aloud last year)
The Tale of the Three Trees: A traditional Folktale retold by Angela Elwell Hunt
The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden (we did read this one aloud last year)
Strega Nona's Gift by Tomie dePaola
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
The Story of Christmas words from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, pictures by Jane Ray
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola (we did read this one aloud last year)
The Gift of the Magi by O'Henry Lisbeth Zwerger (we did read this one aloud last year and we listened to this on audio this  year)
Silent Night illustrated by Susan Jeffers (we did read this one aloud last year)
Good King Wenceslas by John M. Neale (we did read this one aloud last year)
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers by Andrew Clements (we did read this one last year)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

25 Days of Christmas

** Warning: This is a MILE LONG post because it records what happened each and every day of the Advent season. This is more for me to reference in years to come. If you feel so inclined, enjoy. **

(Started on December 7th)

******

For once, I feel like we've really gotten it right this year.

The focus of the season is spot on ~ a precious baby in a manger.

The girls are truly satisfied with what they have (and thankful for it). We're not rushing around trying to see what they want.

There's no me-me-me.

There's only Him-Him-Him.

So, in case I forget how to get us there next year (or the year after that), I wanted to attempt to document the Twenty Five Days of Christmas. I really should have started this post sooner (it is already the 7th of December and I'm sure I've forgotten some of the details by now), but we do the best we can with what we have, right? Honestly, the only reason I haven't started the post already is because I've been too busy living the life to write about it, which I think trumps the blog any day!

So, I'm going to try to go back and plug in what I can remember about this first week. And then, I'm going to try to remember to plug in any little things that happen each day from here on out (I'll only post the holiday-related stuff, though). I'll aim to publish this a little after Christmas. It should be fun.

Before December 1st:
Immediately upon our return from our Thanksgiving with family, things started happening. Yes, there was laundry to be done and unpacking and groceries to be bought, but it was officially Christmas time around here.

November 26 - present:
* Christmas music began to play. All day, every day. In the house. In the car. It is ON. We've enjoyed Pandora stations of Traditional Christmas, Classical Christmas, Christmas Hymns and Carols and Country Christmas. We've listened to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker over and over. We've searched out specific Christmas songs on Youtube. We've listened to our Christmas CDs. We've kept it on the station that plays only Christmas music between Thanksgiving and Christmas whenever we are in the car. You get the idea. 
*Began (or rather, continued) lighting seasonal candles all day, day every day.
* So, just know that EVERY day below had Christmas music and candles all day. 

November 26:
* We read aloud Room for a Little One.

November 27:
* We read aloud Festival of Stones, chapters 16 and 17 (about the Festival of Light and the coming of the Christmas child).
* We read aloud The Donkey's Dream.
* We read aloud The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.
* The girls watched the movie The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.
* The Princess read Marmee's Surprise (a Little Women book about Christmas).

November 28:
* We listened to four audio Christmas stories on Your Story Home:
  The Night Before Christmas
  The Gift of the Magi
  The Christmas Fairy
  The Christmas Orange

November 29:
* We purchased supplies for gifts we are making.
* We sang Christmas carols with our friends at the park.
* The Hippie printed the lyrics to Momma's favorite Christmas hymn, O Come All Ye Faithful so that she could learn it. We found a beautiful version by Faith Hill on Youtube. Said version made Momma cry. :)

November 30:
* We read aloud Festival of Stones, "The Christmas Star".
* We started reading aloud my Great-grandmother's copy of The Birds' Christmas Carol (this hardback copy has her name inscribed inside and the year 1908 ~ she was 8 years old, same as the Princess ~ that is pretty cool!).
* We read aloud a few poems and stories from our book A Christmas Treasury.
* We purchased more supplies for gifts we are making.

******

And now for the real 25 days ...


December 1:
* We attended our community tree lighting ceremony and watched as Santa arrived.
* We went to our regular Christmas tree lot to pick out our tree as we do every year. We've gone to the same place every year since before the girls were born. Their trees are more expensive, but we've grown to love them and what they do. They give the money directly to the local community in need. This year they are using it to help children in our community. The girls love to play tag and run and play around and between the trees.
* We lit the first candle on our Advent wreath.
The girls opened the first door on their Advent calendar. We started a game that has continued all month ~ each of us guessing what picture will be behind the door. Up to now (December 7), Daddy has gotten two right and Momma has gotten one right. The girls ~ zip. :)
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking. As usual, Momma writes the "novel" compared to the one word written by Daddy.
* We read aloud the first story in our Advent storybook.

December 2:
* We began working on the Christmas decorating. Well, Daddy spent the day messing with the lights to see what worked and what he could fix (all while we watched the game, of course). Momma was sick ~ boo. At the end of the day, we knew we needed to buy more lights in order to do the tree, so that got pushed to the next day. But, Daddy did string all of the lights and decorations outside. Our house looks lovely from outside. Our neighbors love it.
* We played The Nutcracer Ballet in its entirety on Youtube.
* We lit the first candle on our Advent wreath.
The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We all had eggnog with nutmeg for the first time of the season.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* We read aloud All for the Newborn Baby ... well, we actually sang it ... and the lullaby knocked the dog OUT!

