Sunday, November 28, 2010

Children's Book Monday-- Our Christmas Stack

We spend the months of September through November reveling in the joys of autumn.  We decorate with leaves and pine cones and let the scent of pumpkin goodies and pumpkin candles permeate the house.  We go to bed on the fourth Thursday of November thinking of Thanksgiving...and awake to Christmas, for on that day, we decorate our tree and break out the Christmas literature that has rested on the top shelf for eleven months, save for the time some silly child sneaks a beloved favorite into their bed on a sweltering summer day.

Christmas books hold a corner of my heart because of the memories and events surrounding them.  We had a copy of  Claude the Dog: A Christmas Story by Dick Gackenbach on our shelf when I was growing up.  It is a short story with only a few words per page, but it is has the ability to make me teary every time I read it.  It touches me in a way that a book about a dog should not.  My mom still keeps a copy (the same copy?) on her shelf and I read it to my kids each Christmas.  I really need to get one of my own! 

We do have our own copy of The Little Drummer Boy  by Ezra Jack Keats.  In fact, we read it so much that the pages were falling out and we had to order a second one.  My first memories of this treasure are of singing the words to this book when I was a mama of only two children.  Gavin would sit at my side, rubbing my arm, and Maddie would sit on my lap.  Before they even knew all the words, they could sing along, "Pa rum pum pum pum."  They loved it so much I would sing the words to them as I rocked Maddie to sleep at night.  What a joy to sing gentle carols with my children.  Though it is not nearly as beloved, we discovered a copy of Away in a Manger last year with stunning illustrations by Mike Jaroszko.

I didn't discover Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson until I had three children and we didn't add it to our favorites list until last year when I had four children.  Each time I would ask for a book to be brought  to me from our book basket, Owen would bring this one.  One by one, other books were returned to the library while this one hung around week after week, and yet somehow, we never grew tired of listening to and reading the story of the little mouse who discovers the meaning of Christmas in a unique way.  It is cute, but not silly at all!  We also love Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson, though this one is more sweet sentiment and less profound message. 

Thoughts of Mama and Maddie outings to the ballet mingle with The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers, the best re-telling I have read (and which I reviewed in 2008)I think of sharing Silent Night by Will Moses in the floor together while waiting for Gavin's December birthday party to begin, and finishing the last few lines as Grandma walks in the door.  There is Mr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake by Cynthia Rylant and Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble and Toot and Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie and The Christmas Tree Ship by Jeanette Winter (reviewed in 2009)... so many memories woven around so many wonderful Christmas tales.

un-staged perusing of the Christmas basket

Slip back in next Monday for a few Christmas read-aloud suggestions. And join Elise every Monday at her quiet spot for more children's literature suggestions

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Circus Man

What are these children so intently watching?

An impromptu juggling show by their Daddy!  Who knew he had it in him?!

I'm slipping away from here for a few days of cooking and baking and eating and sharing and visiting and shopping and decorating, but I'll be back on Monday with our list of favorite Christmas books!  Have a joyous Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

C is For...


...and Comforting Cuddles, too!


Friday, November 19, 2010

I Mustn't Forget

I lay her in front of me on my bed.  I gather the littlest ones to my sides and quiet them for bed while the older kids play a game in their room.  We sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "This is the Day" and "God is So Good" as I change diapers and offer a last cuddle.  I glance down at my little girl and find her smiling at me with wide abandon.  She enjoys the music and I enjoy her gummy grins, but my heart still tugs within me.  I want to squeeze her to keep her small, but I can't deny her (or myself) the joy of  the growing up. 

I wrap her in the white blanket with purple butterflies.  I tuck her arms down by her sides like I've done since she was born.  This time, she wiggles and squirms until her arms are free and she sleeps with arms flung over her head. Instead of offering comfort, the swaddling feels confining.  She is maturing, but I'm not ready to leave the newborn stage behind.  (Would I ever be ready?)  I want to swaddle her 7 pound baby self just one more day, but the girl before me is pushing 14 on the scale!

Some days consist of too much fussing and more than enough stained outfits and interrupted naps.  There are days when I count minutes until bedtime and I complain of missed sleep.  I bite and mutter and feel regrets and wish for a new day. 

