Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas

So much done in so little time! Christmas is always so busy. I love the excitement and the hustle and bustle and I also love the relaxation afterward. That is just setting in for us today. It's about noon and I have accomplished nothing and that is sort of glorious.
So, down to business, I've got a lot to catch you up on. After Isaac's birthday, we buckled down to finish a lot of work before Christmas vacation. Bella and Hannah completed a unit on Israel which included some time learning about Hanukkah. We made Latkes and they were delicious and a big hit w/ the kids. I think they may make a regular appearance at TLC meal time. You have to shred onions to make them and the kids were all concerned that their eyes would burn. Somehow in the midst of all of our messes they scrounged up a pair of sunglasses for each of them to protect their precious little eyes. They all looked so cute making Latkes in their shades lol!

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is decorating. I love all of the lights and how the house looks all pretty and full. My mom's house is particularly stunning. She has a room w/ snowmen on the mantle and a red white and blue hallway w/ nutcrackers going up the staircase.
My dad puts the lights up outside, in proper cable guy style, using his bucket truck. This year my boys got to help. Ian loved being up in the bucket w/ Papa. Isaac preferred being the ground man and he did a great job. I love watching them do stuff with my dad. I am so glad the Lord blessed him w/ grandsons (and me with sons of course). He really needed that after so many years with all us girls lol!

Of course we decorated at our own house too. A few years ago Jason's Aunt Sheri and Grandma gave us some beautiful decorations that they weren't using anymore and I am so grateful when I pull them out every year. We took a family trip to get a Walmart lol! No traditional trudge through the snow w/ a saw but it was still a hilarious adventure. After unsuccessfully trying to tie the tree to the top of the minivan we all got a good laugh about shoving it in the van for the ride home. The kids were very impressed with dad's super strength as he through the tree over his shoulder and trudge across the parking lot. It was a Charlie Brown tree for sure (what do you expect from Walmart) but graced with all of our special ornaments it was strikingly beautiful in my opinion. The kids did a great job decorating it. I had many plans of handmade gifts this year for Christmas. It would have been good to start in August but true to my character I started (and finished surprisingly) in December. Before the Christmas gift making rush we made my cousin Jacob a cake for his 13th birthday. The TLC kids made candles out of our old crayons and boxes of love to give as gifts. We also made candy cane ornaments and cookies to go w/ our Legend of the Candy Cane lapbooks. I had planned a few other things but time got the best of us.

Of course I had to give a gift to each of my students. I had to be frugal and wanted it to be practical so I made them aprons. You might have noticed we do a lot of cooking so I think they will get some good use. Not being much of a seamstress, I decided to use pillowcases because that gave me some already finished edges. I borrowed Seven's sewing machine and away I went (not really knowing what I am doing). They came out pretty cute and I was very proud of myself. I became ambitious and even decided to sew some fleece hats and scarves for my nieces and nephews for Christmas. Not a pro by any means...but its the thought that counts. After such a successful sewing endeavor I decided to try to do almost all of my gifts handmade. Again, something I should have decided in August. I made soap, sugar scrubs, lip balm, jewelry, crocheted hats, a recipe box, a journal and pen set, and repainted a children's table that has been in the family for a long time. I think I'm going to start a homemade gift business. Isabella (who is my excellent helper) decided we should call it Misabella. So all of our gifts came w/ Misabella Handcrafted Gifts on the label.

We had a big snowstorm (two actually) and they were very helpful in that they kept me home and cozy making all of my gifts. It was delightful but that's enough for me. It's almost melted now and I hope we don't get anymore until next December.

We started some new traditions this year. Aside from stockings, we decided to only get one family gift for the kids and one special gift from Daddy. Daddy couldn't wait to give his gifts so the kids got them two days before Christmas. He got the boys nerf guns and Bella the book Anne of Green Gables. About 15 minutes after the guns were opened it was decided that Bella and Daddy also needed their own nerf guns and they went to Walmart lol. They have been a big hit. We've had to lay down lots of ground rules (such as no shooting mommy w/o permission) but so far it's been fun for everyone. The boys love them so much they decided to pose with their nerf guns in their Christmas Eve duds. I don't know where Ian learned to pose like this but I had to laugh. He looks like a little mobster in his fancy Christmas vest.

