Monday, November 30, 2009

Pictures from Thanksgiving

Super making his world famous cranberry bread

The kids made sock puppets and then put on a show over the couch.

At Cousin J and E's house - J said "This is what happens when you go to someone's house that doesn't have kids - they dress them up in crazy stuff they have at the house!"

Warm and Toasty!

The feast before we started digging in

The boys

Great Uncle Don and Cousin Scott and Super. My mom and my grandma both had "high" chairs like that. My mom would always use hers to do the ironing.

Cousin J, Jelly Bean, Super and Grandma S digging into the desserts. Super is getting some of the yummy pumpkin bars. The cranberry bread and the cookies are there, and there was also pumpkin pie, apple pie and french silk pie. It was all VERY good.

Great Aunt Nancy, Super and Jelly Bean eating their desserts

Flower getting herself some pie.
I can't get over how grown up she is getting lately.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.
Hope that you had a wonderful day!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Confessions

OK, first of all, I need to confess that I did not cook anything for Thanksgiving. Now, to be fair, I do host the Thanksgiving Feast at Montgomery Academy the Thursday before Thanksgiving, and I provide the turkey and the dressing, so I did cook a turkey this year (and I might add, it was QUITE tasty this year too. Not that I'm bragging or anything.) And I did help the kids bake- they all brought desserts. Flower brought Pumpkin Bars (She uses the Better Homes and Garden recipe, and she makes them several times over the fall and winter), Jelly Bean made sugar cookies, used a leaf cookie cutter, and then frosted them with white frosting, and made a face on them with chocolate chips. They were DELISH!

But I must also confess that my favorite baking experience was with Super. During preschool this week, we read Cranberry Thanksgiving a couple of times. And on Wednesday, when we got to the end, and we were talking about the recipe, he asked "Can we make the world famous cranberry bread, Mommy? Please?" and I said "Of course."

Now, I must confess that I LOVE the Cranberry Thanksgiving book. The book is published by Parents Magazine Press, and I think that Parents Magazine Press was a book club back in the 70s, because at my house, we had several books from Parents Press (My personal favorite is The Blah, but I also loved Cranberry Thanksgiving, How Fletcher Was Hatched, Donkey, Donkey, Santa Makes a Change, and Ma Lien and the Magic Brush).

My younger brother, when he was about 3, got a hold of The Blah book, tore the cover off, and drew on a few pages. I was devastated. I had hoped that I would be able to keep the book and read it to my kids someday. (My younger brother and I are 10 years apart. Apparently, I was thinking way ahead.) I must have expressed this to my mom, because one day in my 20s, she sent me The Blah book. She had found a way to put the cover illustration on a piece of cardstock, laminated the cover, and then had the rest of the book bound with comb binding. I was so touched that she had remembered.

She didn't, however, keep a hold of the other books, but in my recent thrift store travels, I have been able to pick up several of the titles - all hardcover, and MUCH lower than people are selling them on Amazon (I think the most I've spent for a book is 75 cents.) I picked up Cranberry Thanksgiving sometime last year.

So Wednesday, Super and I went to the grocery store together. We took the book, and as I put each item, in the cart, he would exclaim "Check!" When we checked out, he told the cashier that he was making WORLD famous cranberry bread, and when she didn't seem impressed enough, he said it MUCH louder. He helped with every step of preparing the bread, and near the end, he said, "I love Mother and Son cooking, Mommy." I confess that a couple tears might have fallen in the batter.

But here's the biggest confession of all: I have been thinking, lately, how I didn't have much to be thankful for this year. I am embarrassed to confess that I wasn't even all that grateful for simple, but oh so important things - like my home, my car, my friends, or even my family. The past couple years around The Simple Home haven't been easy ones. Much of the time, I can look at the good in things and in people. But then there are times, times when things aren't even necessarily bad, that I just get sad. I get sad, and mad, and upset, not only about the bad times that we've been through, but also that things aren't WAY better now. Sometimes, I am not grateful for the times that we are just getting through.

