Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!  I'm going to be enjoying the next week with my family, but I'll be back after the first of the year.  Happy New Year!


It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." Doctrine and Covenants 25:12

I am not a singer.  Don't get me wrong, I love music, and I love to sing, but tunes and keys and I are not the best of friends.  My husband assures me it's no longer painful to hear me sing, and that quite often now it's even enjoyable.  This wasn't the case when we were first married, so you can imagine my horror when I discovered that most of his family had gorgeous voices, and loved to sing together.

Shortly before our first Christmas together my horror turned to full on panic, as my husband told me all about one of his family's favorite traditions.  You see, for as long as he can remember on Christmas Eve they would all gather together and make popcorn balls, and take them to the neighbors singing Christmas carols as they delivered them.  What was worse was that he wanted me to join in this tradition with them.  That's right, my sweet husband, who I would do anything for wanted me to put aside my FEAR of singing in public, and go through his parent's neighborhood singing to the neighbors. I honestly couldn't imagine a more horrible and embarrassing experience! 

Unfortunately that year we weren't with his family at Christmas, and the following year I was with them, but I was alone.  Steve was deployed to Iraq, and since my family was on the other side of the country I decided to drive up to Utah so I wouldn't sit in an empty house all through the holidays.  I had intended to spend some quiet time alone while everyone else went caroling, but in my mind I could see the look in his eyes as he told me about this treasured family tradition. I could see him remembering having snowball fights with his brother in between houses, I could see his smile when he talked about the joy of being with his family.  

So that Christmas Eve I joined the rest of the family, and my brother in-law pushed me right to the front because he knew how uncomfortable it made me, and my father in-law grumbled that he didn't like to sing, and our niece and nephew wanted to know when we could go home where it wasn't so cold, and in all of that I saw how much our family wanted to share Christ with others at Christmas.

I saw how my brother in-law wanted to make me laugh and smile even though in my heart I was grieving being a world away from my husband, and wondering if I would ever see him again.  I saw the look of pride in my father in-law's eyes, when he thought no one was looking, as he, our patriarch, listened to his family sing their testimony of the Savior's birth to all of those around them.  I saw my niece and nephew's excitement to get home to hear their grandfather read the story of Christ's birth from Luke 2,which always follows the caroling.

That night my soul delighted in song, our family's souls delighted in song, and our neighbors souls delighted in song, as we sang praises to our Savior, and shared our worship of Him with those around us.  I am so grateful for the beautiful opportunity we have each year to gather as a family and offer up these beautiful prayers to the Savior of the world as we remember His awe inspiring life.  I am grateful for the opportunity to keep Christ in Christmas!

(This is a repost of my post at Someone In Mind.)


Our St. Nicholas Tradition

I mentioned previously that celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, and I wanted to share a little more about that.

Our goal is to keep our family's celebration of Christmas focused on Christ, so we decided to skip Santa.  Instead, we have learned about who St. Nicholas really was.  

I want to say that we read "Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend" by Julie Stiegemeyer last year, but as I was very pregnant and in the process of moving, I can't really remember.  I highly recommend going to your library and checking out some books on this amazing man!  (Kelly, if you're out there, leave us some suggestions in the comments please!!!)  

Because of our reading we decided to create our own family tradition for St. Nicholas day.
Each year on Dec. 5th our children put out their shoes, or stockings, because St. Nicholas put the gifts he left for the children in their shoes, and in the morning the children know their shoes or stockings will be filled with a few chocolates, some nuts, an orange, and  a small homemade gift from mom and dad.
The gift is an ornament for the children that I have made that has something to do with the life of Christ.  This year they got these little cross-stitched trumps that I put into picture frame ornaments from Micheal's.  Steve and I each got an ornament every year from our parents as we were growing up, and it was so wonderful on our first Christmas to see how full the tree was just from those ornaments, so we decided to pass it on to our children.  (I really enjoy giving them to them on the 6th, so we can have them on the tree to look at for the rest of the month.)
Because we were doing the 25 Books of Christmas for the first time this year, I also sewed up these little books I got at Joann's, for each of them.  I think we may start including a Christmas book in their stocking each year so they can have a start on their collection if they want to do something similar with their children. 
St. Nicholas day has become a wonderful tradition in our home!  What are some of your family's favorite traditions?


