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December 2006

Two More Poinsettia Crafts

Thanks to Elizabeth's wonderfully clear instructions, I was able to make a poinsettia fairy yesterday in under 30 minutes! (Time is not usually of the essence when I'm crafting, unless I'm trying to do it in such a way that my 5 yo doesn't notice the hot glue gun.)

Poinsettia_fairy

I really like the way she looks on our tree! This was an easy, but very satisfying craft - and oh, how I love to work with felt, even little bits of it. I think I could make loads of these fairies, maybe in various varieties. Hmmm... where are those Flower Fairy books, anyway ...? :)

Next I set about making a sand dollar ornament, but as I went to follow the instructions at this site, I felt compelled to do something a bit different. (I'm a rebel, I know!) I liked the way the imprint looked on the front, curved side of the sand dollar rather than the one the back. So instead of painting a poinsettia on the back, I "glittered" a poinsettia to the front. I simply used a small brush and some Tacky glue to brush the glue onto the petal-like imprints. Then I liberally sprinkled red glitter all over the glue - tamping it down a bit, letting it set, and then shaking off the excess. (I used a small brush to get rid of stray bits.) I glittered the center with gold as a final touch and then tied the ornament to the tree.

Sand_dollar

Upon further reflection, I think it looks more like a red daisy than a poinsettia, lol! Next time I woud make the "petals" more jagged to more accurately represent the shape of the poinsettia leaves.

Still, it sparkles nicely in the lights - and it was a fun way to use up some of my glitter stash! :)


The Competition ...

... was stiff, as you can see:

Cookies

Bill brought home a sampling of all the cookies from his office Bake-Off today. Clockwise from top center (and I'm kind of guessing on the actual names - confirmation to come later):

  • ginger cookie
  • cranberry-filled pillow cookie
  • spritz cookies
  • blueberry jam thumbprint cookie
  • snickerdoodle
  • chocolate chip pan cookie
  • peanut butter chocolate ball
  • peanut butter cup cookie
  • rum ball

Recipes will also be forthcoming. Quite unfortunately no one had a camera to capture all the beautiful presentations (which, I hear, ranged from silver platters to fine china).

And SHOCKINGLY my lemon snowballs won three out of the five categories: taste, aftertaste and presentation! (The "texture" category went to the chocolate peanut butter balls and "smell" went to the rum balls.)

Tonight after supper, I will be taste-testing the competition for myself - I am sure they are as delicious as they look!


Light and Lemony Snowball Cookies

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These are my new favorite cookies - to eat and to bake! They are so very simple to make, and they are just the tastiest little bites of butter cookies. I baked them last week for our homeschool cookie swap, and this morning I got up bright and early (actually make that dark and early, lol) and made up a batch for Bill's office "Cookie Bake-Off" today. (Right. That's "Bake-Off" and not "Swap." Results to come later today.) ;)

I will definitely be making up a few more batches of these throughout the holidays and beyond. To my mind these cookies are the perfect wintertime treat - all snowy with confectioner's sugar and zesty with citrus, which is so in season come January. I think they make a nice teatime cookie - so much so that I sent my plate of cookies in with a dozen or so packages of Lemon Lift tea.

And since I can't post about anything without giving you the whole story, soup to nuts, here is the recipe and some photos from the morning ...

Snowballs1

Above you see the main cookie ingredients. (Not shown are the two sticks of unsalted butter I softened overnight.)

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Here's how the batter looks when all mixed - light, fluffy and fragrant. And below you see it all rolled out into 1" balls. One of the things I love about this recipe is how the whole recipe fits on one cookie sheet! Thirty-six cookies in all and you're done!

Snowballs3

I got a little camera happy - here's the 1/2 teaspoon of unsweetened lemonade mix going into the powdered sugar. This is where the "kick" comes in.

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And below is one baked and slightly cooled cookie ready to get rolled in the sugar.

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And here they are all piled on the plate, ready to be wrapped up and sent in with Bill. 

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Ready at last - wrapped in cellophane, tied up with a bow, with tea bags poking out all around.