But then, thankfully, my eyes are finally opened. I am able to see how much I do have to be thankful for, especially for those simple things - like my home, my car, my friends, and my family. For me, it was yesterday. We were at relatives, relatives who have lots of money, and lots of things, but who don't have children. But they love ours. And other family, who were there, who said something kind, or something funny. (I laughed more this Thanksgiving than I remember for awhile.) And our children, came up to both of us yesterday, myself and Mr. Simple, just to give us a hug, or to ask to sit on a lap, or to give a kiss. Or in Super's case, to ask to read "Cranberry Thanksgiving" one more time.

I have much to be grateful, this year and every year. I'm thankful for so much. Really. I am blessed to be able to have SO many people around me - both far and near - who truly seem to care for me. People who help me so much, with things that they do, things that they say, and just being there to listen. And I am grateful that these people seem to be willing to continue to care for me, even when I don't deserve it, and even when I am ungrateful. I am thankful that I do have a home. I am thankful for my car. I am thankful for friends. And I am thankful for my family. And I'm thankful that I get to be alive, and hopefully, use my time here to learn how to be a little bit more grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope that you had a wonderful day. But I will confess that I think I had the best one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From Mitten Strings: Making The Holidays Simple

I've been thinking a lot about the holidays, and ways that I can make things memorable for my children, but also enjoyable for them. So often, I have grand plans for things that we are going do every night of Advent, and then 6 or 7 days in, the children are whining about it, asking when we are going to be done, etc. Or I decide to build a gingerbread house, only to have them leave after 5 minutes, or erupt into sobs because it won't stand up. Or having me stay up too late, and then yelling at them because I'm so tired, all so that I can make them homemade presents.

This chapter on Simplicity from Mitten Strings had some really helpful suggestions for me to help make the holidays more of what I want to have for my family. Maybe it will be helpful to you too. Here are some excerpts from the chapter:


"So often, it seems, we are the ones who make our own lives more complicated than they need to be. We set the bar too high, take on too much, turn small doings into big ones. Why settle for food coloring and vinegar when you can make Ukranian easter egg masterpieces? Why stop at birthday cake and ice cream at home when you can rent an indoor playground and invite the whole class? Why spend the Saturday before Christmas sledding with the family when you could all be attending the annual downtown holiday extravaganza?

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. 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.

It takes conviction to say: "This is enough" - whether it be enough holiday events, enough guests at a party, enough presents, or simply enough activities for next Saturday. And it is hard to feel confidence in our own choices, in our own sense of limits, when everyone around is seems convinced that more and bigger is better.

We CAN choose simplicity over complication. And what relief there is in simplicity. Here is a start:

* Downscale holiday celebrations. Keep the focus on family, on meaningful rituals and traditions, and on simple activities. Give fewer gifts, and take more time to enjoy them.

* Set a limit on holiday activities. (One Easter egg hunt is enough!)

* Don't feel guilty about skipping events that everyone else attends. Your children need you and your attention, not more activities.

* Celebrate birthdays in a way that honors the qualities that you love in your child. They don't have to be big productions; make them expressions of love instead: a special meal, an outing with a friend, a birthday ritual carried on year after year.

* Remember that the process is more important for your child than the outcome. Keep the process simple, and your child will enjoy it more.

* Set limits and stick to them. In our house, no one is allowed to wear their Halloween costume until Halloween night. Although it is hard for the kids to wait, it's worth it.

* You don't have to prove anything to anybody. Christmas is not a competition, a seder is not a cooking contest, a birthday doesn't need to be a blowout, a dinner party can be potluck.

* Celebrate small blessings and offbeat occasions. Once, my son and I made a birthday cake for Curious George. Half birthdays are reason enough to enjoy a special meal. For children, every day holds potential for celebration and ceremony - the first day of spring, the first snowfall, the harvest moon. A song, a poem read aloud, a ritual or a special snack - it doesn't take much to create a celebration that affirms life.

In Simplicity there is freedom -
freedom to do less and to enjoy more.
May there be magic in your holiday season. But let it be the magic that comes from the simple joys of doing things together and just being together.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Daybook for November 23rd


Outside my window...
There is sun. I will be thankful that there is sun. There has been WAY too much rain here lately.

I am thinking...
how I am often not very thankful for the everyday things. I get used to the fact that I live in a house with central heat and that I have a car and food.

I am thankful for...
for my family. They seem to love me, no matter what.

