Teaching Peace Feed

Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 5 "Simplicity"

IMG_7688 (1)

Hello my friends, and welcome to this week's Tea and MSfG discussion! We are now on chapter five, "Simplicity," and what a wonderful chapter it is ... my favorite of all, I think! Mostly because there is one passage in this chapter that just stands out so strongly to me, I've remembered it more than any other all these years ...

Also, because I feel like simplicity is something just so powerful and alluring (there's a whole movement after all) and I feel I am always striving towards it - finding it in some areas, yet falling short in others ...

Anyways, before we get further into the chapter talk, I want to talk a little about my tea shown above. Now, I am going to be completely honest with you - this was not how I originally imagined my "simplicity" tea. You see, every week when I start thinking about a tea post, I like to envision just how it might look, according to that week's theme:

What cup might I use? What treat might I bake? Which tea will I choose and in which cozy spot will I sit?

It's really quite fun to think about these kinds of things - and sometimes, my vision does come to life! Other times ... not so much.

So this week, as I kept "simplicity" in mind, I was envisioning a teatime setting that was not quite so ... busy. Something very neat, maybe - quite tidy, and sparse. All in soft colors, with perhaps a plain stoneware mug, a simple shortbread on a small plate alongside one of our new cotton napkins ... nicely arranged in a quiet corner of our library, somewhere out of the way (clutter removed, natch), where I might sit by myself and earnestly consider how I might bring a little more simplicity to my life ...

Well, with all the energy I was spending on thinking and arranging - I was creating a rather complex situation for myself! 😜  Here I was going to great lengths to create what I thought was a "simple tea" but it just wasn't happening (not without a lot of fuss) and it was frustrating!

But that's me in a nutshell ... I slow down by doing things like taking tea at home on a quiet afternoon ... but then I complicate the whole process by involving too many time-consuming details, and working a bit outside of reality, if you will.

From the second page of this chapter:

"We set the bar too high, take on too much, turn small doings into big ones." (p. 35)

My lesson learned: simple isn't necessarily how something appears, but rather, how it fits into your life. How it makes you feel inside.

So instead of whipping up a "simple tea," I decided to keep it real, and (to quote my GPS), recalculated ...

IMG_7722

My reality that very day (as it is most days) was taking tea at the worktable in the sunroom. I was here trying to get a handle on the new month to come ... and I was surrounded by STUFF: my workhorse of a tea mug filled with my everyday tea, piles of books, open-faced planners and notebooks, myriad school supplies, plenty of sunshine and ... a cat.

(Always, the cat.)

IMG_7740

I didn't even have time to grab a cookie - let alone bake something sweet and pretty!

So is it simple? Maybe not in how it all looks, because obviously there's a LOT going on in that photo! But in spirit, yes this was keeping things simple for me. I wanted to share tea with you all, and I wanted to talk about this chapter, and here was where it was simplest for me to do that. :)

IMG_7730

The nice thing about tea is that it always makes me slow down a little no matter what I'm up to. Because it's often pretty hot to begin with and usually I have a really full mug. So I really can't rush it! And most days I find myself needing a cup (or sometimes two or three) in the afternoon, just about the time it makes sense to slow down a bit - maybe check in at my computer or crash on my couch with my kids.

But let's get back to our chapter now because I think I've talked about tea long enough! (Boy, can I talk about tea.)

A little "simplicity moment" from my home last week ...

O boo halloween

Here's Little Bear in his first-choice, much preferred Halloween costume this year - handmade by us both. (And the cat.) It took one piece of construction paper, a pair of scissors, a hole punch and twine, and we were done. And funnily enough it fit well and stayed put!

Meanwhile the $30 costume I bought from Amazon weeks ago still sits up in my bedroom - completely refused and rejected! (LB wanted NO part of that bright green "creature power" suit with its velcro mask and detachable tail. Oh, no ... it was simply too much.) Mama should have listened to him when he insisted last month that all he really wanted to be for Halloween was a ghost ... because for him, it was enough.

How sweet is a four-year-old, I ask you?

And this leads me to the part I referenced at the start of my post, the Mitten Strings passage that has stayed with me all these years: 

"It is not enough anymore to pull together a Halloween costume from the dress-up bin, add a few extra touches, and head out the door to go trick-or-treating. The store-bought costumes are more elaborate, more expensive and more grisly every year. There are decorations to buy, light shows to orchestrate on the front lawn, haunted houses to visit, and a week's worth of pre-Halloween activities to attend. Last fall my neighbor's six-year-old daughter had been in and out of her costume so many times that she refused to put it back on for Halloween night. She'd been a ballerina in a parade, at school, and at two parties. The novelty had worn off." (p. 36)

I've always maintained that the Halloween we celebrate in our family is one that has ancestral roots and a mostly innocent agenda - filled with festive foods, old-fashioned games, homemade decorations - nothing much to do with what society does or what's selling fast at Target this year. And yet, here I fell for the "snazzy costume trap" hook, line and sinker!

Of course, keeping in mind that lesson I learned up above - it's really all what feels simple to you. For some folks, picking up a costume at Target IS the simpler solution! Finding the time and energy to make a homemade costume is anything but. (Though I'm not sure you can beat our ghost mask for easy!) I think it all depends on what works for you.

Simple looks different to everyone ...

Simply put, I think it all boils down to how something affects your life, and beyond that your family. How will it make you all feel? What choices feel right and cause the least stress? Because then you're living authentically and I think this is what we want to share with our children ...

"Watching us manage our own lives sensibly, our children will learn to set limits, too." (p. 39)

I found this particular chapter to be very timely reading, because currently I'm fleshing out our Thanksgiving and Advent plans. And these are the weeks when it is VERY easy to get swept up in - not just what society is offering, but our own schemes and dreams, too. I may envision a homemade, homespun, home-centered holiday ... but if I wanted to - and in some ways I do - I could easily stuff every moment full of activity and awareness ...

IMG_7690 (1)

So I pause my pen above that page and rein in my tendency to over-plan ...

"It takes conviction to say, "This is enough." (p. 38)

So you see, simplicity lessons are not just for those who are always on the go, seeking to be where the action is ... but for we introverts, too! And I'm a perfect example of that! 

(Side note: I'll be sharing my (hopefully) rather simple holiday plans in an upcoming post!)

Now, I love this quote too, from the last section of the chapter in which the author offers some wonderful steps toward simplicity:

"Don't feel guilty about skipping events that everyone else attends." (p. 39)

IMG_7596

The above picture was taken while doing just that ...

Last weekend we skipped our town's annual "great pumpkin hunt" to simply stroll around our own yard and seek signs of autumn's end. This is Little Bear gathering weeds and feeling those feathery grasses ...

There was a pull to be sure - my husband is more of an extrovert than I am, and usually he's more eager to get "out there" and mix it up with ... well, whoever all shows up at an event! But my reasoning was ... just the day before we had enjoyed - really thoroughly enjoyed - a wonderful family Halloween party. We had spent hours frolicking inside and out, doing all kinds of Halloween-y things, including ... hunting for pumpkins! Was Little Bear running around with dozens of kids in a jumble, while his parents sipped cider and made small talk with strangers?

