Children's Parties Feed

The Loveliness of Saint Patrick's Day

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What a wonderful holiday to celebrate, for as the saying goes, everyone's a little bit Irish on March 17th! This Monday, my dear friend Mary Ellen is hosting the Loveliness of Saint Patrick's Day at her Bonny Blue House, and I am so thrilled because, A. I'm Irish and, B. I love Saint Patrick's Day!

The feast day itself is next Saturday, so there is plenty of time left to plan a few fun activities for your family. I'd like to share some ideas with you now, and then later on show you the pictures of our actual celebrations. :)

Good Books

What's a feast day without a bushel of good books to read?

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Please see my righthand sidebar (Early Spring Basket) for the whole list.

Every year I like to add a few new titles to our Saint Patrick's Day collection. This year we've added The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh, and Bookworm will begin Beyond the Western Sea Book 1: Escape from Home for book group next month. I'm hoping Barnes & Noble has a copy of Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara as it's a fairly new book (if not I will order it). All three books share a theme of the devastating potato famine of the 1800s. A good start to a rabbit trail, don't you think? This will be a perfect week to focus our geography studies on the heart of the Emerald Isle.

Food & Drink

Many supermarkets now have an aisle devoted to imported and/or ethnic foods. I was happily surprised to see Ireland represented at my local Shaws! What a fun field trip it would be to take the kids to the market and let them choose an item or two to try - Irish tea, biscuits, pudding, jelly, etc.

Naturally, I've been busily tearing ideas out of magazines, recipes among them - pasting some in my journal and leaving others to file:

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Some of these ideas will show up in our celebrations this week:

  • Thursday teatime (Irish theme).
  • Friday co-op party!
  • Saturday visit Damee (bring muffins and little gifts).
  • Sunday family dinner (Irish dinner).

(Details to follow through the week!)

Merriment

  • We'll all be wearing green, of course.Darbyogill
  • I've ordered (ahem) three videos for next week:
  • Irish music is a must. I'm sure there will be plenty of PBS shows featuring Irish music. I think our local classical radio station has something planned, too.
  • Oh! One more thing - I read somewhere that Chutes and Ladders can be played with a St. Patrick's theme, Snakes and Ladders. (St. Patrick having famously driven the snakes out of Ireland.) Here's the idea and here's more background.

Crafts & Faith

I have a few crafts in mind, the first being something we make with these materials:

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We will also make a spiritual bouquet to bring to my grandmother on Saturday - only instead of a flower of prayers, we will make a four-leaf clover of prayers! These would make nice St. Patrick's Day cards for friends and family.

More craft ideas for your consideration:

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It needs more stickers, and we are completely out of tea lights!

  • Make up a BreastPlate Booklet with the children. On each page, write one line of the prayer; the children then may illustrate it on the opposite side. (Not my original idea; I found it in this book.)
    • Christ with me, Christ before me,
      Christ behind me, Christ within me,
      Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
      Christ at my right, Christ at my left . . .
      Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
      Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
      Christ in every eye that sees me . . .

In Boston, on Saturday, Mass will be said at noon at The Holy Cross Cathedral - along with harp music and Gaelic! How cool! (Maybe next year!)

Nature:

Next week looks to be very mild around here, (for us, lol), in the high 50s and 60s. Not much rain, but some clouds - perfect Saint Patrick's Day weather if you ask me! We will get out at least one day this week for a nature walk, to see what's blooming. (Who knows we might even spy a leprechaun home ...)

As we walk we will also look for shades of green. There may be some after the portended mild weather (and if not, I will do as Mrs. Sharp suggests, and plant a few bunches of shamrocks here and there!). Next year I hope to have some Lenten Rose in the garden, perhaps in this startling but lovely shade!

Happily, my grocery store is selling small pot of shamrocks this week. I'll pick up a few and hope to keep them alive until Saturday. They would make a perfect still-life for the March nature notebook, possibly accompanied by this charming poem by Ella Higginson, in whole or part:

I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blossoms burst with snow,
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,
And one is for love, you know,
And God put another in for luck, -
If you search, you will find where they grow.

But you must have hope, and you must have faith,
You must love and be strong - and so,
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

And may I leave you with this picture of two of my young Irish laddies? I made this card back when Crackerjack (now seven) was just a wee babe of seven months. Bookworm was four and Earlybird was but a sparkle in his Daddy's eye. :)

(The blanket they are sitting on was brought home from Ireland by my cousin, and the sweaters were knit by another cousin's wife!)

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Many blessings to you and yours this upcoming feast of Saint Patrick! And remember that old Irish proverb - There is no fireside like your own fireside.

God bless!


Homeschooling Has Many Perks ...

Like going to a birthday party during your lunch break!

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Here are the older two boys who were invited to a "Pump it Up" birthday party this morning from 11:30 till 1. (Nana stayed home with EB.)

Pump it Up is a ... well, how exactly do I describe it? It is a party place at which kids play on all manner of inflatable moon-bounce apparatus for an hour or so. There's some music involved as well as much running, jumping, sliding, laughing and sweating. There was also pizza and cake before all was said and done.

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Above you see Crackerjack sliding ...

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Bookworm "boxing" ...

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And this is CJ casting one last look at his mother before beginning his match ...

