Monday, January 30, 2012

One Thousand Gifts {part 20}

As January comes to a close, I pause to reflect on the many blessings this Wintery month has brought. From the beauty of nature to the wonderful people in my life, grace is all around. So I continue to count the ways the Lord fills my life with good things, blessings from above:

564. "I Love You Because..." board. So many smiles and laughs we've had!

565. "MOPS Swap" de-cluttering the house while blessing others!

566. Luke remarking on the beauty of snow twinkling in sunlight, "like a bunch of diamonds shining!"

567. Letter from one of our sponsor children

568. Still a little light out past 5:00pm!

569. waking up to a Winter Wonderland

570. mugs of hot cider after playing in the snow

571. family game day

572. coyote passing through the woods in our backyard. Breath-taking.

573. "snow faces"

574. my 2-year old saying grace

575. Cinnamon rolls in the oven

576. meeting a wonderful new friend!

577. Chinese New Year celebrations

578. cold egg rolls

579. playdate: legos, crazy costumes and catching up with wonderful friends

580. answers to prayers far better than I ever imagined

581. handsome little heads of boys with fresh haircuts

582. Megan using the potty for the first time!

...more to come

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Our Week in Homeschool {The Chinese New Year Edition!}

One of the things I'd like to try to do is blog more about our homeschool days. It's such a huge part of my life and yet, somehow I don't seem to write about it all that often! So I thought I'd give the "Homeschool Mother's Journal" a try:

In Our Homeschool This Week:

We've been enjoying lots of Chinese New Year celebrating with books, crafts and yes, of course-- Chinese food! We borrowed some great library books to supplement our collection at home:

We also explored other topics related to China: Great Wall of China, silkworms, Chinese inventions, traditional Chinese Calligraphy and Panda Bears. (*I* learned that Panda bears have slit-pupils, like a cat! How cool!)

Calligraphy in the works...

We made "Fai Chun" thanks to a craft page from the latest issue of Spider (love that publication!). Luke thought it was highly amused by the fact that you hang them upside-down since "Spring" rhymes with "upside-down" in Chinese!

The kids loved playing with this Chinese Zodiac spinner (Thank you, Enchanted Learning!):

They were fascinated to find out which animal they each were and their characteristics!

Chinese Lanterns:

By-the-way these are really easy and fun to make! My boys first made them last year, and now they ask to make them for many occasions throughout the year! We've made them for Valentine's Day, Halloween and more!

We also made "Lai See" :

(The kids were all over any opportunity to get a little treat!) They each got $1.00 and some ancient Chinese coin replicas I picked up from Oriental Trading. Fun!

Some scratch-paper fun to celebrate the "Year of the Dragon" :

Luke scratching away...

Adam's dragon

Chinese food lunch-love any occasion to have lunch delivered right to your door! The kids got to use (fake kid-friendly!) chopsticks with their zodiac symbol on them, which, after lunch became some sort of ninja weapons. :) (Gotta love boys!)


You can totally see him plotting alternate ways to use the chopsticks!

I also made steamed dumplings (sorry, no pics! ) for dinner. They were messy and time-consuming (hence the lack of pics!) but I eventually got the hang of them. The kids liked them, but *I* inhaled the most! YUM! I think they'll be easier to make next time (I hope!). If they come out better next time I'll take pics and post the recipe!

With the leftover wonton wrappers I made this deliciousness:

Baked wontons with cinnamon sugared nuts & strawberries on top.
Sooooo good! I'll post the recipe next week!

Other Subjects:

We're memorizing the beginning poem from White Snow Bright Snow (at Adam's request!):

We've also been working our way through these sweet alphabetical virtue coloring pages from Pondered in My Heart. Love these! (This week is "G" for "Gratitude.")

Working our Way through the Faith and Life Series for religious study:

We discussed Corporal Works of Mercy, and how we can look for opportunities to put these into practice.