No, he was playing with his cousins and brothers while his Mom and Dad were having a grand old time with dear ones we can never seem to spend enough time with. :)

Now, had he really wanted to go to that community event (either Bill or LB) we would have gone. Because again, it's about balance and what feels right to each family. But when we really thought about it, our previous day had been so nice and we were thoroughly (and pleasantly) exhausted. Little Bear had his pumpkin (and a few to spare) and we all came away feeling just the right kind of full-up of happy and tired.

One more time though, I'll stress - this all made sense for my family. That "homey" weekend was a pure and simple joy for us. Another family would not find throwing a party for two dozen people easy or fun. For them it might be much more enjoyable to roll out of bed a little later in the morning and throw the kids in the car, off on an adventure ...

So to each his own, is my motto ... and ours is most often (nearly always) here at home. 

Well, I've gone on quite long now, so I'll wrap up - though I still have several other quotes marked in my chapter! I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this chapter - or on simplicity in general - if you have the time. You are welcome to share your thoughts here in the comments below, or if you've done a post at your own site, please feel free to link me up (and let me know) and of course, all are welcome to email with links, thoughts, pics, etc. ...

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I'll weave contributions into this post as I receive them and catch up with comments left below as I can. :)

For now though I'm off ... I'll be back again soon with my November planning pages and book list, plus some old journaling pages like the one I shared on IG this morning! I'm enjoying looking back over old notes and clippings, and I thought you all might like a peek too!

So enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone! Next week we'll be talking about ... gasp ...TV! And to be honest, I'm a little nervous about this chapter, lol ... I think I may have to face the harsh reality that things are not the ideal I'd envisioned back in my early mothering days! But we'll catch up on that later ... next Friday we'll strive to get back on track, but there may be some weeks (like this one) where I need to postpone things a day ... or two or three. 😉

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings: Chapters 1-3

IMG_6507
Hello my friends and welcome back to my little home on the web! It's time for another seasonal tea series, and I hope you're as excited as I am! In the weeks ahead I'll share several "Autumn Teas" here, followed by a few "Advent Teas" ... we may even squeeze in a couple of "Christmas Teas" before all is said and done!

Each week I'll have pics of my weekly tea (cup/mug, brew, baked goods and more) but this time around, as we sip our tea, I'll be reflecting on our current book study, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry. Some of you will remember we had a lively discussion of this book nine years ago - well, this is my attempt to not only revisit our previous conversation, but to continue with all those un-studied chapters! (Please see this post and this one, for more on how to participate! All are welcome and I'd love to have you join me!)

So in today's post I'll be talking about the first three chapters of MSfG: Dailiness, Morning and Peace. (For a full list of the chapters to come, please see this post.)

Before I dig in let me start by saying ...

Mitten Strings for God is one of my favorite books of all time, and definitely my favorite book about mothering ever. I'm a sucker for a pretty book cover, but the contents are some of the most beautiful thoughts I've ever read.

I've read this book countless times ... but not in nine years! I'm eager to dig back in since my mothering life is, in many ways, much different than it was in 2008.

Case in point - back then I had three boys (13, 9 and 7) and all were homeschooling. Today I have four boys (22, 18, 15 and 4) and all but one are homeschooling, because - gasp! - HE GRADUATED. 😳 

I'm combining "tea" with our book study because tea represents to me, a slowing down, and an encouragement. A state of mind that lends itself beautifully to the themes we'll be discussing as we make our way through this beloved book. (In other words, if you were coming to my home so we could sit down and chat - about MSfG or anything - the first thing I'd do would be to ask you to sit and have tea. It's my happy place.)

My tea this week is "Constant Comment, Decaf" and as you might remember, this is my very favorite tea. (Second would be Allegro Organic Black Decaf and third would be Harney & Sons Holiday Blend.) The mug is new though - and sweet, don't you think? I have way too many mugs already, but I am a weak, weak woman when it comes to new mugs. And the "goody" today is a home-baked pumpkin spice donut ... it was pumpkin week after all! (Pumpkin week recap to come soon!)

Ok, on with our book study, beginning with chapter one ... :)

DSC00852

Dailiness (2008 post here)

Pretty-pink-blooms

"My deeper hope is that each of my sons will be able to see the sacred in the ordinary; that they, too, will grow up knowing how to love the 'dailiness.'" (p. 13)

And that quote, in a nutshell, is precisely why Mitten Strings for God is my favorite mothering book of all time, because Ms. Kenison's sentiment above is exactly what I'm striving for - for myself and my family. In all we do, in every day we spend together, and in every season that passes. 

Now, because last Thursday I shared a new post about this chapter, I'll just say a few things and then move on to chapters two and three. I also want to direct you to my friend Kim's lovely post, a reflection of the book's Introduction. I am so thrilled to have Kim along with me in this read-along. We both have kids that are basically adults now (her daughter is 18), and one of the things I hope to do with this book study is talk about how these reflections can be applied to families with children of all ages ...

That said, I am looking back at the "suggestions" I made for myself and seeing how we're doing now:

Maintain balance within our family schedule. I think we've done a pretty good job of this through the years. We have always been people who refuse to over-commit. We do love our home time! That said, we have a very busy schedule this fall and I am really feeling the effects of it. It's all really good stuff - Crackerjack has several classes with other local homeschoolers - but these take place outside the home, and he doesn't have his license yet! And Earlybird's home-based ABA therapy increased by double (a Godsend) so I feel like I'm going-going-going as soon as my morning coffee time is over and rushing to get things ready, get kids where they need to go, take care of home things and MY things - did I kiss my husband before he left for work? Currently trying to find ways to make these weeks feel a little less hectic. 

Learn to appreciate the "humble household rituals." Always an ongoing challenge - I still don't love doing the dishes but I do try to appreciate how blessed I am to be able to devote much of my time to caring for my family. Always looking for ways to make chores easier and less - what's the word I want here? - mundane. It's never fun to clean a dirty sink, but if the windowsill above said sink is clean and thoughtfully arranged - perhaps with a sacred memento, something from the garden, or a lit candle - and maybe if the dishwashing soap is something fragrant and natural - it can really affect the overall sink cleaning experience. It's gotta be done, why not make it ... nicer?

Make home a nurturing place to be. Hobbies, cozy spaces, simple family activities and traditions. YES to all these ... and I think we've been pretty good about this. Like I said before, we're mostly homebodies and none of us more so than the "body" in charge of the domestic department (me). That said, as the boys get older and we get busier, it's easy to let things slide ... now that we have all our boys home under one roof again, and before a long winter hits, I'd like to take stock: hobbies that don't involve power sources ... inviting corners that encourage togetherness and those aforementioned hobbies ... reminding ourselves what we liked to do altogether when the boys were younger. Some things might still work (family game night), maybe some things can be tweaked (Daddy Saturdays) ... I love simple yet meaningful traditions, too - like Thursday nights with Father Brown on PBS ... and I still text/wake my boys with a hearty "Rabbit-rabbit" on the first of every month. :)

Take time to consider it all. With this tip I meant to be faithful in my blogging so as to capture "life" as best I can. I definitely don't blog as often as I did, but I do post on social media almost daily ... with pictures, remarks and snippets of our life ... things that mark a day in a special way (a sunset we're all marveling over, for example). I'm not sure I'm any better than I was back in 2008 at documenting and reflecting on our family's journey - but I do have a few more platforms. (My paper journaling has suffered of late, though, and that's definitely something I'd like to revive.) Of course capturing and considering are two different things ... I do need to build more "reflection time" into my schedule.

