Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Tea and Being Thankful

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I've been working through the #shereadstruth study on thanksgiving the last few weeks and it has been good. In years' past, I haven't spend as much time really thinking on what it means to be thankful during the month of November. Of course, you can't help but think about it some - it's everywhere from listing your daily gratitudes on Facebook to hundreds of crafts and ideas on Pinterest to inspire you to list your blessings. I've read Ann Voskamp's book. I have a thankful journal. I'm good on what it means to be thankful and just going through November without a pause to really reflect on it.

Or not.

I've been reminded about so many things that I know about God, but it was time to hear them in fresh ways.
  • God is good all the time. Even when things look unjust from my earthly point of view. Or, ahem, when I act unjustly towards others and need God's abundant grace.
  • Even in our sorrow there can be thanksgiving. When we are struggling we can still acknowledge there is a glory that will one day devour our sorrow and take it from us.
  • When I am in times of searching for answers and/or reminders that God is with me, sometimes I need to non insist on finding the answer. I can rest in the certainty of the one who IS the answer. In the face of situations I can't understand, he is a God that I can fully trust.
  • When I'm in a season that I am ready to be done with, I need to stop looking to the next season of life and imagining it will all be better once I have ________ (fill in the blank with whatever I think will fix the current season). Stop looking ahead and remember to look to Jesus. Sometimes waiting is the season I'm in and endurance is the lesson I'm learning.
My life is far from awful ... so far, it's almost comical when I worry about different things. I am so blessed, but yet I struggle when I feel like our days are uncertain with extra little people in our home through foster care, doctor appointments on the horizon, and a dear friend struggling with a serious medical need. A reminder of what it means to be thankful as a believer was what I needed this year and I'm so very ... thankful. : )

And to share, a recipe. I'm thankful for my friend who shared her recipe for spice tea with me. I remember this recipe from when I was a girl in Pioneer Girls, but I hadn't made it in years. I mixed up a double batch this weekend and just enjoyed my first cup while typing this post. I'm sure another cup will be enjoyed as I tackle Christmas cards and post Thanksgiving laundry and all the other things that will go into this weekend.

Spiced Tea

1 1/4 cup Tang (yes, the powdered orange drink)
2/3 cup instant iced tea with sugar and lemon
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground allspice
(The recipe also calls for 1/4 t. of grated lemon and orange rind, each, but I never add it).

Mix together. Add a heaping spoonful to a mug of hot water and enjoy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Recent Read-Aloud : James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

My favorite part of the day. After lunch read-aloud. #weekinthelife

We recently finished our latest read-aloud, James and the Giant Peach. This was in anticipation of attending the play at our local children's theater and we all declared the book a great success. Our girls had seen the movie of James, but we hadn't read the book yet, so itneeded to be rectified for that reason alone!

James is the story of an orphan who's parents were tragically killed by a rampaging rhinocerous. James was sent to live with his aunts Sponge and Spiker who were less than caring in their treatment of him. One day while out in their garden, James comes upon a strange man who offers him some magic "seeds" made from crocodile tongue. These special seeds, of course, have magical properties, but they have one use so it's IMPERATIVE that James is extremely careful with them. As expected, he drops them in the garden where they are swallowed into the ground, and coincidentally, near a sad peach tree in the yard that doesn't produce fruit.

The next morning, the aunts and James awake and to their amazement there is a giant (and I mean GIANT) peach on the tree. Large enough that the aunts are able to sell tickets for viewing the peach and have quite the productive first day raking in money to curious onlookers. Unfortunately, this prosperity last one day as the aunts reach a tragic end, at the hand of the peach, no less, and James is off on an exciting adventure inside the peach with a motley crew of supersized insects.

Confusing? You'll just have to read the book. : )

Roald Dahl manages to pull all this craziness into a likeable story and tie it up somewhat neatly at the end. I came across the following quote and thought it so appropriately describes James, as well as Dahl's writing style, that I couldn't help but share it:
... there was just something about Roald Dahl books that made everything seem like a dream. The vivid colors, the underlying darkness that sometimes hinted at despair. The ending seemed just a bit too happy to fit the rest of the book, but I wasn't one to complain about a happy ending.

