Merry Christmas!!!

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I hope you all have an amazing holiday with your friends and family!  Merry Christmas and bless you all!

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(Can’t you just hear him saying “What?  No more chocolate cookies?”)

The many faces of Luke - Dec 2012

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I just love watching this boy grow up!

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The first 15 days of Advent

Breakfast with Santa at the police station

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Waldorf Paper Stars

Christmas Movie with caramel popcorn (The boys in their ‘drive in’ cars)

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Special chocolate

Put shoes out for St Nicholas day

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Making snowflakes for the windows

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Making chocolate dipped treats and play dreidel for Chanukah

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Gingerbread House Party!

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Journey to Bethlehem

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Get our tree & decorate the house!

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Special chocolate (polar bear unit study.  It was a FUN school day!)

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Make cards for friends

Happy St Lucia Day! (Making St Lucia Bread)

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Fantasy Lights at Sprinker Park!  (With hot cocoa)

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Let’s go find some snow! (Trip to Mt Rainer)

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So far our holiday is going beautifully!  I hope yours is as well.  Many blessings to you and yours!

Handcrafted Holidays presents - The stockings are hung by the chimney with care….

In our family, stockings are a big deal.  I think they may be the most anticipated Christmas gift of all.  First off, it’s the only one that the kids can open before we are awake (they love that!) and secondly, it’s the one that gets the most personal.  I can add favorite colors or flavors or smells or prints to each and every tiny package.  I can get their favorite candy and make sure they have an apple or an orange in the toe, depending on preference.  I get to love on my kids without them knowing until they open it on Christmas day.  Ultimately, it is the gift of “I thought of you a lot.  And who doesn’t love being thought of a lot?

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This year, I am dedicated to making the items in their stockings personal and yet handmade.  Here are some things you can add into your child’s stocking that will bring about those loved and cherished feelings:

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Homemade Playdough - For the 10 and under crowd, little containers of homemade playdough can’t be beat!  There are so many awesome recipes out there, (my favorite)  If you want to, you can add in a thrift store item or two to enjoy that playdough with.  Used garlic presses are a HUGE hit around here. 

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Large personally decorated cookie - Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about how her mom used to personalize cookies for them as gifts.  What a great idea!  You can do the run of the mill soft sugar cookie, or mix it up with lavender or lemon to personalize the flavor along with the decorations. 

      

Zombie Gingerbread Men - On that same token, a small tin of these zombie cookies along with their limb-lacking victims will send any teenage boy into sidesplitting laughter.  The two years I have made these they have been the biggest hit of the party.  Grown men love these too!

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A handwritten love letter - I used to write love letters to my kids all the time.  I have whole journals full of them from when Alex and Cyan were little.  But you know what?  Two more kids, homeschooling, buying a house and well…. life happened, and I have tapered off from doing this regularly to doing it occasionally… and some years only on birthdays.  So this year I am going to add my love letter to my kids into their Christmas stockings.  Who knows?  It may create a whole new tradition. 

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Candles and candle holders - It is so dark here this time of year.  And my kids are particularly interested in flames and candles.  Now, before you think I am going off the deep end, my younger kids all have the LED votive candles for their holders.  (The one in the little boys room is on a timer that goes on at 5pm and shuts off by itself at 10pm.  Shear brilliance!)  I do not recommend giving fire to children under 10 (and of course, even that number is subject to their maturity).  But whether they are LED or real flame… as a stocking stuffer, they are wonderful! 

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A Water Buffalo - Yup.  I am COMPLETELY serious.  Each year my kids get one gift in their stockings that is not for them.  It is a donation in their name.  Most of the time we have donated a couple chickens per kiddo (because we have chickens, so they will easily relate to how wonderful it is to have and care for them, etc), however, this year we are giving them a share of a water buffalo each.  It is the most expensive thing in their stocking by far, but it is SO worth it.  We have found several places that will take a donation towards a share of an animal for family who needs it.  Here are a couple we have researched and found honorable and easy to donate through:

Heifer International - We have donated through them the most often.  They are wonderful and they send you a card letting the gift receiver know what you donated in their name and thanking them for the gift.

World Vision - Another wonderful organization who I would gladly support.  They even have a plush animal gift you can give your child along with a donation to the ‘maximum impact fund’ which I think is a great idea!  You donate, and they decide who it will best benefit.

Mini Sweater Balls - Pastels - Set of Three

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Handmade Balls - For the youngest in the crowd, it’s often hard to figure out what to stuff their stockings with that isn’t yet another noisy toy that will break easily.  Well these sweater balls are it!  You can fill them with plastic bags to make them crinkle or you can add a large jingle bell to make them ring, or even go with the standard ‘stuffed with wool’ or fiberfill balls, but they are always a hit, cuz what toddler doesn’t like to throw in the house???  Here is a pattern link.  I have used this one many times and they come together very easily!  (If you don’t have a machine or are not the crafty type, you can always buy them on Etsy.  Linky.)