The photo above is my kitchen windowsill the day I began this post. I think a kitchen windowsill can be a real snippet of "life as it is" at that time. Wouldn't you love to see a picture of your mother's or grandmother's kitchen windowsill when you were young? I bet it would seem very dear. Mine usually has (in addition to herb crumbs and water stains) a couple of candles, a reminder of my faith, a photo of my beloved grandmother, a jar of homegrown dried lavender from a dear friend, a pumpkin (natch), a Halloween print, a small golden pot holding Earlybird's med dispensers, and my evening tea mug - all washed out and ready hours before its needed. I loved looking at that mug all day - thinking ahead to the hour after supper when I'd sip a warm, soothing cup of bedtime brew. :)

And now for chapter two ...

DSC01134

Morning (2008 post here)

Pretty-pink-blooms

"Yet we can still pause long enough to gaze at the new world before our eyes and to give thanks for the day we have been given." (p. 17)

I love this quote so much - because every single day is a gift. How wonderful then to begin each morning with a little mindfulness? A moment of recognition - I'm here, we're here, we can start again today - followed by a breath of thanks or prayer.

My mornings have changed somewhat from the first time I read this chapter. They're perhaps a little more complicated, and they're still super-early thanks to our Earlybird! Now though I have bookends to my mornings; I start with Earlybird (who wakes anywhere from 4-6 a.m.) and then I wait for Little Bear to wake (between 8 and 9) before I head downstairs to physically get the day going. Mentally the day is already cooking away while I sip my coffee and rock in my bedroom chair ...

Earlybird is good about keeping himself busy (usually with his kindle - no tv) and he knows not to expect too much of me! He is allowed snacks and water but otherwise he must wait for breakfast when I'm downstairs for the day. I actually don't mind waking so early - I've always been a morning person! In fact, if I wake later than six I feel a bit gypped! I absolutely relish those dark, quiet hours ... my brain is still revving up and I can just sit and think and pray or meditate. And as I do, I shake off the night's dreams and restlessness and wait for Bill - God BLESS him - to bring me coffee, as he does every single morning. This is a daily kindness I cherish  - it's a bit of a ritual for us, since he's off early and doesn't return until dinnertime. He hands me my cup - waits for me to take a sip and murmur my thanks - then he's off to ready himself for his day. I carry that moment with me all day ...

While it's still dark I look at my phone and use the "alone" time to read articles and work in ways I don't usually have time or space to otherwise. I don't read my current novel at this time because I don't like to immerse myself in another world (so to speak) when I might have to jump back to reality at a moment's notice. I save that kind of reading for bedtime when the younger boys are asleep.

But once the day grows light enough, I turn to my planners and notebooks. Little Bear will be in our bed by now, because every SINGLE night he leaves his for ours. Ours is a high bed so I prop pillows all around him and then keep watch from the corner ... rocking, sipping, writing ... half wanting him to keep sleeping and half anticipating that first sleepy smile ...

As it nears eight o'clock I quietly open the blinds and the drapes so that he wakes to gentle daylight. (I used to do this through the night in my boys' rooms after they were soundly asleep, but have given that practice over to the wee hours of the morning. I think it is such a gift if a child can wake with the day's natural light.)

As for the older boys, well - as you can imagine, like most older boys, they are good sleepers! Both would sleep well past nine or ten if they were able. I know many parents with older kids who bemoan their late sleepers and/or exult in their recaptured weekend mornings. But between my little boy and my special boy, I can't imagine I'll have ever have a day when all my kids are late sleepers! But that's ok with me ...

I'm getting a little off-topic here because in this chapter Ms. Kenison touched upon the magic of starting the day off in a thoughtful way. And I guess I described how I do that for myself above. For my Earlybird it's knowing Mom and Dad are checking in on him and making sure he's a-ok as he rocks on the couch with his kindle. For Little Bear, it's the special time he gets in mama's arms, in that rocking chair, by the south-facing window. Even when we have a busy morning, we take time to sit here together. We talk about the kind of morning it is and listen for birds or chipmunks or cicadas or the gusty breeze or the ice melt - or even the silence of deep winter. Whatever the time of year, it's always "our thing" to notice what kind of day it is, and where we are in the year.

Mornings for my older boys mean tousled heads and half-shut eyes and they mostly walk right to the kitchen ... so I try to have that be a warm and cheerful place for them as they start their day. We don't converse much to begin with (after the usual, "Hey it's nearly nine and you don't want to be late!") but I do like their morning experience to include a mom who is up and attentive to their thoughts and available to their needs - within reason. I don't get them breakfast, but I make sure there is plenty available for them. I don't lay out their clothes but I do give them a weather update and make a few suggestions. ("It will be warming up later - shorts would be fine with a sweatshirt.")

Mornings for my husband - the dear man, who often has to wash, dress and leave in the dark - are benefitted by (as simplistic as it sounds), clean laundry and hot coffee. I take care of the former and he takes care of the latter. Then he can leave the house as smoothly as one hard-working husband might hope!

Ok, I feel like I have a lot more to say about "morningtime" but in the interest of time, I will move on ... to chapter three!

DSC01071

Peace (2008 post here)

Pretty-pink-bloomsChapter three begins with this quote:

"Like Thoreau, I love "a broad margin to my life" - the less packed into a day the better." (p. 23)

And back in 2008 I began our chapter discussion with the same quote - because when I first read it, it just leapt off the page and grabbed me by the pen-in-hand, imploring me to see its truth. So YES to this. So very much this. I'm definitely someone who appreciates a lot of white space in their planner ... 

Further on Ms. Kenison said this:

"Knowing peace at home we bring peace into the world."

Another wonderful quote, and the picture above represents this kind of peace to me. That's Little Bear sitting in my lap yesterday afternoon, reading a little book with his mama. This is an example of sharing peace with my youngest son - in such a way that matches his needs, at his level - and it's my hope that these kinds of things help him become a more peaceful person.

I seek to understand him now, and someday he'll seek to understand others ...

For Earlybird this might be a quiet morning stroll down the driveway with Mom - the rest of the house asleep - to fetch the Sunday paper.

For Crackerjack this might be listening to the piece of music he's really fond of at the moment, or a little one-on-one conversation in the car.

For Bookworm this might be working on a crossword puzzle together, or trying a new recipe.

For all of us, it's having as much unstructured time as possible when we can all just BE, at home, together - maybe doing something or maybe just being available should the need or desire to converse/interact arise.

I remember a story told by Stephen Covey (of 7 Habits/Franklin Planner fame) in which he described his teenage son asking if he might be home that coming weekend. Mr. Covey responded yes, wondering what his son might need of him or what might be going on - but the son just shrugged. All he wanted was to know that his Dad would he home.

What peace that gives our children! Simply to be available when they need us, in both an emotional and physical sense.

