Share The Gift

Last week, as my personal traditions dictate, we put up our Christmas trees and decorations on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That evening, we learned that my husband’s work partner had been killed in a car accident, leaving behind 4 children aged 3 weeks to about 10 years. We were sorrowful and very concerned for the family. Obviously, we didn’t get the decorating done like normal! Shopping – never my favorite thing anyway – was stressing me out because all the sales were going on and I wanted desperately to catch a few. I was becoming consumed over the death of this friend, worrying about money, trying to get my thoughts (and house!) organized. 

On Sunday. I was almost finished setting up our Nativity when some friends came by. They invited us to watch this short little video called “He is the Gift”, so of course, we did. Honestly, I didn’t “feel in the mood” when we started, but I was so thankful I had agreed to watch it by the time it was over! The Spirit of this beautful video is so strong! I felt such a sweet, calm peace when it was over. In all the uncertainty of life over the weekend, the pressure to be sure to catch that sale, the desire to have a beautifully decorated house, I had temporarily forgotten the reason for it.

story_mary

Jesus is THE Gift and through His atonement and grace, He has given me everything I really want and need.

Now that the atmosphere is set, I can concentrate on all the sweet traditions that help us to focus on Him during this season: singing carols, reading scriptures about His life and mission, participating in our daily advent calendar, baking cookies for friends and neighbors, enjoying our Advent wreath and candles, the wonderful Christmas Eve dinner and the appearance of the baby Jesus to sleep in the manger filled with straw placed one piece at a time for each act of service given, received, or observed.  These are some of the things that I do to share the gift with my children and friends.

Here is a link to the video:

http://www.mormon.org/christmas  – click the “view video” button.

Please watch it and let me know in the comments how you Share the Gift.

Felt Food Friday: Huge Pancake Breakfast!

felt pancake breakfast

(photo via Etsy)

BittyBug saw this breakfast pinned to my felt food board on Pinterest and begged me to make her some pancakes. I bought the pattern here and was pleased with my purchase. The instructions were detailed and easy to follow, although I still haven’t made the syrup bottle. Here’s how mine turned out:

Felt pancake breakfast

I finally managed to make a bunch of strawberries. Yum!

Felt Strawberries

Felt Food Friday: Pizza Night!

Everybody loves Friday Pizza and Movie Night in our house! As part of the Christmas presents last year, I made felt pizza.

It was fun, quick, and a huge hit on Christmas day along with all the new dolls. ;)

Complete Pizza

You can get the free pattern here:

 Felt Pizza Pattern

Felt Food: Super cute, easy to make, fun to use!

Early in last December I was snuggling with JuneBug on the couch before she went to bed and I was reading a book called Homemade Christmas Gifts by Toni Anderson on my Kindle. It had pictures of the projects and about the 15th project in, JuneBug sat up and announced that I “could make these for her so she could use them! Please, mom! Please!”  I took another look at it, said “maybe” and put her in bed. =)

Felt Cookies & Doughnuts

Once she was settled I looked them up on the computer and loved the whole idea of making these cute little felt cookies and pizzas. It really would be easy and fun – and inexpensive!  I could see the younger girls loving this idea for several more years.

(It would also meet my needs since we try to give the girls one handmade by us gift at Christmas. Yay!)

What I didn’t expect was how easy they were to make, how cute they would be, and utterly relaxing it would be for me! I created my own patterns. You can download them free here:

 Felt Cookies, Brownies, & Doughnuts

Art That Moves

In the 1930’s, an American artist named Alexander Calder wanted to create sculptures that moved without machinery. The result of the first mobile designed to hang in mid-air and catch the breeze. Mobiles are so common place today that it weird to think of them being a new invention…I love my chimes hanging by my porch! :)

Mr. Calder is featured in the National Gallery of Art. Here is a photo of the Calder Room:

220px-Calder_at_NGA

photo: Wikipedia 

Our Creative Art Challenge this week was to create a mobile ourselves.

Hanging Mobiles Collage

Supplies Needed:

  • Foam Shapes or Construction Paper
  • Stapler or Craft Glue
  • Scissors
  • Wire Pipe Cleaners
  • Wire Cutters

Instructions: 

  1. Cut pipe cleaners into 6 uneven lengths.
  2. Start with the 2 longest pipe cleaners. Wrap the end of the longest one time around the middle about 1/3 of the length of the second one.
  3. Repeat this step, starting with the longest and ending with the smallest.
  4. Hang on the back of a chair.
  5. Select your shapes (or cut them out of paper). You will need two of each shape.
  6. Create your mobile by stapling or gluing the shapes to the available ends of each wire. Let dry, if applicable.
  7. Hang and enjoy!

Hanging Mobile Step 8

An “Official” School Room

Dining room school room

I have been toying with the idea of moving our formal school subjects that we typically did around the dining room table to a school room in order to create a more peaceful and relaxing environment for myself. There is something about homeschooling that creates a constant need for me to think about and never quite shut school out of my brain when it is time for other things…homeschooling truly becomes a way of life. :) Especially when you are trying to set an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Anyway, my problem is that we would get involved in a big project, or someone would still be finishing up something that couldn’t move from the table and so it would stay – through dinner, through a few days to a week. I couldn’t stand that there was no where else to have those things. In order to do a school room, I would have to sacrifice my craft room and the room the kids had their toys in.  Hmmmm!