December 3:
* Went to buy more Christmas lights.
* Daddy strung the lights on the tree and surprised me. One of those LOVE languages things. He really showed me love that day. Story goes ~ we've always decorated our tree with white lights only and red and green and silver were the colors of the tree ~ none of the "silly" "tacky" colored lights. Well, we had talked recently about lights and I guess it was the first time he'd heard that with my tree growing up, my family always used multi-colored lights and multi-colored ornaments. When he was at the store that day, he'd gotten colored lights and not told me. He had us do a count-down to turning on the lights (inside and outside ~ pretty fun) and when we hit ONE and he turned them on, I got to see a blast from my past. So special. If you know my family's history (and if you don't, I'll give you a one sentence synopsis ~ my immediate family growing up consisted of my Mom, my Dad, my brother and myself. Since 2001, that has dropped to only my Mom and myself. You do the math.), you know how touching and emotional it was for me to see the colored lights. He really knows how to speak to my heart!
* As mentioned above, we went outside and did the countdown to turning on the outside lights. Super fun and cute!
* We decorated the tree. The girls are getting older, so Mommy and Daddy are doing less and less of the decorating. The ornaments are a little more jumbled than we used to do it, but it is so worth it!
* Hot cocoa was served for all!
* We lit the first candle on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* We read aloud There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve.

December 4:
* Our neighbors knocked on the door and handed me a giant blow up snowman for us to use. They had been walking their dog when we went outside for the countdown and thought that was so cute. Their children are grown and they thought that ours would enjoy the snowman. Blessings from all around, I tell ya.
* We read aloud the next chapter in The Birds' Christmas Carol.
* We read aloud Festival of Stones, chapter 19.
The girls read from our two over-flowing Christmas book baskets (this has been going on every day, but I forgot to mention it).
* We lit the first candle on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* We surprised the girls again by taking them outside to see the Snowman ~ pure joy!

December 5:
* We read aloud "The Birth of Jesus" from our book Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions.
* The girls read from our two over-flowing Christmas book baskets (Just go ahead and know that this is happening every day).
* We listened to Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker in its entirety ... again. The Hippie even put on a leotard and tutu and proceeded to dance to it.
* The Hippie made a Nativity scene out of sculpy clay ~ Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and a manger.
* The Princess made gifts for the Hippie for Christmas.
* We lit the first candle on our Advent wreath.
The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking. The Princess is beginning to run out of ideas.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* Sadly, the Christmas tree came crashing down (I guess it was "front heavy") and several of our ornaments broke. :( The Princess was rather upset because an ornament she made when she was 3 was among the wreckage. Daddy fixed the tree by anchoring it to a window. We re-decorated the tree.
* We read aloud The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale.
* The girls set out their slippers to be filled by Saint Nicholas while they slept.

December 6:
* The girls excitedly ran to their slippers to discover some new hair things, a "REAL SLINKY", some cozy socks and a DVD of An All Dogs Christmas Carol.
* We attended the city's 21st annual production of The Nutcracker Ballet.
* We sang Christmas carols with our friends at the park.
* We lit a NEW candle on our Advent wreath ~ so, now there are TWO.
The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking. Daddy thinks he will forget what he's already written by the time we get to December 25th!
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.

December 7:
* The girls played a marathon session with the slinkies from Saint Nicholas.
* We lit two candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls watched their new video, An All Dogs Christmas Carol.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking. I accidentally saw the Princess's ~ she was thankful for GOD ... We're doing something right. :-)
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* We listened to Dewey's Magical Sleigh on audio with the picture book.

December 8:
* We read aloud the next chapter in The Birds' Christmas Carol.
* We read aloud Festival of Stones, chapter 20.
* We read aloud Winter's Gift.
* We read aloud The Legend of the Candy Cane.
* The girls watched The Legend of the Candy Cane DVD.
* We made Peppermint Bark with the girls (candy canes ~ you catching the theme?).
* We lit two candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook. 
* We went to Bethlehem ~ absolutely amazing!

December 9:
* We attended a holiday potluck party with friends.
* Took our homemade Peppermint Bark as a gift ... and watched as it disappeared almost instantly.
* We lit two candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.

December 10:
* Momma managed almost all of her in-person (as opposed to online) Christmas shopping while the girls were at an Art class.
* We lit two candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* We read aloud Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

December 11:
* Tons of Christmas crafting
* We read aloud Festival of Stones, chapter 21.
* We lit two candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* We read aloud The First Christmas.

December 12:
* We spent the entire day making Christmas gifts (while listening to Classical Christmas music, of course).
* Momma started a bit of wrapping.
* We lit two candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game. The score is still 2-2-0-0 (Momma, Daddy, Princess and Hippie)
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* We read aloud Country Angel Christmas.