As I've said before, our autumn semester is frightfully busy - I've still not adjusted - but because I place such a high priority on "downtime" I'm earnestly working on how to smooth things out as best I can. I need to recreate my margins!

On p.23, Ms. Kenison goes on to say ...

"So I try to build the margins in, to keep our days from being inscribed too densely."

It's not something you can turn your back on - these family schedules - and just hope things fall into place. We have to be proactive if we want to keep our children alongside us as we navigate this hectic modern life ...

"Other times I have to switch gears ... so that I can pull my children out of the swift current of a day and guide them into a calm pool instead." (p. 24)

So to begin with, I'm not just waiting for those moments to be available - I'm writing those moments right into my schedule! Because I can get caught up in the busy-ness with the best of them. I can let a day roll on, and forget to pause for these peaceful moments. Suddenly it's bedtime and as Little Bear asks for a story I realize - with horror - that it's the first one of the day. (Honestly, it's happened.)

If I can't manage a peaceful day, how can I expect my children to?

Being an example to our children is, I think, one of our greatest duties and privileges as parents, and I like to think that in most things I'm providing a good model for my children. As discussed above I hope that my attention to the small things will rub off. I also hope that the way I conduct myself just in general, as a human, does too. I try to be mindful of how I react to things - circumstances, stresses, aggravation, disappointment, society and current events - and I hope that I'm showing them a way to stay calm, open-hearted and considerate.

Let me say this though (without going too deeply because it's truly a topic for a whole separate post) ...

Our home is not always a haven of peace and gentle living. In fact, some days it's anything but ...

We are an autism family and that means in our house peace can be fragile. Our Earlybird is an absolute love and a wonderful child - brave and loving in so many ways - but he does have some severe challenges. Challenges that greatly affect our family as a whole. Among them, impulsivity, aggressiveness, anxiety, rigidity, a penchant for chaos and disorder. This journey has been so trying for all of us, and my mother's heart breaks for all my sons - for the one struggling and the ones having to put up with so many injustices and disappointments ...

But what I have to remember is our older boys look to their parents to see how we react to the situations that arise - daily - with their younger brother. His behavior at times can be extremely trying, frustrating ... upsetting. We love our children more than anything in this world, but we are human too. We get hurt, and angry and yes, we sometimes yell and act irrationally or even break down and cry. It's so, so hard to navigate these waters - still, and I fear always - but we are constantly aware that Earlybird's brothers are learning from our responses. They'll take those lessons with them into the world - not just in how they act with their autistic brother, but in how they respond to any challenges and frustrations they might face in life. To any person who might be different or trying in any way.

On our fridge there is a magnet - it has been there for YEARS. It says:

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

I'd add two more magnets about peace if I could, the first would be from Mother Teresa:

"If you want world peace, go home and love your family."

And the next from Katrina Kenison herself:

"If we have peace at home, we'll bring that peace to the world."

Words to remember and ponder ... peace is on everyone's mind but it's also within everyone's grasp. Find things that bring peace into your home and peace will find you. 

Pretty-pink-blooms

Well my friends, I'll be off now, because this post has become longer than I intended and I know - like me - your time is not always at your leisure. So I thank you, truly, for stopping by today and sharing a cup of tea with me and hearing me air my thoughts out on these chapters. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, too - whether they are on the chapters themselves, my posts, or the concepts discussed here in general. Please feel welcome to leave me a comment below or link me to a post at your own blog ... OR email me your words (and or photos) here: drhanigan AT gmail DOT com.

I will update this post with links as they come in!

Here is Kimberly's beautiful post about her precious relationship with her daughter and balancing the needs of an extrovert and an introvert. :)

And next Friday I will be back with another cup of Autumn Tea in which we will be discussing chapters 4-6:

Quiet, Simplicity and TV

(Remember to check out my Mitten Strings archives, for earlier posts on these topics!)

Thanks so much everyone ... I will see you here again very soon!


Martinmas Day with My Boys 💛

IMG_8299

Happy Weekend, my friends ... I hope you all had a good week. Or at least, I hope your week was not so bad. Or maybe things got better as the week went on? I know this is a tough time for a lot of us - and I am not going to talk politics here (never have, never will) - but I just want to say, I'm wishing all of my friends peace and hope. I myself am focusing on all the good things in my life that, God willing, will always be here for me and my loved ones no matter what's going on in the world ...

*deep breath*

Ok, on with my post! :)

So today I'd like to share some more November projects - a few of those craft supplies getting used up as we near the middle of the month. This week we had the feast of St. Martin of Tours (aka Martinmas) and if you have read my blog for any length of time you know this is one of our favorite feasts to celebrate with the boys. (You can read more about our traditions, here.) In the past we have baked horseshoe cookies and read stories and made glass lanterns to display in dark windows, but this year ... I baked a cake instead of cookies, we told stories instead of read them AND ... we crafted our lanterns - not out of glass but - balloons!

IMG_8096

(And didn't I buy the stubbornest worst tasting/smelling balloons ever made? Ugh. Oh well!)

I've seen lanterns done this way over the years and have always wanted to try my hand at it. Well, this was finally the year and as you can see I had a very eager little helper!

IMG_8101

Goodness, but does this boy love himself some GLUE!

This craft is a bit messy but very easy to do ... and best to start a day or two ahead of your celebration since the lantern will need time to dry. You simply brush an inflated balloon with layers of glue (thinned with water, about a 50-50 ratio) and overlapping pieces of colorful tissue paper. You might also slip autumn leaves in between layers ...

IMG_8147

... and you might cut some of the tissue into shapes like pretty stars.

IMG_8153

While Little Bear worked diligently on gluing his balloon, I did about five or six layers of tissue paper on mine.

IMG_8119

Once finished, we left them to dry in the dining room. Here's mine hanging over the table.

IMG_8158

Meanwhile, the boys played outside, enjoying the misty autumn weather ...

IMG_8187

(That's a meteor shower suncatcher in Little Bear's hand.)

Next morning ...

IMG_8259

There were some packages on the kitchen table for the boys ... 

IMG_8322

Recalling the story of Martin's kindness, each of my boys received a gift of warmth and comfort - pajamas (Earlybird) and slippers (Crackerjack) - while Little Bear also received a new prayer book in addition to some superhero slipper-socks. :)

IMG_8323

IMG_8325

(Bookworm will get his new flannel PJs when he's home for Thanksgiving break.)

Then it was time to check on the lanterns!

IMG_8641

Mine is on the left and Little Bear's is on the right. We kept his balloon intact since it was pretty much all that was holding it together! (For all the glue he used, lol ...)

IMG_8304 (1)

The glue seemed to be dry so I popped the balloon and was left with (more or less) a colorful lantern! Really neat to watch that balloon pull away from the lantern interior!

IMG_8365

I trimmed the top and punched holes along the edge for twine.

IMG_8361

Love all the autumn colors and shapes!

IMG_8435

I've read instructions which describe using a real candle inside this lantern but for what I think are obvious reasons we went with something more child-safe.

Side note: Below is a lovely passage from a book I've had for years called, Lifeways. This quote is from a chapter called "A Walk through the Year with the Festivals," something I re-read quite often for seasonal inspiration ...