Homemade Cranberry Sauce

I promised one of my mom's that I would send her my cranberry sauce recipe just after Thanksgiving, and then promptly forgot to.  Oops...  

I thought I would share it here so it's easy to find, and so you can try it for Christmas dinner, if you're interested.  Sorry, I forgot to take a picture, but trust me, it's good!

You'll need:
  • 1 (12 oz) bag of cranberries
  • 1 3/4 cup of apple cider or juice
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 cinnamon sticks broken in half (If they're the Costco size ones, just use one and break it in 4 pieces)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
Put everything in a large saucepan, and bring it to a boil at medium heat.  (It is helpful to tie the cloves in a little piece of cheesecloth, because they are VERY hard to find after the sauce has cooked.)  Simmer until the berries pop and the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.  I usually let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes, but cook it as long as you like to get the thickness you prefer.  Remove the cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaf, and refrigerate the rest of your sauce.



Week In Review: Christmas Books (Part 3)

Well, I managed to confuse myself quite nicely this week, so if you're following along on with my 25 Books of Christmas list, you'll notice things have changed a little.  The master list I had on paper had two days 12's, and it all went down hill from there.  :)  That's one of the joys of homeschooling, things are always changing!

On Monday we read "Santa Mouse" by Michael Brown and made mozzarella cheese.  We got the recipe for the cheese here from my friend Jamie.  (We also followed her recipe for making ricotta the next day.)  To be perfectly honest, I think my mozzarella curds got to hot while they were cooking, because I ended up with a very ugly tough mess of cheese, but it seems to taste just fine, so...  I don't know, we'll have to try it again some time!  Manly really enjoyed rolling it out though!

Tuesday I had every intention of putting up our white stocking so we could record the tender mercies we received from the Lord every day between then and Christmas.  I even hung the stocking, but that's as far as we got on that new tradition.  I forgot to cut paper up to write things on...maybe we'll start it this week, but if not, we'll just try again next year.  Instead after we read "A Visit from St. Nicholas and Santa Mouse Too!" by Clement C. Mouse we made gingerbread houses for Family Home Evening.
This has become a family tradition.  We usually make ours from a precooked kit, but you should check out this family's amazing gingerbread tradition, complete with gingerbread recipe!  We also decorated little gingerbread men.
After all that hard work it was time for a snack, so we ate our little gingerbread men, and drank some hot cocoa.  Manly loved it, because he loves all things mouse, so he just pretended he was the mouse from the story nibbling on his cookie.  :)
Lettie didn't get to decorate a cookie, but Bitsy showed us that's she getting the true meaning of Christmas, but sharing her beloved cookie with her little sister.  It was a pretty precious moment.
On Wednesday we read one of my favorite books, "Humphrey's First Christmas" by Carol Heyer.  At the beginning I'm always laughing about the goofy camel's antics, but by the end, I'm always in tears.  You should definitely read it!  Without giving the story away Humphrey has an attachment to a blanket, that he ends up giving away, so we made fleece blankets to give to a local charity for the homeless that has been collecting blankets.   I cut the strips, but the children have been working really hard to tie them all on their own, and they're pretty excited to give them away!
"A Christmas Dress for Ellen" by Thomas S. Monson was our book for Thursday, and since we were recovering from our little family illness we decided to skip candy making, and make butterfly cookies instead.  Unfortunately there are no pictures, because making them involved lots of mommy involvement, and eating them occurred rapidly.  But you can find my friend Jocelyn's recipe here, and see a picture of these yummy little flakes of sugary buttery yummyness!  (Yup, I made that word up, but they're so good, they deserve their own word.) 

Lettie spent her time kicking back listening to some music on her little radio while the rest of us worked.  :)
 We read a wonderful Christmas counting book on Friday, "The Animals Christmas Eve" by Gale Wiersum.  We were going to practice measurements by making a cake, but instead Manly decided he wanted to play with our Match & Connect Counting Board, so we switched up our plans.  (This is a mommy intensive game, so sorry, but no pictures.)  

