Saturday, December 19, 2015

Days of Advent

Christmas is nearly here! The kids school work is finally done and my husband has taken time off so we are officially on our holiday break. Here's a sneak peek of Advent so far:

The O Antiphons began two nights ago. I love the specialness it adds to our devotion time (typically in the morning, but at night if necessary). Our daily O Antiphon ends our prayer. I use this prayer booklet to guide us. I play the daily O Antiphon in Latin first using You Tube. Then we pray the Magnificat in the booklet, followed by the O Antiphon in English (spoken), and ending with the appropriate verse from O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The matching ornament is hung up and the candles blown out.

In addition to the prayer, we add a *fun* element to the O Antiphons (inspired years ago by Jessica at Showers of Roses). While food items can definitely be fun, I find I need plenty of time and energy to do that type of thing. So, for this time of year, that means it is too stressful! Instead, I try to plan something that follows the O Antiphon symbols but is very doable in my household. Here are the plans for this year:
  • 17th (O Wisdom) - read books by the fire together.
  • 18th (O Lord & Ruler) - roast marshmallows by the fire with reference to the Old Testament's burning bush.
  • 19th (O Root of Jesse) - read Legend of the Poinsettia and do this ornament craft (plans changed and we are doing this how-to-draw poinsettia art instead). If you don't have the book, check out this online reading of it on You Tube.
  • 20th (O Key of David) - put out a family puzzle to work on for Christmas (I have a new one of the Holy Family and the Nativity).
  • 21st (O Dawn of the East) - go look at Christmas lights around town.
  • 22nd (O King of the Gentiles) - make a gold paper crown for baby Jesus in preparation for the Epiphany.
  • 23rd (O God with Us) - lay out Jesus' crib under the tree and fill with straw (the kids have already done this so we may make a baby sock Jesus - thanks to a friend for sharing her ideas!).

Before the O Antiphons began, we of course had our typical, daily Advent devotional: lighting of the candles, saying a special prayer, reading a verse for our Jesse tree, and finishing with our countdown calendar.

In years past, I have found that I enjoy decorating little by little. The kids are so frustrated by my slowness but it gives me time to clean, declutter, and enjoy each bit we do. However, as usually happens, plans change. Last year we were sick pretty much from Thanksgiving until two days before Christmas (when we found our tree). Putting up decor was not enjoyable. Then, this year, we offered to host my husband's family's Christmas party. Thanks to crazy work schedules (we have family whose jobs don't adhere to nice schedules - nurses and whatnot) the celebration was two weeks into December. That meant, I had to have some basic items up and ready to go.

Truth be told, I actually like having it all up. So maybe we'll compromise and work on it a smidge sooner in future years.

This is the first year I put the Nativity scene on the mantle. I love it there. I added a string of lights behind the cotton "snow" and it looks really nice. Of course there are so bare spots awaiting special figures.

Speaking of the Nativity, Mary and Joseph started their journey on the 16th (las Posadas). My kids have completely taken over this tradition. Each morning I am the one who finds where they have traveled. Each day they move a little closer to the Nativity on the mantle.

The kids made Christmas cards (above) for when we caroled with our homeschooling group at a nursing home (below). I know places like this can seem scary for kids, but I was so proud of my Miss L and how fearless she was (she really is fearless in many ways). 

The cards were fun, easy, and made a ton. We did a wash of blues and purples on watercolor paper (basically saturate it with color and water). Add salt and let dry. The salt creates a cool snow-looking effect. Brush the salt off, glue on cut-out paper trees, and finish by gluing on sequins for sparkle. This was a great card-making activity for all of my kids (3 - 10 years old).

The kids went ice-skating and loved it!

Even though it's been unseasonably warm and this is the only snow we have seen this year:

Feast of St. Nicholas - always a favorite. The kids woke up to a book and a quarter (no gold coins this year - Miss L needs to be dairy-free). I was going to do 50 cent pieces but never made it to the bank. The money was good as a friend told us that her church had a day the kids could come "shop" for no more than $1 an item, and all profit was donated to a local woman's shelter. Very cool! The kids had a blast doing that and are so excited for us to open their gifts on Christmas. Miss Z has cried a few times as she really wants my husband to open her gift to him (shh... they let slip it was a puppy and so you now know the gift is really hers - so funny!).

Books given... Miss Z: The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, Miss L: Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree, Mr. D: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and Mr. A: The Box of Delights.

In addition to their books and quarters, we took the kids to a local, very small train museum where we rode the caboose, had some hot chocolate, and met with Santa, where the kids all requested live animals.

Back at home, the kids decorated our fake Christmas tree. Since we hosted the party so early, I felt cautious buying a real tree so soon. Plus, with our new furniture in the room, space was limited. We ended up finding a leftover Black Friday deal on this pre-lit tree that we couldn't pass up. I breathed deeply, and let the kids decorate it as they pleased. I love it! 

For the Feast of St. Ambrose we read The Christmas Candle and made our Christ candle for Christmas and decorative candles. Every year we do something new. This year we used glue, tape, and glitter. All the kids enjoyed this.

For the Immaculate Conception, we met with other Catholic homeschoolers for a noon Mass and spent time together after. Each of the kids made this cute St. Anne and Mary ornament. (A future goal of mine is to create a Mary tree in our school room and make a unique ornament each year on this day.) You can find this ornament to buy here. One of our moms sketched out her own for us to use.

For St. Lucy's feast day we read Lucia: Saint of Light along with a cookie snack in place of cinnamon rolls. This is also a good day for putting up outside lights, going to see lights, or planting of the wheat (we use cat grass as a gift to our cat).