IMG_8255 (1)

How lovely is that?

Now, there are usually special foods tied to feast days and Martinmas is no exception. In the past we've made horseshoe-shaped oat cookies on this day, but this year I decided to try a recipe my grandmother made for years, something called "Poor Man's Cake." Rather fitting for the day, as St. Martin is the patron of the poor ... plus, this cake is full of autumnal flavor.

IMG_8417

My grandmother made this cake quite often - it was a favorite of my grandfather's - and I believe she found the recipe during the Depression. You can read more about the cake (including its recipe) in this post of mine from 2007.

It's quite dense and moist - "a good bake" if I may say so myself! But you know who loved the cake best? Bill - it really is right up his alley. (He hardly cares for chocolate, he's more a ginger-and-spice kind of guy.) The boys however were all ... hmmm. I dunno, Mom ... raisins?

Outside we go boys!

IMG_8455

Another Martinmas tradition (especially in Waldorf schools) is to have the children participate in a lantern walk. In the gathering darkness of a late autumn afternoon, the children set out with their shining lanterns all together, singing special lantern songs. The symbolism here is that we all must tend our own little light, so that we might carry it forth into a world that can often be quite dark and cold ...

Lantern song

(Page from Festivals, Family and Food, by Diana Carey and Judy Large)

We were a very small band and there was only one working lantern - and we didn't sing of course, because Earlybird has sensory issues - but I did recite the above verse to my sweet little lantern-carrier as we walked through our woods!

IMG_8479

IMG_8525

IMG_8499

IMG_8528

It was SO windy and chilly yesterday and since some of us are fighting a cold, some of us headed in for another piece of that cake and a hot cup of tea. A bit later on, as the darkness surrounded us, Bill and Little Bear came inside at last, all pink-cheeked and bright-eyed. Then I hung the lantern in the dark dining room for the rest of the night ...

Martinmas lantern 1

Down with darkness, up with light;

Up with sunshine, down with night.

Each of us is one small light,

But together we shine bright ...

 

(E. Amarin)

Before I go, here's today's page from Little Bear's new daily prayer book ...

IMG_8424

I can't tell you how much I love this book ... we are weaving it into our weekly rhythm. Short and sweet, with a special daily prayer to share, reflecting each day's rhythm and grace. 💛

Well my friends, time to wrap up now, but as always I thank you for reading. Or maybe you just looked at the pictures? Well, that's nice too. I always appreciate your visit! :)

Please enjoy the rest of your weekend and take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I will see you here again very soon!


Our Lenten Countdown: The (Printable) Daily Activities

Purple post its

Happy Monday, my friends! We have another snowstorm here - near blizzard conditions, I hear - but we're hunkering down and hoping the power holds! Wherever you are I hope you are keeping well - and warm. :)

So here at last is a follow-up to Friday's post, a closer look at the purple post-its themselves. As I described here, each note will offer a simple suggestion - a way of living Lent together as a family. I tried to come up with ideas that would be meaningful but still manageable - things that would resonate with my children but not overwhelm them. (Or me!)

The focus of Lent is threefold - to fast, to give alms and to pray - so I included opportunities for these actions throughout the season. Inspired by the words and actions of Pope Francis, I also tried to weave in ways for for us to work together on the concepts of forgiveness, awareness, (less) consumerism and waste, and care for creation.

Now, as I mentioned before, the activities are quite particular to my own family, so they may or may not be something that would appeal to you and yours … but in the spirit of sharing, here they are:

Post-Its with Purpose: Our Lenten Countdown

(Since it appears the links don't show up in the PDF, I am adding the countdown text at the bottom of this post. Sorry for any confusion!)

I am happy if something here is helpful to you, and you are welcome to print my notes out if you wish. It may look like "a lot" when you open it up, but remember - the italicized dark purple text is what I’m writing on the actual post-it for the children to read. It's just a brief sentence or two. The text in violet is for me ~ my own notes and reminders for that day. You know me - when I'm planning something, I get wordy. :)

Well, Ash Wednesday arrives in two days, and I'm glad to feel a little more prepared for Lent, knowing I have this plan to follow with the children. I aim to review my notes each Thursday and see what will be happening in the week ahead. If need be, I can even tweak the post-its as we go along. Some of the activities will be pushing things a bit with our special needs son - he's not a fan of giving things up or doing extra chores! - but it's important to me that he live Lent along with us, in his own way. I tried to come up with activities that would work around (or perhaps with) his challenges and inspire him to do his best ... for those he loves, for God and for himself!

Ok, that is all for now, my friends! I missed Downton last night because my husband was watching the Superbowl, and I decided to watch (listen) along with him. Lol. I do plan to catch up tonight and post a recap tomorrow ... provided our power holds! I also have a lovely Book Party post in queue and hope to have that up mid-week.

So for now, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by! I wish you all a pleasant Monday and will see you here again very soon ...

❤ Post-Its with Purpose: Our Lenten Countdown ❤

 

Throughout each week there will be opportunities to:

 

PRAY ~ for someone, about something, or perhaps learn a new prayer

GIVE ~ monies (by reducing our wastefulness/consumerism), extra help and attention for those who need it

FAST ~ from meat/certain foods, from negative behaviors

OBSERVE ~ Faith traditions at home

 

Below is my outline for the 40 days of Lent, and as I mentioned before, the activities are quite particular to my own family, so they may or may not be something that would appeal to you and your children … but in the spirit of sharing, here they are! I am happy if something here is helpful to you, and you are welcome to print this out if you wish. The italicized dark purple text is what I’m actually writing on the post-it for the children to read - just a sentence or two. The text in violet is for me ~ my own notes and reminders for that day.

 2/10 “No meat today! Let’s set up our Lenten altar.” On Ash Wednesday we’ll bury the “Alleluia” (golden letters) in a butterfly-shaped box. This will rest on our mantel throughout Lent. We’ll also burn last year’s palms (as we've done before) and sprinkle ashes over a pot of soil in which stands a plain white candle. Set pot on Lenten altar (library mantel).

2/11 “Today we’ll set up a donation box in the foyer.” Our Lady of Lourdes. All help set up our family donation box to be kept in the foyer throughout Lent. Decorate with words and symbols of love.

2/12 “No meat or dessert today! Let’s make treats for the hungry birds, and watch a family movie together.” As “Friends of Francis,” our mission is to care for creation. We’ll make suet treats - a valentine for the birds! Tonight is family movie night: The Song of Bernadette.

2/13 “Gather donations for parish pet drive. Make hearts for St. Valentine’s Branch.”  On heart shaped doilies, we’ll each write things we love about one another. No peeking! Mom will gather the hearts and tomorrow morning they’ll be hanging from a pretty branch on the breakfast table.

 

Sunday, 2/14: At our family meeting, we’ll talk about awareness and consumerism. Instead of just giving money to charity, what if we also worked on buying less and wasting less? How can we respect our resources? Let’s learn about how children live all over the world. Some have much less than we do! Measure this week’s grocery bill against the average - any saved money goes in the alms jar. 