Christmas Eve we went to Jason's mom's house. We hadn't spent Christmas Eve with them in years so it was really nice to be with everyone. It was a night filled with all of the traditional Christmas memories/ The kids had a blast with their cousins and I ate way way too much. Wrapping paper was flying everywhere and we could barely fit the kids in the car with all of the presents. We took a great picture of all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren in Jason's family. His Grandma is in the middle of the picture. She certainly has a lot to be thankful for and she definitely doesn't look old enough to have that many grandkids and great grandkids!!! There is also a picture below of Bella and her Auntie Mary. Everyone always says that Bella looks just like me but that's just because you don't know Mary!

We spent the night at my mom's house on Christmas Eve and had a lovely Christmas morning. I wasn't the only busy bee getting thoughtful handmade gifts ready. My sisters were also very creative. It was such a great morning full of love and laughter. Angela and Kimmy made the boys a big box of dress up clothes and accessories...policeman, postman, zookeeper, doctor, pilot etc. They love pretend play and they have been on many adventures already! Angela gave Bella a beautiful puppet theater that will make a wonderful choice time activity for the TLC and Kimmy is treating her little Princess (Bella) to a night in the castle (A really cool castle like hotel that her boyfriend Joe works at). Everyone was so blessed! Our gift to the kids is a trip to Boston to go to the Aquarium and the Science Museum. It was creatively presented with a poem and lots of other little gifts that went along w/ the poem and the theme of the gift. We won't go until the spring so it's something to look forward too! My mom and dad got everyone thoughtful gifts too. Isabella's favorite seems to be the little 1/2 gloves that came on top her her regular gloves. They are so 80's! She loves them and hasn't taken them off. Ian was enamored with his barrel of cheese balls and Isaac loves the new Hot Wheels track. Madi looked adorable in the little hat I made her, I was so happy it fit! She also loved the table that I refinished for her. It was my mom's when she was little, her dad made it for her. We had it when we were little and My kids had it for the past few years. They have pretty much outgrown it now though :( so it was Madi's turn! I painted it to match her new kitchen set.

We came home and had a very relaxing afternoon and a wonderful meal that Amira prepared. The kids had won a coloring contest through Serve New England, a food co-0p we recently rejoined, and the prize was a holiday meal basket. It came w/ a turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, veggies etc! It was such a great blessing...and to have Amira prepare it was an even greater blessing!

Last night we went back to Mom's to have a Christmas celebration with my mom's side of the family. My mother, again, prepared an incredible meal and the kids were so excited to see their cousins Camrynn and also Angelique, who lives in New York. It wasn't a great quantity of time but filled with quality time. We can't wait to see them again soon.

So that's it for now. The rest of the week will be filled w/ cleaning, re-organizing, and getting ready for school to start again...and plenty of playing and relaxing too I'm sure!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Birthday Isaac!!

I'm a huge sucker for a walk down memory lane. What mom doesn't love to just pour all over her babies pictures. I thought some of you might enjoy joining me on my journey with Isaac from birth to 5.