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So keep your fingers crossed for me, LOL! Whatever the judges think, I really enjoyed the baking/craft opportunity this morning - you know how I love cookies, ribbons and tea! (I'm surprised I didn't find a way to sneak some glitter in there!)


Our O Antiphon House!

Oantiphons1_1

Beginning tonight, and ending on December 23rd, we will use this little homemade house to recall the seven O Antiphons ...

"There are seven short verses sung before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer of the Church on the seven days before the vigil of Christmas. They each begin with the exclamation "O". Each of them ends with a plea for the Messiah to come. As Christmas approaches the cry becomes more urgent.

The antiphons were composed in the seventh or eighth century when monks put together texts from the Old Testament which looked forward to the coming of our salvation. They form a rich mosaic of scriptural images." (from Catholic Online)

I love it when things that have always been right there under my nose come into full light. (Thank you Katherine and Jenn for introducing me to this lovely tradition!) It was neat today at Mass when we heard the familiar and beautiful hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and realized right there in the stanzas were the seven O Antiphons! I pointed them out to Bookworm and we both said, "A-ha!"

Our House is not made of wood, but rather of various forms of paper. Basically, I used what I had on hand. (Though I truly love all the wooden reprentations I've seen!) The materials I had were ones I had bought in hopes of constructing a homemade Advent calendar this year. (I had a shooting star theme in mind, but it never came to be - maybe next year!) Luckily I held on to the miniature boxes, golden posterboard, thin golden ribbon and stickers ...

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Of course I tweaked the whole craft as I went, modifying here and there. The "O" base was to be a cardboard letter base, but after painting it last night, the cardboard warped under the coat of paint. Since I wanted it to lie flat, and hang on the wall, this was not a good  thing. Then I remembered the golden posterboard I had tucked away! I just traced the purple O onto the posterboard and cut out the resulting shape. I found a pretty nativity scene online, printed it out, cut it to fit inside the O and backed the whole shape with a piece of purple construction paper.

Oantiphons4_1

Next I turned my attention to the small boxes. Around the edge of each lid I glued a thin golden ribbon; to the top I adhered a small purple star and a golden number sticker. Inside each box is a small label with the title and symbol of the day's O Antiphon:  Wisdsom, Lord and Ruler, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Radiant Dawn, King of the Gentiles, and Emmanuel.

A small scroll fastened with a sticker holds that evening's prayer. As each day is opened, the lid will be left off revealing at last, come Christmas, the seven O Antiphons, the seven titles of the Messiah, at one glance.

Oantiphons2

I am so glad I took the time to do this. The craft itself was simple to construct, and the activity adds another layer to our Advent celebrations - a new and deeper understanding of this beautiful time of year.


Take Joy!

"I salute you! There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy. Take Joy.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away."

~ Fra Giovanni, 1513

Joy_craft2

A most blessed Gaudete Sunday to everyone! And many thanks to Cheryl for this craft idea!


More Cake, More Presents, More Planets!

Here are a few quick photos from our family party today celebrating Earlybird's and Papa's shared birthday.

Famparty1

EB opening one of several planet books he received ...

Famparty2

And figuring out the planet puzzle with Daddy and Bookworm ...

Famparty3

Hmmm ... what could this be?

Famparty325

A "celestial mobile" ...?

Famparty35

To hang in EB's bedroom? Cool!

Famparty4

Favorite chocolate cake ...

Famparty5

Help with blowing out the candles ...

Famparty6

Papa and Earlybird share their birthday, and a hug!


A Very Co-op Christmas Party

Plus, Earlybird got to celebrate his birthday with his closest friends, our co-op buddies! We were celebrating three things, actually - Christmas, EB's 5th birthday, and our friend Curran's 11th!

Here are some photos from our day, which was so very fun. We hadn't all been together since - can it be? - Halloween. That doesn't seem possible, but yes, the holidays kicked in and co-op got put on hold. It felt so good to be all back together. The day was even warm enough that the kids got to spend a good deal of time running around outside. (You should have seen all those pink cheeks!)