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Here is the group taking a breather just before lunch was served.

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And joining the birthday boy on his throne are my two guys. Happy Birthday Kurt!

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The light saber favors were a huge hit with the kids. Before we all headed out, a group duel was a must. By 2:00 we were back home and back to work! :)

Lunch and gym were never this fun! Hope you had a fun day, too!


Little Gifts, Big Fun

Crackerjack and I would like to show you the little gifts we made for his CCD teachers yesterday. Here are the materials to make the God's Eyes (a project I posted about a while back) and the decorative gift boxes. (Note the helpful little hand - that would be Earlybirds' - reaching for the glue stick.)

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We used multicolored yarn to make the God's Eyes, and then set about decorating the gift boxes. These plain little boxes are available at the craft store in various sizes and colors.

In fact, while we're on the subject of the craft boxes, there is also a long thin rectangular box available that would make a perfect size for a rosary or chaplet. I love the ones at Gardens of Grace and Beads of Mercy, especially. Just by the way. Honey, are you reading this? :)

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What we did was cut out a small construction paper star (red being Crackerjack's signature color) and glue-stick it onto the top of the lid. (This one is a demo; on the "real" ones, CJ wrote his name and message before we glued the star down.) Next we used a small paintbrush to apply Tacky Glue all around the edges, working one side at a time.

(A brief aside - can anyone recommend a good craft glue that dries clear?)

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Then came the necessarily copious amounts of glitter all around the star. I don't have a picture of the next step which was to glue a thin golden ribbon around the edge of the lid.

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And here you see the God's Eye nestled inside the box, a bit of green tissue as a cushion - and the lid ready to pop on once dry. (That would be my cat's ear on the right in case you were wondering. Yes, there are always lots of helping hands and paws when crafting commences around here.)

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We just had to post this picture - the boys thought it was very neat that the glittered boxes caught the light in this way on the side of the craft bin. Earlybird thought it was a "gaksee" (or a galaxy)!

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Here are the four finished boxes - notice we tucked a couple of delicious candies underneath!

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You knew I was going to finagle a basket in here somehow. :) It was easy to carry the very glittery boxes in this basket and hand them out when we reached class.

And speaking of class - what a fun time! We had a Christmas party with a Bible story video, delicious goodies and crafts. Today's project was decorating foam crosses with stickers and glitter glue. Below you see the two CJ made. The teacher was very kind to send home two extra kits for my other boys to work on today.

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One CCD party down, one to go! Bookworm's class meets tonight! :)


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.

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

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

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Hmmm ... what could this be?

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A "celestial mobile" ...?

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To hang in EB's bedroom? Cool!

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Favorite chocolate cake ...

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Help with blowing out the candles ...

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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.

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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!)

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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!   


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!)

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Oh my, look at that big glittery 5!

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

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

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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.

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

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Getting there ...

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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!


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!


Friday Notes and Photos

In other words, just a bit of catch-up before bed ... :)

1. First of all, Field Day was enormously fun - thanks again to everyone who pitched in with posts, pictures, plugs, comments  and well wishes! I so appreciate you all! (And if you look very closely, you'll see I slipped in one more entry just this evening!)

2. Secondly, Nina asked about my bulletin board, which I posted briefly about, ah, yesterday I think it was - was it only yesterday?? Gosh time has flown and here it is Friday. I just wanted to let you all know, (since I'm sure you've been waiting on tenterhooks, lol) I made good on my promise and updated my original post with details about what-all is up on the board. Nina asked (hi Nina!) if I have a color-copier and the answer is, happily, yes. We've had our copier/printer/scanner for years and I honestly don't know how I'd get along without it!

3. Thirdly, after I posted about our Autumn Star cookies and made my not so subtle plea for gingerbread recipes, I had a couple of responses! Katherine very sweetly posted her family's favorite recipe at her blog (thank you!) and Beck offered to email hers (again thank you!). Beck, please do; my email address is drhanigan AT verizon DOT net. (I only took it off this page recently after I got a few spammy emails.) Katherine, your recipe sounds so good (and what a lovely story behind it). In fact, I just finished mixing up the dough tonight! Tomorrow our church is holding a toy drive/bake sale and I am planning to bring - you guessed it - gingerbread cookies! Ooh, the dough was so dark and rich smelling I can hardly wait to bake it up. Naturally I will be posting pictures of the results tomorrow!

And you know, I had a little idea (oh, dear) that if anyone else has gingerbread recipes they'd like to share (look out 4Real ladies you know this means you!) please send them my way - by e-mail or (blog) post - and I might pull together a mini-carnival of gingerbread next week! I'll bet you have a family favorite, or even maybe some handy gingerbread tips? Friends, I have three cookie swaps and a bake sale this month - I could really use some help!

OK on to the pictures from the past day or two. This first being a spent, yet striking, dandelion nub I noticed in our backyard. Earlybird was just peeping over my shoulder  and proclaimed it a "spider" and then thinking better of it, a "bee eating a spider." Interesting, EB.

