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Celebrating Advent with Older Kids ... ❤

Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday!

I'm back to talk a little more about Advent, and what I'd like to discuss today is the topic of celebrating the season with older kids ...

I was inspired by a recent comment from Michelle P., whose three boys are almost exactly the same ages as my older three boys:

I am determined this year to try to do more with my older boys to celebrate Advent. I have a huge binder of ideas (crafts, foods, and activities) that we did when they were younger. I have pulled the binder out and I am pouring over the ideas. It brings such fond memories of when they were young, however I am at a loss for ideas now that they are older. Do you have any suggestions? My boys are 21, 17, and 15.

So Michelle's question got me thinking ... 

I happen to be in a fortunate place right now, with my kids spread out in all age brackets - we have a little guy (3), a middle guy (our 14 yo with autism is still very young developmentally), a high schooler (17) and gulp an adult son (21). When I'm planning out Advent activities I do try to think of the whole family, but so many of my projects are geared towards the younger two. They're the ones who have all kinds of energy to spare and are really looking for something to do every day ... that's not to say however that my older boys don't take pleasure in the Advent atmosphere and partake in the fun now and then!

When thinking about how I hope my older boys view Advent ...

I want them to experience the season with a lightness of spirit and a subtle thrill of anticipation. I want them to be open to letting go of the outside world a little and spending more time with their family, at home. I want them to understand the deep satisfaction of gift-giving and the true beauty of giving non-material things ... and/or items that have been made by hand and with love. I'd like for them to make room in their hearts for faith and trust ... and wonder. And I want their memories to be filled with good smells and yummy flavors, comfort and quiet joy ... and lots of love around them.

(There I go again with those lofty goals, lol!)

Since most older kids spend the bulk of their day busy with educational and/or work things -  whether they be in traditional school or homeschooled - then you'll probably want to plan your activity time for evenings and weekends. My Crackerjack, a high school junior, has a pretty decent-sized work load and is in outside classes several days each week. I try to plan projects he can be part of for the days when I know he (and we) will have more time at home. Also, Bookworm will be returning home after he finishes exams, so needless to say that will be an extra special time for all of us. I try to take these things into consideration when planning out our Advent activity calendar.

So below are some ideas for involving the older kids in our Advent journey - I've been jotting them down for the past couple of days and I fear I've gotten a bit carried away. Yet I'm sure there are many things I haven't thought of! Dear readers, if you have some ideas for older kids participating in and celebrating Advent, I would love to hear them! Please leave a comment and I will add your thoughts to my post. This would be a great resource to grow over the years ... :)

  • How about choosing a multi-chapter book to read over Advent? Something the whole family will enjoy? It could be read aloud by one or more family members or perhaps you all might listen to an audiobook. (Add extra pillows and throw blankets to the family room - create a cozy, relaxing atmosphere!)
  • Perhaps each family member could take a turn finding a quote, verse, song lyrics or a bit of Scripture to share each day? This would be fun to do with a chalkboard placed in a central location, spruced up with some holiday flair.
  • A nice family table tradition is to read aloud any holiday cards that arrived in the day's mail. Together say a prayer for the sender's health and happiness.
  • How about encouraging the kids to send Season's Greetings of their own? They could pick out a package of cards (available any and everywhere these days) and mail them off to surprise friends! Elderly relatives, especially, would delight in receiving messages of good cheer.
  • Maybe older kids would enjoy actually making the family Christmas cards this year? Leave it all up to them - organizing photos, choosing a design, creating artwork. Encourage them to begin early, though!
  • Surprise community workers and volunteers (think post office, school offices, library, fire station, etc.) with home baked goodies one day.
  • Revisit favorite tv shows as a family - for us it might be Northern Exposure, Downton Abbey, Sherlock or Fawlty Towers (an old British comedy). I find my older boys more willingly join us for evening television if there are some yummy refreshments involved!
  • How about surprising them with a dinner out one night at a new restaurant you've all wanted to try?
  • Ask one or more of your kids to join you on a neighborhood walk after supper - admire the lights and decorations around the neighborhood.
  • For active families, a day of skiing, skating, snowboarding or sledding would be great fun.
  • What about taking a family hike at a local nature spot? Find out if there are workshops, programs or guided walks available. Here in Massachusetts, the Audubon sanctuaries are a perfect place for this kind of experience.
  • Plan a shopping excursion as a family - how about splitting up (or pairing up) to buy secret gifts for each other?
  • There are plenty of parish and community events to check out at the holidays (tree lightings, Christmas pageants and concerts, outdoor nativities, etc.). Look in your local papers and church bulletins. Or call town hall!
  • How about taking a train ride somewhere? This could be a transit ride into the nearest city to soak in a little of that holiday "hustle and bustle?" Pick up some goodies and a hot beverage for the ride back ...
  • Help your kids use their Advent season for giving of themselves. They can offer their time and talents where there is need - how about reading aloud to nursing home residents or spending an hour playing with shelter animals? Encourage teens to call around (nursing homes, children's hospitals, homeless shelters and animal shelters) to see what is needed. Then brainstorm and organize as a family!
  • Can the kids offer to help an older relative or neighbor around the house? Does Grandma do Christmas dinner every year? Could she use a hand with vacuuming and hauling out dishes? Could the kids offer to help with yard work or putting up a tree ... could young drivers run holiday errands for those who are more housebound these days?
  • Babysitting services! How about offering a few hours of child care to help out busy parents? 
  • What about organizing a holiday play? The kids can write up a story and assign lines to each family member. The play to be performed at the extended family Christmas gathering ...
  • And what about organizing a holiday party for their friends? Something festive but informal - good food and movies or music. A community service project to work on together? How about creating cards and/or packages for soldiers?
  • What about investigating holiday handcrafts? So many older kids (mine included!) are all about the audio/video at this age but what about getting them to slow down a little and try something new? Or revisit something they might have enjoyed when younger? Perhaps try their hand at hobbies that were too challenging when they were little - candlemaking, soap making, wood-whittling? Bookworm used to love origami ... I bet I could get him to try his hand at it again, if only for one night.
  • Why not bring out the Legos? Hold a contest - who can build the most holiday-related Lego creation? Or everyone builds "something" and then the rest of the family must guess what it is ...
  • Start a family puzzle - set up a table where it can be worked on little by little throughout Advent.
  • Board games are always a great source of family fun. Maybe surprise the kids with a new game to try this year ...
  • What is each older child interested in? Is there something they absolutely love to explore? Rent a documentary about a favorite subject and watch it together.
  • How about a museum visit? Or play tourist and investigate a local attraction.
  • Attend a matinee movie on the first day of Christmas vacation ... or perhaps a Christmas concert or holiday play?
  • Have the kids offer piano lessons (or something else they can teach) to someone (young or old) who would love the time and attention.
  • Why not go caroling through the neighborhood one night? Surprise local friends and family? At a nursing home or hospital ward? (Obviously call ahead to ask about this idea!)
  • Call your parish center and ask what your kids could be doing to help out. Where is help needed? Could they perhaps organize a teen night with cookies and a movie?
  • Movie nights - each of you shares a movie you love and want the others to appreciate. These could be action, suspense, comedies, classics, etc. 
  • Visit a local historic site - these places often run special holiday-themed programs. For example, if you live in Massachusetts, there is "An Alcott Christmas Stocking" at the Louisa May Alcott House in Concord.
  • Have the kids help make something for the yard - a creche? A birch-log reindeer or family yule log?
  • Entice them with food! Trader Joes, for example, has all kinds of delicious-sounding, limited-time, holiday goodies. Pick up a few things to try one weekend. Let the kids plan out (and maybe help prepare?) their own family supper one night. Sit down and list out favorite holiday foods - plan to make one of those things together one weekend or evening.
  • Work on a family scrapbook together. Plan a page for each month of the past year ... organize photos, mementos, ticket stubs ... jot down notes and memories! Reveal the final product on New Year's Eve ...
  • If it seems like a lot to fit in during this busy season, work on a list of Christmas vacation ideas ... brainstorm fun family ideas for 12/26-1/6 (or until whenever your kids return to lessons). Fill a jar with ideas, and then read them aloud Christmas eve ...

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So I hope this list might have sparked a few ideas but dear readers, please jump in and add to my list if you have a moment! How do you involve your older kids in this beautiful season of Advent? I think being together is what's key here so even if an activity doesn't seem very "Christmassy" to you, if it's appealing to the kids, and brings you all together, then I say just roll with it! Inevitably there will be holiday atmosphere all around you - at home or out and about - whatever you decide to do!

Thank you, Michelle, for asking this important question ... it was good for me to step back and remember that my young men are still my boys and they still look to me for guidance in many ways. As mothers, the holidays very often start with us ... what we do at home becomes memories these kids carry with them throughout life. They might have gotten taller, more informed and aware of the outside world, but that doesn't mean they don't still want to be kids again at Christmas - because don't we all?

Well, I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks so much for stopping by! I will see you here again very soon ...


A Tour of My New(ish) Desk!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Today I'd like to give you all a little tour of my new desk. :)

Well, I call it "new" because I've only been using it for a couple of months, but the desk itself is not new. Actually, it's been here since the house was built back in 1985! (We've been here since 2013.) It's a great spot for sure, but I resisted situating myself here because, A. up until recently I had a (portable) laptop computer and, B. "sitting down time" was pretty scarce. (If I found myself sitting down there was usually a Little Bear in my lap!)

Also, I really didn't want to clutter up this corner of our family room ... it's the main gathering room in the house and it's hard enough to keep it neat without adding my own parpahernalia to it. And if you know me, you know I am someone who has a tendency to amass a bit of clutter - nice-looking clutter if I may say so, but still, clutter indeed. Ahem.

Anyhoo, when my beloved Macbook died in August (thankfully leaving behind its hard drive), circumstances lined up in such a way that I "inherited" my 17yo son's computer. (He was building himself a new PC per his dearest birthday wish.) So now I really did need a desk for my desktop computer (as opposed to a kitchen counter where I usually parked my laptop) and I suddenly saw this built-in desk in a whole new light. Sure it's smack dab in the family room where all the FAMILY usually is - but it turns out that's OK. It's hard to sneak away and get stuff done for any length of time on my own, though I had a good run there for a while when Little Bear was napping regularly (I'd work on my laptop in a chair parked next to his crib). But these days if I'm going to sit down and spend some time working (or let's be real, surfing) on my computer, it's going to be accomplished with my kids all around me. So these days - case in point, this day - I'm sitting here at this desk while Little Bear and Earlybird play with trains and Matchbox cars and there may be an episode of Peppa playing in the background ...

(Side note - there is a matching desk on the other side of that window seen in the above photo. This desk is used by Earlybird and that too is getting spruced up for his computer time and homeschooling! More details in a future post.)

Now, before I get on with the tour, I want to note that I am still getting settled in, so things may get moved around a bit. I like how things are working so far though ... and I do find myself sitting here quite comfortably when the opportunity arises!

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So the monitor is parked in the middle, natch. Along the wall I have a month-at-a-glance calendar on the left - and to be completely honest I don't really need a wall calendar but I loved the look of this one - crisp white with LINED boxes and soft gold dots. (Plus, you know me and calendars.) I got it at Staples. On the right side of the monitor is a bulletin board which I will discuss in more depth in a moment. (Martha Stewart brand, also found at Staples.)