Our game plan was a pizza lunch, then crafts, followed by a holiday video and popcorn. We would be celebrating happy birthdays, too - sans the actual singing of course as it makes EB cry. (Always has, and it seems, always will.)

The mini star cakes reflected EB's ongoing astronomy theme. Below you see the ingredients that made up his birthday treat: chocolate cupcake, all natural marshmallows (in lieu of frosting) and organic chocolate sprinkles. I melted a marshmallow on top of the cupcake for a glossy, gooey effect - though it turned out EB liked the marshmallow straight up!

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Here's the elder birthday boy, Curran and his sister Abby. You remember Abby, my crafting buddy? She's holding up a craft from today - a very pretty spiral that will look lovely hanging from the ceiling or in front of a window.

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And here we have Crackerjack and his buddy Neal, enjoying the play-fort and the unseasonably warm weather.

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And this might just be the cutest little Christmas elf I ever did see. This is Hayley, our littlest co-op member. Inspired by the boys' star hats the other day, Hayley came dressed in her own starry ensemble (Don't you just love the hat - and that face?!)

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Here's a bit of the "craft aftermath" ...

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We cleared space for the cakes when the time came for candles and wishes!

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I love this picture of EB surrounded by his brother (on the right) and friends, Pat and Curran. He loves being in the thick of it all.

Coopxmas5

While playing outside EB took some time to "work" in the birch wood crafting area. I am sure he thinks Daddy set this up just for him. ;) I'm thinking come spring this would make a great wood-working spot for the boys.

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Before I go, here is a picture of EB's present, a huge set of wooden street signs! (Thank you Wendy & crew!)

Coopxmas3

Coopxmas1

Talk about an ideal gift for a busy little boy!

Friends, this was such a perfect day. Thanks for helping us celebrate EB's birthday and always making him feel such a big part of the group. I can't wait till we get together again soon!   


The Loveliness of Preparation!

It's Friday - the weekend is finally here! I'm going to pour myself a cup of hot cocoa (one or two marshmallows, please), stoke the fire, put up my feet ... and then I'm going to stop by Kathryn's for The Loveliness of Preparation Fair. Oh, this is just what I need to recharge my Christmas batteries! Thank you for all your hard work, Kathryn ~ you did a lovely job!


Do You Believe in Angels?

I received the following story in an email last night from a friend at my church. I don't usually forward along these e-mails, but I found this story so moving I wanted to share it here. Funnily enough I went to bed last night with chapter eight of A Miracle for St. Cecilia's reverberating in my mind, thinking about how much a little hope and faith can do for someone ...

********************************************************************

Friends can be God's way of taking care of us, and He sends them when we need them.

The following was written by a Metro Denver Hospice Physician:

I just had one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and wanted to share it with my family and dearest friends.

I was driving home from a meeting this evening about 5, stuck in traffic on Colorado Blvd., and the car started to choke and splutter and die - I barely managed to coast, cursing, into a gas station, glad only that I would not be blocking traffic and would have a somewhat warm spot to wait for the tow truck. It wouldn't even turn over.

Before I could make the call, I saw a woman walking out of the "quickie mart" building, and it looked like she slipped on some ice and fell into a Gas pump, so I got out to see if she was okay.

When I got there, it looked more like she had been overcome by sobs than that she had fallen; she was a young woman who looked really haggard with dark circles under her eyes. She dropped something as I helped her up, and I picked it up to give it to her. It was a nickel.

At that moment, everything came into focus for me: the crying woman, the ancient Suburban crammed full of stuff with 3 kids in the back (1 in a car seat), and the gas pump reading $4.95.

I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help, and she just kept saying "don't want my kids to see me crying," so we stood on the other side of the pump from her car. She said she was driving to California and that things were very hard for her right now. So I asked, "And you were praying?" That made her back away from me a little, but I assured her I was not a crazy person and said, "He heard you, and He sent me."

