Finally, a Snow Day

The kids have been waiting since the first of December for that first real snow, a snow that they could actually do something in. The day before Halloween we got a huge snowstorm that knocked out power for four days. And since then…nothing. But last night we finally got a couple of inches and, miraculously, it stayed all day, despite predictions of highs in the 50’s and rain.

So of course, we had to have a snow day.

We did our read-aloud, they did some copywork, then I told them what the deal was. Go out and play now before the rain comes, as long as you agree to finish lessons when you come in.

Cheers all ’round.

Isn’t that the whole point of homeschooling? The absolute, wonderful flexibility of it all?

Honestly, I would have taken the whole day as a snow day except that we’re coming off of quite a long break and I am hoping to have our year wrapped up the end of June. The more we can stay on track now, the better.

But the break in routine was very nice. The kids even went back outside this afternoon. Hopefully they will still be as fond of the snow in March as they were today. Somehow, I don’t think I will be!

It definitely feels like a day to turn the fireplace on, it’s already getting dark here. My son and I are wrapping up our reading in preparation for our bookclub meeting tomorrow. We’ve been reading City of Ember, which I highly recommend for anyone sixish and over. I myself am really enjoying it and looking forward to reading the sequel with him.

In the meantime, I’ve jumped up several times while writing this post to check on a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the oven, and I think they’re finally ready to come out!

So I’ll sign off for now,

Have a wonderful evening, anyone out there reading:)

Making Ornaments

I really, really wanted to make ornaments with the kids today. I’ve been trying this holiday season to slow down, to live in the moment, to keep things simple….and I feel like I’m failing. Maybe it’s just having four kids…maybe it’s that I have a cold and am a little grouchy…maybe it’s because I have a type A personality and just can’t relax…I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking lately that my unease comes from having no routine in place, from the fact that we’re off school this week.

I do better with routine, I have found, and so do the kids. Therefore, I have decided that our vacation routine for the next few days will go like this:

Mornings- do chores, then work on cleaning one room of the house, for just 20 minutes. I like the house to be clean at Christmas, so no compromises here. After the chores are done, I will do a Christmas related activity with whomever is around and interested. And if no one is interested, I will do it by myself! After that, I know my three year old will be anxious to read Christmas books so I’ll sit down for an hour or so with her and read next to the Christmas tree. I love to read Christmas books. Our favorites are over there on the sidebar.

Then we will have lunch.

After lunch, if we aren’t driving around to kids’ activities or appointments (which unfortunately is more often than I’d like, even this week) I will be demanding encouraging everyone to take at least a half hour of quiet time. In their rooms, or reading. I am using this time to read A Christmas Carol, which I read every year. It’s the only Dickens book I’ve ever made it through, because it’s easy and short reading, so don’t think I’m some sort of genius or something because I’m reading Dickens. I need a break, that’s why the quiet time.

If you are asking why I need a break, you obviously don’t have four children, or your children are so perfect you never wish they were elsewhere. In which case, better find another blog to read.

After that, if it’s nice out, we might walk in the woods for a while, as long as it isn’t too cold. We don’t do this nearly often enough and even though the getting ready part is a total bore: Whaddya mean you can’t find your coat? Well, where is it? Look sonny, do you have any idea how much that coat COST??, the walking part always relaxes me. Well, so long as Rose is walking, and not making me carry her. And it isn’t too cold.

And after that I’m going to work on wrapping. I hate wrapping, but it must be done. Listening to Christmas carols makes it slightly more bearable, especially if they are played loud enough to drown out any squabbling children.  The kids can help if they want, or not, I really don’t care as long as they occupy themselves and leave me to it. They all have gifts they are making for aunts and uncles (their idea, not mine) and I stay out of that entirely.

So, anyway, today I wanted to be intentinonal, and I wanted to do something that would make me feel good later..if not during the actual process…because you know, making ornaments with four kids isn’t terribly relaxing, at least in our house! This is my struggle this holiday season, how to give the kids those good memories, while at the same time keeping things simple and preserving my sanity.

And I am reminded after all, that I can’t really give them memories, as though I were handing out party favors or something. They will remember what they remember and I can’t control that.

I just hope they remember making mice out of Hershey kisses and not the way all our paper pulp ornaments fell apart when we took them out of the oven. Where is the darn angel’s wing?? Anyway, because you know I am borderline type A and can’t do anything small, here are the three ornaments we made….

Disclamer: not all of the children made all of these ornaments… there was varying degrees of boredom among the crew and some escapees never got around to making a glitter pinecone. But it’s all good. And they look nice on the tree. Links at the bottom, for the mice and paper decorations.

Christmas Mice

Paper Pulp Ornaments. Our success with these was limited. The simpler shapes (the hearts) came out better than the angel and gingerbread boy who had to be hot-glued back to life.  These also had to bake at least an hour longer than directed.

The pinecones are just painted pinecones, rolled in glitter, with ribbon hot-glued to the top for a hanger. Very simple. Except for trying to clean up the glitter afterward. Good luck with that, I got no tips for you there, you’ll never eradicate it completely. Our table still has glitter on it from last Christmas.

I like to think of it as a well-loved table.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…Christmas?

Well it is inside our home at least! I’ve been checking the weather forecast obsessively regularly, in the hopes that at least a small snowstorm will head our way, but no such luck. It looks like the view out my window will stay…green.

It’s pretty, but it’s not a white Christmas, you know? Those are the start of our Christmas cards hanging in the window. I have another stack I have to put up. I just stretched a ribbon from one side to the other, securing it to the sides of the window frame with pushpins, which are neatly hidden behind the curtains. I will be putting up another ribbon strand along the top of the window, and probably a couple more in the window across the room. Every day when we open our cards, we will just use a clothespin to attach the card to the ribbon. Easy and pretty.

