Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Advent countdown to Christmas

Christmas trimmings began to appear in stores before Halloween this year. I was not at all inspired to start decorating that early. I was reminded, however, that I really should start my Christmas shopping in order to avoid the Holiday rush, both in stores, and in the mail/shipping realms.

But as far as this house goes, we don't start thinking about Christmas decorating and celebrating until after Thanksgiving. The season of Advent typically begins the following Sunday after Thanksgiving, and/or December first, and that begins the countdown for us. I refuse to play, and for the most part listen to, any Christmas music before this time also. The day after Thanksgiving though, I play/listen to Christmas tunes as much as I can until the New Year!


For a number of years now, during the Thanksgiving break, the kids have eagerly anticipated making their Advent countdown chains ... it helps them countdown to Christmas Day in a very visual and tangible way. They now know the poem by heart (see picture) and can recite it at any time of the year! It is especially meaningful for us because each night of December we read Christmas & Advent stories, both religious and secular. And we're known to sing a Christmas song for a bedtime lullaby.


So in addition to the countdown chain, another Advent/December/Christmas tradition is pulling out every Christmas movie we own (and borrowing what we don't) and watching them all throughout the month! I always find it perplexing that all the kid/family Christmas movies start at 8pm on TV — on a school night! — when most of the kids they appeal to (like mine) should be in, or heading for, bed. Or are my kids the only ones who go to bed around 8pm on school nights??! Anyway, the best advantage of watching DVD's is NO ADVERTISING, not to mention you can watch them at any {more convenient} time!! We have an {almost} weekly Family Movie Night (especially in the Winter months) around a coffee-table finger-food picnic-feast, when we watch the feature-length movies together.

Thanks to my husband, we have an annual tradition of choosing/cutting a live Christmas tree. This happens after deer hunting season is done with (roughly the first 2 weeks/3 weekends of Dec), so maybe next Sunday afternoon we'll fulfill this if the weather cooperates! Frankly, I'd be happy to buy a faux fir (as that's what I grew up with), but I haven't been able to convince him of it yet, and the kids love the hay ride, and sometimes hot chocolate, at the Christmas Tree farm. And I must say, I love taking the photos of Papa & the kids working together to cut the tree.

Then there is the tree decorating! It's a walk down Memory Lane each year as we rediscover all the ornaments that the kids have made through the years, or special ornaments they were given, or my husband and I were given ... One of our most treasured wedding gifts (a May wedding mind you) was a box full of beautiful Christmas ornaments and a tree skirt - all of which we still have and use!



The kids also like to make & eat soft pretzels (no real tie in to Christmas/Advent, but usually when we find the time to do it) and bake cookies for Mama & Papa Santa, with Yo-Yo's & Choc Chip being {our} favorites. I might add another variety to the mix this year too! Yo-Yo's you might ask??? (also known as Melting Moments) I'll include the recipe and some photos when we make them, but basically they are two shortbread cookies joined with frosting, or some we cut some into shapes and just decorate them with frosting & sprinkles.

Somewhere in the organized chaos of the season, 
we visit Santa for the annual photo op.
Christmas Eve we go to church and soak up the "reason for the season" and all the rich tradition that goes along with celebrating the birth of our Savior, such as singing Silent Night by candlelight. This will be the first year in about 13 years that my husband or I aren't involved in the Christmas Eve services, which normally had us at church for the better part of 5-7 hours in the afternoon and evening. It will be lovely to worship together as a family this year.

And even though Christmas is considered pretty much the most exciting day of the year for our kids, after all the counting, and baking, and eating, and watching, and reading ... they have voluntarily decided (for a second year!) to let Mama & Papa sleep in until 8am, as their gift to us! That is NO. SMALL. GIFT. as it means remaining in their rooms (quietly playing or reading) and not even sneeking a peek at/under the tree downstairs until after we wake up, and read the story of Jesus birth, and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!

So that's how we celebrate. How about you? What are your Christmas or Holiday traditions??



Friday, November 7, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions
Capturing moments... simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember.

{inspired by www.soulmama.com}


I really want some of our chickens to be tame & easily handled, so I can take them into the elementary school (for the kids studying embryology/egg hatching) and maybe even train some as therapy chickens (yes, there is such a thing!)

 I recently discovered an important factor known as "self selection" — that is, the chicks decide if they want to be tame and handled, not me!

I am very excited that five of our September hatchlings appear to be self-selecting ...

Pharoah (left) is usually the first to fly to my arm & greet me.
Fluffy #8 (roo too?) is happy to just sit on my knee for now.


Fluffy #6 (roo) sits on my arm while Pharoah (roo) checks out the view from my shoulder
 ... so much for inviting them to dinner in a couple months.
Midnight and Marigold (pretty sure they're pullets) come for a visit.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Better than therapy!


Our September hatchlings, a.k.a "The Birdie Bunch" are one month old.

When my volcano blows it's top (more frequently than I care to admit) I go and hang out with my peeps ... it's better — and cheaper — than therapy! Their cuteness melts my stress and soothes my soul.

They run for me, or at least for the treats I usually carry with me, and they jostle each other at my feet to get the best bites ... when their crops are full they get social. Four of the eight chicks now come to me voluntarily ... they fly up to the roost bar and then step onto my hand if I hold it out, with the bolder ones taking a flying leap and landing on my shoulder!

Having raised four batches of chicks in the last two years, my observations lead me to believe there are four pullets/gals & four roosters/guys in this lot ... solely based on comb & wattle development. Bigger comb/wattle = roo.