I bought the decorative boxes recently at Joann Fabrics where they were on sale and I could hardly resist. The artwork is so pretty and the shades complement the desk nicely. (Speaking of color, another side note - I do love the painted woodwork here. All through the house actually. The former homeowners did a bang-up job choosing paint colors and this green, as well as the green in my kitchen, is probably my favorite - mostly because I know I wouldn't have thought of it myself!)

Inside those boxes I have extra office supplies like pencils, pens, hi-lighters, post-it notes and washi tape. These are the ones I use the most ... my main stash is just beneath in a cabinet - along with stickers, binder clips, glue sticks and clothespins. (See below.)

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(You might recognize that yellow ball as our Michaelmas meteor ... yes, that had to go into immediate hiding once the younger boys wouldn't stop fighting over it. I had forgotten I stashed it in there when I went to take this picture, lol!)

Back to that corner for a moment, though! 

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I also have a small index card bin here (with monthly dividers and a card for each day colored according to the liturgical season) ... favorite mini binder clips are perched on the edge of the bin and my new daily prayer book sits just behind. :)

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If I'm going to be working at my computer for any length of time, I take my Day Designer (my daily planner) with me. I park it in the space to the left of my keyboard. (I usually keep my DD at the kitchen counter so I can check in with it frequently throughout the day.)

Above the monitor is a banner I made recently - an important reminder! - and an overhead light that doesn't work presently. (We're working on getting the right bulb for that fixture and then this whole work area will be much brighter!)

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So a bit about the screenshot, lol, because I know you're probably wondering! That is a very pretty planner I puttered around with on the Blue Sky website. A spiral-bound, monthly-weekly affair one can personalize and then order online. I REALLY don't need another planner, but oh ... isn't this pretty? :)

Ok, to the right of the monitor is my bulletin board and more storage ...

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Fyi that bulletin board is very easy to put up with adhesive tabs on the back. I found some shimmery copper push-pins to use here - to hold some visual inspiration (I tend to hoard lovely greeting cards and so display them with the seasons) as well as a few notes re ~ library password and Bookworm's class schedule, etc. Also here (beneath the owl card) is Little Bear's most recent pediatrician's report which gives his vitals, doctor contact info. and dosage information.

Beneath the board is another pretty storage box (I'm a sucker for these can't you tell?) and in this one I have craft materials for current or upcoming projects. Right now there are vintage Halloween cards to send with Earlybird, a set of paper turkeys for a Thanksgiving project and materials for our Advent countdown. The trick is to remember I put these things here, lol - but it's vital to keep these things out of the line of my younger boys' vision. ;)

In the rectangular basket I keep bills to pay, statements to review, correspondence to answer, a plastic pouch for monthly receipts and my little shopping notebook. Also tucked in here is Mama's Pink Stapler, and all my business/appointment cards held together with a binder clip ...

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Tucked in the very corner of this desk is my Catholic reference book-of-the-moment and two lovely notebooks I bought at the Paper Source recently. Let me show them to you a little closer up ...

New notebooks

You know how sometimes you find - and I'm talking to my fellow paper-nuts here - a notebook that just works really well for you? The size, shape and feel of it is perfect and you just want to find all kinds of uses for it? Well, this is what happened to me with these little beauties. I bought the blue one a few weeks ago and have turned it into a "to-do" kind of journal. I then ordered the pink one online (did not dare visit that store again in person - too tempting!) and am turning it into a daily joy journal of sorts.

Ok, back to the desk ...

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When I established myself at this desk I realized I needed a writing/work space as well as a computer area. I had Bill move an old table of ours (originally my grandparents') to the right of my desk chair. I like to turn to my planner/binder as I work and this is a fairly efficient set-up for me.

So on that table ...

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A lamp, which casts a very cozy if not very bright light on the area! My favorite page-a-day calendar, my stack of current magazines (piled in order of read first to last, favorites on bottom!), my homekeeping binder, file crate and an in-basket.

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I will have to do a separate post about how I'm using my binder as part of my overall planning system. I think I've finally found a daily-weekly combination that works for me! (Monthly-weekly-seasonal planning in the binder ... as well as my daily journaling ... but the daily nitty gritty planning takes place in my Day Designer.) 

My file crate sits nicely here on the table ...

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Weekly file folders, seasonal file folders, teacher's planbook standing up in front along with printable nature-study calendars and in the way back of my crate I have a folder for all our homeschooling particulars - any correspondence, HSLDA paperwork, town/school paperwork, etc. The in-basket holds things - any old things - I come across through the week that I want to look at during my weekend "office hours." In there right now is last month's journaling pages for review, a couple of pieces of mail to look at, a storytime craft made by Little Bear (not sure how that ended up in there, lol!), my Advent book for perusal and planning, and a "just moved" announcement from a friend.

Above this work table is a framed Tasha Tudor print ...

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My grandparents had this framed for me as a high school graduation gift back in 1987. It brings me such pleasure for so many reasons!

Oh, and while I'm here, let me show you yet another storage box I bought just yesterday and slipped under my work table ...

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This one will be for Christmas planning and prep ... I've already stashed a couple of catalogs in there!

I keep my "briefcase" on the floor ...

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(In here are this month's home learning books ... I try to find all the books we'll be using ahead of time and pull them out as we need them.)

Now, looking around my "corner office" I have a nice view out the window to my left ...

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... although that couch is very tempting!

And there's a small seating area behind me for "client meetings" ... ;)

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The table and chairs were originally my parents' and they are actually patio furniture but I love how they look here and the wicker is surprisingly comfortable. I envision having the boys sit with me here individually to review homework and perhaps talk about the week ahead, expectations etc. For Little Bear it's mostly about sharing Mama's tea and playing with puppets. :)

Above my desk are bookshelves full of the older boys' books and a few special nicknacks ... some of that aforementioned "clutter!"

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I added those pretty wooden leaf lights just the other day - they add a nice touch on gray days and dark autumn evenings!

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And if you're thinking that's a glass of wine right there in that last picture, well ... you'd be guessing right. :)

Last shot ... office motto:

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💙

Well my friends, this was a rather long post and I thank you for stopping by to read and share in my "desk joy!" Aside from needing a little more light, it's working out very well for me. I've been here at the desk all morning (well, since 6 a.m. till now which about two hours later) since Earlybird and I are the only ones up and he's out here in the family room using his iPad and watching PBSKids. I'm on my second - make that third - cup of coffee but it's now time to rally the troops and get our Saturday started! Soccer game and family lunch ... applesauce in the pot and meatloaf in the oven ... much to do and many memories to make!

Hope you all have a great weekend ... see you here again very soon!


Little Bear's First Autumn Hike 💛

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Happy Tuesday, my friends - and Happy St. Luke's Day! Are you having a "little summer" where you live? Despite a damp and gray start, it's going to be unseasonably warm here today - near 80°! Like yesterday was, and tomorrow promises to be ... and I'm just loving this opportunity to get out and enjoy the amazing Autumn all around us. :)

So I'd like to share some of my photos from yesterday, when Little Bear went on his very first Homeschool Hike! It's not his first hike of course - he's enjoyed a few family hikes in the past, with a vantage point from the back-carrier, peeking over his Daddy's shoulder! - but this time it was "feet on the ground" as we joined our homeschool group's "under-eight" crowd in the woods. This was LB's first "solo" homeschool adventure - something just for him and Mama!

I hope you enjoy these pics ... more thoughts about little guys and early learning at the end. :)

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What a glorious day this was! A real "autumn adventure" in the crunchy, muddy, light-filled woods!

I had a strong sense of deja vu, watching my Little Bear - who is SUCH a doppleganger for Bookworm at this age - jump right in and explore with "his kids" (as he calls them, lol). Homeschooling is all about working with multi-ages (and kids learning to befriend other kids no matter their differences - age-level or otherwise) but I'm grateful my support group has some activities just for the young ones. Little Bear does plenty with his older siblings - tagging along when he thinks he's leading the way - but I'm looking forward to more times like this that will be just ours to experience together. Mama and her littlest bear. <3

I've been homeschooling for nearly 17 years, but this time around, "preschool" feels new again. As much as he looks like his older brothers, Little Bear's very much his own unique person - an extrovert and quite strong-willed, endlessly curious, always chatty and VERY active! With experience (if not quite wisdom) behind me, this time around I feel much more relaxed. I'm remembering things that worked with my older boys and the many lessons learned - most of all by Mama! Relax, relish and understand that there is NO RUSH. Do not forfeit the freedom of these early years for unnecessary structure and too many expectations. All the things that need to happen will happen ... when they are meant to. In the meantime, I'm going to set up a rhythm of gentle learning experiences along with daily doses of fresh air, weekly outings, quiet times at home, crafty creating, cooking together, gardening and care-taking, singing and humming along to music, opportunities to practice kindness and develop good habits. As I said in an earlier post:

"If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too."

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More on our early learning plans (themes, organization, creating a haven of love and learning) in a future post, but for now I'll let you all go. I know I promised last time that my next post would be my "desk tour" but I just had to share this day with you all. I hope you enjoyed our autumn adventure! Desk pics to come soon!

Enjoy this blessed Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Michaelmas Merrymaking

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Hello, my friends and Happy Thursday! I hope you're all having a nice day, and if you are celebrating Michaelmas, Happy Feast! Here's a little glimpse of our Michaelmas celebrations ... actually, 20+ photos are a bit more than "a glimpse," but I just couldn't hold back. It was a very nice day. :)

First I must show you my pretty bouquet ...

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One of the things Earlybird did with his therapist today was to check the yard for "Michaelmas Daisies" - a variety of aster that springs up all over New England right around this feast day (hence the name). He found them, identifying them with a field guide, and tomorrow he will compare them with a potted (nursery) aster and color a page for his nature journal. The few little daisy blooms he brought me went directly to my sunny kitchen windowsill, set in a cordial glass filled with water. :)

When therapy was done and lunch was over, I broke out the supplies to make this cute dragon craft ...

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This was very simple to put together - though I will admit I did most of it myself. I used a hot glue gun for the pom-poms and googley eyes and masking tape/washi tape to cover the dragon heads (rather than construction paper).

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They came out pretty well! They were a very big hit with my littlest knight, especially ...

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This was when I asked him to make a dragon face:

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Next I told him he had to share one of the dragons with his brother ...

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That went about as well as expected ...

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Lol, actually they had a blast with the dragon puppets!

Meanwhile, I started the Michaelmas cupcakes in the kitchen ... Earlybird LOVES to watch me/help me bake.

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My original plan was to make an apple-blackberry crisp (like the one shown in this post), but I discovered I had far fewer apples than I thought. So instead, I made "devil's food" cupcakes and frosted them, topped them with autumn sprinkles and a single berry. Then we pierced them with colorful cocktail swords ...

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These were an even bigger hit than the dragon puppets!

A bit later on, thanks to a post on Facebook by my friend Joanna, I followed a neat link with some printables for today's feast ... thank you, Catholic Sistas! I set Little Bear to work with some assistance from Crackerjack ...

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I love the look of concentration on his face! 

Since Earlybird had zero interest in coloring, I came up with another colorful, glue-y kind of craft ... a meteor ball!