I am wearing...
jeans, white turtleneck, hunter green wool cardigan that I got at Goodwill last year. I LOVE this cardigan. I'm also wearing white ankle socks and my Born clogs. Have you noticed that I wear these shoes a lot???? I'm trying to get all the wear out of them I can before it snows.

I am remembering...
Christopher. We went to the cemetery yesterday and did rubbings on his gravestone.

I am going...
to Jelly Bean's Brownie Meeting tonight.

I am reading...
Mitten Strings For God and I started The House of Ruth, but I haven't got very far. I also picked up a boxed set of 4 of Barbara Kingsolver's novels. I'll probably start on one of those next week. Has anybody read any of Barbara Kingsolver? Which one(s) did you like?

On my mind...
the joy of the kinship of good women friends.

From the learning rooms...
Two days of learning this week, and then we are off until next week.

Noticing that...
it is almost December. Where has the year gone????

Pondering these words...
"Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous. The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness. It is the broken heart and contrite spirit. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Let us choose to be humble."
(Ezra Taft Benson, May 1989.)

One of my favorite things . . .
sleeping in. Pitiful, I know, but since I get up at 5:45 am during the week, I just LOVE being able to sleep in until 7 or 8 am on the weekends.

From my picture journal . . .
Our dog jumping in the snow last Thanksgiving. Snow is predicted for this year too.
I wonder if it will actually happen??

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Can Provide

I stole this blog title from another blog that I read ("Down To Earth"), but the rest of the post is all me.

Anyway, the title really made me think about my life and my role. What can I provide to my family?

I can provide:

* food grown from the garden and canned to eat when it is difficult to leave home
* food that is stockpiled when it is on sale and then stored and used over time
* clothes, blankets, accessories, sewn with my machine
* crocheted clothes, accessories, and dishcloths
* cleaning supplies made from everyday materials
* a clean home
* the ability to create menus and prepare and cook meals
* money, either by teaching preschool and doing daycare; or by returning to my skills in training and technical writing.
* money, from being frugal and following a budget.
* a melody to soothe someone or make them smile
* a hug
* a word to correct an unwanted behavior
* a word to complement a wanted behavior
* more hugs
* prayers
* support
* rhythm to our days
* the opportunity to have a greater flexibility in their learning
* even more hugs
* instruction in what is right and what is wrong
* a good example
* things to build traditions and memories
* a smile, even when I'm not in a good mood.
* being present, even when I don't want to be.

My goal is to be able to live a provident life. To live within my means and to be prepared for the ups and downs of life. To use resources wisely. To avoid debt. To be self-reliant so that I do not need to be dependent on others to provide for mine and my family's needs. Which is a great goal. I want to be able to provide that for them.

But I also want to provide things that are more eternal in nature. I want to provide respect, support, and love to my family.

I also need to remember that although I can do all these things, I don't always do them - some of the temporal and some of the more eternal things. I need to do better.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry

I've heard of this book from homeschooling blogs, and then a few months ago, I saw it at the thrift store, and decided to pick it up. It was different than I thought it was going to be, but not in a bad way. It was more of a book about a woman who decided that she wanted to live her life simpler, more deliberately, and more in tune with her family. (Sounds like my kind of book, huh???) I also thought that the book was going to be more about God, based on the title, but there was very little mention of God in the book. Either way would have been fine with me, but in case someone was buying because it was going to be a book from that point of view, I didn't want you to be surprised or if there is someone who is hesitating because they are not looking for a book from that point of view. Anyway, here's a list of the chapters:

1. Dailiness
2. Morning
3. Peace
4. Quiet
5. Simplicity
6. TV
7. Play
8. Secret Places
9. Wants and Needs
10. Stories
11. One On One Time
12. Surrender
13. Breathing
14. Healing
15. Listening
16. Nature
17. Enchantment
18. Grace
19. Rhythm
20. Truth
21. Helping
22. Discipline
23. Stretching
24. Nurturing
25. Sabbath
26. Spirit
27. Balance
28. Choices
29. Wingbeats

The book is 220 pages long. The chapters are short, and so it is a great book for reading during, say, swimming lessons (although we are done for the fall. Lessons don't start up again until the end of January.) or while you are waiting for cookies to cool or something. I'll do a review of a few chapters, but I'd really recommend picking it up, especially if you are a mom of a child/children who are under 12, and if you ever feel like you just need a little more little joyful moments in your life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Daybook for Wednesday, November 18th

I haven't done a daybook post in a LONG time. So here's one, in case you had been missing them. LOL

Outside my window... grey, a little rainy, a little cold. It has been this kind of weather since, uh, April. Slightly warmer at times, but it was the rainiest, coolest summer I ever remember, and it is making the fall seem cooler than usual too.

