Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas means carnage...

Okay, Christmas doesn't really mean carnage but I have to laugh at that little scene from the movie "Babe." Especially after all the presents are unwrapped and there are bits of paper, bows, and ribbon strewn everywhere.
In our oft-times materialistic society, the focus can tend to be on "How much will I get?" or the opposite, yet still materialistic, "How much can I give?". The real reason for the Christmas season can get lost in the midst of the hustle and bustle of fulfilling what we perceive as obligations, trying to be the best holiday hostess, trying to not disappoint our families, buying things, wrapping things, sending things, making things, and eating things. I think, too, there's a big emphasis on making Christmas not all about the stuff but while those efforts are worthwhile, it still adds extra pressure. If I don't donate to every worthy charity, help in the local soup kitchen, or donate toys at the mall, I'm a Scrooge. It can be very overwhelming and simply suck the joy right out.  I worked in retail for 7 years and can attest that while there are moments of true "holiday spirit" out there, most times people were rude, selfish, overbearing, stressed, and less than nice as they shopped. It took 2 years of 'recovery' for me to enjoy Christmas again.

And I enjoy Christmas! I love it! It's my favorite holiday of the year (although Easter and July 4th come in close seconds.) To combat some of the holiday craziness, we try to focus our Christmas celebration on the birth of Christ and how that is the greatest gift we could ever receive!
We've found ways and traditions to make that work for our family. Here's what our Christmas looks like:

* We send Christmas cards. I stamp and papercraft, and I love making cards. I try to make them earlier in the year so that after Thanksgiving, they're ready to address and send. We usually print pics of the younglings to go inside. It's a way for us to keep in touch with family that's geographically far away.

* We keep the decorating fairly simple. The younglings each have a small tree in their bedrooms that they decorate themselves. The living room, dining room, and kitchen all get a little dressing up, and we decorate the front porch. No elaborate light displays with timed music or giant inflatable things outside.

* We don't bake. Simple as that.

* We try to keep gifts for teachers and coaches small, and we do the same year after year. Something like hand-dipped pretzels in a cute container.

* We don't exchange gifts with my husband's family (they live several states away) or co-workers, just cards. We draw names with my family. Bass and I put our name in as a couple so we only buy for 1 adult and for any kids (right now, there's only one child other than our own.) I like being able to focus on buying for just one person. I feel like I can put more effort into choosing gifts or making special things for just that one person.

* Each year we buy or make 1 tree ornament for each child which they open the day we decorate the tree, and we buy 1 Christmas book that we open on Christmas Eve.
Last year's tree shortly after moving into this house. Notice the unpainted windows and lack of window treatment---eek!
* We listen to the same Christmas CD each year when we decorate the tree. (Avon's Christmas Treasury of Classics ---- it's super old but it was the only Christmas tape we had, I think, and we always had it playing for tree decorating.)

* We go to church for the Christmas Eve service each year and read the Christmas story (Luke 2) on Christmas morning after we open our stockings.

* We only buy 7 presents total for each member in our family. It helps us keep expenses low and again focuses our shopping into something meaningful. I found a Victorian era poem ages ago that we use for our stocking gifts. It says:
Something to eat
Something to read
Something to play with
and Something they need.
I find a gift that fits each of those categories and actually wrap them before putting them in the stockings. It cuts down on the random junk and cheap fillers that I'd probably be tempted to buy.
For our main gifts, we do 3 larger gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Well, not literally. That would get boring and probably expensive. I don't see my 7 year old being terribly impressed with myrrh either. :)
Each of the three has a meaning behind it.
Gold is something valuable or something that they really want.
Frankincense is something that can be done with or for the family. (Ex. sewing lessons with Mom, a DVD to watch together, or a board game)
Myrrh is something that they need. (Usually of higher value than the stocking gift.)