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I just had to show you this birthday gift we brought to our dear friend Jared's 7th birthday party Thursday afternoon. I am kicking myself that I forgot my camera! The party was at a local bowling alley and goodness, did my boys have fun! (And you know, they weren't half bad?) Anyway, I am posting this because I wanted to point out the stars we used to decorate the plain craft store bag (attached with little rolled up bits of scotch tape). These are the scraps from our star-making on Wednesday! After the boys used up every last dinosaur sticker on the card (I had meant for them to save a few for the bag), I remembered all these little colorful stars and thought they made a cheerful touch!

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Next we have Earlybird during his ahem, morning science lesson. Pajamas and piggies - is there any better way to study the planets?

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Well, yes, you can also get up really close and chat about the changing solar system. (This is the other side of the poster. Btw, this is from the current issue of National Geographic which I specifically bought this month for its cover story on Saturn - EB's second favorite planet after Jupiter. (I'm not sure where Earth stands.)

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Next we have my cat, Penny. Isn't she the cutest? Please disregard the disarray of reading material spread all around her!

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Here is Crackerjack kicking back with a good book - one he can read all by himself! (Again with the jammies! We do get dressed on occasion, I promise.) I can't tell you how proud he is (we are!) that he can read this book cover to cover.

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Ah, yes. Here is where you would have found me late this afternoon. Bundled up on the couch, snuggled up to this sight. I am a bit under the weather today and I thought tea and some clementines might help me along. (Now see this is where the jammies come in. Mama took a sick day, Daddy worked from home, the rain poured down outside and we all kept things real casual-like.) :)

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This last photo looks somewhat Halloween in nature, but I love how these starry little candles looked as darkness fell. A bit of late autumn starlight piercing the looming winter darkness perhaps?

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Well, this concludes another blogging week! I hope everyone has a wonderful time ushering in the new and beautiful season of Advent this Sunday! Have fun and God bless!


A Little Thanksgiving Treat

The days of autumn are dwindling, but winter is fast on its heels! I wanted to share a few recipes that would be perfect for blustery days at home with the children. In fact, we test-tasted two of them yesterday in a little impromptu Thanksgiving tea!

Mini Pumpkin Pies

When I found this recipe in a magazine, the boys oohed and aahed over it! (Anything made with Cool Whip is bound to be a hit in their book.) Instead of making one big pie, however, we poured the filling into six tiny Keebler pie shells - perfectly sized treats for little hands. This was very easy and quick to make. It would make a fun holiday dessert for the kid table!

Ingredients: 1/2 cup cold milk, 6 serving-size package vanilla pudding, 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 2 1/2 cups Cool Whip, graham cracker crust (1 regular sized or 6-8 mini ones - we filled 6 and had filling leftover).

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Whisk the milk, pudding mix and pumpkin pie spice for 1 minute with a wire whisk. (Mixture will be very thick.) Whisk in canned pumpkin till thoroughly mixed. Then fold in Cool Whip. Stir well to incorporate all ingredients and smooth any lumps.

And here are the filled shells ready to go into the refrigerator to set.

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The directions said to wait two hours but we only made it one! While the pies chilled, we set about making ...

Hot Apple Cider with Caramel

I placed a saucepan of apple cider on the stove to heat and then made up these caramel dippers. (I got this idea from the October issue of Family Fun magazine.) We microwaved (unwrapped) caramels for about 15 seconds, just enough time to soften them a bit, and then we pushed the popsicle sticks into the softened caramel.

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When the cider was hot, we poured it into our special winter tea mugs, and used the caramel sticks as stirrers.

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And here is our little Thanksgiving tea!

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While the boys dug into their pumpkin pies I read from The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving and Chester Chipmunk's Thanksgiving. All the while the caramels were melting and flavoring the cider. Oooh, was it good! It tasted just like a caramel apple in a cup! (I placed a copy of this recipe in my October file for next year.)

Here are a few other child-friendly cold weather brews I'd like to share:

Caramel Apple Cider (from Family Fun, October 2005)

Cider:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup water

Caramel Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

First bring the cream and brown sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cider and raise the heat to medium high, heating just until the cider begins to steam, about 4 minutes. Divide among 4 mugs, top each one with 2 tablespooons of caramel whipped cream and serve immediately. Serves 4.

For the Caramel Whipped Cream: In a small chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream with the brown sugar until soft peaks form.

Warm Spice Tea (from Parents Magazine, October 2006)

  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 6 mandarin-orange spice tea bags (we use decaf)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 red and 1 green apple, thinly sliced

In a large saucepan, combine water, tea bags, and cinnamon stick. Let steep 5 minutes. remove tea bags and stir in honey. Let cool 10 minutes. Just before serving, stir in apple slices.

Spiced Green Tea (from Taste of Home, October/November 2006)

  • 5 cups boiling water
  • 5 individual green tea bags
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 5 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 2 cups cranberry juice

In a Dutch oven or large kettle, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat; add the tea bags. Cover and steep for 8 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Add sugar, lemon juice, and pumpkin pie spice to tea; stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in apple juice and cranberry juice. Serve warm or cold. Serves 12.

Hot Apple Tea (from Woman's Day, October 3, 2006)

  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cinnamon stickes (each about 3 inches long)
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 tea bags, regular or decaffeinated

Bring cider, sugar, cinnamon and ginger to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags, cover and let steep 5 minutes. Strain; serve hot.