 2/15 “Help Mom clean out refrigerator. How much food waste did we find?” Create a pile of food that has gone by and tally the waste dollars. Later in the day I’ll introduce the idea of a “peace corner” where we’ll spend time learning how children live all over the world. Read Let There Be Llamas!

2/16 “Help Dad set up a compost pail for the kitchen.” Brainstorm ways to waste less food. Set up our peace board in library corner - let the boys decorate with flag stickers and add first prayer cards (made from plain index cards). As we find people and situations to pray for, we’ll decorate a card to post on our board.

2/17 “Use Amazon gift cards to buy toys to donate.” Go online and buy items for the community toy drive at the first of the month. (Use some of their Amazon Christmas gift money to do this.) While online, we’ll watch the Pope’s video, Care for Creation. Look through Children Just Like Me. Ask: Where would you live if  you could live anywhere in the world? Why?

2/18 “Choose a toy or book to add to the donation box today.” Encourage the children to choose at least one item each. Look through A Life Like Mine. What do we need to live safely and happily everyday? Make a list for our peace corner. Pray that all children, everywhere, have those things.

2/19 “No meat today! Help Mom launder clothing to donate.” Work together to clean the clothes we’re donating - fold them and place in donation box. Read What We Wear: Dressing Up around the World.

2/20 “Help Mom food shop today.” Encourage the boys to skip the snacks and processed foods. Compare food costs. How do we save when we’re careful to buy only what we need? (Money, excess trash, extra sugars and fats we don’t need.) Read What the World Eats.

 

Sunday, February 21st: At our family meeting, we’ll talk about forgiveness and examining our conscience. What might you have done that you are sorry for? (Inner thoughts.) Give this some thought this week. Can you ask for forgiveness - from the person you sinned against, from God, from yourself? Can you forgive someone who has wronged you? What does that do for your heart to let go of that hurt? Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.

 

2/22 “No complaining today!” Chair of St. Peter. Stop yourself before complaining - if the urge arises, stop and write one thing you are grateful for on the white board. How many blessings came up today? (If time and interest, make a holy-spirit stained glass and/or learn about St. Peter's Basilica.)

2/23 “Forgive someone today.” This could be something that happens today or something that’s happened in the past -  tell them it’s ok and that you forgive them - and then let it go. Also, go to store with Mom to purchase diapers for community drive. Add to donations box.

2/24 “Ask for forgiveness today.” Think of something you wish you’d done better, or something you wish you hadn’t done. Apologize - to the person you wronged and/or to God and know you will do better. Forgive yourself for things you wish you could change. Promise to work on these things and feel good inside that you’re doing something positive!

2/25 “Do something for your brothers today.” Offer suggestions: neaten desks, make beds, fold laundry, clear dishes, clean lunch bag, play with the little one, let someone use your computer, make a welcome home sign for L. Read Brothers and offer thanks to God for each other.

15. 2/26 “No meat today! Pray the stations together.” We’ll gather in the library to look at the stations I’ve set up along the Lenten mantel. (Pinned to burlap garland.) First we’ll talk about what these pictures portray … ask how Jesus may have felt and what he might have needed? How would we have helped him if we could? What about now?

2/27 “Make pretzels with Mom. Family movie night!” Talk about why pretzels are a Lenten tradition as well as a wholesome, homemade snack. What other healthy snacks can we make instead of buy? Read Brother Giovanni's Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born. Watch The Bells of St. Mary's tonight.

 

Sunday, February 28th: At our family meeting we’ll talk about our local community (neighborhood, parish, family). How can we help those that live around us? How can we contribute to our community? Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.

 

2/29 “Bring cookies to our elderly neighbors.” Include a note with our phone numbers in case they ever need us. Offer to help with spring yard work. At home, start our "pink roses" for Sunday.

3/1 “Take a clean up-walk through the neighborhood.” Walk the neighborhood and clean up trash that might have blown about. Bring trash bins back up driveways for neighbors. (Help mom make daffodil pins for St. David’s Day - or perhaps sit and color with Mom while she works.)

3/2 “Make a card for someone who needs cheering up.” Talk about who we know that might miss us or feel lonely sometimes. Make cards at home (say a prayer over each), then help Mom mail them. Be polite and cheerful with the folks at the village post office. How many smiles can we offer?

3/3 “Buy pajamas for library drive.” Go to store and buy pajamas for children whose families  can’t afford new clothing. What does homeless mean? Let’s add to our peace board today and give thanks for the comforts we enjoy in our own home.

3/4 “No meat today! Pray the stations together.” After praying the stations, read aloud from our parish bulletin and talk about the groups that need assistance. Where can we offer out time/talent/treasure? Tonight at supper read aloud from our local paper and do the same. Where is help needed? How can we pitch in?

3/5 “Think about this person and what they need.” Each person receives a name and is encouraged to think about what that person might need (physically, spiritually), then choose a way to help. Keep it to yourself, but do what you can as you can. Read One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Difference.

 

Sunday, March 6th: Today is Rose Sunday! We will have a special family brunch after Mass. Nana's delicious egg custard will be served. Today let’s talk about our prayer habits and how we can make room for prayer in our life. Ask the grandparents about their favorite prayers. Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.

 

3/7 “Learn a new prayer this week.” Each of us chooses a new prayer (have suggestions ready) to learn by heart this week, with the goal of sharing at next Sunday’s family dinner. Write them out on index cards.

3/8 “Pray for people who are sick and their caregivers.” St. John of God, patron of hospitals, nurses and the sick. Do we know anyone who is sick or recovering in some way? Do we know people who care for someone in need? These folks need special prayers!

3/9 “Write a letter to Jesus.” Set the table with paper, colored pens and stickers, and let’s write a letter to Jesus together. This can be about anything - giving thanks, saying hi, telling him a bit about ourselves. Attend Adoration in the evening (older boys and Mom).

3/10 “Fast from electronics tonight.” After supper, turn off all tech devices - and read, talk, sing - or just visit with each other. How are the prayers coming along?

3/11 “No meat today! Pray the stations together.” Look in our donations box - what can we add? Look at our local food pantry’s list online and add items to our Saturday shopping list.

3/12 “Do something nice for someone today in secret.” Shhhh! Encourage the children to engage in a conspiracy of kindness today. Offer quiet suggestions.

 

Sunday, March 13th: Daylight Savings Begins! Isn’t light wonderful? How is Christ a Light in our lives? Let’s talk about Easter Sunday - how can each of us pitch in and prepare? (If possible, have children present their memorized prayers.) Mention early rising time tomorrow - 6:30 a.m. Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.

 

3/14 “Let’s have a sunrise prayer this morning.” Sun rises at 6:56 a.m. so we’ll gather shortly before in the family room - which will be fairly dark. As sunrise approaches, I’ll open a window so we can listen. We’ll watch the sun rise behind the trees and the light grow … I’ll read a little prayer thanking God for our new day. (If it’s mild enough, we may even walk outside.)

3/15 “Today we’ll drink only water.” I’ll keep a pitcher in the fridge and we’ll focus on the blessing of fresh, clean water at our disposal Read One Well: The Story of Water on Earth.

3/16 “Today we’ll prepare for St. Patrick’s Day.” The boys will work on a shamrock craft (how does it represent the Holy trinity?) and help Mom make scones for tomorrow.