Time is slipping, slipping, slipping by one day at a time.

I don't want to miss the gift of the present while pining for what is done...

...and I don't want to focus on what is coming and wish away today.

Can I be brave enough embrace the now while still remembering the past?  And can I see clearly enough on the hazy days to imprint the memories on my heart? 

I mustn't forget...the way her dark brown hair curls on the top of her head after a bath.
I mustn't she coos a conversation with Maddie.
I mustn't forget...that her siblings vie for the chance to hold her while I fix sandwiches for lunch.
I mustn't forget...the way she falls asleep in my arms as I rock and bounce and cook.  
I mustn't she snuggles into her Moses basket for long, long naps.
I mustn't forget...that she likes Gavin to sing her lullabies and silly songs. 
I mustn't forget...the rolls on her legs.
I mustn't forget...that she whimpers when she is cold.
I mustn't forget...the way she knows when Daddy is home and waits for him to rock her to sleep at night.
I mustn't forget...that she loves her own bed but wants to snuggle with me midway through the night.   

I mustn't forget His grace.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Children's Book Monday

Over the River and Through the Wood 
by Lydia Maria Child
illustrated by Christopher Mason
The dark comes early.  The newly-shortened day inspires us to finish all work during the sunny hours and leave our evenings open to the cozy activities that seem cozier with the curtains pulled tight against the black night with lamps bathing the living room with a yellow glow.  The dishes are dried and stacked in the cabinet and the pumpkin candle flickers from its perch on a high shelf.  We sprawl on the floor (not because it is more comfortable, but so that there is no argument over who sits next to me) and I send someone to the book basket to make our first evening selection.

We have several Thanksgiving books borrowed from the library shelves and we have gathered a few of our own, but nothing has drawn the children as much as this simple book given to them last year by their Papa and Gran.  Perhaps they love it because it is the words of the song sung at the end of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (their current favorite DVD) or perhaps it is sentimental to them because we sing this song every time we drive over a certain bridge that is surrounded by trees.  Perhaps it is just a fun book to listen to as we sing together.  Perhaps the woodcut illustrations are fun to look at because they are so unique and different from the typical colored pictures of many books.  The reason is insignificant really, but it is one book that all five children listen to together and enjoy.  Yes, Alaine nestles in my lap and listens, too.

We read a few more stories, too, and not just Thanksgiving selections.  The clock ticks closer to bedtime. As soon as we finish reading, the chaos of  snacks and teeth brushing and pajamas interrupts our illusion of calm.  Bodies wiggle from exhaustion and mouths wiggle endlessly.  I straighten the books and put them back in their basket home, thankful for books, thankful for silence and hubbub, thankful for family, thankful for memories.


Consider joining Elise at her quiet spot for a new book idea every Monday....and stop a moment to visit Kathi to share your family's special Thanksgiving-themed books.   While you are at it, you can read my mom's list of Thanksgiving recommendations, too. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nature Notebooks

When I mentioned nature books last week, Michelle asked for more information.  There is a good description of a nature notebook at Simply Charlotte Mason, but perhaps our own personal account will inspire!

When asked his favorite school subject ,Gavin never hesitates before saying, "Nature!"  He began keeping a nature notebook when he was five, but I'm sure he would have embraced the idea at age three or four if I had presented it.  (Maddie and Owen were both four when they began theirs.)  The idea is simple and easily adaptable to each child's personality and abilities. 

Each child keeps their own sketch book.  They  generally draw or color what they observe on our weekly nature walks or things they find in the yard, but they also do bark rubbings, tape feathers, paste photos, or write descriptions in their books.  I sometimes suggest things for them to draw (like the nest that fell out of the tree this afternoon), but I generally leave the creativity up to them and allow each book to represent its owner.  It is fun to see them  find ways to record what fascinates them  While Gavin's book has elaborate drawings, Maddie's is filled with flower petals and colorful feathers and Owen has a different leaf on almost every page.   Above all, each book is reflection of the handiwork of God.

Lord, our Lord
How majestic is your name in all the earth.