I took out my card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her car completely, and while it was fueling, walked to the next door McDonald's and bought 2 big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee. She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and we stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little.

She told me her name, and that she lived in Kansas City. Her boyfriend left 2 months ago and she had not been able to make ends meet. She knew she wouldn't have money to pay rent Jan 1, and finally in desperation had finally called her parents, with whom she had not spoken in about 5 years. They lived in California and said she could come live with them and try to get on her feet there. So she packed up everything she owned in the car. She told the kids they were going to California for Christmas, but not that they were going to live there.

I gave her my gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety on the road. As I was walking over to my car, she said, "So, are you like an angel or something?"

This definitely made me cry. I said, "Sweetie, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people."

It was so incredible to be a part of someone else's miracle. And of course, you guessed it, when I got in my car it started right away and got me home with no problem. I'll put it in the shop tomorrow to check, but I suspect the mechanic won't find anything wrong.

Sometimes the angels fly close enough to you that you can hear the flutter of their wings...

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." (Psalms 55:22)

Let's continue to pray for one another. Here is the prayer:

"Father, I ask You to bless my children, grandchildren, friends, relatives and email buddies reading this right now. Show them a new revelation of your love and power. Holy Spirit, I ask You to minister to their spirit this very moment. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self doubt, release a renewed confidence through Your grace, In Jesus' precious name. Amen."

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

******************************************************************

I was moved to tears reading this story, not just by the story itself, but by the message carried within. It is so important to remember our blessings and recognize times when we might share them with others. I hope to keep this message in my heart, and remember to always be kind, in hopes of being there for someone, a friend or a stranger, in some small way, when they need it.

God bless!


Happy Birthday Earlybird (and Papa)!!

Just before Daddy left for work this morning, we celebrated our sweet Earlybird's birthday! There will be more celebrating to come  - friends tomorrow and family on Saturday - but we wanted to kick off his special day in a fun way!

Here he is receving his "crafty" gifts. (Note the green marker on his forehead and crayon clenched in his fingers. He'd already been crafting all morning!)

Eb2

Oh my, look at that big glittery 5!

Eb3

Ooh, and even better - new crayons and markers! And colorful containers to store them in ... somebody get this boy some construction paper!

Eb4

Forgetting all about breakfast, EB set right to work ...

Eb1

The red circle is Jupiter with its raging surface storms, just so you know. :)

Now, how did this happen? How on earth did my baby boy get to be FIVE?

My Christmas baby celebrates five wonderful years today! I say Christmas, because he was due on the 21st, but came one week early. In fact, he was born on my dad's birthday, just as my dad, possibly (probably) the smartest man on the planet, said he would. :)

When I told my dad my original due date, he just shook his head and smiled. "He'll be born on my birthday," was all he said. And he stuck by his story all nine months long. And wouldn't you know, come December 14th, 2001, I was indeed starting labor at 4:30 a.m.? (Even back then Earlybird was early!) A few hours later, and he was here, sharing his dear Papa's birthday.

My dad jokes that he was "done with his birthday anyway," and that from now on it belongs solely to his youngest grandson ... but Dad, you know we're having none of that! The fact that you share your birthday with Earlybird only makes that day more joyous for our family. And if Earlybird grows up to be anything like his dear Papa, he'll be the luckiest boy on the planet.

Now, dear readers, here are a few things you should know about EB:

~ He is a love, an absolute love, and will hug you the moment you walk in the door.

~ He is bright, happy and brings a lot of joy (and noise) to our family!

~ He works very, very hard to overcome his challenges. His speech is delayed and he has some physical issues - all which have improved greatly in the past year through much therapy and lots of work (and love) at home.

~ He loves, as you know, the planets and stars. His favorite show is Nova, followed closely by almost anything on the Science Channel. He also loves trains, doing arts and crafts (the messier the better), and playing with his brothers.

~ The boy loves to eat. He probably eats more than his two older brothers combined! Despite the fact we keep him on a special diet, he doesn't let that slow him down. His growth is wonderful and his doctor calls him a little quarterback!