Here he is a few days old. I stuffed him in a stocking for pictures, one of the few benefits of having a new born at Christmas. Another benefit was how much I really identified with the true meaning of Christmas. As I held my newborn son in my arms, gazing at him with motherly love in all his baby perfection, I thought often of Mary holding baby Jesus. I thought of how faithful she must have been to have been so obedient to God's calling for her to be the mother of the Christ child. I also thought of God a lot at that time. I was overcome with His love for us, that he was willing to send His Son to earth, to die for us. He knew this was the only way we could be saved, yet he was willing to do it. Willing to sacrifice his son. I can't pretend to know the mind of God but I know it took more love than I can comprehend to do what He did. There is a song by Chris Rice called Welcome to our World and it's my favorite Christmas song. I can almost never listen to it (or sing it as was evident in Church this week) without crying, sobbing really. When I get to this part

Fragile finger sent to heal us

Tender brow prepared for thorn

Tiny heart whose blood will save us

I cry every time as I think of the days before Christmas that I held my beautiful baby...again, I just can't comprehend the love God has for us. Maybe it doesn't make sense to anyone else but either way you just can't help but look at this baby, who was truly a miracle to me, and think "God is so good."
After much debate (in my crazy postpartum mind) we did finally decide to take our precious cargo (and a lot of hand sanitizer) out on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, despite the worst flu epidemic in years. He looked so dapper in his little velour tux sleeper.

How fast a year goes by!!!! Here he is walking, less than a year later. I hate to say but I barely remember him at that age. I got pregnant with Ian when Isaac was only 6 months old so it was like a whirlwind in many ways. Pictures spark my memories of his little giggle and adorable smile...his bounds of energy...and how he emptied my cupboards everyday...and dumped out everything in sight... In retrospect, maybe I blocked those days out of my memory on purpose, knowing I would be doing it again with Ian in no time lol.

Fast forward to 2005 and he was already turning two! He had already been a big brother for 8 months. He was such a big boy by then! Very independent and a good helper. He was created to be a middle child I think. Here he is blowing out his candles. He had insisted on a monkey party. His favorite stuffed animal was a monkey (still is) and it was very appropriate since he himself was such a little monkey most of the time (still is).

By the time Isaac turned 3, his new obsession was with trucks and tractors, basically anything with wheels. John Deere in particular. He was so excited with his presents that year! Ra-ra and Pa-pa got him his first big boy bike!

Last year when he turned 4 I remember being a little concerned that he wasn't much into "school". He could barely identify all of his letters and knew very few sounds. I knew I couldn't compare him to Bella because all kids are different but I was actually getting a little worried. I bought him the Letter Factory DVD for his birthday hoping to nudge him along. Ironically it seemed to be a catapult for him! He began practically devouring letters. Everywhere we went he started calling out the letters he saw and their sounds. He just took off and hasn't slowed down since! I never thought last year on his birthday that he would be sailing through Kindergarten and already reading before he turned 5. I'm such a proud mommy, can you humble I know lol.

Isaac got his first light saber last year for his birthday...Here he is staring me down with his Jedi powers.

And here he is today, five years old. He's such a big boy. He requested a striped bass cake this year. He was very specific. Not something cute, he wanted a real bass like the ones he catches with his Papa. He told me to make a big cake and do a big bass on it...I did my best. He was pleased and that is what counts. That small teeth grin will be disappearing in no time...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Our Thanksgiving Fun

I hope you all had a delightful Thanksgiving! Here is what ours was like...

The weekend before Thanksgiving we had a really fun day. Our church collects gifts for Operation Christmas Child. It is an outreach through Samaritan's Purse where shoe boxes full of simple toys and gifts are delivered to needy children and orphans around the world. It is a highlight of our holiday season now. We bring the kids to the dollar store and let them pick out gifts they think would make others smile. The best gifts are simple things like balls, stuffed animals, crowns etc. They also love to get band aids, toothbrushes, socks and other necessities. We bring them all to the church and then have a packing party where we fill up the boxes. This year we filled 66 boxes!! I don't think it's too late, check their website if you still want to fill a box and send it off yourself!