3/17 “Let’s learn about our family today.” St. Patrick, patron of Ireland. Today we’ll have an Irish tea for Nana (scones, tea) and talk about our family history. Where in Ireland did our ancestors live? (Have a map ready.) Read Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland. Irish supper tonight!

3/18 “Let’s surprise Dad with a big thank-you!” Fathers work so hard for their families! Make a big sign thanking Dad for working so hard for us. Surprise him with a text picture of the boys holding up the sign. (Also no meat, stations in the afternoon.)

3/19 “Help Dad with tasks around the yard today.” St. Joseph, patron of workers and fathers. We’ll have a simple St. Joseph’s supper tonight. Read Song of the Swallows.

 

Sunday, March 20th: It’s Palm Sunday ~ Holy Week begins! Also, it is the first day of Spring! Today we’ll bless our garden patch with a little of our Lenten soil (prepared on Ash Wednesday). The rest of the soil will be planted with grass seed. If the day is nice we’ll have a little procession around the property. Look for pussy willows by the creek. (English “palms.”) Read The Colt and the King. Also, look at grocery bill for savings to be deposited in alms jar.

 

3/21 “Today we spring clean: tables and chairs!” The first three days of Holy Week are spent preparing the house for Easter. We will use a natural cleaner to wash the dining and kitchen tables as well as all the chairs. If it’s a nice day, the windows will be open to allow in fresh air. Mama will launder the linens for Easter dinner. Read The Donkey's Easter Tale.

3/22 “Today we spring clean: windows and doorways!” Spring cleaning continues … note how brightly the sun shines through the clean windows. How much easier it is to let in that light when our windows are clean! (symbolism) Decorate doorways for spring. Read Petook: An Easter Story.

3/23 “Today we spring clean: floors and rugs!” Help mop and vacuum. It is also Spy Wednesday so we will have “silver dollar” pancakes for dinner. Read The Tale of the Three Trees.

3/24 “Create paschal candle today.” Decorate the plain pillar standing in soil pot on mantel. Eat dinner by candlelight tonight, using our baptismal candles. At the end of the meal, say a prayer together, and blow out candles. Sit in darkness for a few moments.

3/25 “No meat today! Pray the stations together.” It’s Good Friday, so this will be a quiet day, close to home. Hot cross buns for breakfast, and let’s walk the stations outdoors. (I will have this set up beforehand.) Read The Jesus Garden: An Easter Legend.

3/26 “Today we’ll take a Praise Walk.” It’s Holy Saturday, the last day of Lent! Today we’ll color eggs and bake for tomorrow’s feast! But we’ll take time to walk through the spring woods and look for signs of life, marveling at the wold God has made for us. Tonight we’ll light our Paschal candle from the Easter Vigil fire.

 

ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN!


Advent Activities: Think, Do, Read

Advent calendar 23

Well my friends ... here, at last, is my Advent activity outline! Below I have listed each date in Advent, the sticker (vocab word) I've chosen for that day, and the activity ideas I have noted in my plans.

As we are a Catholic family, many activities tie into our liturgical calendar and family faith traditions. There's also a good bit of baking and nature study, some simple conversation as well as several crafts. There are not too many outings, as we tend to stick close to home at this time of year. And it goes without saying there will be days when only a fraction of my "plans" are put into action. I try to respect energy, interest levels and moods (theirs and mine) as much as possible.

(Note: The books listed are ones we own as well as some I have on request from our local library. With the exception of the book for 12/23, which I purchased new for our collection ... because I couldn't resist!)

November 30th: evergreens

Today is the 1st day of Advent and a new Church year begins! We'll gather evergreens in the afternoon to place next to our Advent candles. Why are they called evergreens? (everlasting life) Light the first purple candle tonight.

Read: The Littlest Evergreen

December 1st: cookies

Happy December! "Rabbit, Rabbit!" Today we'll bake some cookies and talk about our favorite kinds at Christmas. (Who could we surprise with cookies who might not expect it? Let's make a plan.)

Read: The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

December 2nd: nuts and spices

Today we'll check our stock of baking supplies, especially spices. How do they smell? What makes spices so special? Why did the Magi bring spices as gifts for the Baby Jesus? We'll place our wise men dolls at the start of their journey (in a far corner of the house).

Read: We Three Kings

December 3rd: presents

Today we'll write (and decorate) a letter to Santa and then compose a list of gifts to give to our loved ones this year. What would make people happy and feel loved? (Stress actions and gestures over material gifts.) Also, we'll watch the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree on tv tonight!

Read: The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree

December 4th: winter birds

Today is the Feast of St. Barbara! We'll say a special prayer for Grandma Barbara and later on we'll snip a forsythia branch to place in water. (Might it bloom by Christmas eve?) While we're outside, we'll check the state of our birdfeeders and feed our hungry bird friends. 

Read: Merry Christmas, Merry Crow 

December 5th: ornament

Today we'll bring our Christmas ornaments down from the attic and take a look through the boxes. We'll talk about family favorites and the stories behind special ornaments. We'll make some homemade ornaments together in the afternoon.

Read: The Spider's Gift: A Ukranian Christmas Story

December 6th: St. Nicholas

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, EB's patron saint! We'll watch St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving (Veggie Tales) with a snack of popcorn and hot cocoa (there might be a bishop's staff/candy cane stirrer in our mugs!). We'll clean the corner for the Christmas tree and at nightfall look for the Full Cold Moon in the dark, cold sky ...

Read: The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale

December 7th: Christmas tree 

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent and tonight we light our second purple candle. Where did the custom of Christmas trees come from? We'll read "The Song of the Christmas Tree Fairy," by Cicely Mary Barker. After Mass we'll head to the woods and cut down our Christmas tree! (Can we identify what kind of evergreen it is? Bring a field guide to the farm ...)

Read: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

December 8th: dove 

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! We'll set up our children's nativity and arrange star candles and flowers around our Mary statue. How can we be more peaceful - at home and in the world? Let's brainstorm some ideas and write them in a peace & prayer journal. 

Read: Can You Say Peace?

December 9th: bell

Today we will listen for the afternoon bells at church, and make some bells of our own at home! We'll listen to Mama's favorite carol, "The Carol of the Bells," which is based on a Ukranian folk chant. We will also read: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Read: Jingle Bells

December 10th: snowman

Today we'll make thumbprint snowglobes and once we're done, we'll watch The Snowman on dvd. After Little Bear's nap, we'll have some warm milk with honey and almond and Mama's tangerine snowball cookies. We'll also read The Snowman aloud to LB. (And naturally, if we have snow, we'll build our own snowman!)

Read: The Snowman

December 11th: pinecone

Today we'll make pinecone seed ornaments for our bird tree, as well as some silver (glitter) pinecones to give as gifts. We'll attach tags that describe "The Legend of the Silver Pinecone." After dark we'll walk out to the bird tree and there will be a surprise ... colorful lights!

Read: Night Tree

December 12th: poinsettia

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! We'll visit a local nursery to see all the poinsettias - the greenhouse, with its steamy warmth, will be a nice break from the chill December air. While we're there, we'll buy some amaryllis/paperwhite bulbs to prepare as gifts. At home, while Mama works on a poinsettia ornament, we'll watch Frosty the Snowman (note the scene when he gets stuck in the greenhouse!). For snack, we'll have cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars and "sangria" (fruit punch with chunky winter fruits).