- The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
I actually have very limited experience reading Dahl's works; I think we have only read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox besides this book. His quirky style as well as his poems scattered throughout his stories are worth the read though I wouldn't want a steady diet of his works. Eventually I need something with a little more meat and a little less nonsense. : )

I'll end with one of my favorite conversations in the book between James and the Ladybug, my favorite of the fantastical insects that James travels with:
"I think you're wonderful," James told her. "Can I ask you one special question?"

"Please do."

"Well, is it really true that I can tell how old a Ladybug is by counting her spots?"

"Oh no, that's just a children's story," the Ladybug said. We never change our spots. Some of us, of course, are born with more spots than others, but we never change them. The number of spots that a Ladybug has is simply a way of showing which branch of the family she belongs to. I, for example, as you can see for yourself, am a Nine-Spotted Ladybug. I am very lucky. It is a fine thing to be."

"It is indeed," said James, gazing at the beautiful scarlet shell with the nine black spots on it.

"On the other hand," the Ladybug went on, "some of my less fortunate relatives have no more than two spots atogether on their shells! Can you imagine that? They are called Two-Spotted Ladybugs, and very common and ill-mannered they are, I regret to say. And then, of course, you have the Five-Spotted Ladybugs as well. They are much nicer than the Two-Spotted ones, although I myself find them a trifle too saucy for my taste."

"But they are all of them loved?" said James.

"Yes," the Ladybug answered quietly. "They are all of them loved."

"It seems that almost everyone around here is loved!" said James. "How nice this is!" 
I'll be linking up with Amy's Read Aloud Thursday at the end of the month; it's a great place to find recommendations for books to read with your kids. I'd also recommend the Read Aloud Revivial podcast, one of my favorite finds this year and full of fantastic books to discover as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Continuous Line Art Drawing ::: Owls

I've been trying to make more time for art around here. Last year (or was it the year before?) we had a great system of pulling something out on Fridays after Bible study and doing a project together. My girls are getting old enough now that they do a lot of crafting on their own without assistance - which is great! - but I missed planning out little projects so that we could do something together. Any truthfully, if I didn't plan something, then *I* don't get a chance to sit down and create either!

I found this idea on Meg Deurksen's Whatever blog this summer and loved it. We visited her post first and watched the video she did on how to do a continuous line drawing of an owl. Before I watched that, I would have said, of course I couldn't draw an owl, that would be too hard! But the fact that the continuous line drawing isn't perfect, and you want it to be a little off for interest, helped with that fear.

Continuous line drawing for art Friday today. Idea from @megduerksen blog and seemed appropriate for this last rainy day of October. #weekinthelife

This was my owl that I drew after watching her video. I wish I had though to get photos of the girls' owls before, but I didn't. (N1 and N2 did this craft with me. B started out drawing owls and then moved on to hearts and pictures of her family. : ))

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Progress. #weekinthelife

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The finished product! #weekinthelife

My finished owl. I'm almost wishing I had left him uncolored because he looked super cool in black and white, but I like him colored as well.

Big girls' finished owls. #weekinthelife

N1's is on the left; N2 on the right. Both of these girls even took paper and markers to our last Classical Conversations and for their presentations did a demonstration of how to do a continuous line drawing of an owl. I have an idea percolating for Thanksgiving to do a drawing of a turkey along these lines - wouldn't that be fun to draw and color while watching holiday movies. : )

A fun return to crafting for us and the owl seemed particularly appropriate for a fall project.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Soccer Summary

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Another season of fall soccer is under our belts and this was a good one. We tried a few new things this year - some that were good and some that were amazing growing experiences for our girls.

For the first time, our little girls (who are only 15 months apart in age) played on the same team. We were able to age B (who turned 7 in May) up to play on the same team as N2 (who will be 9 in January). There were a couple reasons that we decided to do this. One, as any parent with multiple kids playing multiple sports on multiple teams knows, there are a lot of games and practices to juggle. Now we were down to one team to keep up with - so much better. Two, B is a good soccer player. Really good. She did great with the team for her age group, but could definitely stand to be challenged a bit more and we though would do well with a more aggressive coach (which N2's coach was).  

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It went great for the first few practices until B had to get out onto the field for the first time. All of a sudden she was out there with girls that were quite a bit bigger than her and it was very intimidating for her. She was overwhelmed. For at least the first three games (maybe 4?) she wouldn't go in at all. She would be fine up until she was standing on the side line and then as she waited for the whistle to blow so she could sub in, she would just crumble. It was heartbreaking to watch. This was the kid that smiled constantly when she played soccer in previous years and to not see her out there enjoying what she loved was hard.