I am thinking... about the Thanksgiving Feast for Montgomery Academy tomorrow.

I am thankful for... all the memories of Montgomery Academy Thanksgiving Feasts in years past. It is truly one of my favorite parties of the year.

I am wearing... a pink t-shirt, a grey hooded sweatshirt, blue sweatpants, knee socks, and my Born clogs. I am warm and comfortable. Most of the time I wear skirts, but today was a day that I just "needed" to be in sweats. Do you ever have days like that?

I am remembering... Flower's first Thanksgiving. It seems like it was yesterday, but somehow, it has been 10 years ago. I remember that she was wearing a bib that was practically as big as she was (she was 2 months old at her first Thanksgiving.)

I am going... out at some point today to get an black inkjet cartridge and a Xyron lamination refill.

I am reading... Last Girls by Lee Smith. But I'm just about to give up on it. I don't love it. I thought I would like it more - it is about a group of women that reunites four college suitemates on a boat tour of the mighty Mississippi. Thirty-five years before, inspired by reading Twain's Huckleberry Finn in class, the women floated down the same river on a manmade raft; now they are gathered at the request of their recently deceased ringleader's husband. The story unfolds through the eyes of each woman as the old friends weave college memories with their own dramas spanning the three decades since graduation. Kind of like a female Big Chill on a river. But I just don't care about the characters, and it just doesn't seem that well written. I am about 2/3 of the way through it. I did really well this summer in trying to branch out and read more (ok, start to read some again) fiction other than things by Jane Austen and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But I think I'm ready to get back to ready some non-fiction again. Some books on canning, gardening, budgeting, sewing seems like just the thing to read through the late fall and winter.

I am hoping... to get some work done on Christmas presents this weekend.

On my mind... LOL It changes from minute to minute, but usually I'm thinking about what I'm teaching that day, what we are eating that day, and trying to think of ways to get everybody to get along better.

From the learning rooms... Older kids learning lots about Ancient China for History, Nouns for Grammar, Seeds for Botany, Mercury for Astronomy, Venezuela and Connecticut for Geography, Haiku for Poetry, Horizon for Art, and Mozart for Music. The preschool kids are learning about turkeys and Thanksgiving.

Noticing that... I really need to revisit my Daily Chores Lists. I am doing too much, or what is really happening, is that I'm only getting about 2/3 of the chores done because I'm tired and I'm trying to do other people's chores because the children aren't doing them regularly anymore.

Pondering these words... "We must stay strong and immovable in faith, strong and immovable in family, and strong and immovable in relief" by Julie Beck.

From the kitchen... Chicken for lunch, and we will be having leftover ravioli for dinner tonight. I have to put the turkey in for the feast early tomorrow morning. One thing I do love about fall is the yummy, warm, comfort food.

Around the house... things are a little quieter around here this week, but yet, everyone seems to be having a harder time concentrating. Maybe there is something to be said for a little bit of chaos?? LOL

One of my favorite things ... Hot chocolate. Someone made me the best hot chocolate EVER yesterday. Thank you!

From my picture journal...

Not my tree, but mine looks just like it. This is what the Pear Trees looked like here last week. This week, there are still a few leaves hanging on. Most of the leaves on all the other types of trees have already fallen off. The Pear Leaves looked much redder this year than I remember in years past. Maybe because of all the moisture???

Visit Peggy at The Simple Women's Daybook for more daybook entries.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A sign that my children know too much about technology AND the 80s

My current ring tone is "Livin' On A Prayer" by Bon Jovi. (I've been a fan since their first album, WAY back in the day.) My previous ring tone was a recording of my children saying "Mom, pick up the phone. Did you forget to put on the charger again? Mom, did you leave it at home? Mom, PICK UP THE PHONE!" (Which was cute sometimes. Not so much when you forget to turn your phone to silent mode and you are in the middle of church or something.)