These are the sesame seed cookies (or benne wafers) that we took to our homeschool group’s “holidays around the world get-together”. We were in charge of brining items to represent Kwanzaa. Now I have to admit that I knew nothing about Kwanzaa before this little project- and it is a really wonderful holiday! I am planning on incorporating a few traditions into our celebrations next year. So we brought along the benne wafers, and this Kwanzaa bingo game, along with a printout of Kwanzaa symbols.

In other random news….Grace turned 11 last week! I can’t belive we have an 11 year old. She’s such a great kid- and so very artsy. For her birthday party this past weekend she wanted a Christmas tree cake, so Daddy oblingingly carved one from a 13 x 9 yellow sheet cake. We topped it with green icing (because frosting is too sweet, she says) and mint red and green M & M’s.

We got her a bead ring kit for her birthday which has kept her quite busy. I requested a Christmas ring from her, and she finished it today…

Isn’t it festive?

The Week Ahead

I just cannot believe this is the last week before Christmas! December has flown by. Naturally, my first instinct is to pack this week full with tons of crafts, lots of baking, and a dozen other things….but I know from experience that that will just make for a frazzled mom who can’t wait for Christmas to be over.

Instead, difficult as it may be, I am forcing myself to pick and choose from my list- to decide what is reasonable to accomplish this week while still allowing plenty of time to sit by the fire and read Christmas stories, play a game or two with the kids, and take a walk (or three) in the woods. And maybe, just maybe, a few stolen minutes here and there to just sit and take it all in. Too much rushing is not conducive to getting in the Christmas spirit.

So this week…

We have to make cookies of course. I have committed to making jeweled coconut thumbprints and peanut butter mice cookies.We will also make cut-out sugar cookies Christmas Eve afternoon for ourselves and Santa.

On the solstice,  I plan on making a lemon “sun” coffee cake to celebrate the gradually lengthening days. We will also decorate a tree for the birds on this day, and possibly drive around after sunset to look for Christmas lights.

If there’s time, I’d love to make fudge or some other kind of candy. But only if the mood strikes and there’s time. Fudge can be made after Christmas just as well, I must remind myself.

Of course, we will be playing lots of Christmas carols and wrapping gifts. I have had to relax my standards a ton with the gift wrapping. Now I just let the kids wrap gifts, regardless of their (decidedly severe) lack of skill in this area.  I have decided that a perfectly wrapped gift is just not important to me, as long as it isn’t hanging too much out of the paper. Horrors, I know! But it really simplifies life. I sometimes even write a little note on the tag, specifying which child wrapped the gift. That way, the recipient can’t blame me for the roll-and- a- half of tape my three year old put on it.

 We have to make gingerbread houses. Nothing fancy here, I just picked up a kit at the store. I was lucky enough this year to find a kit with four miniature houses, so everyone can have their own. Gingerbread house decorating has causes many disagreements, to put it mildly, at our house! I am happy to have each child have their own. Or I was, until Grandma showed up today with a single large gingerbread house, bringing our total number to five. Five gingerbread houses to decorate…oh, dear.

We have a few gifts to finish. We are making a memory game for Daddy, and Grace is working on catnip mice for the cat’s Christmas gift.

If there’s time, I have a few crafts I’d like to squeeze in with the kids, but again I am trying to remind myself that simpler is better.

We will watch The Polar Express one night, probably while eating dinner.

And on Christmas Eve we will bake our cut-out sugar cookies, finish up the wrapping, order take-out Chinese, and get the kids to bed early! We have a tradition, after the kids are in bed, of putting on TNT’s A Christmas Story 24 hour marathon while wrapping, setting things up, and drinking eggnog (with just a little peppermint schnapps added).

I am sharing a photo here of our advent candles, including the fourth and final one- which we just lit last night! This is a super easy set-up. Just a shallow wooden tray, four glass votive holders, a few springs of holly leaves bought at Michael’s craft store, and of course, the candles themselves. We did the first three weeks with white candles, the fourth and final week in red.

Poinsettia Cookies

Today’s Advent activity: making poinsettia cookies! For detailed directions go here. I did follow the instructions  pretty much exactly, including buying the sugar cookie dough- a first for me! I much prefer to make cookie dough from scratch and my Yankee frugality was hollering the whole time…but these cookies were so easy. And a breeze to clean up.

First, we mixed the sugar cookie dough with red food coloring (using the mixer made this much easier than combining the food coloring and dough in a resealable bag, as suggested in the recipe). Then we rolled 1- inch balls of the dough in red sugar….

placed the balls on a cookie sheet…

And then used a knife to cut each ball into wedges, being careful not to cut all the way through…

The wedges separate very nicely when baked and they really will look like flowers! Pop the cookies in at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, until just set and lightly browned. Quickly press a large gumdrop in the center of each….

and there you have them! They just need to set up for a minute or two on the baking sheet before you transfer them to a cooling rack. I think they’re just so darn cute.  And of course the kids are anxious to try them out for our dessert tonight. I’ll be sure to let you know how they came out:)

Snowman Bagels

Continuing in my effort to do something festive with the kids each day this Advent….. today we made snowman bagels for our morning snack. This idea was inspired by a recent issue of Family Fun magazine.

We used plain mini bagels for this project, plus baby carrots, sliced black olives , and diced tomatoes. First we spread each toasted bagel half with cream cheese (for “snow”). Then we added personal touches with care…

Each one ended up a little bit different….

I didn’t take a picture of my bagel snowman, but I did make one! And it tasted great! We are already planning to do this project again next year.