Bitsy also had a little tea party for all of us in her room, and she even dressed her dollies herself.  She's quite the little hostess!
On Saturday we skipped the "The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado, but we're going to read it in place of "Snowmen at Night" this week.  We'll read "Snowmen" in January when we do our Winter theme.  Instead, we spent the day together as a family, and finished the last of our Christmas shopping.  Yeah, that's a bunch of food.  Instead of getting Grandma and Grandpa Christmas gifts they didn't need, we went and stocked up on some food that we'll be dropping off to the food pantry for Monday's Family Home Evening.
This will be our last week of Christmas books, and I have to say, I'm really going to miss it.  It's been such a fun way to focus on the Savior, and enjoy being together as a family.


Wise Men Still Seek Him

I you will enjoy these as much as I did, and that they will bless your Christmas celebration.


Forward, Pressing Forward

Last week we read "The Miracle of the Wooden Shoes" by Deborah Pace Rowley as part of our 25 Book of Christmas.  One of my favorite parts of the book is at the end where it suggests that you "share the miracle" by secretly serving others with gifts similar to the ones that were received by the family in the story.  With each gift there is also a recommended scripture to attach to the gift.  

I really love the idea of including a verse of scripture with each gift, and I wonder how radically our own gift giving at Christmas would change if we tried to do the same with every gift we offered.  At the very least, I think we'd probably all be doing a lot better at "likening the scriptures unto ourselves."

As I read the scripture for the fourth and final day of sharing the miracle, I was really touched.

"Wherefore, ye must press forward, with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." 2 Nephi 31:20

There's no mention of a baby in a manger, and yet, this scripture reminded me again what Christmas is about.  I love Luke 2, and reading about the birth of the Savior, because in reading about His birth I am reminded of His life, and of His death. 

I'm reminded that I have to press forward, submitting my will to His, as Christ submitted His will to the Father.  I'm reminded that if I press forward on the path He leads me in, there is a reason for hope, and for that I should offer all of the love in my heart to Him and those around me.  To press forward I have to "feast upon the word of Christ".  I can't just occasionally glance through my scriptures, I need to FEAST on the scriptures, I need to read and study them every day, because without them I will get lost along the way, without them I can't endure.  Without a steadfastness in Christ I can't endure to the end.  I want to endure to endure.  I want to press forward.

I want to receive the greatest blessing that little baby in a manger could ever offer.  I want to have eternal life!

If you would like to learn more about the Book of Mormon, you can read more here.


Week In Review: Christmas Books (Part 2)

Sorry I'm so behind, but I'm slowly trying to catch up on my blogging as I continue to nurse my little ones back to health, and keep reading them their new books.  I can honestly say the Christmas book a day has been a HUGE hit, and the little ones are excited every morning to come out and see what the new book is for the day.

So, now that we're almost half way through this week, here's what we did last week.  :)

On Monday we read "The Miracle of the Wooden Shoes" by Deborah Pace Rowley.  This is one of my favorite Christmas books!  We got it last year, and our entire family fell in love with it.  It's the story of a young boy in Germany who has lost faith in miracles as his family has suffered financially while his father has become more and more ill.  Because the story revolves around the family receiving miraculous gifts that sustain their lives, in conjunction with St. Nicholas Day, we always read the story on Dec. 5th.  (St. Nicholas Day is on the 6th.) 

For our book activity we made bread, and then for Family Home Evening we wrapped up the bread, candles, matches, and a set of scriptures, and anonymously dropped them off at the homes of some families we know.  Let me tell you, the children thought it was GREAT to watch daddy ring the doorbell and run!!!  Attached to each of the items is a scripture included in the back of  the "Wooden Shoes" book. 
 We don't do Santa here, but on the night of the 5th our children put out their stockings, and in the morning they are filled with an orange, some chocolate, and a few handmade gifts from mom and dad.  I'll do another post soon on exactly what we included this year.  :)
 They get pretty excited to open them up, and dig into the orange and candy!
 On Tuesday we read "We Were There" by Eve Bunting.  I really loved this story, about small and seemingly insignificant creatures making their way to the corner of the stable.  It reminded me that no one is unimportant in the eyes of God, and no matter who or where we are we can choose whether or not to make the Savior a priority in our lives.  I know, all that from a children's story book!  :)  For our activity we made candles, to remind us that Christ is the light of the world, and to help light the dark corners so we can see those in need.  Bitsy took this picture of me melting the tissue paper into the candle, and really wanted me to include it, so here's a small step in the process.
 You can find a full tutorial here.  I highly recommend a heat gun, or a larger hair dryer, because all that blowing is really hot after a few minutes!  We made three as Christmas gifts for the grandparents.  (If you're one of the grandparents who hasn't gotten yours, and you're reading this, act surprised when they come!)
We had to run a few errands on Wednesday, so we read "Christmas in the Country" by Cynthia Rylant and Diane Goode but we didn't get to our project until Thursday. 

