In any Waldorf Kindergarten there are generally plenty of soft bodied dolls to go around. Even into first grade there is usaully a small corner in the classroom set aside for play including dolls. My husband recalls how he always longed for a doll when he was a child - but a baby doll for a boy? Not happening in his house but he did have a soft bodied Spiderman doll that he loved dearly.
I am glad that we have no problem allowing our boys access to doll play. The boys don't often take an interest in the dolls - they are much too busy building, sword fighting, and generally rolling around and getting into trouble. But every once in a while some little bit of inspiration strikes them and I find dolls in some curious places. Like stuffed in the shark shaped back- pack.
"Uh Christian - did this shark eat the doll?"
"No Mama - the doll lives inside the shark and eats the meat."
Hmmm - we'll just put that in the *sorry I asked category*.
But other times you come across such scenes of sincere gentleness that I wonder if someone had snatched my son and left some other child in his place. As was the case recently with youngest seven year old Aidan a couple of weeks ago. It must have started with an offhand remark I made while "helping" the boys to clean up their room. I happened to say "Oh we'll have to get all the dollies dressed for Christmas". A couple of days later Aidan asked for the dolls clothes box and soon everyone was dressed and in their own beds. We don't have a bed for every doll but Aidan remembered that Katie had made hammocks for the dolls one day with a couple of our silks.
And then later that night all the dollies needed to be changed into jammies and tucked in for the night.
Do you have a favorite tasty something that would make food editors the world over shudder with horror?
This is my favorite extra special holiday treat -
You take a bagel - a wonderful fresh bagel from your favorite bagel spot - lightly toasted - spread each side with a thin layer of cream cheese - adorn with wild caught smoked salmon - and add a baked potato patty - sheer culinary bliss!
One of our favorite traditions this time of year is putting up a tree on our deck for the birds. We make simple birdseed ornaments to adorn the tree and the birds that come for the feast make the tree so much more beautiful - nature's own lovely winged ornaments.
We have a big alumimun pan filled with birdseed. We have several heart and star shaped ornaments cut out of cardbooard and then threaded with yarn for a hanger. Make sure you have your hangers on before adding the paste and birdseed - I made that mistake once - only once.
To make the paste mix equal parts of confectioner's sugar and flour in a bowl and then add enough water to make a not too thick - not too thin consistency. Use a brush to paint the paste onto the cardboard ornaments and then bury the ornamants in the seed. You can let them set a for a couple of minutes - but they are pretty much ready for the tree once they are covered in birdseed.
All ready for the birds!
The tree is enjoyed by all members of the family!
We usually get our tree for birds ready on the winter solstice but we're running a bit late this year!
This is probably the latest we have ever decorated our "inside" tree. I made a bit of a blunder - I had forgotten that last year I had purged nearly all of our Christmas lights. The strands that were left would not light - I tried - I switched countless bulbs and little fuses to no avail. Ed was out last night to take Hannah to bagpipe practice - yes - three days before Christmas and they still had practice - and offered to get me new lights (among all the other things he had on his list).
And he tried - he could tell which of the wide open empty shelves once displayed Christmas lights. There was evidence of a stray little bulb here and there but aside from neon green and blue rope lights there was nothing.
I am glad that we do have our candles for the tree and without the electric lights I might just summon up a bit more will to light the candles. Usually we unplug the tree and try to light the candles on the Christmas tree each night of the 12 days of Christmas. Some years this actually happens more times than others - this year I hope it will happen more often than not.
Maybe, just maybe, the children won't even miss the electric lights and I will never again lose an entire day plugging and unplugging wee little bulbs and rethreading burnt out ones. One can only hope.
Hannah often goes for walks on her own in the woods. Living in a small house with two very boisterous brothers makes a few moments of solitude precious. These are some pics taken of fox prints she followed back to its den - how great is that!
I wanted to do something a little special for my very tired husband, so this morning I resolved to get to the recycling center - a major chore. And the boys wanted to pick out some things for their sisters for Christmas. We packed up the car with bagged garbage, cardboard, cans, bottles, paper recycling, a bag of old clothes. Of course, all this took way longer than planned and I knew I would have two hungry boys on my hands soon after the trip to the recycling center with many more errands to go. But I also didn't want to delay getting out to pack lunch.
I really, really, really try to avoid fast food places at all costs...even on our many road trips we pack food to go...hard boiled eggs, cold sausages, sandwhiches, chunks of cheese, hummus and chips, little yogurts...etc..