Hot Spiced Brew (from Very Best Coffee)

(Note: As this is made with coffee, this drink might be more for you Mamas! You could make hot chocolate for the kids and stir in some of the creamer for extra flavor.)

  • 1/2 cup ground coffee, regular or decaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Cinnamon Vanilla Creme Flavor Nestle Coffee-Mate Liquid Coffee Creamer, divided.

Place coffee grounds in filter basket and sprinkle with allspice and nutmeg. Pour water into coffee maker and brew. Divide coffee into mugs; top each with 2 tablespons Coffee-Mate.

Spiced Tea (from Family, Festivals and Food)

(I love how the book describes this drink as "for cold winter evenings." Wouldn't it be nice to make some up and keep it in a thermos - perhaps to take with you when you run errands on a cold day, or for a day of skating or sledding?)

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 inch stick cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons black tea (we would use decaf)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemons juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Combine water, cloves and cinnamon. Heat to boiling. Add tea; cover and let brew 5 minutes, then strain. Heat orange juice, lemon juice and sugar to boiling; stir and add to hot tea. Makes 6-8 servings. For children this could be made with apple juice instead of tea."

I just love having little teas with my boys, but when I say, tea, there's nothing fancy or frilly - or goodness knows, nothing pink - about it. Our teas are not about manners and formality. (Though I do try to encourage proper behavior and we always begin with grace.) For us, it's just taking an hour or so once a week to sit down to something special and delicious to eat, to enjoy a warm drink (perhaps cold punch in the summer) and read or craft or just talk together. My Christmas wish is to do this once a week - and each week have a little holiday theme. It might be a movie, a book, a feast day or a fun craft. But whatever we "do" we will always be eating something yummy and sipping something warm - to me, that's a perfect way to spend a cold afternoon!


Eggnog, Pumpkins and Tea

So! We've discussed autumn leaves, great pumpkins, the first frost and now, as we hinted at earlier today ~ eggnog is the latest sign of the season!

Pumpkin_eggnog_1Every year, come the end of October, we eagerly anticipate the return of our favorite holiday beverage to our grocer's dairy shelves. Usually it appears just after Halloween, so I was quite surprised to find some at the store last night! I was even more surprised by all the new flavors! As it's still only October, I restrained myself and bought just a quart of each blend. (This is all pre-Thanksgiving research, don't you know?)

So let me first reveal the results of our preliminary taste test!

Happily, my mum stopped by just as we were preparing the test. This meant we had four testers and four eggnog contenders: Golden, Vanilla, Pumpkin and Cinnamon. This is the order we tested in, going from what we assumed would be mildest, to strongest in flavor. This turned out to be a great math lesson too! We rated each variety with a number between 1 and 4 (1 for not so hot, 4 for the best). Then we tallied and averaged the results, and drum roll jingle bells please ...

Golden Eggnog, with a winning score of 3.25 came in first! ("Pure and old-fashioned flavor.")

Tied for second at 3.125 were Vanilla Eggnog ("Like a melted vanilla milkshake.") and Pumpkin Eggnog ("Like liquefied pumpkin pie!")

Coming in last with a measly 1.375 was the Cinnamon Eggnog (Crackerjack summed it up best - "Cinnamon doesn't rock!")

While I preferred the Golden and my mum, the Vanilla, the boys definitely liked the Pumpkin the best. It is a very novel flavor I admit, and I think I would enjoy it on occasion. Actually, it would make a tasty eggnog cake. I've made this cake every year (using plain eggnog) and it is delicious! It makes lovely mini-bundt size tea cakes - perfect for gift baskets.

My idea for Thanksgiving Day (and if you're coming to dinner, stop reading here!) is to bake these little cakes with pumpkin eggnog and then drizzle the tops with an icing made with confectioner's sugar and more of the pumpkin eggnog. A sprinkling of green sugar would make them look just right - like sweet little Thanksgving pumpkins! There are even more eggnog recipes here.

Now speaking of eggnog, and considering how much we love child-friendly tea aroundEggnog_tea_1 here, I have to mention a fun tea we tried last winter. Just after New Year's, when the heady days of eggnog availability had passed, we were SO excited to find an eggnog flavored tea called what else, but Eggnogg'n: An Eggceptional Winter Tea. Do you know, I still have that box of tea? (Tea doesn't go bad, right?). I would not hesitate to imagine a "playful penguin tea" - maybe kicking off a South Pole unit study. These cookies would be perfect, don't you think? March of the Penguins comes to mind, as does Happy Feet, a new movie premiering next month - returning home to a cup of this tea and some frosted cookies would be a delightful pre-holiday treat!   

You know, I think I could tie tea in with anything!