** Here, we hit an insanely busy, double and triple booked stint that had us out from morning til night four days in a row and maxed this Momma out ... after which, I promptly turned us inward and shut off all outside commitments so that we could focus on our family for the final week. But, first (and, I'm only listing Christmas related events here, but there were MORE) ... 

December 13:
* We made beeswax lanterns with friends at the park in order to honor the Winter Solstice
* We attempted a little Christmas shopping.
* We lit the third candle on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game. The score is still 2-2-0-0 (Momma, Daddy, Princess and Hippie)
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.

December 14: 
* Momma and Daddy spent a good long while discussing Christmas gifts and making plans.
* Momma and Daddy managed to get a little bit of Christmas shopping in while the girls were at an Art class (national tragedy also struck at this time and rocked me to my core).
* Momma made her now famous squash casserole to share with friends.
* We celebrated the season with our second annual Advent Spiral with friends. The Hippie got to be Saint Lucia and wear the crown of candles!
* We lit three candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game.
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking. As you might expect, I wrote down "my babies".
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.

December 15:
* Though today was crazy busy, it was not Christmas related, so I guess all I have to report is:
* We lit three candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game. The score is still 2-2-0-0 (Momma, Daddy, Princess and Hippie)
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.

December 16:
* Momma and Daddy got a few more things on our list while the girls were at a birthday party.
* The girls made Christmas crafts with friends.
* We drove around on the other side of town looking at Christmas lights.

** And, now we turn inward ...


December 17:
* We read aloud another chapter from The Birds' Christmas Carol.
* I spent the entire day wrapping gifts for family.
* The girls learned to curl ribbon on a gift.
* We lit three candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next two doors on their Advent calendar (we missed yesterday because we were out until after 10pm). We continued the game.
* We all wrote down two things we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next two stories in our Advent storybook.
* We read aloud A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith.
* We read aloud This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar.

December 18:
* Momma finished most of the wrapping.
* The Princess worked on her Christmas gift-making.
* The girls watched a Looney Tunes Christmas Carol (the Hippie was sick).
* We lit three candles on our Advent wreath.
* The girls opened the next door on their Advent calendar. We continued the game. The score is still 2-2-0-0 (Momma, Daddy, Princess and Hippie)
* We all wrote down something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.
* We read one chapter of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

December 19:
* We read the next chapter in The Birds' Christmas Carol.
* The girls watched the TV movie version of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (we read the book in its entirety last year and the Hippie has read it herself. If we hadn't read it first, I wouldn't let them watch it, but since we have, it's a nice treat).
* The girls and I baked cookies for our neighbors.
* We painted ... Christmas gifts. Shhhhh.

December 20:
* We read the next chapter in The Birds' Christmas Carol.
* We listened to The Christmas Story on Audio CD along with the Bible verses from Matthew and Luke read aloud as well as six Christmas Carols.
* The girls and I went out for the last time for some last minute craft supplies for more Christmas gift-making.
* The Hippie spent the afternoon making gifts.
* Momma finished most of the wrapping and shipped the final box to family.
* We lit the fourth candle on our Advent wreath. The girls were so excited, they almost happy-cried.
* We each wrote two things we were thankful for and placed them in our Jesus stocking (last night was another late night and we didn't get to do it).
* The girls each opened the next two doors on their Advent calendars. We continued the game ... and the Hippie finally got a point!
* We loaded up in the car and drove around town looking at Christmas lights. We took with us a bunch of little pieces of paper that said, "Thank you for displaying the reason for the season. Merry Christmas!" ... We placed them inside the mailboxes of any house that displayed a Nativity scene.
* We read aloud the next two stories in our Advent storybook. The Hippie read the first one and the Princess read the second one.

December 21:
* We read aloud the next chapter in The Festival of Stones ... this one was "The Festival of the Christmas Child".
* We finished reading The Birds' Christmas Carol.
* We read aloud The Christmas Donkey by Gillian McClure.
* We made birthday cards for Jesus.
* The Princess finished making Daddy's gift and learned how to wrap by wrapping his gift and curling his bows.
* The Hippie also finished making Daddy's gift and wrapped it.
* The girls watched Santa Paws.
* We lit four candles on our Advent wreath.
* We each wrote something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* The girls each opened the next door on their Advent calendars. We continued the game ... and the Hippie got another point! We are now at 2-2-2-0 ... poor Princess.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.

December 22:
* The girls and I went out and bought all of the groceries for Christmas dinner, baking cookies for the homeless, baking cookies for Santa, making a birthday pie for Jesus and birthday breakfast for the Hippie.
* I painted a pegasus / unicorn for the Princess for Christmas.
* The Princess made the Hippie's birthday gift.
* The Hippie finished making Momma's gift and wrapped it.
* The girls delivered cookies and peppermint bark to one of our elderly sets of neighbors.
* We lit four candles on our Advent wreath.
* We each wrote something we were thankful for and placed it inside our Jesus stocking.
* The girls each opened the next door on their Advent calendars. We continued the game.
* We read aloud the next story in our Advent storybook.

December 23:
* Today was all about the Hippie and her birthday, so Christmas was pretty much placed on hold, but we did drive around and look at Christmas lights after her birthday dinner.