We're also reading through Emily Post's Manners book:

The boys love acting out various "good manners" scenarios from this book (we make them up as we go). They're always in stitches over feigning bad manners when we do these scenes! :p

And we continued plugging through our regular lessons from: Handwriting without Tears, Spelling Workout, First Language Lessons, Writing with Ease and Saxon Math. Adam is loving Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. He also loves practicing his letter and number writing. He feels like such a big boy sitting at the table alongside Luke this year! :)

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share:

Luke has been enjoying the Nate the Great series we borrowed from the library. He highly recommends them. :) And I highly recommend anything that Luke is excited to pick up and read on his own!

My favorite thing this week was:

Hmmm...probably laughing at all of the good manners silliness that ensued. And eating dumplings & dessert wontons. They were really, really good. :)

So, that was our week in a nut shell. Phew, that was a lot to type! This makes me feel like less of a slacker, seeing our week all typed out! Whenever I'm suffering from the latest case of "Am-I-doing-enough??" I'll have to keep this in mind. ;)

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Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Year of Courage

At some point in December as the year's end approaches, I begin to think about the life lessons I've gained, and about what it is I hope to accomplish in the year ahead. (Yes, I know--me and about a gazillion other people!) And while I sometimes make concrete resolutions for the upcoming year, what I really love to do is come up with one word summing up the way I want to approach my life, sort of like a...character goal of sorts.

Last year my word was purpose. I set out to live 2011 according to my purpose. I wanted my hobbies, activities, relationships and pastimes to all reflect my purpose in being here. 2011 was the year of using the gifts I've been given to refine my purpose and be intentional about my comings and goings, rather than giving away my precious time to empty less fulfilling pursuits. It was a year of ups and downs, to say the least. I experienced great moments of joy throughout our homeschool days and participation in various groups. It was the year I began living a life of "eucharisteo,"; a life of intentional gratitude. It was also a year of great loss and heartache, as I conceived and lost my sweet unborn child at 14 weeks. The physical and emotional recovery of that experience helped refine and strengthen my sense of purpose as I leaned hard on family, friends and faith, trusting in His plan. To say I learned a lot doesn't even begin to cover it. I'm so thankful for all of the life lessons of 2011. My year of purpose also pushed me become more brave. Through life experiences, changes and transitions, I found myself stepping further out on the proverbial limb, taking more risks and trusting more.

And so now, as we begin 2012, my word for the new year is courage. I've always struggled with courage in the past, letting fears of the unknown hold me back. Afraid to take chances, haunted by the shadow of old insecurities, I've tended to play it safe, not wanting to put myself out there too much, afraid of getting hurt. But I feel the Lord leading me to be more courageous, to tell my stories that are hard to tell, to share the things I've learned along my winding way.

I grew up always hiding, always trying to fit in and be "normal." But as I've grown into adulthood and in my faith I've come to learn that being normal is...well, pretty boring, actually! It's a lot of work and really, not much fun. I came across this great quote somewhere (I don't remember where, unfortunately!) that said: "Please always continue to be your weird wonderful self." And that's precisely what 2012, the year of courage, is all about for me--being my "weird wonderful self."

So, 2012, the year of courage, the year of taking risks, will be an adventure. I don't know what lies ahead, but whatever comes my way, I plan to embrace it, be fully present, and be courageous.

What is your word for 2012?

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Thought-Provoking Thursday

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A {sweet and simple} Valentine's Idea...

I've seen several variations of this popular craft idea on the internet as well as Pinterest and thought it was high time I finally made one myself! Behold, I present to you the:


Some operate as errand boards:

Others as calendars:

but my personal favorite is the "I love you because..." board:

It's just a sweet and simple way to bring a bit of sunshine to your relationship each day. We've had ours for a few weeks now and it has truly been a blessing! It's so quick and easy to use and it's out in the open, which makes it easy to remember. In other words it doesn't end up becoming one of those well-intentioned things that winds up collecting dust in some dark dingy forgotten-about drawer! (Love coupons anyone? His & Hers Communication Journal?! I *always* forget about those kinds of things! Please tell me I'm not the only "out of sight out of mind" person in the world! Am I?!?) Ahem...anyway, moving on. :)