I also wanted to mention that when I went to get the above link from Bigelow, I discovered a tea I'd never heard of before - Pumpkin Spice Autumn Spiced Tea. This sounds intriguing. I'm wondering if I can order this online, because I don't think my grocery store carries it. It appears I have to order it by the case, however. Hmmm ... that's a lot of pumpkin tea. Maybe I could find some recipes for that, too. :)

And while we're on the topic of pumpkins and spice, ever since Jennifer mentioned making her first cup of Pumpkin Spice coffee the other day I've had it in my mind to try some. At first I could not find any such coffee, so what I bought instead was some of that International Coffees Pumpkin Pie Spice non-dairy creamer. It's not too bad, but it might be better a la mode. Last night, just after finding the eggnog, I came across some Green Mountain Coffee Pumpkin Spice blend. I'll let you know how it tastes. :)

Getting back to tea, Celestial Seasonings makes three delicious Christmas-y teas that we stock up on each year - Nutcracker Sweet, Sugar Plum Spice and our all-time Candy_cane_teafavorite Gingerbread Spice. Oh and be still my holiday heart - there are a few new flavors this year! I can hardly wait to try Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride! (Can't you just hear that music playing in the background? Can't you just see the afternoon of cookie decorating unfolding?) :) And I'm getting ahead of myself, but how about sipping some Candy Cane tea (with a dollop of of chocolate, perhaps) while reading a special book together?

You really can plan all kinds of fun children's parties and projects around all these teas. They're so festive and fun! (I am hoping to do a post for O Night Divine on this very topic, in fact.)

And finally! Since we talked about Constant Comment (that delicous spiced-orange tea) the other day, I have to link to this these Constant Comment Muffins! Yum!

O.K., I think that's all for the beverage report today, LOL! But, whether it's hot tea, coffee or cider (or a cold glass of pumpkin eggnog!) I hope you find the time to make yourself some and sit for a while. For as much as we love sharing tea with our children, it's so nice to find a few minutes to ourselves - to flip through a magazine, read a good book, remember our blessings or just sit and dream about all the fun we'll have these next few months.

Thanks for joining me - have a great night!


The Saints Came Marching In!

Yesterday, Crackerjack's CCD class held an All Saints Day Party - and boy was it fun!

This was such a lovely time. As Catholic homeschoolers, our CCD experience has been limited thus far ... We study our religion at home, right alongside our academic subjects. We've read Bible stories to our children since they were babies. We prepare for and attend weekly Mass. We mark and honor the liturgical calendar. In short, our faith is so interwoven in our everyday life, I have not felt CCD necessary for my boys. It can be a very nice social opportunity, though, as we have come to find out!

In most parishes, participation is required during sacrament years. (CJ makes his First Holy Communion next May.) When Bookworm made his FHC years ago in our old parish, he went to the class - and it was nice, but a big surprise to me was that they didn't encourage family participation. For instance, they would not allow the chidren's books to go home. That (as I'm sure you can imagine), drove me batty.

Crackerjack started his CCD program last month at our new parish, and on that first day I asked if we could bring home his book. How pleased I was to hear the happy and emphatic response "Yes! Please do!" I knew we were in a good place. :)

And now for a few - oh, who am I fooling - many words about the party!

Cj_saint1

Crackerjack chose to dress as Saint George, who is his favorite saint (due to the whole knight-dragon-sword-and-shield status). He was *thrilled* when Sister, who greets all the students at the door, exclaimed as he walked in:

"A-ha! And here we have Saint George!"

CJ beamed and turned to me with a whisper - "She knows who I am!"

Surprisingly, not all the children dressed as saints - but those who did were a delight! At the beginning of class, each costumed child was asked to step forward and talk a bit about whom they were dressed.

Crackerjack brought up his sword, book, holy card and slain dragon (he left his shield at the table with a friend). Fully prepared, he looked up at his teacher and said,

"I'm Saint George ... and I don't know anything else."

Other saints of the day included:

~ Saint Agnes, dressed in a pink sheath and carrying a lamb ~ "I died when I was 12 and I liked God better than boys because I never got married."

~ Saint Anthony, who insisted he was also Saint Agnes, because he misread his mother's handwriting.

~ Saint Francis, dressed in a brown robe and carrying an armful of stuffed animals (which were certainly not his but bleonged to his sister should anyone wonder).

(And overheard at the table: "Hey, that robe looks like the ones they wore in Star Wars! They must have been monks!")

~ Saint Joseph, dressed in an oversized graduation gown, who had a similiar repsonse to Jack's ("I'm Saint Joseph and that's all I know.")

Anyone who dressed up got a prize. Here is Crackerjack and a few friends trying to decide which to choose - plastic bug or tootsie roll? The plastic bug won out.

Cjsaint6

Next it was on to the craft of the day ~ a Pumpkin Carving Prayer! This was really a very nice idea (see the prayer at the end of the post). We read aloud the prayer through each carving step. The kids mostly enjoyed pulling out the seeds and insides(and running back and forth to wash their hands in the restroom).

Cjsaint2

Crackerjack, however, kept a safe distance from those "pumpkin guts."

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Finally he decided to help by making the nose. You can tell he's really concentrating because of the tongue. (Bill calls that "a Michael Jordan" - who apparently did this when making a shot.)

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Voila! The finished pumpkin!

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And here is the lovely prayer, with instructions:

Dear God,

As I carve my pumpkin, help me say this prayer:

Open my mind so I can learn about You;

(Cut off top of pumpkin.)

Take away all my sin and forgive me for the wrong things I do.

(Remove pumpkin insides.)

Open my eyes so Your love I will see;

(Cut eyes in heart shapes.)

I'm so sorry for turning up my nose to all You've given me.

(Cut nose in shape of cross.)

Open my ears so Your words I will hear;

(Cut ears in shape of Bibles.)

Open my mouth so I can tell others You're near;

(Cut mouth in shape of fish.)