December 24:
* We made a special family Christmas Eve breakfast of biscuits-n-gravy.
* The girls opened the second-to-the-last door on the Advent calendar at breakfast (we skipped last night because of the Hippie's birthday). Still no points for the Princess.
* We all wrote something we were thankful for at breakfast and placed it into the Jesus stocking.
* We baked 6 dozen cookies ... for the homeless, for Santa and for us.
* The girls delivered cookies and peppermint bark to another set of elderly neighbors. They also spent the afternoon playing with said neighbors' great-grandchildren.
* Momma made pumpkin cheesecake for Jesus' birthday cake for tomorrow.
* Daddy helped each girl finish up a handmade gift they needed his help with.
* We drove around and gave cookies and water bottles to all the homeless people we could find, spreading holiday cheer as we've done each year. This is one of our favorite traditions.
* The girls each opened one present ~ zip-up pjs! They went bonkers (and of course the Princess "happy cried") because they LOVE zip-up pjs and haven't had any since they were about 4 or 5.
* We lit four candles on the Advent wreath both at breakfast and at dinner.
* The girls each opened the LAST door on their Advent calendars at dinner. We were all wrong tonight, which means the poor Princess never got a point. She cried. :(
* We all wrote one final thing we were thankful for and placed it into our Jesus stocking. I said I didn't want to stop because there were so many things I was thankful for that I hadn't written yet. I mentioned keeping one going all year long. Hmmm
* We left out cookies and milk for Santa.
* We tracked Santa on the Norad Santa Tracker.
* We read the last two stories in the Advent storybook (we skipped last night).
* We read The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore.
* After the girls were in bed, Daddy and I stuffed stockings, set out a gift for each girl from Santa and ate some of Santa's cookies. We also had grown-up egg nog (Daddy ~ egg nog with Kentucky bourbon, rum and brandy) and grown-up hot cocoa (Momma ~ hot cocoa with Irish Creme) and watched National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

December 25: 
* Ironically, Momma woke up before the girls (that's a first). I was waiting on them. WHAT? Yep. So, I went into the living room, turned on the Christmas music, turned on the Christmas lights, lit the candles and started Momma & Daddy's tea.
* The girls had to wait for us to make our tea before they could go into the living room (as usual). It's so much fun to torture them. :)
* There were squeals of delight as they went through their stockings and checked out what Santa brought them (simple ~ the ONE thing the Princess asked for ~ a horse that changes colors in the bath ~ and craft supplies for the Hippie).
* The girls finished up the cookie pieces that Santa left for them.
* We spent three hours giving and receiving gifts ... mostly hand-made and all wonderful. I was so proud that the girls were WAY more interested in GIVING the gifts that they had made than the stuff under the tree for them. They got ALL of their giving out of the way first ... and were so stinking excited about it.
* The Hippie made me a beautiful necklace and bought me a candle with her own money. She made Daddy a wrap for his hair out of red, yellow and green yarn. She made the Princess a Royal family of dolls out of beads and fuzzy sticks. She also made her a castle with beds and linens for each of the family members.
* The Princess made me a holder for my sunglasses and a cloth to clean them with. She painted Daddy a picture of him surfing inside a wave and put stickers of sea creatures all over it and placed it into a frame. She made the Hippie a doll and a horse (also out of beads and fuzzy sticks) as well as a rug, a table, a book for the doll to read and a brush to brush the horse's mane and tail with.
* After all of the giving and receiving (with multiple potty breaks and play breaks), Daddy made us some yummy french toast with thick slices of bread, vanilla and cinnamon in the egg/milk and powdered sugar and real maple syrup on top.
* We lit all four candles on the Advent wreath AND lit the Christ candle in the center. We left the Christ candle burning all day.
* Most of the rest of the day was spent in the kitchen ~ Momma cooking, Daddy making balloon animals for the girls, the girls playing with and exploring their new gifts.
* We built a wooden marble run and had fun with the marbles.
* Momma and Daddy put together the girls' new German comforters and made up their beds for later.
* The girls played outside with Daddy a bit.
* I made a repeat of Thanksgiving dinner:
    Shirley Temples for the girls
    Olives and sweet pickles
    Homemade mashed potatoes
    Homemade squash casserole
    Homemade green beans
    Homemade stuffing
    Homemade vegetarian gravy
    Organic cranberry sauce
    Rolls
    Homemade pumpkin cheesecake
* After dinner (with all four candles and the Christ candle, of course), we enjoyed reading all of the things everyone was thankful for all month long. We played a game of guessing who wrote each one.
* We put candles in the pumpkin cheesecake and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus and shared a slice of pie.
* We read aloud The Legend of Saint Nicholas.
* The little bugs were tucked into their beds with their new zip-up pjs and their new German comforters and they fell fast asleep.

And, that, my friends was the end to a PERFECT Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My heart is broken

I have a post in queue that I wrote on Monday and just hadn't published yet. But, I can't even begin to wrap my thoughts around that right now.

