Friday, December 24, 2010

Wrapped and Ready

    I find myself with some down time this night before Christmas Eve. The shopping is done and everything is wrapped. This morning I pulled out my recipe box and made a list of fun things to make for Christmas Eve and Day.While grocery shopping, I picked up the many odd-ball things needed to make these recipes.Things like Blue Cheese Dressing for Holly's Buffalo Chicken Dip and black olives for 7-Layer Dip. I bought sausage for a breakfast casserole I have been wanting to try on other Christmases but have never made. We also purchased a large bag of Hershey's Kisses to make cookies out of which were finished and delivered  to our neighbors this evening.
       The Christmas Tree was just selected and put up on Sunday after Mass. The lights were hung on it before the kick-off. For some reason, no one felt like putting  many ornaments on it, so we didn't. I used to send cards and love to receive them but haven't sent any out for years. For the first time, I didn't get a chance to take my younger children shopping at the Dollar Store to pick out something for each of their siblings. The one Christmas preparation that we have all thoroughly enjoyed has been a Yankee candle that I received as a gift from my daughter. It is a dark green color with the scent of Balsam and Cedar. We've been burning it for weeks and love the fir tree smell. By the way, I find "Yankee Candle" to be a complete oxymoron, or contradiction of terms. I'm from Vermont and no Yankee I ever met would pay this much for a candle!
        In some ways it doesn't feel like Christmas. Our Home School year has been difficult at best.  Almost everyone we know socially has been struggling in one area or another. The challenges have been financial, or health related, both mental and physical. Separation from family members over long distances and a lack of peace which is something that is noticed only when absent have dimmed some of the joy. Concern for our country and its leadership have many people feeling insecure, and wondering how long this "House of Cards" can continue to stand.
         I read today about a charity that is going to deliver 20-40 gifts per child to a poor family. What a mess of clutter that will be! Cynically, I wondered if they had ever thought to offer that family a ride to church instead. When I am tempted to  get worn out with the " work " of Christmas and the "consumerism", it really helps me to remember that it is all about a tiny little baby. His name is Wonderful..., Counselor..., Mighty God..., The Prince of Peace. I am in need of a Savior and beg Him to help me through all the difficulties of life and the suffering with which we all get to take a turn. I thank Him for this warm heated home and good food to feast on. His birth is worth celebrating every year in whatever way we can. It is a testament to His Love that we are reminded and given opportunities to help our less fortunate Brothers and Sisters to really celebrate this great occasion.
          I am so grateful to my parents who provided us with beautiful Christmases year after year. I have never experienced having parents who were so drunk that they knocked the Tree over or who were too preoccupied with self to select thoughtful gifts, however modest, to show their love.We celebrated Christmas every year by going to Church. Getting dressed in our nicest clothes, hearing the Scriptures, singing the old Carols and receiving the Lord Jesus who still dwells among us gave meaning to all the other Yuletide traditions. We do the same with our own family. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year when I remember the Reason for the Season and try to love as He loves. I am looking forward to being together with my family (immediate and extended!), preparing and enjoying special foods, exchanging gifts as a sign of our love and worshiping the King of Kings, made manifest as a newborn Babe lying in a manger.  Merry Christmas!!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Making Merry in Moderation

