Here's the closing paragraph of an email she sent us today:
"One of the miracles of Christmas and all spiritual holidays is that whether we are prepared or not, none of us is denied the wonderful blessings that go with this time of year. The celebration does not depend on candy canes and plum pudding. You don't have to be organized to sing Christmas carols or offer gifts of love and companionship. Understanding can't be stuffed into a Christmas stocking. Forgiveness can't be charged on a Visa. Laughter cannot be gift-wrapped. Peace can't be strung on a tree or poured into a glass of holiday cheer. Forgiveness, understanding, laughter, and peace are not dependent upon decorations, feasts or even a certain time of year. These things are gifts of the Spirit; gifts that have already been given to every one of us. Join together like the grasshopper and the ants. Share the gifts of the Spirit and celebrate this holy time."
~ House Fairy
First: I didn't mention that our evening (from about 6-9) was not long enough to complete all of those activities all the way through. We wanted to experience all of the 3 new gifts, and basically followed the attention spans of the kids. Just didn't want anyone to set out for an 18-hour marathon familynight...... smiles
Second: The cookies were over-baked. The supper was simple. The dishes waited until the next morning. The packing wasn't finished. Didn't fuss over the girls' hair to impress anyone. I just let them be kids. No superwoman stuff involved. "Supermom" is a sure way to kill a family night.
I've just been thinking a lot about traditions and blogging and stuff. Sometimes, in my weaker moments, I become a little discouraged when I read blogs and start comparing. I start questioning myself, wondering if I'm really doing a good job and if I'm getting it together okay. And the absolute LAST thing I want to do is to make someone feel that way from reading one of our crazy traditions. But as I thought about it, I realized that this is just the way I do mommying. Some of our "traditions" fall flat on their faces or fizzle out and become "remember whens." That's okay. We do what we love. We figure out what sticks. We're having fun experimenting.
I absolutely love finding new resources and plans and books and ideas. But you know what? My mom was an incredible fly-by-the-seat-of-her-skirt parent. She had special devotion times and trips to the library, but she did it in a different way than I. And our family has memory cords that tie us forever together. My siblings are my best friends. My big strapping baby brother worries about me and takes care of me. Our faith runs deep and we are hungry for more. THAT'S what I want for my kids. And it's not because my mom was supermom. She just parented the way she did it best - what came natural to her. There's no mommy prize for "most activities in a year". It's about being together and being happy parents while we train our kids. (Dads - you're such a huge part of this! I'm so thankful for a husband who gets down on the floor and gets involved.)
Now I'm so excited about this idea, that we all bring the best of ourselves to our parenting. We all do it differently, and that's very good.
The the kids opened their 3 advent gifts (a Chrismas game, Advent crafts and a Christmas book - all by Family Man.) Let me stop here to say that we have noticed that if we wait until after all of the family Christmas gatherings to have our own family Christmas, it's a bit of a downer. The kids get so many gifts they're almost gifted out. So we decided to go light on the gifts, and put a little more into Advent. I'm also noticing the danger of our kids getting so used to recieving things that they lose the wonder of it. So we're actually considering in the future making our first Advent gathering our own little Christmas. To spread out the gifting a little.
Fry - who jabbered happily in Spanish through the whole meal.
Caiden loves to eat.
It was Tami and Davin's Anniversary - with a delicious strawberry-layered "tres leches" cake made by Lupe.
Thursday night, the Kids and I and Nelda traveled to Cincy to spend Friday with my family. My brother and his wife have been living in Pennsylvania temporarily while he is in charge of a huge construction site there. They got to be home for Thanksgiving and we didn't want to miss it! I put the kids to bed and we headed out for the Night-time shopping at midnight. We came home, got some sleep and headed out again. I got almost all of my Christmas shopping done. It was a blast. Friday night the kids and I went to Scarlet Oaks Retirement Home to visit Great Grandma Wolf (93). She's there for rehab. We had a wonderful visit, but I think she was ready for her peace, quiet and dinner by the time we left.
It was a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Available through Family Life.
An incredible dramatization of the Thanksgiving story. We also love the CD of Thanksgiving music included. It is very mellow and appropriate for dinner music.
We have the CD version, but there is a book as well I'd like to get in the after-Thanksgiving sales.
I almost hate to mention this one, because I can't find it anywhere on the internet. It is a discontinued product from Family Life. Maybe they'll re-issue it one of these days. I like to check various sellers online occasionally to see if I can find it. It is a little treasure box containing a booklet/devotional about Thanksgiving with small "treasures" that illustrate the story. I found it in some used homeschooling stuff at a bookstore. Keep an eye out and let me know if you find it!
