Farewell 2011

For the final day in 2011 we all worked hard

The men cut wood –

work day and clarabell

lots of wood – about 3 times this amount…

wood in trailer

We had a few helpers moving the wood (not happy helpers but helpers none the less)

We even had helpers offering cold drinks – cute huh?ag and tea


Grammie got some sticks ready to roast hot dogs while I tried to start the fire…

betsy carving hot dog stick

bonfire start

We needed the fire whisperer though…

fire whisperer

Clarabell stuck around by the men staying in the center of the action –

clarabell the watch dog


Our hens enjoyed looking for bugs and other goodies in the pasture

hens in field

Here is our proud rooster – Louie, he keeps the girls in line and his junior roosters too

louie and guinea

And here is a sweet Red Hen


red hen

Here are my boys getting ready to roast hot dogs

ed by stump


pj and stump

We ended the day with Cheese Fondue for supper, followed by Chocolate Fondue (with pound cake, strawberries, cherries, marshmallows, pineapple and apples).  Fondue is our New Year’s Eve tradition.  We have been doing this for about 4 or 5 years – we love it!

After we cleared the table we rushed out the burning coals from our bonfire to enjoy them while Robert and J went to the far side of the pasture to get the fireworks all ready.  Yes, we indulged in fireworks for the first time!! 

It was a great day to say farewell to a good year.  We are hoping 2012 has many more great things in store for our family! 

Happy New Year to you and yours!

We enjoyed the show, and enjoyed a few other fireworks too!

Christmas Season

We are enjoying our Christmas Season so far!

A trip to the Grinch Who Stole Christmas at the Corsicana Theater (compliments of Guardian) – lots of fun!  The kids had never seen it and it was a surprise, so that was even more fun!!

A school production of The Nutcracker Ballet – with friends made this even more fun too! 

are a few of the “outside” things we have done!

Inside we are reading lots of fun books – one that we are savoring this year is by Ruth Graham Bell : One Wintry Night.

We are making sure to get our Jesse Tree Devotion in each night too – and I cannot say how much I love that devotion!!

Today though will be even more fun that all of those things!

We are all in Pjs!  The fire is warm and toasty!  As soon as my students all finish their math and Spanish we are reading The Polar Express!

Then, we will have a hot chocolate snack and follow it up with the Polar Express movie!  I am excited to have yucky weather to make this even more fun!!  And so thankful to my sweet friend who let me borrow her movie!  (who knew Redbox is not carrying it??)

So, I hope Christmas is in full bloom in your warm and toasty house!

All Decorated

Katie and tree close

This past weekend we followed our tradition of getting the tree up and the house all decorated.  I am not sure what the favorite part is for everyone, but I know the kids can hardly wait to dig into their treasure boxes.

We started a few years ago, getting them each a Modge Podge (plain brown) box from Hobby Lobby.  We started to decorate a couple but never finished, maybe another project for this year!  In each box we store each child’s ornaments.  They love to dig into their own boxes to pull out all their ornaments and put them on the tree.  Somehow they are able to remember where they got many of them – amazes me!


some ornaments

So once the tree goes up, the lights put on, the kids dig into their boxes and start placing ornaments.  This year’s funny line was PJ saying “J remember when we were little and we put all the ornaments on the bottom?”  So long ago….

JB and tree

I will say having a shorter tree allows even my young boys to almost reach the top!  In Mansfield we had 10 foot ceilings, so we always felt like we needed to put up a 9-10 foot tree, I do not mind our new 8 foot ceilings – it may seem like a smaller tree, but I kind of like our 7 foot one!

So Robert went out with a few boys and hung up the lights – even J hung a strand or two!  Good training for his future wife!  It seems arguing about putting up lights stretched far beyond our walls here!

We’ve watched Santa Claus #1, soon to be followed by #2 and #3.  It has been so much fun this year enjoying the excitement of the kids – our daughter runs around, just about all day, telling everyone how excited she is that it is Christmas!

bookcase with my angel

So the stockings are hung by the chimney bookcase with care – in hopes of lots of goodies to soon be there!! (Yes, that is my little elf, always willing to help glue, hang, or pose!! ps – she dressed herself.)


Around the outside of our bookcase are our Advent envelopes.  Yes, I saw the most adorable ideas on Pinterest – if you have all those fancy gadgets – you can make some amazing stuff.  I do not.  But I have a 5 year old who loves glue, scissors and a few markers – voila!!

envelopes closeup

Not something you would see in a decorators magazine, but I love them!!  And AG glued all most all of them – so she loves them too!  The kids cannot wait to break into them – Thursday is day 1 – one for each day with our little activity printed on them.  Simple, but the kids will love it!

I love the traditions that was have really settled on, our kids sure seem to enjoy them too!  Next up, we need to get into the Gospel for Asia catalog and figure out what we are getting this year!  I plan to make some felt ornaments to hang to remind us of our choices!  Just like the chickens we made last year to remind us of the chickens we bought through Gospel for Asia!  I love teaching the kids all about what this season really means!