~ Finally, Earlybird is so named because he sleeps no later than 5:00 on any given morning! (Did you know the sunrise is absolutely beautiful these days?)

In five lightening fast years this boy has taught me more about being a mother than I ever thought possible. I have grown in so many ways - truly his life and his place in this family is a blessing to us all. I thank God every single day for Earlybird, as I do for each one of my boys.

Before I go, here are a few pictures showing his gifts up close. I worked on these projects one day while EB was napping.

Wodod_gifts1

As I painted, I could not help but feel a little like one of Santa's elves, busily making toys in the workshop!

Wood_gifts2

Getting there ...

Wood_gifts3

Done! A star-shaped crayon holder (holding brand spankin' new crayons), a wooden art tote (holding lots of markers) and a wooden star peg for EB's room. He can hang his bookpack and jacket from this hook.

Happy Birthday Earlybird! Happy Birthday Papa! I am so blessed to have you both in my life!


All is Merry, Bright & Bandaged

St_lucy1

Here are the older two boys yesterday, enjoying a little feast for St. Lucia!

In learning about Sweden and its St. Lucia customs, we discovered that by tradition the boys in the family wear cone-shaped hats decorated with stars. They accompany the little "St Lucias" in the household (their sisters), and are called Starngossar, or "star boys." Together, the children bring breakfast in bed to their parents. Well, we have no little St. Lucias in this house (unless you count me or the cat, which of course you wouldn't), but we certainly have our share of little *star* boys! :) (Earlybird did get his own hat, but he was napping during this particular photo shoot.)

The boys' hats are just contruction paper cones stapled together and adorned with star stickers. The craft book I followed called for sheets of 12x18 size paper, which I did not have, so I just stapled regular 9x12 sheets together to make the right size. We had a few extra staples in those hats, but they still looked pretty festive! (And how it warms my heart that my boys are still young enough - in age and spirit - that they willingly do things like this.)

I think their smiles, though, are really all about the orange sweet rolls we baked for tea. I had hoped to make Karen's suggested recipe, but we ran out of time (that seems to be a familiar theme with me lately). So as luck (or forethought) would have it, I had a can of these ooey-gooey breakfast buns in the fridge. We found Sweden on the map, talked briefly about how many people celebrate Christmas all over the world in all different ways, and yet we are all celebrating the same thing. That's pretty neat. We're still waiting on Hanna's Christmas - a picture book that was wriitten by dear Melissa Wiley  (How is it I never realized that fact till just recently? Where have I been?) Hopefully it will be in soon.

And yes, that is an awfully large bandage on Crackerjack's head. He had a bit of an accident yesterday morning. He was running through the house, (I know - he should not be running in the house), wiped out and landed headfirst on a Lego. Ouch! He received a small but extremely deep puncture wound above his right eyebrow. It bled like crazy and naturally the poor boy s-c-r-e-a-m-e-d his little heart out. Thankfully, he is fine, but it took the EMT's to assure me of that ... Yep, you read that right. I placed my first (and hopefully my last) 911 call yesterday.

It turned out to be too small to stitch, but we're keeping a firm bandage on it to keep the pressure applied. After the medical team left, I placed a call to our pediatrician just to get any further instructions. They said the same thing - watch it, keep it clean and let it heal.

Needless to say, our day was a bit mellow after that. It poured all afternoon, so we sort of just snuggled on the couch and watched a little TV. As a special treat, Crackerjack was allowed to pick dinner, and not surprisingly he picked McDonalds. So Bill brought home a bunch of Happy Meals. It may not have been the most nutritious of days, nor certainly the calmest - but it will be one of the most memorable!


The Week Ahead - or the Week That Is!

(Note: I had planned to post this on Sunday, but time got away from me, so even though it is now Wednesday, I thought you might like a peek into the plans I projected for this week. I've made notes here and there about changed plans and crossed out things we've accomplished so far.)

Following is a sketch of our plans for this week. (Now I said sketch very purposefully as nothing here, with the exception of EB's birthday, is written in stone. Still, it's a place to begin!)