Read: The Legend of the Poinsettia

December 13th: orange 

Today is the Feast of St. Lucia! For breakfast we'll have orange-cranberry muffins (lit by beeswax candles!) and spicy Swedish "glogg" (non-alcoholic version). Later on we'll slice oranges and hang them to dry in the kitchen window - they'll smell so good! We'll also say a prayer for big brother Bookworm who starts his final exams today!

An Orange for Frankie

December 14th: gingerbread

Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, and today we celebrate one of our greatest joys - our Earlybird himself! It's his 13th birthday!!! Earlybird (and his Papa, with whom he shares his birthday) will be honored at a special lunch with all his favorite foods and a delicious gingerbread cake! Tonight we light the pink candle.

Read: The Gingerbread Pirates

December 15th: fruitcake

Today we'll bake mini "fruitcake" breads for our neighbors. We'll be using the delicious fruits and nuts we ordered from King Arthur Flour. Once the breads are cool we'll wrap them well and store them somewhere cold. Then we'll make tags for the breads (which will be delivered on Christmas eve).

Read: The Polar Express

December 16th: reindeer

Today we'll watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and talk about what made him special and how it's ok to be different! How that which makes us different can also make us shine! We'll do a little research: Where do reindeer live? How do they live? Let's add some reindeer stickers to our map. Weather permitting, we'll visit our local farm to feed their beautiful reindeer.

Read: The Wild Christmas Reindeer

December 17th: stockings

Today we'll hang our Christmas stockings along the mantel and make a donation to a local toy drive. These will be items we've been adding to a bag all month. We'll talk about why it's important to help those who have less than we do, and sometimes that is in material form and sometimes it's through our time and actions. Let's brainstorm ways we as a family can help others in the new year.

Read: The Legend of the Christmas Stocking

December 18th: mint

Today we are going to bake all-natural candy-cane cookies and enjoy them with homemade hot peppermint cocoa. We will also have some homemade play-dough to shape and bake into letters. (upside down candy cane = j for Jesus) Before bed we will enjoy a minty herbal foot bath.

Read: The Legend of the Candy Cane

December 19th: candle

Today we'll roll beeswax candles to give as gifts and enjoy our supper by candlelight. We'll discuss light - the type and amount of light at this time of year (natural world) and also, why do we call Jesus the Light of the world? And tonight, a special dinner to welcome Bookworm home for Christmas break!

Read: An Early American Christmas

December 20th: snowflake

Today is the last day of Autumn! Let's talk about how seasons change, and how the Winter season is different from the Christmas season (natural/liturgical). We'll make snowflakes to celebrate the new season (either paper ones or these depending on energy and time) and brainstorm ways to get ready for winter storms!

Read: Snowflakes Fall

December 21st: yule log

Today is the 4th Sunday in Advent! It is also the Winter Solstice (6:03 p.m.), the shortest day of the year! After Mass we'll go for a walk (weather permitting) and listen to the silence of the woods. We'll bring home a fallen branch to make a 12 Days of Christmas Log. We'll talk about why we love our cats and how we can show them our love (care, kind words, special attention). As a special treat there will be a yule log for dessert at Sunday dinner!

Read: The Christmas Cat

December 22nd: holly

Today we'll walk around our property and look for what's still green. Are there any holly and ivy plants? As we walk, we'll listen to the old English carol, "The Holly and Ivy" (on Pandora). Back inside we'll have a coloring picture to do (this will be the first entry in our new nature logs) and we'll copy "The Song of the Holly Fairy" to accompany the picture. Why is the holly plant like a crown? (pointy edges) Who is the newborn king - why/how/when does he wear a crown?

Read: The Story of Holly & Ivy

December 23rd: star

Today we'll put the star on top of the Christmas tree and make some simple star ornaments using cardboard and yarn. We'll find Bethlehem on the world map (approximately) and place a glittery star sticker above it. Let's look at the night sky and see what stars we can pick out. And before bed, a special surprise! A new Christmas book for our collection ...

Read: Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

December 24th: heart

Very simply: What (Who) is the heart of Christmas? Let's talk about the love Jesus has for us ... the love His parents had for Him ... and how we can we show Jesus we love Him this year? (stress the idea that Jesus is in everyone we meet) As the sun goes down we will pay a visit to the outdoor creche, and inside we'll light all our Advent candles and say a special prayer (one we've composed) together. Before bed, EB will have an herbal "Christmas" bath - soothing and softly scented.

Read: Manger

25 - Holy Family

Merry Christmas! Let's have a wonderful day!

**

Now, this calendar is primarily organized with Earlybird in mind (my 12 year old autistic son who is, developmentally, much younger than his calendar age) but as you can see, many activities involve the whole family and can be adapted for children of all ages. And as I said before, this will not all flow as smoothly as described - some days will just not go as planned. And that's ok, I've come to accept this aspect of special needs parenting! Each weekend I'll prepare in advance in hopes that things will work out, and then we'll take it day by day. I'm looking to establish a hopeful mood and make warm memories - not wear anyone out (most of all me!)

I hope, overall, that my children will remember the days of Advent as time well spent together - in a peaceful spirit, with present minds - as we prepared our hearts for the coming of Christ.

Blessings to all on this late Thursday eve ... see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea Journal ~ Peace Be with Us

  Advent tea peace 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

Advent tea peace 10

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

Advent tea peace 1

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

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

Advent tea peace 2

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

Advent tea peace 12

Where's the baby, Little Bear?

Advent tea peace 6

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

Advent tea peace 8

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

And speaking of tranquil ...

Advent tea peace 11

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

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

Peace personified.

:)

~ Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

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

Advent tea peace 4

What I'm drinking & eating ...

Oh my goodness!

Well.

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

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

Advent tea peace 13

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

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

What I'm reading ...

Advent tea peace 7

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

What I'm working on ...

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

 Words to ponder ...

Peace:

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

~ Anonymous

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

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

**

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


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

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

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

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

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

Mary tea peace 1 

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

Mary's tea peace 2

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

**

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

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


Snowflakes for Sandy Hook ...

A friend of mine shared this on Facebook and I wanted to pass it along to my readers:

Newtown snowflake project
What a wonderful and meaningful project. A perfect craft for the Winter Solstice tomorrow ~ creating snowflakes for the Sandy Hook children. Earlybird does not know about the tragedy, but he certainly knows what it means to make something special for someone who needs it. :)

Blessings to you all on this last day of Autumn ... 

~ Dawn


Just a thought ...

Pink-red-butterfly

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

~ J.M. Barrie

Anger only fuels more anger - while Kindness breeds tolerance and respect. Everyone is so quick to judge and feel slighted these days, but maybe if we all showed a little more compassion - even in the smallest, most (seemingly) insignificant moments - there would eventually be less conflict in the world.

When tragedy rocks us, we look for the big answers, but maybe we need to start small?

World peace is a noble ambition, but the power of peace is within each of us. If we can find it within ourselves, why not share it and spread it around?