My heart is totally broken.

My husband and I never get time alone. Yesterday happened to be his day off and the girls had a two hour drop off Art Class, so we excitedly planned to spend the time together.

It started out so wonderful. Yes, there was a ton of traffic getting to the restaurant, but we were together.

Without children.

We enjoyed our drinks and our appetizers and got our meal.

The place was loud, but we liked it. There were football replays on the screens and general mayhem.

And then ...

Suddenly the place was quiet.
  The speakers no longer played the annoying pop music.
    Out of nowhere, the speakers broke up my happy morning with news of yet another tragedy.

But, this was different.

As I listened and watched, horrified, I discovered that this tragedy happened at an elementary school.

I cringed as I said, "Elementary school, baby. That is like "The Hippie's" age (she will be 10 in a week).

Then, it happened. That moment that crushed me. That moment that took my breath away and made me cry like a baby in the middle of a busy Chili's restaurant. That discovery that has squashed my spirit ever since.

I discovered that it was a KINDERGARTEN class and that TWENTY small children were dead.

Dear God, my throat closes up as I type that.

My babies are safe and sound in their room and I am completely wrecked.

Devastated.

Each time I woke up last night, it was the first thing I thought of. Just like when I discovered my own father had died. Just like when I discovered my brother had died. When you sleep and you wake, it's like discovering it all over again each time when you realize it was not a bad dream.

I've never been to Connecticut.
  I don't know these people.
    My children are safe.
      And, I am a mess.

Why?

Because all I can think about are the TWENTY families that lost their 5 or 6 year old yesterday.

TEN days before Christmas and their baby is gone.

There are probably presents under the tree with their name on them.

It was probably the last day of school.
  They probably didn't even need to be there.
    It was probably going to be an early release day for Christmas break.

Those poor Mamas and Daddies put on their little coats and their mittens and dropped them off at kindergarten. They trusted that they would be safe. They thought that they would play with play-doh and listen to a story and play on the playground while Mama ran a few last minute errands.

And, now they are gone.

I cannot even see my screen as I type this. My eyes are just pouring.

My heart is truly broken.

Here I was, thankful to get two hours without my children yesterday morning ... while other parents were losing theirs with no hope of getting two hours back with their children.

I have no wise words.
  I have nothing comforting to say.
    I apologize if my post today has done nothing to inspire you.
      I am sorry if I've only ruined your day.

I don't even know how to end this post.

All I can offer is for you to hug your babies tight when you close out this post.
  Hug them tight and kiss them and tell them how much you love them.

And, thank GOD for every moment you get to spend with them.

That is all I have been doing for the past 20 hours.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Plans for Advent


I don't know about you, but I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.

We had an AMAZING Thanksgiving holiday.

Truly.

I could not have asked for ANYTHING more (other than for my Daddy and brother to have been with us in more than just spirit).

The family and friends were perfect.
  The food was delicious.
    The laughter was beautiful.
      The joy was contagious.
        The traffic was bearable.
          Everyone made it home safely.

But, now it is back to reality.

Of course, this new reality is an Advent reality, which is SO much better than the usual reality you come back to after a vacation!

Yes, there is laundry to do and there are suitcases to unpack and groceries to buy.

    But, there is also CHRISTMAS to get ready for.

That makes everything better.

I thought I'd share some of our plans for this Advent season in case you need inspiration for your own home. We've already begun to celebrate a few of these around here and the rest will be in full swing come this weekend when we can get all of our decorations out. This list is all that we have planned this month with ideas for how you can do it, too. Read it, enjoy it, make it your own. Whatever you do, do not get stressed out by the list. Just do what YOUR family enjoys doing. This is what WE have going on ...

***********
 
The first thing you should do is begin (if you don't already do this) lighting a seasonal smelly candle each morning and as you enter each room. I have candles in "mulled cider" and "gingerbread cookies" and "baking spices" and "pumpkin spice" and things of that nature. As soon as I get my tea in the morning, I light the one closest to me for my quiet time. When I leave that room and enter the kitchen, I blow that one out and light the one in the kitchen. It keeps the home smelling lovely and makes it cozy, warm and inviting. And, whenever you notice the flicker, say a small prayer for PEACE ... peace in your home, peace in your heart and peace in the world.

Next, go ahead and get that Christmas music playing in your home and car. Will it make you crazy after an entire month of it? Maybe. But, your kids will love it and it will get you in the right spirit, even if it IS 75 degrees and sunny where you live. If you don't have any Christmas CDs, borrow some from the library or play one of the Christmas stations on Pandora or the like.

We have already started reading from our massive list of Christmas books (I will do my best to share some of our favorites later in the season, but you can look in the archives for what we read last year). We have not yet gotten out our Christmas boxes (where all the books we OWN are), but I made sure to request about 20 of our favorites from the library before we went out of town for Thanksgiving, so they were waiting on us when we returned. Then, when we got back, I requested about 20 more that are slowly trickling in at the library. Simply place them in a basket in the living room and GET TO READING ALOUD to your children. Morning couch time is perfect for this. Sleep still in the children's eyes, bedhead and pjs make for good listeners. Get them to cuddle up on the couch under a blanket right away (with that seasonal candle burning on the table next to you) and read a few books to them before chores and breakfast. Then, even if the day gets away from you, you've done this one special thing already. Read about the Nativity story, read inspiring stories about love and generosity and peace. Stick to the GOOD stuff and keep your eyes on the "reason for the season" here.

