Saturday, December 9, 2017

December 9

Today was a very ordinary sort of day: housework, desk work, an errand.

We finally had a touch of the snow everyone else seems to be getting -- but just a mere dusting. My aunt and uncle in NC are hibernating under a foot of the stuff! And though the snow is strangely scarce here we still bore the effects of the storm: Michael's flight to Kansas was cancelled so he had to rent a car and spend the day driving there! This did solve the problem of no one to pick Michael up from the airport on Monday afternoon!

I managed to put in a few hours on my class and we had a tasty dinner. My diet is very limited and it is easy to be very bored. It's always nice when I think of some way to make chicken, ground beef, pork loin, or Italian sausages taste different. Tonight I took the sausages out of their cases and made them into patties which I fried with onions and made a gravy. We had this with roasted butternut squash and mashed cauliflower (which I nearly ruined by trying to steam in a pot with no water).

Three hours of ironing have ended the day. Phew. I trust that means there are enough shirts and trousers to get us through the holidays!

I hope you all have a lovely Lord's Day tomorrow!

Friday, December 8, 2017

December 8

It was a much earlier morning than I expected. The plus side to not being able to sleep any longer is getting up early and getting a head start on the day's work! By the time school started I was dragging but we jumped into Christmas in the Victorian Era which is really where most of the fun starts! The kids sipped eggnog while we continued reading through the handful of chapter books we've started with this Christmas course.

The afternoon found me cleaning the house and making dinner in anticipation of my dad and his wife, Janet, joining us for dinner. We had roasted chicken with a leek sauce. Once I find a new recipe I like I tend to serve it to company over and over again. Ha ha! We also had an apple pie for dessert.

Then we piled into vehicles and headed out to the high school Christmas concert where we watched Rachel perform in the orchestra and choir. A lovely and festive night of music!

I came across this quote from Bonhoeffer today in the emails I received:

“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words, ‘We’re beggars; it’s true.’”
(A letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer, sent from prison December 1, 1943.)

It added to my thoughts about Christmas and the great balance between those that are rejoicing and those that are mourning. I think we all can relate to this -- we are either in a place of joy, or one of hardship, and most likely both at the same time. If we are in a place of joy, it seems becoming that we receive it as a gift and enjoy it. If we are in a place of hardship or grief, we can trust that Christ will meet us there. And we can trust that Christ will meet others in that place too as we pray for them in their need. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 7

There was a light dusting of snow on the housetops when I twisted open the blinds this morning. It made me smile because since I was a young child it was always my wish for snow on my birthday. Today, being my 40th birthday, it was an extra special smile from Heaven.

I nearly hijacked my own birthday by falling into a grumpy attitude when I walked downstairs and saw some things not in the estate I expected them to be in to begin our day. My ideals of 40 being an age of maturity had a humorous reality check. I am thankful to say the bad attitude was eventually conquered and the rest of the day was delightful.

I made pancakes for breakfast and opened the pot of Jinja mango jam a friend had brought me earlier this year -- a nod to the years I spent in Uganda. I also indulged in a cup of real, completely real, black tea.

Perhaps one of the nicest things of the day was not having to go anywhere but being able to stay home and focus the entire morning on our homeschool lessons. Today we landed in colonial America for Christmas in the 1600-1700's. We read about colonial Williamsburg and made spiced hot chocolate with oranges and gingerbread for our foodie treat. The kids keep busy embroidering quilt pieces to make a "story of Christmas" quilt when we finish.

Yesterday we talked about the Puritans and their banning of Christmas. We started a funny book called A Little Puritan's First Christmas. It's quite good at describing many aspects of life in the mid-1600's in Boston. You can read a copy online for free. I learned a new word today: "bacchanalian" which means "given to drunken revelry." The Puritans considered Christmas to be bacchanalian and wanted nothing to do with it.

There were lots of lovely texts and Facebook greetings throughout the day. A plate of cookies from a neighbor, and two friends who stopped by with gifts. The doorbell also rang with the delivery of flowers! Such a surprise! I still remember when I was sent flowers by my uncle when I was about 6 -- I just couldn't have imagined something more grown up or important as to receive flowers!

