december daily, part two…days 1-14

A little peek at where my December Daily album has gone on this Christmas Eve…

I love it, even though it’s becoming a bit of a stylistic mess, I need bigger binder rings and I’m sort of regretting the odd size I chose. Lots of thoughts for next year that I need to sit down and make notes about before I forget them all!

The base of my album is the paper bag cardstock from Hobby Lobby (which I might love even more than my beloved Bazzill kraft). The papers, embellishments and alphabets are a huge mish mash I pulled from my stash – all at least a year or more old…and it feels nice to get it used up!

The little tags in the pocket still need to be filled out by hubby and the kids…The pictures on the 11th and 12th were all taken on the 11th, but there were so many I spread them a bit…I’ll add photos of the rest of our new ornaments as we get them…And then it started to change a bit….

It’s becoming more of a hybrid project the further we get into December, mainly because I have more pictures I want to use. Definitely something to keep in mind for next year – I might do a digital base with paper embellishments.

I’m actually caught up as of yesterday with photos – just waiting until the 26th to send them all in to get printed in a big batch.

I’ll share the rest when they’re done next week~

December Daily, part one

I’ve been talking about doing a December Daily album for the past few years, but just haven’t been able to pull one together in time.

This past weekend, I grabbed a pile of Christmas-ish scrapbook supplies, made a gigantic mess and got started.

Not sure what a December Daily is? Ali Edwards has gobs of blog posts and info, but basically: it’s a daily scrapbook for the month of December.

I tend to be absolutely horrible at scrapping the holidays, and I’m hoping this helps. I’ve also been going through a bit of a scrap-drought, but have been really feeling the urge to play with paper and glue lately.

My main goal was to keep it simple, and I think I did that. I did make a master list of about 20 of our holiday traditions and events I want to capture: chocolate advent calendars, celebrations at different family member’s homes, St. Nicholas Day on the 6th, making cookies, annual ornaments, decorating the church and on and on. I’m half an hour from my Costco, so I’m planning to label each day’s photo with the date, figure out where it will go on the page with a place-holder and will *hopefully* be able to keep up with journaling on a daily basis. I’ve also got a basket of odds and ends to finish pages off with that I’m keeping with the album.

 

And some of the inside pages:

Christmas Ponderings…

Candle with frame 

While I was eating my lunch today, I stumbled across this post on Coffee, Tea, Books and Me (a favorite blog) that I know I've read at least once before and felt a nudge.

Side note – eating lunch at the computer is one of my most horrible habits…as evidenced by the bit of risotto stuck on my space bar at the moment.

Christmas this year has left me feeling a bit ponderish.  How best to celebrate in times of uncertainty…in the face of an income that is about to be slashed significantly…when we're feeling a bit spiritually abused…when in so many ways, it's been a year of diminishing. 

Somehow, I've come to conclusion through all of this that diminishing isn't necessarily bad.  It distills who we are and can strengthen not only our faith, but our primary relationships.

While we are in seasons of diminishing, we can discover what is of the truest importance and value.

And focus on that which is most crucial.

My heart for Christmas this year is that it would be similar – focused on He who is of the truest value and most crucial in our lives.

This year, we'll celebrate Advent again.  If I could encourage you to add one thing to your Christmas celebration, it would be to observe the Advent season as a family and as the church body.  The richness this simple observance has added to our holidays has been immeasurable.  It gives us a moment each week as a family to come together and to truly focus on Christ during this harried season, and it gives us an opportunity to connect to the ancient roots of our faith.  As followers of Jesus, we celebrate a tradition that reaches back in time over two thousand years and the fact that we -  here, today, in 2010 - can continue that chain of belief and celebration is incredible and shouldn't be cast away lightly.  

I think perhaps the saddest fact about the holidays is that as we lead up to the celebration of Christ's birth, our lives become a whirlwind of busyness and chaos.  Celebrating Advent gives us an opportunity to come together and prepare our hearts for His birth.

This year, we're downsizing the spending.  We'll be buying for our children only.  I'm going to give Christmas cards the year off, perhaps sending them later in the year when our lives are more settled.  Grandma Fee will be joining us for several weeks, and we'll host friends for dinner on Christmas Day.  We'll bake lebkucken (once I figure out how to do it gluten-free) and make fudge, and seek ways to continually celebrate the season in ways that glorify God and transforms culture.

We need it because so much in our culture tells us that our lives should be built around
our jobs, our purchasing power, our frantic schedules.
We need to remind each other that we belong to God.
We need to tell and hear the story of a God who chose to become poor and vulnerable.