Listen to some Christmas stories on audio at places like www.thestoryhome.com. We've already been listening to them.
 
Devote your morning Quiet time to Jesus. I mean, that's basically what you do anyway, but I mean REALLY put your focus on Him and His message this season.
 
Have a meeting with your children to figure out exactly what all you plan to make for gifts for family and make a list of supplies needed. Then, get to the craft store and GET TO MAKING those gifts! The time to ship them is right around the corner! I don't know about your homeschool, but making gifts and reading Christmas books and baking Christmas goodies and listening to Christmas music and doing all the things of the season is our "school" during this time. So, during that block of time you would normally be doing school, MAKE GIFTS.

Get four candles, some greenery and a larger pillar candle for the Christ candle and set up an Advent wreath or similar for your kitchen/dining room table. Make this with your children (if they are old enough and able) and begin to light the candle(s) at dinner each night. Light one candle this week, two candles next week, three the week after and four candles the final week. Save the center candle for Christmas, in honor of Christ.

Get a special stocking and some scrap pieces of paper and pens. Hang this "Jesus stocking" on the mantle (or whatever you have in your home) all alone so that it is special (save the other family stockings for Christmas eve). Each day, write something you are thankful for and place it in the stocking. Then, on Christmas eve or Christmas day, take the stocking down and read what all the family members placed inside all month.

Get to baking. Bake Christmas cookies and yummy bread and other sweet treats and give them to your elderly (or not) neighbors. The children will love the baking itself and the neighbors will feel loved when your children's smiling faces bring them goodies!

Get your tree and your decorations and get to decorating. Play that Christmas music as you and your children bring life to the home. Drink eggnog with freshly grated nutmeg while you decorate. Drink hot cocoa (add some Bailey's for the grown ups if you're into that sort of thing). Go ahead and bake some goodies just for the family.

Don't forget to do your oranges with cloves! The activity is fun for the family and the results are beautiful and smell amazing.

Read books about the real Saint Nicholas. Have your children set their shoes out on the eve of St. Nicholas Day (December 6th, so set them out on the night of the 5th) and then fill their shoes with treats while they sleep.

Get your hands on a catalog from Samaritan's Purse or something similar. Give your children a "budget" and allow them to pick out a gift (or more if you are financially able) for a family or child around the world. If they want to, they can pool their money together to get something "bigger" for someone, or they can use their own amounts to get smaller gifts. Either way, they are learning that Christmas is about GIVING, not about receiving. And, they are learning to appreciate all that they have ~ they can ask for the latest gadget for Christmas instead of a mosquito net to protect them from malaria or for a pair of shoes because they don't have any.

Find a production of The Nutcracker Ballet in your area and go. We are going to see the Nutcracker ballet with our homeschool group for the second year in a row and we are super excited about it. While you're at it, make Tchaikovsky your "composer" this month and listen to him and the Nutcracker at home. The ballet is much more enjoyable for little ones when they recognize all of the songs.

Find out when your town's Christmas Tree Lighting celebration is and go. Ours includes a bike parade, music and dance performances, hayrides, train rides, face painting, craft tables and more. Unfortunately, Daddy has to work that day, but we will hopefully make it over in time for Santa and Mrs. Claus to arrive via sleigh and watch as the community tree is lit. We went to the entire celebration last year and it was lots of fun. We'll be heading out to get our own tree after Santa's arrival and the community tree lighting this year.
 
Find a live Nativity or a live walk through Bethlehem in your area and go. We have the coolest live Bethlehem nearby that we went to last year and look forward to going to again this year. We get to go to an 8,000 square foot village with merchants, townspeople, artisans, beggars and live animals. There are over 200 costumed cast members that re-create the city of Bethlehem as it might have been on the night of Jesus' birth. There are authentic sights, sounds and smells and we get to walk through and make our way to the manger to see the Christ Child. Seriously awesome! We can't wait.

We will also be attending an Advent Spiral with friends. In this busy season, the Advent spiral is a time to slow down and reconnect with our souls and our inner selves. We will be sharing a meal with friends and the children will be lighting candles around the spiral, reminding us to be a light in the world. The oldest girl will get to be St. Lucia. It is a fun evening, full of both laughter and a quiet reverence. We really enjoyed it last year and look forward to it again.

Don't forget to take a night and go out and enjoy all of the Christmas lights! We love driving around and seeing what all people have done to make their homes beautiful during this time of year.