Let Your light shine in all I say and do.

(Place a lit candle inside.)

Amen

The children made these little prayers into bookmarks; here is CJ coloring his. After he finished, he folded the paper in half and glued the two sides shut. The teacher punched a hole at the top and tied on a piece of raffia. What a nice autumn memento!

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Ooh, and I must mention the neat snacks that were served:

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I missed what they were called, but as CJ's kind teacher explained them to me, they sound very simple to make (and they were delicious to eat):

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Lay pretzels on a baking sheet and place an unwrapped Hershey's kiss on top. Place in oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and gently press an M-n-M candy on top. Yum!

And while the group snacked and finished their bookmarks I was asked to read Crackerjack's book aloud to the children - Saint George and the Dragon. This has long been Crackerjack's favorite book - and it's battered and bent enough to prove it - but the other children had never heard it. If you know this book, you know the story and the pictures are riveting. I think CJ was proud to share his book (and his mom) with his friends. :)

As always, thanks for sticking with me for such a long post, (one of these days I'll write a short one) and for taking this peek at our day! We have a whole week till the real All Saints Day and we're already quite excited!


Saint of the Day

Crackerjack had a BLAST at the All Saint's Day party today!

Cj_saint_1

Can you guess who he is? :)

It probably comes as no surprise I took an enormous amount of photos at the party ... but it's getting late and I have children to tuck in, a husband to catch up with and a book that's calling my name ... so please come back tomorrow for the rest of the story!

Have a wonderful night!


Great Pumpkins!

I finally let the boys get their hands on the tiny pumpkins yesterday after lunch. In my Autumn Joy post they are seen in the window, a simple but elegant decorating touch if I may say so myself. ;) But throw simple and elegant out the window - it was time to bring out the Sharpies! The boys had been itching to decorate "their" pumpkins ever since I brought them home Sunday, but I made them wait until after Michele's Fair so I could at least have them look "lovely" for a few days, LOL!

Cj_pumpkin

Crackerjack's design is shown above - he held it to the side, in order to better show the knights he drew all around it. They are engaged in a fierce battle at present; notice the swords they are carrying?

Bw_pumpkin

Bookworm went a more traditional route, though he points out that the black lines are hair and the stem is colored in to look like a cap - a "witchy poo" Jack O 'Lantern, he calls it. :)

And since permanent markers and Earlybird are not a good mix, his little pumpkin went untouched yesterday (he'll have at it with stickers today). In the meantime, here is a pumpkin EB made at his occupational therapy yesterday! He needed help with the scissors but he pasted all the parts on himself and labeled them when asked! We're very proud of him. :)

Eb_pumpkin

Pumpkins, pumpkins - 'tis the season for pumpkins! I went to bed last night with visions of those orange globes in my head and here are few random pumpkin ideas that popped into my sleepy mind ...

~ Yankee Candle Pumpkin Spice candles ... oh my, do they smell nice! We had small votives of this scent as our wedding favors! Lest you think that sounds strange, our October reception had an autumn theme - bittersweet, pumpkins, cornstalks, candles - there were even bride and groom scarecrows on the grounds! Which reminds me, our (13th!) anniversary is less than 2 weeks away! (I'll dig up some photos to post soon.)

~ Bake a pumpkin-shaped cake! It sounds fairly easy -I learned this trick from a nice lady I chat with at OT: Bake two bundt cakes and when cool, place one on top of the other. (I would imagine leveling off the bottom cake first and perhaps frosting the middle to keep them together.) Frost entire cake with orange-tinted frosting. Use a green ice cream cone for the stem and fruit leather pieces for the vine, leaves, and face. This would be a great centerpiece for a party and it would feed quite a crowd!

~ Or, on a smaller, and less sugar-laden note ~ try baking up some "Jack Be Little Tiny Pumpkins" as described in Vineyard Seasons by Susan Branch:

  • 1 miniature pumpkin per person
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg

"Preheat oven to 350. Cut off the very top of each pumpkin ~ about a quarter of the way down. Scoop out the seeds and strings. Put butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in each pumpkin ~ put the tops back on. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake 45-55 mins., till fork tender. Serve."

YUM! Wouldn't these be cute at a children's "Pumpkin Tea" served, where else, but in the garden? Wouldn't the little ones just eat this up - figuratively and literally?! Such a snack accompanied by warmed cider and homemade pretzels would be a perfect way to kick off a lovely pumpkin storytime (see book suggestions below) or a woodland puppet show ...

~ Have you ever tried a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte? I've always been afraid it might sound better than it tastes ... well, I'm heading to Barnes and Noble one night this week (for a homeschool planning meeting) and I aim to try that latte! I'll let you know how it goes. :)

In the meantime, a less expensive option is to purchase some of that Coffeemate Pumpkin Spice Creamer. I love a little cup of decaf spiked with a flavored creamer on autumn afternoons. A bit more involved (but probably better tasting) would be this homemade Pumpkin Pie Latte I found online. I think this would be a perfect drink to sip while assembling my Holiday Planner. (Yes, inspired by Mary Ellen, I'm finally getting around to that!)

~ A field trip to a pumpkin patch is in order, of course! (Or just a quick jaunt to your local farm stand would do.) Pack up a snack - apples and oatmeal-raisin cookies would be perfect - and choose your pick of the crop.