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One last thing… if you decide to go a different direction for your child’s Christmas stocking - PLEASE by handmade!  There are so many amazing artisans out there, many of them mom’s like you and I, who make these things for other people’s children so their own kids can have a great Christmas.  Etsy is the best source for handmade items at the lowest cost.  Other places to get handmade items would be holiday bazars or craft shows.  So if you do choose to vote with your dollar, vote for handmade!

Happy Wrapping!!

Advent 2012!

Logan was CRAZY excited to start the advent calendar this year.  He’s been excited all week!  He keeps time in ‘5 year old’ with lots of “this many days” and some of “the day after this happens it will be…” so when today finally came he JUMPED out of bed at o’dark thirty and ran to try to read what was in our advent envelope even though it was still dark.  The only word he got was ‘Santa’ and he came to the side of my bed around 6:20am to ask me to read the rest of it.  I am hoping this is not a trend that will last until Christmas day, but it sure was cute he was so excited!

Advent is very subdued this year compared to last year, but the list sounds fun as always!

  1. Breakfast with Santa at the police station
  2. Waldorf Paper Stars
  3. Christmas Movie with caramel popcorn
  4. Special chocolate
  5. Put shoes out for St Nicholas day
  6. Making snowflakes for the windows
  7. Making chocolate dipped treats
  8. Gingerbread House Party!
  9. Journey to Bethlehem
  10. Get our tree & decorate the house!
  11. Special chocolate
  12. Make cards for friends
  13. Happy St Lucia Day!  (Making St Lucia Bread)
  14. Fantasy Lights at Sprinker Park!
  15. Let’s go find some snow! (Trip to Mt Rainer)
  16. Shopping for Mama with Daddy!!
  17. Olympia Children’s Museum
  18. Wrapping gifts with Mama
  19. Making Christmas cookies for the neighbors
  20. Making gifts for the birds
  21. Making candle holders for the darkest day of the year!
  22. Zoo Lights with some hot cocoa
  23. Drive around to see the lights on the houses
  24. Christmas Dinner with Grandpa and Grandma
  25. Open your Stocking!

 

More fodder for your creative imaginations!

Advent list for 2011

Advent list for 2010

Advent list for 2009

In which, a girl gets minute…

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As much as I hate to say it, I think I may be in a season of blog neglect. 

I have been sucked into the beast that is a house remodel.  Nothing really huge.  But huge stuff for us.  Like new molding, new windows, new interior doors, and new paint on anything that will stand still.  All kinds of things that will update the space even more and perhaps bring up the value of the house a little bit as well.  I have moved on from the kitchen and into the living room which I painted, by myself, over the past two days.  It looks AMAZING!  Now I am a painting monster.   

I also have a crazy toddler!  At 21 months, Luke is a little nuts.  As we speak I am letting him rip up my mail so I can get this post finished.  Smile with tongue out  It is hard to keep up with him.  Plus, he doesn’t sleep anymore.  After he got so sick in October he has taken to this habit of waking 2 - 3 times per night… usually for about an hour.  Don and I have been taking shifts throughout the nights to try to get him to go back down.  We have even done some tough love type stuff (we are gentle/natural parents by habit) and nothing has worked so far. 

Basically, we are a very tired family right now. 

School is going great though!  That last post about my crazy school schedule has held up for another couple weeks.  We are into our unit study on the Polar Bear and I just love how much we are getting done!  Our last lesson on the fox has left is marks and the kids ‘play’ fox quite often, using words like "vixen” and “omnivore”.  When their play reinforces our lessons I feel it’s a sign I am doing something right. 

The weather has changed yet again and it’s COLD outside!  Frost is on the leaves most mornings, although it is gone by early afternoon.   I used my last tomato and onion from the garden last week.  It makes me a little sad that they didn’t even last until Christmas.  Must plant more next year!  We are on the last of the tomato sauce as well. 

Once again, I am trying to do a handcrafted holiday.  I am looking over crafts and pins to see what I can make my nearest and dearest to make them feel loved and not break the pocketbook.  I plan on sharing my finds here if I can.  Some of the kids now read my blog, so that isn’t as easy as it once was. 

There is so much more going on, and I am hoping to fill you all in soon.  But for now, I hope you all are doing well and want to send my very biggest blessings to each of you for the start of the holidays! 

Homeschool fever

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It seems that every year I start to freak out because the well laid plans I have had for the school year have all fallen to pieces by half way through October.  I spend a week revamping our homeschool plans and try - hard - to get back on track. 

Well for three weeks now we have been working on the new plan.  And so far, this is the best plan yet.  It’s also the most complicated I have ever done.  But that is life, right?  Complicated. 

I will lay it all out for you, just so you can read it and I hope it helps some others who struggle to balance a homeschool life with an alternative work schedule. 