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Some of you might be wondering what on earth a meteor (or shooting star, comet) might have to do with Michaelmas, but in the Waldorf festival tradition, this feast is connected with the late summer/early autumn meteor showers that light up the night sky. In this way they are seen as the flashing of Michael's brave sword with which he battles the dragon ...

And since Earlybird loves all things outer space (not to mention, copious amounts of glue), I thought this might pique his interest!

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As we worked, Little Bear came in to show us his project. This was actually his second print out - he didn't want to be finished so I made him another one. :)

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I hung the angel medallions in our kitchen window ... pretty how they caught the setting sun.

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Now, at this point Little Bear got a touch disturbed that I was hanging his artwork out of reach (have I mentioned he's recently given up naps?) and so had to be distracted with a little romp outside. So outside we went!

After checking our chickens (and feeding them some leftover spinach - and the last of the blackberries!) we combed the yard for neat things like mushrooms and acorns and mole holes and a few different kinds of Michaelmas daisies ...

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Above are the ones EB brought me this morning ...

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Whereas this next patch appears a little more "weedy" ...

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And these two blooms were actually much larger than the ones pictured above them ... I am eager to differentiate between all these varieties of aster!

Mostly though, the boys just ran around, testing out their streaming dragon fire ...

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And oh, yes! That meteor, too (covered with glittering star stickers and trailed by a tail-full of colorful streamers).

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Some kind of game formed with CJ holding the comet aloft and running it around the yard for the younger boys to chase ...

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Days like this ... they are so good. 💛

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Once back inside, I pulled out one of our old Catholic Treasure Box issues. This one had a story about the Archangels with some pretty cool illustrations ...

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... as well as a nice story for the weekend, when we celebrate the Feast of the Holy (Guardian) Angels. :)

And now here I am ...

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 I brought a cup of tea and my Michaelmas daisies to my desk and finally noticed today's page-a-day calendar ...

"For the mother is and must be, whether she knows of it or not, the greatest, strongest, and most lasting teacher her children have." (Hanna W. Smith)

Well that's a wonderful thought, isn't it?

I so enjoy spending my days with my children, and even after 21 years, it just never gets old. Every year I look forward to things like special feast days and interesting full moons and back-to-school time and apple picking and Thanksgiving Day and winter snow and spring's return and ... well, you get the idea. My dearest hope is I'm passing some of this joy in the little things along to my children! I can't know if they'll comb their yards for Michaelmas daisies when they're grown men (and somehow I doubt they will), but I do hope they remember the gentle pace of their childhood, the wonder we held for the world around us, and the comforting rhythm their family embraced through the years ... :)

Well my friends, I'm going to wrap up now, but I am so glad to have been able to pop in to chat, and share a bit of our day. I hope you all have a good night's rest and that tomorrow brings a day of inspiration and refreshment. How will you spend the last day of September? What plans will you make on October's eve? What memories will you carry forward to next year ... what impressions will you leave on your family's collective heart?

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... I will see you here again very soon!


Summery Thoughts & Pics ... 🌞

St. johns wort 1

Happy mid-July, my friends! I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Summer so far ...

I know my posting has been very slow lately, but all is well here - it's just a very busy, hands-on season in my life! Days begin early - end later than I'd like - and I'm afraid naps are just not a regular thing anymore, lol. I'm finding it a challenge to carve out blogging time these days ... but I am still here! And I appreciate all your thoughts and queries, both here and at my Facebook page. I do not have my blog email working yet, so if you need me, please contact me by leaving a comment here or at FB for the time being. :)

Well, I'm popping in today to say hi and share a few photos if I may. I'm working at the kitchen table right now, sipping some cold coffee and listening to my boys all around me. Little Bear is singing a Spiderman song with Crackerjack while they work on a puzzle on the family room floor ... Earlybird is working hard on math skills with his therapist in the sunroom ... and Bookworm is weaving in and out of the kitchen, getting his own day going ...

Free time might be hard to come by these days, but I'm awfully grateful to be here in this season of life. These full and blessed days go by all too fast ...

Ok. First up - here's a sun craft I made for the Summer Solstice:

Sun plaque 2

I have always loved those colorful sun and moon plaques you see hanging on the sides of sheds or garden gates ... but goodness, they are expensive! This one is handmade (and rather humbly so) with salt dough. We left it to finish drying outside under its namesake. I haven't had the courage to paint it yet, but once I do and it is sealed against the weather, I will hang it somewhere in our garden ...

Speaking of my garden, it's doing very well, too!

Bee balm

Above is the Bee Balm which started blooming just before Independence Day. I think it looks like little firework explosions! And boy, do the hummingbirds enjoy them ...

The herbs we planted last year are quite plentiful - I've been gathering them on dry days to hang over my kitchen window.

Herb basket

In my basket above is St. John's Wort (seen in top picture, too), Thyme, Lavender and Rose petals. The rose bushes out front really did well this season - in fact they are now mostly covered in hips!

Rose hips 1

I'll be researching what to do with rose hips, but in the meantime, I used the petals I collected to make some rosewater:

Rosewater 1

Doesn't that look pretty? 

Rose water 2

Very easy to do - I placed a cup of rose petals in a glass bowl, covered them with 2 cups boiling water and then allowed them to steep (with a dinner plate resting on top) until cool. Then I strained the water into a jar as seen above. I purchased some amber glass spray bottles which I plan to fill with a couple of different herbal concoctions, one of them being a "rosewater refresher" for hot summer days. :)

And here is the "pretty pink forest" growing in my front yard ...

Astilbe 1

These lovely blooms are Astilbe, and there is tons of it growing beneath the family room windows. And out back the Spirea is a veritable pink explosion:

Spirea 1

This whole area (which stands right beside the chicken coop) is a bumblebee haven!

A little more pink to be found along the front walkway ...

Dianthus

These are Cottage Pinks! I love their clove-like scent - and that they remind me of my grandparents' garden AND that they were a favorite of Tasha Tudor's. So much of gardening is creating and recreating fond memories, isn't it?

 Now, here's a very "interesting" visitor we had in our yard recently ...

Fox in yard 1

Yes, that is indeed a red fox - and we've never seen one before (even at our old house) but wouldn't you know, the year we finally get chickens ... this fella shows up?

One more garden pic ...

Faerie flower

This tiny plant popped up all on its own beside my herb patch, and I wasn't sure what it was, but after consulting google - and helpful friends on Facebook - we've identified it as "Straw Foxglove!" A tiny cousin to these beauties out front ...

Foxgloves 1

I love that it's a mystery how it got there ... :)

And here's a pretty picture from my living room, taken on Independence Day morning ...

4th of july morning

The summer weather has been wonderful here in New England - bright and hot for the most part. Maybe a bit too hot this week (mid 90s by Friday) ... so as much as I love open windows, I'm very grateful for air conditioning!

Speaking of gratitude ...

Magnetic letters

It's been many years since we've had magnetic letters on our fridge! I LOVE this age, don't you?

And how about a family pic? 

Happy birthday dad

We celebrated Bill's birthday last weekend, and I just love this shot of him surrounded by all his boys (and me)! In case you can't tell, he's lighting the candles on his cake - we couldn't fit all FIFTY on there! ;)

(Any longtime readers here astounded (as I am) at how big my boys are all getting? They were tiny when I started this blog!)

Parting shot, taken at my local Michaels craft store recently ...

Fall at michaels

Mind you, this was taken BEFORE the 4th of July! I am all for planning ahead - and you all know how much I love autumn - but even for me this is just a wee bit too early!

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

(His birthday was yesterday - aka National Simplicity Day - and this is a topic for a whole 'nother post!)

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, because if I don't push "publish" soon there's a chance it will be another day or more before I get this post up! (Remember how I was sipping cold coffee back in that third paragraph? Yeah, it's taking me a while to get this post done!)

Plus, I have supper to make, and tonight it's sloppy-joe biscuits, corn on the cob and waffle fries - a real "boys' favorite." I've been a little lax in the meal planning department and really need to get back on track. I'm at the food store more than I'd like these days! 

(Another topic for another day!)

But as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading, and I hope this post finds you well ...

See you here again very soon!


Tuesday Tidbits: Frost, Frosting & Wintry Fun!

Frosty sunrise window

Happy (frosty) Tuesday, everyone! :)

I have just a few quick things to share today ... but first! What is the weather like where you are right now? It is SUPER cold here in my neck of the woods - in fact, I don't think we'll see 20°! Theres snow on the ground (a few inches) and plenty more on the way this weekend ... but such is January in New England!

Now, a few of you asked about my birthday cake frosting - it is a favorite in my family and one my mum is expert at making! It's called "penuche frosting" and it is buttery and sweet and fudgey in texture ... here it is if you'd like to try it sometime:

Penuche Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
hot water

Melt butter - add brown sugar. Bring to boil. Lower heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add milk and bring to boil. Cool to lukewarm.

Gradually add confectioner's sugar and beat.

Add hot water if too thick.

Also, while I'm here I wanted to mention - for those of you on Pinterest - that I have a few new boards set up. These are each specific to my seasonal planning and I'm using them for links to go along with ideas, activities and special days coming up. So here is the January-February board if you'd like to take a peek. :)

2016 Planner: January & February Links

If you are not on Pinterest, I can do a post with links sometime if that would be helpful. I just added some wolf coloring pages this morning in light of the Full Wolf Moon coming up this weekend! :)

Snowflake lesson 1

This week our seasonal theme is "snowflakes," and I have some fun things planned for the boys - the bigs and the littles! Something I'm working on this week, too - and I meant to mention this during the planning chat last weekend - is the concept of craft bins for seasonal planning and organization. Someone asked me not too long ago (and forgive me for not remembering who) how I keep the craft materials and other resources for the week organized ... and believe me, it's a challenge! I haven't really tackled the craft bins we moved from the old house - nor the craft storage here in the new house! My thought is to have bins for the seasons though - and as I plan and prepare for certain projects I will add those items we'll need to those bins. There should be six bins in all once I'm organized, and you can be sure I will post about them once they're established!

Kitchen window poem

And finally, I had to share this pretty page from a book I have displayed at my writing desk right now. I think I've shared it before, but it's worth another look. It's such a lovely sketch - a mother having her tea and gazing out her kitchen window ... taking such joy in her "lot" in life, days spent at home with the children. The stanza below resonates with me so much ...

***

She has a kinship with the earth
Though busy in her own domain,
And comprehends its noble plan
From just a kitchen window pane.”
(Milly Walton)

Well my friends, I will be off now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by! It's a busy week of lessons, therapy and activity here ...  Bookworm's back to campus and our relaxing holiday routine is well and truly over. I'll be posting as I can, though - and there are lots of planning posts coming up! In my next post, I will show you my planning sheet "in action" so you can see how I'm using it for seasonal planning. And I am currently working on the next set of printables (Early Spring) as well as a big post about making time in your schedule to DO the planning! Giving all the WHAT a WHEN! I also have a couple of "cozy nests" posts in the works ... 

So I hope you'll stay tuned! Enjoy the rest of your day and I will see here again very soon ... :)


Tea with Friends ... ❤

Advent Tea with Friends button

Happy Wednesday, my friends ... I hope your week's going well!

