Friday, December 28, 2012

William Morris Projects - draft

Last year I ran across a blog called Pancakes and French Fries that was about creating an intentional home.  This sounded just like the thing I needed with 7 people in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1,300 square foot house.  The problem is that I save a lot of stuff.  I have good reason though.  We will always have a next child that will need it.  Well, this past year I started getting rid of things that were no longer going to be needed.  We finally have an end, a last child.  So, good friends from scouts received boxes and boxes of baby clothes, bouncer, swing, exersaucer, etc.  As we started emptying the house and garage in preparation of remodeling we went through many more boxes and really evaluated the need for 15 staplers, 3 hole punches, reams of colored paper, stacks of binders, and more.  Over the years and offices and job we had collected tons of stuff.  Stuff that no longer had a real need in our lives.  So we simplified our current life by getting rid of the clutter and improved the lives of those around us by donating to schools, churches and friends.  My very favorite first grade teacher received 14 bins of my teaching supplies/materials.

Now that we are living in our home, our forever home.  Its time to make those final decisions about stuff and also improve our house.  I am going to aim for one project a week; big or small.  Here is the list to keep me focused.

1. Install new pulls on kitchen cabinets (already have materials)
2. Get window coverings
3. Install bench under window
4. Install plate rack above window
5. Clean out junk drawer

Dining Room
1. Get a dining room table that seats 12
2. Get 12 matching chairs
3. Get a cabinet to display china
4. Hang curtains
5. Empty and reorganize curio cabinet

Living Room
1. Finish the fireplace
2. Hang handprints
3. Hang family pictures
4. Get a sofa table
5. Clean sculpture and bring it inside
6. Sort gaming drawers

Family Room
1. Sort books and send to preschool
2. Get window coverings
3. Clear off Cherry book shelves
4. Organize picture drawers
5. Sort and organize kids workbooks

Laundry Room
1. Sort through bin of receipts
2. Sort through bins of extra new toys
3. Organize extra food storage
4. Need foam rug for folding area
5. Clean out 3 drawers
6. Move construction stuff to garage

C's Room
1. Organize C's room
2. Paint C's room (in all honesty Papa will complete this)
3. Get new door
4. Fix closet door
5. Assemble book case
6. Get baskets for books

E's Room
1. Organize E's room
2. Paint E's room
3. Get window coverings
4. Put twin bed in room

1. Install new pulls on upstairs cabinets (already have materials)
2. Organize hubby's closet
3. Hang shoe storage
4. Hook for robe
5. TP storage solution needed
6. Move construction stuff to garage

1. Make shirt quilt (already have the materials)
2. Make C quilt (already have the materials)
3. Make Gary quilt (already have the materials)
4. Complete blog book for 2010, 2011, 2012
5. Complete Shutterfly book for remodel

Boys' Room
1. Hang Escher prints
2. Get more baskets for books
3. Better small LEGO storage

Boys' Bathroom
1. Finish hanging towel rods in boys' bathroom (already have materials)
2. Install door stop

1. Child proof the door

LA Room
1. Get a new full-size bed
2. Attach mirror to dresser
3. Sort through cabinets above the closet

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Decorations

I really want to live Advent and teach the children that Christmas is about Christ's love, Jesus's birth and charitable giving to all.  Its hard to remember when the lights are so pretty, cookies are so yummy, and the sales are in full swing.  

I remind the children with lots of religion rich Christmas books, an Advent wreath on our table and many nativities.  Each night we eat at the table we talk about the advent wreath and do a simple prayer focusing on the gifts given to use by God and what we can do to help others.

But I can't remember the order of the Advent themes.  I confess, I am not a cradle Catholic.  I converted as a young adult because I felt like I was home.  As a result I was not raised in a Catholic home and the Catholic Traditions are not second nature to me.  I really have to remind myself (and the kids) to focus on Advent and God.

I searched high and low for something that would help me.  For a few years I would literally tape a piece of paper to the wall with the themes on it, but a few weeks into the season it would be torn and lost.  

I decided I needed to make something myself.  

I set off to Michael's to gather my supplies; purple and pink paint, paint brushes, thin wood crafting boards, stick on letters and some pretty ribbon.  I painted 3 of the boards purple and one pink.  Then I affixed the letters onto the board.

