Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Happy December 1st!

We got our Christmas tree last weekend in the pouring down rain.  We were all fairly soaked by the time we found the perfect tree, but it was a fun family adventure nonetheless!  

Christmas-decorating in process, later that day:

When Mark pulls out our Christmas decor bins from the storage room, the kids are always clamoring to locate two things: our nativity, and our Christmas books!  We have quite a collection of Christmas picture books and they only come out one month out of the whole year.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Great Joy | Kate DiCamillo
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey | Susan Wojciechowski
Christmas Day in the Morning | Pearl S. Buck
The Gift of the Magi | O. Henry

Recuperating with crafts

My kids have been sick this past week, and on Sunday morning my sweet Audra (7) was not feeling well enough to go to church, so I got to stay at home with her.  We lit some candles, built a fire in the fireplace, made some tea, and listened to Ellie Holcomb.  I brought out some embroidery hoops, needles, thread and felt, and we sat side by side on the couch, crafting together while everyone else was at church.  It was quite delightful.

Audra embroidered her name and some flowers, and then she decided she wanted to make a pillow, so she whipped out a kitty on another piece of felt and sewed the pieces together, turned it inside out and stuffed it and then sewed it on up.  Cutie.  (It reminded me of learning to embroider with my Ella, years and years ago.) 

Apparently crafting is something we do when we're recovering from sickness, because it was when we were recovering from the stomach flu that we learned to finger-knit.

When the other kids got home from church, they wanted to try it, too (with the exception of Isaac).  I'm always amazed at how much time the kids will spend doing such handwork.  (I just had to stay somewhat nearby to thread needles and knot ends!)

This is what I came up with during our crafting session:


Update on life around these parts....

Hello, sweet friends~

Can you believe it's November?  Me neither.

Last week, with some of her free time, Ella raked up all the leaves in our yard just to get a big pile that she could jump in, and invite the other kids to jump in with her.  I love it.  It's one thing I appreciate so much about my kids-- they are easily impressed and they love the simple joys of life.

The last time I posted here it was all about how much I was struggling, and after that tough week, Mark encouraged me to take the following week off.  We did, and it was a good week.  We all went to the library and brought home stacks and stacks of new books and Mark and I even got to go on a date.  (We ended up running errands most of the time, but we did stop to have dinner and I love any time with just this guy.)

a goofy photo we took
We celebrated Isaac's 13th birthday with his yearly-requested homemade donuts, which everyone is always thrilled about.

And then I got sick :(.  (Sinus infection, achy, feverish, lots of sinus pressure.  It's been going on for over a week and I can't seem to shake it.)  Whenever we're sick, I figure God is sort of enforcing rest, and so I try to embrace it the best I can.  So this week has been a mellow week, too.  I've been trying to sleep in in the mornings (if I'm able) and have been leaving the kids to sort of fend for themselves for the first couple hours of each day, and we've done a light week of school.  I have been making meals but honestly, that's about it.

I'm going to close out this post with a list of snippets from my journal of things I'm thankful for.  I'm still working through that thousand-gifts list that I began so many years ago (thank you, Ann Voskamp) and even though I'm up into the six thousands by now, I don't think I'll ever stop.... 

6528 | date night
6530 | read-alouds
6531 | kind, helpful, attentive kids
6534 | our home
6536 | Adelia, this morning, thanking me for reminding her to set the table (which is her morning chore. And which she often forgets.)
6537 | Isaac, doing extra in the kitchen this morning
6542 | our fireplace
6550 | elderberry syrup
6555 | Mark playing a loooong game of Risk with the kids, which Audra (!) won after three hours.  (Three hours is a long time for a seven-year-old to be invested in a game!)
6560 | family movie night (We watched the Water Horse, after reading the book this week.  The movie was nothing like the book but the kids enjoyed both.)
6562 | Audra's sensitive spirit

Love to you all, 

When All the Little Things Become Ginormous Things

Hello, sweet friends~

I am thankful to be here in this space to share a bit tonight.  As I type, I'm sitting cross-legged on our bed, wearing leggings, a tank top and a cardigan, and listening to the sounds of Mark scrubbing away at the mildew that has appeared in our bedroom closet.

Mildew is just one of the delightful attributes of an old home.  I am generally quite fond of our house and all its character, but these past months have definitely sapped my affection for it, what with flooding in our basement, plumbing problems, more flooding in our basement, a broken dishwasher (that KEEPS breaking), a broken washing machine, and now this mildew.  SighThank you, God, for our home: for shelter, for warmth, for rooms and beds and running water and all the life and love that resides within these walls. 

Last week was a difficult one.  I PMS'd hard.  Worse than ever.  It was fairly awful.  And I was a total wreck.  I spent a good deal of time sobbing.  And when I wasn't crying, I was angry and irritable and more yelly than usual.  I just didn't really LIKE anyone last week.  All the little things that I can usually just shrug off or don't actually even notice became Ginormous Things That Must Be Addressed This Very Second, and every single thing seemed so overwhelming and burdensome.  What I need during these times (space, quiet, rest, time with Jesus, time with Mark) were hard to come by and that made it so much more difficult.

My poor family.  Really.  I was such a mess.  Mark is the most supportive, loving, tender, gentle, patient husband.  He just waits out the storm, patiently listening to me vent and sob and tell him all the things wrong in our marriage, house, family, children, parenting, schedule, schooling, etc.  You name it, I covered it.  Completely.  And with MUCH drama.