I am so pleased to share some Advent Tea with you today ... these lovely thoughts and images come from Cath, and I know you will enjoy them. :)

***

Advent tea tree cath 1

The tree:

This year my tree is white and has all the counted cross-stitch ornaments I have made (except for one I received as a gift I'll always treasure!). The shading of white and dark ... so peaceful as the tree turns round and round in a revolving stand. It's as if I'm driving on a back county road at night in a snow storm. I do miss the real tree I have gone and cut the last few years ... We started a tradition of naming our trees. I can't seem to name the fake tree this year. It's fake! No life ... no name?  
  

Past trees have been named Twinkle, Noel, Wenceslas, Genevieve, Stanislaus, and last years name being Shalom ... They started taking on Saintly names and meanings. Last year was special hosting the family for Christmas Eve and Shalom was my prayer for all entering my home. So yes, needless to say I am missing the personality in my home but thrilled to know the tradition has carried on in my baby girl's home and this year they have welcomed Alfred into their home and even bought him a red tree skirt to keep his toes warm. He is simply decorated, not overloaded with lights or ornaments, and elegantly beautiful in his simplicity!

Advent tea magic cath 5

Reading:

I am sticking with Ann Voskamp's Book for Advent and enjoying it very much. Pretty good for someone who forgets to keep up with her nine-day novenas!

Drinking:

I am out for lunch having pizza and not drinking this ...

Advent tea tree cath 2

I don't like it ... clove and spearmint are not for me. I must have grabbed the wrong box after reading the ingredients ... I hope the other box isn't this same stuff! 😕 Looks like there will be some gifts in a few Christmas cards ... Mom, do you like cloves?

I am just returning from a weekend retreat about the direction of the four gospels with a twist on Therese. Leaving, I looked down and found a fresh red rose petal on the side walk. Fresh, like it just fell off, was pulled off? Wish I would have taken a picture before giving it to the priest who walked right past it ... I went back inside to ask the sister if she brought in roses ... Nope? Therese said she will let flowers fall from heaven ... Seems we may have just received one? What a blessing ...

Advent tea magic cath 4
 

My word for Advent has been PEACE... 

Quote:   

“To the American People: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world. 
Presidential message, December 25, 1927” ~ Calvin Coolidge

Thoughts:

Advent is moving along too quickly. Let's take it back to 6 weeks. I need more work on me!

Looking forward to: 

Being back home, getting things in order and crafting - that hasn't happened yet! And I guess it may not if I don't get started ... or should I say ... settled!

Advent tea magic cath 1

Pink Sunday....  the "Shepherds Candle"  to represent joy.

And today my cup holds ...

Advent tea magic cath 2

Good old fashioned Campbell's vegetable soup ...

(The kind grandma served for lunch with sandwiches before Marketing created 3 or 4 different types!)

Advent tea magic cath 3

My favorite ornament made by someone else...

I don't usually watch much TV ... But today I did eat breakfast (something I don't usually do), I did turn on the TV and enjoyed some of the morning shows like Rachel Ray, and The View... Trying to create some kind of routine. Trying to place some everyday joy into my life ... Trying to create chunks of time for different things that bring joy and bring something to show for my time?

Advent tea magic cath 7

Needless to say ... Baby girl will be 25, and her stocking was done for her 1st Christmas ... The man's a few years later ... And mine? Still a work in progress? Some of that used-to-have TV time kept me sitting in my chair and I have treasures to show for that time ...  Internet time? Not a lot around here to show for it? Need a plan.

And waiting.....

Advent tea magic cath 6

Until next time ... 🎄
   Cath++

***

This was just so lovely, Cath - thank you so much for sharing a little of your Advent here with me (us). It is such a privilege to share my readers' tea notes and pictures at my blog. I am so honored each time someone - YOU - share your time, your thoughts and your wide open heart. It's such a generous thing, to share in this way ... and my blog shines a little brighter each time I post "Tea with Friends."

:)

Well my friends, I hope you are able to find some time for Tea this week, a quiet hour to just sit and do something for YOU - read a little, pray a little, plan a little ... snooze a little! Recharge your batteries in some way ... and don't think for a second you don't need it ... you do! We all do. I'm so used to just go-go-going all day thinking, well, once dinner's over and the kids are in bed, then I can sit and rest. But you know what? By that time of day ... I'm just done. There is no "resting" or "recharging the batteries" ... there is just unplugging, lights out and then Zzzzzzzzz .... 

So now I ask for a bit of time like this, for me. An hour once or twice a week to sit for "tea" and quiet thoughts. Someone else is reading to the baby and someone else is answering the phone (or not). And sometimes it's just half an hour, not a whole ... but it's still a gift whatever I get. It's good for me, and it's good for my family!

Today it's a glass of wine (poured by my husband!) and Christmas cards in my lap - not the ones I still need to sign, but the ones we've received in the mail. Before I hang them, I'll sit here and think about each family with love and a prayer for their very best new year. 

But alas, I am now nearing the end of my rest time! There are now a few children present and a cat has just been startled from his nest by the heat. Plus, it's high time to start supper and meatloaf doesn't make itself! So I'm off to the kitchen but I leave you all with my thanks and my hopes that your evening is pleasant ...

See you here again very soon!


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Magic & Meaning

Advent tea magic 1

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week is off to a great start! It's time for another Advent Tea, but first off ...  how on earth did it get so far in the season?! Honest-to-goodness, time seems to pick up speed as we get closer to New Year's!

Well, on Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) we rejoiced to light our third (pink!) Advent candle. What a great time to stop and take joy in our life today - right this very minute! Joy is such a gift, something we give others and something we receive as a blessing from God. I love when He opens my eyes to the joy around me ... because sometimes I can get so wrapped up in the trials and tensions of everyday life, I forget to look around for the JOY.

Wouldn't this be a great prompt for a new year's journal?

>> What brought you joy today? How have you made this day joyful for others? <<

Advent candles snowmen

(Clearly, some of these snowmen get it, while others do not.)

I have such love for this week ... because for one thing, I love that pink candle! (I don't see a lot of pink in my life, lol.) But also, on this Sunday we are still very much in the heart of Advent ... I'm still able to take peace in the season that is now ... not fret over the season to come. (Ok, truth be told - I'm fretting a little. I really am a wee bit behind.)

But most of all, I love this Sunday because it almost always arrives right around my Earlybird's birthday ... and he is as joyful a boy as you will ever meet. In fact, this very DAY happens to be his actual birthday (he turns 14 on the 14th!). So it's a very special day in our household! :)

Well, this week I'd like to talk a little about sharing Christmas with children ... the magic of the season, as well as its deeper meaning. Christmas comes for all of us, but how very special it is for the children in our life. They are so ready to soak it all up and just BELIEVE ... what they see, what they hear, what they are told ... and that's sometimes a good thing, but other times not so much. How do we hone the message they receive at this time of year?

>> How do we shape their joy? <<

Speaking of joy, we have these lovely pink, sparkly letters that spell out JOY - I made them several years ago and I always bring them out on this particular Sunday. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced one of the letters ...

  Advent tea magic 15

... and the message isn't quite what I meant. At least, not on most days. But it gave us all a good chuckle!

So before I go any further, here are some Advent questions for you, in regards to our theme this week: 

What are your children's favorite aspects of Christmas?

How do you share with them the true meaning of Christmas? In what special ways do you pass on your Faith traditions?

How do you keep your family from burning out before the Christmas season has even begun?

For me, it's all about pacing and balance. Filling the weeks before Christmas with quiet delights for the senses: warm lights in the growing darkness, soft music in the background, good smells and tastes from the kitchen ... and of course, a touch of season's magic. Our Advent countdown message, a mystery unfolding in the empty manger, flickering candles, books appearing each week, packages arriving in the mail, a letter posted to Santa ...

Where is Santa right this minute? When will he come HERE? What is the angel saying? What is the candle in the manger all about? Who are the rocks and the plants and the animals all waiting to see? What do they all know that I don't ... (yet)?

Children respond so deeply to magic and mystery and anything that attracts their developing senses. They're like super-curious sponges! And boy, do they love a good story ...

But I think my children enjoy the family traditions we've created most of all - they look for them and request them every year - which makes me think that all these "little things" we've done through the years have possibly made a big impression. Living a quieter life, a bit outside of the mainstream in some ways, we are able to avoid the commercial side of Christmas that colors so much of the season these days. To a comfortable degree, anyway. We attend Mass, and soak in the atmosphere of our Parish and the words of our Pastor. I try to weave liturgical events and meaning into our days, as I do every week of the year ... 

We eat certain things and read certain words ... light special candles and believe amazing things ... and we wait, and we wonder ... because we are Catholic, and this is what Christmas means to us. It's a privilege to live this way, and though we may be entertained by the world around us, we are sustained by what we share with each other.

Christmas lights are a good example of "magic and meaning." Without a doubt, those sparkling lights are a hallmark of Christmas - shining through the darkest nights of the year. They are SUCH magic - especially for children - but why do we light them? What is their meaning? How can we make our own inner lights shine as brightly?

Here is a beautiful passage shared by my friend Michelle M., from Vermont, in which she describes an Advent walk she shared with her family and special friends. This is EXACTLY what I am talking about when I say I want my children to experience a season full of magic and meaning ... 

"I am paring down the usual Advent festivities and just trying to find quiet. With some sadness and a whole bunch of relief, I decided not to host our beautiful Advent spiral walk in the lovely round building we usually use. This has been the most lovely and spiritual part of my Advent for years and years, watching the children grow up walking in the candlelight circle. But there is just too much happening and the children are growing and transforming, so our rituals must too. I decided to invite one special family two nights ago to wander up our hill in the dark, drink hot cocoa from real mugs, light a tea light in a squat Bonne Maman jam jar, and place it somewhere in the dark while whispering a prayer or wish or hope. It was a vision now etched in my forever memories to see those sweet children's faces bent over their candle in total silence in the dark. Of course, this mood was soon changed as they came together over one jar and descended into bathroom noise humor...but that's all part of the journey, no?!"
 Thank you for sharing, Michelle! What a lovely memory for you all! :)

I'll have more thoughts on this topic in time, and I hope to post more as the week goes along, but for now - because this post is already running long! - here are my tea journal notes:

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

Advent tea magic 4

This week my "tea" - in the spirit of childhood - is a cup of creamy, minty homemade cocoa! Earlybird LOVES our fire pit and so as a birthday surprise, we had one last bonfire out back yesterday afternoon. I used our old favorite snowman mugs (Crate & Barrel, from before we had kids!) and added a natural candy cane "stirrer" as an extra-special treat. 

O project 12-13 2

Just before Bill lit the fire pit, I had the boys gather 'round the Advent garden so we could light the third apple's candle, and check today's rock. Our prayer for the week: God, please help us spread joy to those who need it most!

Once the words were said and the fire was lit, I took Little Bear for an amble around the yard. We had some nature walking to make up for after a rainy, head-cold kind of week!

What are you reading this week?

Advent tea magic 9 (1)

It's all about the children's books these days, and on our coffee table I have an array of books featuring "Animals in Advent" (our "Advent in Nature" theme this week). Many of these we own, but I request several books each week from our inter-library loan. (I often joke/worry that our librarians either love us or hate us ... but we sure do love them!)