Psalm 8:1

Note: I am a decidedly inside girl.  Sometimes I  simply cannot convince myself to take the kids out for a walk.  It is too cold.  It is too hot.  It is too breezy. It might rain.  It doesn't take much to keep me in.  On weeks like those, the kids still add to their nature books by drawing something in the yard or even scouring the house for ideas.  Gavin has a wonderful sketch in his book of a branch from last year's Christmas tree!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Month of Thanksgiving

Branch Of Wisdom

It is noisy.  Benjamin falls off the bench because he won't sit his wiggly bottom down and eat.  Owen whines about his veggies while Maddie asks if she can have more peas.  Gavin talks non-stop, despite the chaos.  Somewhere in the (mostly) cheerful dinner hour, we ask for all hearts and mouths to quiet.  We go round the table, from Brian down to the 2-year-old, each of us naming one thing we give thanks for this day.  

Is it the sunshine?  

Is it the rain?

Is it clean drinking water when so many in the world are without?  

Is it Veggie Tales? 

Is it our health?

It is all these and more.

We give thanks because we are thankful.  We give thanks to set an example of gratitude to our children.  We give thanks because God has given so much and because our small offerings of praise pale in comparison to what He has given us.  We give thanks because giving thanks makes us notice more for which we are thankful.   

November will fade into December and we will cease our listing around the table, but we will still carry thanksgiving in our hearts. 

Click here for more Thanksgiving inspiration.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Idea for Autumn

Owen made a pouch of his shirt and tucked in as many leaves as he could find.. Maddie looked for perfect little tiny baby leaves.  Gavin looked for the biggest giant mega leaves possible.  They all searched the ground for reds and oranges and spotted yellows while Benjamin carried his one orange treasure in his fist and gripped my fingers with his other hand.  

They skipped the last few steps to home and dumped their bounty on the dining room table.  They sorted and chatted and admired.  Then one by one, they selected their favorites and  I photocopied a page for each child.  The copies looks so real, we wonder why we cannot reach out and feel the texture of the veins.  

After pasting the pages in their nature books, they tossed the leaves out into the wind..."for other children," they said. 

Doesn't it look real?!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Daybook Entry

For today, November 3 , 2010

Outside my window...Maddie and Owen having a tea party in a carpet of crunchy leaves.

I am thinking... about all the times I've been driving in the van and one of the kids suddenly yells, "Duck!" and how my heart jumps until I realize we are going under an overpass and they are playing a game.

I am thankful for...lunch at my grandmother's house yesterday.  Giving up nap time was worth it to have an afternoon of grilled cheese (hers are the best!) and fellowship and smiles. 

Noticing new routine of getting up before everyone else is leaving me really tired today.

From the learning rooms...We are learning about King Solomon and multiplication and Norman Rockwell and the Oregon Trail.  What variety! 

From the kitchen...I put together a cheesy, gooey, meaty pasta dish this morning with a fussy baby cradled in one arm.  After a clingy baby day, I am looking forward to putting it in the oven and smelling comfort food. 

I am creating...plans for the last seven weeks of school before our Christmas/January break. 

I am where-- and it is lovely!

I am reading...The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall.  Next up is Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The problem is, I can't get the words of that song on the Arthur cartoon out of my head: "And I was Jekyl, Jekyl, Hyde, Dr. Hyde, Hyde, Jekyl..." 

I am hoping...Brian gets off early.  That would mean eating dinner early and then settling in for a quiet (?) evening of family devotions and play. (That would also mean we could get the kids in bed-- or at least in their room-- in time to watch Survivor at 8 o'clock.  There.  I admitted that I am a Survivor fan.)

I am praying...for patience and peace tomorrow.  Somehow, no matter how the week is going, we fall apart on Thursdays-- too many tears and too much frustration.

I am remembering...that this time last year, Benjamin was our baby and Alaine was not even a whisper in our minds. 

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
Sunday afternoon nap

If you would like to type out a few simple thoughts from your own day, consider joining in at The Simple Woman's Daybook

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

B is for...

Birthday candles.

... and celebrating her Birthday with Brownies and Berry Cheesecake, too!


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