One morning I was feeling overwhelmed because I'd been dealing with a discipline issue with one of the kids throughout much of our morning.  I was emotional and exhausted and it was only breakfast time.  Four of my kids were waiting at the table to eat and for me to start our morning time.  I walked out to the kitchen with a heavy heart, feeling so fragile and on the verge of tears.  I looked at our Morning Time list and it truly felt impossible to speak, let alone cheerily start our day with singing and poems and whatever else was on our list.  I just couldn't.

So I began by praying over our day, and of course that made the tears spill over and it was a good thing-- just thanking God for His mercy and asking Him to help me BE merciful with this particular child; and praying for wisdom and guidance for our day.  When we finished praying I still couldn't fathom going through our regular Morning Time routine, so I asked the kids if they would like to share with me what they'd been reading in their Bibles lately; what God had been speaking to their hearts or what they had been learning or what had stood out to them during their readings.  (I was happy just to get them talking so I could collect myself and not have to facilitate.)  For the next several minutes God ministered to my heart so sweetly through the words of my kids.  Each of them shared about what they'd been reading, and I later realized that that was exactly what my heart needed.  And how dear is it that encouragement came through the mouths of my kids?  I'm just so thankful for this season of life with them, for their sure faith and the growth I get to see in them.

Other highlights of the week: Getting outside with the kids-- on our nature study walk, and reveling in the beauty of fall around us.  And another day when I was able to get out by myself on a trail and ended up crying out to Jesus pretty much the whole walk.  And a hot bath one night where I read a few Psalms and let the truth of God's word wash over me.

I am so thankful to put last week behind us.  Mark has wisely decided that THIS week we will take the week off school, and I am so looking forward to it, and also needing that.  We're going to rest, sit in front of the fire and do lots of reading aloud, hit the library and bring home new books to cozy up around, meet up with friends to play, celebrate a birthday here (Isaac! 13!) and love well after a week of struggle.

Blessings to you, sweet friends.  Now please hit me with all your best how-to-handle-PMS tips.  If that becomes the new normal, we may have to take one week off every MONTH just to survive. Or maybe I just need to move out for a few days each month?  ;)

Poetry and Painting

Autumn Leaves
by Angelina Wray

In the hush and the lonely silence
Of the chill October night,
Some wizard has worked his magic
With fairy fingers light.

The leaves of the sturdy oak trees
Are splendid with crimson and red.
And the golden flags of the maple
Are fluttering overhead.

Through the tangle of faded grasses
There are trailing vines ablaze,
And the glory of warmth and color
Gleams through the autumn haze.

Like banners of marching armies
That farther and farther go;
Down the winding roads and valleys
The boughs of the sumacs glow.

So open your eyes, little children,
And open your hearts as well,
Till the charm of the bright October
Shall fold you in its spell.

Random Photos & This Week's Meal Plan *UPDATED*

*UPDATED to add the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin recipe and a link to my (well, my mom's) lasagna recipe (see the very bottom of the post for the lasagna link.)  :)  It's delicious!

Hm.  Hesitating to post this at all, because these photos appear blurry, yet they weren't so on my phone.  Sorry.  

Pumpkin muffins with cream cheese are the kids' favorite muffins so far this season. This past weekend I tried two varieties, and you can see what their new favorite appears to be:

Regular on the left, and chocolate chips added to the right.  We began with twelve of each.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or more if you prefer)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
8 T butter (I actually used 1/2 cup of applesauce and 4 T melted butter)

Then take about 4 oz of cream cheese and in a bit of sugar (maybe up to a Tablespoon?).  Optional: If you want to add chocolate chips, add them to the cream cheese mixture.

Fill the bottom of the (greased or paper) muffin cups with a heaping spoonful of the batter, then add a dollup of cream cheese mixture, then add another spoonful of the batter to sandwich in the cream cheese mixture.  Bake at 350 for 15-18 min. 

And this is what our window box looks like this season:

I discovered these small pie pumpkins at the grocery store for a little over a dollar apiece, so I brought five home and set them on the table with sharpie markers and this note: 

Preparing dinner for tonight, which was Pumpkin Chili. I tweaked the original recipe a bit, omitting the green chilies and one can of tomatoes and opting for more pumpkin and some beef broth.  It was very good!

And here's our meal plan for the rest of this week:

*My recipe for lasagna is in an older post called Sauces!

Evaluating our School Year | Science

This post is part of a series I'm doing as a way to evaluate our school year. I am covering each subject, describing what we did; what worked for us and what didn't work; and detailing any changes I plan to make. I find this process so helpful as I finish out our year and before I begin to plan for our next year.  (I realize many of you have started school already and are beyond this point, as am I, but it's taken me longer than I thought to finish this series, and I'm determined to finish!)

Um, it would be laughable to have a whole post devoted to this topic, because-- science?  

It's just not my thing.  At all. 

We sort of dabble in science.  I have purchased some Actual Science Books in the past and they were dry and long and boring and I hated them and felt like we were going through the motions but not actually learning anything.  So I stopped reading from them. 

I'm actually embarrassed to tell you this, because, yes, this is ALL WE DID, but here goes:

We read Holling C Holling's Pagoo, which is the story of a hermit crab.  It's listed in one of Ambleside's earlier years (Year 3, maybe?), but we'd never read it before and we already owned it, so  we read it once a week and the kids drew while I read.

We also tried some (three) science experiments I found by perusing Pinterest, and I made up some observation sheets for the kids to fill out regarding the experiments.

Other than that?  We have discussions about things around the table, we read books and occasionally may watch a video or video clip about something.  And that's all, folks.  Period. 

The kids all want to do more experiments.  So we will try to do that when I have time someday to find some more.  ;)  We are doing another read-aloud on the weather, and the kids will do written narrations on that.