The last few years we have baked cookies and went out on Christmas eve searching for homeless people to bless. Two years ago we brought along several warm blankets and sweatshirts and socks and delivered all kinds of warmth (of the physical kind as well as the spiritual) to those in need. Last year, we did not have any blankets or clothes, but we still baked the cookies and took them out and delivered them wherever we could find people in need. I cannot tell you the joy on these people's faces to know that someone thought of them during this busy season. And, sharing this with our children is priceless. We will be doing this again this year, but we may get some more blankets and sweatshirts at the thrift store before we head out. We love this tradition.
 
Bake a birthday cake for Jesus and let your children make Him birthday cards to set out on Christmas eve. The card idea comes from the Princess. She wants to make Jesus a card and leave it out for the Angels to take it to Him (her words). I suggested we leave out His card and His cake on Christmas eve and maybe He and Santa could eat cake and cookies together and laugh and be joyful in our kitchen. She liked that idea.

Of course, in OUR family, these celebrations also include a day devoted to the Hippie. Her birthday is two days before Christmas, so we'll be honoring her as well this season. Decorations will greet her when she wakes up, gifts, family breakfast, a family outing (whatever she wants to do) and a family dinner out.

And, finally .... Christmas morning.

I was going to leave you with a few pictures from last year's Christmas celebrations, but apparently I have reached my storage limit and have to purchase additional photo storage space??? I'll have to check into that. In the meantime, I guess this is a photo-free post.

Enjoy.

 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A few wise words for a peaceful holiday

The girls at Thanksgiving 2010 ~ My two daughters and my brother's two daughters

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. From what I understand, it is one of the most traveled holidays of the year, if not THE most traveled holiday. That tells me that there will be a lot of people sharing space with family ~ with siblings and parents and in-laws.

Now, that can mean one of two things.

It can be a beautiful thing. A time of love and kindness and peace. A time of memory-making and joy.

Or, in many cases, I'm afraid, it can be a stressful thing. A time of dealing with family members that get under your skin. A time of biting your tongue as comments are made.

Even the most amazing and beautiful families on the block have conflict. It is a normal part of life and family culture.

But, that doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful holiday celebration with your family. The holidays can still be a time of love and peace and kindness. Memories can still be made with all of those perfect little children. Joy can still be at the center of your celebrations.

Cousins ... PURE JOY!



Here are a few thoughts to get you through the upcoming holiday season.

"Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless." ~ James 1:26

I said, “I will watch my ways
    and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
    while in the presence of the wicked.” 
~ Psalm 39:1


No sinful word, nor deed of wrong,
  Nor thoughts that idly rove;
But simple truth be on our tongue,
  And in our hearts be love.  ~ St. Ambrose

Let us all resolve, - First, to attain the grace of silence; Second, to deem all FAULT-FINDING that does no good a SIN, and to resolve, when we are happy ourselves, not to poison the atmosphere for our neighbours by calling on them to remark every painful and disagreeable feature of their daily life; Third, to practise the grace and virtue of PRAISE.  ~ Harriet B. Stowe

Surrounded by those who constantly exhibit defects of character and conduct, if we yield to a complaining and impatient spirit, we shall mar our own peace without having the satisfaction of benefiting others.  ~ T.C. Upham

***

In a nutshell, the message is to keep LOVE in our hearts and on our tongues, even and especially for those who trouble us the most.

Jesus taught us to LOVE our neighbors. He taught us to "turn the other cheek". Let us apply that same philosophy to our words. If someone in your family gets under your skin this week, simply smile. Love them and pray that God will give them the peace and happiness that they deserve.

If there is someone in your family that gives you particular difficulty in this area, start praying for them now. Each and every morning in your quiet time with God, pray for the person who tests your righteous behavior the most. Pray that they are blessed. Pray for peace and happiness to find its way into his or her heart. Pray for that person to find whatever it is that they need in order to become a shining light for the glory of God.

And, then pray for your own resolve to maintain what you know to be right and good, even in the face of adversity.

These simple steps along with some great food, the laughter of children and an attitude of THANKFULNESS will get you on your way to a beautiful holiday. Remember to GIVE THANKS for all that He has blessed you with, including that amazing family that can drive you a little bonkers sometimes.

The girls GIVING THANKS

:)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

October 2012 ~ Homeschool Rewind


Family Read Alouds:

GOD:
  • Wisdom and the Millers, chapters 18-19
  • David and Goliath, Tomie DePaola's Book of Bible Stories
  • The Fall of Jericho, Tomie DePaola's Book of Bible Stories
  • The Light of the World, Katherine Paterson
  • The Good Samaritan from Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions
  • The 23rd Psalm from the King James Bible, Michael Hague
  • The Legend of St. Christopher, Margaret Hodges
NATURE/SCIENCE:
  • The Gift of the Tree, Alvin Tresselt
  • Miss Suzy, Miriam Young
  • A Tree is Nice, Janice Udry
  • The Pumpkin Book, Gail Gibbons ~ Life cycle of a pumpkin 
HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES:
  • Saint George and the Dragon, Margaret Hodges
  • Paul Bunyan from The Treasury of Children's Literature
  • Robert E. Lee and the Wounded Soldier from The Child's Book of America
  • Our Island Story, chapters 1 & 2
  • The Sword of Damocles from 50 Famous Stories Retold
LITERATURE:
  • Jack and the Beanstalk from The Red Fairy Book
  • Rapunzel from The Red Fairy Book
  • Sleeping Beauty in the Wood from The Blue Fairy Book
  • East o the Sun and West o the Moon from The Blue Fairy Book 
  • The Nettle Spinner from The Red Fairy Book
  • Bambi, Felix Salten, chapters 1-4
  • The Last Little Cat, Meindert DeJong
  • Tatterhood from Tatterhood and Other Tales, Ethel Phelps 
  • Festival of Stones, chapters 1-6 
  • Hansel and Gretel from The Treasury of Children's Literature
POETRY:
  • Read lots of poems from Favorite Poems Old and New and Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young
AUDIO: 
  • Sparkle Stories "The Story of the First Jack-0-Lantern"
  • Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, chapter 1
  • Tilly Witch (Your Story Home)
  • The Luckiest Ghost (Your Story Home)
  • The Halloween Candy Nightmare (Your Story Home)
  • The Halloween of Edgar Poe (Your Story Home)

The Three Rs:

THE PRINCESS:
Ch and Sh phonics, created a page in her Main Lesson Book
Copywork in print many times, from books we read
Wrote a thank-you card
English for the Thoughtful Child, lessons 1 and 2 orally
Read aloud to me from Harriet Treadwell Reader for 10 minutes several times (finished the First Reader)
Read aloud to me Amanda Pig
Read silently: 
  • Prairie Friends, Nancy Levinson
  • Chicken Soup with Rice, Maurice Sendak
  • In a Dark, Dark Room and other Scary Stories, Alvin Schwartz
  • Lionel in the Fall, Stephen Krensky
  • The Lad and the North Wind, Treadwell Reader
  • Black Beauty and the Thunderstorm, Susan Hill
  • Clara and the Bookwagon, Nancy Levinson
  • Horse, Malachy Doyle
  • Going to Sleep on the Farm, Wendy Lewison
  • A Little Prairie House, adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • A Little House Birthday, adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Amanda Pig and the Awful, Scary Monster, Jean Leeuwen
  • Tales of Amanda Pig, Jean Leeuwen
  • Mama Don't Allow, Thacher Hurd
  • Mythical Creatures "Dragons", Charlotte Guillain
  • No More Monsters for Me, Peggy Parish
  • Doctor DoLittle's Great Adventure, Hugh Lofting 
THE HIPPIE: 
Completed 4 lessons in Math U See
Copywork in cursive several times from books we read
Dictation from The Last Little Cat
Written Narration of The Dog and His Shadow
Wrote a thank-you card, addressed envelope and mailed
Typing several times
English for the Thoughtful Child, Lessons 1-11
Lots of storytelling to us
Read: 
  • Freckle Juice, Judy Blume
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Judy Blume
  • Bard of Avon, Diane Stanley and narrated
  • How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell
  • Half of Phantom Tollbooth (decided not to finish at this time)
  • Started Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims and narrated (finished in November) 

MATH TOGETHER:
  • Playing UNO
  • Connect the dots
  • Squirrels collecting acorns ~ adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing
  • Squirrel problems ~ moved from horizontal to vertical
  • Lots of practice problems in all four processes
  • Counting by 2s, 5s and 10s
  • Clapped 2s, 5s and 10s times tables

Other Family Subjects:

MUSIC:  Mozart ~ We listened to Masters of Classical Music, Mozart every morning.

MEMORY:  Come Little Leaves by George Cooper ~ Both girls memorized this long poem and recited it beautifully.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE: German ~ We listened to several lessons multiple times, all on audio. These are mostly songs and games and the girls LOVE it.

SCIENCE & NATURE:
  • Zoo Field Trip as a family ~ fall is a WONDERFUL time to go!
  • Nature Study with Daddy at the beach
  • Two Nature Walks in our neighborhood
  • Collected fall items
  • Collected acorns for Squirrel math
  • Observed squirrels in our yard as well as birds
  • Mythbusters
SOCIAL STUDIES & HISTORY:
  • Fort Caroline National Monument ~ learned about Timicuan Native Americans and French occupation of our area
  • Watched 3 episodes of Liberty's Kids
HOME LIFE SKILLS:
  • Baked pumpkin muffins together
  • Cooked pumpkin soup together
  • Costume making
  • Learned to shuffle cards
  • The Princess made birds out of fuzzy sticks.
  • The Hippie made masks for a party.
  • Several other self-directed crafts and handwork projects
ENRICHMENT:
  • Created ALL ABOUT ME pages
  • Pumpkin patch
  • Pumpkin carving
  • Spookle party created by Hippie, enjoyed by family
  • Surfing lessons with Daddy 
FIELD TRIPS & OUTINGS:
  • Corn Maze field trip
  • Park Day with friends
  • Downtown Art Walk ~ lots of "lessons" by talking to the artists and asking tons of questions
  • Sea and Sky Spectacular Air Show 
  • Several library trips
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