This blog is about our large family of nine children, as we home school, play, manage daily life, and live the military life, all while trying to give glory to God! It is also to help friends and family far away keep in touch and watch our children grow!
Every year we have a little tree for the kids to decorate with all of their ornaments they make. We've expanded that in recent years to include decorating our school room. The kids make all of the decorations, and yesterday we spent the day making them!
The night before Miss E and I spent some time together getting everything ready. We cut red and green strips for making chains, white squares for making snowflakes, and yellow stars to color (to top the tree with).
We had some great snowflake cutters!
Most of the kids really got into making the chains. I had to cut more strips for them so that they could make chains for their rooms too!
*Coloring the stars was just not such a hit compared to scissors and tape!
Hmmm, I'll have to remember that a pair of scissors and some pretty paper can keep this girl busy for a LONG time!
Miss C isn't too into crafts yet, so when she was done watching she enjoyed some blanket time.
The big kids took turns stringing some popcorn for their tree during nap time. Mr S and Miss J each gave it a try later, but with limited success. ;)
We did most of our Christmas decorating on Saturday. Rob and the boys started with the outside. Over the last ten years or so we have not regularly done much more than put a wreath out, but last year that changed. We realized that putting lights up would mean a lot to the heart of one of our children (of course they all enjoy the lights though). We decided that this was something that we needed to make happen. It is still very simple, but colorful (the kids picked out the lights!) and we love the wood Nativity that Rob's dad made for us (Rob did such a nice job of staining it!).
Most of our decor in the living room consists of the Christmas tree, stockings and a some toys/books, but not much more. It is tempting to make my home look like a Christmas wonderland, but we need to live here (all that stuff and all these kids would spell disaster in one form or another) and I want to be a good steward of what God has given us. Spending the time, energy, storage space, and money just does not make sense for our family.
I love seeing the kids discover their ornaments from years past, and how they choose to put them on the tree. Some are getting to be a bit more thoughtful about where they place their ornaments, but I love to see those lower branches weighed down by the many ornaments the little ones place on that ONE branch they chose to place all of theirs on.
My tree may not look "magazine perfect" but to me the "perfection" comes in the joy our family shares as we decorate for Jesus' birthday, and to see the pride in my children's eyes as they admire the tree that they helped decorate (moving the ornaments around after they went to bed would make them so sad). *Miss J is especially proud of the good job she did. She loves to sit right next to the tree and admire it.
*Right now (Monday November 29, 2010) Tell Your Time is on sale for 50% off, just enter the coupon code MONDAYBLACK when you check out!
Time management is something many of us struggle with, if not regularly than at least through seasons. This past year has been a season of extra struggling in the time management area for me. Our daily management of the home seems to have taken over the majority of our days, leaving the important daily things on the sidelines.
This has not been all bad. Recognizing that something was not working has lead us to search for God's will and direction for our family. To think about what is important, and what is not. I've found a couple of resources recently that are helping me narrow down and fine tune our priorities.
Tell Your Time is one of them. I'm really enjoying going through this short e-book on time management. The book is only 29 pages long (ya know, when you are looking for a book on time management chances are that you don't have a whole lot of time to spend reading it!). I'm enjoying the simple exercises that Amy Lynn takes you through in her book to help me prioritize and figure out where I really want/need to be spending my time!
I'll post more on it later, how it is working out for me, and some of the other books I'm enjoying right now.
We decorated the tree today. Miss J is almost three, this is a fun year for Christmas. It is the first year that they remember how it all works and are so excited for it all, and yet it is all still so new! I loved watching her and her excitement. We all had fun today pulling out the decorations and getting the house ready for Christmas.
We each got a new ornament for the tree this year. Rob and I made them. This summer we had gone to the Scottish Games, and got to meet the Queen! She gave us each a favor. It was such a fun day, and a special memory; we wanted to do something special with the favors. We settled with the idea of making everyone an ornament out of their favor.
These were so simple to make, we just printed up pictures to go into little plastic magnetic frames (they don't need to be magnetic, that was just what we were able to find), grabbed some ribbon and a glue gun and that was it! I love how they turned out, and the kids did too!
Ah, traditions! They give us comfort, build memories, and help us pass down our family values and beliefs. They SHOULD help our families grow stronger in the vision and faith God has given through our husbands and fathers.
However so often we just continue these "traditions" without
evaluating them; sometimes we even dread following through with a tradition (sometimes even knowing full well that the rest of the family is dreading it as well), but going through with it every year. We need to stop and evaluate each of these traditions, with the help of our husbands. This time of celebrating the birth of our Savior should not be one filled with stress and anxiety, but one of peace, joy, love and laughter; giving glory to HIM!
About three years ago we were expecting a baby (Miss J) soon after Christmas. We knew we needed to scale down Christmas so that I (and the rest of the family) would not be burned out and exhausted just in time for a new baby. This caused us to really look at what we wanted to do with our time. We had to say "no" both to ourselves and to others. We cut back on some of the "traditional" things we did and enjoyed a slower paced holiday season.
We've learned from that season and continue to evaluate each activity ahead of time (if possible) and as they come up. It helped us last year when Miss C was still a newborn (about 6 weeks) for her first Christmas, as I recovered from the birth, and we adjusted to another bundle of joy. It also allows us to follow where God leads and not be in bondage to the plans of our hearts.
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9
We've been working on clarifying the goals and direction of our family. We're trying to get a better vision of where God is leading us, and how we can best "glorify and enjoy Him." We have continually seen the need to learn to be content and focus not on the things of the world but on what God's Word says is important. In an effort to journal the simplifying part of this (and get some accountability too ;)) I'm going to start a series of blog posts on "Keeping (or getting) it simple". I hope it will also be an encouragement to others. I'd also love to hear what you are doing in these areas or your ideas.