It will be a busy week for us with a few feast days to honor, a birthday to celebrate and Advent activities to continue. Oh, and Christmas is just two weeks away! Many of our activities follow Elizabeth's Advent unit, Cay's Catholic Mosaic, with a bit of Mary's O Night Divine post added in for good measure. If we start the day off with a little math, we're all set.

Math:

  • Complete one Saxon lesson each morning. (Er ... more or less.)

Language Arts:

Social Studies:

Faith Formation:

  • Review Moses story in A Catholic Book of Bible Stories as preparation for Crackerjack's CCD class (they're seeing a video). (No time to read the story. Review occured in the van, en route to class and consisted of brief recall of the Disney movie Prince of Egypt.)
  • Read new board books to EB: Our Father and Hail Mary. (Have you seen these new books? They're wonderful.)
  • Read Magnifikid in advance of Sunday Mass; discuss readings and Gospel.
  • Practice a Child's Act of Contrition with CJ , who's making his First Penance next month. (Ongoing)

Video of the Week: The Polar Express

Crafts:

  • Make "stained glass" letters.
  • Prepare O Antiphons for next Sunday evening.
  • Weave a God's Eye, as Alice did, if time allows.
  • Paint a sand dollar ornament.
  • Make a poinsettia fairy ornament.
  • Make star hats for the boys on St. Lucy's Day.
  • Fashion a miniature shrine for O.L. Guadalupe.
  • Make construction paper poinsettias like my friend Kim showed me last night.

Tea:

  • Serve Mexican hot chocolate and poinsettia brownies.
  • Serve orange buns on St. Lucy's. (No time for Karen's awesome recipe; we'll do Pilsbury after lunch!)

Nature study:

  • Visit a local nursery to look at holiday plants, especially poinsettias. (I brought home two small plants from the grocery store. I'd still like to make it to a greenhouse.)
  • Clip holly and boxwood from front yard; add sketches to nature notebook.
  • Take a starlight walk; watch the sunrise.

Co-op:

  • Celebrate our Christmas/Birthday party!

To-do:

  • Put out mailman and newspaper tips.
  • Mail Christmas cards by end of the week.
  • Finish shopping (online).
  • Catch up on emails.
  • Bake cookies for homeschool cookie swap. (Mexican Wedding Cookies - Nope, didn't realize the recipe called for nuts; I made Lemon Snowballs instead. Really yummy.)
  • Order snow pants and boots for the boys.
  • Prepare Earlybird's wooden birthday gifts.
  • Read reviews of Eragon to see if it's OK for Bookworm, who's read the book, but the trailer looks a bit dark. I see they haven't rated it yet, probably not a good sign.
  • Wear pink to Mass on Gaudete Sunday. :)
  • Take pictures of my craft bins for a future post. ;)

Celebrations:

All together now, one big PHEW! :) Expect updates all week, of course! I wish you a great one!


A Quick & Cute Advent Craft

I wanted to share a cute Advent craft Crackerjack did at his CCD class yesterday afternoon, but first I have to tell you a little story. :)

Before leaving the house for class, Crackerjack remembered he wanted to bring something for show and tell. The kids are allowed to bring anything they'd like (of a religious nature) to class each week and "show and tell" about it.

CJ decided he'd like to bring the book, The Lady of Guadalupe, which we had read that very morning. I popped the book in my tote, and as an afterthought, I grabbed the poster we made of Our Lady as well. You know, just in case.

Walking into the church hall, CJ carrying both the book and the poster, we are greeted by Sister (who is a dear, but can be a bit intimidating at times). She sees CJ's rather large and colorful craft and exclaims, "OH! And what do we have here?"

CJ immediately shrinks behind my legs, but after a little urging he produces the craft for Sister to see.

"Ah-ha," Sister says, holding up the craft and looking it all over. "And who do we have here? Who is this?" She turns her kind, but inquisitive gaze upon the blushing child by my side.

At which point CJ shoves the poster into my hands and says, "I had nothing to do with that. My brother did the whole thing."