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Schedule Issues:

So, here’s the skinny.  I’ll bullet point so I don’t lose people:

  1. My husband works the ‘swing’ shift.  He leaves the house around noon and gets back around midnight, 4 days per week, except on ‘changeover’ weeks.  Which we will get to later.
  2. I have “morning people” for children.  Especially the boys.  Which means the most ‘teach-able’ moments are all when my husband is home.  This can be complicated, because (and rightfully so) my husband wants to spend at least some of that time relaxing and perhaps even playing with his children.
  3. My husband works EVERY Friday.   
  4. Although he does have consistent work days.  However, those switch off month to month.  He works 4 day weeks and switches back and forth between Friday - Monday weeks and Tuesday - Friday weeks. 
  5. The schedule switches each first Monday of the month.  That week is ‘changeover’.  Bad changeover is when he works 8 out of 9 days in a row with only 1 day between the two ‘weeks’.  Good changeover is when he has a 2 day weekend, works 1 day, and then has a three day weekend in the same week. 

So with all of this in mind, I set out to find a way to get 4 days of school per week without completely loosing my mind.

Getting in 4 School Days:

We were having a heck of a time getting in school days early this fall.  I just can’t manage the emotional famine that I end up dealing with if I spend each morning doing school with the kids and then having my husband leave before that is even done, and being alone until midnight.  I realized that my solution was to take a day off in the middle of our school week.  This is where The Man and I have a breakfast date, go to church, and perhaps do a little grocery shopping. 

To get that 4th day of school and still keep my ‘sanity day’, I needed to cut into our weekends.  I took the last day of each of his three day weekends and set it up as a Field Trip/Family Day.  I got a list of good inexpensive field trips and checked dates and times for availability.  I purchased a Boonshoft membership (seriously, check out the reciprocal benefits for your area.  In ours, they are AMAZING!  And for less than one family membership to the zoo.)  Then I plugged all of the available field trips into our family day for the next three months.  Sometimes this is a Monday, sometimes this is a Thursday… but since it is always during the week it makes for inexpensive museum fares and good times to do actual field trips like the Kennedy Creek Salmon Run with other school groups.

Teaching 3 different grades:

My toddler aside, I have three different grades to teach at once.  My oldest is now a Sophomore in highschool.  My daughter is 11 and now in 6th grade.  And Logan is 5 and now in Kindergarten.  There is very little we can do together that would cover all of these levels and still be challenging and/or fun for all.  This is another reason that Waldorf and Charlotte Mason schooling methods appeal to me so much.  A literary and nature study based curriculum is best for having my kids all on the same page and yet doing all of their individual work at their own level.  So currently I am teaching a lot of nature study. 

Resources for combined Nature Study:

Shirley Woods:  An amazing naturalist turned author who creates each animal’s story like a season of Meerkat Manor.  You are following an individual animal, be it fox or polar bear through the first year of their life.  Generally from birth to finding their first mate.  Even though the story is fictional, each of their actions is explained as someone would on a good nature show.  Each book I go through has been well written, easily accessible to Logan (age 5) and still entertaining and educational for Cyan (age 11).  I highly recommend them!

      

Trickle Creek - Ecojournals:  Yet another amazing resource.  There is a Ecojournal for each season and Toni Albert, the author, shares her adventures with the wildlife around her home, Trickle Creek, with the reader in a comprehensive way for all ages.  Each chapter has a journal entry, a craft or activity, and a story of life on Trickle Creek.  I have used these for years. Each time we go through them we build more of an understanding of nature and get a little bit deeper in our study of our beautiful planet!

One thing both of these have in common is the AMAZING pencil sketches that fill the pages.  Around each page in the ecojournals are loads of seasonally appropriate drawings from the nature around Trickle Creek. 

Math:

I recognize that there are MANY things that can be put off in homeschooling until the child is begging to learn them.  I also understand that math is not one of them.  It has a sequential scope that needs to be built on and kept up, and if you are not doing math in an order, then the children may become very confused (especially if they are learning from me!).  So I have handed the older children’s math over to a purchased curriculum.  They are currently using Teaching Textbooks.  We LOVE it.  Love it.  Seriously.  If math is a struggle for you (as it was for me at first) then you may love it too. 

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For Logan (age 5), math is just getting started.  Learning to draw his numbers without flipping them backwards was my main goal at the start of the year.  I also wanted to do some introduction to the basic functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  For this, I looked to Waldorf Education and brought in a story telling aspect to help his memory. 

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More info on that process here.

Now, you know where I have disappeared to.  But I can tell you that we have had three weeks of schooling that runs smoothly and easily.  And the icing on the cake is that I am not completely burnt out at the end of the day so I am actually crafting again!  Whooohooo!  (Can’t wait to share some of that with you, too!)  Perhaps, by the time this schedule really sets in I may even (*gasp*) blog!

© Collecting the Moments

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