Sunday, November 30, 2014

Gathering the {November} Moments

The beginning of November was calm-- so peaceful and uneventful that I wondered if we were forgetting something.  Aside from the kids' weekly gym class and regular runs to the library and grocery store, our days never ventured beyond school, laundry, and keeping the bathroom clean.

We celebrated my sister's 21st birthday at a family dinner with soup and sliders.  Nothing boring about that but we had no responsibility beyond showing up.  I didn't even have to stress about a gift because we had purchased something we knew she'd love on sale back in the summer.

The extra hours at home afforded Owen some time in the kitchen.  He made his first batch of boiled cookies, a family recipe, ensuring that the recipe will be carried into the next generation.  He also made a batch of "acorn" cookies, an idea he found in  a cookbook he picked up at the library.

We set aside a chilly weekend to do a bit of trimming, yard clean up, and burning. 

Regardless of its primary purpose, you can't have a fire without marshmallows.  I love my marshmallows charred black.  Consequently, I ate more marshmallows than anyone else because in the kids' effort to get their marshmallows the  perfect light brown shade, they caught many on fire and passed them along to me.

In mid-November, a  virus hit a few of the kids with sniffly noses, sore throats and a cough, but it was nothing a little rest couldn't cure. 

It was a blessing to have a series of unhurried days before the fullness of the holidays arrived at the end of the month.

Then...the busy part of November started.  The weekend before Thanksgiving, we took a whirlwind road trip
(The mama-to-be gave birth three days later.)

That same weekend, we hosted Brian's family's annual Thanksgiving party.

Twenty of us gathered for dessert and lots of conversation. There was not a moment of quiet!

cranberry upside down cake

The thirteen (!) kids divided themselves into separate bedrooms. There was a peaceful room of all girls who talked and danced to the Frozen soundtrack.  And then there was a co-ed room that thumped and jumped and lived it up all evening long! 

an awesome pumpkin spice cake, but sadly I didn't make it so I have recipe to share

Brian was off from work the day before Thanksgiving so we took the day off from school, too.  There was a nasty nor'easter raging outside but we hunkered down inside to play a few games of Monopoly (Brian and the boys), watch The Sound of Music (Maddie and Alaine) and prepare Thanksgiving food (Owen and me).

homemade cranberry sauce

Brian and I surprised the kids with a Peanuts Thanksgiving lunch of popcorn, pretzel sticks, jelly beans, and buttered toast.

Our Thanksgiving weekend was complicated as another round of sickness made its way through our whole family.  We managed to celebrate on Thursday between  the fevers and coughs. We ate dinner with my side of the family on Thursday.

A few of us had the strength to decorate our tree on Friday.

But by Saturday, the weekend went down the tube. This holiday weekend will be one we will remember for years to come...and not in a good way.

I'm linking to my mom's monthly series, Gathering the Moments, where we reflect on the month that has passed.

Thinking About Home

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Weaver's Daughter

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links.}

I read steadily through the books on the Sisters Book Challenge in the early part of the year. And then at the end of summer I stalled.  It wasn't that I didn't want to read the last two books, but I had so many, many more books on my list for the year and I had to make choices.

With November coming to a close and a December often being devoted to pursuits other than reading, I evaluated my reading list and narrowed down the few books that I wanted to finish before year's end.

Weaver's Daughterby Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was an ideal choice for a busy holiday week. I brought it along on our road trip, but between chatting with Brian in van, viewing the sights out the window, and visiting with family for the few short hours we were there, the book never left my purse. 

Instead I started it on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, the same week with a full to-do list that included cooking holiday food (not mention our regular meals plus cooking and freezing the sweet potatoes I purchased on sale), two days of school, errands, moving in a new-to-us piano, and caring for a sick child.

I was able to do it because Weaver's Daughter featured my favorite element that enables me to keep reading on busy weeks: short chapters.  The book was less than 200 pages which would make for a quick read anyway, but the short chapters made it easy to pick up for short snippets at a time. 

I love medical memoirs and medical drama, but while this book focuses on the health concerns of a young girl growing up in the Southwest Territory, the story is gentle and appropriate for its juvenile audience. Lizzie is ten years old and suffers a debilitating respiratory illness each fall.  It gets worse every year until she and her family fear she will not live through another episode. 

Nine books to go!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Last Minute Thanksgiving Crafts

Thanksgiving is only three days away and I'm all for a simple celebration. 

Stress should not have a place in any holiday, especially one that is about giving thanks, accepting and appreciating what the Lord has given us.  Crafts, activities, beautiful decor, new recipes...they all have their place, but if they are causing more worry than joy, forget about them.