       This year, I have really been wanting to go see The Nutcracker ballet performed locally as it has been for twenty years. In fact, I have been wanting to go see it for twenty years! I thought that this might be the year I would finally get there. I envisioned taking my sons and my daughter and enjoying the costumes,dancing and music.That thought went right out the window after paying the bills yesterday. It is just too expensive. We simply can't afford it. I should have set up a field trip! The difference in price between a group and a family is amazing.
      Another  event that caught my eye is an elegant tea party that is serving all kinds of teas, fruit breads, scones, lemon curd and clotted cream. I don't know what those fancy things are but I'm pretty sure that I would like them! Piano music will be playing throughout the tea and it is taking place in a home that has entertained Presidents.When I saw the price of $39 per person, I knew that this would be out of the question. If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it!
      I realized that what I could do instead was to create my own fun day right here at home. I want to be home where my adult children can find me when they stop in.That is how I want to spend my Saturday afternoon. I am planning to bake Oatmeal Raisin cookies because I have all of the ingredients already and I won't have to buy anything. Lipton tea in a pot will be refreshingly delicious.We will borrow Mom's copy of Barbie and the Nutcracker and sit down and watch it all in the warm heat of the woodstove! Chicken and Dumplings will be on the menu for dinner when Larry gets home from hunting.This day should be relaxing and cost nothing and instead of a memory from something "out there", the kids will have a memory of home.
     I read a blog the other day about making choices. The author, (I'm sorry, I didn't catch the name), was stating that for every "yes" we choose, we had to have said "no" to something else and vice versa. That idea has given me tremendous food for thought since then. It reminded me that I should take a good look at my goals and ask myself if the event, activity, excursion, purchase,snack, behavior etc. is going to help me to achieve my goals or not. I think the current lingo for this concept is called "being intentional". Life moves very quickly and I needed to be reminded of this whole idea especially with the Christmas season approaching. I have no desire to jump into a rat race of shopping and spending. On the other hand, I actually enjoy quite a bit about this whole season and I have learned that if one waits too long to get "out there", all the sizes and colors are gone! I will have to pray for God's Guidance in determining what a  proper balance will be as we prepare for Christmas. I am thankful to have been inspired to do as much as I can with the kids at home for free this year. I have no doubt that those are the things that they will remember and appreciate the most.
        Nevertheless, I like to be entertained more than I thought! We all really enjoyed seeing a live performance of Handel's Messiah the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Larry and I both sang parts of this work in choral groups in High School so we have always had an interest in it .We took the kids and made an evening of it. What a treat to listen to the orchestra, chorus and outstanding soloists and to watch the talented and energetic conductor! This must have been a gift to the community because it was free- there wasn't even a freewill offering. It was an extra-special  occasion because Grandpa also attended and sat with us!
        I am  taking the kids to a Christmas play this evening and have invited some friends and the newlyweds and my grandson to come along because I  have free tickets. A local charitable organization hired a professional troupe to put on the play for disadvantaged children. By making a donation to help with that, free tickets are given to take one's own guests. I really like culture and I think it has a lot to offer but it turns out that I prefer it to be reasonably priced. Free is such a great price!  I love to experience live action events but it has to be worth the "yes", because I am giving up something else in order to participate. This is where I have to find that balance. There are so many fun things to do...Twice this week we have watched Christmas shows on TV together. I still remember how much I enjoyed that as a child and how all that beautifully imagery brought joy and wonder to me.
       I would really like to play more board games and card games with the kids. We ALL need to practice our manners and good sportsmanship with each other.This is an activity that I forget to make time for. It would do us all a lot of good to make home a place for "fun" instead of endless schoolwork, housework and outdoor chores.What can I say "no" to in order to say "yes" to making this investment of time in  my children? I see puzzles in the store with 1000 pieces and ask myself " Who, on earth, has time for that?" Maybe I would if I felt that this would be a nice way for us to be a family together and to spend time at home. I'll have to see! I know that a game of Monopoly is something that they would love. I need to make a plan for it so it will be a priority for me. It might be more fun than I expect!

        My camera is broken again. However, it is still under warranty and I still have the receipt! It has been mailed in for repair. I hope that I get it back more quickly this time. In the meantime, I'll try sharing my thoughts in writing which is a whole lot harder!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Farm

Our October field trip was to a nearby "Agri-business" that is a pick your own farm with extra family attractions.We negotiated the best price possible ( 7 dollars each including a pumpkin, under 3 free) and then our homeschool group voted to supplement each person's admission with 3 dollars. We thought that 4 dollars was reasonable for each to pay and 60 folks from our group came out!

 After an educational tour about apples and pumpkins, we headed out on a hay ride to pick a pumpkin from the very large patch.
This apple sluice was interesting.

Each of the kids got a cup of feed for the goats to eat.
This farm was located on many acres and the petting zoo had a lot to see.
One of the most unusual features of this place which many of the kids remembered from coming here three years ago is it's huge jumping pillow.This could hold lots of kids.It was inflated with air like a moon bounce.
 There were three different types of mazes. This one had ropes that you couldn't cross to get to the lookout tower in the center of it.
This farm was located in a scenic valley and they offered many different things to do that were fun. It was obvious that they understood that there is money to be made  from folks who want to get out and spend some time in the country.
The outdoor amusements were simple and plentiful.
There were swings,
and a pumpkin-chucking dinosaur used on the week-ends.

The corn-crib was set up like a giant playpen for toddlers. It was full of corn kernels.Netting covered the sides to keep out the birds.
Another area of the farm held giant wooden toys to climb into and play in.

Pretty Fall sights were a delight to the eyes.Someone described these as "Cinderella Pumpkins" and I could immediately picture her carriage made out of these flatter, squishier looking pumpkins.
 Although our homeschool year has been much more difficult than in years past as far as getting the daily work accomplished, we have certainly been on some nice field trips!There is probably a relationship there! It has definitely been a pleasure experiencing so many of the beautiful things that this area has to offer, while getting to know our fellow parishioners in a relaxed setting. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bridal Party Hair Flair

I decided to call the hair salon that is a beauty school that I frequently pass to see what they would charge to do an up-do for the bride.When I found out that it would be only 20 dollars, I made an appointment for myself and the entire bridal party!
Sweetpea had already had her hair washed and rolled on sponge curlers at home, but was able to sit under the dryer to get it finished. The girls at the shop offered her a jelly donut.
Each gal had something unique done to her hair.
It was a quaint shop and we had fun getting pampered.
The bride got an up-do and had her veil placed in her hair where it stayed for the rest of the day and evening.

These girls got lots of beautiful ringlets put into their hair. The  students sprayed the "do's" to last and they did. W hen we were all done, we  tipped the budding beauticians and skedaddled home to get dressed and made up in an hour and a half! That cut it a bit too close- but it all worked out fine as you can see!

Here is the bride updating her status just before leaving for the church!