But like I said I didn't really have any of those things around to pack quick so we decided on our favorite pizza place in town. It was not "fast" but well worth taking a little time. First it was *warm* - both in easing the chill in little toes and the heart of a mother mentally tallying all the tasks yet to be accomplished before Christmas. There was a Christmas tree, poinsettias, and even a *Nativity* set up in the main dining area. What a pleasure to go out somewhere where it really felt like Christmas. And what a pleasure to know that my boys are getting old enough at 7 and 10 to able to take them out to a restaurant with relative ease.
They took turns going over to look at the Nativity scene and reporting back their impressions. Christian was impressed by the extra stall provided for the animals. Aidan came back to report that - it was not "proper" because baby Jesus was already there and the three wise men too!! He was a bit taken aback at these obvious errors but I convinced him that no, we would not be troubling the owner over it - we do our creche at home our way - they can do theirs, their way.
The pizza came and soon we were stuffed full of yummy pizza and ready to face the rest of the day.
The children have been getting out much more than I have. I have discovered that I am a complete wimp when it comes cold yucky weather. I'm working on it. But when the weather does give me a bit of incentive, I have been enjoying getting outside.
Hannah discovered some old rock walls way up on a piece of property that is not far from us. The land was purchased by the state and now adjoins a larger state park. It is a hike up a very large hill - mental note to self to get further definition of "well it's a little ways up there" from dear daugther before venturing on a hike with her. But we found the walls - remains of some castle for sure according to the boys.
I do love where we live.
And I do love my beautiful young naturalist daughter (even if she does nearly kill me on a "short" hike).
I was all set for Gaudete Sunday this year - a new pink shirt - I was ready for Joy! But I was not at all feeling pink this year. This year we've had to make room for an unexpected guest this Advent - sorrow. Ed lost a much loved aunt. The St. Nicholas bag accompanied us to viewings and other services for those down times that can be particularly hard on rambunctious boys.
And then we had news that Ed lost a student. A hunting accident - so unexpected. He was also a member of the fishing club Ed mentors. He was 17.
This year our Mary path has taken on a new focus - instead of the path leading us to Christmas day we've been asking Mary to help our loved ones find their way to the Child in heaven.
St. Nicholas Eve was a late night - the girls had a late Holiday Concert with their choir (which was wonderful - more about that in another post). It was well past the boys' bedtime when we arrived home that night. The boys were up - it was a scramble to find the Santa letters that were worked on during the week. But we found them and quick found Papa's dress shoes and then off to bed. Usually St. Nicholas morning means a leisurely breakfast and extra time snuggled in bed reading stories of St. Nicholas. Not this year - the girls and I had to rush out to get to the 8:00am Mass, then home for a quick breakfast. Hannah and her dad were out the door the annual Senior Citizen Prom and Katie and I were making sure everything was set for her violin concert.
Since we missed our usual snuggle time - I packed up everything we needed for the boys - two clipboards with coloring pages and plenty of tales of St. Nicholas.
Here is one with St. Nicholas on his horse. St Nicholas on a horse is mentioned in the story found in this little volume it can also be found here. This is the story we tell every year - we may include other stories as well but this one is a must! I also found a coloring page of a ship.
Here is a nice one that shows St. Nicholas carrying a bag of gold which went very nicely with "The Story of Bella, Sophia, and the Little Bonita" from The Seven-Year-Old Wonder Book . *I do edit this story slightly but it is lovely and also went so well with our sweets tht St. Nichoals left in the childrens' shoes this year along with the usual nuts and grapefruit. Don't they look like gold coins? Close enough and they are so good!! I think more will find their way into Christmas stockings this year!
For coloring on the go I like to sharpen a bunch of colored pencils and we like these crayons.
Since Katie had to be at the concert 45 minutes early, the boys and I had plenty of time for stories, coloring, multiple trips to the drinking fountain (mental note to self - do not leave house without WATER) and the bathroom before the concert began. The boys made it through the Suzuki strings, Rocking Strings and the Prepatory Orchestra - all of which Katie played and which was about all the sitting the boys could take.
Katie - 2nd child in the middle row - she did geat!
The music was beautiful, I hope St. Nicholas was listening.
After watching this movie the boys were very much in need of a little outdoor time. Shortly after the movie this was just one of Aidan's battle scenes being played out on the dining room floor (note the possession of illicit stick snatched from the kindling for the woodstove - sigh).
