Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas, 2012

On Christmas Day this is the state of my Advent Wreath! A good intention, that was all! This is the first year since I've had children that I didn't put it up to prepare for Christmas. It all went so fast that we were only able to enjoy the one at church.
Our tree was large but decorated with only a very small portion of our ornaments. I put up none of our decorations around the house. I DID have food and drinks and the shopping was done- we were wrapped and ready! A beautiful unexpected snowfall on Christmas Eve didn't keep us from the late night Mass which was lovely. Larry and I sang all the verses to every Christmas Carol that we knew while there. We had some major laughs while opening gifts! No tears this year except for the ones brought on from laughing so hard that you then have to change your britches!
I took only a couple of pictures and those were obtained during the last hour of the day. I was very much present although not digitally, while watching my grandchildren with their parents opening their gifts. The young and older kids crowded into this living room that seems to get smaller every year. It is so not about the stuff- it is about the love behind each carefully selected gift. It is about trying to please someone else with something that they need or would like but would never buy for themselves. Or, in this case, it is about those gorgeous items from Nibblins that I wanted so I bought them for Larry!
John was the recipient of Jeff and Chelsea's generosity as we near the end of the line of the "individual splurging" that he started years ago. He knows that John, like himself at that age, loves computers. So he bought him a new one in parts and is teaching him how to build it. Jeff also spent HOURS of time converting our old home movies from VHS to DVD. These he presented to each of us. Larry and I watched them all last night. Before going to bed, I thought about all that I had seen in the movies of our life together. So much work! So many cakes I've cut! So many little outfits that I remember the kids wearing. When did Larry have  time to plant all of those flowers, trees and bushes and decorate the house  for the holidays? When did I have time to dress kids for church and braid Meg's hair just so? How much time we spent just playing with the current baby and watching her try to crawl. So many Christmas trees! In some scenes were my parents and brothers and sisters gathered just as we do now. In others are Larry's family having come to visit us. I found out the older kids did argue when they were younger- I had completely forgotten that! How could it be that we were SO much thinner back then ?!!!
Family Life is an accomplishment. It is made up of a lifetime of todays and "right now's". I went to bed very grateful on this Christmas Night for God's Amazing Grace in His gift of the Willingness to do the hard work over many years that it takes to make Family Life possible. Larry and I were given great examples of this in our homes growing up. I suspect that this DVD set of home movies may help to document for our children  a small example of the love and teamwork that motivated us to build a life for our family which is no doubt what all families do, each in its own way. To God be the Glory!

Cigar Box Craft

At least two years ago I purchased a lot of 22 wooden cigar boxes at a church yard sale for 20 bucks. Since then, I have had them in the back of my closet awaiting an inspiration for a craft for our homeschool group.
These boxes are nice and I just noticed that they smell good when you open them because they seem to be made of something like cedar.
I thought about making "Cigar Box Shrines" which are done standing the open box up on its side and then decorating the inside with a Saint picture and other related trinkets. I changed my idea to a treasure box decorated for Christmas for the kids to keep or to give as a gift.
I asked each family to bring some little Christmas decorations for their boxes and a snack to share for the kids. We were also doing Gingerbread Houses from a kit on this same day and each family was asked to bring not only a kit but also an extra bag of candy to decorate them with.

I think it was at this point that I lost the entire group!!!

After asking folks to bring decorations, I went to Michael's Crafts and found everything Christmassy at 70% off. That is because this craft was scheduled for 4 days before Christmas! I bought the place up and was prepared for 30 kids to craft away! On the actual day of the craft, and after a sleepless night worrying about it all, we crafted with only 6 children from 4 families and 4 adults!  We actually had a wonderful time but I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the other 8-10 families that often join us. I said to one Dad there " I feel a little foolish. I am prepared for 30 kids" He said to me " What was your alternative? Not be ready for a child who came in here all excited to make something?"
I can honestly tell you that I kept that kind remark close at heart as I returned almost all of my supplies to the craft store that evening!
 I think that I have learned that families are VERY BUSY at this time of year and that asking any mother to prepare one more thing extra is too much 4 days before Christmas. Also, I need to ask folks to RSVP to get an idea of the numbers expected. Lastly, it's not about getting big numbers to attend functions but instead to enjoy each individual who could make it. That is exactly what we all did. We didn't worry about who wasn't there and why not. In this case I was graced with enough humility to focus on the moment and the process of what we were making and was able to realize that it was about the kids who showed up! The show must go on and it did!
I am going to plan another kids' crafting day to make "Spring Boxes" with my scads of leftover wooden cigar boxes when things slow down and offer this to my homeschool group OR to all of my nieces and nephews. I will gather all of the supplies and not impose on folks to bring stuff when they don't have a clear idea of what actually is needed.