I also parked a couple of our rather LARGE seasonal book baskets in my library nest ...

Advent tea magic 10

One basket for Winter books ...

Advent tea magic 11

And another for the bulk of our Christmas books proper. These get divided and dispersed to certain corners and baskets around the room as themes pop up through the season.

What are you listening to this week?

"Christmas Piano Music" on Pandora. I had a facial this week (finally using a gift certificate my boys gave me LAST Christmas!) and this was the music my esthetician was playing. So beautiful and calming!

What are you working on this week?

Planner in car

 Getting my 2016 planner in order! I just had it spiral-bound at Staples today. (Needless to say, there will be a great big post all about it in the very near future!)

There is also, of course, much Christmas to-doing this week, as we get down to the wire. Making teacher gifts is the top of the list this week.

What's happening in nature this week? 

Well, as I've mentioned, we've all been sick, and the weather has been a bit miserable, so outdoor time has been limited. It's been very mild for November, though, and the plentiful winter moths are ... shall we say, a bit disconcerting.

Advent tea magic 16

Meanwhile, we are happy to see so many acorn caps!

Advent tea magic 13

Advent tea magic 7

This means we should have well fed squirrels this winter! (I brought in a whole bunch of caps to set on our nature shelf to remind us our critter friends will be eating well! I'm also googling lots of "acorn cap craft ideas" ... and if you follow me on Pinterest, you know what I mean!) 

Any projects with the children this week?

We have some more handmade gifts to be finishing, and this week we'll be working with the theme, "Animals in Advent." We will be taking special care of our cats and assembling a donation to a local animal shelter ... as well as migrating our barn animals to the manger ...

Advent tea magic 2

Advent tea magic 8

Advent tea magic 17

Also, we'll be organizing our Solstice Tree for next week ... but that will be a topic for another post!

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

In addition to all those children's stories, I am (re)reading a lovely little book called Festivals with Children. It is a small book written in the Waldorf tradition with a focus on the Christian festivals (or feasts) of the year. Needless to say - right up my alley!

I love, in particular, how the author describes the season of Advent:

"The calm and quiet which is prerequisite for every "inner becoming" is under attack everywhere today but especially during Advent. Today it can only be achieved by conscious effort ... There are so many customs and suggestions for the celebration of Advent that we must choose consciously to meet our particular situation. This period of time is in danger of losing its own characteristic mood. The atmosphere of preparation is often overwhelmed by the Christmas mood of fulfillment itself. Children have often already had enough by Christmas. Too often Christmas Eve is experienced as a hard-to-achieve climax followed by exhaustion, making the celebration of the twelve days of Christmas very difficult."

***

I've found that constant activity really takes its toll - not just on me, but my children. And boy do I hate feeling tired of Christmas before it's even arrived. Community is important, absolutely, and it's hard to pick and choose among so many wonderful opportunities: a tree-lighting here, a card-making there, a cookie-baking marathon somewhere else. But as with anything (and especially with children) less often means more. The one great thing you do with your family this Advent will make an equally great memory ... eighteen great things will just make a blur. These days I try to choose carefully where we spend our energy and leave ample space in our December for rest ... so we might learn to appreciate the mood of the season as well as the magic.

As always, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on this week's topic and of course, get a peek into your Tea Journal, too. Please leave a comment below or - even better! - send me an email with your thoughts and/or pics and I'll share them here at the blog. You can reach me here:

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

And I'm still hoping to do a little video tour of our Christmas library (tree and all) but that didn't get accomplished in time for this post. Hopefully I will have it for you later this week, but for now here are a few "quick pics" ...

Advent tea magic 9

Advent tea magic 12

Advent tea magic 12 (1)

:)

Now, before I go I have one more thing - no, make that TWO more things to tell you!

The first is to announce the winner of my Christmas Books Giveaway! I so enjoyed reading all the "hellos" and "heys" and "howabouts" from you all! I wish I could send everyone a package, but for today, I must choose one ...
 
So the randomly picked winner of the giveaway is:
 
CAROLYN!

Here's Carolyn's question which I LOVE and will definitely address soon ...
 
Hi Dawn!
Happy Advent! I've really been enjoying your blog these last 2 months! What homeschooling resource books would you recommend for a young mom looking at starting homeschooling kindergarten next fall?

Thanks,
Carolyn
 
Oh, such a fun time in a homeschooling family's life - kindergarten! I've been there three times so far, and am thrilled to revisit it with Little Bear in a few years. I have some definite favorites when it comes to resources and will get a post up as soon as I can, Carolyn. :)
 
And I'll be in touch soon to arrange mailing details ... hope you enjoy these books with your family!
 
Now, before I go, I also wanted to remind you all that TOMORROW I am participating in a live planning workshop with Mystie Winckler of Simplified Organization and Jen Mackintosh of Wildflowers & Marbles! We've got an hour to talk about all kinds of planning topics - and answer questions as we go along! You can watch our chat and submit questions by signing up HERE. There will also be a chat replay and you will receive a link for that as well.
 
Ok, well, as usual I have just gone on and ON and I thank you very much for your time and kind attention. I will be off now because as I mentioned, it is our Earlybird's birthday and before the littlest wakes up I have a few presents to wrap and a chocolate cake to frost ... :)
 
But I'll see you here again very soon!

Friday Bits & Bobs ~ Summer Days

Happy-almost-Weekend, my friends!

I just have a few things to share with you today ... some pretty late summer images I thought you'd like to see. (Ack, did I say, "late" summer? Where has the time gone?)

Tickseed 1

This is tickseed (Coreopsis) that is growing abundantly in our front yard. I adore all that yellow, and boy, the bees love it too!

August paper 1

 More yellow - this is the August scrapbook page in my homemade weekly planner. Isn't it pretty? I think sunflowers are a perfect symbol of August ...

(And by the way, Tanya asked me recently how I am using/liking that planner and the honest answer is - to be expanded upon in a future post - I do love it, but I don't use it consistently. And that's partly my fault - and partly the fault of the planner's layout. Luckily I never filled all the pages out so I can re-work them from August forward. So I have been re-tooling the design because I need it to act more as a theme book and less of an agenda ... a place for sketching out ideas and activities (live-love-learn) but not necessarily appointments and household events. But more on all that soon!)

Archie and book 1

What could be cozier than a cat curled up in your lap as you read a good book while a storm rages outside? Archie times his visits well - when the toddler is sound asleep for a good hour or more!

Morning glory blossom

The first morning glory blossom on our lamppost vine ... pretty in purple. Not sure what's going on with the leaves there, but something is finding them very tasty!

Grasshopper in grass 1

One of those gorgeous grasshoppers I mentioned in an earlier post. Thy are such interesting creatures ... you'd never guess what they look like sitting still after you've seen them in flight.

Riley takes pics 4

And finally, this is a "selfie" from the other day - my younger boys and I, sitting in the sunroom, watching as storms pass over. Earlybird, who as many of you know, is autistic, used to have a strong aversion to picture-taking ... but lately he's not only been open to it, he's even requested it!

Well, my friends, I hope you all have a great weekend ... I will be hammering out those ed. reports with intention to finish and mail them bright and early Monday morning. (Taking a brief break for a haircut! Boy-oh-boy do I need one ...) And once I have the reports out of the way I will focus on my new day-book and sharing with you all how I'm using it ... and big-picture, school year planning ... as well as my binders! Must talk about binders ...

I get so geared up to get organized at this time of year, don't you?

:)

See you here again very soon ...

p.s. Don't forget to look for the Full Blue Moon tonight!


My boys and me ... ❤

Well, it's been a while since I've shared a picture of all my boys ...

Mama and boys 5

Can you believe how BIG they are getting? No, I can't either. From left to right ... Crackerjack (15), Earlybird (13) and Bookworm (19-going-to-be-20-next-month!) and then of course, our Little Bear who will be TWO in two weeks and then there's me ... but we don't have to discuss my age. Lol.

Anyhoo - as I mentioned in my morning post, Bookworm is freshly home for the summer (a whole four months!) and I just couldn't be more pleased. It's a very Happy Mother's Day, indeed, when all my "baby" chicks are back in the nest!

My friends, I hope you've all had a nice weekend and if you're a mum - or a mom or a ma or a mother or gram, nan, mimi, et al! - I hope you had a nice day with your loved ones, taking joy in this most precious blessing of ours: MOTHERING the very best people on earth!

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Happy Mother's Day!

Mother's day quote 2

(Image courtesy Country Living Magazine)

Wishing all of the mamas and grandmamas out there a lovely, most blessed day!

I am getting the very best present today ... Bookworm is coming home from college for the WHOLE SUMMER! All my chicks will be in the nest tonight!

:)

I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday and whatever the day might bring. It will be sunny and HOT here in New England - near 90, they say! - how far we've come from that long, crazy Winter!

See you here again very soon ...


Every Day Has a Story ...

Candle on napkin

Happy Wednesday, my friends ... long time no see!

This post has been an open draft on my computer for some time now ... but things have been a bit topsy-turvy here with all the snow! We're in a short lull now (weekend storm ahead!) and I'm trying to get back on track. Thanks for your patience as I worked on this long-promised post!

So today I'd like to talk about something I mentioned in a previous post - about how I like to give my days "stories." It's really quite a simple concept - not very original or life-changing - but I think it's a great exercise in getting yourself one step closer to a "system" that works best for you. And that's something we've been talking about recently: how do we establish routines that help us manage the needs of our family and home? (While keeping our own health and happiness in mind?)

I have always "written stories" when planning out big projects like holidays, seasons and parties, but it works well for all kinds of things - mornings, bedtimes, Sundays, babymoons, and spring cleaning, etc. I like to start by envisioning a story for whatever it is I am planning - so here's what I do, in a nutshell:

I simply grab a piece of paper and a pencil and take a few - or several - quiet moments to think about what it is I am trying to plan. I imagine how it looks, what is happening, who's present and how I feel ... and create a vision that is, perhaps a bit idealized, maybe even unattainable, but will ultimately represent my true hopes and values.

I know that sounds a bit elaborate for something so commonplace, but I really do feel this "mental exercise" helps. And I don't know about you, but I can use all the help I can get when it comes to managing my responsibilities - namely, my family and home! 

But before diving into the days individually, I begin with "my day" in general ... so I imagine waking up and going through the motions of the day. I try to think about how I'd like things to be, ideally ...

  • My bedroom is neat and I'm up early enough that there is quiet around me.
  • I have a cup of fresh coffee thanks to my sweet husband ...
  • Phone in hand, I take time for a bit of contemplation: prayer, news, and email
  • I have clothing laid out and the bathroom is tidy and set up for quick washing and dressing.
  • I leave the bed freshly made and head downstairs ...
  • (Bill has helped with changing and dressing Little Bear. Earlybird is most likely up and he's been given juice and a snack.)
  • Coffee is hot and the kitchen is neat as a pin after a thorough once-over last night.
  • Breakfast is warm in the crockpot (or set out on kitchen table, ready to assemble).
  • I check my journal-binder and look over the day's agenda.

(And so on.)

As I read back over these rather comforting thoughts, I see where I can take action to make this more of a reality. (Underlined words indicate where action is needed ...) I can see that a lot of morning "joy" begins the night before, so I add tasks to my evening routine with that in mind ... set coffee maker to brew before bed, tidy bedroom and master bath before bed and set out washcloth and hair tie, and outfits for myself and the younger boys. Charge phone and have apps/subscriptions that allow for daily prayer, news updates and email. Etc.