There was an hour and a half set aside for reading in a chair in my bedroom. Such bliss! Especially since the library just "happened" to have delivered four amazing books yesterday so I saved them for a treat today.
Pattern -- by Emma Bridgewater
View from a Sketchbook: Nature through the eyes of Marjolein Bastin
Simple Gatherings -- Melissa Michaels
Everyday Watercolor -- Jenna Rainey
Seeing Beautiful -- Timothy Chambers (this came to the door this afternoon)

Laura and I sat and painted at the table while we waited for the big kids to come home from school. We also started reading Sleigh Bells for Windy Foot, an annual favorite.

There was another small cup of real tea and some Dundee cake when the kids arrived and it seemed amazing we could all be around the tea table in the afternoon at once!

Michael and I decided that what would be meaningful for this "big" birthday would be to take the whole family out to dinner! Since we never do this it was a treat for everyone, especially me. I love eating out, and I love enjoying a meal out with people I love. We had such a lovely time. We had to wait a long time for a table so we walked around the downtown mall and picked out what we wanted to eat from the menu on the outside of the restaurant. It was PF Chang's we had decided on. The kids loved it! I loved watching them love it! It was definitely the right gift!!!

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December 6

Today was very much a working day but thinking of it being St. Nicholas' day and the cute Santa Claus in the advent calendar, as well as the birthday of a friend, meant there was still something festive in the air.

School, a doctor appointment, a trip to the library, the kids to their co-op classes, shopping at Trader Joe's, Costco, Aldi, and Meijer and then picking all five kids up to go home and then put away all that shopping did mean it was a non-stop day and I was worn out before dinner. But there were a few fun moments along the way -- running into an old friend at Trader Joe's and then again at Costco, spying fruitcakes at Costco that looked just like the ones we would receive in the mail each year from our great uncle (perhaps the most exotic part of our childhood Christmas), browsing my beloved UK Country Living December magazine for a few moments, and, of course, getting new books at the library.

I've tidied up my desk and room and have organized things for the next few days so I think it's time to get to bed and see if I can't make up for all that running around today!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 5

I had a delightful treat today that was unexpected. Taking Rachel through the Starbucks drive-thru after a doctor appointment I decided to order a decaf Holiday Spice White Flat (almond milk) despite the fact that any sort of coffee gives me a headache. It was so delicious I couldn't believe it! I refused to let my mind dwell on the cost of the thing and instead focused on the gift it was. It made me think of the spiced hot chocolate at Williamsburg and it lasted the whole way home. (Even better: I never got the headache!)

Back in our Christmas school we buckled down and moved on to Martin Luther and the age of the Reformation. Luther was a big fan of Christmas. He preached many Christmas sermons and wrote several Christmas carols. We read part of one sermon aloud today and will continue with more this week. I found these in Martin Luther's Christmas Book. We also sang his carol "From Highest Heaven I Come to Tell." Incidentally, we sang a lovely 12th century carol yesterday which is a new favorite: "The Friendly Beasts." I will go back and add it to yesterday's post. Here is a quote from Martin Luther:

"Oh, we poor people that we should be so cold and indifferent to this great joy that has been given to us. For this is indeed the greatest gift, which far exceeds all else that God has created. Yet we believe so sluggishly, even though the angels proclaim and preach and sing, and their lovely song sums up the whole Christian faith, for 'Glory to God in the highest' is the very heart of worship."

After lunch I jumped from the 16th century to the 19th and immersed myself in the world of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte for a few hours -- prepping for my class. I stayed in the same time period this evening as a friend and I went to see "The Man Who Invented Christmas." It was terrific! Just the thing to go along with our Christmas studies (must take the kids!) and it was funny how the world of Dickens overlapped with that of Charlotte Bronte by means of William Thackeray (Thackeray is an annoying critic in the movie and was the same for Bronte in real life.) Can't help geeking out about history just a bit. Anyone who likes to write, or wants to be a writer, will enjoy this movie and the way Dickens went about creating A Christmas Carol.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

Monday, December 4, 2017

December 4

Family worship found us reading part of the creation account in Genesis 1 this morning before we climbed the stairs laden with tea and Italian Panettone to begin our Christmas study of St. Francis of Assisi and his invention of live nativity scenes.

