December 17 was our last day of school for the semester, though we still have two weeks left in this grading period when we get back and that's a little unfinished feeling. We were scheduled for our final co-op and homeschool group Christmas party, but the public schools were closed, so it was cancelled. That too, feels a bit weird...homeschoolers following the public school schedule. But, we want to keep everyone safe and off the roads when they are icy. In reality, that only stopped the formal meeting of our group. Many of us gathered anyway. An impromptu gathering is always the best! We were happy to see some friends who had been out of town undergoing medical treatment. Our group had made a collaborative quilt for them and we were able to give it to them. It turned out beautifully and was made with so much love.
Over the weekend we continued work on our handmade gifts and went to visit Brice's birthmother and her family in Northern KY. We drove into Cincinnati and took in the magical train display at the Duke building, then back to their house for an evening of fun and fellowship. Of course, Brice was his lively self and entertained the entire bunch. Later in the week, we met his birthfather and his family for dinner and play. I am so thankful for this opportunity to grow our family beyond the traditional. We are so blessed.
Giving this week has focused on getting ready to give to our families over the break. The kids also have taken the time to help each other with chores and games...even when said act of giving was not a part of our advent calendar. I'm hopeful that some of this prescribed generosity will continue into our new year.
On Tuesday, before our final rush to get ready for our holiday trip, we celebrated Winter Solstice and had our friends over for holiday movies and snacks. We are very grateful for our friends here in Georgetown...of all ages. We are hours away from family, but the love of our friends here has helped make it feel like home. We are very lucky.
Last night, I went to my last Nia class of the year. It was work to convince myself that it was ok to stop all the frantic preparations for a couple of hours to myself, but I decided to treat myself. I am so glad I did, as I am every single time I go. The fellowship in that class is so positive and encouraging. The instructor is the most joyful person I have ever met. She has the ability to share that joy with all of us and we leave feeling honored and nurtured.
Last night, someone asked if the kids were getting anxious about Christmas and Santa. I took a moment to really think about it and the answer was, "Yes...and No." We do celebrate St. Nicholas and hang our stockings, but our kids just have never been overwhelmed with the anticipation of Santa. They are bouncing off the walls today because we leave for our trip to see family. We have numerous conversations about whom we will see and when, how long we'll stay and what we got or made everyone...but the kids don't even make a list for Santa. Brice is just becoming aware of the legend and he is super excited each time we see Santa in person or on TV, but if you ask him what Santa (whom he often calls Grandpa) does on Christmas he will tell you all about how he flies through the sky with his reindeer and sleigh, NOT how he brings gifts. I like this so much about my kids. They enjoy their gifts, and the joy of Christmas morning is apparent on their faces, but it's not the focus. I don't have a clue how we did it, as parents, but I am so happy that it's happened. I am so proud of them.
So, we are off to spend time with loved ones and sit by the fire at the farm. We'll be back here in a week or so. To all of you, Happy Holidays...all of them. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (a bit late), Warm Winter Solstice, Sweet St. Lucia Day, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year...and Happy Festivus! May the loving spirit of each fill you with joy.
We have been so busy! Still checking our giving tasks off our lists. We have shopped for siblings, decorated cookies, made candy for Daddy's work, mailed packages, called grandparents, played games with baby brothers, learned to embroider, been snowed in, been iced in, been to see Tangled, had haircuts, battled a stomach virus, read most of Farmer Boy, been to a basketball game, been to a play, cut up wool sweaters to make handmade gifts...and had a few lessons in there, of course...all since Sunday. Tomorrow is ornament making day with friends...then off to visit family on Saturday.
Brice is really excited about Santa this year. He affectionately calls him "Grandpa." Tonight at the play, be talked to the actor playing Santa and told him all that he wanted for Christmas. Later he told us Santa was his best friend. This should be a magical year for him.
So far, it's been the most relaxed holiday ever...no really. We are just taking the time to enjoy all the endless tasks of the season. We are sitting around the dining room table to create, eat, talk, just be together. It's a rhythm that seems to suit us all. Hope we can extend it into the rest of the cold months.
Playing catch-up today. Lots going on for the holidays.
Thursday's Task::Make a video of you reading a book for Brice. Very cute and he loves them. Tried t upload, but the resolution is so high the blog rejects them. Sorry.
Friday's Task::Take a treat to the neighbors. The kids helped make candy this week and delivered some to our neighbors. Not much to report here except they were touched.