(NOTE: This is not what happens, exactly ... not everyday, anyway ... this is an ideal situation!)

As for planning the days themselves, I begin with Sunday because this is the day I really want to get right. In fact, this was the day that kind of kicked off my daily stories, because I was so frustrated that our precious Sundays were starting off harried and ending up as a catchall of missed chores and last-minute errands!

So my ideal Sunday has a story like this ...

  • We (some of us) attend early Mass ...
  • We are not rushed, things have been organized the night before: donation envelopes, church clothes, Crackerjack's Mass signature card, my "nice" pocketbook :)
  • We arrive at Mass early so we can sit quietly and pray, read over the bulletin, relax/absorb, connect with our fellow parishioners ...
  • A light breakfast (bread/muffins/fruit) is ready when we get home, along with fresh coffee and Sunday punch. 
  • We have a quiet day, there are no outside commitments, and we don't shop or run errands.
  • Instead, we spend time on home-oriented projects, visiting perhaps, and there's a big family sit-down dinner in the early afternoon.
  • Over dinner, we talk about the week's homily and any church news, as well as the week ahead and family goals/schedules.
  • Time is spent outside whenever possible - in the garden or as a family, on a hike or bike ride. "Walking the boundaries" together to see how the property is faring. 
  • I spend time catching up on correspondence with family and friends.
  • I read back over my week's journal and index information.
  • I spend time with Crackerjack, updating his assignment board and discussing expectations.
  • I might spend time baking for the week if I didn't get to it on Saturday.
  • I look over the household budget - organize receipts/statements from previous week; talk with Bill about upcoming week's expenses.
  • I prepare homeschool materials for week ahead and the boys' daily task cards.
  • I place grocery order for the week.
  • The trash and recycling is organized for morning.

(etc.)

And remember, this is my STORY ... not always my TRUTH. At least not in its entirety. :)

And as you can see, the exercise kind of morphs into a more traditional list of things to do, but still, it's part of my vision to have time for these things. And it's safe to say, every vision includes the whole house being neat and clean ... whatever the day or occasion ... but it is also safe to say, that's a pretty high horse to climb! But a clean home, to my mind, is the canvas for much family joy and a balm to the spirit as well ... but that's a post for another day. :)

***

I've had these stories in my head for years, and I like to revisit them in quiet moments, especially when I'm tweaking my routines. (I can put myself back to sleep at night by walking through a story in my mind ...) But I'm now going to keep these stories printed out and stored in one of my binders (either my main planning binder or in the general housekeeping binder).

And from here I feel I can start making some helpful day-by-day task lists that will assist me in creating the kind of week I want my family to live. That I want to live. I know what I do as a wife and mother is important - I don't suffer any insecurity on that front - but when I connect my homekeeping "heart" to my everyday routine, it makes the whole process that much more meaningful and rewarding. I think so, anyway. Does that make any sense, lol?

:)

Oh my goodness, this is so long-winded I'm afraid I have surely bored some of you, but I hope there is some items of interest here for my like-minded homekeeping friends! Honestly I can (obviously) think and talk about this topic at great length ... in fact, I have often thought, I would actually read a novel(la) written entirely about a housewife's days spent caring for her family's home, through the seasons and the ups and downs of everyday life. There wouldn't have to be any drama or suspense ... it would still be exquisitely interesting to me! For example, we are listening to Little House in the Big Woods right now - a wonderful story for the children to hear for many reasons (and especially during our own long winter) - but my favorite parts are the detailed sections on Ma's chores and home keeping! And I often find myself appreciating how simple life was back then ... but then I remember how "easy" we have it nowadays. (I don't face down any bears when getting milk for my family!) And it keeps it all in perspective. :)

Ok, that's enough from me, I think! I'll be back again soon - hoping to have my routines post up next. (Or perhaps, the wall-a-week cleaning post.) But I'd love to hear from you if you have time ... about your own stories, and if you do anything similar when contemplating how you'll manage your week at home, with your family. Or maybe you do this with your work? Bill has been sharing with me how at the office, his team works together to come up with stories for how projects will go ... and then breaking them down into tasks that will make sense to everyone and move them closer to their goals. I loved hearing about their method and he loved hearing that I've been doing something like this (in my own humble way) for years!

Right. I'm off ... lest I continue, lol. Enjoy your Wednesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


A Wintry Weekend ...

Happy Sunday, my friends!

Frosted window

Well, we're in the early stages of another monster snowstorm in New England ... and boy, do I feel like I've said that before. ;) It started snowing here yesterday as I was running some errands and it will snow continuously today ... tonight ... and tomorrow ... and tomorrow night! Leaving us with about two feet of snow when all is said and done Tuesday morning ...

Yes, you read that right: we're getting TWO FEET of snow. Which will be added to the TWO FEET of snow we already have on the ground!

❄️❄️❄️❄️❤️❄️❄️❄️❄️

(I do love ALL the seasons so much - they all have their charms, after all - I just wish Winter might stop being quite so "charming" for a bit, lol.)

So I just have a few photos to share today, but I mostly just wanted to stop in and say hi. Thank you again for all your wonderful comments, suggestions and encouragement ... I am working on my next Q&A post and hope to have it up soon!

In the meantime ...

Around the year book

I was working on my Lenten plans last evening ... with some tea, natch, in the relative quiet of the dining room. Are you familiar with the above treasure of a book? I'm so happy our new library system has it "in stock!" Just picked it up yesterday and have already dug in. This might be my third or fourth reading, but it's been a couple of years. I think I can renew it enough to last me through Lent!

ME calendar page

 From my ME page-a-day calendar ... is this not so very true? ❤️

O project 38 2

Thinks my bundled-up Little Bear: "It's snowing again?"

Archie in his corner

Thinks my cozied-up kitty: "Wake me when it's Spring."

Wintery weekend

And here's my own cozy spot this morning, as I sit by the kitchen window, watching the birds in a frenzy at the feeders. (Rest assured, there are breakfast dishes behind me but I'm not thinking about them at the moment ... ) I have a couple of lovely British mags that hint at the promise of spring ... my sweet squirrel mug with a new tea to try ... and my new African violet sitting in the safety of a glass cloche. The violet is February's flower. :)

Snowy driveway

Well, my friends ~ from my house to yours, I'm wishing you all a wonderful Sunday. What's the weather like where you live today? Drop me a note if you have the time ... 

Thanks so much for stopping by ... see you here again very soon!


Happy Things Thursday ...

Carnation day 1

Today is National Carnation Day, my friends! Carnations, in the language of flowers mean: fascination, devoted love and other nice things depending on color. (White as above ~ sweet, innocent, lovely.) I just adore this flower - for one thing it's January's flower (my birth month!) and well, it's just so sweet and unassuming. The rose's less fussy, more economical cousin. :) It smells amazing, too ... I'd love to find a body wash in this scent!

Rainbow papers

A rainbow of lovely seasonal papers, one for each month of the year ... not entirely sure what I'm doing with them yet, but you can be sure I'll show you once I've figured it out!

Oliver in bookcase

My Oliver, such a sweet kitty. He loves to sit on bookshelves and chair backs and in baskets. Well, anywhere really ... out of traffic and near a sunny window if possible.

O project 29 1

Me and my little man. He finally got his mama to join him in the play-tent set up in the sunroom. I fit in there ... just ... and we read books and talked about trucks and took pictures until it was time for lunch. Then we had spaghetti and toast ...

Love days like these.

:)

My friends, a quick question ... I am writing out my new housekeeping routine (new house + new baby = new list!) and I'm wondering ... how did you come up with your own list? Of things that have to be done on a daily basis (or weekly, monthly, yearly etc.). Pinterest is full of cleaning schedules and the like - and you can be sure I've been combing through them - I'm just curious about others' housekeeping methods and thought I'd ask. If you have a moment, please leave me a note below.

And enjoy the rest of your Thursday!

See you here again very soon ...


Journal/Planner Q & A ...

Journal workspace 7

Hello, my friends ... I hope this post finds you well! A few people had questions about my domestic journal and homemade planner, so I'd like to answer what I can today. Journal junkies and Planner people - this post is for you! Everyone else ... well, I hope you enjoy, too!

(Even if it's not your cup of tea.)

:)

First, from Kristie:

Do you like having it in your binder rather than a separate notebook?

I do! It's quite convenient to transfer completed sections to a storage binder and work with a smaller amount of paper, one month at a time. My notebooks would get very bulky and unwieldly by the time they were half-full! Also, I really like this particular paper for writing so it's a joy to "scribble" on.

Do you write to-do lists and shopping lists in here or do they go in another spot?

I keep daily to-do lists here (more about them below) and while I might jot down a quick shopping note - I keep my shopping list separate from the journal. I'd like to talk about shopping lists in a future post because I'm forever moving mine around.

And are you using all those different binders you once blogged about as well?

I am, and I'm putting together a post about them for later this week. (Or let's face it, as soon as I can get them up! Me and my promised posts, lol.) 

Do you work on your journal in little bits through the day or spend one big block of time putting in clippings?

I'll get more into this in Amy's question next, but it's a little of both. Ideally I would just work in it throughout the day, but sometimes I have to play catch up with my clippings! I try to keep up with them though, since they are quite timely/seasonal.

Do you take your binder out with you at all?

No, I don't. I leave it at home on the kitchen counter at all times - unless we are having a party in which case it all gets folded up and put aside somewhere until life returns to normal. :)

Do you think I can come up with any more questions?!?

Well if you do, Kristie, you are welcome to ask them! I love doing Q & A. :)

***

From Amy:

How... How? Can you tell me how and when you have time to do this? I am not asking this in a snarky way, not at all. When do you find time to organize, write lists, cut and glue things...? I love it! I want to do it! I would if I could. When do you get these moments? I don't have time to scrapbook usually, I don't have time to blog anymore, I barely have time for a decade or two of the rosary... our families are similar: oldest in college, youngest in diapers, I have three more in between, two homeschooling and one of those with sensory processing, it's so similar to autism. I do once in a while find time to write a note on paper to a friend and pop it in the mail, but otherwise I don't do Facebook (all my friends are hidden so I only use it for messaging, and not often), I don't do instagram or twitter... I skim just a few blogs throughout the day for encouragement, they are all Catholic, and until this week I wasn't even commenting on any of them. I always have little hands trying to type when this machine is open. People want to draw in my planner - and sometimes I let them. Sorry if this sounds like a lot of complaining, I just really want to find a bit of quiet time for that lovely habit of record keeping, journaling, praying-on-paper etc., and you do it in such a lovely way that I am inspired and hopeful. :)

First of all, Amy - thank you. I am glad you feel inspired when you read here - that is always my hope when I write! And please don't apologize for "complaining" - it's a very realistic question! We have similiar families and time is precious and fleeting. (As is energy.) So as for the how and the when ... well, yes. It can be tricky. And there are days (weeks) when I get very little journaling done. Then I'm playing catch up over the weekend when Bill is home to help with the kids. Journaling might seem like an indulgence, and in a way it is (because I enjoy it so) but I really feel it helps me in so many ways - with the children and the house.