I'm going to start with posts on how we keep Christmas simple including traditions, Homeschooling through the holidays, Decor, cooking/baking, and gifts. These are things we do that help us enjoy the season as a family and keep the focus on why we are celebrating Christmas.
I'm going to link this post to Raising Olives, another blogger I enjoy who is part of the "4 moms, 35 kids" group.
We had a Thanksgiving party today for the kids. We've done this several times in years past, and my kids always enjoy having their friends over to have their own celebration. This year there were 10 kids at the party (we just invited one other family) ages 10, 8, 7, 5, 5, 4, 2, 2, 1, and 1! We've enjoyed getting to know this family over the last few months, and we are happy to find any excuse to get together with them!
We started out by reading a short Thanksgiving board book "The Story of Thanksgiving"; it is one of my favorites. It covers the basics and holds the attention of the little ones.
I found some leftover Pilgrim and Indian hat craft sets in my Thanksgiving Decor bin, so we used those this year. As in years past, we had more Indians than Pilgrims this year (only one Pilgrim). The kids had fun putting them together, but these required too much help and did not hold so well (maybe there was a reason they were still hiding in the bin?). Next time we will do something else.We sat down to a Thanksgiving "kids feast" with Turkey sandwiches (and PBJ also), pumpkin muffins, craisens, orange cranberry bread, cheese, and apple juice.
After lunch I popped some popcorn for dessert and had the kids watch the Peanuts Thanksgiving DVD while the moms had a chance to visit. I was surprised the first time we watched the Peanuts Thanksgiving DVD, they worked in so many facts about the voyage and early struggles, but kept it very interesting for the children.
I like doing parties like this. When I keep them simple they are fun and relaxing for me, and everyone still has a great time. What my kids enjoy most is just getting to spend some extra time with their friends, throwing in a couple of spacial foods and a simple craft just helps remind them of the special season we are celebrating.
We're just under a week from Thanksgiving! A couple of my favorite blogs are part of the "4 moms, 35 kids" group and they are doing a link-up for sharing Thanksgiving recipes, decor, etc. so I thought I would share and link-up too! I'll link up to Kim at Life In a Shoe for today.
I enjoy decorating for holidays, it helps us all to remember what celebration is coming up and be celebrating through the whole season. However, I don't want that decor to be expensive, cumbersome, or intrusive. I keep it simple. I have a couple of groupings of candles and gourds(fake) in our living room, along with the autumn toys.
Our table has an autumn table cloth.
I have napkins that match and/or blend well with the table cloth. I need to keep an eye out for more napkins though.
The table cloth and napkins are a great visual, but don't clutter our table and get in the way. I love that my dishes go with any season/holiday, this helps keep things simple, but still allows me to enjoy decorating my table. Sometimes candles make it on the table too, but usually once you get all of us around the table with the serving dishes there is no room for decor. Besides, all of my little blessings are the best decor!
For several years we have been doing a "Thanksgiving tree". This year the kids took over doing it! Miss E made the tree for us and hung it on the door. We try to remember to write something we are thankful for on a leaf at least once a day. We always do it as a group; once someone remembers to do it.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving/holiday dishes is the Yams that I make every year. We call them Dessert disguised as a side dish!
Our Favorite Yams
2 lg. cans of yams/sweet potatoes (or bake 4-5 fresh ones, which is what I do)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter (I use coconut oil)
Mix in a bowl and pour into a 9x13 pan. Top with topping (recipe follows) and cook at 350 for 30 min.
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup soft butter
Cut all together until blended well. Sprinkle on top of yams.
The other day Miss C spotted the "American Girl" catalog on the couch and made it clear that she would like to look at it. She spent at least 10 minutes looking at the pictures of bitty baby. At one year old how does she already have such a love for babies and all things girly?
Answer? God made her that way! We see in the Bible that men and women are made to fill different roles, and it is when we are filling those roles that we are most fulfilled. I've loved watching this play out in my children, and Rob and I are enjoying learning and growing through teaching our children about their God given roles!
*By the way, this does not mean that I don't think that boys should not learn how to cook and do the laundry, or that girls have no need to learn about cars and shooting guns etc. These things have their place, but within their God given roles.
We've had a stomach virus in the house for about a week now. :( The first to be hit by it were Mr. S, Miss E and Mr. M, all in the same night. They are great sick kids though, and so it was a relatively easy night, considering.
Two days later Miss J came down with it. We are constantly marveling at how mature she is for only being 2 (and 3/4). She was so sweet even as she was sick. It was a joy and a pleasure to care for her through most of the night (though I would have been happy to skip it). We set her up on the landing upstairs in front of our TV, she watched her favorite movies- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers- and drifted off to sleep regularly. Rob took over her care in the wee hours of the morning so I could get a bit more sleep.
Now its our turn. Yep, mommy and daddy are sick at the same time. Here is where we are seeing the pay off of the time and energy we have put into having our kids along side us most of the time; training them and teaching them. Miss E jumped right in to get snacks and then dinner. We did not even have to ask her, what a blessing! The older boys helped out quite a bit too. Miss J was the first to notice I was sick and took it upon herself to care for me. She was so sweet, and truly a blessing to me!
Miss C has been improving on her blanket time, and this came in very handy today. She was happy to sit on her blanket playing with her doll while I laid on the couch watching her (the big kids were making dinner). How nice to have a way to keep a one-year-old out of trouble, but still hanging out with the rest of the family!