Lynne W. Gilliam

I came across that quote last year, and I believe it to be even more true now.  We need to tell God's story in the way we choose to celebrate Christ's birth, more now than ever.  We need to be that picture that shows the hope and grace of God in a season when so many of us are more poor and more vulnerable than we've ever been.   We need to be vocal, to share the how's and why's in this season of diminishing of why we are choosing to celebrate Christ's birth differently – not to vilify culture, but to transform it.  

I don't believe that we have to accept the holidays as a time of rudeness, of harried parents and whining children, of stress and financial devastation.   I'm choosing to make this year even more different than I have in the past – in part because of circumstances and in part because of a desire to celebrate the birth of my Savior in a way that magnifies Him and His significance in my life.  

Have you thought about how you'll celebrate this Christmas season? 

Advent Preparations

Advent_08_light

Advent's primary message is to wait, listen, get in touch with God, and
prepare our lives

and hearts for Jesus' coming. For speeded up,
stressed out people (that would be most of us),

this is an intriguing
invitation. 
   

Beth A. Richardson

One of my goals for this holiday season is to incorporate Advent into our family's Christmas observances.  It's actually been a goal for several years now, but it's only been this holiday season that I've had time to actually do it.  We've always had Advent calendars since the kids were little but in my prayer to simplify this holiday season, I've felt the call to really explore and celebrate Advent.  

What is Advent?  Well, it's one of the seasons of the church year.  The word Advent means "arrival" or "coming" and represents the approach of Christ's birth as well as His second coming.  Much like Lent is a time of preparation for the celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter, Advent is a time in which we prepare our heart's for His birth.   The dates of Advent vary each year, but it always begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.  This year  Advent begins tomorrow, December 30th.

It seems like everyone I talk to this year is seeking a more simplified, Christ-filled Christmas season.  For me, celebrating Advent is the perfect solution to that desire.  This year, I'm planning to start simply but, much like the boxes of Christmas decorations that I add to each year, I'm hoping to add a little something new to our Advent celebration each year.

This year, I am doing a personal Advent study, we'll be doing this one as a family, and we will take part in lighting our Advent wreath along with the Sunday readings posted here (this article has lots of great family Advent activities as well).   I'm also planning to pull some activities from The Adventure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel as they seem appropriate.

As I was researching for our own Advent celebrations, I came across this article and it summed up my feelings about Advent so perfectly (click on the author's name below to read the entire thing – it's worth the read).

We need Advent because so much in our culture tells us that this season
is about buying—

the perfect present, the perfect decorations, the
perfect feast, even the perfect memories for our families. We need more
than anything to be reminded of God’s perfect gift to all of humankind.

We
need it because so much in our culture tells us that Christmas begins
at least the day after Thanksgiving (if not the day after Halloween).
We need to be reminded that we are waiting,

that God’s time is not our
time, that the world waited a long time for a savior.



We
need it because so much in our culture tells us that our lives should
be built around
our jobs, our purchasing power, our frantic schedules.

We need to remind each other that we belong to God.
We need to tell and
hear the story of a God who chose to become poor and vulnerable.

Lynn W. Gilliam

This year, I am choosing to take the focus on shopping and rushing and consumerism of Christmas.

Want to join me? 

I am a big believer in making things work for you and your family.  Because Tom works on Sunday evenings, we'll be doing several of our readings and candle lightings on Saturdays instead.  Personalize, rearrange, and find a way to incorporate and celebrate Advent in a way that blesses your holiday season. 

A few more resources:

Advent Daily Devotional Readings

Advent Resources from the United Methodist Church

Advent

Evangelicals and Liturgical Worship 

Advent and Christmas Around the World resources from Elizabeth Foss


it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

3108268858_ef8be8cc43 

I cheated a little and put up most of the Christmas decorations yesterday.  It's what I usually do while avoiding all stores like the plague, but since I didn't have to cook yesterday it freed up a little time.  And I have to admit, it was nice to walk into the house after dinner with Tom's family and see the little bits of sparkle and glitter. 

My favorite wreath is on the front door, little trees are tucked in with my teapots and the Nativity is in it's place.  Caleb helped with the Nativity this year, and actually shouted "yes, yes, I did it!" after putting baby Jesus in the manger.  Christmas seems like it's going to be extra magical for him this year.

Everything but the tree is up, and Tom and the kids will bring that home today after helping unload at the church tree lot this afternoon.  Hanna was a little concerned that I was giving them control of picking out the tree, but I'm fairly confident that they'll do just fine.  Ornaments and lights can cover a multitude of tree issues.