We used ideas from two little Klutz books, here and here , to make Christmas Angel Ornaments - we plan to make another bunch for home. Tip: when picking out flowers look for ones that have not used a lot of glue on the petals - I had picked out some pretty red and green roses in the craft section only to find that almost all the petals were unusable because a lot of hot glue was used to keep the rose shape. If you carefully look through the layers you should be able to tell which flowers will be easier to separate. The flowers that worked best were those that used little plastic pieces to make more layers.
Here's one of Katie's:
We hope they will find good homes in this year's Christmas trees.
Time for poinsettas! My daughters participate in their Choir's Poinsetta and Weath sale every winter - I generally don't enjoy fundraising activities but this one is my favorite - when I walk into that room filled with flowers I can't help but smile. And I am thankful for the opportunites to help offset the cost of larger trips that the Choir takes - the next big one is set for Paris in the summer of 2011.
My boys were very patient and helpful while we loaded and delivered the first batch. We also heard a bit of the dress rehearsal for the concert this Saturday - such beautiful voices. As always - I am sure the concert will be a great treat.
I know one thing that makes me feel better in general and helps me cope with stress is regular time out of doors. So to help dust away those layers of stress I going to *try*...really...really try to commit to one hour outside every day of Advent. Can I do it? I hope so - I think we all be the better for more fresh air - even if a bit nippy- to put a little color in our cheeks. I had so much fun doing the April Shower of Photos that I hope to post a picture a day of our Advent adventures outdoors!
A song that we've been singing since a Thanksgiving Tea with friends is "When I First Came to this Land" - it's one of those fun songs that lends itself to creating your own verses. Aidan and I made up several new verses inluding
When I first came to this land
I was not a weathy man, so I got myself a pot
I did what I could
And I called my pot, soup so hot
But the land was sweet and good...
Believe me - there is nothing quite so comforting on a chilly day like a warm bowl of homemade soup. The above is my oldest daughter's speciality. She made it for us today while the rest of us were running errands this morning. Post office, dry cleaners, department store. Have you been shopping for bras lately? Very scary. Shopping for bras with two rascally boys in tow - even scarier. Then off to violin lesson. By the time we got back for lunch we were all in need of a little comfort.
Our favorite soup
Take a quantity of homemade stock (turkey stock this time - gotta love Thanksgiving - it's the holiday that keeps giving us great meals!)
Peel and thinly slice 3-4 carrots
Peel and dice a couple of potatoes (optional - there is a great debate in our house now whether this is a worthy addition to the soup )
Noodles - sometimes we use ABC's or little stars or broken up angel hair - something pretty quick cooking.
Cooked , cubed turkey ( or chicken)
About 1/2 lb of a leafy greens such as spinach, swiss chard, kale etc... rinsed and cut into thin strips. We do not recomend boc choy though - it gave the soup a very strong almost lemony flavor - but not quite - blech.
Begin to heat stock while you take care of carrots - add carrots first and then potatoe and simmer until just about tender, add noodles when noodles are just about done add tthe turkey and lastly the greens which need just a couple of minutes(until wilted). Ladle in bowls - serve with crackers. Yum. This is our go to soup for comfort or a cure when feeling under the weather.
For once this day did not catch me by surprise - I really wanted to say a complete Christmas Novena this year and I knew it started on St. Andrew's feast day - Nov.30th. What I did not realize before was that St. Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen - everyone here except me enjoys fishing - anywhere - anytime. Whether it's a trip to Island Beach State park or an excursion to Oswego, NY or a quick trip to more local spot, a fishing pole is likely to be brought along.
And St. Andrew is the patron of Scotland - my daughter plays the bagpipes - enough said.
Besides a great start to our Christmas Novena we will have a fish and chips dinner and oldest dear daughter has a bagpipe lesson in the evening.
The Christmas Novena prayer can be found here . I remember just a couple of years ago I could not imagine getting my boys to participate but this year it seems not only doable but enjoyable. I printed out several copies of the prayer and backed it with pretty paper (as in the picture above). These I placed in obvious places to remind us to say a set of three at convenient times - with morning prayer, before we go out, before meals etc.. . Five sets brings us to 15 and helps us cover our days until Christmas in prayer. I also used some small pictures of the nativity scene I had on hand to make small individual cards for everyone in the family - the prayer is written on the back
Some of my favorite posts about the Christmas Novena can be found at
As I have already posted in a previous year - "Joy to the World" continues to be my carol for the feast of Christ the King - although this carol is widely known as a Christmas carol the verses never actually mention Christmas or the the Nativity.