Affixing the boards to the ribbon was harder and since I wanted it done quickly (to be used) rather than done right, I simply stapled the wood to the ribbon.  *shrug*  It was quick and dirty.  But now we can use it rather than me having to go back to the store to find specialty glue or adhesive.

Then I scoured the internet.  Literally.  I spent hours searching different websites for prayers, themes, Bible readings, etc.  When I didn't find enough for each week I made up my own simple prayers that the children would be able to understand and reflect upon.  I typed up the prayers in 10 pt font and printed them out and glued them to the back.

The biggest pay off, besides a fully functional reminder to pray through Advent and having something beautiful at my finger tips to assist in that process, was the kids reaction.  "You made that, mom?!?!?
It looks store bought!"  I am glad I could show my kids that they can solve whatever problems are before them and that yes, their mother can be crafty without the assistance of a sewing machine or Shutterfly.  

Because I don't want you to spend hours searching the internet with your eyes bleeding I have posted my readings, Bible verses, and prayers below.  Go forth and thank God this Advent season.
Advent Themes

Week 1  - Hope (purple)

Dear God, Please help us to use the gifts you gave us to help all those around us.

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake!...You do not know when the Master of the house is coming.'"Mark. 13:33 First Sunday of Advent

2 The people walking in darkness    have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness  a light has dawned.  Isaiah 9:2

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul!”  Psalm 25

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.    We are the clay, you are the potter;   we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray,  for we are all your people. Isaiah 64:8-9

Teach us to love the unexpected, Lord, and to answer when you call.

Help us to be cheerful and generous to the poor as St. Nicholas was.

Lord, help us to see all people as our neighbors and to reach out in love.

O Jesus Christ,
Emmanuel, come and dwell with us.
Desire of all nations;
Gift to every generation,
Come, make your home with us.
All nations, everybody,
is waiting for you,
Indians and Eskimos
are waiting for you,
People in New York
are waiting for you.
People in Beijing
are waiting for you.
Jesus, come to us.

Week 2 - Peace

Father in heaven, set our hearts ablaze to follow in the steps of John the  Baptist. May we bring light and love to all we meet, that the darkness of  sin and fear may be overcome. In Christ's name we ask this.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Lord, help us to be the light to those in need

O Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace,
come and save your people.
Joy of every heart,
Strength of those who are poor,
come quickly to help us.
Prince of Peace,
teach the lion and the little lamb,
teach the cat and the mouse,
the the hawk and the tiny bird,
teach everyone who doesn't get along
to live in peace.

When John the Baptizer made his appearance as a preacher in the desert of Judea, this was his then: Reform your lives. The reign of God is at hand!" Mt. 3:1 Second Sunday of Advent

Week 3 - Joy

O Jesus Christ,
Key of David,
come and set your people free.
Open the gates of heaven for us;
come, deliver us from evil.
King David was a mighty king
who built a city long ago.
He left a key
that Jesus found in the manger hay.
Key of David, Jesus Christ,
open heaven's gates for us.

Dear God, Your greatness is all around us.  Help me to open my eyes and see it and be thankful.

Dear God, please fill us with the wisdom and understanding of the Lord’s Joy.

As we draw near to you, Lord God, keep us aware of your presence in all we do. Come with power to enlighten us by your grace, that we may live in praise and peace all our days. We ask this through Christ our Lord

18 But be glad and rejoice forever    in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.  Isaiah 65:18

Blessed are the children who believe in God and do his good works.  

Week 4 - Love

O Jesus Christ, Holy Wisdom,
come and teach us your way;
Word of life, Word made flesh,
come, speak your truth.
Jesus, come and teach me,
how to sing and play,
how to learn new words;
tell me what to say.
Teach me how to be a child,
for you know the way.

The angel Gabriel said to Mary, "Do not fear, Mary, you shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High..." Lk. 1 Fourth Sunday of Advent

Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

Dear Lord, help us to love those around us, even when we are angry.  Your love heals all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is she a Tween yet?

My daughter is a genius.  No, its true.  She has had a rough week; school, reports, soccer, science projects.  We have been letting her slide on chores and I have even "helped" with her homework.  ("helped": aka as staying up until midnight coloring a map and a picture which should not be worth as many points as the actual research and report itself, just saying. . . )  So, on Saturday after all the soccer games I decided to help her clean her room.  We had several instances during the week when she was nearly late because she couldn't find what she needed.  I discovered that she was in such a hurry that things were shoved into the incorrect drawers and she had lots of books, clothes and toys she had outgrown.  Therefore, on a late Saturday afternoon we tackled her room.