St. Francis has inspired me since I first saw a film about his life when I was a young child. His determination to serve God and his willingness to give up his family's wealth and live a life of devotion beckoned me to imitation. Today I attempted to help the kids grasp a picture of his life as we read various children's books based on the life of St. Francis and talked about his love and care for animals, seeing them as creatures created by God and worthy of our attention and care. I left the kids watching a movie about St. Francis and went off to meet a friend for lunch and antiquing.

It was fun to browse the stalls of the antique shops and admire all the Christmas decorations and dishes. I was on the hunt for a "mustache tea cup" for my upcoming class and do you know what? We found one within the first 15 minutes! Even better, it was only $4! But that was the last thing we found all afternoon so we mostly window shopped. :)

Afterward we stopped for tea and a chance to discuss 8 Women of Faith. I especially enjoyed exploring the faith of Jane Austen (another part of my upcoming class).

Pulling in the driveway just at dusk I noticed a small crowd a few houses down, mostly from my family. A child came running to tell me there was a hawk on the ground. As it turns out, a juvenile Cooper's Hawk had hit a neighbor's basketball hoop and been stunned. By the time I made it he had recovered enough to hop to the grass. What a special treat to get to view this bird up close!

Michael took the initiative to make a bunch of phonecalls until he found someone who would help. When I came down to make dinner the hawk was safely in the grasp of an older gentleman with a soft London accent. His voice emanated with care and deep delight in being able to be a part of helping another bird make a full recovery. He carefully tucked the young bird into a pet carrier in the back of his car and said he hoped maybe his dinner would be ready by the time he drove the 45 minutes back to his home where he and his wife take in birds like this every week. What could this be but a modern day St. Francis?! I hope the children will remember this day and the time their father took out of his day to care for a simple, fallen bird, and for the devoted care of this man who drove from far away to bring life-giving assistance to one of God's creatures.

We sang a beautiful 12th century carol today:

The Friendly Beasts

Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town.
I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

"I," said the cow all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for His bed;
I gave him my hay to pillow his head."
"I," said the cow all white and red.

"I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.

"I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"I cooed Him to sleep so He would not cry;
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.

Thus every beast by some good spell,
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Immanuel,
The gift he gave Immanuel.

"I," was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Immanuel,
The gift he gave Immanuel.
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

December 3

Sunday is a day that looks quite different from the other days of the week at our house. It has the feeling of entering a secret garden that is only opened on the first day of the week and we arrange our schedules so that we can always be present in the garden during that time.

Church opens and closes the day for us. Michael leaves at 9 am with the two youngest children and the rest of us leave at 9:15. We are thankful that church is only about 7 minutes' drive from our house.

Usually we have a fairy who cooks lunch for us each week, namely my mom. Her church service gets out much earlier than ours so she heads to our house and starts the food. This is a great gift, and I don't take it lightly. Yesterday she cooked pork tenderloin with apples and onions and sautéed mushrooms along with roasted potatoes and acorn squash and steamed carrots.

Rachel and Andrew had raced off to a Spanish church service to fulfill one of their requirements for Spanish class so the table seemed extra quiet with only the three youngest children there. For dessert we had tarts leftover from the church ladies' dinner which we enjoyed with tea, sitting in the living room and catching up on our Jesse Tree readings.

Grandma played a few games with the children, I wrote a few Christmas cards, and then it was time to cook food to bring to church for our once-a-month evening potluck. I made my favorite rice salad, a spinach apple salad, and a gluten-free and refined-sugar-free angel food cake -- this was all to use up leftovers from the before mentioned dinner.

While the cake was cooking I had time to make "Laura's tea" which she has come to expect each week. We share a pot of tea and I keep a box of special goodies just for her tea times out of which we choose a few treats. We sit and talk and read books aloud. It's a chance for me to give her one-on-one time during a season in life that is otherwise very busy and often leaves her doing things on her own.

On the first Sunday of the month we have a psalm sing during the evening worship service time. It gives us an opportunity to practice various psalms and to sing for an hour. Afterward we enjoyed all the shared food and conversation until it was time to clean up and go home.

Michael is always extremely tired Sunday evenings and I am tired enough to go to sleep at least an hour earlier than I normally do. And so the gates shut on another Sabbath and a new week begins!