My children LOVE songs from the 80s. We occasionally listen to an "oldies" station that plays 80s songs and they sing right along. (It is slightly horrifying to me that songs from the 80s are considered oldies, but I digress.) We have a karaoke game that has songs from the 80s.

So today, Super came up to me and said "Mom, I think you should change your ring tone." I said "Well, I kind of like the Bon Jovi song, but what do you think I should change it too?" (I was a little surprised that he knew the term ring tone and that I could change it. He is 5. He watches very limited TV and nothing with commercials.)

So Super said "I think you should change it to "Don't You Want Me Baby." I'm not sure when he even heard the song. I know that he knows "Wake Me Up Before You Go" and "Eye of the Tiger" but that one, if it came on the radio, I would hope that I would have the sense to change the station.

So sorry, little dude, I'm going to be sticking with "Living On A Prayer" for right now. But I may be switching to "Time After Time" or "Total Eclipse of the Heart." LOL

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Can Sew

I took Clothing 1 and Clothing 2 in Junior High. (It was still Junior High when I went to school, not Middle School.) My mom had been making most of my clothes until I was a teenager, and then I sewed many of my own shirts, and all of my dresses.

And then I went to college. I took my sewing machine the first year, but never used it. I left it at my parents house until I got married. And then I've really only got it out for Halloween costumes and Christmas gifts, ever since then.

I keep saying that I'm going to say that I'm going to start sewing, and then I never really have time to really incorporate it into my day.

And then today, I was reading this blog post. And I thought, now I can do that. And what a great way to use up scaps. So my goal for right now is a Simple one. Do one of these for every holiday. If it goes o.k., I might do one for every month, and a special one for birthdays. But beyond that, I'm not going to have any other sewing goals yet. I may have some in the future, because I CAN sew, and I would like to make more of my families clothing. But now is not that time. Now is the time for teaching, and daily cleaning, and reading, and getting enough sleep. And an occassional quick project.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In the Spirit of trying to get back on the Simple Wagon

I thought I would repost a list of our Daily Routines, from last November, when I was in the height of being ON the wagon.

Now, some of this has had to change. Now that I co-homeschool with my sister, we can no longer do Town Day on Friday. I can't really do chores during the day either because I am teaching preschool from 9 am to Noon, and teaching the homeschoolers from 12:30 pm on to 3 pm.

But the ideas are still very good. I tweaked them to accomodate our situation last year, and I can tweak it to accomodate our situation now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009

Well, Halloween has come and gone. We went to Halloween Farmer's Market, and then we had a thing at the Public Library that we wanted to go to, but it was cold, and Jelly Bean was tired (she has been sick off and on lately) so we went home and took a nap to rest up for Trick or Treating.

Here's some pictures from Farmer's Market:

Happy Aloe - Ween!

Flower looking for something to spend her Boo Bucks on
(she ended up with some beads.) We were all cold.

Definitely cold. Jelly Bean dressed up as a sweet vampire, and Super was uh, Superman.
After this, we went home to rest up for
neighborhood Trick or Treating.

Here we are in yet another set of costumes. Super is crying because I couldn't find the "right" gloves. I made them create costumes that they could layer clothes under (Jelly Bean has about 3 layers under that pinafore) or that involved a coat. At this point, they weren't happy about it, but after they had been out a few minutes, they were glad. (Oh, in case you can't tell, Jelly Bean is Laura Ingalls, Super is a Fire Fighter - same costume from last year, and Flower is a vampire.)
Here is Super afterwards.
I knew that some candy would cheer him up.
It always brings a smile to my face!

We had some macaroni and cheese afterwards to warm up.
After this, Flower and Super helped hand out candy until 8 pm, and all the kids were asleep by 8:30. I stayed up until 10ish, and then to bed because I was feeling really sick. I stayed in bed all day Sunday. I slept for about 18 hours.
Maybe I was just tired because I'm feeling better now.
Happy Halloween! Hope you had a nice day.