This year, I have worked on another project of my own. As I've listened to Christmas music early (as we usually do) I have wished so much for a good radio station or collection of Thanksgiving/Praise music. So I've started collecting my own to make a Thanksgiving CD. We like the $.88 cent Walmart Downloads. I'm excited about it, becuase I can include everything from Point of Grace to George Winston for just the right Thankful mix.
We also have a big beautiful red journal that we use at Thanksgiving. We record where we spent the special time and who was there. Then as we do our table tradition, we record what each person's thoughts. We have also passed the book around throughout the day and let each person write their own thoughts. What a treasure to have the great grandmas' praisings and blessings in their own handwriting!
Singing is a big part of our family table traditions. We often print out the songs or readings we'll be using for whoever might be visiting. We like like to quote the creed. Sometimes we give everyone a couple kernals of Indian corn. As we go around the table, each person gives the traditional "What I'm Thankful For" for each kernal.
Inside Out Thanksgiving
I'd like to figure out some new ways to turn Thanksgiving inside out: To take our Thankfulness, add some freshness to it (by teaching our children and ourselves to focus on even deeper blessings than a clothes, food and friends) and then to turn the blessing outward to others. One way we like to do this is to include all kinds of people at our table. I've also tried to focus for several weeks on having the girls daily verbalize their blessings. And we did a fun "ring the doorbell and run" blessing for some friends. But I'm still wanting some new ideas...I'd love to hear your ideas!
One of our favorite parts is letting each kid hang the special ornament from when the year they were born. We are also crazy about our "city" ornaments, a collection of gold skyline ornaments from the awesome cities we have visited over the years.
Hot chocolate and some kind of treat are essential parts of our evening, as well as Christmas music. One of our all-time favorites is the Angel Tree Christmas CD.
After the tree is up, we pull every blanket in the house, along with the kid's 3 matching sleeping bags, into the living room...turn off all but the Christmas lights...and sleep under the tree together.
It's an awesome tradition, but it's kindof like camping: there is a moment somewhere around bedtime when you wonder whyin the WORLD you thought this would be fun and why on EARTH you're not in your own snuggly beds.
But after that moment passed, another stronger one came when I turned around on the pallet so I could see all of the kids easier. Kayla and I ended up holding hands as we laid by the tree.
"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31
"Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow concerns of life are not ordained of God; they are as much of God as the profound. It is not your devotion to God that makes you refuse to be shallow, but your wish to impress other people with the fact that you are not shallow, which is a sure sign that you are a spiritual prig. Be careful of the production of contempt in yourself, it always comes along this line, and causes you to go about as a walking rebuke to other people because they are more shallow than you are. Beware of posing as a profound person; God became a Baby.
To be shallow is not a sign of being wicked, nor is shallowness a sign that there are no deeps: the ocean has a shore. The shallow amenities of life, eating and drinking, walking and talking, are all ordained by God. These are the things in which Our Lord lived. He lived in them as the Son of God, and He said that "the disciple is not above his Master."
Our safeguard is in the shallow things. We have to live the surface common-sense life in a common-sense way; when the deeper things come, God gives them to us apart from the shallow concerns. Never show the deeps to anyone but God. We are so abominably serious, so desperately interested in our own characters, that we refuse to behave like Christians in the shallow concerns of life.
Determinedly take no one seriously but God, and the first person you find you have to leave severely alone as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself."
But I'm back! I have my cookbook back, my radio back, my encyclopedia, dictionary, news, weather, directions, phone book, contacts and my FRIENDS!
And wonderful friends they are, I might add.
It's been a poopy diaper day, my husband is home on a Monday evening for a change, and I have a sprinkles cake to ice and a housefairy visit to make.....so I'll make this a short little happy hello post. But I have lots of fun stuff to post whenever I get the chance.
Of course, I've been talking to you all in my head all these long and lonely days without internet.
Problem: Nightly arguing over who's book gets to be read first during story time (Duh - of all the things to stress over. They don't know how good they have it.) They were also fussing over who gets to get out of their carseat first. I have THREE carseats to unbuckle, and don't need the extra stress.
Ideas: We now have a different "book leader" every day. This person gets to choose the first book to be read, they get to be first to get out of their carseat, they get to choose which video, they get to choose their favorite chair. Kindof like queen for the day. Also good practice for the other kid....they get to "serve" the other person every other day.
Problem: And ungrateful, negative attitude has just crept up in one of our kids.
Ideas:Memorizing together Scriptures on gratitude. (Parenting with Scripture and Teach them Diligently have already done the work.) Focus on thankfulness (isn't it great that this problem arose in November?) Child has to say one thing they're thankful for in the morning and evening. And of course, not getting the item which was grumbled over.