And that's about it. There are other fun activities or holiday parties that come up each year. Usually I sing in the church cantata, and the kids have opportunity to sing at church or school. We like driving around to see Christmas light displays and decorations and have a list of favorite movies and CDs that we bring out each year. We try to keep a balance as we celebrate..... if an activity is going to be too much, we simply don't do it. If it will fit in our schedule and add something to our lives, we say yes.

The biggest thing for me is to spend the weeks before Christmas praying that the Lord would show me something new this year. A friend told me that she had made this her prayer each Christmas and Easter season, and I loved the idea. I've already begun praying that He would open my eyes to something new this year, something to reflect on, something to wonder about, something to hold on to, that would make Christmas even more special.
1st Christmas present from Bass --- an olive wood, hand carved nativity from Israel

No matter what the traditions are in your family, may all of your holiday celebrations be joyous and filled with love! Merry Christmas!

Linking up to some of these parties and here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly School Summaries - Brazil (October 31-November 11)

I respectfully ask that you not pin pictures of my children to Pinterest. Thank you!

Time really does fly. It's amazing how quickly the days can go by when you're in the midst of living life. (Okay, so I'm not a real deep-thinker there but it does amaze me that time felt so slow when I was a child and teen and now that I'm quickly approaching mid-life, it goes by faster and faster every year. I don't mind.... each day is merely one day closer to Glory!)
However all that time flying did not allow for a school summary post last week so this is a double.

Here's what we did:
Math: Similar to usual. Tenor had 5 lessons each week and is venturing into the land of decimal points in his Saxon 5/4. Soprano had 4 lessons each week and some time to play computer math games. We got to use the scale that came with her manipulatives. She loves her math, which I love.

Reading and Language Arts: Soprano finished Owl Moon  from 'Across the Centuries' with 2 evaluations, then started on The Ox-Cart Man. She had an order-of-events worksheet, a crossword, and a matching activity. She also got to 'fill' the Ox-Cart Man's wagon with little pictures of what he took to market.

Soprano is progressing well through her Phonics book. I can see a difference in other areas of her work (sounding out words, spelling) too. I'm glad we decided to focus some more time on phonics review.

Her English work is out-of-this-world better! Hardly any errors, no tears, and we're caught up to one lesson a day. She doesn't complain about doing it and I think it's really starting to sink in. Again, I can see the evidence in other areas (correct end punctuation, capital letters only where they're supposed to be.) One lesson a day is the perfect amount of work for her too.

We introduced the new spelling curriculum and again, no tears! Love it! We're using Rod and Staff for both kids. I'm speeding it up a bit so that we can try to still finish the book by the end of the year so in the past 2 weeks, she's finished 4 lessons instead of the suggested 2. In another week or so, when the word lists get a little more challenging, I'll back it down to 1 lesson per week.

Tenor continued with his 'A Reason for Handwriting C' and 'Writing Strands.'
Tenor is continuing with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe from 'Across the Centuries C Level 1.' He's now read through chapter 15, had 3 more evaluations, and finished some worksheets that will be turned into a mini book at the end of the unit. .'
He's doing well with his English (Rod and Staff Level 4) and seems to like the new Spelling (Rod and Staff Level 4.) The lessons are short and to the point which is nice.

Typer Island for their typing instruction and continuing with SOS Elementary Spanish.

They wrapped up our study on germs with a review worksheet and then sang a silly song about dental hygiene for health.

Phys Ed.: A little bit of bike and scooter riding on the warm-ish days we had and some soccer playing to coincide with our study of Brazil and South America.

Bible: The past two weeks included:
Reading about the Yanomamo, Animism, and Quechua
Reading Matthew 6:19-8:4
Memorizing Matthew 5:15-16
Reading about Nate Saint

Reading about the People and Places, Nature, Farming and Industry of South America
Coloring the Brazilian flag and writing down interesting facts about it
Illustrating notecards for jungle, delta, swamp, and marsh
And of course, playing the geography game with both North and South America.

Tenor's South America pages from World Geography were Islands, Climate, Products and Resources, Animals, Population, Cities, Languages, and Religions.