Last Monday we had some friends over for some Thanksgiving fun. We made butter. It's really easy, all you do is shake heavy cream until it's solid. It was a good thing we had extra hands for shaking or we would have gotten pretty tired out. We had estimated how long we would be shaking for before we started. It took 12 minutes of shaking, our friend Elijah was the closest, he had guessed 7 minutes. I had intended to bring it to Thanksgiving dinner but forgot so we are slowly using it up here. It's yummy. We also made some beautiful, rustic vases that day to grace the Thanksgiving table (which I also forgot to bring on Thanksgiving day and are gracing my windowsill instead)

One of our Thanksgiving traditions is to make venison stuffing. My great grandfather used to make it and my mom has been making it every year for as long as I can remember. The kids have helped since they have been big enough to turn the handle of the grinder. It is always made the day before Thanksgiving and this year, since we couldn't be at my mom's the day before Thanksgiving, she allowed us the privilege of making the stuffing here at my house. I was a bit intimidated. I have never made it w/o my mom and I really didn't want to mess it up. The night before we planned to make it I got out all of the stuffing bread and the kids broke it up and we laid it on the table to stale overnight. They were so so so excited to grind everything the next morning. Unfortunately, sometime in the night my body was attacked by the stomach flu germ and I woke up feeling like...well...the adjectives are unpleasant but you get the picture. I certainly was not in the mood for grinding stuffing. The kids were though and they must have asked 1000 times before I finally felt up to it in the evening. (Bella took care of me and the boys all day while I was sick. She made breakfast and lunch and cleaned up after herself I was so proud of her and thankful). So I was finally feeling well enough to be up and around (thank you Jesus that the stomach flu doesn't last long!) and we started the stuffing process.
First we ground all of the bread w/ celery and onions in the antique meat grinder. Enough for 28 people, it took a long time. After the grinding was done we cooked up the ground venison and then put it all together with seasonings and broth. Then, I had to test it. The stuffing is one of my favorite things in the world to eat but not on the heels of the stomach flu. I really didn't want to test it. I called my mom and asked how I would know if it was right...she said I had to test it. I really really didn't want to taste it...but I did. For the good of all who would partake of the Thanksgiving stuffing, I tested it in all my queasiness. It tasted just like it should. I was pleased, terrible nauseous, but pleased. That night I went to bed praying that no one else would be sick and we could go and enjoy Thanksgiving.

Lo and behold, we all woke up on Thanksgiving morning feeling great! Praise the Lord! So over the river and through the woods (and down the pike) to grandmother's house we went. We had a great day. This year I particularly enjoyed cornering my aunts who are a wealth of knowledge for me. They have both taught for many many years and have so much to offer me in my homeschooling endeavors. I'm blessed to come from a legacy of great teachers.

Isabella, Hannah and Madilynn got to do a neat little project on Thanksgiving too. My sister Kimmy needed to complete an artistic reflection of a cultural experience. She had gone to see an African choir. I think they were called Pomern Village Choir and their organization is called Songs for Fresh Water. They sell their CD to raise money to dig wells in Africa for fresh water. If you click here you can find a little more information about it. She needed to produce an artistic reflection about this experience. She decided to engage the children to help her. They all listened to the CD (really neat music) and danced on a big piece of paper with paint on their feet to the music. It was fun to watch. The kids (especially Madilynn) really got into it. It was great music for dancing.

And now....for a really big announcement.......ISAAC IS READING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He started reading Dick and Jane the other day and he is doing really well! He reads in classic Isaac style. He sits in the living room and reads a few words aloud. He gets stuck and runs into my room to ask for help. Then he runs back to where he was sitting and does it again. He did this for about 20 minutes the other morning. Any other kids would have just stayed next to mom, but not Isaac. He makes reading a physical experience lol. I'm so proud of him. His birthday is next week. I can't believe he's going to be 5, but at the same time I can't believe he's only going to be 5!

For December we are doing lots of fun stuff. Bella and Hannah are studying Israel. We are also going to do lots of fun activities, make lots of gifts for others and most importantly, remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. If he hadn't been born into our world to die on the cross for us and save us from our sins if we trust Him as Lord and Savior of our lives, we would not be celebrating Christmas. I'm so glad we have something so amazing to celebrate. It's such a special time of year. I love Christmas!!!