What I do first of all, is to make it casual and convenient. I keep my journal in a central location where I can stand (because who has time to sit?) and do a little entry now and then. Or cut a few things from a magazine or newspaper. The baby might be playing with potatoes at my feet or napping upstairs or sitting in the high chair by my side ...

Journal workspace 6

I have my laptop, current magazines, mail pile, tape dispenser and scissors here as well as my planner and favorite pencils. It's all right smack dab in the middle of the kitchen - I've staked a claim on the "jetty" counter as we call it. (It's not quite an island, more of a peninsula.) The idea of sitting down at a quiet desk in the living room, sounds lovely and very "Jane Austen," but not realistic for me. Because the moment I sit down, A. someone needs me and, B. I lose all focus, lol. That's not to say I don't sometimes relish spreading out at one end of the dining room table when Bill is minding the boys ... then I can immerse myself in my domestic journal and focus on what's been going on in my life and the "world" around me ...

My journaling style is quick and efficient. I grab the pencil and write the date when I first wake up, wherever I left off on the open page. I make a quck note about weather and how the day is significant and then I just go about my business. If something comes up I want to journal about I just get it in there as soon as I can and as neatly as I can but I don't fuss over it. Today I added the label from the bakery box where Bill bought my birthday cake last night, a snippet from our newspaper about "Pet of the Week" entries, a note re ~ a new binder theme, something neat EB said this morning as we listened to Little House in the Big Woods and a note re thank-you's to send out asap. None of this was done slowly or with the finest of penmanship. Just quick scribbles - but they've been "caught," as I like to say.

And somehow in this way, day after day, page after page gets filled up and pretty soon I have a month full of thoughts and remembrances. They're not always profound or super pretty but they are authentic and pleasing to me. :)

Hope that helps a bit! We can talk more about "finding time" in a future post if you'd like. I think it's something mothers really struggle with - some years more than others!

***

From Lisa R: 

Hi Dawn! Like everyone else I love how you share your life at home with us. It is so inspiring! Can you give a close-up picture and explanation of your daily task list that's in the middle of your binder? It's the little marker in the rings. How did you make that? Thanks!

Sure thing, Lisa - and thank you for your kind words! I actually just redesigned that task list-page marker because the old one still corresponded to the chore schedule at our old house. I will do a separate post about the chore schedules themselves (like, what chores are done on which days), but here is where I keep the reminders ...

Journal workspace 3

This is a giant (#12) "craft tag" purchased at my paper store - I liked the look of it! (My old page-finder was just a trimmed piece of thick scrapbook paper. Cardstock or tagboard would work well here, too.) I used a three-hole punch to fit the tage here in the middle of my binder and added some pretty twine as a marker. The washi tape just dressed it up a bit. Across the top is a "Tiny Type" sticker which reads: "Rhythm and harmony will find their way ...".

On one side I keep two (sometimes three) post-it notes. These are lined post-it notes made by 3M. The top one is a daily task checklist - by placing the note on its side, I have a column for each day of the week. On the left side I have listed those everyday actions I must remember to do - meds, cats, dishwasher, sweep, tidy, mail, review, etc. I add a check when that task is completed each day. I started using this to keep track of Earlybird's medications and supplements and found it very helpful in keeping things straight!

The post-it note underneath is for THIS day's to-do's. So I write the date in the corner and then jot down things that must be done today. (Not tomorrow or sometime this week.) Things like, "launder crib bedding," "mail a check to X," or "proofread CJ's paper." I often have a second post-it note for tomorrow going so I can jot things down as I they come up.

Now, on the other side of this tag is the weekly routine ...

Journal workspace 4

I put this together rather hurriedly so I may tweak it further. I just used some label stickers to write out the chore routine for the days of the week. I'm still struggling with that weekly routine and finding time to keep up with my (newish) household!

From Coral:

Hi Dawn, I love this post on your domestic notebook. I love this idea and wanted to know what you use to adhere your clippings and so forth to the lined notebook paper. Does glue work nicely? I haven't tried any yet, I do scrapbook but it will be costly for me to use the double sided tape for photos unless I find some cheaper. Just wondering what you use. :) Also, do you use page protectors to enclose some pages like for recipes you clipped? I need to take a class on this. Haha!

Thanks, Coral! I use regular old tape for my journals. I don't think it's acid-free so I'm probably asking for trouble down the road, but I like how quick, easy and efficient it is. I use 1/2" Scotch brand tape (I like the thinner size). I order it in bulk online because for one thing, it's cheaper, and for another, lately I've only seen the 3/4" size at Staples.

As for page protectors, I do not use them, but that's an interesting idea! It wasn't an option before when I kept my journal in a spiral-bound notebook, but ... hmm. I do clip lots of recipes and some of them do end up (taped) in my journal. Any full page or multi-page recipes get filed in my recipe hanging files, but I kind of like the idea of page protector at the end of each month's journal pages holding recipes that correspond with the season. I will have to think on it a bit, Coral - thank you for the suggestion!

From Denise:

New question: I am wondering about your *weekly planning.* How you decide what to focus on; eg. you mention above 1/19-2/25 snowflakes & shortbread. I would think you decide what you want to study on (ie focus on) somewhat by what season we are in. Then, do you have planned activities to go with that theme? Do these correlate with a specific curriculum you use? (I am always interested, since I help homeschool grands.) I would like to do more of this, but am a little lost in what to do! Thanks for any light you can shed!

Hi Denise! First of all, I meant those dates to read 1/19-1/25 (not 2/25) as they refer to one week at a time. Snowflakes and shortbread indicate a potential theme to wrap our crafts/activities/tea/lessons/reading around and they are seasonally inspired. I have wooden snowflakes to paint for St. Agnes on Wednesday and a simple Scottish shortbread to make in honor of Burns' Night on Sunday. I have a (pen-and-paper) spreadsheet of the 52 weeks of the year and each one is assigned this kind of theme. (I'm working on filling them all in - some are more readily apparent than others!) They will provide a framework for Little Bear's eventual curriculum which will be very nature/seasons-inspired. There will be simple crafts and activities, "teatimes," nature walks and storytimes. This will be a culmination of things I did with the older boys as they grew. :)

Well my friends, I'd best wrap this post up now as it has gone on rather long! I hope it wasn't too boring ... I know I can get carried away when talking about certain subjects! ;)

Please let me know if any other journal or planner questions come up - I'll be happy to address them. In the meantime, look for the next few posts to cover housekeeping binders, rhythm & routine, and desk areas. I have drafts in queue and work on them every chance I get - which, admittedly is not as often as it once was, but I do try my best!

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea Journal ~ Peace Be with Us

  Advent tea peace 15

Happy Monday, my friends! Welcome to another afternoon tea. :)

Today we begin the second week of Advent, and it is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of those lovely Marian feasts we enjoy celebrating at home in small, thoughtful ways. At this time of year, we are reminded of Mary's motherhood and her role in the life of her son, Jesus. I have four sons, and they're my whole world; together with my husband, and our home, my life revolves around them. So I often find myself in prayer, thinking of Mary, asking her to guide me in her gentle, peaceful ways. Goodness knows, I can use all the help I can get!

Now, whether we're talking about world peace or inner peace, it certainly means different things to different people. But right now I'm thinking about peace in the weeks before Christmas: how we can find it (create it?) in the midst of all the holiday bustle? Not just for ourselves, but our loved ones as well?

Here are a few of my thoughts - and I'd love to hear yours!

 * Keep the December calendar as low-key as possible. I know it's hard to say no to the myriad invitations and activities that take place throughout the holiday season, but there has to be a limit. Make room for peace in your life by setting a less-busy stage.

* Create cozy corners in your home that encourage folks to sit down a spell. Stock some lovely books on the table beside a favorite chair or couch corner (Christmas books would be perfect of course), and add a pretty coaster that will remind you to make yourself a hot cup of tea (or cocoa).

* Find yourself noticing nature. I purposefully filled our Advent calendar with "nature moments" - watching the moon rise, walking in the woods, feeding the birds, apprecating the beauty of a poinsettia. Cultivate a habit of observation - brainstorm simple activities that connect us with nature and remind us to slow down as the earth stills itself for the Winter. 

* Light up the darkness - with string lights and candles, real or electric. The days are so short and dark now, I find my home all the more peaceful when there are soft lights to welcome us, and comfort us, late in the day. This only enhances the feeling that our home is a haven from the outside world. Sitting in a quiet room illuminated only by tree lights is one of my favorite things about these short December days.

* Make time to sit quietly in thought or prayer each day - 10 minutes before the kids wake or 10 minutes after they go to bed? Try not to let your mind go right to your to-do list, but instead, keep your thoughts on spiritual matters. A quick "thank you" for the day's blessings, a simple prayer for a loved one, a fond memory, a favorite carol. (This can be done with a sleeping babe in your arms, too!)

* (But, speaking of to-do's) make your list and check it twice. A well-organized list and an internet connecton are great for keeping stress down. Because let's face it - we all have things to buy or make or do, and lots of people rely on us to make their Christmas merry. Peace is hard to cultivate when you're panicking, and if we didn't start early, then the to-do's are best addressed sooner rather than later. Nothing wrecks my Christmas spirit like last minute shopping, whereas feeling prepared gives me true peace of mind. Noble? Maybe not. But realistic.

**

Ok, here are a few peaceful moments from my day ...

Advent tea peace 10

Bill took this picture of Little Bear and me (without my knowledge!) and I just love it. This is quite early - if you can't tell by our "bed hair," lol - and we are starting our day as we usually do ... in the library, in "our" chair, with a few good books (and a cup of coffee for Mama). We're in this chair reading, many times throughout the day ... but there's something so special about that first snuggle of the day. :)

Advent tea peace 1

A little "sneak peek" at our Christmas card this year - it reads: "Peace on Earth." 

(I'll share the card in its entirety after we've mailed them all out!)

Advent tea peace 2

The absolute glee on my little boy's face when he noticed the nativity stickers I placed on the window behind our chair ...

Advent tea peace 12

Where's the baby, Little Bear?

Advent tea peace 6

Working on the Christmas mantel, here's a pretty corner: flowers and stars for the Mother of God.

Advent tea peace 8

Our Oliver, mid-scratch. :) It's impossible to see in this picture, but there's a cardinal at the feeder just beyond this window. Also, it is lightly snowing and this is what I'm looking at as I drink my tea ...  a little bit of domestic tranquility, with some serene nature thrown in.

And speaking of tranquil ...

Advent tea peace 11

Here's what else I am looking at as I enjoy my tea ... a sleeping Little Bear who opted not to stay in his crib for the entirety of his nap. He slept for a good hour here while I sipped and worked on this post.

A happy, sleeping baby = a happy, refreshed Mama.

Peace personified.

:)

~ Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

A cold day of clouds and flurries here, and a Nor'easter arriving tomorrow! High winds and heavy rain in our part of the region (if it was snow, we'd be buried!). Here's our front walkway as I stepped out to get the paper this morning:

Advent tea peace 4

What I'm drinking & eating ...

Oh my goodness!

Well.

