a week in advent

And then a full week of Advent flashed before my eyes.

The highlights were a beautiful wedding by a lake (complete with coffee on tap), a stay at my aunt and uncle’s (also by a beautiful lake), a visit to a new brewery in Deland, a trip back south, an unexpected purchase of a new dishwasher (Did you know they sell them according to decibel levels now?! Too funny. Ours is 51, if you’re curious.), painting the front of our house (Those with four children and small budgets paint in long, drawn-out stages. For now we request that any visitors only look at the house once they are directly in front of it.), and finally, gingerbread houses with the kiddos. It was the first year that I didn’t have to help them at all with the decorating. I got to stay out of the way for most of it, and they got to sneak an ungodly amount of candy as a result. Win-win.

the twelfth of december

Twelve and a half years ago Omar and I went on our first date in Winter Park. First dates are always kind of awkward, and this one was no different. We dressed up and went to a restaurant out of our price range. I remember exactly three things about that first date: it took only 15 minutes for a bad seminary/bible joke to be made, Omar and I had to switch seats so the TV wouldn’t be a distraction, and as we were walking around after dinner I looked down at what I was wearing and realized I had let my mom buy me a dress that was so un-me (unbeknownst to her, at the time I was just so thankful she bought me a dress) and I wore it and felt strange the whole night. There you have it.

Fast forward two years. We were back in Winter Park walking around. Omar suggested we have a seat on a bench. And the next thing I knew we were engaged.

Jump ahead 10+ years. We found ourselves in Winter Park on our way to a wedding. But this time there were no uncomfortable dresses, nervous first date laughter, or nerve-wracking proposals. This time it was two people completely comfortable with each other, with their fourth kiddo along for the ride.

We topped the night off with a dinner at Cask & Larder (which I swear got their name from this site), and Asa now knows about rock shrimp, fancy hams, pork burgers, and beer-fried donuts.

the eleventh of december

Advent activities have been kept to a minimum this year.

But I did promise the boys I would make them Christmas pillowcases. Lenna’s was made last year, and after a bit of discussion, I convinced the older three that Asa does not need one this year.

Yesterday we walked into Joann’s. Now I realize Joann’s is not always the best place for up-to-date fabrics, but they have come a long way in the past few years and I got Lenna some great Christmas fabric last year. So we are standing in front of the Christmas section, and in the blink of an eye, my two boys’ bodies become overtaken by 60 year old women and these are the fabrics that they look at and fall in love with.

What?

I stood there having an internal debate as to whether or not I should practice my manipulation skills and decided against it. Please praise me. I didn’t try (much) to change their minds. They stuck to their guns.

I’m still laughing.

the ninth of december

Tuesday was luncheon day.

And did you know that all ladies luncheons are made better when the 90-something year old hostess comes over to you and your husband and whispers in your ear, “Now would you like me to put Kahlua or Bailey’s in your coffee?”

Best luncheon ever.

the eighth of december

All Mondays should start with cinnamon rolls.
All Mondays should include afternoon walks, book reading, tree trimming, A Christmas Carol watching, or a combo of all four.
All Mondays should end with good conversation and meet-ups with friends.

the sixth of december

Today I learned that there is such a thing as cannoli cake. I love cannoli. I adore good cannoli. I bet I could love cannoli cake. Now I just need a reason to head back and brave the crowds at Costco to buy one.

A few weeks ago I learned that there is such a thing as eggnog pie. I love eggnog. I love the good stuff that is thick but not too sweet with tons of freshly grated nutmeg on top. And bourbon doesn’t hurt it, either. I picked up the Four & Twenty Blackbirds cookbook from the library and quickly decided the egg ‘n’ grogg pie would be the first to try. Holy smokes it is good. It has a gingersnap crust, just enough spice, a smooth and creamy texture, and just enough bourbon to make it pleasantly boozy.