~ Read lots of favorite pumpkin themed books:

~ Watch what is perhaps the quintessential holiday special - It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

~ After carving your pumpkins, be sure to save the seeds! You can wash and dry them (to get off all the glop) and save them for planting next year. (Mark your calendars for June - this is about when they should be planted for Halloween-time pumpkins.) Remember to scratch your name in the rind when it's small and watch it grow!

~ OR you can roast the seeds into a delicious and nutritious snack or something a bit more decadent - Pumpkin Seed Candy!

~ Sometimes it's just as much fun to embellish your pumpkins instead of carving them. Here are two the boys made last year for the Topsfield Fair:

Pumpkins_for_fair_1

The Fair's theme that year was farm products. Bookworm's pumpkin symbolized a "sheep-to-wool-to-yarn" theme, while Crackerjack's represented a compost pile with (pink yarn) worms and real leaves! (Organic compost is highly prized, you know) :)

~ Use the pumpkin shell as a vessel for soup or cider or perhaps as a planter for fall mums on your step. And don't forget pumpkins are edible! Here are directions for cooking your pumpkin (great for quick breads, muffins and pancakes).

~ Be sure to compost any leftovers - and you just might find a few pumpkin seedlings next spring!

Happy Pumpkin Days to You!


Epiphany Fun!

Holly_sprig_3 I'm getting waaay ahead of myself here, but since I posted a picture of our curious door blessing in my living room post, I thought I'd expand a bit more on it. I was preparing an answer in the comments section when I thought, why not post a true post? If you like some of these ideas, you could file them away for January! :)

I first read about the Epiphany blessing in The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould. I really enjoy this book for all its nice suggestions for celebrating the liturgical year in our homes, though there are a few errors here and there. I do enjoy her monthly column on Catholic traditions in the beautiful magazine Faith & Family. I gleaned more Epiphany information and ideas here and here.

Here is an excerpt from Ms. Gould's Epiphany chapter:

"Inscribing the initials C (Caspar), M (Melchior), and B (Balthazar) above your front door with blessed chalk is a venerable custom in eastern European countries. (Other cultures inscribe these initials on the back of the door.) The initials are enclosed by the year and connected by crosses (e.g., 20+C+M+B+04). In addition to representing the names of the Magi, these letters also represent the Latin phrase Christus mansionem bededicat (Christ bless this house)."

Other things we did that day to learn about and celebrate the Epiphany ...

~ We read the Sunday Gospel in our Bible (Matthew 2:1-12). Children's versions of the Epiphany story are found in The Children's Illustrated Bible (pages 196-197) and Tomie de Paola's Book of Bible Stories (pages 88-89)

~ We read The Legend of Old Befana, another favorite Tomie book.

~ We found Bethlehem on the map as well as Babylonia, Persia and Arabia (where the wise men are thought to have traveled from). We used the map of Bible lands from Uncle Josh's Outline Map Book to trace their possible routes.

~ Earlier in the week we made window stars for our eastern windows.

~ We (meaning the boys) dressed up as wise men in capes and crowns and acted out the story.

~ We sang We Three Kings.

~ We burned stick incense (frankincense and myrrh). Boy did the house smell nice!

~ We talked about what gifts we would have brought to the baby Jesus.

~ We baked crown-shaped cookies - frosted and sprinkled in red, blue and green.

~ We moved our three wise men figures into the manger (they had traveled far, from way across the room, a bit closer every day since Christmas).

2_kings

There was one more little king (dressed in blue) but he was down for a nap at picture time! :)


It's Been One Big Party Around Here!

First it was VBS all last week. Then it was our family party for Crackerjack on Saturday. And today came the grand finale - the kids' party! And I think it is safe to say, a grand time was had by all! After all this partying though, we're all in need of a good night's sleep!

I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to all our friends who helped make it a such a special day for Crackerjack. He (and we) had a blast! It will be a day we remember forever - and one we will talk about for some time!

Here are some photos of the fun we had today. Just to set the scene, Crackerjack chose "Over the Hedge" for his 7th birthday party theme (as in the Dreamworks movie that came out this summer). The day was beautiful - sunny and warm - so we were able to hold the party in our backyard.

Jparty10

The first game we played was "R.J.'s Scavenger Hunt." These are the kids' bags with their search lists tucked inside. We hid five items for them to find (small serving sizes of Pringles, Doritos, Smartfood, Chips-a-Hoy and Juicy Fruit gum). If you saw the movie, you probably remember RJ the raccoon had to return a whole checklist of groceries to Vincent the Bear before he woke up for the spring. This was the gist of our game (minus the mean hungry bear of course.)

Jparty1

Next it was on to the presents! Crackerjack (in the Celtics shirt - a b.day gift from his Uncle Matt) received many generous and thoughtful presents from his friends - 2 blue knights, a long stuffed dragon, a birdfeeder of his very own, garden tools, a stuffed monkey backpack and a Mario t-shirt!

Jparty9

Wow, what a cool dragon! He's as big as Crackerjack! (And perfectly to scale with our toy knights, Bookworm points out.) 