Problem: A kid prone to frequent carsickness
Ideas: Never brush her off again when she says she's feeling bad in the car! The handy-dandy handled tote conatining: A complete outfit, Plenty of wipes, A "sick" bag, Bags for dirty clothes and wipes, and odor eliminator. Oh yeah - and removal of the headrest from the seat in front of her to allow a better front view.
Problem: A new scedule involving 2 parents working outside the home and a daddy doing PhD work makes it tough to have time for dates and family nights.
Ideas: A committment to alternate weeks. Date one week, family night the next. And being willing to grab whatever time we have - a quick lunch, a short walk - and make it count.
Problem: An asthma kid who ends up in the ER a lot. The medical field's answer to chronic asthma? Steriods. Her nervous system does not handle steroids well (nor does her mother!)
Ideas: Made the committment to invest in herbs. Theydon't solve all problems, but seem to boost her system enough help get her through the attacks with regular nebulizer treatments.
Problem: Kids who do not play with toys that are piled in a toybox.
Ideas: Cheap organizer bins from Walmart. One for art supplies, one for baby dolls, one for animals, one for doctor stuff. The rule is, only 2 bins out at a time. Those must be cleaned up before getting out another. Since the bins are high on shelves, random or orphaned toys are put in a larger bin to be sorted into the smaller bins later.
Family time is something we have all grown to love. The kids beg for it. The main purpose is to spend quality time together as a family - with our full attention on one being together. Our long-term goal is to have built up strong familyties with the memories. And to have open lines of honest communication with our kids. We have found lots of wonderful resources for family nights - the absolute best being the Family Nights toolchest series by Heritage Builders. But recently, we're just happy if we can manage to have an evening with all of us together in the same room. So anything goes. Sometimes it's a well organized active devotional time. Sometimes it's just hot chocolate, a night walk and stories together.
Some recent family nights:
We pull our the "music box" and everyone grabs an instrument. We have tamborines, xylophones, microphones, drums, violins....you name it. The cacophony is atrocious, but off the charts on the kid fun meter.
*Visited our good friends to see their new Labrador puppies. Then went to Grandma and Grandpa's for grilled hamburgers and games by the fire.
Pros: The puppies were adorable. It was the perfect night for a fire and games. And Kayla came awfully close to beating her grandma AND dad in Uno!
Cons: A pretty late night for the kids. Caiden's not too good at Connect 4.
*Went to the mall with Grandma and Grandpa and then went to Pizza King.
Pros: Peaceful, unhurried evening at home - perfect for a houseful of sick kids and tired parents.
Cons: The caramel was too runny at first, and the evening was muted a little when one of the kids (who is having trouble with an ungrateful attitude lately) was unhappy with the homeade pizza.
Sorry, those of you who are irritated by sentimentality. But our household has its share of screaming, puking, fighting and stressful days. But it's a happy morning here. So I knew I'd better sit and blog quick before the peacefulness subsides.
I've been rather silent in blogosphere for awhile...I suppose I, for once in my life, made the good choice to keep my mouth shut when I had nothing valuable to say. Don't worry, it won't happen again.
I've been busy with some organizing projects around here which were desperately needed and have made my cluttered brain lose half its weight. Plus - my digital camera has been stranded in Cincinnati. I've felt a little lost without it. But it's back - Santa Clause brought me a bag of goodies from my mom yesterday.
I got a fun project done this morning - the scripture painted on Caiden's wall. His room is moon and stars. Thus the Scripture: "The Heavens declare the glory of God."
Hmm....what else? Not a whole lot. Been working at the school, trying to manage a home, and teaching lessons. I absolutely cannot believe we're already gearing up for our winter recital. I think this has been the fastest 6 months of my entire life. Seriously. Gone in a vapor of moving and working and settling into a new life.
I feel kinda sad - I missed all of the pumpkin patches this year. The first week of November, I was finally ready. I got out my paper of fall festivals in central Indiana and they had all ended on Oct. 31 - just 3 days too late.
So yesterday I got out my trusty brain (giant fridge calender) and penciled in some winter/Christmas fun stuff that I don't want to miss. Have you ever gotten to the other side of a Christmas season and realized that you never actually settled into it? Rushed past the fluffy snowflakes and crackling fires and sparkling lights and quiet dark Christmas tree living rooms? I have. But not this year. At 1,3,and 5 our kids are at stages that you simply cannot recapture later. So I have said no to some things (HARD for me to do, but getting easier), gotten rid of some things (truckloads, to be exact), and am planning some things. I ordered some exciting stuff yesterday for our Advent Sunday celebrations. Since I'm kindof a "resource junkie" I'll share some of those ideas later.
Hee hee...after I started this post, the baby woke up, drank all of Karissa's beloved coffee, joined us in the kitchen, choked twice on apples and peanut butter and spilled an entire bottle of frosty fingernail polish on the floor. Now I hear some screamage.... I'm off to rescue him. What a boy.