Thursday was a busy day as we read "Snow Angels" by Angell Randall, and made the recipe for snow angel cookies in the back of the book.  For the life of me though, I couldn't find my angel cookie cutter, so we made trees, gingerbread men, and bears instead.
 By far everyone's favorite part was pouring flour everywhere and playing with the dough and the cookie cutters.  Who needs play dough, when you can just make cookies?!
While we waited for the dough to chill, we worked on our "Christmas in the Country" ornaments.  We did paint swirl ornaments, like these, but  for some reason the paint in some of our ornaments evaporated while they dried.  But, three out of the six turned out okay, and are now hanging on the tree.
 We finished out our week by reading The Donkey's Dream by Barbara Helen Berger, and since the donkey dreamed about carrying a rose on his back, we made tissue paper flowers and hung them in our kitchen to make it more festive.  We made ours with full sheets of tissue paper, like these.
We went to our church Christmas breakfast on Saturday morning, and by the time we did that and got a few errands run, we didn't get to Tomie dePaolo's "The Clown of God".  It is a Five in a Row book, so we have read it before, and it's a great book.

I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas season, and enjoying this time to focus on family and the Savior!


Muffin Tin Taco Salad

I've gone months without a muffin tin meal, and now two weeks in a row!  This week, I have to give a HUGE thank you to Julie over at Teaching "Good" Eaters for my inspiration.  Last week, she linked up this post for a make your own salad, and since we had Taco Salad on the menu that night, I just knew I had to try it.  

So I got out the Christmas muffin cups, and started adding ingredients.  Everyone got their own gingerbread man full of cheese, we shared sour cream, and salsa, and the little ones each got their own lettuce and bean cups.  (Mom and Dad had their own already on their plates.)  Because I ran out of cups, I just put the rice and meat in bowls for everyone.
The children loved it!  They were so surprised and excited (That was Bitsy's actual reaction when she sat down to the table, and I was really glad I had the camera to take the picture!). 
Since my little ones will eat just about anything, this was really just more about having a fun family dinner, but I will say the children are not wild about lettuce, and they did in fact put some on their plates and eat it, which was very exciting!

Check out more Muffin Tin Meals here.


Christmas in the Book of Mormon Blog Hop

I had hoped to have a post about the Book of Mormon and Christmas, but with three sick little ones, and a visit from Grandma for the week, I'm slightly behind on things.  I hope to do it later this week, but until then, please check out what others have linked up!

You should also check out this giveaway over at The Things I Love.  I've had my eye on this book for a while, so I'm excited to see one being given away!


Come Visit!

I'm over at Someone in Mind today, sharing about keeping Christ in Christmas.  Drop by and visit!


Apple Candle Holders

Last Sunday for our daily book activity we made apple candle holders to use for our Advent wreath.  They were easy to make, and really cute.

To make your own you will need: 
  • Apples
  • Christmas Tree Branches
  • Garden clippers
  • Apple Corer
  • Candles
First, you want to gather as many apples as you want to make into candle holders, and your tree branches.  (I asked the guy at the Christmas tree lot if I could have some of the branches he had sawed off of trees he had sold, and he told me to take as many as I wanted.  I love free!)  Then using your trimmers cut off short pieces of the branch and start inserting them around the apple.  Make sure you leave some space around the top to cut the hole.
Make sure you have a good supervisor, who's concerned about everyone's safety around the clippers.  :)
After you've gotten it as covered and full as you like with the branches, use your apple corer to cut a hole in the center of the apple.
Then insert your candle, and you're done!  We only covered the top half of our apples, because we were going to put them in the center of our advent wreath.
Here's our completed wreath.  The juice from the apples does an amazing job of keeping the needles moist, so they stay nice and green.
The little ones were able to help add branches, as long as the stem wasn't to thin.  In the thin ones either I put them in, or we used the clipper to make a little hole in the apple that they could stick the stem in. 