Craft a& Play Room 2

As you can tell, this room  also became the catch-all room for stuff I wasn’t sure what to do with.

The other problem was stuff! I had stuff everywhere.  Yes, it was generally tidy. Everything had a place. But one day I realized that I needed to stop going up the walls. I needed some space. Something HAD to change. I was unhappy, school was starting to suffer, and I was feeling guilty.

In the midst of these ideas swirling through my head, I attended a homeschool conference for the very first time. I went because the Sipmly Charlotte Mason team was coming and Sonya Shafer (the public face of SCM) was giving several workshops on various topics such as habit training, the Charlotte Mason methods, and was presenting a brand new workshop called “When More Is Less: A Call To Simplicity.” I went with one of my good friends and planned to meet other friends there. My friends and I also had the opportunity to eat dinner with the SCM family and the Creating A Masterpiece artist and family team. It was wonderful to have 3 uninterrupted hours with Sonya, Doug, and Karen. I had so much fun and learned so much from them!

During dinner, Sonya urged me to go with my ideas and feelings. The next day when she presented her new More Is Less workshop, I knew that the Lord was confirming all these thoughts and I was going to make some changes and find a new balance in my life. All the way home, I was full of ideas and was mentally rearranging my house to better reflect the ideas I wanted my life to hold. Instead of hoarding things, I needed to share them. Instead of saying yes to everything, I had to start saying no to less important things. My family was somewhat shocked at how adamant I was about changing our lives! I had to educate them on WHY these changes were important for ALL of us – not just me. 

In order to help me stay motivated and continue to make these changes, I read the book called How To Escape the Clutter Trap. (You can read my review here.) We held a huge yard sale of really nice stuff (and my sweet sister drove 9 hours one way to help me!) and whatever did not sale, I donated to the resale shop, Book Samaritan, and other educational places around town.  

School Room Collage

Here is the basic school room when we first finished it. There is lots of floor space that I didn’t take pictures of.  ;) I painted the walls a light green and made white curtains to match the white furniture. I am deliberately trying add some blank wall space to the room. It is calm and peaceful. The table is a fold-up table and is easily put away when we have company coming to stay. It fits in front of the short bookcases like a door on the shelves and makes the room feel a little less “busy”. Since I took these photos, I have added a nature table/bookcase under the large window. I moved the cd player down there and put the nature study books on the shelf next to it. On the bottom of the shelf I put my Five in a Row books and SCM reading recommendations. That is another post for another day. ;)

Reading rail

Something that I added that I haven’t had before is a whiteboard and some book rails for easy display of wonderful books. 

I love this room. I am actually amazed at how much more consistent we are in a daily schedule, how much less I get interrupted or distracted, and how much better everyone’s attitude is about school and life in general.  Yay!!

 

To Shakespeare or Not to Shakespeare? That is the question…

Shakespeare book.

I have the book called How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare and finished it about a year ago. I was totally excited about Shakespeare when I was done because he is so enthusiastic and I loved how he explained the characters and the plays he chose. I wanted to go find a well-done production and watch them all. =)

The week I finished the book, we started memorizing a passage  from A Midsummer Night’s Dream since we have already studied it and my children enjoyed it. We memorized a couple of his choices from that play and then skipped to other plays.

The author has children memorizing a variety of plays and passages. Depending on your children ages and maturity, I will caution that we need to be careful about which plays that we share and about what we choose to commit to our children’s memory.

Edited to add:

We have been memorizing Shakespeare for a year now. I made a memory box (see here) and have created review cards for each passage. The girls are loving this. We are currently finishing The Winter’s Tale (per JitterBug’s request) and have so much fun with it.  

Side benefits we have enjoyed:

  • the little family jokes as we quote certain passages at each other when something reminds us of it.
  • Reading the scriptures and other harder books is not so intimidating…in fact, Shakespeare has taken much of the “it’s to hard for me” away.  
  • And how much fun is it to listen to the kids as we are reading the lines aloud to hear them start putting expression into it – even plays that they have not read before?  The ability to use your voice and tones to create an enjoyable reading experience for an audience is important….whether it is for a large audience or for a single child who learns to love books because of your excitement over the words and story.
  • The passages we choose make great quotes for a Book of Mottoes (aka a Commonplace Book)
  • We have some great discussions about events that occur in the plays. It’s a good way to discuss how to handle various situations in life.

Another thing that I am enjoying after reading about some of Shakespeare’s plays (as well as actually reading the plays) is how much richer other books are – including CM’s Original Series – because I understand the story lines of the characters the author is referring to. There are so many subtle nuances that you lose when you don’t know the story. I feel the same way about mythological references in books. You miss something the author is speaking of when you don’t know the story they are referencing.  Anyway…off my soapbox… :)

We will continue to memorize Shakespeare and we will choose our own passages from the plays we actually have read. I think in the end it will mean more to them because they will have already made their own connections with it.