I started by shoving everything out of her closet onto the floor.  Then we sorted.  If found dresses 2 sizes too small, tap shoes from when she was 5 years old, 2 Minnie Mouse purses, the list goes on.  I set to work packing up too-small clothing when she burst into tears as I packed away her favorite blue dress (well, all the dresses are her favorite).  She had a break down.  It won't be her last.

"I hate this.  Why do I keep growing?  I love that dress and it doesn't fit anymore.  And why do all the stores make their clothes differently.  Some of my clothes are size 8 and others are size 12.  Why do they do this?!  I want to keep all my clothes.  I don't want to give them away.  Its not fair."

Be honest.  Raise your hand.  How many of you have felt exactly that way?  I have.  For my entire life.  She has discovered it at 9 years old.  I hugged her and I laughed, not at her mind you, in the I-know-exactly-how-you-feel-way.  And I told her so.  I told her she could go up to my room right now and find size 4's and size 10s in my closet and they both fit.  I told her I would buy her new clothes and that I wouldn't throw away her old clothes.  I would save them for her little sister.

She yelled at me for a long time.  Then she told me how her friends had been making fun of her for wearing dresses and skirts.  I let her yell at me.  Sometimes after a long hard day, week, month we need to just yell and cry.  I cleaned her room.  I fed her dinner and gave her a bath.  She was calm.  I hugged her again and told her I understood and I would always be there to listen to her.  We talked about how to deal with the rude girls at school.

I am simply amazed at how grown up she is on a daily basis.  She is dealing with a cranky teacher and crazy reports and homework.  On the soccer field she is regularly kicked or hit by the ball and is covered by mud.  It is up to her to tell the coach or the ref, not me, when she is done and when she can't do it anymore.  Its not my job.  I am not even allowed on the field to comfort her when she is hurt.  She has to wipe her tears and soldier on.

But at night, in the very wee hours of the morning, when I go into her room to make sure she is covered, she lays under her favorite blankets, curled in a ball, holding her doll.  Her doll.  No matter how grown-up or big she is on the field she is still a little girl, a child, deep down inside.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December isn't just about Santa

The Feast of St. Nicholas
December 6, 2012

"God our Father, we pray that through the intercession of St. Nicholas, you will protect our children. Keep them safe from harm and help them grow and become worthy in Your sight. Give them strength to keep their Faith in You; and keep alive their joy in your creation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

You have received wheat (cookies) and gold (candy) just as St. Nicholas delivered to the children In Myra in the 4th century.  

“One day Nicholas heard of a poor father who had three daughters. In order for his daughters to marry, he had to provide them with a dowry. He could not do this because of his poverty. Finally he decided to sell them into slavery and a life of sin. Three times, Nicholas came in the dark of night, and tossed a bag of gold through the windows of the house where the three girls lived. Because of Nicholas' generosity, the three girls were able to marry and were saved from a horrible sinful life.

The characteristic virtues of St. Nicholas were a deep and abiding Faith, a tender charity for all men, and a spirit of mortification and self denial which he is said to have had since childhood. It is especially these virtues which he wants to help us acquire so that we too, will come to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves.

St. Nicholas was a holy Bishop and a reminder to all Catholics, and especially to children, that God desires to give the fruits and merits earned by the death of His Son on the Cross through His Church - and especially through the hands of His bishops - to all men. It was to His Apostles, the first bishops, that Jesus gave the command to go and teach all nations whatsoever I have commanded you; baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

We encourage you to keep the spirit of this feast in a special way, the evening meal should be a festive one. The table can be covered with a beautiful white table cloth to coincide with the white vestments worn today at Mass. Use the best China. The meal should be eaten by candlelight.

As we move into this Advent season remember to do the good deeds of Christ and all the saints; surprise a stranger with a plate of cookies, pay for the person behind you when at a store, help a family who is struggling by lending an ear or giving them refuge.  "let your light shine before men, so that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your heavenly Father." ~~ Jesus Christ

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Snowflake Cookies

"This is like Disneyland at home!" exclaimed Connor yesterday as we made our first batches of Snowflake cookies this Christmas season.