I like to have the kids make some sort of Christmas gifts each year for family. This year we decided on the "I Spy" Christmas ornament. These are awesome, but learn from my mistakes. Buy big, plastic balls, not glass. Trust me. For the fake snow, put it in slowly as you need way less than you think. Or, those snow balls may be better for this project. Number your balls and keep track of what is in each so that matching your tag to the ball isn't a problem. Overall, still a fun project.

(See the book basket in the background? Usually, I wrap a book for each day, but skipped that this year and put it all in the basket. Easy for me, but my kids definitely asked to wrap them next year and put them around the room!)

And most recently, I took the kids to a Nutcracker student matinee, followed by lunch at Red Robin.

What a busy time of year. What a fun time of year. What a blessed time of year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fall Thankfuls

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, Advent begins on Sunday, and I just wanted to share some fall thankfuls. Enjoy.

Our early fall get-a-way feels so long ago, but it was so needed and I am thankful we were able to do it and visit with family at the same time.

I am thankful for new and eager readers...

And for finding a few Catholic AND homeschooling families in my area (we're talking within a 30 mile radius). Here the kids are celebrating a special Mass at a local shrine by the Bishop and we also did something for the Nativity of Mary.

I am soooo thankful for new furniture! This is the new hanging spot in the house...

Especially with cozy, warm fires...

Our fall days have been gorgeous - warm and sunny overall. Until a few days ago, we only had a few nights around freezing. The 21st brought spitting snow, but the temps went quickly back into the 50s. What a gorgeous fall!


And sunrises...

I have a hard time spending time outside with the fall air and leaves burning around me, but what I could do, I did. We visited the zoo with cousins and finally were able to see the new aquarium. 

Filled with touchy-feely pools. Even Miss Z tried to touch a stingray.

We had a beautiful Halloween night as well. The rain held off until trick-or-treat was ending, and the kids had so much fun dressing up.

I am thankful for the gorgeous view out my back window, even with the ton of leaves that fall and a tree or two that needed cut down.

Catching leaves...

Watching the tree guys working...

Staying inside, close to me. So, so cute...

I am thankful for this crazy crew. Some days seem impossible, but others... a word, an action, a smile reminds me of how blessed I am.

I am thankful for finding handwritten notes here and there.

And for warm coffee in a cute mug...

I am thankful for dance. All the kids are in it this year, and are loving it. The countdown to Friday night dance begins Saturday morning. :) The three oldest are in tap together, Miss L also takes a ballet class, and Miss Z is enjoying a preschool class.

My husband and boys also do karate, which has been great for all them, but especially my husband. I am thankful he takes care of himself and pushes my boys to work hard.

(This was at my husband's testing for red belt. Mr. A is testing next week for his first stripe with green belt.)

Oh my goodness... I am thankful for this adorable, talkative, and social child. She is going to push me out of my introvert, stay-home preference. More nights than not, this is what greets me when I go to bed. It scares me a little actually!

I am thankful for kids who entertain themselves. We went for a family fun day (Lego Creativity Tour) and they have just as much fun riding up and down the escalator. And on getting off the highway to find a parking garage, we passed under the highway. The boys were in awe at the environment. We live in rural Ohio. Enough said, right?

I am thankful for art and creativity. We had fun with two paintings this fall: a scarecrow and a turkey. Most of my kids like to create, doodle, and paint. They love when I join them.

It's good for me too. Doodling and creating are very relaxing for me. And sometimes I come up with something useful, like my Advent Countdown for kids.

I am quite thankful for food. My kids eat, eat, eat. I have one kind-of picky eater, but nothing like I hear some parents complain about. My kids put away second, third, and sometimes fourth helpings. I am thankful I know how to cook from scratch - since I need to for our diet restrictions but also to help reduce the ever increasing cost of food.

But I do splurge now and again.

Like these French Fried Onions to make green bean casserole. :) And since I know how to make scratch cream of mushroom of soup - for gluten and dairy free - we can have it as a special treat this holiday. I can't even remember the last time I had it. 2008 holidays maybe???

I am thankful my parents were able to visit for a week. We really miss having them close by.

I am thankful for living grandparents still...

And for a crazy cat who is such a family cat. He loves tulle...

And being near us all. He is so spoiled...

I am thankful for all our thankfuls. I used chalk on the walls (my kids loved me breaking the rules). The girls helped paint sheets of paper and trace on leaf shapes which I cut out. We have added some thankfuls on the leaves, and I will add a few into our Thanksgiving photo scrapbook album I started last year. It really is the little things, isn't it?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Advent Calendar Countdown

Can you believe it's the middle of November? Advent is weeks away. I am not ready!

I wanted something that was easy for kids to take ownership of, and did not rely necessarily on mom's help. So I made this simple calendar for my older kids as well as to share with my CCD kids. Perhaps you'd like to use it in your own home. 

You can download it here for free. Or maybe you have a little artist at home? Use this blank template to create a unique, individual Advent countdown.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Miss Z's Letter "E"

And onwards with letter E!

Day 1: Trace letter with finger, building using Handwriting without Tears wooden pieces, glue on similar shapes cut out of construction paper.

Day 2: Letter collage using stickers of objects that start with the letter E (we have a huge box of stickers - use what you have).

Day 3: Letter hunting and matching feeding Mama Elephant "E" and Baby Elephant "e." (Here's my document.) 

Day 4: Letter art! E is for "E"aster "E"gg. Miss Z drew designs on her egg and then painted with watercolors over it. Once dry, I cut it out and put it on construction paper.


To round Miss Z's "school" we worked out of the Who am I? Image of God series (workbook A). I do use the teacher's manual with this (for once!). With each new letter, she colors and makes an ABC saint toilet paper person. 

She also used her binder of protector sheet worksheets. I made up new sheets for the month using letters E thru H. I also have her play on

Soon... letter F!

(See the preschool page for more ABC fun.)