By way of disclaimer, I did NOT make the wreath, I got it at the store, and decided to put the candles in the middle so I could use it for Advent, since it was a little sparse to put on the door.  It's made a beautiful centerpiece on the dinner table though.


Week In Review: Christmas Begins!!!

This week we finished up a few lessons on Thanksgiving before starting into our daily Christmas books.  I LOVE Christmas books, well, okay, I just love books, but Christmas ones just make me so happy I can hardly stand it!

It wasn't all about books though, so here's what happened at our house this week.  

Manly built a "mouse" out of his blocks.  When I asked if he thought the mouse might like some cheese, he shouted, "Oh yes, and I do too!"  He and mousy had a nice little cheese snack, although I hear mousy wasn't very hungry, so Manly helped him finish up.  Waste not, want not, you know!
Based on the vantage point I would say I must have been doing something very important on the computer, like balancing the checkbook, although it's entirely possible I was blogging :), when my children decided to entertain themselves by entertaining Lettie.  They got out one of the big storage containers I just purchased to put outgrown clothes into, and took her for rides, round, and round, and round the house.  They all had a blast, and I had a good laugh while I finished up my work.
Later in the week when we read, "My First Story of the First Christmas" by Deanna Draper Buck we made a clay pot Nativity.  There was fabric from my scrap bag, hot glue, scissors, and singing of Christmas carols.  Does a craft project get any better than that?  We used clay pots and drawer pulls from Michael's to make the bodies, and added fabric to the pots and heads.  I know a lot of people like to paint the pots, but my little ones wanted fabric, so that's what we did.  And, in case anyone's getting panicky, NO, I did not let my children use the glue gun, that would be dangerous, and irresponsible, not to mention that it would kill the Christmas spirit, when we had to travel to the ER.  :)
I had carefully places all of our little Nativity people out to get a picture, but while I got the camera Bitsy rearranged them.  It was a better placement for sure!  We made Mary, Joseph, the three Wise men, an angel, and of course baby Jesus.
This was followed by a "costume" change by Bitsy, she put on an old skirt piece she got out of my scrap bag, and lots of dancing to the Christmas music.
On Friday we read "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg.  As our activity we made our own hot chocolate, from the recipe found here.  (I got the unit as a free promotion two or three years ago, and it's great, but I know that's not helpful if you are looking for a hot chocolate recipe.  Hopefully you can find one on the internet somewhere.  Sorry.)  This made a LOT of hot chocolate...  As in, we could each drink a cup every morning for the next two months, and probably still not run out.  Luckily it's delicious!
Saturday's book was "Grandfather's Christmas Tree" by Thomas Locker, and if you haven't read it, you absolutely should!  It brought tears to my eyes.  Unfortunately the project we worked on is super secret, because it is for some grandparents of some little grandchildren, and the grandparents happen to read my blog.  (Something about wanting to see pictures of their grandchildren, go figure!)  :)  

Since, I can't share our school project, I'll share another project with you.  This is my laundry room floor on "sheets" day.  It usually takes me three loads to wash the sheets for our little family of five. This weekend I was feeling less than enthusiastic about all of that bedding, until I remembered how many times "warm beds" was included in our list of blessings from last month, it really changed my perspective, and made me thankful that I'm able to help provide those warm beds for my family to sleep in.  Gratitude changes everything!                    
Saturday night I had a miserable headache, so I decided to lay down on the couch for a while.  Well, Bitsy came right over and wanted to know what was wrong.  The next thing I knew she had brought out blankets from her room to cover me with, her dolly to help me feel better, and a book so I wouldn't be bored.  (She put the extra pillow over my feet, because she knows how much I hate when my feet are cold.)  Her gentleness, and compassion was so sweet.  That little girl knows what Christmas is all about.
On Sunday we read, "The Forgotten Carols, a Christmas Miracle for Isaac and Eliza" by Michael McClean.  Unlike the original story, the ornaments are placed on a wreath instead of a tree, and since it was the first Sunday of Advent we worked on some apple candle holders for our advent wreath.  I am going to try and put together a tutorial later in the week, but if you're interested in a good article about Advent, check out this one that Erin posted last week, as part of her Finding Christ in Christmas series.
Not all of our activities went exactly as I had planned, but we had a wonderful week of bringing the Spirit of Christmas into our home.  I hope your home is filled with that same spirit in the coming weeks.