Last week I learned that there is such a thing as cranberry pie with thick pecan crumble. I live in a home of cranberry sauce lovers, so I think this one will be a hit. I actually prefer when only one or two out of the four kids like a dessert I make because then it lasts longer. If none of them go for it, I end up eating too much of it. If all of the kids like it (and remember Asa is now at the eat-anything stage), it lasts for all of five minutes and I don’t get “enough” of it. It’s all about finding the balance.

the fifth of december

One year I will bribe my family with something so they will let me put only white lights on the tree and nothing else. I love the lights. They love the ornaments, and the bigger and gaudier the better. Today I couldn’t hold them off any longer. I think they caught on to my scheme of leaving off the decorations for a few days just to make sure the tree was drinking enough water. That worked for a day or two, but four days was pushing it.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement for the sixth day of Advent, my parents took the oldest boys to a Christmas concert and then let them spend the night. And Lenna? There was a great deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth when she was told she would be staying with us. But then we ordered in pizza, watched a pirate fairy movie, and ate ice cream and all was right with the world.

the fourth of december

Today’s compost bowl made it look like I’d thrown away Thanksgiving along with a little bit of Christmas.

Every Advent for the past few years has found me in throw-away and cleaning mode.

For some people Spring Cleaning is a thing. For me it’s Pre-Christmas Cleaning. Cleaning and purging before we bring yet more stuff into this house.

One Christmas we’ll declare it an all and only Family Experiences Christmas!! Science museum passes, zoo passes, movie tickets, you name it! It will have the double blessing of giving my kids good times and yet there will be no accumulation of stuff. It will be beautiful.

the second of december

This morning the tree lights came on, a boy came out to read beside the tree, and James Boice’s words looked back at me saying, “If the babe of Christmas is God (‘God with us’), then Christmas takes us back to Christ’s pre-existence as the second Person of the Godhead, from all eternity, and forward to His work of salvation on the cross, His resurrection, and beyond.  A theme like that is inexhaustible.”

Well, if you put it that way. A theme like that should make me pull myself out of any kind of funk I’ve been wallowing in and see this season for what it is: something just beautiful. For all of eternity, let alone my mere 34 years, I should not be able to say I’ve exhausted the joy, the excitement, the anticipation, the gift, the goodness that is Christmas.

So my holiday spirits are rising.

And just in case you’d like a little something extra to raise your spirits, just think on a certain boy who’s new found love of Home Alone led him to call out to our other pastor in Sunday school, “Get the hell outta here…”(not positive if he included the “filthy animal” part). You’re welcome.

the first of december

I had high hopes of a little tree this year. A table top tree would’ve been preferable, but my tribe would have revolted. My thoughts and feelings about Christmas are mixed this year. There is a Scrooge somewhere in me that I’m trying to keep at bay. Truth be told, my struggles with this season have increased over the past few years. Last year I tried to chalk it up to being pregnant. But this year I’m not, and I’m still fighting the temptation to be forever overwhelmed with a temper that’s quick. But here we are, right? Here I am with kids who love everything about this time of year. Kids and friends and family who’s excitement is catching. So the lights are up on my not-table top sized tree, Asa found yet another way to be all adorable when the lights were pulled out, and the second day of Advent proves my anticipation for Christmas is being kindled, ever so slowly.

8 month Asa

My littlest boy is 8 months. He is now very curious and seemingly has some sort of paper radar. He loves it. It wears me out. And though his curiosity leads him all around the house, he’s still content to lounge on our lap. (I’m actually typing this with him snuggled up on me. Sigh.) I don’t remember having an 8 month so willing to just hang out on us. His family fan club of five showers him with more attention and kisses than I thought was possible. He’ll eat whatever is on your plate, minus any avocado. He’s crawling and cruising and stood up on his own. Once. And it scared him so he screamed. He’s a delight.

october came and quickly left

October was full of birthdays for seven year olds. Of cider doughnuts to celebrate the season opening of West Palm’s green market. Of children scheming and planning Halloween costumes. Of boys dressed up as Percy Jackson, Draco Malfoy, and a pumpkin. Of a girl dressed up as a fairy. Of afternoons spent in the backyard running and playing. Of gardens growing. Of trips to huge Ikeas. Of ambitious spray painting projects. Of exterior paint samples, after exterior paint samples, after exterior paint samples. Of a baby Asa who is as joyful as they come. Of older brothers who have discovered the fun of the duet. Of pumpkins carved. Of first immigration law classes finished. Of the realization that this might, indeed, be the fastest year there ever was.

oh, television, how often i love you…and hate you, but that’s for a different day.