Jparty15

This game was "Verminator Freeze Tag." The kids all chose animals to be and then ran for their lives from The Verminator (Daddy)!

Jparty8

Chocolate cupcakes were "embellished" by O.T.H. character stickers on wooden plant stakes ...

Jparty6

The cupcake was the soil, the whipped cream was a dash of fertilizer, and the green sprinkles were grass seed. A bit of a stretch - but they were very yummy! :)

Jparty2

Boy that's a good cupcake! Then it was on to a round of pinata ...

Jparty12

I don't know Daddy, he looks like a pretty big turtle to me!

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Stand back, bat in action! (Btw, it was the youngest of our group that broke the pinata!)

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Here's Crackerjack with his friend Abby, holding what's left of the turtle pinata.

Jparty7

What a fun day - I think Earlybird has the right idea! Good night and God bless!


Bookworm's Birthday ~ Oh, What Fun!

We had such a great time yesterday at Bookworm's birthday party! A gray damp morning yielded to a fine afternoon ~ perfect "camping" weather. You'll recognize the faces in this bunch - they're our closest friends AND our coop crew! Bookworm is the first of his friends to turn 11. (Yikes ~ 11!)

Before the party started, we made up the favors: green craft bags filled with camping goodies like flashlights, canteens and emergency blankets ...

Party_favors

Our first activity was making nature print t-shirts, which was a big hit! (Thanks again for the tip, Jennifer!) The kids found bits of nature from our backyard to adorn their hunter green t-shirts ~ as you can see they were very creative! Then we sprayed all around the items lightly with bleach, dunked them in basins of water, and then sent through the washer and dryer.

Nature_tshirts

While dear husband fired up the grilll, the kids engaged in a game of "What Animal am I?" I found this activity in a favorite book of mine called Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell. I used it two years ago when I taught an environmental awareness class at our larger support group's cooperative. The gist of it is, the kids wear a picture of an animal on their backs and must ask for clues from each other to discover their assigned identity. It's a neat lesson in creative thinking and cooperation!

After a supper of hot dogs, potato salad and watermelon, of course there was cake ...

Bday_cake

Our local supermarket's bakery makes wonderful cakes - and this one was no exception. The theme as you can see is "Field and Stream" and, as we discovered after the party, the tent even lights up!

Our next "camp" activity was a nature scavenger hunt. Again, I used suggestions from the Cornell book, but threw in a few of my own ... and after much excitement, discovery and discussion, (as well as concerted group effort), all 17 items were found!

Scavenger_hunt1

"A fungus, a feather, three kinds of seeds? We're on it!"

Scavenger_hunt2

"Let's check that list one more time to be sure ..."

As evening moved in, our group donned their freshly laundered nature-print t-shirts for this picture ~ fond reminders of a happy afternoon spent outdoors with wonderful friends ...

Bday_party_group

Happy Birthday Bookworm!


Japan Week 4: Sayounara!

Though as I understand it, the Japanese usually just say, "Bye!"

However we say it, our coop wrapped up our unit study of Japan today. For our fourth and final installment, we took it easy, and brightened up a dark and rainy day with fun crafts and a special tea party (please see Harvest Home for all the food details) ...

Cherry_blossom_tea

Usually the kids are allowed to start the day off with some free play time - running around and reconnecting - but after a sudden downturn in the weather dashed any hopes of time spent outside, we got right down to work. :) First up - some coloring pages (fans, kimonos and traditional Japanese scenes) and making colorful origami. I think the scented markers were the biggest hit!

Cherry_blossom_coloring_1

Cherry_blossom_origami

Today our focus was on the cherry blossom, the much beloved and (unofficial) national flower, called sakura in Japan. We created paper blossoms following instructions in Martha Stewart Kids (above, Beth is illustrating the technique). Another activity that we did not do as a group, but that I plan to have my boys work on today, is drawing the Japanese kanji for sakura. We also used a cherry blossom rubber stamp to create colorful bookmarks.

Cherry_blossom_artwork

The kids next decorated their own paper fans that Lisa brought. Vibrant markers and rubber stamps of Japanese kanji were used to embellish the plain simple fans ...

Cherry_blossom_fans_working

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The kids were really proud of their efforts! Here are a few of the finished products:

Cherry_blossom_fans

So we ate, we crafted and a few of us engaged in some Samurai swordsplay (remember it was raining out, and there were 10 boys under 1 roof!). I had intended to play a CD of beautiful Japanese music I found (Sakura: A Musical Celebration of the Cherry Blossoms) but we ended up listening to the sound of the drenching rains on the roof instead. And so we ended our day - and our time in Japan - on a high note. And what did we all think of our study? A resounding "sugoi!" (cool!)

Cherry_blossom_fans_group

For a recap of our study of Japan, please see my earlier posts: week 1, week 2 and week 3. This summer our coop will be taking a break from "serious" study, to meet instead at the movies, the park or the pool - but we plan to pick up again the fall!

Ah, but this is not the end of the road for world culture appreciation in our house! For it's onwards to France with the ladies at 4Real! Helen has organized a wonderful Tour de France study group (see details in this thread). Here at By Sun and Candlelight, we'll be hosting Stage 8 on July 9th ...

So until then it's Vive la France! Or is it le France? (I guess I'd better find out!) ;)

Au Revoir!