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.


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 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.



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.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

October 2012 ~ Homeschool Rewind

Family Read Alouds:

  • 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
  • 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 
  • 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
  • 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
  • Read lots of poems from Favorite Poems Old and New and Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young
  • 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:

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 
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
  • 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) 

  • 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.

  • 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
  • Fort Caroline National Monument ~ learned about Timicuan Native Americans and French occupation of our area
  • Watched 3 episodes of Liberty's Kids
  • 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
  • Created ALL ABOUT ME pages
  • Pumpkin patch
  • Pumpkin carving
  • Spookle party created by Hippie, enjoyed by family
  • Surfing lessons with Daddy 
  • 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

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On Daddies, MacGyver and Halloween

Left ~ my Daddy, my brother and I in 1988 ... Right ~ my brother and I in about 1991 or so

They say that we marry our parents. Guys tend to marry their Mamas and girls tend to marry their Papas. Who knows why. Maybe it is the fact that our opposite-sex parent is the only model we've seen for what a man (or woman) should be. Maybe Freud was onto something with is Oedipus complex theorizing. Maybe we just love our Daddies and want to be with them forever.

In my case, maybe it is because my Daddy taught me how much I was worth and to never settle for anything less than someone who treated me like a Queen.

Why is unimportant to me.

But, I know that it is true. I most certainly married my Daddy.

And, when you lose your Daddy early on to the Man upstairs, it means even more to watch as your husband reminds you more and more of your Daddy every day.

I always knew I married my Daddy as far as HEART.

My Daddy had the biggest heart, especially for the animals, the young and the old. So does my husband.

My Daddy was a good man. So is my husband.

My Daddy loved God. So does my husband.

My Daddy cared about the less fortunate and did whatever he could to help them. So does my husband.

My Daddy was a hard worker. So is my husband.

My Daddy loved his family more than anything else on the planet. So does my husband.

My Daddy loved and respected his own Mama. So does my husband (always a good sign in a man, by the way ~ one that loves his Mama!).

There was never any doubt that my Daddy loved me, not even for a tenth of a second. The same is true for my husband and his daughters.

My Daddy loved my Mama something fierce ... and my husband loves me the same.

I could go on about the good, the love, the respect, the big heart. I was lucky enough to find all the best things about my Daddy right there in the man I chose to spend my life with.

Now, we are parents and I get to see the other things that remind me of my Daddy. The craftiness. The creativity. The fun. The playful spirit.

My Daddy was the master at Halloween. It didn't matter what my brother or I wanted to be, my Daddy could put it together on they fly out of whatever was lying around. The MacGyver of Halloween  costumes. No store-bought costumes for us. We didn't need them.

Well, wouldn't you know it. The man I married fits the bill once again.

We are poor. We can't afford to go out and just buy whatever our kids want. And, this Momma is NOT a crafty Momma. I can teach the math and the grammar and bake and cook, but when they want to learn to sew or do anything hands-on, Daddy's their go-to person. I'm okay with that, really.

This year, the Princess wanted to be Toothless (the black night fury dragon from How to Train Your Dragon) and the Hippie wanted to be .... a Hippie.

As of 1:00pm Sunday, October 28th, we had zero. We hadn't started at all on our costumes. And, Daddy works every day, almost 12 hours a day. Works hard.

Well, we set up shop in front of the football games on Sunday and my husband proceeded to first carve both pumpkins (beautifully, I might add). Then, at the point when this Momma would have been over it, he moved on to costume-making. All he was able to get to in our waking hours was starting on the Hippie's bell-bottoms (he slit the bottom of the jeans and hand-sewed "peace" fabric into each leg to turn them into bell-bottoms). He worked on one leg diligently while we watched football, then we had dinner, got the girls to bed and hung out a bit ourselves.

After I went to bed, he started the magic-making.

Each day this week, he worked hard. He worked for 11-12 hours at work, hand-sewing bell bottoms on his lunch break. He would then come home, be Daddy and Husband for a few hours and then after I went to bed, he would make magic with cardboard, a knife and some Elmer's glue. He made the best Toothless costume ever. He hand-crafted the wings with skeleton. He hand-crafted an amazing tail with skeleton. He painted it all black, except for the part that was supposed to be red. And, the icing on the cake. When we realized that the Princess owns no black shoes and Momma was ready to say "So what, wear tennis shoes", Daddy pulled through again. He put his black work socks on OVER her tennis shoes so that nothing showed but black. Genius.

I cannot begin to do it justice with my words or even with my camera. All I know is that almost every house we went to last night said it was the best costume they'd seen all night.

My husband and my Daddy, MacGyvers of Halloween costumes.

Just one more thing they have in common.

I miss my Daddy so much.

So much it hurts.

I really wish I could share my children with him. I really wish I could share HIM with my children.

I wish I could share him with ME.

I miss him.

But, it is nice to see pieces of him (the best pieces of him) in my husband each day.

Makes me love them both even more.

How blessed I am to have had these two men in my life!

Sisterly love

Only the cutest little girls on the planet!

I am immeasurably blessed!

So beautiful.

Helping Daddy get the wings on her little sister.
Putting his work socks over her shoes

The Hippie and the Dragon

Having fun before we go ... Run , Hippie, Run! There's a dragon after you!
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