Leftover Thanksgiving Muffin Tin Meal

It's been a while since we did a muffin tin meal, and since the little ones were getting tired of plain leftovers I decided to break out the muffin tins. 

We had green cauliflower, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cherry pie, turkey, and cranberry sauce.  It was delicious, the children devoured it, and we were all grateful for a little variety!

See other Muffin Tin Meals here!


Countdown to Christmas

I'm sorry that I'm posting this a few days into the month as well.  I guess I got so excited about decorating and getting everything in order for Christmas, I completely forgot about posting time sensitive activities on the blog.  Again, if it's to late for you for this year, consider it a head start for next year!  :)

As a child I always had an advent calendar that had little doors with chocolate, and I really loved it!  The thing is, I was an only child, so there was no one to fight over the chocolate with.  Since we have three little ones we have decided to take a different path for our Christmas countdown.  I keep hoping to make a cute fabric advent calendar to hang on the wall so we can hide little treats, and have papers with scriptures and service for each day, but I just haven't gotten to it yet.  Maybe next year!  Until then, let me share with you how we are counting down.

Last year I fell in love with the Scripture Ornament tree in the December issue of "The Friend", so I pulled it out and laminated it to use again.  At the top there are 25 questions about Christ's birth, such as "Who told Mary she would have a baby?" and the ornament contains the scripture reference with the answer to the question.  (The answer to the above question is found in Luke 1:26-33.)  The little ones really love listening for the answer, and then daddy quizzes them when he gets home, to see if they remember, which they think is even more fun.  :)  If you are interested in printing it off you will need to download the Scripture Ornament article, as the links to the pictures aren't working in the text file.

One of the other things the children love is the "My First Countdown to Christmas" book by Dr. Mary Manz Simon.  Each day focuses on a different aspect of the Christmas story, with a craft to go with it.  This is our second year using it, and we all enjoy it.

This year, I am also enjoying counting down to Christmas over at my dear friend Theresa and her daughter Jessica's blog, Joyous Notions.  They are sharing a beautiful tutorial every day as well as having a daily giveaway.  I love creating beautiful things for my family all year long, but especially during the holidays, so I have really been enjoying this extra encouragement and inspiration.

I love this magical time of the year, where everything seems a little more beautiful, a little more peaceful, and a whole lot closer to Christ. 


25 Books of Christmas

Each day this month we are going to be reading a different Christmas book, and doing an activity to go along with the story instead of our regular school.  When we first decided to homeschool Steve and I agreed that December our other studies would be put aside, so we could focus more on Christmas, and the birth of our Savior.  This has been a huge blessing in our home!

I realize we are two days into the month, and I'm so sorry I didn't get this post up earlier, but I hope this will still benefit you in some way.  If nothing else, I guess it's an early start for next year!  :)

1. My First Story of the First Christmas by Deanna Draper Buck (Terracotta Nativity)
2. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (Hot Chocolate Mix)
3. Grandfather's Christmas Tree by Thomas Locker (Family History Booklets)
4. The Forgotten Carols: A Christmas Miracle for Isaac and Eliza by Michael McLean (Advent Wreath)
5. The Miracle of the Wooden Shoes by Deborah Pace Rowley (Secret Service)
6.Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant and Diane Goode (Making Christmas Ornaments)
7. We Were There by Eve Bunting (Making Candles)
8. Snow Angels by Angel Randall (Snow Angel Cookies)
9. The Donkey's Dream by Barbara Helen Berger (Tissue Paper Flowers)
10. The Clown of God by Tomie dePaolo (Family Talent Show)
11. The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier (Decorating Wooden Stars)
12. Humphrey's First Christmas by Carol Heyer (Making Blankets)
13. Santa Mouse by Michael Brown (Making Mozzarella Cheese)
14. A Visit from St. Nicholas and Santa Mouse Too! by Clement C. Mouse (Tender Mercies Stocking)
15. A Christmas Dress for Ellen by Thomas S. Monson (Candy Making)
16. The Animals Christmas Eve by Gale Wiersum (King's Cake)
17. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado (Spice Ornaments)
18. One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham (Make Pie and Paper Snowflakes)
19. A Shepherd's Gift by Mary Calhoun (Shepherd's Crook Cookies)
20. Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner (Borax Snowflakes)
21. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck (Secret Service)
22. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (Muffin Tin Meal)
23. The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell (Angel Wings)
24. Christmas Oranges by Linda Bethers (Pomander)
25. Luke 2 (Sing Carols)

I will be posting about our daily activities at the end of the week in my "Week in Review" post, but I wanted to give you a general idea of what type of activities we will be doing with each story.