I thought this little frame would make a wonderful and affordable Valentine's gift! Here's what mine looks like:

simple and sweet :)

You can stick it anywhere you think you'll use it most. Ours lives on a nightstand in our bedroom. It's very easy to use in the morning or at night, and since we're not in that room very often it's a nice way to surprise one another when we enter. If you plan to use it as a Valentine's gift it would be lovely to decorate with all kinds of pink cupids, hearts and all of that good "Valentinesy" stuff (I make up my own words from time to time!). Ours happens to be blue to match our bedroom decor. If you want to go really crazy you could even print off a set of 12-one for each month of the year! The sky is the limit! Let those creative juices flow, baby!

I used a couple of coordinating scrapbook papers to make mine and printed the message across the top in a font I liked. I would recommend using a light colored paper without too much "jazz" going on, or else it'll be difficult to read your messages. Once your design is complete just pop it into your frame, grab a dry-erase marker and you're ready to go!

If you decide to give this a try I'd *love* to hear about it!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Snow Day! {or Merry Christmas in January}

We had our first significant snowfall this past weekend! The kids woke up to a Winter Wonderland and my sweet little 2 year-old, Megan, looked out the window and squealed, "It's Chwris-mas!" (Later on she added, "We put the tree away? And we put the presents away?") So, in the spirit of Megan's excitement, I wish you all a "Merry Christmas" mid-January!

The snow was too fluffy for making a snowman, so the kids made "snow faces" instead. :)

snow face in progress...

...adding the nose

snow face complete!

The kids thought it was hilarious to play on the snow-covered slide and swings!

Adam was ready to come inside shortly after swinging--it was really cold out there! So he and I headed in for some hot apple cider while Dad & Luke stayed out a little longer playing a "snow tracking game." Luke was very proud of himself--he got to help out with the snow-blower!

Sometimes I forget how much fun it is to actually play in the snow! There's just something about it that makes you feel like a kid again!

Later on inside we pulled out some boardgames we'd received for Christmas and hadn't played yet. I highly recommend these two in particular:

Cranium Playground Preschool Edition

This game struck the perfect balance educational fast-paced fun! We were all cracking up at the silly dance moves and letter-formations we had to make with our bodies. It's great for hand-eye coordination, memory, drawing skills, letter recognition, counting, sequencing and more, but you don't even realize you're learning because it's that much fun! (Not that learning isn't fun, but...well, you know what I mean!) We will definitely be playing this one again soon. Even little Megan loved it (with help, of course. She's only 2!)!

Another great game was the classic and highly praised Qwirkle:

It definitely lives up to its reputation. This one is not for preschoolers--even my 6 year old, Luke, needed some assistance, but this game is really fun! A wonderfully challenging game of logic!

Kevin and Luke teaming up against me! Yikes!

I totally got whooped by the Luke/Dad team! LOL!

Just wanted to share to our snowy weekend adventures with you. :) What adventures did you have this weekend?

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Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Monday, January 23, 2012

1000 Gifts {part 19}

I haven't posted my 1000 gifts list in awhile, although I have been continuing to capture these blessings in my personal journal. It has been such a blessing to live a life of gratitude with intention. As I make my way toward 1000, my heart continues to swell with thanksgiving at the many blessings all around me:

544. Feeding ducks, geese and seagulls spontaneously. So thankful for crackers in the car

545. whirlwind trip to Doctor's office, well-checks for 3 healthy growing kids

546. dance party in the kitchen with the littles to liven up pre-dinner hour

547. feel-good music that boosts spirits

548. new craft ideas

549. The kids practicing "good manners scenarios" together--so many giggles and such a joy to watch

550. engaging conversation with someone new

551. paper snowflakes in sunlight

552. fresh berries in January-delicious and sweet

553. the boys using their money to buy jelly beans--sharing a sweet treat together, so proud that they earned it

554. Bird Song book-- joy of listening to springtime chirps and dreaming of the day we'll hear them again

555. waking up to blanket of white

556. boys romping in the snow, all soggy and red-cheeked

557. boys' invented game of "Pirate Chess" complete with set of rules

more to come...

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