I wanted to do something white in honor of today's feast, so I chose a London Fog Latte for my beverage. I had heard from friends that it was a simply delicious drink - and now I can happily agree - it is! Sweet and milky, with a nice citrus-y bergamot flavor. And as you can see in the picture at the top of my post, I once again used a pretty "vintage" tea cup, another from my grandmother's collection. It is called "Yuletide," and fittingly, it was made by Royal Albert of England. :)

Keeping with the "British Christmas" theme - and more stars for the Feast! - I made mini orange-mince pies for a lovely holiday treat!

Advent tea peace 13

I have always loved the look of these traditional English confections, and knew someday I would try making them! (Though admittedly, pastry intimidates me.) Well, my dear friend Shirley Ann inspired me to give them a try this week, after she shared a picture of her own on Facebook! I made these up Sunday afternoon while the baby slept - very easy to do - and goodness, did the house smell like Christmas!

And I must tell you - they are so very, very yummy. A tender crust with orange flavor and a spicy-sweet filling ... gah, so good. Bill had one on his way out this morning and he absolutely loved it! And this is a man who had never before tried mincemeat because "it frightened him" lol. I will definitely be making a large batch of these for Christmas day ... I wonder if I can freeze them ahead?

What I'm reading ...

Advent tea peace 7

I've just started reading back through my annual domestic journal pages, which are kept in this gigantic binder. (Only the current month is kept in my primary binder.) Also, lots of board books. (A post on LB's favorites to come soon!)

What I'm working on ...

Well, the big thing this week is setting up the tree ... we just brought it home yesterday. Also, still packing away all the fall decorations and finding all the Christmas books. Then there's lunch for Earlybird and Dad on Sunday ... and oh, getting the Christmas cards mailed out! 

 Words to ponder ...

Peace:

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

~ Anonymous

I love this quote so much - I have the magnet, I have the mug! - it's kind of my personal mantra. And, it's a skill I'm working on all the time - because as nice as it is to slow down and "make room" for peace - life just doesn't always work that way. My life as a mum - a special needs mum, especially - is filled with all the things mentioned above. But I know how I want to be. I want to be a source of peace for my children, their beacon in any sea. It's important, especially as a mother, to carry peace with me, and keep it with me for when I - we - need it most.

(I plan to revisit the theme of peace next month. I'd love to hear your ideas on the subject.)

**

And now, my friends, I'm finally going to stop talking, lol. This really was a rather long journal entry! But I'm so pleased to share my dear friend Mary's contribution to our Advent Tea Journal this week. Here are her thoughts on keeping peace in the season ...


What a lovely theme for a tea - Peace - especially since slowing down to make and drink tea can definitely bring peace into one’s life during the hustle and bustle that leads up to the Christmas season.

As a family, things that help us to find peace during this season is the simple process of eating a family supper together at night and starting by saying grace before we eat. We do this all year long but during this season, in particular, our family meal continues to serve as a wonderful anchor to slow us down, light the advent candle, and talk with one and other remembering to focus on all that we are grateful for.

We also enjoy walking around different “trails of lights” hosted by different towns around the Texas Hill Country. (We avoid the Austin Trail of Lights because it is a zoo - and definitely doesn’t bring peace to our lives!) The cool nights, the lights, and sipping hot chocolates as we all walk together as a family is always so peaceful.  

And this may sound funny - but we also enjoy walking around an open air shopping mall looking at the lights - and watching the other people hustle and bustle to shop. Instead, we walk slow, look at the lights, and chat. It’s funny how peaceful it is for us. At Christmas we exchange very few gifts freeing us of the need to rush and shop. It is so liberating - and brings peace to our lives. 

Here is a picture of me with our teenage son, walking around a festive open air shopping mall.

Mary tea peace 1 

On our Tea menu...we are continuing to enjoy Celestial Season's Peppermint tea and also some decadently rich double chocolate hot chocolate. And for a real treat - we twirl both with a candy cane!

Mary's tea peace 2

 Thank you so much, Mary, for this wonderful reflection on how you bring peace to your family at this time of year. I love the picture of you with your son - those smiles are beautiful! Family togetherness is a gift he will remember all his life!

**

Thank you, all, for joining me here today. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on finding peace in the hoilday season. Also, what are you drinking for "tea" this week? Baking anything special?

Hope to hear from you, but until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


To my mother, on her birthday ... ❤

Mum and I at kate and paul's wedding

Today is my dear mother's birthday, and as many of you know, I am very close with my mum and so grateful for all she has brought to my life ... beginning with my own life, of course! There's that to begin with, of course!

My mother, Maureen, has always been my best friend, and I talk with her every day about ... well, pretty much everything! Bill and I are grateful for how involved she and my dad are in our family's life but, truly, it has always been that way ...

My friends, may I reminisce a bit while I have a moment?

My brother Matt and I were so blessed to have Mum at home with us and I can honestly say my childhood was pretty much idyllic. My parents have a wonderful marriage and my mother was truly happy raising her children and taking care of her home and family. I could not have asked for a better role model and I knew from a very early age that what I wanted more than anything was to be a mother just like her. Because to my mind, and from what I saw and experienced, nothing could bring greater happiness.

I loved how she read all the time, and seemed to know so much about everything. I loved how she sang along in the car as we drove around, but especially when she sang folk songs with my dad and his guitar. I loved how she was always doing something creative - crafts of all kinds. I loved how she fed us and and to this day I wish I cooked as well as she does ...

I loved how my brother and I always felt involved and important to our parents. Our opinions counted and our feelings mattered. I especially loved how - even when we chose paths that were slightly off center, my parents supported us and encouraged us ...

I loved how my mum was always volunteering in the community and especially at my school - as leader of my girl scout troop, or a chaperone on field trips, or the mom in the front office making photocopies. I loved knowing she was close by and involved in my life. It's no wonder my house was the one all the kids wanted to be at! It was bright and happy and inviting and I was just so proud that she was my mum.

I loved how she had such a friendly and lovely way about her - whomever we met - whether it was familiar friends at a party or a perfect stranger in a checkout line, she was always gracious and kind. I hoped to emulate her as I became a woman myself.

As I got older and became a mom myself, I loved watching her become Nana. I love the special bond she has with my children and that she knows them so well (and they her). I love how I feel I can always ask for her help when I need it (though it's often offered before I even have to ask). I love learning from her and sharing our thoughts on everyday and worldly events. I loved watching her care for my grandparents as they aged and grew fragile ... I loved how she took on every responsibility without question and always with much love. Setting another example for me to remember and emulate as life moves forward ...

Most of all, I love how she loves us. I felt it then without thinking about it much - a child takes their parents' love for granted perhaps - but these days I find myself thinking about it all the time. I know how blessed I have been and continue to be every day I have my mum in my life.

Happy Birthday, Mum. I hope you don't mind that I just blathered on about you here, but I really felt it in my heart to share you with my readers today. I share a lot of myself here and who I am here is all because of who I have been my whole life: your daughter. ❤

With Much Love and a Grateful Heart

~ Dawn

 Blessings to all on this snowy Thanksgiving eve ... thank you so much for stopping by!


A Week of Feasts Ahead ...

Blessings to all on this beautiful Michaelmas Day!

Michael statue

This gorgeous statue resides in one of the academic halls at Boston College, where our Bookworm is a sophomore this year. He sent this photo to me last year, and all I could think was, "Wow, what a fantastic place to attend classes!" :)

This year's St. Michael came from his visit to the Museum of Fine Arts yesterday ...

Michaelmas painting mfa

And so the dragon was slayed ... or perhaps it is slain, I'm not sure. Either way, his number is up!

🐲

So we have a very full and festive week ahead! There's Michaelmas on Monday (today), St. Therese on Wednesday (and October begins!), The Feast of the Holy (Guardian) Angels on Thursday and St. Francis, our family's patron saint, on Saturday. Plus we have our homeschool group's annual apple picking trip this week, too - weather permitting. And so far the weather looks to be fairly seasonal this week. High 60s and party sunny skies. Lovely, lovely!

I'm a bit under the weather at the moment (a bit on that below) so all my plans are in limbo till I'm back up to speed. But I have some special foods and activities planned for the boys ... I love this week in our Catholic calendar because there's so much to do with the children. Do you have any traditions for this time of year? October really is such a wonderful month!

:)

Now, a quick health question, I am looking for some advice from other mamas about nursing ...

Little Bear is 16 months now and we are still nursing. Not as much, of course, but my plan to wean over the summer kind of came and went. And now I find myself with another bout of mastitis, ugh ... starting antibiotics today ... but anyhoo, my question is this:

How do you gently (and comfortably) wean a nursing toddler? He takes bottles and cups easily but he still wants his "Na" on the regular. (A few times a day.) I never nursed this long with my other boys so I'm at a bit of a loss. Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome!

Well my friends, I'm wishing you all a happy week ahead - thanks for stopping by and see you here again soon!


"What is a Home?"

Vintage house clipart

(From The Beauty of Motherhood)

A roof to keep out the rain. Four walls to keep out the wind. Floors to keep out the cold. Yes, but home is more than that. It is the laugh of a baby, the song of a mother, the strength of a father. Warmth of loving hearts, light from happy eyes, kindness, loyalty, comradeship. Home is first school and first church for young ones, where they learn what is right, what is good, and what is kind. Where joy is shared and sorrow eased. Where fathers and mothers are respected and loved. Where the simplest food is good enough for kings because it is earned. Where money is not so important as loving-kindness. Where even the teakettle sings from happiness. That is home. God bless it.

~ Ernestine Schuman-Heink

**

A lovely quote from a sweet little book of mine. I know I have many kindred spirits reading here, who share my love of home and homekeeping, so I thought I'd share it today.

:)

Sorry my posting has been a bit slow of late - I think I'm in summer break mode, lol. I'm working on a few projects though, and I'll get back in the swing of things soon. Please know I'm thinking of you all and praying you are happy and well.

Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends ... and especially, the comforts of your own home, wherever that may be and with whomever you share it. I hope it is, above all, a place of peace for you.

See you here again very soon ... 


And so it begins ...

Happy Monday, my friends!

Well, I hope you all had a nice weekend! It was quite a BIG weekend around here ... lots going on, popping around, out and about, but mostly because a certain Little Bear we all know and love began ...

O walking 1

O walking 2

WALKING!

(It's hard to show "motion" in  photos, but I promise you, this boy's on the move!)

This should not have come as a surprise to us, of course - over the past couple of weeks, LB has been taking a tentative step here and there, but this weekend he really got things rolling. He began standing from a crouch (that is, without using anything to pull himself up) and walking a few steps on his own before stopping himself as if in shock, lol. Sometimes he just sits back down, and sometimes he fusses a little and wants me to pick him right up. He's not one for change this boy, much like his mama ... but oh, the changes are always a-comin with these little ones, aren't they? Things are about to get very intresting around here ...

O walking 3

 Oh, the Places You'll Go! 

Congratulations! 
Today is your day. 
You're off to Great Places! 
You're off and away

⭐️

So Little Bear is 13 months old now (as of a few days ago), which I think is about average for walking. Bookworm was 14 months and Crackerjack was 12 months ... Earlybird was quite late - around 20 months, as all of his developmental milestones we were well off the mark.

How old were your children when they began walking? If you have a moment, please let me know in a comment below.

:)

As always, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in our joy. Enjoy your evening, and I'll see you here again very soon!