Although it's still a little early, we have named three of the chicks ... Fluffy 1 is Midnight (presumably a pullet), Fluffy 2 is Pharoah (assuming roo), and Fluffy 5 is Fancy Nancy, because [she?] has feathered legs. I think Fluffies 4 & 2 are pullets, and the rest roos, though Fluffy 8 still has me wondering.

Midnight & Pharoah are the friendliest & first to approach me, with 6 & 8 becoming bolder each visit. I am currently doing an online chicken keeping course, and the teacher calls it "self-selection" - where the chickens decide themselves if they want to be personable (rather than being trained or forced.) Fancy Nancy stays as far away as she can, just like her (assumed) mother Betty Faverolles (Flock #3)!

This is the way to spend a time out!! Or a spare 10-20 minutes anytime!




Our September Hatchlings at 2 days old.

Friday, October 24, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions
Capturing moments... simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember.

{inspired by www.soulmama.com}


Fall beauty - a front yard full of Chrysanthemums

Peep #2 : 8 weeks ... (a cockerel/rooster)? Well developed comb & wattles for age.

Peep #3 (another cockerel?) & Peep #1 — pretty sure a pullet — named "Chantilly" ("Tilly" for short) : 8 weeks
Note difference in comb & wattles.

Friday, October 17, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions
Capturing moments... simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember.

{inspired by www.soulmama.com}

I'm going back in time this week ...

Fall Fun 2006

K: 28 months, T: 17 months 



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Treats without the tricks


It is intriguing how many times the kids, at random, talk about how scary the Halloween decorations were at certain houses on their Trick-or-Treat neighborhood routes through the years. There are houses they visited 3, 4, even 5 years ago that they still say they won't go to again because they were too scary. These conversations have become more frequent in the last couple of weeks as folks are once again decorating their front yards/houses for Halloween. Whilst some of the decorations are merely strings of glowing, smiling jack-o-lanterns, many of the decorations are far more morbid.


I've struggled for years with the celebration of Halloween, a significant part of this American culture in which I live. I feel that Halloween traditions & expressions are in conflict with my faith.


However, because it has been celebrated at school (no longer), in our community (Halloween Parade & Trick or treat night), and by all of the kids' friends, I caved to the pressures and established some loose "rules" ... the kids costumes were not allowed to be scary or represent anything "evil" — so they've been PBS children's TV characters, movie characters, Disney characters, a hero, a princess, a robot, a mermaid, a pirate (a very friendly one), a dragon rider, a fairy ... to name a few. And after Trick-or-Treating each year we have always screened the {ridiculous volume of} candy, paring it down to the "purest" & best, giving away the rest. Then we carefully rationed it so it was not all eaten at once. Every Halloween we still have last year's Halloween candy in the cupboard. {sigh}


Recently, I have become increasingly concerned about the volume & ingredients of the candy (sugar or HFCS & artificial everything) that the kids collect during Trick-or-Treat night. My concern stems from being the mother of an ADD child, and observing the behavior that candy consumption causes to said child. In addition, the conversations around the scary decorations are getting deeper and more revealing too. The kids are genuinely disturbed & scared by some of them, and some of the costumed homeowners handing out candy and teens that troll the streets.



So this year I proposed the idea to forego Trick or Treating. The idea was met with some resistance at first, but that lasted maybe ten minutes. I talked with the kids about my concern over the candy, how unhealthy it is, how much they collect, how much we give away (I actually feel guilty about giving candy we won't eat away to others!) and how much of it we don't eat and gets thrown out anyway. So I have promised that instead of going Trick-or-Treating that we would have a fun night out, full of {healthier-but-still-very-yummy} treats, but no tricks. Papa will be teaching on TorT night, so we are all going to a movie together the night after. WIN. WIN.


For the past three years or so, we have marched in our community's Halloween Parade, another Halloween highlight for the kids. Given we are not going Trick or Treating, there is no need for costumes this year. It was our Princesita who put the pieces together and made an awesome suggestion ... "Why don't we watch the parade this year, because we don't get to see it when we are in it!" Brilliant idea!

    



So, it is not a full-on boycott of all things Halloween. We'll just be participating from a different perspective. Wednesday night we'll watch the community Halloween Parade. Thursday night we'll enjoy some Fun & Treats (whilst everyone else Trick or Treats), and Friday we'll catch a family movie. Somewhere in there, we'll carve a friendly Jack-O-Lantern. My faith can compromise with all that for now.





Friday, October 3, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions - capturing moments from the week. 
Simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember. 
Feel free to share [a link to] yours via comment section!

{inspired by www.soulemama.com}


A picnic & a little fishing at a friend's farm...




K caught the biggest catch of the day!

T caught the most fish! At least a dozen!
 
Papa caught the smallest catch of the day, but had some BIG fun!



Friday, September 26, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions - capturing moments from the week. 
Simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember. 
Feel free to share [a link to] yours via comment section!

{inspired by www.soulemama.com}

All stacked up! There are five nest boxes ... but they all lay in one ... and manage to stack them!!!


I love the many colors and sizes I collect each day.
The white "goose egg" center right is a double-yolker laid by one of the white Tetra Tints ... she laid five in a row last week!! The center egg was the first from our Blue Copper Maran ... they are now very smooth & shiny dark brown.

Each double-yolker egg was equivalent to two medium eggs!!