If you would like to see other book lists, check out Jocelyn's here (she has links at the bottom to her book and craft list from the past two years as well)!  Kendra over at "The Things I Love!" also shares her family's 25 Books tradition, as well as a fabulous Christmas countdown scripture chain as part of her "25 Days of Christmas" series.

Also, Amy Pak, from Homeschool in the Woods has generously allowed me to share a link to a free Christmas Unit Study that our family got a few years ago, and have LOVED!  You can find it in my "Putting Christ in Christmas" post.  It is one of my absolute favorites, and I'm thrilled she has allowed me to share it with you!


Putting Christ in Christmas

About three years ago I got fed up with commercialized Christmas.  There was no Christ in Christmas.  There was Santa, and inordinate amounts of money on things that no one in their right mind really needed.  There were people getting arrested at Black Friday sales.  There was pushing shoving, and a SERIOUS absence of goodwill toward men, and I had had it!  

I am willing to admit at least part of what pushed me over the edge was that for the second time in two years I found myself expecting a child within days of Christmas.  I found myself relating to Mary in a way I could never have imagined.  I wanted my child to be born into a world where people loved and celebrated the Savior of the world.  I wanted peace on earth.  

I knew there wasn't a whole lot I could do about the peace on earth, but I knew that in our home we could make sure the birth and life of the Savior was central to Christmas.  Stepping back from Santa, malls, and the secularization of Christmas was a bit daunting, but the rewards have been AMAZING!!!

So, in case you are interested (and I hope you are) in bringing Christ more into your Christmas I wanted to share a few of my favorite FREE resources!

Christ Centered Christmas is an amazing blog with TONS of ideas!  One that was new to me, that we're thinking about giving a try this year is their Bethlehem dinner.  We do something similar at Easter, so I'm excited to add this to our Christmas celebration.

I recently stumbled across Christ: The Real Gift of Christmas, and I am in love!  They have music, videos, Christmas traditions, and in the Christmas Resources section under families, there are even games and coloring pages for the little ones.  This is a great one stop shop.

Amy Pak, from Homeschool in the Woods, has generously allowed me to share this link for her Christmas Unit study with you. This has everything from penmanship, to science, and math, all focused on Christmas.  We went through several of her hands on projects last year, and had a wonderful time!!!  I can't thank Amy enough for sharing this with all of you.  (We have since purchased her new "History of Holidays" activity-study, and it is just as amazing!  It includes many of the Christmas activities in addition to more than 12 other holidays.  We have really loved it around here.  I only wish my children were older so we could use ALL of her packs.)  :)

Homeschool Freebie of the Day is one of my favorites, year round, but starting this week they are going to be offering some amazing Christmas resources.  Yesterday they had a great link to free classical Christmas music, and later in the week they are going to be offering different Christmas stories.  

Finally, I realize this doesn't really have anything to do with a Christ centered Christmas, but I wanted to share a little Christmas gift I received recently with my fellow military homeschoolers.  "The Old Schoolhouse" is offering a free one year digital subscription to their magazine for all active duty, retired, and reserve military homeschool families!  They are also throwing in a few other things as well, and you can read all about it here

I hope these resources will bless you as they have blessed me, and that we will all have a Christmas filled with Christ.


Tradition! Tradition!

As excited as I get about Fall, it pales in comparison to how excited I get for Christmas.  Unlike the Grinch I love Christmas, the WHOLE Christmas season!!!  

To me the Christmas season begins when the tree goes up, so I try and have it up the weekend after Thanksgiving. 