Today's Task::Play a game of Brice's choosing. Brice feels a little left out during the week. He is great at entertaining himself and I do a few planned activities with him during the day, but I still have to spend so much time focused on the big kids' lessons that he feels left out. He doesn't say so, but he's developing some habits that suggest such...holding my face in his hands to get attention...wanting to "do math" too. So I thought we'd focus several of our days just on Brice; giving him a little attention without him having to request it. The kids spent a long while playing dinosaurs with him today.
More tomorrow...snow coming...no bread in G'town...we are supposed to get a whole inch before sundown tomorrow!!
Yesterday's Task::Take Vegas for a Walk. We have a sweet dog. She is low maintenance; out once a day, minds well, just likes a nice soft bed with a little ledge on it to lay her head. She's been around just a little longer than Reeves and has adjusted to all the moves and changes with as much grace as an old dog can muster. She doesn't really like to exercise, but she loves going outside. Doesn't go very often though, because she can't bear to be away from her family for long. So, today's task was to take her out for a change of scenery and a stroll with her loved ones. We didn't get around to it until close to dinnertime and we had sign language class afterward, so the big kids volunteered to take her around the block by themselves. They took my cell phone and left the house all bundled up as if on an arctic expedition, instead of a quick stroll. About five minutes into the walk, I get a call asking if they can just walk on over to see Daddy on campus (his office is about two blocks away). After confirming that Daddy was there and able to meet them outside, they were off on their first solo flight. All went well to meet him. They warmed up a bit and then headed home. Then Daddy arrived home and asked were the kids not home yet? I called my cell and Embree answered in panicked voice. They were shoveling through a snow drift looking for my phone (which had been in her pocket all the time, only to be located there when I called). I asked where they were and the answer was, "I have no idea...but I think we can make it home." Great! Then they were off, but she forgot to end the call, so I listened to them recognize land marks and make there way home. She was right, they were able to navigate themselves home without a hitch. It's fun to remember just what constitutes an adventure when we are young. Not much to report on the dog's walk...she was pretty quiet about the whole event.
Today's task::Make a video for your baby brother of you reading one of his favorite books.
Yesterday's Task::Give away two toys. Random...only other instructions were that they couldn't buy anything and the toys had to be something they still played with, at least occasionally. I am a firm believer that it is hardest and most rewarding to give something that is important to you. Sometimes that means putting $1 in the salvation army kettle when you only have $5 to buy milk and bread. Sometimes that means doing something boring for an evening because it it important to someone you love. And sometimes it means giving of a valuable possession just to make that person's day. The big kids had no idea where their toys were going when they deposited them on the dining room table. Both had chosen things that had been very important possessions and were now rarely used, but sentimentally significant. I was proud of their choices. The shock came when I turned to three-year-old baby brother Brice and presented him with his four new toys. These were items that he had been forbidden to touch until this moment...now they were his. There was a fleeting moment of doubt from Reeves, and a longer pause of shock and indignation from Embree, but both quickly conceded when they saw the joy on Brice's face. Both were noticeably moved by his thankfulness.
Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I believe this can be true in positive and negative ways. In the teachable moments of the day, I often tell the children...you get back what you put into the world. So if we choose to put stinginess, prejudice, anger, judgement, and hate into the world that is what we will receive from the world. On the other hand, if we approach others with generosity, acceptance, joy, tolerance, and love, we will reap the rewards. It isn't always easy to give our prized possessions, be they material or emotional, but the outcome is always positive, if no where else but our own hearts.
Yesterday's Task:: Buy and donate food to the Humane Society. One of our goals in this entire process is to help our kids understand that giving is about thinking about the needs and wants of others. It's about thinking what that other living being would want, not about ticking off a task. I knew this would be a no-brainer in the enjoyment department. But sometimes when we are around animals I worry that we view them as objects or possessions. This was, of course, the kids' favorite so far. We were in Lexington with a little unexpected time so decided to head to the facility there. It's huge! Not only did we drop off food, but we gave EACH and EVERY cat and dog in the place a little holiday snuggle. There must have been fifty cats and about a hundred dogs. We were there for quite the afternoon. The take-way here, I think, was that all the animals received some attention, not just the cute ones we'd consider taking home. There was no pining away for a new pet, but a feeling of service and communication.
Today's Task::Give away two of your toys (criteria: something that they still play with, not the broken happy meal toys!)
Remembering Pearl Harbor and Elizabeth Edwards on this December 7.
Yesterday:: The kids were challenged to eat every meal without complaining. Breakfast and lunch were a cinch. Most of us did pretty well with the Veggie Fried Rice for dinner...but veggies seem to push one young man's grumble buttons! He did pretty well considering. At least he was mannerly and grumbled a little more quietly and with no tears. There were even some thank yous after dinner. Nice.
Now, tonight, I hesitantly served pirogies and he ate seven! Guess that's going on the regular menu.