I'm also working on plans for the rest of our simple holiday season.

  • We are really trying to limit the gifts we give this year.  We've always exchanged gifts with all of my siblings and all of the nephews and neice.  I'm limiting it to just the kids this year.  And I'm thinking the grandparents and great-grands might get framed photos of the kids…I just can't justify spending money we don't have right now.  I am keeping my eyes out for a little something to make for everyone, though.
  • My 7 year old boy – the one who wants EVERYTHING he sees on TV – he can't come up with a Christmas list.  I asked him to give me 5 things he really, really wanted.  He's at two.  A fish tank and a new scooter.  I have a few other ideas and will keep working on him.  Hanna had no problem giving me a list, and it's interesting to see how much it's changed since last Christmas.  Last year, she wanted shirts from Abercrombie and American Eagle…this year, she wants craft supplies and vintage clothing.
  • We're going to be home alone on Christmas Day.  Most of our relatives that live here are going elsewhere, so we're thinking we might  open up the house to friends and family that don't have other plans for Christmas dinner.  I'm still trying to come up with a theme. 
  • Christmas baking is going to be a little simplified this year.  I saw Dr. F again earlier this week, and she was finally able to get all of my test results that Dr. B ran last spring.  The results that he'd told me were perfectly healthy. 
    They weren't. 
    Not at all. 
    I was at the very least severely anemic, and she couldn't even figure out what other tests he thought he was running.  She ordered new tests and is 99% positive I have some underlying hormonal issues that are being exacerbated by Insulin Resistance.  I get my results Tuesday afternoon. 
    Which brings me to why Christmas baking going to be simplified this year.  Dr. F pretty much demanded I go off all refined sugars and flours, as well as white potatoes and pasta regardless of what the test results show.  Luckily, I've been finding some no sugar/no flour blogs and have lots of practice eating this way for short amounts of time.  She thinks I need to make it permanent.  It's how I know we should be eating anyway but I find it odd that in all of the health issues I've had over the last few years, no doctor has ever told me to modify my eating habits. 
  • Other plans are in the works for Advent studies and our Christmas Around the World homeschool unit (I'll share resources as soon as it's all done).  I'm planning to dedicate tomorrow to finishing those up.   And the Christmas card letter is about 75% written in my head – I just need photos to go with it. 

Over all this year, I'm praying for a simple holiday season.  I'm hoping to have the shopping finished by next weekend, which might be a little over-optimistic but I'm still shooting for it.  

My goal for this Christmas and Advent season?

To focus on the true meaning and reason…and in doing so, celebrate a peaceful, Christ-centered holiday.

a little bit random

A few things on my mind right now…

  • This week has been truly glorious.  The weather  has been cooler (low 80's), the house has been open and the air conditioner turned off.  Best of all,  school has gone pretty easily each day.  I think our time off, and the tweaking I did during that time, was a success.  I think we're going to continue with 6 or 7 weeks of school followed by a week-long break.  I'm more or less planned out until Christmas, when we'll be taking two weeks off (sort of) for the holidays.  We're starting a Christmas Around the World unit after Thanksgiving and we'll continue to do a bit of studies, crafts and cooking related to that plus a little math to keep those skills strong.
  • One of the major tweaks I made to our homeschooling curriculum was to group our history book into parts of the world.  This week and next, we'll be focusing on Ancient China and then we'll move on to Ancient Egypt.  Previously, we'd been hopping and skipping from one culture to another based more on the timeline and I didn't feel like we were really learning all that much.  We've been much happier taking some time to focus on just one.  I'll post more later this weekend, but here are a few pictures from some of our Ancient China studies this week:
    IMG_0261
    Hanna working on pictograms on Tuesday.

    IMG_0318
    Caleb working on calligraphy this morning.  More pictures to come later.

  • I'm seriously considering doing a December Daily album this year.  It has been sooo long since I've scrapped anything of my own.  I might make it a project the kids and I do together as part of our Christmas studies.  Still contemplating…
  • I am two-thirds of the way through teaching my 6 week Not So Fast class at church.  It has been a lot of work, but I feel like I've grown incredibly through teaching it.  Two more classes to g0 – next week, I'm focusing on slowing down through traditions and the last week will be on slowing down enough to rest.  I'm going to miss it when it's over.  It's given me the opportunity to get to know some amazing families from our church and it's shown me that teaching a small group is something I really can do.
  • I'm starting to work on Christmas lists.  It's coming far too quickly!  Grandma Fee brought all of our gifts over before she left to head home to California this week…I think she's testing me.  I am so impatient and nosy when it comes to gifts.   I promise that I haven't even lifted so much as a corner of the wrapping paper, but I can't guarantee how long that will last.
  • Speaking of Christmas,  I stumbled across my Christmas Manifest from a few years ago.  It still speaks to me.  It's still a good reminder.
  • I had intended to do a Daily Gratitude post, but somehow November seemed to have a jump on me.  I'm hoping instead to do something daily when Advent starts in a few weeks.