This year for Advent the phrase "Let every heart prepare him room" seems to be especially ringing in my ears. Prepare Him Room. For me, this Advent, this phrase will be my focus - Christmas in a small home does take preparation - I spent today clearing the top of our school cupboard to make room for the Advent wreath. I had to clear another surface to make room for the math basket and globe that usually live on top the school cupboard and so it goes....
The clearing of one place draws attention to the needs of another - slowly surface by surface - room by room -we find the room we never knew we had that makes a place for the gingerbread houses, the Christmas tree, the Nativity scene etc.. I am always a bit in awe of the dust I find and the cobwebs to sweep away.
But more striking this year are layers that I find in need of a good sweeping in my own heart. That was the message I heard during the Gospel reading which you can find here. It was not surprising that we are warned about "carousing" and "drunkenness". Carousing? Hmm...homeschooling mothers are not generally known for carousing. Drunkenness? Not a problem. But there is a third waring against *anxiety*. That's the one that lurks in nearly every mother's heart. And I have given it too much room in mine - between fretting over our first year homeschooling high school to troubles with neighbors my faith and joy in all that is GOOD in my life has become - well - drowsy.
Last Thursday our "group" met for beeswax candle dipping. I haven't done this with a group in many years now - it is a wonderful experience. I plan a pathway for everyone to follow after their dip - out of the kitchen and around the dining room table, for instance. This helps keep everyone organized. I also started the youngest first and let the older group model some homemade modeling beewax - they were quite content while the younger group got a start on their candles. Then I called over for more candle dippers once the younger ones got started. We had an age span of 3 to 14 and a good time was had by all. The warm kitchen and the small wonderful smell of the beewax does good for one's soul when the weather has been cold and icy.
On February 2nd - my children took their candles and began to decorate them using the thin sheets of decorating wax. A little goes a long way. Without any prompting they chose many symbols of our faith to put on their candles. Aidan wanted help with a figure of Jesus holding the cup - which I was happy to help with - but then he says to me "Now how about some people around Jesus - you could make them small..." I knew what he was getting at. "Aidan," I said, "We are not going to fit the entire Last Supper on this small candle!" Katie also made some lovely candles with wax flowers using some basic beeswax punches. When our candles were ready - we set up our festival table for a little table top play. Decorating wax and punches can be found here.
I adapted a play that was written by W.M. von Heider that was intended more for Christmas time - I rewrote the verses but had to thank the original author who sparked my imagination so with out further ado we present...
On Candlemas Day
We are the gnomes Who tend the good brown earth Where there are rocks and stones And cracks filled with soil; The good brown earth
Snowdrops We are the flowers The first of many to follow That root deep in the soil Twixt the cracks in the rocks In the good brown earth
Bees We are the bees That make wax and honey From summer flowers That root deep in the soil Twixt the cracks in the rocks In the good brown earth
Sorry I don't have a picture of the children - my children took the part of the children! Children We are the children Who have melted the wax To make the candles A gift from the bees That gather the wax and honey From summer flowers That root deep in the soil Twixt the cracks in the rocks In the good brown earth.
Angels We are the angels From heaven above; Both day and night We watch over the children Who have melted the wax To make the candles A gift from the bees That gather wax and honey From summer flowers That root deep in the soil Twixt the cracks in the rocks In the good brown earth
Mary I am Mary, the mother meek and mild, Mary, the mother of the Holy Child; Now kindle your candles And remember this day When at the Temple, I presented Two turtles doves and my sweet Babe. Light your candles and remember The Light of World whose birth was beheld By angels from heaven above Who both day and night Watch over the children, Who have melted the wax To make the candles A gift from the bees That gather wax and honey From summer flowers That root deep in the soil Twixt the cracks in the rocks In the good brown earth.
V. Our help is in the name of the Lord. R. Who has made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you. R. And with your spirit.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, bless these candles at our request. By virtue of the holy cross, Lord, pour upon them the virtue of Your heavenly blessing. You have given them to mankind to drive away the dark. May they, at this sign of the cross, receive such blessing that wherever they may be lit or placed, the princes of darkness may depart and be afraid and fly in fear from those houses with all their helpers. Nor may they dare again to trouble or bother those who serve You, almighty God, who live and are King for ever and ever R. Amen.
(And they are sprinkled with holy water.)
Ordinarily I would have taken them to Mass in the morning and asked our priest to bless the candles but it just was not happening! But we enjoyed our own little candle blessing and will keep the candles for meal times and prayer.