Today's Task:: Buy and deliver food to the Humane Society...Ho! Ho! Ho! Won't be any trouble with this task, I'll bet!
Happy St Nicholas Day! We are enjoying a quiet day at home (well, except Daddy for course, miss you today, Daddy) and using the snowy weather as an excuse to stay home, decorate a bit, and just be. Thought I'd share some interesting items I read this week. Hope all of you have a lovely week.
I am loving these history videos on the YouTude Teacher Page...yes, I said history videos...and loving them! Can't stop singing about the French Revolution...La La Liberte!
Sometimes I am just thrilled and so grateful for the free resources that can be found online. This Nature Detectives Winter Wonderland Pack from Woodland Trust will be so much fun over Christmas Break.
Friday's Task:: Friday we donated food the Amen House. This is regular the "price" that our co-op pays for the privilege of using the church space each Friday. We are supposed to drop donations in the bins when we arrive. This is something I've always just done myself; neglecting to use it as teachable moment. So, I decided to add this to our list in hopes of making it a regular responsibility for the big kids...take unwanted toys, clothes, or buy canned goods to take each week. This time we took a bag of nonperishable food. Next week we'll see what else they choose...and somewhere in our 25 days they will be asked to choose two of their own toys or belongings to donate.
Saturday's Task:: Hug 10 people today. I included this on December 4th because I knew we were scheduled to travel to my grandmother's birthday party in Tennessee and ten hugs would be fairly easy, with just a couple of instances of opening ourselves up to those we don't normally hug. After the snow began and we got news of a flu outbreak among the cousins, we opted to stay home and will visit Granny in a couple of weeks when we travel there for Christmas. So, finding ten people to hug was far more difficult for them. The biggest deal was that they had to concede and hug each other...some thing that is difficult for the two oldest siblings at times. Not a festival of love by any means, but they agreed to help each other reach their goal...so there was some generosity there!
Today's Task:: Eat every meal without complaining (this may prove to be a most difficult task...wish us luck!)
Yesterday:: We bought angel tree gifts. I was a little worried about the boys, I'll be honest. Reeves has difficulty entering a store and not buying something on impulse. He's had to hand over his stash of money on several occasions when he was trying to save up to buy a new ds game or the like, else he'd spend every quarter on gum balls or random, plastic junk. Brice is just at that age where he's just beginning to grasp the concept of gift giving and Santa Clause. I worried that one of them would have trouble on our shopping trip.
Before entering the store we decided on a budget and agreed (in theory) that no one would ask to buy something for themselves. Each child got to choose as many toys as fit their budget. Embree and Reeves both were completely with the program. Both we so sweet and generous and thoughtful about what they chose.
Brice needed a little coaching, but finally got the basic idea when we told him we were buying for friends and not ourselves. He picked out several nice items and happily left the store without something for himself. His adventure came when one of our friends and her mom came to get Embree for a play date. He tried to give away the new toys to his "friends" just as we explained to him. Oops. Didn't quite think that one through, I guess. But today the toys are safely tucked away to be delivered this weekend. I think it all went well.
Today's Task:: Donate canned goods to the Amen House (We will post on this and tomorrow's topic on Sunday as we are off to TN for my grandmother's 105th birthday tomorrow. I am hoping that the kids will have some time to share with the residents at her assisted living home. What a chance to get over some anxieties and give to others!)
Yesterday:: The kids were asked to complete the simple task of making lunch for the family. I had thought an easy task at the beginning would be best. Turns out that cooperation with siblings is more difficult than they (or I) had anticipated. Embree and Reeves chose to make macaroni and cheese. There was much bickering over the interpretation of the recipe, a few panic attacks, and several "quits" by both before lunch was finally served. Luckily, the house didn't burn down and cooperation, albeit hard won, was accomplished. I think that was probably the best lesson of yesterday's task. Perhaps my overall wish for this whole experiment is generosity toward each other. Sometimes that is rare.
Do you use an advent calendar? We have in the past, but it's usually been just a means of counting the days down until Christmas. It's been a way to alleviate the daily "How many days until Christmas?" question. This year is no different in that regard. All of the kids have been asking for a week already. Brice asks everyday if "Grandpa" is coming (that's what he calls Santa).
But this year is different too. This year, instead of just counting the days until we get stuff, we are opening our advent calendar boxes to find a task of giving to others. Others may include family members, friends, or strangers. The kids came up with the list and I distributed them among the boxes. Our plan each day, here, is to reveal the day's task and report on the kids' choices to fulfill the previous task. We'll try to keep up with posts, but I promise we'll keep up with giving.