Whew!  My brain feels a little lighter…it always amazes me how much it helps to free up some space when get things down here!

Sunday Brain Purge

I'm home this Sunday after a few long nights with little Sir Coughsalot. 

I think we might be heading to the doctor tomorrow morning…it's been a few long nights around here.  Thursday night I put Caleb in our bed and slept in his after he'd been up 3 or 4 times.  Friday night, Tom was in bed by 8:15 while the kids and I watched The Music Man (which they both loved.  And bonus – we were all excited to recognize Harold from The Red Green Show in it).  Caleb was up and down another half dozen times between 9 and 10, and I ended up in his hard little bunk bed again.  Last night, he slept in a bed on the floor of our room…and coughed all night long. 

It's been a loooong couple of nights.

A couple bunch of things rolling around in my head:

  • Aunt Cindy – thank you so much for your comment about the Ralph Moody book!  Mrs. Green read Little Britches to us in 6th grade and I loved it.  In fact, she brought in her copies of the entire series for me.  It popped into my head a few months ago when I was trying to come up with ideas to read with Caleb, but I couldn't remember the author or the name of the book…which makes it a little hard to find.  It's in my Amazon cart waiting for my next order.
  • I've been a little obsessed with these lately:
    Enchiladas
    the secret to a good enchilada?  Homemade sauce!  I'll share the recipe as soon as I can finish up the post…hopefully with better photos!
  • Also good?  This recipe for crock pot chicken.  Quick, easy, and the juice the chicken makes turns into an easy, super good gravy/sauce with a little bit of milk and flour (although I think a quarter cup of red wine would really be amazing).  I served it with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli for a perfect Saturday night supper.
  • The kids have been in craft production mode lately – we've got ghosts hanging from doorknobs, what seems like hundreds of itty bitty pillows and plans for bat garlands.  I gave them each an old sheet a few weeks ago and those things have been cut and sewn and cut some more…drawn on…designed.
    I love it.
    They also spent several hours this week building and running an Indian bazaar in the doorway between their bedrooms.  No idea where that idea came from, but it was wonderful to watch.  I've also been seeing a lot of our stories from history coming alive…proof to me that they're listening and understanding.
  • Random Christmas gift idea for the kids – Michael's gift certificates.  They love to create and are constantly ransacking my office for supplies.   They're getting to love the store as much as I do.
  • Excited about this blog series.  12 weeks until Christmas…good grief!  I'm starting a few plans for schooling during Advent, but haven't thought much beyond that yet.  I'm looking forward to each week's installment and hoping to learn something.
  • I'm thinking I'm going to do a daily post of Thanksgiving again this November – it was a nice daily reminder.  I love this idea and am thinking I might start it as a 2010 challenge.  I am thinking 2010 might be the year of gratitude.
  • I'm listening to Matt Maher's new CD, Alive Again.   I think I might actually like it a little more than his last one (which I love and still listen to on a weekly basis).  A little less produced feeling, perhaps a little more honest.  Perfect for my mood today.
  • This book arrived Friday and as soon as I can get a big enough container to hold my dough in the fridge, I'm in!  I am so intrigued by the whole concept of easy artisan bread, especially the fact that it eventually becomes a sort of sourdough.  I've attempted sourdough starter from scratch and it just didn't go well. 
    Let's be honest…it grew massively overnight and started taking over the kitchen counter.
    We don't eat a lot of sandwich bread, so I'm hoping this works!  
  • My lesson plan book is filled for next week – it feels so good to have that done Friday afternoon.  The kids next books are planned (A Wrinkle in Time for Hanna and Dinosaurs After Dark to go along with Caleb's dino unit, with The Whangdoodle thrown in for reading out loud during handwriting).  The last couple of weeks have been a little wonky and I'm hoping to get back to normal this week…or maybe figure out what normal is =)
    My schedule continues to be a problem…I know what I should be doing… finding the energy to do it all is the issue.  
  • A new week begins tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to it!