A Nutcracker Tea Party

One event that I really looked forward to and then thoroughly enjoyed was a Nutcracker Tea Party and Playdate that Allison and I put on for our girls. We have a wide circle of friends who have girls of this age, and it just seemed like fun to have a get together.
I honestly can't remember if we had the party set up before I found these terrific cupcake papers and toppers at T.J.Maxx or not, but I believe that we had. They sure were cute and made for a marvelous centerpiece and decoration for the festivities. The set included Clara, The Nutcracker, the Sugarplum Fairy and the Mouse King.
15 girls attended all dressed up in Christmas finery. Board games were the entertainment. I loved how they chose a game that everyone could play at once and the older girls took the lead in getting it organized.
We served some light refreshments which included peppermint tea that everyone wanted but no one drank!
Some of the Moms stayed and hung out with us in the kitchen. Many of us have known each other for years and most of the girls have known each other their whole lives.
The Dollar Store was a great place to find these colorful Nutcrackers and each girl took one home with her.
The leftover Nutcrackers were used to put on a play. The last girls at the party split into teams to put on the best play they could for the other team.
It wasn't until I got home from this wonderful day that I heard about the tragedy in Connecticut that had occurred that morning. That news was in such stark contrast to the magical, whimsical time that our girls had  enjoyed.
There But for the Grace of God, Go I.
For all those children who are no more...
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them. By the mercy of God let them rest in peace. May God have mercy on their parents' as well as they go through this time of year without them, not only this year, but for the rest of their own lives. Amen

A Christmas Carol

We treated ourselves to a fantastic performance of  "A Christmas Carol" performed by a Troupe of homeschooled students and a few of their parents.  This free show was EXCELLENT!  It was so professionally done with great costumes and props. The  music and singing were first rate. It really followed the script of the many versions of the movie which of course comes straight out of the novel by Charles Dickens.
I was so appreciative of Larry for being up for this outing! Because he wanted to come with us, I was able to invite our friends and some cousins to join us. He and I loved the show and it was so sweet and poignant that it made each of us cry! This is the kind of thing that I want to be doing to prepare for Christmas. Treating ourselves and the children to a classic piece of culture is exactly my idea of fun and then being so pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show was delightful! We each had a wonderful time.

Friday Cousin Time

After some shopping at the Thrift Store, I now have a new sweater vest and coordinating shirt to wear for Thanksgiving festivities;). You will all see this outfit again! At the end of the day, some of the cousins were able to spend the night which turned out to be a blast and something that I truly enjoyed.
Larry went hunting and so, after having prepared for Thanksgiving, I took the day "off" to do what I wanted to do! That consisted of spending real quality time with nine kids! We hung out at our house and enjoyed a sit-down lunch of wonderful Thanksgiving leftovers.
You can be sure that we prayed for a safe journey as we then set out on a 50 mile drive to bring some of our cousins home. We had a wonderful time there and enjoyed seeing Matthew's tree house.
Wow! Look at all this firewood ready for the winter! I was very impressed with this family's hard work.
After an afternoon outdoors, everyone had a snack and we left to take our other cousins home. At their house, we spent the evening visiting and discussing the Black Friday deals that some of the shoppers had scored! It really felt like a holiday to me and it was a pleasure to go visiting and to spend intentional time with my family members!
Thank You, Lord, for the safe trip as I drove so many members of three families a long distance. Amen.