Ahem.

So I mumble a few words about how we spent the day learning about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and how we all worked on the craft together, to which CJ feels it necessary to add, "Yeah, but you and Bookworm did it all before I even woke up!"

Um ...

Anyway, about that Advent craft - the one CJ really did do himself! :)

The kids cut out wreath shapes from green construction paper and decorated them however they wished. (CJ added rainbow flowers halfway around, and then, growing impatient, filled in the rest with green scribbles, or "pine needles.")

Next they were handed candle shapes (three purple, one pink) and asked to brainstorm nice things to do for others during Advent. The kids took turns writing their ideas on the chalkboard. CJ chose to write "PRAy" (spelled just like that, too), as in, to pray for others, which I thought was nice. His other ideas were to "help" his brother with chores and schoolwork, to "bake" lots of cupcakes for his family, and to "smile" at people all the time. :)

The kids wrote an idea - a "gift" - on each candle, and then we stapled the whole thing together:

Cjs_advent_wreath

The teacher urged the children to try to do all those nice things for the rest of Advent, but encouraged them not to tell anyone. (Of course I immediately ruined the element of surprise by showing CJ's craft off to Nana, Daddy and Bookworm as soon as we got home.)

It was a really cute and quick craft, and I will definitely file it away for next year. It would be nice to make these up just before Advent begins (or on the first Sunday) and have the children work on each "gift" for a week.


The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Continuing with our Advent unit study, today we celebrated this beautiful feast with a few simple projects.

First we read the Tomie de Paola book, The Lady of Guadalupe. I love this story about Juan Diego and his vision of Mary - who was later honored as the Patroness of the Americas.

And since the boys noticed in The Legend of the Poinsettia that Lucida's family had a lovely shrine set up with candles for the Blessed Mother, we set about making one of our own. It is extremely humble, but it was easy to make and is just the right size for our prayer corner:

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Starting with a miniature disposable loaf pan, I bent and molded it into the shape (more or less) of a shrine. On the back wall I taped a holy card showing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Just below the card I placed one of our favorite "starry" candles. (Note: Bill warned me this might melt the plastic card, so I'm keeping a close eye on it.) To the right and left are two more candles for good measure - one can never light too many candles! Actually the aluminum backdrop illuminates the vision quite nicely!

Next we made a poster of Our Lady in the image as seen by Juan Diego:

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I had some extra cake boards, and a bunch of burlap leftover from a Lenten craft. We wrapped the cardboard circle with the burlap and then stapled it all around the edges, trimming off the excess. Bookworm colored an image from the coloring book, Mother of God, and we taped it to the center of the board. Lastly we attached some rose stickers. The burlap is reminicent of Juan Diego's rough tilma, the image represents how he saw Our Lady, and the roses recall those that fell from his open arms before the Bishop:

"Suddenly he realized that no one was looking at the beautiful roses on the carpet. They were all looking at his tilma.

"Juan Diego looked down. His rough cactus-fiber tilma had been changed into a painting of the Lady just as he had last seen her at the foot of Tepeyac."

We added our poster to our Mexican corner, just above the stained glass poinsettia and our God's Eyes from yesterday.

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I was hoping later today to enjoy a cup of Mexican hot chocolate for tea, but with Crackerjack's CCD in a few hours and a cookie swap later this evening, there's no time today, I'm afraid! Perhaps we'll try again tomorrow. :)

I wish you a Blessed Feast and a Happy Evening!


One Hundred Years from Now ...

It will not matter
what kind of car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
how much money was in my bank account
nor what my clothes looked like.
But the world may be a better place because
I was important in the life of a child.

(Excerpt from "Within my Power, by Forest Witcraft)

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My Merry Boys of Autumn, 2005


Color, Light and Joy

These are three things I love about Christmas, and it occurs to me that these are also things I love about life with my children. The two have much in common, don't you think?

  • Christmas is a whirl of color; children are perhaps the most colorful creatures on earth.
  • Christmas is bright with light; children shine a light on the world around us.
  • Christmas brings joy whenever it comes; children create joy wherever they go.