My grandmother made Snowflake cookies, then my mother would make them when my sister and I were little.  We broke more than one wooden spoon trying to stir food coloring into the thick paste-like mixture.

I can easily recite all the ingredients off the top of my head, but I won't give you the recipe unless you are like family to me.  I have never had another cookie quite like my grandmother's recipe and every time I give away cookies as gifts I receive compliments.

We started making Snowflake cookies as a family when Lainy Ann was 9 months old.  She helped by playing with measuring cups and eating mashed up banana.  Each year we have added more children.  Some years the helpers sat in a nearby bouncy cooing.  Other years they have helped with the measuring.  And each year we use more sprinkles than the year before since the toddler seems to think that one cookie needs an entire jar of sprinkles so that the cookie is hidden under a mound of green colored sugar.

My mom loves explaining the steps to the children and the process involved.  Every year we have to tell the kids that no we aren't making pumpkin cookies for Christmas - maybe next year we will make pumpkin cookies for Thanksgiving.

I love talking to my children about my grandmother, my sister and my mother as we cook, create memories, remember love and celebrate family.  Cookie baking is special to them, this recipe in particular.  We save our best cookies for our loved ones to show them how much they mean to us.

I am just so pleased that they love the cookie baking as much as I do.  I love that Connor thinks that cookie baking is like "Disneyland at home".

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent - in progress

I have loved Christmas for as long as I can remember; the pretty lights, the yummy food, baking, music and gifts (aka: shopping).

One of eight Nativities in our home this year

Now that I am a mom I take Christmas even more seriously.  It is an opportunity to teach my children about Jesus, charity, love, and the beliefs and acceptance of everyone.  We have about half a dozen Hanukah books, a few books of how Christmas is celebrated around the world, and nearly 20 books on Christmas.  Each year I have added more traditions to our Christmas celebration.

Week 1 - Hope
Week 2 - Peace
Week 3 - Joy (pink)
Week 4 - Love

Today is December 1st and its time for our official count down to Christmas.

December 1st - get our LEGO Advent Calendars
- make Snowflake cookies (talk about family traditions)

Grandma Kerseg's Snowflake Cookies

Because I have difficulty sticking to a set schedule we will be spending the next 25 days doing these activities (depending on how much time we have on a given day):

  • Tele-Caroling
  • Read Matthew 1-2 to your family.
  • Christmas Cards for soldiers 
  • Make Christmas Cookies
  • Get Christmas Tree
  • Family Movie Night (4)
  • St. Nicholas Day (Set out shoes and surprise someone with a gift/note)
  • Bible Reading John 1
  • Look at Christmas Lights
  • Shop for stockings
  • Toys for Tots
  • Look at old Christmas Pictures
  • Read Christmas book
  • Make fudge
  • Caroling with scouts
  • Christmas Pageant at Preschool  
  • Write Letters to Santa
  • Make Christmas ornaments
  • Surprise Christmas (4)
  • Breakfast for dinner
  • Letter to Christ Child
  • Dinner by candlelight on the longest night of the year Dec 21st
  • Read Luke 1:26-38

All of our activities are stored in this box.

Other great ideas on how to keep Christ and family foremost in this holiday season are here.  

  • Bless your Christmas Tree
  • Visit a barn and reflect on where Baby Jesus was born
  • Light the Night - You’ll need electric candles or a string of white lights. Put lights in the front windows. A candle in a window was a symbol of Christianity, an outward sign of welcome to passersby that Christ resides in the house, as well as a welcome for the coming of Christ at Christmas.

To do activities:

Jesse Tree.
I would really like to incorporate this tradition into our family, but I need to find a good do-it-yourself kit.  The ones I have found are terribly expensive.

Unwrapping a book a day
This is a fun tradition where you wrap up all your Christmas books and place them under the tree.  Each night a child chooses a book to be read together as a family.  Its a nifty idea, but then it literally hides great books from the children for half the month.  I have books on St. Nicholas Day that should really be read at the beginning of the month.

Get more Advent themed decorations:
I have trouble remembering the focus and readings for the Advent season.  I would love a hanging decoration that can be reused that will remind me of the focus for each week.