Science: Discussion on the Amazon and Amazon River, the rain forest floor, and rain forest animals
The kids aren't really "getting" the whole idea of a nature walk or nature study so since they're spending time illustrating facts from the Living World Encyclopedia, I'm skipping it altogether. We might reintroduce it next year.

Soprano completed all of the South American animal pages from The Complete Book of Animals.
We also did the 2 experiments from Week 11. The younglings had a blast piling books up on the eggs. Their original guesses were that the eggs would hold either 1 pound or 5 pounds. We ended up with 10 pounds of books before the eggshells finally gave way. Wow! I was just thrilled that we did 2 experiments that actually worked.
How many more can we add?
This experiment is all cracked up.
Egg and Feather Experiment Sheets

Other MFW: Wee sing: Mi Chacra and Los Pollitos
For more music, I found the Brazilian Channel on Pandora and played that in the background during school time.
2 more substitutions for art. Since we read about the Yanomamo people in Week 10, we created headdresses that week. Week 11, we used toilet paper tubes and water ice cups to make Brazilian maracas. I found the instructions here:
An angry Yanomamo
A Yanomamo that has accepted Jesus

To fill in a bit, we did read some other books about various South American countries and borrowed DVDs from the library about Chile, Guatemala, Peru, and Argentina (Countries of the World series by Schlessinger Media.) I also found two Eyewitness DVDs, one on the rain forest and one on the jungle. They also made some lap books using resources from Homeschool Share and animal pictures I found online.
The cover
Opening it up
The inside of Soprano's
Since Brazilian cooking isn't my thing, we're finishing up our week with a family movie night and watching Fern Gully: the Last Rain Forest.

Linking up at and
at at

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Rag Wreath (and front door version 2.1)

New Easy Rag Wreath
You may remember from this post that we had done some serious exterior painting and fixing up. I was unsure of how I felt about the front door color and thought I might change it. Well, I did for 2 reasons.
#1 I didn't really like the color. It was too pale in comparison to the shutters and garage door.
#2 After we installed the new door weatherstripping, it peeled the paint off. All of it. Peeling like large pieces of sunburnt skin or like a ripe banana. I had a wad of peeled off paint the size of a softball. I was seriously annoyed!

So the plan to repaint the door a different color seemed to be set into motion. I went back to the store and they actually let me return the original paint and mixed up a new quart free of charge. Who says big box stores don't offer good customer service?? (Well, usually they don't but in this case I was a little surprised they did that and very pleased.)

We had 2 warmer days last week so I scraped off the last bits of old paint, sanded the door down, put on 3 coats of exterior primer, and then 2 coats of the new color. We've left the door open for the past 3 days in order to let the paint cure ----- hoping to avoid another paint peeling mess!
I think I like the new darker color. It seems to match the tone of the shutters more.

Now that the door is painted (again!), I was able to hang the fall wreath that I made. I found a bundle of fabric strips on clearance at JoAnn's and just loved the colors. It was on sale for about $7.00. I picked up a 12" wire wreath frame at Michaels with a coupon and then found a cute little fall ornament on clearance to put in the middle. The orange ribbon hanging the wreath was how the fabric bundle was tied together---aka free. So for just under $10, I made a cute little fall wreath that works great with the new door color.

To make the wreath, I first cut the twenty 2.5" x 42" strips into 5.25" lengths.Then I knotted them onto the wire wreath frame alternating the patterns and colors. (I actually kept them in the order that they came bundled which was a nice arrangement.) After they were all on (I used the entire bundle,) I fluffed them out so all the tails were pointing forward. Then I untied one piece and retied it around the wire loop in my ornament. I wouldn't have minded if it were just a bit fuller overall but there aren't any holes so I think it works.

A quick trip down memory lane to see how far the front door has come...
BEFORE: Peeling paint, crack in the door, nasty step. Ick!
AFTER: All the trim is painted but the door is too light.

AFTER AFTER: Can you see the difference in the paint color? It's more obvious in person.
And one last before and after:

Linking up here.
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