Thanksgiving, 2012

Thanksgiving is about far more than the food, but I have to say that the Feast this year was absolutely delicious! Spaghetti Squash au Gratin  (Kat), Brussels Sprouts (Nancy), and Glazed Baby Carrots (Catherine), were fabulous new additions. Swiss Cheese topped Spinach and Green Bean Casserole (Cecilia), brought the number to five great vegetables so we decided to forgo the corn this year! Two turkeys (Mom and I) and two hams (Wendy and Jackie), mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes (Lindsay), seasoned stuffing, a rich gravy and whole cranberry sauce filled our plates, but not for long!

Enjoying this meal with 64 members of our family and close friends filled each of us with gratitude for God's magnificent Bounty and for the abundant Blessings He has poured down on each of us this year.
We gathered at 11 am to start our day with fruits, vegetables and cheeses (Holly), Note: Let's split this very big job up next year! Then, most of the group left on our traditional Thanksgiving Walk which had 54 people on it!!!!! A friend of mine said-"That's not a Walk- that's a Migration!

Uncle Tom chooses our destination each year .Many young babies were able to attend, carried along by their excited parents sharing this tradition with the next generation. Last year, the walk was ATV friendly, and Grandpa and Larry ( hobbling with a bad knee) made it. This year, Grandpa chose to spend the whole day with his Bride, keeping us company back at the house. Larry walked like a Boss and is the official "Cal Ripken" of the Thanksgiving Walk with 30 uninterrupted years in a row, by God's Grace!!! The challenge is on- who can beat that record?!!

After everyone left for the Walk around 12 noon, the folks at the house had a cup of coffee together and then scrambled to reheat each dish and carve the meat. Dinner is usually scheduled for 2 pm but I think it was more like 2:30 when we served it. No one minded because the weather was so fine, folks could visit inside and out. Some of our folks join us for different parts of the day, especially the young people who have commitments to spend time with each side of their families. We don't mind a bit, we are just happy to see them for the time when they can make it. Mom's theory is NO Guilt!!! With that attitude, the young folks WANT to be with their large extended family- they know that this is fun and a great blessing.
I was able to take only a few pictures very quickly as I was really busy enjoying the day so please forgive their lack of finesse.

There is something about this picture that makes me desperately want to move the eggs from the top container into the available slots in the bottom one!!!

While the men, boys and older gals got outside to play The Turkey Bowl; The Cheetah Club, their little auxiliary members (younger sisters and a niece) and the small boys, celebrated Angela's tenth Birthday with a "Brave" themed party. A Cheetah photo frame was created by each girl. Kimberly took these pictures to document the party for us.

One of my favorite desserts of the day were the cannolis made by Uncle Bill and Aunt Hannah, that had been tucked away frozen from their summer visit and brought to this large family gathering  by Aunt Nancy.

Since last year, we've had some new babies, A wedding and a new cousin, Dominick, an engagement, an enlistment, graduations, new homes, lots of new puppies, new jobs and by God's mercy, no deaths. Not in every year has the news been all good, but whatever life brings, I hope that we will continue to gather on Thanksgiving to show our Gratitude to the Lord of Life and Love who continues to provide for us all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Project Bags

My friend and I are each homeschooling only one child this year, and these girls happen to be best friends. At the beginning of the year, we decided that one day per week, we would get the girls together at alternating houses for a special activity.
We knew that it would be easier to plan something fun for the two of them to do which could be more involved than one might plan for one's own child.
We decided to sew project bags to hold the knitting needles and yarn that we will be using over the winter months. Juby picked a cheetah print and Kit has tiger stripes.
The girls cut out their material and were able to sew some their own seams after learning by doing a few of them together with me.
For a model, I am using the project bag that I made for myself between 15 and 20 years ago. I still use it to hold my knitting, (I hope to learn to crochet this winter). At that time, I made an identical one for Grandma Dolly who also still has hers.

We are sewing a muslin lining into the fabric for sturdiness and the bags will have pockets inside to hold the little things needed for any needlework project. It is really fun for me to be able to spend some special time with the girls and to teach them a useful skill.
It is also a fabulous treat to have a couple of hours all to myself, for an absolute change when Allison has the girls at her house for an activity with her!