I enjoy sharing simple crafts with my children.  Hands-on activities help them hold on to and process their memories.  I take photos as mementos for me so I can feel no guilt (or at least less guilt) when the projects  end up in the trash after the season is over.

Both of these crafts can be done quickly or savored slowly if that's your desire.  They are low mess and easy enough for little ones to do independently without a lot of help. 

Alaine (4) and Ben (6) made candy corn turkeys this morning. I helped them trace the outline of their hands onto construction paper, but  they did the rest.  They added feet, eyes, and a wattle with crayon and glued candy corn onto the fingers for feathers.  It was over and done before either of them had a chance to get bored!

Make sure to use fast-drying craft glue or allow your glue adequate time to dry before picking up the paper.
Our other favorite Thanksgiving craft can involve the whole family. I blogged about making a keepsake family turkey here and here

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Road Trip

The short version of this story is that Brian and I went on a whirlwind one-day road trip.

The long version is a little more complicated, but I'll do my best. 

For the past seven years, my brother and his family have lived far away (anywhere from a 12 hour to an impossibly long 44 hour drive!), but he got a new job this month within four hours of where we live. He was scheduled to move in mid-November.  The tricky part of all that was that my sister-in-law is pregnant and due with their fourth child, also in mid-November. 

The plan was that my dad would fly to their house at the beginning of the week and travel with them to the new destination, driving one of their vehicles and being an extra set of hands over the journey which they broke into several days.  The problem was that once they reached the new place, my dad was stuck in a town four hours from home. 

Brian offered to pick him up as long as I would come along to be the navigator. We haven't seen my brother's family since last Thanksgiving so we were super excited about the adventure. My mom and sisters agreed to stay with our kids for the day so we had a plan.

The day was bright and sunny, but also windy and frigid. We got up early and left flat country to head across the bridge into mountain country.

The drive there was scheduled to take four hours, but with a breakfast/gas stop, a quick bathroom break, and a not-so-quick traffic delay around the city, it took us closer to five hours to arrive.

When we pulled into their driveway it was lunchtime and the movers had finished delivering the boxes so we went out to lunch together at a Chinese buffet, then back to their house for coffee, dessert, and a few hours of visiting.

The kids were a little bored because all of their books and toys were still packed and the DVD player was MIA.  Uncle Brian came to the rescue with Curious George on the PBS Kids app on his phone. 

All too soon, it was time to get in the car to make the return trip.  In the waning light, we snapped a few group photos before we left. 

An accident on the highway caused a delay in our drive home, too, and I don't know if I've ever felt so tired in the car.  What is so exhausting about riding, sitting, and eating all day, anyway? What would have taken four hours took six (though that included a dinner stop and another stop for gas, coffee, and a milkshake for this non-coffee drinker!).

We walked into our house about sixteen hours after leaving it that morning!

The great part is knowing we can visit again.  Next time we'll take the kids and next time we'll stay more than a few hours. 

The trip was a whirlwind, but totally worth the effort. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

{Weekend Links} on Friday

"Things That Fascinate Me" Links

  • I could have written this post.  Actually, I did write something similar last year. I could have written it again last week when I told Gavin that his favorite pair of pants was too short to wear again and one hour later a friend gave us a bag of clothes that contained an identical pair of pants in the next size up!
  • I've been reading through this series with fascination and awe. Brian and I have a history of twins in both of our families and I have an underlying apprehension that this could be me someday.
  • I used this Thanksgiving copywork with my 8-year-old on Wednesday and I've printed more to use in the future. 

"Christmas is Coming!" Links

If you are savoring every last second of this autumn and Thanksgiving season, you may want to skip this specific section of links, but if you are like me and getting all your ducks in a row before Christmas helps you enjoy this season a little better, read on!
Truth in the Tinsel leaderboard 728x90

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Girl and the Bicycle

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links.}

I thumbed through The Girl and the Bicycleby Mark Pett as I selected it from the library basket.  I sighed a little sigh, or maybe groaned a silent groan, when I realized the book had no text.  Does that kind of book intimidate you, too?  I love to share stories with my kids, but I like the stories to already be crafted for me.  I don't want to make up the words as I go along.  It goes hand in hand with my other mama weakness.  I can't play.  I can do puzzles, play games, kiss boo-boos, and tuck covers under chins, but when it comes to play, I have no imagination.

I had an inspiration, though, in my short jaunt from the basket to my chair. Why not let the kids take turns telling the story and interpreting the illustrations from page to page?  Perfect.

So in this way, we discovered this charming tale of a girl who sees a bicycle in the store window and spends her next few seasons planning and earning so that she can make it her own.  Things don't always turn out the way she hopes and those twists brought audible gasps from a few of the kids.  They were that into the story. The ending is worth the whole book!

Other new books we've read  this month:

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