It’s Here!!

Advent that is!  I think Advent is my favorite part of Christmas!!  The excitement that building in anticipation of the Birth of Jesus!  I know, it can seem silly to get so excited to celebrate someone who was born, oh so long ago.  But I do still get excited!

I love how each day we use Ann’s Jesse Tree Devotion to talk about all the ways God pointed to the cross in the Old Testament, and how he used real people, people like you and me.

The Adventure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions

Today we took out Lisa Whelchel’s book ADVENTure of Christmas and talked about what Advent really is.  Last night we did our first Jesse tree devotion and even managed to light our Advent wreath!!

Advent – means to come.  This season is all about us cleaning out the cobwebs of our hearts and preparing for the celebration of Christ’s arrival. 

Each day we are doing something fun for this season.  Today, Day 1 (but not really since I wanted the days to line up with the days of December, we will call today Day 1 Minus 3) we are reading The Quilt Makers Gift (a family favorite) and having some scones and Black Currant Tea (I could not find Blackberry anywhere, so black currant will have to do).

Hope you are grabbing the beauty of this season, and I hope you are teaching your kids what it is really about – not the Santa at the mall (although that is fun too) not about the fun songs like Jingle Bells (which we are enjoying listening to) but it is really about getting our minds ready to celebrate the birth of our Savoir!!

Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Traditions

I *love* Christmas time! We take time away from our typical studies and we focus on why we celebrate this holiday.

For us, it is really not about the presents, to keep true to this, we limit the number of gifts the kids get to three, from us. We try to find something that they need (this year 2 boys may be getting new comforters), something they want (a toy of some sort: BB gun, Bow & Arrow, games, etc) and the last thing is kind of our choice (this year I think some books). One exception is on Christmas eve they get to open their PJ pants – so, I guess they get 4.

On Sunday after Thanksgiving, we start our Jesse Tree tradition. We have always done something Jesse tree/Advent related, but last year I used Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Devotion, and trust me when I say it is THE BEST out there!! I have many Christmas tradition books, and nothing comes close in spiritual depth and truth!! In order for us to remember each night, because life around here can get crazy, we get a chocolate candy Advent calendar for each child. (Aldi usually sells these – cheap)


Advent Calendar - Nativity Scene (Special Chocolate Series)

The kids do not get their candy until we do our devotion – this is a great accountability system for us!!

This year, I made up an Advent list of all the things I wanted to do : crafts, movies, books, etc. The main reason I made the list was to offer another “advent” activity, the kids will open an envelope each morning to see what the plan for the day is. {Gets them excited too} Then I merged my list with our calendar – for example on Sundays we are just enjoying a favorite Christmas movie or a book. And since Ally is not with us on Fri – Sun, I tried to pick the fun, crafty activities for days she was here. For stuff on the weekend, I tried to make it so Ally could do it with her mom, if they wanted.

The past few years I have been building up a supply of “Godly” Christmas books, so that eventually we will have enough to read one each day of Advent. We are doing the same with Christmas movies. Since we do not watch very much TV anymore with the kids, this season is especially fun to get to watch some extra movies!

One of our favorite traditions is to shop the Gospel for Asia catalog for gifts to give away. Last year we coordinated with Robert’s brother’s family and instead of exchanging gifts with them, we now buy gifts through Gospel for Asia.

The kids do not notice one less gift, it takes one less family off the shopping/making list and it is so good for them to learn about giving away. This year in January we sat down and the kids picked what they wanted to buy this year (2011) and planned to save money all year. The Water Buffalo they picked is $460 and I think we are about ½ way there, so instead, we will pick something else and try again next year. But they were so good to put Birthday money in there, allowance, etc. I was proud of them.

We like to incorporate Handi-Crafts into our holidays as well.  Last year, the boys hand stitched ornaments, wove pot holders, and even made a few leather gifts. This year we will do more hand-made ornaments, and leather products as gifts. The kids love making stuff for family members instead of buying it & we love learning new trades and skills!

This year we are incorporating more RAK (Random Acts of Kindness), in fact put a few on our Advent activity list, but I may do a bit more as Christmas gets closer. I want the kids to understand that most people, even the ones right here, have much less than they realize and that to give away is much better than to receive.

I am not sure how much of this follows along with Charlotte Mason, but I think her gentle style of teaching lines up with our gentle celebration of the birth of our Savoir. We try to incorporate the reason for this celebration each day instead of only on Christmas. We try to take time to share Jesus with others, especially during this time as well.

So, these are the things we have done in the past and continue to do. We love this time of year, lots of handicrafts, lots of reading, great music listening to hymns and Christmas music, lots of tea and hot cocoa while mom reads too. It has taken years to incorporate many of these things. Many books to reference from, here are a few of our favorite Christmas Tradition Books :

ADVENTure of Christmas

The Adventure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas

Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas: Ideas From A-Z   -     
        By: Sharon Jaynes

We love these two books, I usually flip through both of them in November to get my mind working – and start planning our December!