With three little people under 5 getting the tree up and keeping the Spirit of Christmas can be a feat.  So that our Christmas doesn't begin in a deluge of tears and angry words, mine and the children's, putting up the tree has become a date night tradtition for Steve and I.  On the appointed night we wait for the children to go to bed, turn on some Christmas music, and then get the tree out and up, with the lights on.  (We add the decorations the next day as a family.)  After the lights are on the tree we usually turn out all of the house lights and just sit and look at it.  Ever since I was a child I've just loved sitting in a dark room and looking at the beautiful little lights on a Christmas tree, I find it so peaceful.

After I've soaked in the peace of the beginning of Christmas, we get out our two little children's nativities and place them under the tree for the little ones to find.  One is wooden, and the other is stuffed, and the children love carrying them around and playing with them all season long.  The next morning they usually come running in to tell us there's a Christmas tree, and then they come back out, and play with their nativities while Bitsy plugs in the tree.  (She loves the lights as much as her momma does.)  

Having the nativity there for them right from the start reminds them that Christmas "doesn't come from a box" and is about the birth of our Savior.  It's such a beautiful, spiritual beginning to our season, and that's the greatest gift we can find, under our tree, or otherwise!

(If you're interested in more Christmas ideas, head over to Someone In Mind, where Erin is going to be doing a series on "Finding Christ in Christmas" all through December.  I'm even going to be doing a guest post for her!)


Week In Review : Thanksgiving

This week we spent most of our time in the kitchen getting ready for Thanksgiving, and in the excitement I again found myself cameraless (yes, I know it's not a real word) often.  It's to bad too, because for the first time ever I made my own cherry pie filling, and made pumpkin pie with our very own pumpkins, and without the recipe on the back of the can.  June Cleaver, look out!  

Other than Thanksgiving, my favorite activity of the week would have to be having my little ones helping me make mashed potatoes on Wednesday so we could deliver them to a dinner for homeless families in the community.  I loved the joy in their eyes when they told EVERYONE they met, that they were taking potatoes to people who didn't have any.  Bitsy usually invited the people she talked with to come too, and bring something.  I love that giving heart of hers!

 So, here is what I did get pictures of.  There's nothing of any great "educational" value, but there is amazing family building value, and honestly that's one of the reasons I love homeschool.  Sometimes we can put the formal academics aside, and focus on family building and homemaking!
 Lettie wanted to make sure everyone saw that her bib says, "My family is thankful for me!"  At least I assume that's why she kept standing up in her high chair and waving it around at me. 
 Daddy made me this great bird bath out of a table I didn't want anymore, and what I think is supposed to be a lamp shade.  I fell in love with the colors, and wanted it in the yard, so my sweet husband accommodated me.  Manly helped dig it into the ground, and then decided to float his  beach boat in it to make sure it was safe.  Can you tell how proud he is of himself for coming up with the idea to put his boat in there?
 Apparently Lettie was waving her bib at me to tell me she was hungry, because later when I dropped a piece of sweet potato on the floor she laid down like this to lick it up.  Thank goodness I had just cleaned the floor.  :)
 Bitsy spent a good deal of time mothering her new Nutcracker.  (She doesn't know it yet, but he's going to be the centerpiece of her birthday party in a few weeks.)  I loved watching her wrap him up, and carry him carefully around the house, speaking softly to him.  It's that tender heart again!
Saturday we decorated our Christmas tree, because the children and I just couldn't stand it any longer! Everyone had a responsibility.  Daddy and Steven got the star on.
 Lettie guarded the ornaments.  (I'm not even sure why or how she crawled up there, but it made me giggle to see her.)
 Bitsy supervised.  Okay, the truth is Bitsy wanted to touch every ornament, and decorated most of the tree, but when it came time for the star, she wanted NOTHING to do with it, but had a good time sitting and watching.  Gratefully my dear husband didn't get a picture of me trying to put the star on, and it popping off the top of the tree and across the room.  :)  Good times!
 Finally, Lettie kept a very close eye on the singing and dancing mouse ornament.  I think all of the reading and watching of "The Nutcracker" has made her a little leery of mice.  :)

This week we are going to finish up a few lessons on thankfulness and sharing before we move full scale into Christmas on December 1st.  I'll share more of our Christmas school plans later in the week!  

I hope you and your family had a wonderful week of family time and thankfulness!


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