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Her coach was so patient with her. She worked her hard in practice, and soon figured out where B's strength were now that she was playing with the bigger girls / older team. When B played with her own age group, she was a great offensive played and usually one of the top scorers on the team. However, running with the ball all the way down the field (which doubled in size for her this year) and with girls a lot bigger charging at her, was a bit more than she could process.

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It finally just came down to getting her over the hurdle of getting in the game. She was psyching herself out of playing and working herself up when she would sit on the sidelines. It came down to a bribe - a trip to the dollar store if she could get in the game and stay in for ten minutes. I guess that was enough incentive. Her coach put her in at half-time and she ended up playing the entire half without ever stopping. Her grin was back on her face and she didn't let any balls get past her, even with those big 9 year olds running full steam towards her. Her confidence was back and she remembered that she really did know how to play. She finished the final half of her season strong and owning defense for her team. Nothing gets past her!

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It's been such a blessing to watch her overcome this hurdle and fear and realize the she can do hard things. She is my one that has her own struggles in learning in school, but sports has been her thing to shine in. To have that be a struggle for her this fall has been hard to watch, but to see her succeed has been that much more sweet.

PS. And not to leave out the other girl ... N2 had a great, GREAT season as well. She is so consistent out there on the field. She runs and runs and plays steady and constant. She even scored the final goal for her team's season in their last game yesterday which was a super fun way to end her season. So proud of her as well for how she put 110% into this fall season.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Because it's Friday



Because the sun is shining...



Because a girl dusted the family room...



Because the kitchen table was almost completely cleared off...



Because there is only one girl that is sick at the moment as opposed to multiple sicklings...



There were oatmeal-on-the-go bars baked...



And enjoyed ...

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And photographed.

Because that's what mama's do when they get a little stir-crazy after a couple weeks taking care of sick little people and the sun is shining in so beautifully.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

It's a New Month



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I am excited that November is here. Cooler temps. Falling leaves. Hot tea and pumpkin everything. It looks to be a good month.

We have had a good groove going on the last couple of weeks as we were able to have a couple solid weeks of school without interruption. Amazing what that can do for moral and the ever-present checklist of what needs to be accomplished. On the other hand, we have also been fighting several various and sundry bugs that we've been passing around the house. Two of the girls had horrible coughs and congestion last week leaving us with a couple nights of very little sleep for the sickies. We stayed home from CBS last Friday and just rested. I don't think anyone was contagious but they sounded awful. We had one day of all being well on Saturday and squeezed in a soccer game and church bonfire and then we jumped into round two of germs keeping me and the boy home from church on Sunday and CC on Tuesday as well as a sick day today now that two of the girls are down with high fevers and upset tummies. While I'm sad my munchkins have been sick, I can't help but think that God knew we needed our own respite from the busy schedule we've been keeping. We've been staying home from events left and right just to rest and get well and although I'm missing our activities, I can't help but say it's been delightful to just be home. Books have been read. Laundry has been caught up. Movies have been watched. I'll take more of that, please.

However, over the next month, we do have some neat plans for school. For the first time, we are going to dive into the Civil War and learn what we can about it during the month of November. I've been reserved books at the library like crazy, along with a few Amazon purchases and we've got quite a selection of books to pick from over the next 3+ weeks. Lots of picture books (because we all still love picture books in this house) as well as a few age appropriate chapter(ish) books for the girls at their different ages and stages.



Picture books for all of us.



N1's (age 11) pile, to start with. I've not read Freedom Train so we may read that together. If you have any suggestions for great Civil War / age appropriate read alouds I'd love to hear them in the comments!



N2's (age 8 1/2) pile. She has recently discovered the "who was" series and has already read the one that I bought on Harriet Tubman which is why you don't see it in the picture. She had already taken it off to her room. 



B's (age 7) pile. We'll be reading most of these together, and probably with the other girls as well.



The other night at dinner we also made up a list of questions that we want to answer about the Civil War. I had them come up with the list for the most part and we have some good starting off points for our digging in our books. These, our library books, plus some unit study materials on the Civil War from Homeschool Share, and our next few weeks will be full of historical exploration. I'm looking forward to it immensely.