Some day soon I want to write out what we’ve been doing for school this year. I want the record of it. I want to remember what this stage was like. I like to think I can simply remember on my own…that doesn’t work. I also love to read what others are reading and teaching and learning themselves. So much of what I do with my kids is based on what I’ve learned from others.

But sometimes those lists are overwhelming to others. But don’t we (mostly) know that those lists don’t tell the whole story? I am not one who finishes every book or assignment that goes along with a specific curriculum. I don’t even use much of the curriculum in the way the writers intended.

Today I am ignoring all the books and all the curriculum lists.

Because I am sick.

Because when you’re sick and coughing and feverish and find yourself in the, for the duration of the sickness, unfortunate position of being a homeschool family, the very last thing you want to be doing is teaching and reading to your kids. And still being on the young side, the kids can only complete so many assignments, chores, or piano practice sessions on their own before I need to step in. And while I would love to have hours of independent reading time on sick days, 30 minutes is about all they can take in one sitting. Here is where I declare without shame:

I LOVE TELEVISION!!!

And did you know you can cover almost all the 2nd/3rd grade educational bases with tv shows? YOU CAN!

So here is my current line-up of shows that correspond (somewhat) with what we’re learning. It’s a list that won’t overwhelm you. It’s a list that will make you look forward to that next sick day(s). It’s a list that will demonstrate that we do, indeed, watch television. It’s a list that makes me thankful for television. And finally, it’s a list that will make you and your budget thankful for the internet and local library. I’ve gotten all of these through the library, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Youtube.

History :: Liberty’s Kids and This is America, Charlie Brown and various Nest Learning historical biographies (whatever our library carries)

Geography :: Where On Earth is Carmen Sandiego? and the occasional Rick Steves’ travel show. (It brings back childhood memories.)

Science :: We’ve got options here, especially related to chemistry, which is what we’re focusing on this year. Want to combine home ec with science? Alton Brown’s Good EatsCartoon series? The Magic School Bus. Straight-up science (on the cheesy side) that reminds me of something I would’ve watched in school? Rock N Learn science DVDs. Animal science? Wild Kratts. It’s scary the kinds of things my kids know about animals from this show.

Math :: We’re learning all about money, and Rock N Learn has a money DVD, as does School House Rock.

Bible :: What’s In the Bible? Hands down, the best tv show that explains the bible to kids.

Spanish :: Salsa Spanish language program produced by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

7 year old 2nd

Somehow it’s been 7 years since Asher was born.

He’s an easy birthday kiddo. He requested pancakes, a watch, and Smashburger. Done, done, and done.

Lego are still his toy of choice, but now we just toss him the box and instructions. Before, I used to choose which set we’d get him based on number of pieces, because anything over a 100 or so used to make me hyperventilate. Now, if we each had the same set in front of us, he’d probably beat me to the finished product.

But that wouldn’t be good for our relationship because we both have a competitive streak a mile long, and sad to say, it’s not our best quality. Ha. I’m trying to tame the person inside that lets her 7 year old’s taunts during a game make her want to take him down.

I love this boy. He’s a lover of books and swimming and chess and make believe. And he’s just not that little anymore. Yesterday morning I realized that with the oldest two we are sort of past the “says funny things all the time” stage. I like to think that’s one reason we have one still in that stage and one waiting in the wings because really, who doesn’t love the insane stuff 2-5 year olds say? But then Asher gave me what I like to think of as a parting gift from that stage. Omar and I were talking about Asa and food. Omar casually asked me to help him remember when babies start eating finger foods. Asher quickly piped up with, “Finger foods? You mean like cream puffs?”

Yes, buddy. Like cream puffs. I love you.