Preparing for Christmas means many things to me - all of them good, and all of them comforting. But perhaps best of all are the cozy days spent at home, making lots of crafts with my boys. A perfect way to bring lots of color, light and joy into our life! As you know we love crafts around here (and me most of all!). Someday I might graduate to the more refined types of crafts - fiber arts, candle-dipping, wreath making and such - but for now I positively revel in woolen felt, glitter and glue. :) This morning I gave you a peek into my craft basket, and here's where we've gotten so far!

"Stained Glass Joy"

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These windows face east, and receive light most of the day. What a happy spot for a reminder of the season!

We made these "stained glass windows" by cutting letters out of black construction paper. (I did all the prep work - cutting out the letters was fussy.) Using clear contact paper we adhered bits of colorful tissue paper to the open areas. The end result, a special message full of light, color and, of course, joy.

Mexican God's Eyes

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Thanks to Elizabeth, Mary and Cay, we are learning about Mexico and Mexican Christmas traditions this week. We read The Legend of the Poinsettia today and found Mexico on the world map. We then made this very familiar and easy craft, the God's Eye.

You've probably made these before. I did loooong ago when I was a Girl Scout, but  I had forgotten how to do them. I found excellent instructions here. (I love the explanation, "God's eyes look with love on all people.") We like using mulitcolored yarn for crafts, and this one was perfect for it!

"Stained Glass Poinsettia"

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After learning about the Poinsettia, I was inspired to try another stained glass craft. This one was way fussier than the letters, but I like how it came out. (I used a print-out of a poinsettia coloring page as a template. This time I cut the tissue into individual leaves and petals.) It's hard to tell from the picture, but the light behind the flower is from the west, just about dusk. I love watching - and knowing - the light that comes into our home.

Last Light before Darkness

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And speaking of this time of day, all year long, but especially in winter, I like to draw my children's attention to the times of sunrise and sunset. I read a bit on this idea in Celebrating the Church Year with Children by Joan Halmo. Ms. Halmo writes:

"As the Christmas festival is related to the time when light begins its ascendency over darkness, the link of celebration with nature's cycles can be easily made for children. During Advent, our family often watches the sunrise dispelling darkness, noting that its light comes from the east, the place of Jesus' return in glory ...

Starlight walks are especially appropriate in Advent. They are more easily done at this season, for the evening falls very early, and even tiny children can "get to see stars" before their bedtime ...

Everyone looks for light in the darkness!"

A Christmas Lights Ride

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We took the boys for a nighttime Christmas lights ride the other night. Right after supper we bundled everyone up, and trucked off in the family van in search of light ... and boy did we find it! Magic!

All these bits of color, points of light and moments of joy add up to a beautiful season. It is my hope to keep these blessings in my heart, and my life, all year long.


My Craft Basket this Week

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Now, please bear in mind, this thoughtfully composed basket in no way accurately represents the state of affairs in my "general" craft bins, the ones I allude to quite often in my posts. Those bins I shall leave to your imagination (for now), but I thought you might like a peek into this week's craft basket!

I like to assemble the materials for the week in this way - it's a bit silly, but I find it helpful (and inspiring) to have all these goodies in one place throughout the week.

So, what do we see here? Well, here's the list, more or less going clockwise from the lower left corner:

  • mini loaf pan, holy card and candle
  • flesh colored pipe cleaners
  • golden felt
  • rose stickers
  • silk poinsettia flowers
  • multicolored tissue paper
  • black construction paper
  • cardboard cake boards
  • coloring page of Our Lady of Guadalupe
  • cardboard letters
  • brown burlap fabric
  • clear contact paper
  • wooden clothespin doll kit
  • multicolored yarn
  • q-tips
  • various shades of acrylic paint
  • glitter
  • sand dollar
  • green ribbon

So now the trick will be turning all these items into fun and meaningful crafts for, and with, the children. Stay tuned ~ I will post as we go!